It is right and not wrong for me to have, to possess; an autonomous, differentiated, individual sense of self.
It is in fact, essential.
I need an “I” to relate to a “thou” (whether this is a Higher Power and/or another human being) to become a part of a securely and healthy functioning “we”.
It is also true, that I need a “we” that is supportive, “I”- affirming, flexible, and stable or secure, to develop an integrated and whole sense of an “I” in all its richness and complexity. In other words, I need the “we” to be a safe enough place where I won’t worry about losing or jeopardizing our “us” when the formation of my “I” overtly or covertly differentiates from the “you”, in our “we”. And if I (or you) do worry, it can be openly talked about and worked through in the “I” space and the “we” space. It doesn’t become the proverbial elephant in the room that eventually eats the rug it’s being impossibly swept under due to deprivation.
When I experience being me, and you experience being you, and we can honor and affirm one another without denial or diminishment of one another’s differences, this is beautiful intimacy that generously supports You, Me, and We.
This “we” can include a couple, a friendship, a workplace relationship, a family, a neighborhood, a community, and a world of all these worlds of we’s.
When there is a breakdown in the You, the Me, and therefore our We; instead of interdependency, codependency is found in all its cunning and baffling forms.
To mind our “You, and Me, and We” business is essential, courageous, breathtaking, and rewarding work. I believe we are inherently wired to flourish and thrive in this work, together. After all, it is a lot of work.
But let’s also leave room for humor and work, along the path of humanlightenment.
There are many ideas and images we hold in our minds when it comes to addiction. Some of them are more Hollywood, simple, and basic and some are more comprehensive and complex. There are a lot of caricatures of “addicts” that portray a very negative and misleading idea on what addiction is and isn’t. Very seldom do those caricatures do any justice to what addiction entails. So sometimes a deeper dive into the mysterious nature of addiction is helpful. That’s what I’m doing in this post.
Even though addiction seems to be a hotly debated topic, most people would agree that it’s a formidable force that’s cunning and shrewd. And in its wake; kills, steals, and destroys one’s quality of life, relationships, and even one’s very own sense of Selfhood. This is often done in secrecy and isolation, until it cannot be contained there any longer. This can often be an invitation out of hell, albeit an abrupt and harsh one, that can at first feel like total defeat.
I’ve found that most people don’t want to be labeled by another as an addict. That’s tantamount to name-calling. If they identify themselves as an addict, that’s different. And sometimes identifying what addiction is, who has it and who doesn’t, can be chanted to a sneering beat of: “I know you are, but what am I”.
I believe that addiction is fundamentally a spiritual condition of disconnection; from one’s very own self, others, and to the ever-increasing uneasy parts of reality we would rather just make disappear. Its symptoms are deception (first to self, then others), discord, and disruption from receiving life-giving force or energy. This is why I believe addiction is fundamentally spiritual in nature: it’s initially invisible to merely physical metrics but will manifest its occupancy in the physical domain in only a matter of time. Just wait. Once it’s successfully enticed you and occupies your mind, body, and soul it won’t just stop there. It’s far too ravenous. Addiction is characterized by a spiritual energy which has an unsatiable hunger that doesn’t discriminate. It’s often been said that addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Addiction is far more inclusive than any of the most inclusive anti-bigot activists out there. Truly, all are welcome. It doesn’t give a shit about how smart, stupid, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, conservative, liberal, socially privileged, marginalized, religious, non-religious, gay, straight, one gendered or non-binary gendered, physically or mentally abled, disabled, single, divorced, married, remarried, polyamorous, vaccinated, non-vaccinated, Black, White, Yellow, Red, Brown, Multi-racial, Bi-racial, young, or old, etc. etc. etc., you are. If you’re alive, it will accept you with open arms. It will take you in and devotedly take you down and not only that, but it will want to take down your loved ones as well. The more you love them and the more they love you, the more it will want their mind, body, and soul too. Addiction is a family contagion because family is often whom you love and care about the most.
And, when addiction has fraternized and colonized your mind, body, and soul without a good enough fight and push-backsurrender to a Higher Power greater than itself by the one it occupies, you will remain under its control and governance.
This is all so easily disguised and therefore denied until the destruction is far more replete and obvious and stretches beyond the spiritual domain and manifests into the physical domain. Although, it’s admittedly baffling to witness people still denying its presence even when it’s so thoroughly manifest in the relational and physical domain.
This is a very cunning, formidable, and relentless thing. Dis-ease. Call it whatever you want or don’t call it anything other than addiction. It doesn’t matter what you label it or name it. And if you deny it, all the better, for “it”.
What I’m experiencing, little by little, is that the more spiritually perceptive, discerning, keen, awake, and surrendered you are; the sooner addiction can be arrested.
I believe that being human, makes you higher risk and more susceptible to addiction, although there are varying degrees of protection and varying degrees of affliction on an individual basis. Some may disagree because addiction or dependency/withdrawal symptoms can be replicated in lab animals. While I believe that animals are also spiritual beings, for some reason they are naturally less vulnerable to addiction unless they are being manipulated by people. Naturally they seem less susceptible, and I think it’s because they don’t appear to morally judge themselves or others, and therefore don’t struggle with the human affliction of shame and pride. Of course, to argue for or against that theory is insignificant. I can’t talk to rats or get into their consciousness. But I digress…
The point is: to win this battle and live in the solution is found in something that is pretty counter-intuitive to human survival. It’s quite the uncomfortable human paradox.
The solution is found in surrender.
Not to the addiction of course, but to a Power greater than it, and greater than you, whatever you name or call that Power doesn’t matter. I once heard someone refer to this Power as “Not Me“. What matters most is that you can see or even slightly believe, that this Power could truly set you free and do for you what you cannot do for yourself, but which you believe you “should” be able to do. And by all means, if you can do this for yourself and you truly do not need a Higher Power than yourself to do this, then I reckon you are not dealing with addiction. Not everything that’s hard to quit is an addiction, that could merely be a bad habit. There’s a difference.
