Tag Archives: Brene Brown

The Story I am Making Up in My Head.

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“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” ~Maggie Kuhn, Social Activist

When we allow for vulnerability and reach out to others, offering our love, offering our real self, and people ignore, shame, or reject us, it is easy to feel crushed. It is easy to decide to let that feeling of being crushed keep us from showing up.

And it feels like self-preservation to withdraw and shut down—to lock that door to our heart. We are embarrassed, crushed—sometimes even ashamed, because we dared to think we were worthy of connection and love and that person’s reaction (or lack thereof) seems to have proven those things untrue.

But remember that when we do shut down and withdraw from life, love, and people, we also withdraw from the self. We shut down our connection not only to other people and their love, we also shut down our connection to Source and to our big “S” self.

Brene Brown’s research has shown us that when we numb the bad things, we also numb the good stuff too. We cannot selectively numb ourselves.

So that act of extreme courage it takes to allow yourself to be vulnerable again after being rejected and feeling crushed, is actually an essential, necessary act. It is what we must do—unless we want to end up walking through life like a zombie.

It has to be done. We have to allow vulnerability again. Even in the face of possible repeated rejection. Otherwise, we cannot live that wholehearted, albeit painful, life we desire—because we would be closing the door to joy along with the pain.

And what about those people who continue to reject and shame me? Why would I continue to be around them? And are they really rejecting me or is that just the story I am making up in my own head?

In her book, Rising Strong, Dr. Brown introduces a brilliant life hack that has proven so very useful, simple—and non-threatening. She talks about how it might be beneficial to do a bit of spelunking into our first, knee-jerk reaction to find out what button is actually being pushed. Then, instead of choosing to believe those stores and be angry/hurt/shamed, she suggests we (kindly) share the stories we are making up in our own minds.

She even suggests we use those very words, “The story I’m making up in my head when I felt you mentally withdraw from me is that you think I’m a bad mother because I forgot it was my day to pick up the kids.”

Then the other person is invited to share the story they are making up in their head. This hack is proving itself invaluable, because it means I don’t have to accuse anyone of anything. Instead, I am readily admitting I am probably not correct and please correct me if that is the case, but here’s what my over-active left amydala is telling me.

So instead of an accusation, it becomes a conversation about how real and vulnerable we are trying to be and how we are sometimes incorrect about each other, about life, about how your brain works differently from mine—and about how I fit into your life, thoughts, and heart.

Because I am finding when I share my made-up stories, I find out that they are mostly incorrect. So it’s not that you think I am a bad mom. Instead, you explain, you were preoccupied in thinking about the kids’ pick-up schedule and whether you could manage to pick them up one more day a week in order to give me some more wiggle room in my own schedule.

In other words, you were actually trying to help me.

What stories are you making up in your own head—about me, about yourself, about your partner, your boss, your child, the friend who seemed curt with you the last time you talked?

I Have Boundary Issues.

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I’ve been having boundary issues in the last few months.

I began looking at boundaries when, a few weeks ago, I was preparing myself to spend an evening with a group of folks that included a person I don’t really like.

I don’t have a good, solid, logical reason for not liking this person. I just know I don’t. And I am hopefully learning to simply honor that gut instinct and let it be what it is—without questioning myself, without beating myself up for not having a good, ready reason.

Before that evening, I was trying to figure out why I don’t like that person. In my musings, I came across this: They want to be too friendly too quickly. Their questions are too personal. From there—and via a long, difficult trail—I hiked over to: They lack boundaries.

The problem was put before me again when an acquaintance very kindly told me I had offended and embarrassed her in front of some other people by something I had said. I was most impressed with the kind, sweet—and yet very assertive—way she started the confrontation. I thanked her for being honest, kind and assertive in telling me; I sincerely apologized for my mistake.

But after my apology, I could tell from what she continued to say that she assumed I was a careless person without respect for other people’s boundaries. She seemed to think it necessary to point out why it was rude, careless, etc. She went into some detail, making it clear that she had put much thought (and drawn many, perhaps false, conclusions) into the matter.

I really wanted to take offense, and I was hurt by her assumption. I found myself unable to be offended, though, when I looked at it from her side. She had drawn an incorrect conclusion (in my opinion) from my innocent mistake. We did not—and still do not—know each other.

Indeed, I consider myself to be very aware and careful when it comes to other people. Then I made an assumption (in my own mind only) about her: Well, she’s just too uptight. I quickly and easily recognized this assumption as knee-jerk and defensive on my part, and it did not last long, thank goodness.

But after a lot more thought on the subject, I realize that the problem is that we all have very different ideas about what constitutes healthy boundaries. And there is a really broad and relative idea of what constitutes right and wrong in this category.

Brene Brown points out that her research has shown that boundaries are simple to define, but not so easy to enforce. In explaining them, she says boundaries defined are when we know what we can and will tolerate and what he can’t and won’t tolerate: “This is okay. That is not okay.”

The problem comes when we need to enforce what’s okay and not okay for us, she expounded. And we do need to. No one wants to seem unkind and bossy by clearly pointing out what is okay and what is not—especially in that moment when someone has just done something that is not okay. It can get tense.

But she goes on to point out that empathy, compassion and vulnerability are not possible without well established and enforced boundaries.

When we let someone breach a boundary (do or say something that is not okay with us) and then try to silently pretend it is okay, we often become bitter and resentful—and then blame the other person for stepping on our boundaries.

But how can they know they’ve crossed a boundary—and where those boundaries are—if we don’t clue them in and show them our boundary maps?

As I think more about it, it seems kind of disrespectful to not make our boundaries clear. It would be like forcing someone to take on an expedition in a new, uncharted land—and glibly and condescendingly telling them they have to do it without any maps.

And oh yeah, the maps exist, but you can’t have them.

We’ve probably all commented at one time or another—whether out loud or to ourselves—about some person we are having difficulties with: “They have no boundaries.” Or, “They have boundary issues.” Or, “They have uptight/rigid boundaries.”

All we’re really saying is that everyone has their own, specific ideas about what is okay for them and what is not. Which seems reasonable to me. It also seems reasonable for everyone, including me, to have the right to enforce them—in non-violent ways.

