Why We Can’t Be Rejected

“When we lose someone and we find ourselves, we win.” Anonymous

One of my best, dearest friends I’ll call K has broken all contact. She doesn’t call; she doesn’t write; she doesn’t send flowers or return texts, and seemingly doesn’t miss me at all. My psychologist brain says, “don’t take it personally.” My human heart says, “she has rejected me and it hurts.” But here’s the truth. You and I can be dismissed, avoided, shunned, hell even banished but we cannot be rejected.

You readers will say, “Well you’re just wrong. My boyfriend rejected me last week.” “My father has always rejected me.” “My best friend hasn’t spoken to me in over a year. Don’t tell me she hasn’t rejected me.”

No one can reject us. Here’s why – because it’s never about us. We are the creators of, not only our outer worlds but our interior ones as well and what we are drawn to or deny is already in us lying loose, latent or floating down that ole’ river D-nial.
I was well into my 50s, having “felt” and “thought” I’d been rejected numerous times before it became clear to me, thanks in large part due to my long-time therapist and mentor, Dr. James Maynard.

You see, I lived my relationship life foolishly thinking that if I was attracted to a girlfriend or other loved ones it was because something was in them that was not in me – that perhaps it was their lovely disposition that pulled me into their orbit. They were “attractive” because of their looks, spirituality, intelligence, groundedness, sense of humor, etc. all things that my low self-esteem told me I lacked.

What James and decades of experiences showed me was that real attraction for others, and they to me, emanates from within and goes out to them. Attraction thus is self-generated, rather than coming from the other person and when I’m no longer attracted to someone or I’ve integrated their qualities I stop generating the interest in them but I do not reject them nor they me.

This truth becomes obvious I hope in Rumi’s poem:

The minute I heard my first love story
I went looking for you, not knowing
How blind that was. Lovers don’t
Finally meet somewhere, they’ve been
in other all along.     Translated by Coleman Barks

Those we love who we think are rejecting us are rejecting those things in themselves they are no longer able to pull out of their own inner or outer shadowy part of themselves that they projected onto us.

A woman I loved a long time ago and am still good friends with I’ll call B was extremely intelligent and cleaned houses for a living when I met her while giving a lecture at a local university. She was also a nurturer, mother and possessed boundless sexual energy. I was a counselor, writer, still too much in my head and anything but a nurturing, parenting person, with little to no domestic inclinations at the time. Of course we got together. During those four years later – I became a pretty good step-father with a greater inclination to nurture and after we went to many therapy sessions we broke up. Once again at first I thought she had rejected me. To make a long story short she went back to school and got a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is one of the best working therapists.

A couple of years later I got married to Susan, bought a home and we set out to have children that hopefully I would spend a lot more time with than I would in hotels and conference centers.

broken heartGoing back to K – she left, either because she saw things in me that she was not ready to embrace or already had successfully embraced or perhaps never needed and therefore I guess I rejected the “sunny” disposition she had in abundance while I was my grieving my despairing divorce. She rejected my “old age” and perhaps I rejected the youth she possessed but was still somewhere in me even though I was having a terrible time finding it. She rejected my seriousness, and damit, I rejected the spontaneity I saw in her that I have always longed to have more of and on and on. Our paths diverged because I needed to access all that she manifested, and she either needed to access some of what she saw in me, but to be clear, neither of us did anything wrong nor did we “reject” the other.

When I said in my earlier book, Writing From the Body, that people tend to be drawn to artists because they dream of being creative but they’ve been told that they are not, or they are afraid to succeed or fail having way too many credit cards, cars and a house payment they feel they must pay off first. However, “If we spot it, we got it,” as the old AA saying goes. So we tend to “acquire” the artistic creative person instead of “accessing” the artist, writer or the tender, compassionate domestic, nurturing, sexy person we’ve been all along.

So the next time you or I “feel” rejected see Solutions below:

  1. Make a list of the qualities, characteristics, attitudes, traits you have found in other and acknowledge and further develop them in yourself.
  2. Remember the attraction for others starts inside you and proceeds outwards, and as the Indian poet Kabir says, “I say to my inner lover, why such a rush…” because I say he or she has always been inside us waiting for us to stop projecting onto others.

CLOSURE: A Made-Up Relationship Term

If you’re going home for the holidays, trying to recover from a divorce, a break-up or really any transition, change or loss may I suggest we stop looking for Closure.

