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About UsBeyond The Basics Health Academy is a cutting edge online university on teaching you about the most important thing..YOU!
Location: Chicago, IL
Beyond the Basics Health Academy welcomes Keith Hutchings from Australia.
He has been involved with men’s groups for over 20 years. He is passionate about the importance of mental health for men through forming a community. He states that he would not be where he is with his physical health if you hadn’t been concurrently working on his mental health. And it is vital for a man to have a safe place to talk about the difficulties of being a parent, relationships, being in a workplace with many dysfunctional co-workers or family issues.
This is a great podcast Kieth addressed the benefits of men’s group and discussed the components that make men’s group easy to start. After the notes, we have also included his message of “How to Change the World, 6 Blokes At A Time.” This is his advice on how to start up a men’s group.
After over 20 years of working with men’s group, here are recommendations on what is needed to start a Men’s group.
How To Change Your World, Six Blokes At a Time
-By Keith Hutchings
The first step is to choose good men.
Think of the guys in your life that have their lives most together- Invite them.
Think about the type of people that tend to dominate a conversation- Don’t invite them.
Think about the guys that always have a ton of drama in their lives but aren’t doing anything about it- Leave them out, too.
I realize that you are going through a tough time right now but because you are setting the group up- You get to invite yourself.
That is why you want to be careful about who you ask. You want to surround yourself with the best possible men. Otherwise, you wouldn’t go to all this trouble.
Next is to have a safe place.
If it is at all possible to have a place where you can never be interrupted, can be LOUD if you need to and can curse- That is ideal.
But if you can’t have all these things getting together, a less than ideal setting is still better than not at all.
What you need is commitment. I would ask your chosen men to come for three times. If they find it useful at the end of that time, then commit to six months of being there every time. Ask for an advance agreement to hold people accountable. Sure there will be times when blokes will be sick or other life concerns come up, but they need be present for themselves and others in the group.
If all have email and or phones, you can have alternative times that can be proposed if that enables all to attend. Use this also to send out reminders
But primarily we want a real commitment. There are two reasons for this.
First, commitment builds safety. If I know you are willing to move heaven and hell to be there for me, then I am going to feel comfortable over time to show a bit more of myself than otherwise. And when I show you a little more of the places that are hard, it makes it safer for you to show the places where it is hard for you. It is an upward spiral of safety.
The second reason is that something I have seen over and over is people disappearing when it gets hard. The first couple of months of men’s work is like the honeymoon.
Your life is better. It is better than it ever has before because you start to process the day to day craziness that muddles up your thinking.
You start to find clarity. You work through the argument with that dreaded coworker and can see how he reminds you of that bully at school, so now you just ignore him because you know it is just because he must have been bullied. Or whatever.
Then you hit the hard stuff. The dark stuff from your past that was so bad you locked it up so you would never feel it. Grief and Loss. Terror, Humiliation. Painful stuff that last time you had to face it you just curled up into a ball and couldn’t function.
This is the point where a lot of guys RUN and other excuses come in to play. You get busy at work. Your wife’s Bridge Club is that night. The reasons all sound valid and are almost always not legit.
Hence the commitment to each other. And part of that commitment means that if one guy pisses you off or says something that makes things feel unsafe for you, then You go to him and sit down with him over a beer and clean it up.
So you have five or six guys together. Now, what do you do?
Simple. First it is excellent to start the group by focusing on something positive in your life. I call this the “News and Goods.”
You go around the room, and each guy talks about what is new and or good in his life. This is quick. Short things. Summed up in a couple of sentences. Got the car fixed, Didn’t react when the kids tried to bait me into an argument, Got a sweet smile for a pretty girl in the supermarket. Noticed myself staying calm. Anything. As long it is New and Good.
And what this means is different for every man. The quiet guy who lets people uses him as a Doormat, who stood up and said NO is just as important as the Volatile guy who held his tongue.
Just bop around the group. Shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.
