April 17, 2023
Last year, I wrote about an Uncivilized Journey that was very eye opening and transformative. This year, I went on a second journey deep in the fields of rural Austin, Texas where horses, turkeys and deer were living in peace. It was deeper and more moving than the first which is saying something. I am going to rerun last year's piece as it encapsulated the experiences well. Then I will tackle journey II in other weeks.
What does it mean to go on a journey? Is it to leave home and see a new physical place and return home with a new perspective and memories. Is it to leave your body and travel through your mind through the eyes of another as in a book, poem or movie? Is it a shared experience? Is it solitary? Is it good for you and your future? Is it bad?
To me the simple answer is that a journey is any and all things that change your perspective after being witnessed, felt and incorporated in some fashion within you.
I have been on a journey of sorts for years to find a better version of myself. To be as Mark Sylvester says, “1% better today than yesterday”. But, I am not sure that I even understood the question, let alone the journey over that time. What am I really seeking? What is 1% better? Knowing more medicine? Check! Starting and completing projects? Check! Exercise and eating healthily? Check! Avoiding toxic substances and people? Check! Trying to be a good husband, partner, father, son, etc…? Check! Despite all of this, why am I still looking. There is always more to learn, more exercise to do and another project to tackle. Why then am I still looking? Ah, such is life and questions.
The thought that came to me is transformation. I am still looking to transform somehow. Something is still missing.
Usher in Man Uncivilized.
Men are not particularly vulnerable. Doctors less so. I am no exception. I appear to many of my patients, friends and colleagues as sympathetic and vulnerable when I am holding the hand of an ill child or consoling a parent in their grief. But, am I really there in the moment? Am I really feeling the pain of the child or parent. Am I truly helping them process their grief by holding space and emotional energy for them? For years, I would have said yes despite having limited formal education in understanding self-grief, vulnerability and release. Where did these experiences go?
Now, I am not so sure. I have seen too many deaths and sick children to count out loud. They came and went while I continued to work for the next child, adolescent and parent. I stayed focused and present for each new need as that is what is expected of me. 30 years have passed since I entered Medical School. Did I ever truly deal with each emotionally charged situation? Did I mourn them? Or did these experiences get shoved away somewhere dark in the recesses of my mind? Did I do what most men do – compartmentalize and wall off pain and feelings?
In April, I began a new chapter in my journey. I flew to Austin, Texas to spend 5 days on a ranch with 29 men that I had never met before. The idea was to understand what it truly means to be a man in modern times. To be in tune with all aspects of my life’s experiences. To hide from nothing. To protect, to live authentically, to move past trauma and pain. To be a man uncivilized. To better understand the idea behind the decision to go forth, I give you the words or Traver Boehm: “THERE WAS A TIME, JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, WHEN MEN HAD TO CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO OUTDATED AND BROKEN OPTIONS…
Be the Lone Wolf and die ALONE with a chest full of unexpressed emotions and a wake of broken relationships behind him. A man who thinks the feminine is weakness and weakness is unbearable. He misunderstands that within his weaknesses lie his GREATEST STRENGTHS.
Be the Sensitive New Age “Nice Guy” and have a million bestest girlfriends, now living as the wolf in sheep’s clothing. A man who thinks the masculine is terrifying and is forced to deny every aspect of his own manhood. If you are a “Nice Guy”— you are living someone else’s life.
But the truth wasn’t in these two options, was it? I knew it. Most men knew it. We just couldn’t find it. And until you have your own back, you can’t truly have anybody else’s. WHAT IF THERE WAS AN OPTION FOR MEN TO BREAK OUT OF THEIR CAGED LIVES AND BECOME FREE?
A Good Man, a Strong Man, a WHOLE MAN.
The men in our current civilized society have a problem and the solution won’t be found in that same civilized world. I felt called to create a solution for men to break free of all the pains the civilized world created. It was time to EMPOWER MEN to be UNcivilized.
THE UNCIVILIZED MAN…
Is Unapologetically Male. Dangerous but not a danger. Makes still his mind, makes savage his body. Knows his gifts grow in the garden of his wounds. Practices presence and performance. Honors the men before him, the women who bore him, and the children who will inherit his Earth. Has equal and easy access to his head, heart, and balls. Lives, by the rule — there are no rules — but there is responsibility. Loves fiercely, openly, and without reservation. Knows strength without love is tyranny. Knows love without strength is victimhood.
