nothing to do with drugs…
“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 compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
So I was sitting in the tub this past week (cue disturbing visual image) and reading an article about “fun with semi-colons”. I’m not really a tub guy but I had a busted wing and it was either that or stink. If I had a dime for every time I’ve started an article with the line, “so I was sitting in the tub”. I have become a nerd who reads psychology and philosophy and Mental Floss. I can live with that.
My wife walked in the bathroom and upon hearing what I was reading, sardonically announced, “I have never been less attracted to you.” If I had a dime for every time…
Making fun of myself is easy. I have plenty of ammunition. I’m an expert at self-abasing, most of us are. I was birthed in Canada, where false humility is a national preoccupation. Growing up we all believed that self-promotion was sin, and bragging was something you only did if you were an American (it’s not you, it’s us) or hung out with people who had really good hair. In grade ten I had an afro so had little reason to brag. Ok, I was prone to self-promotion and I secretly miss the Fro.
It is common, although often incorrect, to assume that people are arrogant when they brag about themselves. This seems to have little foundation in any real psychology once you exclude the narcissists and the psycho/sociopaths and your Uncle Bert. For the rest of us, isn’t it true that (I got that line from a lawyer who kept putting words in my mouth during a trial I was called to testify as a counsellor at)… Isn’t it true that for most of us we tend to brag because we are actually insecure and generally feel bad about ourselves? I can sense, somewhere deep inside me, that when I lean towards self-promotion I am usually trying to convince myself and others that I am not the secondhand turd that some people believe me to be. I’m just saying, for me.
Insecure people brag. Secure people rarely feel the need. To be candid, the more I learn to accept myself the less my detractors matter. It is a testimony to this problem that at this point in the article I feel obligated to include the detraction, “I don’t mean that in an arrogant way”.
There is a measure of psychological sense to the religious confessional. When clients are trapped in the cycle of emotional self-abuse I often ask them, “Do you feel you have done enough penance yet?” There is something in most of us that is prone to continue the self-blame cycle forever. When will the day come when I have punished myself enough? Shame is a powerful and pervasive sickness that can trap a person and convince them that they do not deserve a rich life. At some point in the journey it is time to say enough is enough, forgive ourselves one day at a time, and scratch a little happiness out of life.
“Your problem is you’re… too busy holding onto your unworthiness.” Ram Dass
This is not a self-help piece that ends with a parade and hot chocolate, although I highly recommend both with a splash of irish cream. In the real world, it is up to me alone to learn how to move beyond my own insecurities and learn to become comfortable with who I am right at this particular time. I will never be “good enough” until I learn to settle for good enough. Many of us can agree that we are sick and tired of feeling bad about ourselves.
Bragging can be a very healing and affirming thing, when done with someone who is safe and gets it. I have a few friends who really encourage me to feel good about myself. You know who you are and thank you. There is a time and a place for everything, apparently, and when was the last time you really bragged about something that matters to you? We need to be cheerleaders for our friends. In a world that constantly reminds us how we do not measure up we all need someone who is wise enough to give us a chance to crow. Everyday and in every way we are given the message that we do not measure up, we’re too ugly, too fat, or too old, or too whatever. And always not enough – not enough education or maturity, not enough love or health or understanding from a world that appears to take delight when you wipe out and they can get it on tape.
So go ahead, brag a little. You’re pretty awesome.
*warning – Adult Content*
I talk with clients about sex all the time. It’s a cool job. You cannot live in my world very long without someone telling you the juicy bits. People who wonder if I can keep a secret assume I hear an average amount of gossip, and they would be wrong. I get paid to listen to your secrets. I gave up finding happiness through selling you out a long time ago.
It’s usually uncomfortable to tell me your story, at first. We have been conditioned to feel ashamed of our private functions, if not a little embarrassed. When it comes to sex, it is easy to feel like you are dirty, or kinky, or just different. This week, slightly tongue-in-cheek, news agencies released the stats on average penis length (5.17 inches). Reports called attention to the stigma around even having such conversations. It may sound disgusting but every boy has measured. Someone should have said it. We are products of repression.
It won’t as too much of a surprise to you that, looking out from my chair, there are a lot of problems in the bedroom. I hear the lists everyday, and it can be fun to be a fly on the wall of my office. You would be surprised how many couples, for example, don’t feel sexually compatible. That is a heavy thing to admit to a stranger. Lots of couples have issues with technique and I get paid to research that kind of stuff. Many people have plumbing problems, use your dirty imagination. Lubrication and miscommunication and a lack of vacations add to the discomfort. Couples often have a great deal of difficulty telling each other that this “doesn’t feel nice” because there is usually so much “water-under-the-bridge” and feelings are easily wounded.
Here’s one for free. No one taught me how to satisfy a woman except my occasional exposure to pornography. Talk about what you like, it can be a huge turn-on. I love learning.
Selfishness is largely a Math issue. When I critically analyze my Giddy-Up time, what percentage of my efforts go into helping my partner feel loved? Then subtract my selfishness. Disregard anything that is potentially selfish but mutually enjoyable. The Math works the other way as well. Do you feel loved? Safe? Living with selfishness can be a prison sentence. It can become difficult to remain emotionally healthy while living life with someone consumed with their personal satisfaction.
Now add the intriguing little tidbit that some of us find our sense of self-worth through helping other people. Those people attract selfishness and narcissism like catnip. I’m not saying it’s your fault, just the reverse. This does not negate the fact that predators seek out the vulnerable and if you live to serve others they are going to use that to use you. The spouses of narcissists, psycho or sociopaths, of the raging and the ragingly selfish, are some of the nicest people I have ever met. It says something of a society when selflessness becomes a liability.
