My husband admitted to me that he finds it strange that I seem to completely miss when he attempts to flirt with me. When he told me this he was in a moment of vulnerability and I was wanting to comfort him, to explain that it’s not true. But I found myself realizing that I have no idea what he’s talking about. I guess that’s the point. I ask him for examples and he gives some. He lists off several sweet, little gestures that he does to indicate that he wants to be close with me. Again, with incredible vulnerability, he points out that I laugh at him when he does these things. And it’s true. I do. I laugh and immediately ask him a direct question about what his intentions are. “Do you want sex?” And, probably no one will be shocked by his response…he is dejected. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but clearly, I missed the point. He was making a bid for connection and I turned it into a business meeting.
We talked… and I thought. Why do I do that? Why do I want to force him to state in black and white terms exactly what his intentions are before I am willing to engage? And then it hits me… I’m a woman who was raised in a world where not knowing a man’s intentions was terrifying. This is how my “me too” story still affects me. After therapy, after healing from PTSD, after being a trauma therapist myself, and after years of a loving partner, I still need and want to know exactly what I am consenting to before I will be vulnerable. Doesn’t this make so much sense? Most of my previous sexual encounters prior to my current partner were either manipulative, degrading, or violent. My demand for exact communication is a holdover from a promise I made to myself. I promised I would never accidentally walk into a situation like that ever again. I would make sure. . . as sure as I possibly could.
I feel a sense of loss that, once again, I have found something that has been taken from me (and now, my husband) by my perpetrators. I feel anger. Red, hot, and ferocious. But also relief that I understand now. My partner does not demand, he requests. His subtle bids for connection are not manipulation to push me somewhere I don’t want to go. They are an invitation that I can choose to respond to. When I’m invited to a party by someone I trust, I don’t demand a list of activities and expectations before I attend. I’d like to think I can approach his invitations with the same trust and enthusiasm.
For the last several months I have been part of a project that I am so proud of. My colleagues and friends, Deborah Cox and Shauna Smith, and I have been creating a podcast together that focuses on the interweaving connections of mind, body and spirit. We talk about healing of all kinds and have interviewed so many intelligent and creative healers.
We have just completed a series on healing through our physical bodies and we are getting ready to start a series on healing through spirituality.
At the beginning of the spirituality series I expected to learn a lot and have some great conversations with people that saw spirituality from different perspectives. What I did not expect was how personally transformative it would be for me. My understanding of human spirituality is altered and expanded. My understanding of my own spirituality feels almost unrecognizable. These conversations go so far beyond theology and practice and get to the roots of the common human experience of divine.
I hope you all enjoy this series as much as I did. And if you need to get caught up on our first two series here’s the link to find all our episodes. You can also find us on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. Happy listening.
If we change how we think, we change how we feel . . . and our behaviors follow. Research confirms this. So why do so many of us still struggle with feelings and behaviors we don’t want? Why can’t we just think better and feel better and do better?
Maybe because changing thoughts is harder than it sounds. It means challenging long held belief systems that have been pounded in by everyone we know.
Our brains help us survive and they prioritize our survival above all else by helping us avoid threats. Here’s the problem with that… social disconnection feels like a threat to survival. And we have more access to diverse interactions than our brains were ever designed for. Which means, we are having to navigate high level threats all the time. We have old brains in a new world and we must evolve.
If you care what people think of you, you ride the roller coaster of their opinions, whims, reactions, and projections, and you keep yourself disconnected from your true inner self.
It is a common thing now to hear mental health experts talk about the anxiety and depression epidemic we are facing as a society. Something has happened to us on a large scale. When communities were small and highly interdependent it was helpful to prioritize being accepted and “approved of”. But with large and diverse communities it ceases to be helpful to prioritize group acceptance. Maybe part of our evolution is to replace the belief system that pushes us towards prioritizing other’s opinions and, instead, adopting a belief system that allows for (and even encourages and cultivates) diversity, differences, and freedom.
One of the themes I find over and over in talking with people is how much we all care about the opinions of others. We all know that we “shouldn’t care”, but we still do. We care because we want to know we are okay. We want to know we are good. We want to be enough. But good for what? Enough for what? I think we would begin to have a personal revolution if we made ourselves really answer those questions. It gets hard to swallow the idea that I might be living to be good for the happiness and convenience of others. If we refused to accept that being good is the highest achievable goal we can reach we may begin to reach a little farther. We may find our real joy is in being free. Free to love with no pressure of obligation and fear. Free to create without fear of judgement. Free to show each other the true diversity that is found in authentic connection. Yes, please. Let’s do that.