LIVES an UNAPOLOGETIC LIFE of PASSION and PURPOSE.”
My purpose on this segment of my journey was to see the truth in these statements. It will only cost me 5 days and a little money. A worthy cost for a potential outcome benefit. Can men live in this modern and dysfunctional world with integrity, authenticity, protective power and still tap into the soft and vulnerable side of themselves. This is sorely missing in male society and even more so in the Marlboro archetype of male dominated medicine from which I was born.
Here begins a tale of a gathering. A fellowship of sorts without a ring. Just men as they were and the three fellowship leaders with incredible wisdom, Traver Boehm, Duey Freeman and Michael Gay. How to tell this tale will be a mighty challenge, but here it goes.
The collective group had only one common theme, men. We were tall and short. Long haired and short. Skinny and muscular. Outgoing and quiet. Light skinned and dark. Deep voiced and less so. And so many other differences that commonalities were uncommon. We work and have worked in the military and police forces, as accountants, singers, doctors, business entrepreneurs and so much more.
When I sat down with these strangers for the first time, I had little to no a priori knowledge of the group’s focus other than having read Traver’s book, Man Uncivilized. I purposely chose to limit my knowledge in order to be a blank slate from which to draw and learn. However, the blank slate was not blank for long. Rapidly, we began to learn the philosophy of a newer man that shuns old archetypes in favor of a more balanced approach of the primal and the divine, the male and female energies, linked in balance. The Marlboro man is too tough and not soft when called upon by his partner or child, whereas, the Nice Guy is unable to access strength and protection when called upon for his loved ones.
When I think about nature, balance is always the key to long term survival and health. Not enough sleep is a major drag on metabolism and immune health. Too much sleep has its own consequences. Sedentary behavior is a net negative while over training is also a net negative. Eat too much food and suffer weight dysfunction and metabolic ill health. Eat too little and wither away. Therefore, why would it not be so for man’s inner feelings?
We see men all over the United States lost in the old archetypes and miserably living day by day. The police officer who is excellent at his craft, but unable to rematriculate into home living because of the stress of the job, visualized death and injurious risk. No softness with which to handle the young child’s or partner’s needs. No ability to hold space and be a rock of support with tenderness. The commonly used phrase, “tough it up buttercup”, no longer serves for anyone in the relationship. Or the doctor, who has bottled up experiences of death and illness, headaches of modern medical system’s dysfunction to a point where he is numb to his families perceived pain as not bad enough to warrant sympathy or empathy. And so on. These are real stories happening everywhere in society. Men are not learning or developing the tool sets to be a functional part of the family and or society in a balanced way.
This is not to say that they are trying nor motivated to be there for their loved ones. There in lies the tragedy. The pain of wanting to be there without a toolkit from which to draw from. The shame of inability is very difficult for men. It leads to lots of bad habits to self soothe. We know them all to well: alcohol, sex, drugs, workaholism, aggression, ....
Knowing that all of these old dysfunctions are not serving men made the newer view seem interesting and worthy of further study. Thus, we began a five day experience whereby men looked deep within themselves and opened doors to far locked away parts of themselves in order to find balance to competing forces, the primal and the divine.
In my estimation, most men are in touch with their primal side through work, sport, competition, sex and so much more. But, how do they entertain the divine energy? The answer is that most do not. Many men have no idea how to keep both aspects of their ethos in balance. They can work hard at their career craft, exercise ad nauseum, but have limited capacity to feel for others at an emotional level, especially when talking to women or girls. This is a problem.
This is also not age dependent. The advanced age individual likely just has more memories and frustrations to draw from for victimhood or self negativity.
Man Uncivilized. Men present themselves as they are over the 5 day event whether they are imbalanced as the Marlboro Man or Nice Guy archetype. There is no judgement. It is a time to strip away the masks of who you think that you are to please others or yourself and look for a new balance point. Duey, Michael and Travor lead men down a pathway of identifying the point of imbalance within the participants, owning whatever it is and working to undo the stories that we tell ourselves to deal with it. Men are supporting men during this process. They step up for each other as they struggle with feeling emotions for the first time in a long time. There is a massive power in the collective male support regardless of the issue at hand.