Sometimes a guy will have so much crap hanging off him that as soon as he has the group’s attention he will launch into it. It might even start positive, ”I had a great visit with my kids and then took them home and my crazy ex…..”
Your job is to pull gently them up and bring them back to reality. Gently. A laugh accompanied by “Sounds like you have plenty of material for your time, George, but what else was good with your kids…”
When you are done with this round, look at the time. Decide when you want to finish, leave ten minutes before that for a little “wrap up” and then divide the time you have left.
It works well to decide an order guys are going to talk. That way the guy who was boiling over in the first round can start. And the guy who isn’t sure why he is there can go last. After the others have spoken, he will have plenty to go on.
So then there are rules for sharing…
Absolute confidentiality. What is said in the group stays in the group. No ifs, and’s, or buts. It isn’t shared with wives or girlfriends or anybody… Ever.
For any reason. It is not even discussed as a conversation with the person. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas… times ten. Everyone should make a verbal statement to this effect the first time you meet. If someone can’t keep to this for whatever reason, they should leave. Now.
Make I statements. An example of this would be: “I feel really angry that this thing happened”.
When a person says: “You know how it is, you go to this place, and you see this thing, and you get really angry” it is as if they are speaking about someone else. They aren’t speaking about themselves.
It can take a formal tone “When they do this I feel…” This is connecting it directly to myself and taking responsibility for my feelings.
Avoid giving others power over your feelings “She makes me so mad” or “He makes me sad.” Both blame someone else for our feelings instead of taking responsibility for them.
We are men. Men take responsibility for their actions and their emotions. Even if we sometimes forget this and act like little boys. We are Men. Men say “I got angry,” “I felt sad.”
Don’t interrupt. It can work well to have one person as a facilitator but mostly, avoid interrupting and more importantly, avoid cross talk. So when I am talking, everyone is looking at me and listening, not carrying on conversations or going out for a pee. Listening.
Don’t give solutions or advice. Even when you are busting to do so because you have THE ANSWER. The solution which I will give in my desperate need for acknowledgment will pale in comparison to the brilliant, elegant solution the speaker will come up with when given time to process what is getting the way of his clear thinking.
Don’t refer to other people’s material. You may have had a Dad just like mine, but there is no need to say “My Dad was a Grumpy bastard just like yours” this jars me and puts me back into my stuff again when It is your turn, and I am supposed to be listening to you. All that needs to be said is “On the subject of Dads…”
One of the things that always comes up in these discussions is “How can we do this when we aren’t professionals” what you are doing is exactly what every bloke is doing down at the bar on a Friday night. They are talking about their stuff.
Except there are a few small but crucial differences.
First of all, you know you will get your turn. Therefore, no one has to be thinking about what they are going to say or if they will ever be able to get a word in edgewise.
You are all Sober. So you are truly listening as opposed to pretending.
It is safe. No one will judge you for what you are saying. You won’t feel this right away, but it will come with time.
Does anyone ever ask the bartender where he got his counselors license? And because over time you will come to care for each other deeply, you will do much better than that guy does. And people are paying him a fortune to be listened to, and he couldn’t care less.
And what if someone brings up something hard that you don’t know how to handle. Same as before. You listen to them. If you are really out of your league, you can say; This is stuff you could use a pro to get a handle on. Same as you would if you were in a bar or a friend brought up the fact that they were abused as a child, or their marriage was in trouble.
Women do this all the time; It is time men started doing the same instead of this John-Wayne-tough-guy-attitude which is killing us in droves.
So the things you are looking for in your group are a chance to Talk vigorously without repetition. To laugh, Cry, and shake. Hit a punching bag, wrestle, hug, whatever.
Ever seen somebody after they had a serious near miss? Where they weren’t hurt at all but they were a cat’s hair from dying. The classic piano that drops off a building and lands where he was standing 1 second ago. That person will often begin to shake uncontrollably. This is how the body releases terror. If it starts to happen when a man is speaking, It can just take the form of what I call “sewing machine leg” like one leg is working an old treadle sewing machine. THIS IS GOOD. It wants to continue. Don’t try to stop it. Sometimes if you call attention to this, the guy will “Pull himself together” and stop. If he ends, encourage him to continue.
