Creeps

Last night my wife and I surfed Netflix enough until, like most of us, we gave up and watched the documentary on Lance Armstrong – something far outside my comfort zone. I am not ordinarily a fan of movie stars and supermodels, and to be honest probably wouldn’t get out of my chair if one came to the house. The documentary was, however, interesting to watch unfold. I could tell, relatively early, that he was lying his ass off. I do this for a living and my counseling hat was pinging like mad. He wasn’t even very good at it, and it suddenly struck me why so many people were so unsurprised when the poop finally hit the fan. I turned to my wife to pontificate about micro-expressions but it became abundantly clear that she was way ahead of me. She was pinging too, albeit perhaps on a somewhat more subconscious level. She described him as a creep.

That word comes up often in my line of work.

Time and again, perhaps because of my dual worlds of addiction and counselling, women describe men as “creepy”. We have all known a few females, as well, who kind of “freak me out”. We are prone to believe that this is something that has no foundation in evidence-based realities; but we may be wrong. Upon further probing, people who have been creeped out inevitably describe surprisingly similar feelings. There are facial ticks that are registering. Certain intonations strike them as “off”. There are fewer contractions and often more confrontation. People who have “their radar on” may not know why, but they definitely know who. I have invested some time endeavouring to calm any personal boundary issues, and I heavily monitor my space and posture for this exact reason. I rarely hug, and never very close. If you visit me in my micro-office we will take opposite corners. I have spent too much time learning from women to not find myself hyper-vigilant in this regard.

I believe creeps are real. Many are described using terms like “narcissist” and “psychopath”, though usually by wives who are not qualified to diagnose and are deemed too emotionally involved. They are, therefore, often misregarded (I made that up). In my experience, more women than men have this sensitivity to the creep factor, perhaps many more.

I continue to be resurprised when I am in the presence of a “creep”. They seem to lack basic self-awareness. They often describe themselves as “smooth” and popular with the ladies. Often they actually are, and sometimes for very nefarious reasons. By way of example, there are those who are strongly attracted to narcissists. Something in the seeker’s psyche is broken and seeks fulfillment in controlling, and often very physical, relationships. Part of counselling often includes addressing a client’s choosing mechanism, and many people have had to address their attraction to dysfunction in an office very much like mine. Many of us, myself included, are prone to make the same relational mistakes over and over, for very psychological reasons.

Many clients and friends have included a crap detector in their emotional toolbox. There are people out there, for reasons that escape most of us, who glean satisfaction through manipulating and controlling the people closest to them. Such individuals are often highly charming, though indubitably self-serving and emotionally unhealthy. To use the internet word of the month, people like this always obfuscate our lives (I know you’ll Google that) and inevitably leave a wake of hurt and unresolved trauma.

I advise clients that if someone is too charming, too slick, or too nice, it’s probably too good to be true. Dating is an exercise in lying to each other and we all know that on one level. Your charmer’s ex probably wasn’t as bat-shit crazy as you have been told. We have a tendency to want to believe in the fairy tale ending, often at the expense of real world objectivity. I don’t care who he/she is, they have significant issues. You can disagree with me all you wish, but chances are I’ll be proven right. I do not enjoy winning that argument, perhaps I’m just a bit tainted from sitting in an office talking about pain everyday. That is highly possible.

Women Aren’t Equal?

It has been hard for me admit to myself, in a vocation swarming with quality woman, that a female could still feel unequal in 2014. There is a joke we tell of how it’s ok to be anything except a middle-class white guy. All my bosses are women. My wife’s a woman and she is perfectly capable of handling me if she chooses. I usually hang around with women. Women aren’t equal?

There are a ton of things to write about here but I like looking at the weird stuff. It may not surprise you to learn that men, by the mean, have difficulty understanding, on an emotional level, what it feels like to be just shy of five-feet tall. I’m 6 feet plus 2, I have a black belt so that I can be blissfully misinformed. I grew up with lots going on and excelled with a ball in my hands (shut up Cory). I have no idea what it would be like to have a partner who can beat the crap out of me on a whim. My wife could take me, I’m not allowed to hit girls. My mother will hurt me. My father would be disappointed, a man in his 70’s whom every woman loves. I dare you to take the challenge.

I have never known physical violence that I didn’t initiate or deserve.

So when I tell you that I am only now beginning to understand, I ask you to excuse my large frame of mind. The sheer volume of fear I have listened to has begun to ring true. I learn slow. Of course I know this stuff intellectually, I can read. But I am still partly a man, and most of us have difficulty with emotional intelligence when it comes to this kind of stuff.

So many women who live with fear every day of their lives. I could never really understand, as a younger man, why women were afraid to walk alone. I love walking alone. It’s zen, baby. So when you told me the first few hundred times, it sounded a bit ridiculous. I’m not excusing what was. I’m the tallest one in my family. I hang around with ninjas. I’m a white male who plays with weapons.

To all my patient female friends who have not given up on me, you win. It was a good fight, figuratively speaking, but I might be getting a taste. I am constantly amazed at the burden others can carry, and fear has to be one of the worst emotions with which to run a tab. The anxiety, the depression, the trauma, it may not be biological. Imagine you have emotional Fibromyalgia. Everything hurts and it doesn’t make sense and everyone is a potential problem. People with Fibromyalgia live in a body that is constantly in varying states of shock.

Some people live in that state, on an emotional level as well. I have heard the stories. She ran into the McDonalds only to find the two sketchy males in hoodies were only 11 or 12. The right makeup to wear if you have a bruise. What mood is walking through the front door tonight? I always believed that my home was my safe place. What if it isn’t? Any counsellor can tell you that living in that heightened state of tension releases chemicals all over your body. Things change in your core. Things are released in your brain… and in your mind. You learn words like cortisol and neurochemistry. The diet can take a hit. You no longer sleep through the night. The motor is already running and you haven’t even had coffee yet.

Here’s Wikipedia: Cognitive conditions, including memory and attention dysfunctions, as well as depression, are commonly associated with elevated cortisol,[9] and may be early indicators of exogenous or endogenous Cushing’s. Patients frequently suffer various psychological disturbances, ranging from euphoria to psychosisDepression and anxiety are also common.

Cortisol is a good thing that can become a very bad thing. Other things happen neurologically that are not in your best interests. The words self, medicating, and behaviours, are used one after another in the same sentence. Fear can do that to a person, to an emotionally vulnerable person. Let’s be honest, most of us are emotionally vulnerable. You know how this sentence ends. Weight gain or loss, body image, self-esteem, problems with relationships, fear, anxiety, the whole toolbox from hell.

This is the kind of stuff people like me hear all day, every day. It’s not an isolated incident and if you can relate to any of this I will remind you that there are hundreds out there. Thousands. Millions. You have been saying it for years and you are absolutely right. Everyone does have mental health issues. We didn’t know this because there was a time, not so very long ago, when talking about this thing of ours was not really popular. People who went to see a counsellor were somehow “less”. Well baby, it’s now 2014 and daddy’s got a new pair of pants. It’s all good, all of a sudden.

I have become firmly convinced that each and every one of us needs some help, sometimes. It is the human experience. I do not think I could do this without a great deal of help from a couple of people who walk life right beside me. I have at least two other worlds of friends from different hats I have chosen to wear. I need those people very, very much. But I digress.

What does it feel like to be small? I walk around blissfully ignorant of the war that women feel everyday in every part of the world. Or am I wrong? Here’s the thing – this is a blog. It’s not in my book yet so it doesn’t have to be a finished product. Could this be true?

Like I said, I’m recent to this. Time for class. Talk to me.

Injustice And The Third Way

It isn’t fair and I don’t like that. On some level, most of us have had to face the harsh reality that doesn’t feel fair. But is it?

No. There is no Pixar ending.

Sitting in the old counselling office one rainy day this truth began to open up wider for me. I began to see threads, real or imagined, in many of the stories of pain and trauma that funnelled their way through my door and sometimes my life. It may be that this cognitive distortion, this need for life to “make sense”, has been responsible for a larger slice of misery than at least I ever imagined.

The stories are similar. Depression or anxiety brought on by trauma or heartbreak with a sense of cruel incongruity. We have been wronged and something needs to be put right. We simply cannot accept that there is no payback. It’s so… unfair.

As the good book says, and I proceed to steal and compare myself, albeit tongue-in-cheek, to the great Apostle Paul, “I do not come to you as one who has attained. Nonetheless I press on.” Like you I wonder why good people seem to suffer and total jerks continue to prosper. She left and it hurt and she never came back. I know that feeling. It’s bad. He died without ever getting his “just desserts”. Some of those Nazis escaped to Argentina and lived off the rewards of their raping and pillaging and genocide. As I consumed Martin Davidson’s book, The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My Grandfather’s Secret Past, it was apparent that the author never was able to see his grandfather pay for his heinous crimes. There is no glass slipper ending. Gru doesn’t really adopt the cute little girls – they get thrown into the social welfare system and spend their childhood in Foster Care. They became sexually active early. Chances are they have issues with addiction and end up marrying poorly. That’s the real world and it is many things, but it is not fair.

But here’s the problem. I am DNA’d to believe in fairness. I cannot seem to get it through my dense skull that reality cares very little about my sense of injustice. It is up to me alone to move forward, and it’s very, very, hard. Years.

There are three ways, I think. There is the way I want, the way I don’t want… and the way I don’t know yet.

I have a friend, a real friend who I see in the real world, who has been working on her stuff for years. Not too long ago she came to me and uttered, “Five years. It’s been five years and I’m still not fixed.” It was heartbreaking, because she is a rock star.

As I wrote in my last post, some people go through things that are beyond coping. There isn’t a toolbox in the world that prepares you for the loss of a child. As I’ve said even recently, you get a free pass for that. I would go crazy. I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would be ok if I lost one of my kids. It’s simply not reasonable to imagine, yet in ways that are beyond my meagre understanding, some people keep going.

I just finished rereading Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants. He’s a storyteller. I like stories. In that book he points again and again to average people who, when faced with insurmountable odds, found a third way. He doesn’t call it that, but he seems to understand. Mennonites who have learned that vengeance sometimes creates more pain than it heals, even when your baby is defiled. Huguenots who stood up to the scariest dictatorship we have known and said, “We have Jews, come and get them”. Poor people and zealots and losers who came to understand that they have only one life; and the need for justice was ruining what little they had left.

There is the way I want, the way I don’t want… and the way I don’t know yet.

Five years of reading, learning, letting go, and moving forward against impossible odds. No one comes to a counsellor to sign up for that program. Most of us who are in process would happily abandon it at any time for a magic pill or a glass of good tequila.

Like most of us, it started with a broken toolbox of coping mechanisms. Imprints from childhood and generations of dysfunction, broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Death had robbed her of a piece of her life. Choices. No role models who were not also broken. That ugliness inside. So much pain and hurt it was overwhelming. Some of you have been there… are there.

It’s hard to believe that you might be a success story. There is no pink cloud, no happy ending, no days of bliss without Xanax. But on some deep levels, people can fundamentally change. She still reads everyday because, if nothing else, she has learned that there are no shortcuts to wisdom. She needed to get started. There were days and months and years when it didn’t seem that there would ever be a good day again, but she was wrong. She knows that now. I don’t talk to her like a counsellor anymore, we just exchange information, sometimes everyday. There has to be a good reason to work this hard or I couldn’t live with myself and do what I do for a living. I’ve seen too many people find a third way to believe that my life is hopeless anymore. There must be a way from where you are to where you need to be or I quit.

Here’s the last thing I’ll say about this here. I didn’t have a clue what the third way was for years. I thought, many times, that I had this covered, but I was very wrong. I knew what I knew and I was willing to die for the cause, but the cause was flawed. No one could tell me that because I was right.

But one day I realized I wasn’t. Letting go of what I knew to be fact was exceedingly difficult.

Realizing that I had to work on this stuff every day for the rest of my life was at first disheartening, then exciting. It sure didn’t start out “exciting”. It was horrible. How do you stop believing what you have known to be true all your life? How do you “fake it until you make it” when you feel like you are lying to yourself? How do you hope again when you have been proven wrong in hundreds of ways?

Those are very good questions and this isn’t Sunday School and we have to figure this out for ourselves (with a little help). I can’t give you a slick closing sentence to make you or I feel any better. As I have often been counselled, I need to be relentless in my desire for change. There is only one game in town.

Married To Jesus

A true story given to me by a friend of a friend of a guy I used to know. It’s been sitting in my Inbox for some time now and I couldn’t find any good reason not to share it with you. It’s about living with a very nice Passive-Aggressive…

female jesusI used to live with Jesus, or so I thought. She was different from the people you would probably know – after all, most people don’t ever get a chance to even meet the Messiah, much less live with her. But I did.

People usually act differently in public than they do when no one is there to see what they are doing. Not Jesus. It was scary how consistent, how absolutely unflappable she was. Life is an exercise in guilt when you are married to the Holy of Holies. How do you get mad at someone who is always the same? How can you fight with someone you sometimes believe is always right? When you are married to the King of Kings it’s always your fault. Feel unloved? It’s your problem. Frustrated by her lack of empathy or the fact that she never panders to your emotional needs? Get over it, this is Jesus we’re talking about.

Living with Jesus is hard on your sense of self-esteem. After all you are clearly not worthy. People often remark, “I know why you married her but why did she marry you?” You are in love. You worship Jesus. You have a very twisted marriage.

But she wasn’t really Jesus. It wasn’t until much much later that you realized she was actually very repressed, very emotionally unavailable, distant. She was a textbook illustration of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. There was a whole world of anger and pain all closely hidden from the world, hidden even from you. You literally had no idea she was even remotely unhappy. That person whom you thought was perfectly happy and reasonable was in fact a deeply wounded and angry little girl who clearly had issues with self-awareness and vulnerability. There was even what some would call a passive-aggressive arrogance – quietly confident that in every situation she was always right.

