Growing up, I tried to get what I wanted by attempting to develop an effective persona. Eventually, I gave up. I figured I couldn’t make any more of a fool of myself if I just allowed myself to be myself. I had to unlearn my act. That was harder than I thought. When a situation presented itself, rather than go into some rote behavior, I had to ask myself what I felt and what I wanted. For a long time, the answers didn’t immediately present themselves.
Gradually, I began to accept what I felt. My voice became stronger, I began speaking what I wanted. I often stumbled getting my words out. I would be out on a date finding myself answering her question from my rote place. Then I would come out of my stupor, changing in mid-sentence my answer. As you can imagine, I wasn’t the suavest young man.
I was determined to get what I wanted: successful relationships and professional success. But I knew I couldn’t do it like most men. I had to find my way of getting what I wanted.
First, I focused on healing my dyslexia, Asperger’s Syndrome, and general brain fog. I quickly learned that the more my mind cleared up, the easier it was to be authentic. The more authentic I became the happier and more successful I was. For the most part, I stopped putting my foot in my mouth. Women began to find my vulnerability attractive. That was a surprise. I thought they wanted macho men.
Over the course of several decades, I created a process to get what you want in a way that is quicker, more fun, and sustainable. It will be harder at first. You will be going against what you were trained to do. This approach is not for everyone. It will involve commitment, work, and letting go.
No one sat me down and gave me this road map. I wished someone had; it would have been easier and quicker. I wouldn’t have had those moments of “what am I doing,” and “I’m in this alone.”
The more you embrace these steps with courage to face what comes up, the sooner your success will appear. Each step builds on the previous. As you develop mastery, they all occur simultaneously.
1 Heal Your Pain and Its Cause
I quickly used all the therapies I could find to unwind my tight body and mind. At the time, my roommate gave up his eight-year law practice up to be a Rolfer, and he got me to try Rolfing, I saw the advantage of getting help. Until then I was Sisyphus pushing the rock back up the hill every night. Attempting to become free without assistance was futile.
I’m speaking less of psychotherapies and more of body therapies. In my experience, for most men the benefits of psychotherapy are limited. A primary goal of the therapy I suggest is to release the old and accepted stress, tension, emotions, and limiting beliefs. As your body-mind relaxes, you leave a state of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). As you step out of ”survival” existence all that energy you used to survive starts to be allocated to rejuvenation and creation.
2 Accepting Your Pain
Healing will bring pain. As men, we are taught to tough it out, deny the pain, and push beyond it. These strategies will get the work done. They don’t set you up for successful relationships or a joyful life.
Accepting your pain does not mean resigning yourself to being a victim. It’s simply allowing yourself to feel the impact of what life brings you. It’s being aware, or mindful, of what is happening as it occurs. Sure, it can be intense in the moment, but when the experience of the moment is accepted, the stress or pain lessens or leaves.
Because we had many moments when it wasn’t OK to feel or accept, it’s likely that once you start feeling, you will experience some of the unfelt pain as it leaves. This is what we avoid feeling. This is where it gets tough. This is where takes courage – a courage that is not going to win any medals, but a courage that will set you free.
Surrendering to your emotions and desires can be scary, particularly when you are doing it alone.
3 Get and Give Support—have a community
You do not need to do it alone. We are tribal beings. Our ancestors hunted, lived, and survived together. In spite of all the virtual connecting we do today, we are alone. Few of us have anyone watching our emotional back. As an old friend of mine likes to ask, “Who do you call at 2 AM when your life falls apart?”
In my twenty years of working with men in men’s groups, I’ve seen a pattern over and over: men are at first very reserved, with minimal participation. But after seeing the older group members play full out—and enjoy it–the new men open up to having a brotherhood.
They see men reveal themselves… and then see them honored for the courage to be real. Rather than shame, there is respect for being vulnerable. Once open, a man is available to have another man watch his back. After several of these interactions, you don’t just have a group of men, you have a brotherhood.
Once you are part of a community, you feel valued for who you are. Often as men, we see our value based on what we can produce. A man’s first experience of being of value for just showing up as himself is always huge for him. He can relax. He comes home.
Once you realize that simply being yourself is a contribution for another man, you start giving of yourself to others. This is often the secret to why so many relationships turn around. A man learns a new model of what it is to be in a relationship with another person. It can be hard to change this model in your primary relationship. If you first develop some mastery in your brotherhood, which will feel safer and easier than at home, doing it with your partner can be a natural progression.
A natural extension of receiving this support is to give it. We see men gracefully go from resistance to acceptance, to receiving, and then to giving, and it happens quickly. Their new actions are teaching others to step up and risk. Often a man will stretch himself so he can model it for another man.
5 Risk for Something Bigger Than You
As your life starts working in ways that were unimaginable months earlier, you start looking for what’s next. You realize there will always be more to master around healing, accepting, expanding, and developing a community.
You need a new challenge to keep your focus. Rather than looking for what to fix, you want something that will stir up stuff that will hone your game. Some men are trapped in chasing their next issue. That practice becomes self-limiting. Their view is that there is something wrong with them and to they need to fix it to succeed. But focusing solely what is not working will bore you, and it will bore your partner. She may fall back into being your surrogate mother.
Here’s the secret: you need to be willing to fail. Because you will fail. Repeatedly. Each time, though, you realize something: you survived. Then getting back up gets easier. With each failure, you become more powerful. You discover what self-love really is. You learn not to hide, but to be more vulnerable, thereby more powerful.
You develop the skill of feeling as you do. Rather than “NO Pain” it becomes “KNOW Pain.” You surrender to the pain of the moment as you are creating. You become inspired by being able to heal, grow, and achieve in the same moment. Rather than looking for things to “work on” you are working as you create.
Investing in what you want allows you to risk more. That thrill gets you moving and brings others to help you. When you fail or get distracted, you have your purpose to pull you up. You could lie there, wallowing in your suffering, but you now have something to do.
These five paths to getting the life you want are simple. The power comes from you doing them. It will take work and time. There will be moments when it will be hard. The good news is, it does get easier, and you do get a momentum going that starts to propel you forward. Having a brotherhood to journey with will make it easier and a lot more fun.
We offer assistance in many forms; most are free, such as our huge resource page. Please use what we offer. Be smarter than I was, learn from others and travel this journey with others. If you have questions or particular issues, please contact me.
Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel