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Mental Health

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Part 2

            In Part 1 of this series I introduced you to the work of Robert Waldinger, MD and Marc Schultz, PhD wo are co-directors of the iconic, 86-year-old Harvard Study of Adult Development. In their book, The Good Life: Lessons From the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, they offer expert guidance on how to live a fully healthy life, to love deeply, and find your passion and purpose in midlife and beyond. I also shared the work of Chip Conley, Founder of the Modern Elder Academy, and what we can learn from his new book, Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better With Age.

            In Part 2 I want to introduce you to the three areas where it is most important to apply this wisdom—In our love lives, in our work lives, and our inner lives. In his book, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship, David Whyte says,

“Human beings are creatures of belonging, though they may come to that sense of belonging only through long periods of exile and loneliness.”

            Most of us have experienced the feelings of exile and loneliness that Whyte describes. I found Whyte’s description of the three marriages to be very helpful.

“This sense of belonging or not belonging” says Whyte, “is lived out by most people through three principal dynamics:

  • “First, through relationship to other people and other living things (particularly and very personally, to one other living, breathing person in relationship or marriage).”
  • “Second, through work. Work is not only necessity; good work like a good marriage needs dedication to something larger than our own detailed, everyday needs.
  • “Third, perhaps the most difficult marriage of all beneath the two visible, all-too-public marriages of work and relationship—is the internal and often secret marriage to that tricky movable frontier of ourselves.

“These are the three marriages of Work, Self, and Others.”

Like many men, I have had a difficult time achieving success balancing all three “marriages.” I have been most successful in my work life, in some part by writing books about what I learned working through my failures in my love life and my search for my lost self. My first book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man detailed my struggles figuring out who I am. The second, book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places detailed the confusion I had between “real lasting love” and “sex and love addiction.”  The other fifteen books and twelve hundred articles are my continuing journey to learn about, and share, what I’ve learned about integrating all three. Clearly, this is a life-long journey.

One of the primary lessons is that becoming a success in one marriage can’t be automatically transferred to the others. For a long time, I thought if I could become a successful psychotherapist and made a lot of money, I could attract the woman of my dreams and live happily ever after. It didn’t work as you’ll learn if you visit my website and see my introductory video “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor.”

Whyte shares a powerful truth in his book.

“Each of these marriages is, at its heart, nonnegotiable; that we should give up the attempt to balance one marriage against another, of, for instance taking away from work to give more time to a partner, or vice versa, and start thinking of each marriage conversing with, questioning or emboldening the other two.”

I learned an important lesson about how these three marriages can be developed an integrated from a Native American basket weaver. She described our life as a basket woven from many different strands, each essential for a strong container. Each part of our life is one strand in this basket. In this case think of each of the three marriages as a strand, each equally important for making a beautiful life basket.

She explained to me that it is impossible to weave multiple strands at the same time; we need to attend to the strand that requires our attention without losing awareness of the others. Every strand will get our attention—just not all at the same time.

Rather than feeling like we are trying to juggle multiple balls of marriage responsibilities and work tasks, while trying to take care of our own needs, and ultimately failing, we can give 100% of our attention to our work when we’re working. When its time for the strand of marriage, we give our full attention to that strand, and later the strand of self. This simple image has helped me relax and flow into the dance of life.

Another thing I came to understand from Whyte is the importance of spending quality time alone, preferably in nature, in order to pursue the illusive lover that is my inner self. In my early life I was always busy pursuing women and success at work so I could attract or hold on to the woman who was the object of my current pursuit. And I was always trying to achieve more power and prestige so that I could prove that I was a man of substance rather than an invisible man I was afraid I really was.

After discussing the importance of doing good work and finding a partner in life, he goes on to discuss the third marriage. “The Tree Marriages,” says Whyte,

“looks at that other equally strange human need, to be left completely and utterly alone, trawling the deep riches of an inner peace and quiet, where the self can actually seem lithe, movable, limitless and inviolate, invulnerable to those invisible wounds delivered by partners and spouses, unharassed by commitment, inured to the clamor of children and untouched by the endless nature of our meetings.”

Only a poet like Whyte could capture the many ways I had become addicted to love and work. Like many men I know, it took losing a marriage or two and being fired from a job or two, to finally take time off to find the inner lover I had abandoned so long ago. For me, I began to get to know my true self on a trip to Alaska when I was thirty-six following the end of my first marriage and a second trip to Alaska with my men’s group when I was fifty-six.

I had to get away from work and women in order find the me I was afraid to see and come to terms with the father wound that I experienced when my mid-life father took an overdose of sleeping pills when I was five years old. Though he didn’t die, our lives were never the same.

I came to understand that my drive to achieve success at work and find the perfect marriage partner was driven, in part, by unhealed trauma from childhood. The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Studies have demonstrated that our early experiences can have a major impact on our adult health and wellbeing. Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. For example:

  • Experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect.
  • Living in a home where someone has substance abuse or mental health problems.
  • Witnessing violence in the home or community.
  • Having a parent who is absent physically or emotionally.

One of the most common, and harmful ACEs, is growing up with an absent father. Psychologist James Hollis says,

“A father may be physically present, but absent in spirit. His absence may be literal through death, divorce or dysfunction, but more often it is a symbolic absence through silence and the inability to transmit what he also may not have learned.”

Roland Warren, former President of National Fatherhood Initiative, says,

“Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. And if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that role, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.”

That was certainly the truth for me. The wound definitely impacted my relationships, my sense of myself, and my work life.

Though I achieved great outward success at work, it felt more addictive than free. My mantra was “too much is not enough.” I always felt I had something to prove in all aspects of my life. Healing the father wound was crucial to the integration of all three of my marriages—to work, to love, and to myself.

Many people who have suffered from Adverse Childhood Experiences and early trauma feel their lives will be forever limited and they will never be truly happy. The good news from the Harvard results, as well as other long-term studies, shows that healing can happen regardless of the difficult early lives. It helps when we can acknowledge our wounds and talk about our experiences rather than trying to forget they ever happened.

In The Good Life, Drs. Waldinger and Schulz conclude, “As adults, the Harvard Study participants who were able to acknowledge challenges and talk about them more openly seemed to have a similar ability to elicit support from others. Being open and clear about one’s experiences offers an opportunity for another person to be helpful.”

Too often, men try to hide their wounds so they can appear strong. We’re terrified of appearing weak and vulnerable. Yet, I’ve found that our vulnerability is our superpower. My wife, Carlin, has often told me that my willingness to be vulnerable is what she most loves and admires about me. Her love has gone a long way to helping me heal from my early losses. She has also said that one of the main reasons we have had a successful forty-four-year marriage is because I have been in a men’s group for forty-five years.

Among the most important findings from the Harvard Studies were that regardless of our early wounds, there were two vitally important things that allowed men to find true happiness and joy: “Meeting a caring friend and marrying an accepting spouse.” Nurturing our friendships and our intimate partnerships takes time and effort, but there is nothing that is more important.

If you would like to read more articles like these, I invite you to subscribe to my free, weekly, newsletter, which you can do here: https://menalive.com/email-newsletter/.

The post The One Thing Midlife Men Must Do to Have a Great Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness appeared first on MenAlive.

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I will admit it. I’m in love. I would even go so far as to say I’m more in love now than when we first fell in love 44 years ago. My wife, Carlin, and I have been together since 1980. It was the third marriage for each of us. Yes, sometimes, the third time is the charm. But getting to stage five has been a journey which we are still on. I wrote about it in an article, “The 5 Stages of Love and Why Too Many Stop at Stage 3.”

            We all want real, lasting love, whether we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. Yet too many marriages fall apart and most people don’t know why. They mistakenly believe that they have chosen the wrong partner. After going through the grieving process, they start looking again. But after more than forty years as a marriage and family counselor I have found that most people are looking for love in all the wrong places. They don’t understand that Stage 3 is not the end, but the real beginning for achieving real, lasting love:

            Stage 1: Falling In Love

            Stage 2: Becoming a Couple

            Stage 3: Disillusionment

            Stage 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love

            Stage 5: Using the Power of Two to Change the World

            When people think about what needs to change in the world, we often hear clichés like “the world needs more love.” But what does it mean to actually change the world for the better and how can love deal with global climate change, the destruction of our ecosystem, and our political gridlock that keeps us stuck in endless conflicts?

