Unified Living is a project being created by myself and a few friends to share insights and advice on creating a unified state of being that balances material abundance with spiritual truth; essentially moving towards the complete freedom and therefore happiness that wholeness in life allows. Isnt that what we are all ultimately after?
Moments with Sensei 3: The Power of Choice over Emotion and the Haunted Hospital
It was a warm night after dark in the mountains. My teacher and I sat outside on a balcony in our room in a 1920s hospital converted to a hotel and known for being extremely haunted. Our view was astonishing, we could see for miles over the valley from this balcony with doors that opened to allow in fresh evening air. This corner of the building used to be the insane asylum and old creepy lobotomy and gyn tools sat on display outside our room.
I probably had already had too many drinks (or he was waiting for me to have too many drinks) and the conversation turned to relationships then to the work I have done with stalker protection. We discussed everything from masculinity to the dynamics of a spiritual relationship to control issues and stalkers.
I remember bringing up how people seem to like to create drama and he commented how much of the control elements I’ve dealt with in stalker scenarios arises out of desperation. And desperation is the least attractive quality in a person. Generally it’s an instant deal-killer much like turning off a light switch.
(Here’s an article on cutting root of neediness)
He got up and walked over to the door as he often does with no explanation. Looking out at the stars, he stood there in peaceful silence for a few moments doing what he does, his long grey Native hair flowing down his back. He then came and sat back down noticing how I was waiting with baited breath to hear what he had to say next.
This man, who for some reason still unknown to me had agreed to mentor me in his ways years ago after years of persistence on my part, has lived an extraordinary life and has been my primary role model for what it means to be a man.
He then said “You know I had a good friend whose wife suddenly told him she was leaving with no explanation. He right then and there made a decision to just accept it and therefore create or accept no drama.”
The conversation twisted and turned as time and space seemed to shrink and blend together as it often does when I am with him. I wasn’t sure whether I was still sitting on a balcony or in some other reality. We discussed a recent case I had worked and finally settled into some personal introspective work. We went deep. As if guided by something beyond myself, I asked questions that surprised even me and I came out with some very cool realizations and insights about things that are really important to me in my life…and how they contrast with the control dynamics I often have to deal with in the case work that I do.
Though I typically like to illustrate lessons I learned with personal stories, I am not able to share any details on the security work that I do.
In my work, I have discovered several common denominators that indicate strong potential for control and stalking dynamics. I’ve written quite a bit on the subject and will post more here periodically. But the first one I want to address is intensity.
Oftentimes a person who has control issues will present way too much intensity in the beginning of a connection. To the receiver, this can be extremely charming as it feels as if you are being showered with affection. In reality, the other person is planting the seeds of their control mechanisms and it’s important to have the awareness to know the difference between genuine intensity and control dynamics.
New connections are often intense with excitement. When I met the girl who knocked me on my butt, it was extremely intense, like nothing we had ever experienced before….and quite scary in some ways as well as exciting as I knew I would have to really “step up” to be supportive of her and also in my own work on myself. I was in for a heck of a ride but I also knew that attempting to control the connection and its timeline would get me nowhere. Patience was the overarching theme and one of the lessons I was to explore.
In contrast, in the potential stalker scenario, the showering of affection continues for some time. As soon as there is a change in the response or the object of his affection pulls away or doesn’t comply with his demands, the dramatic side begins to show. First with small comments that seem innocent and caring. And then with more dramatic moves and eventually culminating in outright desperation that causes the other person to completely pull away and in worst cases can lead to emotional and/or physical abuse. When the person pulls away, the other partner will often begin to talk of what is “owed.” For example “You owe me a phone call.” Or “I want to see you just one more time.” These are manipulation tactics designed to pull on your heartstrings and only lead to more control dynamics.
Or, the other person is “ready to change” if you will “just give him/her one more chance.”
This is why the average woman will go back to the abusive man SEVEN times.
Some simple advice on dealing with these potential scenarios:
1. Develop the awareness to see through these dynamics. Ask yourself “Why am I drawn to this person?” Is it because of a genuine mind blowing connection or is it because you either 1) want to help or save him/her or 2) Need all the affection as validation of your self worth? Hard questions for sure, but worth asking.
2. If you decide it’s time to end things, end them completely. Tell the other person you are at a point where you need to go your separate ways and do it. Friendship is certainly possible in a health relationship but I am talking about relationships characterized by control dynamics which, by definition, are not truly loving or healthy.
3. Burn all memorabilia associated with the relationship and throw salt on the fire. This helps you both detach and move on and also opens the doors for new opportunities.
4. Do not accept emails, phone calls, packages, etc from the person.
5. If the person continues to push, consider tactics to protect yourself such as leaving town for a bit, being aware of your surroundings, changing your phone number, etc. True control freaks will not give up easily and will do everything they can to regain control
6. If you are the person who is longing after someone, give that person some space. Do NOT push or become desperate. If it’s over, it’s over. Let it go. One of the most attractive qualities in a person is having the self esteem to honor where another person is and being there to be supportive. This is love. Control is not love.
