Tag Archives: vulnerability

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?

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.

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?

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.

Can You Trust Him?

DTS_Photography_Movie3Oh my gawd, I’m in love with a man who cannot be trusted!

Recently I’ve been thinking about a short Facebook conversation I had a couple of years ago with a male friend. I explained, in a post, the dilemma I always go through when I feel someone has broken/betrayed my trust.

I always wonder if I can trust them at all and to what degree or if I should even continue to put myself in their sphere—like I might just be asking to be betrayed again if I do.

I’d have no one but myself to blame, at that point, because they’d already betrayed me, and I’d just be setting myself up for more of the same if I continued to interact with them in any way.

I feel, when this sort of thing happens, that I cannot trust them at all—in any area. The distrust I feel extends to the entire person and to everything they do and say.

I went on to write about how I could still love that person without being around them and without interacting with them much—if at all, and how that might be much more healthy than hanging around being jumpy about if I’d be betrayed again or not.

My friend was amused by my throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water approach and proceeded to explain how wrong I was. He used the analogy of knowing he could trust his dog, because he knew her from years of experience. He also knew, he wrote, that if he gave his dog a cookie and asked her to take it over to his wife, that his dog would eat the cookie instead of taking it to his wife.

Therefore, he reasoned, he knew he could trust his dog, just not with cookies. So why was I so ready to throw away a person and their friendship just because they couldn’t be trusted with one thing?

I followed his logic and even felt a bit chastised and kind of ashamed of my ready willingness to be so “callous”—especially since it had been such a public discussion. I reexamined my own logic long and hard, trying to find a way to adopt his way of looking at the situation.

But I just couldn’t. It didn’t feel safe to me. To adopt his way of thinking felt like not taking care of myself. It felt like I was putting myself in possible harm’s way, like I was not standing my ground and maintaining my healthy boundaries.

I have discovered, though, in the intervening time—and after much research—that we were really having a conversation about how men’s and women’s brains function so very differently. We just weren’t aware we were having that conversation.

His explanation and how he classified the trust experience is a classic example of how men’s brains work. Men compartmentalize. Each subject/person/idea has its own separate “box/compartment” in his brain. Men’s brains are, for the most part, single-focused—while women’s brains are considered to be multi-focused.

I envy men this ability. I wish I could turn off all but one subject and focus exclusively on that one subject/idea. I also wish I could compartmentalize the way they do.

Instead, with my female brain, when one (even small) thing feels not right, then my whole world feels not right. That not-rightness extends into everything I do and feel and say, etc. It colors everything in my life/world.

Mark Gungor explains it well in his video about how women’s brains connect everything to everything else.

Because our brains connect everything, if one part of our life is not going well, we tend to connect that to everything else in our life and conclude that really nothing is going well.

To men, this often looks like drama. To women, this looks normal.

This is especially true of trust in relationships. Women are all about relationship—of all kinds. We value relationship above most everything else—with co-workers, friends, lovers, our children, the volunteer committees we’re a part of, our community, the world.

Just yesterday when a client read off her homework list to me in my office, this was once again brought to my attention. She is coming to me for relationship coaching and after listening to her go up and down and around and back again about what she did and didn’t and might want in a relationship last week, I gave her the task of making a list of what she wants in a man/relationship.

I told her to simply write everything down that came to mind. “Don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense, or contradicts itself,” I told her, “just write it all down. Let’s start there.”

After she read off her items, I brought it to her attention that she had several items on that list that all pointed to safety/certainty. Most women rank “comfort/certainty” as their number one priority in life and relationships when asked to take a look at Tony Robbins’ Six Human Needs list. She had written: He walks his talk, he’s trustworthy, honest—among others.

Gentlemen, to feel safe in the world and in a relationship, a woman needs to know she can trust you. When you don’t follow through and do what you told us you’d do, we begin to feel like we can’t trust you and that makes us feel unsafe in our relationship with you and unsafe in the world.

We begin to think things like, can I trust him at all—with anything? Simply because that is the way our brains work; we connect everything to everything else and begin to worry that we need to paint the whole picture of you with that same he-didn’t-do-what-he-said-he-would-do brush.

When I explained to my client that because of the difference in the way men’s and women’s brains work, “trustworthy” might not look the same to her as it does to a man, she was stunned. She had never considered this possibility.

Gentlemen, we know that you just spaced out what you told us. We know that you separate everything into “boxes” in your brain and consider one little forgotten promise to be just that: little.

We know your guy friends wouldn’t bat a proverbial eye at the same space-out, because they categorize everything too. We know they’d think just like my Facebook friend did: I just can’t trust him with cookies; they’d shrug and forget it.

We know you’re a good person; in fact, we love you. And then our brain circuitry takes over and starts making connections (true or not) and we begin to worry that we have chosen an untrustworthy man.

