A Man
Overboard

 

 

Hold On to Your N.U.T.s
An Interview with Wayne Levine


It’s the King in you that makes choices. Seated in a good way, you are able to bless your internal kingdom with harmony and peace. However, if in shadow, your king may very well be a high-chair tyrant with your inner child dictating demands from a Golden throne.

This was one of the more powerful themes in Wayne M. Levine’s book, “Hold On to Your N.U.T.s* - The Relationship Manual for Men (*your Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms.)

“In order for a man to make the best choices in his life, he must first know how he feels,” Levine began. “Men are too often disconnected and relegated to the shadow. It is important for men to understand their own shadow and gold. Robert Johnson talks about this issue; when you know how you feel, then you can figure out what you want. A man must be able to work through his shame, and find that little boy inside who is screaming.”

What about the happy boy, I asked.

“The little boy who wants to wrestle, play, or act stupid … we honor that side; we call it one of the three dimensions of men.”

Levine began his men’s work about a dozen years ago with Justin Sterling, and referenced a concept he learned from him.

“There’s a ‘Curly’ character from the Three Stooges who’s in every man. It’s important for the man to embrace that wacky, irreverent, Puckish character. The shadow little boy I’m talking about needs to be silenced. He is moody, wants women to read his mind, wants what he wants when he wants it, and was never fathered properly … he’s that little guy running the show for most men. (If the ‘Curly’ reference sounds familiar, you’ll see it mentioned in my interview with Jim Belushi. Levine crossed paths with the famous actor when they were both participants in the Sterling Men’s Division.)

What about healing the little boy?

“In order to be the man you want to be, you must act like the man you want to be, not the little boy,” he continued. “Who is it that’s really telling you how to behave? Is it the man or the boy? One of the ways to heal the little boy, is to act like a man. The more you step up like a man to honor commitments, the more that screaming little boy will be silenced, and eventually healed.”

Levine has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University in Los Angeles.

“I have training to be a therapist, but I’ve chosen not to pursue that path. I think we can get lost in psychology, lost in therapy, and lost in the problem. I see the value in spending more time in the solution than the problem.”

Levine is the founder of Mentor4Men.com, a life coaching and mentoring resource for men. He mentors men from across the country and as far away as Australia via phone (and Skype or ichat.) He helps them to be the best men, fathers, husbands and leaders they can be by helping them to integrate the BetterMen Tools (from his book) into their lives.

I smiled when I saw the book, “Hold On to Your N.U.T.s”– reading the book was equally enjoyable.

“N.U.T.s are the boundaries that define you as a man, the things you’re committed to, those things which, if repeatedly compromised, will gradually – but assuredly – turn you into a pissed-off, resentful man who will likely blame others – especially your wife – for your unhappiness.” – from the book

Levine told me he got much of his sense of humor from the great “Borscht Belt” comedians who got their start up in the Catskills Mountains.

“Men’s work does not have to be painful ALL the time, it’s painful enough making changes. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re doomed. We laugh a lot in our groups and at our weekends where we play some really stupid games. We found there is as much growth for men in games as in the heavy duty work around anger and grief.”

As director of the West Coast Men’s Center in Agoura Hills, CA, he has created the BetterMen Retreat for men. Levine said he knows many men from The ManKind Project. I asked him what his perceptions were of New Warriors.

“I have a lot of buddies who have done the weekend (NWTA). What I understand of it is that it’s mythopoetic, and it’s a journey. I believe there are elements similar to the Sterling weekend which I did many years ago. My introduction to men’s work was through an initiation. The feedback I’ve received from your weekend is positive.”

The author noted he had read the infamous article from the Austin newspaper.

“When I read that I said, ‘Hey, that kind of reporting is bound to happen when you do something as serious as carpet work--taking men back to their initial drama--and you’ve been at it for a long time. It’s potentially dangerous stuff for anybody. There will always be men who don’t have the ego strength to do this work. There’s no way to avoid the occasional negative experience. In today’s litigious society, it’s tough to do any meaningful work without being a target.”

I had to ask, “How secret is your initiation, Wayne?”

“Confidentiality is an important component to all men’s work,” he insisted. “I don’t lose sleep if men talk about the weekend with their buddies - they know it won’t do them any good if they hear about the weekend out of context. We encourage men to talk of their experience and how they think another man would benefit.”

In the early 1990’s, Sterling men’s work became so secretive that it started to back fire, Levine said.

“With the Internet, when you have disgruntled customers, everyone is going to hear about it. I believe it doesn’t serve men to try and keep a lid on the information. We are counting on the integrity of men, we’re counting on each other to be there for the changes that occur in men’s lives … integrity for all the work includes keeping the details of the weekend under our hat.”

How Jungian oriented is your work?

“It’s always been difficult for me to wrap my head around archetypes. Although I find C.J. Jung’s work fascinating and relevant, I also think it’s very heady - it doesn’t resonate with all men. I believe there are many tools and teachings to help men along the journey. I can only teach well what resonates for me. So I prefer to teach more practical tools that will allow men to make immediate changes in their lives.”

Levine said he hadn’t received enough “tools” to continue his personal work after his Sterling experience.

