Stories of Healing

From Terror & Rage to Love and Safety: How Jeff Overcame Sexual Abuse Trauma

March 02, 2023 Jeff Season 1 Episode 2
Stories of Healing
From Terror & Rage to Love and Safety: How Jeff Overcame Sexual Abuse Trauma
Show Notes Transcript

Jeff, 62, discusses the effect of being raped as a child and what it took to feel safe in the world. 

He shares his poignant story of healing with us.

Jeff is the very first person that I interviewed. We met in Evergreen, CO, on December 6, 2022, when I started my world pilgrimage.

Jeff mentioned:
Man Kind Project (MKP): https://mankindproject.org/ 
The New Warrior Training Adventure: https://mankindproject.org/new-warrior-training-adventure/ 
MKP iGroup: https://mkpusa.org/mens-group/ 
Taekwondo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taekwondo 
Women's group: https://www.womanwithin.org/ 

Support the show

Support the show by visiting:
https://www.buymeacoffee.com/vincentepaul
https://www.paypal.me/VincentEPaul

If you want to be a guest on the podcast, message Vincent at https://www.instagram.com/vincent.e.paul/.

Follow Vincent on social media:
https://www.instagram.com/vincent.e.paul/
https://www.facebook.com/VincentEPaul/

https://twitter.com/vincentepaulnow

Jeff: I knew that they were some truths about myself that I hadn't even realized yet. But what I knew is that I wasn't safe in the world. People say a boogieman in the dark. I had a real boogieman, I mean, he wasn't under my bed, he wasn't in my closet but he was definitively in my head. 

And I think about all it could have turned out. I had some pretty strong maladaptive coping mechanisms as a child.

I will stand in any fire with anyone and I will give you all of my attention. It does not have to be about me any longer, I have done that.

Vincent: A shout-out to the friends of the show:
Amy;
Sam Adams;
Jan Jedrzejowicz; and,
Olivier Libouban.

They donated at buymeacoffee.com/storiesofh and you can too. 

Visit buymeacoffee.com/storiesofh to support the making of more episodes.

Vincent: This episode contains mention of rape, drug use, and attempted suicide. Your discretion is advised. 

This episode has recording issues, so bear with us through these parts; it is worth it.

Vincent: Welcome to Stories of Healing. A podcast where we explore what it is to be human, to suffer, and to heal. My name is Vincent Paul and I am your host.

Vincent: Hi, Jeff. Welcome on Stories of Healing. 

Vincent: Yeah, thank you. 

Jeff: I'm very grateful to have you. 

Jeff: Yeah. Happy to be here. Thank you. 

Vincent: I met you during a new warrior training organized by the Mankind Project. It was a weekend retreat, and you were one of the leaders, and you were shining. So my first question to you is, can you tell me a little bit about this work you do with the Mankind Project?

Jeff: Yeah, it's been a long road with the Mankind Project, 30 plus years I went through, you know, it's called the New Warrior Training Adventures is one of the weekends that we offer, and I went through in February of 1990, it was one of the very first training, and I thought I saw, and I think I did: truth with a big T, not truth with a small t. I saw men speaking their truth, but also men holding sacred space in a non-religious way for these men to feel safe enough to speak their truth. That resonated. Scared the crap outta me. I remember the first night I just, I laid in the bed virtually all night long going, oh my gosh, what have I got myself into? I knew that there were some truths about myself that I hadn't even realized yet. There were things about me that hadn't come to the forefront, hadn't come to my memory.

I hadn't, you know, I was 29, so I, you know, I wasn't fully realized. And so all those things were scary to me. There there was unknown things about my past and unknown things about my future, but all these men wanted from me was my truth. And I think what scared me the most is I wasn't sure what that was. I didn't really know. 

Vincent: Did you come to realize what your truth was during this weekend? 