Oh my gawd, I’m in love with a man who cannot be trusted! And I have to make good decisions for myself in my life, I have to take of me, and I know I need to be in a relationship where there is trust, therefore, I am gonna have to leave this untrustworthy man!

Ladies: Stop. Breathe.

Before you throw out the man with the bath water, put on your man-cap for a minute or two and create a few compartments. Just because he spaced out one little thing, does not mean he is not worthy of your trust. Maybe he doesn’t even remember promising you that, because he was distracted when you asked him about it.

One, learn how to really get his attention. Two, maybe you can’t trust what he says about that one subject or in that one area of your relationship. Granted, you will have to designate the worth factor in that one area of your relationship.

But that doesn’t mean he is totally untrustworthy. That just means when he promises you something in or about that category, you know that may or may not happen. You teach yourself to mentally shrug, to let it go and not use it against him.

You love him, remember? Let him be human. Humans make mistakes.

I’m not talking about a man who continues to betray you and lie to you and/or cheat on you. I’m also not talking about compromising your values and putting up with abuse or neglect or anything else that is abhorrent. Those men are a totally different subject for another post.

I’m talking about the man you love and with whom you have an otherwise great relationship—a man who has proven you can trust him in every other category.

That (usually) trustworthy man loves you and is hardwired to make you happy and might have been so dazzled by your sweet smile, or distracted by the lights, the crowd, the noise, (his erection, your body, that beer he had, a work problem, etc.) that he just nodded and said yes. At the very least, give him the benefit of the proverbial doubt first.

Don’t punish him for the way his brain works.

And gentlemen, when we bring this mess of connecting thoughts and fears to you in our pain and confusion, and when we are so upset because we love you and can’t bear to think you might have lied to us and we’re thinking we might have to leave you (!), please don’t punish us for the way our brains work either.

A version also published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Grace is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Psychotherapist in Ft. Collins, CO, USA. She gracethanx2013.3sees clients and facilitates Divine Feminine Hypnotherapy workshops for women. She’s a flaming, Earth-loving, tree-hugging, save-the-bees, believes-in-faeries, bike-riding, card-carrying, spiritual but not religious, hippie cowgirl liberal poet therapist—yep, they do exist. You can find her creations here. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

How Men and Women Do Relationships Differently.

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Women’s brains connect everything to everything—and we can’t help but throw emotions into the mix at all times too.

In her book, What Women want Men to Know, Barbara DeAngelis, Ph.D. talks about an analogy that she uses to educate couples about how men and women function in relationships.

She pretty much sums up the difference between men’s and women’s brains and how they function, although that is not specifically how she presents it.

“Imagine a man’s consciousness and a woman’s consciousness are like houses, with different rooms for the different areas our mind focuses on in our life—a “work” room; a “body” room; a “recreation” room; etc. For most women, every room in the house of her consciousness is also a Love Room, even when it is dedicated to other functions. It’s as if all the space in the house of her consciousness is used for love. It’s a Love House!

“For men, however, there is only one Love Room in the house of their mind. Therefore, if the man wants to put his focus on love and the relationship, he consciously has to leave the other rooms and go to the Love Room.”
~Barbara DeAngelis

She says women put love first—not by choice; it just happens. Even though she doesn’t say it directly, she is referring to the way a woman’s brain functions vs. the way a man’s brain functions.

Mark Gungor goes further, explaining the differences between the physiology of men’s and women’s brains. He explains that women, if we borrow Barbara’s analogy, wouldn’t even have rooms in their mind house. It would be one big open floor plan of a house, where the entire thing is permeated by love and emotions.

Women’s brains connect everything to everything—and we can’t help but throw emotions into the mix at all times too—explaining why we women can remember everything (it’s the emotional charge on a memory that makes that memory stand out among others).

This is also why when one thing in our life isn’t going well or is bothering us, our whole world is affected by it. We cannot keep it separate from everything else in our lives.

While men, on the other proverbial hand, have brains that separate everything into boxes/rooms. And, he points out with much humor, none of the boxes are allowed to touch each other—meaning a man has the luxury of being able to concentrate on only one thing at a time.

Barbara goes on to explain the challenges this can present between men and women when she talks about women (who are essentially always in their love room) lovingly and romantically approaching their man, only to find that he is not, at that moment, in his love room.

He can react, therefore, to the woman’s approach, with confusion, irritation, anger, by seeming to pull away, etc.

This is usually when the woman will get hurt. We feel him not acknowledging, and pulling away from, our attempt at love/romance. We feel and see his reaction to our extension of love, and we take it personally.

In a reactive state to his pulling away, we pull away from our man, which he, in turn, does not understand, because in his own way of thinking, he didn’t consciously pull away from us. In this way, a barrier has been created between us and our man.

