You probably know a young man, or several, who’s struggled to transition from adolescence to adulthood. He’s in his twenties or even thirties, and seems lost and in limbo, unsure of how to create an independent, flourishing life. Maybe you’re this man yourself.
My guest today has some ideas on what has gone wrong in these cases and how to break out of the debilitating cycles many young men, whom he calls “emerging men,” find themselves stuck in. His name is Gregory Koufacos and he’s a therapist, addiction counselor, and the author of The Primal Method: A Book for Emerging Men. Greg and I begin our discussion with why men are getting stuck in their transition from boyhood to manhood, Greg’s own story of arrested and frustrated development, and how working as a 26-year-old under a 16-year-old manager was part of what he needed to do to move on from his dream of playing professional football. We then discuss why traditional therapy methods typically don’t work for men, how Greg developed his own form of counseling that emphasizes getting outside the therapist’s office to move, take action, and participate in real life — what Greg calls “entering the agora” — and why this approach is so effective. We also discuss the things that help young men move forward, which include Greg’s concepts of “empathetic challenge” and “holding the line,” as well as finding good mentors and friends. We end our conversation with what men can do to start nurturing their small, latent spark into a more powerful and purposeful fire.
If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.
- Why are so many men getting lost in that transition from boyhood to manhood?
- Brother Gregory’s own experience getting lost on his way to adulthood
- How his rock bottom moment helped turn his life around
- Brother Gregory’s unique approach to counseling
- The addiction recovery “industry”
- Why the talking cure doesn’t work well with young men
- Taking advantage of the power of mirroring neurons
- Why do young men need emphatic challenge?
- What it means to “hold the line”
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast
- A Man’s Need for Ritual
- How Childhood Shapes Adulthood
- The 3 Tasks of Moving From Adolescence to Adulthood
- The Seasons of a Man’s Life: Early Adulthood
- Modern Maturity: Create More, Consume Less
- Why Growing Up Is a Subversive Life
- Why Growing Up Is Hard To Do (But Why the World Still Needs Adults)
- Action Over Feelings
- The Power of Mentoring
- How to Empower Boys to Succeed
- Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do to Help Them
- Building Your Band of Brothers
- Being a Man in the Lousy Modern World
Connect With Brother Gregory
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Listen ad-free on Stitcher Premium; get a free month when you use code “manliness” at checkout.
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. You probably know a young man or several who struggled to transition from adolescence to adulthood. He’s in his 20s, maybe even his 30s, and seems lost and in limbo, unsure how to create an independent flourishing life. Maybe you’re this man yourself. My guest today has some ideas on what has gone wrong in these cases, and how to break out of the debilitating cycles many young men whom he calls emerging men find themselves stuck in. His name is Gregory Koufacos and he’s a therapist, addiction counselor and the author of The Primal Method, a book for emerging men. Greg and I begin our discussion with why many men get stuck in their transition from boyhood to manhood, Greg’s own story of arrested and frustrated development and how working as a 26-year-old under a 16-year-old manager was part of what he needed to do to move on from his dream of playing professional football.
We then discuss why traditional therapy methods typically don’t work for men, how Greg developed his own form of counseling that emphasizes getting outside the therapist’s office to move, take action and participate in real life, what Greg calls entering the agora and why this approach is so effective. We also discuss the things that help young men move forward, which include Greg’s concepts of emphatic challenge and holding the line as well as finding good mentors and friends. And we end our conversation with what men can do to start nurturing their small latent spark into a more powerful and purposeful fire. After the show is over, check out our show notes at aom.is/emergingmen. Gregory joins you now via clearcast.io.
Alright, Gregory Koufacos, welcome to the show.
Gregory Koufacos: Thank you. Good to be here.
Brett McKay: So you are an addiction counselor, but you seem to have found your calling in working with a certain type of I would say young men, a young man in his 20s, early 30s, maybe. How would you describe the typical man you work with in your counseling work?
Gregory Koufacos: So I work with young men, 18 to 35. They have on the surface, a lot of different problems, mostly, like you said, I’m trained and specialized in addiction and with addiction comes a lot of other problems, but the main person that I work with is somebody who’s getting stuck in the transition from boyhood or adolescence into manhood.