The way I’m finding it works is this: This Higher Power will not go against my minimally cooperative, ideally enthusiastically given, consent. That is how surrender differs from compliance. Surrender to a Higher Power, not comply. This involves trust and desire, even if it’s very very small at first. It can grow, but you can’t grow something out of nothing. You need something to start with. This is the parable of the mustard seed (see Matthew 13:31-32). This is the solution. It is simple, but not easy. Not at all. But like most things, surrendering becomes easier with practice, one day at a time, and not always in a row.
With this concept of addiction, it doesn’t matter what the chains are tied to. It could be to a substance, a behavior, a person, or a belief system. It’s usually to something impermanent, and what isn’t impermanent?
I’ve also observed that the more abstract in nature that the chains are tied to is, the more disguised its occupancy can be, and often more socially acceptable because it’s simply more common by that very disguisable fact. But do not be deceived. The proof is in the pudding, and that pudding often is spiritual in nature and in how much or how little you’re surrendered to a Higher Power that gives you freedom and not chains. Surrendering to addiction as your higher power gives you shame upon shame, or even harder to detect; pride upon pride, until you are leveled with reality.
As human beings, we are vulnerable, meaning we are surrendered beings. We are not the most Powerful beings or forces of nature in the universe or even on earth. It’s hard to remember especially when we’re so far removed from being intimately connected with nature. But the fact remains: there are powers and forces greater than us, so know your place and that surrender is unavoidable.
So, what are you surrendered to, and how is that working out for you?
If you scoff at the idea that you are addicted to anything, consider this before your dismissal: The addiction you might have may be revealed with a confrontation of losing something specific, against your will, that others live without and are OK without it. If you had to give this up and learn to be better off with its absence or at minimum, its non-guaranteed presence in your life, would you be, OK? Just something to consider.
Nonetheless…for all of us it’s good to reflect on and choose your surrender, wisely.
An extremely worthwhile practice that will gradually give yourself invaluable inner strength and beauty, is simply increasing your tolerance level for uncomfortable truths.
This practice benefits countless areas of our lives. When our tolerance level for uncomfortable truths grows, the energy invested in avoidance, suppression, or denial is diminished and therefore becomes available in much more life-giving ways. For starters, you’ll have a lot more energy freed up to be present and consciously aware, and to heal and develop further on so many levels. That’s powerful.
There’s a lot of attention and talk lately on “raising” or “expanding your level of consciousness” or “raising your vibration”. But how do you do this when you have a low tolerance level for uncomfortable truths and a high tolerance level for bullshit, because it’s less immediately uncomfortable? You really can’t. Sorry, but that’s an uncomfortable truth I’ve bumped into. Consistently.
Just as with people who want to build their physical strength or become more flexible might go to a gym, dedicate time to workout, or stretch tight muscles each day; the capacity to tolerate uncomfortable truths takes some practice and intention as well. You go about it in similar ways as building physical capacity — you stretch your comfort zone on purpose, little by little, over time.
If you’d like to become more physically flexible you start where you’re at, inside your comfort zone, and you stretch beyond that until you’re mildly uncomfortable. Eventually you will experience that you can handle this. Self-trust develops. Your confidence grows, little by little and after awhile you’ll be able to stretch beyond your comfort zone until you’re moderately (not extremely or severely) uncomfortable.
You’ll be able to soon take pride and joy in these little incremental shifts in the direction you want to be headed towards. In other words: progress. Your progress.
If you were to physically push yourself too hard, it would likely backfire. You could injure yourself and need to stop and recover. It happens. Know your limits and respect them. This is similar to the non-physical capacities.
I want to become more flexible and resilient when it comes to uncomfortable feelings that are associated with uncomfortable truths. Why? Because I don’t want to compromise on integrity and honesty just to avoid immediate discomfort. I’ve done this and experienced results that are less than grand, let’s just say that. This unconscious habit I had developed way more pain than to tell myself the uncomfortable truth, it was just delayed pain. But it always came, just as you can’t throw things up in the air and expect them not to drop.
This is where self-deception breeds – avoidance of uncomfortable truths. It appears as a way to “protect” myself and “preserve” my comfort level, but in reality it comes at a high expense later, and often to others I care a great deal about. It hurts. Unless you’re so numbed out, you’ll be hurting later. And News Flash: Numbing out always ends. Reality has a way of being real, and is pretty patient.
What is the way through this? It isn’t to avoid truths that are uncomfortable! It’s to raise the tolerance level of discomfort by raising the level of self-trust. Trusting that I can befriend uncomfortable truths. I don’t need to turn away from them. That actually colludes with the notion that I cannot be trusted with uncomfortable truths. I can, but I just need time and intention to build this capacity, just like everyone else. This is time and effort well spent. There will be a better return on this than on denial and bullshit.
One way I’ve found most helpful is to utilize writing or typing in a journal (or a blog!) because I’ve found writing to be incredibly resourceful for me. If you’ve tried writing (like for real, tried) and it just isn’t your thing, find what IS your thing. Maybe looking into a mirror or just talking out loud in the safety and privacy of your own presence, while recording it and playing it back helps. Just make sure it’s kept in a safe space where you get to decide who and where it’s shared or not shared.
Ask yourself if there is anything you’d like to say that you’re afraid of saying (or writing) out loud or out in the open, just with yourself. It could be as simple as “I hate my aunt JoJo’s pies that I say I love” or “I think I have a problem with ________”. The point right now isn’t to do anything other than just practice telling yourself uncomfortable truths. Sometimes taking premature or impulsive action to “fix” or “improve” a problem (perceived or actual) can inadvertently be a slick escape route. It could be an indirect way to avoid being with an uncomfortable truth.
