Insight Mind Body Talk

The Wellbeing of Men with guest Tyler Schueffner

April 30, 2023 Jessica Warpula Schultz, LMFT Season 2 Episode 13
The Wellbeing of Men with guest Tyler Schueffner
Insight Mind Body Talk
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Insight Mind Body Talk
The Wellbeing of Men with guest Tyler Schueffner
Apr 30, 2023 Season 2 Episode 13
Jessica Warpula Schultz, LMFT

The wellbeing of men, when "man up" is not the answer.

Join guest Tyler Schueffner, as he talks about the current state of men.  In this episode, Tyler sheds new light on the effects of gender norms, and shares how cultural conditioning has led many men to feel inadequate, empty, and pressured to be something they're not. Exploring this topic by way of his own journey, Tyler tells the story of how his path and experiences with men's work, has not only shifted how he processes his lived experience, but also how it has changed the way in which he helps others navigate their worlds.

Continue learning

Produced by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Music by Jason A. Schultz

Insight Mind Body Talk. Also, check out our e-courses!

Show Notes Transcript

The wellbeing of men, when "man up" is not the answer.

Join guest Tyler Schueffner, as he talks about the current state of men.  In this episode, Tyler sheds new light on the effects of gender norms, and shares how cultural conditioning has led many men to feel inadequate, empty, and pressured to be something they're not. Exploring this topic by way of his own journey, Tyler tells the story of how his path and experiences with men's work, has not only shifted how he processes his lived experience, but also how it has changed the way in which he helps others navigate their worlds.

Continue learning

Produced by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Music by Jason A. Schultz

Insight Mind Body Talk. Also, check out our e-courses!

 Welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-based mental health podcast. We're your hosts, Jessica Warpula Schultz and Jeanne Kolker. Whether you've tried everything to feel better and something is still missing or you've already discovered the wisdom of the body. This podcast will encourage and support you in healing old wounds, strengthening relationships, and developing your inner potential- all by accessing the mind body connection. 

Please know, while we're excited to share and grow together. This podcast is not intended to be a substitute for mental health treatment. It doesn't replace the one-on-one relationship you have with a qualified healthcare professional and is not considered psychotherapy. 

Thanks Jess. And thank you for listening. Now, let's begin a conversation about what happens when we take an integrative approach to improving our wellbeing. Welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk . My name is Jess. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in body-based psychotherapy approaches. I'm also a trauma informed fitness professional, and your host.

Today's topic is men, specifically the wellbeing of men, and our guest is Tyler Schueffner. Tyler has a wide variety of experiences including military service, serving as a homeless street outreach coordinator and worker for 16 years, primarily working with teens and young adults. He has had a stint as a high school track and cross-country coach, did various jobs in youth justice programs and did a significant stint of time in the service industry.

Tyler is currently working towards a master's degree in mental health counseling and has started a coaching and consulting practice called Akela's Den. Professional Experiences Aside, Tyler brings a pragmatic working class perspective and attitude to men's work. Growing up in Sheboygan Falls, a small blue collar farming town in Eastern Wisconsin.

If you haven't heard of it, Tyler struggled with school depression, anxiety, substance use, all while negotiating the normal social and cultural expectations. Grief has been a major theme of life experiences and significantly influences the work he does today. Tyler, thank you for being here. Yeah, thanks for having me.

You know, this is a mental health podcast and we're, we're talking about men. Um, you know, I've ha had other guests on before Mayor Chapman. She talked about, you know, the experience of women. And even when we start talking about these constructs, I just wanna give, you know, I wanna honor and note that and give a little bit of an explanation that, you know, gender.

Itself is defined as a social construct of norms. And so norms, behaviors, and roles that really vary between societies and over time. And you know, for the listener, while today's episode will mostly touch on the gender identity experiences of cis men, cisgender, meaning someone whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth, we are in no way stating that the only legitimate gender experiences are that of man and woman.

And that those are only the only legitimate genders out there. Uh, I wanna honor that our talk today truly is not exhaustive. And you'll hear this from Tyler too, and coming from more of each just a western US-centric lens, because other cultures use many different labels and have other, um, concepts and conceptions on gender.

So speaking to that, you know, To talk about men and their experience. I have to share with our listeners that I was, you know, found myself a little nervous to record this episode today. When you know, gosh, I think we started talking about maybe I. Making this episode at least over a year ago when I saw you one day.

Um, and we were chatting. Tyler and I know each other, we've done street outreach work before, um, together briefly, but you know, kind of running in the same like mental health support, social justice circles here in Madison. And we were talking about the podcast and you brought up, you know, it would be really interesting to talk about men and the experience of men and the work that, um, I, I do to help men kind of, you know, find themselves and, and live into their best self.

And so, you know, long time coming, here we are today, but I was still a little nervous because I identify as a feminist and. As a person who has experienced trauma due to, you know, the culture of like that patriarchal domination. And, uh, as a therapist myself who works, I mean, daily with people to support them in the healing of trauma caused by sexism, gender discrimination, you know?

Yeah. It just made me a little nervous, but, uh, you, last time we spoke, recommended a really great, uh, uh, podcast episode from the podcast. Um, remind me of the name again. Mythic Masculine with Ian Mackenzie. Yes. Uh, an episode with Pat McCabe. And, um, pat is known for, I mean, how would you explain like all the things that Pat is known for?

Because I just think of like peace and solidarity when I think of her. But you have a, I heard your, you know, you've talked about her before. Yeah. I mean, I don't know that you can easily define what she does. I mean, she does, she does men's work. So I think it's also important to honor the fact that she's a, she's a Navajo elder.

Yes. Um, and so a lot of her approach to the way she talks about all of, um, the, the topics that she can get into and, um, are kind of rooted in, in that worldly understanding of, of indigenous people. And, um, I think for most of us from a Western culture, um, hearing, hearing someone like, like her talk really, um, is a unique experience and it's profound and it's, she's just a, a beautiful person and has a lot to offer humanity.

