The Chrysalis of Becoming

1362 Relax and Succeed - You've changed

Some of our circumstances in life occur suddenly and quite visibly. Others are those that we slowly slip into, without really realizing it. Then one day some unexpected thing jolts us out of our torpor and we suddenly wonder why we’re dating this person, or working at this job, or still in this city.

The sudden sense of urgency is a signal that our mind has woken up to a new reality. What is often challenging for us is that our new reality involves us realizing how much of our own life doesn’t even appear to suit us. This is a sign that we have discovered something about who we are.

The feelings that can go with these internal awakenings are often things like a repulsion for ourselves. We question our intelligence as to how we managed to even get to where we are. There is often a period of recrimination where we feel badly about the choices and regret the ‘mistakes’ we’ve made.

Following that shock, during our unfolding reaction, we tend to push things and others away. That’s a helpful reaction because we need the space, but eventually we realize that if we’re throwing away our new life, we now need a new life to live. And that can feel much scarier than pushing away a life we don’t like.

This is often a period where we tend to blame the life we had rather than realizing that it too was and is a worthwhile part of our journey, although we may not be able to recognize that value at this time.

Despite our judgment of our life experiences, our false results –our divorces, bad career choices, illnesses– are all just as much a part of our existence as the good times. The events themselves are neutral. They can feel terrible, but they can also be made into more positive things at different times in our lives.

A divorce is a chance at a better relationship and more happiness. Leaving a bad job can make us both a better employee and provide increased self-respect. And illnesses teach patience, grace and gratitude better than any other thing. It might feel at times like losing, but it’s still a form of winning in the long run.

1362 Relax and Succeed - Should the butterfly regret or be grateful for

As we begin to wake up we must remember our context. We are dissatisfied. Suddenly realizing that our situation is worse than we thought can lead us to start looking for all that is wrong. And any time in life we’re doing that we’ll be able to find as many things as we look for, and if we keep looking we’ll keep finding more. That can make things look much worse than they really are.

The real question for us often is, are things entirely bad the way they are, or does our awakening and our scrutiny only make it appear so? We can want to move, or change jobs or end a relationship, but we can’t assume that our dissatisfaction is rooted in the outside world. It is more likely within us, which is why sorting that out is wise before taking action in our external lives.

Reality happens within us. Sometimes that does prompt legitimate external changes, but we don’t need those to find peace. Nelson Mandela found it in a brutal prison. Yet he carried it with him into a Presidency. This is a liberating idea. It means no matter what, we are okay.

When we first wake up a bit, the reason that we see a strong appeal in new cities, new jobs and new relationships is that all of those things naturally deliver many reasons to not think our habitual thoughts. The problem is, over the long term they will not change how we see the world. Mandela’s soul wasn’t saved by the Presidency, it was saved by himself while he was still in jail.

Wherever we go, there we are. New situations will soon turn into the old situations if we do not first ensure that we have a good grip on our responsibilities within reality. The external world around us is shockingly flexible, we prove this by loving someone or something one day and then hating it later. It’s less the thing that changed and more that we have. There’s a real power in that if we use it wisely.

Dissatisfaction is a good basis from which to take action in our lives. That is a feeling worth paying attention to. But experiencing that feeling that is not, in and of itself, a failure on anyone’s part. It is only a signal, notifying us of the start of a necessary part of any journey through life.

Like it is for the butterfly, with greater perspective we often will come to see that our greatest gains were actually being made when we have felt we were struggling the most.

peace. s

An Open Letter to Women

Okay ladies. Yesterday the guys got an awareness-raising. Today it’s your turn. I’ll have to speak in the same broad generalities, but it will still be useful. Ready? 😉

282262_10151034556271518_108075051517_12150199_1714479472_nFirst off, yes we have feelings. It might surprise some of you to know that we have all of the ones you have. On top of many others, we feel sorrow, pain, guilt, regret, heartache, fear, insecurity, joy and love. We understand that you often don’t include our emotions in your deliberations because we don’t display them the same way you do, but they still are very much present.

Many of the men you may call “cold” are in fact badly wounded by their memories of past events. Because our culture does not encourage men to expose these aspects of themselves, when we do it is particular challenging when that trust is betrayed. In essence we are taught not to show that aspect of ourselves anymore. So please don’t talk and act like we’re not emotionally capable creatures just like yourself. That’s a common expression in the media but we’re human too. We just got male conditioning instead of female conditioning.

