Free to Love – Resetting the Patterns that Keep Us Lonely

Yesterday I was very fortunate and humbled to be interviewed by Rev. Anna Shouse, PhD. on her radio show, Spirit of Recovery, for Unity Online Radio.

Rev. Anna Shouse is an amazing interviewer, and I am pleased to share this live interview with you at: http://www.unity.fm/program/SpiritOfRecovery,  which you can retrieve:

Episode: Free to Love—Resetting the Patterns That Keep Us Lonely

Original air date: Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Episode Description:

A lot of what we learned about love relationships we learned in our family or circumstances of origin. Recovery makes it possible to learn new ways of relating. With awareness and commitment, we can recover our sense of self and our ability to develop truly loving, fulfilling relationships.

Special guest, John Herald Lee, is an international best-selling author and speaker and one of the founding members of the men’s movement. He shares how men and women can clarify and dismantle counterproductive dynamics of male-female relationships in a non-shaming, non-blaming way in his latest book, Breaking the Mother-Son Dynamic: Resetting the Patterns of a Man’s Life and Loves.

Also, on March 24, in Austin, Texas, John will be the keynote speaker at the ninth annual It Happens to Boys Conference, the premiere conference addressing the effects and healing tools for male survivors of sexual abuse, their partners, and families. Learn more at creativechangeconferences.com.

Additionally, I will be keynoting at another conference here in Austin: The Summit for Clinical Excellence Presents Breaking the Silence: Shame, Trauma, and Addictions at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Austin.

These two conferences are open to the public, and I hope to see you there.

The Flying Boy Letters: Responses and Replies 30 Years Later

This an excerpt from my forthcoming book written with Kat Hrdina.

…I think that an addiction to a person is much worse than an addiction to a drug. My relationship with this man was like a roller coaster ride all the time. We would get close emotionally, so I thought, only to be dumped then taken back over and over again. My self-esteem would hit rock bottom every time… I know you mentioned in your book about letting go, how did you get Lucy [Flying Boy II] and Laurel [The Flying Boy] out of your head, as well as out of your heart? How do you really let go?

Dear Ms. Roller Coaster Rider:

You’re absolutely right! Addiction to a person is much harder for some people to deal with than drugs or alcohol. I know it was for me. We NEED people, love, affection, tenderness, and someone to talk to. We don’t NEED drugs or alcohol, but we want and crave them to numb the pain of having needed people in our past like mothers, fathers, mentors, and teachers to show us how to do things like face our fears of intimacy with people we love who don’t turn away from us.

So what do we do if we are in love with the backs of people who keep walking away from us but then make an emotional and physical U-Turn and come back for a little while?

Bustle Image: Pixabay; WiffleGif

I used to be in love with love and with those beautiful backs. I wanted them back, pursued them to come back, or I’d push them away when intimacy became more than I could handle at the time. Sometimes though – I hate to say it – I would push them away, like I did Laurel in The Flying Boy, just to see if I could manipulate them into coming back for another round of our emotional come-here-go away dance.

Occasionally, I was the back that a few women watched walking out the relationship door (including Laurel). I was always hoping, as I headed for the hills, that they would come after me and ask me to come back.

One woman, my former wife, was the only one that came after me after I pushed her away, and I’m so thankful she did. We had about seventeen years of togetherness – not perfect – but we at least met each other face to face, and I felt really loved and wanted.

HD Wallpapers Rocks

Now if you asked me thirty years ago, how did I let go of Laurel – the woman who changed my life and who I wrote about in The Flying Boy, and how did I let go of Lucy, the woman in my book, I Don’t Want to Be Alone (later there was a title change to Flying Boy Book II: The Journey Continues), I’ll tell you the truth – now thirty years later – in a way I wouldn’t have at the time you wrote your beautiful letter.

I did a radio interview years ago and the host said, “How would you describe the central message of your books and lectures?”

Without a moment’s hesitation I answered, “I can sum it up in two words – Let Go.”

He quickly responded, “Let go of what?”

