I need to come out of the closet. I have launched an online weekly men’s group, EQ/IQ.
As a psychotherapist, I am aware that most men would rather pluck out their eyebrows than attend a men’s group. In my experience, there is one obstacle that stands in the way of most men’s groups getting off the ground successfully. Men.
Men resist the idea of being with other men. Sure, hang a plasma TV for the latest football match, add a few beers, and we’re off. However, that’s not the “being with” that I am referring to.
Tarzan. Rambo. James Bond. Superman. None of them sat in a healing circle holding hands chanting while a lightly scented incense candle burned effortlessly in the background. It seems the main problem with men’s groups, or what we imagine one to be like, is that… well, they’re just not very manly.
Surely gay men are more enthusiastic about embracing a men’s group? As a generalization, not so. It seems that no matter who turns us on when the lights are down, we men share something in common. Fear.
I believe that we men are fearful of ourselves.
Whatever our gender or sexual orientation, we all share a biological need to be validated and acknowledged. However, being seen requires us to be vulnerable, and men learn early on that vulnerability and masculinity are opposites.
Many men have a tendency to mask their vulnerability for fear of being labeled feminine. Some men become so good at concealing their vulnerability that it becomes a lifelong practice. These men learn not just to hide just from others but, sadly, from themselves. In doing so, they lose touch with their own needs. This impacts not just their identity but also their primary relationships. There is not much chance of meeting your partner’s needs if you don’t know your own.
If we cannot be true to ourselves, anger and resentment will build. Often, that anger gets acted out in addictive ways – through sex, drugs, gambling, workaholism, and other addictive behaviors and/or substances. To make matters worse, many of these unhealthy behaviors are associated as hyper-masculine. It seems normal. Society even rewards some aspects of them, until it all comes crashing down.
Given that anger is often a secondary emotion, many men never have the chance to get in touch with the underlying sadness and disconnect that has come about as a result of avoiding their emotions. That disconnect can lead to depression and mental health problems. The double whammy is that men do not easily ask for help as that requires them to be vulnerable. It is little wonder that so many men have their mental health problems undiagnosed.
As men, I believe that we often focus on our cognitive intelligence (IQ) and de-prioritize our emotional intelligence (EQ). This group aims to bring the two together. Today’s world demands that we develop our intelligence in both domains.
I am passionate in my belief that we are each other’s best teachers. Connection is our key to happiness. One of the reasons why this pandemic is so painful is the impact it has had on our ability to connect with our friends, family, lovers, etc.
Through a group such as EQ/IQ, I hope and believe I have created a safe space for men to explore themselves and others. I resisted calling it a support group or a therapy group. Sometimes the labels get in the way and add to our resistance. At a push, I would describe it as a platform for men to connect.
In case you are still concerned, EQ/IQ is an online group so there is no hand holding. And if you decide to light your own incense candle, you won’t be judged.
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This group might be suitable for you if you:
- Hold back from expressing your feelings or needs?
- Avoid showing vulnerability?
- Associate emotions with weakness?
- Sometimes act out your emotions in addictive ways?
- Feel like a failure or inadequate in your relationships?
- Experience a general sense of loneliness or isolation?
- Struggle with commitment?
- Your relational conflicts go unresolved?