Why the Car Metaphors?
Throughout the books we have woven in a number of metaphors relating car maintenance to men’s mental health. We have found that linking these things helps men connect the dots — taking care of their mental health looks a lot like taking care of their automobile. As your Mental Mechanics, we believe that one of the keys to mental fitness is the same as the key to keeping your vehicle running well, routine maintenance and when there’s a problem, catch it early and when needed go seek help from the pros. We hope that those who read the book will find under their own “hood” the maintenance and repairs that need attention, and the tools with which to begin to do them.
As Mental Mechanics we help men pop open the hood on their emotional life and start a conversation. And once asked, contrary to popular belief, and given permission to talk, the conversations, can be as easy as talking to a car mechanic about something as ordinary and mundane as tuning an engine. Turns out, a lot of the men want to do the work on themselves, as they do on their vehicles, and are eager for the knowledge of how, and the tools to do so.
As we are writing this, it seems like the world is going mad. We are in the midst of an opioid crisis that is contributing to a concerning “deaths of despair” phenomenon. The mortality rates of men in the middle years are going up and almost all of the deaths are attributable to suicide, overdose and the consequences of addiction. The researchers who coined this phase dug into why this was happening and concluded that the trend is the result of unstable economic and social supports that people need in order to thrive. In other words, many men had expectations, hopes and dreams, and these dreams have been crushed.
These men are like cars with many good miles left in them that all of a sudden find themselves up on blocks. There is no going backwards, as that world no longer exists, and they feel that they are incapable of moving forward into a world that no longer values what they have to offer.
During this same time that personal livelihoods and families are being challenged, we are experiencing one mass murder a day, everyday (four or more people killed). Most never even reach public consciousness because we’ve become numb to them. Others dominate the headlines for weeks. Almost all were perpetrated by men in the middle years.
While these are more extreme examples of men in extreme states of distress and violence, many other men are experiencing varying degrees of hopelessness, isolation and crisis that have significantly impacted their quality of life. We know, because the mental mechanics in our book have experienced these as well.
Why Storytelling is Our Focal Point
Humans have been healing and teaching through storytelling for as long as we have been on the planet. Our brains are hardwired to understand our experiences through story. Putting our experiences into a story structure -- with a beginning, middle, and end, heroes and adversaries, trials and tribulations, and great reward for overcoming obstacles -- help us impose structure on the chaos of our lives. When we organize our experiences in this way, we gain mastery over our own narratives and feel a better sense of self-empowerment, rather than just feeling like life is happening to us.
Stories also build community. When one person stands up and says, “This is me. This is how my life and others like mine have been systematically destroyed. And this is how I see that change is possible.” Others, who thought they were all alone, lean in and say, “me too.”
This process is how peer support comes together -- informally, then formally...and then culture shifts. As Ivan Illich once said, “Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a more powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story…”
Many of our stories share important take-aways and we’ve distributed them in ways that highlight each chapter’s major points. We hope you agree that the inspirational narratives bring the content alive in a way that data and theory alone cannot.
The Hero’s Journey
We asked our authors to take us with them on their hero’s journey. To set the stage for us of what life was like and what was lost in the downward spiral and darkest days. We asked them to take us with them into the daunting darkness and the moment they knew something had to change. We asked them to share with us the guides who accompanied them on this trek, the incredible lessons recovery taught them, the obstacles they encountered and finally, the great reward they now get to experience from their expedition.
When we transform our wounds into sources of power, we change our narratives from victims to heroes. We make meaning out of our despair. The path we blazed through where the darkness becomes illuminated for others to follow.
Comedy is also inserted here because comedy is said to be tragedy plus We can turn change into chuckles, loss into laughs, and pain into punchlines. Jokes are the painful truth, told funny - the “A-ha” in the “ha-ha,” if you will.
Book Overview and Limitations
Our goals are to leverage the power of storytelling to create cultural change and inspire individual pathways toward recovery. While these books are primarily designed as self-help manuals, we also know that stories when shared publicly shift attitudes and beliefs in our broader society. Our ultimate goal is that our fathers, sons, brothers, friends, co-workers and all men who find themselves overwhelmed are able to find their way back to a passion for living.
Throughout the books, you will see tips and suggestions like a car owner’s manual. Whether it’s Preventative Maintenance, Troubleshooting, or Repair and Overhaul hopefully it will help you sort out what you see when you look under your hood. For your personal state of mind, we encourage you to try them out to see what works best for you. Is it something as simple as an oil change, or as complicated as an engine rebuild? Can you do any or all of this yourself, or do you need the services of a good professional mental mechanic?
The books are like manuals that comes with your car – it is not 100% inclusive of all topics or strategies, ethnic/racial, sexual orientation, gender expression, family composition, or industry. While we’ve tried to share a wide range of types of men, the stories included are dependent on who responded to us and who completed their submissions. We know the perspectives are limited here, but we hope this sparks conversation in many new communities. We invite new perspectives. No automobile manual works with all makes and models, but keeping most any vehicles running right, taking note of warning lights, odd sounds and smells, and solutions to most car problems large and small, is based on one simple principle; you take care of it, and it will take care of you, the same goes for mental health.