To which I replied:

Everything and everyone that you need more than love. Let go of everything we were taught that wasn’t right or true, and that’s a whole lot. We let go, as adults, of mothers and fathers so we can see and interact with them as flawed people just like we are. We let go of the last stage of life so we can enter the next stage, and the let that one go, and on and on. We let go of searching for happiness outside ourselves, and instead, search for meaning inside ourselves, knowing that it too will have to be let go the more we grow and heal. We let go of all our false selves. All our masks are thrown into the garbage along with all our vanities and needs to be right, important, and famous. We let go of our greed for more and more stuff like houses, cars, and illusions of grandeur, because they are all going to turn to “dust in the wind,” as one of my favorite rock groups, Kansas, said dozens of years ago.

woman-570883_1920

You see the more we let go, the more we can enjoy everything we have to a fuller and greater degree. I have several great friends, and I try to let them go every day so I can be with them cleaned out and present with them in ways I can’t if my goal is to hold on to them. Letting go leads us into a more eternal now than holding on does because holding on constantly forces us to stay in the future or in the past.

Now, going back to your question, which is substantially harder, “How do we let go?” Well the truth is, I don’t know how either, even though I’ve been working on it for thirty-something years since you first wrote. I think of Laurel every day for a few moments, and Lucy and I are friends who still talk to each other and hang out twenty-eight years later.

I still talk about, and teach people, how to let go of the pain they hold in their bodies from the grief and anger they have swallowed, stuffed and bottled up – sometimes for decades. Yes, I teach about Romance, Love, and relationship addiction – because we only teach what we need to learn. So honestly, letting go is not my strong suit, but I’ve gotten better over the years, and I bet you have to by now.

So, I will let you go and send blessings on you for writing.

John

And now for a break from psychology and into the realm of fairy tales

“We must let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell

…The King then decided to find his ugly snake son a bride and get him married so his golden haired son could get married and inherit the kingdom. So he looked all around his kingdom for a suitable bride. He put an ad in the classifieds saying, “Single, slithery snake seeking life-long partner, not very good table manners and too many other bad habits to mention.” You’d be surprised how many takers there were. Passive women come out in droves. Some women love snakes it seems, especially the tall, dark and handsome, wounded ones, with lots of intensity and potential.

A beautiful bride was selected and they had a wedding, and on the wedding night the snake ate his bride. Why? Because she was so poorly mothered that she didn’t know what to do. She passively gave in to the snake’s demands.

The King ran another ad and an unbelievable number responded, and there was a wedding, and again the snake ate his bride on the wedding night. And so it went with the third, fourth and fifth. The women of the kingdom began hearing about the snake’s taste in women and they were getting a little harder to find.

However, there was a woodcutter’s daughter who was extremely in touch with her own emotions, and anything but passive, decided to go for it. Unlike her predecessors she went to find The Wise Old Woman, which in fairy stories is code for “Good Mother.” She lived in the woods – the same one who helped the Queen get pregnant – and asked her for advice. She gladly gave it but insisted that, unlike the Queen, she must follow her instructions to the letter or she could also become snake food like.

The Old Wise Woman told her to take her time and not rush into anything. The old woman told her to make seven beautiful wedding blouses (code for activeness and creativity) and wear them on her wedding night, and to take a bucket of sweet milk and a steel brush with her to the bedroom.

So she took about a year making these blouses. Waiting makes impatient snakes hungry. Finally, on the wedding night the snake closed the door and was ready to have some wife food. But first he wanted a little pre-dinner show so he said, “Take off your blouse.”

“I’ll take off my blouse if you will take off one of your skins,” she replied.

“Do what? You got to be kidding. That would hurt like hell. Besides, no one has ever asked me to do this before.” So due to his hidden desire for real love he began taking off his skin and you should have heard the shrieks, cries and yelling. You know it hurts to shed a skin. It also hurts to learn how to love. This snake had a lot to learn about how poorly he had loved in the past.

The woodcutter’s daughter took off the blouse only to reveal another one under it. The snake looked perplexed and was beginning to get a little frustrated.

“Take off the blouse,” He growled.

“I’ll take off my blouse if you will take off your skin.”

“I can’t believe you’re asking me to do all this stuff. Every woman I’ve eaten, I mean, loved has never asked me to do this before. What do you want from me? Emotional honesty, availability? What next? I suppose you want me to open up and tell you what I really feel?”

So once again you should have heard the moaning and groaning of the snake shedding another layer of skin. The woman removed a blouse only to reveal another one. Well the snake was getting pretty irritated to say the least and was beginning to get the picture that this woman was not going to be as easy as the other brides, and that she knew how to take care of herself and ask for what she wanted and wouldn’t settle for anything less than what she deserved.

How many times have we all settled for less than we truly wanted or even deserved?

Well to make an already long story short, this went on for seven times until finally there was nothing left of the snake except a little puddle of a former self lying on the floor.

