Michael
Shaffran
 

Mike Shaffran is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist with over 30 years experience in the mental health profession. He's worked most of his time in outpatient Psychiatric clinics where he has provided individual, couples/marital, family and group therapy. He is trained in multiple therapies, including: Psycho-dynamic, Gestalt, Structural-Strategic Family, Solution focused, Brief Therapy, and other methods. He is trained in EMDR ( a type of therapy for PTSD), hypnosis, meditation and guided imagery also. Mike is committed to ongoing seminars, workshops and trainings to keep current with the latest therapy to provide the best services possible to his clients. www.sanluisobispotherapy.com or E-Mail

Father and Son - The Tangled Web of Intergenerational Relationships
Father's Day
Initiation Rites for Adolescent Boys
Male-Female Communication
Me and My Shadow
Men and Grief
They only want me for my linguistics

They only want me for my linguistics


This article was first written many years ago while I was teaching ESL in Korea...

I had heard before I arrived in Korea that the social customs and mores here were rather traditional. I knew that dating and romance took much more time than in the USA. I expected, too, that I need to adjust to the life of a monk for an extended period of time. However, never did I expect that I would be wanted for my linguistic ability. Korean men, women, children, adolescents and even the elderly, simply want me for my English speaking talents.

Now, I know that I am no longer that thin 165 pound blond guy that I was in high school or even that 175 pound muscular college guy who claimed his fair share of co-eds. I'm not even the 34 year old graduate student who was still attractive in body (at 185 lbs.), sense of humor and spirit. Yes, I'll admit it: I've gained another 15 pounds as sedentary employment and middle age have taken their toll on me. But never, I mean never, did I expect everyone from toddlers to retirees to exploit me just for the perfect English sentence! Married women call me up to practice their sentence structure; college students suggest a rendezvous at all hours of the day or night to brush up on their vocabulary. Not only that, but also, I'm regularly accosted by construction workers who whistle at me (from tall buildings under construction or from street level) as I walk by. They shout: "Hello, where are you from?" in broken English. Never once have these people expressed sincere interest in wanting to know my real feelings, hopes, dreams or life experiences as a human being!!! Instead, all I get from them is: "How do you say this in English or that in English?" I'm afraid to admit that I often sell myself short for a cup of coffee or a ride to Haeundae Beach. I, of course, believe they really want to know the real person inside. But no, they only want me for my linguistic skills. If only once, they'd tell me I was intelligent, attractive, sexy or even funny, then I'd feel less used and abused. What's a lonely, middle-aged American English teacher to do when new to Korea and has left his friends, family and support system back in "The States"! Well, excuse me, I must get my front door - - I hear someone mumbling something in broken English about lessons!!!!!!!

Father's Day


Father's Day is a day that is to represent the best that fathers or father figures like myself represent. Since I have no biological children of my own or sons, I often feel left out. However, my wonderful girlfriend/partner of 10 years always gives me a Father's Day card, as she acknowledges all the boys, adolescents and men that I've mentored over 20 years "doing men's work". Providing individual, and group therapy for adolescent boys and men over all these years has been very healing for not only the boys and men but also for me as well. This is why I started in this specific area of therapy, i.e., to heal my childhood wounds from my father and family of origin; however, over the last several years, the focus has been exclusively for the men and boys who need this healing far more than I do. It's a gift to be sufficiently well healed to devote my time and energy to them.

Another way that I have helped these boys and men has been through almost 20 years of involvement with a powerful organization, the Mankind Project which is an initiation rites of passage weekend that helps men feel good about being men. There are ongoing groups after the weekend experience. Likewise, there is an equivalent weekend for boys(11-17).

These boys become "J-men" and continue with ongoing support groups lead by Adult men.

J-men means that they are no longer boys, nor are they adult men yet. Many men like me serve as mentors to boys and adult men. These men are father figures even without the benefit of being biological fathers.

The commitment of biological fathers to raising healthy, loving; responsible sons and citizens or mentors, like myself or others, who devote their time and energy to being role models to boys and adolescents is one of the most overlooked aspects of Father's Day. What is lost is the true essence of this day, instead of the commercialism of department sales or father day cards with pictures of fishing rods and nature scenes. Honoring men "who step up" to make a real difference in the lives of young boys and men--whether biolgical fathers or father figures/mentors-- is what Father's Day should really represent and honor!

Me and My Shadow


The famous Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, MD, wrote about and developed the idea of the Shadow. The Shadow is that part of us that we repress, avoid and deny. As men, it's easy to hide real authentic feelings: pain, sadness, depression, anger, anxiety, shame, and even panic can be tucked away until they come out "sideways" or erupt in violence of many sorts--physically or verbally.