Selfishness can be a much larger issue than just a problem with Mattress Polka. Many of us know the sting of life with a selfish and miserable spouse, or the narcissist, or the Drama Queen or King. It always seems to be about them, and not just in the bedroom. Some narcissists are great lovers, but for all the wrong reasons. Use your imagination. Living with someone who is self-absorbed is maddening.
I wish I could tell you there is a fairytale ending, but I would be lying. Convincing someone to live more unselfishly, someone who has spent their entire life developing a value system with only their photo in the room, is an affront to their reality. The only solution that works begins and ends with me. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to change you but it won’t work. I hate that but the article isn’t over yet.
There is a mighty hope that we tend to forget in the drama.We can become more and more whole. As Victor Frankl and others have illustrated far better than I, no one can take away your ability to grow. That is very deep once you get yourself around it. Even in the most abusive of scenarios (and I’ve heard at least as many stories as you), some people learn to hope in spite of it all. I have to believe that anyone can learn, one minuscule step at a time. I have known that soul-crushing despair and wish for death but somehow, over years and years, things have changed. No, it wasn’t worth it, but life has a way of changing my paradigm whether I feel like it or not.
Then the day arrives when we talk about your dysfunction. We need to learn about next time. As the man said, if I keeping doing things the same way I can expect the same results. Most of us believe we learn from our mistakes. Most of us are wrong. It’s shocking, isn’t it, that both your current guy and your ex both like the History Channel? Huh. You’ve come from the bottom but it may happen again. Some of that hurt didn’t just float away. We have all learned entirely screwed up coping mechanisms, unless your parents were perfect, as mine are (Hi Dad). I have long whined that we graduate into adulthood with little or no emotional skills. I didn’t understand my feelings, much less my history, my dysfunction, and my unresolved issues. We were just big and dumb kids, more firmly convinced than ever of our own moral and intellectual certitude.
But that’s another article. I want to conclude by encouraging all of us, myself included, to keep looking after our mental health, and not just with gluten and working out. I work in an industry where everyday people spend thousands of dollars fighting off the end; but who give little or no thought to the only thing that really matters, my inside. And not just your bowel problems. We are all getting uglier, deal with it. But don’t forget to work on the stuff that will define and dictate the rest of your existence.
You may not prevent decay, but we all need to fight Stupid.
I remember hearing the song, “Waiting On The World To Change” and thinking, that’s not going to happen anytime soon! Things tend to get worse before they get better, or so the maxim goes. What I have found is that things get ridiculously old before they change. Most of us spend day after day, month after month, even year after year desperately praying for change, until things slowly move. And we’re talking slowly. I don’t have any recollection of when I got out of my all-pervading, soul-stealing, life-draining, ‘who gives a crap about anyone or anything’ depression. There was no “ah ha!” moment, no prayer meeting that turned the corner, no epiphany, no medication, no counselling appointment that finally turned the tide. No conversation seemed to help at the time, though later it was obvious looking back that small change was beginning.
I remember, when I was grieving, going to see a really terrible religious counsellor. I went religious because I could get it cheaper. Mistake. Some religious counsellors are undoubtedly fabulous, but they never met this guy. I should have saved the money and bought a milkshake. NOTHING he said helped. But then again, nothing anyone could say at that point made much of a difference. He was extra pathetic inasmuch as he couldn’t keep confidences and literally ratted me out, exacerbating the situation exponentially. Long story short… he sucked. Sadly, many counsellors do. They go into this occupation to save the world and somehow fix their own dysfunction. They are rarely successful. By way of example, hundreds of addicts I have worked with, and we’re talking hundreds, are convinced six weeks into sobriety that they want to be a drug and alcohol counsellor, or work with youth. People love love love theoretically working with youth… until they work with one and realize that adults actually listen, most youth in counselling have no longer than five minutes of attention span (thank you every adolescent male for the stimulating conversation), and adults won’t attempt to give you a wedgie during your coffee time or fart out loud and blame you at Starbucks. These are, of course, only theoretical examples and I’m not really upset with that little puke who blamed me at the coffee shop I frequent almost daily by yelling and holding his nose, pointing and gagging. Completely theoretical.
Anyway… what were we talking about? Oh right, depression. Happy times.
Coming out the other side of depression seems to take forever. By the time someone lands in my office to actually deal with such things they usually are so far gone it can take months just to talk them into getting up in the morning. I never start by asking a depressed person to do much of anything. The key problem with depression, as I oft recite, is the lack of motivation. The number one thing you need to get out of depression is… motivation. So how do you get motivated to get motivated? Certainly not by going to a doctor who prescribes an hour or walking, journaling, or going out socially on dates. Such goals are laughable, in the beginning. Unfortunately doctors are left to diagnose and prescribe such maladies on a daily basis, while having little understanding of psychology or mental health in general. It simply isn’t really covered all that much in medical school. But again I digress.
I cannot point to a day when I felt better because there wasn’t one. Coming back from the living dead took years of reading and crying and praying and talking and talking and talking… and not a little bit of drinking, much to my chagrin. I don’t recommend taking a depressant for depression. It’s similar to smoking pot for your anxiety – short-term gain, long-term pain. Doctors recommend that too!
It is the same with trauma, anxiety, and much of the mental health spectrum. There is no fad diet or cleansing that really can make you whole again; no magic pill or medication that will solve your problems. Some of us desperately need to be medicated, but with an understanding that medication alone is rarely sufficient. What really needs to happen is time. Time to move beyond the raw beginning. Time to let all that good stuff you are learning congeal and begin to take effect. Healing takes time. Real healing always does.
