Tag Archives: shame

Stand Your Sacred Ground: Owning my Shame.

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Shame is all the proverbial rage now, right? Brene Brown is a household name. Everyone is conversant on shame and vulnerability. It’s trendy. And I love that Dr. Brown’s goal of creating a world-wide discussion on shame has been a success.

 

I love her work, and I applaud just about everything I read or see that sports her name. I even went to see her last year in person. It was awe-inspiring and Real and something I can cross off my bucket list. I can die happy now. She is one of my (s)heros—and I don’t have very many.

 

So I can honestly say I think it is so very wrong to try and shame someone else—or even ourselves—on purpose. I even have problems when I find I have shamed someone inadvertently, when I say or do something totally innocently that causes another person to go into a shame spiral.

 

It makes me have to do some personal soul-searching when I find out that has happened. Did I do that passive-aggressively?! Were my motives truly innocent?! WTF?!

 

And in all this soul-searching I have done–on both sides of shame, I have discovered one very important thing:  I have to own my own shame. We, as humans, have to own our own shame. We have to own our triggers and our buttons. When someone pushes our buttons—purposefully or accidentally—it is not on them to heal that shit.

 

It’s on me.

 

When someone says something to me that pushes my buttons, that triggers a PTSD flashback, that drops shame in my lap so suddenly that I am disabled in that moment, it is not on them to apologize and make it better and heal it and fix it.

 

Again, it’s on me.

 

Sure, they are definitely fucked up if they have decided shaming and triggering someone on purpose is some type of sick fun—but it is still not their circus, not their monkeys. And don’t get me wrong in any sense of the interpretation of this rant. I am never okay with shaming—no matter how it happens.

 

What I am saying:  It is time to own my shame. If someone says or does something from which I get triggered or feel shame, it is my responsibility to own that, to explore that button, that shame trigger, and heal it.

 

I don’t get to play the trendy shame victim card and blame my shit on someone else and never dive in to find out why that particular word, phrase, attitude, tone of voice, etc. pushes my buttons. They are my buttons, and I cannot expect anyone else to even know of their existence, much less try and avoid them.

 

My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to first, get myself out of shame safely. Brene Brown has an excellent shame resiliency method. Second, after I can function again, my mission is to get real and honest with myself and do some exploring to find out why I felt shame.

 

Lastly, I need to heal that button. I need to do whatever is needed and possible to heal that in me. I need to know that that time my father, in my childhood, said, “You don’t know what you are doing! Let me do it!” in a shaming voice, does not mean that every time someone says, “Let me do it,” I have to feel that same shame it originally produced.

 

I can grow. I can heal the past to stop the shame in the present and future. I can own my shame. I can own my triggers. I can heal them. And if they are not heal-able right now, they might be in the future and with more work on my part. And if I can’t heal them, even with all the healing work I can put into the problem, I can at least be aware of their presence and navigate my life accordingly.

 

What do you do after the first, hot, immediate, horrible flush of shame has passed?

 

Do you “puff up” and want to get aggressive and shame them in return as your response? Do you “shrink” and want to people-please and start apologizing? Or do you “stand your sacred ground,” and get out of the situation as quickly as possible and have a look at it later to heal yourself?

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nothingness of Depression.

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I am depressed today. And I don’t know where it comes from.

Is it a chemical reaction to something I’ve eaten? Is it related to my yearly battle with Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD)? Is it because I’m not being “true to myself,” and I’m stuffing emotions that I should be expressing, taking out and examining for a deeper meaning?

I don’t know. And I don’t care.

Years ago I was at my chiropractor’s office getting an adjustment. As he was asking about what was going on in my life, I mentioned I was somewhat depressed. His condescending response held the phrase, “…when you start feeling sorry for yourself…” I never went back to his office, even though I had been getting adjustments from him for years.

It was obvious he had no experience with depression. It was obvious he though “feeling sorry for yourself” was the same as depression. It is not. For me, even sadness has nothing to do with depression.

Depression is about “nothingness.”

Fast forward to just about a year ago. As a Hypnotherapist, I was learning a new technique to acquire a new tool to help my clients. This type of technique involves assisting the client to reprogram their thoughts and responses. As a part of the process, the client is encouraged to choose a better way of thinking (a “preferred response”), and to really make the new, better response very intense and active in their mind.

During the training, the instructor, while going over methods to use with clients who are depressed, said something about how “depressed patients are lazy,” because they don’t want to think of anything better.

Again, obviously he’s never been depressed. Because nothing could be further from the truth. It has nothing to do with wanting. It has everything to do with unable. Feeling sorry for yourself is light years away from true depression.

