Act Like a Man

12/02/2011 11:06 am ET | Updated Feb 01, 2012

Every man has feelings and, at some point in his life, has experienced love and hatred, contentment and anger, happiness and sadness, confidence and fear, and other emotions. While these emotions are natural and normal, problems arise when a man can't identify what he's feeling and, consequently, can't control his reactions or behavior. An out-of-control guy lives at the mercy of his feelings, making his relationships a constant struggle. A man who can't feel his own pain isn't going to feel anyone else's either.

An emotionally out-of-control man is a ticking time bomb, ready to explode on the next person who pisses him off, for reasons real or imagined. He's a slave to his feelings, but a slave is a victim, and I don't know any man who chooses to be a victim. On some level, every man wants be his own hero, a man he can feel proud of -- a man in control of his life.

A pivotal reason that men struggle with emotional control is that so many are loners with little or no connection or authentic friendship with other men. It's emotional suicide for a man to think he can function well in a vacuum, and it's either fear or arrogance that perpetuates his dead-end behavior.

Remember when you were a boy and had best friends? Remember how empowered you felt not having to go it alone and having your best friends in your corner? Remember how disdainful you were about other boys who were loners and social pariahs? It's no different now that you're a man. If you're the grown-up pariah you ridiculed as a boy, what's your excuse for remaining one?

My goal is to show guys the benefits of working with other men in an unfacilitated group where they can effectively learn how to become aware and in control of their emotions. This work offers an antidote for their pain, and can end much of their suffering. I have rarely met a man who didn't wish he had genuine male friends, and there is no safer venue for friendship than a men's group.

There's absolutely nothing wimpy about asking other men for support. It takes extraordinary strength and integrity to trust and be trustworthy, and there's invaluable information and hope to be gained in listening to other men who've lived through your experience and have come out the other side.

I got together with a group of men 20 years ago, and there's nothing more reassuring than knowing there are seven other guys I can trust and depend on for unconditional support. Ten years ago my 29-year-old son died suddenly. I was beyond devastated and could barely function. I made one phone call and the members of my group began showing up. Some stayed and slept on the couch for days. Others brought food, called me frequently, and came for dinner every few days just to make certain I was okay. My group was a safe place to share my grief and heal a horrific wound.

Thankfully, few men will ever require that level of support; but life is full of challenges a man can share and work through with other guys -- parents, friends, and siblings die; hearts get broken; jobs get lost; sexual issues develop; divorces devastate. And who can you absolutely trust to be there for you?

I've worked with high school graduates; postgraduate degree holders; and young, old, rich, and poor men from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. The common denominator was their courage to come clean about their dysfunctional behavior and their willingness to work together to become better men.

And coming clean doesn't involve pointing the finger of guilt at women and complaining about how they treat men. If women have issues, those issues are theirs to work on. To come clean, men must be willing to take responsibility for their own behavior. And taking responsibility is empowering.

I urge men to let go of the notions that going it alone is manly and that men can't or shouldn't fully trust each other. Being a part of a group of men who are devoted to your well-being is genuine empowerment -- and it's absolutely free. So why would any man choose to slog his way through life alone?

My new book, Act Like a Man, chronicles the journey of my group of eight men over two decades. I promise every man that he'll identify with one or more of these guys and every woman that her husband or boyfriend shares many of the same issues. And they can work through them just like the guys in my book did. It's available on Amazon in print or Kindle version and is proof that, really, men can change.