Statement of Principles of Men's Group Work

Fundamental Principles How We Treat Each Other Outcomes
1. Principle of Non-violence Each man has the right to safety of his physical and emotional being; this implies no physical violence, threats, use of intimidation or put-downs or shaming of other men. Each man obliges himself to respect Principle of Non-violence. Safety
2. Principle of Non-judgement Each man has the right to not be judged as he speaks his truth. Each man obliges himself to respect the Principle of Non-judgement; this implies no blaming, condemning, advising, challenging, 'fixing'. Trust is not a right, but a mutually shared experience that grows as we observe each other respecting the Principle of Non-judgement. Trust
3. Principle of Supportive Listening Each man has the right to be listened to. Each man obliges himself to do the work of listening to other men. Release, support
4. Principle of Speaking Your Truth Each man has the right to speak his truth, as it pertains to him, not what he may think/feel/believe is going on for any other man. Each man obliges himself to do the work of discovering and expressing his truth. Self-realisation
5. Principle of Taking Ownership Each man has the right to own/have all his feelings, thoughts, wants. Each man obliges himself to do the work of owning all his feelings, thoughts, reactions, actions, statements. Taking back power and 'projections'
6. Principle of Asking for What You Need Each man has the right to ask for what he wants/needs insofar as these do not conflict with already stated rights & obligations. Each man obliges himself to do the work of understanding and supporting his own needs, and those of other men. Validation
7. Principle of Celebrating Masculinity Each man has the right to positive, supportive respect for his way of expressing his identity and masculinity, insofar as these do not conflict with already stated rights & obligations. Each man obliges himself to do the work of understanding and supporting the full diversity of masculine expression. Mutual respect & non-discrimination

Notes on the Statement of Principles for Men's Group Work

Generally this approach to group work is the desire is to create certain outcomes ie safety, support, trust, by prescribing certain interactions as helpful and beneficial to these outcomes, and designating others as harmful or in opposition to these outcomes. This approach may not work for all men, but in this context of an autonomous self-led beginning men's group it is felt that these are reasonable principles upon which the group can establish itself, avoid the numerous pitfalls and do good work together. These Principles are intended as guides to group work and it is not expected that every man will have complete understanding of them initially; this is why it is called 'men's work' - work is involved over time as the group experiments with its interactions and processes to find that approach which best works for this particular group.

1. Non-violence

Group work can only be feasibly done in a 'safe space' - we are 'here to heal' ourselves and support each other, not be subject to harm or abuse by another man, whatever his intentions might have been.

2. Non-judgement

This implies acceptance of a man just as he is ie he does not have to measure up to any outside 'cultural' standards that all men are continuously judged by. We set aside these judgements to allow a man to experience support and validation just as he is - perhaps for the first time in his life. Within the group of course a man is judged by his ability and desire to accept to group standards and processes - perhaps not all men can work together, but the principles as laid out will allow a wide spectrum of men to work together. Work is involved to build trust - which stands or falls by how well men are able to accept and not arbitrarily judge each other; trust is necessary for 'deep' group work, as men become vulnerable by revealing their deepest selves/issues -issues for which men may have been shamed in the past -'healing' of these past wounds requires a safe non-judgemental space. We do not challenge each other on the basis of allowing each man to come to his own healing in his own time, and also on the basis that we do not act as each others psychotherapists (even if we are qualified practitioners). See Appendix 2 for further discussion of 'Non-Judgement'.

3. Supportive Listening

The self-evident basis for any group work.

4. Speaking Your Truth

This involves working at the reflective process of being present and expressing your feelings in the moment, trying to understand and express what is really going on for you and what that might be, or is, about. It can be helpful to focus on bodily sensations - sometimes only later do we realise what the motivation for a feeling or reaction is. This can be a powerful way to 'come back into your body' and get a balance between head-space and feelings. 'Your Truth' pertains only to your own thoughts/feelings/actions/reactions - not what you think/believe/guess might be happening for another man - these are judgements/projections - allow him to speak his truth.

5. Taking Ownership

When we are disconnected from our true feelings we lose our power to act authentically and in a self-directed manner; arguably men are 'trained' or 'socialised' to be this way to perform useful social tasks and thereby themselves receive benefits/rewards for their service. The social rewards are tangible and obvious, the costs are often hidden - men disconnected from their inner selves unable to understand or validate their own feelings. In group we do the work of trying to 'own' everything that is going on for us - all our feelings, all our reactions, actions, statements. In this way we reconnect to our true selves and stop being manipulated by or victims of outside forces. No one is to blame for how we are, each man takes responsibility for himself and thereby reclaims all parts of himself and his power.

6. Asking for what you need

Arguably men often deny their own needs to serve a 'greater' purpose, in group we learn to understand and validate our needs as important and thereby learn to take better care of ourselves individually, and also as a gift or benefit we can provide each other. This is part of our healing journey and also increases our ability to cope with difficult situations/crises. Too many men and boys have committed suicide, and will commit suicide because, they are unable to ask for what they need, and arguably society is currently unable/unwilling to respond to men's and boy's needs. Group is a place to challenge and change this attitude that male needs are unworthy.

7. Celebrating Masculinity

As we heal our past wounds we come to realise that there is no strict definition of masculinity, that each individual man expresses his own uniqueness to create a vast diversity of masculine identities that can be celebrated just for their uniqueness as well as for their positive and life affirming qualities. Undoubtedly there are many more men who seek to create than destroy, more who support and nurture than harm or abuse. As we heal our woundedness we heal the planet, as perhaps only victims beget victims.