Working Out

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”
― Leo Tolstoy

I have written in the past about my attempts to become a body-builder when I was in my early twenties. To make a long and boring story short I worked out like a bomb for almost two years and looked virtually the same as when I started. It didn’t help that every wall was a floor to ceiling mirror. I tried everything – eating emasculated chicken, dieting, water pills, and supplements guaranteed to pump me up like a helium balloon. Apparently the patented molecules had never encountered anything like my bird-like metabolism before, for after two months of drinking that vial sludge after every meal, all I could show for my efforts was that I had apparently lost the ability to have a bowel movement. That made me gain weight but not the kind of weight that I was going for.

There is no end to what some of us will go to in order to look good on the outside. And I’m not here to do a social commentary on makeup and Lululemons and Helly Hansen. Don’t really care about slamming you for how you dress or how much you spend on lipstick and stuff. I may never truly understand how that eyelash medieval torture device works but I support your right to attempt to use it without pinching your eyeball.

But here’s the deal. There is no end to what some of us will go to in order to look good on the outside. It’s no big deal when you’re talking about what kind of boxers you buy to wear outside your shorts. It’s a big deal when it leads to pride and elitism. It’s problematic when it defines how we feel about ourself. It’s horrific when it leads us to do anything in an attempt to fit in.

Defining ourselves by what we see in the mirror has been rammed into us by the stick-figured girls in the media who still manage to pull off a six-pack with their Botox and fake breasts. Men photoshopped into perfect thousand dollar suits and new cars with a brainless bimbo on each arm. Culture tells us that this is success, that this is beauty. Those of us with stretch marks or bellies, with poor cheek bones and weak chins will never measure up. If you don’t believe me take a look at Travolta or Shatner or Elton John or Joan Rivers. They have mutilated their hair lines and faces just to pretend to not be aging. They are paying thousands of dollars to fight a fight they cannot win.

We are all getting old. Deal with it.

Apparently a man’s nose grows his whole life. So do his ears. At some point I’m going to look like Dumbo. Not much I can do about it.

I am listening to the audiobook, “The Game”. It’s a textbook for pickup artists teaching them how to get any woman – the things to say, the ways to act. I have no intention of using this material, I use it to warn women that they are targets. The book is replete with tactics including how to make the desired mark feel worse about herself, how to separate her from her friends, how to ignore her until she begs for your attention. I wrote about some of this in the article, “How To Pick Up Vulnerable Women In Their Twenties”. At the time I used my oldest son as a consultant and now I’m a little freaked out how much he knew without ever knowing this book exists.

The point I am trying to make is that the system for belonging, for finding love, for feeling valued, is largely screwed up. We lie when we date, seeking to put our best foot forward. We look for love in all the wrong places. We think love can be found at a bar. We judge each other by what we look like. It’s all a game, a psychologically damaging contest that dismisses the best of us, the brightest, the kindest, the most worthwhile… the unbeautiful.

I am conscious that for many of us, we have struggled our entire life to fit in and feel good about how we look and who we are. We have never been satisfied by the look of our shell. Here’s the bad news.

You probably never will be.

Ever.

The opposite of bad self-esteem is not good self-esteem. The opposite of bad self-esteem is self-acceptance. Esteem follows acceptance, not the other way around.

These are your cards. You can diet, eat right, work out, take bowel-clenching supplements, but that won’t change how you feel about you on the deepest levels. If you don’t believe me ask a skinny person. We are a generation with low self-esteem and insecurity. It is a plague that is propagated every day, every time we turn on a computer or a television.

You will never be able to compete with Photoshop. Maybe it’s time to stop that treadmill, take your toys and go home.

Imagine if we tried our best then didn’t care about the rest.
Imagine if we could care less about our love-handles and flaws.
Imagine accepting ourselves exactly how we are, in spite of what we look like.
Imagine the freedom.

Vulnerable.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Conformity

I am amazed by the similarity of people in various professions. Is it that each job brings with it changes to the people so eventually they look alike? Or rather, are we drawn to certain occupations because of who we are? And how often do we ‘change’ or try to at least, to fit in with the group that we want to belong to? This starts young and we can see it all through grade school into college. And for what outcome do we do this? Acceptance? Personally, I’m done chasing acceptance.

Here’s an example. Have you ever noticed how many ministers/pastors seem so similar? There has definitely been some temperament profiling going on. I have known hundreds of ministers and after a while it began to dawn on me how much alike they are – outgoing but not aggressive, confident but not opinionated, absolutely dead center on the extrovert/introvert scale. It’s true, look around you. I have been at conferences with literally hundreds of pastors. You can count the number of controversial personalities on one hand. If you are looking for marginal personalities, check the kid’s table. Most of them make a brief appearance as youth pastors.

