Friday, December 23, 2011

Invisibility and Inauthenticity

It is not good for man to be alone … but my o my does he go out of his way to Be Alone.
In the case of our God-created need for visibility, understanding, and companionship, many choose to remain invisible. The thinking here is that loneliness is far better than revealing a self that we believe will probably be rejected. One of the ways we do this is by pretending to not be ourselves. Rather than increasingly becoming the person we were created to be, like actors on a stage, we take on pseudo – personalities.
We are like Kirk Lazurus (played by Robert Downy, Jr), in Tropic Thunder:  I know who I am! I'm the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude!

My parents insisted I become this person and, so as to garner their approval, I became that person.

My mother or father are like this-and-that and, in reaction to their shortcomings, I build a persona around the intent to Not Be Him or Her. What role is being taken on here? “Not-him!” (Bad news: when I do this, I cannot help but become whom it is I am focusing on.)

No one will love me as I am, so I have to pretend to be the kind of person others will love. Or, if I believe no one will love me, period, I go out of my way to reject them before they reject me. In this case, I take on the persona of the lone-wolf, or the perpetually misunderstood victim who must connive and manipulate others to love me.

And the award for Best Actor goes to … the Lonely Guy!

We are the dudes playing the dudes disguised as other dudes. So, which dude are people relating to? And are any of these dudes actually the real “me”? No. Therefore, as I know people are relating to a role I am playing, I know without a doubt the relationship is not real. However many people may appear to be in my world, because I am not being real, my world is not real, therefore these friends are not real.
I say we know, but, with some, they have forgotten what they knew: that the self they are projecting, what people are seeing, is not real. They have been playing a role for so long that they are invisible to themselves!
Interestingly, one of the ways we can discover that we, in fact, are pretending to not be our true self, is feedback from the individuals in our lives whom we know are authentic. Real people spot role players fairly easily.

Role players are seldom comfortable in their own skin

Dudes playing dudes are constantly calibrating for approval, where, if they sense they aren’t performing as expected, they morph into another role, not understanding that what an authentic person is looking for is … authenticity!

Actors are all buttoned up, perfectly put together, with just the right lines. Even the disheveled look that The Victim takes on is perrrrfectly cast: tears flow just so, and guilt-manipulating phrases are spoken with Academy award winning timing and pathos.

So. When you are ready for some reality, ask the authentic people in your life about how they experience you, as well as the “you” they see behind your mask. And, Yes: you DO know who these people are, for as soon as you read that sentence, he came to mind; she popped up on your radar. 

Next post will follow-up on other ways to reengage and reconnect with your true self.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friendship and Psychological Visibility

Some years back, a man whom I had known for about 10 years was describing me to a new acquaintance of ours. It was all very positive and complimentary, but with one small problem: he wasn’t describing me. In fact, the more he waxed eloquent about the attributes and personality of Monte Wilson, the more invisible I felt. All I could do was sit there thinking, “You really don’t know me.”
A friend responds to me the same way I would if I were seeing and sensing myself through the mind of my friend. In other words, he acts as a mirror that reflects the image of how I see and experience myself. He sees what I know to be true of myself.  She senses how I experience life.  In other words, true friends are psychologically visible to each other.
Of course, friends also help us discover the, heretofore, unseen aspects of our true self. You’ve had this happen before, when a friend complimented or criticized you about something and you instantly intuited that, yes, “That’s me!”
            This is how Nathaniel Branden defines psychological visibility in his book, The Psychology of Romantic Love. “Human beings desire and need the experience of self-awareness that results from perceiving the self as an objective existent, and they are able to achieve this experience through interaction with the consciousness of other living beings.”
            But it is not just visibility that we desire. We also have a desire to love and to be loved.

It is not good that man should be alone. (Genesis 2:18)
There is something about the way we are made that needs relationships where there is a large degree of mutual visibility. My own thought here is that there are a number of reasons this is so. Two come to mind:

External validation and affirmation “You really are you!” However self-aware I am, however brutally honest with myself that I seek to be about the nature of my true self, I need feedback as to the veracity of my self-evaluation. Caveat: I am not referring to a craving for the approval of others, as if I were asking permission to be myself. I am referring to the acknowledgment that my evaluation of my self is, indeed, legitimate.

Mutual support I know that I need the love, gifts and wisdom of others to make my journey in this life. I instinctually know that it is neither right nor wise to be “alone.”  Think back to the stories many of us grew up reading: Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, Frodo and Samwise, The Three Musketeers, Harry with Ron and Hermione, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, King David and his Mighty Men, and Jesus and the Twelve.