What happens at these events stays between the men so I cannot share their experiences as a point of understanding, but I can share my experience.
Again, as a practicing physician, feeling loss has not been my forte over the years. Therefore, when a participant struggled with his experiences around death, I began to feel emotions bubbling up from places unknown. I re-experienced my exposures to death over the years in a safe environment loaded with support. Processing these lost emotions for the first time in decades was difficult but cathartic. The ability to see, feel and process these emotions allowed me to leave the experience lighter and more balanced. Hopefully, this has opened a door to process future events in a more balanced way for myself, the child and the parents.
There were many other mirroring experiences for me based on weight of expectations, support and frustration. All of which stirred emotional shifts that were previously not well known to me. Each person had their own experience in their own way with one commonality. The support of 29 other men. That strength in number cannot be replicated in a traditional one on one counseling or therapeutic model. Speaking for myself, this experience was and is beautiful, tiring, cathartic, moving, feeling, seeking, loving and growing.
Outside of this interactive part of the experience lies the traditional lecture and group discussion model whereby the essence of the balance between the primal and divine are discussed at length.
Some of the highlights of this reality are:
1) that it takes contact to lead to connection which leads to relationship which ultimately leads to what all humans want, intimacy. This occurs over time and that time constant leads to consistency and safety. The ability to connect with another human on a deeper level that is safe, vulnerable and real. In a word – happiness. This is a truth.
2) An uncivilized man has a relationship with his pain and knows how to handle it in a balanced and stable way. The pain does not turn into anger, abuse, addiction, controlling behavior, weakness, manipulation, arrogance, passive, spiritual bypass and always giving to get. The uncivilized man is resolute, a protector, authentic, unapologetic, purposeful, emotionally tuned, empathic, compassionate, loving, supportive, engaged and strong.
3) Be soft and accepting while releasing pain and loving your family and friends in their struggle. Avoid surrender, weakness and becoming a lone wolf.
4) Stop playing the victim, blaming others and own your part of every dance. Be the loving protector of your wife, girlfriend and/or children. They need you to be strong emotionally and physically so that they can work through their concerns.
5) Aim to avoid controlling behavior which is not trustworthy. Engender to be trustworthy first whereby power can be balanced, influential and bidirectional. Power struggles and lack of trust are relationship kryptonite.
Upon returning home to North Carolina, I sat down to journal my values for the next 50 years of my life, God willing. Here they are:
1) Live in power and not in control
2) Live softer with more solid structure including boundaries and safety
3) Forgive self for mistakes that I will make in the future while accepting my imperfect self
4) Let mask of former self and adaptive child fade away over time
5) Focus most of my attention on children and their health despite the broken medical business model and system that frustrates me eternally
6) Action and behavior are far more important than words
7) I will seek to find and hold space while accepting the emotional work and process of my family and friends
8) Do not give up self and authenticity to connect and/or attach with another as that is a mask and the fake you
9) Teach the youth as often as possible as you head toward elderhood
10) No one deserves my frustration and anger, thus I will contain and prevent it from affecting others at all times
To be value based is to be an authentic and uncivilized man that values relationship, intimacy and love above the current archetypes that no longer serve us.
My current day to day work revolves around feeling the realities of others in my sphere of life. With my children and my wife, I am learning to hold space more as opposed to always trying to fix the issue immediately. This is a tall task for a lifelong dedicated fixer. When my modus operandi at work has been to listen and fix where possible, that reality is less functional at home and with loved ones. I find that my father's passing has made me even more reflective on his ability to hold space for others where I struggled and struggle to. The other great aspect of the evolving new outlook is that there are many ways to make a great and fulfilling existence whether through health or other pathways. We need to continue to offer others grace as they progress through their paths of healing.
I hope that I have effectively portrayed the reality of this profound and moving experience. If you are interested and motivated to be a better man, then look into the world of the Uncivilized man. It may just be the best thing that you do this year.