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Celebrating Men Morsels

Insights, discoveries, and advice in bite-sized portions from Alison

Pleasing and Protection are not a Trade! #30

As women, we have an instinctive reaction to failing to please a man which is experienced in the form of tension in our bodies. We have the opposite reaction to succeeding in pleasing him – relief.

Upon examination, we’ve found that this primitive response is connected to our primal fear of being left unprotected. Unconsciously we equate pleasing a man with him protecting us and providing for us. If we fail to please, we’re afraid he will let the tiger eat us.

If you ask men about this, they’ll tell you that protecting a woman has nothing to do with being pleased by her; that he would do it regardless. This is because protection and pleasing were not designed as a trade. Men are compelled to provide and protect because that’s part of being a man. He might articulate it as a “duty.” Fulfilling this duty can be a burden or a joy – it’s entirely dependent upon him experiencing being up to the task, and the woman’s appreciation, or lack thereof, for his gift.


Single Focus vs. Diffuse Awareness #31

This is an excerpt from Alison Armstrong’s new book, coming Fall 2006, The Belated Education of Adam and Eve. In this part, Sam, an Angel from Research and Development, is responding to a question from Adam about the differences in how they think.

Being Single Focused, it is easy for you to completely concentrate on one thing – as long as you can find one thing worth your concentration. Boredom is what you call being unable to find anything worth your total attention.

Once you have committed yourself to a result, almost nothing can deter you from pursuing it. Anything that gets in the way will cause a great deal of frustration and will likely get trampled upon. This is an important result of your instincts. The survival of you and Eve depends upon your relentless pursuit of food and shelter, until you have enough.

While it’s natural for you, Adam, to focus on one thing at a time, for Eve, paying attention to just one thing would present an enormous challenge. Her Diffuse Awareness keeps her in tune with many different aspects of her environment and it’s almost impossible to block any of them out.

Her awareness is so keen that it will seem to her as if the things in her environment are speaking to her. They’ll say “pick me,” and “clean me” or “make me pretty.” Especially if an item is out of place, then it’ll seem as if it’s yelling at her. For example, if you leave your hunting implements near her food preparation area or your clothing near her rest area, she won’t be able to concentrate or rest until those things are out of sight.

This is why you two will feel peaceful for completely different reasons. Adam, you’ll be able to truly relax only when the result you’ve been focused on is produced. Eve, you’ll be able to relax when your environment seems “quiet” because everything is done and everything is in its place. Sometimes you’ll need to get away to a new environment that doesn’t need anything from you, in order to relax.


How Men Listen #32

So many of you enjoyed the excerpt from Alison’s new book, The Belated Education of Adam and Eve, that we’ve included another.

Adam, let’s start with how Instinct has you listen:

  • You have been given two default modes of listening that are consistent with your role as the principle Hunter.
  • If someone is speaking to you and they don’t seem upset, you will listen, “What is the point?”
  • This focuses your listening to receive the most important information.

I can see from your nod that this makes sense to you. I’m not surprised. To you, it would seem obvious to listen this way. Trust me, this is news to Eve.

  • If you are being spoken to by someone who does seem upset, you will listen, “What is the problem?”
  • This way of listening has you focus on the pertinent information that will help you to solve the problem, which, as I mentioned before, you are compelled to do.
  • By listening, “what is the problem,” if the problem does not become clear, and its solution obvious, you will feel compelled to ask clarifying questions. The answers to these questions, you hope, will give you the information you need to solve the problem.
  • Both these ways of listening – what’s the point and what’s the problem – are effective for your Secondary Survival purpose and will work when dealing with men, and a few women, in a work environment. Principally because they’ll speak to the point and to the problem.

Next time, Sam will elaborate on how Eve listens…


How Women Listen #33

As promised in our last morsel, where “Sam” described how Adam listens, here is his take on how Eve listens from The Belated Education of Adam and Eve, by Alison A. Armstrong.

Eve, this brings us to the problems caused by the way that you were made to listen. It happens this way:

  • If the person you’re listening to does not seem agitated, you’re first default listening for any information is, “what does this have to do with me?”
  • If they do seem upset or agitated, you will listen, “What do they need from me?”

