Men

    I’m not long back from my weekly men’s group. I am so grateful for this group, especially at this time here on Maui. A group of men who I get to know that little bit more each week. A group of men with whom I can sit and be honest and real with. A place for accountability, vulnerability. For listening, support, maybe challenged at times….but never judgement.

    A man once said while in a circle that I was sitting in, was that the reason that he shows up to sit with other men, is that chances are someone in the group has been through similar experiences as him. He is not alone.

    That was my experience last night.

    I went to my men’s group for the first time for a while last night. The break was for a number of reasons, some of which I am not completely sure of myself yet, but it was good to be back.

    The Hawaiian inmates of Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona celebrate the Makahiki festival. The Makahiki season began at sunrise on November 16th and runs for four months. This particular celebration lasted through the day.

    As someone who has worked with the inmates at the Correctional Centre here on Maui, helping to facilitate men’s circles, I feel that it is wonderful that the inmates in Arizona were afforded this opportunity.

    The 2nd Highly Sensitive Men's Seminar

    Here is a promotional video of the 2nd High Sensitive Men’s seminar taking place over Zoom on December 5th. See my previous post for more details and where to purchase tickets.

    The Second Highly Sensitive Men’s Seminar

    Towards the end of the second week of December, the 2nd Highly Sensitive Men’s seminar will be held. I am not an organizer of this event, but plan to attend. The first such seminar, A Weekend for Highly Sensitive Men, was in person in California and held just before the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, this seminar will be online (see Details below).

    Why am I attending?

    First and foremost to be in the presence of men with the same or similar personality type to myself. I find that whenever I am around people who just accept, understand and get me, I can show up in a way that I might not be able to do if there are a mixture of personality types. I do not have to make excuses for myself. The ground of presence is one of acceptance and understanding for my being highly sensitive. Everyone can start from the same place and move on from there.

    Secondly, to network, to build community, to hear and learn from other highly sensitive men. I would have liked to attend the original conference, but that was not possible at the time. I am grateful for this opportunity.

    I hope to meet you there.

    Details

    This seminar will focus on the Highly Sensitive Man and career. The tentative moderators will be,

    Logistics

    • When: Saturday, December 5th, 2020
    • Time: Noon to 5:00pm CST
    • Where: Online on Zoom
    • Cost: $150
    • Tickets & Further Details: Eventbrite

    When You Doubt Even Yourself

    Old habits die hard…even, or maybe especially when they run counter to something that you truly believe in.

    Visitors to this site will know that aside from working with introverts and highly sensitive people of both sexes, I have a particular interest in working with men as I believe that personality traits that such personalities engender in people can run counter to how society expects men to behave.

    This can result in introverted and highly sensitive men feeling that there is something wrong with them, for them to deny and suppress how they are feeling and what their needs are, and to generally struggle to speak up for what they need for fear of being judged.

    I recently started a monthly group here on Maui for men who identify as introverted and/or Highly Sensitive….but it did take a while for it to manifest. Why was that?

    The reason was quite simple - my fear of being judged!

    I set the group up under the auspices of the ManKind Project here on Maui, an organization which from my experience is accepting and embracing of men of all leanings. My gut was telling me that the community here on the island would benefit from such a group, but I was afraid of putting out an invitation for men to join me because I thought that other men might judge me as in some way being less than due to the simple act of admitting to be of those personality types (primarily due to their own misunderstandings of those personalities). Following on from that would be having to explain and convince the community that there is nothing wrong with such men, that they are fine, normal and have their own set of strengths that should be embraced by society at large.

    All of that effort felt too much. Too large of a mountain to climb that might get me into more trouble before I reached the summit, and so much better just to bite my lip and stay quiet.

    But hell no!

    That is exactly what I want to change…mens’ and society’s in general understanding of introverted and highly sensitive men.

    ​My gut was telling me to do this, and I knew that that intuition would not leave me alone. Indeed that there would be regret if I did not start to the group. And so I lent into that discomfort, that fear to start the group and deal with problems if and when they arose. Hell, who knows….perhaps some good will come of it! Ha!