I tell this to patients all the time. Even with the best counsellor change rarely happens overnight. I find, and this is not even remotely scientific, that my clients usually take about three months of intense therapy before stuff starts to vibrate. Six months to a couple of years to deal with trauma, or anxiety, or serious depression. Sorry to say but a combination of co-morbidities could require longer than that. Some of us know this, though it’s counselling suicide to speak of it out loud. “Short term interventions” that we were all teethed on in college are only relatively short, when compared with how long it takes to not get better. Consider then, if you will, that most extended health plans cover 5 or 6 counselling sessions. So why aren’t you better yet?
Depression is not necessarily a terminal illness. Neither is anxiety or trauma. What is true, is that they are not easy to overcome. It took me years, and I still bear the scars even today.
Life got in the way… back soon.
No, I’m serious… I’m not ready to break up yet.
In the meantime, this guy is my hero.
Anyone who works in the mental health industry can tell you that almost everyone struggles with crippling self-esteem for some of their life.
It is an epidemic.
We are a generation that cannot love ourselves and are intimately aware of our shortcomings. You don’t really need to tell me my faults; I have spent much more time fixated on them than you have. I know my personality quirks, some of you have pointed them out time and again. I know that I have issues, I really do. Chances are that you are keenly aware of your foibles as well.
I’m losing my hair. Actually I have been losing my hair for most of my adult life but for some reason the process has been ridiculously slow, for which I am somewhat grateful. Every now and then someone will delight in pointing out this fact to me – like I haven’t spent hours squinting in the mirror bemoaning my fate. I like to turn to them and exclaim, “I am? I did not know that!”. I turn around, pretending to try to look at the back of my head and mumble, “Are you sure?” This usually shuts them up, at least until the next time. Some of you know what I am talking about – you have weight issues, or a mole, or some physical issue you aren’t proud of. SInce you were young people have commented on your mole. Kids made fun of you. Someone has called you ‘fatty’ or ‘four-eyes’, or ugly or short or whatever. Apparently you did not know you were fat – it was awful nice of them to let you know.
I used to have a female acquaintance who seemed to derive great joy from pointing out my physical shortcomings; she thought it was hilarious. I, however, found it less than amusing. At the time I was struggling with how I looked and her cruel attempts at humour only entrenched the insecurities I already had. To this day if someone compliments me on my looks I am prone to be dismissive and blow them off. My wife, who understands me better than most, is apt to say, “shut up and take the compliment”. She’s good for me… and a redhead. I have a few other friends who know me enough to see beneath my overt confidence and realize that, like most of us, I am prone to feel bad about myself.
Growing up I was taught by an unforgiving society that any attempt at self-promotion was called “arrogance”. Telling others you were awesome was an unforgivable sin and punishable by derision and scorn. Adults told me, told you, not to brag because bragging about yourself was very, very wrong. Be humble, I was taught. People who talk about themselves are egomaniacs.
I have learned a little about ego and narcissism since those days.
“Liking yourself” is usually not a sign of an insecure and arrogant person. People who are ok with who they are do not need the approval of others and are usually not fixated with gleaning the approval of others. Self-confidence is a very good thing, when authentic. Appreciating your skills and personality, even loving yourself, is a very good thing. It’s time for someone to say it – it’s important to like who you are.
It’s time to make peace with you.
I am keenly aware that I will probably never be perfect. I am fairly certain that I am not going to be an underwear model anytime soon (hold on to that visual image…). Chances are I am never going to be famous. I might even turn out to be a bald old man some day. I’m trying to be good with that.
As I have often said on this blog, the opposite of poor self-esteem is not good self-esteem. The opposite of poor self-esteem is self-acceptance. Learning to like and appreciate who you are is perhaps the meaning of life or at least the beginning of wisdom. There is nothing you can do about your shape, beyond cosmetic changes. Most of you are going to gradually lose the fight with gravity, the older you get. You may never be rich or famous or popular.
Are you ever going to be ok with that?
There is no magic formula for poor self-esteem. There is no way you can suddenly think you are awesome when you have spent a lifetime loathing who you are. Healing begins with putting away the microscope and the unrealistic expectations. You don’t need to pretend you are something you can never be. Making peace with your shortcomings has nothing to do with thinking you are beautiful or perfect or brilliant. It has everything to do with putting down your weapons of self-destruction and refusing to let yourself fixate on what is missing. Like most things in life it’s about changing how you think, not how you look.
I am getting shockingly old. I’m not quite sure how it happened but one day I was mildly cool (back when cool was a thing) and seemingly the next day I was old. How did this happen? I was always the younger, crazier, extremophile. I have a one year old grandchild now. What the hell happened!?
The older you get the faster time seems to go. This is not just an illusion, it’s a scientific fact that is just one more way aging sucks. When I was a teen life went on forever. I was never going to get old. I remember watching a rerun of Logan’s Run wherein people were zapped when they hit 25 (or went to heaven). I have a vivid recollection of thinking, “What’s the big deal, you’re 25!” Where did the time go?
There is an old cliché which goes something like this, “Make the rest of your life the best of your life.” It’s cheesy, as clichés are, but also contains a grain of truth. Have you ever noticed how old people tend to be a caricature of themselves? Their nose and ear hair aren’t the only things that keep growing. It seems like seniors tend to go one of two ways, either more bitter or more gracious. Some old people could teach classes on bitterness. The accumulated effect of tragedy and pain, age and trauma, just leaches the happy out of some older adults. The closer they come to death the less they seem to live. Maybe this is nature’s way of preparing us for death but I really don’t want anything to do with it.