            Certainly, the mere fact that we are visible to someone doesn’t mean that we are going to be good friends. However, there can be no true emotional connection and companionship where there is little or no visibility. How can you say," I love you," if you are blind to the “you”? Am I really going to believe someone loves me who doesn’t Get Me, get who I am (“warts and all”)? And sometimes, even where an individual does see me, there is still the possibility that this person does not have the capacity for mutuality or desire for companionship with me. "Yes, dear, I see you. And I can't stand what I see!"
Of course, there is the experience of people who love us for whom they wish us to be. I am not referring here to those who truly see us, and the person we can become: I am speaking of those who project or fantasize or idealize the person they wish us to be. In these cases, we know that there is no reality, no substance, and no foundation for a true friendship. Where such blindness exists, we know that, sooner or later, the individual will “see the real me,” and the “relationship” will end.
True friendship requires visibility and mutuality.

When we encounter a person who thinks as we do, who notices what we notice, who values what we value, who tends to respond to different situations as we do, not only do we experience a strong sense of affinity with such a person but we also can experience our self through our perception of that person. This is another form of objectivity. This is another manner of perceiving our self in the world, external to consciousness … The pleasure and excitement that we experience in the presence of such a person, with whom we can enjoy this sense of affinity, underscores the importance of the need that is being satisfied. Branden
While Branden is specifically referring here to the basis for Romantic Love, it, nevertheless, applies to friendship, as well.
            I believe we were created with an innate desire to be with people who see and understand us, and with whom we share mutual beliefs, values and visions: people who understand our journeys, our struggles, and our achievements, and want to be a part of our lives, as we wish to be a part of theirs. These are the people whose empathy is most real to us and whose applause is most meaningful. These are the people whom we call friends.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Living With Urgency

Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. William Faulkner

We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it. Pascal

One of the perks of knowing you are going to die is that you are forced to make decisions as to what you will do with your allotted time. I mean, if we were all Highlander-like and lived forever, what urgency is there in deciding which career path to take, what to do with our time and money, or whom to cherish until death-do-you-part? But Death is coming, so now what?

What will you value?

Who is important to you?

By what code will you live?

What is it that is worth doing, in the face of death?

What is it you would do, even if it meant risking death?

How will you prepare for death?

And if you believe in God, and that you will meet Him when you die, how does this shape and inform your answers to the above questions?
Those individuals who Get Death, who accept its inevitability, who know that death is coming for them, rarely procrastinate: if anything, they are almost impetuous in their decision making, as they live by the words of Christ, Work while it is day for when the night comes … no more time to work: no more time to work on self, on your relationships, or on your legacy.
The challenge when you are young is to overcome the arrogance of thinking (or at least behaving As If) “I am immortal.” Plenty of time to Become and to Do, right? Feels that way at 17 … not so much when you wake up at 50 and realize you have yet to either truly Become the individual you were meant to be or Do what you were created to. “How did this happen to me? How did I get here?” ” Simple. “Immortals” procrastinate.
I say that those individuals who Get Death behave accordingly … but that’s not really true. Some people grasp it intellectually but refuse to wrestle with it existentially. Some people think, “What the heck: there is no afterlife so eat drink and be merry!” Others see death and are crippled by despair. But all this changes when Death knocks on your door.
Have you ever known someone who knew that they only had so much more time to live? Think back on their behaviors, their choices, and their attitudes. With death just around the corner, what is of great significance becomes all-important, and what is not important is ignored. Expressions of love, making amends, setting things in order for those who will remain here, and finishing certain projects, these and other Important Things are embraced with heroic courage. Everything else is inconsequential.
Why is it that we wait until our impending death to live and love this way? And how many of us will know with certainty that death is only a year or a week away? We don’t. As far as we know, it is only a week away.

So. Now what?

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Owning Your Power: Finding Your Voice

