It may have been nice if it was just there and we didn't have to work through layers of old stories and fears to share our authentic desires, experiences, and feelings, but emotional safety doesn't come to us very naturally.
It doesn't mean that we're bad people or that we're weak. When we are in state of growth, it's normal to take a little break from the work from time to time.
However, if we stagnate too much, stop taking care of ourselves, and don't build emotional safety into our lives, then we begin to feel...
And then, we need to come up with excuses for why we feel this way so we say...
"I've just been really busy."
"Work is really stressful right now."
"My partner just has a lot on their plate."
"I'm haven't been feeling well."
"I don't have time for x, y, z."
We get mixed up that these are the results and not the cause of our action and inaction.
However, the more you learn, earn, and build emotional safety into your life, you begin to feel empowered to...
Speak up for yourself
Taking responsibility for your health
Create a vision for you life
Confront your compulsions/addictions
Invest in yourself
CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
But, you have to earn it. There are no shortcuts. No one will do it for you.
And, most of all...IT IS POSSIBLE.
Jeff and Mackenzie Bezo’s recently finalized their divorce just a few weeks ago. They are the wealthiest couple in the world....ever. Their net worth is said to be $157,000,000,000.
Even though we may never get to ask them, “What happened?”, there is little doubt that the growing apart, attempting to repair, deciding to separate, and going through a divorce, was painful.
Even the most wealthy people in the world are not immune from heartache. They may have worked with the best therapists in the world and they still were not able to make it work.
There’s a couple of things I gather from this...
#1 Money does not guarantee a happy marriage. It can buy stuff and the best therapists, but it can’t replace attention and safety.
#2 Money isn’t a good enough reason to stay together. Hats off to to them for taking care of themselves and navigating a very public separation.
#3 If money isn’t what it takes, than ANYONE is capable of creating a loving, empowered, lasting marriage. We don’t struggle from a lack of resources. We struggle from a lack of resourcefulness.
I know this may sound harsh, but it's true!
If you find yourself constantly people pleasing, enabling someone's unhealthy behavior, or getting run over in your relationships, than consider this for a moment.
What do you get from it?
"I don't get anything! It's terrible!"
What you get, if you remain in the victim seat, is attention, a placeholder for your blame, a shield from confrontation, a place to hide, and praise for being so dang "selfless".
But, it's not selfless to enable other's to stay in their addiction, depression, immaturity, and unawareness because you're doing it for you....not them.
It could be your kids, husband, wife, boss, family member, or friend.
You don't step up, speak up, hold boundaries, or get help for your own stuff because that would ruin the good thing you've got going.
And, I know it might not look good or feel good but, if you're still doing it, that means that your getting enough of a payoff to continue.
Personal growth is not all about self-care, reading books, and meditating.
Sometimes, it's about confronting some stuff that really stings.
This is a practice in Giving Attention.
Before you start, here are the Ground Rules:
1. You have to answer in 1 minute or less.
2. Questioner only gets to ask questions and listen.
3. Have fun! Don't take it too seriously. This is just to get to know your partner more.
Sit down together and ask them these 10 questions...
1. What am I most scared of?
2. What is my favorite thing about you?
3. If I had to be stranded on a desert island with only 3 people, who would they be?
4. If someone were to follow me around for 1 week, what would they realize about me?
5. Where do I like to spend most of my time?
6. If I could live anywhere, where would it be?
7. What does my perfect date night look like?
8. Where and how do I like to be touched the most?
9. What did I think about you on our first date?
10. How would you describe my level of love for you?
Feel free to dialogue afterwards!
A douchebag is a feminine hygiene product. But, according the Webster’s dictionary, the term Douchebag also refers to a person (usually a man) who is obnoxious, arrogant, oblivious, and irresponsible. Douchebags act this way because they are insecure, anxious, and angry. Underneath this, they are typically dealing with repressed sadness, trauma, and childhood wounds that they don’t know how to heal (I added that part).
The best place to find Douchebags is on social media. Usually, they can be found preaching dogmatic ideologies, attacking people, and complaining about life.
In real life, they are typically more difficult to identify, but one of the top indicators is how they talk about and treat women. They will objectify, blame, and manipulate. It’s common for Douchebags to hang out in groups, thus they won’t get called out for their behavior.
When dealing with a Douchebag, it’s important to have strong boundaries, use clear communication, and remember that they are hurt children, on the inside. This understanding will allow you to stay grounded and it may give them some space to connect with you on a deeper level then they are used to.
No guarantees though! Even if they are acting out, at least you can remain secure in yourself.
I believe that only a small fraction of men are the REAL DEAL when it comes to being a D-bag and those are the ones that have been hurt the most. Most men have the ability to be respectful, self-aware, and kind. They love and care for women, children, and their fellow man.
So, that’s what a Douchebag is…
And, even if we can’t change the weird assimilation of a feminine product into our informal discourse, we can still grow our understanding of what that title really means and learn how to love those guys that seem so difficult to love.
You don’t have to get smarter to work smarter, but if you don’t work smarter than you’re going to have to work harder to compensate for your lack of smart working.
