An interesting thing happens when we get out act together, drop our victim stories, start taking responsibility for our lives and getting what we want in life: Other people's response to us change significantly. The majority of people treat powerful, self-confident men with respect; but there will always be people who respond with hostility because they are jealous of our success. [caption id="attachment_3158" align="alignright" width="300"] Don't Get Trapped By Other People's Jealousy[/caption] The only real downside to letting go of our insecurities and learning to live life on our own terms is that other people's insecurities can start getting triggered by us. This happened to me today at music college when another male student walked up to a lighthearted group conversation I was having and suddenly said "Graham, you need to stop being such a cunt." That didn't feel good to me: I immediately felt deflated. When I thought about it later, I felt angry; but when I interpreted what he said in the context of possible jealousy towards me, I could see that his comment was really about him rather than me. (more…)
I was on my way to music class this morning and the peak hour train was a little more crowded than usual. As I headed downstairs to find a seat, I came across a couple of men occupying two opposite-facing three-person bench seats. I wasn't keen on standing for a half hour while two guys occupied six seats, so I politely said "Excuse me" to the guy on the aisle end of backward-facing seat, and he kindly moved over to the window to accommodate me. As I sat in the newly vacant aisle seat, I felt constrained by the man sitting in the middle of the bench seat opposite me. He was sitting forward with his legs spread wide in the classic genital display pose that male primates evolved to demonstrate dominance to other lesser primates. So wide in fact that his left leg and knee were taking up at least a third of the legroom in my own individual seat. His behavior may have been unintentional and unconscious; but it didn't feel good to have my newly acquired space dominated by another man's knee. [caption id="attachment_3160" align="alignright" width="300"] Assertiveness Makes a Man Feel Strong[/caption] I'm working on getting over my fear of conflict with strangers, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to be assertive with one who was overstepping my boundaries; albeit boundaries that I had just stepped into by requesting the seat. I made eye contact with the spread-eagled man and politely asked: "Would you mind moving your leg over a little please?" He kept his leg in place and said something that I didn't hear due to my noise-cancelling headphones. I removed them so I could hear his objection and replied: "I'm sorry?" (more…)
I had a narcissistic mother and it was a complete disaster for my boyhood sense of self-confidence and the way I saw myself as I grew into a man. A narcissistic mother can leave deep emotional and psychological wounds that get triggered in our daily adult lives, undermining our self-confidence and making life extremely stressful. The impact is most pronounced in our relationships with women, leaving us feeling disempowered and emasculated around women until we get our narcissistic mother wound healed. [caption id="attachment_2976" align="alignright" width="300"] Narcissistic Mothers Are Emotionally Unavailable[/caption]
Narcissists carry a lot of internalized shame and project their own unhealed emotional wounds onto everyone around them, especially their children. As a boy we were powerless to deal with our narcissistic mother and may still carry this sense of powerlessness along with her paranoid world view unconsciously into adulthood.
It's easy to recognize a narcissistic mother because they typically: (more…)
I was visiting my parent's place on the weekend and seeing some relatives from interstate who I don't often get the chance to hang out with. At one point we were all sitting in the lounge room listening to my father describe the apocalyptic nightmares he's been having lately, while my controlling mother kept interrupting, talking over him, "correcting" him and just generally dominating the conversation. [caption id="attachment_2955" align="alignright" width="300"] Take Your Mother Off The Power Pedestal[/caption]
I've always found my mother's domineering behavior annoying, but I used to be far too scared of her to stand up to it. This time though I casually lent towards her, put my hand on her arm and said "Mum, could you be quiet please. I want to hear what my father is saying".
She moved her arm to brush me off dismissively in a way I've always found infuriating. This time though rather than feeling powerless and simply capitulating, I [intlink id="2809" type="post"]channeled my anger into assertiveness[/intlink]: "Don't just brush me off!", I said, "I want to hear what he's saying."
I grew up in a family where emotions weren't expressed cleanly; especially challenging emotions like anger. Everyone feels angry from time to time, but growing up I got the sense that there was something wrong with this basic human emotion because nobody talked about it. My parents never seemed to say directly that they felt angry; but it was obvious when they were and their anger came out in ways that I found very frightening and destructive. [caption id="attachment_2943" align="alignright" width="300"] It's OK To Be Angry With Your Parents[/caption]
Everyone around me seemed ashamed of their anger. Over time, I learned to feel ashamed of my anger too. I denied, suppressed and internalized it as though I was doing something righteous and noble. But the repressed rage built up inside me until eventually as an adult I developed overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks, depression and even a physical illness.
This forced me to wise up and realize that there was nothing noble about denying my anger. But with poor role models for expressing anger constructively in my family of origin and in society at large, who was I to turn to for help?
My answer came in the form of enlightened therapists who understood that anger is a perfectly normal emotion whose purpose is to motivate us when our needs aren't getting met. A powerful energy that needs to be channeled and expressed constructively; not internalized, denied, suppressed or misdirected.