I remember some years ago seeing a religious punk band in the states and noticing that there was this really really old guy dancing in the front row with piercings, and leather and a shaved head. It seemed kind of comical until I found out this was his band. The kids on stage were being mentored by this aging Fonzie. When I spoke to them about him they suddenly perked up and stared at me, straight in the eye. This guy was their hero. He was the coolest old fart they had ever met. They worshiped the ground this geriatric walked on. This was their pastor, their mentor, their biggest fan and supporter. I was inspired.
I want to be like that old dude. I want to live my second half in such a way that shocks the conservatives and inspires the youth. I want to suck the marrow out of life and leave on a thunderbolt. No one wants to look back at their life and wish they had given it a better effort. I may never be rich or famous but I want to be effective, leave a legacy, change lives. There has to be more to life than accumulating a bunch of junk and arriving at death with a good-looking corpse.
i occasionally show up at parties my kids go to. Don’t get me wrong, I have a standing invitation. My boys hang out with people I like and who give me a measure of respect, probably because I am so damn old. It’s an amazing experience, hanging out with people half my age who appear actually happy to see me. I get to play the icon for a few minutes, the one old fart who is having a good time with them on a Saturday night.
Someday, when I am much older, I want to still show up at the party for a good time. I can’t stop the aging process but I can decide what kind of old fart I want to be. Making the next part of my life the best part of my life is entirely my choice. I have some things I never had before, things like wisdom and experience which others find helpful. It’s up to me whether or not anyone will want to listen.
I’ve confessed before on this website that I work part-time at a drug and alcohol counseling service on the west coast. Over the years there I have learned a few things, and nothing more important than this – many of us choose to spend our lives chasing a feeling of “good” or “better”. We are convinced that there must be something more to life We have been taught that if we could just change our situation, or take a certain pill, or find someone to love us, then we will feel magically feel “good”.
It’s a trap.
Real life has very little to do with feeling good. There are obviously other, much more important things than feeling something that is fleeting and ultimately deceptive. If you don’t believe me just ask anyone who has struggled with addiction.
Quitting drugs and alcohol is relatively easy, seen in perspective. There is the initial detoxification, usually 5-6 days of discomfort and sick. Depending on any number of factors you may experience sweating, restless-leg syndrome, diarrhea, upset stomach, itchiness, and usually insomnia. Five or six very, very long days that seem to go on forever, then they end. This is traditionally followed by a period of general wellbeing, unless you are coming off of opiates. These little babies have an added bonus – you may have a week or more of absolute exhaustion. What the opiates giveth the opiates taketh away…
Quitting a destructive habit is relatively doable. Unfortunately this is, contrary to some 12-step nazis you may know, only a small part of the issue. The real battle is your life, the other 95% of addiction that is often not mentioned. Your life is your problem, not the meth (take that in context).
After the initial bad stuff addicts often experience a period of months wherein things go much better – they are excited about new possibilities and feelings, they actually have feelings that they allow themselves to enjoy. Food starts tasting better, activities that were once arduous become enjoyable again. You begin to believe that things can change, can really change. This period is rarely long-lasting and usually sets up a person in recovery for a fall.
That’s the thing about addiction. If there is an evil, it is addiction. It’s that old Bugs Bunny cartoon with the good angel and the evil angel speaking into your ear. Drugs are amazing, that’s why people do them. For a while. Ever after you remember the good times and it’s convenient to forget that this is the same voice that took your joy, your relationships, and stole your soul. That’s the thing about evil, if it sounded like evil we wouldn’t be tempted. In the movies the best Satan is the one that is cool, not creepy. Did you see Constantine? Sexy, french, white Armani suit. Very “satan-y”. Evil doesn’t look like that guy in the alley wearing the trench coat. Evil feels right at the time – it tells us what we want to hear, it speaks only good things into that void that is desperately looking for happy. It’s like… dating!
As the good book says, there is a wide road, a way that seems right at the time, but the end is destruction. That voice that has been breathing on you is wrong. It’s the voice that tells you that you have been ripped off by life. It’s the same voice that tells you that if you can find someone else to love you, then you will be happy. It’s the noise telling you that the real world is boring (which it is) and you need to feel better, or feel something, or just feel different. Many of us spend our entire life chasing the dragon, trying to feel something different, something better, something “good”. It is, after all, a wide road.
We’ve been raised on Coke commercials and beer ads telling us that life is about spiking volleyballs, being young and thin, and partying in Jamaica. It’s very intoxicating, this quest for feeling good. It often reflects a deep sense of dis-ease with our lives and a pervading sense that life isn’t turning out the way we imagined when we were young and dumb. There has been far more disappointment and hurt than was advertised. This is often coupled with some intrinsic understanding of our own mortality, of missed opportunities, and of a life that seems to be steaming forward faster and faster. Add the hurt of others, the pain of failed relationships, the boredom of the routine, the lack of money to live the rock star dream, and the horrific struggles with self-worth that most of us battle all our lives and you have a potent cocktail that is screaming out for something more. Some of us drink or take Percocets. Others of us do a variety of more socially acceptable forms of self-abuse and soul crushing.