While Carl Jung,MD developed the concept the concept of the Shadow, Robert Moore, Ph.D. and Douglas Gillette, Ph.D. came up with the King, Warrior, Magician and Lover Archetypes. These Archetypes are common in all societies and especially affect men in our modern, industrialized countries.These Archetypes which are stereotypes of character in our society and civilization such as John Wayne or Clint Eastwood; they represent a type casting, if you will, of a how a man ought to be, especially in the 40's and 50's.

Obviously, these Archetypes are changing today. However, the "dark side" or Shadow of these Archetypes are problematic. A Shadow King would a ruthless dictator like Stalin or Hitler. A Shadow Lover would be a man who seduces and exploits women sexually and emotionally. A Shadow Warrior would be a killer like a Hit-man or someone who does drive-by shootings for sadistic reasons. Finally, a Shadow Magician would be helping professional who takes advantage or his clients or professions for financial or sexual gain.

In the Men's therapy work that I do (both individual and group), I address the shadow issues. We look deeply into what's behind the shadow or causative in living an inauthentic life. We not only root out the origins of what created the shadow but look for ways to transform the shadow into a positive, life affirming behavior that gets the man back into integrity with himself, his family, friends and society at large.

A wonderful book that I recommend is: King, Warrior, Magician and Lover by Robert Moore, Ph.D and Douglas Gillette, Ph.D. They explain Carl Jung's Archetypes in very descriptive ways ; also elaborate on the positive and negative aspects of the Shadow. Of course, any of Dr. Jung's books on the Shadow are excellent reads as well.

Men and Grief


Men have a difficult time with grief; this is an understatement. Anger is much easier for men to access. Moreover, boys and adolescents have this problem as well. Where do they learn these unfortunate habits? Why from men of course. The old John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger stereotyped behaviors die hard. Therefore, young men even today struggle with impressing the girls and women they date and/ or marry. Unfortunately, they stuff feelings, rarely cry in public or private and get angry more than grieve the natural losses that we all face. Death, loneliness, defeat on the playing field or on the job--being fired, quitting , being humiliated by bosses or colleagues, all are sources of grief and sadness and ought to be given the privilege of expressing grief safely. However, no where in our society are there rituals for everyday losses which may be far worse than physical deaths in boy's and men's lives.

My job as a Psychotherapist of 30 years is to help young men and middle age men to grieve these losses in a safe and secure environment. There are rituals that I use to help my clients or patients to deal with these earth shattering losses in very meaningful ways. Virtually none of my male clients have ever felt shame or embarrassment by the processes that I employ which have been used by countless other therapists as well. There are national and international men's organizations that have successfully used the same therapy methods that I use. Many of these organizations emphasize "rites of passage" for boys and men which have been around for thousands of years. Cultures the world over have used these methods to facilitate the processing of male grief and loss for centuries.

If boys and men can grieve successfully, they are less likely to abuse substances, turn to violence with other men and women as well. There is a correlation between being able to express anger, rage and grief successfully and a recidivism in prisons and other institutions. Male mental health improves and a greater sense of connection to one's fellow man and woman increase.

Allow me to help you learn ways to open your heart and mind and free yourself from harmful habits like unresolved loss and grief.

Father and Son - The Tangled Web of Intergenerational Relationships


As a Psychotherapist and Social Worker in the mental health field for almost 35 years, I’ve observed father-son relationships up close and personal. There are some good ones but unfortunately, most are fraught with disappointment and heartbreak. Robert Bly, the father of the modern men’s movement--most agree--feels the reason is as follows: father and son are competing for mother’s love and affection; therefore, there is tension between the two--often extreme and sometimes distain or even hatred. It’s the grandfather or uncle, in some cases, who rescues the boy and serves as a better role model than father, in lucky cases. Unfortunately, many boys raised in single family homes by a mother, aunt or grandmother, get little fathering or proper male modeling; society suffers the consequences.

I often see these young men, middle age men and even old men in my men’s groups. They are usually having difficulties in their marriages as well. They may have had multiple relationships with women--some monogamous and others, polygamous. There are many addicts among them; often sexual compulsives. There are as many recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and gamblers as well. They need help and know it but unfortunately, most have been through the emotional ringer before they made their way to my office.

