i’m sorry my apology sounds insincere, I’ll try to make it more convincing next time

apology-form

Most of what I do as a counselor, besides deep listening, is to help hold pain. Injuries linger long after the horror of events/words have slithered across my clients’ fragile hearts. Age matters not a bit; traumas big or small, remain. One reason I’m contracted to assist in the soothing of psychic wounds is that the ‘perpetrators’ and witnesses haven’t acknowledged the hurt, haven’t apologized.

Apologies don’t have to mean you’re wrong, the other’s right, you did anything deliberately. They’re more about empathy, about caring that the other’s hurt, that the relationship means more to you than your self-pride or the polarized world of right/wrong, bad/good.

No one wants reasons either, at least not up front; those won’t salve the wound. There can be explanations but only after one is attentive to the others’ pain. Apologies are not about you or about being forgiven; they’re about compassion.

My friend, “Fred,” was often left waiting for his dad to pick him up from elementary school, sometimes over two hours, as other kids left, then teachers, then janitors…there was Fred leaping on curbs, skidding rocks and otherwise entertaining himself until his dad finally showed. Before Fred could get into the car he’d hear, “Wow, you’ll never guess who I met up with,” or “The coolest thing happened,” ad nauseum. Fred wasn’t given an apology but a “fun” excuse so there wasn’t room for him to have his own feelings of frustration, fear or anger—but he’d learned long before 3rd grade to suppress pretty much any true emotions around his self-absorbed parents.

Once, when Dario was two-ish, we biked past a crying toddler. He became distressed and asked me to turn back to “see her again” suggesting we hug her. By then her mom was there comforting. For the rest of the ride home, Dario continued to postulate why she’d been crying and what we might’ve done to “happy her.” There’s nary a young kid who doesn’t have natural empathy.

This is what happens to empathy:

  • If you don’t receive any you don’t have any to give. You can’t dispense something you rarely feel. If apologizing is seen as weakness or fulfilled in right/wrong thinking instead of a compassionate act of soothing distress, pride sets in and spins kindness into selfishness.
  • Our paradigm shames or belittles those who want to care, who’re exhibiting emotional pain or grief and often reveres those who don’t. It’s manly to disregard needs in others, in themselves, to not cry, to be “strong.”

Ironically, compassion is where true strength lives.

Attempt an apology that’s NOT about defending your position. Instead: Listen! Accept another’s suffering whether you think it’s justified or not. Remember? It’s not about you. What you think doesn’t really matter. Lastly, ask what can be done to resolve the hurt. There’ll be space for explanations, for your opinion afterwards. Be a soft witness to the other first. Especially with children—Please!

But truthfully, we all have a “fair/unfair meter” within us and we hunger for this same tender treatment.

chin-up my ass

Head_up_ass

I live in a country (U.S.A.) of mostly muted emotions. Or the opposite: Jerry Springer. We’re a bi-polar nation addicted to the cerebral flip-flop between indulge/restrict, wanton/celibate, carnal/piety, sloth/extreme actions…  Not much middle ground, not much consistency, not much reality. It’s head living.

We’re often expected to be positive, smiling (especially if female) and eschew “politics or religion” in talk. In other words, stash any potential discussion that could evoke turbulent emotions. See pollyanna is passive aggressive.

Worse, keep “negative” feelings private or be done with them pronto. Lose your dog-familiar of 10 years? Get a new puppy! Break from an unhappy relationship? Hop back in that saddle! Your book of stories is rejected for the 17th time? Recirculate it! Make it happen! Serious inner work? Use affirmations! You have breast cancer and go through medical torture? Keep your chin up!

I loathe chin-upping!

As do kids, animals, plants, trees, stars, stones, rivers…  Okay, I don’t know for sure that all those things feel as I do but I do know that we ridicule and control children, teenagers and dogs when they display “brawny” passions, especially ones that make us feel something we’ve spent our lifetime stuffing down. They poke ours by innocently remaining with theirs and we hate on them for waking our sleeping giant.

The chin-up is a disguised critical voice and no matter how serene and sweet it sounds it still doesn’t permit “unfavorable” emotions to exist. Chin-upping is always in a hurry with its “sensitivity.” The sole way to dispel sad, angry, hateful, anxious feelings is to be with them in deliberate compassion…However. Long. It. Takes. Chin-upping doesn’t allow for that. People who insist you smile and make nice, people who label whatever emotion that scares them as “negative” don’t allow for that either.

Let’s take anger, a most despised emotion. Not rage—which is born when anger is unresolved—but anger which is a rational response to injustice; something’s wrong. It’s a motivating force. The issue isn’t anger itself, it’s finding relevant ways to rectify it. I suspect that only by appropriately expressing it can we truly let it go.

Maybe the “story” your anger attached to has inaccuracies but the emotion is unconditionally valid. Don’t throw out the feeling with that flawed narrative. It’s your job to use nuts & bolts thinking to view the anger with sincere interest—like a kindhearted parent—and hear why it exists instead of wishing it away. If you’re trying to extinguish it, you’re not listening.

Be with, without trying to fix. Encourage Self by accepting all emotions without good or bad labels. Embrace them instead of evicting them. Enable them to choose to get up and go organically instead of “chin-upping” them, which never works long-term.

Augusten Burroughs accurately observed that even with eager determination and a handful of maps you won’t get to California unless you know where you’re starting from. Ground yourself in your emotions, in your body. Your “truth” lives there.