The lack of emotional vulnerability contributed to my growing sense of neediness and romantic starvation. Jesus was apparently above feeling horny or expressing romantic intention. She also did not like to throw around phrases like “I love you”. She was an island and she expected everyone else to be likewise. Years later her best friend would confess, “I really never knew her. I don’t think anyone really did”.

No she wasn’t Jesus. In fairness she never asked to be put on a pedestal. I think. I was looking for a soul mate and she was looking for a business partner.

After almost two decades of being a burden she cut me loose to go “find herself”.

She said she couldn’t stay with someone who was needy.

It has been a while now and time has given me the insight that all those years of marriage could not. It turns out I was a pretty decent husband after all. Spending every day trying to impress the Christ will do that to a person. Apparently she was not perfect, though I would never have believed it.

No one is disappointed in me today. I haven’t failed yet today.

It’s going to be a good day.

You’re Yelling Again

Yell

 

I don’t yell. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m fairly certain it was a dysfunctional coping mechanism.
Maybe it was because I had relatives that yelled and I repress such expressions as a response to that situation.
Maybe I’m just too shallow.
Maybe I just like it rough.

As a mental health professional I am, of course, horrible at analyzing my own stuff. I self-diagnose all the time. I’m just not that good at it.

I am one of those lucky people who gets to hear people yell on a regular basis. Some professions have it much worse, but I do get my share.

Yelling is an interesting psychological and sociological issue. I have watched spouses curl into the fetal position as a madman controls the situation and hurls verbal abuse. Notice the almost orgasmic effect that “letting off steam” has on the angry screamer. I have seen that horrible energy transferred to the victims as they get emotionally gut-punched. Long after the yell-er is satisfied the object of their derision still suffers. Yelling is a very selfish act.

There was a time when clinicians would tell the angry young man to go home and punch his heavy bag for an hour till he “worked it out of his system”. Today we realize that constantly giving in to that urge to ‘boil over’ only builds a dependence on purging yourself of emotion – a very poor model for impulse control. Such need has little to do with control and more to do with complete surrender. It is no wonder, than, that people have been known to even stop making sense when they are in the throes of an angry outburst. Anger can literally make you stupid. The effect is almost sexual.

Have you ever considered stopping?

Many people do not even realize that it is possible to go for years without yelling. Screaming is just “how our family is”. It is such a normal part of life that no one realizes how abusive it is. There are so many dysfunctional aspects to yelling that I literally do not have enough energy to fully define its ill effects right now. The act is so intrusive, so esteem crushing, so negative, so unloving, so socially acceptable. I am suggesting that we strip away the veneer and identify it for what it really issue – a lack of self-control.

If you are struggling with yelling, this is not intended to make you feel like garbage. Many, many, many of us struggle with this as well. Yelling is so ingrained in our culture that it is rarely even addressed anymore. We blandly accept that angry person without offering any accountability. Our children grow up believing this is an acceptable form of communication and… the circle of life.

If you struggle with this difficult problem talk to someone who can help. Read about it on the web, look up phrases like “cbt (cognitive behavioural therapy) and anger, or yelling, or impulse control. Find out what is behind that anger – after all, that is really the issue now, isn’t it?

Don’t give up. You can do this.

 

How To Pick Up Women In Their Twenties

dating-tips-for-guys-how-to-pick-up-womenI am not in my twenties and do not make a habit of hitting on any women, especially not women that young. I do, however, have a very attractive and intelligent son who was more than willing to provide a few insights for this Part 2 of “How To Pick Up Vulnerable Women”.

In my first instalment I wrote about manipulating a group of women who were in their late thirties and forties. You may want to familiarize yourself with that article before going on. It has been, and remains, my most hated and revered article to date. I have received private letters, several in fact, accusing me of being abusive and misogynistic, even cruel. Read it for yourselves and ask yourself why I would do such a thing and then freely tell everyone I did so…

In this instalment I begin by recognizing that everything I am about to say may not apply to you. Like many of my articles what follows is based on generalities. Please understand I’m not talking about anyone in specific, only trends and observations which may not even be objective. If nothing else it should be interesting.

You are sitting with friends at the local bar and I can tell, because you wear it like a beacon, that you are looking for a guy. I intend to be that guy. You are not in your forties so I am not going to gush, not going to give too much away. In fact, just the opposite. Your divorced mom is looking for someone who is emotionally sensitive, someone who is going to make it all about her. That isn’t my tactic, though some of the techniques are transferable. When I first meet you I’m very interested, very charming. Initially, at least, it’s all about you. But only initially. If we have been introduced I will be nice to you for a minute or two, then move on. If we are not introduced I will make a point of ignoring you and talk to the person directly beside you. I’m not going to hit on you, I’m not needy. And that is really the point.

1. I’m not needy. I act aloof but not rude. Okay, occasionally I can even be a bit rude. I will make the obligatory conversation, but little more. While I am talking to you I may check out other women. I will talk, engage, but we are not exclusive. That is the point. Heartiste writes, “That aloofness is catnip to women. You may as well prop a neon sign over your head that says “Preselected by women who have come before you, and who are standing right next to you.” Aloofness is one of those male characteristics that women are finely tuned to discover, isolate, and hone in on, because it tells them, subconsciously of course, that THIS MAN, this one right here, has a lot of choice in women. ERGO, this man, this one right here, must be high value.” I know this because the internet is polluted with websites that teach this very thing. Confidence and self-assurance is an aphrodisiac to some females.

I don’t need you. I may or may not be interested, but I’m keeping my options open. I like myself and I don’t need anyone. I’m mysterious. It’s hard not to want what you cannot have. My strength and even dominance is very attractive. If you don’t believe me than why are so many women attracted to the bad boy? Yummy.

The social context has changed  in the past few years. Women in their thirties and forties want to invite a man into their emotional world. In your twenties he invites you into his social world. As one twenty-five year old player told me today, “If you can get the girl to leave her social grouping and come over to yours you are 80% of the way into her pants.” That’s important to remember because…

2. It’s all about social context. Meet my entourage. We are not at the bar to take pictures of ourselves for Facebook. We are interesting. Come hang out with us. Let me separate you from your friends and take you out of your comfort zone. Let me introduce insecurity. After all…

3. I’m here to exploit your insecurity. I may compliment you but it is often tinged with irony or sarcasm. The unspoken point is the exploitation of your negative self-image. The trick is to not let you know I’m interested and get you wondering whether or not you are worth my time. Watch me dominate the social setting, see how I handle myself. Am I or am I not interested in you? Later, when I am very direct with you, and tell you I want to be with you, you are surprised, intrigued, complimented, and affirmed. But make no mistake, the underlying tactic is dominance (and not in a good way…). There is an interesting dichotomy at play. You want to be thought of as a strong woman but you also have insecurities. Doesn’t a part of you wish you could be taken?

Even a plain guy can confuse a beautiful woman if he acts like he doesn’t need her.

