Men

Three Ways to Let Go of Your Need to Control Situations

Our evolutionary history suggests that human beings never evolved to be happy. We lived in small groups. Our encounters with others were often dangerous. We faced numerous threats—starvation, parasites, illness, injury, and childbirth—we possessed no painkillers and there was no police force. We spend the majority of our time in anxious goal-seeking activity, spacing out, avoiding perceived threats, and sleeping. We experience numerous unwanted feelings and physical discomforts. Our brains evolved to analyze past pleasure and pain and to maximize future pleasure and minimize future pain. Bottom line: we fret a lot.

One of our biggest worries is trying to control situations that we believe might make us unhappy or otherwise harm us in some way. Here are three suggestions from Dr. Ronald Siegel, Harvard University for letting go:

Gain insight into the habits of your mind that create suffering.

There are patterns of mind that create suffering, i.e. self referential thinking, worrying about the past, fantasizing about the future, zoning out, catastrophizing. By learning to understand these patterns of mind you can change how you view yourself, how you view others, and how you respond to not only the situation, but your thoughts about the situation.

Retrain your brain to not automatically react in its instinctual manner.

Five minutes of daily mindfulness practice can work wonders. It can interrupt thinking habits and behavior patterns that you may feel lie beyond your control. Mindfulness can be the difference between reacting and responding. When we react we instantly initiate some conditioned response that may or may not prove beneficial in the current situation. With mindfulness we can take the time to respond in a manner that integrates present moment awareness with current skills.

Learn to spend more time in the present moment.

Thoughts of the past eventually evoke regrets and sadness. Fantasizing about the future triggers worry about situations that we anticipate happening. Over eighty percent of the things we worry about never happen. Situating ourselves in the present provides us with the greatest opportunity to remain calm and feel safe. The decisions we make in this moment have the greatest bearing on the future. It’s imperative that we don’t waste the only time we have worrying about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness grounds you in the here and now.

Unfortunately if you were looking for a quick fix for easing the suffering discussed here, you may come away disappointed. These are lifestyle changes, that take time to cultivate. Your attempts to control situations, didn’t start overnight. So don’t expect to resolve them overnight. Behavioral change does not work work instantly so start practicing mindfulness today.

“Learn how to relinquish control intentionally, as a means of personal growth and self-discovery.

—Esther Perel


Be a Cheerleader for Your Partner

Photo by marekuliasz/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by marekuliasz/iStock / Getty Images

According to divorce lawyer James J. Sexton, “In our day-to-day lives as professionals, parents and just plain human beings, there is no shortage of voices telling us what failures we are. We're bombarded with advertisements designed to make us feel inadequate. Whether there selling pistachio nuts or sports cars, the implication is often that something is wrong or missing.

In the face of this relentless onslaught, you are uniquely positioned to be a voice of support and encouragement for your spouse—a shelter in a storm of disparagement. If you want to keep your marriage healthy, don't squander that power. Resist the temptation to compare your spouse to an imaginary ideal you have created or what romance films have told you a perfect spouse would look and act like. Your partner needs a cheerleader. We all do. If there is no major achievement to cheer for at the moment. Cheer for the small things your spouse is doing well. When people have a taste of victory, they often crave more of it.”

Sexton confirms what research has revealed about relationships. Criticism is toxic to marriages. John Gottman, an American psychological researcher and clinician who has done extensive work over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability, has written about the negative impact of criticism on marriages. If fact, he refers to criticism as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The other three are contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

Criticism can gallop into your relationship making you or your partner feel vulnerable, rejected, and inadequate. While feedback is important in any relationship, criticism differs in that it can evoke such hurt, shame, and self-doubt that the effects prevent it from being constructive once the victim begins to feel anxious and defensive. Criticism is corrosive, not only to the victim's self-esteem and your relationship with them, but also to your own self-esteem when you criticize others. Unless you are a sociopath, harsh words or insults that hurt your partner don't make you feel good. We all have a tendency to move away from pain and toward pleasure. We want to flee and escape uncomfortable people and situations. As criticism increases, your partner will begin to create distance if not physically, emotionally. Many people report that verbal abuse is more damaging than physical abuse.

To improve your relationship, remember to encourage your partner. One good way to accomplish that is when possible soothe your anger before speaking harshly to your loved one. When you feel angry or frustrated you may feel the greatest urge to provide feedback, but remember that's also when you're most prone to insult, shame, or criticize your partner.

In any relationship from time to time we all communicate in unskillful ways. None of us are perfect. It takes practice to keep our communication upbeat and to accentuate the positive. Sexton is correct, “when people have a taste of victory they crave more of it.” Positive attention and encouragement are strong motivators. And they help raise your partner's morale while simultaneously improving your self-esteem. So if you want to keep the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from trampling your relationship, look for opportunities to praise your partner for both large and small victories.  

 

Something for Junot Díaz

Photo by 3D_generator/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by 3D_generator/iStock / Getty Images

Junot Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, recently wrote an article for The New Yorker magazine entitled The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma where he recounted being raped as a child and the toll it has taken on his life. Here’s an excerpt:

Yes, it happened to me.

I was raped when I was eight years old. By a grownup that I truly trusted.

After he raped me, he told me I had to return the next day or I would be “in trouble.”

And because I was terrified, and confused, I went back the next day and was raped again.

I never told anyone what happened, but today I’m telling you.

And anyone else who cares to listen.

What makes an experience traumatic? When it overwhelms your ability to cope. When it strikes where you are most vulnerable, when you least expect it, and when you are unprepared for it. When the experience changes the way you interact with the world. When it upends your sense of self and identity. Trauma is devastating because its magnitude exceeds your imagination, making it hard to believe.

Depending on a person’s age and stage of development, trauma can be even more debilitating because it can strike before a young person has acquired the coping skills and social support necessary to handle its effects.

We need to better understand trauma for ourselves and for others. Many people limp through life from wounds sustained from unresolved traumatic events. Hurt people hurt people. Unhappy wounded people often use cruelty toward others to compensate and feel better. We need to reduce suffering. As Díaz stated, it wasn’t just the rapes but “the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. It fucked up my childhood. It fucked up my adolescence. It fucked up my whole life.” It also fucked up the lives of others and, while I am by now means apologizing for his behavior, I am using his admission to illustrate how trauma affects people.

