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Menís Groups

An Interview with George Taylor

Copyright © 1996 by Bert H. Hoff

This article appeared in the July, 1996 issue of M.E.N. Magazine
 
 

George Taylor
About George Taylor


Courage to Love
Geo and his wife Deborah have s a Courage to Love Web site on relationships
George and Deborah
George Taylor is the author of Talking with Our Brothers: Creating and Sustaining a Dynamic Menís Group. The book is based on the experiences of over 40 menís groups, most of which are part of the Nation of Men network in the San Francisco Bay area. M.E.N. Magazine editor Bert Hoff took the opportunity to chat with George about his work and about menís groups in a phone conversation following last fallís Wingspan Menís Leadership Conference in Chicago. We want to thank Ken Lysen of A Gathering of Men and the M.E.N. Magazine Writers Group for transcribing the interview.

George is MenWeb's Associate WebMaster for Men's Groups. Here's a link to his area of MenWeb.

More info:
* Men's Groups page
* About George's book
 
* 7th Wingtspan Conf articles
 
Men's groups: the "heart" of Men's Work

Bert: I thought I would start by having you tell your story. How did you start being involved in Menís Work and menís issues?

George: About ten years ago, I began to feel a need for male friends, for male contact. It seemed like the archetypal story, in a way. I was marriedóam married stillóto a very powerful, outspoken, creative, passionate woman. In one particular waking dream I had, I saw her and me coming down to a stream. I was on one side of the stream and she was on the other. She was coming down out of a womenís fort or encampment, and I was coming down out of a menís encampment. When I looked up in the sky above her, I saw all these angelic feminine figures up there. When I looked up into the sky above my encampment, I didnít see anything.


About George's book

So I began to get the image and the feeling that I needed to find out more about my own power, my own creativity. I saw her mentoring. I needed to be around men who could embody the qualities that I wanted, which included creativity, compassion and a certain vitality.

I was very lucky to be invited a couple years in a row to some of the gatherings with Robert Bly and Michael Meade at Mendocino on the north coast of California. There, I began to meet and associate with a tremendous community of men of like mindómen who were in some ways very normal and middle-of-the-road, working-class people, professionals, family people. Men who were very concerned about society, culture and political values. Men who wanted to use art, healing and ritual as ways of bonding and of developing better, deeper forms of friendship.

I think that one of Robert Blyís great geniuses is in helping men to create a language that they can use to talk to each other about their inner world. I think that was a tremendous breakthrough for men like myself, who were coming out of isolation and needed a way or training in how to talk about their inner world. Thatís one of the things for which I feel deeply indebted to him and to Michael Meade.

What happened next was that the men who went to the gatherings in Mendocino and many other locations in the Bay Area started putting together a once-a-month event that would continue the sense of community and the sense of brotherhood that we felt.

Bert: Before you go on to the local wisdom councils, Iíd like to go back to a couple of things you said. When you had the vision, you said you saw no angels above you. Is this a pretty common experience, that men spend so much time in their work and in their primary relationships that they donít have close relationships with other men?

George: I see that very much in my client work, especially when I bring men into groups. Often, they suddenly realize that they feel very isolated. Thereís a real pattern there. A lot of these men who come into groups have finally reached the need for support or some kind of community. Often, they have had some catastrophe. Often, itís a complete failure of physical health, mental health, relationship or business that finally gives enough clues to the man that heís isolated. He realizes that heís been isolated for ten or 20 years. Itís kind of scary when you think about how deep the conditioningóthe heroic conditioningóis to survive and dominate alone.

Bert: So, that leads us into becoming men who see other men as competitors they donít trust, rather than as friends?

George Taylor
About George Taylor


Courage to Love
Geo and his wife Deborah have s a Courage to Love Web site on relationships
George and Deborah

George: I think that is a part of it. I think the biggest part of it is the almost complete inability to interrelate with the world. The childhood ability to be expressive gets trained out of us. I think that natural skill gets taken away from us through our gender conditioning. Then isolation becomes the way that we operate in the world. That is a very scary modality, especially for people who are trying to relate to us, like our family membersóour kids, our wives, even our co-workers, and the like.

Bert: One of the other things that you said is that when you start to list the virtues that you were hoping to find through mentoring and bonding with other men, you named things like compassion, caring and creativity. Those are many of the virtues that we attribute to the feminine, while the John Wayne masculine shows none of this. It sounds like you were saying that you were looking for a uniquely male expression of compassion, creativity and caring.

