I went on a ManKind Project shadow /family constellation workshop at the weekend. Ive done similar work before and each time I go, the sludge at the bottom of my pot gets stirred up. And each time, the layer of sludge gets a little thinner and looser.

I did some profound work that accessed stuff in my shadow that had been locked away since the age of 5-6. New realisations of coping strategies I adopted at that age to survive in a family where my mother projected her hatred of the masculine onto me and my father projected all his grief and unmet desires onto me as I was his only son. I saw how my 2 elder sisters were treated very differently. My felt sense was they received tenderness and love from my mother and few expectations apart from becoming Jewish baby making machines from my misogynistic father. The irony is he got none of this – 5 female grandchildren, none of who follow in his religious footsteps and only one grandson who married out of the religion as did his mother – my sister. 3 of his 4 children married out of the religion.

My father’s back story I know well and the work allowed me to feel more compassion for a deeply broken man that lives in fear and with contempt for others that he perceives to be weaker than him, which I suspect is pretty much everybody. Its how he keeps himself safe, not having to be vulnerable. My mother’s story I’m less clear about. She hated her brother, wanted to kill him and she found her Polish father cold and emotionless. I can’t help but wonder what abuse she experienced to hate men so much and to spend so much of her life fuelled by rage.

I find it fascinating how long it takes for some of this unconscious shadow stuff to make itself apparent. Its accompanied by deep grief and tears of catharsis. This is slow deep painful work, there are no shortcuts, no magic bullets, despite what the snake-oil salesman may try and sell you. Finding a group of men I can trust has allowed me to go much deeper in my own work.

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