Speaking of conditioning, in the Western world (and in much of the rest of it too), men still feel the burden of providing for the household. Even if this isn’t literally true, the man will feel it. It’s why rich young inheritors will often want to build businesses. It’s not for the money—they simply don’t need it. Instead it’s for the value to their sense of themselves. So when a man loses his job he not only loses his income and worries for his family, but he loses a large amount of his capacity to successfully apply for a new job. With his confidence undermined he will appear less capable than he is. Remember, identity comes from thought. If the man is thinking insecure thoughts his performance will be insecure.

There are men who are more comfortable being bossed around by an aggressive woman, and there are men who prefer to have total control with a woman doing nothing more than following, and most men are in between. But there are some commonalities.

301824_416990401676818_617255966_nThe first is that many of us do not generally share your ambition many of you have to impress others with our home. Yeah, we can get into cars and toys, but we truly don’t get the concept of guest towels. Most of our competing comes from behaviours or accomplishments. Even a lot of liberated women still feel an impulse to feather a nest.

To man, a home is often a never-ending ever-expanding list of things for a couple to do. There are guys who see themselves as having worked their asses off to pay for and renovate a home, and as soon as it’s done the way his wife wants it, his wife will often shift to asking for the next change. There are men who have literally spent lifetimes in that crazy pursuit. But he will actually volunteer to do many of these things out of love, even though he personally sees zero value in doing them. This is important to remember.

When you say a guy doesn’t love you because he forgets your anniversary, be reminded that from his perspective, he may also have worked for 6 months to earn the money to pay for your engagement ring, or to pay a large portion of a wedding that wasn’t very important to him, or to buy some home renovation he has no interest in doing nor paying for. And yet he’ll surrender half of his year to it. Think about that. Why? Because he loves you and it’s important to you. The same reason you do things for your kids even though they can’t pay you back. That’s what love does. So no, most guys can’t write a very romantic birthday card. But a lot of them work way more hours for things their wife wants than for things they want. For a lot of guys their house is just that other building near their garage or in front of their deck.

Things guys really don’t like? Being talked to like children. I know you don’t mean to do it, but just listen in a grocery store or at the Farmer’s Market some time soon. Many women are shocked when I take them and have them listen in this way. If you closed your eyes you’d think a large percentage of the wives were talking to small children. The tone, the choice of words. Even slaps to the wrist! Men are not children. They have different priorities than you. It’s not frivolous to value fun or relaxation. It would do a relationship good if both genders spent more time trying to truly understand where the value comes from in each others choices.

283186_10151198281391117_1292430088_nIn conflict we are a different creature than you. While estrogen tips your emotions toward drama and pain, testosterone tips emotions us towards frustration and anger. So when a guy is really angry, it’s important to try to determine what he’s mad at. Because way more guys are mad at the situation than they are at the person. Sure, some will focus on the messenger. But men are fixers, so if they can’t solve a problem with their relationship they will become frustrated. And so their anger will not be about the woman, it will be frustration over not being able to solve the problem. Angry, frustrated yelling is more often the release of pent up chemistry, than it is a precursor to violence.

In divorce most women assume men are protecting money when they’re calculating their 50%. Again, much like when they spend their money on renos they often don’t really care about the amount; it’s not the money itself that’s the issue. It’s what it stands for. A man doesn’t have to be greedy to attach his masculinity to his ability to earn and purchase. This is the modern version of hunting.

If you get divorced and have to bring your dates to a tiny little crappy apartment, that’s like the caveman equivalent of bringing home too little food. You lose the girl that way. So after a guy’s already lost a relationship he’s really not motivated to surrender meat and pelts when he’s looking for another girl. (Not to say that there aren’t some upsides for divorced men. Whereas in most cases, a 40 year old divorced woman gets to date men 40-60, a 40 year old divorced man gets to date women 20-45.)

45300_491415984251928_678838547_nThe reason so many men turtle in later years—choosing to be single instead of dating—is often directly related to how women react when they’re angry. Sorry ladies, but the schoolyard taught you to fight socially. As you often self-report, some of you can be pretty vicious. I’ve seen men’s entire lives destroyed by lies spread with the purpose of making the man pay for something he’s done. And by “done” I mean, he lived his life and the woman didn’t approve of his choices. So for a lot of ladies, if he’s not going to follow her plan he will pay because his freedom of choice will be viewed as him letting his partner down. And his payment will often be to have his personal, social and professional life badly damaged or even completely destroyed.

Despite the common myth, you don’t hear a lot of men complaining about women much. Sure, bitter men in the midst of break-ups and comedians can do it, but most men avoid the subject. I’ve played on teams with men of all types for years, and I can’t say I’ve heard very much in terms of men complaining about wives. Even if they do it amounts to little more than shrugs or brief comments. But at the same time we are aware that women have meetings just to discuss our shortcomings. Do you really think it’s possible for us to succeed with you when you come home after hours of discussing our “failings” with your friends?

