A Man
Overboard

 

 

 

February interview with Jim Mitchell


Before I started, I couldn’t believe I would actually listen to a dozen hours of Jim Mitchell. Now, I don’t know how I’ve gone so many years without it.

The 7-CD collection I listened to is not only a study in the tools and technologies for I-Group facilitation (training to sit in a circle of men), but it is the most comprehensive overview of our work in MKP (The ManKind Project) that I’ve ever heard.

While serving as MKPI Integration Groups Chairman, Mitchell utilized his background in leadership, workshop creation, education and training to develop and guide the creation of a new Primary Integration Training (PIT) protocol. It replaces the current 8-week integration manual and provides I-Group attendees with a more consistent experience after their NWTA (New Warrior Training Adventure).

The audio tapes will soon be available for purchase.

“We don’t have stuff like this in MKP … a follow-on piece,” Mitchell continued. “When a man goes through our trainings, it’s so experientially oriented that a man just goes through and that’s it. With the IGLT (Integration Group Leader Training) we wanted people to be able to come back to these lessons again and again.”

I like Mitchell because he’s one of the more animated talkers I know. I get a kick out of dynamic personalities, and he’s one. I imagine indigenous men communicated the way he does, with an authentic enchantment quality, around their fires after a day’s hunting trip. He instructs I-Group leaders how important the ability to “enchant” is for running a process, particularly during a visualization. Mitchell is a master at it.

“I do it from my DNA,” he said. “We use a lot of enchantment and storytelling all over the Project and it serves us to become better at it. It’s an important tool of ours. My underlying intention is to put men into relationship with themselves and each other.”

I staffed with Mitchell about a year ago and he had a specific message for the men on the leader track. He said that true leaders, effective leaders, checked the pulse of the container. He spoke of “Warrior Listening” – a skill that allowed leaders to truly pay attention to what’s happening.

“To be sure he or she is creating the impact they desire, a leader or facilitator has to be constantly reading the room to see what that impact is. It’s my own subjective take as I watch faces, eyes, body language, and comments for whatever is happening: interest, boredom, or inspiration. Or what’s in shadow … what’s not being said. Too many times leaders and facilitators are completely unaware of how they are ‘landing’ with the groups they lead or facilitate. So then they get an outcome or result they didn’t want, or see coming, and they are completely surprised by it.”

Mitchell referred to what we do in MKP as transformational work.

“As leaders and facilitators we want to be sure of the transformational hit, in other words, ‘what’s happening for the participants?’ Whatever the process, I have to constantly be reading the man, the group, the room, and asking ‘what’s the impact I’m creating here?’ ‘What’s going on here at the surface level and underneath that?’ So, as a leader/facilitator I can then make adjustments. I can give attention to what is percolating … maybe there’s an energy present that doesn’t serve the group and that needs to be addressed. If I’m constantly aware of impact, I can then stop and pay attention to what’s going on inside – what’s in shadow.”

Throughout the NWTA I remember Mitchell frequently reminding men to breathe.

“Breathing is crucial. Deep diaphragmatic breathing helps men to get and stay centered in their bodies and keeps their human brain on line, which is about connection and compassion rather than their lizard brain which is more about flight or flight. It also helps me to slow down and become more aware in that moment of what’s going on around me, and them as well, as what’s going on inside of me and them.”

The PIT protocols have a new lexicon, created by Mitchell, to give us a way to talk about our mysterious processes and how we do what we do with them.

“I wanted us to be able to talk about exactly how transformation processes work so we can pass our craft on to the next man in a good way. Right now we pass our collective wisdom on by saying ‘watch me’ or ‘do it like I do it’ or something similar. We enroll men’s bodies in learning our work. I wanted a way to enroll their brains as well.”

The language includes words like “lead in/lead out” of any given process. Or, the “under/over”aspects of a particular protocol. I’m especially fond of his expression “woojee woojee.”

“I teach tools,” he instructed. “Too often in this work and all transformation work, it gets too woojee woojee ... too mystical, new agey, if you will. And then we get these beliefs going that only certain men can access those mystical and magical transformational powers … kind of a ‘some of us have it, some of us don’t.”

Mitchell said he is sharing his new library of words and ideas to help facilitate a discussion and awareness of the many levels of transformational realities that we play with in this work - levels that are not usually defined or discussed.

“It’s like an iceberg with any of our other transformation processes - what’s happening above the water is more obvious. But there is a huge wealth of stuff happening underneath, inside the man, in his heart, his soul, his energy, his emotions. We tend not to pay attention to it, or acknowledge it, so the process ends up one tenth as big as it could be. The man gets a hit but we could have given him a much greater transformational hit if we had paid attention differently. Effective leaders and facilitations pay attention to what is ‘over’ or overt in the process and what’s ‘under’ or underneath the surface, underneath the obvious.”

