The Quiet Wound

Unlike wounds resulting from physical or sexual abuse, where the invasive energy is blatant, the wounding energy of emotional incest is stealthy and very difficult to track. The intrusive psychic energy of the perpetrator is packaged in care and attention. It can be quite challenging to break into this care package and reveal the expectations and needs of affiliation, control, love and understanding on behalf of the perpetrator. Being robbed of one’s childhood hardly goes noticed as the child feels so good about being chosen in a special way by an adult. The child is invited to act as if they are capable of being in an adult relationship.

Emotional incest often takes place with either a single parent or a parent whose spouse is not emotionally available. It can also happen with any trusted authority figure, e.g., clergy, coach, teacher, club leader or relative. There are a number of ways that emotional incest impacts development.

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*An attachment to feeling special. The child typically feels special because of the attention received and the unusual level of involvement offered by the adult. However, the price for feeling special is high:

1) If emotional incest occurs with a parent, then the child often is the target of the other parent’s resentment for having taken his or her place.

2) Similar resentment and jealousy can be experienced by siblings or friends who have some awareness of what’s happening.

3) The victim can live with fear of being rejected by those impacted by the incestuous relationship.

4) The victim can exercise an inordinate amount of time and energy striving to be special, which leads to an attachment to perfectionism.

*Feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Children often feel guilty and inadequate as they are unable to meet the emotional needs of an adult. The child’s relational limitations may result in the parent expressing dissatisfaction. “Children who grow up with an invasive parent can have an unnaturally low estimation of their abilities, especially if the parent was critical or abusive.” (The Emotional Incest Syndrome by Patricia Love) These feelings easily flow into adulthood, with a gnawing sense of not getting life right.

Perfectionism. Perfectionism is a compensation for not feeling good enough, which is a set up for not being able to settle into a comfortable feeling being okay.

* Confusion about limits. Rather than be honest about not being able to rightfully participate in an adult relationship, children will typically pretend they can handle it rather than risk losing the attention of the adult. As adults, victims are not clear about what they can do and what they cannot do. Emotionally incested children also run the risk of continuing to pretend they possess certain abilities, which they actually don’t.

* Sacrificial Lamb. One outcome of not knowing how to identify and accept limits is feeling both intolerant and shameful about feeling helpless. In lieu of feeling powerless in their relationships, victims run the risk of taking action that places them in legal, physical or emotional jeopardy.

* Weak Boundaries. The appropriate boundaries in an adult-child relationship are about the adult providing and the child receiving. The role of strong boundaries is to support the child’s capacity for self-care. An emotionally incestuous relationship has the child holding too much responsibility for the adult. Boundary confusion easily follows the child into adulthood with uncertainty about who is a peer, who is not and what kind of behavior distinguishes the two different relationships.

* Attracted to Enmeshment. Because of the weak boundaries, adults who were victims of emotional incest tend to generate enmeshed relationships rather than emotionally intimate ones. In the latter relationships, each person’s autonomy is valued. Where as in an enmeshed relationship, one person’s autonomy is compromised, favoring the needs and values of the other. A man who is addressing early enmeshment with his mother reports: “I would have done anything for my Mom when I saw how much she suffered after my Dad left. I was seven at the time and ever since then, I feel a deep sense of guilt if I attempt to prioritize my needs when I’m in a relationship with a woman. It is a struggle I’m determined to overcome.”

* Confusion About Power. Typically, the adult and child are not peers in an Emotionally Incestuous relationship with the adult possessing more knowledge and experience. This leads children to be confused about mutuality, holding the belief that someone in a relationship should be holding power and dominate. Typically, the survivor of emotional incest runs the likelihood of either dominating or being dominated.

Healing the Quiet Wound

Because so much was given and so much was taken, it takes patience and receiving viable support in order to navigate our way around the terrain of this wound. Let’s look at some ways to focus the healing:

Wound Talk. The starting place is to begin talking about what happened, especially the implications of being asked to leave childhood prematurely. During what years was I in an emotionally incestuous relationship? Who was the adult in this relationship? How did it feel to be in such a relationship? What was given to me? What was taken from me? How do I feel now about my early experience? How do I feel toward the perpetrator?