The purpose of therapy, both individual as well as group, is to help them resolve their old emotional wounds--frequently due to poor relationships with their fathers. Their fathers may have been WWII Vets, like my own case, or Korean Veterans; today, I see many men whose fathers are Vietnam Vets. All of these men have trouble with intimacy or struggle with various addictions, compulsions or obsessions. Poor self-esteem abounds and struggles with alcohol, drugs, food, over-work and pornography or affairs seem to ways these men cope, both young and old. However, something magical happens when these men get together with other men and share their “deepest, darkest secrets.” They allow others to see “their shadow side” as Carl Jung, MD would call it. The part of us that we repress, avoid and deny. This self-transparency has a profound affect on us as well as our fellow group members. We share our humanness and other men share theirs; in this most intimate experience, we start to heal ourselves as do others.

With over 20 years doing Men’s group therapy--both my own and others--I’ve grown significantly in my life, personally and professionally. Clearly, it has helped my intimate relationships with men, women, boys and girls. My family relationships have improved also. My interaction with all humanity has been impacted for the better overall.

Initiation Rites for Adolescent Boys


In this era of gangs, "drive-by" shootings, 15 year olds killing 15 year olds, one certainly gets very disheartened and indifferent. It's easy to put on a "stiff upper lip" and become more cynical; simply accept these murders as part of the package of living in the 21st century. One can accept these atrocities of primarily inner city youth along with global warming, multiple wars, and now the 700 billion dollar "bail out" with the impending recession as just the way it is.

On the other hand, there may be some real solutions to these problems--specifically, the unwarranted death of urban youth. One solution that has worked for centuries prior to the industrial revolution is the custom and ritual of youth initiation; specifically, for adolescent boys. Third world cultures, although not exclusive to European cultures, have used these rites of passage ceremonies as a way to initiate their young adolescent boys into adulthood. Particularly among African tribes, these ceremonies that were participated in with enthusiasm by the boys' mothers as well, have proved to be a significant way to incorporate boys into the larger culture and recognize their value as young men who can then "give back" to the community at large.Once initiated, these "young men" can marry, defend their tribes, hunt with the adult men,etc. They are given a place and standing, if you will, in the adult community and they are honored. They know it and believe it. Perhaps, an honoring and blessing for not only urban youth but rural and suburban youth as well in the USA would help significantly in slowing down, if not eliminating the destructive forces that plague our nation and other industrialized nations as well.

Louise Kaplan, Ph.D. says this in her book, Adolescence: The Farewell to Childhood "The ceremonies for boys are frequently derived from some idea of separation from the world of women and children. At one or another moment over a period of time the boy is required to give up his emotional attachment to his mother--who weeps for him. He becomes attached to all men. He abandons his boyhood sports and games along with his domestic ties to his mother. After the ceremony of severing the bonds of childhood the boy is instructed by a designated sponsor or group of teachers in the duties and moral responsibilities of his community."

Today's boys and adolescents need strong, consistent, caring, initiated, older men as male models. If our youth can get the mentoring and blessings from these older men, perhaps we can turn the tide and raise healthy adolescent boys who will chose life and living instead of death and destruction. I sure hope so for all of us.

Male-Female Communication


We all know that men and women communicate differently. There are many books like Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray. Getting The Love You Want and Keeping The Love You Have by Dr. Hendrix. The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Marriage by Dr. Gottman is another excellent book. There is even a series of CD's and books by David Deida: The Way of the Superior Man and several others that deal with male-female communication. All are valid and worth reading.

While this deals with male-female communication, it could also be applied to female-female and male-male communication. Whether married or single, most of these communication struggles affect all types of relationships, gay or straight. The commonality is the ability to communicate one's needs effectively in a non-violent way and free of irrational emotion or demands. I might mention another expert on communication: Marshal Rosenberg, Ph.D. who founded the Center for Non-Violent Communication. Dr. Rosenberg helps couples, institutions, war- torn countries, et al. to examine their needs and identify them; he claims that once one identifies their needs that he can solve most conflicts within 20 minutes. This may seem grandiose but I've listened to his CD's and read some of his books and his methods seem very logical and sound.

So, positive communication is a major key to improving male-female interaction but sometimes, it's not enough. This is why I do men's work and support men's groups: church groups like Promise Keepers, Unitarian Men's Fellowhip and the Mankind Project, to name a few groups. There are many more. I believe women need their groups: church related or female drumming groups or support groups or quilting groups, etc. There are some things that are passed between a same gender group that can't be transmitted by simply male-female couples therapy. Having run men's groups for over 10 years, I can tell you that something powerful happens among men in their own healing group that can't be supplied by the opposite sex and the same is true for women. That is why I believe women have been healthier than men for thousands of years in many ways. They've always communicated in small and large groups with mothers, sisters, friends, aunts, grandmothers in ways that men have not. Men are learning how to adapt female connectedness to their groups and male friendships and I believe this has helped add years to their lives.

©2009, Michael Shaffran

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