And having come to that conclusion, it is also a good idea, I think, to point out that there does seem to be some folks who are not very aware or respectful of boundaries—even when those boundaries have been clearly pointed out—and who don’t seem to have or enforce any boundaries for themselves. In my introversion and privacy, I find these folks difficult to be around.

So really, my problem seems to be two-fold:

  1. The problem is not that anyone else has boundary issues and is asking me too-personal questions, for instance; the problem is that I don’t make my boundaries clear and then enforce them.
  2. I need to avoid those folks who choose to trample boundaries that have been clearly defined, who choose (for whatever reason) to ignore them.

My solution seems really clear to me right now: Establish and maintain my own boundaries—kindly—and let other folks do the same.

At elephant journal:  Do You Have Boundary Issues?

From Death to Forgiveness.

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I have a few things that I can’t seem to forgive.

I live with these things bumping around in here—bruising and hurting—have lived with them a long time—some longer than others.

I, like Brene Brown—who says she worked on forgiveness for 10 years—have been letting the notion of forgiveness steep inside me for a long time, mulling it over, periodically pulling out my still-needs-to-be-forgiven incidents to see if I can fit a square peg into that round hole once more.

I was relieved when I heard her say she had been rumbling with forgiveness for ten years. I was beginning to lose hope for myself and forgiveness, beginning to think we would never hook up, never even be able to be in the same room together. To find out that someone else had also been struggling with it for so many years, put me in good, albeit stubborn, company.

I am aware of the famous quote: “Holding on to anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I know I should forgive. I know it only hurts me and not my forgivees. I want to forgive. But I just can’t seem to make/let it happen in some situations.

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die.” ~ Rev. Joe Reynolds

So, a few mornings ago, when I once again heard Brene tell the story of how she had worked on forgiveness for 10 years and then heard her pastor in church say the “something has to die” line, so that the pieces finally fell together for her, I found myself wondering if maybe that was the piece that was missing for me too.

I felt some hope—mixed with dread at the thought of death and grieving—that forgiveness might be possible for me. So what is it that needs to die so that I can forgive?

Three days later I was still thinking about the dying and trying on the grief that must necessarily follow death. I didn’t want to grieve. But I thought Joe and Brene might be correct. I think I might have to let something die in order to be able to forgive.

There are incidences from the past that still bring up pain and anger, even though I understand why the person did what they had to do. Is that forgiveness, the understanding of the cause? Or maybe some form of forgiveness? When I agree with them and see their point and am even kind of glad they did it that way, but still feel the pain it caused me at that time?

Maybe I don’t understand what forgiveness really is. A quick search brought up:

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).

I am finding that there is in me a small, hard-to-pin-down, part that thinks my lack of forgiveness provides me with something useful and justified. It provides me with a type of book/place mark, a reminder, of sorts.

By hanging on to the resentment, pain, anger, etc., so that it brings up the pain every time I think of it, I don’t ever allow myself to forget to protect myself against such instances. I think, after many years of working on this for myself, that that is what lack of forgiveness means for me.

And indeed, to let go of my pain and anger, almost seems like a betrayal of myself. Because if I succeed in letting those place markers die, mourn the loss and manage to be able to forgive and move on, don’t I leave myself wide open to further pain and possible hurt?

If I forgive that person, then what defense do I have to stop them from harming me again? What reminds me that I must keep my guard up against them and those like them?

And why do I think that my defensive stance would stop anyone from hurting me again? That’s not going to stop anyone from offending or harming me. It’s just stopping me from living fully.

Lack of forgiveness holds the pain that never lets me forget—and never lets me rest. And I am tired; I want to rest from this lifelong vigil.

Lack of forgiveness also allows me to feel superior to the offender. Even if I never say it out loud, I get to think things like, “Well at least I never did that!” when I somehow hurt someone else. So apparently, I have degrees/hierarchies of offense, and if I judge their offense/faux pas as worse than mine, then in some sick, convoluted way, I win.

Is it a simple tit for tat, then, for me? I can’t let go because I might need that pain for ammunition some time in the future to use against them—even if it’s only in my own mind?

Wow. Yuck.

So, more determined than ever to resolve this lifelong dilemma after those lovely discoveries, I am still exploring what might need to die. After much thought this last week and after watching Brene’s video several times, I think it is ideas I hold that have to die.

Here’s the first list:

  1. The idea that those who love me will never hurt me.
  2. The idea that I will always be able to avoid hurting others.
  3. The idea that people who hurt me are always wrong.
  4. The idea that if they do hurt me, they must not love/like me.
  5. The idea that anyone who hurts me is against me and is out to get me and must be my enemy.
  6. The idea that anyone who hurts me is doing it deliberately (it must be personal).

Why has it taken me so long to realize and face the fact that it is not possible to never hurt anyone?

Sometimes we must make difficult, hard-won, unpopular decisions based on our ethics, morals, obligations and beliefs. When we make these decisions, perhaps choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils, we can expect that not everyone is going to like our decision. And we can also expect that our decision may hurt someone. That someone may be a person we dearly love, respect and admire—someone we are close to.

I cannot ask anyone, even someone I carefully love, to go against what they know is right for them, in order to keep from hurting me. I just can’t justify that in any way—even when the pain it might cause may be bumping around in here for years afterwards.

Enter Death. Grief. Pain.

Hopefully followed by Forgiveness and Release, those two bedfellows who travel closely, gracefully and mercifully together.

The elephant journal version: I Can Never Forgive You

Why I Might be a Bully.

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I am eating humble (crow) pie today.

“Crow is presumably foul-tasting in the same way that being proven wrong might be emotionally hard to swallow. The exact origin of the idiom is unknown, but it probably began with an American story published around 1850 about a slow-witted New York farmer.”

A few months ago, I manifested someone into my life who has offered me the gift to look at my reaction to—and association with—aggression, anger and verbal violence.

Enter the adult bully.

That this person offers me anger, aggression and verbal/emotional violence tells me that it must be time for me to take a look at the same in myself.

Granted, this person was (and is) pointing the aggression at me, and they have also been inviting me into their drama to play some passive aggressive, personalized head games starring yours truly—games that I have recognized and refused to play (at least, so far, and thank God).

And I’m not happy—or proud—to admit that it has taken me several months to understand that even in this case, the anger and aggression really have nothing to do with me.