One of the ways you can spot someone who is owning his power is that he has his own voice.  (Yes, yes, I know this sentence is grammatically incorrect. However, it is psychologically correct, as “owning” denotes an ongoing process.) Your power will speak with your voice: no one else is controlling your mind and heart (your power) so no one else is controlling your voice.
People who deny their own power usually have allowed others to take up residency in their heads and hearts. “This is what you should/must feel; this is what you will think. Therefore, this is what you will communicate.” ACK Polly wants a cracker!
Finding your voice is a process. You will hear or see something in an individual or read it in a book and take it out for a spin. You will watch a co-worker or a friend you admire or one of your parents and what you see resonates as True For You: so you take it on as your own… and see if it fits or not. A little adjustment here, a little there and, Voila!, “It fits!”
When I first began speaking publicly, I sounded like any number of men whom I admired. The first year or two I “tried on” any number of people (we call this “modeling”) but after a while I developed my own voice. Or did I?
What took me much longer was to develop my own sense of self: my own beliefs and ideas and emotional responses.  I was raised in a world where my beliefs, ideas, ideals and emotions were dictated. I don’t mean that someone held a gun to my head. However, the cost of having the “wrong” beliefs and such was a severe lack of approval or even outright rejection. To be as gracious as possible, it is very difficult to develop your own voice in such an environment.
Parents, I think, often miss it here, in so far as they don’t allow their children to express their honest thoughts and emotions. I am not suggesting we shouldn’t help our children process their minds and hearts toward a more healthy way of being, only that if we cut the process off – if we do not allow them to own what they are presently experiencing – they begin searching, not for what is true for them in that moment, but only for what should be thought and felt. Right Then and There. What this produces are children who no longer seek to discover their own identities but seek to be whom and what someone else says they are supposed to be.
We all have known parents who, rather than rearing their children to be individuals, instead, mold and shape them to be “whom I should have been,” or into the incarnation of Dad or Mom. “I couldn’t be or do ‘x,’ so you will do this and be that person.” “I am ‘y” so you will be ‘y,’ as well.” Sure, we have beliefs and values that we hope and pray our children will adopt as their own, but this must be done with respect for their individuality.
Years ago I was counseling a man who was struggling to find his own voice. Now, he disagreed with me as to the nature of his struggles, rejecting my observation that he appeared to always want to say what others wanted to hear. During one of our sessions he mentioned that he kept a journal. I asked him if he would mind allowing me to read some of it, noting that he could decide what I read.
 The following week, I sat across from him and began reading what he had written. It only took me two pages to have a perfect example of what I was seeking to communicate.

Monte: You have edited this.

Client: Uhhh yeah. You think I want my wife or parents to know what I really think? … I can’t believe I just said that.

Monte: I can.

Finding your voice requires that you develop your own heart and mind. While you want the input and help of others, at the end of the day it is your heart, your mind, and your power. Frankly, I have now come to the place where I would rather be honestly wrong then parroting what is right but not presently real to me.
Toward developing your own heart and mind, ask yourself: What do I believe about God, Love, Truth, Goodness, Justice, Liberty, and Beauty?
Furthermore, and more to the point of finding your voice, what is the purpose or reason for your existence? We are not here to waste oxygen: we are here to make a difference. Subsequently, finding our voice will include finding our “message.” And how do you find your message?

Start with answering these two questions:

What do I believe gives my life purpose?

What is it that I most often do for others … or at least find myself desperately wanting to do for others?

Your answers will give you insights – they will point you in a specific direction.

For your personal power to be efficacious, it must have focus. One of the ways you will be able to tell just how focused your power is will be in the clarity of your communication regarding your heart and mind.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Protesting Wall Street

Ah, but the great advantage of mass moronization is that it leaves you too dumb to figure out who to be mad at. Mark Steyn, American Autumn
Over the last week I have received quite a number of emails asking for my reactions to the “Wall Street Protesters” and their demands. So, I crafted the following over the last few days and was about to post this when I decided to search the Internet and see what others have been saying. Wow. Much of what I have written here has already been stated, and in many cases, far better than my musings. At first, I was tempted to forget the post but then it hit me: isn’t that the nature of reality, the nature of the obvious? I mean, it’s not like the socialistic demands of these protesters have not been asserted and then proven both fallacious and disastrous for well over 2,000 years!

So, in the spirit of Me Too! -- here are my thoughts.