 

shame shame go away

In my 35+ years of counseling, I’ve found that shame is virtually the most stubborn cage of psychic hell. A serious soul-sickness. The quintessential belief that one is intrinsically unlovable.

This is how adults often present shame:

  1. Afraid to share their true thoughts and feelings with others.
  2. Commonly block “negative” feelings through secret compulsive behaviors: sex addiction, eating disorders, retail therapy or substance-abuse. I call these “secret addictions” because the secret is as important (or more) than the illicit relations, the new shoes, the gallon of ice cream…
  3. Intimacy adverse, terrified of commitment and build hidden walls in their relationships.
  4. Convinced of their inferiority and compare themselves negatively to others finding themselves flawed or deficient. This core belief, that they cannot be “fixed,” bonds to their psyches.
  5. Blame others for their pain and find it difficult to impossible to trust. Often results in controlling behavior.
  6. Defensive in the face of the slightest criticism where they feel unfavorably judged even if it’s kindly constructive advice from a boss or mate. Leads to passive aggressive interactions.
  7. Perplexed as to how to establish and enforce healthy boundaries with anyone, giving up their power and abandoning Self as if they’re compelled to do what others want. Subsequently suffer humiliation, guilt or smoldering anger.
  8. Constantly looking for approval from the outside to counteract the hyper-critical voices within. Thus trouble saying NO.
  9. Often narcissistic, pretending they have it all together. However, they don’t strive for Self-fulfillment, only for self-Image fulfillment.
  10. Transversely, they can be selfless, nearly to the point of being a martyr.
  11. Experience little spontaneity due to the constant monitoring and self-judgment.
  12. Motivated more by what they want to avoid rather than what they want.
  13. Usually perfectionists which gives rise to procrastination and non completion of projects. Afflicted with performance anxiety, choking at the critical moment.

How does one dysfunctionally shield Self against that inner demon, shame?

How can you heal from shame?

  • Face your pain! Own the sorrow and anger, incorporate them and grieve the loss of true nurturance. Your shame and pain are memory components living within your cells. There’s no escaping any part of your unique history.
  • Speak your shame aloud to safe, mature people. Therapy is invaluable for this practice. Teaches trust.
  • Have compassion for Self. Focus on your intention, not the result. You’re a “good” person so if you’ve made mistakes it must be for complex reasons. It’s never too late to make amends, to add back.
  • Try to eliminate good/bad thinking. Replace “This pizza is good” or “That dog sucks” with “I like this thin pizza” or “I don’t like this dog.” The pizza and the dog are what they are regardless of your personal preferences.
  • Create consistent boundaries. Practice saying NO to others and YES to your Self (not your compulsions).
  • Accept that things are what they are and not what you think they are.
  • Feelings live in the body, not the head. If you can’t “feel” it, they aren’t “feelings.”
  • When you can laugh at your foibles, especially when you’re “revealed,” then you’re on your way to “healed.”

why women don’t date nice (entitled) guys

Years ago, a male friend bemoaned that women liked the ‘bad boys’ but only wanted to be friends with ‘nice guys,’ like him. “I clean up the snot and tears those guys leave,” he said. “I do the work, he got the benefits. Then she falls in love with one of those guys all over again.”

Yes. That’s how it looked to him. Except, this ‘nice guy’ was a ‘nice’ player; he fell in love with being in love, not women. He’d write breathtaking love letters, buy thoughtful presents, speak intelligentsia, woo and delight until one day that ‘she’ seemed tarnished. No actual woman could live up to his entitled dreams of perfectionism.

When he fell out of love he always thought she was flawed, not his unrealistic ideals. His usual time span was two years before he’d hurt his woman with an affair, throwing over the artist for the professor, the torch singer for the judge, the writer for the dancer.

Yes, a nice guy.

Too often the myth that women like assholes or in their submissive heart of hearts want a master continues to be written and is frequently used to justify men’s bad behavior by telling women what they like and don’t like. But analysis doesn’t bear this falsity out. In various studies, being kind, sensitive and trustworthy are often at the top of women’s list. Noooo! Really!?

Entitled people often think they know what others want, need or even think. They’ll insist you like things you don’t, or tell you you’ve thought things that you haven’t. Arrogantly projecting their needs, fears or judgments about you onto you is common. If you protest, you’re wrong, too sensitive, too dramatic.

Privileged people can’t know what they don’t know and they don’t know what’s ‘below’ them. The wealthy, many conservatives, whites, males, adults to children, middle age-ers to seniors, being born in the U.S. vs. Haiti, etc. often breed a class of people who only know what they would do, what they need and they don’t have much compassion for what they haven’t experienced or don’t understand. Demanding others pull themselves up by their bootstraps, the entitled don’t realize those ‘others’ may not even have boots.

Some of these entitled ‘nice guys’ delude themselves that they are nice because—comparatively–maybe they are, but heartfelt kindness consists of more than one action, is deeper than one aspect of personality. The comic character above sees only his personal slant while being blind to his blanket judgment of “all women.”

Regardless of gender or age, we’re all looking for a bit more kindness, understanding. We want to be seen as we are, not as we’re told we are. [see Women Aren’t Food]

If you’re not getting the attention you need from women maybe instead of deciding what they’re doing or not doing, you might turn your gaze to yourself.