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  • Writer's pictureTroy Piwowarski

An Alternative Myth of Manhood: The Spirit Behind In Real Life (IRL) Men's Groups

Connecting online may be getting easier, but connecting in real life can be just as difficult as ever. 

By Troy Piwowarski, PsyD and Brian Thompson, AMFT

We live in an age of growing complexity.  Technologically, we are witness to a burst of unprecedented evolution, forcing us to face questions of what ways we want to interweave our minds with the digital world.  Meanwhile, our culture is shifting at break-neck speed, with an increasingly globalized society fraught with political tensions and multicultural value clashes.  How do we even begin to face this maelstrom of complexity? 

In American culture, men are socialized with a mixture of messages about what is expected of us.  The traditional trope of “go it alone” is still a powerful mythology that men continue to pass down like family heirlooms.  This myth, reminiscent of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, limits us to the bounds of what we can accomplish and tolerate on our own.  It’s a solitary path that often leads to loneliness, chronic stress, and an inability to share both the burdens and joys of life. 

Meanwhile, a cultural call for men to develop greater sensitivity and awareness of their privilege in relation to women challenges us to develop a new mythology, one that requires us to wake up, to connect, and to stop seeing the world through such singular lens.  

Unfortunately, men have long been given short shrift in the skills needed to take a more connected, community-focused path.  We are acculturated to solve problems, not to find out how we’re feeling.  We’re trained to delegate responsibilities, but have a hard time truly taking responsibility for our impact in relationships.  And while we get plenty of coaching in “sucking it up” when we fall, we often missed the lesson of when to reach out for help when we really need it. 

IRL Men is a vision for how to help men forge a new myth, a myth of interdependence in community.  Our long-term therapeutic men’s groups cultivate a space they can count on week after week, as they practice with their fellow group members new ways of being that are more consonant with the growing demands and complexity of the world.  In our groups, we provide both support and challenge, because we know that both are necessary to help you grow.  If you're up for the challenge, come join us in an exciting, edge-of-your-seat journey on a new path to fulfillment.

Troy Piwowarski, PsyD and Brian Thompson, AMFT co-founded In Real Life (IRL) Men’s Groups after meeting in a men’s group 8 years ago. They are currently forming three new men’s therapy groups in Oakland and San Francisco that will begin this Fall. To find out more, send them a message here.

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