George: I think itís important to rememberóparaphrasing Sam Keenóthat calling traits masculine and feminine is just cultural bias. His point is, What makes loving to ride a horse any more masculine than wanting to change his kidís diapers? I think these are natural qualities that are deep within all men and women. Perhaps men have uniquely male ways of describing them or embodying them. Iím not even sure about that. I think when you get down to the deep truth of humans, you find people who want to create community, to exchange love, and to be more compassionate and forgiving with each other. That includes both men and women.

Bert: So thereís no particularly different way that a man has of showing compassion or creativity?

George: Itís really hard for me to speculate about these very general topics. I think that because of our conditioning, men will naturally be more likely to fix somebodyís car than to bake a pie for someone. But those are both compassionate actions.


About George's book

Bert: You also said that you owed a debt of gratitude to Robert Bly for giving us a unique language for expressing these parts of our lives. Can you elaborate on that theme a little bit?

George: As a kid, I think I was naturally expressive of many different experiencesósorrow, excitement and the like. As I grew up in my family and my culture, and went to a Catholic school, I was gradually boxed in and shut down around some of these primary emotions. Workshops where people are encouraged to experience the full range of human expression are a tremendously important service that the menís movement provides for men. And, of course, there are many other placesórecovery movements, womenís groups, psychotherapyówhere this happens. There are many other places in our culture where that kind of wide range of human expression is encouraged and permitted.

What Robert and Michael have done is given us a languageóin this case, mythological storytelling languageówhich allowed people to feel into various characters in stories and try to create an emotional bond by allegory or association. They ask questions like, "What might this character be feeling?" or encourage us to associate with what that character in the storyís experience might beófear, love, passion, desire, or whatever. They threaded together two themes, a new kind of language and permission to use that language. For myself, there was a tremendous freeing of internal emotional energy when I came to grips with all the deep feelings that had been floating around in my head and in my body/mind. Before that, I had no place to share them, no safe ground to express them. Once those could start coming out in menís communities, in menís support groups, at menís workshops, all of a sudden I felt normal. I felt like my jealousies, my fears, my struggles with my wife, my passion were things that other men actually felt.

George Taylor
About George Taylor


Courage to Love
Geo and his wife Deborah have s a Courage to Love Web site on relationships
George and Deborah

I remember very specifically that at the earliest wisdom councils and the workshops, I had this tremendous feeling of, "Oh, you feel that also?" I hear many men say this. The isolation I had felt had made it very difficult for me to really fully penetrate the depth of my own experience because I was constantly telling myself, "I donít really feel that. I donít really know that." That denial is very deeply unconscious. What happens is a veneer of numbness creeps across all of my experience. And thatís something that men are constantly criticized for in couples counseling. You hear it all the time. "The guy doesnít know what his feelings are." "The guy is numb." "The guy is out of touch."

I translate that into saying that a man is shamed so intensely for having a feeling, it is better for him to be blamed for being numb or having the wrong feeling, which is something that happened to him thousands of times as a kid over and over againóyouíre not sad, youíre not jealous, stuff it, be quiet. And so whenever somebody like a partner or a friend says, "How are you feeling?" the man has to reexperience at some very deep level all that shaming which is preventing him from really articulating "I feel scared" or "Iím really hurt right now."

Bert: I have the feeling that maybe the gift of language that people like Robert Bly and Michael Meade give us is a way of talking indirectly about feelings. When I hear this myth or this fairy tale and hear of somebody else, I can then identify and see myself in it once I get the story. Thatís a lot safer way to get into this stuff than to have somebody say in an encounter group, "What are you feeling ... right now?"

George: Yes. I think that question really elicits a lot of fear in men. When I ask that question in a group or in my psychotherapy practice, Iíve learned not to ask it as an open-ended question. I donít ask "What do you feel?" I say something like "Well, when that happened did you feel excited, did you feel rage, did you feel scared?" I try to give some clues so that the man has some kind of landscape he can land into. I think that broad open question really invokes a lot of fear. And itís not an easy question to answer.

Bert: Those Mendocino conferences are run by The Dancing Ground. Another thing that happens at those conferences is so much nonverbal language comes in through dancing and body movement that men may never have done in their adult lives beforeónever given themselves permission to do. The dancing and the movement exercises seem part of it.