First of all, as I watch and read the news, I can’t help but wonder if the parents of these people are thinking about suing the schools their children attended! If there was ever a perfect example of why we need a complete overhaul of our nation’s system of Public Education, this movement provides it. Whether it is a working knowledge of our nation’s Constitution and the nature of our inalienable rights, the differences between a free market economy and crony capitalism, or a rudimentary understanding of logic, these people appear to be utterly uneducated. (By the way, “inalienable rights” are God-given rights, not Government granted freedoms.)
Second, I am not sure many of these people even know what it is they are protesting, besides hygiene, that is. Big Business? Ok, which ones? What constitutes Big Business? Fortune 100? 400? Any business that makes more than … how much? And is everything these businesses are doing evil? And how precisely are they defining “evil”? And what about all those iPhones I keep seeing you guys use: Apple is certainly in the category of Big Business, eh? Do you even feel the slightest bit of hypocrisy?
Anyway, because it doesn’t appear there is a single voice, it is almost impossible to say, “This is what the movement is demanding.” I say “almost” because there is a list of demands circulating that many of these people either implicitly or explicitly seem to support.
1 Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending “Freetrade” by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.
As many economists have been pointing out for decades, if we assert that importing goods across international borders is a job-killer as axiomatic, then logic demands that we say the same thing about importing goods across state borders. You guys up for California taxing all the fruit that comes into the state from Florida?
And what’s up with the $20 minimum wage? These guys are obviously thinking way to small. Why not have Congress raise the minimum wage to $100! WooHoo!
2 Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.
Yeah. That’s the ticket! Give the Fed’s a monopoly on healthcare. After all, it did so well with the Postal Service.
3 Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.
And you would choose to work because …? Somebody? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? (Please note that I used a perfect imitation of Ben Stein, here.) And exactly where does the money come from to support all these people who will choose to not work?  -- This will be a common refrain throughout the following post. I hate being redundant, but the point obviously needs to be made, over and over again. From where do these people think the money for all their demands is going to come?” Ew, Ew, I know! Taxing the Evil Corporate Bastards." Yeah, that sounds so cool, so like Sticking it to the Man. And what do you think Corporations will do to make up for the loss of revenues? They will pass that cost along to their customers … or go out of business. (Reference: Bank of America and new monthly charges for using debit cards.)
4 Free college education.
So you don’t want to pay for your education: you want me to pay for it through higher taxes, eh? Sorry, kids, Economics 101: There is no such thing as a Free Lunch.
5 Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.
Great. No problem. But the barrier here is Big Government. When it stops interfering in the market place with its massive regulations, when it gets out of the way of our nation’s entrepreneurs, we will begin to see progress here—and not before.
6 One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.
Again: this money is going to be provided by whom? The Government? And where does the Government get this money? Besides, spending on infrastructure is right at 2.5 percent of the GDP. That’s the highest it’s been in 60 years.
7 One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America’s nuclear power plants.
Let’s see, now. The EPA is spending around 10 billion a year, so this means he wants 100 years of spending over a period of … how long? And where is this money going to come from? And if we get rid of dams and nuclear power plants, this will mean we have to rely more heavily on coal and natural gas: how does this square with Number 5? Think people, think!
8 Racial and gender equal rights amendment.
See what I mean? Go read the 14th Amendment, son.
9 Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” your terrorists, and your diseased yearning to bring this nation down. Whoa!
10 Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.
Ok. No problem here, except I think all he needed to demand was honest vote counts. Computers can do this, unless he just has a thing against technology.
11 Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the “Books.” World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the “Books.” And I don’t mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.
This is a great strategy for doing away with lending altogether.  These people are not only ignorant of the laws of economics; they are clueless as to the nature of human beings.
12 Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.
Sure. The credit agencies were major players in the housing bubble, but the only way they could get away with lying to their customers was the fact that Big Government protected them from the laws of supply and demand but did not protect customers from fraud. This is crony capitalism at its “best.”
13 Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.
How about the Government requiring secret ballots where neither management nor unions can place undo pressure on workers to go with either group? This way, they can do what they believe is in their best self-interest without fear of being smacked down by management or the unions.  
If any of you know someone all caught up in this mob, send him or her some early Christmas gifts:
Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt
The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, Ludwig Von Mises
The Law, Frederic Bastiat (Free online copy of the book) 

Wall Street's Gullible Occupiers  Great essay regarding how "reckless government policies, not private greed, brought about the housing bubble and resulting financial crisis."

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Love and Marriage

This past Saturday, my daughter Rachel Marie was married to Justin Wetmore. Rachel is my youngest daughter, and the last of the four girls to be married. I have had the privilege of performing the ceremonies for each of them. It has been one of the highest honors of my life to do this for them. As I was asked by many of those attending for my notes, I thought it easiest to post it here. Note: as it was a blustery and chilly day for a garden wedding, and people were shivering and offering each other money for the use of a coat, I edited myself, so as to be a bit briefer, so a few remarks found here didn’t make it.