Brett McKay: What I like in your book, The Primal Method, you start off describing this encounter of a young man that you would probably counsel with a young woman about his same age, and the young man is just sort of like no vibrancy, no life, no vitality. You can tell he’s just… There’s nothing like generative there, nothing, there’s no creative force, there’s nothing… No vitality. And then you have this young woman come in and she’s like she’s got spunk and spark and vital and I thought that was a good description ’cause I’ve seen, I’ve met a lot of those young men you’ve described.
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah, there’s… That is a true story. I remember going to the juice bar and just sitting there and a few times in a row, I’d see this young guy and not to pick on him, but that’s why I said, this is our guy. This is who we’re talking about. It’s somebody who is sitting slouched over. You can tell nothing is going on in his life. He’s totally disconnected, his face is kind of pale, but he probably used to be somebody, so there’s always that disconnect like who you were and who you are, and then where you’re going. And it kinda gets progressively worse. It can.
Brett McKay: And as you said, oftentimes it starts out that way, where you just sort of… A young man, becomes sort of disengaged, doesn’t know, listless, doesn’t know where he’s going in life. And as a result, they end up in some sort of addiction, alcohol, drugs, etcetera.
Gregory Koufacos: Right. Yeah. When you don’t know where you’re going and you don’t have clear guidance, the probability of you getting lost is high. And that’s exactly what’s happening. There’s no clear, inspired, supported direction and this is what we have, getting lost.
Brett McKay: And why do you think there’s so many young men like that today? What do you think has contributed to this uptick in men getting lost in that transition from boyhood to manhood?
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah, that’s a good question. I will say from… I haven’t done a whole lot of speculating in terms of why that is, because the people that end up working or meeting with me, it’s so obvious that there is a problem. I could do a lot of different speculation about it, I think on… If I’m giving an optimistic view, I would say that males, we are evolving and we need more than we got in the past. Like I was thinking about our conversation while I was taking a run this morning, and I was like it just doesn’t feed a man anymore to say, “Well, when you get 18, you go to the army, and then after that, you marry your college sweetheart and then you work at the local wherever, that just doesn’t do it anymore.” So I think part of it is that males are hungrier for a more, a deeper purpose, and that is the responsibility of a culture, of the community to help nurture what the young emerging men need. And that’s not happening. So it’s sort of that, that is what’s happening.
Brett McKay: When you were one of these guys you now counsel, can you tell us your story ’cause I thought it was really interesting. Tell us about your story and how did you get to where you’re now helping men the way you used to be.
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah. Well, like you said, I am one of the men that I used to counsel. I had a whole lot of potential in life. I was born into a very, very good family. They gave me everything they could. In fact, my town gave me everything, the community. But I think for me, obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my own story, but I really resisted going with the flow, and I never really wanted to follow what my society or what my culture was teaching me. I just didn’t wanna follow direction, I didn’t wanna follow guidance. I did have a saving grace, which was that I was an athlete, and I put everything I had into that. But along with that, I started getting exposed to life, and that included different drugs, different temptations, gambling, just overall bad living, and I ended up hitting a wall and hit multiple times. And it was a… Yeah, it was, as you said, it was a tough story. I don’t really know what to say about it. It’s very…
Brett McKay: Just to be clear, you weren’t just an athlete. You were playing D1 football. That’s a big deal. That’s like 1% of high school athletes will ever get to do that and you made it.
Gregory Koufacos: Right. And I only started playing football when I was a junior. So for me, it required a lot of dedication and a lot of work, and if you had asked me at the age of 17, 18, 19, my only purpose in life was to become a professional athlete. That was it. And yeah, I played Division 1 football and learned a lot of lessons from that. But yeah, it was the top of the top.
Brett McKay: And as you said, during this time, you hit multiple walls. You incurred a lot of gambling debt and then started doing drugs, and then you had these moments where you’d bounce back and football seemed to be your saving grace. You’d always like, “Well, I’m just gonna re-dedicate myself and get disciplined for football.” But then you reached this moment where you pretty much hit rock bottom and football was no longer there to save you. What was that moment and how did that serve as a turning point for you?
