Circles of Men: The Benefits of this Practice

August 9, 2019
Vulnerability was quite frowned upon when it came to rigid and conventional masculinity. Thanks to the circles of men, many dare for the first time to talk about their emotions, fears, and needs; hence, it’s great therapeutic benefits.

The circles of men make up a practice with great psychological benefits. Actually, some people brought it back from an antique exercise. Before it was common to gather around a campfire to share stories, solve problems, find advice, learn, vent fears, etc. As of now, there are many men who find these dynamics a safe space to listen to others and be heard for the first time.

It’s very likely that certain people find it strange and even unusual for a group of complete strangers to meet in a room or in a corner of the forest to find support and call out intimacies, frustrations, and doubts. Even more so for the male gender, since it’s quite uncommon to see men sharing deep, emotional aspects of their lives with other people, let alone men they aren’t familiar with.

We live in a society where masculinity has fulfilled a very rigid hegemonic model for decades. The construction of the masculine identity was almost like a mold to which everyone had to fit without questioning. Given that inflexible scheme, evidently, there was no room for doubts, emotions, or vulnerability.

Michael Kimmel, founder and director of the Center for the Study of Man and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York, points out that, fortunately, all this is changing. Nowadays, we can talk about more than one type of masculinity, the range is extended to include any type of identity, expression, and need.

A sad man in front of a lake.

Circles of Men: What are they and what’s their aim?

Every year, the National Institute of Statistics (NIE) offers data on suicide that certainly makes us ponder on the subject. One of them is as follows: the number of male suicides is three times higher than female suicides. In Spain, for example, 75% of people who decided to take their own lives turned out to be male. The same goes in other countries as well. It shows that when it comes to gender, it seems that males are the ones who go for the most dramatic end of all.

Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) carried out a report on suicide prevention where they pointed out that there really is no explanation as to why this happens. We don’t know what the causes are. However, we do know that we lack resources. Thus, experts in the field, such as Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, established that men usually feel a lot of pressure given that others expect a lot from them.

Being a man has always equaled being powerful, dominant, successful, and with a lot of self-control. But realities such as unemployment, lack of prospects, identity problems, and the inability to deal with failure often lead to an ungraspable void. In most cases, men are exposed to gender roles that end up leaving them feeling isolated. As a consequence, they’re subjected to a reality where there’s no emotional honesty and where vulnerability is transformed into anger, which leads to mental health problems.

Male statues holding each other, representing the circles of men.

Circles of men: A space for connection

Circles of men rise today as an ideal resource to transform and somehow heal the concept of masculinity. This is a space where men of different ages and social backgrounds gather together. Something important to note is that none of them have met each other beforehand. Something that a lot of us know is that, sometimes, speaking with a complete stranger allows us to communicate and call out aspects that we wouldn’t share with family or even with friends. Basically, this gives them a safe place for self-expression.

“In human beings pure masculinity or femininity is not to be found either in a psychological or biological sense.”

-Sigmund Freud-

Our current society is always prosecuting or pointing out certain behaviors and words. Men aren’t exempt from feeling attacked by this. Some kind of burden that, in most cases, they acquire through education where they’re encouraged to be strong and hide their true feelings. Therefore, in the circles of men, there’s a safe space to open up, be honest, and get validation and support from other men.

What’s the purpose of these meetings and dynamics?

The purpose of the circles of men is both positive and challenging. The goal is to empower men to feel emotionally mature, powerful, and understanding to heal their own wounds as well as help others. It’s definitely a firm commitment in the world of personal development.

The dynamics and benefits that men can find in these circles are the following:

  • Being heard by other men with respect and empathy, without any judgment whatsoever.
  • Learning to express and communicate their emotions, feelings, fears, and painful experiences.
  • Working on their own identity.
  • Learning to ask for help and advice.
  • Forming a brotherhood of support.
  • Learning to listen to others in a compassionate way.
  • Opening up to vulnerability.
  • Developing greater self-confidence.
  • Making vital purposes clearer.
  • Developing a firm commitment to themselves and others. Feeling responsible, respectful, and complete with their own emotions and needs.
  • Updating aspects related to masculinity.
Two men in a field.

Where are the circles of men located?

These circles of men are becoming more and more popular as time goes on. Some of the countries where they’re most popular are the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, the Nordic countries, etc. Now, interestingly enough, in the United States, they’ve always carried out a great tradition related to this. For example, the non-profit organization called ManKind Project has been working on the support and personal development of men for more than 30 years. In fact, it currently has subsidiaries almost all around the world.

Lastly, we must say that any man who wishes to make contact with these dynamics shouldn’t hesitate to do so. Actually, we really encourage them to approach any center specialized in circles of men. Sometimes, big important changes come as a consequence of making a small decision.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

-Brené Brown-