LIVING THE SOULFUL LIFE
Supporting Men in Opening Their Hearts
By Scott Kalechstein
In the fall of 1996 I did something that scared the hell out of me, but also empowered me in a big way to find and express much more of my core self. It was a men's initiation weekend called The New Warrior Training Adventure. After hearing numerous glowing reports from both men and the women in their lives encouraging me to take the training, I felt inspired to experience it myself.
I had never really felt close to men before that weekend. With a birth family consisting of an emotionally absent father, and a controlling mother and two older sisters who tried to fill his shoes, I got very used to taking to women most of my needs for connection and intimacy. But as I entered adolescence, I hungered for something I didn't know how to get, or even identify. A sense of what masculinity is about cannot be handed to a boy by the opposite sex, no matter how good the intentions, and there was a gaping hole in my life from the lack of fathering.
By age thirty three, when I entered The New Warrior weekend, I had two ideas of what being a man looked like: The wimpy, powerless sensitive man with no masculine backbone holding him up, and at the other extreme the abusive, controlling macho man. I had gravitated towards being the soft male, avoiding anger and confrontation at all costs, and therefore I lacked the essential skill of being able to express my truth with conviction, especially when it might rock the boat.
That workshop ignited an untamed, uncultured fire in my belly that helped balance out and support my sensitive side. I was able to release a good chunk of the underlying shame that was motivating my excessive people pleasing. A week later I noticed a change even in my voice; it had gotten deeper and richer. What a valuable weekend!
A follow-up weekly support group I attended then helped anchor in the new sense of power I felt and allowed me to continue deepening my connections with men, something I hadn't really experienced before. Before that, I would place all my emotional needs at the foot of a woman and say, "I love you. Now be my sole support system, my best friend and the be-all and end-all of my existence." With growing emotional safety and intimacy in my new male relationships, I was able to take a load of pressure off the females in my life and alter the pattern that had started in childhood with my mother and sisters.
Men's work has become precious to me, an essential vitamin for my emotional body that up until I did The New Warrior I was unaware of any deficiency.
Last year I participated in another weekend for men. This one was facilitated by Barry Vissell. The small group of men began by taking turns being sons in the arms of surrogate fathers. I had never seen tissues used so quickly in a workshop experience, and these were MEN! Through the weekend we fathered and nurtured each other at very deep levels. I believe that if women could have witnessed the beauty of seeing men care for each other like that they would have been profoundly moved. To see men laying down their armor and being vulnerable together would fill anyone with tremendous excitement and hope. Humanity is truly evolving, and it is weekends like this that are quietly changing the world the only way it is going to change: one heart opening up at a time.
Barry is coming to our area again this year on May 22 and 23rd to facilitate another weekend for men, called Men Living From The Heart. His wife Joyce will be leading a separate weekend for woman, Women Living From The Heart. Call Steve Hansen, (619) 695-0863, or Christy Tice, (619) 268-9215, for more info. A men's and a women's group will be forming and meeting on a regular basis for those who take the workshops and want to avail themselves of consistent support.
I have worked with Joyce and Barry together many times, sometimes as a participant and other times as a musical support person, weaving healing songs throughout their programs, and I consider them dear friends and mentors. Their work is safe, tremendously empowering and life changing. They don't push or force changes. They simply create the safety and let the group intimacy emerge and work its magic. I highly encourage you to treat yourself to one of these weekends and re-charge your heart batteries for your relationships and your life.
These days women's groups and men's groups are becoming ever more popular and I am all for it. So much can be healed between the sexes by strengthening same-sex relationships. Lately I have been evolving into a beautiful relationship with a woman. Lisa's presence fills my heart with love, hope, excitement and fear. When I go to my men's group, I share my process, lay my fears on the table and get nourished for being human. I leave with a stronger sense of myself and a greater capacity for intimacy with Lisa. The hole in my life left by my father's absence is gradually being filled through the strong and tender hearts of my male support friends. Looking to females to fill that hole created pain and disillusionment every time. What a relief not to be asking that of women anymore.
