Its been a few days since I returned from a ManKind Project Rites of Passage weekend. See http://mankindproject.org/
I’m still processing and will likely be for some time. The weekend could not have come at a more appropriate time. I have just completed my four-year diploma in transpersonal psychotherapy. By its very nature, this training has had a very maternal “holding” energy, part of the re-mothering that is skilfully crafted into the process. Being transpersonal, there was a lot of emphasis on the elements model of earth, air, fire and water, archetypal and Jungian psychology, alchemy and the myth of Iron John was mentioned more than once.
This fitted so well with my experiences over the weekend. Over the past 18 months I’ve noticed a pull towards the masculine and joined a men’s gestalt therapy group. This ran for 12 months and I really enjoyed the support of other men. I then started searching for a more local men’s group and came across a ManKind Project group that met fortnightly near to where I live. Being manipulative (my psychotherapy training was in part about accessing our shadow so I have a sense of what resides there) I hoped I could persuade the group leader to let me join without going through the hassle of undertaking the weekend Rite of Passage initiation. I am glad he refused which forced me to experience the weekend, which turned out to be one of the most profound, supportive, and caring events I’ve undertaken. And I’ve done more than my fair share of personal development over the last decade.
I first started looking for a men’s group six years ago after attending a Tony Robbins event. I left that 4 day process on a high, but with no health warning about how it may impact close relationships and to not make life changing decisions for a few months. I came home and projected all my own baggage onto my unsuspecting wife and caused a major rift in our 25-year marriage. We consider marriage counselling but for whatever reason we didn’t go and for other reasons unknown the only men’s group I found met in California. On reflection, I wasn’t yet ready. Roll forward seven months and further fractures in our marriage finally took us to marriage counselling.
After our first session the therapist suggested I come for weekly psychotherapy, my wife attend monthly whilst we come for weekly marriage counselling. Driving home, I felt vindicated, obviously my wife was four times more resistant to therapy, and her take was I was four times more screwed up than her. Perhaps there was an element of truth in both our observations? As mentioned I had tried many things in the personal development field. I was always left frustrated that change seemed short lived. It wasn’t until I had been in therapy for a year that I started to notice and more importantly feel subtle but lasting shifts in my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I was so impressed I decided to undertake my own training as a psychotherapist to accelerate and deepen my change. I am impatient by nature.
When I started the course we had been in marriage counselling for a year and we were stuck. My wife was carrying a lot of resentments towards my selfish narcissistic behaviours in our marriage. I was frustrated and also going through my own mid-life crisis of purpose and meaning. When I started college, it was the perfect storm. My wife’s father had recently died, she went into her self to grieve, I felt pushed out and wasn’t there to support her, just thinking of my own selfish needs.
Within the space of a couple of weeks I became addicted to another woman on the course who reached out to me as a friend. I developed an enduring infatuation towards her. It was a fantasy that was manufactured in my over cluttered mind. I joined an online support forum for people suffering from this “limerence” and developed an acute interest in relationships, love, addictions and all things related. Like everything I had a hunger for understanding what I was experiencing.
I’ve heard it said that when were ready the teacher will appear. The object of my addiction was the teacher I needed. I learnt more about myself especially my shadow from this one event than I think anything else in the past few decades. It was an intensely unsettling and painful period that took me four years to work through.
It also forced my wife and I to look at our marriage and ask difficult and yet necessary questions. Did we want to be together going forward and if so how did we want our relationship to feel for each of us? My wife also decided to start her own training to be a psychotherapist. Oh, how I feel for my two daughters when they bring their boyfriends home – “Meet the Fockers” comes to mind!
So on the first evening of the weekend when we were told this was about shadow work, I felt excited. Whilst I have a reasonable sense of what’s in my shadow, there always more and the material I am aware of still trips me up. Without giving away what happens in the process of the weekend as the “not knowing” is an important part of the experience, there were many profound moments.
In one piece of work I was able to touch and feel my primal wound, a wound etched into my bones and so deeply buried that it took 54 years and a lot of prior work to strip away my defences to access it. This wound relates to my father’s inability to take responsibility for his emotional scars from his holocaust trauma. He has been emotionally absent all my life. He was a 12 year old boy that endured Auschwitz, where his mother, father, brother and sisters were all murdered.
With the help of my own therapy I found my voice last year and have told him of my anger towards his less than adequate fathering. This is not in the hope of changing him nor apportioning blame - more about me being to express my feelings towards him and about me being more honest in how I choose to communicate with all my loved ones. We did some reconnecting earlier this year when I returned with him for his first visit back to Poland and the site of these atrocities. It was a trip I thought I could never make. you can read more about my experiences by clicking here.
I became aware over the weekend of just how hard I find it to access my grief. I feel my anger very easily now, it's no longer released in a passive aggressive way and I’ve learned to take ownership for that. I had been unaware of the absolute depth and pain of my grief I hold for my father’s family and his ancestors. Some of the processes at the weekend were both healing and cathartic.
It took the safe container of the loving holding energy of so many supportive caring non-judging men to give me a sense of safety to let me drop my defences and do the necessary work. I am left with an overwhelming sense of love and feel like I have at long last found a band of brothers that I’ve been seeking for so long. I’ve already signed up for my local group, further training and expressed an interest in staffing and make no bones about it, I too would love to be facilitating some of the training when I have enough experience. I’m in!