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tomspeak82

Speaking

Speaking

Tom Golden  is a internationally known speaker who has been well received by enthusiastic audiences in Australia, Canada, Europe,  and the United States for more than a decade. Tom’s spontaneous speaking style weaves storytelling and humor into into a captivating experience that is rich in new information and new ways of seeing grief and healing from loss. If you are interested in having Tom come and do a presentation or if you just have some questions feel free to give him a call at 301 670-1027. You can also reach him via email at golden@webhealing.com.

A Few Comments

“What a skilled teacher, I got my money’s worth.”
“This workshop was excellent!! Material was new and useful!”
“Thank you for making it interesting and fun and above all grounded in reality.”
“I feel that today was a journey for me as a person and also as a caring professional.”
“I will help me be much more effective with men.”
“Wonderful, and too short. Human, warm, and wise.”
“I found the information useful and artfully presented. We needed more of his time.”
“An excellent, lively workshop. Time passed too quickly.”
“Excellent, informative, and humble speaker.”
“Conversant with his subject as well as humane and humorous.”

Don’t just take others words for it. Watch the 20 minute video of a presentation Tom gave in the Summer of 2007 at a conference in Washington DC.

 

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Men’s Issues

The more I worked with grieving men in the 1980’s and 90’s  the more I became aware of a strong cultural bias against men and anything having to do with emotions/dependency.  The grief and trauma gave me a very good view into the hardships that traumatized men faced in not being heard or acknowledged in their emotional pain.  It became very clear that a man’s emotional pain was simply taboo in our culture.

Once I started seeing this clearly I began to see the many other areas where men faced hardship and discrimination based on the same unwillingness for anyone to honor their pain or dependency.  These ideas came into clear focus once I read Warren Farrell’s landmark book The Myth of Male Power.  I saw then that what I had experienced was simply a small part of a much larger picture for men. Farrell labelled this as men’s disposability.  In other words, if men were seen as disposable then their pain was seen as unimportant or worse. Farrell explained that every successful culture that has ever existed has found a way to make their men disposable.  This was not some nefarious plot, it was geared specifically to insure our survival.  Women were protected and men did the protecting no matter how dangerous.  Thus we end up now with nearly all war deaths being male, 93% of workplace deaths being male, all our resources going to women’s health issues and much less going to men’s.  All of these things hinge on the same idea that Farrell had brought to light.

To make matters worse I started seeing how men were not only ignored in their pain but in the late 20th century men as a group were blamed for the ills of society.  It is fair game to say just about anything negative about men but verboten to say anything close to be negative about all women.  It was easy to see the connection of Farrell’s ideas to this sort of double standard but it was also very easy to see that no one else seemed to see this.  Very, very few.

Since that time I have been working to bring men’s issues to light.  Not just the issues of grief and trauma but all of the other related issues including things like domestic violence, suicide, men’s health, false accusations, and many more.  I built a web site called Men Are Good and used it to house the different ideas about men and their plight in our culture.  You can find that site here Men Are Good.  I also have a youtube channel titled men are good and a google+ page of the same name.

Have been fortunate to have been involved in writing a proposal for a White House Council for Boys and Men with a great group brought together by Warren Farrell. You can see our proposal here.

I was fortunate to have been the vice chair of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health and wrote three reports that surveyed the health status of men in Maryland.  One report was on Men’s Health in general in Maryland, another was on Men, Boys, and Suicide and another on Male Victims of Domestic Violence.   If you want to see the official version of these files  you can find them here.  The prior links may be a little easier to read.

I continue to write on the men are good site and also have started submitting articles to A Voice For Men.  This AVFM site is growing rapidly and is truly becoming a voice for men.

 

We have a long path for men to reach a point where they are treated in an equitable manner and with love and respect.  In some ways men’s issues reminds me of the way grief was treated back in the 1970’s when I first started working.  No one really knew much about it, people blew it off, and the only thing going on was a few folks working to bring awareness.  Sounds similar to men’s issues in today’s world.  Remember, men are people too.

