Exactly How to Be Courageously Vulnerable

It’s coming into our common knowledge that vulnerability is an act of courage. No longer do we find vulnerability to be weakness as we have so long been conditioned to believe it to be.

But we often don’t know what that looks like. The idea makes sense, somehow it lands, but…what does it mean to be courageously vulnerable?

In my work with both women and men, the first step has almost always revolved around one practice. This practice, when entered with love, courage, and strength, is the only thing that I have ever seen that dissolves the walls around our heart.

The practice is this: Any time you notice anger, defensiveness, criticism, frustration or any other emotion that comes up and keeps you from openness and love…

First: Feel how it is there to protect your heart, honor its service in protecting you until this point, and let it know it is no longer needed.

Next: Find the hurt, fear, softness and tenderness that is being protected. If you need to, ask the anger or other protective mood, “What are you protecting me from feeling?” Fear, blame, anger, aggressiveness, criticism, and defensiveness are the protectors of, and detractors from, your soft vulnerability.

Then: Allow yourself to feel the soft, vulnerable hurt. Care for that hurt part of you deeply. Give it space. Allow yourself to be hurt. This is where the courage comes in. You will want to run from the pain by going back to anger or your other protective mechanism. But you are courageous now in a new way. You have the courage to face your hurt, your pain, and the real you underneath your protective shell.

Finally: Sit with it. Take some time to lay down. I often do this for up to a couple of hours, feeling the pain in my body, letting go of the story in my mind, and allowing memories from when I was younger and how these wounds came to be, to flow through me freely. After it has been given the space it needs, it will subside.

If you have a partner you love and trust, and who also loves and trusts you, you can also be in this vulnerable space with them. Some partners may need to be asked “Is it ok if I go into the softness of my pain with you?” And some will be able to move with you right into that.

You will likely have to do this many times, depending on how deeply your wounding resides within you. It is ok. To feel hurt, to allow yourself to really be with your pain rather than to avoid it with a protective shell of anger and defensiveness and blame and story, that is what it means to be a true warrior of and for your heart.


Note: If you are in a physically, mentally, sexually, or emotionally abusive relationship, you may need to protect yourself from your partner using your old tools to set proper boundaries for yourself first. Always protect yourself, first. And, when you’re in a safe space, with your partner or not, only then allow yourself this practice.

That Moment; Unkinking Your Radiance and Rage

You cringe on the inside, trying not to let him notice.

He feels something from you and, not knowing what it is, doesn’t let on to his discomfort.

I see this dynamic all day, every day. I see it at the grocery store, walking down Pearl Street, out at night at your favorite establishment, at almost every table at every restaurant, no matter what day or time of day.

Women are holding back. Men are holding back. We’re all doing it. And we’re often doing it without noticing.

Yet we all feel the pain of our closure…the discomfort of our resistance…the constriction of our kinks.

This post is about that moment. That moment that happens whether you’re aware of it when it happens, or if you’re only aware of it after it’s passed. Or maybe you’re not even always aware of it.

But you know that moment.

That moment when you feel the water spout of emotions open fully (or maybe just a trickle) and you kink and close your heart, constrict your body, and mute your mind until that moment passes.

The worst thing about it is that you’ve become so good at it. You’re so good at it that people don’t even seem to notice anymore…but you feel a little bit different to others than you used to… They can’t quite put their finger on it. But they feel it.

They can feel it because they feel their own closure through your closure.

Slowly…

Ever so slowly…

That you may not even notice….

Something in you is withering away…

And Then…

Until one day, you wake up, look at yourself in the mirror, and don’t even recognize yourself. And not in the way you probably want.

But you see that you’re just not…you.

You’re not the you that you know you are. You feel less alive. Your shine feels dulled. Your radiance, clumsy. Your flowingness, kinked.

I’ve written before about not holding back. But that advice is only helpful if you can recognize that moment when you hold back.

What if you don’t recognize it? What if you only feel your lack of flowingness like a clogged pipe, all gunked up from years of residual blockage at each point where the pipe is kinked? Nothing can go in or come out…

It is as though nothing can go in; your vulnerability is blocked. And nothing can come out; your radiance, withering to a dull matte finish…your colors camouflaging like a chameleon, receding unseen into the background of life itself.

So What Do You Do? Where Do You Start?

If you can’t take it any longer. If, when you look in the mirror, you see a person who isn’t you. If you make a firm commitment to change this thing you can’t see, but undoubtedly can feel…well, what do you do?

If you can feel the residual backup of emotions like your shower drain, clogged with years or decades of soap and hair and shampoo and all of those other shower products us men are clueless about, you know it will take some work just to get things unclogged.

But this isn’t the kind of work that you force. You might put a flexible rod through your pipes (not like that, perv) to force things through your shower drain.

Your body doesn’t work like that. You can’t force experiences into your body unless you want to bring trauma into your neurology.

Instead, the real work is dissolving. But dissolving what?

In personal growth, we often take the path of Thinking with our Mind (learning a new concept, a new asana, a new idea, etc), then it gradually becomes embedded it into our Heart or Feelings. And, finally, if we are lucky, we learn to fully embody it in our Body or our Emotions. (Literally, to emote means “to move out.” When we emote, we let our feelings out through our body.)

In other words, we learn through the process of:

Mind -> Heart -> Body
or
Thinking -> Feeling -> Emoting

Usually, though, our body is the last to learn.

But you know this isn’t a problem you can think yourself through. You know that this blockage that you feel so deeply can’t simply be worked through first by thinking it.

As the quote goes “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

And I’d say, similarly, “Thinking about your emotions is like dancing about architecture.”

To work on your emotions, you must go into your body.

Dissolving the Gunk in Your Kinky Pipes

Yes. I simply wanted to get kinky in here with you. Really, though…who wouldn’t want to?

If your flowingness feels blocked to the point where simply acknowledging it and practicing opening a bit more won’t solve the problem, you must get to work on the emotional residue that has built up in your body.

First, practice simply relaxing your body. What I mean by relaxing is letting go of all of the tension that is there. This is your emotional closure. Remember, emotions are feelings that move out through your body. This is your kinkedness. This is your resistance.

Once you’ve relaxed your body by letting go of all of the tension that’s there, relax it some more. Go through a full body scan to feel what’s there…

How do your fingertips feel? Your hands? Your forearms? Your shoulders? Your neck? Your throat? Your chest? And so on…I’m sure you know the drill on this one. And don’t just go to your toes…go to your toenails…and better yet, see if you can feel all the way to the tips of your fingernails and toenails and to the tips of every strand of hair on your head…

Once you’ve become as relaxed as you possibly can, imagine that you just had the best, most exhausting massage you’ve ever had, AFTER the longest, hardest workout you’ve ever had, AFTER the best hot yoga session you’ve ever had, AFTER getting only three hours of sleep the night before.

See? You can let go even more. The difference between the moment before you first relaxed until the very end of that practice, at the very least, that’s the emotional tension and closure you carry with you in your body. This is your emotional residue.

And, if I were to guess, this is probably, maaaaaybe, 10% of it. Once you go out into the world and about your day, stuff will come up. You’ll tense up even more. You’ll see your parents or your children and something else will tense in an area you didn’t know was there. You’ll get in a disagreement with your partner or a friend and something else will close a little bit or a lot. Something will come up at work and your body will create resistance to it…

And this is the practice…release. Let go. Relax. Unkink. Unclench.

Remove your resistance. It’s your resistance. Not anyone else’s. You put it there. You can take it away.

Opening Deeper and More Fully. Unkinking Your Radiance and Rage

Many spiritual practitioners will tell you about “opening” in some way, shape or form. The thing is that you can not open without unclenching. If you try to open while also holding resistance around your heart, you will find yourself dangerously contorted like if my janky body tried to perform with the contortionists at Cirque du Soleil. And nobody wants that. Not me. And certainly not you.

And you’ll find that once you begin to unclench your body, that it will naturally begin to open. That is the result of relaxing: opening. You don’t beat the Chinese finger cuffs game by forcing it. Only by relaxing and loosening the resistance does the cuff begin to open.