Um, so I don't, I don't, I mean, she's an activist, certainly. Yeah. Um, but I would say she's, you know, I would put her in the category of just being a teacher. I mean, she's just, Seems like she embodies teaching, so, yeah. Yes. You know, you're right. So listening, listening to that episode with her, um, really it w it felt, you know, expansive because, you know, I ha before going into this, you know, I'm feminism.

It doesn't mean we're, you know, hating on men. It truly at the root, it talks about, you know, the concept is about equal rights for all genders. And, you know, as someone. You know, listening to her, it was just, it was touching and it, it really helped. There was a moment where she said even that she has, you know, such compassion for men because of the construct that they have been, like, socialized and, and conditioned to live in, and how limiting it is.

And I certainly have many men in my life who I not only care about, but that I love. And, you know, it really was expansive for me to, to hear this conversation between the two of them. So that being said, I, you know, less nerves, more kind of excitement to bring this conversation and honoring, um, just really like you said, men's work and, and, and the wellbeing of, of men right now, currently in, in mm-hmm.

In this day and time. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, I appreciate that. Cause I think that your, your, uh, response, um, and your. Your internal response to the topic, I think is something that is very common. And I think it's part of the reason that we don't talk about it is cuz there is a, a visceral reaction to Yeah.

It's like, okay, well we're gonna use more time to talk about men. We've already done that, or men have already controlled that. And, and that that's fair. I mean that's fair. And I, and I think the thing that, you know, for me it's, um, being in the spaces with men who are kind of coming out of this tradition, it's, it's trying to not think of gender as a binary.

It's trying to get out of that, um, to not think it's us versus them, or Yeah. You know, this is the way that our, kind of, our western minds operate is like, if I'm in agreement with this, then therefore I must be against something else. And that's just not really true. And, and so a lot of the foundations of, of this was a response in, in many ways too.

The, the, the feminist movement. Um, and there wasn't something that was talking about masculinity or changing kind of the construct of masculinity that was co-occurring. It was, it was kind of up to women to define all of these, um, in a healthier way. And men kind of took a step back and didn't, and we'll talk a little bit more about passivity.

What, what is a byproduct of, of kind of all these things, which is men kind of went in their corners and didn't really try to assert any part of themselves in that dialogue and just kind of got defensive and I would say double down on their toxicity. And that kind of came through in the culture. And so this particular type of men's work is really to reclaim what masculinity could be and should be and can be.

And I, I also wanted to touch on too, because, um, you kind of framed it with the cisgender thing, and then the one thing I would express. And this isn't true of all men's groups, um, but for me in particular, um, it's very welcoming to people who, whose, uh, biology and identified gender do not align. Um, and so there is space for people who identify as, as men, men that were not born men.

Um, and so that's wonderful. It's always, yeah. So I mean, I, I think it's important because I've, in my work, as you alluded to, I've worked with a lot of, uh, individuals who have transitioned, you know, from male to female, female to male. And you know, one of the things that, um, it taught me was like working with them as they're going through their, their, their process of change.

The, the ways that they represent themselves and the way that they connect with themselves is, is really, um, fascinated me because it was like an external, uh, witnessing of our internal parts. And when I say that, I mean like, I believe, and this is. I think that this is con, uh, consistent with some of the work that we do is that, um, inside all of us there are feminine parts and male parts and masculine parts and you know, we have, we contain all these energies, right?

And yes, and when we shut them off is when we kinda lose sight of ourselves and then we apply that to everyone we meet. And so working with people who are transitioning, especially those who went from female to male, um, they retained certain sensitivities that were clearly associated with the more feminine side.

And then were trying to kinda layer the social construct of what does it mean to be a man on top of that, And so it always like, it, it afforded some really unique, um, conversations. And unfortunately, the models of masculinity that are represented culturally are, are usually not the healthiest. So in that process, it, it was trying to allow space for, for these young individuals.

Cause most of the young people I was working with were between the ages of 18 and 24 as they went through their transition. And it was like trying to give them some, some alternative representation of what masculinity can be. And it didn't necessarily mean separating completely from their feminine parts, because those are important for all of us.

So. Mm-hmm. I just wanted to touch on that because I think it's, it's one of the things that, um, uh, can cause a lot of, uh, tension just around the conversation of like, oh, this is just about them. And I don't, I don't think it is, um, No, that's, no, I appreciate you saying that so that people really understand, you know, I'm sure you'll give resources and references later of possibly how to get more involved, and I wouldn't want anyone to assume that they weren't welcome, you know, or to have any confusion around whether they are welcome or not in these groups and spaces.

Yeah. So, thank you. Yeah, and I think a lot of this is just education. You know, it's, it's, um, and certainly so there is an element that I, I, I do wanna preface before we get too much into the weeds and this stuff. Yeah. But I do wanna preface that there is kind of a co-occurring men's movement that uses a lot of the same kind of ideologies or, or, uh, rituals or mythologies that a lot of, um, so there's like cocom competing.

Groups and some of 'em are really toxic. Some of 'em are really rooted in kind of arian kind of, uh, nationalism and racism, and they're kind of tapping into the indigenous practices of Europe, European people, and it's really damaging. So I wanna also make sure people are cautious about when they are, if they become curious and they start looking into it, just to be mindful of that and pay attention because it can sound the same.

They can be saying some of the same things and then when they get into their I ideology, you start to go, oh, that's not, that's not what I thought this was. Mm-hmm. And it mm-hmm. It's, it's, uh, it's something to be, um, aware of, just Yeah. Yeah. No, definitely. Because I mean, what if someone, what if you hadn't said that?

And then someone looks further into it and they go, well, this is nothing like what they were talking about. And I, I, I don't wanna align with this. At least now they know to be on the lookout for it, so I appreciate that. Yeah. And in the context of that, um, if there are questions, certainly, um, I am, and, and hopefully you can share my contact information, but if people do have questions about that, they're more than welcome to reach out to me and I can kind of advise like which ones are legit and which ones might be a little bit on the sketchy side.

