Monday, June 17, 2013

Maintaining a Respectful Dialogue (Even When It's Easier Not To) and My Guest Post on Mormon Geeks

This will be one of my shorter posts. I wrote a guest post on another blog a few days ago (which I will discuss later), and I've found myself with less time than I'd like to write a post for this blog.

Recently, issues around homosexuality have become more prominent in the media again. In New Jersey, a bill banning any type of Sexual Orientation Change Therapy for minors (similar to one that passed in California last year) was recently passed in an assembly panel. Also, as the Supreme Court's current session is near its end, rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Prop. 8 could come as soon as today.

Both these issues are controversial and are very polarized. I've already seen comments in social media on both sides of these issues that are anything but respectful to those who disagree with their positions. Personally, I find some irony in the fact that many of those that are in favor of expanding rights in one of theses situation are in favor of limiting rights in the other. And many in both groups feel that those in the other are trying to limit their rights. Considering this, it shouldn't be that difficult to empathize with someone else that also feels that their rights are being limited.

It's really easy to just see the other side as the opposition that needs to be silenced or overcome, and nothing more. It takes more effort to work to understand others with whom we disagree and to see that they may have a legitimate reason for their opinions as well.

But, as I've often found in life, the easy thing to do is rarely the best thing to do.

My hope is that we will maintain a respectful dialogue with those with whom we disagree, even when it's easier not to.

And speaking of "hope", that is the topic of my guest post on Mormon Geeks. Keeping hope is something that has helped me (and continues to help me) through difficult times in my life. So if you want to read a slightly different flavor of my writing, read my guest post and let me know what you think.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Men's Groups and Men's Work

Most of those closest to me know that I have been involved in men's groups and men's work for the past several years. While my involvement in these groups has been extremely helpful and rewarding to me, I have had a difficult time explaining to those not involved in men's work exactly what it is. While in this post, I will touch on what men's work is, I will spend more time sharing about my experience with it and what I get out of it, as I believe that will tell much more about it than simply describing it.

About nine or ten years ago, during the time in which I was attending a support group for SSA men that were committed to living LDS standards, I first started hearing about a couple of different experiential weekends for men. The first was called Journey into Manhood and was specifically for SSA men that wanted to find growth, change and healing as an alternative to living homosexual lifestyles or being in homosexual relationships. The second was called the New Warrior Training Adventure and was for any man that wished to attend, and focused on emotional authenticity, personal responsibility, living lives of purpose and mission, and having a supportive community.

I had a number of men in my life that invited me to go to Journey into Manhood (JiM), though I declined for several years, mostly due to the cost. I also remember questioning how much one weekend could accomplish. Finally, after several years, and hearing from literally dozens of friends that had overwhelmingly positive experiences attending JiM, in 2007, I finally decided to go. And it was a wonderful experience for me, giving me the opportunity to truly feel and express my emotions, let go of a lot of the shame I'd been carrying and make a lot of positive connections and develop new friendships, some of which have lasted through today.

After going through JiM, I attended a follow-up therapy group that built on the principles and experiences of the JiM experience. I attended for a few months before I started attending an Integration Group (I Group), which is a follow-up group for the New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA). With some encouragement from some of the staff and participants of my JiM weekend, as well as the men in my I Group, I signed up for an NWTA in Colorado, and attended it with a couple of friends from the Utah JiM community.

This was also a powerful experience for me, also filled with personal awareness, connection and friendship. And since that time I have regularly attended men's groups, be it an I Group or a MANS Group (a follow-up group for JiM) or sometimes both. Since going through these weekends, I have gone on to staff a JiM weekend, as well as several NWTAs. I've found that I get just as much out of staffing the weekends as I did going through them as a participant.

I also very recently went through JiM for a second time. After all of my life experiences over the last two or three years, it felt like a good time to re-connect with what I learned the first time I went through it. And I found that though going through JiM a second time was a very different experience than the first time, it was just as powerful an experience as the first time I went through.

It was, in fact, an I Group that helped give me the vision that inspired me to start this blog. One of the I Groups that I attended over the years had men that were SSA, men that were gay, men that were straight, men that were LDS, and men of no religious background in it. And we were all able to accept each other as we were without trying to change each other. As I saw this within that group, I began to see the possibility of this happening on a larger scale.

Being in an I Group also gave me needed support during the period of time I was questioning my choices around my religion and my sexuality. It gave me a place I could go and be authentic about what I was going through, while still receiving love, acceptance and support.

I have attended and continue to attend men's groups and do men's work because I see that it helps me better myself. The men I have met in men's groups and by doing men's work have become some of my closest friends and brothers. They support me as they are able to show me my blind spots, both good and bad, and helping me to keep them where I can see them. When I don't see them, I miss out on seeing many of the positive qualities about myself, and the negative qualities that I don't see start controlling my behavior. It's a place I can go and be authentic and open about all of me, both good and bad, and still be loved, accepted and supported, which goes a long way in moving past the shame that has held me down for many years. And I also get close connection, friendship and brotherhood with other men, which is something I've needed, but has been lacking earlier in my life.

In more intellectual terms, much of what I experience in men's work can be described as a mix of the use of Jungian archetypes, psycho-drama, cathartic release, and unconditional positive regard. And I believe that describing what I get out of it speaks a lot more about men's work than describing exactly what we do in the groups and on experiential weekends.

And that, in a nutshell is my experience with men's groups and men's work. As always, comments and questions are welcome.