Greg Finnigan 
Family Violence Consultant

I have spent the last three years talking to men about their lives. I have heard about 250 very personal life stories. Men of all ages, races, and occupations, about their joys, their struggles, and their beliefs. These stories have changed me and my attitude to the idea of masculinity. I have been forced to reconsider my attitude to; male suicide, poor mental health, drug and alcohol misuse, crime and punishment, IP violence, and the conversation about re-defining masculinity.

I feel the weight of responsibility to do something with this knowledge of their stories, but I can’t because they are not my stories to tell. But I can speak of the learnings, the themes, and the outcomes that I and the men discovered.

 

Many men are desperately needing to recreate meaningful connections. Disconnection and isolation are all too common. Their pain is real and present. Their old stories affect their tomorrows. These men are often stuck unable to move on from the loss of a mate, the criticism of a father, the abuse from a relative, the failure of their relationships, or learnings from the home of their childhood lingers uncomfortably. Trauma is not selective as to whom it effects, and it causes deep and lasting pain. This pain is carried into new relationships and shows itself in unusual ways and un-rational behaviour. The hidden pain can remain dormant, but then be suddenly triggered in relationships that are challenged. Internalised trauma and change often re appears as unreasonable behaviour or angry over reactions. Pain is often expressed as an angry protest.

 

We have allowed our men to feel angry, anger is legit!! We have encouraged toughness and rewarded aggressive behaviour. But seldom have we allowed men freedom to express, sadness, chance to grieve, to speak of pain, experience anxiety, share humiliation, instead we told them to harden up, take a concrete pill, be strong, But It is not a matter of strength or weakness, rather a matter of what happens inside as a result of what has happened to us. Trauma is often activated by change and insecurity in our surroundings. Our society is changing very rapidly, and with this social change has come a social disorientation and sadly for many, a somewhat inevitable isolation.

 

My work convinces me that rather than invest in behavioural change programmes and CBT based therapy programmes, we have to engage the men from a different place. My work taught me to approach the men from a different position i.e. Alongside, non-judgemental, sharing my own struggles, sharing understanding. I believe these discussions can only really happen in community settings and high trust environments.

 

A modern village or workplace must consider how participants stay connected. Connections need to be intentionally planned. The sharing of belief, the sharing of wisdom, the reasoning, the grounding, The sense of identity, the safety, and importantly how leadership can influence its men.