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April 12, 2023

Episode 75: Pursuing A Non-Violent Path with Brad Mewhort

On this episode of Pursuing Uncomfortable, Brad Mewhort speaks about his experiences with violence as a young boy and the impact it had on his life as an adult. He discusses the cycles of violence and the societal systems that perpetuate them. He also touches on the glorification of violence in our society and aspirations for a version of masculinity that values peacefulness, healing work, and self-awareness. Brad has written a book called The Peaceful Man, which includes somatic practices to become aware of patterns in the body and contemplative practices of forgiveness and compassion for ourselves and others.

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Brad has a mission to prevent male-on-male violence and end physical bullying. In his adolescence, he was a victim of physical bullying and became an occasional bully himself. Over the past two decades, he has done a lot of work to heal from the personal impacts of these encounters with violence.

Brad believes that men healing from violence and finding peace within themselves are keys to enabling humanity and all of life on earth to flourish. He wrote The Peaceful Man in service of this vision and as a means of helping men to embark on journeys of healing.

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🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶


🎶 Episode Intro:  Brad Mewhort  joins the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast today to talk about his experience of being bullied as a young adolescent. He also talks about the work he does to help men eliminate violence from their understanding of manhood. He does a lot of work and has some great ideas. I'm pleased to welcome him to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. 🎶




Brad Mewhort joins the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast today to talk about his experience of being bullied as a young adolescent. He also talks about the work he does to help men eliminate violence from their understanding of manhood. He does a lot of work and has some great ideas. I'm pleased to welcome him to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast.

Melissa: 0:50

Brad, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. How are you? I'm doing well, Melissa, thank you. It's so nice to have you with us today. I am eager to get into this topic that you're bringing. I think it's a message that'll be valuable to so many of us. So, Brad, let's just jump right in if you're a game. Absolutely. And tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Brad: 1:16

Sure. I do some coaching and I facilitate groups and a lot of that is working with men and in particular men who have experienced violence in their past and are not so much doing the early stages of healing work, but who men who are really looking to go deep with. To, to really reach the, the, the depth possible of healing. Really looking to find, um, a great deal of peace within themselves despite encounters that they've had in the past that make that challenging. And that's a background that, yeah, I share. And so, as well as having gone through a long journey of my own healing work, uh, bringing me to. I've also done a lot of training in coaching, group facilitation, somatic practices, which are body-based healing practices.

Melissa: 2:22

Brad, would you mind telling us a little bit about your own experience and what's brought you to this work?

Brad: 2:29

So when I was 13 years old, I was being bullied very severe. Um, by a group of boys. And to give a specific example, probably the most extreme example of what I experienced, uh, at that point was two boys grabbed each of my legs, so two boys on each legs, and they basically were basically having a tug of war with me. And I, uh, in that moment, I didn't know if I would ever walk again, if my body would be pulled. and the only way that I got through, um, it at least lessened this bullying that was happening was with the support of my dad actually to, to learn to fight back and defend myself. And while that to an extent work, we could say, and I could even find, you know, valuable lessons in it, I learned to. Be courageous in the face of something that terrified me. But I also learned that violence was a necessity for me to be safe in the world. And in a sense, I, that my own capacity for violence became very important to as, as an adolescent. And that really kind of carried through into my early adulthood. and, you know, and I had quite a few encounters with violence in different, different ways, different context, uh, to different extents from about the age of 13 into my early twenties and for a long time. Go ahead, Melissa.

Melissa: 4:19

Uh, I was just taking a breath. I can't imagine. What that experience must have been like for you. I just can't imagine that and it's awful that anyone should ever be in that position. And girl, I raise, I have son, I have sons, and uh, the expression boys will be boys is one that I detest. Because I want my boys to be strong. I want them to be strong men. I want them to be capable and loving men, but I don't excuse their poor behavior. And I would hope that my village and my community does not excuse their poor behavior, but would hold them to a better standard. And that sounds like what you're about.