So, for now you don’t need to fix any problems or take any actions other than just telling yourself this truth. That is big enough. Of course if you find wisdom perking up, take it and converse with it. But if you don’t, that’s not an indication you’re not doing this “right”. Re-read the title of this post: “Raising Your Uncomfortable Truth-Telling Tolerance Level”. That’s it for now.
While you do this, consider affirming how proud you are to be admitting this difficult and uncomfortable truth out loud. For me, this often encourages me to trust myself more. To trust that even if this uncomfortable truth doesn’t shift, my fear or angst around it does. The fear starts to loosen. I experience accepting myself more and more because I am being REAL with myself, and that is tapping into my own power.
You may notice harsh self-judgments, that you don’t like yourself and you have a strong opinion about your opinion. There’s a reason why you’ve avoided this – herein lies the discomfort. Right here.
You are facing it.
Breath slowly and embody your body as you do this.
You are engaging your courage in a way that might be very new to you. Take it as slow as you need. Recruit others you trust for support, that has been immensely helpful for me, including having a trauma-informed therapist.
Affirm that you value being honest especially when it’s hard and therefore you value this practice. This uncomfortable truth might not even feel the same or as true or powerful for you tomorrow, or in an hour. This is the mysterious and powerful nature of bringing things into the light. Into conscious awareness. The hold that avoidance and denial have weakens and your perceptions and experiences may shift and start transform or even shed.
Avoidance of uncomfortable truths demands a lot of energy. A lot. This energy could otherwise be used for say, your immune system or other life-supporting endeavors. Once you put your energy into turning on the lights on whatever you’re truth-telling, I’m telling you…that energy or life may take flight or change. As in what you’re feeling and thinking might not seems as intense or strong, and/or you may gain more clarity.
Denial can be like an energy vampire. Truth-telling can be like a powerful shield from this vampire. From bullshit. Of course I’m speaking metaphorically here but it’s to make the point that truth-telling is a powerful way of taking back your power that was sucked into avoiding uncomfortable truths.
You may discover or uncover pearls of wisdom and insight while practicing this. Or you may just expand your own tolerance level and build more capacity for uncomfortable truths. This in and of itself adds to a felt-sense of being, that feels stronger and safer versus taking away from it in order to maintain “comfort” that does not serve you because it’s an act of self-betrayal when we self-deceive.
I should clarify, when I use the word “truths” I’m referring more to subjective truths, not objective truths, although it may include that too.
What is your perspective, your experience, opinion, or feeling? Name these. Own these so they don’t own and control you. They are often more flexible and less rigid when they are accepted and integrated into our conscious awareness. It’s when we cannot tolerate uncomfortable admissions of truth or self-honesty, that we will attempt to hide from our very own experiences, feelings, thoughts, and parts of ourselves (as if you really can; hence self-deception).
This creates fragmentation. A disconnection within.
You can have your own back. You don’t have to turn your back on yourself when you trust yourself more.
This is empowering.
Integrate these uncomfortable truths little by little, and you will be owning more and more of yourself by BECOMING more connected within yourself, and interpersonally with others.
It’s hard to know how to resolve issues or conflicts with ourselves or others when we are disconnected and fragmented by denial within. Often, numbing out with distractions or chemicals is utilized, only to reinforce that we shall not be trusted with our uncomfortable truths. Bullshit. You can raise your tolerance level, with practice and patience.
You really can build this inner well of deep self-trust, this inner sense of power by raising the tolerance level for uncomfortable truth-telling.
Be gentle as you go. You can live in integrity and honesty as an integrating being, and enjoy the benefits from the inside out. You were made to enjoy this way of being fully alive.
There’s a story of a man named Simeon in the Bible (see Luke 2:25-35) who was described as being “righteous and devout”.
What does it mean exactly, to be righteous and devout? I’ve got my personal stereotypes and caricatures that portray someone who is “holy”, meaning a bit emotionally cold or stoic, conditionally approachable, not very down-to-earth or relatable, probably intelligent, sophisticated, and rather arrogant. That’s the best description of the image I find that initially emerges into conscious awareness.
Well according to how Jesus answered a teacher of the law, the highest form of morality can be boiled down to love (see Mark 12:29-31). Sequentially and specifically; loving God with your whole inner and integrated being. And then Jesus adds an addendum that seems inseparable to the first command (and that’s much easier to measure) – ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
So, I think it’s safe to presume that being righteous and devout means loving an external, metaphysical, ethereal, abstract Being with YOUR whole internal, metaphysical, ethereal, abstract being – measured by an empirically validated and evidenced way – how you treat “your neighbor” as well as yourself.
It’s so simple that we don’t buy it and we often find ourselves adding on a multitude of “morality measurements” with countless other morality clauses than what Jesus added. Just love your neighbors as yourself, that’s hard enough. And your “neighbor” is something else to contemplate in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, which I won’t go into in this post.
So, the question I’m pondering here is this: How is mental health and development, factored into this command – to love so integratively in a way that it manifests with congruency with other people?
By all appearances and experiences of mine thus far I’m quite sure of this: being loving is not an inborn human trait. Being loving isn’t innately and independently present in human infants. I’ve given birth to and am raising 3 human souls, and I’ve watched them closely.
Now to be clear— being IN NEED of love, at birth and onward is inborn and innate. And when you form a secure attachment and nurture and protect your babies they coo, smile, and affectionately bond with you right back. It’s a beautiful circle of love. But it didn’t begin with the baby first loving me. It started with a baby who needed to be loved and cared for, FIRST.
The nature of the intimate dyad of human caregiving determines (although not exclusively) a great deal in how “loving” a person will eventually be, influenced by how much they themselves felt loved, or more specifically – securely attached.