Closure is, according to the dictionary, “a psychological term that describes and individual’s desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion to ambiguity.” And it is a “set has closure under an operation if performance of that operation on members of the set…” I never understood math or calculus and people are not mathematical equations. And just because we long for lost love, happier childhoods, better outcomes of all kinds and what we wish would be, never gets finished like a math problem or a business deal. The idea of closure is a therapist’s shell game – find the closure pea under one of three cups. The therapeutic community tries hard to not know there was never any pea in the first place. Closure is a made up modern psychological word. It probably came into use sometime in the 60s. Perhaps Gestalt therapy, Primal, EST, later Forum and Insight, all agreed we should seek this state in order to move on. Moving on does not require closure.

You see after each failed relationship, no matter how bitter or sweet the ending, we still think about them when we see someone who looks like them in an airport. On a holiday we see them in the window of a passing Toyota, and if we don’t see them there, we see them in our dreams or at the very least, we hear “our song” on the radio.

My first love, mostly unrequited, on-again-off-again, high school and college sweetheart and lifetime friend, got married very young to a very unkind man. However, we saw each other at class reunions, funerals, weddings and sometimes late at night when neither of us could sleep we’d call and talk for hours. No matter how many hours of therapy I did looking for this enigmatic, amorphous thing called closure, I never found it. However, we explored the option of being together for decades. The closest thing to it was the four hours we spent in a Hampton Inn in downtown Austin when she learned she would be leaving this world thanks to the curse of cancer. We sat down and told each other everything in-between loud sobs, laughter and watching the other customers nervously leave the restaurant. You know I still think about her. I’m writing a novel with her as the main character. Now anyone reading this might think I need more therapy and you’d be right – one can never get enough says this therapist of 35 years and counting.

For those of you like hard research – 3,000 men and women were asked on a questionnaire would they consider remarrying their ex-spouse if they were available? 70% said they would definitely consider it. So much for closure. Do you know how many people marry their high-school or college sweetheart after their spouse dies? Me either, but it is quite a few.

Okay literature and movie aficionados, look at literary books published before the 60s. Steinbeck’s Joad family did not find closure in California, no closure in Hemingway, Fitzgerald and certainly none in Faulkner, Hawthorne or Huckleberry Finn and there is not even any in the Bible.

“Oh, Rhett, why can’t we just get closure?” “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn…”

Bogart and Bacall or Spencer Tracy never found it.

Hans Solo never even thought to ask.

Even Butch and Sundance remain frozen in time.

Finally, I bet you never heard your grandparents or parents, if you are over 40, use the “C” word.

The bottom line, some people leave us and some people come back and some leave us again and the parents, siblings, former best friends aren’t now who they were, they are ghosts that still haunt us, memories of who and what they were like and how things used to be like or never were. If one of my best friends, who left me for reasons unknown, was to appear today at my door, she could never close up the sorrow of the she who left. If my father, who is still alive at 90, and I tried to get “closure” with the 30-year-old father he was, is impossible. That young, green father is dead and gone. The feelings we have that make us seek closure are coming from memories we have of the past and the illusions we have of our futures should go.

SOLUTIONS—

1. A line from a Robert Bly poem, “The people we have loved, we will always love…”

2. Use your therapy money to help you find resolution – oh wait, that is Closure’s kissing cousin, never mind.

3. The word closure originated from the word “enclosure” and that is what we really do at the end of a relationship. We build an enclosure in our hearts and at the same time we let go as best as we can, and never let anyone tell you when you have grieved too long.

So What’s the Holdup on Being Held?

As Part II to my previous post, “Isn’t It Touching,” I thought touch-starved men might be interested in considering the following ideas.

  1. Most men either have one male friend who lives in Russia or Tasmania, but they haven’t  met face to face in 30 years, or they have none – solution? Get more men in your life.
  2. Where to go to get a healthy male hug or simply to be held? Men’s gatherings like the one I led two weeks ago in the mountains of North Georgia – 70 good men with Mentor Discover Inspire (MDI)! 12-Step Programs that sober men attend. Go to a Mankind Weekend – an excellent place for male comradery.
  3. Stop settling for bullshit conversations sometimes, not always, but talk and listen to what is going on inside of them and you.
  4. Deal with the “Moral Injury” perpetrated on you by boys and men and the hurt and injury we have done to other men.  (Definition of Moral Injury: An injury, a wound to an individual’s moral conscience and compass when men witness or fail to prevent acts that go against deeply held codes of conduct. Moral injury is a betrayal of what’s right and often results in PTSD because of unprocessed grief, guilt, anger, embarrassment and shame.)
  5. Remember C.G. Jung’s words, “Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” So don’t condemn men who need to be touched, and for God’s sake, don’t condemn yourself for still being a live, breathing, touch-starved man.