 

 

 

Tom has built a web site for men’s issues related topic titled menaregood.com.

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Books & Videos

Books

swallowed by a snake pictureTom has written two books on the topic of men and healing. The first, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing serves as a map for men. In it’s second edition it has been a favorite of both grieving men and women for many years. Praised by and others the book offers a convincing argument for sex differences in the way we heal. Drawing on Anthropological research and clinical observation the book uses stories to tell the tale.

The Way Men Heal is a concise ebook that updates the Snake book with the latest information on sex differences in healing. The book includes examples of , and others to show the many ways that men heal from loss. This update connects the dots on the biological connections that the first book started. It goes into the impact of pre-natal testosterone and other physical differences that every man and boys should know about in order to understand their unique ways to heal.

wmhThe Way Men Heal is Tom’s new web site that houses many hours of videos on the topic of healing from loss and the masculine side.  the site features a group of videos specifically about the way men heal. This group is named the video book” due to its offering very similar material to what can be found in Tom’s newest Ebook The Way Men Heal.  Some of these videos have been taken from an international online class Tom taught on grief.  To get a sense of what you might find there you can check out an excerpt here. Join the site here.

“I find this material interesting and stimulating and feel it will fill a void in the literature about grief and gender differences. The material presents a fresh look into the uniqueness of a man’s grief in a way that both men and women will find extremely helpful.”
“Swallowed by a Snake is a much-needed contribution to the existing literature about coping with loss. Tom Golden’s skillful blend of folklore, cross-cultural analysis, and clinical advice will help both men and women understand the specific context and needs of grieving men. The path through grief is often a dark and lonely one; Tom’s work will serve as compassionate and insightful beacons to many.”
“In Swallowed by a Snake, grief therapist Thomas R. Golden compares the grieving process to finding oneself in the belly of an immense beast. What does one do there? His answer is: one must actively find new ways to live. Golden identifies a bias in contemporary psychotherapy toward feminine healing methods which revolve around intimacy and relationship. He respectfully suggests that there are significant differences between the processes of men’s and women’s healing, and proposes different healing strategies for men based on action and ritual. Drawing on findings of the mythopoetic men’s movement and grief-work in indigenous cultures such as the Dagara of West Africa and the Yolngu of Australia, Swallowed by a Snake makes a strong and original case for “healing through action” and fills a gap in contemporary discussions of men’s grief.

Reviewed by Ally Press in their publication Dragonsmoke”

“Michael Jordan’s father was tragically murdered near a North Carolina Highway in 1993. What did Jordan do to facilitate his love for his father and his healing?”
“Clapton was sent reeling into what he calls a “waking nightmare” by the sudden death of his son. Read about the action Clapton took in healing. Yes, Tears in Heaven is a part of this but not nearly the whole story”
“C.S. Lewis responded to his wife’s death by writing the now famous book “A Grief Observed.” How did Lewis’s writing help his healing? “
“The Video Book offers 14 videos totaling a play time of over 130 minutes. It offers an in depth look into the workings of the masculine side of healing.
onlineconsults

Online Consults

Tom has a limited number of hours available each week for online consultations.  This is not therapy and is likely not covered under your insurance.  Topics include helping people find their path to heal from loss and trauma, helping mothers and fathers learn to get close to their you

Helping Boys to Heal

boy_2First a disclaimer. There are some men and boys who are not only able to talk freely about their emotions but also enjoy doing it. We don’t want to generally portray them as being totally different from women in the ways they do their processing. There are some men who really enjoy support groups and talking face to face with others about their situations. We need to honor these men just as we honor others that might have a different path. Our job is to see how the men and boys we love are unique. Does he enjoy to interact and discuss emotions face to face?  Does he emote freely? If so, then we have found his safe place and need to be with him in a manner that fits his nature. We talk about it. This is a win. Most men who enter therapy are able to talk about their emotions just fine. But they tend to have different ways to get there, even on a verbal level. Many men and boys, and some women and girls find this interactive mode more difficult. It is this population that this article seeks to address. These are the folks that have been misunderstood for too long. They have ways of processing that are significantly different from the default and it is our job to see if we can determine just where they do feel safe and offer them that safety when they need it. What we need to do is be as conscious and aware as we can.