Brad: 5:11

Absolutely. I, I dream of a world in which. Avoiding viol. It, it's not necessary to be violent and to be capable of violent, of, of violence in order to avoid violence. And you know, you mentioned you want them to be strong and in some context, being strong actually means being capable of violence. And I'm gonna say that's actually very glorified in our society. Oh. Excuse me. A strong man, and, you know, our, our heroes are seen as strong and largely because they're capable of violence. Even the good guys are heroes often because they're capable of violence. But I, I much more admire and aspire in for myself and for our whole world to have a version of masculinity, of strength and masculinity. That's more about ability to be peacefulness, ability to do healing work, ability to have boundaries, ability to be protectors, ability to confront one's self about one's own fallibility and, and, and, and weakness and, and. And errors that we've made, et cetera. That's a version of of mass, of masculinity and strength, which I admire much more than the capable of violence, capable of violence, version of strength.

Melissa: 6:51

When you said something, you said, my capacity for violence is what kept me safe, man, that's that statement. So many feelings attached with that. You know, when I hear that, I would expect to, uh, that evokes a context to me of time's gone by of maybe hundreds of years ago or thousands of years ago when there was no central authority and one had to fight and or be destroyed, you know? Um, There were a lot of ages in our world's history where violence was a very integral part of it, and it still is, but we also have an evolved sense of community. Many times we live into it, many times we don't, but we have an opportunity to choose a different path to absolutely understand our capacity for violence, but to not let that be our. Plan. Maybe that's a plan. C, D, E, F, or Z even. And it sounds like you're all about creating a plan A that's much different.

Brad: 8:14

Definitely. And you know, you mentioned it from, from historic times it sounds like, and certainly I think. We've made a lot of progress things. There's much less violence in the world today than there has been through most of recorded history. And that's not to say we don't still have a long ways to go, I believe. And also looking historically, I see violence as happening in cycles, and there's patterns of it such. You know, we can look at this as I believe a, a boy or a man who's been a victim of violence. They experience their boundaries being violated, their body not being respected, and what do they learn from that to not respect the boundaries and bodies of anyone else. And so certainly, while not all men, boys, Our victims of violence go on to become violent themselves. I think it's almost universal that, that the, the men who are violent have previously been victims and have learned to not respect the boundaries and bodies of other, other people. So seeing all of this as, you know, patterns and cycle. There's no isolated act of violence and in in some way, although on the one hand, certainly I think everyone needs to take responsibility for our own actions and what we've done in the past and to confront ourselves about those. At the same time, from a systemic view could almost say there's no individual guilt. We're in this system that goes back into historic kinds where there's patterns of violence. and that's why I see the, the, the only deep solution, the only long lasting solution is actually for all of us who have experienced violence in any way, to really do our own healing work, to, to heal from the encounters with violence that we've had, from what we've been victims of, from what we've perhaps studied to. Really doing that deep healing work so that we end our place in the cycle of violence.

Melissa: 10:48

You know, I was thinking back to my family life and growing up. My dad grew up on a farm. He milked cows every day. He worked, he worked hard. And I have two older brothers. My parents had wonderful friends. They, there were many amazing men in my life. They all grew up on farms. They were all very strong. I never saw them enact violence, but I never had a doubt on in my mind that if violence found us, that they would be capable to stand and defend it off. So I grew up with really honorable men, uh, men that were fantastic example. Men that modeled good values and love of family, and I was so grateful for that. Probably not at the time, but the older I get, the more grateful I am. As I look back, I joined the Army National Guard at a very young age. My parents signed papers when I was 17 that I could join. I joined an army aviation unit and I was the only woman in that. And now I was in the company of men that didn't always have the same values that I grew up witnessing in other men. That was eye-opening to me, and I had to learn fast to draw my own boundaries, right, to enforce those boundaries and to quickly size up who was trustworthy and who was not trustworthy because. We can't fight the whole world or we can't right. Defend ourselves against the whole world. But we're a community and there is reciprocity, there's relationships, there's building trust and honoring boundaries and all of that work. And it seems, I see the truth in what you're saying, that when we have a legacy of violence, it's up to us to. Ourselves so that we can pass on a different legacy.