As a counselor I find this topic sickening. There are people out there, regardless of age, who use psychological and emotional manipulation to exploit the vulnerable and hurting. It usually isn’t until it’s too late that it becomes apparent that a damaged and delicate person has been exploited and often degraded. It is also unfortunate that so many women get taken in more than once. Some of us are attracted to personalities that lend themselves to narcissism and depravity. It is a sad thought that the confidence and maturity you think you are attracted to may only be a tool to tear your heart out.

Ladies, we lie to you. We believe that we understand the score far more than you think we do. If you don’t believe me ask anyone who has gotten into a relationship with a narcissist. Everything was amazing… at first. We told you what we thought you needed to hear. We held the door open, we talked about our feelings, we shared our hearts. We know you get off on that stuff. Some of us actually read about how to pick up women. We are smarter than you think.

I am often asked why I write about this topic. Sadly, it has become apparent that many vulnerable and emotionally damaged people are being treated as prey by morally bankrupt individuals who think nothing of ruining lives as long as they can get what they want. I would invite you to read some of the heartbreaking comments on the first installment of this topic here. That alone is incentive enough.

I have this crazy idea that if you know what is going on you might know a predator when he buys you a drink.

The Memory Game – Living Life With A Limp

Two Roads DivergeOne hen, two ducks, three squawking geese. That’s how the memory game begins. It’s a simple, “repeat after me” from one to ten. I will often do it with groups as an icebreaker or an anxiety enhancer. I stole it from a Johnny Carson episode. Yes I am that old.

The game can be played in two different ways, eliciting two very different responses. In the first case, take for example the time I played it with a local high school assembly. The gymnasium was packed and I asked for a volunteer, someone who thought they had a good memory, someone who wanted to challenge me to a game. I told the volunteer (senior jock with attitude) that it was “you against me and I will beat you because I never lose”. I pointed out that it was a competition and instructed the audience not to help him in any way. Other teens soon started teasing, and the tension in the room started to rise. I think the kid made it to “four limerick oysters”.

Sometimes, however, I play the game with anxiety groups or when I am doing speaking gigs for tired executives. I will introduce the game but also mention that it’s perfectly fine if others help out because it doesn’t really matter, and no one ever gets to ten anyway. We are all in this together, after all. I remind the audience more than once that there is no pressure and I will say the statements along with them in case they get confused. Most groups give up at seven or eight. It’s fun and a good laugh.

Do you see the difference between the two games?

Most of us can do quite well when things are going our way, when we feel no pressure, when we feel supported. It’s another thing all-together to be at your best when you are not feeling well, or feel singled out, or are stressed or under pressure. Change just a few variables and most of us, myself included, will run into trouble. Do that public presentation with a head cold or a Fibromyalgia flare up and what was intended to be a great opportunity becomes a waking nightmare. Add emotional or relational pressures, insecurity or abuse and it becomes harder and harder to make good decisions.

Most of us live life with a limp. We have been wounded in ways we dare not describe and have developed coping skills that worked in crisis and fear. Some of us have felt the sting of trauma and abuse and feel like something inside of us has been broken, or killed, or maimed beyond repair. People don’t understand why we do some of the things we do but they have no idea what you have endured. It’s easy, therefore, to view the world as a hostile place and trust no one. Letting someone in just brings pain. We develop masks to hide our true feelings and emotions. It is probably fair to say that we are not necessarily playing at the top of our game. I often comment that most of us, by the time we are middle-aged, have seen our fair share of trauma. There are few optimists in their forties.

Growing up many of us felt belittled or abused. We still struggle to trust anyone or let anyone in. When I am confronted I know it is difficult to stay objective – I have a little boy inside of me that is easily wounded and wants to fight back or run away or make excuses. I have spent a lifetime trying to come to terms with that little guy but it’s an ongoing issue in most of us. We walk with a limp – the constant nagging understanding of our weakness and the temptation to treat all of life with distrust. It is easy to become bitter. It is difficult to let go of the past and the dysfunctional coping methods we once used so effectively. It is hard to move on when we have to drag one leg.

Robert Frost famously penned, “Two roads diverged in a wood”, a poem (The Road Less Traveled) many of us have committed to memory. We hear it at conferences and in platitudes about choosing a life that makes a difference, about not selling out. I was reminded today that the real journey of life is not the physical or economic one, but an emotional and spiritual one. We all have choices to make, choices that will profoundly affect our lives and the lives of those we love.

A limp is not an excuse to live a bitter life.
I can still choose, in spite of my situations, my past, and my problems to endeavor to find hope and help.
I have come to realize it is a great deal easier to grow old and ugly than it is to choose wholeness.
In fact, its way easier.

“People can be more forgiving than you imagine. But you have to forgive yourself. Let go of what’s bitter and move on.”  Bill Cosby

He Probably Had It Coming…

Let me start out by saying I was raised to never hit a woman… ever. I think husbands and boyfriends who hit their spouses are pigs and cowards. Please do not write me and accuse me of treating the subject of violent men flippantly. Take a look at this blog and ask yourself if I let men off the hook too lightly.

Lately, however, I have been noticing an equally disturbing trend in domestic violence – wives/girlfriends beating their spouses.

I was commenting about this to someone recently and they immediately went on the offense. They started out by saying “he probably deserved it.” They went on to say further, “well what did he do to her?”

Seriously?

I find it intriguing that when I have been involved in domestic situations where a woman is battered those questions never come up. Ever. They are political suicide to ask, bordering on slander. Only a misogynistic douchebag would hint that a woman had it coming. Yet it seems perfectly acceptable to ask when the victim is a man.

I would have to admit that I hear of an alarming number of situations involving a battering wife/girlfriend. It’s shocking and something you never talk about. After all, what kind of man would complain? Is he a wimp? Surely she was protecting herself.

This is overt sexism and absolutely unacceptable. I have heard of men being hit with the car, beaten with cast iron, knives being thrown, kicked between the legs, faces slapped on a regular basis. I personally know several men who are afraid of their spouse, demoralized and emasculated. In counseling these men question their masculinity, even their sexuality. They cannot talk to any friends about this, for fear they will be belittled or accused of violence themselves. One man told me he feels “physically, emotionally, and sexually violated” by his wife. These same men were taught to never hit a woman and so complain that they have no defense against violence. They somehow have come to the conclusion that, in order to be a “real man”, they must take it and keep silent.

Recently I have also had clients who are in a lesbian relationship and feeling the sting of physical and emotional violence. They are also unsure of how to handle the situation. They have also struggled to be heard. Transgender people have long felt the sting as well. We all know about the abuse of gay men.

It is a horrible thing when relationships end in violence, and it is certainly no more acceptable for a woman to be physically violent than a man. I am seriously afraid that someday a man will retaliate after being struck by a female – then beat her up – charge her with assault – and win. This could open up the doors to rampant abuse and violence.

It’s time to stop the cycles of violence wherever they occur.