For many months I saw the behavior as personal and specific to me—and saw myself as some kind of poor victim to that aggression. It’s easy to assume the other person is just being aggressive, devious and mean, to assume it’s personal and that I am the victim.

It’s handier, easier and makes me look wonderfully non-violent, innocent and spiritual, doesn’t it?

Superior martyr much?

Two weeks ago, before I started this specific mental quest, I would have told you that I was not a violent person. I cannot say that now, after only a few days of self-examination.

I took a look/meditation and assumed my fearful reaction to anger originated from being repeatedly exposed, as a child, to a particularly nasty variety of instant, unpredictable, rage.

But unfortunately that’s not the whole story.

I also found a co-dependent part of me that not only accepted the anger and saw it as normal, but would take on the anger as deserved—encouraged it and even welcomed it—to keep the aggressive person from feeling too guilty about being a bully.

Ew. Sick. Enable much?

When I closely examined my reaction, I found that I am sometimes, even as an adult, afraid of anger—often more like terrified. I run or freeze—if not physically, then mentally. I get afraid. I disassociate. I can’t think, be myself or talk intelligently.

I even panic, without trying to show it outwardly, of course, because I have learned how inappropriate it is, as an adult, to run from a confrontation.

By association, I also freeze up around anyone who is loud, bossy and putting off confrontational, aggressive energy. Someone who I perceive might, without warning, suddenly turn into a bully (product of that “instant, unpredictable” thing).

Even if it’s not pointed at me, I get nervous and jumpy just being in the general vicinity of said person or behavior.

And please, how does one handle an adult bully?

I got online and searched for posts about it. Most of the articles dealt with adult bullying in the workplace, which wasn’t very helpful, as this person is not in my workplace.

Anger as Protection for Vulnerability

A couple of weeks ago, as I hunkered into the task of unearthing and healing this issue for myself, using the tool of writing, I speculated:

“They (the aggressive ones) might do that as defense, a habit, so therefore they must feel threatened in some way. Do they have a need to always be stronger and more threatening than everyone else, and to “prove” that right up front by always being louder and more aggressive than the people they address?

I’m pretty sure they aren’t aware that they come across that way. Or maybe they want to come across that way to scare off would-be attackers?”

All of this made me wonder if I give off aggressive vibes without being consciously aware of it—if I have something in me that feels so unsafe that it must automatically and instantly “put up its dukes.”

After finding the origins of that personal button and then speculating that aggressive behavior might be the product of what started as protection, but might now be habit, I reluctantly asked the Universe/God to (gently!) tell me how I might be showing up in violence—how I might be a bully.

Because sometimes, after the panic and to cover up any vulnerability, I meet anger with anger—warranted or not—because it seems somehow safer.

The Universe didn’t take long in coming up with examples of my own aggression.

Within just a couple of days, and with someone I dearly love, I realized (after the anger and argument) that I had been in an emotional shame spiral but was not conscious of that and had tried to make them feel guilty instead of owning and working through the shame.

To my disappointment, the anger and blaming came easily, informing me about the habitual, unconscious, knee-jerk nature of it.

The vulnerability that would have been required to admit to feeling shame was too scary. It also meant that I would have had to admit that I am flawed/unable to handle life/weak/wrong/scared/imperfect—insert your favorite inner critic’s usual harangue word here.

The next instance was another form of using anger to protect my vulnerability—only this time it was passive—and theretofore subconscious.

While being (good-naturedly) teased about something, I began teasing that person in return. But it felt horrible, like an argument, almost—like a contest of some sort, a competition.

When I paused to dig at the feelings coming up, I realized I was feeling embarrassment and shame again. I was surprised and shocked to find I had knee-jerked into “teasing” them about something I unconsciously hoped would shame them so much that they would stop teasing me.

Wow. So much for non-violence, huh?

To say I am embarrassed by my own thoughts and behavior is a drastic understatement.

So, after all the embarrassment and shame at having not allowed the embarrassment and shame in the first place—and how I handled it so dysfunctionally—I am beginning to move forward again.

My usual remedy: First, I give myself time to get over the shame. Next, I briefly explain and apologize.

If I’ve thrown this awful brand of angry, blaming defense at you at any time for any reason, I apologize. Please forgive me.

Third? That’s the hardest part: I have to continue to monitor myself and change this defensive, negative, violent, angry habit and behavior by allowing myself to be human, flawed and vulnerable—to admit this to you, myself, the World—while I am so fearful in that moment when it’s happening, instead of angering-up.

Meanwhile, Back to My Private Bully.

And how do I now handle a bully—or even just a loud, aggressive person—that person who may not even be consciously aware, like me, that they are projectile-vomiting aggression on everyone around them?

I stand, the half-eaten slice of humble crow pie in hand, ready to offer understanding, even as I am also ready to stop offering myself up to be their enabler and victim.

“Don’t shrink; don’t puff up. Just stand your holy ground.” ~ Brene Brown

Because perhaps they too have a part in them that feels so very unsafe that the first, instinctive, habitual, most important thing to always do is throw all the defenses they’ve got at it—at everything and everyone around them.

“The proper pairing of wine and food can heighten one’s appreciation, but in the case of eating crow, wine selection becomes even more critical.” ~Wine for Eating Crow

And I am ready now, please and thank you Universe, to step out of this specific karmic production.

A version published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Artisan Vineyards.

Communicating with Men.

DSCF4131Why would you read these posts? Why would you do these things? Isn’t this anti-feminism?

When I get these questions from clients, my first response is always: Are you happy with your life/relationship(s) as is? If so, you have nothing to worry about. If not, what have you got to lose in learning how to respect and communicate with the men in your life?

In this post, I discussed the timing of inviting your man back into love. In the post before that one, I wrote about some differences in men and women’s brains and why it’s important to offer your gift of love, why it’s important to invite your man back into his heart and belly—back into love.

In my last post, we looked at some specific techniques to get your man out of his head—out of his driven, focused, “work” mode—and into his heart and belly, where he can share in love, where he can get a break from the driven, obsessive energy of masculinity and where he can notice and appreciate your feminine energy.

If you followed some of the instructions in that last posts, now you have his attention.

Now that you’ve got his attention and focus, how do you communicate with him most effectively? We’ll cover some of those ideas in this post.