No Bad People. Those who were victims of emotional incest typically perpetrate emotional incest. Perpetrators act out of ignorance of what was done to them and what they are passing on to others. Perpetrators have no intent to harm children. If you were a victim presently passing on the wounding, you are not a bad person. However, you are responsible to acquire your own healing and interrupt any emotional violation you may presently be enacting.

Learning to let go of an attachment to being special. When we’re attached to being special it leaves us feverishly striving to achieve it or condemned to not feeling good enough. A key is to replace feeling special by honoring our uniqueness. Our uniqueness is expressed by how we love, learn, and grieve, as well as the nature of our strengths and how we refine them.

Getting conscious about power. Because the perpetrator abused power, healing power calls for raising consciousness about how we exercise power. Am I employing power in a way that allows me to meet my own needs as well as supporting the needs of others? Am I able to champion the uniqueness of others without recruiting them to be like me? Am I easily seduced into sacrificing myself in order to support the fulfillment of others?

Healing Trust. Perpetrators gained certain leverage over children because children trusted them. This calls for the healing of the early violation of trust. The first step is to acknowledge that trust must be earned and not given indiscriminately. Earned trust happens and is sustained by a vigilance regarding what happens to us as we relate with someone. Some questions that are helpful include: Am I the object of sarcasm or ridicule? Am I remembered? Do I feel seen and understood? Is my relationship to this person a place to take refuge in the face of life’s challenges? Healing self-trust is even more essential. We can ask: Do I allow myself to feel and respond to instinctual cues that I am in potential or actual danger? (I recommend Somatic Experience as a therapeutic model for reconnecting to instinctual cues.) Do I treat myself kindly, knowing and responding appropriately when I am tired, hungry, lost or feeling vulnerable?

Employing Effective Boundaries. Good boundaries support our safety, what we desire and hold important. Effective boundaries happen as we say “Yes” and “No” authentically and act in accordance with each declaration. It is advantageous to be able to distinguish mutual relationships from non-mutual ones. Mutual ones can be characterized as peer ship, such as friends and lovers. Non-mutual relationships usually involve authority figures who are offering a service or some level of support, e.g., parents, adult relatives, teachers, clergy, physicians, psychotherapists, coaches, etc. The boundaries in non-mutual relationships are meant to define the relationship mostly about the service or support offered.

We have been exploring an extremely mercurial kind of wounding, so much is given and so much is taken. How ironic to speak of a wound as “feeling so good.” It may be that children often can’t wait to become adults, making the perpetrator’s invitation to leave childhood so attractive, leaving the injury veiled. However, there is a heavy price to pay for children to psychologically be somewhere they don’t belong. I strongly encourage survivors of emotional incest not to simply see their wounding as unfortunate; but rather, as it is with all wounding, an opportunity to open to deeper regions of the soul. (For further reading see Temptation In The House Of The Lord, by Paul Dunion)

Welcoming Compassion for the Self

 

Positive reinforcement word Compassion engrained in a rock

Before we can develop a genuine capacity for offering ourselves compassion, we must be able to acknowledge how self-loathing lives in us and be able to interrupt it (See “Getting Mindful About Self-Loathing”). Let’s look at some concrete methods for fostering self-compassion.

*Interrupting the Purposes of Our Self-loathing — The purpose of our self-loathing might be to remain risk-averse. We accomplish that by deciding we are some form of low-life and therefore only unfavorable consequences can result from a risk we take, so why take it? Let’s explore the alleged wisdom behind that purpose with several important considerations: Is it possible to be fully alive and risk averse? If we can’t live by making just the right number of mistakes, then we either choose to make too many mistakes or not enough. We might say that making not enough mistakes is equivalent to an unlived life. Can it be that the only way to be fully alive is to make too many mistakes? If that’s true then to live life on life’s terms translates into making peace with risks and bringing forgiveness and grace to making mistakes.

*Prioritizing Self-Forgiveness — Welcoming compassion for the self is highly dependent upon getting serious about self-forgiveness. Ultimately, forgiving ourselves means restoring our essential goodness after making a mistake or violating our own values. The forgiveness process begins by deepening our understanding of how we came to perpetrate some transgression. It may be important to consider whether an amends or restitution is due someone we have offended. We offer these only when we believe it would not create grater harm to ourselves or to the injured party. Prioritizing self-forgiveness includes searching for enough humility in order to accept our mistake as an expression of the human condition, and as such is not an aberration of what it means to be a person.