“Loving” is not to be confused with merely how “nice”, “polite”, socially acceptable, or virtuous they appear in public. This is about way more than mere etiquette. Rather, it’s far more about how much they’ll be able to enjoy consensual and reciprocal vulnerability, authenticity, and work through the inevitable interpersonal conflicts with a selected few. In other words: healthy interpersonal relationships.
In an ideal world, humans would produce loving human beings – generation after generation. It doesn’t take much to see that we don’t live in an ideal world. Far from it.
So if children grow without enough of this kind of emotional secure attachment created within their earliest and formative interpersonal relationships, how can we expect them to give what they don’t have? For so many who didn’t, are we screwed? No. There is a path of healing and inner recovery. God is sensitively attuned to the broken-hearted, who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Just meditate on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.
I believe humans are biologically wired to be moral creatures. When we are immoral, we suffer and often find ways to escape or find relief from suffering. To be clear again: We are innately moral creatures which means our biology is wired for thriving when we’re morally strong. And I hope I’ve made it clear enough by now that when I say “moral” I mean we’re biologically created to be loved and loving – this is how we’re morally biologically wired – for love, aka to need to give and receive secure emotional attachments. Possessing a familiarity of attachment styles in both childhood and adulthood is helpful to understanding where I’m coming from. Hopefully if you’re making a living within the mental health field or personal development arena, you’re more than a little familiar with the scientific literature on attachment styles and neurobiology. Hopefully.
I digress. Getting back to morality and love…
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
So, to those who perceive themselves as morally righteous, and therefore loving as described above – What is your detailed and coherent, autobiographical narrative that’s made sense of your adulthood in light of your childhood?
In all transparency, this is somewhat of a trick question. I’ve heard people saying they grew up with love and support from their parents, yet these same people are often times some of the quickest to criticize or judge others and are also some of the most emotionally cold or shallow people I know. To be sure, they are often very “nice”, “polite”, socially acceptable, and fluent in practicing social graces/etiquette. Yet, there seems to be a gaping hole, a sense of wtf-ness that’s hard to explain and even harder to convince them of.
Now of course, I could very well be totally off myself here. But the disjointed feeling I get in this wtf-ness experience is because I hear they consider themselves as lucky for growing up the way they did, and therefore they don’t “morally” struggle much. Yet at the same time, I observe that they find it very difficult, unvaluable, and unnecessary (if they even notice) to be emotionally vulnerable, authentic, and show capacity to work through interpersonal conflicts with their loved ones. It’s a head-scratcher for me.
This is the best I can come up with to try and explain the dissonance between morality and love, profoundly the kind of love from God, that pours out interpersonally. Unless you experience it yourself with God, it’s hard to explain to others.
There was a woman who was described in Luke 7:37 as “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life”. She wept on Jesus’ feet (portrays her as probably crawling on the floor in approaching and being next to Jesus) kissed his feet, then wiped his feet with her hair, and poured perfume from an alabaster jar.
To be loved and to love.
I think she gets it.
Her story might help shed light on this gaping hole for those who need an explanation. Jesus saw that Simon the Pharisee didn’t get it either.
“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
How well you understand the love of God for yourself has much to do with how much you’ve experienced forgiveness from God. And if in your own self-estimation, you don’t have much to be forgiven for, you’ll find it hard to love others who do.
It boils down to compassion. If you don’t have much need for compassion from others, you won’t feel much compassion for others either.
If you’ve never felt much need for love from others, you likely won’t feel much love for others.
Here I am again. Learning the lesson that my ego is so defended against, but doesn’t understand it’s in her best interest to truly learn that I am more powerful than she believes.
I have the power to learn and grow; emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. That power isn’t dependent on anyone else.
My ability to learn and grow as I go, does not depend on externals beyond my control – this is good news, it’s freeing news. I am free from depending on my partner, children, ex, economy, the weather, my family of origin, the personal choices of others, etc. in order to learn and grow. Am I impacted by these externals? Absolutely. This doesn’t foolishly deny the reality of interconnectedness and interdependence, it collaborates with it.
Opps, I did it again. I’ve fallen asleep to the illusion that I cannot learn important life lessons and grow, unless another is doing “xyz”.
I passionately want to learn and grow as much as I can in this lifetime. A common illusion I often zombie out to is this illusion of dependence within the context of learning and growing that purports: “In order for you to learn and grow, your partner needs to be learning and growing with you, and in similar fashion.”
Bullshit. It’s an egoic fallacy that justifies so much fear of people, places, and things I can’t control – and therefore, try even harder to control.
It was once true, in childhood. And sometimes I admit, I doze off and fall asleep and stumble through life as an adult, forgetting that I am one. Emotional pain is a jarring alarm clock. It’s adult O’clock. This is a discerning reminder that is wrapped in self-compassion, not judgment. Self-awareness at such a keen level requires an above average, adult level of consciousness and self-compassion. So the mere fact that I am aware of this and owning it means, I’m kicking ass again.
I’m up now. This is the lesson being taught through pain:
I am independent and free to grow, learn from mistakes and courageously do my inner work, and release the insane expectation that I can “get” anyone else to do this for themselves (and me). This is messy work because my ego will put up a huge fight because she believes my survival is at stake. This is why my gentle reassurance, and truly sustainable loyalty to her is so important. She fears being left without the support and loyalty of others because she’s lived through that. So, she needs to know how powerful my own loyalty to her, is.
This is where my loyalty can shine – in showing up for myself as a powerful resource and stop compulsively outsourcing my loyalty to others in hopes that they will be loyal in return. Huge waste of energy and time. Huge.
There are tremendous rewards when I wake up to my own presence, that includes both pain and joy. It is freeing. I may will need to come back to this reminder time and time again. It’s sage wisdom that often flows shortly after an egoic break-down. The aftershock of being swept up by my ego’s “good intentions” leads to breakdowns, yet also make room for breakthroughs.