Our NWTA is obviously focused on the Warrior archetype. How does the new IGLT help a man become grounded in the other core archetypal energies?

“Primary Integration Training Leaders (PIT Leaders) have to be balanced men. They can’t be just Warriors or Magicians. They have to know all four archetypal energies. They have to be ‘fluent’ in each archetype. In other words, even if they are mostly Warrior or Lover all the time, as a PIT or NWTA leader, a man needs to know how to fluently ‘speak’ the other archetypes with his body and his energy. And he needs to be’fluid.’ He needs to be able to easily move in and out of any of the archetypes based on what the situation or process requires in the moment. If there’s not enough sovereign energy, then who will make the decisions? Who will look after long term care and concerns of my kingdom? Who will hold the vision? Who will task the Warrior to do what’s necessary to ensure that the kingdom endures and thrives? So all are necessary and we must be fluent and fluid around all of them.”

Mitchell said he was not out to change the NTWA. He’s more interested in getting PIT facilitators trained to pass on this balance to the Next Man in I-Groups.

“We put on a weekend and give men a powerful peak experience and we will touch on certain things in their lives that will then leave them completely out of balance. I-Group is where they learn to re-balance themselves in a healthier way.”

When Mitchell took over as I-Group chair three years ago he said there was a huge side of men that had men “under-addressed.”

“The I-Group process then was not about giving a man some tools that would help him lead his life in a more centered, grounded, and passionate way. We put him through a bunch of processes, taught him our rituals, and left him to figure out the rest. Men today are coming to us looking for real tools to help them in their challenging lives as men.”

Your humble correspondent has just stepped up as I-Group chair for the Greater Carolinas Community. So, this stuff has an impact on me.

I was listening to a conference call recently where I-Group representatives were talking about their struggling circles. I asked the question, “How many of you have taken John Miller’s Guts Facilitation Workshop?” Guess how many. None. What says Mitchell about the importance of men having facilitation skills to keep an I-Group going?

“The art and craft of psychodrama is not easy,” he stated emphatically. “Guts facilitation is not easy. It’s hard to teach that to men in an 8-week process. Dealing with transformational realities requires a skill set. Guts work happens in a transformational space and that space demands our attention. Again, knowing how to read a man is important. We’ve left the task of developing these skills to the individual and the local centers. As an organization we’ve never owned that part of our responsibility to teach these skills to men. I for one am all for a consistent Project-based and Project-approved GUTs workshop available worldwide.”

How far have we evolved from the Us vs.Them mentality?

“The organization is me,” Mitchell roared. “We knew we had to help men dig deep into that nasty old funky stuff in us if we were going to change lives. Now we have to have a regular place to practice the shadow work of looking for more of that stuff. We’ve not done a good job of helping men recognize it’s not about bowing down to the wound and hugging it again and again. The only reason to address a shadow piece is to experience those trapped feelings, get to the underneath belief system or myth, and then ask how to reframe it - and leave it behind. We are much too eager most days to continue to bless men year after year for being trapped in their shame and sadness. We end up encouraging them to go there again and again.”

“I’ll say to a man, ‘You’ve been in this group for 2 years complaining about that situation with your wife or whatever. When are you going to do something different?’ Those are the same questions I have to rigorously ask myself to continue to grow and learn. We teach men to get all mad and huffy if someone won’t come on time to a meeting, but we’ll sit there for years and let him wallow in this bullshit, worshipping his wound, without saying a word. When are we going to help him use Warrior and King energy to find a way to reframe that stuff that debilitates him so it won’t drag him down again and again? Then he can move forward in his life. When I see a man going into wound worshipping too readily, I jump on him right then and there sometimes. ‘Stop that! There you go with that ‘I’m not worthy stuff again.’ ‘How much longer are you going to bring that old tired bone up in here?’ Can you imagine the men hearing this big wild black guy saying ‘Stop it and find a way to do healing around it, and move through it?!”

Dear reader, you really must hear Mitchell in person … or from his CD’s. This stuff is exhilarating. Enchanting.

So Jim, with my past healed and my mission in focus, can I truly create the world I want?

“Bullshit.”

See what I mean?