            Although we can go through the five stages of love at any age, we usually are not able to fully engage stage 5 until reach mid-life. When we get to mid-life and beyond, we all have a desire to make a difference in the world. We usually think of this as our “calling” in life. At a time when we must face the reality that we must change our lives to live sustainably on the planet, many of us feel called upon to address these issues. My calling has been to help men and women find real, lasting love so that together we can save humanity. My calling goes beyond my own personal joy in creating my relationship with Carlin. I want to make a difference in the world. This is true of Carlin as well.       

             The Power to Two enables us to do together what we could never do alone. My calling puts me more in the public arena world-wide, but I couldn’t do it without Carlin’s backing and support. Her calling is to make a difference in with our family, friends, and community. I’m there for her and my support allows her to make her own difference in the world.

            Joshua Wolf Shenk begins his book, Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity with this quote by playwright Tony Kushner,

The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one; one is a fiction.”

Shenk begins the book with our commonly held belief about the power of one.

“For centuries, the myth of the lone genius has towered over us like a colossus.”

He goes on to look more deeply at the power of two. He goes on to say,

“the dyad is the most fluid and flexible of relationships. Two people can basically make their own society as on the go. When even one more person is added to the mix, the situation becomes more stable, but this stability may stifle creativity, as roles and power positions harden. Three legs make a table stand in place. Two legs are made for walking or running for jumping or falling.”

            You might ask yourselves what do you see as your calling in life? What do you feel called upon to do, that would make the world a little better place? I believe that two people who are experiencing real, lasting love can commit themselves to sharing that love with the world.  Think what the world would be like if more and more of us were engaged in expressing real, lasting love.

            One important lesson the Coronavirus pandemic has taught me is that we are all connected. What impacts each of us can influence all of us. It also reminds me that humans are out of balance with the community of life on Earth. It was not an accident that the virus spread from animals to humans. Humans continue to consume more and more of the Earth’s resources and to invade habit of other animal species.

            In my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationship and Why The Best is Still To Come, I guide people through the 5 Stages of Love. In the final chapter, “You Two Can Change the World: If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?” I say that the environmental changes we are seeing—everything from Covid-19 to extreme climate change—remind me of the film Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, a 1982 documentary directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass. There was no dialogue in the film, just images and hauntingly beautiful music. According to Hopi Dictionary the word koyaanisqatsi (Hopi pronunciation: kojɑːnisˈkɑtsi) is defined as “life of moral corruption and turmoil” or “life out of balance.”

            In her book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, Rebecca Costa offers an in-depth understanding of the underlying causes of this imbalance. She recognizes the complexity is making it difficult for humans to solve the problems we have created in the world.

            Clearly, if human beings are going to survive as a species, we must heal our connection to the earth. We must also heal our connection to ourselves and each other.  I believe that couples are being called to this larger purpose. As our love expands outward we want to work together to help save our children, grandchildren, and all future generations.

             Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that every couple has to find a big issue that they tackle together. I’m not even suggesting that there is a single issue that both members of the couple will take on together. I am saying that as we get into our 40s, 50s, and 60s, we begin to feel called to address larger issues in the world. These issues may be an extension of our work, either paid or volunteer, or they may be something that has been in the background of our lives and is now coming to the fore.

            One person may take the lead on an issue and the other person may remain more in the background providing support. We may be the leader on one issue and the support person on another. Or there may be an issue that both members of the partnership want to address. We may each bring our unique perspective and skills to the problem.

            My wife, Carlin, and I continue to find ways to heal ourselves, heal our relationships, and extend the healing out into the world. If you are in a relationship now, think of how the five stages of love may guide you and what you might want to engage as you reach Stage 5, Using the Power of Two to do your part to change the world for the better.

            I look forward to hearing from you. Drop me a note at Jed@MenAlive.com (be sure to respond to my spamarrest filter when writing for the first time) or come visit me at www.MenAlive.com.

The post The 5th Stage of Love: How the Power of Two Can Change the World appeared first on MenAlive.

Photo by Derek Thompson / Unsplash.com

On November 21, 1969, I held my newborn son, Jemal, in my arms and I made a vow that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for me. I promised him I would do everything I could to create a world where fathers were fully healthy and involved with their families throughout their lives. Following the birth of our daughter, Angela, three years later, I founded MenAlive to help fathers and families to live fully healthy lives.

            My midlife father had a much more challenging journey. I was only five years old when he left and it wasn’t until much later, when I was a father myself, that I found the journals he had written during the time he was going through his own midlife hell at age of forty-two:

            July 3: “Oh, Christ, if I can only give my son a decent education—a college decree with a love for books, a love for people, good, solid knowledge. No guidance was given to me. I slogged and slobbered and blundered through two-thirds of my life.”

            August 8: “Sunday morning, my humanness has fled, my sense of comedy has gone down the drain. I’m tired, hopelessly tired, surrounded by an immense brick wall, a blood-spattered brick world, splattered with my blood, where I senselessly banged to find an opening. How can I give my wife and son what they need?”

            September 12: “A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, have run completely out. Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.”

December 4: “All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education. I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying. My hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

Five days after his last entry, my father took an overdose of sleeping pills. Though he didn’t die our lives were never the same. I grew up wondering what happened to my father, when it would happen to me, and what I could do to keep it from happening to other families. My father was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital north of Los Angeles where we lived. He was locked up for years and got worse and worse, until he finally escaped. I described his story and his ultimate healing journey in my book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound.

I was twenty-six when my son was born and was blessed by his birth, but also terrified I would end up like my father. I denied my own father-wound and thought I could outrun the fears that kept me awake at night and plagued my dreams. That changed when I joined a men’s group when I was thirty-six.

Our group has continued to meet regularly now for forty-five years. I believe the group saved my life, literally. There were times that their love and support kept me going when I felt lost in despair. What I learned has enabled me to become a better husband and father. My wife, Carlin, says she believes that the main reason we have had a successful forty-four year marriage is because I’ve been in a men’s group for forty-five years.

Another midlife father, Dan Doty, believes in the healing power of men’s groups. Dan is a global men’s work leader, executive coach, and somatic meditation teacher. As founder of EVRYMAN, Fatherhood Unlocked, and Rite of Passage, he leads the contemporary cultural conversation around masculinity, fatherhood, and spirituality. He is also a long-time friend and colleague. “Fatherhood today asks men to grow and evolve in an unprecedented manner,” says Dan. “Along with the traditional responsibilities of protector and provider, today’s dads need to be connected, present, nurturing, and full partners in life.”

When my children were young I hungered to become a great father, but I lacked the skills. I grew up without a dad and it took me many years before I recognized the hole that was created when he left. Roland Warren, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, says

“Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. And if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that role, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.”

Dan Doty wants to heal the father wound that is so pervasive in our society.

“Loneliness and isolation is the name of the game for most dads,”

says Dan.

“We may have friends, but not the ones we’d call at midnight when we’re in a panic. We rarely have the type of community and support that truly allows us to perform at high levels.”

And I would add, to become the fathers we all need and want to be.

I’m 100% in agreement with Dan when he says,

“Of all the possible types of support, a regularly occurring men’s group carries the most impact of anything we know of.”

That’s why I was excited to hear about his new program called “Father’s Fire.” Dan says,

“Father’s Fire is a professionally guided weekly men’s group for dads who are willing to step into the fire of life and lead themselves, their families, and their communities into a better future.”

Dan says the program is open to fathers of any age, but most of the dads are in midlife and committed to high level success in all aspects of their lives. You can learn more about the Fathers’s Fire program here.

Dan has another exciting program I wish had been available when I first learned I was going to become a dad. It’s appropriately called Fatherhood Ready. Says Dan,

“We consider fatherhood a sacred responsibility, and the greatest opportunity for growth and maturity in a man’s life. It is an unending gauntlet that asks us to continually step up, sharpen, mature, open, soften, and lead. It brings immense pain and strife, and profound joy and love.”