Remember, his brain works differently than ours—not “less than” and not slower and not more shallowly—just differently. Learn the differences and begin to respect those differences.

Just because his brain works differently than ours, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with him or his brain or the way he thinks. You can choose to be angry or upset or hurt by this, or you can realize he is a man with a man’s brain and you can work with it, being respectful of how different he is

Please leave your prejudices behind and stop rolling your eyes at him (or behind his back). Be respectful and kind. See him and men and how their brains work as a lovely new land to be explored. Be willing to learn and enjoy—bring your sense of adventure.

“Be mature. Be kind. Be honorable. You will never regret taking the high road no matter what happens.” ~ Steve Horsmon

Get in the Same Zip Code

The reason he doesn’t respond to you sometimes? Because you haven’t gotten his attention, so that he can switch “boxes” in his brain. He is not ignoring you. The way his brain works makes that impossible.

Don’t just yell out the back door, “Dinner’s ready!” or “Your brother’s on the phone!” and expect him to respond. He is focused out there, doing his guy thing.

Go out to where he is and do this first. Then tell him the information. He might be irritated at the interruption, but be respectful enough to know that the way his brains works makes being in physical proximity to him necessary, and he needs that from you.

Being in the same zip code is especially important if you are conveying significant information—meaning you are talking about something that’s important to you and that you want him to remember.

Don’t walk off, or start doing something else while you’re talking to him. If it’s important, convey that by staying right there and keeping eye contact. Put your phone away, close the laptop, wait until you’re not cooking or sorting bills. Tell him, “This is really important to me.”

Make an Appointment Ahead of Time

Men need to be able to switch into the appropriate box in their brains. Be kind and give him a chance to do that. Let him know ahead of time what you want to talk about and set an appointment. Put it on his calendar.

Ask him, “It would make me so happy to talk about this with you. Is this a good time?” If he says no, don’t take it personally, simply ask, “Okay, when would be a better time? How about Wednesday after dinner?” If that works, get it on both of your literal calendars, so that he has a reminder.

Men are goal-oriented and are driven to accomplish those goals. When you get on his calendar, not only does he have a reminder, you and that discussion are now a goal to be accomplished.

Remember, don’t be offended by the way his brain works, learn about it, respect it—use this knowledge to promote peace and ease between the two of you.

He will be so much more open to giving his attention to you if you respect his needs. Tell him what you want to talk to him about—don’t keep him guessing and nervous. There’s nothing respectful about that.

Remind Him Nicely

You will have to tell him things more than once—remind him. That’s just the way his brain works. He is always so focused on right now, that he is unable to think ahead in that moment. He needs to be reminded—kindly.

Alison Armstrong suggests something like this. As you are both waking up and getting out of bed, say something like, “Wow, only four days until my birthday! I am so excited this year!”

And then maybe the day of, “Happy birthday to me, the birthday girl!” as you smile and hug him. He gets to celebrate right then and there with you, and you have reminded him kindly.

Tell him What you Need

Women need and like to talk and rant out loud. We just do. That’s how we process and figure out how we’re feeling about something. That’s how we understand and make sense of our world.

“I believe that when women stop emasculating men, men will give us everything we ever wanted…”   ~ Alison Armstrong

Don’t expect him to be your girlfriend. Don’t expect him to be able—or willing—to talk to you like a woman would/does. He shouldn’t be expected to learn and then execute that.

To insist he do that is actually a subtle form of emasculation. When you refuse to let him talk to you like a man talks, you are demanding he be a woman, and you are saying there is something wrong with him being and talking like a man.

If this idea doesn’t sit right with you, pushes buttons or otherwise pisses you off, think of the opposite.

Think of just how pissed off you’d be if a man refused to talk to you until you “cool off and become more rational”—in other words, until you can communicate more like him, more like a man.

Men can get overwhelmed by all those words if he thinks you need him to fix it. And most men are fixers—it’s a guy thing. If you need to just rant and talk out loud and just need him to listen, say so.

Try something like, “Baby, I really need to just vent/rant right now about this. Could you just give me the gift of letting me talk it out? I don’t need you to fix anything. I simply need your ear.” And when he does this for you, let him know how happy that makes you!

Learn to Listen

But learn to listen not like a woman needs to be listened to, but like a man does. You know how we talk together, ladies. We finish each other’s sentences, exclaim out loud to empathize and talk over each other in our excitement and intensity, sometimes gesturing wildly and emphatically.

Ask a question of a man and then put an invisible piece of duct tape over your mouth and just sit and wait and listen. You will get the most wonderful, deep, incredible answers. It is beautiful.

While he talks, let him know he still has your attention, but without interrupting—just nod or make small sounds. Remember, men focus on one thing at a time (I am so envious of this!), so don’t derail him by being too verbal in your responses while he’s talking.

Then after he stops talking, use Alison’s 10-second rule: after he stops talking, wait. Wait another 10 seconds before saying anything or asking the next question. Give him time to add on to his original answer if he chooses to.

In stressful/critical situations, men often like to take the information/question you’ve given them and then want to process and come back to you with their answer or their condensed version of what is needed.

They often will want to give you just the end result of their analysis rather than talk it all out and come to an out-loud, verbal decision right in that moment.

I know it can be difficult to wait for him to do this—especially in the middle of an argument or uncomfortable confrontation, but he really does need to do this.

Be patient and kind and respect that they want to bring you their best answer, their best selves, and that is why they are requesting your patience. Trust him (and maybe call a girlfriend in the interim and get her to talk you down off the ledge while you wait).

Just the Facts, Ma’am—Keep it Short and To-the-Point

When you need something other than just to rant, choose your words wisely. Focus on efficiency. Men can get overwhelmed by all the words and emotions coming out of us, and when men get overwhelmed, they tend to want to retreat to their “nothing box.”

That’s not how they communicate effectively. Their brains work quickly and comprehensively, taking in information in big, often visual, chunks. They don’t need or want all the fluff. Help them help you by sorting through all that ahead of time.

A good rule of proverbial thumb: talk sticky stuff out with your girlfriend(s) first, then take the boiled-down reduction to your man to discuss.

Tell Him the ROI (Return on Investment)

Get his attention and tell him what the ROI is for him if he listens to you.