About George's book

George: I thought that was very powerful. For myself, I love dancing, music and poetry. Having a kind of communal experience of that was very powerful. I think thereís a tribal place in a lot of men that is nourished by that form of dancing together, saying poetry together, and singing together. Thereís a connection with a religious feelingóan ecstatic feelingówhich is very much missing in our culture. Before I went to Mendocino, I had organized poetry readings on the north coast of California for years. I had included musicians and we did some chanting and poetry. I had some archetypal sense that poetry and music could be used for a healing purposeóa communal bonding purposeóbut I was untrained. I didnít have any mentors. It wasn '92t easy for me to create the kind of feeling that I wanted.

I remember the very first night at Mendocino. There was a poetry circle and chanting. I suddenly felt again this sense of relief, that this vision that I had had for years was actually possible. I could actually find mentors who could help me implement it. They could help teach me about it. There was a feeling of unification that was deeply soul-satisfying, which allowed me to feel connected to other men. I could tell that these were men who were interested in self-awareness. They were interested in creativity. They were also interested in family. Basic values were very much supported in this tribal communal process.

Bert: One of the things that John Lee says in a couple of his books and tapes is that a place like Mendocino may be a starting point, but thatís not where the real Menís Work is. You take what you have from these Wild Men gatherings or Mendocino gatherings and continue to meet with men to keep the process going. We sort of take a wisdom council for granted up here because we have one of the oldest and the largest. But it might be worthwhile for our readers to expand on what you were just starting to get into. You and a bunch of the Bay Area people got together and decided to form a large monthly gathering. How did that come about? How does one start something like that?

George Taylor
About George Taylor


Courage to Love
Geo and his wife Deborah have s a Courage to Love Web site on relationships
George and Deborah

George: I think there was already a network of people, because many of the people at the gatherings were coming from this area. People had each otherís phone numbers. So people just started talking up the idea that we needed to keep meeting. I think, agreeing with John, that there was a sense that something had begun but it was necessary to continue it in a more regular way.

I actually have some questions about whether a once-a-month setting is enough for men to get really deeply into the work. I know that people will touch it many different ways. But I think what happens as we grow up is that we develop these different personas or personalities with which we address the world, with which we interact with the world. Many of the menís personalities come out of this heroic modeóthereís the heroic poet, thereís the heroic businessman. Many of these personas are based on isolation and a denial of feeling.

It takes a lot of disciplined work to break through those barriers of denial and talk deeply about our true experience. Iíve been in menís groups for years now and Iíve led groups that have gone on four, five, or six years. What happens is that people come in with their personalities and over time, over the course of years, people in the group really see through to a much deeper level of their soul lives, their deep inner passions, their struggles, their sufferings. I think that process is very important. In psychological terms, when we develop a personality, we get conditioned to create a personalityówhether itís the good boy, the rebel, the artist or the perfect, successful businessman. Thereís a narrow part of our personality that gets reinforced by our parents, family, community structures, school structures, and the like.

Deep behind that personality is a little character that occasionally is frightened or jealous or mad, and that part of us is always saying, "Is this part of me going to be lovable? Is this part of me going to be acceptable?" Bringing this out takes a really strong container of commitment from other men saying, "I want to know deeply who you are. Iím there for you. Iím even willing to enter into conflict with you." Then we can really get to the roots of it and see what is really being stirred up in each one of us. It takes really dedicated, committed, long-term relationships to get that kind of healing forgiveness that deep part of us is really crying out for.

Like John says, the Mendocino workshops, or the weekends that John, or Shepherd Bliss, or other menís group leaders conduct, give you a chance to begin examining these key questions. Working through them, I think, is a lifeís work. I think the people who take Menís Work seriously know that itís a life process, like a creative art project, or a marriage or a family. Itís a lifelong process that allows us to constantly expose our deeper soul life, which includes jealousy, fear, great love, passion, excitement, and celebration. Thereís a whole wide range of human possibilities. A menís group allows you to put that out into an environment where other men can say, "I love you, I forgive you, I accept you." I know for myself personally, being in a group with guys for many, many yearsóold, long-term friendsóIíve been able to share my excitement of putting out my book, my fears of failure, and have them say, "I really hear you, I really know what youíre going through." That is so satisfying. It touches a place in me that is saying, "Yeah, I really do feel this fear." I really do need to put it out in my community of brothers and have them accept me, even though Iím afraid and I donít know whatís going to happen next or Iím not quite sure what Iím doing. A menís group is really a place to break down that heroic isolated myth that we have, and to reveal our true selves in our weakness, vulnerability and confusion.

