In Real Life (IRL) Men invites men to take off the masks that we’re required to wear in other parts of our lives in order to show up more authentically and find out who we really are.
Troy Piwowarski, PsyD and Brian Thompson, MFTI
A men’s group is about providing men with a powerful dose of the things we need and the things we crave: honest feedback, a sense of belonging, genuine care, the knowledge we aren’t alone in our struggles, a place to speak deep and difficult truths, and a place to step out onto the edge of what previously felt safe to find out what’s possible. We accomplish this kind of rare space by meeting weekly with a consistent and committed group of men, and by challenging each member to show up as presently and vulnerably as they can.
As an introduction to the world of men’s groups, we want to share with you the top 3 concerns that men bring to IRL Men’s Groups to work on, and how these issues are addressed and worked through in the course of group work:
1. Not knowing how to deal with conflict;
2. Not knowing how to express or receive intimacy; and
3. Nagging self-judgment and the fear of judgment from others.
We will provide you with some examples from real groups that we’ve been a part of to help bring to life how these concerns come up and get worked through in group.
Not Knowing How to Deal with Conflict
Many of the men who come to IRL Men’s Groups have a hard time owning and expressing anger or even fully owning their preference or opinion. We often hear from conflict-averse members that they are sitting on feelings, but wonder “what’s the point of bringing it up and risking hurting someone and nothing changing anyway?”
When conflict between two or more members does come into the open, it requires the entire group listen and help each member express what’s genuine, and to “sit in the fire” as we find our way through to the other side of the conflict. Conflicts arise out of value clashes; for example, one member may value people being able to take whatever time he needs to work through something, where another member might grow impatient on behalf of himself and other members who might want to talk as well.
In this way, men’s group echoes the conflicts of the real world, in our romantic relationships, friendships, and our dealings with coworkers. If we’ve only learned that anger leads to violence, dissolution of relationships, or to nothing changing anyway, it’s easy to see why we shy away from conflict. IRL Men provides a holding space to work through these conflicts in the group, helping men develop relational skills that translate to relationships in their own personal lives beyond the walls of the group.
One group member reported having one of the best weeks at his job during the week that followed a conflict in group because he felt so much clearer and less inhibited in sharing his genuine perspective with his colleagues. It can be incredibly exhilarating to discover that we have options for dealing with value conflicts, and that we have the power to speak up.