At eight years old or eighty years old trauma makes you feel like an outsider. Alienation from yourself and alienation from others compounds its misery. We are social animals, hardwired to connect. When we are traumatized by someone we trust it decreases our ability to reach out and trust others. Often we may even find it difficult to trust ourselves and our core beliefs about the world we inhabit thus making it difficult, if not impossible, to form healthy relationships. For some people it can make them withdraw from others, and for others it can compel them to engage in high risk behaviors of various sorts. Trauma interferes with our ability to connect with others when it damages our ability to trust.

Trauma is a fall from grace. Prior to a traumatic experience we reside in a privileged place, an innocent place, and, as a result, we feel special. Trauma happens to other people, not to us. Trauma forces us to face numerous realities. We are not special. We can be hurt. And we can be hurt by people we trust. In Díaz’s case trauma ended his childhood and rendered him unable to fully utilize relationships by forcing him to satisfy a “desperate need to keep it hidden and silent.”

We all have various strategies for managing intimacy—the distance between you and another person. Intimate relationships require vulnerability. Problems will arise in any relationship if you are trying to simultaneously make a connection and avoid being seen. In fact, some people do not derive satisfaction from intimate relationships because the closer they get to another person the more uncomfortable they become. For some they destroy relationships before giving them a chance because of the fear and pain of revealing their secrets and the risk of rejection. Many trauma survivors unable to use relationships with people turn to drugs. Drugs serve as a substitute for relationships and also as a means of numbing the painful effects of trauma.

Anyone can benefit from a more thorough understanding of trauma—both victims and perpetrators. While a victim may not be interested in the psychological motivation of the perpetrator, what should be of interest is how victims can develop into perpetrators themselves. In Díaz’s case, he went on to abuse women. Perpetrators need to be held accountable and offered trauma-informed treatment options to help them change their behavior. Those who are best able to heal from trauma, both victims and perpetrators, are those who are best able to re-enter relationships with others with the awareness that they can both be hurt and hurt others by virtue of those relationships. Those who can face the world with that awareness do better.

 

 

He Hasn't Changed

Photo by Mathisa_s/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Mathisa_s/iStock / Getty Images

That was a YouTube comment posted under the video of Megyn Kelly interviewing me on the Today Show.

When you go on nationwide television and admit being abusive to women in the past you have to have thick skin to face the opinions of those who view it.

A four-minute video doesn’t tell my whole story. It's hard to tell from the video that my abusive behavior occurred over twenty-three years ago. Nor can you tell that I have been clean from drugs, including alcohol, for that same period of time. Not that drug use led me to be abusive, but it did contribute to unmanageability which often triggered my abusiveness. From the video, you can’t tell that I have dedicated my life to ending domestic violence by stopping myself and turning to help other men and women who find themselves caught in the cycle.

No one can see in that four minutes how I came to the attention of producers at NBC. I was referred to them by my friend Nancy Lemon, a law professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law. She has written much of the domestic violence law on the books in the state of California. She teaches a Domestic Violence Law class and, for over ten years, has invited me to speak to her class about domestic violence, my personal story, and perpetrators of violence against women. Many of her students go on to work on family violence issues throughout the Bay Area and the state, designing and implementing more effective domestic violence laws, policies, and programs.

You might think with so much of my story left out, why would I agree to be on the show. There is a difference between being sorry for my past behavior and making amends for it. I speak up and talk about my past to help others reduce suffering and create understanding about the dynamics of domestic violence. When you experience something traumatic, even if you created the trauma yourself, sometimes the only way you can make sense of the experience is when you help someone else understand your experience.

I'm still trying to figure out why I behaved the way that I did when I was abusive. Many children went through far worse than I did and didn't go on to become abusive. Drug use didn’t make me do it. Drug use served as a repair attempt that failed, leaving me with more unmanageable problems than when I started. I used anger and violence to cope with my feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness, my responsibilities, and my fears. No, there's something about me that made me act the way I did. That same something enabled me to respond to individual psychotherapy, domestic violence psychoeducation, and 12-Step  recovery, stop using drugs, return to school at night while working, publish The Pocket Anger Manager, and became a licensed psychotherapist in California. That same something allowed me to walk into NBC studios alone and share a part of my story on a program about victims. A program with no other men and no other black people.

You can't see from the video the healing that has occurred for both me and my survivor. A producer on the Megyn Kelly show asked to speak to her, prior to my appearance, as a means of substantiating my story. I sat in on a three-way call with her and the producer while he asked if I had changed. “Yes, he’s has changed,” she said.

Recovery is available to us all. To say men who have been abusive cannot recover implies that women who have been abused cannot recover. That lie is dead. We do recover.

My recovery springs from acknowledging that I hurt someone that I loved. You can't tell from the video that not one day passes in which I don't think about my past behavior. Recovery doesn't clear your conscious; it allows you to live with what's on your conscious. That’s impossible to see in a four-minute video.

I continue working to help people—men, in particular—reflect on their behavior and take responsibility for it—as I do the same.

 

Three Hacks for Dealing with Racism

Photo by soulrebel83/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by soulrebel83/iStock / Getty Images
“Racism is pervasive but not persuasively  effective.”
                                                    —Thomas Sowell

Slavery and discrimination have existed for as long as humans have inhabited planet Earth. Since the beginning of time people the world over have treated others from tribes they didn't know differently. There were forms of slavery in which a slave could earn his freedom, marry into, and become part of the family.

Two things made American slavery stand out. One, the intercontinental movement of slaves, and two, the sheer brutality of US chattel slavery. Although slavery existed in various forms around the world, no form of slavery came close to that which existed in the New World.

While different groups worldwide discriminate against other groups it is debatable how effective those discrimination efforts have been. Jews have been discriminated against throughout the world, yet they have managed to gain skills and dominate in key professions such as law and entertainment. In the US black people have been discriminated against since setting foot in the new world, yet we dominate in sports and hip-hop. White people did not want us in basketball. But when we wre admitted, we took over. Whites did not want us in tennis. But eventually we took over. Whites did not want us in golf. We took over. White people understand better than black people that we take over.

Black people in the US have been actively resisting racism and discrimination throughout our history here. The whole world is influenced by our culture and struggle. We have turned resistance into an art form. Our resistance will continue.

Racism and discrimination have changed in some ways and remained the same in others. Black people no longer get lynched publicly. We get shot by the police, and videos of the shootings flood social media. Discriminatory government housing laws have been abolished. However, the income gap between blacks and whites resulting from those discriminatory laws has never been addressed even though black people are legally allowed to live anywhere. The Ku Klux Klan used to hide their faces behind white sheets. Today they find cloaking themselves and their racism unnecessary. So while things have changed, in some ways they have remained the same.  