Ashamed To Be A Guy

As a counselor I hear many many stories about people’s sex lives, or lack thereof. Most people, once trust is built are willing to talk about pretty much anything. I will hear the typical complaints – men who have not taken the time to to understand and fulfill their partner’s sexual needs. Men who have been “cut off” for no apparent reason and cannot comprehend what they are doing wrong. Women who have rarely or never had an orgasm and believe (usually incorrectly) that somehow this is their sexual or gynecological failing (also almost never true). I have written about, and will continue to write about, the need to address these issues, especially when female sexual fulfillment is involved. A shockingly high percentage of women in therapy, for example, have had few orgasms that they have not brought about themselves. Another topic I address frequently is the relatively low percentage of men who have any idea what is going on inside their partner’s head and the impact of the female thinking process on their capacity to engage in a meaningful sexual way.

One issue I love to talk about, as distressing as it is to admit, is the overwhelming selfishness of the male orgasm. Earlier this fall I mentioned a group I do for couples wherein I challenge the men in the room to abstain from “finishing” for at least a month or longer while they wholeheartedly concentrate exclusively on servicing and nurturing their partner. As men we are not trained to think like this. None of us have ever heard such heresy before. Not climaxing during sex in absolutely foreign to the vast majority of us, virtually every male I have ever met.

But every once in a while even I am still able to be shocked.

Someone I trust once told me a story of a couple where the husband “needed” sex every day of their marriage. Every day. Pig. After the birth of their child it was, while she was still in the hospital recovering from a natural child-birth, and probably an episiotomy to boot, that he crawled up to satiate himself. What a sick bastard. What abuse. That man did not truly love his wife, and if you think I am being judgmental then so be it. That is not a real man, that is a sexual violator who has chained his wife to a bondage of sexual abuse from which she may never recover.

Men don’t need sex every day. They may want it but such a belief or custom is the sure sign of an emotionally shunted, selfish post-adolescent, with little or no self-control and even less respect for the woman he has dominated. He knows nothing about satisfying a woman, nothing about understanding female sexuality, and makes me so angry I would love to kick him in the balls until the abuse ends.

And that is my clinical therapeutic assessment.

Guest Blogger – Self Harm/Cutting Part 1

This week our guest is Sarah. Check her out! this is the first instalment of a three or four-part journey into self harm, cutting, mutilation, etc.

Part One is called “Down The Rabbit Hole”

“Hey…Uhm, this is sort of an awkward question.” “Shoot.” – “Did your father really die?” “Yes, why?” “Because you seem so happy…”

People often think death is the catalyst for even the most introverted to break down and finally feel that it is OK to not be OK. The little girl in this story did not learn this lesson yet, struck in the summer of grade 5, she returned to school like all her peers and continued being happy because why shouldn’t she be, what is death? Death is going to a solemn ceremony where they paid respect to a cold carcass.

Death is cold. So people act like death is contagious. She touched him because he had been warm on the hospital bed while they manually pumped air into his lungs, but this time he was not her father, she did not know who her mother was softly caressing. For the longest time the little girl would look back in hindsight and regret most, not her bratty attitude while he had been alive, not even his absences during the most part of her life, but that she had irrevocably ran out of tears during his final service. Of the most dominant memory from that entire blur, had been the instinctive and almost desperate will to demand yourself to blast the water works right alongside your mother and sister. She had been faking.

It is OK that the little girl did not understand death. She went on with life.

She met a boy in grade 8, like any other freshman high school-er she was head over heels and walked on faerie dusts. 3 months it took for her to defeat every moral she might have taken had she even foresaw this event coming. She did sexual favors for him – felt like the most grown and sensual teenager out there, got dumped, and then threatened to be blackmailed. She moved. A fortune of coincidence, and convinced herself that she will remake herself, she will not have any sexual intercourse until the age of 18. In this smaller, secluded area, she met another boy, whom for the first time she thought she could describe as love.

But love for her had always been a damned thing and she left when his mother stormed upon her doorstep during the summer of grade 9 and insinuated in front of her entire family that she is a whore. As of now, she probably doesn’t blame her. The girl might even add that she bravos this woman for having the prescient sight, and only briefly hopes that they had been on better terms for the message to come across better. But it hadn’t. So after 9 months of separation, where she lost him, her best friend to him, and proceedingly all her fellow peers because, alas, she cried.

So she went under the knife. 2 months, back together – Sex; Unprotected, then ignored, and eventually dumped in front of his pastor. She thought ‘What a disgusting person I am.’

See, people had always historically viewed self-harm as almost the most emotionally imbalanced act where you are not quite sane and most of the time plagued as the depressed and literally almost always ostracized despite good intentions. The girl does not blame them; it is only human to not want to reside with someone who does not even put in the effort to converse. She is not fun to be around, she was the happy one. And when the smiles are gone, the party dies, and laughter suffocates, eyes are bleak and unaware of the world around them.

It was after the exhausting night. The fight remained inside the girl, she hated her. Hated that woman to openly offend her, proclaim to her entire family that she is undisciplined. Who is she, nothing but a scumbag aunt who owed her family sixty thousand dollars, with the nerve to even fuck things up now that he was gone. It was her birthday night. Inevitably, her mother asked her to sit at the small dining table. It was one in the morning. The girl obliged. But the woman who regarded her had not been what she had expected. It was definitely not pride, not humor, not anything else but exasperation.

And something inside the girl hit a core. Perhaps selfishly, she thought ‘How could you. How could you look at me that way and not even bother to defend me. You are my mom – you’re supposed to be there for me.’ She cried despite herself, and the woman told her one thing above all else that the girl will quietly harbor – “Do not cry; be strong. You have to be strong.”

Perhaps it was not so much the words said, but the tone embedded. She had been so tired. The little girl had hated her also. The skanky, provocatively clad woman who returned at 6 in the morning did not deserve the respect of her mother. She would come home, and she would sometimes be happy, sometimes very angry so the entire household shuddered and covered their mouths to shush their sobbing, but most of the time she disappeared from sight. Then she started attracting gentleman admirers. The girl despised her. She was betraying him. The woman had laughed at her – because the school counselors called home to report her suicidal thoughts.

Afterwards she had beaten her ‘Why can’t you be a normal kid? Why do you have to make so much trouble for me?’  But she was asked to take the girl to a professional; so of course, you go to a family clinic, where it is an elderly Chinese man who probably grew up with no such thing as sentiment. They laughed together ‘How dramatic, she’s just depressed because her father died.’ All the while the little girl was silenced by this eloquent woman. Had she not been the one to cry and whisper to his license, locked inside a room for the entirety of a week? Had she not been the one that frightened the girl to such an extent it became the greatest incentive for her to finally start crying at his funeral? And now she is boasting, almost, at how well she handled this situation and how poor her daughter is in contrast. The girl stopped trusting her. She also stopped trusting counselors.

She remembers crying on the phone to an old friend about the young boy during his 9 months absence. She kept saying she deserved it. Ah, so now she’s learned something about herself. Where did such a thought come from? Cuts, scrapes, maybe even cat scratches she could’ve passed the initial ones. It hurt. More than she had anticipated. But it was good because so. It scarred. And it repeated, like an addict, the dosage deeper each time. She is not insane, she is not mentally unstable. She executes with a lucid mind and clear eyes. And when her mother comes home she is at the computer doing work like any other day. She does not cry for herself. It will always, no matter what, stop with no reasoning but a habit to stop crying. It was apathetic. It is.

