HEALTHY BITE | Climb Into The Man Cave

Man cave - it's a part of life that I have over the years found myself crawling into and out of many times. I think what I've referred to as the man cave is a little different but connected to what Matt and his crew have created for young people of today's generation. A safe space where you are not on your own, where you are actually encouraged to get in touch with your feelings.

Listen to this week's Healthy Bite where I reflect on my conversation with Matt DeFina. I have mentioned The Fathering Project as well, which I am looking forward to exploring.

Climb Into The Man Cave

Now, this week we had the opportunity of speaking to Matthew DeFina, the head of programmes at The Man Cave. Now it was a really interesting conversation. I enjoyed talking to Matt and it was interesting. I think the journey that I went on personally is perhaps a little bit of a reflection on the journey that needs to be had.

The Man Cave

When I was thinking of The Man Cave, I was thinking of where I sometimes retreat when those around me and particularly those close to me, as in my wife or family may say to me, “What’s wrong? And I will go, ‘No, it’s fine. I’m fine. No, I’m good. No, I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong.’” And I’m often then crawling into the man cave — all on my own just to ruminate, just to think about. 

What I’ve come to realise is that sometimes because I haven’t really been brought up to be in touch with my feelings and express them as well as I might, which makes this podcast so much, so much more cathartic. But I digress for a moment.

But when I’m in my man cave, I’m actually trying to articulate what the problem is, and after a couple of hours, it could even be a day or two. I have to admit I will then be able to articulate what was going on in the man cave. 

Well, the man cave that Matt DeFina and his crew have created is — a cave where you are not on your own, where you are actually encouraged to get in touch with your feelings in a safe space. And it was such an interesting discussion and the group is such an interesting group, The Man Cave.

Young men

I loved one of the quotes from a brochure that they have, that describes the issues and if this sounds familiar to some women listening to this, it’s sobering to think that it’s come from the mouth of a young boy. “So often boys don’t want advice, they just want to be heard.” Another day in the cave. Right. 

This is one of the things that we as men are always so quick to do, and that is to come to get straight to the solutions. Let’s not bother with the discussion. What’s all this discussion about? Let’s just get on with the solution. Well, here’s a young boy saying, “Can you stop telling me about advice and just listen to what I’m saying?” And I think I’ve heard my wife and many of my women friends say exactly the same to me.

Interestingly, some of the statistics that have emerged from these wonderful programmes that are targeting 12-year-olds well, high school students from 12 years old, 98% of young men would recommend the programmes to others. 88% of men agreed that the facilitators role-modeled what being a healthy man could look like. 

They also agreed and understand how the stereotype of being a man can negatively impact their mental health. 86% of school students that did the programme said this, and 84% of students want to redefine the stereotype and create their own healthy version of being a man after going through the programme. I mean, we’re talking about social change and gender equality.

Well, the change has to occur from a very early point, you know? And of course, that reference that the Jesuits said might show me the boy at seven and I’ll show you the man. Actually, there were some learnings that came from it, and I thought this was interesting. They want to be good men, but it confused about how to go about it. 

Young men feel judged and misunderstood by their parents in the world. Young men want to talk about consent, sex, and relationships, but feel disempowered.

Understanding of Intimacy

I talked to Matt about the impact also of the whole issue around consent and actually the rather disturbing influence that pornography has on young people, on any person’s understanding of intimacy. 

But certainly, when you know these are in developing personalities, this can be particularly disturbing. And the other thing that was interesting feedback from the students was that our teachers are trying but are still struggling to break through.

Well, it’s interesting because I also had a wonderful discussion with a professor of education at the University of New South Wales called We Trust In Teachers, and we talked about the challenge for teachers, and so much is being asked of our teachers in our modern society that this is an additional thing. 

So what next? Well, here were some interesting things when we come back to one that we’ve explored on several levels. When we talked about Digital Nutrition when we talked about fussy eating when we talked the use of technology.

Here was the first one: role model, what do you expect. The second one: move beyond an expectation to an agreement. Treat these young people as adults and not just tell them what you expect, but form an agreement which you can come back to, create a space for open discussion without judgement. Be curious about resistance. 

Why are they being resistant to what you are talking about rather than just hammering the same point over again? And here’s an interesting one. Ask them what they need. So this is an issue for men, young and old, and for all those people that interact with men, young and old. It was a great conversation.

Interestingly, in the same week, I have started to connect with an interesting group called The Fathering Project, which would be looking at men as they are about to enter or as they have already entered or perhaps have left their fatherhood. You know, fatherhood is a great challenge and this is an opportunity for us to engage and be present with our children from a very early stage. I’m looking forward to exploring The Fathering Project as well.

I hope you find this episode as stimulating and just as enjoyable as I did. We practise some techniques with Matt. Matt and I both checked in with each other. If you’re wondering what that means. Have a listen. It was a great experience for me. I hope this finds you well. Until next time.


This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.