Getting Peer Counselling Started With Men
Created By: Web Server on 04/14/1997 at 04:20 AM
Category: Emotional Discharge

Working through your issues to reclaim your "occluded intelligence", leaning how to "discharge"
your painful emotions and tensions with other men and getting a bigger life can be easier than
you suspect. You can make a start by trying out the following approach.

At the start, the work begins with reclaiming the "emotional discharge" process with other
men. It's is about making it safe to talk about yourself and your life and then listen to others
talk about themselves and their lives. We are used to talking and listening but to be able to
work through emotions to the point of discharging them with men, takes more care than
we usually give.

You don't need to discharge emotions if your a male to have a good life. You do need to
figure out the right thing to do and do it. This is a great deal easier when you have access
to the inherent process we are born with that allows painful emotions to be felt and
discharged to the point of ease and re-evaluation.

A man needs time and attention to be able to discover the full range of his emotions on his
own terms. Most men are not used to being listened to carefully. It's a discovery process for
quite a while. Just getting used to the "idea" of safety takes time. Being able to "use" safety
to discharge emotions can seem even more unusual.

It's a more aware, useful kind of listening that's needed with men. It is not only the words
that he is saying that you listen to but everything about how he is with you as you listen.
You will need to listen as completely as you can and not interrupt or give advice. How well
you can think about him and understand what he is showing you about himself is
important and can change his life.


It only takes a friend (work mate or men's group) who's interested to make a start. Decide
how long you have together and that you will take a turn, of equal time each to talk. Then
choose who is going to talk first. The listener or group just pays attention and doesn't
interrupt to give advice, comment or give other thoughts or feelings.

When each man's time is up the man who has not yet been listened to has a turn as he wishes.
There is no obligation to do this in a particular way or at a particular depth. It is just a fair
swap of time. You usually notice that life is easier after doing this. The tension is at least a
little lighter. It can be the most interesting or fun thing that you do all day. Anytime that
work does not need to be done, is a good time to talk like this. With time spent like this,
your friendship deepens and you become more able to both talk and listen. Between
friends or peers, men's emotional work is a form of "peer counselling" where you get to
train each other in what works best for each of you.

With peer counselling the way that you have "turns" or "sessions" can be exactly as
you need them to be. The time you take or the way you talk, is really up to you. A few
minutes can help you think clearer. Swapping an hour with a friend can make quite a
difference. You will find that different friends are good at listening and helping you work
through different things in different ways.

Talking and Feelings

Men do not necessarily "feel safe" when they talk. Mostly men can tell they are safe
and have learned to used safety to diascharge their emotions many years before they have worked
through enough to be able to "feel" safe. Fortunately being able to tell that you are safe one
way or another is enough. We need not be too concerned about how unsafe a man may
feel. Occasional warm encouragement may help him continue.

As time spent talking and listening starts to build safety, men often find that more feelings
become available. Laughing, yawning or trembling or crying can happen more easily.
This is a sign that the man is able to use safety to heal these feelings and is a good thing.
It's better to just welcome this than make comment on it. It is an inherent way of healing
tension to let this happen. Any very young child is a model of this release process when
they are upset. As men we can discover the "adult" version of this emotional release process.
We can reclaim our choice to talk fully and work through difficulties as men without
needing to find a pretext for our feelings. A man who has reclaimed this ability does not
need to adopt the posture of a victim to heal his emotions. Men get to work through
embarrassment by laughing, fears with trembling or grief with tears for example. This
"discharge" of emotions is a way of becoming unembarrassed," "unscarred," or "unsad."
Emotions are spontaneous. They are best allowed and not sought after or pushed for.
As safety and experience builds so does the range, strength and depth of feelings that you
can talk.

As you get more familiar with working with emotions you can be relaxed with men's
emotions and just feel pleased with yourself as a listener when it happens. There is no
need to stop or change anything as men's "turn's" become more emotional. If men try and
stop themselves from allowing this kind of emotional release you can reassure them that
it's a good thing that is happening and to keep letting it happen.


Peer counselling work is simply the allowing and developing of this release process. By
exchanging turns talking and listening with your friends you can become very effective
at allowing changes and discharging past tensions.

If you're reading this with a friend or group now is a good time to swap some minutes each
at listening and talking. What have you found with these exchanges? What has been
enjoyable. If you want to continue with this process, the rest of this article gives you a
way to develop it.


Talking personaly with a listener who stays with you and does not interrupt the process is
called a "session." Sessions work best for men when the man is in complete charge of his
time. As we gain confidence in talking and listening there are many approaches that can
be used to expand how we can assist each other.