There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these questions. In fact, they are useful for your Secondary Survival Purpose, and they serve when you’re communicating with other Gatherers.

You listen to their Meadow Report, gleaning the information you need: “What does this have to do with me?” And you listen to Adam in a way that helps you take care of him: “What does he need from me?”

But you might have already guessed that it can cause difficulties given Adam’s communication purposes, such as:

  • When Adam is in the Strategy stage, he is focused on producing a result which may have nothing to do with you. But he may want to talk it out as part of his decision-making process. When you listen and listen and never find it having anything to do with you, you are disappointed and think your listening was a waste of time.
  • When he is in the Rest/Preparation Stage and Implementation Stage, his lack of communication can be interpreted as him being upset. Then his refusal to talk leaves you without the answers to “what does he need from me?” and you’ll feel insecure not knowing how to please him.
  • During Implementation, if he gets angry or frustrated, you’ll be listening, “what does he need from me?” and you may respond with things that further irritate him. This would probably hurt your feelings.
  • When he’s in the Story Telling stage, besides being deprived of the details you crave, you can’t help but hope that he mentions you at some point. Again, you’ll be listening from “what does this have to do with me?”

Why Men Don’t Ask for Directions #34

A complaint so common it is the subject of jokes and TV comedies is the unwillingness of lost men to ask for directions. Almost every woman has a story about a man who drove around for hours looking for some place and refused her entreaties to stop and ask someone for directions. To women, this seems like the ultimate display of male arrogance and stubbornness. But what if it isn’t?

It is important to understand that men are NEVER “lost.” To him, that implies a helplessness that he will never willingly experience. He simply hasn’t gotten there yet and he has complete faith in his ability to do so.

Also, a man’s unwillingness to stop and ask for directions is consistent with his survival instincts and actually not stubborn at all. First, the act of stopping the car, and rolling down the window, makes him (and you) more vulnerable than he is willing to be just to get some place faster. Second, from a man’s point-of-view, the moment he asks a gas station attendant or someone on the street for directions, he has put his life and yours in the hands of a stranger! Men, wisely, only put their lives in the hands of people who have proven themselves trustworthy. The way he sees it, you are both better off searching for your location yourselves than being at the mercy of the judgment of someone he doesn’t know and trust.

Why has he never told you this? According to our research, this is because, to him, it is obvious. Every man already knows this and something that everyone already knows requires no explanation. It is a mystery to him why you seem to have forgotten this basic rule of survival.

On the other hand, maps are the be-all and end-all of travel. With a map, a man can make a solid decision based on reliable information. And the systems available on many new model cars, with built-in maps and global positioning satellite, are the ultimate tool for navigating a dangerous world.

If your car doesn’t have one of these fancy new gizmos, your best bet is to stock up on maps at the Auto Club, or buy a Thomas Guide. Keep your supply of maps in your car (or travel bag) and learn how to read them. It is important to suggest a route coming from being a member of the travel team, instead of righteously proving he is incompetent.

A woman who understands - and even likes - reading maps becomes a highly valued travel partner. To quote men, a woman who happily reads maps “becomes useful in the hunt,” and is “awesome” and “nearly perfect.” Instead of feeling frustrated and ignored while he is trying to find some place, if you’re consulting a map, you’ll find a man more than willing to follow your directions.

A side note: there is another unfamiliar landscape in which a man won’t ask for directions but will sure appreciate them - your body. A panel of men at Celebrating Men & Sex was asked, “What do you think about a woman giving you directions in bed?” One man stated the case for all. He replied, “Directions, maps, diagrams - all useful information is appreciated!”


The Other “P” in Papa #35

Last year we wrote you about fathers being providers (The “P” in Papa Stands for Provider – Morsel #13). This Father’s Day, the message is: the other “p” in Papa stands for Protector. It’s important to understand that being a protector is integral to being a man and how each man expresses it in his own way.

