February 24, 2015

A Dead Horse and Young Guys Having Feelings

In our school circles, it always hits me hard to see the young men struggle to describe their feelings. The incredibly limited emotional vocabulary they have available is almost tragic and a very hard thing to witness. We always start our groups with a check in. In that round, each male gets to be heard saying their name, a feeling, and then answer a question about their lives. The feeling statement is the hardest for them. When trying to name a feeling, I often hear, "I don't know," "numb," "chill," "cool," "okay," or sometimes "confused," and way too often some version of being angry.

In one check in, a young man took the risk of sharing the story of how, on the previous night, he watched while his horse had to be put down with a bullet to the head. That story was a punch in my gut, and I could actually feel the sadness and grief in him needing to be released. Instead, looking down as he talked, he just kept shaking his head, tapping his feet, and saying how it really sucked man, and it wasn't fair man. His damp eyes and restless agitation spoke volumes, but he managed to keep the deep sadness bottled up inside.

On hearing his story, the rest of the group was in a kind of collective shock. All the suffering kid got back was nervous laughter and some verbal validation of how brutal and unfair it all was. The strangest thing was after the brief two minutes of hearing this powerful story, the group charged right on past it to the next young man's check in. I think in doing so, they were giving the grieving kid the message, suck it up, play hurt, and stuff all the hurt back inside.

. . . suck it up, play hurt,
and stuff all the hurt back inside!

It takes time to build enough trust in a container of men and boys before it can hold the larger feelings churning below the surface of young male bravado and behind the mask that says, I can handle it all. In the group that day, we did go back to validate the strength it took for the young man to witness his horse's death, to honor the love he had for the animal, and to give him (males) permission to cry about the loss if he wanted. When asked, most of the other guys in the circle were able to name major losses in their lives. Only tiny hints about the potency of those losses showed through their reporting. They also offered up some positive and some not-so-good coping strategies for dealing with grief. Along the way, we got to insert some new feeling words for the grieving process into the conversation. It was a hard circle for the guys, but we all came closer together for the shared intimacy. In the closing round, one young man actually said, Bless all broken male hearts.

Bless all broken male hearts

Alexithymia is the term for people who have difficulty in identifying, experiencing, or describing emotional material. Yet another other cost of a limited feelings vocabulary is a lack of empathy. That's the inability to really know what someone else is feeling because you've never experienced those feelings and simply don't "get it." I think it's why I "felt" the young man's deep sadness at the loss of his horse, and the rest of the group was so ready to just get on with the check in. It's not that they didn't care, but behind their masks, there were simply no emotional tools to understand that much pain.

Continually witnessing young guys in school circles struggling with their emotions keeps bringing me back to a couple scary thoughts. The first is a quote from Dr. William Pollack in his book Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood. Pollack, talks about boy's limited emotional vocabulary and the Boy Code. The code says, except for anger, showing any other big feelings means you're weak, and thus vulnerable. The cost for young men living up to that code is a tragedy we see on the news almost nightly. Pollack's quote rightly says, If we don't let our boys cry tears, they'll cry bullets. The second scary idea is that all school shooters are angry boys.

Another book on this topic by Dr. Max Wachtel is, The One Rule For Boys: How Empathy And Emotional Understanding Will Improve Just About Everything For Your Son. Dr. Wachtel is a psychologist who has worked with boys and men caught up in the justice system.

He has directly witnessed the damage a lack of empathy and emotional understanding can cause. His ‘one rule’ is, when boys are taught and encouraged to recognize and express their feelings, and to understand how other people feel―rather than being tough, unemotional, and clueless about the motivations of others―the world becomes a happier, healthier, and safer place.

I know the work we're doing in school-based support circles for our young men is making a difference. If you want to talk about how to set up a group to support the men and young men in your world, give me a shout.