Ladies, as I wrote yesterday, men need to buck up in all kinds of ways. We need to hold other men more accountable for their violent or abusive behaviour. We need to honour your interests and pursuits more authentically. And we need to remember that you can have orgasms too. But we also do a lot of things that get taken for granted. Because this I know: of the people I work with that get divorced, 90% of the breakups are initiated by the woman, but way less than half of those women–by their own account–end up better off by ending the marriage. Most see their life get worse.

Most women only imagine what qualities of their husbands they want to get rid of. But very few calculate what qualities they would really hate to lose. So it’s not uncommon for me to have a female client contact me two years after I negotiate their divorce to see if her husband might still be single. So yes: leave violent or grossly unappreciative men and do it quickly. But be careful. Because most of us are trying really hard to be the best people we can and, in my practice, a lot more women regret having left their partner than the other way around. That’s just the facts ma’am. Use them as you will.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

PS: If you’re looking for tools to make things better, try reading An Open Letter to Men.

Love vs Fear

We often listen the worst with the people we know best. That’s because we’re so sure we already know them and what they have to offer. So when some friends suggested that another friend see me for some help in getting over a six year old divorce, it wasn’t surprising to me when the friend resisted. Despite claims to the contrary about how friendship works, we’re often more secretive about our challenges with friends than with strangers. This is simply because the friends are important to us so we don’t want to be seen as failing in their eyes. So despite the fact that we could all easily see she was trapped in an unhealthy thought pattern, we all just let her Be.

7 A miracle is a shift in perceptionOver a year later she was still in the cycle. The ex-husband had now been gone for seven years, off enjoying a new life with a much younger, slimmer, and apparently more successful young woman. Him leaving had been as surprising as it was devastating and it lead my friend to distrust men in general, and she certainly didn’t have a mind to date. She couldn’t even drive or walk through a favourite neighbourhood just out of fear that she would run into him (and/or her). In short, her life had become a tiny, hurt, sad cycle between working, and sitting at home wishfully thinking life could only be good the way it was.

In her thoughts, her life was over. The great love of her life was gone and she saw that as her only route to happiness. Of course that idea is absurd. There are a zillion ways to be happy, but until we’re watching for them they simply do not exist. Eventually I got tired of watching the friend suffer and so I took action to alter where her consciousness was dwelling. Despite the fact that she’s an attractive woman and she had been approached by a great many quality men, she had paid no attention simply because she was only looking for one man—her ex-husband. I needed to change that.

She was living in fear. Fear of a life without her ex, fear of running into him, fear that she was too old and too out of shape to ever succeed romantically again. Fear fear fear. Then I sent her flowers. Anonymously. From a “Secret Admirer.” Now what do you think that caused to happen within her consciousness?

Before she looked at men simply as interactions. They were there to drop something off, pick something up, repair something, discuss something—men were only about work and her dealings with them were transactional. But now she had these flowers and someone had told her that they secretly thought she was beautiful (actually many people had unsuccessfully tried to communicate that). That caused her to wonder who had sent such a thing.

Relax and Succeed - Quote - SM Are you making choices based on

So instead of viewing each man as not-her-husband, now every man that approached her desk was thought of as a possible source of the flowers. Appropriately, her tone shifted from business-like brusque to flirtatiously curious. Do you see how her thoughts are now manifesting her into a truly different person? Can you see that—to the men who saw her regularly—this was a major change. And as she wondered if they found her attractive, they began to wonder if that was because she was attracted to them.

This took all of two weeks and she was going on her first date. Months later she’d found a new boyfriend half her age and they stayed happily together for years. So what does this teach us? It teaches us that our thoughts create our life. When she sat there thinking she was unattractive, lonely and doomed, then she was. She acted that out and therefore she only looked attractive to fixers—the guys that wanted to repair her life rather than share her life. But when her thinking changed to the idea that someone found her attractive as she was, she became curious about who this person could be. So in short, she stopped thinking about herself and she started thinking about the experiences that were possible.

What experiences are possible for you? What or who are you shutting out of your life because of your fears? How can you go from being afraid of what might happen to excited by what might happen? It’s a simple corner you turn in your mind. Simply watch your thoughts and remember that you are actively creating them. If they feature a lot of I’s and me’s and they’s and them’s then you know you’re lost in ego. But if your thoughts are about discovery and possibility and potential experience, then you are open to all forms of rewarding engagement with life. And with that kind of perspective, any situation becomes a potentially good one.

Free yourself. Stop thinking about your fears. Start thinking about what you love and your life will be miraculous. Enjoy.

peace. s