A little known fact is that most youth pastors have a shelf life of only a few years before leaving for good. Why is this? I counsel several ex-youth pastors and they have admitted to me that they never ‘fit in’, that the pressure to conform was overwhelming; and that most of their creativity was shot down by established mores and hierarchical power brokers within the church culture. They expressed an increasing frustration and heightening awareness of their own worthlessness, brought on by repeated rejection and character assassination.

Unfortunately these are not isolated cases. The pressure to conform in society is overwhelming.

I love the Tony Campolo story about conformity. He starts by pointing out how important we like our children to feel. Imagine them at their first day of kindergarten. The school principal comes to the microphone and reassures the parents, “Here at hippity hop elementary school we take seriously the trust of your children. We like to think of each child like a little flower that needs to be watered and nurtured until it can blossom.” So the kid grows up thinking he’s a little flower. And everyone treats her special.

But the day comes when she has to get her first job. I’m pretty sure the foreman doesn’t get up and say, “Here at Landmark Lumber Mill we like to think of each employee as a little flower…” No way! The name of the game is conformity. About fitting in. About not making waves.

Institutions, by their very nature, stringently require conformity. It can be argued that effective organizations must not be constantly threatened by opposition or change to operate efficiently. Marginal employees and leaders are guilty of polarizing issues and straining relationships. They are difficult to bear with, without a modicum of understanding and equanimity. Many people simply do not put up with the extremes of opinion and action, viewing it as self-indulgent and evidence of a lack of restraint. Ultimately they come to be judged as immature or in need of Ritalin. One has but to witness the horrendous rise in childhood medication within the school system to see the practical application of current cultural philosophy. In a recent issue of Reader’s Digest they cited studies that concluded that while only a few percent of the general population of Canada suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, over twenty percent of school students have been recommended for mind-altering drugs. It is far easier to dismiss and medicate than it is to recognize the inherent lack of appreciation for differing personalities. I have little doubt that I would have been recommended for such medication as a child had I been born ten years later. There is less and less room for ‘busy’ children in established organizations.

Considering the psychological ramifications, the societal pressure, and the subsequent lingering feelings of inadequacy, it is no wonder that marginalized personalities have a higher rate of chemical and emotional abuse. A vast majority of society’s disposable people exhibit anti-social behaviour and lack a general sense of propriety and culturally acceptable behaviour. An investigation into their pasts often reveals that they experienced catastrophic rejection as a child and continued to struggle with conformity well into adulthood. The example of Columbine High School put a magnifying glass on the potential dangers that we as a society face when we refuse to assign value to those who are unable to easily move within accepted norms.

I know a little bit about what it feels like to not fit in. My grade three report card actually said, and I quote, “Although Scott does well academically he thinks he can run the class and frankly I am getting sick of it!” Grade three, already a leader. Sweet.
One time, a very long time ago, my father asked his pastor at the time what to do with me. Apparently I was a handful. The old guy gently reminded my father that the story was not over yet, that often the most high-strung and oppositional kids grow up to be great leaders. This was sage advice.
I am keenly aware that I write for many people who have been beaten down by the system, by the expectations of others, by the death of dreams. It is tempting to feel marginalized when people are actually marginalizing you. As they say, it’s not paranoia if they are out to get you.

You’re ok just the way you are. I have spent much of my life chasing acceptance and it is vastly over-rated. I am tired of trying to “fit in” and chances are you are as well.

The story isn’t over yet.

The Neurologist And The Nazi

Paris International Exposition: Nazi Germany p...

After I had my grand mal seizure last fall I was encouraged (forced) to see a neurologist for an assessment of my EEG. He was young, engaging, and when he realized where I work and what I do for a living let his guard down a little and we talked shop.

During our discussion he admitted to me that at least some of what he learned in medical school was information provided by the nazis in World War Two. Needless to say I was intrigued and pumped him for information. I have known for some time, being an amateur history and World War Two buff, that the experiments on the prisoners at the concentration camps had not been destroyed. I imagined that some of their research, no matter how heinous, must have worked its way into some form of science. I was a little surprised, however, to find out that a neurologist educated in Canada alleged that at least some portion of his understanding of neurology could be traced back to the Third Reich. Debate rages over the ethical ramifications of such use, though several credible sources, even Jewish sources, trumpet the pragmatic value of morally tainted data.

At this point it is tempting to look on the bright side and make platitudes about how “good can come out of bad” or something inane like that. Not going to happen.

No amount of understanding, at least in my mind, even remotely justifies what happened. I have seen some of the pictures, read about the experiments with altitude, cold, pregnancy, mutations, proposed medicines, poisons, etc. It’s just not worth it.

As a counselor it is tempting to try put a positive spin on pain or problems. I know personally that I am a much better person because of the emotional and personal breakdown I had over a decade ago. I realize that I have learned lessons and matured in ways that can only come about through pain. Trauma teaches lessons, if we are willing to hear them.