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah. Well, I had made my decision. I thought I’d made my decision to walk away from football, and I was kind of at a good place with it. I had a number of injuries and I was really starting to broaden my horizon. And I was living out in Arizona, I was starting to get exposed to different forms of spirituality and martial arts, and I was kind of ready to move on and step into the unknown, so to speak. But I was at the gym one day, and the quarterback on the team at the time, Ortiz Jenkins, he and I were friendly and I told him that I made my decision and I’m gonna move on. And he challenged me and said, “You know, you’re leaving on their terms, you’re leaving on the coach’s terms. You’re not leaving on your terms.” And that really lit a fire under my ass and I started to train to get back into football, but at the end, I just couldn’t. I got my body back where I needed to, but I couldn’t get my academics. I had failed out of school at that point.
And I remember I went in and I tried to get my grades changed to become reinstated, and it just I couldn’t do it. And I remember walking out of the building, sitting on the pavement and just bawling like, “I don’t know, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know where I’m going.” And it was a very sad but ultimately cathartic moment because I finally, and I tell this to a lot of the guys that I work with, you have to let go of that old dream that you had. There is a new dream waiting for you. My whole method rests on that premise that there is a purpose for you, there is a dream for you, and the only real person that’s getting in the way of that is you and all of your effort. And I was a classic case of that. Life just couldn’t get through to me because of my fixed ideas of what I wanted my life to be.
Brett McKay: And then after this moment, you basically had to start from ground zero. You got a job at a coffee shop and you were taking orders from like a 16-year-old kid.
Gregory Koufacos: Yep.
Brett McKay: You were 22 and really humbling, and you learned a lot in that process of just learning how to do a good work and be… In humility. But how did you make that transition from working in a coffee shop to “I’m gonna become a counselor.” How did that happen?
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah. So first of all, I was 26. I was 26.
Brett McKay: Alright, 26. Alright, yeah. 26-year-old getting bossed around by… Yeah.
Gregory Koufacos: And a 16-year-old was… Yeah, was… He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just bossing me, he was doing his job. But for me, that was very, very humbling. How I got from there to where I am is I built my life up brick by brick by brick, and there were multiple times that I wanted to jump ship and build my life real quick, because that was my MO. Like, all young men want a life that they are happy with, they want… They wanna dream big. But what I didn’t understand and what they don’t understand is that that requires a process, that requires time. And I… When I felt like I had finally gotten myself into a natural rhythm of life where I wasn’t moving too fast and I wasn’t moving too slow, it became clear that it was time to think about a career, and I just did a very simple self-assessment and said… I realized that there are two things that I’m good at and two things that I like to do. I love to argue, and I love to search for the truth and argue for the truth.
And so for me, that meant either going into law, which I know you have your experience in, or going to become a therapist. I felt like that I could reach people and I booked… I had a childhood friend, a family friend who was a lawyer and a family friend who was a psychologist, and I reached out to both of them and said, “Listen, I wanna meet with you and I wanna find out, what is your life like?” And the psychologist booked an entire hour for me free of charge. I went to his office, sat down, we talked about what it was like to travel that path, and it was really a great conversation. And the lawyer was so busy that even though he cared for me, he blew me off. And I said right then that’s not the quality of life that I’m looking for. And so I went into psychology and went down that path.
Brett McKay: And now you’re an addiction counselor. Well, let’s talk about your approach to counseling ’cause it’s different ’cause I think when most guys hear counseling, they think, “Well, I’m gonna go to this office, I’m gonna sit down in this chair… ” They don’t have couches anymore.
Gregory Koufacos: Right.
Brett McKay: It’s just a chair, a nice lovely chair.
Gregory Koufacos: They downgraded.
Brett McKay: They downgraded. “And you’re gonna talk for maybe an hour.”
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah.
Brett McKay: That’s not what you do.
Gregory Koufacos: No.
Brett McKay: You get the guy… When a man comes to see you, you get them out of the office. Tell us about how you discovered that, “Okay, just sitting down, traditional talk therapy doesn’t work for men.”
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah. I came from the addiction recovery industry and what that industry looks like is that you have a lot of support and a lot of structure and a lot of leverage. So these guys… By the way, I wasn’t just counseling young men when I was in… Working in rehabs but I was a very, very effective counselor in rehab settings because you have that structure you can really, really lean into people and they don’t have any other distractions in their life. And so I found a way to make that work. But when I transitioned to having my own practice, I tried what was… What is practice, which is people have their hour-long appointment and they come and they sit down and you talk. And I just found that doing that was not really reaching these young men. It just… Nothing was really transforming. We might have a good conversation here or there, and also oftentimes there was nothing to talk about.