Relax your body. Relax your shoulders. Your neck. Your chest. Focus on the physical parts of your body, first.

And after you do, after your resistance subsides, you’ll notice something new…

It will be subtle at first. And it may not happen for a while…days, weeks, months… But it will come.

You will notice that your heart begins to open.

Your feelings will flow more freely.

Frustration becomes replaced by patience. Anger, replaced by compassion. Hate, replaced by love.

And, soon after, you will find your mind and thinking changing as a result.

Body -> Heart -> Mind

Emotions -> Feelings -> Thoughts

But your body must do it first.


An Upcoming Workshop for That Moment

I am leading a workshop on November 2nd and 3rd of 2013 in Boulder, Colorado on working through this specific thing. And…you’ll also get to work on some of this with solid, trustable men that we will bring in for a portion of the workshop.

Learn More About How This Workshop Helps You Dissolve That Moment.


Image Credit: steltendanstheater

3 Things You Do to Keep Yourself from Being Fully Seen

It’s one of the fundamental feminine desires: Your desire to be seen.

It’s what drives that 21 year old drunk girl to dance on the bar, then fall off of it into a trash can, then get back up on the bar. (An old friend of mine did this as we all watched it unfold.)

It’s also what drives you to agonize over the perfect earrings, the perfect shoes, and the perfect nail polish color…all of which you may only once in your life…but you needed those earrings, you needed those shoes, and you needed that particularly perfect nail polish that one time because simply nothing else would have done.

This desire to be seen may have also driven your career accomplishments, your contributions in the community, or even the style with which you parent your children.

And for all the reasons that your desire to be seen may drive you to say and do things that don’t quite feel in alignment with your Self, when you’re really seen, deeply seen, particularly by someone you love, there’s something mysterious that feeds you. It’s a certain kind of nourishment that just you just can’t find anywhere else.

It enlivens you. It brings you back to yourself. It makes you both calm and giddy at the same time. It makes you feel loved…or at least something close to it.

And all too often, the vast majority of women, in fact, I see you doing things that keep your Self from truly being seen.

If you desire to be seen, then you will want to be with a man who is capable of seeing you. If you don’t let yourself be seen, how will you know if he’s capable of seeing you?

Allowing yourself to be seen is a very vulnerable experience. Unfortunately, there are a number of men out there who can and will take advantage of this. For that reason, I suggest using discernment and some quick calibration to where the other man whens at when choosing to open yourself to being seen.

I’ve narrowed these things down to three fundamental things you’re doing that keep yourself separate and invulnerable, and as a result, unseen.

Your Personas

The energy here is that of pushing outward. Any persona has this effect, even if the persona you’re wearing may be one centered on vulnerability. It’s still a mask you’re wearing, outside of yourself.

You’re giving someone something that isn’t actually you, holding them at arm’s length.

When I meet a you at a persona you’re wearing, the impact on me and other men I know is that we get bored. If you’re with a man who desires to really connect with someone, and you disallow that with your persona, that conversation is going to end fairly quickly. Unless, of course, one of his personas is up and playing with your persona.

In the end, it will simply feel fake to a deep, solid man. And the reality is that it is fake. It’s not actually you.

Putting Up Walls

The second way that I see you keeping yourself from being seen is with the walls you put up around yourself. If your persona has the energy of pushing outward, putting up a wall feels like stopping the energy completely.

I want to make a distinction here between boundaries and walls. Boundaries are absolutely healthy. Boundaries are standards of conduct you choose to accept, or not, from others based on your principles and values. Boundaries come from your principles and values, first.

But when you put up a wall, your wall comes first from fear, uncertainty, and hurt. A wall is put up to protect you. When that wall is crossed, you move into the pain of fear, uncertainty, and hurt.

Another way of putting this is that, when a boundary is crossed, you don’t move into hurt (except for maybe that someone you care about didn’t respect your boundary), you simply acknowledge it with the other person and move on. But when your wall is broken down, it can be absolutely devastating.

In one way or another, us men are able to feel the walls you have up, guarding your heart. When a deep, solid man feels that wall you have up, he will meet it with compassion as he’ll also feel the walls he has in himself. As you get to know that man over time, he will want to work with you to lovingly bring down that wall between the two of you in your relationship.

Hiding / Holding Back

The final way that you will most often keep your Self from being fully seen is by hiding or holding back; wherever you don’t allow your energy to come through and out of you. Your energy in this sense is kept to yourself. Sometimes you may even keep your energy away from even yourself.

When you hold back – when you keep your energy in and hidden – this feels to a deep, solid man like you are uncomfortable with owning your own power, your own impact, you lack confidence in yourself, or you are uncomfortable with your own radiance. Taken a step further, you might say that you are also keeping back your gift from being given to the world.

Even more importantly, you disallow your own radiance, thereby withholding form yourself, the gift of your Self.

This kind of muted radiance can feel the way an olive color can sometimes feel like it’s holding itself back from a richer and fuller shade of green. You know that richer, fuller shade is there, it’s simply hidden behind a sort of gray undertone.

Allowing Yourself to Be Seen

When you do allow yourself to be fully seen for who you really are (and not simply attracting attention for the sake of getting attention), you’ll notice something shift within you.

Something within you may burn a bit brighter.

Your tank may feel a bit fuller.

Your heart, a bit more open.

Image Credit: 04deveni

Women: You Are Not Crazy.

Before I began to understand you a little bit better (It didn’t take much to make a little progress since I didn’t understand you at all for most of my life), I began to realize that you are not crazy like the story that’s perpetuated through much of our culture.

“Men are assholes. Women are crazy.” the saying goes.

I don’t buy it.

I began to realize that it’s this stunted, immature masculinity that pervades the culture of men which created and spread this story of women being crazy. It’s only when a masculine man (or woman) has no connection to their own femininity that women/the feminine seems to be crazy. (Likewise, feminine men and women not connected to their masculine often view men/the masculine as assholes.)

As I began thinking more about the truth and beauty of the feminine experience, I began to discover common areas where you may have, for whatever reason, have come to believe that you (particularly in your femininity) are crazy.

I’m here to tell you: You are not crazy.

Here are eight common situations where you might think you’re crazy, but aren’t.

01. That thing you said to the man you love, when you really just wanted to cut his balls off.

You will have times (which, depending on your range and intensity, may be often) when you say something to the man you love and, later, think to yourself “Oh my god. Did I really just say that to him? Why would I say something like that?”

Most men go through life stuck in their heads, reflecting on the past, designing the future, fantasizing future possibilities, etc. This isn’t so much of a problem…until it’s time to spend time with you.

When he’s with you, really with you, what you really want is his deepest presence. And when he’s anything but, it’s incredibly painful for you in your feminine.

That pain will often come out in ways that seem brutal, unfair, or crazy. But what you really want is him to be here, with you. And when he can’t see that he isn’t, you’ll often unconsciously use your words or your moods to snap him back into now, with you.

You’re not crazy, he’s not present. And each moment he’s not present with you, hurts. And each moment that you open more to him and he’s still not with you, hurts even more.

The best thing a man can do in these situations is to see that whatever pain you may unconsciously be bringing to him is simply a reflection of the pain he is bringing to you in your femininity.

If he wants the responsiveness and fullness of your femininity (and you wish to offer that as a gift to him), he will need to maintain his depth of presence with you. Until then, lock up the antique china.

02. You’re not indecisive. The decision just doesn’t matter.

I sometimes reflect on how much pain I caused to the women in my life simply by asking “So, where do you want to go for dinner?”

As innocent of a question as it might seem, there’s something about it that snaps you out of your femininity and into your masculine. The directionality of it, trying to consider the time and place and wants of everyone (or even just your partner), trying to decide what kind of food you and him are interested in, etc.

I’ve seen a question as simple as “where do you want to go for dinner?” cause more pain and strain in relationships than any other question.

What I began to realize was that the decision doesn’t matter to you. It’s not that you are indecisive, you can certainly make the choice, but it’s not at all what you want.

When your partner can’t be so present with you as to at least offer a suggestion or two as for where to go for dinner, it feels like “What’s the point? He can’t choose, out of the dozens of places I’d be up for going to, where to go for dinner? Why would he be able to guide me through more tumultuous parts of my life?”