    So I wrote the invitation, sat with it and then pressed send…

    And now?

    We have now held three meetings. The forth is scheduled for the beginning of March. There have been an average of six men at each meeting with fourteen on the mailing list. It is now a regular feature on MKP Maui’s weekly mail outs of what’s on, and a community meeting got rescheduled as it coincided with our third meeting.

    I still don’t know where this group will go, we are allowing it to grow in its own way, but I know that the men who attend are benefitting from it and I am benefitting for taking that risk.

    What fear in you are you not leaning into?

    Just before the men arrived for the 3rd gathering of Introvert/HSP I-Group here on Maui.

    Gentle Men Discussion

    You are Invited to a Discussion For and About Gentle Men

    Invitation

    I have previously held two discussions with men to explore what it means to be a quiet or gentle man who does not fully identify with the dominant macho expectations. At both events there was a wide ranging discussion, with the men present sharing their own experiences growing up and how they dealt with the differences that they noticed in themselves compared with other men around them, and the expectations put on them that did not fit in with their nature.

    I am now planning a third live discussion via video conferencing. Like the previous two, there is no cost and it is open to any like minded man who is interested in exploring this subject. There is no need to have been present at either of the previous discussions. I’ll make it easy to participate, and quiet is welcome too. 

    All said in our discussion will be held in strict confidence. 

    Date/Time: Monday, August 29th.

    • 11:00am(PST)/2:00pm(EST)
    • 4:00pm(PST)/7:00pm(EST)

    Please indicate your preference. I will decide when to run the event based on the majority preferred time. If there is sufficient interest, I will consider running two discussions.

    Why I am doing this

    There is an inherent vulnerability in being a highly sensitive man, in that our sensory systems are firing more than other men.
    ~ Dan Mcleod, The Highly Sensitive Man

    My reasons for wanting to take this conversation further is three fold:

    1. To help build a sense of community for gentle men.
    2. To understand our own struggles better, and explore solutions to them.
    3. To start to piece together a new narrative about how men are seen and from that create a place where gentle men’s gifts are recognized and can shine.

    What will the discussion be like?

    …males around the world have, for centuries, been gathering in circles.
    ~ Earl Hipp, www.man-making.com

    The call will be made up of like minded men coming together in the spirit of sharing and support. I am limiting the group to 6 participants so that everyone has a chance to contribute. We’ll meet via an online videoconferencing tool. I’ll provide easy instructions once you RSVP.

    The meeting will last 1.5 hours.

    Who I am.

    Life for me has been one of exploration, and one part of that is learning to live as a quieter, sensitive male in a modern world. I have taken the experience of this enquiry into my work as a Life Coach working with introverts and highly sensitive people, with a particular interest in working with men in this area and the struggles that they might face in modern society.

    In the spirit of continual exploration and learning, I am keen to hear from other men about their experiences as quieter, sensitive or gentler men. 

    Ready to RSVP?

    If you are interested in joining this discussion, please complete the form below to reserve your spot. The RSVP deadline is Wednesday, August 24th.

    Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.


    Register for the Gentle Men Discussion on Monday, August 29th

    Time that works best for you:

    • 11:00am(PST)/2:00pm(EST)

    • 4:00pm(PST)/7:00pm(EST)

    • Both times work for me

    • Name:

    • Email:

    Hearing It As It Is From Men

    Boy this article/post has taken a long time to come together - too long. I’m not sure why. I could probably blame writers procrastination, that blank white screen or sheet of paper that is just sitting there taunting you to dare to fill it with words. Perfection has probably also played a part…”gotta get this right,” and then I over think what I wanted to say (as is my introvert tendency). And really all that I have wanted to do is to touch base with you about is how the Gentle Men Discussion went which I hosted a few weeks back (actually just over a month ago), and which was the subject of my last blog post.

    My aim in hosting the talk was to hear from men who did not identify with the dominant macho image of being a man. This might be because they were Introverts, Highly Sensitive People (HSP), or that they didn’t identify with any label but felt that they simply didn’t fit in. I wanted to bring men together and join me around a virtual table to talk about what might normally be unsaid in their lives. As has been said elsewhere, men have sat in circles for centuries, meeting to talk and share stories. That was my wish here. To create a circle of men exploring what it means to be a man in the world today. 