Was it worth it?

Nope.

If you liked this article you might want to check out – Lowering Your Expectations.

 

Nothing Is Wrong, So Stop Asking Him

It’s as natural as breathing. You look at your man and he seems distant, even aloof. What’s bugging him? Is he mad at you? Why isn’t he talking?

You turn to him and ask, for what feels like the hundredth time, “What’s wrong?”

Assuming he isn’t passive-aggressive or a whiner, chances are the answer is “nothing”. Seriously. I’m not making this up. We were thinking about pizza, or boobs, or nothing at all.

Which brings me to my other favourite question to hate, “What are you thinking about?”

Nothing. I’m just staring. I’m a blank canvas. I’m taking a mental break. I’ve powered down. I’m not thinking about what you just said. I’m not contemplating leaving. I’m not mad. I’m not even thinking about sex. I’m a dude.

Nothing.

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

Men and women are different. I can literally stare at a wall and think about nothing. I can turn my brain off. Can you? I often bring this up in a group and usually women who are present will look at me in disbelief. My traditional answer to their challenging glare is to turn to a guy in the room, any guy, and ask him if what I have just said is true.

I’m batting 1000.

I have found that when I am repeated asked if something is wrong, the issue really isn’t about how I am feeling. Often it is a passive-aggressive query asked out of insecurity, or even agenda. I have learned to stop answering with one word and make sure to turn the question on its head. When I am “on my game” I like to respond with something like, “I’m good (never ever use the word “fine”), how are you doing?” This is a simple tool that often leads to an intimate and revealing conversation about what the other person is really thinking. Grunting out an answer only tends to confirm in the questioner’s mind that there is, in fact, something wrong.

So do yourself a favour guys (and girls), the next time someone asks you “What’s wrong?” take that as a strong hint that it’s time to talk. You’ll be glad later you did.

But seriously ladies, I was thinking about nothing. And there I go again…

It’s Always Darkest Before The Dawn…

stolen from Ivonne…

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around

Our love is questioned, such a mournful sound
Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues drawn
But it’s always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

And I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
‘Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It’s a fine romance but it’s left me so undone
It’s always darkest before the dawn

Oh whoa, oh whoa…

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat
‘Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Well what the hell I’m gonna let it happen to me, yeah

Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

You Just Got Hit

Bad day“They have a saying in boxing – everyone has a plan till they get hit… well guess what, you just got hit. Whether or not you get up is up to you.”  from The Ghost And The Darkness

I remember, years ago, hearing a minister talking about the worst day he ever had. I won’t go into details but suffice to say, it wasn’t much of a day. No one died, nothing bad happened. He was inconvenienced. I remember hearing him and thinking, “That’s the best you got?”

Some people get through lives relatively unscathed. I don’t know them personally but that’s the rumor. For the rest of us, however, life is a series of adventures and misadventures. I have a theory that almost everyone has experienced some form of trauma by the time they are forty. I can’t prove this but it seems to be true in the world I live. To quote the greatest family movie of all time, The Princess Bride, “Life is pain highness, anyone who says different is selling you something.”

We all get hit, from time to time. The older I get the more I notice how differently my life has turned out than I had anticipated. You can have all the plans in the world but they won’t help you if you get Fibromyalgia, or cancer, or are in a car accident. We are all just one bad moment from having our lives drastically changed. Twelve years ago I had my life all planned out, then I got hit. Some hits you never fully recover from. Perhaps that shouldn’t even be the goal. Trauma changes us. The trick may be to use situations we hate to change us in the right direction.

Life isn’t fair. Sometimes the rich do get richer and the pretty people do get all the breaks. Sometimes the jerks yand the liars do get ahead and there really seems to be no justice in the world. The Nortel legal battle in Canada, among others, demonstrates that the laws that apply to some, do not necessarily apply to the rich. The right set of high-priced lawyers changes everything.

Have you ever noticed that rich men usually have better hair? There is no justice.

It’s easy to get bitter.

But it doesn’t help one bit.

Have you ever noticed that the older people get the more they become a caricature of themselves? It is as if our personalities are water-soluble and as we age more and more of the water evaporates, leaving us with more “us”. As the capacity to exercise social restraint wears away you begin to see who that person really is. Old people seem to go one of two ways; either they become more gracious, more beautiful, or they get more bitter. So many bitter people.

I do not want to become bitter as I grow older. Already I can see the my tendency to become judgmental, or critical, or just grouchy. There have been people who have hurt me deeply and my natural inclination is to hold grudges and carry that pain forever. Perhaps I am not alone in this.