Dr. Wachtel says, if we support them in the development of an emotional life, our boys will be:
. . . less aggressive, more assertive, have a higher quality of friends, get better jobs, get more chances to get into college if they want to, they are happier, treat women better, have better marriages and are better leaders.

Now there's a whole bunch of reasons to circle up the men and boys for some conversation!



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February 6, 2015

How Males Learn to Not Be Real

I have written about the under-construction video, The Mask You Live In, in a prior post. The themes of this film were recently brought to my attention again as I sat in a high school circle with a new group of young guys. I watched as they postured, measured the adult men in the circle, and tested us with the light-weight content they shared when they checked in. After sitting in many of these circles, I've come to know these masks well.

The preview clip below is a solid, short-course in young male mask-making. It describes the damage so many, no, too many young males experience early on in their lives. Mix in some testosterone, some anger, and no guidance, and you'll have a big part of the answer to the question, "Why are adolescent males like that?"

If you're a man, take a deep breath and click the play button. The video says it all. It will take you right back to that time in your life when you formed your mask.


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

The impact of these kinds of influences are showing up in a young male near you right now. He's learning to put on his mask to face the world. That's why we need man-makers, good men to step up and teach young guys what it means to be your authentic self, and that the person behind the mask is loveable and awesome.

The Mask You Live In is from the team that created Miss Representation, an exploration of the impact of media on young men and women today. Follow them on their Facebook page.



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January 4, 2015

Annual Man-Making Blog Interest Survey

The Man-Making Blog has a steadily growing list of email subscribers. The stats indicate there are also lots of people just dropping by to check it out. This is a great vote of confidence and keeps me at it. Thanks!

I would appreciate your input on the one-minute reader survey below. Your feedback will help me stay on track in 2015 and hopefully increase the blog's interest and relevance for you.

Please note the question about conference calls. We had one successful call last year that brought many of you together around an important Man-Making topic. I learned a lot about how to plan and then manage a call, and I plan to host a few more calls in 2015. Do indicate if you're interested in participating in this form of idea sharing.

Finally, if you’re a subscriber and getting these posts by email, the survey may not show up in the message below. If this is the case, simply use this link to go directly to the online survey form.

Thanks for your support, and thank you in advance for your feedback. But mostly, thanks for your interest in Man-Making and supporting young males on their journey toward manhood.

Earl Hipp

DON'T FORGET TO HIT THE "SUBMIT" BUTTON AT THE END!




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December 22, 2014

What Men Really Want!

If you create an anonymous way for men from around the world to speak their personal truth about what they really want, for themselves and the world, you wind up with a deep look into the masculine heart. That's what the hashtag #malewishlist has become.

. . . a deep look into the masculine heart.

The short story is a few good men decided to use the Twitter platform in February 2012 to reach out to men using the hashtag #malewishlist. I was so impressed with what came pouring in, I did a Man-Making Blog post on some of the contributions. It was a very moving list. You can read about those men and the #malewishlist original story at this link on the Man-Making Blog.

Since 2012, the #malewishlist has continued to accumulate tweets. In this season of commercialism, with what I think is a pretty shameful lust for gifting people with material things, I thought it might be nice to revisit the notion of what men want as a way to bring a different perspective to the holidays. I guess this is my holiday letter to you and yours, holding up a vision for a world we all might co-create.

. . . a vision for a world
we all might co-create.

The list is just below. If you're a man, it should straighten your spine a little and have "oh yeahs!" going off in your head. I felt a little sad, too, because of the long way we have to go to get to the world these men have envisioned. Selfishly however, I love that it's so long and that so many men are speaking out.

If you want your voice heard and have additions to the male wish list, you can post them to the Twitter hashtag #malewishlist, add them to the comments section of this post (online), or send it along to me and I'll add it to the comments for you.

Thanks for the gift of your support, all year!

Earl Hipp


The Male Wish List
  • For every boy and man to have at least one person to whom he can reveal himself fully without fear of rejection.