*Damaged Goods Is Only a Name We Give Ourselves — It is critical to begin distinguishing who we are from the names we give ourselves. Self-loathing can generate a myriad of demeaning names. Self-deprecating names are only names. They do not ultimately define us. The issue is whether or not we are ready to stop naming ourselves in self-abusive ways.

*Creating An Internal Social Worker — When a Social Worker from the Department of Children and Families visits a parent who has been identified as abusive to children, there are no acceptable explanations for the abuse. The mandate is “Stop it! And do whatever it takes to stop it!” We need to develop such an inner Social Worker who responds in the same manner when we get self-abusive. Welcoming self-compassion will depend upon a dedicated inner Social Worker.

*Taking the Responsibility for Loving Ourselves — It is not unusual to get stuck in an infantile pattern of expecting friends, lovers, and family to be primarily responsible for loving us. Welcoming compassion means being radically responsible for our essential worth, not waiting for someone to do it for us. Significant others can help us to remain responsible for our self-worth by being encouraging and supportive.

*Maintaining a Self-Nurturing Vigilance — We remain vigilant by keeping a watchful eye upon the emergence of self-abuse and self-neglect. In place of these injurious forms of treatment, we focus on being self-nurturing. Both self-compassion and self-trust are deepened through this nurturing process. We trust ourselves when we believe we are willing to know the truth about how we treat ourselves and what we need, as well as believing we will treat ourselves kindly. Self-nurturing is expressed in several ways:

1) Commit to living a self-examining life. This commitment sheds light on what we believe, what we need and what we love. At its best, we remain curious about how we are meeting our needs for safety, work and play, friendship, loving and being loved.

2) Able to identify a need for support and access it. It is deeply self- nurturing to be able to identify our limits and learn to ask for help, in order to create the life we believe in.

3) Able to create effective boundaries. Good boundaries accomplish two tasks. The first is safety. Bodily protection is one form of safety where we are able to identify potential danger and take appropriate defensive action. There is also protection for our autonomy or individuality. This form of boundary happens as we say “yes” and “no” authentically. This means that our responses genuinely reflect our beliefs, values or desires. A desire to please is typically a significant threat to good boundaries. The second and more sophisticated task is being discriminating so our boundaries can be porous enough to allow ourselves to be touched, moved and loved by others, and yet strong enough so we are not defined by others.

4) Developing Self-Intimacy. This happens by paying attention to who we are in a gentle way, holding a soft gaze as we observe ourselves. Similar to deepening a connection to a significant other, we hold the intention to feel closer to ourselves. There are several ways we can become more invitational to ourselves. One example is that we can open to both our interior and exterior sensations. We honor internal sensations by paying attention to changes in temperature, tightness, pounding, jitteriness, throbbing, energy radiating or feeling a sense of fullness. This inner activity is often the early stirrings of instinct, intuition and imagination. Our external sensations (sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste) place us in relationship to the physical world. They allow us to learn from the world, help us to enjoy it and at the same time protect us from it.

We can also become intimate with our behavior as we observe how we act and become curious about our intentions and how congruent our actions are with our needs and values. We can also get closer to the meaning of our lives by tracking the stories we create about others and ourselves.

From the very start of our lives we are encouraged to take seriously our relationships with others. Welcoming compassion for the self happens only when we take our relationship with ourselves seriously. If we neglect or forget about ourselves, self-trust diminishes and we lose a resiliency to meet life’s challenges. It’s like trying to problem-solve or collaborate with a total stranger. An important reminder is that we will likely not live feeling neutral about ourselves. We either commit to a compassionate self-relationship or fall victim to self-loathing.

Getting Mindful About Self-Loathing

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Nothing plagues efforts toward creating a life characterized by serenity and contentment more than self-loathing. Attempts to loosen the grip of self-repugnance are thwarted by two significant psychological dynamics. The first is denial and the second is trying to vault our psyches into the garden of self-love, catapulted by positive affirmations. Ultimately, we cannot make believe (denial) self-loathing doesn’t exist nor decide nice thoughts will emancipate us from self-abuse.

