2016 Minnesota Men’s Conference

The Minnesota Men’s Conference is near and dear to my heart, and this link will take you to an exciting and worthwhile opportunity to help others. I hope you will consider giving back to this cause. Please click here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/2016-minnesota-men-s-conference-poetry#/

Announcement – I will be offering 2-Day Intensive Sessions in Austin, Texas beginning September 1, 2016

I’m pleased to announce that after a break from offering my 2-day Intensives in Austin, Texas, I am now making those available again starting September 1, 2016 at the Austin Men’s Center, thanks to Director Bill Bruzy.

As most of you know Austin is not only charming and beautiful, it is a convenient location for clients especially from the Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast.

I will continue to offer the Intensives at my Mentone Cottage in the mountains of Northeast Alabama.

I hope you will pass the word along to clients or friends who would like to engage in my nontraditional approach to coaching, counseling, and teaching.

HOW to Tell the Difference Between Anger and Rage

A woman called me the other day for help. When I asked her what the problem was, she didn’t hesitate. “I am living with the angriest man in the world.” I said, “Tell me how he expresses his anger?”

After four or five descriptive sentences I said, “I hate to interrupt, but everything you’ve said so far is rage.” And she said, “What’s the difference?”

Anger is about the “Here and Now;” it is an active response to issues and situations occurring at the present time. You feel anger because of what your boss said to you this morning or because your spouse incorrectly balanced the checkbook this week.

Rage is about the “There and Then;” it is about our past. Rage is a reaction to what your boss has said to you every morning for the last year. What you’ve stuffed and bottled-up all this time, suddenly comes gushing out like a geyser. Likewise, rage occurs because the checkbook has gone unbalanced for two years; seemingly warranting a deafening silence to correct or punish your spouse’s behavior.

WHAT IS HEALTHY ANGER? WHAT IS RAGE/UNHEALTHY ANGER?
A feeling A reaction
A primary emotion Stuffs or masks emotions
It is neither positive or negative It is negative and inappropriate
Anger is energy Rage is exhausting
Meant to be given away Meant to be given up
It doesn’t hurt anyone Hurts everyone involved
Anger clears the air Clouds communication
It increases understanding Adds to confusion
Helps communication Increases conflicts and misunderstandings
Rights injustices and wrongs Is an injustice and wrongs people further
It increases energy, intimacy, and peace of mind Decreases energy in people, increases the distance between them and causes discord
Healing Damaging
Contained and controlled until proper time, place and person Pervasive, out of control, and misdirected
About the present About the past
About “Me” About “You”

Anger lives in the present and so takes minutes to be felt and expressed. Rage sticks around because it is grounded in the past. Because anger lives in the present, it takes moments or minutes at the most to be felt and expressed. When Jerome’s wife was late for a special luncheon they’d planned, Jerome said, “I’m angry. Now, I only have forty-five minutes left for lunch before I have to return for work. Let’s eat and make the most of our time.”

Rage lives in the past and takes a very long time because it is grounded in our personal life history, and once unleashed, the result is that no one wants to eat with anyone because no one has an appetite left. Sandy’s now ex-boyfriend was chronically late; Sandy’s response was, “I’m tired of you always putting everything before me. Didn’t your mother teach you it is rude to keep people waiting? I got here on time. I can’t see why you can’t!” …And she was just getting warmed up. Clearly, there was more than anger going on.

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Rage is what constitutes most marathon arguments. You know the ones that begin at eight o’ clock after dinner after the kids are put to bed and is still going strong at one in the morning until someone cries, “Uncle,” and says, “Does anyone know the original point of this?” or attempts to just share some feelings.