At the end of the day, like most things, it is about choice. Choice and a great deal of hard work. Left to our own devices many of us will gradually slip further and further towards negativity. Awareness is important. Hard work is much more important. Working on myself cannot, must not, be something I only do when I need to get something or someone. My life is not a thing to be fixed, it is a project to be nourished.

I know from personal experience how damaging it can be to live with bitterness and unforgiveness. I like to say it’s like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die. And it really is that harmful to us to live this way.
Joyce Meyer

“Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must not do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.”

SageDoyle

Today in the United States we honor the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  So in observance of this, below I have an excerpt from his “Loving Your Enemies” speech, and the entirety of “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.  January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

“Loving Your Enemies” November 17, 1957

“Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a…

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Breaking Into The Department Store

Mac the Moose stands on the edge of Moose Jaw.
Mac the Moose stands on the edge of Moose Jaw. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day, while in high school, while walking in downtown Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan (yes that is a real place), my friend Glen Mueller and I broke into the Met Department Store. Perhaps ‘broke in’ is misleading. We walked by the store and one of us pulled on the door for fun – and it opened. This was many years ago at a time when stores still closed on Sunday.

It was a very surreal experience. Suddenly we were transported into a storehouse of riches. We could not believe our luck. Looking back I am slightly embarrassed that we did not just turn around and walk out, but at the time the temptation was too great.

The problem was, we panicked. We had no idea what was going on and were quite sure that we were not supposed to be left alone in our treasure trove of riches.

We stole a watch.

Amateurs.

We had the entire store at our disposal and we stole a watch. We almost didn’t do that much, we were so frightened. I cannot remember what happened to that watch but I’m pretty sure it was all Glen’s idea.

I have often reflected on how this memory is like life. How many opportunities missed, how many times have we been given a bit of light, only to squander it because of fear and desperation? How many times have I turned left when I should have turned right?

There are usually reasons why I make the wrong choices. Most of those reasons begin with, “It was easier to…” or “but I really want to!”. Like many of us my natural propensity is to take shortcuts or do was is easiest. Real change or real opportunity usually takes real work and it is easier to give the appearance of effort without putting in the hard time needed to move forward.

There is no magic pill.

There are a few very true statements about change that I remind patients from time to time. Change usually takes a great deal longer than we imagine. It also isn’t usually as drastic as we assume either. Last, but certainly not least, change isn’t always measurable or even immediately noticable. Take for example, a decision to go on antidepressents. The magic does not ordinarily kick in the first hour or first day. Often you don’t feel any better even after the first week. One day you come in to my office and I ask you how things have been and you admit that you feel “a little bit better”. That is how antidepressents work. They aren’t supposed to make you stoned, aren’t supposed to drastically impact your day. That is like change.

You can say the same thing for battling depression, or dealing with anxiety, or processing trauma. In fact you can use these axioms for much of life in general. Real life is usually, well it’s usually kind of boring. Few decisions radically affect our present unless they are bad decisions. Good things come to those who get up in the morning. Who get dressed. Who try. Who work at it. Who persevere.

Who do the right thing day after day after day.

My Woman Keeps Telling Me I’m Emotionally Unavailable!

Dinner

Last week I wrote an article alleging that women complain about men being emotionally unavailable, and my editor challenged me to provide insight to men who struggle to connect with their partners on a meaningful and intimate level. As with most things, it is far easier to criticize than to provide help. It’s also a lot more fun.

So what can the typical, confused, and frustrated male do when confronted by a spouse who accuses them of being emotionally unavailable? The answer may be more simple and obvious than most of us imagine.

1. It’s about being available… emotionally. How can I say this more clearly? Chances are your woman wants to talk about her feelings and process her thoughts with you over an extended period of time, and not just on one occasion. Men are often guilty of trying to appease their spouse just to get her off his back and get the job done. This is the problem, when you think about it. Real connection takes time and his has no obvious and immediate reward system. Remember when you liked to talk to your girlfriend on the phone for hours? Remember those tender moments when you so profoundly cared about what the other person was thinking? Remember those romantic walks where you would dream about the future? Being available is about being present, being involved intellectually and emotionally. It’s about connecting without expecting any sex at the end of the evening. This leads us to the next important thing that men need to get their head and genitals around…

2. Romance is not about sex. I know we all know this on an intellectual level but men desperately need to remind themselves that romance does not have to lead to sex. Romance is about connecting, touching (maybe), listening, smiling, and considering the other person before we consider ourselves. If you are only romantic if you think you will get sex at the end of the night than you really aren’t romantic at all. You are manipulative, petty and selfish but not romantic. I am not saying I am a romance guru but at least I am trying. And that is the point…

3. It’s all about trying. I cannot tell you the number of women that have admitted that they would have not ended their relationship if they thought that their spouse “was at least trying”. Women understand that we are emotional neanderthals and most will learn to cope if they know there is some movement forward. Most of us can put up with almost anything if we see light at the end of the tunnel. Relationships end when hope dies.