And that’s what I thought it was for a long time. And that’s a big part of it, but there’s another part of it that I realized is important for you:

It’s not where you go, it’s how you show up.

Chinese food, Mexican food, Italian food…you might have your preference, and if your partner suggests sushi and you’re not up for it, that will come through. But what really matters, even if you’re not too thrilled about the kind of food or location, is how you both show up.

So when he asks “So, where do you want to go for dinner?” and he finally makes a decision after ten minutes of talking about it and he’s been driving in circles around the city, you’re not even interested anymore because how you’ll show up simply won’t be enjoyable for you. And at that point, what’s the point?

03. What you do want is not unreasonable.

The smaller decisions, got it. Not so important to you.

But the big ones? The ones about how you want to live your life? How you want to love and be loved? How you want to raise a family (or not)?

More than half of the women I talk to, when they tell me what they really want, they always wrap it up with something like “But that’s crazy. I can’t really expect that.”

Bullshit.

What you most deeply desire is one of the truest reflections of who you are. And if you compromise on your desires because you think they’re “crazy,” you’re only compromising yourself, your values, and your sense of self worth. And if you’ve compromised, and you end up having a family, you’re not the only one who’s likely to continue living a compromised life…

What you want is not unreasonable. What you want is what you want, and that’s all there is to it.

I used to have a similar relationship with my own desires, one that minimized them, until I was on a date with someone who would turn into a long-term relationship.

She had been a student at the top art school in the country, RISD, and we were at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I had studied art a bit, but with her, I was generally out of my league in terms of discussing art. I couldn’t explain well why there were some things I liked and some things I didn’t. And when I said that, she told me something that I’ll never forget:

“You don’t have to know why you like it. Liking it is enough.”

It was as though she gave me permission to like and want things without explanation or having to know why. And I’d like to extend that same permission to you.

Allow yourself want what you want. Only you can choose to settle for something less…or not.

04. You are not a pessimist or an idealist. The pain you see in the world is real. The joy you see possible is also real.

One of the impacts of the current state where most men are disconnected from their own femininity is that they lead meaningless, purposeless, and directionless lives. If there’s any one single desire that I’ve heard more than any other among my men friends and those doing personal development, it’s the desire to “find my purpose.” And from what I’ve seen most men don’t.

It’s my experience that meaning is found in life through the feminine, then the masculine serves that meaning through designing its purpose. Therefore, because most men are disconnected from their feminine, they keep themselves from discovering what’s most meaningful to them. And because they don’t connect with what’s meaningful to them, they go to work at jobs that aren’t important to them, and wake up one day to realize that they’ve been waffling their lives away with no idea how to change it.

But you don’t have that problem. You’re deeply and intimately connected with your femininity. So when you see those tear-jerking commercials about puppy mills, your eyes begin to water. And when you see documentaries about how the animals we eat are treated and raised, you swear off meat. And when you see some sort of pain in the world, it might stay with you for hours or days or weeks.

And when you try and tell your partner about it…they just don’t get it.

Your connection to the pain and suffering in the world is very real. And when you see what can be done to relieve that pain and suffering, you are not crazy. When your partner tunes you out, or minimizes your pain or the situation or your solution, that’s simply their own inability to connect with what’s meaningful in their own lives.

It’s difficult to empathize with something you’ve never experienced. And when most men haven’t allowed themselves the experience of being moved by something deeply meaningful, your experience is going to sound “crazy” to that person.

I’m here to tell you that it’s not crazy. And you aren’t crazy. In fact, when you allow yourself to be connected to what’s meaningful to you, that might be the least crazy thing anyone can do.

05. What you can’t see is just as real as what you can see.

I have the great honor of knowing some women more amazing than I could have ever conceived of knowing. I owe so much of what I have learned, and continue to learn, to them. In fact, without them, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it.

One of these wonderful women, my great friend and men’s coach, Christin Myrick, has developed a model that describes people who impact and connect with the seen and the unseen.

Now, there will be some of you who will exercise your fantastic critical thinking skills and interpret “the unseen” as the things from fairy tales, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. While that may exist in some peoples’ worlds, that’s not what I’m talking about here.

What I’m talking about when I say “the unseen” is moods, your truth, Self, your knowings, etc. You can’t see it or touch it, but you know, without a doubt, that it’s there. Christin uses the analogy of a tree; its roots are unseen from above the ground, but contribute directly to the what defines the tree and how it grows.

The problem is, in our culture, truth has come to be defined only as what is known by tangible evidence. Because this over-masculinization of understanding the world has occurred, the unseen has traditionally been devalued to almost nothing. But the unseen is very real.

Only in the last decade or so has science been able to find evidence of these things that philosophers and scientists have disregarded what the mystics, empaths, and spirituality have described all along. Plato also talks about this when he describes that which is intangible being more real and permanent than that which is tangible.

In Christin’s model of the seen and unseen, freedom, love, and connection are much more real. And I’d have to agree.

06. Your feelings are real.

I used to enjoy flirting much more in the context of teasing a woman than getting to know who she really is. Inevitably, something would always happen where I used to use a line that, every time, got a laugh. I’m guessing you might be familiar with this situation…

When you’re bantering back and forth with a man, especially if it’s escalating well and building tension that’s both humorous and edgy, there will often come a time when you backhand slap a man’s shoulder. I’ve seen you girls do it a hundred times. And, for us guys, it’s a sign we’re on the right track.

When a woman would do this to me, we’d usually been bantering for a bit. It would get a little bit intense and she would finally hit my shoulder. I’d stop, look her right in the eyes, drop my jaw, and pretend to look as surprised and in shock as I could. Then I’d deliver the line:

“Ow! You hurt my feeling!”

I never delivered that line without it getting a laugh and most women would then keep bringing it up through the night and for days or weeks after whenever they would tease me. “Oh, did I hurt your feeling?”

The idea that, as a man, I would have only one feeling, represents two cultural cliches that create the humor in that idea.

The first is that men don’t have feelings. We’re assholes, remember? And the second is that women have too many feelings. Women have so many feelings, in fact, that they’re crazy.

As I grew through that stage of my own life, I discovered my own range and texture and experience of feelings. And, in the process, began to have a deep respect for the way that most women feel (rather than think) as their primary experience in the world. Where I used to fascistly distrust my own feelings, I now had a deep reverence for the truths they knew that my thinking mind simply couldn’t know on its own.

Trust your feelings. They are real in a very different and more profound way than most of us know.

07. You are not too sensitive.

There was a time in my life when I had no clue about what it meant to be sensitive to myself or others. In fact, I knew insensitivity so well that one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known, inside and out, would probably prefer to never speak to me again as our breakup escalated, almost singlehandedly, as a result of my lack of sensitivity.

Early on in our getting to know each other, she would describe herself as someone who was deeply sensitive. She was so sensitive, in fact, that she often felt as though she were an over-exposed nerve.

I got the idea conceptually but, because I wasn’t even able to be sensitive to my own feelings, etc, didn’t really know what it meant to be sensitive to someone else. When I look back on how things unfolded at the end of our relationship, it now makes me ill.

What I’ve come to realize is that your sensitivity is truly a gift to the world. Without it, the masculine pathology lives in a world of black and white, meaningless, without color, and one day after the next, just doing what needs to be done to get through the day.

But the sensitivity of your femininity draws us into something else. If we have even the slightest clue of our own sensitivities, yours draws us into our own feelings in a way that we simply couldn’t do on our own. Your attunement to nuances of moods, textures, colors, temperatures, feelings, and emotions helps us get to a place that’s hard to get to on our own.

This is why us men love radiant, responsive women. You draw us into you by drawing us into ourselves. And it’s your sensitivity that guides this. The more nuanced your sensitivity, the more enchanted we become.

08. How you feel, matters.

In the purely masculine world, how you feel doesn’t matter. From the masculine perspective, you have a duty in this world and you perform that duty. How you feel about it is secondary to everything else.