Try something like, “When I feel listened-to and heard, I am able to relax and concentrate on you and on having a good time with you. I will be the normal, happy woman you know and love. I will have more confidence. I will be easier to live with. I won’t feel crazy and isolated. You will be my hero for listening to me rant/talk/emote and being my support. I feel like I can go out and conquer the world when I know you hear and respect me by really listening to me. I love that feeling of knowing you have my back and that we are a team this way. I’ll want to connect with you more deeply. I’ll want to have sex more often.”

Why Men Don’t Tell you the Truth

“Men are not devious like women—unless backed into a corner, men will always tell the truth and say what they mean.” ~ Alison Armstrong

If you find out your man has lied to you, the question you might think about asking yourself is not “Why is my man a liar?” but rather, “Why does he feel backed into a corner? Is it because my reaction to this in the past has been not very pleasant, so he is avoiding that again, perhaps? Do I emasculate him on a regular basis in this type of situation, so that he needs to avoid that?”

And remember, many men pretend to be vulnerable, and don’t tell us the entire truth, so that we women don’t kick the emotional shit out of them, according to research by Brene Brown.

I’m not saying a woman is responsible when a man lies to her, I’m just saying that in an otherwise, seemingly normal, relationship where lying is unusual, these might be questions to think about. And it might be time to learn how, as a woman, to respectfully sit with and honor his true, deep (scary!) vulnerability.

And gentlemen, why are you lying to her? Is it because you don’t want her emotions, her femininity? Is that too scary?

“One of the deepest feminine pleasures is when a man stands full, present, and unreactive in the midst of his woman’s emotional storms. When he stays present with her, and loves her through the layers of wildness and closure, then she feels his trustability, and she can relax.”     ~ David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man

Do You have a Great Ask?

Alison Armstrong, who has studied men for over 25 years, encourages women to use the Great Ask with men. Figure out what you need instead of just complaining first. Then ask him for that. Example: “I really love birthday parties. Could you plan a birthday party for me this year?”

Then ask him, “Now what do you need from me to make this happen?” Then put the invisible duct tape over your mouth and wait and let him tell you what he needs from you.

He may need to be reminded nicely, or he may need you to tell him more about what kind of party you want. He may need you to witness him putting it in/on his calendar, so he has a reminder.

Then do that for him, so as to help him get you what you need/want. That is the Great Ask.

“When we share our emotions with our man, it inspires him to protect and help us. Share the specific emotions and then ask for what you want/need, ‘When we don’t get enough time together, I feel sad and I miss you. I would love to have more quality time with you. And what do you need from me to help make this happen?’” ~ Alison Armstrong

Is this manipulation?

Some folks will see this information as manipulation. And indeed, if that is your motive, then it is manipulation. And some will recognize it as the informed route to the relationship that they have always wanted to have but either didn’t know how, or didn’t have the courage, to do.

Tony Robbins talks about how you don’t just want your partner to be a fan, because satisfied fans/clients leave. He says we should create raving fans of our partners, because raving fans just keep coming back for more. It’s the difference between worshiping and loving someone.

We’ll talk more about whether this is manipulation or not in the next post.

A version also published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Not for Women Only: How to Avoid the Complaint Meltdown.

1stphone1We cannot wound out of anger and on purpose to hurt someone and expect him or her to tolerate such behavior.

“When a woman gets emotionally intense, a mediocre man wants to calm her down and discuss it, or leave and come back when she is “sane.” A superior man penetrates her mood with imperturbable love and unwavering consciousness. If she still refuses to live more fully in love, after a time, he lets her go.”
~David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man

This is following on the blog heels of Not for Men Only: The Anatomy of a Woman’s Complaint. In that blog, I suggest how a woman’s complaint can be navigated successfully and even used by men as the gift and tool that it is.

Gentlemen, use a woman’s complaint as a barometer to how you are living your highest purpose—or not living it. See her complaint as holding a deeper meaning for you.

“A man should hear his woman’s complaints like warning bells, and then do his best to align his life with his truth and purpose. Her complaint should be valued as a reminder to “get it together,” and perhaps as an indication of how. But more often than not, the specifics of her complaint do not describe the real, underlying action or tendency that needs to be changed.” ~David Deida

Are you promising things you can’t deliver? Even small, seemingly insignificant breaches of integrity are important and will inform women about how you are, or are not, living your highest purpose.

She can feel when you are not in your integrity. If you are not impeccable with your word, she begins to feel she can’t trust you. When she feels she can’t trust you, she doesn’t feel safe.

When she doesn’t feel safe, she will be in pain and confusion. When she is in pain and confusion, she will express that as sadness, fear, depression, anger, withdrawal, etc. When she is in that state, she will most often bring it you in the form of anger.

Another very common woman reaction to lack of integrity in her man will be her need to feel like she has to man-up. She will become hard and masculine, building a wall of masculinity between you two, because she feels—even if on a subconscious level—that you are not strong in your masculinity and are not leading.

She will feel like you are not to be trusted, so she has to be masculine to meet her own safety requirements. If you are not leading—in life and in your relationship, she will take on that role—much to the detriment of your life, relationship and attraction to her.

Most women rate safety/security/certainty very high on Tony Robbins’ list of The 6 Human Needs. If we feel that you are not safe because we can’t trust you, we may not know that’s why we feel so “off,” but we will feel that “off-ness”—probably even more than you feel it.

How to help a woman feel safe with you in general but especially when she is in the middle of being emotionally intense/wild?

“…you do so by standing your ground and loving so strongly that only love prevails. You can’t quit when you seem to fail, but rather, you must learn from your failures and return to love. Give your gift. Like wrestling a steer or surfing the ocean waves, mastery involves blending with your woman’s powerful energy and feeling the rise and fall of the moment, without lapsing in presence for a second.

You’re going to get stamped on by the steer, you’re going to get swamped by the ocean, and you’re going to get hurt by your woman. This is how you learn. You get up, dust yourself off, swim to shore, and turn and face your woman again. The only options are fear or mastery. You can quit, you can choose small steer and tiny waves, you can wait for your woman to calm down, or you can even threaten her. Or, you can take the moment as a challenge to your ability to conquer the world, and your woman, with love.”
~David Deida

For the Ladies

Remember that men are hard-wired to make us happy and to fix things. When you take a complaint/pain to him, he is going to want to fix it. He is going to want to fix you, in fact. Either that or he may want to retreat—because that is what some men do when they are stressed. He may want you to be rational and calm—like a man.

