Meet the energetic and generous pair behind The Men’s Collective, a protected space and community for all men to come together and talk about concerns and topics close to their hearts. Their hope is that men who attend can learn collectively through others experiences and stories. Here they share with Twosix Wellness a little about themselves and what you can expect to learn and feel when attending one of their sessions.
Can we start with getting to know you both… share 3 things about yourselves?
- Melbourne born and raised in a family of four boys, obsessed with helping guys to better connect with each other
- 2 years ago I quit my corporate job to follow my passion and do something that scared the shit out of me. Best thing I ever did.
- Avid rock climber and workshop junkie
- I’m a country kid at heart & will probably end up a farmer
- I’ve studied Sports Science, Kinesiology and Osteopathy, but am still looking for that thing I really love.
- I’ve also travelled around Australia managing Music Festivals sites.
Now can you tell us about your incredible initiative The Men’s Collective?
We run workshops and events for guys to chat about fun and interesting topics and talk about how they are feeling in a way that is safe from ridicule and judgment. The kind of conversations you probably wouldn’t have with your mates at the footy or the pub.
If men can’t talk about their feelings and just bottle them up inside it ends up coming out in other areas. For most of us, that means obsessive social media, dating and working ridiculously long hours. For others, it results in anxiety, depression, violence, and addictions.
As such suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 and we account for 92% of the prison population.
How did it all start?
Luke and I were running events with another organisation and kept seeing guys sit back and avoid sharing in front of a group. The women had no issues sharing their feelings and speaking up, but the guys seemed to hold back. We realised after a while that they didn’t feel safe to share, that there was and is a stigma around men sharing that threatens the image of what it is “to be a man”.
We wanted to challenge that in a way and get guys out of the comfortable surface level conversations and get to the real stuff.
If The Mens Collective were a person how would you describe them?
Tall dark and handsome.. haha., no they’d be young and fresh. Too young to be scorned by life, but old enough to have their wits about them. They’d be eager to talk with people and find out all they can about life. Just as a young child walks into the zoo, or country kid goes to the city for the first time, everything is exciting.
And yet an old soul; not needing to speak to be noticed, the kind of person you automatically feel comfortable around. Someone that takes life as it comes and sees the bigger picture, having fun along the way.
What can men expect to feel when they take part in one of your sharing sessions?
Guys describe a feeling or connection, unlike anything they have felt in a long time like a weight has been taken off their shoulders. It’s also pretty light-hearted, we try not to take ourselves too seriously and often have a good old laugh. You can also expect to feel all the normal stuff; initial awkwardness, being unsure of how much to share or what to say/what’s considered normal or not. However, we have gotten really good at covering off all that stuff early on and making people feel at home.
Why do you believe men are so reluctant to talk about their struggles?
It’s a generational thing, most of us grew up in families where it wasn’t the done thing to talk about your feelings. It’s not our fault, we were handed down this story from our great grandfathers. After they survived the great depression and the world war’s, for them survival was their priority. Emotional intelligence and well-being weren’t exactly high on their list and consequently, a generation of ‘masculinity’ measured by physical strength & material success (in the absence of all emotion except happiness and anger) was encouraged. To talk about your struggle goes against ‘the norm’, exposing your weaknesses and insecurities. However, these are the very things that make us human and – when shared – bring us closer together.
What do you think would encourage more men to come to start talking?
Knowing how good it is and how much lighter they’d feel after!
Being honest with yourself and others (as scary as you think it might be), feels great & is super rewarding. It’s positively the single most powerful tool that has helped us move forward within ourselves as a men/partners and individuals.
Most men’s groups are run by older guys and are pretty hippy-dippy, we want to make it fun and accessible to a mainstream audience. In the hope that one day men sharing vulnerably and connecting with others will be like green smoothies and tattoos… once upon a time risky an alternative, but now everyone is doing it.
Can you share with our male readers a simple tool/ exercise they can use when feeling overwhelmed?
Know that you’re not alone. This is a massive issue that affects so many people and “you can’t save your arse and your face at the same time”
So talk about it to a friend, partner, co-worker. The more you talk, the better you’ll feel. Let go of the idea that you can’t share your stuff and reach out to a mate. If not to a friend, then reach out to any of the amazing services that are available.
If by yourself, simply STOP & BREATH. Yet, more importantly, FEEL. If without any of the story in your head of ‘why you’re feeling what you feel’, an emotion WILL pass in 90 sec. ‘So just feel the feeling’. It’s the avoidance of feeling that creates anxiety and depression. It’s a simple, sometimes scary but yet so powerful exercise.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Jimmy– Be yourself, everyone else is taken
Luke– It’s ok to be you, and not to be ok.
What does the future look like for The Men’s Collective?
Super exciting, we didn’t actually think about where we were going with this, we just loved doing it. And now it’s taken off. The plan for 2017 is:
- Multiple Men’s Collectives around Melbourne (Footscray, Abbotsford, Prahran)
- 4-week programs that really help men open up and connect.
- Fortnightly drop-in programs that anyone (male or identifying as male) can turn up to.
- Weekends away for Men.
- A ‘relationship’ weekend for all.
Finish these sentences…
We Believe… that the greatest journey for a man is from his head to his heart.
My alone time looks like…. frantic. Yep! we’re human as well.
Can stop listening to…. Jimmy– Client Liaison and Guy J. Luke– .all my old music
I need to remind myself daily to…
Jimmy– breathe, meditate and brush my teeth
Luke– that everything will be ok, to let go of what I can’t control and take action in what I can.