Devon: 13:00

Hi, I wanna take a quick moment and tell you about my mom. She's an amazing mom and an amazing podcast host, isn't she? She's also amazing at helping people to understand and manage anxiety and to build a strong spiritual practice. She has online courses, books, and a lot of free resources and downloads to help you live in amazing life. So please check out Light Life and love ministries.com Edge, our YouTube channel. Lily started the show notes.

Brad: 13:28

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I, I love that your description of the men that you grew up with and how much you appreciate them. And I think that's what's. For, for men, for masculinity to be, and, uh, I think it's beautiful, inspiring the way that you'd describe that and would love to see that become what's, you know, universal for the men in the world. Mm-hmm.

Melissa: 14:06

So how do you, uh, address this in the groups that you work with? You said it's not for the initial healing. I would imagine that's a more specialized work with trauma specialists and counselors. Um, what kind of work do you do in your

Brad: 14:23

groups? So there's a combination of things. There's, there's certainly, uh, well, let me just take one, actually one step back and just kind of, I'll just say something about how I see the, the kind of typical trajectory. Healing, healing work, especially from violence. And I think the first thing is just to simply become aware of how we've been impacted by violence. I come across a, a lot of men who first tell me, I, no, I don't have any violence in my past. And I'm like, well, you know, that's, that's wonderful. You're, you're very fortunate. I don't think there are very many men. But then after, you know, perhaps reading my book or, or just considering it further, they come back like, oh, well, except there was this time that, you know, something like someone just walked up to me and punched me in the face and you said you had no okay violence. And then, you know, there's a list of like six things that I'm like, okay. Like, yeah. It's not like you were, you know, a member of a gang and had that, that level of involvement with violence. Some significant in incidents that I would imagine left some, some trauma. So just becoming aware. Well, Brad,

Melissa: 15:49

if I can cut in real, just the fact that those things don't even register is a statement in itself, isn't it?

Brad: 15:56

Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that that some level of violence, you know that that boys will beat boys type of idea. A lot of boys. Who become men don't even think of these things that have happened as be as having any significance or as having had an impact on them. And I'm gonna say even, you know, even for myself, I was kind of well into my adulthood before I started realizing, oh, my, my life is actually still really being affected by these things that happened when I was an an adolescent. And in a sense, I would say, you know, I. Certainly the violence I experienced was more severe than many boys experienced. But on the other hand, there's also, you know, many boys who experienced far more boys and men who experienced far more violence than I ever did. I mean, I was never in a gang. I was never, um, I, I'd never been in a war zone. So certainly there's, there's far more extreme levels of violence than I ever experienced. Um, On the other hand, it was, as you know, you heard isn't just that one example. It's not insignificant, the violence that I experienced either, and still for myself, it took me a long time to really recognize and understand how deeply my, my way of being in the world as an adult was actually shaped by some of these experiences in ways that I've, I've done a lot of work to find other ways of. What other

Melissa: 17:35

ways of being have you found?

Brad: 17:38

Peacefulness would be the word that I would, um, just to put it into one word. Um, could also say to expand that a little bit. Finding a sense of safety in the world, comfort in the world, perhaps in myself, in other people in goodness. And with that letting go of a lot of anxiety, anger, and you know, and in that peacefulness really be able be being able to find joy, bliss, connection. Love

Melissa: 18:26

Your book is called The Peaceful. In that book, would a person find strategies to achieve these things that you talk about?

