Men beyond 50

Experience The Experience

I did my MKP weekend in September 2000. I was nearly 50 years old and about to become Chief Executive of a not insignificant charity. So I knew a bit about leadership, and I knew myself reasonably well after a lot of personal work and therapy. For all that my personal life could have been better: lurching from woman to woman,  not in touch with my children in the way I wanted to be. I was still looking for something, and I readily accepted the invitation / opportunity / challenge to attend what was then called the New Warrior Training Adventure.

I'm not going to spell out what happened because I know that a key reason why the weekend was so significant for me was because I didn't know what to expect. That meant I was thrown into the experience in a way that, for instance, therapy can't do; therapy is talking about an experience, maybe even feeling the experience a bit, but it's not "experiencing the experience" as it happens in a safe place where you can learn from what's going on in the moment.

At an MKP weekend you do indeed experience the experience, and it therefore has huge potential for really making a difference, as it did for me, because I faced up to stuff in a way I could avoid in other situations such as a training programme. I also couldn't drink myself to sleep each evening, or lose myself in the television, or find a woman to flirt with or shag.

I felt lighter after the weekend; I did some growing up. One description of the Adventure (as it's now called) is that it is an initiation, and that's an image that works for me because, although I was chronologically and physiologically a man, I had never stepped into manhood. I was a soft male (not least because of the particular effect feminism and some strong women had had on me) and MKP gave me the opportunity to grasp my maleness and be proud of who I was as a man.

The Adventure can shift a lot of stuff, but it isn't a complete fix and some men who does the Adventure fall by the wayside even though MKP offers the opportunity to continue the journey with other men who have experienced the experience.

There is a follow-up training that offers invaluable tools for being an authentic man; there is further training to learn how to staff an Adventure, training in leadership, and other opportunities to explore our shadows that can sneak up and disarm us. One of mine was a tendency to be really angry at minor matters (I'm an only child and I expect things to be done my way!) and I'd often be getting cross with people who were in the way (ticket clerks or call centre people who were just doing their jobs) or in ways that could put me at some risk (road rage or smart remarks to bigger men in pubs).

I've learnt not to do that now, though control remains an issue, and letting things be that need to be is something I've had to learn, with help from my current mission statement: "By letting go of attachment and control I embrace acceptance and authenticity with compassion."

That still needs work, and another opportunity MKP offers is to be part of a group of men who meet maybe once a week (or a fortnight or a month) to support each other. It's another place where, instead of just talking about stuff (though that can be valuable in a group that listens and responds appropriately) it's possible to experience the experience and really engage with whatever's going on. So if a man has an issue with his boss, or his wife or his child then we can get that person in the room (in the form of another member of the group role-playing); then we can help the man have a direct experience with real feelings that can support him when he really deals with the boss, wife or child.

Key to that is something we learn about separating data (what actually happened? get the facts right), judgements (what's your judgement about what actually happened, not about what you think happened?) and feelings. So to go back to my earlier example about getting angry I know that for me it's all too easy to get cross because things aren't going my way, make a judgement from a place a feeling angry (bloody ticket clerk should know better) without getting anywhere near what actually happened (Sir, there is not a train from A to B even if that's what you want). Turn that round and I have learnt about how to respond from a place of data rather than react from a place of feelings. And that in turn helps me be much more authentic.

So I've received a lot from my MKP experience. Is it perfect? No. Am I a fully authentic, balanced, whole man? No! But I have made a lot of progress and I now have tools and my group to support me in a way that wasn't the case before. I have stepped into my manhood.

Oh, and I'm now in a stable married relationship now that works for me with a woman who has female power complementing my powerful man, just as I complement her. I have a better relationship with my children and, while I don't see enough of them, good relationships with my five (!) grandchildren.

John Quill