The Guardian Of All Things.
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The Guardian Of All Things.

Recently I have been exploring memory and am currently reading two books on the subject. The first is called Memory Mastery by Harry Lorayne and provides practical, lucid techniques to augment memory. I should have read this book years ago, I would have saved months of anguish. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you have ever struggled with your memory, or are concerned about its erosion. The second book is called The Guardian of All Things by Michael S. Malone, this is more about the process of memory and although memory is one of the most powerful of all human forces, it still remains an enigma to scientists:

“As long suspected, memory creation is the result of a biochemical reaction that takes place in nerve cells, especially those related to the senses. Recent research suggests that short-term, or ‘working,’ memory operates at a number of different locations around the brain, with special tasks tending to be handled in the right hemisphere of the brain and verbal and object-oriented tasks in the left. Beyond that, the nature of this distribution, retrieval, and management is the subject of considerable speculation. …

“[Some] theories hold that short-term memory is, in fundamental ways, just a variant of long-term memory. But almost all brain scientists agree that the defining characteristic of short-term memory is its limited functionality — both in duration and capacity. Simply put, short-term memory fills up fast — scientists speak of four to seven ‘chunks’ of information such as words or numbers, which short-term memory can hold at any one time — after which its contents either fade or they are purged. Rehearsal can temporarily keep important short-term memories alive, but ultimately the information must either be transferred to long-term memory or lost.

“Long-term memory, though it uses the same neurons as short-term memory, is, as one might imagine, quite different in the use of those neurons. Whereas the short-term memory is limited in scope and capacity, long-term memory takes up much of the landscape of the upper brain and is designed to maintain a permanent record. Only in the last few years have researchers determined that memories are often stored in the same neurons that first received the stimulus. That they discovered this by tracking storage of memories in mice created by fear suggests that evolution found this emotion to be a very valuable attribute in a scary world.

“Chemically, we have a pretty good idea how memories are encoded and retained in brain neurons. As with short-term memory, the storage of information is made possible by the synthesis of certain proteins in the cell. What differentiates long-term memory in neurons is that frequent repetition of signals causes magnesium to be released — which opens the door for the attachment of calcium, which in turn makes the record stable and permanent. But as we all know from experience, memory can still fade over time. For that, the brain has a chemical process called long-term potentiation that regularly enhances the strength of the connections (synapses) between the neurons and creates an enzyme protein that also strengthens the signal — in other words, the memory — inside the neuron.

“Architecturally, the organization of memory in the brain is a lot more slippery to get one’s hands around (so to speak); different perspectives all seem to deliver useful insights. For example, one popular way to look at brain memory is to see it as taking two forms: explicit and implicit. Explicit, or ‘declarative,’ memory is all the information in our brains that we can consciously bring to the surface. Curiously, despite its huge importance in making us human, we don’t really know where this memory is located. Scientists have, however, divided explicit memory into two forms: episodic, or memories that occurred at a specific point in time; and semantic, or understandings (via science, technology, experience, and so on) of how the world works.

“Implicit, or ‘procedural’ memory, on the other hand, stores skills and memories of how to physically function in the natural world. Holding a fork, driving a car, getting dressed-and, most famously, riding a bicycle — are all nuanced activities that modern humans do without really giving them much thought; and they are skills, in all their complexity, that we can call up and perform decades after last using them.

“But that’s only one way of looking at long-term memory. There is also emotional memory, which seems to catalog memories based upon the power of the emotions they evoke. Is this a special memory search function of the brain? Is it a characteristic of both explicit and implicit memory? Or, rather, does it encompass both? And what of prospective memory that ability human beings have to ‘remember to remember’ some future act? Just a few years ago, researchers further discovered that some brain neurons can act like a clock in the brain, serving as a metronome that orchestrates the pace of operations for the billions of nerve cells there.

“Why? These and other features are but a few of the conundrums in the long list of questions about the human brain and memory. What we do know is that — a quarter-million years after mankind inherited this remarkable organ called the brain — even with all of the tools available to modern science, human memory remains a stunning enigma.”

The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Human Memory
Author: Michael S. Malone
Publisher: Martin’s Press
Date: Copyright 2012 Michael s. Malone
Pages: 12-14

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The Aleph-Paulo Coelho
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The Aleph-Paulo Coelho

The Aleph

William Blake used to say that we can see the infinite in a grain of sand and eternity in a flower.