Here’s one more interesting fact about addiction. The very thing that you are looking for with addiction is the very thing that gets taken away from you. Ask a opiate user and most will admit to you that they started abusing their meds because they felt a sense of energy or a ‘warm hug’ that opioids initially provide. You can get an enormous amount of work done high on meth or Oxys, or even some strands of pot. You are amazed by the general feeling of “good” you have been missing for so long out in Normieland. Everything about the up-front experience with drugs is awesome – more happy, more energy, a great sense of focus, being stoned. Months later when you can not get out of bed because you are exhausted after sleeping twelve hours you still wonder if taking another pill or whatever will give you back the happy it has so subtly taken away from you. One of the single hardest things to do with an addict in counseling is help them enjoy things that were once fun but no longer hold any thrill. Their whole life has become deadened. What the drug giveth…
The thing is, the real world doesn’t make you happy, so get over it. My job may be amazing but it can still suck if I decide it will. I have an amazing family that I can choose to abuse or ignore if I want. I have been able to experience more than many people in this life and I can easily decide to live a life of bitterness or regret or jealousy or fear. Life in the real world involves lowering your expectations – sorry but it’s true. It’s only once we change our mind that our life truly begins to change. Anyone can quit smoking, given enough help. Not wanting to smoke is a different kettle of fish, as they say. People who constantly battle with weight, or smoking, or pretty much any issue in this arena understand implicitly that “just stopping” doesn’t really work. You may white-knuckle yourself out of eating that Whopper but nothing has changed. It’s no surprise, then, that counselors will tell you “change your mind and your butt will follow” (ok, not all counselors but ones that sound exactly like me). Changing what you do rarely is enough.
Changing how you think about what you do is everything.
Many years ago someone told me to “Imagine that I was setting up two lines to snort. One line would be cocaine, my drug of choice. The other line is Drano”. Now the someone asked me, “Which one is worse for you?” Well, the answer was obvious, wasn’t it? Of course the Drano is worse for you, it’s a horrific poison. The cocaine, on the other hand, makes you high (which is good) and then doesn’t kill you (which is also good). The choice is obvious.
“Wrong!” he said.
“If you snort the Drano you are only going to snort the Drano one time. In fact, you may not even snort much of this Drano. The experience is going to be intense, real, and relatively short. You will learn some valuable lessons about Drano. You will be able, after little prodding, to convince yourself that you will never snort Drano again.”
Obviously you see my point.
There is a way that seems right…
It’s one thing to live, it’s another thing altogether to have a life. Spending your whole life looking for something outside yourself to give your life meaning is an invitation to heartache. Many of us are learning that no one else is going to take responsibility for making me whole and I have only one short life to figure out how to be happy.
I can blame the world for my life but in the end no one but me loses.
I wish I could say I have learned all these lessons. I can’t even say I came up with all this rant. What I have learned, however, is that I need to keep thinking about this stuff until something rubs off on me. I am constantly tempted to do what is cheap and feels good at the expense of something better. The more I learn about myself and my demons the more I change, and that has to be a good thing. Learning to sign a peace treaty with my insecurity and poor self-image can’t help but make a difference in my life.
It’s easy to pontificate like this to a bunch of strangers. It’s another thing altogether to have to live this stuff out in front of people who I can hurt.
One of my friends got “outed” recently. Apparently her crime was that she was friends with people whose lifestyle seemingly contradicted the morality code of the organization she worked for. Let me remind you, she didn’t actually engage in any questionable activities. She was guilty of being in relationship with people who engaged in things her organization disapproved of. She is guilty of taking a soft stand on a controversial issue. This is not a fictitious event.
Like most employees and and organizational types she had felt that she was part of a tight-knit community. These were friends and honorary family members. She feels the sting of rejection and it has become apparent that her friends were judging and rejecting her. She has been, albeit subtly, shunned by her tribe.
Ask an ex-Jehovah’s Witness what it’s like to live outside the fold. Ask a Christian who cannot be a part of something she once loved. Ask the gay kid trying to get by. Ask the husband rejected by his ex-wife’s family. Ask anyone who ever had to swim against the current. Ask the hero who fell from grace.
Anyone who tells you that it’s better being a round peg in a square hole doesn’t know what they are talking about and isn’t a round peg. Being an individual is painful in a society that is glutted with conformity and compromise and pretty rock stars buying illegal monkeys, superstars with perfect teeth and no moral backbone. The pressure to conform is intense and real.
What a wonderful thing it is, and a curse, to be an original – (stolen so long ago I can’t remember the author)
Great Article via The Huffington Post:
They aren’t pretty, but they are the kind of wake-up calls that we need to give ourselves every once in while. Columnist Leigh Newman explains.
1. Love Is Not A Stative Verb
In elementary school, we were all taught about stative verbs. Perhaps you remember them? Statives are those verbs that describe a state of being or mental condition, such as “to feel” or “to be” or “to believe.” Love, for example, is classified as one. You feel it.
Now let’s look at a few situations that have me questioning how this grammar plays out in life outside the classroom. Example #1: My friend who keeps sending his mentally unstable mother $2,000 a month even though she is young enough to still work and racks up debt on credit cards that would make a gambling addict panic. Example #2: My 42-year-old girlfriend who keeps meeting the same 42-year-old man over and over and over at 1 a.m. at which point he shyly, drunkenly, adorably reveals that she is his soul mate, only to go back to his 27-year-old fiancée at 7 a.m.
These kinds of dynamics — and others like them — have recently persuaded me that love is not a condition or a state of mind. Love is not a stative verb at all. Love is a dynamic verb. Love is action. Love is dumping the 27-year-old fiancée. Love is refusing money from your son because he’s taken on two moonlighting jobs to support you and he can’t afford his rent, much less the black Lab he’s always wanted. Love is sprinting, struggling, splatting, crawling, kick-boxing, climbing, leaping into the thick of the battle for your own — and someone else’s — happiness.