In order to leave an undesirable place, we must be willing to acknowledge we are currently at that place. In order to let go of what we want to relinquish, we must be willing to claim it before we can release it. We can familiarize ourselves with some of the likely indicators of self-loathing and some of its purposes as a way to acknowledge it and claim it. The seeds of self-love are planted in the compost of acknowledging and claiming self-loathing. 

Possible Indicators of Self-Loathing

*Unlimited Ambition — I sometimes refer to this indicator as the Sisyphus Syndrome, referring to Sisyphus of Greek Mythology who was condemned to roll a rock up a hill for eternity, only to see the rock repeatedly roll back down the hill. This indicator is not simply about having some goal to achieve. It is about being driven to achieve, characterized by inordinate amounts of time and energy as other parts of our lives go seriously compromised. Each achievement offers a temporary respite from the bite of self-loathing. However, on the coattails of each success is the bite of self-hatred, driving us feverishly toward the next goal.

*Unlimited Giving — This selfless activity aims at procuring the favor of others as a boost out of self-loathing. It makes us dependent upon others noticing our boundless altruism and if they don’t, they run the risk of being the object of our resentment. It can also be exhausting and we will at least unconsciously expect to be compensated for our limitless capacity to make offerings. More resentment is likely when that doesn’t happen.

*Self-Righteousness — This is a likely compensation for living in disdain for the self. Temporary relief comes as we elevate our character above the crowd.

*Diminished Accountability — Being accountable becomes severely challenging as a mistake is often accompanied by shame. Justifying and explaining take the place of genuine responsibility.

*Attachment to Perfectionism — Striving to have our work and decisions reflect some idealized state is another way to compensate for self-hatred.

*Constant Inner Voices of Self-Ridicule — Ongoing self-admonishment is often a poor motivator for keeping us from making the same mistake.

*Constant Inner Voices of Self-Ridicule — Ongoing self-admonishment is viewed as an effective motivator for keeping us from making the same mistakes.

*Little or No Investment in Self-forgiveness — Self-forgiveness is not considered a viable approach when making mistakes or when violating our own values.

*Feeling Numb — Suppressing feelings of shame and inadequacy become preferable to the ache of emotional oppression. However, typically the rest of our emotional life goes somewhat frozen. Numbing aids such as alcohol, prescription drugs, street drugs, gambling, sugar and workaholism are often employed.

Purposes of Self-Loathing

Once we are able to identify our experience of self-loathing, it can be advantageous to explore its purpose. Power to release ourselves from self-loathing is enhanced immensely when we can clarify its purpose. Here are some common purposes of self-loathing.

*Loyalty to the Past — Since there are no perfect parents, and other authority figures, we all experienced some degree of emotional abuse or neglect. Self-loathing allows us to remain connected to the historical perpetrators. We treat ourselves the way they treated us. We postpone a much needed separation from where we come from.

*Remaining Risk Averse — The more we build a case why we are damaged goods, the more testimony we have for the inappropriateness for taking risks. Risk-taking is then defined as doomed for failure.

*Avoiding Living Life on Life’s Terms — As we define ourselves as incompetent to face life’s challenges, we either take up residency as a victim of life and/or protest life’s inevitable pain and discomfort. We exempt ourselves from learning how to be fully alive, condemning ourselves to an un-lived life.

*Indulging In Being Someone Especially Damaged — The ego is alert to a myriad of ways to get its needs met. It is willing to bask in feeling either positively or negatively special. Being so undesirable should entitle one to some kindness and mercy, and maybe, even the recipient of someone’s heroic attempt at rescuing or saving us. When this wretched state is fully operational, there may even be the expectation that others will love us in lieu of loving ourselves.

Desiring to improve a relationship with ourselves is very similar to bettering a relationship with another person. It would be meaningless to simply begin uttering positive statements about one another without addressing where it is that the relationship has been breaking down. Self-love also calls for a review of how our relationship to ourselves has broken down, especially the role of self-loathing. We begin by becoming more mindful of how self-loathing lives in our lives and its alleged purposes. From that vantage point, healing is possible as we gradually learn to welcome more compassion for the self.