It is also worth noting that there are very few people in our culture who are interested in listening to men’s emotional pain. Very few. The men described above who are more interested to process things verbally will often have to find and pay a therapist to hear them out. Even in therapy men’s pain faces discrimination with many therapists showing a bias towards listening to women’s complaints and emotions far more often then doing the same for men. Men are simply not accustomed  to others being sincerely interested in their emotional pain and will often assume that no one wants to hear it. This is often difficult for women to understand since the people in her world have likely been more open to her emotions and worries. With this in mind it calls us to understand that a part of the problem is our own lack of concern and our lack of practice in hearing a man’s, and boy’s emotional situation. Think about yourself. When was the last time you actively listened to the emotions of a man you love, asked open ended questions and just listened in response without judgement?

Let’s get to the topic at hand. How do we find a person’s safety? Let’s tell a story to get us started.

When my children were young I had the opportunity to watch very carefully the ways they found safety and then told their story.

When my daughter was little she would come to me and say “Daddy, I need special time.”  I knew just what that meant. She needed both a safe place and my attention. We would find two chairs that would face each other so we were face to face and she would proceed to tell me her stories.  “Oh Daddy, Suzy said I was fat.”  I would simply say, “Oh Julia” in a supportive tone.  Then she would switch to another dilemma.  “Daddy, Jill said she would never, ever, play with me again.”  Again, I would offer her a supportive “Ah Julia.”   After about 5 or 6 “Ah Julia’s” she would say, “Thanks Dad” and run out the door to play some more.  What was Julia doing?  She was setting up a way to feel safe, to get my attention and then to tell her story as I listened.  Very wise for a youngster and very effective. She knew how to get a safe place and then process her story.

Did my son do that?  Absolutely not.  Luke had a very different strategy.

When Luke would come to me and say “I want to wrestle” I knew that meant the same thing as Julia saying “Daddy, I need special time.” I would tell Luke that he better be ready for me. He was just a little guy of maybe 6 or so and we would both posture and huff and puff and then the wrestling would commence. He would have me down and then I would have him down and back and forth it would go. At an unexpected moment he would raise his head up and say something like, “Jimmy got beat up today at school.” I’d say “Was it bad?” And he would respond that it was that Jimmy had blood on his shirt. Then back to the wrestling as fast as we had stopped we were back at it again. Then a moment later Luke raised his head and said “I miss Grandaddy.” My father had just died a few months back and I would respond that I missed him too. Then as fast as we stopped we were back to wrestling.

Can you see what Luke was doing? He was telling his story, a very intimate and sad story, in his own way and it made it that much easier for him to tell it as we were wrestling. It’s important to note that there were many wrestling matches where he never opened up about something of great import. It wasn’t like wrestling was a feeling machine. No, it was just a time when it was easier for him to tell his story, a story that might be difficult to tell under other circumstances. By my wrestling with Luke I was giving him that safety. He could then choose to use it or not. It was up to him.

So our job is to keep our eyes open and see where our children or our loved ones find safety, a safety that allows them to open up and tell their story.

Where are these safe places for boys? Let’s have a look at a couple of them.
One example of a possible safe place is when young boys go to bed. When a parent is present to tuck him in it’s as if you are on the same team. He has the covers pulled up and feels all tucked in and likely feels safe. It is this moment that sometimes boys will tell you what is on their mind. Things are quiet, no one else is around, they have a sense of safety and all of these things create a safe place for him. He may not say a thing but then again he might. As parents we want to be there at times like this and be ready and open if he is interested in bringing up issues or problems that he is facing that he might usually not talk about. Be very aware of the possibility that he may bring things up in a very indirect manner. He may not start by talking about himself, he may start by talking about a friend who has problems. Listen closely and ask open ended questions.