What should a people of color do?

Even though racism and discrimination continue to exist I do not mean to imply that people of color are not making progress. We are. Many laws have changed due to our protests and resistance. Even though our pressure on the system has borne fruit, our work is far from over. We must continue to resist.

Resistance is personal. Each one of us has to decide how to make a difference. No one can measure another person's willingness to protest and bring about change. Diversity is our strength. We need to resist in different ways and in every way. Here are three suggestions.

1. Marketable Skills

People around the world who have effectively dealt with discrimination and racism have acquired marketable skills. They have been able to gain the skills necessary to support themselves and their families while resisting. After acquiring marketable skills if we are shunned by white people we can offer those skills to other black people to generate income and opportunity for ourselves.

2. Establish Your Primary Purpose

So many individuals and businesses derail from either never establishing a primary purpose or forgetting what it is. Do what you do to the best of your ability an do not get distracted by the noise. Changing your Facebook status does not a protest make. As stated above, focus on improving your skill set and your skills can be marketed to anyone.

As a psychotherapist, I am trained to work with people who can afford my services. My training and practice also involves the development and delivery of treatment that serves as a means of resisting racism. Historically, in all areas of both medical and psychological treatment development, people of color were excluded from anything other than the experimentation process. Treatment advances were not made for us. By gaining access to the treatment development process I make sure that people of color are included.

What's good for black people is good for everyone. While people of color predominantly make up my practice, if a white person finds their ass on fire, they don't usually care when they discover me holding the fire hose.

3. Don't Forget Hack #1

Skills matter. If you can increase your income you can use the money to protest. With money, one can buy legal and political support to push the resistance further. Poverty plays a significant role in undermining our resistance efforts. Protesting with picket signs in the street has its place in any resistance movement, but financial support cannot be overlooked. Money makes a difference.

Don't be so “Down for the Cause” that you get left out. If you can't secure your own food and shelter needs you will not be able to sustain the resistance. We have a long way to go. Resist by any means but do not forget to acquire and sharpen marketable skills so you can live to resist another day.

Racism is challenging to deal with. If you have specific ways that you successfully cope with it please include them in the comment section so that we can help each other. Remember to share this post. 

 

Take Charge of Your Life

Photo by damedeeso/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by damedeeso/iStock / Getty Images

boss (bôs)
noun
1. a person in charge of a worker or organization.

It’s alright to lay back and take life as it comes. There is something to be said about living life on life's terms. It's OK to relax and chill. But if that's your default mode or a socially acceptable way for you to avoid making hard decisions, I invite you to explore what it might be like for you to set goals, create a plan, and press for the mark. If your life feels stalled, you may have to put yourself on the line and step into the responsibility of whatever it is you want. All the cliches, jargon, and psychobabble in the world will not do it for you. If you haven't reached that point yet, then this post is not for you. But if your life is feeling like “Groundhog Day,” keep reading.

It’s so easy to slip into complacency. You wouldn't tolerate anyone stealing from your bank account. You would act a fool if you discovered anything like that, but when it comes to your attention like money it can be stolen. By keeping your attention on your intention and resisting this society’s tendency to steal your most valuable asset--your time-- you can take a proactive rather than reactive stance in your life.

Tim Campbell wrote in New Philosopher (Spring 2018), “We have a great deal to lose if the external world so captivates us that we never turn inward.

So contemplation supports identity, creativity, and morality—no small matters, to be sure.”

According to Tim Ferriss, author of Tools of the Titans, 80 percent of the Titans he’s interviewed have some morning routine which includes exercise, meditation, and journaling. Do you? I don't mean to be critical, but I do mean to throw a bucket of cold water on you in an effort to get you to wake up and realize you are, as the existentialist say, “condemned to freedom.” You can choose to do something different. In fact, your life has to be different before it can be better. It's up to you to make the decision to change.

Cultivate a mindset that promotes pushing your growth edges. It's that mindset that will help you identify opportunities and to work through anxiety and fear to create meaning and value for yourself. Everyone is anxious and everyone's afraid, the people who get things done, the ones who ship, know how to compartmentalize fear. With practice, you can learn to be more courageous.

If you're in a rut, according to Erika Andersen in her article “Learning to Learn” (Harvard Business Review, Spring 2018), “I'm talking about resisting the bias against doing new things, scanning the horizon for growth opportunities, and pushing yourself to acquire radically different capabilities—while still performing your job. That requires a willingness to experiment and become a novice again and again: an extremely disconcerting notion for most of us.” Good bosses have time to breathe and reflect. They manage themselves and their time in ways that enable them to see both the snapshot and the big picture. That facilitates managing projects and their anxiety in ways that produce results.

Get started. Don't get hung up getting ready to get ready. You will never have all the information if by information you really mean a guarantee that what you want to accomplish will work. If you're waiting to feel motivated, don't. Motivation usually arrives after you begin the work. So again, it comes back to your willingness to experiment and feel like a novice.

A boss sets goals, establishes timetables, and allocates resources toward the objectives. But the main thing good bosses do is learn how to learn.

“Managers and employees must practice looking inward, reflecting critically on their own behavior, identifying how they may have contributed to a problem, and then changing the way they act.” —Chris Argyris

Try doing the same thing and take charge of your life, like a boss.

 

Is Your Personality Killing Your Relationship?

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“Hello, Mr. Chambers. Can you talk?”

“Sure, what’s going on?”

“I talked to you recently about my boyfriend and I starting therapy with you. He said he was exhausted from my personality, needs time, and wasn't sure if he wanted to attend therapy with me. Do you think it’s even worth it for me to try to get him to come to therapy?”

“I'm sorry to hear that. It sounds like you might also be tired of your personality. That’s not unusual. We get tired and concerned about our behavior when we behave in ways that are not effective or that do not make us or those around us happy.”

“What do you mean? I’m tired of my own behavior?”

“That’s one way we get tired, by behaving in ways that do not achieve our goals.”

“So you think my behavior is a problem?”

“We have talked on the phone twice about concerns you have about your relationship and your behavior. Nothing that happens in your relationship is entirely all your fault, and I’m not judging you. But, I sense what you have been describing is a problem for you. Anyone is capable of behaving in ways that make other people want to avoid them or end their relationship with them.”

“That hurt my feelings when you said that.”

“When I said what?”

“That I was tired of my own behavior.”