The Art of Self-Forgiveness

Encouraging-Self-forgiveness

We are taught that forgiveness is something we give to others and receive from others. Folks who are in some way offended, hurt or violated by us are allegedly in control of whether or not we are deserving of forgiveness. This leaves us virtually out of control regarding the role of forgiveness in our lives. For example, someone consumed by revenge may be a significant impediment to our experience of being forgiven.

The prefix for in the word forgive comes from the German meaning away. We can think of the word forgive as meaning away give or to give away our transgressions. As we do so, our essential personal worth is restored. It is curious to note that if we depend upon others for forgiveness, then we are dependent upon them in order to feel good about ourselves. It may be that such a dependency is fostered throughout childhood, placing the control of or our personal value in the hands of others. The result is that self-forgiveness becomes confusing and at best arduous. Let’s look at some steps that can yield a budding ability for self-forgiveness.

Steps To Self-Forgiveness

* Accepting and talking about feelings of remorse, regret, guilt and shame due to violating our own values. This step suggests it is important to know our values and when there has been a breach to one of them. When people complain and object to our behavior, does not translate into we did something wrong. Wrong action is determined by our values and not by the disapproval of others. We can use the disapproval of others to check out whether we actually acted in opposition to one of our values.

* Moving out of a fixation on self-incrimination. It is important to process what happened in order to enlarge our vision of how we came to make the choice we did. Some questions that can be helpful include: How did I come to believe that the action carried out was not a violation of my values? Did the action reflect the result of two competing values, with one being sacrificed? Were there intervening variables I was not aware of? Is there some understanding of my motivation that I can have in retrospect?

* Restitution and/or making amends. Is there some compensation to be offered to the injured party in the way of a service, money or the replacement of damaged property? Sometimes making an amends can be helpful in support of forgiving ourselves. An amends is an apology (expression of regret) accompanied by a commitment to refrain from the adverse behavior. An amends is not offered if it would create greater harm to either the injured party or the person making the amends.

* Accepting that being fully alive means making mistakes. This calls for a level of humility, allowing us to be more accepting of our limits and letting go of perfectionistic aspirations.

* Acknowledging that forgiveness is the restoration of our essential goodness and therefore it is our fundamental responsibility. We become willing to let go of the expectation that others are responsible to forgive us, or that our self-forgiveness is dependent upon being forgiven by another.

* Ask for help. It can be very important to turn to a friend, mentor, counselor or clergy person whom we trust can help guide us toward authentic self-forgiveness. It is vital that the helper not attempt to minimize what we did in order to have us feeling more cheerful. Nor should the helper be prone to shaming us. Helpers need to offer the kind of support that leads us to hold a larger understanding of what we did while assisting us in interrupting any perfectionism.

Being unskilled at self-forgiveness can leave us dependent upon others for our self-worth, being risk-adverse, haunted by guilt and shame, trapped in self-loathing and condemned to superficial relationships where the hope is that making mistakes will be minimized. Ultimately, becoming more effective at self-forgiveness is simply a way to remain responsible for our self-worth. It is also a large welcome to our humanity as we release perfectionistic ambitions and attend to the task of inner reconciliation.

Making peace with ourselves is not a self-absorbed activity. We typically live with more courage when we hold the faith that we will devotionally move toward self-forgiveness. A risk that might have unfavorable consequences is no longer paralyzing, as we can anticipate moving toward self-forgiveness. It is a freedom that can yield more depth and meaning in our relationships. When we are not defending a self-concept pummeled by guilt and self-incrimination, we become more generous with offering compassion to others. Forgiveness possesses a heart-opening quality that tempers resentment and vindictiveness, allowing us to be more receptive to seeking reconciliation with others. As we strive less for perfection, we discover a growing acceptance for the limits and shortcomings of others. There is an abiding honoring of the human condition reflected by our own lives and the lives of others.

 

What’s Misandry?

I canvased over 300 people representing a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, regarding the word denoting hatred of girls and women. Approximately 94 percent of those polled correctly identified the word as misogyny. When asked to name the word defining hatred of boys and men, less than 2 percent were able to identify the word possessing that meaning. Those that did accurately recall the word misandry were not able to spell it correctly. Could it be that there is some level of cultural collusion to have contempt for boys and men remain veiled?

