I never understood what people meant when they said ‘get out of your head.” It was a frustrating phrase that I never quite grasped, ‘I am not stuck in my head’ would be my mental retort, ‘this is just me, it is how I am.’ It was only later that I got it; I was profoundly disconnected not only from myself and my relationships but from my experience and greater purpose in life. It was only when I could connect to my emotions, my vulnerability and face my hurt did I realise that I had barely been present in my own life. I was actually walking around dead inside and it was the main reason I was struggling on and off with depression, why I overworked and why my relationships never lasted.
In these many years of doing transformation work, being a coach and facilitator I have seen the same thing over and over again. When I ask men what they are feeling, the common answer is “I am fine” “ok” or “good” or they will give a conceptual answer. They struggle to actually identify what sensations and emotions they are feeling in their bodies and when they do: ‘numb’ or ‘anxious’ is one of the first words that emerges. Most of the international coaches and facilitators, I have met, who come to run workshops in South Africa say the same thing: South African men are notorious for being stuck in their heads and we think it is normal; we struggle to orientate to our heart centre. We believe that all issues in life are either sorted out by rational and conceptual solutions or physical force and as a result we have one of the most emotionally suppressed and therefore explosive societies in the world.
And this is a big issue, in fact it is a national epidemic. It sits at the heart of why men have not been showing up well. It speaks to why we have such a violent and unequal society, it speaks to our crime statistics, it speaks to our divorce rate, it speaks to the huge absence of involved fathers, it speaks to the concerning rate of addictions with alcohol, drugs, eating and gambling, its speaks to the alarming rate of gender based violence and the rate of depression and suicide. Disconnected men are, essentially, unsafe.
It has everything to do with our country’s violent and oppressive history, just as it has everything to do with the demands and impact of industrialisation, patriarchal culture, western education and information technology; all these causes are relevant considerations. But the core issue remains that this is how we have been raising our boys… to be machines, to be soldiers, to be conquerers and to be time bombs. We don’t teach boys how to connect to their sacred masculinity, to understand their relationship to the sacred feminine nor do we teach boys how to process their hurts or communicate their vulnerabilities. What we have engendered instead is a disempowering, ambiguous and confusing narrative of what it is to be a man. It is no wonder that we as men withdraw into our heads, cut ourselves off from our hearts and from our greater consciousness. Its no wonder we find ourselves now in all kinds of trouble.
Fortunately a new narrative is emerging, birthing itself into our modern culture. The tribe of men is slowly beginning to redefine itself from the inside out reincarnating ancient and indigenous distinctions of sacred masculinity and wholeness like a phoenix rising from the flames. It is finding shape in processes loosely defined as men’s inner work. It is in these spaces where we are being shown a world where we can shed this matrix that has kept us trapped in a flawed and dysfunctional design of what it is to be a man, where it is safe for us to step out of our heads to be magnificent, whole, compassionate, powerful and contributing men again.
This is why I do the work I do and support the initiatives that I do. This is how we change the world one man at a time. So if you have ever wondered about doing men’s inner work, I invite you to get curious. Mens work ranges from workshops, shamanic journey work to private coaching and guidance.
Join the FB group #JustMen to find out more.