In describing the program, Dan says,

“This program brings together the power and depth of an expertly guided men’s group and the wisdom of the best birth and parenting education around. This is a rite of passage, plus effective training on the most important topics of the early stage of fatherhood.”

I loved what I was hearing and asked Dan who would most benefit from the program. He told me Fatherhood Ready is for:

  • Expecting dads at any point along conception to pregnancy.
  • Men trying to conceive.
  • Fathers of newborns and babies in the postpartum period.
  • Men wrestling with a decision to become a father.

I have known Dan before he became a father and watched him grow stronger and more committed to fatherhood as each of his children, two sons and daughter, have come into the world and been welcomed by Dan and his wife. Dan is forty-two, the same age my father was when my dad was overwhelmed by fear, confusion, and his perceived inadequacy as a father.  

The contrast between Dan and my dad brings tears to my eyes wishing my father had been able to join Fatherhood Ready and Father’s Fire and part of a men’s support group. I know my father, wherever he is in the spirit world, would join me in also shedding tears of joy knowing these programs are available now to men and their families.

You can learn more about Dan and his work at DanDoty.com.

You can get information about Father’s Fire at DanDoty.com/Fathers-Fire.

If you are a father-to-be, a new father, or someone who care about fatherhood, check out Fatherhood Ready at dandoty.com/fatherhood-ready.

As for me, I’m now the father of five grown children, grandfather of seventeen, and a great grandfather of two. I write a regular article about the joys and challenges of being a man at MenAlive.com. I invite you to subscribe to my free weekly newsletter at menalive.com/email-newsletter/

The post Midlife Fatherhood: The Ultimate Rite of Passage for Men appeared first on MenAlive.

My interest in the lives of midlife men began in 1949, the year I was five years old and my 43-year-old father took an overdose of sleeping pills. My dad had become increasingly depressed when he couldn’t support his family doing the work he loved. Though he didn’t die, our lives were never the same. I grew up wondering what happened to my father, when it would happen to me, and what I could do to help other families avoid the suffering my family experienced.

            Two other men have been interested in the lives of men for a long time. Robert Waldinger, MD is professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Marc Schulz, PhD is the associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. They have been friends and colleagues for more than thirty years and have recently written a groundbreaking book on how we can all create a more joyful and meaningful life.

            In The Good Life: Lessons From the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, they say,

“The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1938, with the intention of ‘investigating not what made people sick but what made them thrive.’ The original 724 subjects were young men and boys from the Boston area chosen from two populations: 268 were Harvard undergraduates and 456 were from Boston’s inner-city and disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

            Subjects agreed to answer a thorough set of survey and interview questions every two years. Collected over hundreds of lifetimes, the biennial check-ins constructed detailed portraits of participants’ health using emotional wellbeing surveys, medical tests, and biographical interviews.

            We all want to be happy and live a great life, but what does that actually mean? Drs. Waldinger and Schultz begin to answer that question by drawing on the wisdom of the past.

“More than two thousand years ago Aristotle used a term that is still in wide use in psychology today eudaimonia. It refers to a stage of deep well-being in which a person feels their life has meaning and purpose.It is often contrasted with hedonia (the origin of the word hedonism), which refers to the fleeting happiness of various pleasures.”

            They go on to say,

“If hedonic happiness is what you mean when you say you’re having a good time, then eudaimonic happiness is what we mean when we say life is good. It is the kind of well-being that can endure through both the ups and the downs.”

            When my father couldn’t find work, he blamed himself, thought he was a failure as a man and that my mother and me would be better off without him. I wrote about his recovery and his journey to find real happiness in my memoir, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound, and offer an on-line course on how we can all heal the father wound.

            Waldinger and Schultz begin their book with a simple question:

“If you had to make one life choice, right now, to set yourself on the path to future health and happiness, what would it be?”

Think about that for a moment. If the genie of happiness gave you one wish, what would you choose?

            The authors suggest ones that studies have shown people have chosen.

“Would you choose to put more money into savings each month? To change careers? Would you decide to travel more?”

In a 2007 survey, millennials were asked about their most important goals.

“Seventy-six percent said that becoming rich was their number one goal and fifty percent said a major goal was to become famous.”

            What does the science actually tell us? I encourage you to read the book. It is full of stories and the facts are clear. Here’s the short answer with the three major things learned over that past 86 years of the study:

  • First, having social connections is better for our health and wellbeing—and conversely, loneliness kills.
  • Second, having higher-quality close connections is more important for our well-being than the number of connections.
  • Third, having good relationships is not only good for our bodies but also for our brains.

“Once we had followed the people in the Harvard Study all the way into their 80s,”

say Drs. Waldinger and Schultz,

“we wanted to look back at them at midlife to see if we could predict who was going to grow into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wasn’t. So we gathered together everything we knew about them at age 50 and found that it wasn’t their middle-aged cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old; it was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest (mentally and physically) at age 80.”

This is crucially important. Throughout human history most people died by age 50. Now many of us will live a full-second adulthood into our 80s, 90s, and beyond. The decisions we make at midlife will determine whether our future is one of joy and wellbeing or despair and decrepitude. (The dictionary offers this example to describe the word: “He had passed directly from middle age into decrepitude.”) You definitely don’t want this to be you.

            You can hear Dr. Waldinger give the summary of the Harvard Study in a 13-minute TED talk that has amassed twenty-five million views.

Why Joining a Men’s Group is the One Thing Midlife Men Must Do to Have a Great Life

            I turned 80 years old last December and feel very fortunate to have focused on relationships throughout my life. My wife, Carlin, and I have been happily married for 44 years. Carlin will tell you that one of the main reasons she feels we have had a successful 44-year marriage is because I’ve been in a men’s group for 45 years.

            For more than fifty years, I have been a psychotherapist specializing in helping midlife men and their families live fully healthy lives. I have found that midlife is a time when men’s health can improve dramatically or they begin to decline. It can be the most passionate, powerful, productive, and purposeful time of a man’s life. Or it be a time when men begin to go downhill.

            Even when men recognize the critical importance of fostering good relationships with a spouse, family, friends, and acquaintances, most would not think that joining a men’s group was the most important thing a man could do. Yet, I believe it is.

            I was 36 years old when I first joined the men’s group. I believe my group involvement has been the most important thing contributing to my health and happiness. My most recent book, Long Live Men! The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope to Humanity detailed I’ve learned about life, love, intimacy, and the importance of men coming together in groups at midlife.  

            My friend and colleague, Chip Conley, is the Co-Founder and CEO of the Modern Elder Academy. In his book, Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better with Age, he says that midlife may last from age 35 to 75 and details three stages:

  • 35 to 50. We tend to experience some of the challenging physical and emotional transitions—a bit like an adult puberty.
  • 50 to 60 is the core of midlife when we’ve settled into this new era and are seeing some of the upside.
  • 60 to 75 is when we’re young enough to still be working and living a very vital life, but old enough to see and plan for what’s next: our senior years.

I was lucky to join the men’s group during this first midlife stage and to still be in the group when I graduated to the stage of Elderhood.

In my book, 12 Rules for Good Men, I say,

“Rule #1 is Join a Men’s Group. Looking back on our heritage as men and our lives as hunter-gatherers over the last two million years, one of the things that stands out to me is that men spend considerable time in small groups with other men. This occurred naturally as men went away from the camp hunting for game to feed their families and tribe.”

            In more recent times, men have experienced this deep connection by going off to war. As Waldinger and Schultz say in their study,

“All of the college men in the Harvard Study had plans as the 1940s began. Then Pearl Harbor happened, and every plan, for every student, went out the window—89 percent of the college men fought in the war, and their lives were deeply affected by it. Yet nearly all of the college men reported feeling proud to have served, and many remember it as one of the best and most meaningful times in their lives despite it challenges.”

            Sebastian Junger is the bestselling author of numerous books including The Perfect Storm, Tribe, and War. He says,

“Americans are enamored with war, even when they say they don’t believe in it. Young men in the west no longer have a sense of what it means to be a man—and some of them go to war to find out. We all want peace, but we’re all fascinated by the drama of war. It transcends our moral beliefs.”