Cuz it's, it can be hard to negotiate. Yeah. Like anything. So, and, and I will completely like, validate for that to the listeners, that you are really available to people. Like you are someone who wants to support whoever needs the support and that you, you do put yourself out there as a really, like a strong resource for our community.

And so I trust that when you say, Hey, just reach out and ask me. He's, he's not kidding. Reach out, ask him. Yeah. Not at all. No. In fact, it's, um, I, it's like my favorite thing is meeting new people and learning about people's stories and where they came from and yeah, I mean, it's. There's this idea in, in the counseling world of happenstance, you know, happenstance theory about like paying attention and noticing who comes in your life at the right times or, and if you're not paying attention, you might miss it.

And I re, that resonates with me a lot because most of my strongest connections have been through kind of situations where I could have easily just ignored it and said, oh, I'm just moving on. But for whatever reason I didn't. And those are usually the most fruitful relationships. So I encourage people, um, to not hesitate to reach out.

So I love that. Thank you. Thank you. Well, let's, speaking of stories, let's talk about your story. I'm, I'm curious about, you know, how did you get into men's work? How has it influenced you? I know in the intro we talked a little bit about your upbringing and rural Wisconsin, but Yeah, yeah, I mean it's, I don't, I'll try to be concise as I speak to this, but you know, I grew up small town.

Uh, Christian went, attended Catholic, Catholic church, um, pretty traditional upbringing. My dad was the breadwinner, worked, my mom cared for, you know, it was all the kind of the normative things that we all grow up with. Um, and, you know, to, to my parents' credit, they did the best they could and they were pretty sheltered in their upbringing and their existence, and they didn't have exposure to things beyond kind of the community that they grew up with.

So they kind of replicated whatever they saw and, and therefore that's kind of what we were doing. And, um, I would say that during that time, you know, I really struggled with, I'm the, I'm the youngest of three boys, um, and my dad is kind of the, the prototype alpha male. He's a very domineering, he is a, he was a fire chief of our local fire department.

Mm-hmm. I mean, he just kind of has, he was a business owner. He kind of has this persona that's, it's pretty intimidating and you just don't really. There's not a lot of like emotive, like sensitivity and, and like con connecting with that. And, um, and strangely, my mom, um, has a lot of like masculine energy.

She's kind of a, she's kind of a tomboy and she was kind of, you know Yeah. Didn't really represent a lot of that sensitivity either. It was just like, this is the way it is and, um, deal with, deal with it. And, uh, that whole mentality of like, pull yourself bigger, your bootstraps. Yeah. And it really resonated with us.

So it was a very blue collar upbringing. Extremely. Mm-hmm. My dad works on cars, you know, like cars and I mean, I grew up in a kind of a traditional blue collar sense. And then, um, you know, as you, as you kind of grow up, you're kind of confronting those things. And there's something, if you're paying attention, and I don't know, maybe this is, uh, just my experience, but if you're paying attention, sometimes things aren't aligning and you know it, you can feel it in your core and you're not really sure what to do about it.

And so you resist it and it creates, when I was talking about the depression and anxiety, I think a lot of those were manifestations of that. Like, this doesn't feel like this is how I'm supposed to be, but this is what I've been given. Mm-hmm. So trying to kind of fit into that stream, but not really, it, this just wasn't working for me.

And I was always a pretty sensitive kid. Like I, um, I cried probably more than other other boys my age, and I was sensitive to other people's feelings and, um, uh, was just highly intuitive around like, oh, things are happening and I'm trying to react because I just feel everything. So that was kind of like, okay, there's something going on there, but you're growing up in a pretty contained community, so you kind of have to just be that thing.

Um, and for me, um, I did my best to, to fit in and, um, at, at the expense of myself. I. And of course we adopt those strategies as we move forward. And for me, I would say like, this is another strategy, um, is what are the things that force us out of our comfort zone that we didn't want to deal with, but we inevitably had to.

And ultimately that's the thing that creates the space for us to make the changes, to become the person that we are or that we want to be. So for me, it was my parents got separated, ultimately divorced. I lost a friend in high school to a car accident. Um, actually we had multiple young people pass away.

Um, do you mostly due to, to car accidents and those, all of those kind of things were like, I just need to leave. Like, I can't stay here. Yeah. Um, and so for me, my only real outlet, um, I was not a good high school student, really struggling on that, but I was always kind of a nice kid. So my teachers liked me.

Uh, they just told me I was not very good in school. Um, So I was like, I don't know what to do, so I'm just gonna enlist in the Air Force. And that's what I did. Wow. Um, and I just fled, basically. I ran away. And, uh, and that process too, you, you move from one construct of, of socialization to another. And that was just thinking that Yeah.

Even more reinforcing of kind of the, kind of the expectations that you grew up with, which is, you know, kind of what I think most people would assume is more of a toxic perspective of masculinity. It's very power and control. There's a lot of structure, things like that. And what I would say in that experience is that it exposed me to so many people in so many things and, and it just really changed.

I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan for two years. Most of my supervisors throughout my military career were men of color. It really changed so much of my perspectives of the world because of that. Um, I went to the Middle East, um, Met all sorts of really interesting people who really challenged a lot of the notions or ideas that I had been raised with, and I respected these people.

So it started to kinda like, oh, there's, there's kind of something going on here. And then I became a father at, uh, 20 years of age, um, due to a lot of like trying to fit into this gender role or identity that wasn't productive and it wasn't healthy and it wasn't good. And, uh, so then, yeah, I had a, I had a child and then it's like, uh, the existential crisis of what do I do now?

And, um, and I started to really think more about what do, what do I want to do? Um, and so I, I decided to go back to school and, uh, I wanted to be a teacher, uh, that didn't work out. And then I fell really, I. Randomly fell into the work of, of working with homeless kids and homeless teens in particular. And so I did that after I completed my education in, in history.

Um, and that is, you know, I was doing that work for the length of time that I did it, which is pretty rare to work that long. It is in homeless services. Um, and part of that is that I'm really stubborn and I'm also extremely loyal.

