Beyond the Drum: An Exploratory Study of Group Processes in a Mythopoetic Men's Group
Steve R. Wilson and Eric S. Mankowski
The mythopoetic branch of the contemporary men's movement is an exploration of male spirituality and male psychology ( Schwalbe, 1996). This movement encourages men to delve into their psyches through contact with literature, mythology, and art. Its adherents are typically heterosexual white men in midlife ( Harding, 1992; Shiffman, 1987). For the mythopoetic branch, personal introspection and growth assume a far more significant role than the profeminist and men's rights branches. The mythopoetic perspective is not overtly political or interested in social structural change. Indeed, from the mythopoetic perspective, masculinity depends on uncovering and discovering deep psychospiritual patterns collectively known and understood by all men. These patterns or archetypes are best revealed through stories, myths, and rituals made relevant to men today.
The most significant part of the peer agenda of the mythopoetic branch pertains to the hundreds of ongoing men's mutual support groups ( MPMSG) and weekend retreats. The goal of these groups and retreats is to initiate men into their archetypal masculinity. One target is the "soft male," who is out of touch with his animal instincts and does not have a direction to his life ( Hillman, 1987). Through rituals involving wounding and healing, these "soft men" can come to embrace their full masculinity. Many of these ceremonial rituals have clear psychological incentives, which may fulfill certain developmental needs of the man, allowing him to experience his "initiation into manhood."