“If you go home and don’t know how to apply what you’ve learned, you will have frustration because you can’t make it show up in your life. I created this book to make these tools more available to all men, even if you never do a men’s weekend.”

I thought the layout of the book was excellent. There were periodic “tips” and “tools” and “WARNINGS” and BetterMan “Actions” that spiced up the reading. The book was fun – and so was my interview with Levine.

Levine’s writings are directed at developing healthy relationships, primarily heterosexual ones. And yet I think the principles apply to all relationships.

“When you learn to express your feelings without defending them, you’ll be giving her [him] what she needs, strengthening your relationship, and feeling much more like the best man you can be. Expressing your feelings will also help you avoid the anger, stress, resentment, depression – and a host of other undesirable emotional and physical outcomes – that come with stuffing them.” – from his book

The author said that in his experience, he saw that the majority of men were in pain around a relationship they’re in – or want to be in – or were in.

“I focus most of the work around what men want in their relationships. And yet, everything we talk about goes beyond that to the relationship we have with ourselves. I want men to get power back into their lives to affect that change in their relationship, but more importantly for themselves. I encourage men to focus on their own spiritual path, their higher purpose, and the legacy which goes back to the initial question – what is it that men want? The blessings for their relationships are a byproduct of that work.”

Levine became more animated in his voice as he talked of a man’s legacy.

“Deep down, men want to leave something of value behind. We invite men to ask, ‘What is my legacy?’ For many men, it’s their children. There are too many men in terrible pain because they are not being the fathers they want to be. We help them get fathered so they can father their children. We want them to go home and be the father they want to be. It’s a really big part of our work. Once the kids grow up, the men are usually ready to look at the rest of their lives.”

Another want from Levine, is to help men become service oriented.

“We’re giving men an opportunity, like you are Reid, to give back. When men find their passion, their higher purpose, they become more realized – spiritually speaking. But the trap is … and I’ve seen this in some circles of men … is what I call “spiritual bypassing” - where men go to the mountain top and commune with God but can’t get it together back here on earth. They have a great, meaningful experience with the men on the weekend, then go home and remain the idiots they had been with their wives and children, and end up kicking the dog. I’ve seen spirituality as a place where men can hide out. That’s why I focus on earth-bound work. It’s very difficult to be genuine on a spiritual path if you haven’t cleaned up your commitments in your own backyard.”

So, Wayne … don’t you think your book title is just a tad sexist – politically incorrect?

“I hope so. I think men are lost in the sea of a feminized world. That’s why I came up with the title of the book - men already know what it means to give their nuts away. They’re terrified of displeasing women, or wives, or customers, or children - they won’t stand up for themselves. And, the biggest obstacle is the men themselves. We’re experiencing several generations of men now who are completely feminized; they see the world through their mother’s eyes because their fathers were not around. I’ve seen it across the board – I’ve never met a man who didn’t need this work … even those with smiles plastered across their faces. How do you explain to a man that he’s missing something in his life he’s never had before? They’ve never had an intimate relationship with other men, never seen it, and their fathers didn’t model it. Men don’t realize how it’s killing them, by not having it. And it’s easier than you think to get it.”

Nothing in popular culture teaches a man how to trust another man, he added.

“In psyche school, they talk about underserved populations in therapy. And yet, they never discuss men, what I believe is the largest underserved population in the world of therapy! Higher education is highly feminized and politically correct, psychology even more so. And in that environment, men are getting the short end of the stick”

His father died when Levine was only 9 years old.

“I was parented by an angry, narcissistic mom who never forgave my father for dying and leaving her with three boys and pocket change. She was depressed most of her life, never remarried, and hated men. Somehow I was strong enough to survive. I found my purpose in life was always there. At the age of 39, I chucked my video/film business and went back to school.”

So what do you want? What does the king in you want? For me, the king’s greatest contribution to the psyche is to be present.

“It’s like being a ‘rock’ - but in a good way,” Levine agreed. “You’re able to listen and be there for someone else without having to fix them, or argue, or hide, or defend yourself … and being unscathed and unchanged when they’re done sharing themselves. Men need to be initiated – to be in the fire with someone else. I work to be a ‘rock” where a man’s pain can crash on me and I’ll still be here. You’ll know that I hear you. And, it’ll be safe because you won’t destroy me, scare me, or annihilate me.”

My king was inspired, and empowered after my connection with Levine.

“All roads lead to the truth when you’re motivated,” he stated. “All roads lead to authenticity if you’re ready and have the courage of a man, and the support of the men.”

Do you have a blessing for the men of MKP, and men around the world?

“I keep saying to myself, ‘care for the men.’ I do care for the men. And, like any wounded healer, I’m doing my work everyday with and through the men around me. I’m not naïve about that. If I had it all together, why would I be attracted to men’s work?"

"I was taught to trust the men, and to trust the process," he concluded. "So I encourage the men to ask themselves this question every day, ‘If I was the man I wanted to be right now, what would I do?’”

To learn more about Levine’s work, to purchase his book, or to speak with him about individual mentoring, visit www.BetterMen.org

© 2008, Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.

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