Jeff: No. What I came to realize was for the first time in my life that there is a safe place with men that I could explore. I'm a sexual abuse survivor and that was one of the things that was walled off from my memories. I hadn't even remembered that when I went through the weekend, but what I knew is that I wasn't safe in. that I was sure of. There was something in the fiber of me. I was abused when I was three years old, and I was terrified. Up until February of 1990, you know, I was still terrified of many things in life, and I didn't know why. And it was the first time where I thought I could bring my terror to a place that was safe and be seen. And up until that time, my terror had always been a secret. Nobody knew that I was terrified. I mean, my family saw the symptoms of it. I grew up in the sixties and the seventies, and families and parents of my generation didn't do psychology and send their kids to psychologists, at least my parents. So, the symptoms were there that I was terrified. Right. You know, I was afraid, I was afraid of the dark. I was terrified of the dark as a child. Like, I, I, I, I read, you know, we had the Encyclopedia Britannica for Children. It's this big, huge encyclopedia, right? A through Z. I read them all twice. Because I was an insomniac my entire childhood.  

Vincent: When you say your entire childhood, like, how old were you? What age range are you thinking about?

Jeff: From three until I left my house. Until 20 years old or so, when I went away to college.

Vincent: Do you mind telling us a little bit more what happened? You mentioned being a survivor of sexual abuse. 

Jeff: Yeah. I don't remember everything. I know where it happened because I went back, this was in... my family in 1962 moved to Brussels, Belgium, and a neighbor, a young man, he raped me, and the memories were just very fleeting. I'm sure my psyche was protecting myself, a part of my psyche took control and cut a deal basically with myself and said, you know what? I'm not gonna let you remember this.  And I do remember he had said that you know, if I told anybody, he would kill me or kill my family. And I was only three, that's, I'm guessing, right around three. I'm not sure, but in my memory is, when I look down, I see these little white leather baby shoes, so I was looking down at my baby's shoes when I was abused. 
 And then my wife and I went back to Brussels, just five or six years ago, and I was taking pictures of my house. I found my house. And it was in the viewfinder of the camera, I remember. And I went over to the neighbor's house and I was like, that's, it happened in that garage right there. It was beautiful and horrible at the same time, you know? I was weeping, and my wife was supporting me, and, so it was very tender to go back there, and also, you know, there was a piece about it, about being hurt and sexualized so young. but then standing there with my wife, we've been married for almost 35 years, together for almost 40, and she knows and was right there with me. What a long, strange trip it's been, you know. 

Vincent: And a gift to have someone to be there with you while you're kind of refacing that 

Jeff: And THE person in my life, she is the singular person in my life, offers me safety and wholeness, healthy sexuality, and all that. And I think about how it all could have turned out, you know, I had some pretty strong maladaptive coping mechanisms as a child . Yeah. 

Vincent: I'm sure. Of course. You mentioned you had symptoms or side effects, or, I forgot the word.

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. 

Vincent: Would you mind telling us?

Jeff: Well, when I was young, like I said, I was just super afraid of the dark. I mean, it happened in the dark. I remember that. And people say a boogeyman in the dark. Well, I had a real boogieman. I mean, he wasn't under my bed. He wasn't in my closet, but he was definitely in my head. And I didn't know because I couldn't remember. So I didn't know why I was so terrified. A friend of mine said, you know when he met me in the Warriors, and this is a couple, few years in, he's like, he's a psychologist.
He's like, oh, you don't know what fear is. You go from no fear to terror. You don't know that there's a gradient there that you can be a little afraid, kind of afraid, really afraid, terrorized. Well, me, my meter; it was hardwired because it happened so young.

If I was afraid to go outside, I felt terror about that, or afraid to go to school, I felt terror about that. So my response was very heightened, so that was one symptom, but dark darkness was a big deal. And I mean darkness until I was, if I would fall asleep in front of the TV at night when I was 45 years old, it was all the courage I could muster to turn off that TV and walk upstairs to my bedroom. That's how profound it was. Now I'm cool. Now I'm good with it. But it took a long time. 

Vincent: How did you cope as a child?

Jeff: I hid it a lot. I lied a lot. 

Vincent: You lied to yourself or to others? 

Jeff: Yes, to everybody, that I wasn't afraid all the time. And then, very early on, I started doing drugs.

I was a pretty profound drug addict by the time I was 12 years old. And now I look at a 12 year old child or an 11 year old child, and they're these tiny little beautiful beings. And here I was searching out drugs to numb myself. 

Vincent: Did he work for you?

Jeff: For a little while. But pretty quickly, my parents obviously, my problem wasn't my parents. My parents were loving. I mean, we were a very typical family, wonderfully dysfunctional in our own way, no one was struck in her house, and, you know, it was it was a loving household. My parents were great people. I loved them dearly. So the lying began, the stuffing of emotion began drug addiction, which causes me to lie even more and causes me to not be real even more. And, and I, you know, I hung out with the wrong kids, right?