            I believe that to have healthy relationships with spouses, friends, and family, we need to take risks and be tested. We need to find our place in the company of men we can trust with our lives. We need to open ourselves to our deepest fears and know we are fully accepted for who we are. We don’t have to go to war to do that.

            I found what I needed in a men’s group and share my experience in a recent article, “ ‘Til Death Do We Part: The Life and Times of My 45-Year-Old Men’s Group.” I have participated in a number of powerful men’s group experiences over the years. Here are a few resources I recommend:

  • The Mankind Project.
  • MenLiving.
  • Man Therapy.
  • The Good Men Project.
  • Warrior Films.  
  • Shana James Coaching.
  • Male Wholeness.

If you’d like to read more articles like these, please visit me at MenAlive.com and subscribe to our free newsletter.

The post The One Thing Midlife Men Must Do to Have a Great Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness appeared first on MenAlive.

Part 2

            In Part 1, I introduced readers to an expanded understanding of midlife and the unique journey that men make as we embark on what for many is a true hero’s journey.  In his pathfinding new book, Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better With Age, Chip Conley offers a unique guide for every man (and woman) who is dealing with the confusing and challenging time known as “midlife.”

            Chip Conley is CEO of the Modern Elder Academy, the first midlife wisdom school, and a New York Times bestselling author. “What’s wrong with me?” Chip asked himself in the Introduction to Learning to Love Midlife.

“That was the question that haunted me in my mid-40s,” says Conley. “I hated my life, partly because every piece of it was falling apart. Yet I clung to those pieces as if they were a tattered life preserver.”

            I first med Chip Conley shortly after he opened the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco in 1987. I was planning a men’s retreat and his quirky hotel seemed like the perfect place. He went on to create a string of boutique hotels, Joie de Vivre Hospitality, and became the second-largest operator of boutique hotels in the world. He later became a mentor to the young entrepreneurs who started Airbnb and was named the company’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy.

            I recently interviewed Chip for a podcast at MenAlive. I asked him about his own challenges in midlife, how he came to write the book, and his belief that midlife extends from age 35 to 75.

            I’ve been writing about midlife since 1997 when my book, Male Menopause, was published and become an international bestseller translated into fourteen foreign languages. I said,

“Male menopause, also called Andropause or Manopause, begins with hormonal, physiological, and chemical changes that occur in men generally between the ages of forty and fifty-five. These changes affect all aspects of a man’s life. Male menopause is thus, a physical condition with psychological, interpersonal, social, and spiritual dimensions.”

            I went on to say,

“My first experience with this change of life occurred the day I was born on December 21, 1943. When my mother announced, “it’s a boy,” and lifted me up for my father to hold, he was thirty-seven years old and in the midst of a major life crisis. Over the next five years, he became increasingly depressed and withdrawn. He had what my mother called ‘a midlife nervous breakdown.’ Just before my sixth birthday, he took an overdose of sleeping pills. Though he didn’t die, our lives were never again the same.”

            He was committed to the state mental hospital in Camarillo, north of our home in Los Angeles. I wrote about his own journey of survival and redemption in my book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound. Too many men hit midlife with little understanding, preparation, or guidance. Chip Conley’s journey was not as rocky as my father’s, but he faced his own difficult challenges. “I felt completely alone,” says Chip of this period in his life, “an idiot without a village.”

            He goes on to say,

“Midlife is when we begin to worry that life isn’t turning out the way we expected. We may feel a sense of lost opportunity and frustrated longings. Or feel that we’ve sold out and are living someone else’s life. It’s when we can look in the mirror and see a stranger.”

Chip talks about The Midlife Unraveling.

“Midlife is the initiation into a time of massive transitions. A drizzle of disappointments. Parents passing away, kids leaving home, financial reckonings, changing jobs, changing spouses, hormonal wackiness, scary health diagnoses, addictive behaviors becoming unwieldly, and the stirrings of a growing curiosity about the meaning of life.” (What’s it all about Alfie?)

Chip offers a wonderful vision of a positive transformation in the midst of the unraveling.

“When a caterpillar is fully grown, it uses a button of silk to fasten its body to a twig and then forms a chrysalis. Within this protective chrysalis, the transformational magic of metamorphosis occurs. While it’s a bit dark, gooey, and solitary, it’s a transition, not a crisis. And of course, on the other side is a beautiful butterfly.”

The 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better With Age

            Chip details five important areas of our lives and within each one he offers a number of positive and transformative things we can address:

The Physical Life

  1. “I Have More Life Left Than I Thought.”
  2. “I’m Relieved My Body No Longer Defines Me.”

The Emotional Life

  • “I’m Making Friends With My Emotions”
  • “I Invest in My Social Wellness.”
  • “I Have No More ‘Fucks’ Left to Give.”

The Mental Life

  • “I’m Mastering My Wisdom.”
  • “I Understand How My Story Serves Me.”
  • “I’ve Learned How to Edit My Life.”

The Vocational Life

  • “I’m Joyfully Stepping Off the Treadmill.”
  • “I’m Starting to Experience Time Affluence.”

The Spiritual Life

  1. “I’ve Discovered My Soul.”
  2. I Feel As If I’m Growing Whole.”

You can learn more about Chip and his work and order his book by visiting him here. You will learn more about his new book, Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better With Age, his six other books, courses, and classes.

If you’d like to read more articles by me, you can sign up for my free newsletter here.

The post The New Midlife Male: Welcome to the Most Passionate, Powerful, Productive, and Purposeful Time of Your Life appeared first on MenAlive.

My wife, Carlin, will tell you that one of the main reasons we have had a successful 44-year marriage is because I have been in a men’s group for 45 years. There were seven members in the group when we began. Three have died and four of us are still together. Looking at an early photo of the group, we marvel at what a young midlife bunch of guys we were when we first met in 1979. Now I’m 80, Tom is 78, Tony is 77, and Denis is 75.

When the group began we all lived within driving distance of each other in the San Franciso Bay area. Tony later moved to Seattle. The rest of us still live in northern California. As we’ve gotten older, health issues have made it more difficult to meet in person, but we still manage to make it work. In recent years the California members of the group have flown north to meet Tony. This time, Tony flew south and we met at Denis’s home in Calistoga. We started the New Year with a heart-felt retreat January 10-13, 2024.

            I am an only child by birth, but since joining the men’s group, I have been gifted with brothers that I love and who love me. We have varied skills and backgrounds. I’m the writer in the group. In my most recent book, Long Live Men, published in 2023, I described “The Seven Stages of Our Men’s Group” and what we have gone through so far. Here are our stages:

  1. Learning to Trust and Open Up.
  2. Revealing Our True Selves, Fears, and Insecurities.
  3. Baring Our Bodies and Souls.
  4. Learning to Have Fun Together.
  5. Revitalizing the Group.
  6. Making a Lifetime Commitment.
  7. Dealing with Disabilities, Death, and Dying.

In recent years, including in the last meeting, we talk openly about issues of life and death. My wife, Carlin, is 85 and all our wives are aging with us. We are open about issues surrounding our own end-of-life issues as well as those of our spouse’s. Carlin and I have been reading an interesting book by Sallie Tisdale, a fine author and experienced nurse, who has spent ten years with people going through the final stages of life.

The book, Advice for Future Corpses: A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying, is witty, compassionate, and helpful. She says at the outset,

“I never died, so this entire book is a fool’s advice. Birth and death are the only human acts we cannot practice.”

She addresses issues that we’ve all found to be frightening to discuss but are increasingly important in our lives as we age including:

  • What does it mean to die “a good death?”
  • Can there be more than one kind of good death?
  • What can I do to make my death, or the deaths of my loved ones, good?
  • What to say and not to say, what to ask, and when—from the dying, loved ones, and doctors.

As I wrote in my own book, Long Live Men,

“Since we decided to stay together for the rest of our lives and not to add any new members to our group, we are more and more aware that there will come a time when the group itself will die.”