That’s what grieving and learning to really love will do to a snake or a man – reduce him to nothing and show him he knows nothing about mature relationships.

The bride took her bucket of sweet milk out from under the bed and dipped her steel brush into it and scrubbed what remained of the snake for about an hour or so. She loved him well. She prepared herself to love him well, and in so doing, prepared herself to be well loved.

The next morning the wedding chamber doors opened and out stepped a beautiful, stunning, Prince with his smart, respected bride, and they got the family together and had a great feast and lived happily ever after.

The snake didn’t know the previous women he married and then ate. Carl Jung referred to these women as the “False Brides.” The “True Bride” is the maiden with the seven blouses who took her time, who took care of herself, had great boundaries, and knew her limits, and demanded that the Snake/man mourn his losses, and that way he would truly know himself and her. The snake thought that he was simply a giant snake but there was so much more to him, and while the bride to be knew this, she was prudent and patient enough with him so that he found out just who his true self really was.person-110303_1920

 

Discipline and Punishment

Anger as Punishment and Revenge

Alcoholics, addicts, and adult children of alcoholics don’t get angry – they get even. One of the reasons adults have such a problem feeling and expressing their anger is because anger has forever been tied to punishment and revenge. People who are punished – instead of disciplined – tend to seek revenge and are angry, and the best way to extract a pound of flesh is to punish the actual or perceived offender. “You drink – I’ll show you – I’ll not sleep with you.” “If you overreact – I’ll get you back – I’ll have an affair.”

A few years ago I was in the Asheville airport waiting to catch a flight back to Austin. I was standing close to a very elderly lady, who was sitting hunched over in a wheel chair in front of her sixty-something-year-old daughter and son. She was silently weeping, and the son looked down at her and said in a voice loud enough for all around him to hear: “Mamma, we told you if you cried we wouldn’t let you come back to visit anymore.” Serious Senior Woman With Adult Daughter At Home

Do you hear the rage and revenge in his statement?

“That’s right mother. We told you that you can’t cry,” said the daughter.

Can’t you just imagine that fifty-something years ago this mother probably said to her children, in some public place: “If you don’t stop this crying, I’m never going to….” She punished them with a threat. They wait fifty years for revenge and no one is even consciously being malicious.

The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

Unfortunately, children are punished and they become, using Alice Miller’s words, “Prisoners of Childhood,” the original title of her important book later named, The Drama of the Gifted Child.  Punishment makes children, adults, criminals, and animals, at the least, untrusting, and at most, full of rage.  It is capricious – not well thought-out and not stated before the fact. Where punishment is handed out, you might as well hand out the alcohol and drugs to make them forget that they have no choice and that others have extreme amounts of power over them.

One time I asked a room full of counselors, educators, and law enforcers if they could tell me exactly what would happen to someone caught in their state driving while under the influence? A couple of them said, “They would go to jail,” another one said, “They would lose their license to drive; two or three of them said they would have to pay a fine, but several said, “It would depend on who they are, who they know, if they could afford a high-priced attorney and, sadly, what color they are. A poor person of color, who doesn’t know anyone, gets punished differently than someone who is white and has lots of money or connections.” Hear the meanness in this? How enraged is someone going to be?

Now here is what makes people less angry – it’s called:

Positive reinforcement word Discipline engrained in a rock

Discipline is almost angelic compared to demonic punishment. Here’s why: Punishment is after the fact or the offense. Discipline is prior to the act or offense. Punishment takes away healthy choice making. Discipline teaches how to make healthy and mature choices.

Punishment says here are the consequences I, or we, feel like handing out today, and discipline says know beforehand what the consequences of your actions will be no matter how we feel or don’t today.

If my home state of Georgia had huge billboards on every road entering saying exactly what the consequences would be for driving under the influence, say—YOU WILL LOSE YOUR LICENSE, YOU WILL GO TO JAIL, YOU WILL PAY $10,999.00 IN FINES, AND WE WILL CUT OFF YOUR BIG TOE – many folks would “think before they drink” or they’d think, “Damn, if they’re going to be so clear, I’ll just go to Alabama were the law is still ambiguous as hell and take my chances over there.”

It is the same with children and adolescents who are disciplined rather than punished. They just don’t tend to be as angry and have to get even later with their guards – I mean parents and teachers – because they were told what would happen beforehand.

