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Issue #18: The Power of Vulnerable Sharing

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He turned to me and said “I’m two weeks out of prison for stabbing someone who attacked me. I’m wearing an ankle bracelet right now I contemplated suicide a few days ago. If it weren’t for my son I would have.”

 

He said this, but I have to admit, I hardly heard it.

 

He had softened and quietened his voice so much it was barely audible.

 

I thought “Fuck. That is heavy. This dude is barely here. Mad respect for showing up and sharing that.”

 

Then I said words pretty close to that.

 

Slowly over the next 10 minutes, he edged a little more out of this shell.

 

We chatted about the things that were challenging us.

 

He spoke about this and what he’d been doing ‘inside’ to better his situation where he could; reflecting, journaling, meditating.

 

I asked him about his son and his face brightened some more.

 

I acknowledged him for sharing, for being proactive in his recovery.

 

We went back to the group and the event continued.

 

At the end of the night, he looked like a lighter man. He came up to me smiling and thanking me.

 

On Tuesday night I had the privilege of sitting with a group of men in Auckland for an intimate event run by Zane from For All The Brothers.

 

 

This ‘Brain Chat’ runs every month where Zane and the guys from Ārepa (The Brain Drink) bring men together to connect, chat, share, support and put down some of their burdens.

 

I first connected with Zane and FATB a couple of years ago when I went to one of their Men’s Mental Health walks (uphill hike) on our extended stay in NZ in 2021 with a 12 month old Kaia in the front pack.

 

Being able to come along to speak at one of Zane’s events and bring some of the men from the Everyday Legends Academy community has been a while in the planning.

 

I was there to share a little about what I do and provide some tools for the guys to navigate their mental and emotional health.

 

I took the guys through a simple yet powerful exercise in which we imagine your life as a 30,000 I page book (I did a solo podcast episode on this which you can listen to here).

 

This chat was immense. Brave. Funny. Curious. Challenging. And Open.

 

There were guys in the room for the first time and men for the fourteenth time.

 

Yet, the courage the guys showed in exploring their shit was beautiful. Especially those like the now ex-con, Steve.

 

And it reminded me of some important lessons.

 

What I learnt chatting with 30 strange dudes…

 

1. There is immense power in the course to be vulnerable.

 

Often the very thing preventing us from dealing with and navigating a bunch of our shut is simply putting it down in front of others.

 

And putting it down doesn’t have to mean burdening them, simply unburdening ourselves.

 

Nor does it have to have a solution. Sometimes half of the solution is in the putting it down and being able to see it differently for being less burdened by it.

 

This was easily evidenced by my man Steve.

 

2. The space in which we share is vital.

 

If we don’t feel safe, if we sense potential for judgement, we have to access more courage to share. To allow ourselves to be seen.

 

Watching the guys start to move through the surface catch-ups and initial shares to things with gravity, was an honour – as it always is – and it was part of a formula.

 

When the integrity of the container in which we are connecting and sharing is solid, safe, and free of judgement, we can more easily allow ourselves to be seen. We can more easily move towards our edges, towards the fear of judgement, and unburden ourselves.

 

3.  No matter the safety provided, you still have to choose it yourself.

 

The others can’t do it for you. The space itself can’t drop your uncomfortable-to-explore-but-needs-to-be-explored shit.

 

All the promises of non-judgement in the world, all the deep shares from others, still need you to choose to feel safe enough to do it.

 

Steve could see others dropping into more meaningful and courageous shares. But that didn’t do the work for him.

 

He still had to face his own fear of how he could be judged. all his fears of being rejected, made fun of, turned away, being seen as a scum bag – you name it – but it was him that chose to share anyway.

 

That alone is worth the sharing, as it is direct evidence for him that he can do uncomfortable things and survive. That he can face potential judgement and come through it not only unscathed but lighter.

 

Safety, therefore, in part is the environment we’re in, but in larger part choice – to give ourselves permission that we will be ok if we unload the tough stuff.

 

4. Vulnerability is not IT. 

 

It’s part of it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, this matters. It was influential on the night. The above points stand.

 

And, male vulnerability is not the be-all and end-all that we might have overcompensated and made it out to be.

 

This is to say, it’s needed, but it’s not the only part.

 

We also need curiosity and honesty.

 

And we need accountability.

 

We need to be able to be honest with ourselves and receive the honesty of others to challenge us, to invite us forward, to remind us of who we are and who we are capable of being.

 

And at times we also need to be able to grit our teeth and navigate tough shit that we’re going through. To access our internal strength and resilience and show ourselves we can endure challenging shit.

 

It’s not one or the other. It’s both.

 

5. Sharing is excellent. Action is essential.

 

We can all do with having space – and men in that space – the share and unburden. The simple realisation of “I am not alone in this” is extremely powerful.

 

And yet, if all do is enter spaces regularly to share but we don’t then take action on what we uncover, on the clarity and awareness’s we gain, it reduces potency and risks becoming redundant.

 

On the night, the other guy in the group of three with me and Steve shared about practises and habits that he knows benefit him but that he’s dropped away from of late. Acknowledgement, great.

 

But that alone probably isn’t enough given the nature of it; knowing but not doing.

 

So I asked, “What specific practises?”

 

He then shared them.

 

So I asked, “What do you need to do then, and to apply yourself to?”

 

He shared some intentions and commitments.

 

Great!

 

And now, if he doesn’t put them into action, it all becomes a form of semi-public masturbation.

 

Yes, the accountability of me and the men in the room matters. That will likely be very impactful over the coming days and weeks.

 

And it still needs him to go and apply himself to those things that he knows he needs to do.

 

Accountability matters. Being specific matters. Committing to integrity matters. Doing uncomfortable things consistently matters.

 

6. Sharing problems doesn’t make them go away.

 

Yes, unburdening ourselves can be immense in helping us feel lighter (this cannot be overstated) and see things more clearly.

 

It can help us create a plan, and access support, tools, and resources. All wonderful.

 

But it is a mistake to think that this then makes those problems go away.

 

Or kid ourselves that if someone just shares they’ll then be fine.

 

Steve shared and opened himself to supportive and empathetic ears, as well as some ideas and suggestions.

 

However, we would be kidding ourselves and diminishing his incredibly challenging situation if we think it was solved.

 

Nope.

 

He still has court to attend.

 

He still has meetings over custody rights to navigate. And to advocate for himself in.

 

All while being in a very tough place mentally and not feeling like the best person in the world right now.

 

He still has to face his own demons every day.

 

And he needs to continually put himself in situations where he can be supported. Where he can access and receive tools to keep navigating the broad and specific challenges his situation holds.

 

That matters. A lot.

 

7. The company of good men, of brave, honest, caring, resourceful, strong men, is the medicine men need.

 

Not only to navigate momentary challenges but the ongoing peaks and troughs life holds.

 

Some of the time I support men through the darkest of their days.

 

Sometimes it’s the fiddly things they seem to have never overcome but continue to frustrate them.

 

Other times it’s new problems, fresh relationships, new challenges in old ones, different levels in life, love and the everyday.

 

While other times again – and consistently – it is honouring and championing them for not only what they do well but who they are and choose to be.

 

And I receive it. I must. It is fuel. Energy. Life force.

 

The moment I put all of that on my relationship with Nardia, say, is the moment I lose, our relationship loses, and so do all the people I am responsible to and impact day to day.

 

If you do not have this medicine in your life, I simply cannot recommend highly enough that you find some.

 

This is one of the central pillars of my work in Everyday Legends Academy and my Zeus Inner Circle.