And, and what, what transpires is that a lot of people doing that type of work, um, start to develop strategies to negotiate the trauma and the, the hardship of it. And they never really self-reflect, like, how have I internalized this stuff? And it, and it starts to come out in, in different ty types of ways that are usually kind of toxic to the individual.

And so for me it was, um, it was showing up in a lot of different ways that I was not feeling well. And I didn't really know what people talk about wellness and they talk about, um, you know, uh, what's, what's the catchphrase for people in work? Um, oh, self-care. Like, people talk about self-care all the time, right?

Oh, yeah. I'm laughing. So I have a workshop for self-care coming up soon, but yeah, I mean, there's, it's a catchy phrase that brings people in. It's so much more than just, you know, yeah. What you think it, so that's the, yeah, that's the thing that, so everybody was talking about self-care and I'm like, but I don't have a context for it and I don't know what it is.

And when I started to unpack my stuff, what I realized was like a lot of the self-care issues that I'm negotiating is that I was working in a field that's really dominated by women. Like there's not a lot of men in the, in the services work. Um, no. And negotiating that, and I was feeling a lot of angst about like, man, most of these meetings like.

Let's just name it like I'm a middle-aged white man in a space that, that is not who's really represented in those spaces. And you start to like, you know, you're an ally, right? You wanna support and you start to adopt a lot of the, the things that are being said and you start to take them on as my responsibility to do something about it.

Yeah. And that's a heavy burden, um, to carry. And I was really struggling with that. So I was reaching out to some people and some friends, and I had a friend say, you know, um, there's this group, group that I'm a part of. Um, and I, based on what you're describing, I think it might be a good thing for you to explore cuz it was really helpful for him.

And so he invited me to this thing called the Minnesota Men's Conference, um, which is kind of my introduction into men's work. Um, and I didn't realize how much I needed it. Um, the things that they were talking about, the restorative. Aspects of it, um, were really profound and, um, I'm sure we'll get into more of what that is.

But for me, that was about six years ago and it was part of my, my wellness and part of how to keep myself, um, yeah, feeling like I could continue doing the work. And it worked. It, it, it did provide me like a boost of like, okay, I can, I can come up with new ways of thinking about this. It actually completely altered the way that I was doing the work, how I was connecting with clients, how I was, um, thinking about my role working with clients.

Really all was altered by participating in that because it, it changed the dynamics of what am I actually representing. Um, and a lot of it was like representing a better model of masculinity to everyone that I encountered. Um, and so that, that's where that kind of all came from. Wow. Well, real quick, I I, I mean, I first met you back in like 20 10, 20 11.

You were already modeling a better version of masculinity. I will, I will tell you that like who you are at your core, that's who you are at your core. And I think it's really phenomenal that you found something that truly like helps you deal with like the, you know, vicarious trauma that, you know, mental health providers carry.

Um, you were working in like a. You know, high chronic, um, mental health concerns, safety, you know, just, just people, you know, experiencing homelessness. There is so much that is just their daily life. And you were trying, yeah. And then you think about it on the like, micro level, but then you also think about the systemic levels that you were trying to change and create change in, which is very hard.

And, um, so I'm just really glad that you found something. Let's talk more about what that something is, because I wanna ask you how did it change the work you're doing, but I can't ask you that yet. Yeah. Because we don't even know what we're talking about, so I'd love to, yeah, tell me more. Yeah, so I mean, it's, um, You know, you can go down this path a lot.

Um, there's a lot of, there's a lot of material here, but, um, basically what, what the Minnesota Men's Conference and, and Minnesota Men's Conference is kind of the, in inception of a lot of the other kind of men's movements, men, men's work. Um, it started with kind of a core group of characters. Um, Robert Bly, who's a poet, um, Michael Mead, who is a storyteller and a percussionist and, um, just an incredible human being.

Um, and then, uh, there's a, a, a youngy psychoanalyst named James Hillman, and he kind of brought the psychological aspects and all, all three of them, um, were kind of students of Joseph Campbell. And, uh, for those that don't know who, Joseph Campbell, he did a lot around mythology and the stories of, of humans and what the stories we've told throughout.

You know, all history. And he basically is arguing, like similar to some of what young was talking about, is that there's a, a collective unconscious, which is, there's archetypes that exist in the world and it's, uh, these stories kind of, um, are represented in all these different cultures and all these different ways, and it's through story that we create meaning.

And so that's what they were really interested in was how do we create meaning in our lives and how in our worlds, and a lot of it is during and, and, um, the industrial re revolution society changed so drastically. And the roles and responsibilities and the stories we started telling each other started to change.

And this was, um, This was not how humans had operated for a very long time. And you know, up until a couple hundred years ago, and a lot of the, the social problems that we're having, they would argue, were kind of related to like a loss of connection to our story. Um, and so it was how do we reclaim that?

Well, you reclaim it through, um, expression and a lot of it was through poetry and reconnecting with the old stories of myths and folk tales that came from the places that maybe my people originated. And this is another interesting thing, is that throughout this kind of experience of reclaiming, there has been appropriation, there's been a, like a clinging to native American culture.

There's been a clinging to different indigenous practices and, and, and that was that, that is problematic. And it's, it speaks to the resiliency of those cultures to continue to retain their, their like foundations. Whereas our culture has really deprived ourselves of where we came from. And so a part of this process for people that look like me, who are white, Euro, European men, descendants of, is to go back into our, our stories of our people.

Before some of those changes happened kind of almost pre-Christian in a lot of ways because Christianity replaced, adopted and replaced a lot of the old stories. Um, and, and in a sense reinforced what you were speaking to earlier, which is the patriarchy because mm-hmm. Like a lot of those structures right, are rooted in control, controlling the masses of people through thought, through prayer, through all these different things.

And I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna go down that rabbit hole of like the flaws of religion, however, The core of all of what they were doing was getting back with spirit, getting back with self, and using stories and poetry as a gateway into that. And then using drumming and, and kind of, um, it's a very ritualistic approach.