I want to close by sharing a letter from my journal that spilled out of me one day. Because of the same-sex support I have received, there are times now when I can facilitate my healing process on my own. In this instance, I had gotten in touch with a fear that Lisa, like my mother, will eventually smother and control me. Even though Lisa has a vastly different energy from my mother, getting close to her has triggered feelings I felt with Mom. As emotions bubbled up, I used pillow pounding to move through some of the anger I had been storing towards my mother. In the calm after the storm, I asked myself what it was that I longed for from her. With tears in my eyes, I ministered these words to myself, trusting that if she were able to speak without guilt, shame, or fear, these would be the words in her heart:
Dear Scott, I want to acknowledge that although I love you dearly, I've really not known how to offer you the empathy, acceptance, and breathing room you needed to feel safe, to grow, or to flourish. Scott, I'm very sorry. I can understand your hurt and anger. You didn't get the kind of loving you needed from me. I didn't get it from my parents either, and I vowed to do better as a parent and not repeat their mistakes.
And I did my very best with you. I put my heart and soul into it, but often my own unresolved pain prevented me from attending to your feelings and needs with love and compassion. Instead of listening with my heart to the feelings you were expressing by acting out in school, I labeled you as a 'problem child'. I was so concerned with keeping you in line that I didn't hear the cries of anguish and calls for help that were being voiced by your behavior problems.
My father controlled and overpowered me and I was unable to really speak up to him about it. Having not forgiven him, when you were born I unconsciously started to do to you what my father did to me. I've been controlling, I've wanted to make you my own, all mine, the apple of my eye. How hard this has been for you, how stifling, how suffocating.
And yet I'm so proud of you for how you are working through all this! You've got love in your life. You've got a beautiful woman you are growing in love with. You have a blossoming career in the healing arts that you have courageously followed your heart to create. Yes, you've had your addictions, but drugs didn't destroy you and you've risen out of the tomb of numbness to uncover your deep feelings, both the painful and the joyous ones.
I'm proud that you have committed yourself to therapy, and that through your ongoing work you are growing up and out of your prisons. I may have set a huge obstacle course for you, but the great news is that you are jumping over the hurdles, finding your way, sourcing your inner strength and learning to receive the things that neither I nor your father could give you.
I wish I could have honored your deep sensitivity and the fragility of your feelings. As a child I had my own vulnerability squashed enough times that I began to judge myself for having emotions, with the exception of anger. I felt some power in my anger, and so I held onto it as the central weapon in my defense system. I hid my vulnerability deep inside myself, where eventually even I couldn't find it. In both childhood and adulthood, the world never seemed a safe enough place to allow my softer feelings expression.
I toughened up to survive, and thus have been uncomfortable with your sensitivity. I judged you as too sensitive and tried to toughen you up like me. I'm so sorry. And I'm glad you've found the courage to resurrect your own vulnerability and learn to love yourself enough to feel your feelings so deeply. I respect you for that immeasurably.
Scott, I ask you to forgive me for my trespasses. I trust that you are deep in the process of forgiveness and I'm happy for that. If you have children, they will probably need much less therapy than you did. I'm glad you are having the buck stop here and will not pass the legacy of these wounds on to the next generation.
I love you, Scott, as a soul and as a son. You've given me many gifts, and helped me grow and learn. I'm proud that many others have been blessed by your journey as well. I care so much about you, and I feel sad that I don't have the consciousness or the tools to express my love or appreciation to you in another way. Please know that when I buy you dinner or give you money, that is the language I have to say 'I love you'. I wish you much success and great rewards as you continue to become a compassionate human being, capable of loving and being loved. What a gift to be your mother. You are a wonderful son, and you are making a wonderful contribution, both as a man and even more importantly as a human being. Go out there and give 'em Heaven!
Scott Kalechstein is a singer/songwriter/recording artist as well as a dynamic speaker, healer, humorist and workshop leader. He shares his uplifting message internationally at conferences, workshops, churches, and living rooms - wherever people are open to a playful, heart-centered approach to learning, growing and healing. Scott's music is sometimes heart-stirringly sensitive and other times outrageously funny. He will be performing live in concert in Encinitas at the Seaside Church Of Religious Science on Friday evening, May 21st. In addition he will be adding the musical touch to a men's weekend with Barry Vissell on May 22nd and 23rd. For more info, booking inquiries or to order Scott's tapes or CD's, please call (760) 753-2359 or e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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