The rise of men's groups in this country is a major sign of the father hunger that grips so many men in this country. I believe that men's groups that are formally or informally part of the men's movement are the single most important way that men can get the healthy father energy we need. For a men's group, as a whole, can give a man much of what a father has missed.
Men's groups can be professionally led, or structured by a men's organization like the Mankind Project, or leaderless yet coherent formed by a number of men committed to each other. Some have gone for as much as twenty to thirty years with some men coming and others leaving.
Most men feel an immediate resistance when considering joining a men's group. This feeling is a testament to our modern father culture that divides men through the dark philosophy of social Darwinism, whose message is compete or die. Men are taught to immediately armor themselves in a warrior mode when meeting another man. Then the hierarchical dance begins with each man measuring where he can stand in the pecking order, as in whose pecker is bigger. This is not a situation that leads to trust or vulnerability or hope of any support.
However, the 95% of men's groups I have heard of are living out a totally different men's culture. Within them is a sense of brotherhood just like I have described earlier. In groups like this men become like loyal, caring brothers, even in loving confrontation, and the group as a whole seems to create a father space. Most men feel this connection soon after joining a group.
In my experience a new man first experiences healthy father energy by feeling a validation of his masculine way of experiencing the world. Men who have not escaped the dark mother world often believe the criticism of their masculine way of feeling. Since emotions in this world are considered the domain of women men continually feel their emotions are somehow invalid. They believe these masculine emotions are either shallow, uncaring, aggressive, disconnected or a number of other negative judgments. If men are not supported and recognized for their natural masculine feelings they are left to feel just feminine feelings or feel guilt for their own healthy masculine ones. No wonder men tend to numb out at this choice. When I have seen men being recognized and supported in their feelings, even though the group may say that they need more work, I invariably see a profound sense of relaxation and gratitude come over a man. After the shock wears off! Father wounds start to heal at this point. The boy inside starts to smile.
Another way that men get fathered in a men's group is by the group championing each other. This goes beyond support. As men get to know each other they pick up on the strengths and talents of each other. In reflecting these talents back, especially marketplace skills, the group will then work on bolstering a man's confidence based on their own experience. I have seen so many men take risks in following their talents and dreams as a result of their brothers acting like a good father.
Of course there is also healthy confrontation. Men in the group have to be ready to confront when they feel one of them is taking a detour off their path. This is especially true when a man regresses back to former unhealthy behaviors or attitudes. Confrontation, though, does not have to be aggressive or demoralizing as in the patriarchy. Like a good father's admonition it can be firm but caring.
The greatest risk a man will take is facing his ordeal, the time of inner transformation in the Void. In helping a man face his painful separations and his biggest fears a men's group also performs its greatest service. The group prepares a man for this time by showing him the possibility of his inner soul path and expressing confidence in his ability and strength to follow it.