So I in a mix of just boredom, personally being bored, and also seeing, more importantly seeing that what I was doing wasn’t working, I made a simple decision to tell the young man that I was working with that I would no longer meet with them in a physical office, that we were just gonna go outside and do something, and I had no idea what something was. And from that very simple decision to just walk outside, over the course of three to four years an entire method evolved and I understood why I took them outside and what I was actually doing with them.
Brett McKay: Now you call this… So you call traditional forms of therapy dialogic, right? So it’s talking.
Gregory Koufacos: Right.
Brett McKay: Your idea of just getting them out there and doing something like the walking cure, you also dubbed it the Dia Kinetic Action or the action access. So motion or movement. What do you think is going on? Why do you think… Is it just something about men, they’re hard-wired so they respond to action?
Gregory Koufacos: For sure, but also by dialogic, I mean cognitive or rational, and we all have a rational part of us. It’s the reason. And it turns out that young men don’t even have that part of the brain fully developed. After I left the office, I saw that instead of just relating to men at the rational level or what I’m saying the dialogical level, I started to see that we were moving around, we were moving in the world, and I noticed that multiple things were happening. Number one, we were moving our physical bodies, and I saw that there was a power in just doing that, okay? But also we were doing things together and we were creating a bond. I was creating and we were co-creating a bond ourselves, so we were connecting. And then furthermore, they were learning how to enter the social world and build a life for themselves. So three main things were happening, and when I started to write the book and think about why this method was actually working because in the beginning, I had no idea really what I was doing or what was gonna happen. So this was only in hindsight.
I saw that what we were really doing is we were reaching beyond the rational mind. We were reaching deeper to the part of our mind or the part of our being that connects with others and with the world, we were reaching into the part of our being that moves. And even the more forward-thinking psychotherapeutic approaches know that that is where the source of both the problem and the solution is. It’s in how we connect, and how we act. So by saying diakinetic, I mean, that we’re moving in the world, we’re moving in the world together. And yeah, it blows my mind how this taps into the deeper part of a young man. And it’s much more exciting.
Brett McKay: Right. And you call this, going out into the world, like entering the agora. So you’re Greek. So you’ve brought in some of your Greek culture and heritage in this. And the agora is just… It’s the public. It’s where you go, where people interact. It’s where Socrates basically accosted people and asked them what is virtue.
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah.
Brett McKay: But there’s something about that, like you said, that is transformative. Like, you’re actually… I think one of the problems with traditional therapy is that you’re sort of taken out of the world and what you’re doing, it can be theoretical and it can be useful but then, like so learning how to apply that in the real world can be hard. There’s a disconnect. But if you’re actually learning on the fly in the real world, there’s something about that, that can really transform somebody.
Gregory Koufacos: Totally. And the beauty of that is that then all the… By the way, I do have to say, I’m not against talk therapy. I think it works well in conjunction with what I do. And also I believe that for emerging men especially, you need to act first, and then talk about what you did. So does that make sense?
Brett McKay: No, that makes sense. And to be clear, what you were doing with these guys, is you were taking them out of the office, you might go for a walk, or you might go to a coffee shop, but then eventually it was like, “Hey, let’s go rock climb. Let’s go to a boxing gym.” And you let them sort of drive that. And that’s the other thing too I was really impressed by like how patient you were with this. It wasn’t like, “Hey, right away, we’re gonna go to a rock climbing gym.” It was, “Hey, we’ll just go to a coffee shop.” And it might be three months before the guy was like, “Yeah. I’m ready to go do something else.”
Gregory Koufacos: Exactly. Yeah. That’s a great observation. And I learned that because the young men that were coming to me initially, they were pretty much the people that were not responding to traditional forms of treatment. So there was a real learning process that we went through to figure out how to do this. And the guys that I was working with, I had to be very, very patient with them. And I learned a really important lesson, which is that it is very important for a man to, especially an emerging man, to organically come to his own hunger of what he wants to do in life. So for me, it was a huge deal when these guys that I started working with, would say something like, “I heard about this art exhibit in Tribeca, and I’d like to go there. And also, my uncle told me about an Italian restaurant in that area.”
