Lauren Korshak and her colleague, Jon Glancy, are the founders of a progressive retreat designed to confront the challenges the modern man faces. I sat down with Lauren to get the inside story on her brainchild, called, Reconnect.
Q. Lauren, please introduce yourself and fill us in on your background. Why are you interested in men’s work?
I’m a private practice therapist specializing in couples and individuals with relationship troubles, and I'm also a Tawkify matchmaker. In both lines of work, I work with men and women struggling with dating and relationships. Over the 6 years I’ve been practicing therapy, I’ve noticed certain challenges that are unique to men. For example, men tend to have fewer people in their lives they can turn to support (sometimes they have none at all), and tend to have more judgement and/or shame about expressing their feelings to others. Also, men tend to have more difficulty reaching out and feel more pressure to figure things out themselves (many men will isolate in order to do so), which can lead to feelings of loneliness and even depression. Studies have shown that social support is correlated with functioning, sleep, and well-being, and that lack of social support and connectedness (or “social isolation”) in turn increases the risk of inflammation, mental and physical illness and even death.
Q. OK, so needless to say -- social isolation is a big deal!
Yes, and generations of men have been shown and taught by society, by their fathers, and by the people closest to them that feelings are not to be expressed if one is to be masculine. In the wake of feminism, this has changed. Our culture now invites more self-expression and sharing. I think the shift out of traditional gender roles that has occurred in the wake of feminism has left men uncertain of the role of men in society, and as a result, there is a lot of confusion for men about how to act, how to connect, and how to show up both strongly and vulnerably as a man in modern culture.
Men have the same abilities as women to connect, communicate, and gather social support, but may have to overcome social and personal stigmas around this kind of sharing. The intention of Reconnect is to help create community and to cultivate safe supportive spaces to facilitate this sharing, in order to remove the stigma around what it means for men to connect.
"We also hope to honor the ways in which their connection might look different than connections among other genders."
There is healing in community. It's important for men to see other men who are able to express themselves.
Q. Interesting! To ensure we're all on the same page, what is Reconnect exactly? I'd also like to know more about the retreat's founding.
Sure! In a nutshell, Reconnect is a daylong retreat for men seeking to reconnect with nature, self and soul. The retreat is held at a beautiful farm half an hour south of San Francisco on protected land. Jon Glancy and I will be facilitating transformative exercises and organic hands-on farming throughout the day.
The retreat was founded by me and Jon. We both share the values of connection with nature as a method of connection with self and community --
"...and we're both passionate about cultivating intentional spaces for facilitating men’s personal growth."
Which brings me to the purpose of Reconnect, which is to create intentional spaces for interpersonal learning and connection to nature, personal growth, and others. We are committed to breaking down social barriers in relationships with other men and creating empowerment through intimacy, authentic self expression, and connection to self and others.
Q. What topics do you specifically address that help achieve this purpose?
Well, the general theme of the retreat is connection and the different ways connection manifests - the interrelationships between connection to self, connection to nature, connection to other individuals, and connection to community, group, family, or tribe.
The specific themes we touch upon include self-knowledge, boundaries, witnessing, vulnerability, intimacy, growth, intentionality, masculinity, and integration.
Q. You really do have this all panned out! (giggles)...OK, and what types of techniques or activities can the men who attend look forward to?
First, Skill-building -- which is using mindfulness and compassion exercises and tools from Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to get out of your head and into immediate connection with others; learning to speak your truth honestly and from the heart.
Also, Reclaiming. Which is, sharing the feelings and narratives that keep men feeling lonely, isolated, or disconnected; redefining what it means to be “masculine,” reclaiming the ability to have needs; reconnecting with the heart and a natural sense of balance.
And, Community -- being part of a strong group of other men to support men through the ups and downs and to bring them into the here-and-now, into connection with one another.
Q. You've mentioned that Jon Glancy facilitates the retreat with you. Would you tell us more about Jon, his background and what special attributes he brings to the table?
Jon is a natural healer, an outdoorsman, a manager of the farm where the retreat is held, and also a very gifted farmer. He and I have collaborated extensively on therapeutic groups for men and women suffering from Eating Disorders in the past, and integrated Ecotherapy, farm, education and art therapy techniques to supplement eating disorder recovery for individuals in residential treatment.
Q. So, he's qualified!
Yes! Specifically through his farm education work, he cultivates daily awareness of the power of nature to help connect with parts of self. Through his involvement with many men's groups over the years he has learned the importance of working through his emotions and facing life's challenges in the presence of other men (usually in a safe container).
"He has found that authentic masculinity cannot be uncovered by denying and suppressing emotions but through accepting, owning and working through them."
His work has deepened his connection and understanding of himself and the other important men and women in his life.
Q. Do you feel that there is a typical kind of man your program is best suited for?
Men in all stages of relationships (from single to married to divorced) who want more depth and connection in their lives, or who simply feel something is missing.
