There is a growing conversation about the global culture of violence against women. Our media is flooded with images and headlines of men who have behaved in very heinous ways towards others in our society. We witnessed the monumental #MeToo movement, in which we pretended to be “shocked” by how many women so close to us suffered violence, specifically sexual violence at the hands of our brothers, friends, colleagues and ourselves. This conversation, and the light that is shining on this issues has been a long time coming. It’s been coming for centuries.
For some, it’s a really hard conversation to participate in. Some men get defensive and feel the need to stick up for men everywhere.
Woman: “We live in a rape culture where men objectify women from the earliest ages and reduce us to mere sexual objects with very little other value”.
Man: “Not all men”.
While its true that perhaps not all men commit acts of rape or sexual assault or other noticeable infractions. That not all men utilize violence as a method of controlling their partners, the hard pill to swallow here is that all men participate in this culture. We participate when we actively choose to ignore the pain that our fellow humans are made to endure. We participate by telling rape or violence jokes. We participate by touching without consent, or assuming consent. We participate when we invalidate the experiences of the women who surround us, opting to call them liars or some other unsavory name. We participate when we don’t hold our brethren accountable for their crimes. Every time a “John” isn’t held accountable for his crimes against a woman/girl, another predator gets his wings. You see fellas, when we don’t hold bad men accountable for the awful things we do, we are complicit in the crime. We are quite literally acting in concert on a moral and witnessable level.
It takes a very serious amount of internal work to get to a place where you are able to recognize that as “good men” it’s not enough to refrain from raping and beating our partners and children. It’s not enough to threaten to shoot any man who would dare lay a finger on your precious little girl. What has to happen is something as monumental as the crime. We all need to look inside ourselves and examine what it is we actually believe about women. What value do we assign to them and how do we want to react when they demand better. Rape and intimate partner violence is not a “women’s issue”. It’s everyone’s issue. Let’s ask ourselves, “men”... if you believe that the way women are treated is wrong, and you also believe “Not all men”, what is it that stops you from confronting men who are to blame, who make jokes in that way, who actively demonstrate the potential for problematic behavior by addressing underage women, who brag about awful things to gain esteem? To all you “good men” out here, what is it do you think you owe these guys?
Quite literally we don’t owe any of them anything. We don’t owe them the authority to define masculinity in heinous and barbaric ways. We don’t owe them the right to hide amongst us, allowing them to believe that they can fundamentally alter the lives of other human beings in painful and gruesome ways and then retreat to this “safe space” provided by a strategically crafted hegemony. We also don’t have to allow them the authority to take our masculinity away when we refuse to behave in such abominable ways.
If you want to be a better man in the face of this movement, if you want to give up the ghost of defending men who are guilty of atrocities globally, and if you want to be a Man who is actively making the world safer for women and everyone else start small.
1. Listen to what the women around you are saying. Believe them. Stop pretending that their experiences are misunderstandings. They are not.
2. Don’t become defensive in conversations where “men’s” behavior are being discussed. Try validating what you are hearing. Chances are you have observed directly what she is saying, and even if you haven’t, this isnt anything that’s a surprise to us at this point. A lot of us have seen our fathers hit our mothers, we have seen headlines where guys are not going to prison for sexual assault on underage, unconscious, trying to get to class/work/home/anywhere on time women. If you’re in a conversation and you feel the need to become defensive, instead of saying something unhelpful and problematic try saying something like...
- “You know, men have been responsible for a lot of harm”
-“It must be really scary to witness people who are supposed to be protecting you, take advantage of you” -“Yeah, that’s really fucked up”.
3. Listen to our sisters as they tell us what it’s like to have a moment of panic each time a stranger walks past them at night...or during the day...or is in the elevator with them...or in the parking garage...or at the doctors office...if you’re not afraid in these situations we have just found a fraction of our male privilege. You can stop denying it now.
4. Look for ways to show that you’re not a threat to her. If she is your bestie, ask her for a hug instead of just taking one. If you’re walking down the street just generally announce your presence as you pass by unexpectedly from behind. Support her when she chooses to hold him accountable for his crimes against her, and encourage other “good men” to abandon their alliances with those who commit these acts and work collaboratively with her as she teaches us how to make the world safe for all of us.