As we’ve gotten older, my wife, Carlin and I talk about the great gift and privilege of helping each other prepare for this last phase of our lives.

Ram Dass offers additional guidance in his writings. In his book, Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying written with Marabai Bush, he says, “We all sit on the edge of a mystery. We have only known this life, so dying scares us—and we are all dying. What would it look like if you could approach dying with curiosity and love, in service of other beings? What if dying were the ultimate spiritual practice?”

He goes on to say,

“Dying is the most important thing you do in your life. It’s the great frontier for every one of us. And loving is the art of living as a preparation for dying. Allowing ourselves to dissolve into the ocean of love is not just about leaving this body; it is also the route to Oneness and unity with our own inner being, the soul, while we are still here.”

For most of my life, I have been terrified of death, my own as well as those closest to me. It has only been in recent years since Carlin has dealt with breast cancer, heart-valve replacement surgery, and two minor strokes (if you can call any stroke minor) that we have been forced to confront our fears and as well as the blessings of our support for each other as we explore what it means to prepare for and have “a good death.”

Ram Dass’s simple words have been comforting:

“If you know how to live and to love, you know how to die.”

Carlin and I have been practicing how to live and to love for 44 years. The men’s group has been practicing for 45 years. It is clearly a forever practice.

Another person who has offered helpful guidance is psychologist James Hillman. In his book, The Force of Character and The Lasting Life, he says,

“Each of us is born with an innate character, the ‘daimon,’ or ‘spirit’ that calls us to what we are meant to be.”

In reflecting on the later years of our lives, Hillman goes on to say,

“Aging is no accident. It is necessary to the human condition, intended by the soul.”

Rather than the well-known stages of life—childhood, maturity, and old age—Hillman expands upon the changes character undergoes in later life.

“First, the desire to last as long as one can; then the changes in body and soul as the capacity to last leaves and character becomes more and more exposed and confirmed until a third piece of the puzzle emerges: what is left when you have left. Lasting, Leaving, Left.”

In our modern world we put a lot of emphasis on productivity and when we are unable to produce many of us feel that we are useless. But when we focus on being, on character, rather than simply on doing and producing, our longer life takes on more meaning. In thinking about my 85-year-old wife, this reflection by Hillman offers a more expanded aspect of our purpose as we age:

“Productivity is too narrow a measure of usefulness, disability too cramping a notion of helplessness. An older woman may be helpful simply as a figure valued for her character. Like a stone at the bottom of a riverbed, she may do nothing but stay still and hold her ground, but the river has to take account and alter its flow because of her.”

When Carlin questions her value in life now that she is retired and not working, I tell her that her job now is to simply walk around town (which she loves to do) and bring her being to the people she encounters. I find, too, as I walk around town, I have a new job in life as I continue in my 80s. It’s simply to be kind and loving to those whose paths I cross—friends, neighbors, strangers, dogs, cats, birds, trees, clouds—the whole community of life in our little community of Willits.

In our fast-paced world where we are always so driven, it’s comforting to know that we can age and still have something important to offer. Our infirmities are not just indicators of a failing body, but an opportunity to deepen our character and prepare for our ultimate departure.

“Suppose you exchange the word ‘leaving’ for ‘dying’ and substitute ‘preparing’ for ‘aging,’” says Hillman. “Then what we go through in our last years in preparation for departure.”

Hillman offers a different, more hopeful, and less fearful way of moving from leaving to left.

“We slow down and go over things in our minds because there is so much to prepare. As the soul comes into the world slowly, taking all the years of childhood to adjust, so it leaves the world slowly, requiring years of old age to pack up and take off.”

Carlin and I are preparing for this ultimate mystery of life. So, too, is our men’s group, as each man take his turn preparing to leave. When the last member of the group, Dick, was close to death, we talked about what remained after we leave. We both felt there was a spirit that persisted after our bodies had gone.

I told him if he could communicate with me from the spirit world, I was open to hearing from him. A week after he died, I was doing my early morning walk and I saw lights shining at the top of a group of tall trees. “Is that you, Dick?” I asked. I had the feeling it was. Ever since, I picture the three men who have left the group, John, Ken, and Dick being on the top branches and the four of us that are still alive on the next highest branches awaiting our turn to join the others on the spirit level.

Love abides. And maybe death is not the end, but the beginning of love manifesting in other forms. We shall see. The group is scheduled to meet again in April. Stay tuned.

The post ‘Til Death Do Us Part: The Life and Times of My 45-Year-Old Men’s Group appeared first on MenAlive.

Part 3

            In Part 1 of The Hidden Secret For Becoming a Sexually Successful Male, I described the lessons I had learned in my life between the ages of 8 and 80 about becoming a sexually successful male. I said the secret was what I called Quiet Confidence or QC. In Part 2, I described the three interrelated reasons this secret has been hidden from us. In this article, I will help us understand the specific ways we can learn to develop Quiet Confidence.

Developing a practice to develop Quiet Confidence in our lives  allows us to interact with the world in ways that bring about success in all areas of our lives, including the important part that involves sex, love, and forming and keeping healthy intimate relationships.

            The key to developing Quiet Confidence (QC) begins with knowing who we are, accepting who we are, making decisions based on who we are, and taking actions in support of our highest, deepest, and best selves. Many would like a simple formula for achieving Quiet Confidence. But the truth is that this is a hero’s journey of a lifetime. No one would really want a quick and easy journey through life—born today, gone tomorrow—so we might as well buckle up and get ready for the ride of a lifetime. Fortunately, like all hero’s journeys there are guides along the way. Here are a few that I have found helpful in the eighty years I have been on my own journey.

1. Tuning Into Our Soul’s Calling

James Hillman, who died at age 85 in 2011, was a scholar, international lecturer, author of many  books, and an expert in Jungian and archetypal psychology. He became well known in the “men’s movement” for his work with poet Robert Bly and mythologist, Michael Meade. They co-hosted many men’s gatherings which I attended over the years.

Among his many books, I particularly resonated with We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World’s Getting Worse with Michael Ventura and The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling. Hillman begins The Soul’s Code with a number of “Epigraphs in Lieu of A Preface,” including these three that, for me, capture the essence of the book:

“When all the souls had chosen their lives, they went before Lachesis. And she sent with each as a guardian of his life and the fulfiller of his choice, the daimon that he had chosen, and this divinity led the soul first to Clotho, under her hand and her turning of the spindle to ratify the destiny of his lot and choice, and after contact with her, the daimon again led the soul to the spinning of Atropos to make the web of its destiny irreversible, and then without a backward look it passed beneath the throne of Necessity.”—Plato, Republic.

“The so-called traumatic experience is not an accident, but the opportunity for which the child has been patiently waiting…in order to find a necessity and direction for its existence, in order that its life may become a serious matter.” –W.H. Auden.

“In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.”—C.G. Jung.

When I first read The Soul’s Code, it was a revelation. I felt like my own guardian, my unique daimon, had been awakened and all the pieces of my life began to fall into place. The trauma I experienced when my father took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to the state mental hospital began to make sense, as well as my calling to become a healer. I was able to write about the process in my book, My Distant Dad: Healing the Family Father Wound.  

The two most important days of our lives are (1) The day we were born, and (2) The day we found out why. Embracing our soul’s calling helps us understand our birth and the early years of our lives as well as who we are what our true calling is meant to be.

2. Healing Our Family Father Wound

I had already done a lot of healing and embracing my own hero’s journey when I read Hillman’s book, but I realized I needed to address my own father wound as well as the father wound that both my father and mother experienced in their own families. In My Distant Dad, I followed Hillman’s lead and began with three quotes that helped summarize the essence of the book.

“A father may be physically present but absent in spirit. His absence may be literal through death, divorce, or dysfunction, but more often it is a symbolic absence through silence and the inability to transmit what he also may not have acquired.”  –James Hollis

“Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. And if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that role, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.”  –Roland Warren

“You will begin to forgive the world when you forgive your father.” –Tennessee Williams’ psychiatrist

The father wound is so pervasive most of us don’t even know it is there. We fail to recognize that our addictions, obsessive strivings for success, sexual conquests, and deeply felt insecurities are related to our unhealed father wound. In order to have Quiet Confidence we must confront, process, and heal the wound of our lost fathers and how it impacts our lives, often through many generations.

