Friday, January 3, 2014

Man's Most Crucial Unfulfilled Need

Last month, Dr. Lisa Wade, a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, published an article titled, "American Men's Hidden Crisis:  They Need More Friends".  Professor Wade touches on many aspects of the problem, complete with academic citations from a notable selection of scholars.  Her findings affirm the need for groups for men such as Men's Wisdom Works. 

She asserts that of all adults, heterosexual white men have the fewest friends.  Moreover, she states friendships these men have involve low levels of self-disclosure and trust.  In what she describes as "shoulder-to-shoulder" friendships men are more likely to engage in doing stuff than in conversing face-to-face.  More often than not a man's confidant is a woman, usually his wife or girlfriend. Yet when asked men are just as likely as women to say they want intimate friendships based on emotional support, disclosure, and having someone to care for/about them. Trouble is most men are not getting what they need.
  In our culture such intimacy is defined as "feminine".  Thus, men push away from the very thing we need.  

Dr. Wade writes that in order for men to have close friends, we must confess our insecurities, be kind, have empathy towards others, and at times sacrifice our own self interest. We're brought up to believe "real men" don't exhibit these traits.  Instead we're programmed and dutifully accept the wrong notion that just the opposite traits define manhood; self interest, competition, stoicism, and tackling our emotional needs without help.

And here's a key point.  Men must find other men willing to take the same risks.  That's a tough standard to meet because most men mask their needs.  That is exactly why Men's Wisdom Works succeeds.  The masks are off so we all reflect our authentic selves. We disclose and show vulnerability with other men because in our environment it's not only OK to do so, it's the expected norm. 

Now here's the kicker, according to Dr. Wade's article. Research shows having a friend with whom you can self disclose is a major contributor to a man's health and well being.  With close friends people are more likely to avoid colds, to reduce the chance for coronary disease, to lessen the likelihood for developing physical impairments, or even to reduce the possibility of decreased brain functioning as we age.  Also, people with friends are more likely to survive the death of a spouse without any permanent loss of vitality. Medical doctor Dean Ornish puts it this way, "I'm not aware of any other factor--not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not genetics, not drugs, not therapy--that has a greater impact on our incidence of illness, and a chance of a premature death."  As we age, friends provide the key for maintaining our daily morale.

Men's Wisdom Works was born out of a personal need. It's grown into a pathway for self-disclosure, for building truly strong friendships with other men, and serves as a prescription for a fuller, happier life for members of MWW, their significant others, and their families.  We did it.  How about other men taking the same leap of faith and forming their own groups for men.  One question remains for all of us; why didn't we do this sooner?

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