 

Excerpt from best-selling book The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man

The following is taken from my first best-selling book, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man. I thought it was timely to share this since I will be keynoting at two men’s events this month:

Oct 19-21 The Bubba-Buddha Men’s Empowerment Weekend for Mentor*Discover*Inspire Organization (MDI) ~ LaFayette GA

Oct 26-27 What Does Healthy Masculinity Look Like Now? ~ Sponsored by Lenoir-Rhyne University ~ Asheville and Hendersonville NC

I hope you will find something in this post that will touch you in some way, and I will be pleased to hear from you.

In 1981 I read one of the first articles about Robert Bly’s work with men in New Age Magazine. While I was moved and completely understood what he was saying, several years passed before I felt the truth told by the man who spoke to me as one who had lived my life. His father was an alcoholic – so was mine. His mother treated him like a magic person and gave him what C.G. Jung terms a “mother complex” – so did mine. He had escaped the world of men – so had I. He said that men who didn’t get in touch with their own deep masculinity found themselves unable to make commitments, hold down jobs and have good relationships. They constantly projected their souls onto the women they loved and left. These men did not have male friends because they only trusted females. He called them “Flying Boys” – I was a Flying Boy.

Unconsciously I had denied many things masculine and male in me. Though I looked and dressed like a lumberjack, I kept my hair long like my mother’s. I saw maleness as exhibited by my drunken angry father and wanted no part of such meanness. I had seen maleness via the cultural fathers who sent their sons to Vietnam to live out their, and John Wayne’s, dreams of heroism and cultural domination. I wanted nothing to do with such maleness. I looked toward the feminine and tried to look like a sensitive man who would not use his intuition to plough through people’s souls and bodies. My spirituality was deeply feminine and finally soft. During my early 30s, thanks to Bly, Laural and others, I realized that I was one who was completely out of balance and quickly approaching a “sickness unto death.”

If you fly away from commitments, responsibilities, intimacy, feelings, male friendships and your own body, chances are you are a Flying Boy. If you are a woman reading this, chances are you have loved or come into contact with a Flying Boy.

Flying Boys frequently use fantasy to escape reality. They hide in their mind/intellect, reason to avoid the pain they keep in their bodies. They appear to all but those closest to them as sensitive, gentle and completely in touch with their feelings. The truth, except in the most extreme circumstances, is that they seldom even know they have bodies and feelings.

Fate and circumstance always seem to be controlling their lives. They can’t quite make life work for themselves. When things do begin to work out or they finally succeed at something, they fly off in pursuit of another city, lover, job, degree, religion or drug. recovery treatment center image jumping between two mountains

Flying Boys are often addicted to sex, work, pain and failure as much as they are to intensity and darkness. They are constantly coming down from ecstatic highs and descending into deep, dramatic depressions. They seek the extremes and are bored with the in-between times.

Flying Boys often grew up in dysfunctional families. Their fathers were both emotionally and physically absent. Their mothers often tried to compensate for this loss. In the process, the Flying Boy learned to reject his masculinity and grew to overvalue the feminine. He experienced his feminine side vicariously through his mother and other mother-like women in his life.

Where Do I Go from Her: Writing Out My Divorce – Part I

In this unusual blog post I am sending out samplings of my new soon-to-be eBook. I am very interested in your thoughts and feelings about this little project. So if you have time and the inclination to leave me a note or email me at john@johnleebooks.com, I’d certainly welcome and appreciate any and all responses. Thanks –John

 

Search and Rescue workers have been trying to tell people for years that when you are lost in the woods just stay where you are and they will come and find you. The main reason folks end up in critical situations is because they are afraid to stay where they are and that no one will find them. So off they go, searching for a way out, and they can’t be found until days, weeks—or never. I’m going to stay here and wait and write my feelings, thoughts, and reflections until someone finds me. I’m going to try and figure out where do I go from her.

PREFACE

When we were gullible kids my friends and I actually thought if we dug hard enough, long enough, and deep enough we’d come out in China. So we kept digging. When we were teenagers, we thought if we wanted to be rock stars badly enough, it didn’t really matter that no one knew how to play an instrument; we just formed a band. When we went to college, we actually thought we could marry the captain of the team or the head majorette, if they could just get past the fact that we weren’t as beautiful as they. When we got married, we actually thought we could stay in love forever—but as it turned out digging a hole in the backyard was really more doable than the subsequent separating, divorce, or death, and then the surviving and moving forward.

