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One Memorable Men's Group

by Bill Whitesell

Throughout the Convention, our men’s group had been charged with heart-felt communications amidst the sharing of fundamental personal concerns. The last men’s group, which took place just before the IPA Annual Meeting, began living up to that promise. But one man had walked out without a word in the middle of the meeting, and as we approached the end, some of us saw him pacing on the grass just outside. We decided to coax him back in.

He entered the room and then immediately threw himself onto the floor and began howling with anger and hurt. He used no words, so we couldn’t guess what had provoked the intense feelings. We just gave him space and listened. However, the man who had been speaking just before the other returned to the room, now got up and left. A moment later, while still witnessing the howls of the first man on the floor, we could hear the second one also begin raging in the small room adjoining ours.

“Our time’s up,” someone said. “The Annual Meeting’s about to start.” Several of us wanted to attend the Annual Meeting. “It’s important that we support the organization that makes this possible,” said another.

But how could we possibly bring this men’s group to a graceful end? We had expressed such care and love for each other throughout the week that we had spent together. Would it now all come to an end with any closure? Without any validation of what it had meant to us? Would we leave in such a disturbed state, with feelings of anger, rejection, and despair left unresolved?

Suddenly, the man raging in the next room returned. He said his feelings had been hurt and he now wanted us to leave him alone. He curled up by himself in a corner.

The man who had been howling on the floor now began to speak and told us what had upset him. He had been disappointed when he saw the expression of feeling in our group become undermined by intellectual diversions. He felt that we would get into some emotional sharing from the heart, but then just let it become shunted away by more trivial communications from the head.

Another man then spoke up to defend the expression of intellectual thoughts as well as emotions. “Are we just going to rule out a whole area of life? Are we going to have a rule that some things can be said here but others cannot? I for one wouldn’t care for a group organized like that.”

“The Annual Meeting has now started,” another said. “We really have to end.”

How could we? We appeared to be more divided than ever. Some of us looked at each other, wondering how to escape the prospect of a sour farewell. This men’s group had been so good, caring and supportive. But it seemed to me that we were now splintered by our separate hurts, our divergent views. Did it have to end in this acrimony?

In that pause, the moment turned. The man who had withdrawn decided to return to the group, saying he wanted to reestablish harmony. The man on the floor confessed that he felt better, having expressed his anger, the truth of his feelings; now, he wanted to be closer to us. And the defender of intellectual communications said he felt satisfied at having been able to express his views. We were ready to move on.

“Group hug?”

We looked at each other a moment, and then all stood up, stepped closer, and locked arms around each other’s shoulders and backs. We began swaying back and forth,  looking into each others eyes without any words. It seemed to me that we were of one mind, sensing the miracle of our coming together. We felt the freedom we had shared in expressing our inner truths. We had allowed ourselves and each other to be different, unique, even disruptive. And we knew the binding power of our tolerance of emotional distances and divergent points-of-view. We were all accepted. It had indeed been a healing process. And now I saw the care and warmth we felt for one another in the relaxed, unforced smiles on our faces. Over just a few days, we had received so much of each other. And we could at last depart knowing that those precious shared moments would continue working their healing powers within us.

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