I’ve been known to say “Don’t let shit go to waste, it makes for great fertilizer.” I’m using my shit to grow independent of others. You are free to do the same, my friend. That is way better news than depending on others to change, so I can grow.
Until next time, keep learning, growing, falling down, and getting back up. And remember, you are free to be loyal to your own growth path, independent of anyone else doing so or not for themselves.
You have an emotionally intelligence-based gift if you’re able to own the need to validate yourself (grant your emotions sacred space away from the inner-critic even especially, uncomfortable emotions). This is the basis for emotional self-care. Living with the emotional intelligence to perceive this need is a privilege which provides you with inconspicuous but indispensable benefits. And while it’s a gift for those who are emotionally sensitive (not fragile, but sensitive) it’s also a responsibility that when left unattended for too long, will create suffering. A disconnect from your source of internal power that’s waiting to be tapped into will persist, the more you resist this need.
Instead of believing this need for validation is wreaking your life because it somehow means that you’re defective, weak, or too needy – see it as an opportunity to reclaim your power. All humans need this, because humans are more than just physical matter. Whether they see it or not for themselves, you can own this for yourself. Does having an emotional need make you vulnerable? It depends. If you deny them – yes. Very. If you take ownership of them – then it’s a source of power. Why? Because the most powerful potion lies within you. You just need to drink it up.
For many of us who grew up in the emotional Stone Age, our emotional need for validation has been such a tragically, undeservingly, shamed part of us. Yet, is worthy of the utmost respect. Why? Because it’s a core aspect of what it means to be HUMAN.
If your internal well-being depends on externals in order to feel good, are you OK with feeling extremely vulnerable and powerless?
For whatever it’s worth to you – I validate your need for validation! But trust me, you don’t need me or anyone else to validate this for you, in order to survive. You can learn to do this for yourself, with compassion and consistency.
Just as your body needs oxygen, food, and water – your soul needs validation. And you are more than just a body made up of physical matter. You have a soul, and THAT matters.
You can feed your soul validation (which is the most powerful form of validation for you). And THEN, you’re able to gratefully receive (versus grab onto for dear life) whatever external validation is being served up your way. External validation is based on a variety of things outside of you. For instance, how much or how little others feel validated. External validation isn’t an accurate portrayal of your worth. Receiving external validation in addition to yours, is an important supplement. But when external validation is your ONLY source, this is when you unwittingly become extremely vulnerable, all while you bullshit yourself into believing you’re invulnerable. When you do not practice or let alone, acknowledge your own emotional self-care needs – this leaves you wide open to being needlessly and precariously, emotionally dependent. Even if you feel you’re getting this outside of an intimate relationship like through meeting certain societal or external standards for being “good enough”, it’s still not coming from YOU. When you depend on external sources of validation, you easily become manipulated and/or destabilized either by individuals, group-think, or cultural/societal standards of your worthiness because you’ve lost connection to your internal source of power – YOU. And you let your worth be defined by others.
Being emotionally sensitive supports you to being exquisitely in touch with this universal human need for validation. And this may feel like a curse, but it is a GIFT which is worthy of being unapologetically owned, cared for, enjoyed, and talked about.
You are no victim to your emotional needs! Though you can interpret this from a victim standpoint when you deny and shun this sacred part of you.
You possess a source of power that nobody can outright steal from you. Nobody. Consider Jesus, Nelson Mandela, or other humanitarian martyrs around the world, throughout history.
In our emotionally avoidant culture, it’s safe to say that the emotional part of you has been poorly misunderstood. You don’t have to buy into it anymore. Again – accepting your need for validation; isn’t what makes you vulnerable; quite the opposite! It’s what connects you to your power.
When you connect deeply to the Divine Lifesource from within, notice how this impacts how you react to external slights or invalidations (perceived or real). You’ll still notice them, but you won’t lose your footing.
Others who envy this secret potion and don’t realize they have it to, may get their sense of power/control from provoking or manipulating you. They may consciously or unconsciously invalidate it. Let them! We’ve all been there before, and can easily slip back into that insecure place. And still, find the courage to press on as you evolve consciously, imperfectly, and as authentically as you can – one step at a time.
This is your secret power-potion, because when this practice of emotional self-care is done in secret, it’s powerful.
I’m coming out of the closet with being so fed up with the teeny tiny toxic man box, as a woman. I have HAD it with the ass backwards relationships between a man and his power, which is socially reinforced like it’s on steroids.
By the way, if you don’t know what I’m referring to when I say “man box” watch this:
Mr’s. please hear me. We have brave men who specifically support and speak into empowering women to heal and rise above the toxic social messages that imply or convey that they are second class citizens, and to instead know their worth and resist these sexist messages that society or their past tells them. I appreciate those men’s voices in support of women rising above a culture that tries to stifle them. It may be a long shot, but for whatever it’s worth, I offer my voice speaking into men’s lives wherever it may be received.
It’s challenging for a woman to speak to men about gender issues because an insidious part of gender issues, specifically related to gender violence against women, comes from living inside the man box, where women are considered inferior – easily dismissed or slammed for speaking out. I wonder if this means most men are receptive only to men when it comes to having a conversation about what it means to be a real man even though most men who live with women or girls want to be validated by them as being real men too, even if they don’t show it. I’ll take my chances that some men are receptive to voices that aren’t exclusively from men when it comes to this topic. I believe a part of the problem is that most men are unaware of being inside that same man box, even if they never become violent towards a woman themselves, and this is what perhaps contributes to keeping them silent and complicit – adhering to the invisible man code of omission in the face of commission when it comes to violence against women. I am witness to this, and I will not stay silent, though I am not a man.