Every father defines the dangers he is protecting his children from and the best way to protect them. For some, protection means sheltering them from what they perceive as the biggest dangers, e.g. physical harm, failure, disappointment, heartache, loss of reputation, etc. For others, protection means toughening up the child to handle the dangers the father perceives. The personalization may extend to perceiving some things as greater dangers for one child, and something completely different as a danger for their sibling.

In past generations, a popular way of protecting daughters from some of the perceived dangers in life was finding a strong, capable, resourceful husband for her. In other words, the father replaces himself as the “shelterer.” In the most recent generations, we have found more fathers determined to make their daughters self-sufficient. These fathers protect their daughters by teaching them how to perform traditionally male tasks and giving praise for masculine ways of being.

Whether it is sheltering or causing self-sufficiency, the instinct is the same – to keep their children safe. And as annoying as it may be for the child – who rarely perceives the same dangers – if it’s understood, it can be an endearing expression of fatherhood.


The Anatomy of a Woman’s Feelings #36

This may be the most important article I have ever written. Please feel free to pass this on to all the women AND all the men in your life. – Alison.

Heart and Lungs, Life and Energy

Imagine, if you will, a woman. Let’s look inside of her. Not the way a doctor might see her, but someone with more intuitive vision. In the center of her chest is a very unique organ. It looks like a disk about the size of a salad plate, up to two inches thick, and it fills her chest. When it is healthy, the color is a vibrant red or magenta or red-orange, and the surface is soft and even bubbly. Like the lungs, it pulls life and energy in from the environment. Specifically from nature, from the joy of loved ones, from beauty. Like the heart, it is connected to every part of her body through a complex circulatory system. As life and energy are pulled into it, life and energy travel to every extremity.

This organ is called “her feelings” and it is the core of her being.

When a woman is delighted or happy, this organ fills with life and energy, expanding and expanding. The life and energy move from her chest to her lungs, and she may breathe more heavily or deeply. From there, the life and energy move to her throat, and she may laugh or giggle or sing. Continuing upward, her mouth turns into a smile, her skin glows and her eyes sparkle. The life and energy flow through her smile and skin and eyes to the people around her and they are uplifted. When the life and energy reach her brain, they fill her head with hopeful, loving, magnanimous, creative thoughts. And as they reach her arms and legs, hands and feet, her step becomes lighter and she may even dance.

This is when she is her most powerful, and paradoxically, her most vulnerable. Bask in her beauty and light and treat her with care.

Pain and Blackness, Silence and Immobility

Imagine now that something happens which “hurts her feelings.” Intentional act or mere oversight, when a woman’s feelings are hurt, the process works in reverse. The rate at which this occurs depends on how harsh or shocking was the hurtful act or comment. It may take three to thirty minutes for the process to be complete.

Within a few seconds the organ has constricted, changing color to black or dark gray and becoming hard and tight like a rock or fist. Vibrant and pulsing a moment before, it lies lifeless. The woman might gasp as she feels the core of her being shrink and harden. Then this new death travels the pathways that life and energy flowed through just moments before.

Being closest to her lungs, breathing will be the first to go. She will feel as if she can’t breathe and her actual breaths will become shallow. Next is the throat. She will be able to speak for only a few moments longer and then the death-feeling will shut down all energy to her throat. The “silent treatment” that others dread is not voluntary. She cannot speak. Her eyes will suddenly become sensitive to light, and especially to people. She’ll have to avoid all eye contact, for it hurts them. After a few more minutes the life and energy is gone from her arms and legs. If she can’t cocoon, she’ll move slowly. If she can, she’ll find a safe place, curl up and become immobile. As time passes, her body feels heavier and heavier, like dirt is being piled on top of her.

In her experience, she has been completely shut down. Then the real mischief begins.

For one small, crucial part of her brain has a back up generator, which turns on as the rest herself shuts off. And it has access to a specific set of files. Let’s call it “the Rage Monster.” While she lies breathless, speechless, blind and immobile, the Rage Monster dips into all the records of irritations, annoyances, pet peeves, and any unresolved injuries. With only these to work with, the Rage Monster starts churning out speeches. Its fantasy is all-out verbal warfare. It plots revenge.