If he doesn’t retreat, because he loves and values you, he will bring to you, as Mark Gungor says, his very best man solutions: 1. Fix it/you, 2. Tell you not to think about it, “Just don’t think about it. Put it out of your mind.” Because men can actually do that. And it’s their go-to when they’re stressed.

Women, however, because of how our brains work (very unlike men’s), are unable to do that. We are always making connections and always thinking millions of things all at the same time, as well as always feeling and attaching emotions to everything we’re thinking.

Because we connect everything to everything else—in our brains and in our lives and to emotions—it is pretty much impossible for a problem in one area of our lives to not affect every other part of our lives.

If we are upset about one (even seemingly small) thing in our lives, it will affect everything we do and think and live and say. It just does. That’s the physiology of the female brain.

So don’t let anyone (including yourself!) shame you into thinking that you should be able to just turn that shit off liking flipping a switch—because chances are, you can’t.

And don’t let anyone tell you that emotions are wrong. Emotions can’t be wrong—or right. They just exist.

Emotions define us as feminine. The Divine Feminine aspect is about wildness, emotions, senses, the physical body, power that is both soft and fierce flowing from us in the form of emotions and love.

It is this wildness, the emotions and that softness coupled with power that make us feminine.

“A happy woman is a woman relaxed in her body and heart: powerful, unpredictable, deep, potentially wild and destructive, or calm and serene, but always full of life, surrendered to and moved by the great force of her oceanic heart.”
~David Deida

And it is a gift to men when we bring them these emotions. Without us, men would stay in their heads and seldom move down into their hearts and/or bellies. They would become rigid and obsessed. And our pain/complaints/emotions can inform them about whether they are living their integrity or not.

Having said all of that toward clarity, it is also important to say that this doesn’t give anyone the right to purposely shame, degrade or hurt anyone else under the guise of expressing their emotions.

There may be people—both men and women—whose motives are questionable, who don’t care about fighting fairly, about not damaging others with their words and anger.

Don’t be that person.

I know that feminine emotions feel drastic, immediate and all consuming. And if we don’t talk about them, we feel like we’re going to explode. The longer we hold them in, the worse they get, the angrier we get, the sadder, the more depressed, etc.

But that doesn’t give anyone license to carelessly cut into someone with anger, to purposely wound. We are still responsible for ourselves, our words, the way we express our needs, our pain, our emotions.

Do you want to be around someone who constantly uses their anger destructively and purposely against you, shaming you, dominating you, trying to make you wrong and make you feel bad—someone who always has to “win” at your expense?

No, and no one else does either. Even in our femininity of owning and being proud rather than ashamed of our emotions, we must remember that misuse of power is never okay.

We cannot wound out of anger and on purpose to hurt someone and expect him or her to tolerate such behavior. And you should not tolerate it from anyone else, either.

“With great power, comes great responsibility.” ~Voltaire

And the energy of the feminine essence is absolutely powerful. Just ask any man how it feels to be facing an angry, upset, crying, powerfully emoting woman.

Unpack the Complaint First

Think about what Alison Armstrong says about complaints: A complaint equals an unmet need and is a cowardly way to express that need.

So how about taking some time to have a look at what is underneath the complaint/fear/pain before taking it to him? How about being brave?

And how about remembering that he loves you and that he is hard-wired to make you happy? And remember something else Alison says: What if no one is misbehaving? What if there’s a good reason for everything everyone does?

What if the man you love is just trying to help you, albeit in the only way he knows how—in a masculine way?

Sure there are those that want to wound on purpose, out of defensiveness, fear, habit, passive aggressiveness, past wounds, etc. But think about assuming positive intent first.

This is a practice/habit that could change your entire life.

So consider taking some time to unpack your anger/pain first. Ask yourself, “What’s the unmet need underneath that, what’s supporting it?” Is it fear? Did an old button from childhood or a former relationship get pushed?

Living Vulnerably

Is it vulnerability, itself, that confuses and scares you? It scares me!

In our world, it seems that anger and blame are more socially acceptable forms of emotional expression than fear, pain, sadness, or any admission of any kind of vulnerability. In her research, Brene Brown found that most people defined “blame” as “a way to discharge anger.”

And anger often seems to be a defense, a cover-up—usually in response to a more vulnerable/scary feeling that needs to be ignored or denied for fear of that vulnerability being seen as a weakness, because we tend to view the admission/allowance of vulnerability as a weakness and not as the pure courage that it really is.

Being vulnerable leaves us open to pain, to getting hurt, because not only do we see an admission of vulnerability as a weakness, there is also, unfortunately, the commonly acceptable response to the recognition of vulnerability: Attack.

Hit them where it hurts (verbally or otherwise) and where they’re vulnerable in order to “win” and prove that we are stronger, smarter and better than they are. It is sad but often true.

When faced with the admission and recognition of vulnerability—yours or anyone else’s—respect it for the pure bravery it really is and have the courage to address it as such, to speak to and from that place—with respect, being honored to be in that sacred, private place.

Please know that not everyone will appreciate your vulnerability. It will freak some folks out. Vulnerability and authenticity are a choice you make. I highly recommend them, but I cannot say they are easy.

Quite bluntly, they scare the hell out of me. But you can’t unknow something, right? Having crossed that boundary into a more vulnerable, authentic way of living, I just can’t live with myself anymore if I am less than that. So I keep forging ahead, hoping it will get easier as I practice it more.

And while I can’t say it’s easy, the benefits and the amazing people and events that are showing up in my life because of it, make my efforts absolutely worth it.

So instead of instantly blasting your man with blind anger, sit with it for some time and dig for the need under your complaint.

After some introspection and a look at Tony Robbins’ The 6 Human Needs, perhaps, maybe you find that what you need to present to him instead is a heartfelt, vulnerable admission that you have a strong need to feel safe and that you want to work with him to help make that happen.

Using the same scenario as the previous post, for instance, respectfully tell him that when he doesn’t follow through with what he says he is going to do, you begin to feel you can’t trust him—talk about the pain and fear it brings up in you—and when you begin to feel that you can’t trust him, you feel unsafe—in the world and in the relationship.