“That’s not unusual. That’s when people call me, when something in their life is not going well and they are unhappy.”

“Yeah, I just don’t know what to do about this relationship. He told me he had one foot out the door, but that he cares about me. He just doesn’t know what to do.”

“It sounds like no matter what he does you would like to stop behaving in ways that make you and him unhappy. You could always enter into therapy for yourself, without him, and see if we might be able to figure out how to help you make changes. Relationships are about attraction and not promotion. It sounds like you are unhappy and you may be pressuring him to commit when he feels unsure about it. A better approach might be to enter therapy yourself, identify your problems, make some changes, and see if he recognizes it. Even if he doesn't, you will still feel better about yourself. You really don't have to pan-handle anyone to be in a relationship with you.”

This inquiry illustrates a common problem. Your personality can kill your relationship. When considering what it takes to succeed in relationships, we often only consider our positive personality traits. However, even positive traits can become problematic when they become extreme.  For example, according to Rob Kaiser, author of “Dealing with the Dark Side,” being excitable can make you appear passionate and enthusiastic on the one hand, and reactive and volatile on the other. Or being skeptical can make you appear politically astute and hard to fool in one instant yet mistrustful and quarrelsome in another instant. The trick is to improve self-awareness by studying your own behavior patterns, listening carefully to intimate partners and friends who provide you with critical feedback, and using that information to minimize or prevent your negative personality traits from spiraling out of control. By learning to do that you can prevent these patterns from poisoning your relationship.   

 

Effective Skills for Communicating Anger

"Effective emotion regulation is key to satisfying relationships and long-term health and well-being, and the more we learn about emotions, the more constructive and adaptive our regulation can become."

                                                                                      —T. Wranik and K.R. Scherer


What we don't understand about anger can hurt us, and the people around us. Every day the media bombards us with story after story about violent crimes from around the world. One thing most accounts have in common is anger. Someone flew into a rage.

During our evolution our ancestors’ ability to anger quickly, to deter and defend against threats, helped them survive in a predacious environment. However, as we continued to evolve, live closer together, and more effectively manage predators, our need for rage decreased. But our propensity for it remained. Today, to avoid killing each other over slight provocations we need to both learn and unlearn important things about anger. Our happiness and survival depend on it. We need to accept our anger and learn how to manage it. It’s difficult to create a fire drill if you don't believe you will ever face a fire. Accepting anger enables us to be proactive rather than reactive. Prediction is the basis of control. If you can predict an event you can better prepare for it even if you totally can't stop it.

We need to unlearn that anger must be expressed, at least in the way most people think of expressing anger. It's a myth that we fill with anger and need to blow it off like steam from a kettle. Years ago, the Primal Scream movement encouraged participants to release pent up anger and aggression by screaming at the top of their lungs. That misguided practice continues to compel some people to vent their frustration by beating a pillow, hitting a heavy bag, or “keeping it real” by expressing exactly how they feel without considering the effect such behaviors may have on the people they are mad at or on bystanders. Rehearsing expressing anger tends to prime one for their next angry episode. Also, expressing anger, even when not directed at someone, can have unpredictable social consequences—friends and peers may avoid you.

Another erroneous belief is that people or situations make you angry. That belief also needs to be unlearned. When situations occur that provoke anger the way you appraise the situation, and the meaning you assign to that appraisal, can turn a pilot light into a raging fire. The way you see it and what you tell yourself about what you see determines how well you manage your impulse to rage. This is paradoxical because people and situations do actually trigger our anger, however, the way you appraise the situation determines whether you express anger constructively or destructively. Shakespeare was correct, “thinking makes it so.”

Most people agree: anger can be destructive. But what about anger’s positive qualities? Anger surfaces when our needs go unmet. When we witness injustice in the world, anger compels us to act on our own behalf or on the behalf of others. Civil rights icon Rosa Parks wanted a seat on the bus, and she got angry when ordered to get up and move to the rear of the bus. Her anger at the injustice of racial segregation in the Jim Crow South changed the course of history.

In intimate relationships, anger often indicates that we care about some issue. Used appropriately, anger can have a positive effect. Since anger is inevitable, it is also predictable.  Prediction is the basis of control. We might as well recognize our mistaken beliefs and learn how to constructively use anger to improve our relationships. We can stop feigning surprise next time our blood boils, and take this opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive and learn how to effectively express anger.

According to C. Nathan DeWall Ph.D., it is theorized that self-control is comprised of three distinct systems: learning, skill, and a limited energy resource. We need to learn about our emotions to manage them more effectively. It takes skill to know not only what to do intellectually when we get angry, but also how to manage our behavior to meet the challenges posed by difficult emotions. All of us have only so much energy per day. Once we deplete our daily energy allotment, we don’t have it available to help us control our impulses or to manage other difficult tasks. A useful way to monitor our limited energy resources is to use the acronym HALT reminds us to avoid becoming too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

We need to learn about our own emotions and the emotional lives of others if we plan to improve how we deal with anger. An interesting characteristic of anger is that it is described as a "secondary emotion." Usually, when we feel anger some primary feeling such as guilt, shame, or vulnerability has been tripped, and anger signals to us and to those around us that a threat is present. Anger swells quickly not only to help us mobilize against the threat but to also help us save face among our social group. In this way, according to Raymond Novaco, anger serves as a form of image control. Anger communicates to others that “I am angry, leave me alone or I am willing to defend myself now.” That's a great feature for guys running around on the savannah hunting for protein, but not so valuable for your intimate relationships.

A better alternative today is to recognize threats, appraise situations accurately, and use words to express how you feel—provided you don't have to run. Running is still a great survival skill. Cultivating emotional intelligence provides the best opportunity for us to keep our inner caveman in check, avoid jail, and maintain both our employment and our relationships.

We all get angry. The point I’m making is not how to avoid anger but rather to express anger effectively and constructively. To that end, one of the best skills one can learn is how to calm down. We get angry for various reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that we sense danger. Before you attempt to calm down you must feel safe. Move to a safe place and make the effort to calm down. When we feel angry or anxious our breathing becomes fast, loud, shallow, and irregular. To calm down, bring your attention to your breathing and do the opposite: breathe slowly, quietly, deeply, and regularly. Thich Nhat Hanh says he can control his anger in three breaths. He’s a Buddhist monk. Don't expect to corral yours that efficiently; he's practiced meditating for years. The point is your breathing controls your nervous system. When correctly used it is very effective in regulating your emotional states.