I’m a woman who has unfortunately experienced domestic violence, has reached out to men in my life asking them to confront this issue and the man with me, and nobody answers that call. Instead I get a litany of excuses for their disengagement, even if that means a woman they care about is at risk for being seriously hurt or worse. Where are the men? They are hiding in that man box, which is preventing them from being the men they could be, because that means being vulnerable, taking initiative, and therefore putting their egos in the backseat so they’re free to take risks with other men. That is why I’m personally fed up with this man box. The only thing that fits neatly inside is a very fragile male ego.
As a woman, I don’t have that man box to contend with in order to feel validated in my gender. I am not stifled by the socialization of my gender that is highly controlling and restrictive when it comes to having emotions. When I do encounter this from other women, I believe it’s second hand to women who have been indoctrinated by men AND women who believe the man box is all there is when it comes to being “strong”. It can restrict everyone to a certain degree, but less for women than men in my experience.
I know I’m a woman, I don’t feel the need to prove this by acting out in certain ways with men or women that violate or ignore the right to consciously have my own values. That is a gender-based prison our culture throws boys and men into, that creates barriers from ever being challenged from the inside out, by other men, or by women who are obviously not men, and therefore according to the man box, don’t really matter.
Sirs – please. Break out of that man box.
The reality is you DO have power which is unique to being a man. You can choose how, when, and where to wield that power but since it is power, there are big stakes involved. I am speaking as a woman who has been through the clutches of domestic violence, which in most cases though not all (some women do have significant physical and financial advantages over their male partners) involve a man using his advantages to evade his own inner emotional work, at the expense of his own family and exploits a woman’s vulnerabilities by going to great lengths to avoid his own. Although believing (albeit unconsciously) that entering into vulnerability or emotional work is optional at best, or God-forbidden – “women’s work” at worst. That the relinquishment of the only kind of power he knows – power OVER others, including parts of himself that he’s terrified or ashamed of (like his emotional needs) and cannot fully access. It’s as if his penis might shrink or fall off if he gets in touch with his emotional life.
Undoubtedly, you’ve been taught by a culture that you cannot afford to give up this man box. That the only thing to fear is, fear or vulnerability. But your shield of invulnerability is what keeps you caged inside the toxic tiny man box, and locks away your true sense of power – the power to consciously and courageously navigate through your own internal world and integrate that world with your external world. Your internal world of vulnerability exists whether you openly acknowledge it or not. Integrate this in a way that makes you feel undeniably and unpretentiously self-respecting and can entitle you to feel like the kind of man you will be proud of while in the vulnerable unmasked presence of those you’re closest to and know you best, your own family.
I cannot tell you how to do that work, as a man. I’ve never had to break out of the man box, but I’ve lived with men who are extremely attached to it, and it’s hurt. Profoundly. That kind of work IS man’s work. We women have our own work when it comes to getting out of our own unhealthy gendered socialization. It’d be presumptuous and arrogant of me to tell you how to breakout of the man box just like it would be if a man were to tell me how to heal my wounds from sexism or misogyny. The kind of traveling companion you need is a brother of sorts, a man who knows what it’s like to live in that box, and work his way out.
I can tell you that this refusal to STEP UP and LEAD your family, or your community, your department, your tribe of whatever proportions – with courage, humility, and self-respect is squashed when you live in that toxic man box.
The way UP is OUT.
The way to move UP from boyhood and into manhood with bravery, integrity, and strength that doesn’t dominate others out of a fear of vulnerability is to get OUT of this toxic man box, and get around other men who are doing the same. They do exist. Just as women who are healing from our own gender-based wounds, you cannot do this alone, which herein lies a challenge if you’re stuck in that box. You need others, and they need you, because you’re doing what your sperm has to do in order to create a new life – swim upstream. Graphic, but don’t miss the rich symbolism in how men contribute to the creation of a new human life. Swimming upstream!
One of my favorite quotes comes from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
“If you want to know what a man’s like take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
This is the kind of strength and leadership women want from their men in intimate relationships. It’s hot. It’s sexy. It’s admirable and will make most women take pause. But in order to get to that point, you have to stop burying what the man box says you need to bury – your feelings. The vulnerable ones, not just your feelings related to being pissed off or horny, you’ll need the rest of them too – they’re there.
Our culture does you a disservice when they sell you short with the man box, and you cannot escape being exposed to it – it’s widespread in our American culture.
Depending on how much or how little you’ve been exposed to life outside of the man box, you may need either a shovel to dig out your emotions, or an excavator. But who do you need permission from in order to begin doing this work? – YOURSELF.
Doesn’t waiting on other men or mainstream culture to grant you permission to be fully alive and consciously awake to ALL of your emotions render you vulnerable and dependent, which is a violation of that man box you adhere to anyway?
Our culture does no favors to you, women, or children by keeping you in that man box. Dig yourself out, don’t wait for someone else to rescue you or grant you that permission. If you don’t have it from other men in your life right now, that’s OK. Revolt. Find men who get it. If you give in to the man box, you may slowly die by burying core parts of yourself alive inside a box that cannot handle a man that’s fully alive – thinking and feeling independent of that man box. Dig like the quality of your life depended on it, because I’m willing to bet a lot of it does if you have any women or girls in your life that you hold dear. And do it wholeheartedly because, you are worth more than half-assing it.
This is a hot topic right now because it’s so relevant, yet it seems so ambiguous. It’s been all around us lately – in the news with celebrities, politicians, many high-ups in their professions, and religious leaders being accused and held accountable for NOT getting CONSENT in the realm of sexual activity, creating a tidal wave of #metoo.
I am a woman. I am a mother — of 3 daughters. This is a big deal to me.
Consent. What is it? What does it look like? Or more importantly, what does it FEEL like?
I’d like to approach these questions as if they were coming from my daughters — from girls or women. While of course consent isn’t only given by girls or women, I am writing from the vantage point of the female being in the position discerning whether or not she consents to engage in any sexual activity.