"Making Good Contact"

Sometimes men can get very deeply isolated and not even notice it. At the start of any
group or session the warm contact that we give each other can let men begin to take in
safety. Sometimes just the ease that you make eye contact and show you like your friend
with a smile can make the difference between really getting to talk feelings and just
thinking out aloud "on your own". With the heaviest issues just simple warm eye contact,
a solid shoulder to lean on, or a tone of voice that's gentle or at ease can be all that's needed
to show its safe to let emotions "discharge."

"News and Goods"

A positive tone can be set by starting a session with things that have gone well recently.
It can be anything in your life at all. A smile that a friend gave. A little child's glee in
climbing on you. A piece of work that was finished well. It's a chance to notice the good
things in life. An occasional session spent remembering everything that's going well can
have a guy bouncing through the rest of his day.

Recent Irritations

It helps men leave our isolation to talk about little irritations as they happen or soon afterwards.
A session is a good time to do this. You can get to come out of yourself by mentioning
what's happened or repeating it as much as you like. Many things in a man's life can get to
be made easier by this simple start to talking. It's just right for men to have this place to
mention anything irritating. Saying if something was not right starts to ease the tension.
There is mostly no need to look for solutions or advice. The tension can be eased enough
by good listening that the man can find his own solutions.

Tensions from the Past

It's well worth the time for a man to talk about everything connected to an issue. If you have
been talking about a tension for sometime in a session, you can ask yourself "Is this tension
like anything that's happened that I can remember?" Your counsellor can also ask "is this like
anything that has happened before?" Most of the time a memory of something similar will
come to mind. It will be obvious what the connection is and that the earlier unresolved
feeling is bringing extra confusion and tension than just what the current situation has
caused. When the earlier story is told some of the old feelings can get a chance to discharge.
This can give you new ideas, more open views and new approaches to the current situation.

Men's Stories

Men mostly have never talked about their life to anyone. If there is not a more important
topic, telling the story of your life is well worth trying. Every man needs many opportunities
to tell his full life story. The way you tell the story of your life is going to change each time you
tell it. Some things will no longer seem important, others will stand out as areas to return to
many times in sessions to let the tensions be thoroughly worked through. You need not be
concerned as a client about boring or entertaining you counsellor or men's group. Your time
is for you and getting a chance to go over and over an area of your life with very good
attention being paid to you can give you a completely fresh approach. The way that you
think can be changed or "liberated" from old habits or confusions.

Some of the old tensions coming from past events, can get worked through with each
telling of the story. Telling the good stories can allow the old tensions to discharge as effectively
as the tough times. When a good listener is paying attention, you may get to laugh, cry (etc. while
talking about events that you thought that you had already worked through.

Appreciating Yourself

When males have been injured in some way, we also have often been abused for the effect
of that injury. Then the effect of that abuse brings more attacks and so on. When males do
their best there is often blame or criticism. We get told that males are bad, violent, or unfeeling etc.
As a result most men don't know what it is like to feel good about themselves. Often the only
time some men get to feel better about themselves is if they were able to make someone else feel
worse. If a man likes himself, he is treated as if he were opinionated" or "better than others".
This isn't true. Men need to feel good about themselves. When we do know we are good,
we treat other people better, not worse.

In a session when it's your turn to talk, tell your counsellor what you like about yourself. Tell this
to him in a tone of voice that sounds like you are proud of yourself (not "superior," just
proud). Tell your counsellor this over and over. So often men have been raised to show nothing.
Appreciating yourself can be a way of reclaiming parts of yourself you may have forgotten about.
You may find it difficult, but stick with it. Don't stop yourself from laughing or crying or any
other type of discharge. Try to appreciate everything about yourself (EVERYTHING). When
you notice which things feel harder to appreciate (for example, your worth or how good you
are), focus on appreciating those things. You will probably remember incidents from your life
of being criticized, blamed, or mistreated. These incidents will be good to look at and talk about
as many times as you like in other sessions when it's your turn to talk.

Dreams, Fantasies and Longings

Our minds come with a powerful ability to bring up dreams, fantasies and longings. From our dreams
can come the passion to have a life that frees us from our deepest constraints. Any kind of dream, fantasy,
or longing is fine. Often men spend a large amount of their time fantasizing about sex. It may take lots of
hours to be able to easily talk these with others. There can be great embarrassment about the more
personal ones.

If it is safe enough these can be very funny. Make sure though that the man talking is the one who is
laughing the loudest. Everyone else will need to take care not to laugh at the man talking and always
stay laughing less than him.

There is no right or wrong with fantasizes. That is one of their great strengths. Fantasies are our minds
way of bringing up feelings that are too heavy to feel any other way. They have no connection
with anything except their ability to bring emotions. Fantasies are best used for discharge and not
acted out. These are perfect topics to talk about when you are the client in a session. The
deepest hurts become available to be healed in the easiest manner through a dream, fantasy
or longing in that area. Repeating the part of the fantasy that had the client laughing or going
through emotions can allow the tension to drain off. As the tension drains out of fantasies
long lost ways of being and relating can become available.