Boys5A time that is similar to this is when boys come home from school. If you meet them as they come in the door and have a snack ready you are providing a safe place. I have seen this repeatedly. When boys first hit the door as they come home they will tell you everything! But you must be there the moment they come in. Ten minutes later and it won’t work. Most parents don’t have that luxury but if you can swing it I think you will find a time where he feels safe and will be more willing to tell you the stories of the day. Another thing to keep in mind is that boys will rarely want to tell the same story twice. If he opens up to dad when he comes home from school he may not want to repeat the same stories again. Dad will likely have to relay the stories directly to mom.

Yet another potential safe place for young boys is riding in the car. This one is much more tricky since there are a number of boys who find the car to be less then a safe place. But there are many boys who will tell you many things when just the two of you are riding in the car together. It’s a place they may feel safe. Think of your own son and whether this may or may not be the case with him.

We can expand our examples a bit by looking at where boys feel safe in an active mode. Often boys will feel safe doing something together like playing a game of catch with a football or throwing the frisbee. The focus of the event is the frisbee or the football. Just toss it back and forth and if a conversation pops up you take his lead. If not, then just enjoy the game of catch and the opportunity to do something together. I am sure that your list is getting longer with various activities like taking a walk, a back rub, doing yard work together, or just about any other shoulder to shoulder activity. Any of these can be a safe place for a young boy.

One more place that needs to be mentioned is video games. Boys generally love to be playing and striving to get to the next level. The world disappears and they become immersed in a new world. All too often his love for gaming can become a family struggle with the basic theme being that he is neglecting his school work and just about every other thing in his life. So how can this be leveraged as a safe place? In an interesting way. Ask him to teach you his game. I have recommended this tactic to many parents and even moreso to grandparents. They find that the boy is more then willing to help them learn the game and as he teaches it gives him the experience of being the expert, of being the one who knows, the one who is listened to and asked for advice, the one who is in charge. This is often a new role for the boys and they love it. Think hierarchy. He is now on top and you are on the bottom. His skills are valued and sought after. When boys feel they are at the top of the hierarchy they are much more likely to open up about what might be bothering them. Even if they don’t open up the experience for boys to be on top and have their opinion valued is a huge plus in his development
fortAnother idea for younger boys is to build a fort. Take the couch cushions and prop them up to make an enclosed space. Get inside the fort with him. It is very likely he will like this experience but it does more then just having him like it. It gives him a space with you where he feels very safe and contained. Bring a little snack into the fort. You might even get him to tell you a little story about your fort and what you and he are doing there. Is he protecting you? Is he the Commander of the fort? Get him talking about his story and through his story you will learn all about what he is thinking and feeling. Listen carefully.

The basic idea is to avoid the face to face talking, but instead go out and play catch, shoot baskets, take a walk, go fishing, anything that he enjoys doing that is active, moving, and shoulder to shoulder. Make the focus be the activity and the talking about things a side issue. As you are shoulder to shoulder ask questions that are indirect and not specifically about feelings. In other words, don’t just say, “How are you feeling about…” That sort of question might work well for a woman or a feminine type but it will tend to shut down the masculine. Much better to ask about what he is DOING.   Keep in mind that even the best question may not open things up for discussion and keep in mind that the purpose of your activity is to be together shoulder to shoulder. Talking about things would be a bonus.

By creating spaces where boys feel safe and boys feel valued you are building up the probability of his opening up about what might be bothering him. And if he doesn’t open up you have had some fun in the process and had an experience that you both will likely remember.

 

 

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Tom Golden, LCSW has written two books on the way men heal and has co-authored a third. Tom’s work has been featured in CBS Evening News, CNN, ESPN, The NFL Channel and many others. His latest book “The Way Men Heal” is available now at amazon as a kindle book. He offers online consults for women seeking to get closer to the men they love.  golden@webhealing.com

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies – How can you get emotionally close to the men you love?