7. Restraining orders are a mixed bag. They can work in some scenarios but in others they only piss off the other person more and put them in a position where they are going to “prove their love.”
When I was in executive protection school, we watched videos of every public assassination attempt and physical assault on a public figure that has been recorded and studied them in detail. For example, John Hinckley shot President Reagan to attempt to catch the attention of Jody Foster who was a student at Yale University at the time and wasn’t responding to his advances. Obviously this is an extreme scenario example but I use it to illustrate the extremes that some people will utilize to accomplish their twisted goals.
It’s incredibly unlikely that you will ever face anything very threatening or dangerous. However, developing the awareness I spoke of above can assist you in many, many ways in life and in relationships of all kinds.
An aspect of the Unified Living Project is helping men find a path to authentic and balanced masculinity. The balanced man is both a strong visionary leader and compassionate caring person. In this article below, my friend Dr. Richard Sears addresses some of the common issues men have with understanding and accepting their emotional nature as humans.
Men, Emotions, & Mindfulness
Alexithymia is the diminished capacity to experience emotions. Some have half-jokingly said that all men have alexithymia. Growing up, many boys are taught that only two emotional states are acceptable: feeling nothing (social pressure to “be a rock”), and feeling angry (social pressure to “give ‘em hell”). Of course, biologically, men and women are both very similar (despite arguments to the contrary). Hence, men are born with the full range of emotions, but learn many ways to mask them. While it seems that times are changing, I hope the reader will indulge in a few generalizations to illustrate some common issues.
Emotional management is not often taught in schools. If anything, boys often learn from other boys not to show emotion. They may learn to erect a wall to protect themselves. This strategy works in the short term, but a dear price is paid – a great deal of loneliness.
Men are also often taught to be “fixers” and “doers.” If an unpleasant emotion arises, the typical man wants to “do something about it.” Women are often frustrated when a man continuously offers advice about fixing something. Men feel they are being helpful, but the woman tends to feel unheard. Men can have difficulty tolerating emotions, and in some cases, this can lead to problems with substance use.
One approach to learning how to tolerate and wisely work with emotions is through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves learning be with our experiences moment to moment, fostering awareness of our physical, emotional, and mental states. While this is best developed through systematic practice, the basic concept is simple.
One strategy is simply to sit with the emotion and say to yourself, “Whatever it is, it’s already here, just let me feel it.” Feelings are not concrete things – they come and go in waves. Mindfulness involves learning to surf the sometimes stormy sea of emotions, instead of trying to stand firm and be battered by the waves.
Mindfulness brings awareness. I once worked with a man at a residential clinic in a hospital who had lived a difficult life. He had been in the military, had been in prison, and had been homeless for several years. In order to survive in the tough environments he lived in, he learned to have an angry expression on his face. This expression basically said, “Don’t mess with me.” However, this face now prevented him from forming friendships, and made it difficult for him to secure employment. I once brought this to his attention in a psychotherapy session. Having seen him for several weeks, I knew we had developed some rapport, and I could be direct with him. “You know, I’ve seen you interact multiple times with the other residents, and I know you are a kind person, but right in this moment, I feel like you want to kill me. Your face looks very angry.” He was quite surprised at this, saying that he did not ever notice that about himself, and he even questioned if it was true.
At the next session, he smiled at me and said, “Wow, I looked in the mirror, and you were right! I did not know I looked so angry all the time!” From that point forward, he looked much happier around the unit. He now had conscious choice of when it was necessary to look angry, and when it was necessary to look inviting or happy, which served him well in his next job interview.
Learning to practice mindfulness throughout the day, turning toward our emotions and experiences, can be challenging at first. However, tearing down the protective walls and sometimes feeling vulnerable is can also open us up to hitherto unknown levels of intimacy and joy.
Many of the guys I have worked with come to me thinking that what they seek is more attention and more intimacy from the opposite sex. They think if they could just get that one girl, they would be happy. Problem is, the “If I could only…” attitude is one that affirms lack and therefore creates need. Nothing can block us from what we seek more than need. Need disallows room for curiosity, creativity, and flexibility – the three things that can bring us more of what we want.
These guys sometimes find that as their success increases, your definition of success changes as well and may even create more need. Whereas before, a simple smile from a woman made them feel good, now they need to see her again and so forth.
There is so much talk out there about not trying to the point where we “Try not to try.” This also is a dead end road. If you are trying, you are not doing.
So then, people continue to ask me: “How do I get rid of neediness?” It almost seems like a riddle. But, it is possible and it is simpler than you might think.
First, many single guys (and sometimes not so single guys) look for techniques to increase their success with the opposite sex. Sounds simple and easy, right? At face value it is. However as warriors we cannot stop there, we must question deeper.