Anger is about me and rage is about you. If I express anger, I am telling you about me. Anger is revealing. If I am raging, I’m telling the other person about them and thus I am concealing what I am really feeling and going through. What many people do when they rage is this: They tell the other person about them. What they didn’t do and shouldn’t have done; why what they said is wrong, crazy, sick, and messed up. When they finally finish their diatribe, then it’s the other person’s turn to tell the first person about them and how what they said doesn’t apply, and that if they’d said it differently, maybe they could be heard, and if they’d only read more self-help books they wouldn’t have said it at all. After that, then it’s the first speaker’s turn again, and then the second, and we affectionately call this marriage, and then very often we call it adversity and grounds for divorce.

Rage has moved more people out of relationships than U-Haul. It shoves everyone out the door, out of lives, or out of business. Rage pushes everyone away because no one wants to be around it.

On the other hand, anger expressed in present time and in an appropriate manner, actually draws people to you. If a man says to his wife, “I’m angry and I need to talk,” nine times out of ten the wife will respond with something like, “Okay, tell me more,” or “I’m listening,” or “What’s going on?”

If an employee says to a fellow worker, “I’m angry about what went on in the staff meeting this morning,” most fellow employees will say, “Tell me more,” or “Let’s talk about it this afternoon over a beer.” In other words, if I do not rage at you, you have no reason to run—indeed anger can create the beginning of many productive dialogues and initiate problem solving. 887697_73689303

Rage engenders defensiveness, distance, and the feeling of being in some kind of danger; it shows disrespect and disregard for both the speaker and the one pretending to listen. Anger shows appreciation and respect. If one’s boss is angry and says so and follows that statement with something like, “…and I’d like for you to meet me for lunch so we can discuss the issue,”—this says I value you and our relationship enough to make some time and request that you make some time to resolve the issue at hand.

Rage basically says —in no uncertain terms— I do not value you or this relationship enough to warrant an expenditure of my time or energy to try to achieve resolution.

Anger is a response to injustice, rudeness, impoliteness, impoverishment, impudence, and abuse. Rage is a reaction to situations, circumstances, people, processes, and problems. Responses are generated by present stimuli. Reactions are a re-activation of one’s history and memories about people, processes, and problems.

These rage reactions are almost always disproportionate to what is being said or done or not done or said to one’s satisfaction. Angry responses are proportional to what is coming towards us or being taken away from us.

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These reactive behaviors and actions warrant these types of reactions from others: “Where is all of this coming from…?” or “Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill?” In other words, the person might be angry at a pounds’ worth, but is dumping a tons’ worth of rage on them.

Rage incorporates statements like “You always,” or, “You never.” They often include ultimatums and threats. The one raging believes in a black and white mentality, all or nothing, or my way or the highway.

Anger uses words like, “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “every now and then.” Anger is comfortable with some gray areas.

Anger engages conflict and rage runs from it. The angry men or women are in essence saying I have a problem and I am seeking a solution. Rage says you have a problem and that’s the problem—no solution in sight.

Anger says let’s confront these divisive issues; rage says let’s further divide. A CEO who attended one of my corporate anger presentations, stood up during my talk and said, “I never run from confrontations. I stand toe to toe with anyone. I get in their face no matter what I have to do or say to get my point across.” The sturdy, sixty-year-old with a crew-cut haircut sat down with a satisfied look on his face.

I responded, “Does that include yelling, calling people names, and other like behaviors or actions?”

“Whatever it takes!” he replied.

These actions and behaviors often employed in conflicted situations are self-defeating. One reason is that many people (including the aforementioned CEO) are avoiding conflict, in spite of how things may appear on the surface. They hate confrontations because in the past this meant they felt defeated by their parents, coaches, teachers, ex-wives or husbands.

But perhaps a more significant explanation for so much avoidance is that most people have not been taught how to do it with a win-win attitude. Instead we’re taught there can only be one winner or one loser; an approach grounded in rage.

When we realize that it is inappropriate actions and reactions that cover our emotions, a new freedom is developed to speak out our feelings without fear of retaliation and retribution. And now that our responses are proportional to people and circumstances, neither the speaker nor listener has anything to fear.