In truth, a simple moment of inner harmony is enough for that to happen.

That is where the great problem resides: we almost never allow ourselves to realize that the present moment in itself holds all the glory.

Sometimes, it expresses itself in a completely casual manner. You are walking in the street, sit in a certain place and suddenly the entire universe is right there. The first thing that comes up is a huge desire to cry – not for sadness, neither for happiness, but simply to show emotion. You know you are comprehending something, even if you are not even able to explain it to yourself.

In the magic tradition, this type of perception is known as “diving into the Aleph.” Human beings have an enormous difficulty in concentrating their minds on the present moment; we are always thinking of what we have done, how we could have done it better, what the consequences of our actions will be and why didn’t we act as we should have. Or still, we worry about the future, what will we do tomorrow, what measures will we have to take, what dangers are waiting for us at the corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to attain what we have always dreamed of.

And so, we begin to wonder if there is really something wrong with us.

Yes, there is. It is called routine. You think there is something wrong because you are unhappy. Others live for their problems; they keep talking compulsively about them – problems with children, husbands, school, work, friends.

They don’t stop to think: I am here. I am the result of everything that happened and that will happen, but I am here. If there is something wrong I have done, I have the power to correct it or at least apologize for it. If there is something I did right, that makes me happier and I feel more connected to the present moment.

Concentrate yourself in your Aleph and you will see that a little confidence in life doesn’t hurt at all – much on the contrary, it will allow you to experience everything with much more intensity. The things that disturb your life lie in the past and are awaiting your future decisions. They numb you and they pollute you and they don’t let you understand the present. Working with experience only means repeating old solutions on new problems. I know many people who are only able to have an individual identity when they start talking about their problems because these problems are connected to what they judge to be ‘their story’.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, a well known martial art, used to say, “The search for peace is a way of praying, which ends up generating light and warmth. Forget a little about yourself, know that wisdom and compassion lay in that warmth. As you walk through this planet, seek to notice the true form of the heavens and of the Earth; it is possible if you don’t let yourself be paralyzed by fear and decide that all your gestures and attitudes will correspond to what you think.”

If you trust life, life will trust you.

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Compassion fatigue
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Compassion fatigue

I carry on
I do my duty
I nurse an invisible ache
I forget to eat
I drink too much
I sleep too little
I care for others but
I don’t care for myself
I don’t think I’ve ever known how to truly care for myself
I’m learning,
The hard way.
I can hear a soft whisper within
It says
Enough…enough.
Put down your load,
Walk,
In silence,
Look for the signs,
They will lead you back to yourself.
Listen.
Save yourself
For a while.

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The 30 Day Woman Fast
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The 30 Day Woman Fast

Disclaimer…(The following post is fictional, more of an invitation…and a collation of the narratives of many of my male clients)

When I suggested a “woman fast” to a client, I realized that I may actually be onto something. You see, a woman fast is not about sex. Its about identity and self-worth. I had been noticing for a long time how much I base my worth as a man on the affections and attentions of a woman. Many men labour under the belief that No Woman = No Worth.

As a consequence, many of us leak energy everywhere in the hopes of falling into the gaze of an attractive woman.

For example, on any given day, I might spend a solid 90 seconds loitering in the produce section fondling strange vegetables I don’t have a clue what to do with in the hopes that a pretty brown-eyed girl perusing bananas might notice me so I could feel better about myself. Add an extra five minutes spent on the leg machine at the gym after little miss juicy pants pulls up to the thigh buster beside me and I suddenly decide my leg routine isn’t finished.

And yoga class? In some cases being around women was the only reason I even did yoga. Which I guess is not so bad, either; but still, it took me forever to put on my shoes after class, or at least until the last cute yogini had left the room.

L.O.W. Syndrome (Lack Of Woman Syndrome; it’s an imaginary disease based on real life circumstances) combined with the fear of rejection is a nasty mix! This debilitating brew had me spending so much time engaging in impotent coping behaviors: urgent online dating, empty flirting, medicinal masturbation, massive chocolate consumption and more.

However, the biggest cost of imagined L.O.W.-Syndrome reveals itself in the decades I have spent in relationships that weren’t satisfying, thriving or even healthy, simply because they gave me some semblance of identity, validation and self-worth, even though I often felt like shit…or worse, empty.