2. To Learn Is To Watch… And Ask
Like many Americans, I am a teach-it-yourselfer. So is the rest of my family. When I wanted to learn how to play tennis, my dad dropped me off at the local high school with a racket and a tube of three green balls, and told me to hit the backboard “until I got the hang of my swing.” As an adult, when I need to screw on a ski rack or create a Google spreadsheet or cook an obscure Chinese green, I figure it out via trial and error. Why? I think I’ll understand the task more profoundly by teaching myself. A recent study at the University of Louisville however, found that figuring things out yourself takes longer — with far less accurate results — than observing and communicating with others in the know. Watching the experts — and asking them for their expertise — results in a faster, richer learning curve.
3. Pig Newtons Are So Fig Newtons
Be they disempowered toddlers or exhausted parents or fed-up coworkers or confused, random, mentally unstable strangers on the street, our fellow humans sometimes make up insanely stupid points — then fight fiercely in defense of them. Only Louis C.K. can make this funny. But he does have a point. People — and not just kids — will insist Fig Newtons are actually called Pig Newtons. They will claim Mississippi has seven s’s in it. They will swear the sun covers the moon during a lunar eclipse. Your job is not to argue or present the truth to them. You will not get anywhere and you will turn into the crazy person trying to argue your case. Your job is to go to the bathroom and laugh. Or write down your insanely correct points on a piece of a paper towel — and then flush them down the toilet.
4. When Overwhelmed, Cache And Drag
During the Gold Rush days, on the famed Chilkoot Pass between Canada and Alaska, each traveler was required by the Mounties to drag one full ton of “adequate” food and supplies up the 32 miles that led over the icy summits. Some of these travelers, by the way, were women wearing corsets and long, full skirts. And yet, they succeeded. How? By caching (read: storing) 950 pounds of their supplies by the side of the path, then dragging (read: dragging) a mere 50 pounds for a half a mile forward, then returning to the cache for another 50 pounds, and so on. When it all worked out, a person might walk 80 miles for every single mile they moved their provisions — which sounds discouraging. But in this way, they were able to move — literally — a mountain of food, pots, tools, water and everything else they needed to build a new life. I’m not suggesting that any of us pack up the contents of our house and drag them in 50-pound bundles through the streets. But sometimes, it can be helpful to put an idea or dream to the side for a while and then, in full defiance of our relentlessly go-forward-at-all-costs culture, to go backward and haul the crucial supplies necessary to make it come to fruition.
5. You Don’t Have To Go To The Gym To Work Out
At home, I have a set of free weights, two yoga mats, an elliptical trainer, three yoga videos and a nifty package called OM Yoga in a Box. I haven’t touched any of it in months. The workout that I do is pushing my 35-pound 4-year-old two miles each morning over to “Super Hero Camp” in the 90-degree heat. I exercise my arms and legs. I sweat off five pounds. The news that you don’t have to go to the gym to work out should be a wonderful truth instead of a hideous one. You can run up the stairs to your office. You can pick up your husband and put him down over and over. Right now, you could be running in place while reading this article. Amazing! Wonderful! But think about it: You don’t have to go to the gym to work out. That means you can work out anywhere and anytime — which means all those lovely lies about not being able to work off your stress and take care of yourself are now officially unutterable.
6. You Already Dreamed The Dream
I’m not sure who is going to invent a machine that will inventory everything that goes through our brains, and until this is actually invented, this last truth may have to be reclassified as a hunch.
But it does seem as if so many of us worry that we don’t know the one crucial thing that we should be doing in life, the thing that will fulfill us more than any other. Even if we were given all the time and resources in the world, we still wouldn’t know what to do.
This is ridiculous. From what I have seen in life, I don’t think we need to go looking for some new “mystery” dream. The most important ones we’ve already had. Sure, at a very young age the idea of being a sea captain or ballet dancer occurred to us. But at an older, wiser age, we thought, “I should own a bookstore!” or “I love jam so much I should make it” or “Wouldn’t it be fun to be a tour guide in Italy?” We just failed to tie our lives to it. We let it float off, where it eventually ran out of air, sank and got buried by 1,000 other more practical or less scary or far less specific dreams.
It feels a little horrible to confront the truth that you knew what you wanted to do (even for .04 seconds) and didn’t do it. Then again, understanding or maybe just believing that the dream exists and that we just have to root around for it — not invent it into being — does something amazing. It calms us down. It takes away all the side worries like, “Maybe I’m not creative enough to dream” or “Maybe I’m just one of those people who don’t dream.” Looking for it becomes like looking for a missing house key while still at home; there’s no need to panic. You just have to find what’s already there.
I have radically changed the way I think about addictions.
I work part-time in addictions and see it’s effects literally dozens of times each week. It’s easy to believe that the problem is the addiction – if we can just help people stop drinking than their life will work itself out. Unfortunately this is not even remotely true and people who understand people are realizing that the addiction is simply another symptom of something much deeper.
When I was young and drugs came calling they were just another solution to the problem called “My Life”. Chocolate made me happy right now. So did cocaine and boobies and volleyball. Basketball sorted me out, so did pot. My only crime was that I grabbed too hard at one of my solutions to stress. Why couldn’t I have developed an addiction to body-building instead? Chocolate is nice, why couldn’t it have been to chocolate?
Dealing with your maladjusted life by stopping only one of the symptoms does not make sense. Somewhere along the line in many lives drugs became medication, not recreation. Cocaine helped you not have to think about your crumbling life. Drinking and sex helped you believe you were important. Being high kept you from thinking about your struggle to hope that things could change.