4. Quit acting like a baby. Women are not attracted to you when you beg for sex or pout when you don’t get your way. Most spouses did not marry you just to mother you so don’t give them a reason to need to. No one gives a damn if you have a cold so grow a pair and man up. Strength is sexy. Emotionally weak men are far more pathetic than physically weak ones. Women tell me all the time that one of the things they hate most about their man is that he is needy and they no longer respect him. Ask any woman and she will probably admit that weak men may attract strong women but eventually will not attract her sexually. Who wants to make love to an emotional child? Yuck.

5. Stop asking her how to connect with her. Many women believe that if you have to ask then you aren’t trying. Besides that, women are tired of having to do the work. I sympathize that you don’t understand how to connect with your wife. I know you think she is being ridiculously vague. She is a woman and she is talking female. You are listening with male ears and waiting for three easy steps. It isn’t going to happen and the earlier you get your head around this the further ahead you will be. You don’t understand what she really means and I get that.

Google it. Read a book. Join a group. Study your girl like you studied for your job. Spend the time. Learn about her sexuality. Find out about how women think and feel. Teach yourself to hear with female ears. Put aside your agenda. Read my articles on relationships. Stop working for sex; in fact don’t ask for sex at all until you figure this out. When you do have sex read my article on “Why Your Orgasm Doesn’t Matter” first.

You can do this. You are way smarter than your mother-in-law thinks. Become the sexual and romantic god you want to believe you already are.

The rewards are amazing.

I Know You

You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.

Cartoon about a fortune teller contacting the ...

That statement about you is called the Forer Effect, and I was reminded of it again while reading Cracked.com. The Forer effect refers to the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements could apply to many people. The above paragraph is completely generic and is used to illustrate how easily we can be convinced that vague generalities are actually accurate perceptions of our psyche. Most of us can relate to the statement above, it seems to describe us. It is the same effect that you get when you talk to a psychic, or read astrology, or practice astrotherapy. People tend to practice wishful thinking, tend to identify with generalities because we want to. We also tend to accept statements like this about ourself because they are flattering. This is the reason why people spend millions of dollars every year on the pseudosciences and on paranormal fortune-telling.

This is also the reason why most counseling doesn’t work.

There is a tendency in all of us to believe what we want to believe. We are tempted to seek out someone to confirm what we already believe about ourselves. Many of us are also seeking someone to give us permission. I cannot tell you how many times I have been confronted by persons who have come to me hoping to coerce me to tell them it is ok to do whatever it is they are already contemplating, no matter how destructive.

Here is a typical example that counselors are confronted with all the time: You want to have an affair and you are convinced that, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that things will not end well, this time it will be different. You want to believe that you are special, that you are the exception to the rule.

But you aren’t.

None of us are. We are all bound by the same cause and effect rules, the same fallibility, the same propensity to lie to ourselves when we really want something. I know this because I am not the exception either. I have done things, and said things, and contemplated things that I suspected were not in my best long-term interest but I did them anyway because I wanted to and on some level I was engaging in wishful thinking.

Counseling often doesn’t work because you have come to the appointment knowing what you are going to do already because you are convinced that you understand the situation better than I do. In some very legitimate terms you are correct. The problem arises from the fact that you know the situation too well, are too involved. You cannot see the forest for the trees, as the old saying goes. That is the reason that unpacking your problems with someone who is knowledgeable and empathetic can be such a valuable experience. Einstein said it so well when he said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” He was profoundly right. We are all tempted to believe our own bullshit.

Blame It On The Jews

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

This morning I was leafing through a magazine that was chronicling the fourteenth-century British outbreak of the great plague. Fully one-third of the population succumbed to this tragedy, and it is considered one of the most important, albeit tragic, episodes in the birth and growth of the British Empire. I have difficulty wrapping my head around the effects of such a death toll on a fledgling nation. At the time there were several theories postulated as to the reason for this horrible event. Apparently the Jews did it. If you don’t believe me just type in “jews blamed for…” in the Google search engine.

Apparently the Jew are responsible for most of the tragedies in our world, including both world wars, 9/11, and the Treaty of Versailles. I even read on You tube recently, while watching a documentary on the Holocaust, that the Jews are to blame for orchestrating this as well. Blaming the Jews for the Holocaust is beyond contemptible.

The Jews run the Illuminati, the Jews fund terrorism, they are trying to take over the world, they run Hollywood. I am fairly certain that they are responsible for the lady who was at the express line in Safeway with too many items earlier today. They probably stole the ring of Mordor too; and cause ice cream to melt in hot weather. The Jews undoubtedly invented AIDS and refused to fluoridate the water when I was a kid, giving me all those cavities. I am fairly certain that if I was of Jewish descent that I would be rather bitter.