And, a few of them died when I was very young from, from drug addiction. And so, that worked for a little while, and then I realized I was going down the wrong path.

Vincent: How old were you when you realized you were going down the wrong path? 

Jeff:  Probably 13, 14, right around in there.

Vincent: So it had been a few years that you were using drugs? 

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. And luckily, I found Taekwondo, martial art. This master moved in a mile from my house, and I, there was a show called Kung Fu on TV and there was a piece in me that longed for that, and I think what it longed for was one self-protection. Right. Because I didn't feel safe. And also, structure and a dough away because I was so unstructured and frazzled on the inside. I was so overwhelmed by life all the time that I thought maybe if there was structure, I wouldn't be overwhelmed and, and, so terrified all the time. 
He was a huge gift to me. I just lucked out.  I was my master's second student in the United States, so I basically had private lessons for a couple of years because he was just starting a school, and he was old school and very strict. It worked out very... it gave me the structure I needed, and I advanced very quickly and was able to defend myself, felt comfortable defending myself. 

Vincent: You mentioned felt comfortable. Was it also a change of relationship to your own body that, that you gained from the training?

Jeff: It, it was, yes. There is this... I don't know this, but I think for me, there was this profound, and again, I didn't know this, but there was this fear that I couldn't, I couldn't trust my body to protect me.  

Vincent: Mm-hmm. Um, that makes sense; you were three years old. You were physically weak. 

Jeff: Yeah. And this was all intuitive cuz I hadn't remembered my abuse yet. But it was, it was in every fiber of my being. I just knew that I needed structure, and I needed to be able to protect myself. And that helped somewhat. It really did. That's what I did. I became very good. People were like four-time national champion, they're like, oh, you were so good. And  I was so scared. It wasn't about being the best, I was just so tired of being terrified all the time. So, and that helped, it gave me an awareness. I was awake and aware, that's part of being a black belt is, and I could see my surroundings and feel like I had some control over that. 

Vincent: Over your own environment 

Jeff: My own environment and that I was safe. And that was, that was very healing to me. And then I went to college and I had that confidence. I'm still terrified, still scared of the dark, but in a different way now. I was a young man, starting to feel more confident. Met my wife the first day of college. 

Vincent: Nice!

Jeff: And that was it. It was love at first sight. And so had that and then, realizing in my twenties I was still using a little bit of marijuana and some cocaine, so I was still an addict, but I was a super high functioning addict. And I realized when I was about ready to graduate from college that things weren't all okay inside of me. You know, I was getting old enough to know there's something still off here. You've done all this stuff, you've got this young woman that is just awesome, and she loves yo,u and you're still using, not a lot, just a little bit every day.

Vincent: It was a relation of something to do with your inner felt sense of yourself. 

Jeff: Yeah. And think safety still. You know, it was still a safety thing. I still needed to numb that voice inside of me that was like, you're never gonna be safe. You're never gonna be safe. And so that's when I decided to do the new Warrior training adventure. Just looking at it step-wise, how wise my young self was without knowing exactly what happened to me. I was smart enough. You know, when I was 12, I was a drug addict. 

Vincent: And now, Jeff describes his attentive suicide, putting a noose around his neck. 

Jeff: When I was 14 [Inaudible] because I was so tired of being terrified, and, and, I had one foot off the table.
I put my dad's desk underneath the light fixture, I'd tied his ties into it. And my mom knocked on the door. And she said dinner, and it hadn't, it hadn't registered with me that my mother, who cherished m,e would find my body hanging from the ceiling of my bedroom. And that's, that's when I found Taekwondo.
That's when I found out the drugs weren't working for me. Right? I was, it was like, this is obviously not working. 

Vincent: You were about to commit suicide

Jeff:  Yeah. I was about. I was; I literally had one foot off the edge of the desk. 

Vincent: And if it wasn't for your mum, just knocking on the door and saying dinner.

Jeff: dinner!

Vincent: we might not be having this discussion today. 

Jeff: For sure. Yeah. I mean, I had tied, I'd taken the light fixture out and tied into the electrical box. I knew that if I just tied into the light that my body weight would... I was going to do it. But I decided a half hour before that, to do that. You know, it was that, it was the.... I've read about the impulsivity of young suicide, and that's exactly what it was. I was just so tired of being, so terrified. 