Other than getting to safety, take care of your anger before you attempt anything else. When it comes to stress we all think we're better at managing it than we really are. We often make situations worse when we attempt to solve problems under duress with adrenaline coursing through our veins. This idea goes back to the myth that we have to get the anger out. Don't fall for it. Take the time to calm down. If you attempt to resolve a problem between you and another person while agitated, mirror neurons in your brain activate mirror neurons in the other person's brain and both of you will most likely get upset. Calm down first.

What you say to yourself when angry is important. Pay attention to negative self-talk. This may be challenging because you’re upset and you may have never considered your internal dialogue or tried to change it. Saying soothing words to yourself will help you avoid boiling over.

Optimally, in an intimate relationship, approach your partner with a soft heart, soft eyes, soft voice, and soft hands. It helps to build trust. Remember human beings, when frightened or overwhelmed, turn to each other. It's only if we have experienced some previous traumatic event that we turn on each other.

Use your words. If you are unable to express your complaint succinctly, you are either not calm enough or you have not thought about the issue well enough to discuss it effectively. Words formed into “I statements” can be very effective because the structure of the “I statement” helps you articulate the problem without blaming your partner. The object is to state the problem, how the problem makes you feel, and what you need from your partner to correct it. Here’s an example. “When you’re late coming home, I feel worried. I need you to call when you are going to be late.”  Another useful approach is the “XYZ Statement.” Here’s an example. When X happens in situation Y, I felt Z. Both “I Statements” and “XYZ Statements” are non-blaming. Remember, conflicts are expressed through language. How you say things, the words you choose, can be the difference between a successful outcome or a broken relationship.

Relational statements make clear what the relationship means to you. Relational statements also help you remain calm by reminding you to remember that you are having a conflict or disagreement with an intimate partner—someone you care about. Here are some examples of relational statements. “This issue is important to me.” “You are important to me,” and “Our relationship is important to me.” Relational statements, when properly used, express the positive value you place on the relationship between you and your partner and increase intimacy while reducing anger and frustration.

Listening to understand can help keep you and your partner calm. Listening is the first step toward validating feelings. Invalidation can ignite anger and escalate a conflict faster than gasoline and matches. Listen so that you can respond to what you hear rather than the voice in your head that is often emanating from the most primitive regions of your brain—the part that only understands fight or flight. Remember, you're angry at an intimate partner, someone you care about. Listening helps you suppress impulses which is the key to expressing them constructively rather than destructively.  

Anger management takes practice, honesty, open-mindedness, a willingness to stay calm, positive self-talk, compassion, the expression of your feelings using “I Statements, XYZ Statements, and Relational Statements, and active listening to validate and understand the feelings behind your partner’s words. Controlling your emotions is worth it. Practice for yourself, your partner, and for the world.

 

Self-Acceptance

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A lack of self-acceptance can sabotage you in a variety of ways. It can increase anxiety the closer you get to someone or something desirable. It can compel you to act in ways that are antithetical to your goals. It can make you withdraw during the goal acquisition stage without giving you a chance to succeed. When you feel ashamed of who you are or some aspect of yourself a satisfying relationship is hard to develop. Until you acknowledge those parts of yourself and learn to manage them, your life may remain unsatisfying. Learning to accept yourself places you in a better position to be accepted by others. It’s a hollow victory when friends and family accept you and you have trouble accepting yourself. Everyone may not like you, that’s not the point. The point is for you to like yourself and for you to have the courage to give others the opportunity to like the real you. By being more aware an authentic, you offer others the chance to choose to like the real you, not some fake invention.

Let’s distinguish between self-esteem and self-acceptance to clear up any confusion about the two before we proceed. According to Leon F. Seltzer Ph.D.: “Self-esteem refers specifically to how valuable, or worthwhile, we see ourselves, self-acceptance alludes to a far more global affirmation of self. When we're self-accepting, we're able to embrace all facets of ourselves—not just the positive, more "esteem-able" parts.”

Everyone is both a saint and a monster. We also may have physical features that make us feel bad about ourselves. While we may have an overall view of ourselves as worthwhile a lack of self-acceptance may interfere with our ability to accept those unfavorable characteristics. When we don’t like features we possess we may try to hide them or compensate for them in ways that allow us to cope. Our efforts to suppress, numb, or avoid the parts of who we are that we don’t like often invite other problems and make the situation worse. Someone who can’t stand being short may overcompensate by acting more macho. Someone overweight may begin smoking in a misguided effort to prevent weight gain. Someone who suffered growing up poor may vow to never want for anything in life and overspend or steal. Those coping strategies often fail and increase our problems. The macho person may find himself trying to prove how big he is in progressively dangerous ways. The smoker who fails to control her weight without smoking may ultimately find herself needing an oxygen tank. And the person who breaks the law to compensate for an impoverished childhood may wind up in jail. In short, our fixes often make accepting ourselves more difficult.

To further illustrate how our attempts to compensate for low self-acceptance can create problems, here’s an example from the Disney movie “Aladdin.” Aladdin presented himself as a prince to the princess when he was actually a beggar. As they grew closer, he became uncomfortable. Feeling increasingly anxious about who he really was and his dishonest attempt to conceal his true identity threatened to destroy their relationship. Feeling like an imposter Aladdin, ultimately, revealed his true identity and, like all things Disney, the fairy tale ended happily. In real life betraying yourself and others in that way can be disastrous.

What's interesting about the Aladdin example is how it illustrates the difference between self-esteem and self-acceptance. Aladdin’s self-esteem motivated him to strive to be with the princess. He aspired to be with someone beautiful who also had status, and he accomplished that goal. That indicated healthy self-esteem. On the other hand, dishonesty about his true identity indicated low self-acceptance. The internal conflict between his self-esteem and his self-acceptance resulted in feelings of guilt and shame about being dishonest. Those feelings triggered anxiety and self-doubt which threatened his relationship with himself and the princess.

Working to accept yourself is for heroes. It takes courage to proceed down a hero's path. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to accept your fears, discomfort, and efforts in order to embrace yourself fully-- and not just the positive “more esteem-able” parts. By feeling more comfortable with yourself, you encourage people to like the authentic you. Presenting a false front or withdrawing from relationships before you give them a chance to succeed leads to unhappiness.

