Writing this article feels exposing, which is part of the reason I chose to do it. As someone who is rather reserved and shy, writing about my experience in MKP feels like a stretch. But alongside the part of me that likes to stand back, there is also a part that longs to connect and belong.
That is a large part of the attraction of MKP for me – it offers a place where I can test myself and where I can get in touch with the parts that often lay dormant: my wild part, my angry part, my powerful masculine part, my vulnerable part.
My relationship with MKP began a few years ago when I was standing in a circle at A Band of Brothers (ABOB) weekend. We did an exercise in which a man was invited to enter the circle and deliberately criticise other men, as a way of illustrating the idea of how we project onto others what we won’t look at in ourselves.
A senior MKP man was on this weekend and put himself forward to be the criticiser. “Please don’t pick me!” I remember thinking, as he walked round, sounding off at various men in the circle – “Get your hair cut – you look ridiculous,” to one. “Lose some weight, fat boy!” to another.
He stopped opposite me and fired off: “It’s time for you to grow up and start wearing big boy’s trousers.”
I felt shamed and exposed, even though the point of the process was to reveal something about the criticiser rather than the criticised. I think I felt so wounded because I knew that there was some truth in the comment but I hated other people seeing it in me.
That was what got me to do my Warrior Weekend. I’d been thinking about it for a year or two, as a lot of ABOB men had come from MKP originally. But if it hadn’t been for those comments I don’t think I would have done anything about it.
It taught me that sometimes a direct challenge that feels painful can actually catalyse change in a more powerful way than a dozen milder and more sensitive challenges.
So, my journey in MKP and ABOB has been to a large extent around my relationship with my masculine power and how I can suppress it.
That’s why one of my favourite processes on the NWTA is the Wild Man story – I love the drama of it, the clinking chains, the permission it gives me to shout my lungs out. As a rather intellectual person, these kind of processes help release me from the prevalent feeling of wanting to “do the right thing”, which dominates my life.
This quest of accessing my healthy masculine power is a work in progress, and probably always will be. There are times when it’s present and many more when it’s not. But the contact I have with MKP is an enormous help in keeping me in touch with this challenge and, at time, enabling me to access this power.
I’ve found that doing NWTA staffing is a great way of bringing myself up against these parts of myself that I don’t want to see. In normal life I have constructed a way of living which, generally, keeps me within may comfort zone. It keeps me in control.
Staffing, on the other hand, takes me way out of my comfort zone, which is why I both love it and dread it. I remember on my last staffing my job was to organise the travel to the NWTA venue for brothers arriving at Dublin airport. I took advice from other brothers about how to handle this role but did not think through myself what was needed and what was the latest time I could offer to provide transport from the airport.
I also found it difficult to say no to a couple of men who contacted me about getting from the airport to the venue but only did so after the deadline I’d given. I was afraid of saying no because I didn’t want to risk being disliked.
The result of all this, however, was that some of the men didn’t get to the venue until after the 4pm deadline and I was offered the opportunity to do an accountability piece later that day. This was painful as it’s hard for me being the centre of attention for 40 men and owning up to mistakes.
But it really helped me see the pattern I’d been caught in – of giving away my power to others, not taking responsibility and having hazy boundaries which actually left people around me feeling less secure.
I “got some of my key back” on that weekend, as it says in Robert Bly’s Iron John. I love that story about the Wild Man and the boy who needs to steal the key from under his mother’s pillow.
This resonates with me and I grew up in a house with too much mother and not enough father. Staffing NWTAs or doing other men’s work is all part of my attempt to get back some of my key.
I know I still have a long way to go, but what’s important for me is the direction of travel. I can still get down when I realise I’m giving up my power, when I’m hiding myself, when I struggle to feel connected with other men.
But I am increasingly able to give myself credit for my courage in putting myself in situations that I find scary. I also credit my honesty. Despite the people pleaser aspect, I am also often willing to speak my truth and to acknowledge my vulnerability.
I have experienced how these qualities can create trust with other men. On my PIT several men said they felt they could trust me.
It is through MKP that I have become more interested in Shadow Work and I recently did the basic facilitation training, which I really enjoyed and found challenging. Through Shadow Work I have become more aware of the child part of myself and how fearful he can be. This fear can be very high when I am in a group of people I don’t know very well.
There is a lot of shame associated with my little boy. He can feel not good enough and so to protect him I can go to a place of judging others, trying to please them and/or withdrawing. I think these tendencies will always be present but, over time and with greater consciousness, they dominate less than they used to.