For me, that was an example that they were creating a map of the world, and they were getting excited about exploring that map. And that’s the beginnings I found of creating your life. You have to get out into the world. And that starts with exploring the world, poking around, getting excited about different things. And yeah, it’s a very patient process. I work with a lot of different counselors and things like that and I feel like a lot of times they suggest a lot of things to these young men, and they don’t understand why these young men don’t just follow what is being said. But there’s way more power in that young man creating their own sort of hunger for what they wanna do.
Brett McKay: And another point you make that the reason you wanna get these guys out there and doing stuff with them is that you understand, or you came to this understanding that emerging men, these young men, they need to see what it looks like. Like, actually see what it looks like, feels like for another man, what does it look like for a man to engage with the world and you were serving that mirror for them, you were serving as that pattern to follow.
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah. That’s what I… I realized after a couple of years of doing this, that I was seeing more progress. And by progress, I mean, these guys were getting inspired to live. And they were starting to make changes in their own life. I saw that we were making more progress just by them seeing how I did it, rather than me talking to them. So instead of me trying to talk to them, and teach them how to build a life, I just went out into life with them and I was right alongside them. And they were able, I feel, what they were able to do was, they were able to see what I was doing and they were able to internalize this model of how you go out and enter life, how you attack life, how you give life your all, how you love life.
The most important thing that we can do for young men is put a man that is further along in that journey right in front of him and just let him see how to do it. And there’s a lot of science to back that up too. There’s a whole part of the brain called the mirror neuron system, which I think it will be very important to understand that going forward that really what happens is we mirror each other. We tend to mirror the most influential or the most powerful person that we’re around. And yeah, this is what I believe was happening with a lot of these young guys. They were just seeing what I was doing and they were copying it in their own unique way.
Brett McKay: So basically, young men at this age need a mentor.
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah, they need somebody who can show them how it’s done. So if we wanna call that a mentor, there are different levels to how deep of a bond two men can create, and it gets into the highest forms of teacher-student. But if you just have another man who is actively, genuinely pursuing the best version of his life in an authentic way, this is a true inspiration, this is a true inspiration.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I love that you described… You’ve experienced this in your life. When you were a boy, so there’s this guy in your neighborhood growing up who just a cool dude, had a wife, kids, but had a job, was responsible but at the same time, he didn’t let that grind him down, didn’t seem like other men who were just like, “I’ll just… Gonna sit down and watch Matlock.” He was…
Gregory Koufacos: Right.
Brett McKay: He was out there doing stuff even when he’s in his 30s and 40s, and you saw that and you’re like, “Man, being a grown man can actually be really cool. I wanna be like that.”
Gregory Koufacos: It’s important for men who are further along in their journey to open their world to the younger men in whatever forms that takes because this guy who we’re talking about, he didn’t sit me down and talk to me about life. He didn’t try to solve my problems. He didn’t try to find out what I was feeling or what was bothering me. He just was another man that I could walk with, and I had fun, and I realized that I was just taking notes how he lived his life. And the most important thing was how I felt like he opened his heart and he was enjoying life, that was very important for me to see how a man can open his heart and enjoy his life, and that was all I really needed at that time.
Brett McKay: So this primal method that you’ve developed, so one part of it is getting men out there, being action-oriented, mirroring positive masculinity, positive manliness to them so they can see what that looks like, feels like. There’s also this other part you talk about that young men need but they’re not getting is this idea of emphatic challenge. What do you mean by emphatic challenge?
Gregory Koufacos: I mean being opposed and feeling a pressure that is exerted on them. In the book, I give the analogy of when I was in Japan with my wife we were in the train and we were looking out the window and I saw these green bushes that looked like they were like in pixel, they were animated. And I said, “What are those bushes?” And they said. “Those are not bushes, those are trees.” And they actually, if you leave those trees to grow, just to grow like wherever they want and however they want, those will become 30 to 50 feet high. And we prune those consciously and constantly to pack the color and the flavor into them, and this is what young men are missing. They don’t have people over them that are showing them, that are kinda… And it’s a tough process because a lot of young men, they do have people that are riding their back, complaining, lecturing them, that is not what I’m talking about and that’s not what emphatic challenge is. Emphatic challenge, of course, is like a level of opposition. You need to be challenging young men. And I would argue, men in general, we just need to be challenged in order to bring out the best of ourselves.
Brett McKay: And related to this idea of emphatic challenge, giving young men… Calling them out basically, and seeing if they can step up to it, but you also have this idea of holding the line. What is that and how is that related to emphatic challenge?
