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Back to Stories

Friends of Six Senses with Dan Doty: The New Masculinity

"The old ideal of manhood has grown obsolete and the new one is still invisible to us."

Although British historian Thomas Carlyle wrote this line in 1831, it's still very much true. Questions about what it means to be a man and how to redefine masculinity are very much alive today as we navigate unprecedented changes in our families, workplaces and communities.

Coach and wilderness therapy guide, Dan Doty, put himself in the heart of this conversation when he co-founded Evryman, an organization that provides powerful experiences to help men connect to and express their authentic selves.

Dan came to this work by accident. He was a wilderness guide and was working with hundreds of young men who were struggling. He started to see patterns of what was missing in their lives and this kickstarted a question in his mind that drives him still: What do men need to be whole and healthy?

Although we can’t generalize to everyone, many men don’t have access to the parts of their nature that are necessary to being healthy, like their emotional selves. This isn’t a personal issue though but often a cultural one. Many cultures judge men for being “feminine” when they are sharing their feelings. Dan noted that this bias can be seen in the way we talk about feelings as being “girlie”. Unfortunately,  these stereotypes have interfered with many men’s ability to fully connect to their emotional selves.

Dan spoke about how emotions at their core are not masculine or feminine. Biologically and neurologically, we are all wired to feel and express these feelings and we need to do so to feel fully alive and healthy.

Man Up

Anna asked about the culturally-driven message that so many boys and men hear to “man up” and be tough. How can we change that?

From Dan’s perspective, he thinks that what needs to happen is that more men need to take the leap to be more vulnerable or emotional and express themselves more honestly. We need role models in our communities that will take that risk. Just telling people to open up never works but when you have a father or brother or colleague willing to open up, that gives us all permission to go there and that is what will make the difference.

Dan continued that for many men, life is a pressure cooker. They experience so much pressure to achieve and provide and don’t have permission to express their feelings about this. When those feelings then get bottled up, the stress can show up as chronic pain or other illnesses. Dan shared that it’s like putting all the garbage in the back of the house. It won’t go away, it just gets stinkier. The only way to clean it up is to clear it out.

Fortunately, connecting with our feelings and expressing ourselves authentically is simply a skill to be learned. From years of working with men, Dan has seen transformations in even the most hardened types. With a little bit of guidance and care, it can be done.

Six Senses Mature Couple is

The Evryman Practice

Dan shared the core process that is used In Evryman’s men’s groups.

Step 1: Slow down, turn your phone off, sit outside in nature. When you slow down, you can start to feel your body. Our emotions live in our body and the first step is always to slow down and feel ourselves, whether it’s a sensation of tightness in our shoulders or perhaps grief in our chest. Once you feel this, then you’re ready for the next step.

Step 2: Say what you feel. Talking about your feelings with a safe person is a powerful step in reclaiming oneself. If I’m pretending and telling people I feel great when I don’t, it blocks authentic relating. By simply and honestly sharing what you’re feeling, connection with others and yourself can grow.

For all of us, finding time for ourselves can be difficult but Dan says that you can’t find the time, you have to make the time. For a lot of men, usually it’s an illness or problem that forces a man to slow down whether it’s a relationship crisis or a heart attack. But we can get ahead of it by being proactive and choosing to slow down. By slowing down, we can see where our lives need more honesty or connection and address it in the moment. As Dan shared, you have to make the choice at some point, or the choice will be made for you in a way you don’t want.

Women and Feelings

A listener asked, do women have a higher tolerance for emotions and mental or emotional pain? Dan shared that it’s not necessarily so biologically but because of thousands of years of conditioning, men have been taught to disassociate from their feelings. As soldiers, for example, men have had to do jobs where they had to cut off their feelings. But what they need now, is a time and a place to open up afterwards.

Anna shared that she’s seen times when a woman gets very uncomfortable with a man’s display of emotions. Dan agreed. Not only can it be very difficult for a man to break down but when he does, it can be very difficult for people to witness this. However, as we start to frame “breaking down” through the lens of health and wellness for everybody, it gets easier. This is one of the reasons why men’s groups are so helpful and powerful because everyone is in the same boat and they can practice going all the way into their emotions with support.

Ultimately, a man’s mental and emotional health is important not just for him but for everyone in his life – his partner, children, family, colleagues.

Please visit Evryman.com for more resources to find community or tools in your area.

BIO

Dan Doty is a coach, wilderness guide, and the co-founder of EVRYMAN. He has dedicated much of his life to helping men open up and give their best to the world. He only likes to be outdoors, and his favorite thing is time in the woods with his wife and two young boys.

 


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