I’m writing most of this most unusual memoir at my mountain home in the foothills of the Appalachians. Sometimes I even talk to this mountain, along the lines of, “So what do I do now?” I also sometimes hear a response: “Be silent and wait like I have for thousands and thousands of years.” Dog lovers will not think I’m totally nuts as I speak to my Giant Alaskan Malamute who lays loyally by my feet. “And you? Anything to contribute to this process of letting go?” She always replies the same thing, “Learn to pull something ten times your own weight and then we’ll really talk.”   One night, as I stared at the chessboard my former wife gave me one Christmas, and I swear it said, “Sometimes the king is the first to go.” Novels I’ve read, formerly sitting quietly on several dozen bookshelves, whispered, “Love has no clean-cut beginning, middle, or end.” I told them all their advice was solid, picked up my favorite poet’s book, and randomly opened it to the page that read, “Once you have loved someone you will always love them.” And to that all I can do is say, “Amen.”

INTRODUCTION

I love what I do not have. You are so far…” Pablo Neruda.

It seems to be a fact that loving is so short and forgetting is so Goddamn long. That’s all I need to say most days, but I’ll scribble some more words into this leather-bound journal that no one may read. Hell, like most of my journals it will probably sit passively on shelves receiving dust. So why take the time? Like my journal teacher in abstention, the dearly departed May Sarton says, “Why talk about it? I say, talk about it’ because these are the things we bury and never do bring out into the open. And what is a journal for if they are never mentioned?”

When X first told me about her need to divorce, I left my body, hovering, clinging to the ceiling, certain I’d come back down. Now days have passed and months have passed and even years have passed. I try to re-inhabit my body and make my soul catch up with the fact that while we send pictures of our cats and dogs to each other through email, there are few words between us—a text here and there—and sadness becomes sorrow.

Yesterday my young friend Kat asked, “What is the difference between sadness and sorrow?” I’ve never been asked that question, nor have I felt the need to distinguish the two. But I think of sadness as an emotion that comes naturally, if one allows, and it goes and then it comes again as life dictates. Right now it would seem I am in a permanent state of sorrow, a feeling that will be less, greater, even greater, and less again, but at this moment feels like a river that will never make it to the sea.

Sadness is as transient as joy, lasts as long as laughter or fear, and then disappears altogether with the new arrival of things—good news, a promotion, a book deal, a new love. But sorrow is four seasons long, it is the constant backdrop for the play that continues, though the setting, character, and time changes.

Sadness is, “she’s gone,” and sorrow is, “she’s not coming back.” This is reinforced everywhere you look, felt every time you see the candleholder you bought together or the painting you picked out to hang in the living room of your cottage, felt every time any song from Bach to Beatles is played, no matter how different the setting. Sadness is seeing doors shut. Sorrow is seeing them sealed. But sadness and sorrow can also become the creators of a new life, a new vision, a revived energy, enthusiasm, and guide. But first I had to learn to navigate the uncharted territories of divorce, disease, depression, despair and get to a land where love grows out of the ground of new kind of a sacred, secular faith. This is not the kind of faith of our fathers and mothers and forefathers and –mothers; not written in holy books, taught and told by priests, preachers, gurus, and Rabbis; but more likely referenced by poets such as David Whyte, who wrote, “…When your vision is gone no part of the world can find you…Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong…” This is where I know Faith—or at least this man’s faith—may be found.

I went to my cottage in the pigmy mountains of North Alabama and started unbecoming all I’d been in order to become who I am meant to be. This journey, while still being taken, started with a journal. This is what happened and this is what I felt and learned when my vision, my wife, and my life disappeared.

 

Enhancing Emotional Intelligence – Part II

Separation vs Isolation

Emotionally intelligent people engage in separation instead of isolation. By age two children begin the process of separating from their parents. By age twelve they are fully engaged in the process; unless the parents did not experience healthy separation from their parents, in which case they will tend to cling and limit their adolescence’s ability to move away from them in a healthy manner. This limiting, hovering, or clinging creates the tendency for teens and later adults to move more and more towards isolating when they need time to themselves, space and awareness, they need to renew and regenerate their energy to be with lovers, friends, children, or parents.

Separation generates closeness and intimacy because men and women can learn to detach instead of disconnecting when tired, overwhelmed, drained or exhausted by too much contact and stimulation. They get to pull away in a functional way and then return ready for more communication, commitment and caring.

Isolation leaves everyone in the dark because no one knows when the person is coming back or if they ever will come back, which very often triggers people’s unexposed, unexplored abandonment issues.  The “Isolator” closes themselves off to intimacy and can result in everything from feeling distant to contemplating divorce and ultimately to depression.

There are many forms the “Isolator” can employ, but the main one the emotionally challenged person tends to favor is to become a “Distancer.”  This is the person, who during conflict or confrontation, tends to say things like, “fine, I’m out of here,” or “whatever,” before walking or running away to work, alcohol, drugs, affairs, or other mind numbing, body numbing, emotion numbing behaviors. Luckily we can continue to become increasingly aware of the strategies that don’t serve us and learn new ones that do.