Take a look and listen to the above video. Read it’s lyrics. Contemplate for a minute the way that you use your power of choice. How do you wield it? Do you choose to acknowledge the warning signs your body, higher power, or others send you? Do you choose to believe the painful thoughts that a projected onto you? Do you choose to live life according to your own values?
The power of choice is something we all possess. Even if we feel we are faced with impossible decisions where we have to decide between what hurts and what tortures, this power remains. It’s important to remember and understand that we can choose whether or not we suffer. Granted, pain is an inevitable part of the human experience, but suffering however, that is a different beast that we encounter when we choose to avoid experiencing the lows that come with being alive. It is a hard choice, but we can each choose to accept life on life’s terms and rise to the challenge of being the strong, resourceful beautiful manifestations of divinity that life grooms us to be.
The choice is yours. The choice is exclusively yours.
Thank you so much for reaching out for feedback on this issues. What you are describing sounds incredibly complex and remarkably difficult to contemplate. I can tell that you are feeling large amounts of guilt over your infidelity, and if I am to trust my own empathy there are probably feelings of anxiety, anger, and confusion as well. You appear to be at a crossroads. How should you move forward in this relationship? It’s very clear to me that you don’t want the relationship to end, but you do want this tragic behavior to cease. This is reasonable. After all, you have invested 8 years building this relationship and Sharing yourself with someone and building a life. You are in a very hard place.
Unfortunately there is nothing anyone can say to make this an easy choice. Initially I’d like to tell you that I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to request that you both go to counseling together. I think it’s a great idea. It must be incredibly invalidating for your partner to dismiss the idea that you have a perspective that you would like to work through. Stick to your guns. This is important.
Moving onward, you made a pretty powerful statement at the end of your letter to me. You said “He gave no indication that he even recognized that he is a complete and utter psycho”. So, from my perspective, it’s one thing to be a little crazy. As Mr. Anthony Perkins said (As Norman Bates) in the film “Psycho”. “We all go a little mad sometimes”, the difference is level of insight. He had enough i sight to go to therapy, but not enough to understand that his psycho has had a painful impact on your perception of the relationship. Question, do you want to be married to someone who has no insight into the impact their behavior has on you? Do you want to be married to someone who is OK with shutting off your bank account while you’re away in a foreign country?
Based on what you have shared I have this sneaking suspicion that there have been other concerns that you didn’t have time to go into in an email to an advice blog. My biggest questions to you are how does this relationship help you feel strong and capable? How does this relationship meet your values? Do not allow yourself to be stuck or taken over by this relationship.
Hope this helps,
It’s taking me a lot to write this letter and put myself out there but my friends have been suggesting that I seek some help with this issue. It’s a relationship issue that is quite painful for me that I just can’t seem to fix. Going into this I dont want to seem like just some dude concerned about love and men but I’m very serious, I don’t know what to do.
I have been with my boyfriend for the past 8 years. The relationship has been more or less good but it started under some pretty awkward circumstances. When he and I met I was dating one of his friends, and he and I hit it off in a very genuine way. I ended up cheating on my then boyfriend with him. He was single at the time. We came clean with my boyfriend and started a relationship with each other. We grew very close very fast and it was very intense. It seemed so good for the first few years but then some little things started to happen that really rubbed me the wrong way.
One night about 3 years in I woke up to use the bathroom and found him awake in the hallway going through my phone. He was reading my text messages and Facebook messages to see who I had been talking too. He said that I had been giving him weird vibes and since I had a history of cheating he wanted to see for himself. I told him that I felt it was a violation, that it was unacceptable and that this behavior will never be happening again. He got really irate and he threw my phone against the wall. Breaking it. I slept at my parents house that night, which was embarrassing. The next morning he was very nice and apologetic and already had a brand new phone for me. I did not accept this phone instead opting to get my own.
Things were good for a while and we talked about that issue and I thought it was all cleared up. He started telling me upfront when he was feeling insecure and what behaviors he was observing that made him feel that way. I thought his reasoning was always bullshit, but he was being open and honest so what more could I ask for. Things were really really good for a while and we took steps to solidify the relationship. We bought a house together, and opened a joint bank account. But shortly after this milestone he got really weird again. I was on vacation with a few friends. We went to Mexico for a week and it was a great time. However, about 3 days into the vacation he said he had an emergency and he needed me to come home early. He wouldn’t tell me what the emergency was or even the nature of his problem so I didn’t leave early. In response to my refusal he shut off access to my Card. This wasn’t a real crisis for me because I still had my own account with enough money saved up to get me through the rest of my trip. At that point I did cheat on him, and I didn’t respond to him at all for the rest of the trip.