Love. We speak of it, we create art to express it, and we die – metaphorically and literally -- because of it.
But what is it? When you say “love” do you mean what I mean … or something entirely different? In English, it is a squishy word, a grey word whose meanings are as ever changing as a kaleidoscope. We use the word love to describe our feelings toward dark chocolate, our favorite football team and our children: One word to describe so many different experiences.
In Latin the word “love” has 6 words for the different kinds of love we experience.
Amor: this refers to the passion that pulls the sexes together to create a family. It is as powerful as gravity itself. You meet her, your heart stops and you are inexorably drawn to her. You could no more resist her than you could jump out of a 20-story building and fly.
Eros: The god of sexual love and beauty … intimacy. This is that mad, gaga, head over heels, driven, obsessive love. This is that love that JD Salinger was writing about: “I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the one thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty … you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.”
Affectus: This is the feeling of affection and admiration: the desire to be with your lover, because you admire him or her so very much. it is the source of compatibility. CS Lewis thought that it was this feeling of affectus that was “responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.”
Dilectio: This is where we delight in the person so much that simply being around her gives us unimaginable joy. The word comes from the root word electio: to “choose” to “elect.” In marriage, I think that this is of paramount importance. When eros is dormant and even affection wavers, it is this love of choice based upon deliberation that holds you steady.
Amacitia: this word speaks of friendship; alliance; mutuality. Break the law of mutuality to your peril. My dad once told me that marriage was 70-30. Sometimes you give 70, she gives 30, and sometimes the ratio reverses. BUT, and this is critical, over time there is a mutuality of giving and receiving.
One of the challenges most of us face in relationships is found here. What does he want? What does she want? Pay attention to her…to him. How is he demonstrating love? How is she demonstrating love? Go thou and do likewise … and then some. Study the other’s Way of Being and you will discover what you want to know regarding increasing your mutuality
Caritas: charity; mercy; God’s Love. As I was thinking about what to say here today it is this love that stood out. I have come to believe that many, many love-relationships fail because the love they have for each other is not tied to something or, for us Christians, to Someone: the transcendent God.
When our love for each other is All There Is to the relationship, there is a built in Not Enough. What I mean is that we cannot even remotely begin to fulfill all the needs of our lover: To believe otherwise is to place an unbearable burden on our marriage.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes about the relationship of husband and wife and how they are to mirror the love relationship between Christ and His church. There must be a spiritual quality to our love, where God is invited in to be Over, In, and Under and Beside us. How else can we even begin to mirror his relationship with the church if he isn’t part of our relationship?
There is something else here, as well. Going back to Amacitia (mutuality/ alliance): I suggest that the more successful love-relationships are those where the two have an alliance regarding their Quests in life, their respective visions for why God placed each of them on earth.
One of the healthiest things you can do in the following months is to begin a conversation around God’s love and purpose for bringing you together.

What is your mission in life and how may I help you achieve it?
Why are we here on earth together, at this time in history?

While your visions will be different, you will find where they are compatible… you will also find yourselves living for something larger than your relationship, something — and Someone-- that transcends your love for each other and, thereby, increases your attraction, your affection, your admiration and your mutuality.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Owning Your Power: Managing Conflicts

Snippets of emails I received after the last post:

“As my boss is a vampire, what am I to do about …”
“My (family member) has no concept of boundaries …”
“What do you do when you are married to a victim?”

As I do not know all sides of the stories contained in these emails, there is no way for me to give any detailed advice or counsel.  However, it does give me an opportunity to bring up the subject of “difficult conversations,” especially as it relates to managing and guarding your power.

Conversations v Monologues
When we are angry or upset, the tendency is to Hold Forth: We pronounce, we pass out edicts, we push back … hard. And we do this before we even know what’s going on in the other person’s head and heart!
Conversation are about searching for deeper issues, defining terms, agreeing on principles for a healthy relationship, and other such areas of concern. Monologues are about proving the other person is wrong and making them pay.

Before we engage in such conversations, we will want to determine our outcomes.
Do you want to win an argument (Be Right) or discover possibilities for maintaining this relationship in a healthy manner?
Where and how do you think the breakdown occurred and what are you tentatively thinking is the best way forward for all concerned parties? I stress “tentatively” because you will want to maintain an open mind as to the nature of the breakdown and, therefore, remain flexible as to the way forward.

Sharing Your Pain
As I believe we should be ready to be wrong or to have misunderstood, I suggest we share our upsets as our experience, not as the-truth-of-the-matter.
Stay away from identifying with your upset. “I am experiencing anger”, not “I AM angry”; “I am experiencing hurt,” not “I AM hurt.” Anger and Hurt are not who you ARE! The problem with identifying with our upset is …
When I make my upset about who I am then the other person is attacking my identity, the core of who I am. This only exacerbates the breakdown, because rather than sharing my experiences, I am defending myself from a personal attack. Defensive people don’t have conversations; they have fights to the death.

Feedback is Only Information
Feedback is what you are hearing from the other person. O, sure, they may believe their perceptions are truer than true, but, until you decide whether or not this is accurate, all you are hearing is information. However, and this is important, you need to have the same mindset regarding your feedback. 
Of course, it is almost impossible to hear feedback solely as information, once you let it inside your heart: so don’t. Think of yourself as the catcher on a baseball team. You catch the ball (feedback), look at it, and ascertain whether or not it belongs to you. If not, throw it back to the pitcher! (Respectfully, please: no shots at the head!) “Thank you so much for caring enough to share your thoughts with me. However, at least at this time, I don’t believe this belongs to me.”
Why “give it back” to them? Because if you don’t they will walk away believing you agreed with their feedback. If they do this they will have certain expectations as to your future behaviors in this matter between you: expectations that won’t be realized. Obviously, this will only add to the breakdown.