One time my stepdaughter, who was about thirteen at the time, came in one warm summer evening very late, having been with her girlfriends chatting and forgetting about the time. As soon as she came through the door she looked at me in disgust and said, “I know, I’m busted for staying out so late.” The anger at being punished many times by her real father was on her face as she prepared to get more.

“Did I tell you what would happen before you went out if you weren’t in by 9 p.m.?” She looked at me like I was asking her a trick question. She sighed heavily as all teenagers do, “No you didn’t.” “Well, that’s my job – to tell you beforehand the consequences so you can make choices. So, no you’re not busted. However, if you decide to stay out late again tomorrow night, you won’t attend the sleepover this weekend with your girlfriends.” I’ll never forget what she said: “That sounds fair.” And it was.

Punishment takes no time and is fast and very often furious. Discipline takes time and forethought. Punishment creates rage, resentment, and the need for revenge and retribution. Discipline creates a sense of well-being and feeling that one is cared for. All the young and older children I’ve seen and spoken with, and all the adults, have incredibly angry stories about being punished, and almost no one had stories of being disciplined. discipline_children_final

 

Here’s a little sidebar to all of this. The only institution that at least tries to practice discipline is – would you believe – the military. They have huge books of rules and regulations – if you go A.W.O.L. this, this, and this will happen. If you disregard a direct order – this, this, and this will happen. It is spelled out beforehand. You can actually look up what is going to happen should you violate the rules.

The bottom line – if you want to produce less angry children, who become less angry adolescents, who will then become less angry adults that feel safe, loved and valued in this world, learn to discipline instead of punish.

Angry adults need to drink and drug to forget how punishment caused them NOT to feel safe, loved, and valued in this world. Punishment just royally pisses everyone off, and then out roll the resentments, and out rolls the beer and whiskey barrels that are, at first, a barrel of fun and laughter, but eventually become containers of poison that kill families, friendships, opportunities, and relationships of all kinds.”

Grieving: The Doorway to Healing and to Maturity

This is the time of year when a lot of grief may rise to the surface, and a season that should not be about money.

In that regard, when I first started my counseling career over 30 years ago, I did so with the objective to just help folks. Even though I have kept that objective in mind, there are many who could not afford my long-time standard rate of $150 for a 50-minute session, and therefore, it limited the number of people I could reach and help.

So, beginning today and going through January 2, 2017, for the first time ever, I am offering my phone sessions for a “pay-what-you-can rate.” If you, or a friend, or a family member, would like a session with me, just pay what you can, even if that means nothing.

Let’s see if together, we can make this season a little more, if not enjoyable, then at least, bearable.

During my 30 years of counseling and working with men and women, I have been asked so many times: “How do you grieve?” or “How do you begin grieving?”

girl-218706_1920

Here are the five things necessary to do deep grief work around any change, transition, death, loss, break up, or divorce:

  1. One needs an awareness that grief is the proper response to all loss and change and that it is a doorway into our maturity.
  2. We need to devote as much time as it takes, letting no one tell us to move on or out faster than we are ready because, as we know, time is the great healer.
  3. In order to do deep grief work, one must ritualize the process. These rituals move the pain and the sorrow up and out faster than a catch-as-catch-can approach to grief can ever achieve.
  4. We need a community of supportive people as we go through these transitions and losses because grief is not to be done entirely alone but in a community.
  5. Having navigated our way through the treacherous waters and shed our tears, we need to employ our community and have a celebration that says we came out on the other side.

Also, one of the seven stages of grief is anger, and the coming holidays can be a time when people feel angry about all kinds of different things. Additionally, it is a season when a lot of folks get depressed, anxious, family histories surface, and loneliness prevails. directory-466935

Loneliness can be a precursor to alcoholism, drug addiction, physical illness, and depression. One of the hardest things, especially for men, is to admit to anyone that they are lonely. If you find yourself in this psychological and emotional state, be sure to reach out and tell someone and not suffer silently by yourself.

If you would like to learn more about grief work, or how anger expressed appropriately equals energy, intimacy, and serenity, or if you are in need of help with other issues, please take me up on my offer of a phone or Skype session for the “pay-what-you-can rate.”

Also, please know that I am doing this as much for me, as I am for anyone who feels the need to make an appointment.

Additionally, beginning January, 2017, I will be opening a full-time counseling and coaching practice in Austin, Texas, but we can do some of this work over the phone or via Skype.

So if anyone out there is hurting and needs some help, remember I want to help you whether you can afford to pay my full fee, a part thereof, or nothing at all.