When I got home he was very apologetic again and said he didn’t know what he was thinking. He said he was feeling insecure but didn’t have a good reason for it so he made up an emergency to try and get me home. I told him right away that I hooked-up after he pulled his mess, that it felt good and that I wanted to leave. I told him we were going to split our accounts, sell the house and go our separate ways. I told him that I was not comfortable being in a partnership with someone who was okay with the idea of leaving me stranded in Mexico because of unfounded and immature insecurities. I really wanted to be mean and hurtful.
We split for about a month and he started therapy. We ended up moving back into our house and things got better again. A lot was changing. Even some of the little things that were problematic started to change. I felt secure in the relationship again and he had forgiven me for cheating, and also for not apologizing about it. Which is true, I never apologized. We went along with our lives. I learned to not anticipate the other shoe dropping, and as soon as I let my guard down, it happened again. It was about 3 months after he left counseling. He started following me around. He left work, and followed me around, tracking my every move. He also recruited one of his friends to follow me also. I addressed this with him and threatened to leave, he pulled this surprise on me. He said that he followed me in hopes of proving once and for all that I was trustworthy. He said that he and his friends observed that I was always going where I said I was going, that I was always doing what I said I was doing. He said he felt secure to invest the rest of his life in our relationship. He proposed to me publically. It was pretty sweet and I was so caught off guard. I said yes in the moment because I didn’t know what else to do.
Finally, I fessed up about my concerns and said that I was not going to marry him until we got couples counseling. He took that as a punishment and couldn't believe that after he had worked so hard to get his shit together that I would have any reservations. He threw me being the only cheater in the relationship in my face and said I should feel lucky that he still wanted to be with me after all I had done. He gave no indication that he even recognized that he is a complete and utter psycho. I told him all plans for a wedding were off until we got into couples counseling. That’s where we are now. I don’t know what to do. What should I do?
(Name changed for privacy)
So, here’s the thing.
I am surrounded by wonderful phenomenal women. Each day in and day out I see the pure majesty they all represent and share with the world. They possess the keys to the attainment of all things and they share this love freely.
But underneath that appears to dwell this shade. This identifiable yet unidentifiable thing that eclipses their ability to see their own power and what they are truly capable of.
It comes out in my 1 on 1 conversations with them, it comes out in group conversations. It comes out casually when we are all trying to have a good time. It must be excruciating to have so many of their experiences truncated with thoughts of all the things they are not. I witness this too. Women, I see you. While it’s true that to this day I have never been able to convince any of you what your worth is, I’m going to make another stand.
You have all fallen into a trap.
At this point if you’re reading this you understand the unrealistic expectations we place on you. We demand you look a certain way. We demand you perform a certain way. We demand you support others in a certain way. We demand that you handle stress a certain way. We demand that you emote and speak and pray a certain way. We teach you that your life is not your own. We beat you for falling short of these unrealistic expectations. We beat you physically. We beat you mentally by offering to sell you access to all the things you feel you don’t possess. The trap is...you either rise to the expectation, or we demoralize you. At some point, we taugh you how to maintain this system all on your own. Women are VERY hard on other women. Like trustees on a plantation you force each other to follow the abusive practices of an oppressive society. You have been taught that mastering this system will lead to ongoing happiness. It‘s okay. You’re a little more woke now. Be at peace. Be calm.
Now that the trap has been identified, we can break each of the parts that support its functioning.
1. The search for unending happines is the first warning sign that you are re-investing in the trap. You have been instilled with a sense of guilt, shame, and unworthiness. Now that they are here it’s likely that you will always recognize it when it shows up. It is possible to learn to be with that feeling and recognize whether or not it’s necessary or appropriate. When these show up ask yourself “Did I REALLY do something wrong?” [Guilt] if you have made a mistake, what does that guilt suggest you do? Is it something you are able to do? Maybe you won’t want to do it, but if you DID in fact make a mistake, leaning into that justifiable guilt and making amends can deepen relationships and strengthen ties. If you find that you are noticing guilt based on something that has happened in the past, or out of anxiety over a choice that you might have to make in the future...pause. Make contact with the present moment on purpose. Let yourself became aware of the here and now. Breath embrace who you are right now and notice what happens to that guilt. When it comes to shame, ask yourself “What is it that I don’t want others to see or know about me right now?” Maybe do this exercise in the mirror. Once you have identified this, consider what the worst possible outcome could be if someone was to know you in this way. Can you live with that? Why or why not?