(Curious enough, the word misogyny shows up in my favorite thesaurus while the word misandry does not.) An analogy might be that we easily recall that one side of a coin is named heads as we somehow stop referring to the other side of the coin as tails. We would gradually lose a more complete description of a coin. How did we decide to lose a more complete description of the hatred coin? How did it become so much easier to speak of hatred toward females and virtually impossible to reference disdain held toward males? Can it be that we do not want to know how and where contempt lives for males? And if that’s true, what price are both genders paying for such denial?

We might begin addressing these curiosities by suggesting that due to the social impact of feminism in the ’70s, we gained some important awareness regarding how hatred of females was being manifested. We came to understand that contempt for girls and women was alive and well expressed by socio-economic oppression as well a drastic number of females being subjected to rape and domestic violence. Hence, the word misogyny took its rightful place in our vocabulary, as we were willing to be receptive to how hatred was hurting girls and women. Could it be that we have not yet come to that place where we are willing to see how hatred injuriously impacts boys and men, and if so, what is our resistance all about?

A simple explanation might be that we are not interested in knowing how hatred hurts males, especially white, straight males, since they are members of the privileged class. Who wants to know the suffering of the privileged? However, there may be two other explanations for the impoverishment of our language pertaining to contempt for boys and men.

The first is that we may have some resistance to define females as perpetrators. Yet, we are reminded time and time again that victims typically become perpetrators. We have plenty of evidence supporting the ongoing violation of females by males. Is it possible that the leap from females being victims to perpetrators fueled by misandry is just too much to hold? Is it beyond us to imagine Mom, Grandma and Aunt Helen harboring disdain for boys and men?

I was convinced I was exempt from the cultural edict that women are not perpetrators. While snorkeling off the coast of the Island of Culebra, I left my backpack unattended. Upon my return to the shore, I discovered that my watch was missing. Five women and one man were hanging out in the area. I turned to my wife and said, “Maybe that guy took my watch.” She responded, “What about the five women?”

There are several unfortunate consequences when we define a gender as exempt from perpetrating harm:

* Denial of the harm creates the likelihood of further harm being perpetrated.
* Opportunity for perpetrators to get right (accountability) with themselves and those they harm is seriously thwarted.
* Victims (males) are prone to collude with the denial of having been violated.
* Because of their denial, victims (males) obstruct their own healing.

The second explanation for there being no apparent need for a word to describe disdain for boys and men is that males are not permitted to be victims. I have found in my counseling practice that the most challenging psychological work for men is to identify how women may have abused or neglected them in childhood.

There are a number of crucial outcomes when males are not permitted to be victims:
• Males cannot get honest about how they were wounded by females.
• Healing is virtually impossible, especially because women primarily raise most males.
• Males remain unhealed victims setting the stage for perpetrating violence against females. (The cycle of violence goes uninterrupted.)

Misogyny and misandry denote deep, painful reactions to the opposite gender. The words invite us to get honest about contempt that exists between the genders. This kind of honesty is best expressed by men and women being willing to identify themselves as both victims and perpetrators, opening to the possibility of significant healing.

(For the purpose of this article, a Binary perspective of gender was employed with no intent to dismiss larger perspectives of gender.)

The Betrayal of Manhood

“Boy, it’s time for you to die!” proclaims an indigenous chief flanked by tribal elders dressed in their ritualistic garb, about to address an American boy whom they found lost in the jungle and raised. (From the film “The Emerald Forest,” based upon a true story.) An unspoken tragedy of our times is that it is extremely unlikely that a teenager will hear the words of the chief, and then be mentored into manhood by elders. Instead, it is likely that the instruments of mass media will deliver a deathblow to the emotional maturity of many American males — “You don’t have to die as a boy. There’s no need for you to face the challenges of emotional maturation.”