Laughing. If a guy says something and then laughs. This is good. Maybe even ask him to talk more about the phrase that made him laugh. Often in my men’s group Everyone will be laughing at the same statement because as men of a similar age we share a lot of common experiences, many of them quite embarrassing and laughing helps.
Especially around sex and women.
And Crying. This may take a while because as blokes a lot of us have been hit pretty hard around crying as young boys. Crying is how we process Grief. And if we don’t handle grief we go numb. And Numbness is a two position switch. It is either On or Off. We don’t get to choose the areas in our lives where we are Numb. So we are numb around our partners and our Kids because we have a Hurt somewhere else that we haven’t been able to feel. And when we want numbness we use Alcohol and Drugs and Games and Risk and Money to maintain that numbness. Or maybe we use stimulants and risk taking to try to wake up the numbness. Numbness is a multi-trillion dollar industry. Getting rid of numbness is a revolutionary act and will also save you lots of money. So build a safe place where you can cry when you are ready. It will change your life, Your relationships, and your kid’s lives. And they will thank you for it.
When you have finished your sharing time, it is a good thing for one of the other guys to ask you a few questions. I call this “Present time” because any confusing stuff you have been sharing is almost always coming from a time in the past. You are just trying to process it now because it has been waiting all this time. You couldn’t help when it was happening, and this is the first real opportunity.
So ask a few simple question. “What did you have for dinner” or name three things in your fridge at home or Something you noticed on the way here. Math problems can be useful for some people. Just make sure your questions don’t in any way reference what the person was just speaking about. As in Don’t ask the guy struggling with an eating disorder what is in his fridge or the guy who had a huge fight with his wife over dinner what was on the menu. You will screw this up. It isn’t life or death. Just say “Oops, the Wrong Question, Everybody laughs, move on by asking another question.
So you have all taken your turns and get to the end of the night it is time for one more quick round. Two questions which I like each man to answer.
1. What was good?
2. What is something you are looking forward to?
(This can be as simple as “ a relaxing shower when I get home” … or “seeing my son tomorrow.”)
Again end on a positive note. No going back into our “stuff”.
• Keep it simple.
• Just a safe, comfortable place.
• Two hours works well.
• Turn up on time, a quick hello, news and goods divide the time allowing 2 minutes each for the “present time” questions and 10 minutes at the end.
• A round of handshakes or hugs and out the door and go home.
• Keep it completely and seriously safe.
• Total confidentiality.
• No referring to a person’s “session” material, not even to them alone.
• No advice.. its about supporting the person’s own right to think and talk without judgment and about learning to listen to each other properly.
• Solid commitment. Agreement to attend and for the others to come after you to keep coming. Positive start and the positive finish.
• No cost. (if possible).
This is not rocket science. And the only difference with this and what we do in the Pub is confidentiality and taking turns. And it will change lives.
Small Story to finish. A friend of mine’s father was a Bartender in a small town. And he was also profoundly deaf. And guys used to come into his bar and start talking to him. A lot of them were guys who spent all day on the back of some machine and never saw a soul except him on a Friday evening. So they were desperate to be listened to. Except because it was a small town he had heard all the stories before and since no one was listening to him, he couldn’t process their stories. So he used to turn simply down his hearing aids, Lean on the bar and smile and nod. When their lips would stop moving, he would ask them if they wanted another and then they would start again. Because it was a small town, everybody must have known he was doing this. And yet they still stood on a Friday night and talked his ear off. Because a human pretending to listen was better than no one listening at all. Imagine how much better your lives will be when five of the smartest guys in town are all listening.
Hope it works. And if you try it and get into a pickle, you can always contact me to help you try to figure it out
THANKS FOR LISTENING!
Thanks so much for joining us again. Special thank you to Ro for coming back on our show. Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!
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Until next time, Be Kind to Others, Take Care of Yourself, And Make Good Choices!