Owning Your Power
Relational breakdowns are painful. The challenge is maintaining our equilibrium so as to not begin either throwing our power around in potentially harmful ways or choosing to cut our electricity off for a while.
Stay focused and stay strong, or at least as strong as possible. “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” (Ken Blanchard) If it is erroneous, it is still valuable, as it is a window into the mind and heart of the person giving it. If it is factual, you get to grow in wisdom. Either way, it is win for you!
And if you discover that you are dealing with a vampire, loser or victim? Sometimes you simply walk away from the relationship. There are situations, however, where you can’t do this. You need the job or you will see this person at all family functions, as you are a blood relative! What now?
As all situations are unique, I really don’t have solutions or answers for you. I can only give you some guiding principles that may or may not be useful.

Be true to yourself. By this I mean, maintain your personal integrity. You can remain respectful and gracious, without allowing the other person to walk all over you. You can keep your distance without making a scene. You can steer the conversation toward the weather or sports or some other innocuous topic. You can ask the person about a matter that you know they will find interesting and then let them Hold Forth for the next 15 minutes. No gauntlets, no exposed veins.
Maintain your boundaries. “Let’s not go there,” is a perfectly legitimate thing to say. So is, “This is not an appropriate thing for us to be discussing here.” Waiting until later to have a private conversation where you ask them to never Do This or Say That again is preferred over mouth-to-mouth combat before spectators. This is not Thunderdome: it is the place where you have to work everyday or the family-get-together. Collateral damage only increases the potential for irreparable breaches.
Avoid the Nuclear Option. If you need to, simply walk away from the conversation. If she is embarrassed or chooses to be angry, it is her own doing, not yours. If you cannot walk away, remain silent, while maintaining your dignity
Remember that this person is still a creation of God. God loves him more than you can imagine and more than he is aware. This doesn’t mean you must like him or approve of his behavior, only that you treat him respectfully. It also means that you are not responsible for him Getting that he is a vampire. This is between him and his Creator.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Guarding and Managing Your Power

One of the more debilitating things for your power may be some of the people you are hanging around. Possibly, up until now, you haven’t thought of it, but you have experienced this. These are those individuals who most always leave you feeling drained of all power.  Sometimes an individual is in a bad way, needing far more than they can give, at present. I am not writing about those people. No, my focus here is on avoiding people who are always a drain on our power.
Vampires. These are black holes that can never be applauded enough, cared for enough, loved enough, counseled enough, placated enough: even multiple apologies for past hurts are never enough. Vampires will suck the power right out of you. Their guiding principle is to use, use, use: never to give. Avoid them.
Losers. I regret the term but I can’t think of a better description. No matter what these individuals do in life, it doesn’t work. Relationships are always breaking down and breaking off, jobs are constantly being lost (through no fault of their own, of course). Nothing ever works out for good in their life. Call them unlucky if you wish, but I call them losers who wish to be losers because they keep doing the same things, exhibiting the same behaviors that have never ever worked. My belief is that there is a reason for their losing streak – a secondary pay off, if you will—that is more valuable to them then success. They want to lose, to be pitied, and even to be rejected: it’s part of their grand strategy for attention. Stop giving it to them.
Victims. There are tons of books out there on Victim-ology and how such people are annihilating our culture. These are people who, long ago, suffered a terrible injustice—sometimes real, sometimes, imagined—and insist on everyone around them paying for this injustice. It is a crown of thorns by which they define themselves and all their relationships. It is their North Star. Sure, they would never see themselves in this light but everyone around them knows this to be an accurate description.
You don’t relate to such people: you relate to the injustice they suffered. The laws of love do not apply to them, only to you. While you must be patient, kind, not easily angered, and never keep records of wrongs (I Corinthians 13), they have been emancipated from the laws of love because, after all, “I have suffered so much.”
Maybe you may wish to work with such people, if you are a counselor, a therapist or a coach. Everyone else should keep his distance or your power will drain right out of your toes.

Introverts and Extraverts
            You are a unique individual with a unique personality. Subsequently, how you manage and guard your power will be unique to you. Here, I only want to consider the differences between introverts and extraverts.
Introverts. I am an off the chart introvert. I have learned to behave in certain ways so as to be successful in the endeavors I pursue. As I want to raise money for the charities I believe in, I had to learn how to work a room full of strangers. As a corporate trainer my clients better believe I can’t wait to be with them, even if it is for 18 hours a day. I love what I do but it taxes me beyond the imagination of most extraverts.
Introverts need time alone. One psychologist told me that for every hour with people, introverts need 6 hours of down time. I am not sure this is true for all introverts but it is a fact that introverts are charged by being alone or with the closest of friends, but only friends who understand their need for quiet.
Usually, what empowers introverts is such things as listening to music, reading books, watching movies, and visiting museums … but not with strangers! Writing this, I also need to point out the temptation for introverts is to allow being alone to use them, rather than using being alone for re-charging their power.
            Being with others charges extraverts. They love groups of people. If they are alone for too long, their power begins to wane! This doesn’t mean that extraverts do not see the value of being alone; only that it is usually not how they re-charge. The temptation for extraverts is to not always be as discriminating as they need to be in the people with whom they chose for empowerment. Whereas introverts will instinctively shy away from people who overtly drain them of power, extraverts are prone to thinking that the sheer magnetism of their power will cure what ails the vampires. After awhile they go home wondering why they feel so drained. After all, “people charge me!”
Obviously, these are generalizations: lumping people into categories should always be done cautiously and with the understanding that some introverts love meeting strangers and some extraverts love being alone for days at the beach. With this caveat, look back at when you experienced the fullness of owning your power. What did you do that made this possible for you? Whatever it is, make it part of your routine. Or else!

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Owning Your Power: Brown Outs II

One of the more frequent justifications for Brown Outs that people give is, “I don’t want to anger her/upset him/hurt them.” The challenge is that, in some situations, there certainly are wise reasons for utilizing my power in a gentle fashion. We can all think of circumstances with a boss or employee, a child or a grandparent, a friend or a teacher, where throwing around all our power would not achieve our intended outcomes. However, what about those circumstances where I pull back my power because I am refusing to honor my own values, refusing to require others to respect my decisions? My experience is that, when I make such a choice, my power is not being conserved but denied.
If I do not respect my values and beliefs, why should others? “It’s okay. You can crap all over what I hold most sacred.”
If I don’t honor my own decisions by maintaining my course, why should you? “No, no, no: feel free to step right in and circumvent my choices. After all, your life and journey is far more important than mine.”
When I experience pain over what I perceive as disrespect and choose to say nothing about this, what am I communicating to myself and to others? “Go right ahead and keep on doing what you are doing, saying what you are saying. My perceptions and experience have no value whatsoever … and, anyway, I have no right to my feelings!”
I have (to me, anyway) an annoying habit of constantly saying, “Sorry,” whenever I do or say something that I think might have crossed or inconvenienced you in some fashion.  Part of this can be attributed to manners and seeking to be sensitive to others. But – b-u-t – some of it is a tacit profession that you and your welfare are far more important than my life or my Self.
In the past, if you were hurt with me, I wanted to know it so I could either explain or ask your forgiveness. I think this is a healthy response, by the way. However, the Not So Healthy response was that, if I was hurt with or angry at you … well, that was an entirely different situation, as my feeling were pretty much always irrelevant. So much for relationships based on mutual honesty and respect, eh?

What happens when, in owning your power, you choose to behave in ways that anger or otherwise hurts the feelings of one of your close buddies or a family member?
Question: Is his hurt feelings with you the litmus test for the wisdom of your choices? While you regret his hurt, you have a responsibility to live your life according to your faith, beliefs, values, etc. He doesn’t have to like it but, if he wants to maintain a healthy relationship, he will respect your choices, as you will want to respect the fact that he differs with you. Or you can pull the plug on your power, yield to his preferences for you, and live in a Brown Out.
For a very long time, I took responsibility for the emotional responses of others. If Dad was angry: MY FAULT. If you were hurt with me: I did something WRONG. It’s one thing if I set out to push my dad’s hot buttons or hurt your feelings, but simply because Dad is upset with me or you are hurt with me doesn’t necessarily mean I have done anything wrong.
Please. I am not suggesting that we blow our friends off over an upset or a breakdown. Many, many times, differences are not conflicts: they only appeared this way before we had an honest conversation. Sometimes, the friend has a valid point we will want to consider. My point here is for those whose default position is to always discount their beliefs, their values, and their boundaries, and choose to live in a Brown Out.

Stop it.

Cut it out.

Cease and desist.

Go get a shot of testosterone.

You are a unique creation of God. You are you: you are not him, her or them. Honor this you. In other words, honor your own power. People will not always like it, but you were not placed on this earth to run around pleasing everyone, while denying the person that God created you to become. Believe me, anyone worthy of being called “friend,” will respect your integrity and never ever ask you to live in a Brown Out.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Owning Your Power: Brown Outs

As you travel around Africa, sooner or later one of the things you will experience is a rolling brown out. So as to conserve energy, the utility company will target specific areas at specific times where it will dim the power, so as to conserve energy for later use. My experience is that we humans often do the same thing: We only have so much energy to get us through the day’s activities so we pick and choose which tasks we need to be up for, and where we can turn on auto- pilot and simply cruise without expending a lot of power.
However, there is another reason behind human brown outs that is not based upon being wise but upon fear. By turning the power down, say, in my familial relationships, I automatically dim the lights so as to not see what I do not wish to see, but, actually, have seen but am now pretending to not see. Don’t you see?