Consent is a fundamental human rights issue, regardless of your gender, race, religious creed, or sexual orientation. Yet, I believe our culture sets up females in a very harmful confusing place. Let her get clear about her “Yes”, “Wait”, or “No” relating to any sexual behavior with her. So let me be clear here — my main intent is to empower her, from the inside out.
I’ve found myself asking these questions when it comes to consent:
What does consent feel like? How do I even KNOW if I consent to something, or am ambivalently going along to appease and not “make a big fuss”. And what about these more grey areas, outside of intercourse? What about the “I don’t know” areas? Slow things down so she can focus on her heart in this very important area.
These questions reflect the many blurred lines which create a very disempowered experience when it comes to consent. I didn’t feel very empowered to consider ME, apart and separate from the guy’s wants, or in addition to any religious values regarding sexuality – all of which have value, but do not replace or silence my voice. Even if I am married, I still have a voice. Consent is still an issue for married couples. Consent may be more open-ended when there is trust established, but not all marriages have that kind of trust, or this kind of trust has been broken some how. That’s another grey area best reserved for a different post.
If at all possible, I think reflecting on this and talking to adults you trust, before being in the position of needing to make that call is essential. And I believe that this is developmentally a very adult activity that one should use their own clear-headed and wholehearted judgment on because if not, the rewards are often pretty fleeting and costly. There are long-lasting consequences that need to be considered which requires emotional maturity and a highly tuned-in sense to your own innate worthiness. Yet I also acknowledge that unfortunately many of us find ourselves dealing with consent issues long before we even consent to that. These are non-consensual activities aka. sexual harassment and assault, and are unfortunately too common still. Our modern culture still sets up girls and women in a double-bind when it comes to her giving consent or not. Her “No” can make her vulnerable to being ridiculed and even called a “bitch”, “tight” or a “nun” for example, making a big “fuss” over “nothing”. Or her “Yes” can make her vulnerable to being called a “slut”, a “skank” or a “whore”. Who wins in this double-bind? Nobody really, with the exception of sexual predators/offenders while using their cultural privilege or positions of power (usually males) to assert their sense of sexual entitlement, at great expense to others (usually females but sometimes boys too) or those who callously scoff and blame victims of sexual abuse.
Let me be clear, I’m not just talking about intercourse, I’m talking about any kind of activity that has to do with your sacred bodies and your sexuality. This could include a hug, a touch, a comment about your body in a sexual nature, being flashed/exposed to, or even just stares at your body – this is not just about intercourse!
Regardless of what your past experiences have been, now is always a good time to reflect on consent because consent is about boundaries and expecting respect.
Consent is something I believe requires a high developmental level of emotional and mental maturity and self-empowerment. That self-empowerment comes first through co-empowerment through voices like mine, that uncompromisingly affirm your worth and your voice. In an attempt to bring concrete boundaries through legislating consent, many states like Minnesota for example, say a child under the age of 13 regardless of the age of the perpetrator cannot legally consent to sexual conduct. Their “yes” is NOT a “yes” because they should’ve even be in the position to have to decide, and if they are – it’s exploitation and the law recognizes that. However, I would even extend that age beyond 13. The minimum age for joining the military is 17 with parental consent. 18 without parental consent. Something seems off to me. It’s hard to put an age on the ability to truly consent to something so intimate, like sexual activity and the age of legal consent varies from state to state. But instead of focusing on age, focus on maturity and emotional/mental health. Who has the maturity to see the long-term consequences of their sexual activity, while weighing the negative and the positive, and making an informed and empowered decision about their own bodies? Legislating consent is complex, but discerning it within you can be less complex when you feel empowered to do so.
Why is this such a big deal? There are serious consequences to sexual activity that many don’t acknowledge or understand until later. These consequences can be experienced either immediately or much later on, or both. I’m not just referring to the obvious ones; sexually transmitted infections and unplanned/unwanted pregnancies. I’m talking about your emotional, spiritual, and mental health that significantly overlaps with your sexual health. You cannot compartmentalize these any more than you can compartmentalize the food you eat from only being pumped into certain parts of your bloodstream. Wait. Let me semi-amend that statement — At least not without putting in a lot of effort to abandon, deny, or numb out from core parts of yourself, which unfortunately is all too common also when it comes to sexual activity. Sexual health isn’t about black and white rules of conduct or conforming to “norms”. Just because something is common or “normal” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Looking at your sexual health holistically, as it relates to your whole well-being is something not being emphasized nearly enough, and the fallout can be very painful.
There are definite risks and rewards tied to sexual behavior. Sexual touch or any kind of activity in this realm is such an intimate and vulnerable activity, which is why it is so extremely violating in the absence of consent or knowing what all you are consenting to.
It is my belief that sexual activity is most safe AND most pleasurable when it is thoroughly and mutually consented to by mature enough people living from a place of worthiness, not using their sexuality to hustle for crumbs of fleeting worth. Therefore I believe giving consent is an adulting activity, but am aware that many pre-adults are exploring this adult arena thinking they are mature enough to handle it. I just hope for their own sake, it is all safe even though I’m reluctant to call that consensual. It truly takes a high level of maturity and agency to give this kind of centered, empowered, and self-aware consent.
This is important, not just for those who have yet to make their first sexual debut, but for subsequent activity even when you’re in a long-term relationship because your consent can always be taken away. In a long-term relationship like a marriage, the consent may be more open-ended because enough sustaining trust has been established, but it’s still your body and your sexual health. In the places where consent isn’t mutually open-ended like in a new dating relationship, think of it as entering into a binding agreement or contract that requires your signature. What are you consenting to? Since it’s not as concrete as signing your name on a dotted line when you consent to any sexual activity, it can become very ambiguous.