The inability to accept yourself is a type of suffering. To free yourself from this attitude requires that you learn to sit with yourself and look deeply into who you are. That seems simple enough, but we all spend an extraordinary amount of time avoiding, camouflaging, and disavowing the parts of ourselves that we find unattractive. When we do this, simple things become difficult. The last thing we want to do is sit, breathe, and embrace every part of ourselves and our suffering. That’s emotional labor. To be human is to suffer. Fear prevents the type of emotional exploration I'm describing.

Exposure therapy is the number one treatment for specific phobias and other fears. If you went to see a therapist about a fear of snakes. The therapist would talk to you about snakes. He might even show you a picture of a snake. As you become more desensitized, he might even bring in a rubber snake. Eventually, as your fear of snakes decreases, he might even have you hold the rubber snake until your fear of snakes is extinguished. By sitting with and exposing yourself to your own thoughts and feelings and the anxiety they invoke, you can reduce your anxiety. To avoid feeling like an imposter, increase happiness, and improve your relationship satisfaction, practice self-acceptance.

 

Insecurity

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“My girl so insecure. She always looking for shit.”

“Yea. I tell mine, if you look through my phone it's a wrap. You got ta go. Why they always looking fa stuff?”

“What do you mean, looking for stuff? What kind of stuff?

“Man, they be lookin’ for other women numbers and shit.”

“So, what you got a phone or a grenade? You leave your cell phone down and she see a message from baby, and it will blow your whole shit up. You'll be starting the New Year  in a shelter or in jail.”

“That's only if she lookin’ for something. Why they so insecure?”

“I hate to tell y’all this, but you will not date secure women,” I said.

Every man in the room paused, cocked their heads to the side, and looked at me like the RCA dog.

A voice shot out of nowhere.

“Why?”

“You will not date an secure woman because you are insecure.”

The looks on their faces indicated in no uncertain terms that I needed to resolve the tension.

“I'm not insecure. She’s look’n fa shit.”

“Remember the meditation we just did? Remember how noisy it was all the shuffling, fidgeting, and stuff that was going on. That's insecurity. The inability to just sit still and breathe. What about all the girlfriends? You're supposed to be in a committed relationship and you're cheating. Cheating is a form of insecurity. Violence is the biggest form of insecurity there is. There can be no attack without fear. We all date and get involved with people who are equal to or less than we are. I suggest that we account for and learn to manage our own insecurity, and stop believing that it is a force outside of us, moving toward us, rather than a feeling inside of us, moving out.

The room got quiet.

 

The Impact of Witnessing and Experiencing Violence and Victimization as a Child

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Neither the mother’s personality, nor the infant’s neurological anomalies at birth, nor its IQ, nor its temperament—including its activity level and reactivity to stress—predicted whether a child would develop serious behavioral problems in adolescence. The key issue, rather, was the nature of the parent-child relationship: how parents felt about and interacted with their kids.

                                                      —The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

In my practice, working with both victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence, one observation stands out. People who have been hit in relationships have different attitudes about hitting than people who have not been hit. Those who have been hit often believe violence is useful, necessary, and expected. When initially asked, men in my domestic violence groups do not attribute their current behavior to the harsh treatment they received as children. In fact, most offenders share one thing in common—early childhood trauma.

When we discuss corporal punishment the men in my groups often argue that the treatment they received during childhood helped them become better people. They also believe they deserved the overly punitive treatment they received from their caregivers.They often don't see how their subsequent substance abuse, criminal behavior, and domestic violence relate to the harsh treatment they received growing up. Part of my job requires drawing lines and connecting dots to help them understand the problem before they become motivated to change. Precontemplation, not necessarily denial, prevents many of them from understanding the link well enough to consciously engage the change process.

Trauma victims often blame themselves. It may be easier for them to ascribe blame to themselves than to cope with the random, unpredictable, predacious nature of trauma. Blaming themselves may serve to decrease anxiety.

Often, our suffering begins when we are quite young and continues to fester as we grow. There is a five-year-old still inside us. This child may have suffered a lot. A five-year-old is fragile and easily wounded. Without mindfulness, parents may transmit all their pain, anger, and suffering to their children.

                                                                         —How to Fight, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Participants in my groups have significant difficulty regulating themselves. I observed this recently when I invited them to join me in a ten-minute meditation at the beginning of a group session. They were all new to meditation and mindfulness. During the meditation, I noticed they made lots of noise and were quite restless. Their inability to sit quietly I found very annoying. I could feel myself becoming angry, as I imagined them making noise on purpose to get me to discontinue the exercise. One man even began drumming his fingers on the table next to him and talking to what sounded like himself as no one else answered. As I continued to breathe, frustrated with the noise they made and my powerlessness over their behavior. I felt the impulse to yell at them to shut up, but I held my composure. I herded my attention back to my breathing, and my anger began to cool. As it decreased, I realized they were not making noise and fidgeting on purpose. Each man, in his own way, was challenged by the silence. As I relaxed more deeply, I noticed the men making the most noise also had the most severe trauma histories. What I was actually witnessing was each man's dis-ease. Meditating with them opened a window which allowed me to observe their suffering. But more importantly, meditation allowed them to observe their own suffering. Rather than personalizing their behavior and feeling angry at them, I was able to feel compassion for them. I began to think more deeply about what each man had experienced in relationships prior to the incident that resulted in his arrest and sentencing. The gift I received from them was an opportunity to see first-hand, at least, some of the impact of witnessing and experiencing violence and victimization as children.

Whether you witnessed or experienced violence as a child or your caretakers emotionally or physically neglected you, when you grow up in a traumatizing environment you are likely to still show signs of that trauma as an adult.

                                                                                  —Andrea Brandt, Ph.D. MFT                   

Once the meditation ended, we engaged in a discussion about their experience, emotional lives, and coping skills. Informed by my observations, during the exercise, I posed questions to help them see their need to avoid the discomfort of thinking about past treatment, emotional burdens, and silence. I encouraged each man to account for his own dis-ease while meditating and to consider no wives, women, or girlfriends were present. Their experience was solely their suffering—suffering they have been blaming and punishing their partners for.

When we feel unhappy, we often use cruelty toward others to make ourselves feel better.    

What is a Healthy Relationship?

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A healthy relationship doesn't kill you. We're all going to leave here at some point, hopefully not by the hand of a boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, or spouse. People kill each other in relationships. You survive a healthy relationship.

Short of death, relationships can make you miserable. Feeling unable to communicate, treat each other with respect, and speak openly about thoughts and feelings can suck the life out of you. I talk to people all the time who willingly poke themselves in the eye in relationships and wonder why their eye hurts. In essence, here's the conversation.