Suicide has always been a contemplative subject for her. But it will always remain so because, despite her hatred or depression during a period, she longs to succeed, she wants to prove herself. Most of all she desperately wants that woman to finally see her, and listen. That was the reason why the girl had been drawn towards school counselors’ right? A separated, quiet place where she is allowed to be weak, to cry and speak and be heard.

It’s funny because we spend most of our lives using our most common etiquette to apologize for unfortunate events that are not our fault. It’s this innate, built-in social marking that drives us to always reply with sorry at the news of someone’s death. Oh, I’m sorry. You hurt yourself? – Sorry. I’m crying? Damn, sorry. Even that silly little girl, glorified him upon all her school wide writes, as if that would hide her lack of memory of him – what a phony, but she is sorry all the same, for something beyond her control. Of course, that word does nothing to the receiver; they do not need your condolences, least the awkward apology. They are not damaged goods because they have death or self-harm somewhere in their history. They are sad, whether they’d like to admit it or not. They want someone to listen to them, even if they always felt or think and feel that they don’t trust anyone to open up in such a vulnerable state. Or better yet, feel they’ve rid themselves of all emotion and are above and beyond this mundane sharing. They sort of hate themselves too, even if they know logically that we should never beat ourselves up for past mistakes because at one point or another, it had been exactly what we wanted. They are not stupid. So don’t tiptoe – they have eyes too. They are also prideful, their ego bruised and mayhap a bit saddened that their family members are concerned about their less than enthusiastic state – and this is where ‘shit, I didn’t hide it well enough. Sorry’ appears again.

It is like circling a wild horse, trying to tame it.  Not everyone can do it. Not everyone has the patience to carry out that task, just some things; some persons are worth it – to you. But above all, they are frightened, as the confused horse is. Frightened not only of you, but of themselves, they do not know what they want, or need, they kind of want you, and really don’t at the same time. They’ll fend you off, and all the while repeat to themselves that they are a bad person. They don’t want their stories to be digested the same way media gobbles tragedy, where the world has become desensitized. They are selfish as any other person. Therefore human, just as you, one of you – As you’ve guessed, I’m the little girl.

I’m still just a young girl, a tad sad, quite profoundly lost, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what I’m looking for and I definitely do not have the expertise to advise you on what to do with someone who has experienced death or inflicted self-harm. But I’m OK, I’ll survive. If there’s one thing I can tell you – Laughter is contagious.

The Invisible Psychopath – By The Time You Recognize Them It’s Too Late

Sometimes the person you know may not be the person you know…

The word “psychopath” gets thrown around a lot, but in psychiatry it has a specific meaning. Psychopaths are aggressively narcissistic and impulsive and feel a relentless urge for sensation-seeking.They lack empathy and compulsively manipulate others through bullying or deceit. They believe that they are exempt from the rules and show a marked predilection for lying, even when it is not advantageous for them.

Earlier this year Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Ronald Schouten published a book, Almost a Psychopath, in which he and co-author Jim Silver describe the ways that people can exhibit quite a few of the symptoms of psychopathy without satisfying the full diagnostic criteria. Such people can be highly deceptive, manipulative, callous, and self-serving, and yet manage to maintain a facade on normality.

This, for me, is perhaps the most disturbing thing about psychopathy: its invisibility. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that a number of people have crossed my paths who at first seemed delightful and charming, but who wound up leaving a trail of wreckage—people who I now recognize were clearly psychopaths, or at least “almost psychopaths,” as Schouten styles them. Once burned, twice shy, you would hope; but no, having been tormented by one or two, I still managed to subsequently fall into others’ charming clutches.

I shouldn’t feel too bad about failing to recognize potential psychopaths, Schouten says. Indeed, when I asked him, the psychopath expert, if he often runs into such people frequently at cocktail parties or business meetings, he told me that, as far as he knew, he hadn’t run into any, at least that he was able to recognize as such. Even for experts like himself, the psychopath’s veneer of normality is too seamless to detect.

As I wrote in a recent article on Gizmodo, when I first met tech guru John McAfee I was utterly charmed. He seemed to be living his life with a clarity and moral courage that I found exhilarating. The first article I wrote about him was effusive, and when I traveled to Belize to meet up with him for a second article, I looked forward to spending time with someone who I felt to be both intellectually and physically adventurous. On this second trip, however, I began to notice a troubling pattern. McAfee spent a lot of his time bragging about the hoaxes he’d pulled off, gleefully styling himself as a “bullshit artist.” Sometimes he lied for fun—like when he told a reporter that his tattoo was a Maori design he’d gotten in New Zealand, a country he’s never actually been to. Sometimes he lied strategically, like the Facebook posting he put up about how he’d just bought a house in Honduras. At the time, he was facing a raft of lawsuits. “The judge in one case couldn’t understand why I would put incorrect information about myself on the web,” he told me. “I said, ‘I thought that if somebody wanted to serve me papers, it would be much more enjoyable for everyone involved if they tried to serve those papers to me in Honduras.'”

After I wrote an unflattering article about him, a number of people from McAfee’s past reached out to me and told me even more troubling stories. I became convinced that McAfee was not merely a disingenuous person but a true psychopath.

Schouten says that we should not be surprised to find psychopaths among the ranks of successful entrepreneurs like McAfee. Indeed, he emphasizes that psychopathic traits can be positively helpful. “Psychopathy could confer a competitive advantage, at least over the short-term,” he says. “Grandiosity and over-the-top self-confidence, as well as skill at conning and manipulating, can go a long way toward convincing investors of one’s vision.”

And success only intensifies a psychopath’s worst traits. One 2009 study from the Kellogg School of Management found that psychologically normal subjects primed to feel powerful were worse at imagining other people’s perspective and less perceptive in assessing facial emotions.

Such a profound disorder, however, is not ultimately compatible with long-term success. Eventually, Schouten says, a psychopath’s personal and professional relationships begin to shred due to accumulated toxicity.

“Downward drift” is a term that psychologists use for the tendency of some mentally ill to slip ever further down the socioeconomic ladder. It’s usually applied to schizophrenics, but it seems apt in McAfee’s case. Each time I returned to write an article about him I found that his prospects had worsened. He was retreating further from the world I knew, into refuges that seemed ever shakier.

Years of destructive behavior had created such a wake of ill-feeling that at last his veneer of innocence was eroding away. At last he had lost the psychopath’s most valuable asset: his invisibility.

Published on November 9, 2012 by Jeff Wise in Extreme Fear via Psychology Today

How To Argue With Your Emotional Teenager

I have, for some time now, been working with high risk and aberrant behaviour youth as a youth and family counselor. Few things in this world are harder to deal with than a teenager with a sense of entitlement, immature emotional development, poor discipline, and a bad attitude. Those of you who have gone toe to toe with a teenager can verify what I am saying.

It simply doesn’t work.