As time goes on, the Rage Monster will gather momentum. Physical proximity to the person who her hurt her feelings fuels the Rage Monster, giving it energy. Though lying buried under dirt, mute and blind, the woman may try to move to a distance from the source of the hurt, understanding intuitively that this might quiet the beast in her head. She may move to another room or out of the house altogether.

On the surface, the Rage Monster may take over the woman’s facial muscles, making her look angry or upset. But underneath its rantings, a small voice in her head is pleading for help, hoping the person who buried her might come dig her out. For he or she is the only one who can.

On the Other Side

Now let’s look from the point of view of the man. Why a man? Because women are more vulnerable to the men they love than anyone else on Earth. And because feelings are different for men. Or so they have told me. Men’s feelings, while just as deep and significant, don’t have the circulatory system women have. Scientists tell us that men don’t have as many connections in their brains from the feeling centers and language centers. This is good, by the way. Different but valuable for many purposes.

So, having a different relationship to feelings in general, the man does not realize that he has just hurt the woman. Whatever he did or said was not intended to be hurtful. Healthy men (which most are) never intend to hurt women. And that same remark or action would probably not have hurt him. He has no idea that her feelings are the organ at the core of her being from which all life and energy flow. No one has ever explained that to him.

After a prolonged silence, he starts to worry that she may be mad at him. He hopes this isn’t true. If he loves her, then her being mad at him is the worst thing that can happen. He is hoping, and maybe praying, that she’s upset at something else, but please, not at him. As one man expressed it, “I’d pay a million, billion, gazillion dollars for her not to be mad at me.” For a being designed to pursue success in every area, this is the worst failure. She is the sun and the moon and both have suddenly deserted his life. And he doesn’t know why.

If she does something that clearly indicates that the anger is directed at him, then hope will die, he’ll know he failed, and there is nothing to do now but fix it. If he has been able to fix it in the past, he’ll quickly respond. If he has never been able to fix it, then he’s really sunk.

Until the woman does something that overtly communicates anger, like going to sleep in the other room or stomping out of the house, he’ll keep hoping that it isn’t him. This is how the woman can be left buried under the dirt in darkness and silence for hours. He doesn’t mean to be cruel. He doesn’t know that she’s drowning and that he’s the only lifeguard.

“I’m Sorry I Hurt You” Raises the Dead

When he does go her, he’ll want to confront the anger head-on. Because he thinks it is real. He doesn’t know that it is the Rage Monster’s default program of miscellaneous junk that really didn’t bother her that much at the time. If he engages the Rage Monster by being angry himself - perhaps because it seems unfair to him that she is angry - then he’s likely to hear all the trash that has been being gathered and rehearsed. A smart man will treat it like the garbage disposal backing up. An informed man could avoid it altogether.

Beneath the anger is the hurt that shut down the whole system and enabled the Rage Monster to take over. If he says, “I’m sorry” - and means it - life will suddenly flow back into her chest and make its way to the rest of her body. It will take a while to reach all the different parts, so he should be patient. But as soon as he says, “I’m sorry,” with true kindness and remorse, the generator to the Rage Monster will shut down and its products quickly fade away. Her true self will take over her mind and her vocal chords again.

What should he be sorry for? Women usually need to hear “I’m sorry” for two things. She needs him to apologize for whatever he said or did, or failed to say or do. And here’s the catch - even if it was justified. Suppose he was late because his boss kept him at work. Completely understandable. But she still needs him to apologize for being late.

The second thing is even more important. Sometimes it is all that matters. She needs him to apologize for how he made her feel. She needs him to apologize for hurting her. He should say, and mean, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” If she suddenly sobs when he says, “I’m sorry I hurt you,” he shouldn’t fear. This sob is a powerful release of the hard, black fist that has gripped her chest. These words open her prison, and soon, she will be tearful but almost smiling, and on her way back to breathing in life and energy again.