  • For all dads to feel empowered to care for and connect with their children and feel supported in their efforts to do so.

  • To always use the "privileges" given to me by patriarchy to advance a just society.

  • For men to be able to speak up about any personal pain and be met with something other than harsh judgement for "failing at manhood."

  • Not to be seen as a potential abuser (pedophile) because I'm a man, but someone who is safe for young people to be with.

  • To live in a world in which tenderness, compassion, and sensitivity are no longer regarded as primarily feminine qualities.

  • To experiencing joy and happiness without external cause.

  • That more men would learn to talk openly about sex with their partners rather than resorting to lazy substitutes.

  • To live in a world in which greed, avarice, venal stupidity, and amoral self-interest are punished rather than rewarded.

  • To love myself enough to allow myself to fail and make mistakes.

  • To know our real strengths as men and not be afraid to use them.

  • To not feel like I’m a rapist every time a woman walks the same route as me after 9pm.

  • To live in the world imagined by John Lennon.

  • Not to be regarded as culpable or responsible for bad acts committed by other men or groups of men, now or in the past.

  • For more men to realize their parental love means so much to their kids, despite what anti-dad types say.

  • To be accepted for who I am rather than how well I fit into the cultural box.

  • For more men to realize that working themselves to death is not the best way to meet the real needs of their families.

  • That men not have their value judged by the size of their libido or their pay check.

  • That every man would have at least one compassionate witness to his pain and confusion, someone he knows he can always count on.

  • For fathers to be emotionally healthy, present and available.

  • To know and trust that I can be strong and powerful without hurting others.

  • To see the collective of men as "the brotherhood," not "the competition."

  • For men, women, peers, and culture to STOP telling boys that 'BIG boys don't cry.' It is a lie - we DO cry and need to cry.
  • To be able to cry without shame or fear when feeling sadness, grief, disappointment, weakness, or loss come up.
  • To remember that failure and rejection do not reduce or diminish me as a man, but are pathways into my own strength and wisdom.

  • That men would increase their empathy for self and others.
  • To celebrate the fact that I am a man and be proud of my masculinity.

  • That men would be able to gently hold other men and be held by them.

  • To feel safe being emotionally vulnerable around other people, to feel loved, connected, and accepted for who I truly am.

  • To touch without fear, to feel without despair, to dream without nightmares

  • To hold onto my courage as I allow love into my life.

  • To have friends who say 'get up' when I feel like giving up on something which is important to me

  • That men would begin to realize they need to evolve, to change, and to take responsibility for feelings, behavior, and talk.

  • I want sanity and peace of mind. My head feels like a blender that's stuck in the on position.

  • That men would listen to their bodies rather than build their bodies and embrace softness rather than rigidity.
  • I wish all men would be softer with each other. The English male stiff upper lip is a heavy burden.

  • Validation of my belief that many men are eager to open up and will share what is in their hearts.

  • That fewer boys will have to wander alone, unsupported, in the never-never land between boyhood and manhood.

  • To lead the kinds of lives that will make young boys feel eager to grow up and join our ranks.

  • To meet a woman with whom I can share my self-awareness, and enjoy intimacy, both spiritual and physical, without fear.

  • That we as men re-learn how to take our boys out and initiate them into the brotherhood of man - and into a sense of their own maleness.

  • To have an honest conversation with anyone in my family, without fear of repercussions, about my life, who I am, and what I feel.

  • To live in a society that considers grieving as a healthy part of a man's life.

  • I wish for the end of violence against women worldwide - I wish for the end of corporate backed war.

  • That no boy will ever be as lost, as damaged, and as alone as I was at age 14.

  • To be unapologetically ourselves as men.

  • To be able to enjoy watching kids play in the park without being seen as threat or weirdo.

  • To feel that my sensitivity is an asset rather than a weakness to be feared and hidden from others.

  • For men to reward/encourage sensitivity, empathy when they see it in other men.