How may I help you?

“Every time I... This happens and I can't take it anymore.”

Have you considered not doing...?

Silence.

The butt-tensing silence you experience watching a horror movie when the person on screen separates from others and wanders down a dark, spooky hallway. Relationships can make us all feel lost. A healthy relationship is one in which you notice when you are drifting into unfamiliar territory, and self-correct before finding yourself on the wrong end of a chainsaw.

A healthy relationship encourages you to grow up and step into your responsibility. You can bitch, gripe, moan, and complain all you want. But if anything is wrong with your relationship or life, it is your responsibility to fix it—even if that means accepting the situation as it is, admitting defeat and seeking outside help, or exiting without leaving behind a wake of destruction.

A healthy relationship is not to be used to escape your circumstances. You can't avoid life and reality, both become crystal clear when you enter an intimate relationship with another human being. Once the honeymoon ends and you're both standing face to face with your respective mothers and fathers, the shit gets real. What started out feeling like the Tour de France can quickly morph into the Tour de Hell—in the best relationships. You will need to double down on every relationship skill you know to manage conflicts, remain respectful, and maintain your sanity.

A healthy relationship requires both partners to rise to the occasion and support each other through the letdown of “the real”, for real. You are not perfect. That's real. You're in a relationship with another person who is not perfect, for real. A healthy relationship is one in which you can laugh at the absurdity of your predicament and your life. A healthy relationship enables you to recognize and accept the difficulty involved in loving another person. You silly fool. Did you really believe you could? That's not your fault. We all believe we can love another, and many believe they can love another without loving themselves.

Healthy relationships are best when a little unhealthy—”unhealthy” as in not perfect. Sometimes we promote an outside appearance of health and inside the relationship is toxic. A healthy relationship is one in which appearances do not deceive.  

Healthy relationships result from both partners willingness to do the work—their work.

 

Why Does Someone Stay in an Abusive Relationship?-Domestic Violence Education Series

Confronting Faulty Thinking

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Many men fail to identify and correct errors in their thinking. Because they don't allow others to examine their thinking or comment on their behavior, they often make the same mistakes over and over again. Isolation gives wings to insanity. Without new information and the ability to test reality, problems abound.

Men often find it difficult to describe with words their emotional reactions when their partners disappoint them or when they experience unfairness. The slightest hint of shame triggers some men to become abusive to hide their inadequacies and vulnerability. Some men are abusive to present themselves as strong and threatening rather than inadequate and weak. Strong and threatening are characteristics associated with manhood in our culture.

That's the problem. Often, in a vain effort to manage their image, men make things up, not only to avoid reality, but to carry on while remaining socially isolated. Here's an example: Recently, I talked to a young man about his inability to find and maintain employment.

“I’m a gangster,” he offered.

While he did have a criminal background, my intuition told me this man’s unemployment stemmed primarily from a learning disorder and a marijuana habit. His “gangster” label provided him with a socially acceptable way to mitigate a harsh reality. I also suspected the title unconsciously gratified him. He could avoid his unemployment problem without a severe threat to his identity. If he didn't look for work, or marginally performed and lost his job, he could blame it on being a gangster.

It’s important to see your complicity in the problems you experience. You can't change anything you cant see. Denial serves as a shock absorber, an important buffer between you and reality. Reality’s full force can flummox your ability to cope and leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

A gangster with no gun. A dope dealer with no dope. A pimp with no hoes. We all delude ourselves, perhaps not to this degree, but to varying degrees. It's important to understand how we do it in order to give ourselves the best possible chance to change. “I'll do it later,” “They don't like me,” and “I'm better under pressure,” are a few of the ways in which our thinking traps us in behavior patterns that block our objectives and diminish our self-esteem.

To avoid adding insight to injury, one has to take responsibility by also changing their behavior. It takes effort to lean into uncomfortable, unknown places and try something new. There's no secret to it. There's nothing deep about it. You are totally free to change both thinking and behavior. It has to be different before it can be better.

 

Who Can Be Affected by Domestic Violence?-Domestic Violence Education

Domestic violence affects us all regardless of race, sexual orientation, and religion. This video is for anyone seeking education about domestic violence. It offers tips on what to do if you suspect that you or a loved one are in an abusive relationship. 

SUBSCRIBE HERE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi_wu8p1Kcc3VxyV4NZ6TZA

 

Learning From Sitting

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“Good morning, gentlemen. It's good to see everyone. Let's do five minutes of meditation,” I said as I walked into my domestic violence group.

“Let's begin.” I set the timer on my phone.

As I closed my eyes, my hearing sharpened. With every breath, I absorbed the sounds around me. I could hear shuffling in the room as each man settled into the exercise. Cars rolled by outside in the distance. My breathing coalesced with the other men's breathing like factory noise. Feet shifted on the floor, both in the room and outside as movement asserted itself on my awareness. Conversations beyond the walls disrupted quietude. I felt like every thought and feeling made noise entering and exiting my mind.

Gently, I herded my attention back to my breathing. Someone coughed. The wind blew, windows rattled, and dry leaves rustled outside. As my mind wandered I heard different sounds. I reminded myself to breathe. More sounds. I surrendered with each breath. Buzz, buzz, buzz brought the exercise to an end. What seemed like an eternity ended in five minutes.

“What was that like for you? What did you notice?" I asked the group.

“I felt sleepy,” one man replied, embarrassed. Another man  said, “I don't like meditation, it doesn't do anything.”

“You felt sleepy? What does that tell you?” I asked.

His eyes rolled up as he searched for an answer.

“You're tired,” another man replied.

“What would you like it to do?” I asked the other man.

“I would like to clear my mind and relax,” he said.

“I see. You would like to clear your mind and relax. That's interesting. So, because you can't clear your mind and relax, you feel like meditation has no value? What about learning how to sit with what's on your mind? What about noticing your thoughts and feelings, without clinging, or acting on them? Would that be valuable?” I asked.

The men mumbled.

“Meditation is not to clear your mind but, to teach you how to sit with and accept what's on your mind. The object is to notice and not cling to your thoughts. Relaxation is a byproduct.” I said.”

“What did you hear while meditating?” I asked.

“I heard cars,” one man said.

Another said, “People talking outside.”

“Yes, but what about internal sounds?” I asked.

“I kept trying to keep my mind from wandering,” a man said.

“How did you bring yourself back to your breathing?” I asked.

“I forced myself,” he replied.