Um, and one of the things that I would say for me that was profound was that men have a hard time talking about themselves. Um, and I don't mean that in like, in general, I mean about themselves in a meaningful emotional way. It's a really hard thing for men to be vulnerable. It's really hard. I mean, it's, again, goes back to the construct.

And so a lot of the women in our lives don't really know who we are at our core, or they, they, they get glimpses of us. My wife always talks about this, you know, like she would point out like, oh, I saw you. And I'd be like, what the hell are you talking about? And she's like, I saw the real you, but only for a flash because I didn't know what it was.

Right. Because it's been lost. Mm-hmm. And so we all, I think all humans and in this case, men have really repressed or they've suppressed that part of themselves. And that's what they were trying to get at. That's what these three men and then the many, many people they brought into that fold. Profound teachers.

Um, and I'll, I'll get into some of those teachers later. Um, there's a lot of 'em. But, um, for me what it was is hearing a story. And I'll tell you the first conference I went to, the story was about a young boy who was abandoned by his mother. And again, it's, it's within the archetypal. And my first, I'm, I'm listening to the story and we were maybe 20 minutes into the story and the stories go on for like, they're, they're long, they're long stories.

They're like a couple hours. Okay. And the moment of the mother. Abandoning her son in the forest. And in the story it told about this boy sitting under the tree waiting for his mother to return, and she wasn't coming back. And he could hear those noises of the forest and he was starting to get scared and feeling all those things.

And I remember feeling that way as a small boy, but then I was like thinking about it in, in the context of my clients who have been largely as homeless youth have been abandoned, been abandoned by their families, been abandoned by society, and the fear and the reaction and the visceral, um, emotional feelings that they would have, but they have to contain that they can't express them because if you do, you're gonna be, that's a weakness and it's gonna be exploited.

Yeah. So it was through the story and it was through the process of hearing stories that it started opening me up to the possibilities of, well, if that's true of that, then it might be true of me too. And so it was like a gateway. It was like a, it was a. It was a way for me to connect with myself and to make sense of the world that I was living in, and it didn't have to necessarily be my own story, you know?

If that makes sense. Mm-hmm. So from that, the process that, um, in this particular group of men, what they do is, um, and this, this was, um, a process that there's a, oh, now I'm gonna forget his name. Um, there's a storyteller, he's a, he's an Englishman, and oh my gosh, like, oh, Martin Shaw is his name. And Martin has this really amazing approach to having conversations using story, which is at some point you stop the story and, and you go through a process where you, it, the group that I'm a part of, we call it feeding the story, which is tell me what you heard.

Uh, but more importantly, where did you feel the story in your body? Oh. And so it's bringing, it's bringing the, the, the. What we're hearing and what we're feeling, and we're bringing it into a place of our body. And some people feel it very strongly, like, I feel it in my chest, I feel it in my knee, I feel it in my elbow, my shoulder, whatever.

Yeah. And it's this thing of like, we've become so detached from our bodies that we, we don't give ourselves the space to really think about because trauma does that. Trauma. Trauma finds its way into our, into our bodies. It does to avoid being stuck in, in the brain. And so as we're feeding the story, men start to slowly share not only what they're feeling but then or where they feel it in their body.

But then they'll start saying, you know, when that, when that happened in the story, it reminded me of a time when I was a little boy or it reminded me of this story or that story. And so once people start bringing themselves into the story, others start to join in and it creates a real sense of connectedness and community.

Yeah. Um, and it's. And so for me, um, having never really been around sensitive men like this, it was completely blew me away. Like, I'm in the room with 35 men from all walks of life. I mean, I recall there was a guy sitting next to me, he was a rancher from Montana. Um, a gruff, you know, typical, you know, cowboy looking guy.

Yeah. And, um, and seeing how he interacted and how he, um, was allowing himself to be vulnerable was completely profound and changed the way that I thought, like, oh, I can be like this and that's okay. Mm-hmm. So it was through that process of, of hearing stories. And then there's always like, you know, you kind of break out into, um, You know, it might conjure another thing.

It might, it might conjure some words through poetry and, and, uh, it's an amazing thing to be able to use people's talents, um, to tap into something that's deeper and, uh, below the surface that we can't necessarily access without others. Like we need other people there to bring that out of us. Yeah. Um, so another aspect of it was what do we do with our pain and suffering and mm-hmm.

Within this case of men, there is kind of a, a, there is someone who kind of holds the space. He's kind of a ritual keeper. Um, and, uh, in this case, uh, is, he is a gentleman named Miguel, and he's got a lot of education and, and teachings. He's got a lot of teachers who have guided him in this practice and he has these very concise, very specific things that he'll examine.

And remind people of why we're bringing it up in the first place, which is, and for me, what he said and what he shared was like, that makes a lot of sense, is we're get, we're tapping into something and we're metabolizing these traumas, these stories, and we need to put 'em somewhere. And the way that he talks about it, and he's, you know, he's, he's from Guatemala, he has more of an indigenous background, is that, you know, this is where our ancestry can be helpful because our ancestry is with us all the time and we need to give some of those stories back to them.

Cause they know what to do with it. Spirits know what to do with it. And we do that by putting it back into the earth. So it might be doing a ritual that involves placing something tangible into the earth or giving it to the trees around us, or because Wow. Using the, using the ideas that we have that naturally flow, like I breathe out carbon dioxide.

The trees breathing in. Turn it. It's that idea. Wow. Metabolized into like, I actually know that that's happening. Yeah. So I can now transfer my pain and suffering into a way and I can, I can communicate it to nature and nature knows what to do with it. Okay. Humans don't. Right. So I started thinking about that in the context of one, how powerful this is for me.

And then working with young people who are so wounded by so many parts of their lives and just like, well, what does it hurt to try introducing some of these ideas with them? And it was shocking, like how relevant, really. Um, yeah, and, and like how powerful, how immediately powerful it was to individuals to be able to say like, I have a place to put this.