Many men have mother issues that undermine our self-confidence by stopping us from really growing up and fulfilling our true potential. Unresolved mother issues cause us to remain emotionally and developmentally immature; a boy in a man's body. If we had a critical or controlling mother we're particularly prone to having mother issues. Add in a passive father and a lack of tribal structure with initiation rituals in modern society to force us from the cozy comfort of our mother's breast, and it's easy to slip from childhood into adulthood without ever actually growing up. [caption id="attachment_2932" align="alignright" width="300"] Unresolved mother issues can leave you stuck in a permanent state of adolescence.[/caption]
This leaves us forever unconsciously seeking comfort and reassurance from our mother, and our neediness ends up projected onto any woman we come across; which is a disaster for our relationships with women.
In normal human development, we individuate from our mothers during adolescence as we grow into being our own man with our own set of values different from hers. This is a time of rapid brain rewiring and emotional upheaval as we alternate between feeling emotionally connected with our mother, and separating from her to explore the world and our place in it.
If our mother wasn't emotionally available to connect to, or tried to control our excursions into the world in order to prevent her feeling upset in case we got hurt, then everything can go horribly wrong. Nice Guy Syndrome and the associated approval seeking are classic symptoms of mother issues. Insecurity resulting from unresolved mother issues ends up being unconsciously projected onto everyone and everything around us, having a serious negative impact on our whole life.
Here's how to heal your mother issues: (more…)
I've noticed a consistent pattern among myself and my coaching clients: we all have a history of not standing up for ourselves when other people behave in ways that we don't feel good to us. Most of us had parents who weren't willing or able to teach us how to deal with our emotions, to self-soothe our nervous system when we were in distress, or to stand up for ourselves when our emotional or physical boundaries were being violated. Often the person we most needed to stand up to was one or both of our parents themselves, and that rarely goes well when you're a distressed child trying to stand up to an adult who is being unreasonable because their wounded inner child is running the show. [caption id="attachment_2812" align="alignright" width="300"] Turn Your Anger Into Assertiveness[/caption] All of this is a recipe for ever-increasing anger, resentment and frustration. We end up overcompensating in a desperate attempt to get our needs met. Internalise that toxic cocktail and it's no wonder we end up anxious, depressed and lacking self-confidence. Behavior patterns learned as a child tend to stick even if they never really worked well, and coping strategies learned as a child rarely work well in the adult world. If nobody shows us a better way, we tend to continue behaving in ways that increase our internal store of resentment and frustration long into adulthood with no way of releasing the emotional pressure cooker. After a while we end up bitter and resentful towards a hostile world that just won't seem to give us what we need or want. (more…)
I was bullied mercilessly at my all boys high school. Turning up to Year 8 English class was a routine nightmare: Often one boy in the class would stake out the door waiting for the teacher while another group would hoist me up on top of a high cupboard against my will. As the teacher arrived, the scout at the door would give the signal for everyone to return to their desks so that at the precise moment that the teacher walked into the room everything looked normal in the class; except that Graham was up on top of the cupboard. The teacher was too stupid to work out what was going on, and I'd end up getting sent to the principal for more even punishment. Childhood bullying is insidious because it can leave long-lasting scars on your mental psyche. This is a critical time of development of our brains, and if your experience of childhood or adolescence is one of powerlessness and victimization, it can program deep unconscious patterns into our minds that set us up for debilitating anxiety and depression later in life. [caption id="attachment_2793" align="alignnone" width="640"] Childhood bullying can leave mental scars that affect you long into your adult life.[/caption] Fortunately though we can recover. There's enough neural plasticity in our brains to undo the damage that bullying does, provided we're willing to face the emotions that we were forced to suppress when the bullying occurred. Here's how to recover from childhood bullying: (more…)
I developed an intense fear of conflict when I was young, and it has hung around with me for a long time. The fear evolved as a series of things led to each other: I used to find the fights between my parents very frightening as a kid, and never experienced any of their conflicts actually being resolved. Conflict was scary, and never seemed to have a positive outcome. My parent's anger during conflict always felt out of control and destructive to me, so I decided that anger was a bad emotion to be suppressed at all costs. Plus my religion taught me to “turn the other cheek” rather than to stand up for myself when I was being treated in ways that I didn't like. As an awkward, sensitive boy I was bullied mercilessly at my sport-oriented all-boys high school. [caption id="attachment_2767" align="alignright" width="300"] When we are afraid of conflict, other people can treat us like this.[/caption] So the message I internalised was that conflict was scary and often led to me getting hurt. I developed an intense fear of conflict: Any time I was under threat or being criticised, I would collapse into sadness or be overwhelmed with fear. I didn't know how to utilise my anger to stand up for myself in times of conflict, nor had I been taught the communication skills to resolve conflict in a win/win manner that left me feeling empowered. Once we've internalised negative experiences of conflict in our nervous systems, our default programming around conflict can be to run away from it, and it can be a challenge to reprogram our brain and nervous system to step up in the face of conflict, instead of fleeing from it. Standing up for ourselves in the face of conflict is how we overcome the fear of it. (more…)
I get my fair share of hate mail on the Internet, which I find unpleasant but not entirely surprising. Many people aren't good at expressing their anger cleanly, and some of them choose to channel it into hate mail directed at me. Being on the receiving end of somebody else's hostility can be stressful, so it's important to be assertive with these people to stop their stress from entering our emotional boundary. [caption id="attachment_2716" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Use assertiveness to stop other people's anger entering your emotional boundary.[/caption] He's an example from a few weeks ago: I got an email from a female ex-friend who I initially met through a blog I run, which began: (more…)