“Ouch” May be the Magic Word

Having recently discovered that Greg, my husband of ten years, didn’t know any of the above, I became passionate about telling every man I know, and encouraging other women to do the same. I also began to wonder if there is a way to short circuit the whole cycle. I asked Greg what might happen if, during the few moments before my throat shut down, I said, “Ouch.” Would that alert him to my being hurt? Would that have the lifeguard jump into the water immediately and save me? Greg thought it might.

I understood, of course, that saying “Ouch” would not be easy. When I have been hurt and the system is in the processing of shutting down, making me more vulnerable seems like the last thing I should do. But I was determined to try it at the earliest opportunity.

The very next evening Greg said something that hurt my feelings. Since I was on the way to the market with my mother, my throat didn’t immediately close down, so the Rage Monster could vocalize. I called Greg on my cell phone from the grocery store and gave him a piece of my mind. He reacted in anger and, naturally, fought back. That made the Rage Monster boil to dangerous levels. Some will of mine prevailed and I hung up, thereby gaining some crucial distance.

As I picked out cucumbers and peppers, a small voice in my head said, “Perhaps you should have said ‘Ouch’.” The Rage Monster responded, “It’s too late for that!”

When I arrived home, all the usual symptoms were there. Although I was preparing dinner, I moved slowly, I could hardly speak and I couldn’t look at Greg at all. Then Annie, my youngest, volunteered to get something from the garage refrigerator, where Greg was at the time. Suddenly, I broke through and said, “Annie, tell Dad, ‘Mom says Ouch’.” She looked at her sister like I was crazy so I repeated myself more emphatically. She said okay and went to the garage.

I think he ran. A moment later he was encircling me with his arms and saying, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I hurt you. Thank you so much for saying ‘Ouch.’ Thank you so much for telling me what you needed.” Suddenly I could speak. I told him simply what hurt. He apologized. We hugged. And it was over. Just like that.

I haven’t had the chance to try “Ouch” again. By understanding so much of men’s behavior, I am rarely hurt by the things they do. So it was an experiment of only one incident. But since then I have spoken to hundreds of women about our feelings. They have all agreed with the description here.

I encourage you to try “Ouch” yourself. Whether you can do it in those first critical moments, or muster the ability some time later, as I did, I think it is worth doing. I would love to hear how it goes.

Peace.


What’s Your Model? #37

This is the first in a series of Celebrating Men Morsels about Relationship Models.

Each of us has a clear idea of what the main purpose of a long-term relationship should be. In other words, what the priority of the relationship should be, which becomes the organizing principle. Usually this core purpose, which is clear to us, is unexamined and unarticulated. This is why it can cause a lot of misunderstandings, hurt feelings and persistent, unresolved conflicts.

We call these core purposes “Relationship Models.” The mischief they cause stems from how invisible they are – they just seem like the “right way” to be related. Our model seems so correct to us that we, even, don’t understand how or why a couple stays together when they don’t conform to our model. The most conflict will occur when our chosen partner has a different model.

Here are examples of Relationship Models:

  • The Legacy Model. This is the one we inherited from our ancestors. The focus is usually on the children; making sure they succeed even more than their parents. In the absence of children, there may be another type of legacy that becomes the priority, such as wealth, power, contribution, etc.
  • The Companionship Model. For this model, being together and “doing life together,” is the main priority. In selecting a mate, getting along easily and many common interests are firsts on the list. Variations on the Companionship Model would include “Share Adventure” and “Share Hobbies.”
  • The Support Model. This type of relationship is organized around providing what each other needs to accomplish personal goals or dreams. They don’t expect to “work on” the relationship much; they expect the relationship to support them in what they are working on in life outside the relationship.
  • The Karma Model. The purpose of this relationship is to cause maximum personal growth. Partners will be chosen by how much they challenge each other to expand their physical, emotional, conceptual or spiritual worlds.

What’s Your Model? Part II #38

This is the second in a series of Celebrating Men Morsels about Relationship Models.