Brad: 18:37

Yes, certainly. And in the book I, the, the first about the first half of the book is sharing many of my stories about encounters with violence, and I share those that partially in the spirit of. Inviting other men to bring what they may be holding in the shadows, in fear and in shame, just into the light. And in, in my book, I endeavor to tell these all these stories as authentically and as transparently as as I could. And then at the end of each story, there's some questions to invite the reader to. Consider their own, their own stories and how, how they might have been, uh, have, have, have had parallel experiences. Mm-hmm. And then the second part of the book, uh, I, I introduced some somatic practices. So these are body-based practices to, um, you know, often, often when we have traumatic experiences, you know, well, I'll say first of all, When we experience violence, when we're victims of violence, the violence is enacted upon our bodies. If we're violent with someone else, our bodies are used to be violent, and I think in intense experiences, we can bring in patterns of tension, patterns of movement, patterns of holding in our bodies that we don't just easily. So a lot of these thematic practices are about becoming aware of the habits and patterns in our body and learning to have different choices and different, different ways of moving, more ease in our bodies, free of these patterns associated with trauma. So that's the second part of the book. And then the final part of the book has some, uh, introduces some contemplative practice. Which are practices of forgiveness, practices of, of compassion, finding forgiveness for ourselves, for things we've done, forgiveness for others, for what they may have done to us, et cetera.

Melissa: 20:58

Wow. Talk about, uh, inviting me to step up on a soapbox, forgiveness and releasing anger, letting go of grudges that will get me preaching faster than anything else. There's so many benefits. Absolutely. But, um, a memory that's come to mind was when my son was very young. It was, gosh, that summer, he was first on a bicycle, so he was very young. We were outside on the driveway and it was a concrete driveway and there was a spider on the driveway and it was right in front of his front tire, right in his eyesight, right in front of his tire. And he said, There's a spider there. Nice. Yeah. What are you gonna do? And he said, I don't know. I don't, if I run over it, I'm afraid it will make me feel bad, so I don't think I wanna run over it. And I was really proud of him in that moment because, you know, he thought about the consequences, the cause and effect, and how that might affect. I had a lot of different emotions in that moment. I was so proud of him, but I was also a little bit afraid thinking you're gonna have a difficult time in this life, because that's not how a lot of people think. Yeah. And helping him to navigate that nuance is challenging.

Brad: 22:27

I bet. And I. I think he's fortunate to have a mother who, who was able right there, even to see that nuance and the, you know, the beauty of that set sensitivity and yet the challenge of it as well. And yeah. You

Melissa: 22:49

know, what's your advice to a teenage boy, much like yourself, that comes home from middle school and says, Hey, I'm getting picked on. What do I. That is

Brad: 23:02

a really difficult question that I wish I just had a simple, straightforward answer for, for how to handle that. And I will come back and say more. But I wanna say first of all, that the difficulty of that question. Is why what I see as being most important is men doing their deep healing work such that we can end these patterns of violence, these cycles of violence in the long term, such that a generation or so from now, I hope there aren't so many questions like that. In a sense. By the time in in, to me, in a sense, by the time that question has to be. There's already been such a huge failure by, by the adults around the, the adults in the school, let's say, assuming that's happening at school or wherever it is, and even more so, a failure in our society to give boys, to give adolescents healthy environments to healthy, safe environments, to to grow up. Hmm. So that's what I have to say first is that the question itself is, is so problematic to me. And you know, so first of all, I do think that working with the system, whatever it is, the administration of the school, if it's happening there, you know, wherever it's happening, Is the place to start. You know, can more supervision, more structures be put into place to, to prevent what is happening? And you know, when I was, when I was an adolescent and that, you know, that age 30 some years ago. My parents did go to the school administration and basically got the response, well, you know, boys will be boys. What, you know, what can we do about it? There was, there really was just no, no support there. And I think that's less common today. I actually think that, um, that bullying and violence among boys is taken somewhat more serious. I don't think seriously enough. I, but I think it is somewhat better. So if that works, wonderful. Uh, there is always the risk though, with that, that you know, then someone who's seen as vulnerable is in a sense seen as being even more vulnerable because they're having to be protected by the administration. So it. It's even that is not, even if some action is taken, it's not a, it's not a perfect solution because I think it, then, you know, it, it can actually make things worse in perhaps more subtle ways or, you know, opportunities for the bullying are found when no one's looking. So unfortunately in some cases, I actually think reor resorting to violence. Self-defense, very unfortunately, is sometimes the, the really the only answer. And I think that's extremely unfortunate. I'm certainly hesitant to recommend that. Um, and realistically in the world we live in, sometimes that is the PR pragmatic solution. I would like to say that I'm a perfect pacifist. I would never, ever resort to violence myself, but would like to say that in a sense. But it's not, it, it's not the case. I mean, I, uh, I would certainly never initiate violence and I would, you know, look for every other possible avenue to diffuse a situation rather than resorting to violence. If it really seemed there was no, you know, there was no path forward for my own safety or the safety of someone who I loved. I would still resort to violence for self-defense. And I deeply hope that I never have to do that in, in my life again. And there are, uh, there are violent actors in the. Who are not going to be dissuaded by anything other than forceful self-defense. And, and again, this is, you know, this is where my, my work is coming from, is wanting to create a safer world such that that isn't, that, that isn't so much the case to at least drastically reduce that. And right now the world is the way it is.