Bert: Wisdom councils tend to meet once a month. Ours is 50 to 150 men and I imagine yours is fairly large. It creates a safe container and it models other men opening themselves up. But that might not be enough, not only because itís just once a month, but because you may not be called upon to open up or to share with a smaller, more intimate group. You seem to be suggesting that itís important to get into a small group that meets weekly, every other week, or on a more frequent basis. And what I heard you saying is that the key is a long-term commitment to stay in that process. Now, do these need to be therapy or guided groups, or can a guy go out and form his own unguided group?

George: Let me back up for just a moment, Bert. I think Shepherd Bliss has talked about the menís movement as a kind of recovery workóa soul recovery. I think thatís a good image of it. People have different levels of wounding, different levels of commitment and different levels of need. Iím not saying everyone needs to be in a committed menís group. Iím just saying for myself that I needed that level of support. I know my own conditioning is so intense that I can go into isolation at the drop of a hat. Itís not something that is gone from my psyche. Itís something thatís a constant wrestling process. Itís like one of the angels I have to wrestle with all the time. When I get angry with my wife, I might tend to go into isolation instead of being in the truth about that. I still have a part of myself that wants to avoid conflict. For me and for a lot of guys I know, that in-depth, long-term committed process has been one of the only methods for really working deeply with that conditioning of isolation, numbness, shame, or even deeper levels of wounding, like around sexual abuse or physical abuse.

Thereís a chapter in my book on the difference between facilitated and unfacilitated groups. I think that unfacilitated groups have a really great challenge and a really great opportunity. One of the challenges is that because the groups are unfacilitated, men have to take up a form of leadership themselves. They have to model leading other men and being led. Automatically, youíve got very interesting material around power dynamics and creativity. If the group is willing to talk directly about the interactions between the men around these issues, you can have a very dynamic and powerful group process. The group that Iíve been in really goes for direct communication between men about how their relationships are going and how interactions inside the group and outside the group are going. That dialogue is so in-the-moment and so full of feeling that other guys in the group get stirred up just listening to it. It provokes some deeply conscious and unconscious emotional experiencesóthen some talking through, listening, feeling, and interacting.


About George's book

For example, about a year ago, there were two guys in the group who had tried to meet outside the group. They had some complications. Some meetings had fallen through. Then they sat in the group with a fear of going deeper into their friendship and the resistanceówhy it hadnít happened. It emerged that the problem between these two people was really that each one was projecting old family stuff, of course. One person was seeing in the other personís failure to show up some father projection, where he was really still angry at his father for not showing up.

When you get into that level of depth of conversation around projection, you see how much of our world we project from our inner minds onto the outer world. Unfacilitated groups can be very dynamic. One of the problems with unfacilitated groups is that it takes a lot of courage to bring up these very immediate issues. Each member has to be willing to come deeply out of his own tendency to isolate, to be the good boy, and to blame. He has to create new kinds of communication and practice new communication and self-revelation skills. It can be very scary for people to take on this deep level of communication.

I think what happens if people donít go deep and bring the immediate relationships into the room, is that you have a lot of storytelling, where six guys sit around checking in about things that happened to each other over the week or month. That is a very valuable process, but if that is all that goes on for six months or a year, the group will stagnate. Thereís this incredible backlog of projections and unfinished communication. And the pressure is building. It can look like boredom. It can look like people not coming to the meetings. But until somebody breaks through and says, "You know, thereís some immediate relationship stuff that weíve got to talk about," that level of stagnation can drag people down or push people out of the group.

Thereís a tremendous opportunity in an unfacilitated group, but it really takes a commitment. My book talks about how to make that commitment, how to revitalize it, and how to make the unfacilitated group work in a real, direct and immediate way.