And then you might talk about how frightened you feel and how you want to feel safe and how most of the time you do feel safe with him, and how much you love the way he makes you feel safe most of the time. Tell him how he is your hero for being such a safe harbor for you.

And is there anything he needs from you to be able to follow through? Maybe he needs you to remind him nicely in a day or two, because he is a man who is focused and driven, and he is always out there in the world making things happen—things that support you and the relationship—because he loves you.

And is there a block, maybe, that he’s working with, so that he is unable (because of his own baggage and buttons, etc.) to follow through?

Most of all, think of how brave he is—being in the presence of such a powerful, emoting woman as you are—without shutting down and/or running.

Thank him for this. Let him know that he is your hero.

When we admit to and come from that place of authentic vulnerability in ourselves, it invites and gives permission to others to do the same.

Staying in Vulnerability

What if he gets defensive or angry anyway?

Stay in your heart and belly—breathe evenly and slowly and deliberately from low in your belly. Take your time. Do not raise your voice.

On some level (and because women’s brains are made the way they are, this is something totally possible) keep encouraging yourself to stay calm while at the same time letting your emotions/pain fuel your voice. Choose your words carefully.

Be honest with yourself in your word and tone choices: Are you choosing them to wound? Are you choosing them out of habit? Do you need to find a clearer, cleaner, less passive-aggressive way to speak?

Stay strong in the conviction that you have a right to your emotions and that you have a right to express them—responsibly, kindly.

Stay in the vulnerability, the truth of you. Stay strong and soft—and lean into the discomfort of how difficult the process is. Just continue to speak with intensity, love and authenticity, knowing you will be proud, later, to look back and know you spoke your truth with soft, intense force.

Make yourself control your voice and your emotions, but let the intensity and power from deep within you be very evident (it gets easier with practice). Keep imagining the center of your chest open and relaxed.

(Let me just say right here how difficult and even embarrassing this can seem. But stay in your integrity! If you want to live vulnerably and authentically and with integrity, just do it. Stop waiting for someone to give you permission! You give you permission. Don’t let anyone pull you out of it or talk you out of it. You can do it! It takes courage and practice. And remember, when you feel like you’re failing at it—and you probably really aren’t: Dignity is a choice.)

Put the intensity of all that vulnerable discomfort and possible anger and pain and emotions behind the soft firmness of your voice. You may even be weeping at this point, because of the intensity and emotions that are behind your words, powering them.

That’s okay. All of that force, that power, has to escape somehow. Speak it and let it leak from you eyes if need be. Be proud that you are able to be so open and honest and authentic and vulnerable.

This is feminine power. This is the soft-powerful energy of femininity that will make you proud, later, when you see how you harnessed it and directed it after you let it take you to new places of authenticity and vulnerability within yourself so that you could reveal those places to him.

Do not allow yourself to be pulled out of your softness, that vulnerable heart-place you’re in. Do not match his defensiveness or display of anger.

Don’t become hard, masculine, dominant or aggressive. Do not attempt to dominate him or subdue him—that is masculine energy and he will most likely polarize into passive, feminine energy.

Either that, or he will become even more masculine—which may lead to some form of posturing and/or aggression in the form, usually, of anger or more defensiveness.

Tell him kindly, respectfully that it is not your intention to cause defensiveness in him, but only to bring to him your truth, your pain and your open heart in hopes of finding a vulnerable, authentic place where the two of you can meet.

Keep the intensity.

In this way, you will be able to stay powerfully in your feminine energy, inviting him to polarize and stay in his masculine energy. In this way, you will not be hard and masculine and unreachable in your pain/anger. You will still be open, even in and during, the pain and discomfort.

It just might give you both, together, a place from which to dive into a whole new ocean of understanding, depth and intimacy.

Let me know how it goes. And when you have mastered this, get in touch and clue me in, will ya? Because I will want to know how you did it so that I can too!

Not for Men Only: The Anatomy of a Woman’s Complaint.

DeathtoStock_Medium8

Please. Give us this, your gift of masculinity. We so sorely need it.

“The bags under your woman’s eyes and the lines in her face may reveal much about how clearly you are living your highest purpose. Try to do your best to determine which of her “problems” are actually exquisitely sensitive bodily feedback to the way you are living your life. You know the amount of bullshit you are kidding yourself with. So does she. It just hurts her more than it does you.”
~David Deida

Gentlemen, we women can feel it when you are not living your highest purpose and fulfilling your highest good by staying in your integrity. We know these things, can feel them. And when you are not living your highest purpose, not following through and doing what you told us you were going to do, we begin to not trust you.

We start to not trust you because we can see and feel that you do not keep your word, that you don’t do what you say you will do. Even when it’s a seemingly small thing, we see it as a very tell tale sign about your integrity and your masculinity. Even when it doesn’t directly involve us, we are affected by your lack of integrity.

“A man should hear his woman’s complaints like warning bells, and then do his best to align his life with his truth and purpose.”
~David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man

We always want the masculine energy to be dominant in you, regardless of our mood or our complaint. We don’t see you as less masculine because you are not cleaning out the car like you promised you would, so much as we see you as less masculine and trustworthy because we feel unsupported and unsafe with a man who does not remain impeccable with his word.

If we see and feel that we can’t trust you with your own life—to do what you tell us you will do—then we certainly can’t trust you with our life and the relationship. It is too scary. We need you to be trustworthy. We need you to be impeccable with your word.

And being impeccable with your word doesn’t mean that you never, ever get to veer from what you said you would do. And it doesn’t mean that you never get to change your mind about something. And it doesn’t mean you have to be rigid and hard and unmoving and unable to be vulnerable.

It means, rather, that you do what you say you are going to do, and you do it in a timely manner. If for some reason you can’t fulfill that promise, goal or end result, we need you to tell us that—with a brief, firm, confident explanation.

When asked if that would work for her, a girlfriend said, “Only if he doesn’t do that all the time. If that is his pattern, if he doesn’t do what he says he will do, doesn’t take care of the difficult decisions in his life, and then expects to always be able to explain that away, and I’m supposed to be okay with that, then no, that won’t work.”

The thing we are complaining about is very seldom what we are really complaining about.

It goes like this.