And I was told I had to talk about it, or I had to go and share it with someone. Mm-hmm. I'm sick of sharing my story. I've repeated my story so many times. It's lost meaning. Um, and it's like you, there are alternatives and you know, the uniqueness of the job that, that I had and that you, you participated in for a while was that it's not a traditional model we go out.

No. And we meet people where they're at in their spaces. And so I would be a little bit more intentional about that and it'd be like, I don't like meeting with people in my office. I wanna meet with you in the, in the streets. Let's go for a walk. Let's sit in a park bench. Let's go for a walk in the forest and connect with nature and put our stories into nature.

And um, and there were some clients that just, um, It just became like, part of their routine was that's what I'm gonna do. Wow. What, I don't want you to give like any disclosure by any means about people's experiences, but can you give some examples of what, because now my mind is like, well, how do I, where do I put my stuff?

Yeah, yeah. And how do I like, you know, and, and then if I'm thinking it, I'm, I'm feeling like other people are thinking it. So what would be some examples or ideas where people could practice or experiment with? Yeah. So I have one real easy, basic one that I actually, um, encourage a lot of people when they're feeling stagnant or depressed.

And I've used it with clients and, and it's, you know, the, I go because I'm, I'm, I identify strongly with wolves. Um, I attach the wolf to everything, um mm-hmm. And so I call it wolf medicine. And that actually came out of, uh, uh, a Native American, um, tradition. Which is there, there's, um, wolves have a need to move.

They have to walk and they have to run and they have to hunt. If they don't, if they're confined, if they're restricted in their movement, they become depressed and they become okay, actually more aggressive and more hostile. And so I was watching a documentary about the restoration of wolves in Yellowstone and, and, um, they, they were talking about this wolf medicine and the need that wolves have to, to, to be in movement.

And I, I bring in a lot of like, okay, that makes sense on, on this level and that level. So humans and wolves, historically, part of the reason that we've domesticated dogs and they're like so attached to us, is that we share a lot of the same social norms with, with canines, humans do. Um, so the way that we operate socially is, is actually quite similar.

Um, And so one of the strategies is like when you're feeling stagnant or pressed, um, is to go out and, and it's, it's preferred to do it somewhere where it's more natural. Um, but I, I could do this in the city, it's, it's okay to do, but what I would in invite people to do is have, have a very specific intention about why they're, what they're gonna process and think about while they're walking.

And it can be, um, a question. It can be, um, a feeling cuz no, no specifics. Or if that's too difficult to do, I would suggest people listen to maybe something that has, um, kind of inspire inspirational meaning or some depth to it. So there could be a podcast, it could be someone just doing a lecture, but something meaningful and then go for a walk and really be intentional about listening to yourself or listening to the words that are being spoken.

And I have some theories on this. Of course, none of these are research backed because I'm not into doing the research and, uh, but we all, um, those of us who know, like there is something to be said about the bilateral process, the bilateral stimulation mm-hmm. Of the hemispheres of the brain. So most people would attach that to like EMDR as a, as a therapeutic modality when we're talking about dealing with trauma.

So our natural system has a bilateral process. The motion of walking is bilateral. Um mm-hmm. It's the same as, like, I also say people can do this with drumming or anything that gets their hemispheres of their brain going back and forth, but being intentional about it and just go for a walk and process and think about that and then when you're done and, and go for an extended period of time.

And when you come back, just pay attention to what's happening because. Anytime I've suggested it, people have said, you know, like I've, I walk a lot, but I don't walk with intentions. I don't walk with like a purpose. And it's when we start to allow ourself to have that space and we're doing this thing, um, with some form of an intentionality behind it, it does provide some clarity.

It might also just reinforce the fact that I, there's nothing I can do about this. Like, I just needed to, I just needed to put the energy into something. And so your heart rate elevates, your blood's flowing, everything is opening up. It's a way of like really getting your body in tune with what your thoughts are mm-hmm.

And doing something with it. And it's good for you. I mean, just, it's just good when you, when you're stagnant. Um, and so that's something real, like, real basic, um, that Well, no, I appreciate it. And to speak to the bilateral part of that too is, you know, our eyes are even moving back and forth on a walk, right?

That's why they say, you know, try to get outside maybe versus a treadmill. Like, is it still good for you? Yes. Like, don't not walk because you only have a treadmill, but if you're outside, your eyes are constantly scanning the environment and there's that bilateral, you know, right. Activation and, you know, so I, I think that, yeah, I, I get where you're saying there's not like this evidence-based con, you know, support behind it, but there still is, right?

Yeah. You're just kind of combining what we already know is happening and just really tapping in. And at the end of the day, no one's gonna do something because there's evidence for it. You're gonna do something because it feels and changes something within you, and that's, you know, what the experiment and what it's about, you know, trying something like that.

Yeah. The other, the other element of that that can be really interesting is, um, is once you know, I mean a lot of the, a lot of the elements that I try to represent and I think actually are pretty, pretty solidly represented in these, these kind of men's communities is also being in the here and now. So being, being very mindful of what you're doing, being very intentional.

And one of the other things that, um, I think as a culture, and this is not masculine, this is our culture, is that we are so distracted all the time. We are constantly being inundated with information. And, and it's really hard for us to like just be present in what's happening. And the other kind of cool aspect of going for a walk.

And I, I think staying on a, a similar path is actually an also an important thing because what you start to do is you start to notice things. That you've walked past or you've gone past numerous times without ever seeing. And when you start to connect with yourself in ways, you start to connect with other things in profound ways too, which is like noticing trees and noticing their uniqueness and starting to like, just think about like the life cycle of that tree and like the properties of it and all the things that, all the life that it contains, like all the birds and squirrels and all the crap, you know, all that's happening in that one thing that we just walk past every day or that we drive past mm-hmm.

More often. And so like when we start to be able to do that, you, it starts to slow everything down and we start to like reclaim parts of our, our awareness, which I think have been co-opted by our culture. Yeah. Like we have lost awareness and um, And so that's kind of like the, for me, like that's another thing that the process allowed me to do is to slow down and be okay with the fact that like, I can only do what I can do right now.