2. Become aware of the strengths that you possess every single day. You have them. You are strong. What are they. Even if you haven’t up until this point spent time counting the miracles you perform, you can start now. Consider all the things you have gone through that have not killed you. Even if they have left you scarred and bruised you were still stronger than those events or series of events. You’re already BAD ASS! Recognize the magnificence of your manner, you are infinite in all your faculties, we just need to spend some time becoming aware of them. We need to spend some time encouraging you to become aware of them. You don’t need my permission to search out all the things that make your grand, what I am offering you is my support while you do it.
3. Now that you know how infinite you have been THIS WHOLE TIME...you can direct these qualities you possess at a goal, dream, or desire you determine for yourself based on what you want and require. YES you have requirements. Yes you are entitled to have those met. You can meet them yourself or if you so choose, you can allow someone else to meet them with you. No matter what you choose, make sure it’s grounded in your own values system.
4. Begin to regularly adopt language that uplifts you. CERTAINLY consider the impact you have on yourself when you follow a well Meaning compliment from a loved one with a self-depreciating statement. That’s not modesty or humility that’s abuse. Its the voice of a system that has conditioned you, and you don’t have to let that voice come from your own mouth. It’s Okay to acknowledge that someone else recognizes that “you got it going on” in some way. “Thank you” is a great way to practice ACCEPTANCE and learn to sit with the complex mixture of joy and vulnerability that comes from being seen.
I will stop here. But we will have this conversation again and again. In many different ways. In many different forms.
Until next time have a wonderful day. Love yourself. Let others love you. Accept nothing less than the divinity you are entitled to.
Self-Esteem is one of the most important things that needs to be developed if we have a desire to experience any wellness at all. We all know it’s Important, and we all know when we are missing it, or when it’s not where it should be. But what is it, how is it actually defined, and when we are looking to have improved self-esteem, what are we actually looking for?
This is a pretty big question and in the initial stages of therapy, many of my patients are not able to define it either. I think the hallmark of self-esteem is the ability to recognize and appreciate our strengths, manage our weaknesses without judgement, a desire to do the things that are important to us, and allow others to treat us in a manner that is healthy, respectful and productive. Actually, I can go on and on about the various ways self-esteem can enhance our experience, but right now, I want to talk about the things everybody can do to start to focus on themselves and how they would like to be treated.
A comedian that I find supremely hilarious, Katt Williams, said in one of his stand-up specials “you have to be in line with your star player”. Very important words right there. We are our own “Star players”, and we need to make regular contact with ourselves and what we need. It is likely when this happens that a whole host of thoughts will surface reminding us of past failures and inadequacies that we perceive in ourselves, and believe that everyone else who encounters us can also notice. Sometimes these thoughts and feelings seem like they are on a continuous loop playing over and over again like our favorite pop hit of the week, just always there, playing loudly and bringing with them painful feelings and the desire to hide from the world.
Let me ask you this: if someone else said to you all of the messed up things you have said about yourself, how would you react? “You’re a loser, and you dress like a slob, that haircut won’t help, there is no amount of foundation that can help that mug, and you should really be paying attention to...” you know. Those thoughts. Where I come from we call those “FIGHTIN’ WORDS”. Many of us would engage in some sort of conflict with another human being that spoke to us in such a painful manner. But what does each of us do, when it’s our own thoughts and feelings? Interestingly enough, many people believe these thoughts. Many people believe that because these thoughts come from themselves, and provide video evidence via memories that they must be true. Many people would be wrong.
I’ll stop here with a gentle reminder to give up the fight against your own thoughts and feelings and let your own actions speak louder than your thoughts and feelings ever good. To get started with treating yourself well, I’ll leave you with this. Get yourself a Q-tip, put a little bit of lotion on the tip (I like aveeno), and go ahead and clean your ears like that. I call it an “Ear-gasm”. Try it out and thank me in the morning. #LoveMeToday