And there’s something very true and honorable about this. As a man, I would prefer it no other way. When I imagine laying on my death bed and looking at my life, I’d rather suffer mercilessly and get the things done I feel I’m here to get done than to experience joy and pleasure and only get done half of what I feel I’m here to do.

But this is not the deepest truth of the feminine. For you, anything done without lightness and love…why wouldn’t you just be in the deepest place of love that you can be, then do the best you can? The flow of love in your life, with yourself, with your friendships, your family, and intimacy…without love, what’s the point?

A man looks at that perspective of “without doing it with lightness and love, what’s the point?” and answers “the point is to get the job done.” And, unfortunately (and, in my belief, not for much longer), that has been the culture that has been handed down to men. As a result of 3,000+ years of a patriarchal world culture, that perspective of “to get the job done” has also been imposed on you.

I’m here to tell you that your feelings matter. Yes, getting the job done is important. And so is doing it with love and joy.

After all, perhaps we’re all here in some way or another to serve others. If we don’t feel a deep sense of love through our service, how well are we actually serving?

Image Credit: Vittis from Lithuania

Exploring Feminine Depth

Ahhh… the mystery and power of the Feminine.

I’ve long contemplated why it is that a woman’s anger sometimes feels immensely shallow to me, while I can offer my deepest presence in the face of rage from the woman I love until she’s spent and simply wants to be held.

I’ve long contemplated why some women’s desires to be seen are off-putting and actually repulsive, while some women who show up thoroughly decorated for the sake of being seen can capture my heart and nearly place me into a deep trance.

I’ve long contemplated why the love expressed by some felt paper-thin, while the love felt and displayed by others feels nothing short of a thick, warm blanket and warm cup of coffee by a fire in a cabin deep in the snowy mountains just as the sun is rising through the windows.

What is it that makes these distinctions? If I’m in a moment more oriented toward psychology, I might say that these are “unhealthy or healthy” responses. If I’m more oriented toward personal growth, I might say that these responses are “immature or mature.” If I’m more oriented toward spirituality, I might say that these responses are from “young souls or old souls.”

But none of those perspectives ever sticks with me. For some reason, while they all may seem to be reasonable explanations, they fail to capture the mystery of the beautiful range of feeling that a woman can offer. None of them can explain why a woman can be deeply in rage during one moment, and deeply loving in the next, and both actually feel like “clean, healthy, mature, evolved responses.”

There is another way of looking at it that sticks with me. And, when I offer this analogy, every woman I have spoken with, without fail, offers a sigh of agreement.

It is that of the depth, power, and mystery of the ocean.

Another Perspective:
   An Ocean of Feminine Depth

The Feminine is not something to be put solely into the contexts of psychology or personal development or even into a personal spirituality. There is something much bigger, much larger, much deeper about The Feminine in all of us. (Yes, we all have both Masculine and Feminine within us. Even the biggest asshole male you know has a feminine side, even if he can’t articulate or acknowledge it.)

If you feel your femininity as the ocean, you first notice some subtleties.

On the surface are waves gently folding and kissing the shoreline, waves wisping away as they’re penetrated by the wind and dissolved into mist. A storm may come through and some of your waves may come crashing down, wreaking havoc on everything around them.

As you begin to descend beneath the surface, you feel stronger currents, but things move more slowly. No longer are waves casting about; you begin to touch something deeper, something that is more what you really are beneath your “surface” offering to the universe. And as you connect more with that part of yourself, you might realize two things. One: you have power to bring beautiful shells to the shoreline and to offer a home to many forms of life. And two: this is also the power that creates whirlpools and undercurrents that can harm or even kill someone or, if you can feel it, also sink the largest and most impenetrable of ships.

And if you descend even further, beyond the visibility of the shoreline or the under-currents, deeper than any human can withstand, you reach a level of depth that is rarely entered. In these deepest of depths, things move imperceptibly slowly. These depths are so deep that not even the sun enters there… it is almost as though nothing from the outside world could survive the pressure and power of these depths. And yet, there’s something about them that seems almost tender and loving.

It is at these depths that only the ugliest and most hideous of animals can survive because they are offered by you a deeply-loving refuge. At these depths, heat escapes from cracks in the ocean’s floor, offering life to those who not only dare, but are strong enough to venture so deeply.

It is a dark, still place. It is also the most powerful place in the ocean. As the earth below shifts and creaks and yawns, it sends tidal waves to the surface, destroying everything in its path in a way that few other acts of nature can accomplish. The power and force of deep water is something that we all remain surrendered to.

Integrating the Spirit and the Human

The experience of the Feminine (and the Masculine) is one that transcends both psychology and spirituality. Even if humans never existed, the forces of feminine and masculine would still be at play. The Feminine force would continue to allow and receive all that happens, and the Masculine force would still guide and penetrate throughout the universe.

To fully allow your femininity is to accept your being as both spirit and human. You will be aware of your spiritual ideals while also honoring your human self. It is said that even Buddha wept when receiving news of his family’s death.

There are two big challenges I see at the point of integration, though, depending on where you are on your path.

The first is beating yourself up for not embodying some spiritual ideal. Remember that you are human. You have emotions. You have feelings. All of these should be honored and revered as you work through your process. Transcendence does not occur by virtue of moving upward and out of yourself. Transcendence first moves inward and downward through yourself before you open your offering outward and into the world. Transcendence does not disregard your human, physical self. It includes it. And it not only includes it, but it makes use of your human capacity for love as a slingshot for loving and embracing all. Allow your feelings and continue to feel through them. You are on your path.

The second is to to aim for something simply because your psychology thinks you should. This is taking an idea, knowing it is powerful, then proudly displaying it to the world before it becomes embodied, all the while, not actually experiencing it to be true in the deepest, quietest part of you. Remember that feminine depth can’t be seen. It can only be felt. If you desire to put it on display for the world, you’re still at the surface – the waves – of your femininity. Feel deeper.

Seeing Yourself vs. Being Seen

A perennial struggle I observe in women is that they desire to be seen by others but neglect to see themselves. It is a core feminine desire to be seen, yet many women don’t offer to themselves this gift.

As Robert A. Johnson, author of many books on Jungian interpretation of mythology, states in She:

Aphrodite is the principle of mirroring every experience back into our own consciousness. As man is occupied with expansion and exploration and finding that which is new, Aphrodite is reflecting and mirroring and assimilating. Aphrodite’s mirror is symbolic of a most profound quality of the goddess of love. She frequently offers one a mirror by which one can see one’s self, a self hopelessly stuck in projection without the help of the mirror. Asking what is being mirrored back can begin the process of understanding, which may prevent getting stuck in an insoluble emotional tangle. This is not to say there are not outer events. But it is important to realize and understand that many things of our own interior nature masquerade as outer events when they should be mirrored back into our subjective world from which they sprang.

To tie this back into being seen vs. seeing yourself, it is the act of projecting on the outside world that drives you to seek being seen from outside of yourself. But you have an innate gift to see yourself in the mirror you always hold. This is your gift. It is a gift for you and for the world.

A gift, by definition, requires no reciprocity. If you seek to be seen by others, you then need something in return. If you are gifting the world, the simple offering should be enough. This is not to say that you should avoid attention, but I trust you know the difference. You can feel when you wear “that” outfit to attract attention, and how that’s different than when you wear “this” outfit which feels like a gift to yourself and others.

It is with this distinction that you may more clearly understand the source of your feelings… and if they reside on the surface or if they are sourced from your depth.

Attraction and Depth

It is a beautiful thing for a man to experience the range of emotions from the woman he loves. I published an article the other week titled Women: Please Don’t Hold Back, and a common response I received went something like “Yeah, but why do men keep a distance and not engage with me emotionally?” or “Yeah, but why do they play hard to get?” or “Yeah, but why do men act like they don’t care?”

Admittedly, this distancing is part of this is the western culture of attraction. We all play this game to some degree. I studied pickup artistry for years and, the reality is, it works. But (most of) it only works for so long and with women who exist more on the surface than in their depths.

When you get past that surface-level stage (if you decide to go through it or not) of understanding attraction on that level, you come to realize there is no game. There is only truth, authenticity, compassion, and love. And from that place, attraction occurs when your truth, authenticity, compassion and love line up with someone else’s.