  • To know I am seen, valued, and appreciated as a man not only for what I do, but for who I am.

  • More men to help lead the way by their force of caring, personality and manhood.

  • To love myself enough to feel tired and then rest instead of violating my boundaries for the sake of work, work, work.

  • To feel the same openness and acceptance from my gay community that I have from the straight guys I've done men's work with.

  • A movement of men that work together and support each other for the greater good.

  • To be accepted as the men we are, imperfect human beings, with our unique strengths and weaknesses.

  • To be able to hear men speak from their deep inner self, I want to know all men better.

  • To wake up in the morning and feel blessed for being born the way I am.

  • For more progressive males who have no problem challenging sexism.

  • For more discourse on domestic abuse of men.

  • To have open, honest, meaningful interactions with other men on a regular basis without having to pay for a weekly men's group.

  • To not be left out of business 'rapport' building because you do not play golf.

  • To feel afraid and incapable, and be comforted.

  • To not be pigeon-holed as only interested in sex and beer.

  • Not to be assigned the role of dragon slayer because of my gender.

  • To connect more openly with other men and to allow their support into my life; to create more community with like-minded men.

  • To live in a world where power is just another word for love in action.

  • For good men to start showing up for young males. I'm tired of hearing about the creepy ones!



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CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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December 16, 2014

Holiday Gift Advice: Avoid Spray on Manhood for Teen Males!

Many older men can remember getting Old Spice aftershave for a Holiday gift. It's a long-standing tradition that began back in grandpa's time and was handed down through the generations. Because it was such an easy guy's gift to get and give, Old Spice became the common smell of "manhood" for a couple generations.

I thought Old Spice had been lost in the sea of more trendy lines of men's fragrances now available. So I was surprised to learn the Old Spice tradition is being upscaled with a fresh and clever approach to a new generation of young males. Old Spice is calling it Smellcome to Manhood.




We all know young dudes will never be able to spray on manhood, but apparently, in addition to its other deficits, the adolescent male brain is unable to sort out reality from clever marketing promises. Even I have to admit the Old Spice folks have come up with a very creative approach to a young man's desire to be seen as manly.

Check out this video and watch for the gender interplay between the men and women, messages about emancipation from mom's world, and the hints of the benefits young guys might get if they smell right:


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

The good news about this campaign is that it brings the idea of a young man's rites of passage into the present day conversation. The Old Spice folks even had a contest for a Smellcome to Manhood Kit that contained some of what they considered to be manhood essentials:

  • Old Spice Re-fresh Body Spray - the spray on manliness stuff.
  • Old Spice T-Shirt – with a manly chest tattoo.
  • Old Spice Branded Earbuds - because real men isolate (?).
  • Bear Paws Meat Carving Tool - Well, meat, I guess, is for men.
  • Duct Tape Art of Manliness Book - No comment, I like duct tape.
  • “Scent Responsibly” Instructions - About time, see below.
  • Smellcome to Manhood Certificate - Because someone has to say you're now "A Man."

I love the "Scent Responsibly" instructions. The overall goal of the instructions is to prevent the juvenile over-spraying epidemic. That's where young guys tend to overdo a fragrance in order to increase the amount of manliness they are projecting into the world.



This holiday season, I'd pass on the Old Spice tradition and skip the gift of stink for your young man. Instead, make a commitment to teach young lads to hike or how to build a campfire, grill meat, fix a toilet flapper, or change a car or bike tire. Encourage them to take education seriously, to trust older men, be respectful to women, and feel good about being male without enhancements. There's a much longer list, of course, but the idea is to launch them on a real journey towards manhood and save us all from the adolescence fragrance cloud being marketed as spray-on manhood.



SHARE: If you enjoy this blog, please click the Facebook "Share" button below to support the Man-Making Facebook page! (The button is only on the MM Blog, and NOT in email post delivery, sorry.)


CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, use this link for a free subscription.

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