Trentamus Briggs is the kind of guy who seems too good to be true. With a perfect image for branding a social media empire and an exceedingly bright demeanor, it’s easy to assume he had a wholesome, perhaps even preppy, raise; an assumption that discounts all of the inner rubble he has had to clear in order to step into that embodiment.
When Briggs’ parents divorced, he became “a literal red-headed stepchild” not feeling fully accepted in either of his parent’s new lives. When they both remarried, he found himself feeling isolated and unseen, not quite fitting in anywhere and often being left with the scraps. Further, by growing up as a boy in 1990’s suburban America, he quickly learned that because of gender norms, his emotions would not be validated and that expressing them would invite verbal emasculation by the men in his life.
When I was young I was considered rather sensitive and that has always been my core but over time, with the neglect and pain that I endured in childhood, I became rather dysfunctional. After significant pain and deep, deep depression I began to see the ways the world has trained boys and men to disconnect from their core and I recognized this to be the main source of my own pain and dysfunction.
As Briggs entered adolescence, the disconnection from his emotions was taking a clear toll, inducing a long period of self-sabotage and abusive behavioral patterns that carried on well into adulthood. This was most apparent within relationships. He admits to having been emotionally abusive toward the women he cared about, perhaps as a means to stay guarded against the vulnerability he had been trained to believe was a weakness. Fear of vulnerability is also a survival mechanism, a means to avoid emotional rejection and judgment, and it would be some time before Briggs would learn that vulnerability is the key not only to unlocking healthy external bonds, but an unshakable internal bond as well.
When asking Briggs what the breaking-open point was, he reflects on a break-up that left him devastated. He had established much of his identity around the life he had built with a woman he loved and when she left him, he was depressed to the point of suicide. When his suicide attempt failed, he woke up angry with God for not letting him die, but in that moment of anger he also felt a release of sorts, a clear understanding that there was a purpose to his being alive. He became completely transparent with himself about how his girlfriend had every reason in the world to leave him based on his abusive patterns. This self-awareness came from the break-down and in viewing his toxic behaviors through an honest lens, he was then able to start pin-pointing the root causes of his unhealthy patterns, and he found that they were always rooted in deeply buried pain.
After taking stock of his destructive behavior and all the ways it had harmed himself and those around him, the real work came. Briggs discovered that it’s one thing to confront the surface level behavior but doing the work necessary to address and heal the underlying causes behind the behavior is something else entirely and it requires a great deal of the vulnerability men are socially trained to avoid. Addressing trauma means opening up old wounds and being vulnerable to whatever emotions those wounds bring to the surface. For Briggs, the process was long and strenuous with many low points and behavioral relapses, but addressing his trauma is what created healing and personal growth and it has become the cornerstone of the work he does when coaching other men.
Without us addressing trauma, we create trauma. It’s important for men to be loved, heard, seen and valued but without addressing trauma, we will always feel the opposite of those things and that trauma will then act outside of us and cause pain for ourselves and those around us. Our trauma memory is stored on a cellular level, and this has been shown in various studies, so our childhood pain is quite literally still ‘in there’ and much of our behavior is governed by this inner child and all of its coping mechanisms. Until we really love on that pain and genuinely address it, that child will always be in there screaming and reacting.
When asked what a good jumping-off point is for men who seek to heal untapped trauma, Briggs stresses the importance of community, presenting yet another vulnerability road-block. Doing the inner work behind the safety of closed doors can only get a man so far on his journey to healing, but there comes a point where he needs a community of men who can hold space and shine a light on toxic patterns that he may otherwise be blind to, and since men are trained to figure things out for themselves, reaching out can be an extremely difficult thing to do. It can feel like admitting weakness and can be a major deterrent for many men. But Briggs says that if you can find even one man who has done the inner work, reach out to him. Ask him what steps he took. See if he can mentor you. There is an ever-growing community of men who are stepping into conscious living and in recognizing that they have also had to open themselves up to vulnerability in order to crawl out of the same sludge of toxic masculinity, a sense of comradery is developed that makes reaching out much easier for other men.
Taking these steps eventually creates what Briggs refers to as the “integrated man”.
An integrated man is a man who leads from his heart rather than from his mind or his penis. When he learns to be led from his heart center, or his core, he finally learns to integrate all parts of himself, making it far easier to find his center even when something triggers him. Instead of relying on control, money or relationships as his main source of security, he learns to look within and see himself as enough, and from there he learns to interact outwardly in a way that is in congruence with his higher good. As a result, he heals himself while also standing as a lighthouse keeper for those around him.
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Photo courtesy of the author.