If you or someone you know would like to schedule a session, please call me at 678-494-1296, or email my assistant, Kathy McClelland, at jleeassistant@aol.com.

Take care of yourself during this holiday season, and please:

  • call me if you would like a phone, Skype, or in-person session,
  • tell your friends and/or colleagues about my new full-time counseling and coaching practice in Austin, Texas and;
  • don’t forget the 2-day Intensives in Austin, Texas or Mentone, Alabama.

Thank you, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

hands-751068_1280

Fair Fighting: 7 Steps

Jenny and her husband George both said, “we never fight,” like it was a good thing. We explored further why they didn’t fight and found out that they didn’t really know how to fight fair, so they all but gave themselves an emotional hernia trying not to. However, what they did do on the rare occasion they met with disagreement is give in immediately to the other’s point of view and resented it silently for days, weeks, and even years.

Fair fighting is a must for a healthy relationship to exist, and those who do it well and employ the following guidelines, will increase their chances greatly of having a long and loving time together.

  1. No laundry list. The past must stay in the past. Fighting in a functional way consists of staying current with our issues and conflicts. Confrontations must be about what is happening in the present, i.e. what you are upset, angry, frustrated or hurt by what was said or done, not said or done yesterday, last night, this morning, etc. When people fight and keep referencing the past hurts, slights, a wound there is no way out of this verbal, emotional, and damaging cul-de-sac.
  2. Abusive language must never be used. No one has the right to curse another regardless of the issue at hand. While writing a letter expressing your anger and rage is acceptable, it must never be sent. Telling a friend or therapist about your issues and using strong language can even be advisable, but face to face, the language must not be abusive.
  3. Putting agreed-upon limits on the fair fight is highly advisable. Example: Let’s talk about this for thirty minutes, and if we have not reached an acceptable resolution, then we will take it back up tomorrow, and then following through with the agreement.
  4. Getting rid of the word, “You.” When most people disagree or argue they often pull out this word, cock it, and fire it straight at the heart of their loved one. “You” should, “You” ought to, why didn’t “You?” “You” can’t handle the truth, etc. The word “you” always creates defensiveness in the listener.
  5. Use the word, “I”. As I said before, “Intimacy begins with ‘I’.” In fair fighting I am going to tell you how I feel, what I think, what I need to change, what I want to happen.
  6. Fair fighters never bring the other person’s parents and their childhood into the discussion. This is off limits. I can tell my partner about my dysfunctional childhood, but I am to never tell her about her’s unless she specifically asks for my take on them.
  7. If you recognize that you are regressed and catch yourself before doing too much damage, you take a time out and “grow yourself backup” (see my book Growing Yourself Back Up: Understanding Emotional Regression), and then come back to the subject at hand thinking, speaking, and acting like a mature adult.Many men and women are conflict-avoidant because they do not know how to express anger and hurt in a functional way so they gunny-sack, stuff, swallow, or repress until they explode or implode. Learning how to express anger appropriately increases the likelihood you will be heard and thus arrive at a solution to the distress.

 

For more information on expressing anger appropriately, see The Anger Solution: The Proven Method for Achieving Calm and Developing Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships or Facing the Fire: Experiencing and Expressing Anger Appropriately.

Asking the Important Questions – Part II: by John Lee

In celebration of my 65th birthday in October, I’m going to post a couple of poems – given that I still want to be a poet when I grow up. Also in October, to celebrate getting Social Security Retirement, I’m going to be more social than usual for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

I will be giving a public reading entitled WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS: SPIRITUAL POETRY FROM EASTERN AND WESTERN TRADITIONS — with a few of my own poems on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Moon Lake Community Library, located at 5866 E River Road in Mentone, Ala. 35984 (256-634-4113). I hope you all will come from the East and West Coasts, or at least the same county, to hear it.

I hope the library attendees, and my readers here, will like the poems.

I will go back to my more helpful posts next time.

Following, you will find “Asking the Important Questions” – Part II.

Thanks for your support.

SUMMER’S END

The sumac announces the truth

with its first flush of red.

In the evening the Canadian geese

say it loud and clear.

canadian-geese-2

The cicada’s mournful singing

announces summer’s end.

Nature tells itself when it is

time to let go.

Lovers should have such clear

changing colors and sounds.

Cold husbands and wives would

know when to head South.

We’d fly in formation right into

the warm wind of the future.