Have any of you seen the Coen Bros’ movie “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (2001)? It is a brilliant portrayal of a man caught in a life in which he didn’t fully exist. He wasn’t the victim of any overt oppressor of his true self, but rather an accomplice in a covert oppression of his own authenticity. Patriarchal society teaches that to be a man means to “harden up.” But in the hardening, loving is also lost. It seems the trade-off for male privilege is often the annihilation of a man’s true self, a knowing and accepting of his whole self, including emotions of fear and deep love.
That is the tale told to me by many of my male clients. They come to counselling often because a wife or partner complains of their emotional vacuity, their inability to truly connect with the family. Often the men come out of desperation and fear that they will lose their partners and families. Our mission is to reconnect the man to himself so that he may then connect to others.
One of the methods I use to help men connect with themselves is bringing focus to their breath and their bodies’ signals. For 25 years as a massage therapist I assisted clients to learn to return to centre and self-healing through the breath. In counselling, I have been influenced by Robert Gonzales’ therapeutic approach of the Living Energy of Needs, where access to healing comes via presence to the breath and body sensations. I am attending my second workshop with Robert in June in Loveland, Colorado. Daniel Siegel’s Interpersonal Neurobiology also proposes return to health through paying attention to the body. Siegel acknowledges that the divorce between mind and body stops full functioning. His approach is also on attention to the body and breath, which he refers to as vertical integration, in which the body and mind are re-integrated, so that the body can inform the mind.
In most cases, I’d say Mission Accomplished! Although it’s hard for most men to find their breath, once they have, they incorporate this mindfulness into their daily lives and report that they are able to feel and think much more clearly. Best of all, they are spontaneously telling their families about their thoughts and feelings, reconnecting to the ones they love the most. These are Men Who Are Now There.