Damn Jews, always melting my ice cream and providing quality daytime programming.

It is easy to use someone else to scapegoat my problems. It is convenient to believe that there is some sort of plot aimed at world domination, some evil power (Starbucks) bent on ruining my life. It is a terrible tragedy that one race of good people have been tortured, blamed and persecuted for apparently thousands of years. It is laughable that they are blamed for killing Jesus, who apparently was a Jew. At least it would be laughable if it hadn’t spurred on such hate. No one seems to be upset with the Romans for orchestrating the event and sanctioning the hit. Who can be mad at a culture that introduced us to olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano?

Damn Americans killed Lincoln.

I love blaming other people for my problems. Censuring others for my issues removes my responsibility and allows me to continue to live as a victim. Such an attitude excuses my failures and does not force me to confront my own inadequacies.

I am not seeking to demean those of us, and there have been many, who have been damaged by a parent, or a spouse, or an authority figure. Millions of people have been abused and I believe that if you read this blog with any regularity you will have to admit that I do not make light of such real pain. As I mentioned in a previous article, there is a significant difference, however, between being victimized and playing the victim. I have had to come to realize, often far too slowly, that no one else is responsible for my happiness. No one else is going to make me healthy. Sadly as well, no one else will be able to bring me real happiness or wholeness. Divorce courts are replete with persons who have tried to find completeness in someone else.

At the end of the day that is a lesson worth learning. It is up to me to build and maintain a life worth living. Looking to someone else to complete me never works in the long run. You do not need to be in a relationship to be whole. Sorry but it is true.

Unfortunately it is also true that it is up to each one of us to work through our pains and move forward. Blaming other people for my life may feel cathartic but it will not help me find happiness.

If you don’t like this article blame my parents. Or the government.

The Freemasons made me do it.

Scrubbing Clean

English: Kids bathing in a small metal tub. Th...Most people who have kids know that each kid is very different. Rarely do you have two children who are similar, and that’s a good thing. I remember when my kids were young and so entirely unique it was hard to know they were from the same seed. Take bathing for example. For one of my kids it’s almost a religious experience. It was a holy place where he could spend hours bowing and gelling and playing in water that became so cold he would emerge from his shrine blue and puckered.

The other one though…

It was a religious experience for him too. The bathtub was sort of a “holy shrine” that you only visit once a year. One of my favorite quotes from him at that age was, “the good thing about being my age is you don’t have to wear any deodorant!”

It took him a long time to wash up, to penetrate those areas that haven’t been touched in so long, to scrub out the impurities collecting there since Christmas. Eventually he would emerge looking like a caucasian child again, freed up from the lovely ambience cloud he has carried around since his last pilgrimage to the holy of holies.

My mind is like that in a way. It is easy to fill it with impurities that seep into my consciousness and stain my heart – judgmentalism, unhealthy and sick desires, pettiness, hurt and pain, memories that continue to haunt me, failures… so many failures. Left alone those thoughts continue to gestate and take hold until I begin to live like they matter and fixate on the negative and destructive tendencies we all have.

There is a war going on in my mind. Usually, however, I am not contemplating anything horrific or illegal. Most days I am tempted, many of us are tempted, to choose the path of least resistance, do as little as possible, make selfish decisions, and forget to live my life as if it matters. That is the crux of it really. Living a lukewarm life is determined one decision at a time.

I am reminded of a definition of ‘sin’ I heard many years ago. The contention was that sin was not just the choosing of evil, but the choosing of the ‘lesser of two goods’. Choosing something that, while not inherently bad, is less than our potential and less than our best. It is an intriguing definition. Left to my own devices I am often prone to choosing less. Too often I have taken the lazy way out, the easiest road, the quickest fix.

There is a battle in each of us – between who we hope to be and who we are tempted to settle for. Between the potential me and the sellout. Between the Scott that will change his world and the Scott who will take the easiest path. Few things worth doing come easy.

There is a battle going on in you too. It is so much easier to take the path of least resistance. Two roads diverge in a wood. It’s tempting to ignore the changes that need to be made, to scrub up only the parts that are most exposed. Things like character and integrity are difficult and elusive, especially when no one is looking.