In counseling I encourage clients to look beyond their need for medication and address the actual disease they have been medicating. We need to learn to put our lives in perspective and change dysfunctional thinking patterns. Taking responsibility for your own heart and happiness truly is the best thing you can do to improve your life.
- Does It Really Matter What You’re Addicted To? (scott-williams.ca)
- Catastophizing (scott-williams.ca)
- An Open Letter To The Men Who Date My Clients (scott-williams.ca)
THURSDAY, May 30 (HealthDay News) — Men with high levels of narcissism — an unrealistically positive self-image coupled with feelings of entitlement — have an easier time than others attracting a potential mate, new German research says.
“Narcissism is linked to mate appeal in a real-life situation,” said Michael Dufner, a researcher at Humboldt University of Berlin, who led the study.
The research is published in the July issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Dufner and his team first measured narcissism levels in 61 men with an average age of 25, who were invited to join a courtship study in Germany. “We focused on narcissism as a personality trait, not the personality disorder,” he said. “This means that everybody has a certain narcissism level — for some it is higher, for others lower.”
Next, the researchers asked the men to approach women they did not know on the street and get contact information. It could be a phone number, email or Facebook contact.
Research assistants followed the men (which the men were aware of), observing the interactions. Dufner decided to focus on men in this study because men traditionally court a potential mate in this way, compared to women’s typically more subtle approaches, such as flirting, he said.
“We tested if individuals with higher narcissism scores are more appealing,” he said.
On average, the men approached about 23 women. To rule out the possibility that the more narcissistic men were more selective in who they approached, the researchers analyzed each woman who was approached on her physical attractiveness and manner of dress. The narcissists weren’t more selective.
The narcissistic guys did get the girl more often. The higher the level of narcissism, the more likely they were to get more contacts.
“The effect was not due to high self-esteem, but indeed the narcissism,” Dufner said. The physical attractiveness and social boldness of the narcissists were the two likely reasons for their appeal to women, he said.
Dufner offered some caveats about the research, though. “We were not able to directly test the causality underlying the association between narcissism and physical attractiveness,” he said.
One possibility, he said, is that physical attractiveness may be a partial cause of narcissism, as other researchers have suggested.
For narcissists — and the women they seek — the news is not all good, Dufner said. “Narcissists are charming and appealing at first sight, but they are not long-term romantic partners,” he said.
The study findings confirm what many experts have long suspected, said Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University who has written about narcissism. “Narcissists are very good at initiating relationships,” she said. “On first impression, they come across as confident and charming. The problems arise later on, when you realize that he doesn’t actually care about you — it’s all about him.”
Twenge was not involved in the study, but reviewed the findings.
Caution is the byword for those attracted to narcissists, both experts agreed. “In the long run, narcissists made bad relationship partners,” Twenge said. “They lack empathy and have a difficult time taking someone else’s perspective.”
Twenge said she does understand why women fall for narcissists. “The initial appeal of narcissists comes from their assertiveness and confidence,” she said. “These are stereotypically masculine traits that many women find appealing.”
- In Dating Game, Narcissists Get the Girl (webmd.com)
Some men hate my writing, and with good reason. I have a propensity to tell men that they are not meeting their partner’s needs – without offering enough positive and practical advice. It’s almost as if I am saying, “Here’s the problem but you need to figure it out yourself.” That sounds suspiciously female to their ears, their partner (if they have a female partner) has been saying that to them for years. What am I, one of them? Where is the step-by-step guide to winning her heart? Where are the slick tactics that you see on other websites (which appear far more helpful because they offer quick and easy solutions)?
Part of being a man, I am convinced, is often needing clear instructions when it comes to emotional issues. Emotional intelligence is something we never worked on much growing up. We spent far too many hours shooting things and talking about farting (or was that just my family?). We need to fix things and it would be very helpful if women came with an owner’s manual (such a sexist comment…). They aren’t rational, we think. They don’t process things like we do, don’t seem to have the ability to communicate like we communicate; they think about too much stuff (and apparently they think all the time!). How many times do I have to watch “Say Yes To The Dress” (Atlanta not New York, Randy’s a poser) before she warms to my form?
Men ask me all the time, “What can I do?”
The answer is simple. All you should do is learn how to communicate with women, learn to understand how women think, become a student of the female psyche, spend hours and hours listening without offering solutions until you are sure she is looking for one, activate the emotive side of your personality, learn to give while feeling misunderstood, talk, talk, talk, talk, get counseling and marriage counseling, take some psychology and feminism classes…
Or just do this…
Although I am only a man I am immersed in female culture and constantly hear that female spouses don’t feel safe in their relationship, struggle with trust, and don’t feel important or valued. Many have spoken of feeling emotionally abandoned after a few years of commitment. Time and time again my female clients tell me that their issues with their man wouldn’t matter nearly so much if only they felt special, felt important, believed that they were completely loved.
This sounds really naive, but what if there is something to it? What if I didn’t need to try to fix a thousand past slights but only had to try, try really hard, try every day to win this girl back? What would happen if I decided to make this person whom I love more than anyone the absolute first priority in my life for the next three months? Spoil her.
Listen to her.
honour and cherish her.
become a student of her.
engage with her as much as she wants.
Treat her like a goddess.
Do the things you did to win her heart in the first place.
Even as I write this, after all this training and all this experience, there is still a minuscule guy part of me that thinks this is so lame. So unmanly. So hard.
This may be completely off, especially in cases of abuse, but what if it was a game changer? What have I to lose?
