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Martin Brossman is connected, and he connects people. He's also a friend of mine I met through the ManKind Project. He's loaded with talent, he's an ADD Dyslexic, [See his poetry April 2003 issue] and he's introduced me to a number of men in the mytho-poetic movement.
He also leads men's (and women's) interactive gatherings, including a discussion group on the Wild At Heart book.
Brossman said his creation, The Men's Inquiry Work, has been a labor of love with "a lot of time, effort, work, sweat and frustration." His greatest skill is not necessarily in knowing all the answers, but in asking the right questions.
"These questions are designed to get us in touch with our weaknesses and strengths," he said. "This men's forum helps people connect with members of their own sex. There's a fellowship now that first started with men. The gold isn't in the answer, the gold is in authentically exploring the questions together. The gold is in the design of a question that gets us to look deep inside and helps us get to create a kind of collective wisdom."
Here's what one man had to say for Brossman's discussion group:
"I recently joined this e group and I was interested in getting into the discussion about men as success objects. I am glad someone is thinking about this, because if we are ever going to change, this is the goal. I would like to get in on the discussion."
Because men tend to isolate themselves, it can be a bit of a stretch for a man to reach out toward another man, he added. Brossman said that a man can believe he is good, but "never collect enough evidence to prove it empirically." Discussion groups offer that opportunity.
One of the recent topics addressed has been what a "best male friendship" actually means. Here's a response from one man: "Obviously, I have no clue. Seriously though, we are almost completely out of control. The answer is commitment. Like any relationship, I am your best friend because I am committed to that end."
The value of these questions is that there is a "presumption," Brossman said. "For example, how does commitment give us freedom? Most people have an assumption that there's no connection between freedom and commitment. The process sounds Socratic. And it is."
How do you like this question of the month: What makes a man an extraordinary lover in the many contexts of his life?
One man responded: "The question 'what makes a man an extraordinary lover?' is a great set-up for lots of bad sexual humor. For example: 'Practice, practice, practice, whenever possible!' To develop an answer means generalizing beyond the explicit (and practical) sexual humor. Love is an art, and any job well done is an art form. If you love your work, you probably go the extra mile to do it well."
Brossman is an eclectic man, having been trained in many personal development disciplines including The Landmark Training which encourages people to delve into the deeper questions of life. "Most of what we need in life is not the great answers, but the great questions that bring us to life." he added. "I call it an inquiry."
The meetings are free. Open to the general public. Men can come in anytime with no commitment. Some connections are in person and some are in computer chat rooms. It's Brossman's "give away." The idea of offering this kind of support came from the facilitator's connection to "Sterling Work" and as a compliment to The ManKind Project.
"The anatomy of a Men's Inquiry meeting starts at 7:30 pm sharp and ends at an agreed upon time. At the beginning, I ask the men what they need to personally share to be fully present for our conversation. They say whatever they need to say. I never force it. Any man can pass. Then, at 8 o'clock, I introduce the question. For example, 'What type of son were you to your father?' Many of the questions elicit a perspective the men have never considered. I take the question and throw it out into the group like a ball and say, 'here, the game begins.' And then, I'm quiet. "I ask the men to share authentically from their own experiences, not someone else's ideas. Someone asked me 'how do you get men to be so honest about their lives?' and I told them I start each meeting by sharing something about myself that puts me 'at risk' in front of the men to encourage them to be courageous in their contributions. I then allow the question to evolve throughout the evening. If it moves to another topic, I let it happen."
Last month the question was 'How can grieving take us to joy?' The question evolved when a man said he didn't understand joy. So, we looked it up in the dictionary. I'm using a question as a vehicle like a meditation, or a mantra that fits everyone in the room, or a great poem that may speak to many people. 'How does grief take us to joy' got us into a discussion about how sharing our deepest pain sometimes brings up unexpected fear. This is how we become stronger, by moving through pain."
There is a kind of non-verbal connection that is made with the men, Brossman noted. "My goal for the session is that we're left with the taste of the food of fellowship. We can carry it out with us. When we truly connect and look at our lives authentically, we each get fed something at a level that goes beyond the meeting. Some men say they normally wouldn't feel this connected to another human being unless they're having sex with them - but there's no sexuality here. In some ways it makes for a richer experience."