A very common, vicious cycle gets put into motion that neither really understands and that we usually don’t even know how to begin to talk about to gain clarity, because most folks, unfortunately, don’t know the differences in men’s and women’s brains and how they function.

Barbara coaches couples, at that point, to realize that the man is not in his love room, to acknowledge it out loud, and move on.

And while I can agree with her analysis and explanation, I think there’s more to be done with this knowledge other than just waiting until he gets into his love room.

In fact, I think it is our job, as women, functioning from a feminine perspective, to lovingly lead him—and at the appropriate time—a` la David Deida, into his love box/room.

First of all, ladies, do not take your man’s reaction personally. And even as I say that, if you are in your feminine energy at that time, I know you probably will—because you are a woman and any time your man pulls away or seems distant, you will react with pain and be hurt. That is just what the feminine does.

” A man’s safety is in production. A woman’s safety is in connection.”
~Alison Armstrong

Feminine energy is about love and connection. When we feel our man’s attention shift away from us—when he suddenly leaves his love box/room and enters another one, we feel it. It may hurt.

“If you’re with a woman and you suddenly turn away and begin to work, she feels it in her body. She feels your attention moving away from her. She feels hurt.”
~ David Deida

This is just the dynamics of the feminine/masculine interplay. So as I say “don’t take it personally,” what I really mean is educate yourself as to what may happen when you approach him with love and he is not in his love box/room and know that you may feel hurt when he turns away from you or seems to “ignore” you.

The remedy? Education. Educate your man as to what is going on in this type of exchange. And then educate yourself.

Know the way a man’s brain works, be ready with that knowledge and also be armed with what to say and do to avoid the, above, vicious cycle.

Does this mean you will never take it personally and it will never hurt? No. Sometimes I feel I fail miserably at this—mostly because of it’s newness to me. I usually don’t feel brave enough to do this as fully and confidently as I would like. But I keep trying and hope to one day master it.

He is not necessarily pushing you, your love and romance away from him. He is, rather, so focused on whatever box/room he is in at that time in his mind (remember, men’s brains focus on one thing at a time), that when you touch him or talk to him, he has to come from far away to find you.

He has to close that box in his mind in which he is currently. He has to make himself look at you and then listen to you and probably needs your comment/question repeated, because he was closing the former box while you were speaking.

Then he has to find the box you are trying to get him in and open it and get in that box in his mind.

All of that takes time. All of that takes his focus. And you can imagine how distracting and annoying that would be to him—especially when he’s working and in focused, driven, production mode (which is so very important to the masculine).

It’s no wonder he’s annoyed and angry when we interrupt him.

Some Differences between Masculine and Feminine Energy

What Mark and Barbara don’t talk about is what David Deida and Rachel Jayne Groover do talk about. They write about masculine and feminine gifts that we give each other—both consciously and not.

Masculine energy is focused and driven; it can be restless even, because it wants to be doing something, making things happen, driving toward a goal. Masculine energy is mostly in the head and unemotional; it is mostly predictable and straightforward.

Feminine energy is soft and emotional, allowing, flowing and flexible—full of the senses and the body. It is unpredictable, wild and anything but straightforward. Feminine energy is about creating, maintaining and improving connections and relationships.

Everyone has both energies inside him or her. And the gender of the physical body really does not dictate which energy is dominant in that body. Some folks walk around in a feminine body and operate most of the time from their masculine energy and vice versa. Some readily switch back and forth throughout the day and their lives, depending.

Each needs the other. Just like the yin-yang relationship, one cannot exist without the other. Neither is better or worse than the other. They just both exist.

The feminine needs the groundedness and stability of the masculine, and the masculine needs the flow, emotions and flexibility of the feminine.

The most important thing to remember about them is this: They will always polarize each other. Wherever you are on the spectrum from masculine to feminine, you will always attract the polar opposite.

There are reasons the Masculine and Feminine are constantly balancing, gifting and polarizing each other. Like the poles on a magnet, like repels like and opposite poles attract.

So we could effectively drop gender at this point and just begin talking about masculine and feminine energy, because no matter the body, the rules apply to the energy.

Giving the Gift of Feminine Energy

The exchange of gifts of energy happens automatically on a subconscious level, but it is also important to realize the importance of a conscious, chosen exchange.

Without feminine energy to occasionally extend the invitation back into love, bring him back down into his heart and belly, masculine energy will take over and become obsessive and too focused and driven.

He will become stiff, automated and will always be operating from a mind/head/thoughts perspective.

Without masculine energy to occasionally extend the invitation back to Earth, and bring her back up into her head, feminine energy will take over and become too “out there” and flaky, and she will be too unfocused and be unable to complete tasks and get the business of life completed.

She will become too wishy-washy, unable to make decisions and have difficulty in this very masculine-based world.

Look for the next post where we will explore some tried and true, specific methods for inviting him back into love with your femininity, as well as other details.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Also published at elephant journal.