Well, I finally had enough of my insanity. I was feeling ridiculous and exhausted, and I wanted my life back. I decided to try and disrupt these patterns by quitting women cold-turkey for 30 Days.

The “Rules”

No sex, no flirting, no loitering, no number exchanges, no dating, no lingering hugs. And masturbation? Well, it’s a little known fact that men are horrified to leave their penises idling for long. We really believe if we don’t use it, we will lose it. So I went about two weeks without, which in dog-time is something like 50 years. Progress, not perfection.

So there were the basic rules: no dating, no sex, no flirting, no hugs—basically no f%#*ing hope!

Which brings me to my first discovery: I’m addicted to hope.

Hope for what? Hope that someone will finally complete me. As a young, single man, I would wander around believing I’m incomplete without a woman. Then I would bring that belief into a relationship, expecting my partner to complete me. Of course she never could, and I would eventually resent her for it. This addiction to the hope that someone else will complete us is insidious and eventually destroys all that’s good in our relationships. It wreaks havoc in our relationships.

So, 30 days.
I was shaky at first.
Sexuality is a tricky thing. It’s a natural thing. This fast was about noticing the difference between healthy expression of my sexuality and expressing it from a needy place of lack, of not feeling good about myself and trying to get someone else to fill me up.

Discovery Two: I was ashamed of my sexuality.

Which I find totally bizarre. I’m an average heterosexual man attracted to women who have vaginas that are my age. Why would I be ashamed?

As I looked closer, I saw that my culture taught me from a young age that I should be ashamed. Boys are dirty. They just want to get in girls pants. They look at dirty nudie mags and play too much with their dirty penises. Somehow girls just seemed to know they should run away from me on the playground. So like most boys, I figured I had two choices:

(1) Embrace my dirtiness openly and just try to get in their pants. You know, presumed guilty? May as well act it!

Or

(2) Hide it and pretend I don’t feel what I feel.

Wanting to be a good boy, I chose to hide it.

I have always possessed a very healthy sex drive. I’m a single man. I’m like an unpaired electron zipping around the universe surrounded by beautiful protons! I’m ready to couple! Naturally, I want to be respectful to women, and I want to be my crackling-electric electron self! Still, the signs of shame around sexuality are rampant in the world around me.

Collectively, we are clearly ashamed of our penises and vaginas. Our mass entertainment will show heads chopped off before it shows a penis or a vagina, and heaven forbid a penis entering a vagina.

On a personal level, us men go to great lengths to hide our goods from each other, even though we’re anxious to see how we measure up to the next guy, literally speaking. I once hiked with five other men for over a week and we never once saw each other naked. In public restrooms we go to great lengths to ensure the next guy over can’t see what we’re packing. And I’ve certainly never heard of women hosting vagina-viewing parties.

Although I’ve seen my share of vaginas up close, I’ve seen so few penises that I used to think there were only two kinds: the kind like I have and the porn-star kind. Then I went to Sandy Bay. There I discovered there are as many varieties of penis as there are varieties of orchid on this planet—and just as exotic looking too! Like vaginas, penises are extraordinary! Why are we so ashamed of our genitalia?

Byron Katie said, “Just because a man has an erection, doesn’t mean he has to do anything with it.” There’s a sweet spot of living that clearly still eludes our society: simply allowing our authentic sexuality to be whatever it is without needing to either suppress or indulge it.

Here’s my Third Discovery: I’m genuinely lonely.

I miss the experience of village family. Like many of you, my family is spread across thousands of miles. I have amazing friends in many places and have lived an adventurous life, but I haven’t cultivated that rich family experience; you know, four-generations sitting at a chaotic dinner table, a routine gathering of countless wondrous people-stories interwoven like colorful threads in a sturdy tapestry that forms the legacy of one epic family. I want that. I’ve never had that. Most any woman’s attention is going to be a great momentary distraction from that epic loneliness.

But now that I clearly see that, I can work to create it with the right woman for me. To start, I figure I should at least minimize the desperate grasping behavior that likely short-circuits that bigger vision.

That was the point of this fast.

These 30 days helped deepen my awareness of who I really am, independent of external commentary, and what I really want beneath all the distracting behavior that keeps me blind and in pain.