Mm-hmm. Um, for someone like me, that's hard. Cause I have pretty significant A D H D. Um, and so it's, it's also kind of tapping into like, these aren't, you know, you could argue like start to get into like C B T or cognitive behavioral therapy, which is I'm actually shaping the way that my cognition works by allowing myself to pay attention to these things.

Mm-hmm. And now I'm slowing down and it's giving me a new strategy of calming my nervous system. Well, and if you, if you know, I can speak to that completely in sensory motor processing, you know, we talk a lot about how, you know, not to geek out, geek out on it, but like, so your prefrontal cortex, you know, has areas of your brain.

So there's like the dorsal lateral. Hmm. Dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex. The part like your memory. So you need your memory online. And mindfulness can, memory can only be online really when we're mindful. And then it also activates, you know, the medial part of our prefrontal cortex where that is like introception, like being really present in the body, in the experience.

And so when you can activate your working memory while being present in the moment, that actually shifts the brain out of a threat response. You know, that part of your brain's not turned on when you're overwhelmed or stressed or, or when you're, you know, Experiencing trauma or revisiting it or you know, things of that nature.

So we wanna get you in the front of your brain and that's, that creates the space for healing. You know, I didn't say it very eloquently right now, but it truly, being in the front of your brain and being mindful, you're right. We're losing out on a lot of opportunities of healing and how busy we are and how disconnected we are.

Yes, absolutely. And I, you know, so, so a lot of the things that we're discussing are not, like, this isn't unique to masculinity, this isn't unique to men. True. It's the, the uniqueness, I think, is that when men come together in those spaces and do that, it reinforces that it's okay to do that. And, um, yeah, that's, for me, that's like the most powerful thing cuz I think men are in crisis right now.

I think men have really struggled to figure out what they're about, what they mean. They feel very attacked. Um, you know, the, and they don't know like a healthy way to respond because there, there aren't a lot of, Um, maps or guides to what, how to, how to mm-hmm. Deal with that. Mm-hmm. And so we need, like, what we need to get back to our old stories that help guide us and shape those things of, like, cuz I think people have lost track of their purpose.

Mm-hmm. Um, and we, and we've thought of our purpose as being like, what do I do for a job? But it's, it's not no. Our, our purpose is attached to our spirit and our, and our soul. And that's actually something that Michael Mead, um, who was one of the three that kind of started this was, this is souls. This is the soul work.

Like this is what we're doing. We're working on our soul, we're restoring it, and, and we have to do this work. Um, it's, it's necessary. Mm-hmm. Um, and we have to do it through ways that are not intellectual. That's the other part of this is we cannot intellectualize ourself out of our problems. Mm-hmm. No. Um, Our body has a lot more, um, ability.

So, so one of the interesting things too is, and this is straight from my wife's brain, but you know, she talks about, and I'll preface, she's also a therapist. So one thing that she was kind of sharing with me is like, you know, our body knows how to repair itself.

If you cut your finger, you don't have to like, think about it. You don't have to think about how it's gonna repair itself. It just does. And yet we're so convinced that that's not how the rest of the system heals itself. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Um, that we need all these different interventions to fix it. And it's like, no, our system actually does know how we just.

Don't provide enough space or content to make, to understand how to repair it. Mm-hmm. Um, and so there are strategies to doing it and you know, I think as the research moves into more areas of like ex exploration of like what is the spiritual side of, of us Yeah. How does that contribute to our healing is kind of an interesting process to think about because Right.

That's, that's at the essence of what faith and religion was meant to be, was nurturing the spirit in all of us. It's definitely got away from that. Mm. But that's what it was about, about. Mm-hmm. And, and that, that's true of all people. Um, we're, we're trying to, um, live a spiritual life and, um, It's not happening.

Um, true. Like in authentic way. Like a, a real way. Yeah. So, so that's what that kind of, that men's focus was. It's like, it's not explicitly religious. There's actually, I would say it's not. Um, but there's definitely an element of, so the soul, uh, working on the soul, what does the soul need for nourishment?

And then thinking of it in terms of, of your spirit, your spirituality, and a lot of focus on your ancestry. Um, reconnecting with our ancestors and asking, you know, you, a lot of it feels a little bit like abstract and like, oh, that's kind of kooky, but when you're in the space and you sense it from other people, it's really profound.

Like, oh, that, that actually works. And so, um, what I will say in the, in the context of me, when I, when I think about it in my, the journey as I'm at right now, uh, my dad is aging and my dad is. Never been very curious or interested in his ancestry. Um, but because I've done enough of the work and I still have a lot of work to do, but it, because I've done enough of the work on myself and what it means to be a man, I've retained certain security in that.

Like I know what I represent now and I feel better about it. And so I can introduce ideas and concepts to my dad that I could have never done before. And to see him, like, get a little bit, um, let his guard down a little bit and to be a little bit softer in his way of kind of communicating and talking about, um, inviting curiosity about, you know, connecting it to his father Yeah.

His grandfather, and so on and so forth. Because when we start to get our thoughts into that, like, where do I come from? What was my, what were their stories? What about me today is a continuation of that story. Is it just my trauma? Is it just my baggage? Well, we know that's not true. It's, it's all of us.

Right. So, so just recently having conversations with my dad about that and hearing him talk about his love for not only his dad, but his grandfather, and then him telling stories about these people, like, for me to hear that is profound. And so I think, yeah. When men and women do this type of work that's really meaningful at, at not a psychological level, but like a spiritual level, they, they retain a sense of, um, authenticity.

They retain a sense of security in themselves that they can now begin to approach repairing maybe some of the wounds that have existed in their own life with their parents, because that's mm-hmm. Right. As, as people who work in this field, the common denominator is that everyone has a problem with their parent.

I don't wanna laugh, but it, I mean, attachment, like it always, the very first action system, a human being ever utilized to be able to meet their needs and to exist in this world is their attachment figures and attachment. Yes. That the core of who we are. Yeah. And, and until we are able, and, and there's so many beautiful stories that came through, um, just the process that I've gone through, listening to different men talk, um, the repair that happens when people get a better sense of their spirit, what they're about, because they, they feel like they can't be touched, then they, they feel a sense of strength that it doesn't matter what they say at this point.