“Our minds and bodies wander both during meditation and in real life. Be gentle with yourself and come back to your breathing.” I replied, trying not to sound like a monk from the TV show Kung Fu.”

“Did you notice the sounds? It got quite noisy. There were two kinds of sounds, external and internal. Did anyone notice their powerlessness over the noise? Lack of control is a type of suffering. Often, we struggle against our vulnerability and we try to fix it only to make our situation worse. Think about the reason you're here. A thought or feeling you could not tolerate compelled you to act which initiated a negative chain reaction. That's what meditation is for, to help you prevent acting on every thought or feeling you have.” I explained.

I said, “The word “compassion” means to sit with suffering. Not to make suffering go away, but to simply sit with it. Compassion also leads to happiness. The more you get in touch with your own suffering and the suffering of others, the happier you will be. Keep practicing.”

 

Back to the Future, in a Way

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Traditionally, a psychotherapist secured an office, furnished it with a couch, desk, chair, telephone, flora, wall art, hung his shingle outside the door, and opened for business. Clients met with him face-to-face, established rapport, and explored psychological issues, while in the same room. That has been the standard practice in our profession.

Time and technology has changed everything. While we think technology will propel us into the future it has actually taken me back to the past when doctors made home visits. With a mouse click a client can meet privately with me in a secure virtual office online. Clients can discuss their concerns in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. It’s unnecessary to add additional time to their day driving through traffic, looking for parking, and feeding meters. The risk of getting mugged traveling to or from their therapist’s office at night while walking to their car or the nearest transit stop has been eliminated. Online sessions allow therapist to provide services to clients who, due to physical limitations, mild illnesses, or car problems, might find it difficult to visit an office.

I have a client with a two-hour commute one way to work. Add a conventional therapy session and it’s at least another hour added to his commute. A few weeks ago, in the Bay Area, on the same day, BART halted because a dog wandered onto the tracks. Someone fired shots on the 880 freeway and the Highway Patrol blocked traffic for hours during their investigation. Two Muni buses collided in San Francisco and snarled traffic. The Bay Area commute was a mess. Occurrences like those are common. Bay Area traffic is a nightmare. Anyone living in urban areas must contend with additional stress.

I have another client, a single woman nursing a baby. Conventional therapy for her means arranging childcare. It’s very convenient and stress-relieving for her to attend online sessions with her child. She is less distracted by thoughts about her baby's welfare during sessions even though he fusses, feeds and demands attention. She manages all of that easily with greater peace of mind.  

Historically, doctors would visit patients at their homes. Home visits allowed doctors to become better acquainted with patients, observe their lifestyles, and form stronger relationships. Home visits helped doctors build trust with patients. Online psychotherapy is a throwback to yesteryear.

As an online practitioner I consider it a privilege to offer my professional services to anyone in the state of California with a laptop, tablet, or cell phone and internet connection. Satisfying more of my clients needs by meeting online enables me to provide more value by conserving their time and reducing their stress level.

Online psychotherapy is relatively new, but just because something has yet to become popular doesn't mean it’s ineffective. The most important consideration is that your therapist is licensed, skilled, and available. If that's the case then online psychotherapy can work for you.

Toxic Masculinity

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In a statement on Tuesday, Harvey Weinstein’s spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister said: “Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments, as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.”

What? “Never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life?” Something smells foul.

Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, R. Kelly, Tiger Woods, Ray Rice, Kevin Hart, Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Bill O'Reilly, Joe Mixon, Roger Ailes, and now Harvey Weinstein. The latest episode of Toxic Masculinity begins with sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein which include harassing a woman employee, cornering her in a restaurant, and jerking off in front of her. When the story broke, I felt embarrassed and shied away from thinking about another man doing something cringe-worthy. It’s challenging enough being a man. I feared being judged for another man’s dumb, abusive, criminal behavior.

Once I heard the sexual harassment allegations, I concluded he was a sex offender. Suffice it to say, he’s no beginner. His behavior would be funny if it wasn't so serious. I can hear a stand-up comedian, “I didn't say ‘bonus,’ I said ‘boner’.”

Mr. Weinstein found himself consumed by behavior he could not control like a passenger on a train which had blown past the pleasure station long ago. Obsession and compulsion are destructive forces in his life, racing down the rails, destroying everything in its path. He now finds himself hanging on for dear life to his career, his wife, and, ultimately, his freedom.    

Toxic masculinity is a problem derived from unhappiness and manifested by sexual conquests, narcissism, grandiosity, aggression, and power which are poisonous to the host and others they come into contact with. We have a tendency to live what we believe. Harvey Weinstein behaved in ways that showed disrespect for women, his wedding vows, and his job. As indicated by his using women to gratify himself, reduce shame and guilt, and to relieve unhappiness. He lived behind a carefully constructed mask that allowed him to behave monstrously.

Bad things happen when men cultivate toxic masculinity. On one end of the spectrum, they believe women are an extension of themselves, feeling the same way they do, particularly about sex. On the other end of the spectrum, they don’t think about women at all. Why should they? They see themselves as all-powerful and if they possess money and status, so do others around them, including their victims. Toxic masculinity forces men to behave as stereotypes, motivating many to break the law.

It can also create an opportunity for men to talk to other men about our miseducation and its disastrous consequences on our lives and the lives of those around us. As I explain to the men in my domestic violence group, there is no such thing as a first offender. You are in this group for what you got caught for. What about the numerous things you did that you didn't get caught for? Harvey Weinstein’s now facing three additional rape allegations. Toxic masculinity will catch up with you.

Misguided men, who have fallen victim to our culture’s more pernicious version of manhood, have lowered the bar so much, have behaved so poorly, some women are trying to be men. With the absence of suitable men, women pleasure themselves, each other, raise children willingly alone—and have been doing it on their own terms for years. These characters have also provided the well-meaning man with great opportunities to be a “good man.” While toxic masculinity narrowly defines men, stripping them of the qualities that make men great—confidence, kindness, honesty, integrity, and courage—the responsible, mature man makes an effort to rise above it by cultivating empathy for others. Don't cheat on your partner. Avoid promiscuity. Accept no for an answer. Don't act like a sex offender. Don’t drop anything in anyone’s drink. Don't break the law. Use anger constructively. Have some integrity. Get in touch with your misogyny. Work hard. Cultivate gratitude. How could one possibly fail at being a good man? Even if you have transgressed, who among us will cast the first stone?  

This is a great time to be a man. The world needs good men. Real men are around, rarely grabbing headlines, but they do exist.