By consciously eliminating the grasping behaviors I was using to get the outside world to make my inside world feel better, I was able to reconnect with that profound inner knowing that has always quietly assured me I’m already perfect just as I am in this moment. The mental rest I created for myself during those 30 days helped me clearly see that regardless whether any pretty woman shows up to confirm it, I am completely worthy of love. Right now. Not only am I worthy of it, I already embody it. I know it’s cliche, but this fast reminded me deeply that the love I was seeking from others is already present within me. I don’t need the world outside to give it to me.

Of course, I do want to share this love and the wonders of life with others. Tony Robbins says relationships magnify human emotion. That primal drive to take the passionate love surging inside me and pour it into a woman is alive and strong! I wouldn’t want to eliminate that for anything.

So, if you do spy me loitering in the produce section with niche vegetables in hand, just know that I’m preparing for a life of vibrant family and am honestly puzzling this one out. I’m also still an unpaired electron, so feel free to smile and offer guidance if so inspired.

I’m already whole, either way.

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In praise of verbs.
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In praise of verbs.

This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek. To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers

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How darkness grows in small hearts.
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How darkness grows in small hearts.

I’ve always had an interest in the impact of violence on the human psyche. I often wonder what it would be like to sit opposite Hitler or Nero in the therapy space.
Josef Stalin, later to become the tyrant dictator of Russia and the USSR responsible for more deaths than Hitler, was beaten by both his alcoholic father Beso and his mother Keke. Josef was known by the nickname “Soso.” Yet this was far from the only violence he experienced growing up in Georgia — he had almost daily fights at school and as a very young member of a gang. Even holidays were filled with violence — town holidays were punctuated by brawls in which almost all the men and boys participated:

“Soso suffered bitterly, terrified of the drunk Beso. ‘My Soso was a very sensitive child,’ reports Keke. ‘As soon as he heard the sound of his father’s singing balaam-balaam from the street, he’d immediately run to me asking if he could go and wait at our neighbours until his father fell asleep.’

“Crazy Beso now spent so much on drink that he even had to sell his belt — and, explained Stalin later, ‘a Georgian has to be in desperate straits to sell his belt.’ The more she despised [her husband] Beso, the more Keke spoiled Soso: ‘I always wrapped him up warmly with his woollen scarf. He for his part loved me very much too. When he saw the drunken father, his eyes filled with tears, his lips turned blue and he cuddled me and begged me to hide him.’

“Beso was violent to both Keke and Soso. A son was the pride of a Georgian man, but perhaps Soso had come to represent a husband’s greatest humiliation if the evil tongues were right after all [about Josef being the biological son of another man]. Once Beso threw Stalin so hard to the floor that there was blood in the child’s urine for days. ‘Undeserved beatings made the boy as hard and heartless as the father himself,’ believed his schoolmate Josef Iremashvili, who published his memoirs. It was through his father ‘that he learned to hate people.’ Young Davrichewy recalls how Keke ‘surrounded him with maternal love and defended him against all comers,’ while Beso treated him ‘like a dog, beating him for nothing.’

“When Soso hid, Beso searched the house screaming, ‘Where is Keke’s little bastard? Hiding under the bed?’ Keke fought back. Once, Soso arrived at Davrichewy’s house with his face covered in blood, crying: ‘Help! Come quickly! He’s killing my mother!’ The officer ran round to the Djugashvilis to find Beso strangling Keke.

“This took a toll on the four-year-old. His mother remembered how Soso would take stubborn offence at his father. He first learned violence at home: he once threw a knife at Beso to defend Keke. He grew up pugnacious and truculent, so hard to control that Keke herself, who adored him, needed physical discipline to govern her unruly treasure.

‘The fist which had subdued the father was applied to the upbringing of the son,’ said a Jewish lady who knew the family. ‘She used to thrash him,’ says Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana. When Stalin visited Keke for the last time, in the 1930s, he asked her why she had beaten him so much. ‘It didn’t do you any harm,’ she replied.”

Young Stalin (Vintage)
by Simon Sebag Montefiore by Vintage
Paperback ~ Release Date: 2008-10-14
Copyright 2007 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

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Tigers, mice and strawberries.
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Tigers, mice and strawberries.

Pema Chödrön teaches in a way that I understand deeply, fully, first time, every time.

It’s like tapping into a universal source of knowledge that has always been there.

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by so many bloody ‘things’. Problems, goals, dreams, behaviors, neuroses, people. All of it.

And what are we to do when there are problems above and problems below?

Eat a strawberry, of course.

From The Wisdom of No Escape, page 25:

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly, blissfully even. Tigers above, tigers below.
This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

This is my favorite story from the chapter in the book that explains ways for us to cultivate joy inside ourselves—to learn to serenade and tame the tigers we struggle with in our heads.

Whether we are literally eating strawberries and enjoying their intense color and sweetness, or choosing to cultivate joy and happiness—just for a moment—we also need to develop physical and soulful ways of coping with the ‘darker’ emotions of sadness, grief, hopelessness, stress and anger. We don’t get rid of these emotions, says Pema Chödrön. We make friends with them in order to control them with precision, gentleness, and our ability to let them go.

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Camino or bust…
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Camino or bust…

Tax, maintenance, bond payments, insomnia, constipation…really?! This is it?! This is what the pinnacle of human evolution has to offer me?! Incredible, we are capable of such exquisite expressions of potentiality and curiosity coupled with such mind numbing drudgery and pointless repetition. I haven’t written for a while because quite frankly I’ve felt uninspired, a droll torpor has descended on me that is difficult to shake. It wears the heavy mantle of responsibility and it threatens to choke the very life blood from me. Many of my clients are choked by responsibility and its ever present familiar, guilt. Some ancient internal Calvinist fueled dictum appears to proclaim that God forbid you should ‘shirk’ your responsibilities, you will be devoured by the fires of guilt. Responsibility to what exactly? God? Country? Family? The company you work for? Where does responsibility to the Self come into the hierarchy, near the bottom? Wrangled below by guilt and self aggrandizement? To care for oneself has been mercilessly shackled to the core belief that it is selfish, that to martyr the self in service of the other is what “good” people do. What bollocks. The weary responsible (and I count myself amongst these fine suffering folk) are rarely inspired or enlivened by the crushing weight of the accumulated dross they are crucified to.
I am fighting for my life, for my freedom. I will not be enslaved indefinitely by insipid mediocrity. I will gather my thinning shekels and walk the Camino for a while in an effort to shake this psychic lethargy from my marrow. I’m not sure exactly how it’s all going to come together, but it must, for when we have no hope, then surely the battle is lost.

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The Empathy Revolution
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The Empathy Revolution

Influential philosopher Roman Krznaric shares his tips on expanding our empathy.

An Empathy Revolution

Empathy – the imaginative act of stepping into the shoes of another person and looking at the world from their perspective – is a more popular concept today than at any point in human history. It’s on the lips of everyone from the Dalai Lama to agony aunts, from business leaders to happiness gurus. And it’s no surprise, since in the last decade neuroscientists have discovered that 98% of us have empathy wired into our brains: we are homo empathicus. Our selfish inner drives exist alongside a more cooperative, empathic self that seeks out human connection.

1. Practise Empathic Listening

We all know, instinctively, that empathy is a great tool for maintaining healthy relationships. Just think of all those times you’ve been arguing with your partner and thought, ‘I wish he could see my point of view!’ or ‘Why can’t she understand what I’m feeling?’ What are you asking for? Empathy of course. You want them to step into your shoes, if only for a moment. That’s why it’s worth practising empathic listening. How do you do it? Next time things are getting tense with your partner, simply focus intently on listening to their feelings and needs – without interrupting (and this might just induce them to return the favour). You might even ask them to tell you about their feelings and needs. It’s amazing how doing this can prevent niggling annoyance turn into serious resentment or full-scale arguments. Ultimately, most of us just want to be listened to and understood.

2. Get Curious About Strangers

We need to take empathy out of the house and onto the streets by nurturing our curiosity about strangers. I recommend having a conversation with a stranger at least once a week. Make sure you get beyond everyday chatter about the weather and talk about the stuff that really matters in life – love, death, politics, religion. You might strike up a discussion with one of the cleaners at the office, or the woman who sells you bread each morning. It’s surprising how fascinating, energising and enlightening it can be to talk to someone different from yourself. Conversations with strangers can really help challenge our assumptions and prejudices about people, so we get beyond our snaps judgements about them based on their appearance or accent. And you never know – you might even make a new friend.

3. Try An Experiential Adventure

Back in the 1920s the writer George Orwell – who had a very privileged background and went to Eton – decided to rough it on the streets of East London, dressing up as a tramp and spending his time with beggars, unemployed labourers and homeless people. It was an experience that totally blew his mind, shifted his priorities in life and expanded his moral universe, as he revealed in his book Down and Out in Paris in London. We can all try out similar experiential empathic adventures. Maybe you could sign up to sleep rough for a night as part of a charity appeal for your local homeless shelter. Or if you are a strong believer in a particular religion, try a ‘God swap’ and spend a month going to the services of other faiths (and maybe a Humanist meeting too). Next time you are planning a holiday, don’t ask yourself, ‘Where can I go next?’ but instead ‘Whose shoes can I stand in next?’

4. Become A Revolutionary

Empathy isn’t just something that happens between individuals. It can also flower on a mass scale and start shifting the contours of society itself, creating a revolution of human relationships. Many of those who took part in the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring were motivated by empathy – empathy for those whose lives had been ravaged by the financial crisis, or who had suffered police brutality. An important way to boost your empathy levels is to join with others to take action on empathy-related issues that matter to you – whether it’s child poverty or the fate of future generations whose lives will be affected by our addiction to high-carbon lifestyles. Even taking part in your local choir or playing five-a-side football are ways to engage in communal activities that break down the barriers between people and promote a more empathic world.

5. Travel in Your Armchair

If all of this is sounding a bit strenuous, you can always throw a little ‘armchair empathy’ into the mix. This is about reading books and watching films that catapult our imaginations into other people’s lives that are vastly different from our own. Think of a movie like City of God, which reveals the violent world of two boys growing up in the shantytowns of Rio. Or the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, with its classic line, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

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Why men withdraw emotionally.
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Why men withdraw emotionally.

In a relationship, having your partner withdraw at an emotional level can bring confusion, pain and frustration.

Women who relate to men that do this are often bewildered by why and how this happens.

Speaking as a man, and one who considers himself sensitive and emotionally available, there are particular situations and scenarios that cause me to withdraw. And I imagine that other men, regardless of how in-tune they are with their emotional nature, would respond in similar ways.

Just because a man withdraws does not mean he is withdrawing from you.

Often when a man seeks solace or withdraws from a conversation, it probably has nothing to do with his partner. It has more to do with the emotional intensity and confusion around emotions than with any particular person. It just takes men more time to integrate and understand the watery realm of emotions. And understanding emotions isn’t something that happens for us spontaneously in the midst of a heated discussion.

Often we need space and time to figure out what is happening, both within our own self, and with our partner.

Men have been discouraged from feeling emotional. We have been mocked, attacked, and belittled when showing emotions. Big boys don’t cry, toughen up, and bite the bullet are all phrases men grow up with. So when we are faced with emotional situations, we are novices.

The biggest harm that is not recognized or appreciated for the depth of damage that it causes at the emotional level to a man, is that men are expected to be tough, to protect, and kill to defend their family. Violence, and the expectation of violence, mandates an absence of emotional sensitivity.

It is a quandary for a man to be emotionally available and to have him be able to harm another human being.

Have compassion and understand the kind of conundrum that a man faces when being emotional vulnerable and awakening to deeper sensitivities. It is rare enough to find a man who wants to delve within and unleash his inner passion. It doesn’t mean that he is going to be masterful at it. For men to be comfortable in their own skin and accept their feeling nature takes a growth curve.

A woman has a lifetime of experience navigating the oceanic tides of emotional states.

Women grow up with emotional states and are accepted as sensitive, feeling beings. She is able to observe, feel, recognize and better communicate her feelings than a man. Women are also adept at observing and recognizing the emotional states in other people. And when a woman finds a man who loves her, at some level, she feels a great deal of hope because she has found an emotional match, somebody who understands those hidden tides and influences. Women will share all their heart and feelings, and not understand how this can impact a man. And when a man doesn’t respond as she needs, feelings of being hurt or misunderstood arise. How those feelings are expressed matter a great deal.

The best men want an intimate connection with women, and often don’t know how to do that.