This article is the first in a series of articles geared to help women get closer to the men and boys they love.  If you want more info on this topic you can see Tom’s new kindle book The Way Men Heal now available at amazon. Articles to follow will focus on the reasons men’s emotional pain is invisible, tips for getting close to men, getting close to young boys, and getting close to adolescent boys.

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pathLadies, how many times have you been frustrated to not be able to connect emotionally with the men you love?  Want to learn how to do that?  Keep reading.

The first thing to know is that there are a multitude of ways we deal with emotions.   What we want to guard against is the idea that “our” way is the “only” way.  If we get stuck in that sort of thinking we are in danger of not seeing the many ways that others might use.

What sorts of things help us when we have emotions? How do we help ourselves find balance? Many people, especially women, find talking about their emotions to be a top strategy, others see talking as something to be avoided. We know about the origins of this difference from the research of Shelly Taylor, PhD of UCLA. Taylor has helped us greatly in understanding that men and women have very different ways to deal with stress. She found in 2003 that nearly all of the previous research on stress had been done using male subjects.  Given this obvious bias, Taylor decided to find if women might have a different way from the standard “fight or flight” mode.  What Taylor found was that when stressed women don’t usually fight or flight, they instead, will “tend and befriend.”  When stressed, women are much more likely to move towards people and towards interaction. This is a remarkable difference and starts off our understanding of how men and women might have different ways to process emotions.  Taylor helps us see that women will be more likely to talk while men will be less likely to do so.

Why is it that talking and interaction helps many women heal?  The bottom line is that this is where they feel safe.  Those people who use the tend and befriend mode will usually find help in talking and interacting because this is where they feel safe. Think of your way.  When you are upset, do you look towards others for support? Are there certain people who help you feel safer and more likely to open up?  Are there certain places that help you feel safer and open up with that person?  The more you feel safe the more likely you will feel free to open up, right?  You will be sensitive to your own safety and seek interactions that fit your safety needs. When you find that safety you will talk about your problems and difficulties. This is a win.

Men are no different but their safe places are indeed different. Most men simply don’t find the interactive tend and befriend mode to be so safe.

In the late 1970’s when I first started working at a counseling center my clients were mostly men. I started finding that the things that helped women didn’t seem to go over so well with men.  I was taught in grad school to sit and face my clients and make good eye contact.  Worked like a charm with women.  It seemed to help them feel safe.  With men?  Not so much.  Rather then help them feel safe it seemed to be making them more tense.  It was only later that I found that eye contact for men (especially with another man) had the tendency to increase tension rather then help them feel safe.  Eye contact for men means something very different.  For men eye contact often  means competition or confrontation.  Think about it.  Hockey has a “faceoff,” boxers face each other, when men compete they “face” the other team.  it took me some time to realize this and also to see that men feel considerably safer not in a face to face mode but by being shoulder to shoulder.

Before we go a step farther we need to back up a bit.  The differences that Taylor found and others that we will discuss in just a minute are not black and white.  For many reasons, including both social and  biological ones, there are some men who process things more like women and some women who process more like men.  We are called to not pigeonhole either.  We are all very different and each person needs to be understood for their own unique paths.  I have found that about 20% of men are going to process things more like women (tend and befriend) and about 20% of women will likely process things more like the men.  There are, of course, many people who are a blend of the two.  It’s not a simple split.

With that said, it is more likely for women to tend and befriend but what about men? Where do men find safety?  If we knew that we would find it much easier to enter into their safe space, right?  After working with grieving and traumatized men for over 30 years I have slowly come to see some of these differences.

Exercise one — Think of the man you love. Where do you think he finds safety?  There are three basic places that people will find safety, Interaction, Action, and Inaction. Most of us will use all three of those but one will usually be primary and be more helpful than the other two. When he is stressed does he want to talk about things? (interaction) Does he move towards doing something? (action) Or does he isolate himself and get quiet? (inaction) Think of his way. You may want to talk with him about this when you see him. Just ask him where he feels safe and see what he says. You could even tell him what you do and where you fell safe when you feel stressed and ask him if that sort of thing works for him. It could prove to be a valuable conversation.

Men move towards action

In general, men tend to move more toward action or inaction but each man (and each woman) will be different and have different ways to find safety. We also know that men will find being shoulder to shoulder to bring more safety then being face to face. Men tend to get close to one another when they are on the same team and working towards a common goal. This is where men tend to relax and develop friendships especially if the situation is somewhat dangerous. Think of men who become close to each other, war time buddies, policemen who are partners, firemen who are at the same firehouse, players on the same team or even fishing together in a fishing boat all day. These are all places where men are shoulder to shoulder and taking part in an action together with a common goal. This is where men begin to feel close and it gives us a powerful clue about how we can get closer to them.

Once someone finds safety what is the next step? Think of what happens when you find your close friend, you have a safe place and you have time to interact. What happens? It’s obvious. You tell your story. There is something about telling the story that is healing and fulfilling. When you can get that story out and someone hears it you feel differently. Often we feel affirmed. These are the basic elements of healing that can be seen clearly in therapy or even a support group. Both therapy and support groups are built to help people feel safe and to then tell their stories.

path-oregThese two elements are the basics to how people heal from very strong grief and trauma. It has been my experience that these elements are also used for everyday sorts of emotional bumps and bruises but on a smaller scale. The human mind is built to listen to and tell stories and this is for good reason. Doing this helps us stabilize and find our center. People find safety and then they tell their story within that safety. When I first started working with men I assumed that everyone felt safe sitting face to face and that everyone would benefit from verbally telling their story. I was wrong. It took me quite some time to realize that the basics of safety and story were the same for both men and women but the specifics of safe places and the way the stories were told were very, very different. I began to realize that men often found safety in their action and then would use that action to tell their story. It was right there for me to see but I missed it due to my assumption that everyone healed in the same manner.

I can hear you now saying, “Wait a minute. How can anyone tell their story through their action? How does that work?” I can really understand this question since I struggled to understand it for years. Let’s take an example.

I worked with a man once who experienced the death of his teen son in a car crash.  The man was stunned and reeling. What he eventually did to deal with the chaos of such a massive loss, was to begin to write a book about his son.  He interviewed his son’s girlfriends, ex- girlfriends, teachers, friends, religious leaders, coaches and anyone he could think of that had contact with him.  After interviewing each person he would write up the interview as a section for his book.  The conversations the man had with his interviewees were not unlike what some others might have in a support group, or in therapy, but this man had the conversations as a part of his action, the action of writing the book.   The project was meant to honor his son and his son’s life.  The project also pulled the man into the future: should he have an index? How will he get it printed?  Distributed?  Who should he interview next?  The entire project became a way for this man to tell his story of his son, and his loss.  But rather then simply talking about it, he told his story through his action, the action of writing the book.  it was an action that honored his son and pulled the man into the future. During this action and interviewing his sons’ friends and talking about his son’s life how could he not experience the emotions of this loss? By honoring his son with his action he was telling his son’s story and his own story and experiencing the emotions that were a part of that loss.  How could he not?

Now, imagine you are this man’s wife.  How do you get emotionally close to him?  Would it work to simply sit with him face to face and say, “Honey, how are you feeling about our son?”  Probably not.  Much better to simply ask how the book is going. It’s a very good bet that he will be very willing and even interested in talking about the book. The latest thing he had discovered about his son from the son’s friends etc. Better yet, how can you help him with the book?  “Honey, maybe I can round up some pictures that you could use in the book?  Would that help?” Men sometimes deeply appreciate someone taking an interest in their healing actions and working with them shoulder to shoulder.  That is where men tend to feel safe.

I can hear you saying, “Well Tom, my husband does not write books.” And you would be correct. However, it is likely that your husband uses some type of action to tell his story and if you know how he does it you will be in a much better position to both understand him and connect with him. But how does he do it?

