As two Noble Man workshops are coming up within a month, we felt it’d be good to speak to some personal experience about what COB means to the individuals who participate. With work such as ours, many interpretations of what is happening will exist–some will say they became more emotionally intelligent, others will say they found greater self-love and let go of shame, others will say they touched God or the Divine, still others will say they shed pent up anger, just to name a few of the examples we’ve heard. Because of this, we feel that it’s an important opportunity for potential participants to receive knowledge of what was gained, what COB does, straight from the people doing the work.
I, Aaron, the COB Ops Manager, am the guinea pig.
I learned about COB from a friend and one of our facilitators, Chrissy Brady-Smith, who encouraged me to do Noble Man two years ago. At first glance, I felt COB was too spiritual for me. I have been not so much an atheist as I have an agnostic inquirer, and I preferred my self work to be more scientific, likely based on growing up as a meditator and wanting to explore other avenues of growth. However, I trusted Chrissy’s judgement and she said it would be fantastic for me based on what I was going through.
I had decided I wanted two main things from my Noble Man workshop: 1) to shed the massive shame, self-loathing, and feeling like a bad person all the time that I carried with me, and 2) to understand and heal what felt like a very compulsive relationship to wanting women’s attention, sexually and otherwise.
People generally like me, and I have always been called smart and kind and successful. However, this image that others seemed to see didn’t occur to me as remotely accurate. I judged myself harshly. Everything I did was wrong, and I was worthless. These are some of the voices in my head.
In regard to women, when I was in college, I noticed that I really needed attention from women, and that I couldn’t will myself to not need it. I couldn’t really date anyone for a prolonged period of time because I would invariably need intimacy with someone else. (Now, some people would say this is human, and I generally agree, but it was the fact that it felt like I was not myself in these moments, that they felt compulsive and out of my normal feelings of choosing, that had me wanting to change it.) I continued to rinse and repeat for years, even through lots of therapy and coaching. After about 10 years, this pattern no longer worked for me because I had met the woman who is now my wife, and I knew on some level this was the case and I needed to be open with her and work on it.
Noble Man changed my life, so much so that I now work for COB. I won’t discuss the particulars of processes, as part of the transformation comes from stepping into yourself in these challenges in the moment they occur, but I gained a few major things that I want to share.
First is that I received some feedback about my intensely harsh inner critic that reminded me of and allowed me to feel more–as there is a difference between knowing something and being able to enact it–the fact that my critic’s job is to keep me safe, not make me miserable. That was my incorrect interpretation of my mind’s behavior. I developed this seemingly corny but power practice of saying to my critic, whenever it arose in my head, “I appreciate your help. I know you’re concerned about me looking stupid, but I’m pretty sure I have this one covered.” And, as a result, those voices would go away for a while.
Second, although I didn’t totally understand where these feelings of being a bad person came from until much later (a story that I’ll save for another date), I could feel more love for myself through being around a group of people that in those moments completely accepted whatever I am/was. One of COB’s trademark phrases is “It’s all welcome.” And this is completely true in a way I’ve never seen before. I got to practice being entirely myself and withholding nothing, and this was hugely transformative.
Third, through a lesson that addresses the topic of anger, which is so badly skewed in our culture, I was able to release a lot of the pain I had felt earlier in my life in being made fun of by others, not fitting in, being scared of going to new places, and I could allow myself to love people in my life and also see that some of the things they did made me angry. I could see that each of us is a human being with the entire spectrum of humanity, good and bad.
Last, although again it wasn’t completely clear exactly where this came from, I started to understand more of the dynamic about my relationship with women. One aspect was that I conflated sex and intimacy as one thing, such that having sex felt like someone saying they loved me. Then, since I had lost love for myself, I sought it out in other ways, and the way that seemed the best escape to me was intimacy and care from women. Seeing this, especially in a workshop staffed by women, and being heard and accepted, completely changed my life.
I will not say that I never experienced these issues and feelings again, but I made a strong movement toward more positive human feelings. Noble Man brought me toward the developmental steps I was looking for, and therefore more self-love, openness, and joy in a way I doubted was possible.