We begin to feel restless and angry toward you and about something that you said you would do but have not yet done. Sometimes we can’t even pinpoint the problem ourselves. So then we bring this restlessness and anger to you in a complaint, query or accusation.

That is the way women process and figure out what we’re feeling. We don’t know how we feel, what we want, until we talk out loud about it and figure that out. That’s just how our brains work.

Keep in mind that often we do not consciously know what the issue really is. We think we do. We think it’s that thing you promised us you would do several weeks/months ago but haven’t done yet. We really think it’s about you not cleaning the car like you said.

We feel uneasy and scared and this often comes out as anger and/or sadness—a feeling of being let down or disappointed.

We usually feel weird about and hesitant to bring it up, too, because we may not be clear on what the problem actually is. We don’t want to potentially rock the relationship boat about something we’re not clear about, but at the same time, because our brains function as they do (everything’s connected to everything—unlike men’s brains), we are unable to keep this problem/worry/issue from affecting everything in our lives.

If we are aware and start digging, we will unearth the feelings of lack of safety and security, but most of the time, we simply know something is wrong—something doesn’t feel good. If just feels “off.”

Steve Horsmon is spot on when he writes about how we women can sense our man’s intentions. In our complaint/confrontation, we will tell you what we think we’re upset about based on those intentions we feel from you. We will probably name some things about which we are upset/angry/sad/etc.

And when a woman brings you a complaint like this it will be because she is in pain—physically as well as emotionally. Women feel emotional pain as physical pain. When our feelings are hurt, we hurt physically too—our bodies hurt.

We will bring you this pain and it seems to you like we are asking you to fix it, because that’s what men do. Men fix things—and thank God for that—except in this situation. It will feel like we want you to answer us, to fix us, to fix the problem. But in that specific moment, we do not want you to fix anything—even if we say we do.

We want you to listen to us. We want you to stand firm and strong and let us pour our pain out to you. It’s the only way we know to get the pain out, to make the pain stop—and the only way we know how to process and get to the meat of why we are actually upset.

Please don’t argue with us. Please don’t ask us to stop talking, crying or thinking about it. If we did that, we’d be acting like a man—and you wouldn’t be attracted to us. To remain in our own integrity, our femininity, we have to bring these emotions to you.

It feels drastic, immediate and all consuming. If we don’t talk about it, we feel like we’re going to explode. The longer we hold it in, trying not to talk/think about it, the worse it gets, the angrier we get, the sadder, the more depressed, etc.

Just listen to us, please. Hold us—yes, even when we’re angry and even when we’re angry at you. Tell us it’s going to be okay. Reassure us.

Don’t take it personally—yet.

Don’t waver. Be the strong, unmoving cliff against which we can throw these wild, scary (even to us) waves of emotions. Be still and firm and calm. We know it’s confusing to you; it’s confusing to us too in that moment. We need you to be our rock in that moment, the groundedness in the wildness of our emotions—even when we are directly accusing you of something.

Please. Give us this, your gift of masculinity. We so sorely need it right then.

And the ROI for you standing strong for us and just hearing us without arguing or trying to fix us?

We will be our happy selves again; we will be the confident, laughing, woman you know and love; we will want to have sex more often; want to connect with you more; be able to appreciate you more; be better able to give you space when you need/want it; be able to do our lives and the relationship more effectively and efficiently; etc.

We will feel supported, loved, cared for, listened to, heard—the list of good things just goes on and on—simply because you listened, didn’t get defensive, didn’t argue, just stood firm for us. It makes us feel like we can go out and conquer the world when you do this for us, when we know you have our back.

“It is a mistake to believe the content of what she is saying, and then respond to her complaints, point by point.” ~David Deida

Please don’t try and argue with us or try to shame us for our emotions, our wildness. It is this wildness that makes us feminine. The Feminine is wildness, emotions, senses, the physical body, power flowing from us in the form of emotions.

Don’t take apart our complaint and try and fix it and us. Don’t try and address each complaint point by point. Just listen.

Because we are not really complaining about what we’re complaining about. We are feeling like we can’t trust you because you haven’t done what you said you would do.

And from that distrust comes the feeling that we are not safe.

Most women will rate safety/security/certainty very high on Tony Robbins’ list of The 6 Human Needs. If we feel that you are not safe because we can’t trust you, we may not know that’s why we feel so “off,” but we will feel that “off-ness”—probably even more than you feel it—if you even feel it.

After you reassure us, after we have wound down into calm, after this “crisis” is over (and that is exactly how it feels to us—yes, that urgent)—then is the time to take our complaint personally.

“Don’t argue with her about… (what you didn’t do). That’s not what she’s talking about, even though that’s what she’s talking about. Hear her complaint as the universe giving you signs about your life.

Did you purposely lie to your woman about (this)? Or did you just let it slide, like you do with so many commitments you make in your life? Can you really blame your woman for being hurt by the lack of integrity that shows in your life?” ~David Deida

And by “personally,” I mean it is time to see if the complaint is true. Are you telling us you’ll do stuff that you have no intention of doing just to shut us up in that moment and to avoid a confrontation and accountability, because you are confused or scared by our emotions? Or do you mean to do those things but then let them slide?

I’m not saying the woman will be correct every time about your integrity. Rather, see/hear her complaint as the tool it can be—use it as a barometer, use it to check your integrity. This is just one of the feminine gifts available to you if you will see it as the gift it truly is.

Don’t ask your woman not to be emotional, not to bring you her pain. Instead, stand firm, be her rock, reassure her that you got this—and then take a look at yourself, see it as the gift and warning that it is—and receive it in that manner, being thankful that you can use it to your advantage instead of making her feel bad about being a woman with feelings.

Remember, if she brings you her pain (in the form of sadness, anger, depression, etc.), it is a gift to you.

“A man should hear his woman’s complaints like warning bells, and then do his best to align his life with his truth and purpose. Her complaint should be valued as a reminder to “get it together,” and perhaps as an indication of how. But more often than not, the specifics of her complaint do not describe the real, underlying action or tendency that needs to be changed.” ~David Deida

Ladies, stay tuned for the next post on how to avoid the complaint meltdown in the first place, so that your man doesn’t have to try and figure out what it is that you are needing, because according to Alison Armstrong, a complaint is just a cowardly way to avoid asking for what we need…

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo

Also published at elephant journal.