3. Embracing Our Male Generational Lineage

For many of us who know we grew up in a home with an absent father, we find it difficult to feel Quiet Confidence in ourselves as men. There were times that no matter how much I accomplished or how successful I became, deep inside I felt that there was something missing in me. It seemed that when I lost my father and later my stepfather, it meant there was some quality that only men can give and I didn’t get mine. As a result, I was forever cut off, lost, and would never feel like a real man.

What changed for me was getting in touch with my male lineage. I never had a strong connection with my grandparents or great grandparents, but I realized that they existed and I could reach out and feel their presence guiding me, just as I began to feel the presence of my daimon or guardian spirit. Further, not only could I feel the many generations of fathers, but I learned the maleness itself goes back through our evolutionary history 1 billion years through all the creatures that have lived.

I could receive strength, wisdom, and guidance as I pictured this group of male ancestors going back through time. Even when I could acknowledge and accept my own father wound, I could also draw on strength from my male ancestors to help me gain the Quiet Confidence I wasn’t able to get directly from my father.

4. Accepting Our Animal Maleness

Another source of confidence we can draw on comes from the recognition that we are part of the male animal kingdom. As I spent more time in nature and read more about what we can learn from animals, I could tune into the confidence and courage that all animals exhibit. I can’t imagine a bull elk, a wolf, or stallion, having insecurities about being a male or wondering if they are “man enough.” There is a poem by Carl Sandburg, called “Wilderness” that captures the power of our male animal nature which I enjoy reading and feeling my confidence grow as I feel the presence of those animal spirits in me:  

Wilderness

by Carl Sandburg

There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.   

There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me . . . a snout and a belly . . . a machinery for eating and grunting . . . a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me . . . clambering-clawed . . . dog-faced . . . yawping a galoot’s hunger . . . hairy under the armpits . . . here are the hawk-eyed hankering men . . . here are the blonde and blue-eyed women . . . here they hide curled asleep waiting . . . ready to snarl and kill . . . ready to sing and give milk . . . waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

We all can spend more time in nature and feel our connection to the wild.

               In Part 4, I will tell you more about the secrets of sexual success I have learned between 8 and 80. If you found this article helpful, please share it with others. If you’d like to read more articles like these, please consider subscribing to my free newsletter

I am considering offering an on-line workshop for those who would like to learn more about “The Hidden Secret of Becoming a Sexually Successful Man.” If you are interested, please drop me an email to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Sexual Success” in the subject line and I will send you more details (It will be open to both men and women).

The post The Hidden Secret For Becoming a Sexually Successful Male appeared first on MenAlive.

Part 4

In Part 1 of “The Hidden Secret For Becoming a Sexually Successful Male,” I described the lessons I had learned in my life between the ages of 8 and 80.  I said the secret was what I called Quiet Confidence or QC. In Part 2, I described the three interrelated reasons why this secret has been hidden from us. In Part 3, I described four practices we would embrace and follow to develop our Quiet Confidence. In this final part of the series, I will continue to offer specific practices you can engage.

5. Be True to Yourself

In my Junior High School yearbook, my mother offered her advice in this well-known quote from William Shakespeare. “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” At the time I had very little idea about what it meant to be true to myself, but I remembered the quote and I learned more as my life journey unfolded.

Humans are social animals and as such we are forever influenced by those around us. When we are surrounded by loving, caring, and healthy people that is a good thing. But as humans, we are all flawed. No one is perfectly good, not even Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama who are great examples of being exemplary human beings.

We all have experiences of trying to live up to someone’s expectations of who we should be, whether our mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters, friends, or social-media friends. Yet, we can’t let others define us. We must do our best to be truly ourselves. The unconventional Christian pastor Brennan Manning summed up his advice this way.

“Be who you is, ’cause if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.”

6. Follow the Golden Thread of Your True Self

Years ago I had a vision that all of us have a “golden thread” that connects us to our true selves. Even when we lose that connection and are forced by life’s circumstances to drop the connecting thread, it is always there to pick up again. I found a poem in later life that helped me better understand the importance of keeping attached to that thread of goodness and authenticity.

It’s called “The Way It Is” by William Stafford:

“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change. People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread. But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost. Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old. Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You never let go of the thread.”

7. Get to Know Your Right Brain

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard trained and published neuroanatomist. On December 10, 1996, at the age of thirty-seven, she experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain which almost killed her. She suddenly lost her ability to walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her former life. As she was experiencing this cataclysmic occurrence, she alternated between the experiencing the euphoria of feeling the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and pace, and the logical, sequential, left brain, which recognized she was having a stroke and enable her to call for help before she died.

She recounts her experience in a now famous TED talk, “My Stroke of Insight,” seen by nearly 30 million people and described in her book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. After watching the TED talk and reading the book, I reached out to Dr. Taylor and interviewed her. She told me our culture has become too left-brain focused and we all, particularly men, need to get better acquainted with our intuitive, feminine, body-centered, right brain.

She introduced me to her colleague Dr. Iain McGilchrist author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Train and the Making of the Western World. Dr. McGilchrist says, that the right and left brains perform the same basic functions, but in very different ways.

“The two hemispheres have styles — takes, if you like, on the world. The left hemisphere’s goal is to enable us to manipulate things, whereas the goal of the right hemisphere is to relate to things and understand them as a whole. These two ways of thinking are both needed but are, fundamentally at the same time, incompatible.”

Dr. McGilchrist concludes saying,

“We behave like people who have right hemisphere damage that treats the world as a simple resource to be exploited. It’s made us enormously powerful. It’s enabled us to become wealthy, but it’s also meant that we’ve lost the means to understand the world, to make sense of it, to feel satisfaction and fulfilment through our place in the world.”

Reconnecting with our right-brain, and letting it guide our lives, allows us to balance our minds and helps us find the Quiet Confidence so many of us have lost.

8. Understand the Four Brain Characters That Drive Your Life

When I spoke to Dr. Taylor she told me that understanding the four brain characters was the crowning insight from her personal experience and studies of neuroscience. In her follow-up book, Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Your Life she offers a very simple, yet powerful set of practices, that can help us understand and get in touch with the four characters that make up our brains.

“There is now convincing neuroanatomical evidence of the existence of four brain characters,”

says Dr. Taylor.

“There is a thinking character and an emotional character. Neuroanatomically these four groups of cells make up the left and right-thinkingcenters of our higher cerebral cortex, as well as our left and right emotional centers of our lower limbic system. The better you know your Four Characters, the easier your life will become.”

            Character 1. This rational character in your left-brain thinking brain character and is amazingly gifted at creating order in the external world. This part of your brain defines what is right/wrong and what is good/bad based upon its moral compass. It is also our left-brain Character 1 that triggers our stress response since it is a perfectionist in all it does and stays alert to what will help us survive.

            Dr. Taylor suggests we name each of our brain characters as a way to begin to become intimate with these unique characters within us. She calls her Character 1, Helen. “She is hell on wheels and gets things done.”

I call my Character 1, Jaydij  for Just Do It, Jed. This character is action oriented, takes no prisoners. He is impatient and jumps to creating solutions, often before he gets all the facts. Rather than taking his time–On your mark, get set, go–he often “goes off” quickly, never needing to get ready or set. This can, and often does, cause problems with relationships.

            As you get to know your own Character 1, you will come up with your own name and learn his or her characteristics. Dr. Taylor lists some of the characteristics of Character 1 as follows:

  • Organizes and categorizes everything.
  • Divides people into we and they.
  • Is protective of our people and suspicious of their people.
  • Critically judges right and wrong, good and bad.

            Character 2. The left-brain emotional character is preoccupied with one vital question: “Am I safe?” This is the core issue for any intimate relationship as well as our very survival through our long evolutionary history.

            Character 2 is often powered by a familiar feeling of unease that stems from either a traumatized or out-of-control past. As a result, this Character 2 part of our brain may end up feeling either “less than” or “not worthy.” It can also bring up fears of abandonment. That’s why I call my Character 2, Aban.