I find that to many of those guys, the notion of wanting more women is really a means to wanting more of a feeling. It is a symptom, if you will. It is not an end in itself, it is the way they think they can get more of what they really want.
What is it that they really want? People do not seek things per se, they seek emotions and feelings. We want to feel good about ourselves, we want to feel confident, we want to feel validated and worthy, and we want to feel as though we are part of something bigger. The activities in which we engage are ways that we believe will bring us more of the feeling.
Sometimes it works…to a degree. But it never works if that feeling creates a new high, raises the bar, and drives us to need more and more of it. And when we don’t get it, we feel the opposite of those good feelings. Consider the scenario:
You go out to a bar or party with your buddies and after a few drinks, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. And that hottie in the corner over there is looking better and better. You get up the balls to approach her, you work your mojo, and a conversation ensues. Because you’re fun, funny, confident, and even charming, she is not creeped out and quite enjoys the interaction. Though thoughts of what you could do with her later when you get her back to your place are racing through your head (and let’s be honest, your buddies would be impressed), she has different ideas. She’s curious enough to continue the interaction so you leave with her phone number. Not your first choice, but you’ll take it.
You text her something witty the next day and she responds positively. You then text her again. The texts continue until you are asking questions and getting short answers. She seems busy, bored, or disinterested. Within a day or two she’s telling her girlfriends about “that guy” she met the other night who is creeping her out and driving her crazy and now she’s thinking she should block your number.
Even happen to you? No, of course not. 🙂 But for the guys who have had that experience, you probably found yourself frustrating and pushing harder to get the response YOU wanted. You were needy and she was off..and not the way you were fantasizing about.
So how do we then eradicate neediness?
Well one way might be to find alternate ways to get more of the feeling we seek but ultimately that would also be fragile.
The key lies in understanding what it is that we really want rather than what we think want.
In my experience, most of the men I work with are primarily looking for one thing: Validation of their masculinity.
In a society that discourages men from being men and women from being women and provides no rites of passages and positive role models, it can be really easy to get lost in our search for what it means to be a man. It can be easy to think that more sex and even aggression can bring us more masculine validation. In our search for more masculinity, it can become easy to forsake subtlety and gentleness in favor of such things as cocky funny and alpha male behaviors which may make us think we are becoming more masculine.
The real way to eradicate neediness and become more masculine is to shift the stimulus we seek as validation of our masculinity into a new paradigm. What would it be like if you really didn’t need sex as validation and conquest, you could be a genuinely nice and caring person, and you could still have all the positive virtues of a man because your life is so rich that you really don’t *need* anything? What if this new you could be far more attractive to women than you ever thought possible? Well, it is possible.
The first step is to redefine your understanding of the masculine and all that it can be. David Deida provides us a nice start:
The essential Masculine style of search is that of the warrior, the hero, or the visionary. The Masculine force is one-pointed, directional, and guided by a vision of freedom. Masculine energy cuts through any obstacles that are in its path. Nothing deters the Masculine from its goal of freedom. However, not every man uses his Masculine energy to search for freedom in the same way.
Then, we must transfer what validates us from something outside ourselves that is characterized by fragility to something internal that is unshakeable. When we are internally centered, we don’t get caught up in the ups and downs of needing, getting, and needing more that an external source of validation provides. A great way to do this is to get our priorities in order as I detail in my “Organizing your Life” document. When we shift our primary validation from something external such as how women respond to us to something internal and higher that is aligned with our mission and vision, such as a spiritual or physical practice, our entire experience of life transforms, and in turn so does the attention we attract. Yes guys, healthy women can’t help but be drawn to a man who has his life in order and is on his path. (Yes, some of you are going to argue with me and say “But don’t women want a project they can fix?” I won’t deny it, many women do get swept up in that idea but ultimately most will realize that such a man cannot and will not fulfill her…and oftentimes will degrade into an abusive situation)
Now we no longer need to furiously pursue the latest technique in search of more and greater success. We, like Deida states, can abide in the freedom of the warrior’s quest – the freedom that allows us to open to all of our resources unencumbered by need and draw from our curiosity, creativity, and flexibility. Our sense of who we are as a man is no longer in question and is no longer in the hands of women. It is our own. Whether a woman (or anyone) responds to us favorably or unfavorably is her issue and not ours. We are free to just be and free of need for the latest tactic, tool, or technique that can make things go our way.
In fact, we can begin to realize that control at all is an illusion and that the only thing we can control is ourselves. We can let people be who and where they are because we are comfortable being who and we are.
And as a side result, when and as we do this, we curiously also find our attraction from the opposite sex to skyrocket. We are free of need and therefore are free to get more of what we want and in this unhindered state of being, we exude those qualities that women strongly respond to but are absent in so many men.
And it is this freedom that really characterizes our search for the masculine.