So, in addition to your own set of conscious values and beliefs when it comes to any sexual activity, whether they be religious or not, here are some things to also consider. Hopefully they will help you clarify how consent in the “grey areas” may feel.
Remember – if you aren’t even given the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” because there wasn’t explicit communication about any kind of sexual activity beforehand, it’s not consent. It’s a violation. But if you are presented with an opportunity to give empowered consent while you’re adulting in life, notice what you notice. Give consent to yourself to feel what you feel inside! Girls and women need to hear this because we are so bombarded with messages that lead us AWAY from ourselves when it comes to our bodies and our sexual health.
If you aren’t confident AND relaxed in your “yes” – don’t just go along with it. You don’t have to just take it even if it’s “just” a lingering hug or wandering hands. Know your “No”. Consent is about empowerment. Give yourself permission to speak up as clear and as loud as you feel you need. This is your body. This is your sexual health.
It’s a bit more obvious when talking about sexual intercourse and consent. But hear this — You have the right to not consent to activity way before it gets to that point, and if that’s not respected, it’s NOT OK. You have a Green light, a Yellow Light, and a Red Light — be connected to it. Any consensual relationship will give plenty of space for both people to do that. Listen to all of your body’s wisdom, and if it’s hard to tell what it’s saying, know this is your Yellow Light. Honor it.
If you can’t get comfortable in feeling confident AND relaxed in your “Yes” and your “No” — it’s a NO, at least for now.
If your answer is “oh fine” because it’s not a clear enough “no”, than it’s not a clear enough “yes” either.
I cannot over-emphasize this — If it’s not a self-aware and authentic “Yes!” – Honor that and expect it to be honored also or it’s not consent – even if it’s not about intercourse. Consent starts way before intercourse. Girls in our culture, beginning from a very young age are raised to people-please and care-take, even to their own expense. We are groomed from a very early age to direct our focus and care away from us and towards others. This is so harmful when it comes to our sexual health. Start practicing redirecting yourself back home, within your body.
Notice. Honor. And enjoy that space of authenticity in your consent for your sexual health.
It takes practice. If you are with a man who does not honor this space, your empowerment to have boundaries that value your worth outside of sex, that is a huge red flag that needs to be considered, not glossed over. It isn’t a good sign of his character.
Consent is about clear, empowered, and authentic communication, between you and your body, then between you and another. This goes for a kiss, hug, touch, or of course, intercourse — anything that has to do with your body and your sexual health.
The bottom line is you are worthy of respect, and so is your “No, and so is your “Yes”. Engaging with life from a place of worthiness most certainly includes our sexual health.
I really wish every girl has a strong and loving woman to empower her in this area. I aspire and hope to be that strong and loving voice to empower others now, as a mother. And how awesome would that be to have strong and loving men to add their voice to empowering girls in this way also?
If you want the same old shit, then do the same old shit. If not…listen up.
Denial thrives on blame. Blame thrives on denial. They work hard together to keep people successfully stuck.
If anyone wants to experience change that’s good for their soul, in any area of their lives, they’ve got to take up ownership in getting themselves closer to where they want to be.
Excuses and blame will never be in short-supply. If you settle for excuses and blame, you settle for remaining stuck. You’ve GOT to get passed excuses and blame if you want to avoid being stuck.
Movement. Change needs movement.
Movement often needs to start with moving your thoughts and beliefs around, in a conscious awakened state.
What is it YOU are after? Get clear on the “who” before getting clear on the “what”. Do YOU want this? Or is this coming from someone else who doesn’t live your life, but believes they know better how you should live your own life? Big difference, you’re you — they’re not.
Now, after you sort out ownership of the desired change YOU are after, congratulate yourself. You are stepping into your power by stepping into life ownership. This may be a small step that nobody other than you will recognize, but it is a big deal. Huge. This is where your moxie will come from – life ownership.
Next – Ask yourself this, and wait for the answer from within…
Do you believe you are worth what you’re after? If you do not, consider the possibility that you are settling for owning shame that is not yours. Someone from somewhere, has projected their own shit onto you. This most likely happened when you least expected or suspected it, or you wouldn’t have let it in. Aka childhood or when someone you looked up to somehow mishandled your vulnerability, and therefore has kept you stuck without you even knowing it. You’re getting yourself self-awareness, which launches you into self-empowerment. You can’t change if you don’t have a sense of power. Self-awareness and self-empowerment are musts in life, underlined with self-compassion. Breathe. These are biggies that most people struggle with in different degrees. Find yourself a good therapist if you need support to sort through this because you ARE worth it.
Back to it, let’s not forget that you are after something good for your soul.
If you long for something to change to the point that it creates enough pain and dissatisfaction in your life without it changing, consider yourself officially: Invited
Invited to step it up in life. Instead of focusing on things you feel you cannot do, focus on things you can do — today, tomorrow, or within the next few days.
Then – get busy. Follow through. If you know you have the tendency, more than not to “forget”, slack off, or trip up with excuses when it comes to delivery time – do yourself a well deserved favor and get yourself some kind of accountability partner. This will up your chances of following through. A requirement for accountability to work on your end is having humility and honesty. Otherwise all bets are off.
If you need something more concrete, make yourself a plan of action in writing. Even if it’s just one or two steps that are different than what you usually do, that’s enough to start with. Most people need this concrete plan in the beginning, until there’s enough momentum to perpetuate the change you’re after. Share it with someone you trust.
When you do follow through, no matter how small – tell somebody who can celebrate and congratulate you. Recognize that force of pride welling up within you. You earned that. Keep doing what got you that feeling – by following through.
You can always re-evaluate your next steps. You can always adjust, but make sure to keep your eyes on what you’re ultimately after.
Gradual steps for personal change make a difference. And that is what you want – a difference. Change. For something to change, something has to change.
Be compassionate and gracious with yourself, but be wholeheartedly committed to learning as you go, and keep moving forward.