Since our Relationship Model just seems like the correct way to be related, we are often baffled by couples that don’t conform to our model. For example:

  • Companionship Model folks can’t understand why a Legacy couple stays together when they don’t seem to share a lot of common interests or spend much time together. They also wonder why Support Model couples, who clearly like each other, keep choosing to be apart. To them, no goal is worth being apart for long.
  • Legacy Model folks can’t understand why other people bother to get married if they aren’t going to have children.
  • Support Model folks wonder why Karma Model couples would choose such difficult people to partner with. To them, the relationship requiring minimal attention is a priority to have it support them individually.
  • To Karma Model folks, other easy-going relationships seem unbearably boring.

In each case, our model seems so right, that we can’t really relate to or understand men and women with different priorities. And when asked for advice, we can only provide it from the priorities which seem obvious to us. This is another good reason to only ask for advice from people who actually have what you want!


What’s Your Model? Part III #39

This is the third in a series of Celebrating Men Morsels about Relationship Models.

“Easy” relationships occur when both partners have the same model and are working toward the same kind of relationship. This is usually accidental, since most people aren’t aware they have a model and often don’t articulate their relationship priorities well.

When our partner does not have the same relationship model, we are often frustrated because our choices will be made according to our core value – and their choices will be made according to theirs. For example:

  • If a Legacy Model (LM) or a Support Model (SM) marries a Companionship Model (CM), the CM will feel hurt every time the LM or SM chooses to work on what they are building or pursuing, rather than spend time with the CM. And the LM or SM won’t understand why they are hurt, since to them, the Legacy or dream is clearly the priority and why can’t the CM see that?
  • Even when two people share the Support Model, conflict can happen because both expect to be the one supported by the other. So they agree in principle – partners should empower their mates in fulfilling their dreams – but they didn’t state which end they intended to be on. Support models work best when one person’s desire is to provide the support the other needs and fully appreciates.
  • If a Karma Model (KM) gets together with a Companion Model (CM), let’s say of the Share Adventure variety, then here is a predictable argument...KM: “We have an issue here. We need to talk about it.” CM/SA: “Why do we have to talk about everything? Why can’t we just enjoy each other’s company and have fun?”

As you can see, the problem is the unarticulated expectations. Because our models seem correct and are obvious truths to us, we don’t take the time to really spell out what we need and desire in our relationship. By understanding what your Relationship Model is, you can avoid heartache and frustration in choosing a mate. If you’re already committed, use the Models to understand each other, and realize the choices you’ve each made were not meant to thwart or hurt the other. Search for middle ground and ways to give you both more of what you need.


What’s Your Model? Conclusion “Are We Doomed?”

This is the final installment in our series of Celebrating Men Morsels about Relationship Models.

Since publishing this series on Relationship Models, we have received a few frantic inquiries: “We don’t have the same model. Are we doomed?” Not necessarily! The key is understanding that a person’s Relationship Model is a reflection of their core values, an expression of what is most important to them in life. It could be what they leave behind (Legacy Model), “doing life” with someone (Companion Model), fulfilling a dream or a mission (Support Model), or being challenged to grow and expand (Karma Model).

Unfortunately, our core values are the only ones that immediately appear completely valid. When others’ differ, they seem everything from interesting to annoying. The real challenge is to grant as much weight to what is important to others, even when we don’t agree. This is a skill that improves all relationships!

If you’re attacking the validity of what is important to another, they have no choice but to defend themselves. Not a good environment for creative compromise. But if you’re not attacking, if instead, you’re protecting their interests too, then miracles can happen. This kind of conversation between a Support Model and a Companion Model might look like, “I see that what’s most important to you is us being together. I like that. What’s most important to me is having the support I need to fulfill my dream. Even though I love being with you, that sacrifice for my goal is one I have to make. Maybe we could meet in the middle – there might be an amount of time together that would be enough for you; not ideal, but enough. And an amount of freedom to pursue my goals that would be enough for me too. Wanna try?”

The key word here is “enough.” If you pay attention to “enough” instead of the “ideal amount,” it’s possible to meet in the middle. Of course, “enough” may be unreachable for you or your partner, in which case the loving thing to do might be to release yourselves to find what you really need and cannot provide each other.


 

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