Melissa: 28:11

Yeah, and it's hard. As parents, you know, we try to teach our son, you have to stand up for yourself and defend yourself. You have to establish this boundary that that behavior is not okay, and it will not be tolerated, and I will stop it. And generally when you do that, it doesn't continue, right? That once you establish that boundary, there's something that changes within you that yes, you have a confidence that. I am a human being with value and my value matters. And that's communicated in a lot of ways that don't use words absolutely, or fists, but just a bearing in a way of carrying yourself in this world. And that, um, matters throughout so many adult conversations and interactions and experiences when you're, you know, negotiating for a car that would come. or you know, in the workplace or so many different places, it's important that we learn the lesson that our humanity, our manhood, our womanhood, our personhood, mm-hmm. matters. It's worth defending. It will be defended, but no further. And gosh, that's such a nuance and it is, you know, I admire you for the work you do to try to change. Those overarching narratives and archetypes that we hear about, um, what is a man, you know, the caveman beating on his chest. I will destroy you, type archetype versus, you know, many other examples. The men I grew up with knowing right, and, uh, being raised by, they were honorable. Yes. If they were threatened, if their families were threatened, they would have acted, but they didn't need to go through life telling people or showing people that. Right. Yeah. So I appreciate the work you do, and if people want to know more, if they want to read your book, the Peaceful Man, if they want to continue down this path, how would they do?

Brad: 30:28

The easiest way is to go to my website, which is peaceful man book.com. Uh, there's a link to order my book there, and you can also, uh, there will be men's groups coming up. Uh, provide your email address if you'd like to hear about those. And yeah, that's the easiest way.

Melissa: 30:50

And you know what? I'll make it even easier. That link is in the show notes, friends. So just click on that link in the show notes. Go to the website and everything you need will be right there. Brad, as we close our conversation today, what last word would you like to share with the men who are listening?

Brad: 31:08

I would invite them and encourage them to. Engage with doing their own healing work, whatever. Whatever they feel drawn to, do, whatever they feel called to do, whatever works for them, whatever it is, with whoever it is or with if it's on their own. I believe that men doing their healing work is just so important. I think it's one of the most important things that a man can do in the world today is really to do their own deep introspection, deep healing. To find the most peacefulness in themselves they can. So whether, you know, even beyond, whether it's with me or, or, or, you know, using my book or whatever, I don't, I care about that much less. Please just engage in doing your own healing work in whatever way works well for you. Beautiful sentiments.

Melissa: 32:03

Thank you, Brad.

Brad: 32:05

Thank you.


🎶 Episode Outro: Thank you so much for tuning into today's episode. If this encouraged you, please consider subscribing to our show and leaving a rating and review so we can encourage even more people just like yourself. We drop a new episode every Wednesday so I hope you continue to drop in and be encouraged to lean into and overcome all the uncomfortable stuff life brings your way. 🎶

Brad MewhortProfile Photo

Brad Mewhort


Brad has a mission to prevent male-on-male violence and end physical bullying. In his adolescence, he was a victim of physical bullying and became an occasional bully himself. Over the past two decades, he has done a lot of work to heal from the personal impacts of these encounters with violence. Brad believes that men healing from violence and finding peace within themselves are keys to enabling humanity and all of life on earth to flourish. He wrote The Peaceful Man in service of this vision and as a means of helping men to embark on journeys of healing.