My own group has been very healing, for a couple of reasons. One is that my group is composed of some tremendous artists and some people who love singing and ritual. We do poetry together. The artistic and creative stimulation is just tremendous. I know that every couple weeks, I can go somewhere where people really love art, music, poetry and beauty. And that informs my whole life. Thatís something I myself have worked on for 25 years. Itís wonderful to go someplace where that deep quality of myself is appreciated and encouraged, and where people are asking me what I am doing and whether I am writing any poetry. That quality of support for art, ritual and contact with sacred spirituality is a very strong part of my group.

George Taylor
About George Taylor


Courage to Love
Geo and his wife Deborah have s a Courage to Love Web site on relationships
George and Deborah

The other strength of my group is that we share this commitment for the deep, interactive, interpersonal work. That has helped me so much to see what are the ways I hold back. What are the projections that I have on different members of the group? How do I work with conflict? Weíve had tremendous conflicts within our group. Because of the commitment to sit in the process and examine our own reactions, I feel thereís been tremendous healing and insight into the ways that I make other people wrong, make other people the problem, or see my current reactions in terms of past patterns. Out of this conflict, our group has created the deepest level of friendships I think Iíve ever experienced.

Bert: You mentioned the power struggles that come up, and I can relate to that. I was in a menís group that failed because a lot of the men there were not willing to take on leadership themselves, but they had real resistance to somebody else taking on a leadership role to facilitate it. That seems like a fairly common dynamic at the start of a group.


About George's book
George: I think that whenever men gather, immediately there are power struggles. There are struggles for time, for energy, for who gets to speak, and who gets their way in the group. And I think that specifically is a really critical topic for a group to discuss. There are activities in my book about that. One issue that you raised was about leadership. All men have some kind of persona that they develop around leadership. Leadership is intoxicating. Itís scary. Itís challenging. Itís exciting. It makes other people jealous. Every time youíve got a group of people together, somebody is exerting some kind of leadership and somebody is resisting that. Each one of those reactions says something very important about your personality, your creativity, and your leadership. It says something about your self-esteem, your faith and your ability to speak out. What you just spoke aboutóboth peopleís resistance to leadership and resistance to leading themselvesóhas to be a conversation within the group. If you really penetrate to the personality questions and adaptations within those topics, youíre going to have a very dynamic group because people are going to have to own up to the fact that they hate authority. When you say, "Letís close our eyes for a minute," they want to punch your lights out because they had a priest or a teacher in fifth grade who beat them for suggesting that the class do something. You have incredibly rich material there just in what you said.

The other thing thatís really important is the vision of the group. If a small group is meeting, and itís one personís vision that theyíre going to run the group and the group is going to do all the activities, then other people have to buy into that consciously. There has to be conscious intention and commitment about how the group is going to be created. I also cover that in my book. The activities in my book give men a chance to talk about their vision, talk about the kind of leadership that they want, and reach some kind of intentional agreement about how theyíre going to create the group. But if people are just drifting in together, and the person who pulled the group together starts leading the group automatically, without checking out his leadership style and intention with the group members, then youíre immediately going to create a whole swamp of issues around control, power, and leadership. People are going to walk away feeling either pissed off or bored if these topics arenít made really clear. If five people sit together and say they all want somebody else to lead it, that groupís not going to last very long.

George Taylor
About George Taylor


Courage to Love
Geo and his wife Deborah have s a Courage to Love Web site on relationships
George and Deborah

Bert: How did the vision, the dream of writing and putting yourself out to publish this book come about?

George: One thing that struck me over and over in the last several years is that I received a tremendous gift. Iíve felt the need in my soul for mentoring, for brotherhood, for peer support. I was guided to move to the Bay Area right when the menís movement was really taking off. I met the most powerful community. I have ten- and fifteen-year-long friendships with artists, family people, and people who have supported my deepest development.

As my own healing process matured, I realized I wanted to give that gift back to other people. The group process has been very valuable for me, in terms of letting go of my own fears and my own doubts about my worthiness. Really being seen deeply as a creative, valuable member of society was so healing for me that I wanted to be able to give that gift as a service back to other men. I know that around the country there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of small groups meeting with men who have visions and dreams like mine. Certainly their own history and vision of who they can become is different than mine, but I think thereís a soul understanding that meeting with men, penetrating through the personalities, exchanging group support and really creating a sacred community-gathering space is really a part of their development, a part of coming into their full potential as loving, creative, compassionate people.