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah, and I… By the way, I wanna say about the emphatic challenge like what that ultimately means for me is when I meet these young men that are, let’s say, between 18, 25, it’s looking at them and challenging their view of the world and themselves, like everybody has these hidden beliefs on how they believe life should go. And my emphatic challenge to them is where did you get the idea that that’s how life works? Where did you get the idea that you’re just gonna snap your fingers and have this amazing life? Who gave you that idea? Or maybe I’m coming across a little judgmental right now, but it’s a genuine curiosity. Where did you get that idea, when, and most importantly, is it working? Is it working for you? There comes a point in a young man’s life where he has to look at how he approaches life, and he’s gotta be willing to ask whether the way that he approaches life works.
Why did I stay the course when I was at that bakery, getting bossed around by a kid 16 years old? It’s because I saw that my way didn’t work. Me thinking that I was this top dog and I was so great, “Well, if I was so great then how come I’m here?” So for me it was constantly humbling myself and learning what are the ways of the world. And to do that you have to seek out men who are really making their life work. You meet with a lot of people and everybody is telling you their ideas. Right?
Brett McKay: Sure.
Gregory Koufacos: But are those ideas working?
Brett McKay: Some of them are. A lot of them not.
Gregory Koufacos: Some are and some aren’t, but how do we know if it’s working or not? You have to really look at whether those ideas that somebody is telling you whether they work. Do they make this person happy, truly happy? Are they leading this person down a path in their life that they are excited about, that’s evolving? So for me emphatic challenge means let’s get real, let’s get honest and, hey, by the way I’m gonna get honest too. So I’m not saying that I’m fully evolved and that all my ideas are set in stone. So I will tell the young men and they appreciate this, I say, “Listen, we’re climbing the same mountain, you and I. I might be 10 feet ahead of you or I might be 10 years ahead of you, I don’t know. But let me tell you something, this mountain is an unforgiving mountain, or maybe not. It’s a ruthless mountain but it’s forgiving but it’s ruthless. It doesn’t get any easier. So I’m always challenging my beliefs.”
So that’s the piece about the emphatic challenge. Hold the line, if you’re gonna try to do anything difficult in life, somebody has to prevent you from hitting the escape hatch when it gets difficult. And I’d be willing to bet if there are young men listening to this, if your life is not working for you, you can almost guarantee it’s because when things get tough you give up. Now, you can give up in a thousand different ways and you can tell yourself whatever you want but the bottom-line is you’re giving up. You’re not putting your full self in this experience and when things got difficult, you gave up. And when that happens, you have to have people there that they are there to support you to keep going. You wanna know a funny story? Remember in the book where I said that that team captain he challenged me and he brought out the best in me, right?
Brett McKay: Right.
Gregory Koufacos: I went home to my mother that day and I had already concluded, I said, “Football is not for me.” I said, “This is… I’m glad I ran through that line and thank you very much I’ve learned all the lessons I needed to learn.” And I come up with my excuse, I was gonna play basketball all fall and I was gonna practice. I had it all mapped out. And she looked at me and said, “You are not quitting. You made a decision to play football and you’re gonna play this season.” And I was, “Damn.” She held the line, I went back, I figured it out because the people in my life did not allow me to quit. This is a chronic pattern in the work that I do. The minute that you push people, they wanna give up. And their parents or whoever is in their life they either believe that nonsense or they hold the line and say, “No, you’re not gonna give up.”
If you’re not allowed to give up, what happens is, you end up facing the feelings, your feelings that you are trying to run from. You’re not running from football or running from your marriage or running from your job, you’re running from yourself. You do not yet have the ability to contain all of your feelings and you’ve become a specialist at opting out, choosing the easier path because then you get to feel something that’s better but those feelings are all you. So if people hold the line then the person gets to feel all of themselves.
Brett McKay: Okay. So we’ve talked about young men… Emerging like emerging men need action, they need to be out there and exploring the world and seeing what authentic positive masculinity looks like by having a mentor and this mentor is gonna hold the line, they’re gonna challenge them. But then also one of your goals as a counselor with these guys when you work with them is eventually for them to develop their own circle of male friends that’s not just you. This guy, you’re kind of like their friend. You become their friend. But you want them to have a circle of friends that might not necessarily involve you as well.
