Over the last few weeks I have been preparing for both a workshop that is due next month (Exploring the Wilderness: Acting from Strength – A workshop for Men as well as an interview for World Radio Switzerland on contemporary issues men face. I’ve gone back into my bookshelves to dig up a few interesting books, and also spent time watching a few very interesting documentaries. In this blog post I list some of the titles of these books and films, with links to where you might be able to find them (disclosure: I do not receive kickbacks from these links).
Books for Men
The first book I’ve been reading is Stand by your manhood by Peter Lloyd. On the back cover it states that “this is the deliciously provocative book that gives blokes their balls back.” Lloyd’s intents are to highlight a string of issues that hinder men in this day and age, and some of the chapters are pretty useful. He addresses the general bad state of health of men, and the shortfalls in services specifically for men. Lloyd tackles the perennial question about “size”, and the lack of healthy self-confidence arising from an obsession some men might have with length and girth. Overall it’s a witty exploration of his side of the gender debates, but Lloyd unfortunately has a habit of seeing conspiracies where there are none. That undermines the potential of his book, as far as I’m concerned.
Also British is The Descent of Men by Grayson Perry. With the same sense of wit, Perry succeeds where Lloyd fails. Perry suggests it’s time for an upgrade of masculinity, while Lloyd seems stuck in re-establishing some form of the “good ol’ days”. Perry uses the metaphor of an internal Governor that dictates men how to be “real men”, at the expense of most of what makes each man individual, unique, and worthwhile. Through sometimes hilarious writing, the author encourages his reader to question the Governor, and come to choices born not by external dictates, but from deep within.
The Book of Men is a wonderful collection (curated by Colum McCann) of short writings by male and female authors from various corners of the globe on “how to be a man”, and because of its diversity of visions and ideas is an inspiring read for men and women alike. In my own practice I often try and explore the “personal culture” of my clients, to establish which behaviours, thoughts and feelings of each and every client are inspired by their cultural, religious and social surroundings, and which parts are nourished from the inside. This book speaks to those diverse aspects of who we are, and feeds the creation of one’s own personal concept of “being a man”.
Much more academic and philosophical is the book Manliness by Harvard professor Harvey C. Mansfield. It is, admittedly, a difficult read, and doesn’t provide easy-to-apply principles of action in daily life. However, because we are all infused by the societies we are part and parcel of, it is worth seeing the bigger picture of which we are part.
A much easier read is by the American best-selling author Lewis Howes: The Mask of Masclinity. Coming from a background of sports and business in modern day America, Howes realises that he himself – as a man – was trapped in definitions of modern day manhood that prevented him from having warm friendships, loving relationships and a fulfilling professional life. With the heavy emphasis on success, competition and materialism and hardly any space for affection, compassion and intimacy Howes sought to take of the mask of masculinity he had grown up with, and explore other ways of being a man.
Films for Men
Howes named his book after a documentary broadcast by Netflix: The Mask You Live In. This is a blurb from the movie itself: “The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. Research shows that compared to girls, boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives.”
Powerful, inspiring and hope-giving is the documentary “The Work“, on a four-day group session in one of the maximum security prisons in California, USA. This is what the producers say of this film: “Set entirely inside Folsom State Prison, The Work follows three men during four days of intensive group therapy with convicts, revealing an intimate and powerful portrait of authentic human transformation that transcends what we think of as rehabilitation.”
Working with Men
If any of the above feels worthwhile exploring in a challenging yet safe environment: I offer counselling services specifically for men who feel that there’s something missing in their lives, or who struggle with finding their own strength, or who are somehow unable to act form their own strength.
If you are interested then but would like to know more, it might be worth your while exploring some of the following pages on my site: