What We Think…We Feel

Here in the wake of so many thoughts and feelings about Caitlyn Jenner when so many of us are having bold new thoughts about the way we feel or daring to feel new things about the way we think, I’d like to revisit some of my feelings and thoughts about Manthink and Womanthink.  I’ve mentioned before the need for a Man’s Liberation Revolution, and  if I could be the one to start it I think I would start with this:  Let’s teach our men and boys to separate thoughts from feelings.  Let’s stop dictating to our boys what and how they should feel and simply honor their authentic feelings.  Let’s stop dragging their hearts around.

Click Here for theme song.

Click Here for theme song. https://youtu.be/5O0Enwg8E3o

My daughter, home from her first year of college, asked me about a friend of her’s the same age who is already looking forward to marrying and settling down. Why would a guy want that so early?

The answer is  that lots of men confuse a Wife with a Life.  (And not all of them young men, either) Many men somehow grow up thinking that once they can claim someone as “My Wife” she will take charge, build and operate a life – that he can then look to with pride as his Own Life.

This tempting illusion is made worse by the fact that men have a sex drive that simply comes on like clockwork at regular intervals.  They mistakenly assume that a woman’s sex drive simply goes “On” at regular intervals too.  So, marriage to My Wife means that she will want to have sex with him regularly.

Anyone can see how enticing it would be for a man to lasso a gal into marriage.  Once he has someone to call My Wife, he supposes she will build and maintain A Life that he can be part of without any additional effort.  She will seek him out for sex without him having to work at seduction.  He can put his feet up and coast from there on out! What a huge disappointment The Life with The Wife will turn out to be when he is rudely awakened from this mythological fantasy.

Men in Western society have had a nasty trick played on them since birth that teaches them that their feelings are not valid.  Boys often get punished for expressing genuine feelings.  Then they are told in clear, black and white terms what they SHOULD feel in given situations.  When they go to school or join sports teams, their peers reinforce these unrealistic standards, punishing boys for showing honest feelings and rewarding them for faking other feelings.  Its no wonder they should want to have this magical creature called a Wife who will simply take over all the sticky situations that call for negotiating feelings and just let them avoid feelings altogether.

But such a creature doesn’t exist.  Men usually find this out the hard way.  They think they have WON the game when they’ve made some lady The Wife.  Then they wake up to find they only signed up for a new JOB.  There is no magical sex at regular intervals, sex has to be earned daily.  That ‘take charge attitude’ they thought would mean she could organize all the messy parts of life?  Its now pointed at taking charge of him and everything he does.  And that lovely construct they called My Life?  Evaporates when The Wife files for divorce, leaves, and takes the whole Life with her.

marriage

The sad part of this myth is that if you do what ‘they’ say you must and feel what ‘they’ say you should to win? Everyone loses.  Men don’t get what they’re after and neither do the women.  But you know what’s even sadder?  Real happiness is actually much, much easier.  And everyone wins.

For example, when a woman says she wants her man to “take care of her” the Good Husband is trained to think he has to work himself to death making lots of money to fulfil her every whim.  But what she really means is she wants him to stand up for her feelings and her support her dreams.  That’s a lot more fun, too.  Real women who really love YOU want to contribute equally as a team player.  She doesn’t want to have to sell her soul to an awful boss to keep her children fed, but she does want to contribute.  Acknowledging her skills and strengths and calculating a tangible value for what she does within the home as well as out is one step in that team oriented direction.

Let's get REAL!

Let’s get REAL!

When she thinks, “take care of me” she doesn’t mean you starting a fight when someone insults or demeans her.  It means you putting your arm around her on the spot and saying, “You don’t have to take this, let’s go!”  It means you ASKING her about her dreams and goals, and making it your goal to help her realize them.  Honestly, when women say “take care of me” they really want to be protected and cared for emotionally.   Haven’t you seen all the movies where the man becomes “married to his job” and ends up alone?  Money is only a small part of security, and it’s a part that can and should be open to negotiations.

Here’s another common misunderstanding.  When a woman says she needs to be able to trust, men usually think that means sharing a Facebook page or email passwords.  Such a recipe for misunderstanding and lack of privacy is a disaster waiting to happen.  But when men hear “I can’t trust you” they think of sexual infidelity.  They think trust is about who you’re having sex with.  But what a real woman means is she needs to be able to depend on you saying what you mean and meaning what you say.   If you are stretching the truth, or making promises you don’t back up with action, there can be no trust.  If you are saying what you mean and backing it up, she can extrapolate the data for herself and KNOW whether you are emotionally and sexually her’s…or not.

I’ve known plenty of people who have ruined the best relationship of their life because they were determined to FEEL what some cultural conditioning  said they SHOULD feel.  It usually starts with something that goes, “I have a right to feel__________!” or “Anyone in my situation would feel ________.”  Then you ask a dozen friends and strangers how they would feel “if…”  Usually the individual goes on to ruin his relationship with feelings of jealousy, hurt, anger, rejection – or any number of publicly condoned feelings that spell a death sentence to REAL trust or REAL intimacy.

Real intimacy is built ONLY of real feelings.  Real trust is only ever founded on real actions, backed up by real words and truths.  If men get their real feelings beaten out of them and instead accept false feelings, they have absolutely no possibility of ever having real intimacy, or real marriage, or a real life.  If women let it happen they will have absolutely no possibility of ever finding real trust, real love or a real man.  Begin to be your authentic self.  Begin to accept authenticity, and ONLY authenticity in others.  (Including the children!)  Your world will be a better place.

real2

 

Here’s an exercise in personal authenticity:

Set aside all the things your parents, your peers, your culture, and your society says you “should” feel.  What’s left?  That is what you honestly feel.  If there is nothing left?  CHOOSE to feel what is most beneficial all round.

Example: Your partner has an affair.  You “SHOULD” feel: anger, jealousy, eternal mistrust, pain.  You might then spend the rest of your life seeking vengeance, holding a grudge or extracting a price, or nursing your wounds.  This is what ‘they’ approve and condone.  Let me know when that starts to sound like fun or happiness, k?

OR you could set all that aside and see what you really feel.  You may find that your only authentic feelings are those of loneliness.  Then you can take action to solve whatever lack of real intimacy led your partner to seek out someone else.  This is what couples counseling is for.  Or you may find you actually feel glad.  Perhaps the lack of intimacy goes too deep and you actually want to find someone you can build real trust with.  You may even be happy that your partner found someone else.  Or maybe if you’re really honest you may find a 3-way marriage actually feels more fulfilling, who knows?

If you have felt what “they” said you “should” for so long that you cannot actually identify your true feelings?  Don’t worry.   Mastering the human emotional experience is THE major challenge of life.  You can actually choose to feel what serves you best.

For example, after my divorce, my Ex would often come to my house to talk and vent about his day.  Frequently, he would get around to blaming all his present problems on me.  I knew “anyone” would feel resentment.  I knew “they” would condone my anger.   But I decided to ask myself one simple question, “What good will it do you to argue with this man, in front of his children?”  I realized no good could come of it.  So I chose to feel compassion and pity.  Obviously, he had no one else to vent his day to (compassion) and lacked the sound reasoning ability to find the true cause of his problems (pity).  I found that simply letting him vent without feedback from me meant he would leave sooner.  That was the action that served me best, so that is what I chose to feel.

If Caitlyn Jenner had not been badgered into feeling a bunch of SHOULDS as a “He” she might have transitioned earlier.   I wholeheartedly applaud Caitlyn Jenner and all her family, friends and loved ones.  Most trans and non-binary people will never have the means to transform our physical form to match who we authentically are inside.  But all of us can begin to feel our own authentic feelings and think our own unique thoughts.  And we can stop pretending to feel and forcing others to feel,  what we never really felt in the first place.  Maybe we won’t even want to change our bodies if we can reclaim our hearts and our minds.

Be REAL. Be a champion.

Be REAL. Be a champion.

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How to Raise Children and Pets II

Be The Leader

The most important practical step in teaching children and pets is to establish your role as the firm and fair leader.  If you are a good competent leader your young charges will be eager to learn from you.  If you are a poor leader, it won’t matter how good your teaching techniques are, neither pets nor kids will learn much.  (They will learn to be like you but they will not behave or learn manners.)

Leaders eat first.

Leaders eat first.

Rule of Food

In dog and cat communities the rule of leadership is simple and clear:  The one who makes the kill eats his fill.  In other words to establish yourself as the leader, you must eat your meals and snacks before your pets and resist the urge to share, until you are finished.  It is a good practice for the leader to share the last bite of food as a reward for waiting patiently.  Do NOT share while you are still eating.  This applies to both cats and dogs.  With cats, its important also that you do not even let them sniff your food.  If you DON’T apply this rule your kitten or puppy will soon establish themselves as your leader and your decisions will be disregarded and overturned.

Now for the food rule to work you must put down only as much dog or cat food as your pet can eat in one sitting. Do NOT keep the food bowl filled throughout the day.  Put it down at mealtimes and then take it up.  You should leave  fresh water out through the day.

Firm and Fair

The rule of food does not really apply to humans but the firm and fair rule does.  Being the leader depends on being firm and fair.  The leader of any group is expected to make decisions for the well-being of the group members.  If you make decisions that are self-serving and unfair to your youngsters, they will begin to disregard your decisions and rebel.  So you need to say what you mean and mean what you say.

The easiest way to stay consistent (i.e. firm) is to decide in advance which things actually matter TO YOU.   Enforce rules and learning that apply to those things.   Then decide that all the things that don’t matter, DON’T  MATTER.  For example, when my kids were babies I decided that Safety, Health, and Getting Along With Others were the things I cared about.  I can be firm and consistent about teaching and enforcing rules that apply to these areas because I ACTUALLY care about them and because they ACTUALLY matter for my kids’ futures.  So I don’t bother my kids with whether their choice of clothing matches or is fashionable, my concern is only for whether the clothes are clean, comfortable and appropriate for the weather.

Let kids dress themselves.

Kids need to make their own choices.

Kid fashion.

Kid controlled fashion.

Likewise, when my kids became teens I applied the same standards to monitoring their social life.  Do they have the tools for making friends and Getting Along?  Are they staying Safe and Healthy?  So while other Mom’s were asking their FaceBook friends “At what age should girls be allowed to date?” and fretting over making social choices FOR their teens, my rules were clear.  I knew that I would allow my daughters to date as early and as often as they had an interest.  Because when they are too young to drive their dates were just another opportunity for me to teach Health, Safety, and Getting Along.  I took them on their dates, demonstrating how to strike up conversation, how to manage awkward moments, how to meet the parents, how to trust their own good judgment, and how to stay Safe and Healthy.

Just as I had allowed my kids to choose their clothes, I also allowed them to choose their own pace for dating, and drinking, and sex – as long as they are safe & healthy & getting along.  Allowing young people freedom of choice gives them the chance to develop good judgment.  It allows them to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes while you are still there to help, and the consequences are still relatively manageable.

Middle school dating is good practice.

Middle school dating is good practice.

Too much restriction communicates the message that you don’t trust their judgment and decision making abilities.  And that in turn teaches your child that she cannot trust her own intuition, judgment, and decisions.  So when her friends all jump off a bridge she will go along with them.  Even though her intuition tells her “Danger!” she knows she cannot trust her intuition but must trust in “what other people will think.”  When an adult tells your son firmly to get in the white van, in he gets, even though his spidey sense is tingling.  Because you have taught him he must do things “because I say so” rather than trusting his own decision making skills.

The white van of random authority.

The white van of random authority.

You see?  To keep your kids truly safe when you are not around they must learn to trust themselves, NOT to simply comply with adults, or group think.  Its logical and reasonable.  And it explains the age-old questions of why teenagers are so hell-bent on going along with the crowd and yielding to peer pressure.  Its because their parents spent their whole childhood teaching them that “keeping up with the Jones'” and “what the neighbors think” is more important than being real, or safe or loved.

How to say “NO”

Before I teach you how to make ‘NO’ stick, you must first be sure that you are ONLY saying ‘no’ to things that actually matter.  Some parents seem to think their job is to say ‘no’ several times per hour. Or maybe they just get off on the feeling of power they get from saying ‘no’ to small people and punishing them if they disobey.  Some fools call this leadership, but that is a misnomer.  The correct pronunciation of the word is “Bullying“.  So if you were raised by or schooled by bullies, I am truly sorry.  But from here on out you need to work on  your sense of personal power and stop bullying smaller people.

True power comes only from empowering others.  Everything else is properly called ‘Bullying

To make ‘no’ mean ‘no’ you must employ a technique I call the Baby Elephant.  When Indian elephants are babies they tie one foot to a stake with a rope.  The baby elephant soon learns that it cannot pull the stake out of the ground.  Now when that baby grows up it can be tied to the same stake.  Even though it is now strong enough to pull the stake up and run off, it stays anchored to the spot by its belief that it is not strong enough to disobey.

Use the Baby Elephant technique early and often.

Use the Baby Elephant technique early and often.

When your baby (human, canine, or feline) is young you must employ the Baby Elephant technique whenever possible – but NOT by Bullying, simply by following up any legit ‘no’ by making it so.  For example, lets say you take your young human to grandma’s or to the home of a childless friend.  Baby, being intelligent and curious, spots the delicate glass vase on the coffee table and goes for it like a magnet.  You say ONE loud and clear (but not frantic) “NO”.  Then you immediately swoop down and wisk the vase away to a high shelf where baby can neither see nor touch it.

See how nicely that works.  Once again, you say one “NO” then you make it so.  Keep this policy up for as long as you can.  Once baby is so big that you can no longer “make it so” they will actually believe deep in their soul that when YOU say “No” it always means “No”.  Their firm belief based on your consistent behavior will continue to make it so for the rest of their life.  Magic!

The Baby Elephant technique works with kittens and pups also, so work it early and often.  Remember, you must teach them good behaviors when they are still small enough to make it so.  For example, when that cuddly adorable kitten plays with you and for the first time flares its tiny claws out, say “No” then immediately make it so.  This is easily done by wrapping a small amount of scotch tape over its front paws.  It may take 15-20 minutes for kitty to pull the tape off.  And while it doesn’t hurt, it makes an indelible impact on the mind.  You will probably only need to repeat this lesson with tape about 2-3 times before they learn that claws and play don’t mix.

You can use this technique with humans and pets to teach good manners of all kinds.  For example, if you want your pet to stay off the furniture you can say “No” and then pick up the baby and put them in a confined space for a short while – like a play pen.  You can keep kitties off the kitchen counters by covering the counter with sticky reversed tape or crumpled foil – and saying one firm “No” when they test their agility.  Again, it won’t take many ‘tries’ to teach the lesson.

Keep your “no’s” short and sweet and keep your repercussions short and intuitive.  The idea, again, is NOT to punish – ever.  But to teach self control.  Allowing baby to experience natural repercussions is best. And when that isn’t safe or practical, make the repercussions as ‘natural’ and logical as possible.  So if your voice has a punishing tone or the time in the play pen is long enough to make baby cry, you are being too harsh.  The idea is to create a learning situation that rewards, rather that punishes the learner – makes them proud and happy to learn!

Easy Enough

I am a Girl.  (You and my Ms Mag friends may want to correct me, “No, no, You’re a woman.” but if you knew me you would agree.  I am a girly girl.) Girls like to share and be nice.   I have many girl friends who dislike some of the harsher realities involved in Being The Leader.  Like eating a big pompous meal while cute kitties and doggies watch with big sad eyes and mournful sighs.  Girls, bear in mind that none of your furry friends is starving.  Nor will they starve as long as they remain in your home.  But if you let the cute cuddly babies “share” rather than learning manners, once they become adults they will make your life hell.  And you may just throw up your hands and decide to set them loose on their own.  Then, I promise you, they will not only starve, but starving may well become the least of their worries.

The same happens with human babies.  It may sometimes seem like too much work to swoop down and make the magic “No” a concrete reality.  It may often seem easier to simply confine and restrict your child rather than let them experience the consequences of their decisions.   But one day that child will be alone in the world without you.  One day their consequences will be beyond your ability to clean up with a kiss and a bandaid.  Your child will one day fall and break a leg if you don’t let them fall and skin a knee early and often.  Likewise, she may break her heart only once, once and for all.  Unless you let her bruise it a little over the years when you’re there to teach her to tuck and roll and leave behind a trail of friends instead of wounded enemies.

Let them skin their knees and hearts while they can.

Let them skin their knees and hearts while they have you.

In short, you need to toughen up and let your babies suffer discomforts.  Its true that it hurts you more than them, while they’re cute and fluffy and little.  But if you’re too selfish to hurt for them while you can, you will cause them a great deal of hurt down the road.  So toughen up like this girly girl and take it like a man.  The world is much to big and wild a place for you to teach a baby all it needs to know.  Your job is to teach it how to learn quickly and learn well.  Your job is to prepare it for the day it faces the big wild world alone.