“We don’t do a good job of understanding our missions. I say that knowing it might be my bullshit, but it’s bullshit. It takes a lot of hard work to heal my past, let alone keep my mission in focus. Healing my past so I can be in mission is hard fucking work. What does healing the past really look like? How can we heal the past if we continue to condone wound-worshipping in our I-Groups? Or constant clearing processes that go on for hours - which is just some wound or shadow acting out again? Or, if we won’t challenge a man about his projections, he never gets it is about him and his past. Healing the past is finally getting that I don’t have to ‘project’ all the hurt of my past into my current life. For example, by doing my work around the stored and unresolved ‘stuff’ of my life and practicing Daniel Goleman’s EQ skills (Emotional Quotient Intelligence) of Self Awareness and Self Regulation/Management, I haven’t had to do a clearing in I don’t know how long. If I have something up with you, I’ll have a conversation with you. And most of the time, I do the four quarter process internally first and get to what I am projecting here. Then I start talking only about that piece, the projection, and what part of my past it’s about, and my intention to withdraw the projection.”

When men ask to clear with Mitchell on a Weekend, he generally tells them he’s willing to have a conversation instead.

“What do you want to talk about is what I ask a man who wants to ‘clear’ with me. If all we teach men to do is to clear with each other … bark and spit, I don’t see how that helps a man in his real life. He’s going to bark and spit at his boss?! His partner? His kids?! As soon as a man starts that stuff in a clearing with me, I’m standing there wondering ‘when are you going to get to the part where you get that this is not about me again?’ Most of the time I’m not willing to do the barking and spitting anymore with a man - with anybody, for that matter. Mature men have mature conversations that address what needs to be addressed. What if I had to resolve this by just talking from my heart? It brings a different skill set to the forefront. And it gets us out of our victimology sooner, I think.”

On my weekend with Mitchell, he gave me feedback about how I showed up as “bad dad” frequently throughout the NWTA. He simply suggested I go back to my I-Group and work on it. How simple. Very profound. (I did the work.) What if we all really did our best work in I-Group?

Mitchell says that getting men into relationship with each other also helps a man get in right relation with himself.

“It starts with the man knowing about all of the power that is at his fingertips all the time. It’s about showing him all of his archetypal energies and getting him familiar with them … intimately familiar with them. If not, he’ll be out in the world in a skewed way. He can have brilliant ideas, his King will have a vision, but no one to carry them out, no Warrior. Out of balance like that, a man and his life will not be full or complete.”

Mitchell appears to have his archetypal energies fairly regulated. He’s intuitive and he’s academic – and he’s got a wild-ass way of mixing the two together.

“Men say they see in me that I’m a pretty good ‘midbrain person’ (actually midway between the brain and the heart and soul). I have a well-developed intellect that can do the cognitive things really well and I can also bring all my passion and emotions fully on board in a moment’s notice. I wasn’t always like that.”

I asked Mitchell about the source of his passion.

“I believe in certain things passionately,” he said. “I’m willing to stand in them and for them, especially around this men’s work. I look at my own life and work and how much I’ve been blessed the last 15 years, how much I’ve gained sitting in containers with men. Magical things have happened all around me with men as they seek to transform themselves. I’m not a religious man, but each time I sit in a circle, I reaffirm a very powerful belief in me that there is something bigger than all of us. I like it when that something joins us in the circle and brings wonder, growth and learning to heal ourselves.”

Mitchell’s been doing his healing work for 15 years.

“I forget how unique my life is and how very few people around the world have had the opportunity to do, or participate in, or witness, this powerful kind of transformational work.”

Mitchell has done some 70 NWTA’s, the Underground Railroad Odyssey, worked with men in Folsom Prison, and in the Boys to Men program.

“It’s hard to witness all this work and not be truly inspired and in awe of what men can do to heal themselves, heal that damage that unhealthy adults have created in them. I stand in my desire to help in what I judge is a worthy cause.”

Mitchell said one of the messages he takes into the IGLT trainings is that for a man to truly do his work, he must break the internal shackles that imprison him.

“I have to discover my gold. As I break those shackles again and again, I feel that inspiration, I feel a bit more of that golden part each time. I feel the desire to explore myself at deeper and deeper levels. I like looking back on my life and knowing that I’m different now than I was two years ago and that two years from now I’ll be even more different around certain things that I’m working on today.”

For the first 35 years of his life, Mitchell said he never believed he could actually change.

“I thought the noise, the chaos, the confusions and the low-grade depressions would slowly grind me down until I died. Let me tell you something ... it’s a wondrous thing to me that today I know I can break the shackles. And that all around me everyday are thousands of people who have never had a chance of sitting in a magical, transformational circle. I can introduce them to our circles and circles like ours…and help them to see … to believe that there is something in them that can connect them powerfully to themselves and to others. That is the wonder of it all.”

Jim Mitchell, Tenacious Coaching and Consulting, "Authentic Results Focused Leadership That Works", 4005 E. Cassia Way, Unit 1001, Phoenix, AZ 85044 or 602.526.6988 or Soulwork@gmail.com

© 2006 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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