As I write these words, in the background, in the kitchen, Dustin Kensrue is singing:

spring time in heaven

I’ve got a feeling, it’s hard to explain
Feels like the devil rents a room in my brain
The things I’m ashamed of feel like dear old St. Paul
The things that I wanna do, I don’t do at all
So bury me deep, cover me with snow
Wrap me in sleep, blanket of ghosts
Spirit is willing, but the flesh is so weak
I wanna kiss your lips, but I kissed your cheek
Hear my request, give this one on fair way
Please take me home before it’s too late
Bury me deep, cover me with snow
Wrap me in sleep, blanket of ghosts
Wake me when it’s spring time in heaven
The tears are all white from my face
Wake me when it’s spring time in heaven
When I’m strong enough to walk in that place
So bury me deep, cover me with snow
Wrap me in sleep, blanket of ghosts
Wake me when it’s spring time in heaven
The tears are all white from my face
Wake me when it’s spring time in heaven

When I’m strong enough to walk in that place.

excellent thoughts on empowerment and misogyny

Otrazhenie

Empowerment

In all cultures and in all time periods there are/were good honest people (men and women) who care/d about other people and there are/were nasty ones. Societies with a high level of misogyny usually also have a very high level of misandry, gender-based prejudices and violence. That’s why we need to be very careful in the way we address such issues and write about them to make sure that good, honest, caring men and women don’t get insulted or upset; that traditions that protect people in a certain environment do not get broken by notions, evolved in a totally different environment.

Unfortunately there is a lot of violence in some places on this planet where streets are not safe for either women or men.  Unfortunately, police in some places is totally useless and justice system is totally dysfunctional – and it might be outside of our control to get that changed…

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Fart Humour And Teenage Boys (Or Why Men Have A Mental Illness)

No farting!

It’s almost interesting how quickly five or six teenage boys can stink up a room. On the weekend we had a birthday sleepover for our youngest, a sugar-fuelled night of X-box killing and toilet humor. At one point I turned to my wife and said, “And this, honey, is why men are not emotionally available or in-tune with women.”

It’s quite true, when you take the time to consider it. Women start connecting on an emotional level early in life. Even as children most females talk about their feelings, dreams, and interests with other girls. They are relational machines.

Boys talk about farting, snot and make inappropriate jokes as they attempt to punch their friends in the crotch. This may not apply to all males but it certainly does to those I have known and grown up with. Put two young teens together, and if one of them is my fifteen year old, it will not be long before they are mocking each other out and looking for weapons to castrate each other. Male youth culture is obsessed with violence and erogenous zones. We are not taught to share our innermost thoughts and fears with each other. To do so is a sign of weakness and you will be summarily maligned.

I do not know if I had a single meaningful conversation with another male prior to senior high.

As I have mentioned at other times men are not dumb. Many women have been raised to believe men are stupid. They are not. Most are, however, emotional morons with little or no experience talking about their emotions or connecting on a deep level. Women learn, usually much too late, that most of the guys they have been with do not understand or connect with them as they wish and the result is frustration and pain. By the time they get to my office they are usually so frustrated they are considering leaving the relationship.

Women tend to have unrealistic emotional expectations of men. Yes this is a generalization but I tend to write in generalities. Women often say to me, “Why doesn’t he talk about his feelings?” When I tell them what I have just described to you the traditional response is, “But I have asked him to talk and told him I need him to engage and he isn’t. He should understand by now!”

Nope.

I have long argued that high schools need to teach things that are actually useful in life. Few of us come into adulthood understanding the opposite sex, relationships, finances, or how the real world works. I did not learn how to talk to women, how women think, how to emotionally connect. Few men do. Most of us think of women as some alien life form that cries too much and never seems to be happy, in spite of our attempts to fix her. I have already written dozens of articles on how difficult it is for women and men to speak the other’s language and understand the other’s messages. Relationships are tough and it doesn’t help that the sexes cannot even begin to get inside each other’s heads.

Ladies, the secret of a happy relationship if you are dating a male is three-fold:

1. Lower your expectations. We have a mental illness. You wouldn’t yell at a child with down-syndrome for misunderstanding you so why would you get mad at someone who have absolutely no idea what you mean and has no training in connecting with himself let alone with you. Sorry but it’s the truth. The secret to a happy relationship is lowering your expectations.

2. Help him to move forward. Any movement forward is good news for your relationship. All you really need in a spouse is humility and a desire to make you happy. You can work with that. If he doesn’t have those attributes than you have a bigger problem than just emotional connection. Get help.

3. Realize that we constantly think you are condescending. This is an absolute truth for most men I speak with. We interpret almost any nagging and forthrightness as belittling. Being spoken down to is a core trigger for men. Our psyche is built on respect. When you talk down to us we lose our minds. Learning to speak “dude” is a key to understanding the male heart. We can’t hear you if you talk like our mommy.

Communication is make-or-break for most relationships. Coming this spring I will be offering an on-line course called “Speaking Chick And Talking Dude”. It has taken me years to even scratch the surface of understanding when it comes to connecting with women and I do this full-time.  If you are in the Vancouver, Canada region I will be offering a group in Maple Ridge starting the end of January.

Good luck. I know this article is frustrating for many and brings up more questions than it answers. I did that on purpose.

(My editor added this comment: “Will you have the three secrets for the male – on how to survive with a relational being when you’ve never been taught how to be relational?”)