Depression is when there is nothing but deep darkness. I can’t even rise up enough to think about thinking of something better. “Something better” does not exist in depression. Depression is it’s own dark abyss where nothing else exists and movement is difficult, if not impossible.

Light and “preferred responses” cannot penetrate the lethargy, the fog, the thickness. “Something better” does not compute from within depression. It is not that depressed folks are lazy and therefore can’t remember a happier time; it is that happy does not exist; the past and future do not exist. Only darkness exists—in an eternal, deep, sucking Now. There is no direct route from depressed to happy.

The depressed person cannot move—in thought or body. Depression pushes down and pulls down, all at once, sucking me further in. It is stagnant and dark and terrifying, but I am too lethargic to react, too drugged with heaviness and apathy, to even express the terror. I get pulled in so deeply, that it physically hurts to open my eyes (my mind’s eyes, as well as my physical eyes) to try and look for something other than this black Now.

I usually find myself begging out loud for mercy, asking, “please…please…please…,” not wanting to continue the descent. The begging is as close as I can get to movement, to doing something proactive, to praying. I begin begging because, for me, there are levels of depression, and I don’t want to keep sinking. I beg for at least a full stop. I beg because I know how horrible it is further down in there, and please God I don’t want to go to that level again—please, not this time.

Depression sucks the will out of me. It sucks faith out of me. Reasoning goes next. Aversion shows up, and I am convinced that no one—not even my best girlfriend or my sweet, patient man—wants to take a desperate call from me right now. No one wants to put up with such a wretched person as I am right now.

Embarrassment is next, as I begin berating myself on how I should be able to pull myself back up out of this morass. And if I do somehow make it back up and out of this, how am I going to face everyone who noticed me sinking so deep and far away, who saw how worthless I was/am?

I am worthless, talent-less, lacking in reason and therefore have no place to go but further down, deeper into the abyss. It is the only place where I feel welcome, where I know no one will be forced to endure me, and so I let it pull me further in.

Is it a habit—like an addiction? Am I addicted to depression somehow—maybe on a chemical level that I am not consciously aware of? Because it is seductive, in a way. It is quiet, at least. It is a form of Now.

At least I don’t have to talk to anyone here. I don’t have to listen to anyone tell me how wonderful my life is and how I shouldn’t feel this way, how I shouldn’t succumb to the darkness, how I should be strong and resist it, how foolish it is to go so deeply away, to be so… absent.

That is what it feels like. It feels like I am not in the real world; I am absent. I am separated from the world by a thick, heavy fog that I can only barely see through to observe other humans.

It always feels like I’ve sunk too deep down into the rabbit hole to return.

the elephant journal version:  The Difference Between Feeling Sorry for Yourself and Depression

The Emergency Shame Toolkit.

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The response most needed by those in a downward shame spiral is empathy.

As a survivor of childhood abuse, even at my old age, I still get new, devastating memories that show up sometimes, seemingly out of the proverbial blue. I know, from my own personal experience, from my hypnotherapy training, and from working with clients, that the subconscious will only serve up what the conscious mind is ready to know, deal with, and heal.

I’ve seen it time and again with clients. It’s just how the subconscious works. The client and I talk awhile and then agree on their healing path. I hypnotize them and start down that agreed-upon path, and then their subconscious will take us down another path, expertly and easily—with perfect timing and to a perfect “ending” (which is really a beginning)—circumventing our original path.

The subconscious always knows what it’s doing and where it’s going. I have learned to simply trust the client’s subconscious and follow where it wants to lead, letting it reveal itself and its secrets in exactly the perfect way. I am just the mental Sherpa, in a way, outside the client’s mind and able to keep them moving toward their own resolution.

It is a fascinating journey—always—and I have the utmost respect and admiration for the subconscious and the pathways it takes to healing.

So I must respect my own subconscious’ journeys too—even when those journeys are seemingly unexpected and initially seem way too difficult to be navigated, even when I don’t want to respect them, and even when I am dragging my proverbial mental heels, the brakes fully on.

Every memory that has presented itself this way—seemingly spontaneously—is more than difficult. When first presented, they are overwhelmingly devastating. The shame they produce feels like more than I am able to shoulder.

Afterward, I usually spend the first day or two in hiding, too ashamed to speak, wondering if I can live with the shame of it. Yes, I know the shame is not really mine—that it belongs to the abuser. Nevertheless, there it is, and shame is shame, no matter its origins.

