Men’s group. I greeted everybody and reminded Calvin one final time to go first. He did. His Grandmother has just died, so we split into groups to work through the issues. Ishwar and I sat with Calvin and he wrote down his feelings and memories about his Gran. I found it a useful exercise because Calvin’s process supported everything I went through when my Gran died in May: no real feelings of loss or guilt; she had been released. There were also the family games to observe – don’t get involved, just watch and learn. Ishwar and I allowed Calvin the time and space to work and feel, and we complimented each other very well, I felt. Neither of us forced Calvin in any way and we asked some good, thought-provoking questions
The other men recalled their memories of people they had known who had died. Both George and Leon really appreciated the opportunity to remember, with great fondness, people who had been close to them. As this theme came to an end Ishwar talked about his work situation. He still feels under stress from the woman who caused him to take time off work in the first place. She is being both sexist and racist and Ishwar has decided to challenge it. This is a very important move because it takes courage to stand up for oneself and Ishwar is setting an example to us all with his determination to do just that.
Following this, Karaj asked us to take a few minutes to write down what games we play with women. I mess with them in three ways:
- I get them to mother me.
- I want them to fancy me.
- I provoke them.
My drama triangle axis runs between Persecutor and Victim. It was fascinating to learn and see that my games begin well before I thought they did. Even the initial, ice-breaking banter which I have hitherto considered harmless, is laced with hooks and attacks. It also became clear to me that the games begin even before I have opened my mouth – watch out for this in future and observe how the games begin.
During a break in proceedings Arun arrived. After initial nerves on my part about how she would be with me following our conversation yesterday, I relaxed and felt very comfortable in her company. This feeling strengthened when I observed the men’s reaction to her presence. They all sat bolt upright on the edges of their seats like schoolboys in front of the headmistress. Robert’s reaction was the most potent of all – he was not happy having female company in the sacred environment of the men’s group. I told him to raise it in the group but I didn’t think he would. He did, and showed great courage in doing so.
Arun had brought three masks which she had made and Karaj, as usual, made the most of the situation. As he says, he simply allows what happens to happen, making sure that everything is used therapeutically. The masks were no different. We were asked what they meant for us. No-one spoke. I had felt comfortable, calm and capable all evening, so I started. I liked the golden mask but found it’s eyeless gaze a little spooky. Karaj asked what that says about me and I realised that I usually struggle to notice anything around me. I tend to be too deeply involved in myself to notice what’s in front of me. Also, I find pretty eyes attractive.
From that moment on, the mask, which had been neutral up until then, took on a female form. I expressed a desire to see it on the wall because I felt that to have the mask looking down on me would, in a positive way, help to keep me on my path. In saying this I had cornered myself: it revealed to the group that there was definitely a mothering element to it all. Opening up in that way to the group – I couldn’t help myself once I had started – proved very useful for me in showing just how deep my conditioning runs. It is no wonder the games I play begin well before the verbal stage.
I was surprised by the reluctance of the other men to come forward with their feelings about the masks. This is my most common complaint about people who come here – they simply don’t make enough use of the opportunities to learn about themselves. Dev shut down in order that he would not do anything wrong in front of Arun, and Robert spent most of the time sulking. Ishwar showed me an important element of character. He had seen nothing in the masks and that is precisely what he reported. In no way did he try to project something onto them or make anything up in order to be a part of the process. I appreciated his candour in doing this because it is something which I do not do enough of.
We put them all up on the wall. The first two were easy but we struggled to find the right spot for the third. One corner of the room was suggested but that was too cluttered with other art so we decided against it. This was a perfect example of us being reasonable men. We could easily have rearranged some of the other pieces in order to accommodate our idea, but we didn’t. Learning point – be unreasonable.
When Arun left we were asked to acknowledge how much of our maleness we had retained with her present. Initially I thought I had done well because I felt comfortable with her amongst us, but as she was summing up her experiences of the evening, I felt the need to breathe out and relax. Regardless of how comfortable I feel around women I am different.
It was a great evening and I made a very good contribution to it throughout. Ishwar, as he left, said to me, ‘You’re doing well.’ He’s right. Don’t get cocky.