Men don’t fall short in the emotional realm because we are emotionally immature. We are emotionally inexperienced. Men face expectations and pressure about emotions that are confusing and contradictory. And when we find a woman who loves us and we love in return, it brings to life a living fire that had been suppressed for a lifetime. Yet fires burn, and the burgeoning sensitivities is akin to a child learning to walk. We fall down, we make blunders, and we are blind as to how to listen and communicate our emotions.

Men experience a learning curve when awakening to their deepest sensitivities.

And just as any beginner, they make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are colossal, and sometimes laughable. Men need an emotional example, how to live with and operate with emotions in a healthy way. We also need to be accepted as we are, beginners with beautiful intention. To demand for a man to have the mastery over their emotions is an outrageous expectation. For most men, mastery over emotions means suppressing them, hiding feelings behind a mask of stoicism, or just turning off the emotions entirely. It takes time to even identify the subtle emotions, let alone to know how they function and their influence on our own self and those around us.

Any teacher knows that mocking a beginner or putting them down, criticizing them or their approach, will stunt the learning curve, if not completely stopping it.

The beloved woman becomes that guide into the mysterious realms of feeling emotions. When she expresses anger, puts down her man, belittles or mocks him, a man feels attacked. When she demands him to be sensitive, a man feels not good enough.

And when a man faces a womans wrath he will respond in the ways he has been taught to feel emotions since early childhood ; with anger. Anger is one of the few emotions accepted in men because it is a necessary emotion to be a soldier-killer. Anger is a natural defensive response for men. And once we become angry with our beloved, there is a host of problems that arise afterwards. Guilt, shame, inadequacy, failure, and fear. These siblings to anger are inevitable when fury shows its face, especially when we know that our loved one has been hurt as a result of our anger.

The words spoken in anger harm the recipient and the speaker.

It takes time for a man to feel comfortable feeling emotions. After all, such a man is challenging the tenants and pressure of an entire society and its deeply in-grained training.

A man’s natural response when being hurt or confused is to withdraw. Almost everybody knows about the masculine need to retreat to the cave. And whether this is physical space, or mental space, or even silence, the cave is an essential healing tool for a man’s mind. The cave allows integration of the experience, introspection to see what is happening within, and understanding to know how to better respond in the future.

Women set the example and emotional tone that allows their partner to feel safe.

When a man faces a woman who is emotionally stable, it allows him to understand his own emotions. The depth of understanding that the woman has with herself and her own emotional nature will give him the security to express and unveil his own strengths. The woman who is emotionally secure brings a presence of emotional security to the relationship. A well meaning man will appreciate this and do his best, and grow faster and reveal the depths of his spirit with increasing strength and confidence.

Granted, the ideal is that a man can figure out his emotional state and come into his own emotional maturity through his own self-generated willpower. Yet the reality is that teachers, guides and mentors accelerate this process and help a person navigate the confusing and mysterious realms of emotions. There are a great many pitfalls and bewildering mirages when it comes to the shifting sands of sensitivities. And as man learns his emotional state, he is also facing the additional challenges from his friends, family, and world that challenge that awakening at every step.

The woman who is insecure with her own emotions will see a man who withdraws as a threat and denigrate him and go on the attack. This is the antithesis of supportive behavior.

She will not realize that he is a man who is brave beyond measure to face his own soul and bare his spirit with vulnerable trust. When a man doesn’t respond as she needs and demands at the emotional level, lashing out will only cause harm. Gentle understanding and compassionate acceptance brings healing and deepens the relationship. One of the best qualities women have, is the ability to nurture.

Nurturing is not aggressive. And with a man, directing aggression at him will generate an aggressive response. He will either fight or run. The flight or fight response is deeply ingrained into every human being. In essence, attacking a man who is opening his heart will trigger a survival level instinct. Once that survival level power fully awakens in relationship, the dynamics in the relationship change and may never come back to equilibrium.

Nurturing is not forceful, instead it is accepting and allows for a natural growth curve. Be patient.

Just as a tree takes time to come into its fullness and blossom, a man who is learning to embrace his deeper truths will need time to fully ripen into his potential.

Appreciate the men who take the time to stand up against society to discover, feel, live and unleash their sensitive side. It takes a lion’s heart full of courage to face down societal expectations and programmed beliefs. Give him gratitude, honor his spirit, thank him for being available with his sensitivity in ANY way that he is able.

Such a person is one of a kind, a warrior in the truest meaning of the word.

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