If this process of allowing emotions to discharge from fantasies is repeated at great length, deep
long occluded memories become easy to remember and able to be worked through in a safe way.
The draining of tension from dreams, fantasies or longings lets the goals that direct one's life become
clearer. You need to have your dreams to be able to set your goals. Some men need lots of encouragement
to dare to have wild dreams. Some men need encouragement to have dreams at all. We have all had
big wild dreams as a child. We need them clarified as adults to give us the best direction for a full life.


Most men get to have some goals. Often to do with work. It helps your life go better to re-assess the
goals you have already set. Also thinking of all the different parts of your life and finding goals for
each, can help you move towards a bigger life. Taking time when you are client in a session is a good
way to do this.

Imagine how you would like all the parts of your life at periods into the future. What do you want
it to be like tomorrow, next month, this year, in the next five years, in the next twenty years, in your
lifetime. When you bring all these goals to mind in a session the steps that will need to be taken can
be developed.

Making the time to go over these goals and work through the tensions connected to them can bring
you closer to having the life that you want.

Allowing Discharge to Continue

The emotional discharge process has been suppressed in men beginning soon after birth. The
discovery period, rediscovering the discharge process can be as long as you need, to figure out what
your emotions are about. As you talk in sessions there will be times when you laugh, yawn, talk in
an interested way, cry or have another form of emotional discharge. Good, keep going. As this gets
more familiar it happens more easily. This is a good thing and not to be fussed about or inhibited.
You will notice as client that repeating what you just did that let you discharge will often let the
discharge happen again. You can repeat this as often as you like to drain off the tension. An inherent
and spontaneous benefit occurs after these discharges. Tensions are resolved and new ways of thinking
and acting become available.

Ending a Session

When you end a session it helps to spend a few minutes distracting your client to different things
in the present environment, things that you are planning on doing soon or to any other
easy topic without much tension. This helps to defocus his attention to the task of living a full
life or to the task of being a counsellor for you.

An agreement not to bring up with anyone what was talked about in the session needs to get
discussed and agreed to so that it is safe to talk openly. Any drugs that alter a man's moods like alcohol,
cigarettes stop the benefit of the emotional discharge leading to a resolution of tension. At least for
the time before and after the session it worth avoiding these substances.


Taking turns to talk in groups works very well. The extra focus and attention of the
other men adds strength to the experience. You simply divide up the time for each man
to talk while the rest listen. They are often called "support groups".

A man can lead the group to help the group divide up the time, set-up the order of talking with a
friendly tone to begin on. At the end of the group all the men can say what they liked about the
group or what good thing they are looking forward to in their life.

Any group of people not doing anything can be a good time to ask each person about their life.
Support groups can meet to work together to talk and work through issues on any topic. It can
help to get people with something in common to meet to talk. Examples are fathers, single men,
men at the same level at work, friends, common interest topics. It helps to make it safer and also
lets you find out about the common pressures on men to meet in groups with something in common.

The easiest way to bring a friend into emotional work is to bring them along to an open group.
As groups get new men they need to divide and teach the skills of getting the group to work
together. The size can vary but a good number for this work is about eight. Three is enough
to start a group. It helps to pick who will lead the group before it meets.

Common interest or background support groups are a good place to try a particular kind of
approach. Taking pride in the group or commonality, culture, religion, background, job or
any other thing men have in common as an example. Also what is hard about being in that group.
Special topics like fantasy, goals, dad stories, work life, or any other men's issues can get work
through in a support group.


When you have tried this form of listening and being listened to and you'd like to get better connected
to others doing and developing this, get in touch with the Sydney Men's Network office, look
at the end of this booklet for the address and phone number, and ask if there are any men's
groups doing this form of work near you.

If you are definitely interested in learning this approach and involving other men in building
a group to do this work in, it may be possible to organize a class or workshop for your group
or bring you to one of our workshops.

Men who have figured out how to let themselves and others heal in this way find that it gets
easier to have a full life, know where they are going with their life, have intimacy, respect
and warmth in their relationships, have more friends, peace of mind, stick up for what is
right and have a lot more fun. Men doing this work become more openly themselves as they
continue and find peer counselling work with men easier and more powerful. They teach both
women and men and in some places run classes, workshops and gatherings to learn from each

Over the years we have developed a set of "Network Guidelines," which spell out the ground
rules we have found necessary to keep the network both friendly and well organised.

Sydney Men's Network
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Updated 22/7/2002