My knowing that those groups were out there, combined with my own experience with groups, made me realize that it would be quite possible for me to write a small book that would really help these groups solve some of the key problems weíve been talking about. There are specific issues groups have that are predictable. Iíve seen this over and over again in the groups that Iíve started and the Masterís level courses in group process Iíve taken. There are very specific problems around commitment, leadership, how men create intimacy with other men and how they avoid it. You can often see a pattern of immediate outreach of acknowledgment or affection, and then somehow somebody will divert away from that. Weíre just not used to experiencing intimacy very deeply. And, of course, family patterns influence communication. All of this is going to affect any group process.

I felt that it would help men if I could write some simple descriptions of these patterns and put together a manual that included the types of activities that men might want and the different stages groups would go through. This would help men solve these problems and go deeper into life together. That would be a service. This is information that you can read in an hour or two. It could help create thousands of dynamic groups that could help thousands of men for long periods of time. That was the vision.

In all the time that I was learning about group process and starting groups, I was writing about menís psychology. Iíve also been writing poetry for 20 years. Iím very interested in the creative life as a writer. The vision was that I could take this tremendous body of information, which had basically been given freely to me, and for which I am tremendously indebted, and rewrite it. Itís almost the act of taking something out of the oral tradition and moving it into the literary tradition. I felt that was a challenge and I felt that was exciting. I felt very inspired by the thought that I could actually aid men in different groups around the country.

The book started out as a community publication. About three years ago, over 70 men submitted activities. As I looked at the exercises that had been submitted, I realized that the formats could be changed so that they would be easier to read. I also realized there was another body of material, very simple chapters on group process, that could also be very helpful to men. I spent about three years putting the book together. I received a tremendous amount of support from colleagues and group leaders in the Bay Area and other places. Finally, I self-published in March of this year. The book is doing very well. Itís gone out to over 300 groups and itís really just started to get out into the public eye. Weíve just started the marketing process.

The book came out of a community creativity process. Itís about community. Itís about men creating community for each other and healing each other within that structure. Iím trying as a self-publisher to get the book out through the menís community. Iíve been extremely gratified and tremendously moved by the volunteer help that Iíve received. Iíve gotten close to 40 reviews in menís journals. People are taking it to conferences for me. Iíve continued to be moved by the support of men for this project. Over a hundred men have helped me with the book project. When I take that in, I feel like my vision is really being supported by my communityóI feel deeply moved by that.

Bert: Thereís something about a heroís journey here. When the hero goes out, he brings back some kind of a gift to the communityóto pass on the benefits that heís received. Whatís the unique gift, the unique creativity, the unique twist, whatever, in this book?


About George's book
George: I think the heroís journey for men in the latter part of the twentieth century is an inner journey. Itís a journey into the deep levels of the self through the old conditioning, the jungles, the glaciers of conditioning, to find the deep self, the true self, and to expose that to the world. For example, in my menís group a couple weeks ago, I had a man who was having problems with his partner. He was getting to a point of commitment that was really requiring a lot of deep dialogue. Often, he would find himself very numb and out of touch. His partner would ask him where he was, where did he go? When we worked on this in the group, we worked with the numb part, that part that didnít know what it wanted. We asked him questions about the isolationówhat was really going on? It turned out that he had some painful doubts about the relationship. But because what he had been presenting to his partner was this good-boy persona, this whole issue that he had about himself not being sure if she was the right one, or if some of his doubts could be expressed safely within this environment, was what actually created the numbness. In this particular manís case, the heroís journey was for him to go deep down below the numbness and the fear of telling the truth and really say to the group, and later to his partner, "You know, Iím afraid. Iím afraid that weíre going to get deeply involved, that youíre not the right person." Of course, so often those fears are just an inner projection, an inner protection. Later, he came back to the group and said that when he expressed his fears to her, she was able to say that she had the same fears and hadnít known if she could express them. So a lot of times that inner journey actually creates more intimacy, more connection.

I think that the image of the heroís journey that my book puts forward is that when we take that inward journey, what we find in our soul is a deeply good human who has natural aspirations for love, creativity, and family. Itís only our conditioning that twists that natural creative energy into our defensive structures, isolation, aggression, and denial of our own pain. I see this book as a practical method for taking the heroís journey.