PASSIVE WORDS USED BY THE RAGING PERSON:

  • You always _____.
  • You never _____.
  • Why can’t you _____?
  • If only you _____.
  • It’s all your fault.
  • Shame on you.
  • You’re lying.
  • When are you going to _____?

For more information and insight, please visit the bookstore:

the anger solution book by john lee

and

facingthefire_bk

 

Boundaries

WE HAVE TO WATCH OUT WHERE WE’RE GOING: Boundary Errors and Boundary Violations

First, a boundary is “This is how close you can come to me:” physically, spiritually, in conversations about love or money, etc.

A “boundary error” is when someone, whether friend or foe, has crossed over into my space, my yard, my soul, or my pasture because they didn’t notice the “No Trespassing” sign or signal. As the poet William Stafford says, “The signals we give should be clear. The darkness around us is deep.” Or, as Robert Frost less dramatically put it, “Good fences make good neighbors.” A boundary error is simply a mistake, made, more or less, innocently. When informed, the perpetrators can see or hear their errors and can apologize and vow to be respectful in the future.

On the other hand is the “boundary violation.” This is committed when a person has been informed and warned, often numerous times, what your particular boundaries are in a certain situation, but keeps pushing and pressing in on the boundaries you have communicated. This is when the person will not respect those boundaries and, to some lesser or greater degree, knows that it irritates you, frustrates you, or makes you angry. This person might justify and rationalize their unwanted behavior and say that they are just “teasing,” “playing,” or “kidding” while telling you to “lighten up.” In truth, the above behaviors are just passive-aggressive pebbles in your shoe as you walk through the relationship. Or, worse violations feel like boulders on your head or stabs to the heart.

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What to do and what to say depends on who it is and in what context you feel those errors or violations are committed. Generally, boundary errors get committed once and are willingly corrected. Boundary violators get two warnings, and on the third time you may have to start rethinking your relationship to the violator, whether a boss, friend, family, lover, or spouse.

The really sad thing is that many people don’t know what boundaries are, don’t have very good boundaries themselves, and often confuse boundaries with walls. Where good boundaries exist, walls are not necessary. Boundaries—done appropriately—increase intimacy and communication, and reduce conflict and confrontations.

Here are a few common examples. People think that it is okay to talk about other peoples’ bodies. I have a beautiful friend who gets told by complete strangers, “You’re too thin!” or, “Are you eating enough?” Pregnant women get their bellies touched by complete strangers. Babies get pinched on the cheek. One friend had to stop a woman he’d never even seen before from putting a sock back on his very young son.

The real remedy? Ask before touching. Get information. Don’t assume—you know what that does. Tell folks your boundaries and tell them when they’ve committed errors so they won’t turn into violations, and get really acquainted with your own boundaries.

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Passivity – Part II

Identifying Passivity

Passivity is a compulsion or learned tendency to live at half-speed regarding certain segments of their life. Almost no-one reading this is “purely” passive but rather exhibiting passive tendencies which ultimately leaves people feeling their life or career glass is half-empty and thus halfheartedly committing to projects, plans and goals. Passive people are half in and half out of relationships. The passive person who suffers the effects of a half-lived life is more attached to not having what they think they want or desire, even though they protest loudly this is not so.

A client of mine, James, is 40 and a very successful real estate agent who earns a high six-figure income. During a session he said, “I work all the time on my marriage. I’m in therapy, I read books and I regularly attend self-help workshops. No one can say I’m passive.” When asked about his marriage he quickly replied, “I want more physical contact, more touching and yes, more sex, but I hardly get any at all.”

James wants his wife, Brenda, to be more affectionate and yet he indulges in a whole host of behaviors that guarantees he won’t get this and actually gets him just the opposite of what he thinks and says he wants.

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I asked him to give me an example of his efforts to get affection from his wife so I could see and show him his passivity and addiction to not having what he says he wants.

James said, “I go into the living room all the time and Brenda is on the couch watching television for hours on end. I say something like, ‘Can’t you turn that thing off for a little while? There’s nothing intelligent or worth watching on TV. I don’t know why you watch these silly shows.’ But she never agrees and I end up storming out of the room frustrated as usual.”

I jokingly said, “How’s that working for you?” Then I offered a suggestion. “Try sitting on the living room couch next to her; gently lifting her legs and placing them on your lap while you massage her feet, instead of shaming, criticizing, demeaning and judging her. Then simply ask her what’s on that you two can watch together.”

He looked at me like I was speaking in a foreign tongue; in a way it was an unfamiliar language because it was the language of compassion and assertiveness.

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James looked a little dumbfounded. “No, I have never even thought of it. It sounds so simple. Why didn’t this ever occur to me before?” he said very seriously.

It was because of his passivity and his fears of rejection, abandonment and intimacy.

By the way, he tried my suggestion the very next week. “We got up off the couch ten minutes after doing what you suggested. She looked at me and said ‘Who are you?’ Before I could answer she laughed and said, ‘Never mind, I like this,’ and we got up and got in bed and made love for the first time in a year.”

This same man devoted an exorbitant amount of time to reading about relationships and marital counseling. He said he worked all the time on his marriage. But in reality, he thought his wife had the problem and not him.

Passivity then is an offense of omission—not doing or saying what you need to, not responding, not accepting challenges and refusing to take risks—rather than commission and that is one reason why it has been overlooked by clinicians and writers.

 

Passivity compels people to wait in a state of suspended animation until something or someone outside themselves “rescues” them from their current circumstances which would then allow them to have the full life that has been eluding them. This knight in shining armor (whether a person, the world, society or a supernatural being) is supposed to bring the passive person something they feel they have lost or had taken from them. That something could be hope, energy, love, trust or faith. It could mean a perfect job, an unconditional lover, winning the lottery or having good parents. It is a psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual condition that plagues even the most educated and self-directed people and therefore the whole person must be addressed.

Passivity pushes people to replay the feelings and memories they’ve stored in their brains and bodies possibly for decades. One of those feelings is the feeling of “Not Having What We Really Want or Need.”

For further information and insights into passivity please see John’s book

the half lived life book by john lee
The Half-Lived Life: Overcoming Passivity and Rediscovering Your Authentic Self. Lyon’s Press, 2011.

Passivity – Part I

Solving the Problem of Passivity

Passivity is the compulsion to pursue the opposite of what we say we want. This compulsion left unidentified and dealt with leaves us unfulfilled at best, sabotages success and at worst depressed, hopeless and feeling victimized.

“I don’t care. Whatever you want is fine with me.”

“It is not the job I want but in this economy you really can’t be choosy.”

“He’s not perfect but I’m thirty-five years old. Nobody’s perfect. I’m sure we will grow into love.”

“I’d love to write. I’ve always dreamed someday I’d write but I have kids and a job. Not everybody gets their dreams to come true. Maybe when I retire…”

“I can’t believe what is going on in Washington these days. They are all idiots and con men. But there’s nothing an average Joe like me can do about it.”

“Go ask your father. If he says yes, then it’s okay.”

“That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

“It’s just not in the cards.”

“It’s not God’s will.”

“I guess I’m just unlucky.”

“Some people get all the breaks.”

“It is what it is.”

Does any of the above ring a bell? If they do you may have some areas in life where passivity rules your attitudes, behaviors, personality and decisions. Perhaps you have settled for less than you felt you deserved or you “adapted” to your present situation or relationship rather than changing them. Did you “cop out,” give up, quit and become hopeless and helpless feeling like you were a victim of fate rather than a creator of your own destiny?

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Unfortunately, many people have developed a greater connection to loss and feeling less than; they settle for unfulfilling relationships or careers that never quite achieve their creative potentials. Surviving, rather than thriving, has become the state that many of us are not only used to but are compelled to pursue.

As one highly successful surgeon said to me who was growing increasingly wary of settling said, “I always feel I am half the husband, half the father, half the friend and half the doctor I know I can be even though I’m considered to be very successful in my field.”

I said, “It sounds like you are living a half-lived life.”

“Exactly! But I am fifty years old. I don’t want to say this at sixty or seventy. I want the second half of my life to be a much fuller, satisfying life, but I’m not sure how.”

I’ll tell you what I told him. By coming out of denial, identifying the parts of your life where passivity prevails, working with the origins of your passivity, becoming aware of the signs and behaviors and acquiring new, but tried and tested tools, information and insights that will serve as solutions you can fully engage life, work, relationships, creativity, parenting, grand-parenting and much more.

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Unbecoming: From Despair to Love-Part 5

Read Part 1-4 first

“I keep pursuing Faith, if for no other reason than because it is the place in our life that keeps reminding us of the necessity of Love—Not the romantic love of the poets, but the practical love.”

Krista Tippet—Speaking of Faith

I can’t tell you all that I have hoped for here on this mountain this year. Somewhere along the way, perhaps walking my three animal companions through the woods on a winter afternoon I began filling the hole in my soul with Faith. I’ve learned a few important things perhaps six but still remember this one and that is by letting go of hoping and holding the hands of faith and resting in the palm of process it will cure some of the sores of Despair.

Now here is my personal dilemma—more often than not I reside restlessly between hope and faith. I’m caught between a spiritual rock and a psychological hard place. For me, many days it feels like I’m asking myself to turn loose of a lifeline (oh we think this will be a best-seller, Oh surely you and your former wife will get back together, etc. ect.) tied to the back of the ship I just fell overboard. I want to reach out to hope and let it  drag me back on deck. I hope the lifeline will be a woman who might turn and give my gray beard a second look or that God might throw one glance my way.

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Faith whispers in my all but deaf ear, “you’ll get a best-seller once your ego doesn’t need one for artificial adulation that you still crave. You’re  less vain self won’t care because you have faith and just keep writing like you tell all your students for the pure joy in it. As for hoping for more money which you spend an inordinate amount of time fantasizing about you’ll finally understand the mysterious words of your friend’s poem, “animals give up all their money each year,” and you’ll remember the sparrows and the lilies of the fields. As for a woman coming into your life, perhaps not a lover, but one of the best friends you’ve ever had came your way without one ounce of effort on your part.”

Faith is something I am incapable acquiring like stocks or bonds or books from Amazon. Faith is accessed and generated from the inside out. Faith is an act of Grace where I let the wind blow, the sea be still or turbulent all the while accepting people, things, situations, comings and yes goings and even myself just as I am and allows me to “Know” not believe that I don’t have:

“to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting…” says Mary Oliver

But my fear’s screaming voice is so loud a deaf man could hear it say, “Don’t listen to this shallow, sensitive voice of Faith’s she is a deranged bear wandering in the woods of philosophy and theology and does not serve your best interests like I do. Listen to your “Happiness” psychologist, mindful of your New Age body worker/guru. They will shed light on this whole matter and get you the gifts your body and soul craves.

Fear will talk your ear off and the little faith we have right out of us especially if something doesn’t work out the way it should—a marriage, a promotion, an inheritance. I have listened to this voice so much during my life. I was afraid to leave my family, afraid to leave my hometown, afraid to leave the steady job in a retail clothing store in a windowless mall, afraid I won’t make enough money to pay my bills if I follow my passions, my purpose and yes even my pain. I was afraid then to go to college, afraid I couldn’t get my doctorate, afraid I could and end up a sterile professor longing after the youth of new students each year to round out my dull routine of a life. I was afraid that my wife would leave, afraid I’d never be with another woman again, afraid I couldn’t get it up again if I—afraid I’d get sick and become a burden to someone, afraid I’d actually die before I knew real faith and afraid that I’ll keep forgetting that “perfect love casts out fear.”