Related articles

Blaming Women For Rape

This article in the news today, Indian Gang Rape Suspects Appear in Court quotes a popular guru who is apparently casting blame on the victim…. again:

“The gang rape in Delhi has triggered massive outrage and put the spotlight on rape and sexual assault in India as well as calls for a change in attitudes which often blame rape victims for the crime. On Monday, there was furor over comments by a Hindu spiritual leader, Asaram Bapu, who suggested that the Delhi rape victim was also responsible for the crime as she boarded a bus in which there were no women. He said she should have called those who assaulted her brothers and pleaded for mercy.”

As a counselor I often run into women who have been raped or accosted and then blamed for the incident. Apparently because they were allegedly wearing provocative clothing, or acting nice, it is their fault for being violated on a level I cannot even understand. Such a belief is still held by many, and is contemptible and disgusting. If this were the case than every woman at a beach wearing a bathing suit deserves to be raped. After all, they seemed to be inviting it…

As a male I am frustrated by the apparent logic here that states that if a woman looks attractive than I am no longer responsible for my actions. What kind of ridiculous belief system alleges that I am such an animal, such a slave to my emotions and sexuality that I cannot be held responsible for my actions in the presence of someone I find attractive?

Chasing Tornadoes

i_believe_in_chasing_tornadoes_round_stickers-p217161373895334849en7l1_216One day, while living in Denver, Colorado, we heard that there was a tornado brewing in our area. This may seem like a big deal to you if you live somewhere else, but in Colorado tornadoes are a fact of life. I witnessed dozens of funnel clouds every year and often they would touch down, usually in a trailer park. God hates trailer parks. It’s not bad enough that you live in a home that can burn to ashes in four minutes. For some reason God has this habit of skipping houses with minivans and spanking the trailer folk.

Back to the true story. My wife is listening to the radio and she hears about this tornado heading right towards our neighborhood and she starts to get nervous, especially since my dad and I had gone for milk almost an hour ago and hadn’t gotten back. She started putting two and two together and started to shake her head and think to herself…. “they wouldn’t!”

Ok so my dad and I are cruising home from the Quickie Mart and we turn on the radio and we hear about this tornado heading right towards our neighborhood. We start to get excited. We had never seen a tornado from like, real close, and thought it would be cool to go looking for it. Actually it was my dad’s idea so that explains a lot about the kind of upbringing I had.

So here are two stupid Canadians in a Dodge Colt driving towards the tornado. We’re passing vans and cars and your basic fleeing mob going the other way. It was awesome, there was no traffic in our lane.

How close can you get to a tornado? It turns out you can get very close indeed. Fifty feet if you are stupid enough, or so I’ve heard. I blame my father. What kind of parent would let someone like me chase tornadoes?

The moral of the story is, Canadians are idiots. No, wait, that’s not it. The moral of the story is – it seemed like a good idea at the time. In retrospect, although it was still very cool, we were flirting with disaster.

At the time we believed we knew what we were doing.
At the time we thought we knew the score.
At the time.

When I was struggling with dark depression, at the time I felt I was making the best decisions for my future. At the time.

When I was lonely and horny and had no one to hold, at the time I thought I was making the right decisions for my life. At the time.

When you are struggling with mental health issues and chronic pain and fatigue and loneliness and stress and financial problems it is tempting to make decisions that feel right… at the time. Unfortunately few decisions that are made when we are at our worst turn out for our best. At these times most of us have lost our objectivity and the pain has sapped us of our motivation to do what is difficult. Very often what seems “like a good idea at the time” is in fact very detrimental to our future lives and we are unable to see it. In these moments we need to be very willing to accept the advice of those who love us and can see things more objectively. I have failed to take such at advice on occasion and have usually come to regret it.

Here are a few examples to leave you with:
listen1. When you are infatuated with your new romantic interest you probably do not see the whole picture; understand that you are not qualified to make long-term decisions at that moment.
2. When you are in love and people are screaming at you that your lover has big problems you need to listen to them because you are not being objective.
3. When you are depressed you will not make good decisions. Yes I mean you.
4. If you are at a vulnerable, hurting, or damaged place in your life if it feels good than chances are you shouldn’t do it.
5. Good advice rarely sounds good when you are in pain.
6. When you are struggling, depressed, or hurting, your inner voice will tell you to do things that are selfish, destructive, and short-sighted. Don’t listen to that voice.
7. If you think no one understands what you are going through you are probably right. Talk to someone.
8. Real change takes a ton of time and effort. Get-fixed-quick schemes don’t work in the long run. Ever.
9. Most of your friends are not qualified to give you advice. Remember that.
10. Get off the couch. Get out of bed. Open the curtains.
11. You will fail. Failure is an important part of getting better.
12. Ninety percent of success is just showing up, even when you don’t feel like it.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” 
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross