"Life is either a daring
adventure, or nothing"
A natural ability to
teach runs in my family. In 1902, Grandma Nell taught in a one-room schoolhouse.
As the new millennium approaches, I, her granddaughter, love it as much
as she did. I am a therapist. I offer others the acquired relationship
skills I learned through hard times and personal choice. My Germanic persistence
and Scottish-Irish intuition guide me, but my clients make the choice
to use these techniques. They are the brave ones.
The field of evolutionary
psychology and social anxiety form the concrete basis of my work, but
the application of my work is an entirely different matter. In my previous
practice in Seattle with Microsoft millionaires and now in California
with Silicon Valley engineers, a quote comes to mind: "Money can't
buy you happiness, but it can buy you a car to drive around while you
look for it." Perhaps a hard drive would be preferable. You see, I specialize
in dating anxiety, and work a great deal with smart, lonely engineers
who often have never had long-lasting relationships. One man swore he
would rather have his arm cut off than be rejected by another woman. Another
highly placed VIP made love once in his life at forty. Only his priest
and I know this. A woman wished for a physical scar so others could see
her unhappiness and pay attention to her.
To understand the
opposite sex is one thing, but to accept that your old ways are not working,
to venture out of your shell, feel terrified, experience defeat, and get
back out there on the field? Courage. My clients are amazingly brave people
and I benefit greatly when they allow me to assist.
CHANGE: To give a completely different form to. To lay aside.
In the beginning we learn at our parents' knees, internalizing the strengths
and weaknesses of mom and dad. Of their weaknesses we pronounce, I'll
never let that happen to me." If we feel emotional or physical pain, we
retreat through instinct, a natural ability. We withdraw by getting away
or overcompensate by acting tough. Dad asks how you are after Mom spent
the better part of an hour yelling, "Sure I'm fine!"
How does the saying go? We are born fine, and then the world DEFINES us.
If we happen to be born with great challenges, physical differences or
parents who angrily give us their definition about our lives, we seek
comfort. We isolate, eat too much, or hit someone, continuing to do whatever
works until our chaotic early lives are under control. Over time repeated
responses become ingrained habits. These survival strategies, combined
with our innate physical and intellectual abilities form our adult personalities.
notice this girl or boy sitting across from us in class and our romantic
difficulties begin. Many of my clients needed new skills at this point,
but didn't get them, With our bodies telling us to:
"Go for it!" Our parents teaching us what their parents taught
"Don't go for it! " And, sex education classes telling us "How To Avoid going for it, even though going for it is
natural..." Is it any wonder that the going got rough?
Maybe we should log on and forget the whole mess.
As a relationship
counselor, my initial research concerned women's dating habits. Later,
I began to work with "dating challenged" men, an enormously under-served,
hidden population. These men find their way to me through the underground
grapevine, for men rarely tell their buddies they are having girl problems.
Tell your friends in the male kingdom that you aren't uh- having success
is like getting picked last for the baseball team (and that's putting
The somewhat sensational
title of my book What the Hell Do Women Really Want? (2d. Ed.) echoes
exactly what I hear when men complain about women. "Women say they want a sensitive guy, but then they choose a jerk." My observation
as a clinician in this field is that women don't want men who push them
around, but they do want men who can stand up to them. Balance is the
key. Though women are initially drawn to a "sensitive" man, who listens
well and is gentle and kind, as the dating progresses, his quietness begins
to feel boring or worse, "dweeby." She leaves saying, "let's
just be friends."
But, because he has
the skill of persistence, this man continues to chase after her, often
enduring mistreatment. He spends much time and money on her hoping she
will change her mind if he just tries hard enough. Why are these men having
trouble? As children, most of them worked hard to attain love. It wasn't
OK to say no to Mom so they withdrew to their safe places: their guitar,
their computer, their rope swing. It was not OK (and still isn't)
for a boy to cry on the playground if he skinned his knee. Now, as an
adult, his girlfriend asks him to feel? On top of this he often
has, like other people, internalized the partial mind-set of a critical
parent. So, he retreats when she wants connection, perceiving her needs
of passive- aggressive behavior, of nodding agreeably on the outside and
being furious on the inside will not miraculously stop "when the
right girl shows up," no matter what your Aunt Rita says. It might
if the right skill set is learned, but until the age a crisis hits, men
with low self-esteem will continue to chase women who don't appreciate
them. Much worse, they often marry women they don't love rather than risk
The same problem insecurity
from feeling under attack as a child is solved by other men who use offensive
tactics. I don't see many "Mr. Cools" in my practice. I joke and
say, "they've got women hanging all over them - why should they possibly
think they need help?" In fact, they are much worse off than Mr. Nice
Guy who can learn new habits more easily, due to his capacity for humility.
Mr. Cool has such a strong defense that only a serious crisis might shake
him up enough to seek help. He usually finds another woman first, and
often ages bitter and alone, or alcoholic. Groucho: "I wouldn't want
to join a club that would have me as a member of it."
The man who outwardly
appears OK, but who has continuous relationship problems, uses the skill
of acting OK, because society reinforces all that achievement. He channels
all of his natural ability to achieve, his "physical, mental, financial
and legal power," as the dictionary says, to gain attention. A functional
relationship is not first on his list. But boy, does he look good! Which
is why he wins the girl. What he loses is his soul. You don't hear about
what comes after.. ."happily ever after." Interestingly
enough, the dictionary definition of "natural ability" omits spiritual
The female clients
I work with choose mates who don't appreciate them. They often chose safety
by marrying someone they don't love, just as some of my male clients do.
Later in life (often after divorce) many women are bitter. They cannot
accept responsibility for their own half of the story. Retreating into
work or their children, these women may live alone for many years unless
they choose to change.
Patterns Do Not Change Without Conscious Consistent Effort
Some patterns of "love challenged" men: He is criticized and grows
to be a man who quests for the perfect girl. He dates hundreds of women,
but none pass his test. For he focuses on the flaws he finds. (If he actually
chose someone, he would have to work through the difficult talk of communicating!)
He sees the problem
outside himself. If everyone would just cooperate, things would be fine.
The people pleaser or "doormat" thinks if he tries hard enough he
will hopefully get noticed. He hasn't dated in years, or has dated only
three or four times and might be over thirty. (That is not as unusual
as you might think!) Might be fixated on one woman years after the break-up.
(Worse-he may never have dated her!) Has never experienced an ongoing
relationship or a satisfying sexual life. Spends
thousands of dollars on girls who have no intention of ever becoming
intimate with him.
He works himself numb
to avoid feeling, escapes by any means possible and sometimes, when the
stress of being alone cuts too deep, pays for company. The oldest profession
has plenty of clients. Did you know that most men who go to call girls
are lonely, quiet guys? One of my clients, a bright computer engineer
spent $17,000 "rescuing" a nineteen-year-old lap dancer.. .actually
believing that she loved him!
What should these
men do to change? In my book I cover techniques to dislodge old patterns.
Below I offer you a different tool which promotes personal transformation,
together with a small anecdote. Good luck!
About Spiritual Ability
Here is an interesting and very helpful perceptual self-growth tool. It
can help you use events in the outside world to understand what is happening
on the emotional and unconscious planes. It is a well-known defense in
psychology called "projective identification." It works like a mirror
by reflecting interior emotional blockages on your outside world. You
believe your problem is in the other person, or your environment. What
you are actually seeing is your emotional weakness projected outside yourself.
Pay attention to what you don't like in others. This unique skill is called
the "spiritual mirror."
Folks with physical
disabilities get used to the fact that much of the other "abled"
world feels uncomfortable around them. Our mothers told us not to stare,
it wasn't nice. Well, I don't always follow Mom's advice (though I sure
wish I had at other times) so one day I used the mirror technique to make
contact. An acquaintance (who I initially thought was blind) was sitting
quietly, not taking part in the conversation. He seemed uncomfortable.
I wondered about his sight, struggling with the projection that society
teaches us - don't look, don't ask. After sitting in discomfort but paying
attention to my intuition, I decided that it was perfectly all right for
me to ask about his sight. So, I did. Brightening, he briefly explained
how his sight functioned, but didn't elaborate. I persisted, asking him
exactly where his vision was and wasn't. Although one eye was blind, he
could see a narrow field with the other. I bent my head down and looked
where he indicated - "Can you see me now?" "...Yes! We were
both excited." After that, I spent a lot of time putting my face at his
"window" (as he now calls it) whenever we meet.
that people rarely asked about his sight, I was amazed. What was going
on? All these folks with various challenges who are not being emotionally
helped with communication! He could be getting two channels and because
society tries to "be polite," he only gets one. This small incident
was a mirror of how much narrower my field of vision would be had I restricted
my reality to an old, acquired skill. See the mirror? Instead of avoiding
my discomfort I went directly into the sensation of my own discomfort
that his discomfort "mirrored." The natural ability we all
have curiosity, communication, bonding, helping led me to discard
my acquired socialized misperceptions.
The other day, I took
it one step further. Noticing a woman in a wheelchair smiling at me, I
went up and started pushing her. "Do you mind?" I asked. "No,
it helps me get places a lot faster." And, all this time I was thinking
that if someone in a wheelchair wanted help - they would ask. Ha! We had
a good time. I ran her around in circles, and we zoomed across the floor.
Again, my world expanded. Another concurrent exterior mirror was that,
at the time, I was actively engaged in learning how to ask for help from
others instead of going it alone.
When I choose to change
old habits, I notice outside mirrors in many situations all around me.
I use these messages to help me move through new phases of my emotional
development. And, if I don't pay attention to these mirrors, sometimes
change chooses me.
For example, punctual
me began to arrive late-despite being on time my entire life. For
about a week, it seemed to happen over and over again. As I was twenty
minutes late to a VIP lecture, having strung myself out by rushing around
all day, I said to heaven, "Oh no, don't tell me I have to learn
it this way!" What was this external mirror of irresponsibility
teaching me? Slow Down! Nothing matters that much! Accept your
weaknesses. Stop worrying about what others think about you-or it will
get worse! The message in this case was the outside chaos which mirrored
my inside emotional turmoil.
Notice how your perception
shifts when you see the lessons around you and the teacher is you. No need any longer to wait for help. The lessons are everywhere. The
many circumstances that seem to randomly occur around you are reflections
of inside unfinished business. Avoiding another's disability is a mirror
of the emotional wounds we sweep under the rug. The fascination we have
with tabloid tragedies reflects our residual childhood pain. We look outward
and see chaos. We think to ourselves, "my life couldn't be as bad
as all that."
Difficult life passages
escalate if we don't pay attention to outside signs and some of us learn
the hard way. Alcoholics may need to lose their entire family before wising
up. Some are lucky enough to heed early psychosomatic warnings: ulcers,
minor car accidents, people leaving your life over and over, multiple
divorces. What is it we don't pay attention to?
My clients find me
after having dating problems that have been going on for years! The
early courtship is wonderful. The chemistry makes them feel alive and
healthy. Convinced their new partner is much better than their old one,
they think this new partner might be the one. And then, three months
into the relationship, cluios comes calling.
Your new partner looks
less promising than your old one. Too fat! Too clingy. Too messy. Too
good to be true. Best behavior wears thin and old avoidance habits surface.
Looking for blame, insecure about closeness, you feel smothered - new
suspects with your old behaviors. Step right up, try to avoid the habits
you despise and they have them. And so the merry-go-round begins. Same
horse, new rider. No brass ring.. .unless you find another way. That is
what happened to this person I know. She spent her childhood hiding from
ridicule. She also spent most of her early years avoiding pain by pretending
she was fine.
The secret came to
her one day when she looked through a window and saw something disturbing.
Looking back was a girl who was alone and frightened. The girl's face
revealed desperation. Her surroundings reflected chaos. In a sudden rush
of awareness, my friend realized it wasn't a window she was looking through.
It was a mirror. The woman she saw reflected was herself. She was not
looking outside and seeing what she disliked in others. She was in fact
viewing her own internal discontent and placing blame on the world around
her. It was then she saw how poorly she treated others, held grudges and
hung on to old injuries to get even. The turmoil that had been chasing
her everywhere, now became unmasked, as her own external reflection. She
didn't like what she saw - negative thoughts and a lack of forgiveness
So she stopped, and she thought:
"If I don't stop this, I will make myself sick. I might even die
from it!" (And she wanted to live.) Change is not easy, but my friend
did it. She didn't let her past choices reign. Her change began with...
Paying attention to the ways she was not living her life, working
herself raw to meet deadlines, be the best, please the folks, find the
right relationship, look the prettiest...
Paying attention to the ways she would find fault, take offense
at the simplest of human frailties. In particular she paid attention to recurring coincidences. The events which she normally viewed as
rotten luck seemed awfully familiar. She paid attention to all those...
Repeating Patterns.. .There she was again, in the same work struggles,
in the same family issues which played out again and again. At first she
Pay attention to the repeating patterns. One of those repeating
patterns included seeing and knowing, but not doing anything to change
these patterns. For example, how many times did she lose her keys, ignore
her intuition or even her mother's very good advice about men? And, if
she attributed difficult circumstances merely to someone else's pattern,
merely to random circumstances or perhaps an unlucky string of circumstances
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Abraham Lincoln and Depression
ABILITY House - Birmingham
What Do Women Really Want?
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