If you stay on your surface levels of joy, sadness, rage, or love, you’ll attract the masculine who also resides at his own surface. If you move into your depths, it won’t be long before men who are also at their own depths suddenly show up. I’ve seen this in my own life and in the lives of my male and female friends. This is the nature of depth and attraction. As soon as you move deeper, those who float on the surface will fall away and those who reside at their depths suddenly appear. Those who are accustomed to the surface, by definition, can not handle it in the harsh, but deeply loving, depths.

Joy, Sadness, Rage, and Love

So what does femininity look like on those surface waves compared to its powerful depths?

In the context of joy, we have giddiness on the surface. As Alison Armstrong distinguishes it, giddiness is “Tee-hee-hee! Tee-hee-hee!” Sometimes it’s cute. Sometimes it’s gross. But it’s on the surface, is simply caused by external circumstances, and is disconnected from any sort of depth.

In joy rising from feminine depth, however, there’s an allowing of something deeper to move through you. If giddiness is a college girl getting stoned for the third time in her life, joy is weeping in awe and wonder at the news of a loved one’s baby being born.

Surface sadness is “freaking out.” This and “anger” are both things that cover up and distance us from feelings of real pain. On the surface, we’ll avoid the depth of our sadness and be cast about by how we interpret a situation to be affecting us.

I saw this firsthand this weekend when a twenty-something fell off of a fourth floor balcony. After I called 911, etc., his girlfriend and our neighbor (who don’t get along) began fighting and bickering about how to handle the situation. They were both being cast about by how the situation was affecting them and were not directly connected to the sadness of this man who was seriously injured and in pain.

In the feminine depths of sadness, the practice is to compassionately allow both vulnerability and pain. When we feel with the pain of ourselves and others, we connect more deeply with a feeling of sadness. There is a part of life that is inherently sad and the only way to stay in our depths is to allow ourselves to feel into it, not to avoid it.

In rage, the surface experience is merely anger. Again, anger is the avoidance of the pain of vulnerability and hurt. The hurt plays out as anger and actively (though almost always unconsciously) disconnects us from the pain of the hurt.

On the other hand, in rage, it is the depth of hurt that is coming through. Any man can look into the eyes of one woman who is “angry” and another woman who is “enraged” and tell you which is which. There’s a sense of presence, pain, and power that comes from rage while anger can feel almost flimsy to a deeply conscious man.

In love, on the surface it is still love. The difference between surface love and deep love is its orientation. If the love is oriented toward your situation or your own feelings, it resides on the surface. As your feelings or your situation changes, so too will your connectedness to love.

Deep love is oriented toward something expansive. When you love someone deeply, they can mess up, big time, and you still feel the love there. When you love the outcome of a situation (e.g., rulings around marriage equality), what you love is the truth that the outcome has honored… you love that love is honored more deeply, both now and in the future, for you, for your family and friends, and for the good of all humanity.

Love is Not All You Need.
   Love is All There Is.

In the depths femininity, in joy or sadness or rage or love, there is nothing but love itself.

The feminine experience of love in the form of joy is vulnerably compassionate to the good fortune of humanity and the universe.

The feminine experience of love in the form of sadness is vulnerably compassionate to the pain of humanity and the universe.

The feminine experience of love in the form of rage is vulnerably compassionate to the unfortunate state of humanity and the universe and seeks to powerfully display that hurt to the world.

The feminine experience of love in the form of deep love is vulnerably compassionate to the universal experience of all beings and their own capacities for love.

In the end, whether in joy, or sadness, or rage, or love, either playing on the surface or residing in its depths, the feminine knows that Love is all there is in each and every moment.

You need nothing.

You have all you need.

You have all that there is.

And all that there is, is love.

Image Credit: Ammoudia

Making the Leap…When You Can’t See the Other Side (Or, The Art of Having a Breakdown)

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“Look before you leap,” they say.

Well, sometimes you look and you just can’t see what’s in front of you. Sometimes that’s scary as hell. Others, the anticipation of what’s to come is uniquely exciting.

My friends call this “diving into the abyss.” I love that phrase. Sometimes, you look at what’s ahead of you, and you see nothing…endlessly, as far as you can see, nothing.

Another way of looking at this is going through a breakdown.

I love breakdowns. I really do. To me they mean that you’re “breaking down” the way you see the world. The important part is the rebuilding. If you only break down with no plans to rebuild, it can be even more and unnecessarily confusing and painful.

Breakdowns can be big or they can be small. I’ve had some last for only a moment. And I’ve had others last more than a year. I’ve watched and helped friends through their own. I’ve felt completely lonely in some, and I’ve felt completely seen and cared for in others. People I speak with report the same.

While sometimes a breakdown feels like a sinking ship (that’s never coming back up to the surface), other times it feels like an engineless plane gliding through the sky…sometimes it’s going down, but some small adjustments get it back on course.

When You Look Before You Leap…And See Nothing

If, in a time of confusion combined with commitment, you look before you and see nothing, this is the first sign that you have the choice of diving into the abyss.

I’ve seen people look at the abyss, dip their toe in, and turn back. I’ve seen people look at the abyss, dip their toe in, dive in, then turn around and get out. And I’ve seen people dive in completely, swim across and make it to another side.

There are two things that separates those who make it to another side, from those who get back out:

  1. The pain they have been experiencing with their current behavior up until that moment, now outweighs the pain they believe they will experience by allowing their breakdown.
  2. They are committed, no matter what, to their personal growth.

Find Your Future

When you look into the future of your life and you see yourself continuing to live as you have been, what does that feel like?

When you look into the future of your life and you see yourself as you truly are – your best self – what does that feel like?

How committed are you to bridging that gap? How committed are you to diving into the despair of nothingness to experience the fullness on another side?

How committed are you to breaking down the self you’ve built, and allowing the Self you are to be rebuilt and to shine through?

If you’re not making change toward who you really are, if you feel the gap of who you are and who you could be but continue to feel complacent or ambivalent about it, what will it take inside of you to make that shift?

If you you just don’t seem to be able to move out from where you are, here are some questions you can ask yourself.

If I continue on this path…

  • …how fulfilled will I be?
  • …what kind of partner will I attract? Will they love me and my deepest self the way I know I want to and can be loved?
  • …what kind of people will I attract into my life? Are they able to support me in who I really am?
  • …what impact will this have on my children and grandchildren? What parts of me that I don’t like will they inherit?
  • …will I be able to leave this life, fulfilled, loving, and loved if I leave my last breath living as I have?

Some of those perspectives are intense. But the answers you know now will be the answers you know later in your life. They’ll be the answers you still have when a life has been built around the kind of person you are now.

Maybe that future life looks wonderful. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it needs a major change. Maybe it needs only a small change.

Whatever it is, only you can make that change. Only you can dive into the abyss and find another side. Only you can let your life break down so you can allow your Self to come through as it really is.

Why Your Relationship Lost Its Passion and What to Do About It

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You’ve known him for three months. You’ve been hanging out regularly. You’re not quite sure where it’s going in the long-term, but you’re having a pretty decent time. You hang out a couple-few times a week. He enjoys your company and wants to be with you. He makes you laugh. And you feel great when you’re around him.

But lately, something has been different.

It feels like something is missing. You don’t quite know what it is, but you know it’s there. You feel it. You can’t tangibly explain it, but your intuition is certain about it.

A slight shift… An edge that’s dulled just a touch… It’s just a little less bright…

Things are still wonderful, but it’s just…different. Just a little more…less than there was before.


I once heard that you really don’t know someone until you’ve spent about 90 days with them on a regular basis. During that time, they’re so different than you are. You adjust your behavior and perceptions a bit. And they do the same.

But after about 90 days, something shifts in both of you. What was once different is now familiar. You’re comfortable with each other…or you somehow decide that you don’t really like that person, or you like them less than you thought you did, or you like them more than you thought you did.

But something always departs as familiarity comes in.


There’s something we love about the people that we’re most comfortable around.

But there’s something about the people that most bother us that really sticks with us. Often, being a friend, lover, former lover, family member, stranger, etc, it’s those people who perturb us who stay in our minds, embroiled with some sort of passion, positive or negative.

When you imagine that kind of person, that kind of person that seems so different from you that you either revere the mystery of who and how they are, or your frustration with their being charges you on all levels.

Relationship vs. Polarity

To love and revere the mystery of someone’s existence is at the opposite end of the spectrum of that all-consuming frustration.

This is polarity: How different are you from the other person in a way that charges you, positively or negatively, in a way that nearly consumes you.

Polarity is separateness.

Of course, polarity is a spectrum. You don’t have to hate someone to feel apart from them. You could just feel…sort of…different.

And as you feel less and less different, and more and more the same, this is what defines relationship.

Relationship is similarity.


Imagine a line moving through you, infinitely, from your left to your right. On the left are your negative feelings. On the right are your positive feelings. The further you move away from yourself to the left or the right, this is how wonderful or terrible those feelings are that come up about someone.

Maybe someone hurt you terribly and you still have anger toward them. That would be far to your left. Maybe you love someone so deeply that you’d do anything for them. That would be far to your right.

Placing someone on this line will give you a sense of your polarity with them.

And you, right in the middle, the closer they are to you, that is how much you relate to them similarly. That is the quality of “relationship.”

This can shift, too. In one moment, you might love your partner so deeply that you’d do anything for them. In the next, you may want to destroy them in the midst of your rage at their loss of presence. In the next, you might wonder how it is that you so easily get along…how things could be so easy with someone else.

Your sense of relationship and polarity with someone is always shifting, moment to moment.

Do You Want Passion?
You Must Cultivate Polarity.

When you talk about how “the passion is gone,” what you are really saying, deep down, is that you know each other so well, there are no surprises. You know each other so well and you give each other so much of what (you think) the other needs, that things are really pleasant, comfortable, and unsurprising.

If you want passion, you must bring polarity back into your relationship. You must look more at your differences than you have been.

Ideally, if you want only positive polarity (And, in your feminine, you would be miserable to have only good things for all of eternity. How miserably boring.), you see those differences and appreciate, love, and revere the mystery of the Other.

But, chances are, you’ll also want some negative polarity in there. Some banter… Teasing… Biting… Spanking… Poking at each other and pushing the other’s buttons… And, sometimes, you’ll want to burn his record collection. Right in front of him. And everyone else. In a crowded parking lot…of a record store.

Playing in The Edges of Polarity

The ultimate offering of the feminine is your surrender. Of the masculine, presence.

In the throes of anger and reverence, hatred and worship, love and apathy, you can move to the edges of polarity by offering your fullest surrender only to his deepest presence.

Some moments, you will lead with your surrender. Some moments, he will lead with his presence.

Casablanca would have been an entirely different movie if Humphrey Bogart had been less present or if Ingrid Bergman had been less surrendered.

But the moment when Humphrey Bogart delivers the famous line…

…it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.

…there’s a separation he creates between himself and Ingrid Bergman by minimizing what they both know they have.

If he had said “I love you, and we will meet again one day.” it would have brought them closer and the entire tone of the movie would shift. But it’s the separateness he creates that makes the magic of that scene, the movie, and the polarity between the two.

If you want more passion in your relationship, it is only in allowing your differences that you give passion the room to flourish.

Calling Forth the Masculine by Allowing Your Unbridled Emotions

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It is a common misconception that men are emotionally unavailable. While we may process our feelings in a different manner than you (more inwardly and slower), there’s a secret that no one shares:

We men are more fascinated and more drawn to your feelings than we are to our own.

For us, your feelings are one of the greatest mysteries of the universe; a source of wonder and awe, a source of pleasure, and a source of service.

Yes. Even the negative feelings. Yes, even when you’re upset with us.

With good reason, you often keep your true feelings from men. The lack of response or attention or presence from men is confusing; men never seem to respond to your deepest nature in a way that you know exists, and you feel unseen, unheard, and unmet. It is lonely. You are left yearning for more…a deeper and fuller intimacy which you can taste on the tip of your tongue, but can’t quite swallow the fact you are holding back.

It is you that is keeping yourself from the intimacy you desire. It is your desire to feel safe which overrides your desire for intimacy. It is vulnerable to allow intimacy. On the surface, being vulnerable seems much more painful than holding back and keeping yourself from being hurt. Yet it is even more lonely continuing to be unmet.

Until you experience the pain of being unmet as feeling more painful than the pain of potentially being hurt in your vulnerability, you will continue to yearn for the connection you know is there. You will yearn to be seen and deeply known.

Most of all, you will find that it is not that you yearn for others to see you deeply, rather it is your Self that wishes to be seen deeply by you.

An Experience the Other Week

I was at a party the other weekend. One of the hosts is this petite, bubbly woman whose radiance captured the attention of every single man there. (And, likely, every not-so-single man, including myself.)

When she needed help with something, a man (or two or three) seemed to magically show up without her even asking.

When she was off enjoying herself alone or in the company of women, it wasn’t long before she also had the company of men.

I began noticing the impact she was having on men and saw that it had a quality that should not be confused with women who are bubbly and seemingly radiant because they need attention. This woman did not need the attention, but enjoyed it. And, from that place, brought out a very warm and authentic side of men that, truth-be-told, us men don’t often get to display.

But she wasn’t all bubbly and happy, all the time. At one moment a guy came up to her and placed his hand on the back of her neck. Instead of responding with anger (which is rarely your core feeling), she responded with a look, posture, and vocalization of disgust that let him know she did not welcome that. She didn’t have to ask him to stop, she let her feelings come through in a way that he immediately responded to. Even after he took his hand off of her, she continued to allow her disgust and discomfort to come through her body…she wasn’t rationalizing with story or logic, and she wasn’t distancing herself from those feelings by feeling angry. She was disgusted, and she let herself be that, and be seen as that. For many women, the idea of showing a vulnerable, negative emotion like that is nearly unfathomable.

It was soon obvious that by allowing herself to be vulnerable – in allowing both the pain and pleasure of her radiance to come through – it drew something very primal, very masculine, from the men around her. Yes, the men were attracted to her, but their attraction came from a desire to serve her femininity.

The Fullness of Your Femininity Calls Forth Masculine Depth

Full, open, unencumbered femininity draws forth from the masculine its depth, presence, and deep desire to serve you.

Just as you yearn to be seen, heard, and met, the masculine yearns to serve you deeper than you could serve yourself.

“…deeper than you could serve yourself.”

What an unbelievably scary thought.

Really. Take a moment to let that sink in.

If your truest essence is feminine, are you seeking to be seen, heard, and known? Or, when you yearn deepest for these things, do you feel more powerfully beneath it the desire to be claimed by the man you love?

In all of us, in both our masculine and our feminine, is a deep desire to serve the other more deeply than we can serve ourselves. But also, in both our masculine and our feminine, are our demons.

In our feminine, we look to the masculine to protect us from the tiger within us. In our masculine, we look to ourselves to protect the feminine from the dragons within us.

It is not that you, in your feminine, can’t take care of yourself. You most certainly can. It is that, when you are deeply cared for, your femininity blooms in the recognition that this moment is all that there ever is…so why plan for the next moment when this moment right now is all that exists?

But, of course you must plan for the future. At the very least, planning and preparing for it can give you the space to feel more fully open and alive in the future. But even entertaining the notion that the future exists is such a masculine perversion. And, at the same time, discounting the future is often foolish. But, but, but…this moment!

This ambivalence (or complete disregard) about the importance of the future is one aspect of the tiger that lives within you…the tiger that the masculine serves by keeping it from consuming you.

A man who, when you come home from a challenging day, hands you a glass of wine, sits you down on the couch, rubs your shoulders, and asks to hear about your day…that man is in service of your feminine. He is bringing you back to the moment by letting you unload the burden of your past several hours. And when you come back to that moment and back into your radiance, regardless of if it is “happy” or “unhappy,” you are both served with the gift of your femininity.

This is one way that the masculine can serve you, with his depth of presence, in a manner better than you can serve yourself.

But the masculine can only partially be in service if you don’t allow the vulnerability of your deepest, truest feelings.