Vincent: As you couldn't, the drugs weren't working. Nothing was working. The only thing you could see as a relief was death itself.

Jeff: Was death. And, But what I was saying is the wisdom in that I was wise enough to go, oh my God, my parents love m,e and this isn't working, and my mom would've found my body.

I need to do something else.  

Vincent: And so you realize the power of connection and, and being loved by, by someone else. 

Jeff: Yes. And the willingness to go, okay, what else do I need? This guy moved in a mile away. Started at TaeKwonDo school. It scares me, but I'm going anyway. To give control over to a man, right? But the wisdom within inside of me was like, looking for healing. 

Vincent: How would you call this part of you? 

Jeff:  it's love. it's profound love. The enough love to love myself to hear what was actually going on inside of me. And I think it was reinforced by my family, that I had value. I've worked with a lot of different folks in my life, of varying degrees of dysfunction, I'll just say. Some people have hope, and some people don't. And I think I had some hop,e and I had love. And there was this wisdom, you know, this wisdom inside of me that was like, next, you're, you're on your path.

And so think about that. You know, it was like drugs. I tried drugs and maybe the drugs kept me alive for a while. Right. Because I was so terrified. Because it....

Vincent: Because it numbed the pain.

Jeff: Rightt. Exactly. And then moving on to TaeKwonDo and then pushing myself, even though terrified, into college and meeting people, you know, as a profound introvert.
And then into the Mankind project, that was an opening of my heart and beginning of being able to truly be in relationship with people. 

Vincent: during that weekend?

Vincent: During that weekend. And then really, we formed these groups afterwards. They're called igroups or integration groups and through this repetitive process of going in and being willing to face my fear, which I believe was a gift that TaeKwonDo gave me, right? Every time I stepped into the ring, somebody was trying to knock me out, there's real fear there, but it's not my terror. Right there, I was able to discern between fear and terror. 

Vincent: And the terror that you body had learned.  

Jeff: Right. Does that make sense? 

Vincent: It makes sense. 

Jeff: It gave me some discernment and, and every.. 

Vincent: What's real in the physical environment right now? Yes, In a stressful environment, you're gonna fight someone, but it's also control, right? You can say Stop anytime, I'm sure. 

Jeff: Yes. Yes. 

Vincent: And what's in you that is totally related to the, to the present situation. 

Jeff: Yes, Exactly. I had several men in the work say, have you ever been abused? And they didn't know that they didn't know each other. But I exhibited these symptoms of someone being abused in one way or another. And, and my answer always was, I know something happened. I didn't know. I just don't know what it was. 

Vincent: Do you remember the day you remembered what happened to you?

Jeff: Yeah. 

Vincent: Can you share? 

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, it was, you know, this was maybe the, I'm not kidding, couple hundredth time of going down into that darkness. And time and time again, things would get chipped away. 

Vincent: What do you mean things were chipped away? 

Jeff: Just being able to look at the depth of the destruction that happened inside of me was, It was a process. It wasn't like some magical thing that I could just go down.

Vincent: There's no magic wand for you, unfortunately. 

Jeff: No. Not for me. Not. And I mean, you know, it was, this was years of work. Years of going down inside of myself. 

Vincent: What does it look like  for you to go down inside of you? Can you tell us?

Jeff: One of the men in my eye group was this amazing psychoanalyst, in his practice he did dreamwork.
So we did, we would bring our dreams and I had all, I  had recurringnightmarese. I was, you know, 35 by now or so, and I've been having recurring nightmares. It's another reason why I didn't sleep is because I had these nightmares over and over again, right?

And so I would bring these and so, he, he in essence, you know, hypnotized me, and, and I went into a dreamlike state, and I did that several times. And you know, in a lot of my dreams, I'd be fighting. And killing, because I had all this angst inside of me, and I remember this one dream. I was on this battlefiel,d and the ground was all blac,k and the horizon was black, and the sky was black. It was all different shades of black, but it was all black. And there were bodies for miles. There were no trees. There were no, there was nothing other than ground and bodies. And you could see bodies on this blackground for as far as the eye could see.

Vincent: Dead bodies? 

Jeff: Dead bodies. 

Vincent: so, an apocalyptic...

