Tuesday, November 13, 2012

 This Book is a great Christmas gift!

The male mind in relationships

The elections are over. All the acrimony and name-calling  and attack ads--some projected six billion dollars worth--are silent. It's done, right? No. It will continue--apparently by those who know no other way--beginning with the December deadline for scheduled tax increases/ automatic spending cuts. I once participated that way, but there has been a shift within me, while writing So Dad, What Makes a Man.

It ended this year, with an episode of fainting in February that doctors said was not life-threatening. But they couldn't explain it. Dizzy spells visited me almost monthly for four months and showed me, explicitly, that I am not in control of my life. This fall, after six weeks traveling in places where I tried to speak French instead of English, my inner voice that speaks English and has always urged me to "be productive, get something done" unexpectedly went silent, leaving me willing to sit with nature in my back yard disregarding my to-do list. What rose instead within me were desires to become more connected with people and more outspoken.

In the early years of my developing male identity, my dominating, always-right father--who in anger physically punished me--had me believing I'd caused his anger. After leaving home, I imitated my father, using anger to get my way. I taught myself I could avoid angering other men by keeping my thoughts to myself.  

 But during my midlife transition after retiring from my corporate career, I discovered my anger is mine, not caused by others. When someone said or did something and I felt fear or humiliation, I had avoided my feelings by pointing my attention and anger at that person. Having now accepted my new way of looking at my anger, and enduring all the angry voices during the long election cycle just completed, I changed my view of other angry men. I no longer view my silence as an appropriate response to angry men. And I no longer consider publically angry men to be positive role models.  

The acrimony of the past two years in Congress, the refusal of men to relate to others and seek any common ground on behalf of the people who elected them, has not worked. Now what? How to break this downward spiral?

 A spiritual director at the Cenacle Retreat House in Houston where I volunteer, has concluded that all mankind has breathing in common--after that, she said, "our differences are all about our individual stories."

It's the stories that are missing for me in politics. Instead of seemingly angry men attacking and pointing at "them," I want to hear their story. How did they come to believe what they say is how things should be? If I listen to another man tell his experience that led to his opinion, I don't have to guess whether his opinion is his or that of his party or someone who is paying him. Neither do I feel attacked, but instead invited to tell my story. We have all learned some truth from life, in some context, that can be understood when we exchange stories. Listening to another's story may alter my view, or not. Either way, respectful discussions of situations can get to the heart of what's best from both political sides, and produce good role models for others.

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