Your Story is Not Your Feelings

It’s scary letting yourself be seen. If you’re joyful and it’s not received, how quickly will your joy be gone? If you’re sad and it’s received harshly, how much more painful will it be?

These are questions that should not be taken lightly. If you’re not ready to be fully seen, take it slowly. If you’re the type that prefers to be blown open and raw when making conscious change, jump right in. But whichever you choose, be prepared. Allowing yourself to be seen is deeply vulnerable. And a vulnerable life is often a painful life, even to the extent that joy and peace can feel painful.

I will often ask clients “what are you feeling now?” or “what did you feel when that happened?”

What most often happens next is a story. “Well, when he did that, it triggered this thing in me that reminded me of when I was a teenager. And when I was a teenager, I handled it this one way, but tried to handle it this other way…”

You may have noticed that, in that “story,” there were no words that described feelings.

You will often get caught up in thoughts and words and your rationality. It is unfortunate that our culture expects everything to be objectively justified and that your personal experience isn’t valued in the same way. Because our culture does not value your personal, subjective experience as deeply as it could, you will often go into story.

To not go into story, and to go into the truth of your feeling, in that moment, this is your practice.

Because you are probably unpracticed at communicating how you feel to men (or even women), it will feel clumsy at first. You will have to be intentional and you will feel awkward. I see this with myself, men and women friends, and clients every day.

When I point out that, in their response, there was no communication of feeling, they’re stunned. And confused. And, every time, the first time I point it out to them, they don’t even know how to respond or think about it.

You are probably the same way. You probably don’t actually know how to identify and communicate your feelings. This is not your fault. This is the fault of our culture. But it is your responsibility to change.

As a man, I used to believe that you as a woman were 100% aware of your feelings and how to communicate them. I was wrong. And, despite the fact that most men are nearly emotionally inept, I’ve found a couple of simple tools to help you (And men. In fact, I’ve had more men bring these tools to me than women.) communicate their feelings to both themselves and others.

Identifying and Communicating Your Feelings and Emotions

If you and your partner do not clearly talk about your feelings (and go into story, for example, or not even communicate them at all), or you have a difficult time identifying your feelings, a great place to start is with my two favorite feelings charts.

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions was my first foray into understanding my own feelings better. I like it because it’s simple and clearly demonstrates two things: 1, that each feeling has an opposite (e.g. sadness and joy) and 2, that some feelings are actually combinations of other feelings.

The Feelings Wheel

The other chart is called the Feelings Wheel. I got this one from my friend Amy Lee who is in graduate school for counseling/therapy.

The first way that I’ve found these wheels of feelings/emotions to be useful is for identifying my own feelings, or having a client identify theirs. Then, when I ask “what were you feeling in that moment?” or “what are you feeling right now?” they are able to point to a specific feeling. The benefit? That feeling is far more accurate, precise, and real than their story. Once you know what you’re feeling, then you can work with it. When you’re lost in story, it’s nearly impossible to work with what you are actually feeling.

Next, when my friend Amy Lee told me about the Feelings Wheel, she pointed out something that I’ve found highly useful: When you’re feeling one thing, it’s almost impossible to feel its opposite in that moment. If you’re sad, it’s nearly impossible to also feel joy. This can be used the other way: If you want to feel sad less often, practice finding the joy in things.

Another thing you can see clearly with these feelings/emotions wheels is how an emotion evolves as it gets more intense. For example, at first, you might feel Apprehensive about something. But as it intensifies, it turns into Fear. And, even further, evolves into Terror. By seeing the progression of how a feeling can evolve, you can recognize sooner “Oh, this is Apprehension. If I don’t do something about it, this could turn into Fear and Terror.” Likewise, you can work backwards. If you feel Terror, you can unwind it to see where it was less intense and showed up as Fear, then even further back as Apprehension.

Finally, what I really love the most about these feelings/emotions wheels is that they clearly demonstrate how many of our feelings are actually combinations of feelings. In Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, it becomes clear how feeling Loved is a combination of feeling Joy and Trust. Or feeling Optimistic is a combination of feeling Serene and Interested.

As you begin working with these, you will not only have a more refined awareness (like you might have with flavors of wine), but you will also find the experience of your emotions and feelings to be richer. Consciously practicing becoming aware of the nuances of your feelings brings a richness to your experience. Suddenly, you find yourself hiking through the mountains and feeling Love as layers and nuances of Serenity and Acceptance and Joy and Trust, not just this crude amalgamation of feelings that you label “Love.”

Calling Forth the Masculine by Allowing Your Unbridled Emotions

Identifying and communicating your feelings is only the first step. It’s like learning about color before learning to create art. Becoming intimately familiar with color will allow the art that is in you to come out, unencumbered and unbridled. As you paint, only when hues, values, saturation, brightness, etc, become second nature, will their nuance flow through you without thought. And so it often is with your feelings.

You will find that the process of allowing your feelings for the sake of identifying them is just like learning the nuance of color. Your experience of the subtle differences of your feelings, which were previously happening but completely out of your awareness, suddenly become obvious.

As you gain intimate knowledge of your own feelings, you will soon find words to be crude and inadequate.

How do you describe the feeling of a sense of the kind of eternal, never-ending Peace that brings your breathing and heart rate down to almost nothing as time seems to stop? “Peace” just doesn’t cut it.

How do you describe the pain you feel when your partner is lost in his duties and obligations, and his presence has been taken from you in a moment when you feel like you need it the most? “Sadness” or “Grief” or “Despair” just don’t fit.

How do you describe the knowing you hold that your being exists beyond the edges of the universe…that you are not separate from the universe or even a part of it, but you are, in fact, the universe? Amazement? No. Powerful? Sort of. Loving? Not quite…

They are just not the right words. In fact, there aren’t words for what you feel.

And when there aren’t words, how do you communicate how you feel?

You don’t.

Don’t try and communicate what you feel. As soon as you do, you’ve moved partially out of your feeling.

Focusing on communicating it, or even wanting to have your feelings/emotions received or understood takes you out of the true nature of your femininity: Being.

You must Allow yourself to Be eternal Peace, to Be the pain of Loneliness, to Be the Universe.

You keep yourself from experiencing yourself as you are because you fear your own power.

You hold yourself back. How could anyone meet you there?

The entire universe and what’s beyond it? Who meets the universe? How could anyone, let alone a man, meet me as that?

And only when you allow yourself to be as full and powerful and vulnerable as you really are, will you find your answer to those questions.

Image Credit: Gulja Holland

Compromise. Or Not. (I Suggest Not. Here’s Why and How.)

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“Compromise” is a word often tossed around as a fundamental principle that’s key to a lasting relationship.

The notion of compromise has always left me unsettled. Maybe it’s my stubborn nature. Or maybe it’s something else.

Maybe it’s because when a bridge’s structural integrity is compromised, the bridge is soon to fail. A bridge being something that connects two separate things, the idea of compromise seems fatal in the context of a relationship.

There’s another definition of compromise, it’s original use was “a joint promise to abide by an arbiter’s decision.” Personally, I don’t want a fundamental principle of what is a great relationship to require involving a third party.

Wikipedia defines compromise as: “To compromise is to make a deal between different parties where each party gives up part of their demand.” At least with this definition, there’s not a third party involved.

Wikipedia goes on to say “In human relationships “compromise” is frequently said to be an agreement that no party is happy with, this is because the parties involved often feel that they either gave away too much or that they received too little.”

And there’s the rub. For whatever reason, what it means to compromise has, perhaps, become distorted over time. Either that, or the media has taken the antiquated idea of compromise being key to successful relationships, and perpetuated it long after its cultural expiration date.


What I’d like for you to consider is that, maybe, compromise is not what you want to strive for or value in a relationship. Sure, it may have been something that previous generations have held in high regard as a value for a successful relationship. But relationships are profoundly changing. And, if for no other reason than that profound change, it’s worth considering a new way of looking at how to navigate differing wants in a relationship.

What I encourage you to consider is this:

The thing you think you want…may not be what you actually want.