Jeff: All the folks I had killed and all those dreams is, is how it came to me. All those people. So, you know, so that was a part of some of my dreams, was this, you know, was this killing. And my friend said go over to one of the bodies.
And I did. And he said, what do you see? He said, I said, well, you know, they're face down, he said, turn it over. 
And so I remember kicking the body over with my left foot, nudging it over, and it was me. 

Vincent: Ouah.

Jeff: And so I went to the next one, and I turned it over, and it was me. And the realization that all those tens of thousands of bodies were me. 

Vincent: Yeah. 

Jeff: Yeah.

Vincent: How did you feel when you had this realization? 

Jeff: I realized that I had been harming myself, you know, for all these years with the drug addiction, and also just... there was this piece in me that it was like all the ways I could have gone with my anger, all the people I could have hurt, I hurt me. And there's something noble about that. There's something beautiful about that. And I didn't want to do that anymore, right? You know, it was like I was a pretty cool guy. It's not that I didn't hurt people, it's not that, you know, it's not like I'm a hundred percent safe, but I was a pretty, pretty good guy. And where I decided to take that rage out was, was at me. And so what I did is I gave voice to that rage.

Vincent: And do you think you wanted to, like in your dream, actually kill you or kill this part of you that was suffering? 

Jeff: Yeah, I think it was just unexpressed rage of what had been done to me. 

Vincent: What was the intelligence in dreaming self-harming? even though you, you were not realizing you were harming yourself.

Jeff: Yeah, that was just it, you know, I was just expressing my anger. I didn't realize, you know, until that dream that it was always me.

Vincent: What do you feel you were angry at? 

Jeff: Oh my god, I was just angry that I'd been raped and, and that I had to keep it a secret, that I'd been terrified, and that it had profoundly affected my life in a myriad of ways. I was just fucking pissed off. 

Vincent: You were angry at your own suffering in some way. 

Jeff: I was just angry at everything. 

Vincent: at everything.

Jeff: Just because it was unexpressed, it was not a smart bomb. It indiscriminately, you know, would destroy anything.

Looking back, and that's one of the, one of the gifts of Taekwondo is I, you know, just beat the crap out of bags. And I did beat the crap out of people too, but it was legal. I mean, they, they signed up for it. And I just got very good at, at kicking people's asses. I split many bags, you know, the big punching bags, you know, I probably went through, four or five of those. I would split them. I would hit... I work out eight hours a day, so I had that outlet of that. And then it was like, oh, after that realization of that dream, it was like, all right, let's, let's express my anger in a safe way with this group of men. Let me get to know my anger and develop a relationship with that anger. 

Vincent: But more of an emotional relationship with it

Jeff: . Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And, and just... 

Vincent: in quality of presence, because maybe it would be aloud in TaeKwonDo in, in some ways in your life, but now you are like let's become familiar with it.

Jeff:  Yes. And, and so I wasn't so afraid of it, because my thought was if I ever really let it out, I would kill everybody. And so I held it all in. Here's another, you know, another hurdle of fear, I don't want to go down this road. This feels really scary. But if I don't, what's that leave me? If I don't, then I stay the same. 

That was the opening of doing that anger work an, and being able to befriend my rage and befriend my pai,n and my hurt. And a number of years later, you know, I don't know how long it was, in an igroup, I remember my little baby shoes and I was bent over. I was sitting on a chair, but I was bent over, which I imagine is pretty close to the position I was in. And my friend took a styrofoam cup, and he tore it in half and he put it over my feet. And as soon as he did that, my body and my min,d and my soul were ready to remember, and it just came. You know, I don't remember the act itself. I mean, I have physical evidence that the act happene,d and I'm totally cool with that, but the memory, him telling me that he would kill me or my family. I'm sure I just had an out of body experience when that was happening. And that's, so that's what I remember from what I saw.

Vincent: As you you tell the story now, like, do you, do you feel a bit this out of body experience still?

Jeff: I don't, I don't now. I mean, I've made a tremendous amount of peace with this. I cry all the time. I would tell you one of the greatest gifts has been in this men group, is to have a group of men I know I can trust. And I know I can trust them, and that has given me thestrength to go in over and over again, because I know when I come ou,t they'll be there for me. So, you got time for a quick story?

Vincent: Of course. And, I see you have tears coming. 

Jeff:  Yeah.  And so one of the reoccurring dreams that I had, I still have them now, but it's in a quite different way. But the night, the night they changed, we were doing this dream work, and so I remembered my dreams, because they've been very instructive to me my entire life. And I was in a house dream and this, this, and that means I'm in at this house that's unfamiliar, that's super scary. I don't know what's around the door, except I know that, that he's in the house, right? And I can't ever see him, but he's there, and I have to go from room to room to room to try and find my way out.
And he could be at any, in any room, around any door, behind any furniture, right? So it's very terrifying, very scary. So I'm sitting in front of this big old Victorian home...

Vincent: Jeff describes his dream where he is inside this house, where his perpetrator is. He does not know where he is, but to escape he has to go through increasingly small rooms and doors until in the smallest room and facing the smallest door he can see a bit of light.
 
Jeff: I couldn't see the hands. All I could see is the shadows of the hands in the light. Does that make sense? 

Vincent: Yeah. 

Jeff: And these hands grab me, and they pull me out, and it's all my igroup brothers.
 
Vincent: Ouah! I have shivers hearing your story. 

Jeff: So I was, I was birthed into a loving group of men, you know. 

Vincent: Through the pain of this haunted house. It feels like a haunted house. Where you physically get constrained. And constrained and constrained. And despite that, you are taking into; you're taking into the light by these men.

Jeff: Yeah. And they grabbed me. And so through the, the birth canal of this house. The men pulled me out and that was the la last bad house dream I ever had.

Vincent: Ouah

Jeff: And I mean, that was, I was probably 40, right around there. Now I still have house streams, but I realize I'm in the house, and I can do lucid dreaming, and I, I'm cool with it. But as far as, totally terrifying. That was, that was my last house dream. And so I've been having them for 35 years. So that's the power of being with... 

Vincent: I wanna ask, I wanna ask you about this, being with man and you, you mentioned a friend. And I, and I've been in igroup, as you know. And I see the connection there are established and the sense of trust and safety and comradery and brotherhood. It's hard to explain. That happens. What is about those connections with those men that, that were so profoundly healing? 

Jeff: Yeah. I think the way that group sets it up, it's very safe. We speak from the I place. We don't blame and shame, we don't offer advice unless it's asked for.
So it, it one, the actual energy is very safe. For us, for this group, igroup that I was talking about, my original igroup in Chicago, we had this bonding experience. And it's also... what I found is it's a group of choice. You don't have to go; the folks that are there generally want to be there, and they want to change their life. And they want to... 

Vincent:  that's what you wanted. 

Jeff: Yes. That's what I wanted. And it's been my experience that the vast majority of men somehow want to live a healthier, happier life. 

And the coolest thing is, is that it's not therapy, but it's obviously therapeutic.  

Vincent: how did you feel in those groups?

Jeff: Absolutely frightened and absolutely trusting that those men would be there, that they would be the hands to grab me.

Vincent:  So there was a polarity between terror or threat, being frightened and feeling safe. And you didn't use that words, but... 

Jeff: Yes, a hundred percent. It was absolutely safe. 

Vincent: And you were holding that polarity in, in those igroup within you?

Jeff: Yeah, and I've been doing it for... I've been in I group, different I groups, you know, for 32 years. I've never stopped, you know, I can't imagine going through life without a group of men of support. It's... you and I chatted about this a week or so ago. We talked about healthy relationships and what is expected from marriage now. The idea that my partner has to be my confidant, super sexual, but not too sexual, has to be absolutely I'm the center of the universe, but kind of leaves me alone. All this stuff. Right. It's all; it's just too much for one person to handle.

Vincent: It's a lot of expectations. 

Jeff: It's a lot of expectations, for sure. And Stacy has her women's group. She's had... she went through the women's side of this four months after I did. So we've had our men's and women's group that we can be intimate. That I can go and be intimate with these men and tell them everything about me. And I don't have to be the husband or the father or the, the business owner. I can just be Jeff 

Vincent: Yeah. 

Jeff: And bring all of my Jeff... 

Vincent: all of your parts. 

Jeff: All of my parts 

Vincent: All is welcome. 

Jeff: And all of it's welcome. And, and have that safe place where I can explore the different parts of me that are in shadow, in dark places in the crevices of my soul. And have the courage there because I'm supported to go in cuz I know I can come out. 

I'll often see men younger in the work, making that first foray. I remember how scary it is to go in because you don't know if you're gonna come out. And now, you know, after 32 years of meeting every couple weeks.. 

Vincent: you're still doing the work. 

Jeff: Still doing the work. I'm so much happier than I used to be. And healthier. 

Vincent: You do like from the outside, you look, you look like an accomplished, whole person, still doing the work, in a loving relationship. You receive me in your beautiful house. 

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. And I owe a great majority of that to being, not only for the original weekend but mostly to being in men's group.

Because, I mean, like I said, think about how my life could have turned out. Like I said, some of my friends are dead. My life could have gone that way at any time. 

Vincent: Let me ask you, do you feel healing ever finishes? 

Jeff: No, I don't. Not, not that I know of. 

Vincent: what are you, what are you working on now? If you don't mind sharing.

Jeff:  Really it's, for me, it's now like, moving into this part of my life. Like I said, I'm 62, so it's, you know, how do I hold space as an older man, for myself, for Stacy, for my partner, for my children, for the men and women of my life. 

Vincent: So you want to build your capacity to do that?

Jeff: It's less about me and more about you. And, and finding the capacity to do that in a way that I own my biases. I mean, I'm a White cisgender owner class. Was raised Christian. I'm a prototypical privileged white male in America.  

Vincent: It sounds more like it's, what you're describing sounds less about healing and more about growing your capacity to be there for others.

Jeff:  Yeah. But in that process and, and especially for folks that don't look like me, act like me, love like me. Right. It means it's like, how do I broaden my view and use the privilege that I have to create a world that's more compassionate, more diverse, more loving, right. It's... I don't, I, it's not that I don't have work on myself, I still do, I still have problems, and I still work through things. And there's this piece about me serving the world. 

Vincent: you mentioned your gift very early on during, during our time together. Does it sound like your gift now to do that?

Jeff: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I mean that, that's to shine the light where I can for inequities, to stand up and use my voice, to serve others, and to be the best. I can't call myself an ally, but you know, that's, that's only given, but to, to act as an ally would, and really to take a stand for us to love and treat one another with dignity and respect and honor and hold space for the uniqueness of all of our experiences. You know, that just feels important to me. 

Vincent: It is important.

Jeff: I think I have the capacity to do that.

Vincent: I've seen that in you, Jeff during our iGroup and New Warrior training, for sure. And men have come to talk to me independently of you, not knowing we will ever talk like we are today, telling me Jeff was remarkable. 

Jeff: Oh, thanks. 

Vincent: Yeah, I've heard that. 

Jeff: Yeah. I'll take that, and we'll take that.

Vincent: So if you were to state your gift connecting to your heart and your body mm-hmm. , what would it be? What is it?

Jeff: I'll stand in any fire with anyone, and I'll give you all of my attention. 

Vincent: That's beautiful. Be there for someone in their fire, connected, caring, with all your presence. 

Jeff: Yeah. Because it doesn't, it doesn't have to be about me any longer. I've done that.

Yeah. So... And I love that about me. You know, that's, and I'm still going... 

Vincent: I love that about you too. 

Jeff: Yeah. Still growing into it, but yeah. It feels healthy. It really does. 

Vincent: It is. You have a beautiful smile, so no doubt. 

Vincent: thank you, Jeff. It was a pleasure spending a little bit of time with you and hearing your story in more detail. Thank you very much. I'm grateful for, for the time. 

Jeff: Oh my gosh, my pleasure. Thank you, Vincent. 

Vincent: Thank you. 

Jeff: Bye-Bye.

Vincent: If you want to support this podcast because you believe in the work we do, make a donation. Visit stories of Healing podcast.org or donate directly in your podcasting app. Thank you. Every nation, no matter how small, helps us in our mission to destigmatize suffering and healing. It also means a lot to us. 

Look at the show notes to learn more about the Mankind Project.

Thanks for listening to Stories of Healing, hosted, and produced by Vincent Paul. Music, sound engineering, and editing by Matt Styslinger.

Special thanks to my guest Jeff for trusting me and many friends for their support: Damien Le Berrigaud;
Leona Novakova;
Matt Styslinger; and,
Paola Velez.

Thanks to Fabian at ai-coustics.com for his help fixing some of the audio issues we had.