8 min read | One of the most influential recent books about exploring the problems and potential solutions for modern manhood is “Iron John: A Book About Men” by Robert Bly. The book was published in 1990, was a New York Times bestseller, and is still in the Top 25 bestsellers at Amazon under Gender Studies. What I found striking about the book, other than its provocative arguments drawn from a wide range of sources – poetry, mythology, literature, and modern cultural observations – is how little it seems to be on the minds of men now. Why? Either the book’s ideas no longer resonate with modern men, or we lost awareness of a flowering in the 1980s and 1990s of male writers trying to rediscover and reinvent manhood. Bly interprets a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Iron John, as carrying important insights for what boys specifically need to come to terms with as they mature into men. He writes, "…the next step in initiation for men is finding the rat’s hole...
5 surprising challenges for new fathers that I wish I’d known
6 min read | Within 3 years of a first child being born, only one in three couples remain happy, according to research by psychologists John and Julie Gottman. Certainly many of those folks move on to file for divorce. The child is the catalyst. So why – during what should be a joyous time for new parents – are so many people unhappy? And what, particularly from a man’s perspective, can new Dads do about it?
Finding your unique career path, inspired by poems
It can be tempting to think we need a plan, outline, or strategy for everything. But do we? These poems and reflections aim to jar a few screws loose from the best-fashioned plans.
Advice for men from a successful, happily-married man (Rob Jones)
Here’s a man we need to hear more about: happily married for forty years, still engaged in his kids’ lives, and able to balance work with exercise, family, and community. In our interview, he shares how he and his wife overcame a marital crisis, how he learned to cultivate balance and time for reflection, and how he transformed a potential career disaster into the mentoring opportunity of a lifetime. Rob is sixty years old and lives in Colorado. He and his wife Martha have three adult sons. Please read to the end for a summary of life lessons based on the interview, and resources for further learning and practice you can try yourself. Please leave us a comment and share this with your friends.
How to embrace anger and not repress it: insights from poetry
Do you handle your anger, or does it handle you? We need to skillfully deal with anger when it arises, lest it derail our better intentions and lead to hurtful words and actions to those around us. We get angry for legitimate reasons. A plan didn’t turn out as we’d hoped. We feel hurt by someone’s actions or words. But that doesn’t mean the best response is to lash out while we feel ablaze with fury. Doing so usually pushes people away – intimated or scared by our fiery side – or escalates a confrontation instead of allowing us to negotiate productively. How can we engage with anger, instead of treating it like a feared tornado that rages into our psyche without warning, razing our best-laid intentions?
8 ways for men and their sons to heal
A pervasive problem today seems to be that American men have little or no connection with their fathers. The reasons may be physical or structural – absentee fathers, divorced fathers who don’t share custody – or emotional, in that the fathers were around during their kids’ childhoods, but were emotional ghosts. But what to do about it?
Benefits of camping with children and avoiding screen time
Reluctant visitor on a lake Anxiety of a digital age nags – learn a new fact, do something, be productive, keep up! – but out here the way is to throw away, let go, and smile only at the shore that beckons with its sudden glimmer of lights.
On wisdom from old words and joy (two original poems)
I searched for jewels of joy I combed my mental beach for years looking for rare shells. One day, while looking for the witch variety with dark and fiery whorls, I found another – of grooves in the pocket and designs of drumming when I was seven years old, basking in Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. Where are your shells?
9 strategies to counter anxiety with reflection and relaxation
In this article I wanted to share some ways that stress has manifested itself physiologically for me and some tools that you can use to become more aware of stress and its effects on your body. It’s important to accept the mind-body connection – the idea that your state of mind can affect how you feel physically, and vice versa. If your body is not relaxed, the same is likely for your mind. For several decades, clinical studies have shown that interventions like relaxation, visualization, and meditation can improve various physical conditions like healing after a heart attack or battling insomnia.
Advice on living a full life from a ninety year-old climber, Patrick
A few days ago, while hiking the foothills of Mount Tamalpais – a mountain that rises to 2,571 feet and has so many canyons and vistas that it seems like the trunk of a massive rain forest tree with buttress roots that the wind and rain have dulled and flattened over centuries – I met a 90-year old... Continue Reading →
Insights for modern men from a stay-at-home Dad (Bryan Hansen)
I'm excited to kick off a series of articles about fathers who generally feel good about life. Yes, they do exist! We’ll hear how they dance between their long-term relationships, being a parent, working, staying healthy, and other aspects of life. Bryan is a stay-at-home father in San Francisco. Today only 1% of husbands in married-couple families stay at home full-time (US Census 2012). But many Dads face the same challenges as stay-at-home fathers when it comes to parenting young children, and they are touched on below: how to renew yourself, reflect, find parenting mentors, deal with social isolation, and find meaning. When I spoke with him in person, Bryan exuded self-confidence, poise, thoughtfulness, physical and mental strength, and what some psychologists have described as a “mature masculine” focus on nurturing and coaching. We hope you enjoy this interview.
Why we need more life mentors, and why they’re not what you may think
When I hear working professionals talk about mentors, I worry that we’ve mixed up our priorities. What we need are more life mentors – people who cultivate a long-term interest in your development across a range of domains of our lives. Instead, I usually hear folks talking about mentors in terms of people in your... Continue Reading →
4 ways to practice understanding how you feel
Men often get criticized for not being in touch with their emotions. “Men live from the neck up,” the American poet Robert Bly said in Bill Moyer’s 1990 PBS series, “A Gathering of Men” (highly recommended; more on Bly and Moyers in a future post). Or perhaps: men live from the neck up and the waist down. For some reason all this reminds me of the bad guy, T-1000, in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991). Near the end of the film, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character shoots T-1000 in the belly with a shotgun and leaves a gaping, metal-rimmed hole. Being a man, it’s like that – life’s downers can rip gaping holes in our emotional cores, yet we hardly know the wounds exist. Let alone how to heal them. ...If you want to do some emotional weightlifting, there are two pieces: cultivating your awareness of feelings, and expanding your vocabulary. First you need to know how you feel. Then can you practice talking about it.
Welcome to XY Culture, a new blog!
We need more positive stories about people making change in their lives. We need to hear about practical ideas for dealing with the ups and downs in our lives as parents, partners, spouses, employees, or leaders. XY Culture aims to spark a much-needed discussion on a range of topics, including emotional awareness, meditation, parenting, compromise and... Continue Reading →