Exercise 2 – Think of the man you love and remember where he finds safety. Now think of what he does once he finds that safety. It is likely that he will move into one of four spheres, creative action, practical action, thinking action or inaction. The men I have worked with will generally have one of those that is their primary path to tell their story.

Let’s take just a second to observe these four types of healing action. It’s easiest to start seeing these by observing what men tend to do following a very strong loss. Here are some examples:

PRACTICAL ACTION – This is probably the most common path where men use some practical action as a vehicle to tell their story. Some men might dedicate their work, others might build a memorial or start a trust fund, still others might dedicate themselves to better parenting. Think of the NFL when a player on a team dies. What do these men do naturally and without direction? They honor their fallen comrade with an insignia or patch on their uniform and they dedicate their season (their action) in honor of the lost friend. Their play is now connected to their loss and the future becomes a way to remember this friend and to tell your story. But all of this happens through action, not just sitting in a circle and talking.

CREATIVE ACTION – Many people use creative action to tell their story. You can see this in men who use actions like painting, singing, sculpting, writing music, listening to music, and a host of other creative paths. How many symphonies have been written by men that were in honor of a loss?

THINKING ACTION – Some men write like the man in our example. Some journal, some study grief, some dedicate their learning, some philosophize.

INACTION – This is simply telling the story internally, in our own heads, by ourselves. Some will do this before going to sleep, others while driving, and some others while taking a walk. It can happen anyplace. You simply won’t see it unless they tell you about it. They are likely telling this story over and over again in their heads. Like the other three types of action this one is basically invisible. You can’t see it.
It is this invisibility that kept me from seeing the way men used action in order to heal. Men are very good at making their healing paths invisible. It is likely that you don’t know the first thing about how he does this. The next article will be on how men try to keep their healing invisible and the reasons they do this. When we can understand this basic idea we will be in much better position to see more clearly the healing actions they are taking.

Here is a summary of what we have done thus far:
1. Men feel safer in a shoulder to shoulder mode on the same team
2. Rather than interaction, men often use action or inaction to tell their story
3. Rather than the past, men use the future to tell their story
4. Honoring and rebuilding are the tools that are used

Tom Golden, LCSW has written two books on the way men heal and has co-authored a third. Tom’s work has been featured in CBS Evening News, CNN, ESPN, The NFL Channel and many others. His latest book “The Way Men Heal” is available now at amazon as a kindle book. He offers online consults for women seeking to get closer to the men they love.  golden@webhealing.com

Tips for Helping the Men You Love  

This is an excerpt from Tom’s ebook “The Way Men Heal.” This is a part of the section on tips for helping men. Links to purchase can be found on the right sidebar.

Entering His Space

800px-Bassboat1The first thing to keep in mind is to find some alternative to the traditional face to face talking about things mode.  Think about where he feels safe.  Maybe going for a walk together, or shooting baskets, or going fishing. If you don’t know how to shoot baskets or fish get him to teach you.  Going to a game together.  Simply doing something shoulder to shoulder. Being with him.  Women who are grieving like it when their friends or loved ones simply give them a place to interact.  Maybe the grief doesn’t even come up but the opportunity to interact is there and is appreciated.  Just as some women may not discuss their issues of loss in a conversation some men may not bring up their grief as you are doing something shoulder to shoulder.  Remember, two men can stay silent all day in a fishing boat shoulder to shoulder and at the end of day feel very connected and close.  They simply enjoy and are affirmed by each other’s company.  Keep that in mind as you join him in some shoulder to shoulder activity.

Honoring His Loss


You know now that those who heal in a masculine way are likely to use honoring as a preferred way to heal.  Just as you respect him by being with him in a shoulder to shoulder space you can now experiment with healing in a similar manner.  Find ways to honor his loss. If it was his father who died, it could be as simple as donating some personal money to a charity that the father loved.  Let him know you have made the donation. It’s very likely that he will deeply appreciate it and will let him know that you and he are on the same team, working towards the same goal of honoring his father.