I think people are saying the menís movement needs to get more involved in the outer world. The menís movement needs to deal with fathersí rights issues, or to work on this project or that project. I think thatís all true. But I think the root thing thatís being missed right there is that all those choices will only be made once weíve awakened our innate compassion and empathy for others. I think that the first step is men really joining those other kinds of groups in a deep and committed way. We find a way to awaken our own generativity. Eric Erikson talks about generativity as one of the struggles of the man in his late thirties and early forties, to awaken that loving, overflowing goodness which can say, "Iíve taken care of my own needs. Iím a pretty whole person. What can I give? What can I give back to my family? To my community?" The heroís journey thatís outlined in my book is the path to generativity. Itís the path that thousands of men around the country are takingóto reawaken that deep soul need to connect with others, to help others, and to be with others in a new way. Thatís a heroís journey that is just as terrifying and demanding as any journey, like Odysseus out to Troy. There are the parts of us saying you canít do that. You canít go past this obstacle. That heroís journey happens when a man touches his inner courageóhis inner generosityóand bonds with a support system. It happens when he finds a way to release that into the world. This is not news. All the great spiritual teachers have always talked about community as a necessity to do soul work, spiritual work, or deep psychological work. You canít do it in isolation because youíre just perpetuating an old mythology.

Bert: Right. The question that I was asking that launched us on this was whatís the unique gift that is you and your creativity? Whatís unique and different and special about your gift in this book?

George: To tell a little story, my father was a recovering alcoholic. About the time he turned 40, he got a vision of becoming a counselor. He had six kids at the time. He went back to school at the University of Detroit and became a counselor. After he got into recovery, he experienced the abysmal depths of alcoholism and came back from that to become a writer. He wrote self-help books. He finished his life working with men. He worked at a recovery facility for men near Detroit.

The unique gift that my father showed me is that you could come back from drug abuse and be a valuable member of society, through a passion for writing and a passion for other people. So I actually followed in my fatherís footsteps. I came back from drug abuse and got the inner desire to be a counselor about the age of 40. I had always been a writer and a poet. The book is a unique drawing together of my lifelong interest in writing, in ritual and creativity, and in community. To me, itís like an incredible full circle of completion of these different, really important strands in my life. The book is dedicated to my parents, because I felt like they really supported my desire to be a writer even when theyóor Iódidnít understand what I wanted to write about. I feel its uniqueness comes out of my family, which had its dysfunction, its pains and chaos, but which also supported my life as a creative person. Iím indebted forever to my parents and to my wife for supporting me and believing deeply in my ability to contribute. This book, in a way, is my fatherís legacy.

Bert: Where do you see menís groups and Menís Work going?

George: My hope in writing the book was that it would feed the innate desire of many men to form communities, healing communities where they could explore their gender conditioning and explore becoming more loving and creative. I had a hope that the movement of menís groups has become extremely diversified and decentralized. There were actually tens of thousands of groups out there across the country that nobody is collecting information about. Itís possible, and in my mind probable, that there are thousands and tens of thousands of menís groupsómillions of men who have gone through group processes at this time.

Iím very happy to report that I have been in contact with publishers and writers around the country. With the exception of one, theyíve reported that the menís movement is either very stable or expanding. I think whatís happened is that the media has passed on to the next big story, but men are continuing to meet in a decentralized and very creative way because they feel a deep need to heal themselves. I see the movement going on in a very low-key, grassroots, fundamental way that is helping men to awaken from the deep sleep of our American role as males and breathe new life into our bodies, minds and souls. Where weíre going is where we areóa rich substructure of American life right now. Itís not as showy as the womenís movement, or as men beating on drums in the woods. But itís happening in a very community based, organic, small-scale way. I suspect it will continue in that way, because some door has been opened and men are really talking about issues and conditioning and our training as men in a new way. Thatís a door which canít be closed, because to close that door is to go back to a level of suffering and numbness which is terrifying and which has created so many problems within the family and the greater society. Men have an opportunity to go through a gateway into a different kind of life. That new life is very attractive. The thing thatís really struck me about the menís community movement is that itís really spread by attractionóby men attracting other men into it. I believe that process of attraction is still happening in a very strong way.

Related stories:

Men's Groups page.

Talking with Our Brothers, About George Taylor's book, how to order.


More interviews

Men, Spirit, Soul and Shadow

Audio Cassette Tapes with Robert Bly, James Hillman, Michael Meade, John Lee, Malidoma Somé,Marion Hillman, Clarissa Ponkola Estés and many others

Books by these people available on-line


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