Smart – I learn how to set boundaries so that I don’t give too much of my energy away to others.
Hard – I don’t learn how to set boundaries and I go around doing what other people want me to do.
Smart – I practice meditation so that I can relax into whatever is happening in my life.
Hard – I don’t practice self-care or mindfulness so I live in a state of negativity, doubt, and fear about the future.
Smart – My partner and I seek support so that we approach problems as a team and we both know how to work through hard stuff.
Hard – We have never received any guidance so we figure it out as we go, we fight, or we ignore things until they build up.
Smart – I make a schedule with commitments so that I have accountability from others.
Hard – I don’t make commitments so I have to generate energy and decide what I will do when situations arise.
Smart – I ask people how I can do things easier, smarter, and better.
Hard – I don’t ask for help and I try to figure out parenting, marriage, career moves, money decisions, and health choices out on my own.
I remember sitting in a hostel in Portugal on the last night of my 18-month round-the-world trip. As I was scrolling through FB and seeing all the happy faces of the people I knew, I began to feel emotional.
The last few months of my traveling had been exhausting, lonely, and at times, scary. I had gotten extremely lost on my scooter in Vietnam (I did not have a working phone), I had crashed a motorcycle in Turkey (got scraped up pretty bad), and constantly felt uneasy on my travels through rural Morocco.
Along the way, I had met all types of awesome and interesting people, but we always had to part ways. I got really good at approaching new people, and we would often go out and do fun things or talk about our travels.
However, on my last night of the trip in the beautiful city of Lisbon, I could not wait to leave! Why? I didn’t know. Even though I had made this miraculous dream happen, I mostly felt flat and confused. It was at this point that I began to wonder, “What’s the point?”
Fast forward a few months and I’m back again in my now-home of Salt Lake City, living with a couple of friends and joining in on a Men’s group call that I had been away from for a while.
For the first time, I got to share the lows of the trip and not just the highs that I had been documenting in my FB travel journal. It felt so relieving and inspiring to finally get real about the struggle! It was so refreshing to open up about my authentic feelings and thoughts, in the moment! It was like a part of me, that I didn’t know was there, was finally free to come out into the world.
So, what’s the point?
The point is that without feeling, exploring, and sharing the negative, the darkness, the struggle, we are not able to fully feel the positive, the light, and the ease. We short circuit if we begin to hold in our authentic experience and we feel stuck. This is where we often get confused.
Joy. I like joy. Uh oh. I’m not feeling joy anymore. I must try harder to feel joy. I can’t feel joy. Something’s wrong. I’m confused.
Long periods of time go by as we desperately try to cultivate brief moments of joy and happiness through whatever means necessary. We begin to lose touch with ourselves and the pain that we are avoiding, grows.
We are usually very unaware that the way back to authentic joy and happiness is to experience our authentic sadness, anger, hopelessness, etc. With practice, we begin to fear these feelings less, and we begin to live more in the flow of life. We build this underlying space of “okayness”, even when life seems very much, not okay.
If there’s one thing that this trip and the years that have followed have taught me, it’s that I have to be honest about my real experience if I want feel connected to the world around me. Pretending doesn’t work. Struggling is okay.
“Hey…can we talk?”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“It seems like we’ve been busy lately and it would be nice if we could set some time aside to go out on a date.”
“Yeah, sure. Just let me know when you want to go and what you want to do.”
“Well…I have a few ideas but, what do you want to do?”
“It doesn’t matter to me. Just tell me what you want.”
Now, there are a few things to note about this conversation:
#1 Even though I didn’t tell you who the man is and who the woman is in this conversation, you instinctively knew.
#2 If you’re a man, you probably don’t see anything wrong with this conversation. If you’re a woman, this conversation might illicit a feeling of anxiety, flatness, frustration, or loneliness.
#3 One person is doing all the emotional work here.
Many couples have conversations like this on a regular basis.
Typically, when confronted with a lack of participation, the man becomes confused and frustrated because he doesn't know what he isn't doing. He may say something like, “Just tell me what you want.” At this point, many women tend to get frustrated and confused as well because they don’t know what they want.
This is where people get stuck.
If we go back to the conversation, I can see why both parties are stuck. First of all, the woman is the one who had to generate the energy and vulnerability to ask for something she wanted. She even voices her emotion and desire by saying that it would feel “nice” to go out together.
What she’s met with is his deferment back to her. He provides no emotional response, no vulnerability, and no ideas.
When met with this, she tries again. She acknowledges that she has some ideas, but she is also wanting more engagement from him.
At this point, he doubles down on his deferment and even adds that he doesn’t care.
Now, this may not mean that he doesn’t care about her or that he doesn’t care about the date but, this is where she is again burdened with doing all the work of remembering, deciding, planning, and holding the excitement of the conversation.
It would be completely normal for her to think:
“Does he even want to go?”
“Would he remember if I didn’t bring this up again?”
“How is he really feeling right now?”
All of this could be going on in the background, without her having much awareness of it. However, what she does know is that it doesn’t feel equal, engaging, fun, or exciting to be in dialogue like this.
This is the invisible work that creates a REAL struggle for both men AND women.