It’s all about energy. Yelling at a belligerent who is yelling back at you rarely, if ever, leads to a group hug. It’s Einstein’s definition of insanity all over again – doing the same thing and expecting different results. Unfortunately, however, most of us continue to yell. Yelling feels familiar, and it releases pent-up emotion and frustration. The majority of us learned it from our parents who learned it from their parents. We swore we wouldn’t be that kind of parent when we grew up but sometimes, well sometimes that kid frustrates us so much we have no choice.

One more time. It doesn’t work.

If you want to win the argument, salvage the situation, or whatever it is you want to accomplish, you need to change the energy if you want to change the result. You need to change the rules of the argument if you want any hope of a positive outcome. Here’s a good guideline – Do not emotionally engage a screaming teenager unless you want to have a fight.

Stop arguing. Stop emoting. Stop gushing. Smile.

There is an old maxim: Love me, hate me, just don’t ignore me.

Why is that? Perhaps the reason has something to do with the fact that the vast majority of us hate to be ignored. We feel disrespected. Something inside of us rebels against apathy.  When it comes to an argument with an irrational person a second factor comes into play as well. It is very hard to argue with someone who will not argue back.

When your out-of-control teenager is looking for a fight, seeking to make a point, and prepared to bully you to get their way, nothing will disarm and frustrate them more than a parent or person who simply smiles and says nothing. It works, I have used this methodology and taught it to dozens of parents. At first it drives them insane, later it shuts down the yelling effectively and with dignity.

There must be a more effective way to engage angry teens, while at the same time helping them to understand that emotional bullying is not just wrong, it’s ineffective. Those of us who were taught to yell by our parents inherently understand how ineffective their yelling was.

So why did we decide to use this dysfunctional method ourselves?

Simplistic Solutions

Just pray about it.

I did pray about it, hundreds of times, but my wife still had breast cancer. I’m not making that up. Maybe God was mad at me. Maybe I didn’t have enough faith.

Maybe it was more complicated than that.

I’ve heard a lot of sermons in my life. Most of them I cannot remember. Some of them I’ve tried to forget. Many of us have been in churches and heard messages on stress, relationships and spirituality that offered solutions to our deepest pains. If we are honest with ourselves, however, we have to admit that most of the proposed wonder-cures never worked. Other people looked so happy and whole and we were left wondering if God hated us, or we were too sinful to be helped. Did everyone else get over their abuse and shame and horrendous childhood so quickly?

What is wrong with me?

I recently had an argument with a minister about sermons. Most of the ones I have heard don’t seem to play out in the real world. It seems easy on Saturday night to prepare three points on ‘how to fix your marriage or ‘how to quit sinning’. On Sunday he delivered the message, felt good about it, was complimented for it… but did it really change anything?

Really?

Many of us are discovering is that there are fewer easy solutions than we once imagined. People on stages, not just religious stages, love to offer half-baked solutions to hurting people who are suffering on a level that most of those hired guns cannot imagine. How many of us were sexually abused, molested, neglected, tainted, or damaged too deep for a quick cure? How often have we sat in church or tuned into Oprah or Phil only to be left feeling worse because we cannot get on board in less than an hour?

I remember watching the Cosby Show years ago. Every problem was wrapped up in twenty-two minutes. I vividly remember one episode where one of the perfect children decided to start drinking. Seven minutes later, hugging Bill on the couch, they promised they would stop. To this day I hate sweaters.

Then Roseanne came out. Now there was a family I could relate to. Life in that household was messy. Why did it feel so much more real?

The solutions to the problems we face are harder than we usually wish to acknowledge. Your issues can rarely be wrapped up in twenty-two minutes. Trite sermons and superstar speakers only reinforce the fact that most of us will only commit to half measures both in prescribing the cure and dealing with it. Foundational transformation takes years of pain and work. Yes work. You probably need to go deeper and darker than most of us are willing to go. You probably need to confess things that few of us are willing to confess. You need to open up a big can of worms.

Think I’m being dramatic? I interviewed a pastor once who said this, “I tell people that God forgives them and they need to forgive themselves, but how the hell do you do that? It’s not as easy as you think. What, should I pretend their shit never happened? I preach every week that change is easy and I pretend. I’m tired of glib answers.”

Talking about religion is usually not a great idea. The list of people who are going to tune me in about my lack of faith or understanding about their religious dynamic is probably long and heated. So let me tell you straight out – I’m not talking about your pastor or priest, or your church or healing center. I’m talking about someone else’s. Your pastor is a great counselor, it’s just the other ones that have 4-7 years of divinity school and two classes on counseling (neither of which is based on evidence-based practices). I know many religious leaders are amazing. I know I am speaking in generalities, I usually do.

Many of us who do this professionally have been shocked and saddened by clients who have been told to “just pray about it” when they told their religious practitioner that they had been raped or molested or (insert issue here). I have also been told, more times than I care to remember, that my client was unsure about seeing me because they wanted to see a ‘Christian counselor’ and were worried that I would undermine their beliefs. I am a person of faith, but because I do not work for a Christian counseling service and choose not to declare my personal beliefs, apparently some people think I will be tempted to drag them over to the dark side. The simple fact is that many counsellors/psychologists/psychiatrists are persons of faith, and those who are not have absolutely no interest in changing someone’s religious belief system unless they are fond of sacrificing chickens in my office.

I am not against Christian counsellors or even ministers helping people in need. I have a problem with anyone setting up vulnerable and fragile people for failure. I take issue with those who would, usually out of ignorance or prejudice, flippantly throw out half-baked solutions that leave wounded people feeling useless or worthless.

Not every issue can be solved in one session or with one act of faith. If you believe God can heal you I have absolutely no issue with that.

If God chooses not to, however, that’s where I come in.

Living My Life To Impress A Five Year Old

Many of us were damaged emotionally when we were children. We were criticized, we were belittled, we were told how to live, how to act, what to wear and how to think… by other children. Have you been to a playground lately? Have you noticed that their opinions are fairly… stupid?

Or maybe it was a relative who criticized you and turned you into an introvert, or taught you to suppress your emotions, or hide who you are. A relative you now realize is an asshole whose opinion does not matter.

So why are you still acting like he told you to 25 years ago?

Perhaps you had a parent who told you that you were an idiot, or stupid, or worthless. Twenty years later you still battle insecurity, still feel like a loser. In counseling we find out that you feel this way predominantly because of what you were told when you were a child. You now realize that your alcoholic, abusive, degenerate father is a moron.

So why do you still hear that voice in your head?

My grandmother and other relatives told me/taught me countless times that I was a mouthy, disrespectful, immature burden that should be “seen and not heard” (and preferably not seen). I grew up to live up to some of those expectations, perhaps because I believed them on some level. I have taken the time to analyze why I spent so much of my early adulthood trying to fit in, rebelling against the status quo, saying everything on my mind without filtering, etc. In spite of great parents who loved and believed in me I now believe that those relatives taught me important and dysfunctional lessons that I have spent decades trying to come to grips with. With little effort I can still hear my grandmother’s voice. My uncle’s voice.

