If all our childhoods we are trained that our feelings are "girly", we tend to live our lives behind masks.
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Jakub Jerzy Macewicz – sociologist, entrepreneur, psychotherapy intern at the “Meandra” Mental Health Centre in Białystok. Husband, builder, activist, animator an leader of the Men's Circle in Białystok.

Małgorzata Skowrońska: “A friend of mine decided to see if her husband still notices her after five years of being together...”

Jakub Jerzy Macewicz: “I like where this is going. How did she want to test this?”

“He used to gallantly open the car door for her, then they had a baby and got stuck in a rut. And one day she didn’t get out of the car and he didn’t realise he was walking alone until he was on the second floor. She shouted out what she thought.”

“What need had not been satisfied?”

“She wanted him to notice her.”

“And did he?”

“She began to express her feelings and needs more openly. She looks happy today.”

“The question is what would the story be like if he told it?

It’s a story about feelings, and he, like a lot of men, doesn’t like talking about feelings.”

“That’s how our environments shape us. You women, or most of you, are brought up to express your feelings. However, I would not want to simplify and say that women have access to feelings and men do not. We all have a problem with this.”

“Mamed Khalidov, the Polish KSW fighting champion, said that in Chechnya, a boy can only cry at his mother’s funeral.”

“Exactly. Our difficult feelings are often hard to bear for our loved ones and we learn from them to ignore these feelings. When a boy goes through some hard experience and cries, he is likely to hear, ‘Don’t blub, don’t bawl’. The stereotypical ‘men don’t cry’. If during our entire childhood we’re trained to distance ourselves from our feelings, we begin to create a wall around us. And yet feelings are a source of important information about our well-being! We understand that when it comes to babies and then we forget about it. We’re supposed to be warriors who ignore their own needs.”

“And we need sensitive warriors.”

“Except we’re weaned off this tenderness.”

“I take offence to that, because most of us women try to be sensitive towards our sons. However, this balance between sensitivity and the willingness to prepare the child for independence is not easy.”

“I’m not accusing women. As a father, I also have an influence on upbringing. If I am accusing anything, it’s the patriarchy rooted in society. This is already changing, because many of us choose a partnership model in which expressing our feelings and talking about needs is an important element. If I can express my emotions and needs, I have a better chance of them being satisfied. But after years of being cut off from our feelings, it’s not so easy to understand, for example, why exactly we get angry. Is it really about the situation that is happening now, or does it remind me of some other difficult experience?”

“Are you self-taught when it comes to emotions?”

“No. I’ve been through psychotherapy.”

“And you went to psychotherapy because...?”

“After the death of someone close to me, a conflict arose in my marriage which neither of us had ever expected. It was so intense that I began to feel anxious about how things would turn out. I became scared. I had to do something. I started with myself. Only now do I see how much I needed to finally start noticing my feelings and learn to name them.”

“Except men are reluctant to go to therapy. Let them hear it from you now: tenderness can be taught.”

“It can. But it’s not an easy path. Along the way, we have to face up to the truth. It’s not always pleasant. But it can be liberating. Especially for tough guys who don’t even know they need to cry or feel helpless. Crying gives you strength! If this transformation succeeds, we eventually grow up to become adult males. And only then can we be good partners, husbands, fathers, leaders, guardians or sons.”

“I think it’s easier for us women to let up on ourselves. We can say, ‘I’m on my period, get lost, world’.”

“I’m trying to learn that, too.”

“How do you do that?”

“I ask for a day in bed. And then I do nothing. I try to allow myself to be powerless. Accepting that I can be weak sometimes, gives me strength. Male-only meetings help as well. At the ‘Sensitive Warrior’ workshop that I co-lead, men form a community that gives them strength. The more honest meetings like this I have, the better I realise how much we need to take a break.”

“And in women’s circles, we nurture affection towards ourselves and towards the world. It is very visible during the ‘Women Know What They’re Doing’ meetings organised by ‘Wysokie Obcasy’.”

“It works similarly at the ‘Sensitive Warrior’ workshop. We also need meetings without competition, without judgement. The need for meaning, contact, enrichment of life is satisfied. I’m happy because I can accompany the participants in experiencing authentic contact with other men. I’m moved when I realise that after something like this, they come back to their loved ones changed. This may sound lofty, but I’m convinced it’s one of the things that can make the world a better place.”

“Now I realise that in films, pyjama party scenes only involve girls. For you there’s pool, possibly a football game and beer.”

“You can’t even imagine how often I hear in men’s circles: ‘Fuck yeah, for once I don’t have to drink.’ I observe a great need for authentic contact without stereotypical props among men.”

“What do you do in these meetings?”

“We have time to share experiences, cook and eat together, stargaze by the fire at last. We take cold baths according to the Wim Hof Method.”

“Do you use any particular tools?”

“We use the ‘Nonviolent Communication' (NVC) method, which reminds us of a simple principle: I feel good when my needs are satisfied. And when I feel good, it’s easier for me to see the needs of other people.”

“Philippa Perry, the British psychotherapist, in her book ‘The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read’ says that when children cry, instead of affirming their feelings and helping them express them, we distract them.”

“The key is trying to understand what I feel and when I feel it. Instead of thinking relentlessly about what has already happened and what can no longer be changed, instead of worrying about what will happen and what I might not be able to influence, I can change the way I think. If I take a minute and ask myself what’s really going on with me, what I’m feeling right now, what I need right now, I give myself a chance to act or accept the situation. Instead of pursuing toxic thoughts, we need to exercise caution. When I consciously notice my feelings, the blind stimulus-reaction mechanism cracks. It is within this chasm that our area of influence appears. I decide how I react! This is the only thing that allows us to live in the real world instead of being stuck in imagined realities intensified by the fear of what is going to happen, or regret at what we can't have any more.”

“Tenderness and freedom. Let's build balanced relationships” is a campaign run by Kulczyk Foundation along with “Wysokie Obcasy” and “Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation”.

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