One day, during my sophomore year of high school, two kids that I hung out with got into a feud over something stupid. I was told that the bigger kid was going to fight the skinny kid so I we all met up outside the cafeteria. The skinny kid was obviously afraid, so he sat down on the stairs and refused to get up and fight. He was called every name in the book by the big kid and all the boys watching.
I froze in that moment, not knowing whether I should stand up for the skinny kid or jump in on the hazing. Within a few seconds, it was too late. The big kid walked up and sucker punched the skinny kid. He broke his nose in one punch. Blood and tears poured out over the kid’s face, shirt, and out onto the floor.
For a moment, time stood still and no one knew what to do. The skinny kid hid his face and quickly ambled towards the office. I mean, what else could he have done?
The big kid got suspended for a few days and the skinny kid got labeled a “rat” for the rest of the year. He showed up to school the next day, with two black eyes and a splint over his nose. I felt so bad for him, but I didn’t say anything. We still saw each other in shared friend groups and I witnessed how emotionless teenage boys can be, as they continued to prod him for his inability to defend himself.
I also knew what it was like to be them because I was one, too. I was always a little bit smaller than the rest of the boys, so I knew what I had to do. I fought my way out of getting bullied on many occasions and I even instigated some fights to proactively assert myself as a non-p$#%&!. I knew that, if I didn’t fight back at every turn, I was at risk of getting verbally or physically assaulted.
All of this was basically brushed over in my culture and upbringing with the phrase “Boys will be boys.” Looking back, there was always this sense that I had to be a certain way in order to earn respect from my peers and to impress the girls.
I’d like to say that we all grew up and learned to handle our emotions, but we didn’t. The markers we use have just changed forms. Instead of physically asserting ourselves, it’s now mostly done with money, possessions, and control.
Why do you think some men work countless hours and sleep with as many women as possible, while other men fall into disrepair, drinking, getting fat, and hating themselves? It’s two sides of the same coin.
And, of course there are the men in-between, who may not have polarized, but who are still unhappy. They work a job that pays the bills, they watch a lot of TV, and they try to pretend that they’re proud of their “dad bod”.
So, what’s it like to be a Man in the year 2019? Well, for those that buy into the system and continue their patterns without questioning, it’s anywhere from fine to numb to unbearable. Men may still hold much of the power over women, but we also kill ourselves and abuse substances at much high rates. There’s a reason for that.
I’m not comparing our experience to women’s experience because I don’t know what it’s like. This is just for the men.
If you don’t wake up, get some help, do some inner-work, and change your relationship with yourself, you’re going to suffer, bro!
Believe me! I know!
I suffered under this regime for most of my life and now I’m doing the work. I’m looking into my childhood, I’m crying, I’m talking about feelings with my partner, I’m taking care of myself, I’m voicing my needs, I’m facing my unhealthy behaviors, I’m asking for help, and I am past the point of no-return.
And now, I help men and women change the way that they relate to each other and themselves. And, I do that by changing the way that I relate to you and myself.
Men, we can do better and we must do better. All this war, fighting, controlling, faking, and aggression is not going to get us what we want.
If you’re a man like me, you may have been told, or felt, that you’re “emotionally unavailable” at times. Maybe, it sounded more like “I guess you don’t even care” or “What’s your deal?”.
This is a confusing situation for both parties involved. On the man’s side, it’s strange because, sometimes, we really are disconnected from what we’re feeling. Maybe, we are sitting down in front of a plate of food, fiddling with something, or watching TV and we literally aren’t aware of any undercurrent of emotion. And, for the women, it can be frustrating because they can’t get a read on what the heck is going on with their partner.
So, what can we do to bridge this gap, together?
First off, we have to acknowledge what is. If you’re man is emotionally unavailable, there’s a reason for that. He has probably dealt with things the same way for his entire life and he’s not going to change in one day. Don’t let his stoicism fool you. He needs some patience and gentleness, especially in his most stressful moments.
This doesn’t mean that you let him walk all over you. Taking care of yourself is just as important.
When you feel like you’re in a good spot yourself, be direct. We tend to respect straight forward questions and requests. However, most of all, we need to know why. Our logical brains usually need to be satisfied before our emotional brains will come online.
It may sound something like:
“Hey honey, I want our relationship to feel better so will you set some time aside to talk today?”
“I’ve noticed that you may be feeling stressed. I’d like to hear more so that I can help.”
“I hear you saying you want some space. For me, I need to know exactly what that looks like so, let’s sit down and make a plan.”
Odds are, you will probably get a lot farther using these exact scripts then saying what you’re used to saying.
And, if you don’t get a great answer, try giving a little space. It doesn’t mean that you have to do this forever.
Many men have a complicated relationship with intimacy. In some ways, we may try to show it through hard work, physical touch, or fierce protection. In other ways, such as sharing how we’re feeling, we may have little to no experience. It can feel very threatening to be asked what’s going on inside that thick skull of ours.
So, bottom line, try some new ways if the old ways are not working. If you’re used to shrinking and dancing around the subject, stand up tall and be direct. If you’re tired of chasing him around…stop. If you are in a constant state of blame, look at your part and own it.