Appendix 1
Focus: Taking Care of Yourself

Everyone should know, and apply, the first law of the universe. "What's that?", 1 hear you say, don't you know it? It's very simple:

Universal Law #1
Take Good Care of Yourself!

Unfortunately dysfunction/abuse is endemic in our society, and at its core it is disrespectful of the 'beingness' of the individual, who suffers not only the immediate trauma and disturbing feelings, but also a deeper wound to their soul, and they may become cut off from, and begin to devalue, their inner self. As a result of the abuse, it's an unpleasant place to go because hurt comes up for us that as children we have no place to go to heal. But as adults we have a new opportunity to take care of ourselves, and even to go back and heal the broken places. The hardest step may be the first, but contains the realization that "yes, 1 am worth it!"; and the ideas below are strong foundations upon which you can restructure your life, and find new friends.


Acknowledge your own feelings - it is ok to have feelings! - it's ok to ask for help!

If your feelings are overwhelming - pick up the phone and talk - have a few #'s on hand to call. (The local crisis line is a good place to start - its usually 24 hour, in Vancouver 604 872 3311) Even if your feelings are unpleasant; name them, ask yourself what they are about - wait for an answer -what is the felt-sense in your body? Are your feelings telling you to act in some way?

Find a safe non-shaming place to share your feelings - on a regular basis!

ie a men's group, 12-step group (Co-Dependents Anon., ACOA, AA etc), a sympathetic therapist/counsellor - it's important to have somewhere to go to talk issues through; it's a mistake to make our partners our support group, for if we lose our partner, we've just lost our support group as well

Start to define your boundaries - be aware of and respect other peoples boundaries

some things people may say or do to us are hurtful/disrespectful/inappropriate - rehearse how you might stop that inappropriate behaviour respectfully. Study communication skills. The ultimate boundary' is distance - can you walk away, and let go, if they won't listen to you?

Tell yourself you're worth it - no matter what! (he or she or they might think…)

give yourself the gift of being good to yourself - time spent in Nature (woods, beaches etc) restores us

It's ok to cry and grieve your losses - find the time and a safe place to do that

that's how we heal! - or else we stay stuck in that wound


Give yourself enough sleep! Enough rest; enough exercise - enough play!

Ask your body what it needs - learn to listen for its answer - if you ask, it will answer!

Eat when you're hungry - stop when you're full!

What came first, clocks or stomachs? Cooking for yourself is a healing, simple method of self-care

Find a support group for any addictions - and work the program

Remember to be gentle on yourself - call your 'phone buddy' when it gets tough


What do you need to learn (ideas/theories/philosophies) to take care of yourself? - go look for it.

Why/when did you stop? Did you give that job to someone else? Put your 'study' into your schedule.

Does it have to be a certain way - for you?

Whose plan is that? Is it yours really? - or one you just adopted? What's your plan?

Try the 'art of surrender' - and let go of 'how it looks' or the 'way it's supposed to be'.

Don't fight what you can't change. Let others be who they are, even if it's not what you want, or did they agree to join your program? - sometimes pain happens and no-one is 'wrong', we just want different things…


The spark of divinity is within you - according to some religions/philosophies

Are you willing to be responsible for how you feel/act - and thereby empower yourself? Are you responsible for what you create? - or you're a victim & that's someone else's responsibility? Self-care is self-love and feeds and nourishes the soul


Does the still small voice of spirit still speak to you?

Renewal and healing brings us back to our centre, wherein lives compassion and spirit & our true self

The Challenge of Men's Lives

It's very easy for us to get disconnected from ourselves, our lives are so busy, we're running around taking care of so many things and others, that we sometimes (most of the time?) forget to take care of ourselves. We can get so caught up in 'fixing' things, 'making it right', doing it the way it's 'supposed to be done' - and sometimes we measure our self-worth and identity by these doings/accomplishments - so that when we get to extreme circumstances eg loss of job/career, or loss of relationship/marriage, home/family - that we feel deeply betrayed, our lives have 'become worthless', or even not worth living. It's from this scenario that men sometimes make choices with tragic consequences ie the use of violence, or even suicide, in a maladaptive response to the overwhelming feelings they're experiencing.

But how do we get to this place? Why are the feelings so overwhelming? And what are healthier responses to these circumstances/feelings?

Well, part of a man's experience, part of how he's been raised, arguably, is to repress his feelings - in order to 'take care of business'. This actually works, for a while, and we get rewarded for our accomplishments, by our families, partners, society - they appreciate and receive benefits from the service that men provide, and continue to reward us. And so the process supports itself - ask yourself: does the job you do fulfil and satisfy you in an inner sense? If not, why do you do it? Obviously, for the material and other benefits it provides; we need to eat, sleep somewhere, 'earn' affection/intimacy - get these basic needs met. And implicit in this 'social contract' is the promise that along the way we will receive the reward/validation of partner, family, home, and status (as a contributing member of society, vs a failure or a derelict or bum or welfare leech - the stigma of the unemployed). And in fact we use our material luxuries to 'prove' to others and ourselves just how great we're doing - of course needing more and better things to keep the image/idea alive, potentially becoming more and more disconnected from our inner selves, if we don't take the time to focus on and work with these inner issues.

The above scenario works for many people; they're willing to sacrifice their deeper, less immediate inner selves to have all those things, and conform to these most immediate and obvious social standards. Some others aren't really happy about it, but there are few models or mentors for alternative behaviour/lifestyles, so they go along with it, hoping it will work out. Others eg 'suffering' artists, religious recluses, are willing to forego the conventional luxuries, in the pursuit of self-expression, and to enjoy that inner life. In a psychological sense, some individuals have such a strong inner motivation, that they are compelled to break with social conventions and break free of limiting norms and values, defining their own limits for themselves. Some individuals create for themselves (consciously or unconsciously) a self-reality that is so alien from the norm that we call them 'crazy', and by normal standards may be deemed unable to be responsible for themselves.

We all live somewhere along this continuum of behaviours, from utterly conventional to crazily different - why then do some seemingly 'normal'/conventional people 'go crazy' and eg a man killing 9 members of his estranged wife's family? - or a mother drowning her 2 children? -or commit suicide? These tragic acts speak to an overwhelming inner compulsion/feeling that these individuals were unable to cope with. They were unable to ask for help to deal with their inner suffering. Why?

The opportunity' exists for our society to be more pro-active in setting-up support systems for men. Many exist for women (unfortunately these too are often after-the-fact programs rather than preventative and often have insufficient funding themselves), few exist for men. I believe our society is beginning to see the need for these programs, to alleviate suffering, and ultimately to prevent tragedies, as a new model becomes known in our culture - of non-shaming support programs that acknowledge and validate men's inner life (shaming programs only support the status-quo and are counter-productive - if a man just hears more of 'what he's supposed to be', it's just more of what he's heard all his life -nothing's changed for him, and his health and 'beingness' is thus not supported). Of course this means that society confronts it's own values of 'what men are supposed to be', as opposed to who we really are; this will be a significant renewal of the social contract, and amounts to a sea-change. and perhaps this is why there has been so much inertia, unwillingness to 'see', we are basically re-inventing ourselves and our relationships - no small order - we indeed live in interesting times.

In the meantime, don't forget!:

Universal Law #1
Take Good Care of Yourself!