Mental health professionals are fond of telling us that much of our psyche was formed when we were little children. It is increasingly apparent that many of us had our dysfunctional coping skills, our poor self-image, and our self-destructive tendencies formed while we were yet little people – impressionable, ignorant, socially retarded, childish little kids who had no idea how to filter out the negative and destructive messages. We heard messages and learned lessons that continue to haunt us, regardless of what we understand intellectually. We believe, on one level, that we need to “get over” our past. Making that happen, however, is a different challenge altogether.

We have been imprinted, and those tattoos do not just wash off. It is one thing to realize that you have been molded by dysfunction, it is another thing altogether to effectively break free from that influence. Those attitudes and coping skills have become a part of who you are and how you cope. You have owned them. Really you had little choice.

Every day I talk with people who have been emotionally scarred by childhood or adult friends, or authority figures, or those who were supposed to love and protect them. In counseling they begin to recognize that several of their foundational beliefs and coping mechanisms, ways of dealing with the world that they have relied on for decades, may in fact be deeply flawed. It is a horrible and humbling thing to realize that you have been living your life believing distortions about yourself and your world.

For decades you have believed that no one can be trusted, and you have proven yourself correct countless times. You have evidence to support your cognitive distortions so they must be real. Anger is the way to deal with perceived slight. Always stick up for yourself. Never give up. If you want something done you have to do it yourself. Forget about the past. Meekness is weakness. All men are assholes. All women are bitches. I’ll never get better. I’ll never be able to cope. Never let anyone see the real you. Don’t take crap from anyone. Hurt them before they hurt you. Hitting your partner is ok if I say “I’m sorry”. I won’t measure up. Yelling works. Vulnerability leads to abuse. Nothing will ever change. I’m a failure. I can’t be honest. I’m damaged goods. No one could love me. I’m a loser. The list goes on and on.

Go back to the playground. Go back to that bedroom, that old house, that church basement. Take a hard look at that abusive parent, relative, adult, child. Healing and growth begins when we realize that the voices in my head and the attitudes and coping skills I developed to protect myself may not work anymore. They may, in fact, be keeping me sick and powerless.

You don’t have to listen to him anymore. She was wrong about you. That wasn’t your fault. The coping skills you so despise in yourself isn’t your fault either. You were doing the best you could with very little information and support in a dangerous world not of your making.

It’s not your fault. Talk to someone. Time to question everything. Time to be free.

 

How To Pick Up Vulnerable Women

...And The Home Of Depraved.You just got out of a messy, abusive relationship with a guy who doesn’t understand you, never took the time to service your needs, and was emotionally unavailable. You are working your way back into the dating world and you may not know it, but you may be in a very dangerous scenario.

You are prey. I am a predator. I know you are hurting and vulnerable. You probably haven’t been with a guy who is emotionally sensitive, vulnerable yet still strong, willing to listen and laugh and be everything you ever needed; and yet somehow allows you to feel safe.

I actually do a seminar for women on how an average looking guy can pick up women in their late 30′s and beyond using emotional and psychological manipulation. It’s scary when you realize how easily vulnerable people can be manipulated by a guy who is willing to pretend he is sensitive, a listener, who makes it “all about her”, is a bit aloof, and knows how to say the words that will push the vulnerable buttons of a girl they have just spent two hours milking her for information I can use to control her emotionally. So sad.

Last year, in front of a group of twelve women, I announced that I was going to seduce one of them in the group, under the fluorescent lights, without any alcohol, and asked for a volunteer. In front of eleven hostile witnesses, in just over twenty minutes, I was able to confuse a woman who knew I was doing it. Let’s be honest, I’m simply not that good-looking.

I started by talking about her life, her fears, her hopes and the pain she must have experienced. I used the information I knew about her that she shared in the group in confidence and violated her emotionally. Half way through I announced that I was stopping the exercise so that I could explain what I was doing. I lied. I used that next five minutes to confuse her and convince her that I actually did have her best interests at heart. I apologized, back-paddled, asked about her needs, and then cried with her. I never touched her.

I have done this in several groups and have never missed. I tried it the first time almost by accident and scared myself by how evil and dirty I felt. And how powerful.

Please, isn’t there something you can learn from this?

Dealing With Your Baggage

child abuseSexual abuse is destroying our society. It’s almost impossible to find accurate statistics on the percentage of women who were molested as children and adolescents. Numbers vary wildly between 20-60%. Statistics about the molestation of boys hovers somewhere between 6 and 24%.

Emotional and physical abuse statistics are difficult to measure but can be equally as devastating, and not just for children.

What everyone does agree on, however, is the devastating impact of sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Almost every day I hear story after story of pain and abuse from earliest memory to adulthood. I have often contended that just about everyone has endured some form of abuse by the time they are in their forties. It is easy, therefore, to believe that there is no hope, no cure, no relief from something that looms so large that it feels impossible to overcome. But what if it could be dealt with? What if the effects of this hell on earth could be diminished, even alleviated?

Trauma, whether from childhood or as an adult, is devastating and left undealt with, often affects us for the rest of our lives. Even those of us who have not had a ‘trauma’ event, so to speak, may also have the effects of trauma due to long-term abuse, neglect, or situations which have damaged us emotionally or physically.

Maybe you were not sexually or emotionally abused as a child but wonder if you may still have real baggage. Maybe you grew up in a single family home and it has left you tainted or emotionally wounded. You may have had an emotionally unavailable parent, heard more than your share of verbal abuse or yelling, or had parents who drank too much or used drugs.

Divorce can often have devastating effects on children as well. So can witnessing violence, so can growing up with insecurity or self-esteem issues. Your parents may have shown you dysfuntional ways to deal with stress or relationships.

Although we have different issues, many of us are carrying baggage around. In my course on Trauma we talk about some of the bizarre ways this has impacted many lives. Survivors of trauma are often hoarders, or cannot commit to a relationship, or have difficulty finishing problems, or have long term sexual issues including the seeming inability to be sexually satisfied.

Wounded people often struggle with more loneliness, are far more critical of themselves or others, or are what we call hypervigilent. Their danger radar is especially fine tuned and they are constantly on a high state of alert. There is even evidence to suggest that many who consider themselves ‘discerning’ or ’emotionally in tune’ are actually victims of trauma who have developed this hyper awareness as a defence mechanism.

The list of potential issues associated with trauma goes on and on – difficulty relaxing, problems with intimate relationships, difficulty sharing feelings, extreme reactions to normal situations, anger and anxiety, cycles of abusive relations, approval seeking, etc.

Counselors often say that “Trauma trumps all”. They mean that there are clear indicators that trauma affects every area of your life. If you have not dealt with your baggage it is very likely that you are not living the life you were meant to live. I meet people all the time who have been carrying around this garbage for years, for decades, who believe that there is no choice but to stuff their hurts and try to cope the best they can. While this may work for some, it didn’t work for me. Maybe it isn’t working for you either.

If you are weighed down by a backpack of abuse, neglect, and pain you need to know that there is hope. Working through your issues may be hard but it can lead to hope and liberation. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life reeling from the hurts of your past, no matter the issue.

Talk to someone. Find a friend or colleague that understands and empathizes. Or better yet go see a counselor that doesn’t suck. You can do it.

You’re worth it.