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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 [email protected]

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.

 

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.

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.

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.  [email protected]