Men, This Way
Stop Playing Son To Your Father w/ John Lee (100)
Are you still wanting (even subconsciously) your father to “show up”?
Are you angry at your father, or resigned from him, and yet something still nags at you about it?
Do you have any wise elders you can consistently look up to, whom you can trust to help you navigate difficult situations?
I am incredibly excited about today’s episode because I have the privilege of speaking with John Lee, a psychotherapist and author who is a true wise elder. He is a pioneer in the men’s movement that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. John has written landmark books such as “The Flying Boy” and “At My Father’s Wedding.” For decades, he has been deeply involved in working with men, speaking at major conferences, facilitating men’s gatherings and groups, and providing therapy in his office.
What makes this conversation even more meaningful to me is that John Lee happens to be my personal therapist. I have long desired to work with an older man who embodies wisdom, as I have keenly felt the painful void of being disconnected from a wise elder figure in my life. My actual father resides in a fantasy world of spiritual fundamental narcissism, making it difficult for me to truly connect with him. While I have other older men in my life who bring laughter and financial support, their wisdom often belongs to a different era and universe. They don’t seem interested in bridging the gap to understand my own experiences and aspirations.
I have yearned for a wise older man who could genuinely listen to my life experiences and offer insights based on their own journey. When we men experience this void, it creates a profound and painful sense of disconnection from true male eldership. Although John is the closest person I have today to a consistent wise male elder, I am honored to share his wisdom and insight with you in this conversation. It promises to be a rich discussion that I believe you will both enjoy and find deeply meaningful.
(09:47) – John delves into his childhood experiences and how they influenced his outlook on personal growth. He vividly describes how he observed his grandfather’s remarkable transformation after making mistakes with his father. This observation left a profound impact on John, shaping his understanding of resilience and the importance of embracing personal development. However, it was the untimely death of his grandfather that truly deepened John’s appreciation for life’s fleeting nature. This event compelled him to cherish every moment and to approach life with a renewed sense of purpose.
(18:13) – John opens up about the mixed reception he received from his father when he expressed his aspirations of becoming an author. His father, seemingly uninterested, would only read a few pages of his work before admitting that he didn’t understand it. Moreover, his father laid down a firm condition, forbidding John from ever portraying his mother in a negative light in his writings. This restriction, coupled with the strained relationship between father and son, led to a decade-long period of silence and estrangement.
(21:13) – Here, John dives into the origins of his involvement in men’s work. He recounts an interview with a man named Robert that had a profound impact on his perspective. During the interview, Robert spoke of the “doorway into masculine behavior,” which resonated deeply with John. This newfound understanding caused a significant shift in John’s life, albeit at the cost of his relationship with a woman who labeled him as the angriest and saddest man she had ever known.
(28:47) – John takes a moment to define what is meant by “men’s work.” He asserts that the initial step in this transformative journey involves addressing the father-son wound. According to John, this wound serves as the foundation of men’s work, requiring individuals to confront and heal the often complex and challenging dynamics between fathers and sons.
(29:49) – Reflecting on a therapy session, John recounts a memory with his father that left a lasting impact on him. Despite enduring physical abuse from his father during his childhood, John reveals an unexpected lack of anger towards his father. This realization leads him to conclude that men, in general, are often in denial of their father-son relationships and the profound influence they have on their lives.
(43:18) – During a tour in Australia, John had a transformative encounter with a man who pointed out his behavior of “son-ing” his own father. This revelation struck a chord within John, prompting him to examine his actions and recognize how he had inadvertently perpetuated a dynamic where he behaved like a son in the presence of his father, despite being a 36-year-old man. This interaction challenged him to reassess and redefine his relationship with his father.
(50:20) – John reflects on the evolution of his relationships with men through his work. Over the years, his experiences and the wisdom gained have transformed him into an elder figure. Through mentoring and guiding younger men, John has developed a profound sense of gratitude for the connections he has forged and the positive impact he has had on their lives.
(58:01) – John addresses the changing issues faced by men in the present era, referring to the new generation as “soft males.” He acknowledges how these challenges differ from those he encountered in his own journey and recognizes the ongoing need for growth and adaptation in order to effectively navigate the complexities of modern masculinity.
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