What You Think You Want

What I’ve found in navigating conflict is that the conversation is usually about things that are actually distractions or other representations of what the real issue is.

For example, you might say to your partner “I want to spend more time with you.” And, through that conversation, you might “compromise” and ask for Saturday nights at home. Your partner is giving something up, and so are you. They give up their Saturday, you give up what you actually want.

The thing you are likely giving up is what the real issue is: you don’t want more time with your partner, you want love and connection. You just think that you’ll get it by getting more time.

Let’s take the example further. You might say “Oh, let’s make date night on Saturday, because, really, what I want is to be taken care of and go out and, through that, I’ll feel love and connection.”

Yes, you might have felt love and connection before, but I guarantee you it won’t be long (maybe even the first scheduled one) before Saturday night date nights no longer feel loving and connected.

This is because you’re communicating what you think you want, rather than what you actually want.

Communicating What You Actually Want

If you find yourself distracted by a surface request like “spending more time together,” ask yourself what’s underneath it. Follow the layers of your emotions and feelings down to what might be at the core of your desire to spend more time together.

In my experience with both men and women, love, connection, and safety are some of the most common core desires we all have.

Your “spending more time together” may reflect a desire for more connection. If you find that to be the case, ask yourself “if I spend more time together with my partner, what do I really need in order to feel connected to him or her?

Surely, you can spend time with someone and feel worlds apart. But you’ve probably had times when you felt closer than ever.

What was it, specifically, that helped you feel so close to them? Was it their undivided attention? Was it their depth of presence? Was it their humor penetrating your emotional tightness and relaxing your heart open? Was it even about them? Or was it about your presence and attention and heart-openness? Maybe it was all of that?

Regardless of what you find, you will likely discover that you play a part in it as well as your partner. What do you need to give in order to feel connected? In order to feel loved? In order to feel safe? What does your partner need to give as well?

Bringing both of these things – what you are offering and what you are requesting – to the conversation may sound like compromise, but in the middle of it, it will feel very different.

As the conversation shifts from giving up something that has nothing to do with what you actually want (e.g. “You buy less clothes and I’ll spend Saturday nights with you.”), to what you’re willing to offer which is what you need to give to get what you want, along with what you are requesting from the other person to get what you want, the texture of the conversation will shift dramatically.

An Example

What does this look like? Using our example, it might look like this:

“I’ve been feeling less connected to each other lately. At first, I thought I’d feel more connected to you if we spent more time together and tossed around the idea of date night on Saturdays. But the more I thought about it, what I really wanted is your full attention and deep presence.

I realize that, lately, I’ve been distracted when I get home from work, which makes it difficult for both of us to give each other our full attention and presence. So there are some things that I can do better here, too.

What do you think about, when you get home, you give me a hug and a kiss, then we both go do what we need to unwind. Sometimes that might be me just talking through my day. I don’t need you to be totally present then, but just getting it out, helps.

For you, I know sometimes you just want to zone out in front of the TV after a hard day, or you want to exercise or shower. You go do what you need to do, then we have some time on the couch or in the kitchen cooking dinner together? It doesn’t matter what we do, just that we’re giving each other our full attention and presence?

I know that if I unwound a bit after getting home and if you had some time to do your thing, it would be much easier to feel connected to each other. What do you think about that?

You might notice in that example, no one is giving anything up. The conversation is about what each person can offer, in the context of what works for both of them. For the other partner, they get to have their time to do their thing. For you, you get to unwind however that looks. Both of those things are needed in order to be present.

That’s what this conversation is around: what you both can offer, rather than what you both are giving up…all for the sake of what you both want anyway.

 
 


Image Credit: quitepeculiar

Women: Stop Trying. Start Committing.

“I’m trying this new diet and…”

I hear this all the time. Even more so here in Boulder, the city where world-class athletes mingle with the common folk and an outsider would never be able to tell which is which.

When I overheard this person briefly mention they were trying a new diet, it reminded me of the experiments I’ve done in fitness and nutrition. What I realized was this:

You will almost never get the results you want from “trying,” but you will from steadfast commitment.

About Trying

Trying isn’t “bad.” In fact, if you want solely to experiment with experiencing things for yourself, trying is a great way to do this quickly and easily.

But that’s the thing that people don’t always realize. “Trying” doesn’t actually reflect the results you can get with a full commitment.

In terms of dieting, certain diets, if you try them for a week, you can lose five pounds. But you’ll gain it back when you stop. It’s only after the second week of trudging through low energy levels because your body is fighting its desire to go into fat-burning survival mode that you actually begin burning fat and not just cut water weight. And if you’ve ever done one of these ketogenic diets with intense cardio, you know it’s a full-on commitment and not something you just “try.”

“Trying” also extends into relationships. I see and hear women in relationships that it’s obvious they’re “trying on”…for three years. Or they’re with someone they know doesn’t (and probably won’t) fill their hearts as deeply with love as they know it could be…so they keep “trying.” Or they allow their lives to be run by people who make them feel bad, or insecure, or unloved, so they “try” new ways of communicating in the hopes they or their situation will change. Or they “try” certain moods and feelings and ways of being that feel good in the moment, but not in the long-term.

There’s a saying that “the map is not the territory.” Trying can give you a taste of what the map looks like, but you should never confuse it for the territory of deep and full commitment.

If you want to make trying useful for your personal growth, keep in mind that you are only getting a small taste of what it means to commit…with your work, relationships, loving well, living more fully in your feminine, etc. If you want to “try” a new diet, or “try” something from a new book you just read, or “try” a new kind of yoga, etc, do so in the context of it leading into a deeper commitment.

If you’ve decided that learning be another way would be the best thing you can do to live from your fullest expression, look into it, then “try” some things out, then use your experiences to choose a direction of commitment. Then commit. Fully.

The Antidote to “Trying”

The antidote to trying – the antidote to the trap of believing you’re making progress without steadfast commitment – is a deep and full commitment with your entire being.

If you look around at the women you know, it’s easy to see how they fit into two groups: those who are “trying” hard, and those who are committed to their personal growth as women.

Those who are “trying” are looking for quick fixes, trendy ideas, and fads. But the real challenge is when they believe the exceptional results that others get are the norm or are easy. Surely, at the very least, women who do this won’t achieve consistent results.

But when you commit to self-mastery and personal growth and living as your fullest and deepest expression of Love, you will have been committed for a longer period of time, you will have produced change that you and/or others can see, and you will have also “tried” a lot. Your knowledge of yourself and others will come from your own experiences, not how you “think” or “feel” things work based on something from last week’s magazine or a blog post (including this one) or this thing you tried one day way back when. And you certainly won’t confuse your trying with your commitment.

“Trying” can be part of a steadfast commitment, but only when you have first chosen and declared your commitment. If you want to fully commit to your personal growth, these are the three core steps I’ve found over the years to work best. Don’t take my word for it, though. Try it out (as a part of your larger commitment) and find what works for you.

  • 1) Find your style of personal growth: Which experts, messages, and practices resonate most with you? Do you prefer more tangible and “proven” ways of self-analysis, like Myers-Briggs? Or do you prefer a more intuitive way of self-analysis, like with the Enneagram? Do you find it easier to think through changes, or feel through them? Do you learn best by reading? Or listening? Or experiencing?
  • 2) Try some things out that fall in line with your style: Get a feel for which experts and methods really do work best for you. Which ones come easily to you? Which ones feel great to do and set you on the path of the results you’re looking for?
  • 3) Commit to the path: Once you’ve found your style and methods, practice them regularly, no less than daily. Do this until you’ve achieved your desired way of being. Decide you’re going to commit to it for a week, then a month, then a year. Once you have, decide if it’s important that you set specific new goals (in fitness, for example), or if it’s more important that you continue the practice of maintaining this way of being (peaceful, calm, loving, etc).

Choosing to commit isn’t hard, but holding the commitment can be. What I’ve found is that when you’re most in alignment with your deepest and truest nature, your commitments will come from a place of ease and power rather than challenge and difficulty.

You can do it. I see profound changes happening every day with women. And the common thread with all of them is their commitment to live as the deepest and fullest expressions of who they are.

 
 


Image Credit: nelomijangos