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah. I become their friend, I become their brother. I’m helping them to resolve the barriers that they have to connecting with another human being at a meaningful level. Once they learn that or as they learn that because each person connects to the world and connects to other people in their own unique way and the only way to learn how you connect with other people is through experience. And you have to have somebody… When I wrote the book I realized that what I’m really trying to do is I’m trying to become a master at connection.
I basically say to these parents when they come to me and they say, “You don’t know our son. He’s so lost. He doesn’t connect with anybody. He’s this, he’s that.” And I know, and I tell them. I say, “I guarantee you that I can connect with your son.” That’s what I believe. I’m gonna be able to connect to the un-connectable. Through that process, that person teaches themselves how to connect. And then the goal, of course, is that they have to learn how to make connections in their own life. They have to replicate it.
Brett McKay: But first they gotta see what that looks like in order for them to do that.
Gregory Koufacos: Yeah. And they have to more than see it, they have to feel it. They have to manifest it, they have to feel it in their being, what is it like to connect to another person in a meaningful way. Because a lot of guys they have people in their life, right? “Friends.” But they’re not really connecting to them. They’re not really creating nourishing connections. So even if you’re surrounded by people, you still could be missing out on the beauty and the power of connection. And that’s what I’m teaching them.
Brett McKay: Right. And the end goal of all this, this is hopefully what people get to, and again, like we said, this could take months, it could take years for it to happen but the…
Gregory Koufacos: That’s right.
Brett McKay: But the end goal is to have that young man that we talked about earlier, sort of like flat, no spark, fill them with… They want… You want that guy to have some vitality. You call it generative or creative. You call it like they have a male womb, basically. They wanna create in the world.
Gregory Koufacos: That is the ultimate goal. And like you said, we are in the darkness of the night, leaning, hunching over a little spark of fire that we found. And we’re just gently blowing on it. We’re just gently… We’re literally our ears are to the earth blowing on this, cradling this fire. And then the young man sees that that’s what we’re doing together. We’re blowing on… We’re gently blowing on his fire to live. And that’s what I mean by the difference between the rational, the dialogic. This is deeper than logic. If you ask a man questions about… I don’t know, like should you be living at home with your parents? Should you have a job? Do you wanna have a purpose in your life? They can say the right answers to that, but it doesn’t mean that they’re activating their primal power, that will to live, that hunger, that inspiration. For me, all the work that I’m doing with these young men is to try to light that fire. That’s the fire that’s gonna keep burning through the night.
Brett McKay: Well, Gregory, let’s say that someone is listening to this podcast. Maybe they’re a young guy, they’ve got… Maybe they have some sort of addiction. Maybe they don’t, but they still… They see themselves in that guy we described with just no spark. What’s something that someone can do today to start igniting that fire, blowing that little spark that they might have?
Gregory Koufacos: Well, what I did when I was in that position is I made a deal with myself. I made a deal that I was gonna appreciate my life for one year. And by appreciate my life I meant I was gonna do what I needed to do to get my life a little bit better each day. I was gonna literally appreciate it. And I wasn’t gonna put any criteria around it. I wasn’t gonna say, “Oh, by… In three months I’m gonna be at level 100.” I just said, “I’m just gonna tilt this thing five degrees, three degrees… ” So what you young men can do is you can just make a decision to be thankful for the fact that you have life and appreciate your life day by day for a year. And read the book, because I wrote this book for you to try to give you some tools that I believe our culture is not giving you.
Brett McKay: Gregory, where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?
Gregory Koufacos: The website. So we have Go With the Bro, Brother Gregory, gowiththebro.com. And the book is available everywhere that books are sold.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Gregory, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Gregory Koufacos: Thank you, Brett.
Brett McKay: My guest today was Gregory Koufacos. He’s the author of the book, The Primal Method. It’s available on amazon.com. You can also learn more about his work at his website, gowiththebro.com. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/emergingmen where you can find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the AOM podcast. Check out our website at artofmanliness.com, where you can find our podcast archives, as well as thousands of articles written over the years. And if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of AOM podcast you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Head over to stitcherpremium.com, sign up, use code MANLINESS at check out for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate it if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple Podcast or Stitcher. It helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing this show with a friend or a family member who you think would get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay, reminding you not only to listen to AOM podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.