            A great deal of the conflicts I have had in relationships can be traced back to my fears that my safety and security needs were being threatened.

            Dr. Taylor says some of the most important characteristics of Character 2 include:

  • Gets angry and blames others when upset.
  • Feels guilty and internalizes shame.
  • Loves conditionally and has negative self-judgment.
  • Experiences a great deal of anxiety and worry.

            Where Characters 1 and 2, address issues of our past and future and how we can  use things and people, our right brain Characters 3 and 4 are all about the present moment and how we can connect with others and appreciate their uniqueness.

            Character 3. The right-brain emotional, is our experiential self that seeks similarities rather than differences with other people. It wants to connect, explore, and go on adventures with others. The way the present moment feels is delicious, and sharing time, having fun, or deeply connecting through empathy can be gratifying for everyone.

            I call my Character 3, Jeddy, the endearing name my wife, Carlin, calls me when we are feeling the most connected and playful. Jeddy is like a big joyful puppy dog. He is spontaneous, exuberant, unrestrained. He may unexpectedly jump into your lap and lick your face. He also can overwhelm you with his barks of delight and may even pee here and there when he is overly excited.

Dr. Taylor says some of the most important characteristics of Character 3 include:

  • Awe-inspiring.
  • Playful.
  • Empathic.
  • Creative.

Character 4. The right-brain thinking character which exists as our most peaceful, open, and loving self. Our Character 4 is right here, right now, and completely invested in celebrating the gift of life with immense gratitude, acceptance, openness, and love. I call my Character 4, The Lovers. My Tarot deck says the card VI, Lovers, is “symbolized by the conjoined male and female, is the law of union—oneness through the marriage of opposites.”

“This is the part of our consciousness, right thinking brain that we share with one another and all other life,” says Dr. Taylor. “I see the brain cells underlying our Character 4 as the portal through which the energy of the universe enters into and fuels every cell of our body. It is the all-knowing intelligence from which we came, and it is how we incarnate the consciousness of the universe.”

Dr. Taylor says some of the most important characteristics of Character 4 include:

  • Expansive.
  • Authentic.
  • Generous.  
  • Connected.

We can summarize all eight practices for developing Quiet Confidence as follows:

1. Tune Into Your Soul’s Calling.

2. Heal Your Family Father Wound.

3. Embrace Your Male Generational Lineage.

4. Accept Your Animal Maleness.

5. Be True to Yourself.

6. Follow the Golden Thread of Your True Self.

7. Get to Know Your Right Brain.

8. Understand the Four Brain Characters That Drive Your Life.

I am considering offering an on-line workshop for those who would like to learn more about “The Hidden Secret of Becoming a Sexually Successful Man.” If you are interested, please drop me an email to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Sexual Success” in the subject line and I will send you more details (It will be open to both men and women).

The post The Hidden Secret For Becoming a Sexually Successful Male appeared first on MenAlive.

I am pleased to report that I celebrated my 80th birthday on December 21, 2023. It’s been said that the two most important days of your life are (1) The day you were born and (2) The day you found out why. You know the day and month of my birth and can easily figure out the year. The day I found out why I was born was on November 21, 1969, the day my first son, Jemal, was born. When I held him in my arms shortly after he came into the world, I made a promise that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to be for me and to do everything I could to help create a world where fathers were fully healthy and involved with their children throughout their lives.

            When our daughter, Angela, was born on March 22, 1972, I started MenAlive.com. I realized that if I was going to fulfill my promise to my children, I had to learn to be healthy in body, mind, and spirit myself. We know that is not an easy task. One of the things that has become increasingly clear to me as I’ve lived these eighty years is that our world has become increasingly unhealthy. What we call our global climate crisis is really a symptom of a world out of balance, or more accurately, a world where human beings are out of balance with the community of life on planet Earth.

            The increasing temperature of the planet is the fever response to a systemic illness.

            Historian and “geologian,” Thomas Berry, warned us:

“We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of the earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen or we will die.”

            Which brings me to the point of this article. Although women certainly share some of the responsibility for the state of our world, my own calling has been to help heal men, starting with myself. Those who have followed my work know that the primary way I share what I’ve learned about health and wellbeing is through my writing. My 17 books include such health-promoting titles as:

  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions.
  • Surviving Male Menopause.
  • The Whole Man Program: Reinvigorating Your Body, Mind, and Spirit After 40.
  • The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key  Causes of Depression and Aggression.
  • The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come.
  • And my most recent book, Long Live Men! The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope to Humanity.

Beginning in 2024, I will be offering a number of courses for those who would like to take advantage of what I’ve learned over these 80 years. The courses will be open to men and women who want to better understand and put into practice what I’ve learned about men’s mental, emotional, and relational health and also for people who are working professionally to improve the lives of men and their families.

I have developed the following five courses:

Course #1: Men Alive: The Hidden Truth About The Hazards of  Being Male and A New Hope For Humanity.

       A 7 Week Foundational Course on the New Science of Trauma-Informed Gender-Specific Health Care.

  • Module 1: The Facts of Life, Death, and Disability for Males vs. Females.
  • Module 2: The Realities of Male Biology That Are at the Foundation for Men’s Inherent Vulnerability.
  • Module 3: The Evolution of Desire: Why Men Risk Their Lives to Compete With Other Men.
  • Module 4: Humans Are Not Limited by Our Biological and Evolutionary Origins and Can Make Healthy Choices for Life.
  • Module 5: The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet.
  • Module 6: Men’s True Strength is Accepting Our Vulnerability and Healing Our Traumatic Wounds.
  • Module 7: The Moonshot Mission to Heal Men, Close the Lifespan Gap, and Offer Hope to Humanity.

Course #2: Men Alive: Healing Ourselves, Helping Other Men.

          A 7 Week Course on the Unique Healing Journey All Men Must Take.

  • Module 1: Accept Your Soul’s Calling and Become a Healthy Deviant.
  • Module 2: The Secrets of Success in Your Three Non-Negotiable Marriages.
  • Module 3: Join a Men’s Group and Hear the Sound That Male Cells Sing.
  • Module 4: Break Free From the Man-Box Beliefs and Behaviors.
  • Module 5: Recognize Your Anger, Fear, and Dependency on Women.
  • Module 6: Understand and Manage The Irritable Male Syndrome and Male-Type Depression.
  • Module 7: Heal Your Family Father Wound and Other Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Course #3: Men Alive: Making a Great Living Helping Men And Their Families.

         A 7 Week Course for Those Working in the Field of Men’s Health.

  • Module 1: Your Gift of Healing in the Present is Birthed in the Wounds of the Past.
  • Module 2: Finding Your Place in the Helping Professions.
  • Module 3: Making Men’s Health Your Professional Focus.
  • Module 4: Finding Your Unique Offering and Writing Your First Book.
  • Module 5: The Million-Dollar One-Person Business Is Not For Everyone, But it Might Be For You.
  • Module 6: How to Become the “Go To” Expert in Your Field.
  • Module 7: Nitty-Gritty Advice From 74 Years Helping Men and the Families Who Love Them.

Course #4: Men Alive: Understanding, Preventing, and Healing Male Violence Towards Self and Others.

           A 7 Week Course for Addressing All Forms of Violence.

  • Module 1: Violence, A Universal Challenge.
  • Module 2: Why Violence Prevention is a Critical Men’s Health Issue.
  • Module 3: Male Suicide: The Ultimate Expression of Men’s Depression and Despair.
  • Module 4: Man Therapy: A Research-Backed Tool That Reduces Suicidal Thinking.
  • Module 5: How Not To Kill Yourself.
  • Module 6: Putting Peace into Practice:  How to Live With Compassion and Love Every Day.
  • Module 7: Men’s Groups May Be the Hope for Peace in the World.

Course #5: Men Alive: Creating Centers of Connection, Compassion, and Sanity in a World Out of Balance

        A 7 Week Course for Living, Loving, and Making a Positive Difference in Today’s World.