Honoring can take many different paths.  You could tell him, “Hey!  I want to take you out to dinner in honor of your father” and go to his favorite restaurant.  He can then decline if he needs to.  It may be too much for him right now and that would be fine.  Honor his choice.   Or he can accept.  Allow him either way. But he now knows for certain that you are interested in honoring his dad and that will likely resonate with him.  If you do go out it can be an evening to honor his father.  As you eat you can enjoy each others company.   Stories and the associated memories about his dad may come up.  But keep in mind that the focus should be on the dinner and enjoying yourselves, not on the conversation about his loss.  If he chooses to talk about his loss that would be gravy.

You could do the same thing by going to a sports event.  “Hey, I am taking you to Friday night’s playoff game in honor of your dad.  I know how much he loved the game and we could enjoy it in his honor.” Be sure that the game is the focus and not try to make it into a therapy session.  Just enjoy the game together and if the topic of his dad comes up the all the better. Think fishing boat.

Being The One To Open Up


Remember that honoring can be an everyday experience.  It could be something very simple like:  “You know, I was thinking of your dad yesterday and remembering how good he was with the kids.  I do miss that and miss him.”  In this scenario you are the one who is opening up, you are the one who is taking the risk. and he can just listen.  By being the one to bring things up you offer him a certain safety. He can choose to respond or not to respond but no matter which he chooses, he will likely be touched by your honoring his dad.

Another variation on this theme is to tell him a story about the person who died.  This makes it safe for him to just listen.  Men tend to appreciate stories like this and as the story is told his own memories are coming up and being healed.  “I was just thinking the other day about the time your dad and I went to the… ”

When you tell the old story you are the one who is opening up.  This gives him a safe way to hear what is happening to you and to let that resonate in his own psyche.  Rather than pummel him with questions you simply talk about the way you are feeling.  This offers him a model and also allows him to not say a word but to simply listen.  What I have found is that when we open up, it gives the man more of a safe place and the likelihood of his joining in with the conversation goes up.  But even if he doesn’t open up he will likely benefit from simply hearing the story.

Remember that men like to keep some of their father’s possessions, particularly some of their clothing.  They wear it in his honor  and in some ways are bringing his memory into the future.  It’s a part of healing from loss and men tend to not make a big deal over it.  I have seen the mistake too many times of the woman saying something like “Why are you wearing that tired old hat?” This is shaming and condemning his effort to honor his father.  A much better statement might be, “Every time I see you wear that hat I think of your father.”  Feel the difference?

Talk About His Action, Not His Emotion

A friend of mine named Martin Brossman experienced the death of his father.  Both Martin’s father and grandfather were also named Martin Brossman making him Martin Brossman III.   After his father’s death Martin put up a Facebook page titled “The Three Martins” and used the space to honor his father and his grandfather with writing and videos including his eulogy he gave for his father.  If we were to want to check in with Martin about his healing would we ask him “Martin, what have you been feeling about your father’s death?”  Or would we say, “Martin, how’s the Facebook page coming?” It’s easy to see that asking about the Facebook page would give Martin lots of options on how to respond.  He could choose to focus on the page itself,  talking about the latest comments or the latest editions, thus keeping the conversation light. Or he could talk about his own emotions as they relate to the Facebook page and his father.  Talking about the Facebook page would make it easy for him to adjust the depth of the conversation.  This would offer him a great deal more “safety” then a direct question about his emotions.

In general, when you want to be of assistance to men who are healing you are better off  asking them about their actions rather than directly questioning their emotions.

 

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Tom Golden, LCSW has written two books on the way men heal and has co-authored a third. Tom’s work has been featured in CBS Evening News, CNN, ESPN, The NFL Channel and many others. His latest book “The Way Men Heal” is available now at amazon as a kindle book. He offers online consults for women seeking to get closer to the men they love.  golden@webhealing.com