A beer commercial depicts a male and a female, assumingly a couple watching television. The male answers his cell phone, with an expression of concern, accompanied by a simple “Okay.” He turns to the female explaining that his friend Bobby needs to vent. The female is immediately ready to sacrifice their time together, encouraging him to go support his friend. In the next scene he is toting a 12-pack of beer, high-fiving Bobby who is opening the door to his apartment, as both men exclaim, “Let’s vent!” Next, both men are seen drinking beer and watching a football game. The male’s phone rings and he answers the call, saying, “Yes honey, Bobby is still venting,” with a look of triumph cast in Bobby’s direction.

This commercial is loaded with invitations to males to remain boys. Teenage boys typically separate from their mothers by withholding information or lying about a wide range of topics varying from their sexuality to shenanigans they know would engender maternal disapproval. The commercial condones males lying to their female partners. It also advocates exploiting the female’s sensitivity to someone’s need for emotional support. Permission is granted to the male in the advertisement to feel no remorse of guilt regarding his deception. But rather, he is encouraged to celebrate the success of his caper.

We are not talking about males being innately damaged. The suggestion is that male maturation may be significantly sabotaged by a culture encouraging boys to remain boys. But why, why would a culture embark upon such a devastating enterprise?

We can only speculate.

*It may be easier to market products to a gender impaired such that it becomes very difficult to access a depth and range of feeling. Such disability makes it quite challenging to inwardly draw a deep sense of self-esteem, self-trust, self-empowerment and a capacity to develop close relationships with others. The alternative is to employ fabricated substitutes of genuine personal value, such as making material acquisitions, which become banners of importance.

*Another possibility is that immature males who are unable to hold a large vision of sustainable change significantly inhibit socio-economic and political change. Can it be that those who hold economic power understand that emotionally disabled males will remain impotent to transform and reform a socio-economic and political system?

*Of course, some level of collusion from the opposite gender will be required in order to keep males in an adolescent holding pattern. In my counseling work with women, I have found that a vast majority of women have been willing to be needed in lieu of being loved. In the absence of solid emotional maturity, the males in their lives need them for domestic and emotional guidance. Within such a relationship, women serve in an advisory capacity regarding proper attire, how to celebrate holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, effective parenting, social plans, dietary needs, medical attention and household expenditures. Ultimately, the relationship is only guided by the female’s expectations and needs, and with a little mindfulness, she may become aware that she is attempting to have a significant relationship alone. And if it remains the only map she has of relating to males, she likely continues to live with emptiness and loneliness.

My research regarding the cultural messages sent to males about being a man revealed a startling and dangerous perspective and just how distorted social standards of manhood may have gotten. The following list represents characteristics of psychopaths as described by Robert Hare in his book Without Conscience:

1) Psychopaths suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feeling.

2) Psychopaths have an ongoing and excessive need for excitement — they long to live in the fast lane or on the edge where the action is.

3) Psychopaths are often witty and articulate. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and can tell unlikely and convincing stories that cast them in a good light.

4) Psychopaths often come across as arrogant, shameless, domineering and

5) Psychopaths seem unable to get into the skin or to walk in the shoes of others, except in a purely intellectual sense.

6) Psychopaths lack oe remorse and guilt is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalize their behavior and to shrug off personal responsibility for actions that cause shock and disappointment to family, friends, associates and others who have played by the rules.

7) Psychopaths are adept at being deceitful and manipulative.

8) Psychopaths do not weigh the pros and cons of their actions. They do not consider the possible injurious consequences their actions may have upon others.

It is not being suggested that all males are psychopaths. The danger is that the above characteristics have too much in common with alleged “real man” traits endorsed by the culture. As long as the culture promotes these as a hallmark of manhood, we will continue to distort the souls and hearts of males. Our cultural story of adult men is in desperate need of expansion, allowing men to feel, imagine, dream and love.

One of the most disturbing and saddest of my clinical experiences is to receive a man in my office who feels deeply inadequate as a man because he does not muster an adequate amount of exaggerated bravado to meet the cultural standards of manhood. And one of the most rewarding experiences is to witness that man work to claim the right to feel all the vulnerability associated with living an open heart, dare to make choices from that heart and find the courage to have his own values define his manhood, withstanding the cultural call to some caricature of manhood.