  • Module 1: Understanding the Times We Are Living In.
  • Module 2: The Sinking of the Ship of Civilization and The Vision Given to Me in the Sweat Lodge.
  • Module 3: Sensitive Men Rising and The Moonshot For Mankind.
  • Module 4: The Call of the Modern-Day Spiritual Warrior.
  • Module 5: The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing Our Relationships, Healing the Planet.
  • Module 6: Healing Practices of Peaceful Spiritual Warriors.
  • Module 7: Creating Centers of Connection, Compassion, and Sanity in a World Out of Balance.

            As I’ve been developing these five Courses, I’m really excited about what they can do to help your understand the issues related to men’s health and, more importantly, what you can do to put this information into practice to improve your health and the health of those you love.

            I have also partnered with Ubiquity University to offer credits towards Master’s and PhD level degrees for people who would like to earn an advanced degree in addition to what you will learn through the courses and your own practice and engagement.

            If you would like to learn more about the these Course offerings, drop me a note to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Men’s Health Courses” in the subject line. I will send you more details.

The post Calling All Men: Are You Ready to Get Healthy in Body, Mind, and Spirit in 2024? appeared first on MenAlive.

Part 2

            In Part 1 of The Hidden Secret For Becoming a Sexually Successful Male, I described the lessons I had learned in my life between the ages of 8 and 80 about becoming a sexually successful male. I said the secret was what I called Quiet Confidence or QC. Here, I want to help us understand why the secret of sexual success has been hidden from us.

            I believe there are three, interrelated, reasons:

  • Most males are taught what it means to become “sexually successful” by listening to males in our peer group and are often taught not to listen seriously to female wisdom.
  • Evolution’s definition of sexual success focuses on survival and reproduction and points us in the wrong direction.
  • For six to ten thousand years, humans have been living in societies where domination rather than partnership influenced our understanding of sexual success.

I was fortunate to have had a strong, yet sensitive, mother who supported my exploring nature and to the girls and young women who tutored me as I was growing up. Although I was influenced by a lot of negative and unhelpful “locker-room” male bravado and sexist, hurtful, advice that was drummed into my consciousness, I also met males who had a more helpful and healthful understand of sexual success.

Being part of a men’s group that has been meeting now for 45 years has been a major source of what I’ve learned and healthy male sexuality. It’s why the first “rule” in my book, 12 Rules for Good Menis to join a men’s group. Too much of the “Man Box” culture so many of us grew up in separates males from females, is often sexist, homophobic, and creates a “battle of the sexes” rather than loving partnerships.

Learning to work through our own fears and insecurities to truly listen to the females in our lives is a challenge. Too many of us were raised to believe that we live in two separate worlds, and often that girls are good, but superficial; while boys are bad, but successful. I still remember the nursery rhyme: “Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy-dogs tails.” We must let go of our emotional armoring, get in touch with our emotions, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable if we went to become sexually successful.

Evolution helps us understand how life changes through time, adapts or fails to adapt to the environment, and how life passes on life to future generations. Charles Darwin helped the world to better understand how life has evolved through time. In his book, Evolution for Everyone, professor of biology and anthropology, David Sloan Wilson says,

“Darwin’s theory of natural selection is like a recipe with three ingredients.”

  • “We start with variation. Individuals such as you and I differ in just about anything that can be measured, such as height, eye color, or quickness to anger.”
  • “Then we add consequence. The differences between you and me sometimes make a difference in our ability to survive and reproduce.”
  • “The final ingredient, a sort of yeast that makes the recipe come to life, is heredity.”

Some assume that a theory means that what is being proposed is just an “idea” and isn’t “fact.” These folks believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection is just an idea among many and has not yet been “proven.” But Dr. Wilson reminds us that “a theory is merely a way of organizing ideas that seems to make sense of the world. Scientific methods are merely ways of rejecting or supporting factual claims that emerge from theories.”

The theory of evolution through natural selection has allowed us to make accurate predictions about what we will see in the future. It explains a great deal about who we are and how we can live our lives. However, when we equate evolutionary ideas about sexual success with what will make us happy or bring about the kinds of relationships we want, we miss the mark. Evolution describes the process of differential survival and reproductive success to make babies and having them grow up to make babies of their own. It is not the ultimate guide to sexual success.

Too many men have viewed sexual success to mean, “finding as many young females as possible and convince them, or coerce them, into having sex with them.” Most people would agree, this is not the meaning of success that is likely to bring fulfillment, mutual benefit, and increased love and connection between members of a couple.  

The third area that causes us to misperceive sexual success has to do with the dysfunction we have in society. Evolutionary success helps organisms successfully adapt to their environment. If the social environment is unhealthy, our adaptations to that environment will be unhealthy. Social scientist and scholar Riane Eisler was the first person to recognize that there were two competing systems that had evolved in human societies.

In her book, The Chalice & The Blade: Our History, Our Future, was published in 1987. World-renowned anthropologist Ashley Montagu said it was “The most important book since Darwin’s Origin of the Species.” In the introduction to The Chalice & The Blade, Eisler says,

“We are all familiar with legends about an earlier, more harmonious and peaceful age. The Bible tells of a garden where woman and man lived in harmony with each other and nature—before a male god decreed that woman henceforth will be subservient to man.”

She goes on to say,

“The Chinese Tao Te Ching describes a time when the yin, or feminine principle, was not yet ruled by the male principle, or yang, a time when the wisdom of the mother was still honored and followed above all.”

Eisler introduced a simple, yet profoundly helpful model that allows us to understand what occurred when these earlier times of harmony and peace were lost and the masculine principle began to overshadow the feminine.

“One result of re-examining human society from a gender-holistic perspective has been a new theory of cultural evolution. This theory, which I have called Cultural Transformation theory, proposes that underlying the great surface diversity of human culture are two basic models of society. The first, which I call the dominator model—the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second, in which social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking, may best be described as the partnership model. In this model—beginning with the most fundamental difference in our species, between male and female—diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority.”

I first met Riane Eisler in 1987, shortly after her book was published. I had been writing about similar issues related to sex and gender for some time. I described what I had learned in my first book,  Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, published in 1983. Riane and I met in San Francisco and compared our experiences and ideas. We soon became fast friends and colleagues. Our own work has evolved since then. I have written a number of additional books, as has Riane.

Her book, Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future, was written with anthropologist Douglas P. Fry and was published in 2019. They look back through human evolutionary history to examine when the dominator model was introduced into partnership cultures.

In chapter 7, “The Original Partnership Societies,” they tell us:

“A recurring pattern can be seen across archaeological sequences from diverse geographical locations indicating that warfare as an element of domination systems lacks ancient roots. It originated various times in different locations as some, but by no means all, forager societies underwent shifts toward intensification of resource extraction and greater social complexity. Before this, for most of human evolutionary history, domination systems simply did not exist. A very significant conclusion emerges: human nature under the long-standing era of partnership social organization; the human mind evolved in partnership contexts”. [emphasis mine.]

Important Takeaways From The Article

            The reasons we have not recognized, fully understood, and more fully embraced practices of sexual success are because the truth has been hidden from men due to three, interrelated, factors:

  • We were too heavily influence by dysfunctional male peer-group myths and failed to listen to the wisdom of females.
  • Evolutionary emphasis on survival and reproduction misled us into thinking that sexual success was a competition for sexual conquest.
  • Our minds, bodies, and spirits have been infected by elements of a domination system that that have disconnected us from our partnership roots.

Looking Ahead:

            In the third part of this series, I will explore the practices that can bring about true sexual success for everyone. If you found this article helpful, please share it with others. If you’d like to read other articles and stay tuned into what we are doing at MenAlive, please subscribe to our free weekly newsletter. If you’d like to know about our Moonshot for Mankind, you can do so here.

I am considering offering an on-line workshop for those who would like to learn more about “The Hidden Secret of Becoming a Sexually Successful Man.” If you are interested, please drop me an email to Jed@MenAlive.com and put “Sexual Success” in the subject line and I will send you more details (It will be open to both men and women).

The post The Hidden Secret For Becoming a Sexually Successful Male appeared first on MenAlive.

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