    Specifically I wanted to start a dialogue with men who have a gentler way of being, and to learn more of what their struggles and successes are. What it means to be such a man today in our modern society? How they have coped and what is still a struggle for them? I feel the time is ready for a new story of what it means to be in a man in the world today. A more open and inclusive story.

    My interest in holding such a dialogue was initially triggered when I wrote a piece asking where all the male introverts were? Since the huge success of Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking the online world has lit up with dialogue about being an introvert in society, I would say especially in the western world where the extrovert way of being is more celebrated and seen as the way to be. However, a great majority of this online dialogue is by women, I am going to guess at 90%+ . There is some superb content out there. It has inspired and helped me in owning and living with my introversion. But at the same time there is a part of the dialogue missing - what does it mean to be a quiet and sensitive man living in an extroverted world? And what is missing especially about that dialogue is it taking place between men. Even the replies that I received for the blog post I mentioned above were all from women.

    ​If I was asked to offer a diagnosis as to the cause of this silence from men, I would speak to societal pressure. I see, experience, a message coming from society that says, “you have to act this way if you are a man and wish to be seen as a man. Any other way of being means that you are lacking in some way as a man.” If men show up in ways that are regarded as un-masculine, they can be spoken down to in disparaging terms (some of which are implicitly derogatory towards women) such as - “you are a wuss, or pussy.” The pressure of their natural way of being eats into how these men show up at work, with their families, at play, in the online world….and with themselves.

    The conversation with men

    So returning to the dialogue that I held with men at the end of February. Seven of us sat in a circle that spanned 10 hours in time zones. We set some ground rules in order to create a safe space for sharing, I had a few questions ready to prompt conversation if it waned, and then we sat down for 1.5 hours discussing a number of subjects:

    • At what stage growing up did individuals noticed that they were different from their peers in some way?
    • In what way were they different, and how did they cope with that difference?
    • What coping strategies did or do they adopt?
    • The role of shame in how they showed up in the world and in some cases destructive patterns of behaviour that that invoked.
    • Exploring the stories that we live by and owning our own stories, i.e. owning and being who we are as individual men, and how easy or difficult that can be.

    Probably the most powerful part of the dialogue for me was simply hearing the experiences from real men. For the most part thus far my experience of others’ experience of what it means to be a quiet and sensitive man has come from articles or books that I have read. I speak about my work with introverts, and the subject sparks interesting conversation, but delving deeper into what it means to be a quiet and sensitive man has not really happened. So while these stories that I read are true, they are still words on paper. I feel their power and resonate with the words shared, but there is a distance. Hearing the stories from men sitting in front of me, men who did not know each other an hour ago but are now willing to lean into their vulnerability and share their stories with strangers, I found very powerful. I was not thinking about my own experiences. I was not reading articles - like this one! :) - I was hearing the lived experiences of men who had lived the experience of feeling different as they grew up.

    The next dialogue

    Following the success of this meeting, I am planning another dialogue. Some men have already expressed an interest in joining, but it looks as though there will be space if other men are interest. No date set yet, but it will probably be about a month out. If you are interested, reach out to me via email and I’ll include you in the email list for information.

    An Invitation to a Discussion...

    Invitation

    I am sending out this invitation to men, or men who you may know in your life, to join me for a free discussion about what it means to be a gentle or quiet man who does not fully identify with the dominant macho expectations. I’d love to have a discussion about being such a man in the world today - the challenges, the joy, where you shine and where you struggle. ​ All said in our discussion will be held in strict confidence.

    If you think it would be interesting to talk about this topic with like-minded men, I invite you to join me in a guided conversation. I’ll make it easy to participate, and quiet is welcome too.

    Date/Time:

    Monday, February 29th.

    • 11:00am (PST)/2:00pm (EST)
    • 4:00pm (PST)/7:00pm (EST)

    Please indicate your preference. I will decide when to run the event based on the majority preferred time. If there is sufficient interest, I will consider running two discussions.