- 5 Movie Romances That Won’t Last (According to Science) (scott-williams.ca)
- Men find it hard to read female emotions, say scientists (telegraph.co.uk)
I saw this first on The Good Man Project:
The Dove Real Beauty Campaign… powerful
What fascinated me about the article wasn’t the argument that some persons, in this article particularly women, are put off by sex. What is very interesting is the universal themes that apply to so many couples, regardless of gender. Here are a few thought-provoking quotes:
“I know we don’t have sex as much as Mark likes,” she says, with an edge in her voice, “but for me to want to make love, I have to feel emotionally connected to him and, to be honest, most of the time, I just don’t. He seems so obsessed about this issue. I constantly feel pressure to satisfy him. It’s like raw sex is the only thing he wants from me. It’s gotten to the point where any time he touches me I freeze up–I’m afraid to respond even affectionately because if I do, he thinks it’s an invitation to sex.”
“After some time goes by when we haven’t had sex, Mark gets more and more sulky, and I begin to feel I’m like a bad, unloving wife. So I hug him or pat his shoulder or maybe just smile at him or something and, oh boy! That’s all it takes–he’s off to the races. I feel I can’t say no again, and so we’ll get in bed and start kissing. I try to be as warm as I can get myself to be; I don’t want to just lie there like a dead fish. And, usually, at a certain point, I can work myself up so that I’m into it, sort of. Afterwards, I feel relieved because I know he feels happier and not so angry at me and, also, he’ll back off and I won’t have to do it for a while.”
Many heterosexual men, especially, have little or no idea how intrusive sex can be. In my relationship groups I tell these individuals to imagine what it must be like to take a large foreign object inside your body, simply to get someone to stop whining. I find the whole idea of “giving it up” only to appease guilt or anger utterly fascinating… and disturbing.
NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out as first openly gay male athlete in pro sports. Seriously? It’s 2013 and it’s still taboo to be openly gay in professional sports?
Apparently my friends who love to refer to professional athletes as “Neanderthals” are not too far off…
from here: “Most women dream of the day they will attract the man of their dreams. Many describe a man who is “tall, dark, handsome, (preferably) rich, sensitive, loves kids, has an advanced degree and loves his mom.” I’ve described this same man, listened to my friends describe men of similar ilk and pondered, plotted and schemed about how to meet this mystery man. Here, after watching (and experiencing) numerous disappointments on the dating scene, are my top tips for attracting the man of your dreams…”
Kind of makes you want to puke, doesn’t it?
I hate these things. As a clinical counselor I spend months with patients helping them to become more self-aware, more authentic, and more secure in their own beauty and individuality. But forget all that. Just be a bimbo and say the right words and men will love you forever. Be mysterious, be aloof, laugh at our jokes, compliment us, you will drive us crazy.
That’s it, lie.
After all, dating is a big con anyway.
Recently I was speaking with a client about dating sites on the web she admitted that she felt insecure because she had chronic pain and all the guys out there were into zip-lining and rock climbing, white water canoeing and hang gliding. She felt that she wouldn’t measure up to such rugged men. I turned to her and said, “I’ll let you in on a little secret – they are lying.” It’s true, we lie to impress you. I can tell in a few minutes the kind of guy you are interested in and become that person – you want a guy who is a good listener? I’m all about you. I’ll talk to you for hours, laugh at your jokes, even shed a tear at your story about your puppy or uncle Bart. This is because of one simple reason, I’M TRYING TO PICK YOU UP. It’s a game.
We put our best foot forward in order to snare a mate. Is that honest? Is that actually a good strategy? It really doesn’t matter, he lying to you as well. You are coming to intimately know a person who doesn’t actually exist. Throw in a few tricks and traps from the internet and you are good to go. Years later, when you realize this person doesn’t really understand you, you can rest confidently in the knowledge that you “got him/her” under false pretenses anyway.
I don’t mean to sound condescending (just a wee sarcastic perhaps) but I have come to realize that so much of what passes for romantic communication is dysfunctional and actually harmful. I was a single parent for years and realized early that I could not engage in a mating ritual that was designed to encourage short-term, shallow, and dishonest relationships. This is further compounded by the propensity for new couples to immediately move in together before they truly know and appreciate the other person for who they really are. No one talks about this but couples who move in together early are WAY more likely to split up. This makes perfect sense when you think about it. A couple begins a full-time with another person they do not really know. They have been conning each other since they met and now they are about to meet the real person – that farting, burping, smelly, angry, stressed, emotional or emotionally repressed real you. You simply have not had the time to develop your relationship to any mature level. Love at first sight is a wonderful Disneyland dream but it is really a cognitive distortion on the highest level. Real love takes time and knowledge. Infatuation is instant.
I can just hear someone blurt out, “But if you love someone you will make it work”. This is again a very hopeful, though absolutely naive sentiment. Lasting relationships are not based on romance, a feeling which every divorce lawyer in the country can tell you will come and go. Relationships that work are based on commitment, loyalty, perseverance, selflessness and a ridiculous amount of humility. You hear these words about what real love looks like at every wedding for a reason:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
You won’t find those words on any dating site because they are not sexy, only the truth.
If you really want a tip for attracting men like crazy than here it is – Be who you are and learn to be happy without a romantic relationship. It took me years to do but learning to love yourself and be happy in spite of your situation, not because of it, is the best advice I can ever give you. No dude can fill that hole in your heart, we’re selfish and childish pigs. Never date until you don’t need to. Think about that for a minute.
No woman can fill that hole either.
No one else should.