Over-Anxious

from

The Flying Boy Letters: Responses and Replies 30 Years Later

Letter # 31

June 29, 1990

White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Dear John:

I just finished reading I Don’t Want to Be Alone. As usual, I was so anxious for help that I only read the last half. I’m inspired. It was exactly what I needed. Now, the work begins. I want the end result so bad. I hate codependency. Yesterday when I heard my dad’s voice, I felt angry again even though I’ve forgiven him.

As my lover sleeps and I think of the emotional abuse of each and every day, my heart saddens for my child within me. She’s been hurting for 43 years. It’s time to care for her now. Your book will help me do that as I re-read and follow through.

I must tell you that as I once again walked directly to the self-help book section at the bookstore, your title jumped out at me. I picked it up, read the back cover, then I looked at your picture to surmise whether or not your face “looked” full of wisdom, or at least whether it “looked” like you had more info than I. It was the first time I ever threw the book back on the shelf as fast as I could. All of a sudden, it felt like a tornado inside my head. Why did I react so intensely with that book? This is where guilt took over. I “scarefully” picked it up again. “Hum,” I thought, “maybe it’s time to face reality.” 

I’m sure I’m ready, but I’m scared to follow through. I pray that I can learn quickly. I need to heal and I’m over-anxious now that I’ve read your book.

Thank you for getting me started.

Sincerely,

I’m Over-Anxious Joan

January, 2017

Dear I’m Over-Anxious:

I’m glad you found I Don’t Want to Be Alone (Flying Boy II), my second book with Health Communications, Inc. Like many of us who know anxiety all too well, you started in the middle just so you could hurry up and get to the end of the book to see how things turned out for Lucy and I.

You say in your letter that when you heard your dad’s voice, you felt angry again, even though you’ve forgiven him.

Well, by now you probably have, but you probably hadn’t when you wrote this letter nearly 30 years ago. Let me explain what I mean. As a counselor and rogue therapist, I have asked hundreds of clients and workshop participants: “Have you ever forgiven a parent or spouse?” The answer runs something like this: “Oh, thousands of time;” “Many times;” “I have to forgive them every day;” and so on.

See, most of us were taught we were supposed to forgive people without walking through the door into the anger room. We were also taught and told nice girls didn’t get angry, or that anger was a negative emotion, or that we’re not really feeling anger at all—that “anger” is just fear, sadness, and abandonment that has been covered up. So we become prematurely nice—not authentically nice—because we are holding on to so much anger. I realized that until I felt my feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment, I couldn’t fully forgive anyone.

I would say, and still say to the people I work with, “Why don’t you feel your anger, experience it, express it, and get to real forgiveness just once and finally?” Then, once your anger has been appropriately expressed, you are able to interact with that person in the present, even a parent or lover, and you are feeling a primary emotion (not a secondary one as most therapists have been taught) and you will not unload the ancient baggage of the past on to someone in the present.

Now here is one more thought about anger before I go to other parts of your letter. Many men and women don’t want to let go of their anger at someone because anger is the only fine thread or coarse rope that we use to stay connected. We are afraid if we let go of our anger, we will watch them or us just drift off into space.

The truth is that if we’re still using unfelt, unexpressed anger as connecting devices, we’re only creating an illusion of connection. Forgiveness, and perhaps love, build a much stronger bridge to people than the frayed rope of anger.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are such egregious abuses that some have experienced that may not ever be forgiven, and that is right in its own way.

Remember this: anger is for getting out of stuck places, i.e. jobs, marriages, families, etc., and grief is for having been in a stuck place for so long.

I love how you said: “…once again I walked directly to the self-help section at the bookstore”—I tried to put up a tent in that section years ago because I wanted to live in the self-help aisle for the rest of my life.  “…and your title jumped out at me. I picked it up, read the back cover… It was the first time I ever threw the book back on the shelf as fast as I could… I carefully picked it up again. ‘Hum,’ I thought, maybe it’s time to face reality.”

 

This reminds me of the time a woman who attended a workshop of mine years ago said she would like to show me a copy of The Flying Boy.

When she handed it to me, it was in 2 halves, torn right through the middle. She said, “This is the copy I gave to my husband five years ago. He immediately looked at and read the back cover, and then took it out to his workshop where he took a saw and cut it in half.” I understood immediately, and then she reached in her bag and pulled out another whole intact copy and said, “This is a copy he bought for himself and wants you to sign it.”

Thank you for writing,

JOHN

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

 

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.