red pill men

Happy Triggering

The holiday's are upon us.  For many this involves not only HIGH high's, but also LOW low's.  Like it or not, family is a bright red button, waiting to be pushed and trigger an explosive response.

 Our family of origin is also usually the original cause of most of our relational issues, the place of our primal wound.  That can translate into a deeply upsetting, and emotionally disturbing experience, especially during the holiday's--when we're hoping for a little cheer and goodwill.

When I was a kid I felt like holiday’s were magical and sparkling. I loved them! I was the child who was MOST identified with the wonder of the season, in my family. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that the time actually produces an intense sadness, and sometimes even a kind of anxiety that grips me. Thanks to some solid mentoring in my life I’ve been able to identify what was going on…the holiday’s—with all their wonder—are like heavy lifting for my soul. Big payoffs…but also a lot of self-punishment and pressure. In fact this time of year, and especially around my family of origin, I start to shut down just a little. I get…GRINCH.

I’ve come to realize, I’m hardly alone. In my work with men I’ve discovered that for many of us the holiday season is filled with pressure to perform, painful memories and triggering interactions. Men tend to underperform in this setting. I commonly hear men say that they shut down, they hide, they sedate or numb. What’s the turn into? More often than not, just the feeling of being used—throwing cash at the kids, while inwardly hiding.

But things don't have to stay toxic.  Actually the holiday's and the potential of trigger's coming up make it the best time to explore the hurt that's lying underneath.  We can settle into an experience of "ourselves" and the basic goodness of life, so that when the buttons are pushed, we don't explode.

I'll freely admit that family, especially my parents, but also my siblings, and my own children, trigger me to no end.  But, in doing this, they help me become who I really hope to be, and actually am.  By directing my attention to the hurting places when the pain occurs, my family unknowingly, allows me insight into where the work needs to be done. As the old saying goes, "the wolf that howls is the one that got hit." The hurting parts of our selves are the places that need to be attended to.  From the place of healthy ego-strength we're able use these frustrating moments to identify and address the underlying pain--fragmented, and tender.

When we realize that our relationships can act as mirrors, instead of writing people off, we can actually come to a place of gratitude, where we thank them for such provoking behavior or attitudes, because we can deal with the unfinished business needing work.

So--from this strength position, we can welcome the holiday's as an opportunity to do the work, to grow, and be shaped by deep truth.  Imagine the healing that could come from this shift of attitude.  That's something to be thankful for.

A Step By Step Guide

  • Take the hit—step one is literally this…just STOP. Fucking pause. Freeze your body. Don’t move. Don’t say a word. Don’t do a single blessed thing. Just stop. Breathe. Get the air conditioning going….respirate.

  • Feel the feelings—you don’t have to try and control them, modulate them, or distort them. Just notice them: who, what, when, and where. See if you can locate the PHYSICAL SENSATION that occurs when Aunt Glady’s says that annoying as hell comment, or your child shrieks for the thirteenth time that they need help, or your dad refuses to acknowledge you are your own man. Where do you feel that on your body? What’s happening in you?

  • Observe the impulse— again, there’s no need to act on this. You don’t have to go to the store on the 5th errand just yet (come on—we all know that you’re just going to smoke an unplanned cigarette that you allegedly quit anyway). You don’t need to bite off Uncle Frank’s head. Don’t do it. Just notice. Log it in your invisible anthropology journal (I like to play the anthropologist game in my imagination where I pretend to be observing myself like an alien might. “The human is now feeling his blood boil….the human is having the impulse to explode…etc…”). Just notice.

  • Name the feeling—put the sensation in your body, together with the impulse you just observed and give it a name. Believe you me, this is harder than it sounds actually. Sometimes you think that its anger—when really its fear. Sometimes you imagine its love, when its lust…etc…You sort of have to actually go to the root. And lets face it—most men just want to move forward. Do yourself (and us all) the favor and wait…really get to the root of it and name the feeling, cool?

  • Decide what would be effective—You know what you want to do…but is it effective? Is it really worth it? Is it actually the justifiable action? These are valid questions. They deserve real responses. An action urge is justified if the emotion is legitimate. For instance the urge associated with SHAME is to hide. So you have to ask the question—do I really have something I SHOULD be ashamed of? If so, then you’d need to ask if that’s actually effective to do? Would hiding yourself, or withdrawing actually accomplish your long term goals? (And by the way—some time’s the answer is totally YES!) The same would go for ANGER whose accompanying impulse is to fight back, to retaliate, or to push through. Is the anger justified? Is a goal really truly being blocked, or do you just have a short fuse? Etc…then—even if it IS justified—would it be effective to actually hit Uncle Frank? You get the idea.