This last memory was no different for me. It seems to be the worst memory I’ve ever recovered, but they all seem like that to me. I suppose my subconscious is slicing off and serving up the really bad ones—now that I’ve years of coping skills and tools to heal myself at their appearance. The subconscious is brilliant like that.

This time, however, instead of swallowing and holding on to the shame, I took Dr. Brené Brown’s advice, and a few minutes after the memory’s surface, I called a trusted girlfriend.

Brené Brown compiled a shame resilience model that she learned from years of interviewing people that handle shame well.

First:

The first task is to recognize shame. Hopefully, I will have done my homework ahead of time and know what shame looks and feels like for me. I need to know what my personal shame triggers are. Most importantly, I need to recognize my own shame signs, so that when it happens, I can get myself back down into my body and start moving through it by saying to myself something like, “This is shame. It hurts. It is horrible.”

Second:

The second step is to not react, in that moment, toward the person or incident that started my spiral down into shame. It does not matter, at this point, whether they deliberately tried to shame me or not—just get away from them. Don’t stay in the conversation. Don’t make that call. Don’t send that email. Don’t allow the instant reaction. Don’t let the shame talk me into blasting someone with a shame screen: anger, rage, guilt, posturing. Walk away.

Third:

The next step is to share the shame. From her research/interviews, she found that shame thrives in an environment of secrecy and judgment. So call a trusted friend and confide in them.

Important!

Only share shame stories with someone you trust completely, those who have earned the right to hear your shame. Hopefully you have this someone. If you are blessed/lucky, you have more than one person you could call.

Brené stresses that there are six types of folks to not confide in:

  1. The friend who actually feels shame for you, gasps and confirms how horrified you should be.
  2. The friend who responds with sympathy (“I feel so sorry for you.”) rather than empathy. (“I get it, I feel with you and I’ve been there.”)
  3. The friend who needs you to be the pillar of worthiness and authenticity, who can’t help because she’s too disappointed in your imperfections.
  4. The friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability that she scolds, “How did you let this happen?”
  5. The friend who is all about making it better and, out of her own discomfort, refuses to acknowledge that you can actually make terrible choices. (“You’re exaggerating. It wasn’t that bad.”)
  6. The friend who confuses connection with the opportunity to one-up you. (“Well, that’s nothing. Listen what happened to me…”)

And if you are the recipient of a shame call from a friend? The response most needed by those in shame is empathy: “I feel you. I’ve been there too. I’m here for you. Let’s get through this together.” And those comments like, “Well at least… ” don’t help at all. In fact, those type of comments shut people down rather than help.

So, at 6:30 a.m. in the morning, I called a trusted friend—and barely able to get out the words because of the crying and extreme shame, I began, “I don’t want to be talking about this at all, but I know that shame thrives in an environment of secrecy and that I should tell someone, so here it is…”

The elephant journal version.

Why I Might be a Bully.

crow pie

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!

Yeah, I’m Not Your Girl for That.

DeathtoStock3Resentment has nothing to do with the other person or situation.

It has everything to do with me and how I am not taking care of myself, how I am asking/allowing/training others to treat me, how I am not respecting myself.

But it usually takes me a while to remember this. So, I grouse around, resentment brewing in me, being a jerk, treating others unkindly (or secretly trying not to) in my blindly self-imposed, co-dependent fog, until I remember from whom the resentment originates.

Me.

I can be a people-pleaser if I am not careful—to my own detriment. I can get myself into situations where I am going full-tilt for too long, trying too hard to please too many different people, not remembering that I’m an introvert, not mindful that my internal self-care meter is dipping dangerously low into the red, depleted, zone.

I have been so over-giving, over-caring, over-eager, over-“perfect,” (over-over-over it!) that I have made myself physically sick with exhaustion.

I find myself very logically, very (what I can justify as) practically, thinking things like,

“Sure, I can take on one more responsibility. I can do one more thing for you. I can go out one more night in a row. I can contort myself, my brain and my life to figure out how to make this work for absolutely everyone, how I can keep everyone (but me?) happy. I can stay up late again working to get another order finished (the weekend isn’t that far off; I can sleep then).

“I can put off taking care of myself one more day, one more week. If I can just make it to X, I will be able to rest then, able to slow down, able to recharge. I can make it. I’m strong. I can tough it out.”

Because I want to be nice. I don’t want to disappoint. I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to be Super Woman. I want to get everything done—leave no loose ends. I want to be that person who is nice and generous and kind and lovely and gentle and strong and capable and independent and insert more superlatives here—all the time—without fail.

And look good while I’m doing it, too, damn it!

At first, shallow, please-love-me, let-me-impress-you, look-at-my-military-corners glance, I quite self-deceptively think I am somehow helping my relationships and myself by doing this overextending thing.

Then I find myself treating them and myself unkindly, resenting them. I’m short with them, quick to anger, quick to treat them disrespectfully and dismissively—like they have somehow caused the problem and deserve to be treated thus.

I feel put upon and overwhelmed. Can’t they get their needs met elsewhere? Why are they expecting me to be everything to them? Can’t they read my mind and know that I’m tired? Why are they asking so much of me?

Because I’ve trained them to—duh.

And of course they have no idea this is happening—how would they? I’m Super Woman. Super Woman doesn’t get resentful. She doesn’t ignore her own boundaries and self-care. Super Woman has got it goin’ on—all the time. She does it all—in a single bound, no less.

My question to myself should be, though:  Why am I allowing myself to do more than I am reasonably and self-respectfully able to do? Why am I allowing society, the harsh judge in my head that sounds a lot like my father, old habits, my fears of inadequacy, etc. to dictate my life and schedule to me?

Who’s really in charge here? And why am I blaming the person/situation I’m resenting, for fuck’s sake?! They aren’t expecting too much from me. They may not be expecting anything from me.

But I am.

I have somehow set myself up to be superior to, and co-dependent with, them in some way—their savior or babysitter or main source of support/entertainment/etc.

I begin thinking they have put me on a pedestal or something, so this must be their fault—when really it is me that has put me there on their behalf and in my arrogant (needy much?) imagination.

As the fog begins to clear, I realize that they have done none of this. They are just doing what I have trained them to do. They don’t necessarily know I’m suffering. Do I need to be needed so badly, then? Because it can be nothing but arrogance and/or fear, in my opinion, that gets me to that point.

It is so arrogant and disrespectful of me to assume that person can’t cope without me. It is arrogance that assumes they are depending on me too much and can’t take care of themselves. It is with arrogance that I pull away from them, assuming they will be too disappointed to bear it, and I will somehow seem like the bad guy who let them down.

They will be angry at me. They will cling to me. They will be disappointed in me. They will ask too much of me and be desperate. I will fall from my arrogant, exalted position with them.

And they will see that I am human and fallible—weak, even. When Brene Brown asked women what they feared most, women said they feared being judged as not good enough—not able to keep all the balls in the air at once.

The answer from men:  To be perceived as weak or lacking in any way.

Because the only thing worse than someone getting a peek behind my wizard’s curtain and seeing that I’m not able to be everything for everyone, all the time, that I don’t always have it figured out, that I’m not always so calm and “Super?”

The only thing worse than that is them seeing, at the same time, how ashamed I am at allowing myself to be so “weak.”

If they see that, they will know I really am not Super Woman. I have flaws. They might feel sorry for me. They might assume I am inept and incapable. Those flaws could be so bad that if anyone knew about them they could never really love me. They might just decide I am too flawed to be worth their time and effort.

So when I begin treating those around me resentfully, testily and without generosity and kindness, I need to remember that I am the problem here—not them. They may not have done anything to be treated so disrespectfully. And they may—but that still doesn’t justify my bad behavior toward, or even my bad thoughts of, them.

In my case, it is a simple fix. I just have to remember to do it—even when it means telling someone no. I have to take care of myself first, or I will be unable to take care of those I love. And taking care of me usually simply looks like staying home, being alone and relaxing for a day. It’s not complicated.

I know I don’t require a week’s vacation to recharge—when I remember to recharge regularly, when I don’t allow it to get to the stage where I do require a week on the beach somewhere out-of-country.

The thing that finally bursts this bubble of fear and/or arrogance around me is when I withdraw to recharge and no one notices—or if they do, they don’t care, or they don’t mind. In other words, their “dependence” on me was just one more car on the Grace Crazy Train.

And it involves trust. I need to trust that they will understand my need to recharge. I need to trust that they will not think poorly of me if I reveal my flaws and humanness to them. Trust them not to assume I am so flawed that I can’t be trusted to know when to retreat for my own good.

But you know what? Even if they do notice, even if they are upset that I am no longer available for them in such an overextended, please-need-me-that-much, notice-how-perfect-I-am way, it never serves any healthy good for anyone involved that I would put myself and them into that dysfunctional position in the first place.

Why would I want to foster and reinforce resentment in me toward those I love simply because I can’t say no? If I truly love them (and myself), I would want to keep our relationship clean and healthy—free from my Crazy Train crap.

First published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.