    Why I am doing this?

    I won’t be selling anything. I just want to explore this topic with others.

    In many ways, this world is not supportive of men who do not fit into the dominant macho meme of today. I am offering this space on the assumption that there are other men out there with similar questions as to how we fit in and how our qualities are seen and accepted for what they are. This is not about changing who you are, but about honoring who you are. I imagine you know that your reflective nature, your love of the earth, or love of reading are valuable qualities. I believe that these qualities can help make this world a better place.

    Let’s discuss how we can work with these qualities in the midst of a loud, macho, materialistic culture.

    What will the discussion be like?

    ​This will be a meeting of like minded men coming together in the spirit of support, sharing and building community. I will share some questions with you as seeds for discussions.

    The group will be limited to 6 people so as to allow everyone plenty of time to talk.

    We’ll meet via an online video teleconference tool. I’ll provide easy instructions once you RSVP.

    The meeting will last for 1.5 hours.

    Who I am

    Life has taken me on many journeys around the world.

    Growing up in England, I was that reserved small kid in school that was easily picked on. I studied computer science at college and on graduating spent time as a computer programmer. Searching for answers in life I spent a few years traveling with a pack on my back. I subsequently lived in a Buddhist community, and Buddhist practice is still central to my life. I built an award winning ecological house and worked in the environmental field. I am on the Board of a Charitable Foundation based in my hometown in the UK, and most recently have been through the NWTA experience with the ManKind Project. I’ve lived in many places and currently reside in Hawaii.

    Through all of these stages there have been searches as to how my nature fits into the world around me.

    I’m currently a life coach with a strong interest in exploring what it means to be a gentle man in our society.

    I’m excited to learn from other men like me about what interests them on these topics.

    Ready to RSVP?

    ​Email me at david.johnson@hey.com to reserve your place as soon as possible.

    RSVP deadline: Wednesday, February 24th.


    Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,
    David Johnson.

    The Silence of Male Introverts & HSPs?

    I wrote this piece to explore some thoughts and observations that have been going through my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot about introversion and sensitivity, as it is defined for a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), and men. Specifically the visibility of introverted and/or HSP men online, and what that might say to how these men are handling this aspect of themselves in their lives. I have included a question mark in the title of this blog as I also ask myself if I am asking the correct question?

    Is it a silence or is it something else…though right now I don’t know what that something else is?

    As we spend our time online we search out and are drawn to websites and groups that speak to interests that we hold. I spend some of my online time in forums for introverts and HSPs, but I do not see many men in them. At least there are definitely more women visible than men. Now I recognize that the online world is not for everyone, but I’m guessing that ”not for everyone” is not the reason that introverted & HSP men are not as visible as women online. Also just to acknowledge that I am using the word “visible." I can spend time online reading but not replying to threads or offering my comments - I remain invisible. But this does not get away from my experience of more women in these online forums than men.

    In this post I explore some possible reasons for this apparent discrepancy and would be interested in hearing your own thoughts on the subject.

    For me, acknowledging my introversion and sensitivity means making myself vulnerable. Or perhaps I would say that it is about stepping up a ladder of vulnerability.

    I am not good with heights. I don’t bound up a ladder. On some ladders I am fine if I do not have to climb too high. However, if I am being asked to climb to a certain height, once I get so far up the ladder I start to proceed with more caution, feeling my way up to each new rung before proceeding to the next. One might ask what I am doing climbing a ladder in the first place if I have a fear of heights? Well a couple of things there. One, if the height is just too high, I won’t be going up. And two, if the choice is there, if someone is there who can do the work instead of me, I’ll let them go ahead. But when those options don’t present themselves, a job needs to be done and I think that I can manage the height, I’ll go up. If someone is around to steady the ladder or help in any other way, I’ll let them know I am going to proceed with caution. No heroics here. The head space that I find myself in at heights prevents any of those. I’ll go up and get the job done, but those below will see the caution and nervousness with which I proceed.