I don’t want to own my power at home because …

if I do, I won’t be able to manage the conflict and the marriage will end in disaster and it will be my fault.
Owning my power means taking responsibility for the effects of that power and I do not want to be responsible for what is happening.

I do not want to face the effects of choosing to not engage my power.
(“Passivity” is a choice, by the way.)

if I just let sleeping dogs lie, I can at least sustain the status quo.

You choose to not own your power, all the while experiencing an anxiety that screams, Engage! Engage! Bad things are about to happen!
Yes, you do see. Your anxiety tells you that you see. But you pretend not to: you avoid, you evade, you feign confusion, and you deflect.

No I don’t. (Avoidance)
I tried but it got worse. (Evade)
I wouldn’t know what to do. (Confusion)
I’ll turn the lights back on when s/he does. (Deflect)

Reality is going to win here. Whether it is on the job, at home, with a friend or someplace else, sooner or later, it hits the fan and the room smells like a toilet. There is no hope if you stay in the dark. At least if you turn the lights back on and own your power, there is a possibility of solutions and healing. Brown Outs insure defeat. And if you turn the lights back on and still experience a defeat? Well, you can, at the very least, maintain your self-respect.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Somali Refugees

You have been reading the news regarding Somalia: the fighting, the fleeing, the starving, and the dying. My friend, Derek Hammond, and I flew down from Addis Ababa to the border of Ethiopia and Somalia (Kenyan border is around 5 miles away),where so many terrified and emaciated Somalis were pouring into camps that were not ready for 2,000 people a day. 

We are here representing Colonel Doner and Children's Hunger Relief Fund. 
The plan is to find a pilot who is cool with landing in the desert, find our way to the refugees, assess the needs, and make contact with anyone who can help us with logistics involved in delivering aid and relief.

I say, “plan,” but when you don’t know anyone, have no idea what you are walking in to, and are fairly dead in the water if you can’t find a translator – “plan” is far too concrete a description.

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It’s hot. Seeing clouds of dust off in the distance, we head off in the direction of the people, donkeys and cars that must be causing the sand to fly.  First question is, “Where do we start?” We need to find someone—anyone—who can help us or at least point us in the right direction. Upon seeing a partially erected cell tower, we figured that might be a safe area to begin looking.

Sure enough, it was in the middle of UN camp. We bang on the metal door. We are given entre, but that’s it. We see some offices and go door-to-door but nada, zip, kibosh. Finally, someone tells us to wait and he will send someone who will help us with assessments.

Laura, a friendly young Brit, sits down and starts to give us the lay of the land, which is pretty much, "This has all happened so quickly we are playing catch up." Tall American gentleman walks in, “I heard an American laughing!” (He is from Seattle.) He then goes on to describe the disarray, the confusion, the fragile infrastructure, and lists the specific needs and which organizations were seeking to meet those needs.

First thing we are instructed to do is to meet the Ethiopian official in charge of overseeing the camps in this area (3 camps, one transition camp where people are checked out medically, registered, and then shuffled to larger camps. 118,000 people here, so far.) Nice guy. We need to have papers. We can’t go anywhere until we are “approved.” Blah, blah, well-meaning bureaucratic blah.

Ok. Based on the age old premise that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, we strike out to find our way to the transition camp, about 3 miles away.

Yup. We need a translator!

Less than 3 minutes after leaving the Ethiopian official, a young man walks up to me: (In English) “I have taken a 2 hour course in management. Hire me.” So we hired him to find us transport and be our interpreter.

Somalis seeking to make a living. Kiosks
line the dusty roads coming up around
the UN Base camp.
Thousands of people, not enough tents
Make shift tents built from tree branches
blankets, and debris.
So. Do you think his parents will be
smiling when they realize where
their ration of water went!
Filia Abdiow with her family. 
Three days tekking through the
desert. The camel died. The goats died.
They arrive only to find out there is
no room ... yet. Interesting. These 
people know the west is sending money:
Where is it? Where is OUR Help? 
Hey ... bet the white guy has a food bar!
Yes. That is me, returning to the plane. I now can say I have experienced a desert storm. Sand feels like it is going to rip your skin from your arms and face!

All in all, it was a productive trip. We need to iron out a few more logistics, but in the next month or so, we shall be sending our first shipment of food: over 20 tons of it. But that won't be enough. 

Please navigate over to CHRF's web site and make a donation to help these people.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011. This includes the photos. If you want to use them write me and ask permission. If not, I will find you, and your next photo will be a mug shot!