  • Act and bear the consequences—This is that moment when you get to do what your highest and best self has counseled you to do. This is exciting! You get to take it on. And just notice the difference. It genuinely feels better. Doesn’t it?

The Gift of Being Triggered

Our thoughts, feelings, and intention-making capacity are littered with trigger points.  All it takes is the wrong person to set one of them off.  The truth is that usually it takes someone special to detonate one of those.  That makes sense right?  Our entire lives we've built up emotional armor to protect ourselves and prevent getting hurt.  The folks we let in are really the ones who have access to those incredibly tender spaces--where most of our explosive capacities are hidden.

So our spouse gets blasted with a wall of quiet rage.

Our children are hammered with our need for control and our frustration at being OUT of control.

Our best friends take the majority of our inner critique and then our over-compensating sense of blind-loyalty (which as a side note is as detrimental as being judgmental).

You get the idea....

The reason is because our deepest wounds are most accessed by those closest to us.

When we're triggered, when something in our thoughts or feelings or choosings is detonated, and we switch into fight or flight mode--it becomes an opportunity to see exactly where the wound is--where we are broken, and defensive of.

These places of reaction hold within them the capacity to become a road map of our psyche--showing us exactly where we need to be transformed next.

We are tempted to withdraw from relationships when triggered too much, and in the cases of abuse or mental or physical harm this is absolutely appropriate. But for most of us, we simply become disillusioned with discomfort and run, rather than realize the gift of such spaces. We will experience transformation to the degree that we allow our relationship with others, and most of all the failures involved within them, to be SELF revealing.

It's always about us...but will we be awake enough to notice?

This holiday season, why not allow those trigger points to become moments where you notice who you are and what your armors are. It’s time to put the child aside, and become the man.

The Way of the Householder

This article is a companion piece to the LOST MAN STANDING podcast “Penis Envy.” Click here to listen.

It’s hard being a householder—a person who raises children, keeps a roof over their head, pays their bills, lives with and for a partner—a spouse, maintains a job and generally speaking sacrifices a hell of a lot to do all those things. The reason why it’s hard, especially if you’re a man, is because your penis gets envious. 

You get penis envy.

I remember sitting in a circle of men doing some Work when we played an authenticity game called “Letting my Dick Speak.” Yeah, yeah, this seems like a set up for a Judd Apatow movie…its not…keep listening.  At any rate, the idea behind this game was that we would personify this part of our body and let it have a voice. What would THAT particular part of our body say about us?  It’s an interesting question—essentially if you’re being honest (the whole point of the game) it could give you a wildly different picture of yourself; Which is exactly what happened. Guys were going around sharing as if they were Mr. Johnson saying things like, “I don’t get along with others.” Or “I’m always in control.” Or “I can’t stand to be alone.” Or “I’m a coward.” Really, really good stuff (and freaking hilarious).  Then a man says this—as his penis: “I’m envious.”

The honesty really hit me. Because I knew EXACTLY what he meant.

Back when I was going through my divorce, and in general allowing myself to do whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it, I can recall my then still married, and somewhat stodgier, buddies kind of rolling their eyes whenever I recounted my locker-room stories. They would shake their heads and grimace. But occasionally this moment of honesty would come when one or another would say something like, “You can’t just go around doing that…whatever you want…I mean…you’ve got responsibilities…”

Which is true—I did have responsibilities. I had a job. I had school. I had kids. But beyond that—I felt pretty entitled and enabled. I, for one, COULD do (mostly) what I wanted to do.  It was actually THEM that were feeling the pinch. THEY had responsibilities. THEY couldn’t go around doing those things… And that was cause for envy.  Because the truth is—they really wanted to.

What most people don’t get about men in North America who are primarily in their thirties and forties is that they aren’t living the life they want to be. They’re living the life they SHOULD be.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t happy. This doesn’t mean they want out. It just means things took a turn at some point.

I hear it all the time.

  • “We got married too young…we didn’t know any better…”

  • “I took that job straight out of college...”

  • “The first kid we planned on…the second was a total surprises…”

  • “We moved out here to be close to HER family…”

  • “She didn’t let me keep the car…the music equipment…the golf clubs…the female best friend”

  • “When I lost the house in the bankruptcy we had to move somewhere else…”

On and on… this feeling of being jostled, pushed, prodded towards a finish line that seems not only farther and farther away, but also less and less desirable.

I recall hearing one of my close friends  description of himself in his first marriage, “I was miserable…but I didn’t know it…I was taking on more and more responsibility to pay the bills, to make it…I was getting home late from work, missing my kids—and then getting up early to go—missing them again…”  What finally woke him up was a family picture that they had recently taken, “I stood there, staring at the portrait…Who the hell is that guy in the picture? That haircut? That shirt? That smile?  That’s not me…I don’t recognize that guy.”

Wake up call.

Many men in this stage of life will simply wake up one day realizing that they are working at a job they can’t stand, to pay bills they didn’t rack up, for kids they barely know, and living with a wife they’d rather not have.

But I’m not talking about being miserable. That’s its own trip.

What I’m talking about is ENVY.  And this is my sharp right turn.

If you’re living the householder lifestyle and you don’t want to be—GET OUT.

Seriously.

If you are stuck in a marriage where you are constantly hitting a wall, finding that you are looking at more porn than looking at your partner, or leaning over the water cooler trying to flirt at the new secretary, or cute waitress; if you are pushing pencils at a job that you secretly are plotting to get away from; if you are silently counting the years until the kids can walk home from school by themselves, or go off to college and leave the house—GET THE HELL OUT.

It is better that you leave the spiritual path of householding than live in it half-ass.

That’s my message.

However, if you do you may just find out that there’s just more of the same grass on the other side of the fence… the grass being greener was just a fantasy.  And then what? At some point you’re going to have to deal with reality. The reality that your path, whatever it is, doesn’t exist to make you happy, fulfilled, or leave you feeling breathless-spinning-dizzy from the ecstacy of it all, known, or beloved like Oprah. The spiritual path exists to challenge you, to reduce you, to shatter your rigid dualism and your self-serving ego. Whatever path you’re on—that’s the end goal…All the mystics agree…Nothingness is the finish line (and oddly the starting line of the REAL trip).

AT THIS POINT-I want to say that for those of you who get out: I bear no judgments. Honestly, you are walking a well worn and time honored road. Buddha, Augustine, and many others who have lived exemplary lives have simply left it all. They realized they weren't being true to their journey. They were not meant for the world of work and play and worry and owning a home. They were cut out for something else. And maybe that's you. My hope is that this IS you, that you ACT. Move on it...don't just keep making passive aggressive attempts while dragging out your ho-hum and dissatisfactory life back at the ranch. have the courage to act on your convictions.

Yesterday I was struck with this thought—I had better damn well invest in this journey of family and home and partnering as my spiritual journey if I’m going to be on it. It had better become the avatar for God—the mask that God wears so to speak. Otherwise, I’m just dealing with penis envy. Trying to get a better woman, a bigger house, a nicer car, kids who listen to me, a dog that listens to me, etc…

So—to my brothers in this world who are householders buckling under the pressure—this is my challenge:

PUT UP, OR SHUT UP. Give this your all, or get out.

Not that it will be easy. Not that you have to become a stay-at-home dad. Not that you should suddenly be flitting around nesting every chance you get—making random runs to IKEA or World Market. That’s crap.

Be YOU. But know that Householding is a spiritual discipline. It is a path that will bring you into union with God, self, and others, just as much as that super-cool conference on Digital Mysticism that promises near instant enlightenment after 16 hours of massage and flashy-thingies on the screen. Raising your kids with affection, and intentionality, is capable of producing just as much true Bliss as diving into a career, or calling, or relationship. These things are possible, if we choose them. Which is ironic. Because most of us who find ourselves here, as householders, already have chosen it…we simply blame it on others…

All the blame, the mommy-did-this-to-me-story, or my wife put this on me, or society has pushed me into this corner—they’re all an elaborate and in-elegant excuse to not live with creative intentionality. There will always be things out of our control. We will never be fully in charge of our own choices. We are certainly going to be experience life in reactions. That’s normal. It’s part of living.

What  matters is that we live the life we have. Fully. Deeply. With Conviction. And honoring the apparent contradictions and paradoxes we find within ourselves. Then keeping on. This is true in any path. And it’s true on mine. The way of the householder.