I know who I am and I know what I'm about. Yeah. And I just want, at this point to share how I feel with them. And so there's a great, there's a great story. Um, and, and some of the things that Robert Bly says and, uh, said and did. Ruffled some people's feathers. And largely there was like a, there was a feminist, um, contingency of people who really rejected him.

Um, and I don't know that that was necessarily fair, but it was, it, it's true. It, it happened. So there is one of the comments he made that for me really registered. It was, it was profound because I felt it was true. And then the more you think about it, and I'm gonna share it in a minute, the more you think about it, it's applicable to almost every relationship that we can perceive.

So he told a story of a man that he had met, um, and the man had said, you know, I, I had a severed relationship with my father. My father lived his life. I lived mine. We've had no connection. And, um, if I recall, this man had been participating in some of these spaces of, of working on his own stuff. And one of the themes, one of the, one of the things that comes up in a lot of folk tales, a lot of stories, is that there's a conspiracy.

And the conspiracy is something that's not conscious. It's not intentional. But as parents or as people, we negotiate our relationships through power, deceit control. And when you think about it from a psychological lens, you know, you could attach like Freudian thought to this, whereas the, the mother and the son, the mother and the daughter mm-hmm.

They develop an attachment, they develop a relationship that's void of the father. And so that's what he's talking about, the conspiracy between the mother and the child. The mother and the son. And that becomes a wedge between the father and his son, and in part the father and his mother. So it was in the context of that story that this, this young man was sharing with Robert, um, that he recognized that, oh, this was, I'm, I'm participating in the conspiracy.

I'm holding my dad accountable to the things that my mother told me. Not what I experienced, but what she told me to believe about him. And what I needed to do was go back to my father. And, and what he did is he, he conveyed the story as I showed up at his house unannounced. I knocked on the door not expecting him to answer, and he did.

And the only thing he could say to him was, I will no longer see you through my mother's eyes. Mm-hmm. And for me it was like, wow. Like if you're a father who has a, a detached relationship with your child and you know that there was something, you can't put your finger out, but you know that there was something to hear that, that message coming back to you.

Yeah. Like, that's what it was and I didn't know it. And, and, and it's not to give them a pass, it's not to say I forgive you, it's just to say like, I'm willing to stick, to give you a chance to tell me who you really are. Yeah. And I think so often that's the thing that's lacking is that we don't actually know who the people are in our lives because we've attached stories that other people created to them.

Yeah. And it's our job. To analyze and figure out is that true? And the only way that we know is if we get curious about people and we start asking questions. I agree. And I think it's a, it's a beautiful story and I think it highlights the experience of many people and maybe creates space to that there's options or alternative narratives and maybe even some agency over, you know, feeling that they're able to make change or connect to people that, you know, they've always wondered about or Yeah.

That they didn't even realize that they, you know, took on the wounds of their mothers or of other generations, mother fathers. I mean, it's an applicable to all relationships. It's a applicable Exactly. It is. It truly is. Yeah. So that, um, that for me, kind of like is in a nutshell, kinda like the space it provides is like, because in the, what you do is in, you have to start identifying with, well, what is my story?

Who am I? And how do I begin to. Tell people who I am in an authentic way. Mm-hmm. In an authentic voice. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And the, you know, and, and thinking about it from like the, I believe that, um, like Richard Schwartz in his I Fs model, you know, he talks about the core self, um, and trying to discover what that is.

And I think that that's where it begins, is like identifying all the parts and which part is popping up here and there. And so a lot of these themes that we are learning in these spaces, um, really show up in the modalities that are part of psycho, uh, you know, psychology and, and, and therapy and, and all these different things that are, um, Yeah, I mean, it just gives a, it gives another access point it does to those things, um, through story.

It does. And you know, at the start we talked about how, or you said that, you know, through story, we make meaning of our lives. And I think that that's what we're all looking for. And Yeah. You know, as we, as we close, you know, I wrote down. When I was listening to Pat and to speak it, this, this phrase really, um, registered with me is that men are not the paradigm.

And when she speaks to that, she was speaking to like the the power over a paradigm. Yeah. Like where, what it means, like right now, you know, we live in a culture where I have power over you, and that's actually the paradigm. But what if we shifted into a different perspective of, for everyone, for all a thriving life paradigm?

And to start doing that, we have to realize that men aren't the paradigm. So that means they aren't the patriarchy, it's just something they were forced into as well. And how can we explore from that perspective? And it's like, like, yeah. Wow. Yeah. And I think that that's something that is largely been not talked about and that's a good place to kind of summarize this, is that women.

And non non-identifying male, right. Anybody that falls into that has been deeply, deeply wounded by this idea of the patriarchy and, and men, the men ener male, male energy and men have too. Yeah. You know, and I think it's not forgetting like, um, how damaging it is to men. And I think that that is something that I'm definitely noticing the, the, the young men that I've worked with over the years, seeing how they've embodied this wound and they don't know what to do about it.

And so they recycle it and they keep hurting. Um, yeah. So I did wanna, um, just because it's in, in the, uh, spirit of, of what the men's kind of group group does is I did wanna share a poem, if that's okay. That would be lovely. All right. And we'll end it there. And this is a poem by Mary Oliver, um, and it's, uh, wild Geese, so.

The poem goes like this, you do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair. Yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile, the world goes on. Meanwhile, the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile, the wild geese high and the clean blue air are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting, over and over, announcing your place in the family of things. Mm. And that's Mary Oliver.

Thank you. And thank you for being here, Tyler. I really appreciated today and you know, everything you, you brought to the conversation and, and for our listeners. 

Thank you again for joining us on Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-centered mental health podcast. We hope today's episode was empowering and supported you in strengthening your mind-body connection We're your hosts Jeanne and Jess. Please join us again as we continue to explore integrative approaches to wellbeing. Until then, take care.