Brossman's rich experience with life comes, in part, through his childhood heroes, including Martin Luther King. He knew about the man, first hand, having been reared in downtown Washington, D.C.
"For 4 years I thought I was a young black kid," he quipped. "Once I was almost lynched; I was standing in the middle of the street as the only Caucasian. Someone yelled out, 'let's kill that honky.' My peers were other black young kids. In that scary moment, they gathered around me and screamed 'run!' Then it dawned on me that I was in danger. I think I grew up as a racist against white people. Look at the population of DC in the 60s and 70s. Schools were predominantly African-American. My father worked at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Mother worked at The U.S. State Department. My mother was always an activist, a feminist. I knew of Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinham as someone he admired at an early age. Honestly, when I saw Steinham speak recently, I was deeply saddened she had not evolved in 20 years. She played off the sole problem on the planet as men.
When Brossman isn't busy stirring the pot, he teaches a certification program in coaching. His approach is that the customer's agenda should be first.
"The art of coaching is NOT the art of 'shoulding,'" he said. "The art of coaching is the art of inspiring. A coach designs the environment where the customer can get support. So, the environment ends up replacing the coach. Otherwise, you're creating some form of bizarre co-dependency. With the right coach, when you walk away, you're most impressed with yourself, not the coach."
Spending time with Brossman is like getting a jolt of adrenaline. He's a man who walks his talk. And he talks fast, so you'd better keep up. "There's no hiding out and being a great coach," he declared. "A good coach is always working on himself, always looking out for his own shadow. [Jung's word]. Robert Bly asks what can we do so our projections won't have such a negative effect on our loved ones."
One of Brossman's best questions is 'Why am I here?'
"What is my purpose," he asks. "What's going on? I was identified as dyslexic and put in a retarded class to be tutored. As a fourth grader, that tutoring meant that something was really wrong with little Marty. I built an identity around being confused and lost. I was always looking for solutions."
In 1995, Brossman went through an agonizing divorce. "It was a difficult time. I'd done personal development work and I still had many unresolved issues around men. As a feminist, I'd killed off all the male heroes in my life. Most men in power and leadership are jerks, and I didn't have that spiritual food for me to step into the next level of maturity. At my core I felt like a little boy in a man's body. What I saw as 'values for men' was sports and beer. Now, I like beer on a limited basis, but I don't like the state I get in when I have too many."
Then in 2001, Brossman took the New Warrior Training Adventure offered by The ManKind Project. It was another turning point in his life.
"It's a great program," he said. "I love what it brings into my life."
Brossman said he has a wonderful woman in his life and is developing an Inquiry Group for women. A man's deepest fear, however, is not women. It's men. "One of our greatest fears is connecting to men we value," he added. "We all have a fear of genuinely being exposed to men we value. When we face that fear it gives us a deep connection to ourselves that allows us to be more powerful in all aspects of our lives. It is safer for some men to post an email and share a contribution rather than meet in person."
Online men's work? Brossman says "yes." "Imagine what it would be like to have a team of men in your life who really support you being a man, being who you dreamed of being, supporting you in being the most powerful father, partner, and lover that you truly want to be. That's what men's work can offer. And as the catalyst, let's get together and explore the questions. I let men participate at whatever level they're ready for."
Because Brossman is dyslexic, producing written material can be an arduous task. For him, communication is about getting to "the essence."
"I think my disability makes me a great coach because I help people get the essence of why they're here," he explained. "My talent came out of my wound of little Marty not knowing why he was here. Now I'm helping the average person ask the deep questions like 'who am I?' My wound is now my greatest gift. Isn't that a great paradox?"
Brossman is full of energy and passion. You can hear it in his voice. "For a lot of our culture, we're afraid of real passion," he said. "I do work to adjust my intensity to some degree, but my commitment is to speak in a way that others can hear me. Also, I'm not willing to shut myself down. As I've developed the courage to be straight up with men, I find men who are willing to be straight with me. It's not coming from that "let's make everyone get along crap".
Brossman said he believes his discussion groups draw out the real man, blemishes and all. "I developed an on-line Wild At Heart group and gave it away. We started with a few men and went to over 80 men. I have no question I made a difference. It tastes like real satisfaction. This is the honey. It's the honey of life."
The Wild at Heart on-line group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wild-at-heart/
Martin's Professional Coaching Business: http://www.coachingsupport.com
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