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New Transforming Trauma Episode : Men’s Groups, Toxic Masculinity and Developmental Trauma with Dr. Martin Lemon


Transforming Trauma Episode 054: Men’s Groups, Toxic Masculinity and Developmental Trauma with Dr. Martin Lemon

In this episode of Transforming Trauma, Brad Kammer, Senior Faculty and Training Director of the NARM Training Institute, is joined by Dr. Martin Lemon, a clinical psychologist who has been practicing in Chicago's western suburbs for more than 25 years. Dr. Lemon’s work focuses on the psychology of men and male identity. Beginning in 2006, Dr. Lemon developed a specific approach for group psychotherapy with men. Since he started his training in the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM), he’s continued to refine his approach to integrate what he’s learned about developmental trauma. Throughout the episode, Dr. Lemon shares how he integrates NARM into his work, both conceptually and in practice. Brad and Dr. Lemon also discuss their own personal experiences of trauma in the context of what is often called “toxic masculinity”.

Dr. Lemon shares about his own experiences that led him towards specializing in the psychology of men. Early on in his career he was introduced to the idea that men lack a broad range of access to what they are feeling. Dr. Lemon sees how this belief has been socialized within our culture and how it can limit the richness of potential deeper relationships for men. Dr. Lemon reflects on the relationship between fathers and their sons. He shares that often men have this notion that if they are nurturing towards their sons they may become “soft” and they won’t be able to make it in the world as adults. Dr. Lemon challenges this notion and explains how this idea misses the incredible benefits that open-hearted connections have. Nurturing, supportive parenting is what builds a capacity for resilience through the challenges of life.

Dr. Lemon began facilitating men’s groups to promote an opportunity for deeper connection between men. Dr. Lemon encourages the men in his group to be curious, reflective, and to allow space for one another to open up in a deeper way, beyond more surface-level connection. A theme Dr. Lemon has noticed throughout the groups is the distinction between persona and authenticity.

Since being trained in NARM, Dr. Lemon has incorporated what in NARM is called “contracting”, meaning asking what the participants want for themselves out of the group meeting. He also is guided internally by the NARM framework and shares about how he is better able to hold the complexity of the group versus only aligning with a “ positive” position.

As their conversation comes to a close, Brad asks a meaningful question about what Dr. Lemon believes men need to feel more fulfilled and connected. Dr. Lemon shares that healthy vulnerability is the key to a deeper relationship with others as well as with oneself. Deepening one’s capacity for vulnerability seems to be the antidote to toxic masculinity.

About Dr. Lemon:

Dr Lemon is a clinical psychologist practicing in Chicago’s western suburbs for more than 25 years. He has a special interest in the psychology of men and male identity. Beginning in 2006, Dr Lemon developed a specific approach for group psychotherapy with men that he continues to refine in light of insights on developmental trauma that are emerging through his training in the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM).


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Conspicuously, the book Childhood Disrupted included only one man among its six interviewed adult subjects, presumably there being such a small pool of ACE-traumatized men willing to formally tell his own story of childhood abuse. Could it be evidence of a continuing subtle societal take-it-like-a-strong-silent-man mindset? One in which so many men, even with anonymity, would prefer not to ‘complain’ to some stranger/author about his torturous childhood, as that is what ‘real men’ do? I tried contacting the book's author, Donna Jackson Nakazawa, multiple times via book-related internet websites in regards to this non-addressed florescent elephant in the room, but I received no response. ...

The author of The Highly Sensitive Man (2019, Tom Falkenstein) writes in Chapter 1: " ... academics are telling us that ‘we know far less about the psychological and physical health of men than of women.’ Why is this? Michael Addis, a professor of psychology and a leading researcher into male identity and psychological health, has highlighted a deficit in our knowledge about men suffering from depression and argues that this has cultural, social, and historical roots.

If we look at whether gender affects how people experience depression, how they express it, and how it's treated, it quickly becomes clear that gender has for a long time referred to women and not to men. According to Addis, this is because, socially and historically, men have been seen as the dominant group and thus representative of normal psychological health. Women have thus been understood as the nondominant group, which deviated from the norm, and they have been examined and understood from this perspective. One of the countless problems of this approach is that the experiences and specific challenges of the 'dominant group,' in this case men, have remained hidden. ...

While it is true that a higher percentage of women than men will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or a depressive episode, the suicide rate among men is much higher. In the United States, the suicide rate is notably higher in men than in women. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men account for 77 percent of the forty-five thousand people who kill themselves every year in the United States. In fact, men commit suicide more than women everywhere in the world. Men are more likely to suffer from addiction, and when men discuss depressive symptoms with their doctor, they are less likely than women to be diagnosed with depression and consequently don't receive adequate therapeutic and pharmacological treatment."

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