    Sharing my introversion and sensitivity with the world has been like climbing that ladder - I can open to it so far, and from there on it has been a rung at a time. Perhaps sometimes a couple of quick steps, but inevitably there is a pause. Circumstances and company will determine the degree of my opening. This has changed over the years as my own confidence and understanding of what I am dealing with grows, but the challenge can still arise, sometimes when I not expecting it.

    What causes that pause? Why not just step out and say who you are?

    I believe that in no small part the answer to those questions is because I am a man. The terms introversion and sensitivity carry or embody for modern society meanings that are not what these personality traits truly are. Introversion can carry connotations of shyness, passivity, of being meek or weak. Sensitivity might commonly be understood as having a sense of fluffiness and weakness about it, or maybe a feeling that is more normally associated with the feminine. With both introversion and sensitivity there can be the sense that they are personality traits and ways of being that we choose to adopt and live by. These are meanings and values that have been put on those words by society at large, I would say especially in the west.

    These misunderstandings are beginning to change with the movement that has sprung up from the publication a few years ago of Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. More recently there has been the release of the movie “Sensitive, The Untold Story,” based Dr. Elaine Aron’s pioneering work on Highly Sensitive People. Hopefully these works and others will go a long way into clearing the misunderstandings surrounding these personality traits.

    Introversion is not speaking to shyness, fear or dislike of people, but energy - what tires us out and what energies us and as a corollary of this, how we work and function at our best in the world. Similarly sensitivity is not talking about an affliction or “soft” way of being in the world that we choose. Rather it is a genetic psychological trait that cause HSP’s to experience the world in a more intense and deep way. As a consequence they can very easily become overstimulated.

    But habits and beliefs are slow to change.

    A man can read a book or a blog entry and hear the truth that is being spoken for him. He can know that his introversion and/or sensitivity is the source of his strengths and is at the core of who he is, but if misunderstandings and prejudices of those around him do not embrace his beliefs, he will be left feeling alone and cautious about what he reveals to who - whether family or work.

    Speaking out when one is fearful of the response requires vulnerability. It requires facing the fear of being shamed. Author and researcher, Brené Brown, defines shame as,

    the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

    Brown goes on to speak about how this is experienced separately by men and women,

    For women, shame is a web of unattainable expectations that say, Do it all, Do it perfectly, and Never let them see you struggle. For men, the primary shame mandate is, Do not be perceived as weak.

    When the requirement of men is to be loud, demonstrative, physically strong - as that might be perceived as the only way of getting results, of winning - then any quieter way of being will not even be given a chance to shine and will possibly be ridiculed. And if introverted men believe that they have to act in a way contrary to what they are comfortable with, their health and well being will suffer - I write that based on experience.

    There are an increasing number of online forums (websites, Facebook groups, etc) dedicated to introversion and they are wonderful, helpful resources. I am very grateful for their presence and to those who brought them into being, but the vast majority of these are run by women and the members of these forums, or the one’s responding in the comments are mainly women. Where are the introverted and sensitive men? I am going to guess that vulnerability is the main barrier. I certainly don’t believe that men are not reading the forums.

    Statistics say that 15%-20% of the population are Highly Sensitive…and as a by-the way, the trait is also found in animals. Of that percentage, the ratio of men to women who are sensitive is 50/50. Taking the lower, 15%, that means that there are over 48 million HSPs in the USA alone…and so over 24 million HSP men. Introverts are said to be 50% of the population - that is a lot more than 24 million.

    This is not only about the introverted and sensitive men willing to step out and be heard, it is also about a society growing up, recognizing that “strength” and “qualities” can have many disguises. That it is not the domain of the few or those showing up in a specific, defined way, but also about supporting these men so that they can stand at the top of the same ladder in their own way.

    Before finishing, I’d like to offer you links here to four articles which explore the subject of HSP men:

    1. Highly Sensitive Men: successes & struggle
    2. HSP Topics: The Challenges of The Highly Sensitive Man
    3. I am a Highly Sensitive Man
    4. Healing the Highly Sensitive Male

    Are you an introverted and/or HSP man, or do you know one? How do you manage your true nature in daily life? Hide it? Display it? Regulate visibility depending on the situation? What informs these decisions?