Unity Unconsciousness

Unity Consciousness mostly means thinking and ultimately acting in ways that unite us to ourselves, others, Nature or to the God of our understanding. In this article we will examine Unity Consciousness as it pertains to our relationship to others. If the Dali Lama was correct in saying “all beliefs begin in the heart,” then that may be the place to begin understanding Unity Consciousness. Shedding some light on the distinction between Unity Consciousness and Dual Consciousness may be helpful, especially in terms of the former feeding the heart and the second depriving the heart.

Dual Consciousness

Dual Consciousness focuses upon difference. One of its benefits is that it can identify individual differences and uniqueness. However, without the bedrock of Unity Consciousness, erosions to the landscape of the human condition easily take place.

*Dual Consciousness separates people by obvious or alleged differences under categories such as ideology, race, ability and ethnicity. Strong acts of separation tend not to remain neutral. In order to maintain the separation we begin to evaluate and diminish the person or group we are separating from. This assessment process leads to hierarchal thinking.

*Hierarchal thinking adds to the credibility of the separation and offers a temporary respite from self-loathing as we decide we must be better than those beneath us. However, exploiting those allegedly inferior to us in order to feel better about ourselves disables our ability to generate authentic self-love. It’s a bit like eating cotton candy as a way to address our hunger and nutritional needs. It just falls short of meeting our dietary requirements.

*Alienation is a natural outcome of Dual Consciousness. Alienation blurs our vision. We can no longer see the sacredness of others. Working together, co-creating and collaboration are sacrificed in favor of defending and protecting ourselves against those we deem different.

*Ignorance typically results from Dual Consciousness. We don’t know one another. We are comfortable creating stories about each other, never really knowing what’s true. Ignorance tends to build upon itself. One misapprehension generates more self-deception as we scramble to confirm our original misperception.

*Loss of self is the most insidious forfeiture generated by Dual Consciousness. As our thinking experiences the vice grip of ignorance, our reflection is reduced to “right-wrong,” losing a capacity to hold a wider vision. Fear replaces curiosity and courage. Exploration and introspection are sacrificed as we desperately attempt to patch together some veneer of stability and security. It becomes increasingly difficult to get honest about who we really are.

From Communication To Communion

“The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless… beyond speech… beyond concept.” (Thomas Merton) Merton, the Christian Mystic, may be correct in suggesting, “communion is wordless… beyond speech… beyond concept.” However, there may be some language reflective of Unity Consciousness that begins to point us in the direction of communion.

“I see that you and I both suffer.”
“I see that you and I both long to be loved.”
“I see that we both possess certain strengths and we are wounded.”
“I see that you and I both experience loss.”
“I see that you and I sometimes feel empty and broken.”
“I see that you and I both lose our way.”
“I see that you and I forget to forgive ourselves.”
“I see that you and I fear that what we cherish and love might slip away.”
“I see that you and I will die.”

The above statements reflect Unity Consciousness as they unite us with others. Let’s look at how Unity Consciousness might benefit us.

1) Builds rapport. An old definition of the word ‘rapport’ is ‘to carry’. We can say that rapport building is about building a bridge to the other so we can carry more support across the bridge to one another as we face life’s challenges.

2) Generates more compassion. More compassion allows us to more fully participate in the suffering of others and therefore more fully participate in the community of the human condition. Such participation lowers the likelihood of exercising harmful behavior indiscriminately.

3) Less time devoted to protect, defend and attack. There is more available energy to explore, create and heal.

4) Promotes greater equanimity as adversarial liaisons diminish.

5) Brings more depth and meaning to our own unique life styles. When uniqueness is viewed from a unity perspective, there is less need to make one of them wrong. There is inevitably more tolerance for diverse world views.

6) Trust for life generally increases. We become less suspicious as we experience ourselves as less alone and alienated.

7) Modeling Unity Consciousness may be one of the greatest legacies to pass on to the next generation because of its capacity to sustain hearts.

We have been comparing Unity Consciousness and Dual ConsciousnessDual Consciousness has the seductive quality of offering the ego an immediate and cursory boost. It offers little or nothing that is sustainable. While the gifts of Unity Consciousness tend to generate acceptance, compassion, peace and trust, qualities that have the power of offering more opportunity for innovation, reconciliation and fulfillment — food for the heart.