I also think that Reconnect retreats are for men who might...
- Have this sense that there is more to them than others typically see
- Know they have gifts to offer and yet, in their lives, the other person can’t seem to see those gifts or appreciate them.
- They are inspired by those who can communicate excellently and express their feelings like a pro (some call this “charisma”)
- Feel they are searching for some deeper truth or greater authenticity either in themselves or in the world around them
- Yearn to grow through relationship
- Like mystery, transformation, poetry, and other “deep” stuff
- Have strong currents of emotion running through them that may sometimes erupt in explicable seemingly irrational or disconnected ways (i.e spontaneous feelings of anger)
- Are deeply curious about themselves and others
- May have a sense of dissatisfaction about their relationships with other men or their intimate relationships
- May feel lonely, isolated, and/or disconnected, and respond to these feelings by trying to shut them down
Q. Wow! Some of these apply to me. Do you see this program ever expanding to include women...or perhaps organizing a similar retreat for women only?
Absolutely. Jon and I plan to offer these retreats for different populations over the course of our work. Our longterm vision is to offer these nature-based therapeutic retreats for specific populations ranging from disordered eating to couples to gay men, baby boomers, and many more!
Q. I think that's a great idea...connection, expression, these are things we all can likely learn to improve in our lives and relationships. I'm curious (because Heartalytics has covered the concept of masculinity on a number of occasions): In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge the “modern man” faces today--in dating and in life?
Redefining what it means to be a man is a pretty big challenge. A lot of the old power dynamics have shifted and the rules of chivalry have come to be frowned upon...
"...so men are constantly being asked to redefine what it means to be a man, and also balance emotional intelligence with these practical expressions of being a man."
Most men have not had a healthy, deep form of masculinity modeled for them by their father or father figures while growing up. Men now must deal with the challenge of going inward, facing and sorting through those many years of incomplete/unhealthy masculine conditioning.
Q. Right...and knowing this, what general advice do you have for men (both single and committed) out there?
First, be authentic to your core values. Figure out what you want, be clear about it and act that way. Look for others who share those values (in dating and in life).
Second -- Gender roles might be outdated, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Even though gender roles are shifting, and women may have a stronger place in society, don’t feel it’s outdated to show you like a woman by picking up a tab or opening a door for her.
"Even if she doesn’t let you or actively criticizes it, you are not doing anything wrong."
As far as I’m concerned, many women like when men do this. And those that don’t, that’s OK too - but men should feel free to make these types of gestures if they’d like to.
Third -- Vulnerability is strength.
This may not be actively modeled through past generations, but being emotionally honest with friends, romantic partners, and people in your life is a sign of strength, not weakness. Saying “I feel stressed” does not make you weak or mean you can’t handle it. It means you are taking an active step towards resolution.
"Being honest with your emotions will ultimately give you more power over your life and help you bring your life into greater alignment and purpose."
Q. Great advice, for all genders I think! Do you feel that Tawkify’s approach to dating and your program’s motif have anything in common?
Absolutely! Tawkify is about quality matches and what I like to call a “process” approach to dating (versus the “shopping cart mentality” that apps like Tinder may inadvertently foster).
Reconnect retreats are also about relationships and I believe relationships begin with the relationship you have with yourself. Developing a truly great relationship with yourself takes time, effort, and investment.
"Sometimes we think that if we just “tackle” our dating life like we tackle other things, we can speed up our progress. That’s not the case."
Growth takes time, as does the building of trust and intimacy with another. Speeding things up (trying to date ten people at once, for example) is counter productive. Think of it like building a house. You can quickly put up a house and foundation and it will look and seem like a house, but if you didn’t take the time necessary to build a quality foundation, that house will be less sturdy. It might be fine in the short-term, but when under strain or challenge, it will fall apart.
As a Tawkify Matchmaker, I try to help deepen the relationship with oneself. Get to know your edges so that these can be softened. Get to know your strengths (in a new way), so that these can be offered through relationships with others. Tawkify guides you through this process, holding the dating process as sacred, while also helping to address all those logistical questions (i.e., “to pay or not to pay,” “how to flirt,” “adding a date on social media”), etc...
At Tawkify, I think we all aim to support our clients through building a new foundation -- taking those small risks and leaps of faith into the dating scene.
Q. I totally agree! I want to get back to Reconnect in closing...If everyone walked away from your retreat with only 1 take-away, what take-away would you want that to be?
Your relationship with others begins with the relationship you have with yourself. You are already connected, and your willingness to be authentic and vulnerable about who you are is also your strength.
Q. And how do you think Jon would answer that question?
"Masculinity comes from a deep, rooted understanding of ourselves and only through that depth of self knowing can we deepen our connection to the people and the world around us."
Thank you Lauren! Super excited to hear about how Reconnect goes this year.
Visit Reconnect Retreat for Men for more info, and to sign up for the retreat on January 28th.
Love Wisely friends,