(NEW YORK) — Tucked away from the main roads in Twentynine Palms, California, is a desert oasis. It’s at The Campbell House that the palm trees and greenery thrive amid the hot, unrelenting sun. It’s also where some 30 men have gathered for a weekend retreat.
The men come from different races, socio-economic backgrounds and age groups. They’ve joined the men’s group Evryman, to do what most of them have never done before: to open up and be vulnerable with themselves, and one another.
The retreat is intense, emotional, peer to peer work that’s aided by the Evryman facilitators. They’re there to help these men in their emotional journey; to tell them that it’s okay to feel anger, to feel shame and to cry.
For most of the day, the men are put into groups, varying in size. They are given prompts to ask each other things like, “When is a time something didn’t go your way?” and “How did it make you feel?”
Each man takes a turn answering the question. The other men in the group then analyze the responder’s emotion as he gives his answer. The purpose of this is to make these men feel seen and heard.
Kyle Somersall of Brooklyn, New York, is a soft-spoken 32-year-old man. He said he joined Evryman because it was an opportunity to better himself and to create stronger bonds with other men.
“I was pretty numb to my loneliness,” he told ABC News.
Somersall said that growing up, he wasn’t given the space to express himself.
“What I learned about what it means to be a man was really neglecting my emotions and feeling shame about crying or feeling shame about having emotions,” he said.
It’s precisely why Evryman co-founder Owen Marcus said he started the group.
“There’s an emotional pandemic of men just giving up and being lonely,” he told ABC News.
He hopes that men’s groups like his will help men realize that they are not alone.
“One of the things that these men get to do at these retreats, is they get to be in an emotionally safe space with other men, and whatever way they want…to allow themselves to feel what they have never felt before,” he said.
Throughout the weekend, guttural cries and screams echoed in the desert oasis.
One of those cries came from Scott Wright of Everett, Washington. He said it was important for him to come to this retreat because of patterns he wanted to change.
“These patterns cost me my first marriage. And my second marriage is nearly done because of that. And I just wanted to learn how to connect with myself better,” he said.
Somersall also had an emotional breakthrough.
“Stop!” he continuously yelled as he was being held by a group of men. His sobs eventually took over. They came from a place of pain.
“I was feeling a lot of emotion in my throat and in my heart. It was feeling neglected emotionally, just feeling really alone,” he said. “There is just a feeling of being broken feeling down and feeling unworthy of love.”
Somersall said the experience changed him.
“I’ve never fully let myself go in front of others in this capacity,” he said. “Being able to be held by a group of men and seen and understood by them and have it resonate for them as well- that felt really, really powerful.”
As the weekend drew to a close, a lot of these men seemed lighter, and more chipper than when we first met them. As the men prepared to leave the retreat, they hugged and expressed their love and gratitude for one another.
“I got even more than I expected. I was really able go deeper than I could have gone on my own and just release a ton of emotion,” Somersall said. “I feel closer to some of these people than I do with people that I’ve known for decades.”
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