October, 2009:

Me, Scared?

The following post is taken from my upcoming book: Connected: The Art of Building Relationships. Connected is the updated edition of Relationships for the Intimately Challenged.

A grandiose ego is a common defense mechanism used to mask fear. When someone is insecure and has a fundamental fear around people, an easy way to keep others at arm’s length is to give the illu­sion of confidence through ego. For example, someone who is talented may not feel grateful for his ability or feel good about himself just because he is able to perform certain tasks well. He only responds to the adulation of others; and when he doesn’t receive this needed praise, he be­comes louder and angrier in order to gain at­tention.

How many prima donna professional athletes and entertainers fit this description? The sad reality is that these individuals are never able to fully appreciate or celebrate their talents in a meaningful way because they never allow themselves to completely share their gifts with others. They exist with a constant pressure to per­form. Therefore, everything they do is moti­vated by fear. Fear that if they somehow lose their ability, people will no longer love them. Fear that people are only there because of something (usually money) they can pro­vide.

This phenomenon is not limited to ath­letes and entertainers. We see these charac­teristics in people in all walks of life. Show me a tyrannical father at home, and I will show you a scared insecure man who only feels whole when he controls others. Employers who micro-manage also suffer from the same inse­curity and fear of people. It is expressed by forcing others to believe they are inferior and cannot adequately do their job without the constant supervision of the boss. Finally, parents who force their children to perform for them or other adults live in a per­petual state of fear. These children are per­ceived as extensions of the parents and must earn the parents’ praise.

Another way we manifest fear is through guilt. We look at past actions (be­cause of either embarrassment or retribution from others) and attempt to protect ourselves. Even though the intention is to keep himself safe, the person who holds on to guilt only accom­plishes isolation. Although this person may convince himself that people stay around him be­cause he is loved, deep inside he believes the only reason people are still around is because of a flawed sense of loyalty or pity.

The guilty person is extremely ma­nipulative. She is constantly trying to be helpful, but the people being “helped” only become resentful. The guilty person convinces herself she is “needed” so she will never be alone. Unfortunately, she may never feel a true sense of connection to others.

Ultimately, any of these manifestations of fear, anger, superiority, grandiosity, and guilt lead to the core belief: a fear of being alone. When people try to side step these issues, they stop themselves from deal­ing with what is ultimately the problem. We as human beings are social creatures. So much of what we do is motivated by a need to feel a sense of community and connection.

We all want to be loved and understood.

Many of us have spent much of our lives being slaves to our scripting and fears and therefore don’t know where to begin to feel fulfilled emotionally. When we are able to recognize the ways that we are “intimately challenged” we start down the path of finding some solu­tions. Those that stay in denial of their fears remain stuck in isolation.

As we are able to clearly see the difference between our definitions of success, happiness, intimacy, and relationships as opposed to those definitions that are simply conditioned reactions, we are able to take more responsibility for our lives. As we take more responsibility for our lives, our relationships become closer.

Gratitude Post #2

As a reminder to all of you, I am continuing a tradition I learned about last year from Tia Graham. The tradition is posting a five item gratitude list every Wednesday up toThanksgiving. So far there are several others joining in, so enjoy reading, and hopefully participating, in the spread of gratitude. Here’s my list for the week:
  1. I am grateful to have seen Neuschwanstein in the Alps shrouded in fog
  2. I am grateful to be learning to scuba dive
  3. I am grateful I live in beautiful North Georgia
  4. I am grateful to have seen Bayern München in person
  5. I am grateful for the wonderful unschooling community (thank you for the support and inspiration)

I look forward to reading what you have to share!

Share the Gratitude


Last year I got the idea to write a weekly gratitude post on my blog leading up to Thanksgiving. I read about it on another blog and loved the idea. Sandra Dodd joined me, and this year I would love as many people to participate as possible. Let’s link up our blogs and share the gratitude.

Do whatever feels good to you, what I am going to do is post 5 things I am grateful for every Wednesday leading up to Thanksgiving. It’s a fun tradition I hope you will share with me! So here I go:

  1. I am grateful for my wonderful family
  2. I am grateful I get to participate in so many groups
  3. I am grateful I have so much support from friends
  4. I am grateful I live in Georgia and get to experience these beautiful fall days
  5. I am grateful I get so many opportunities for adventure

It is a joy to share my gratitude with as many people as possible. I look forward to reading everything you share!

Your Parents Were Right About Assuming

“To assume is to make an ass out of you and me” is a quote you probably heard at some point in your childhood. It may have been annoying at the time, maybe you rolled your eyes at the bothersome adult who spewed this statement, but think about how much assumption affects your life today. Conjecture of any kind changes the way you respond to people and circumstances outside of your control. If you are insecure or unsure about where you stand, it is easy to fall back on assumption or judgment in order to feel protected or safe.

Every issue, belief, attitude or assumption is precisely the issue that stands between you and your relationship to another human being; and between you and yourself.

As human beings we all have preferences. We have definitions of moral standards, acceptable behaviors, and ideas about how others should behave. We form these ideas based on the combination of the opinions of those we look to for guidance and our own life experiences. Once a conception is internalized, it is easy to become rigid. At this point we begin to form assumptions based on certain traits. The danger is being so rigid in these assumptions that there is no possibility of connecting with people who fall into certain categories.

If it is your priority to connect with as many people as possible, it is critical to look at your assumptions. It’s not that you will let go of presumptions completely, the challenge is to recognize and manage them. Your initial judgment of someone does not have to dictate whether you pursue a relationship. Sometimes you’re wrong. Some suggestions to manage assumptions effectively include:

  • Be aware of harsh judgments you have
  • Ask yourself if this an opinion you have taken on from the people you are around
  • Think about what people may assume about you
  • When you assume something about another person, consider what you may be afraid of
  • Make it a priority to practice patience with others, everyone has a story

Cynical people will always find evidence to reinforce their negative perceptions. If you are pessimistic or disillusioned, you will operate under assumptions all of the time. You don’t have to live that way. If you feel lonely, afraid, or paranoid, letting go of assumptions is a good place to start the journey of re-connection.

Metallica and U2: Lessons in Connection

This week I had the pleasure of seeing two iconic acts, Metallica and U2. These two bands have had unquestionable influence on the direction of rock music for the better part of three decades. Although their styles are very different, there are a number of similarities between the two. I will illustrate some of those analogous characteristics and how they can be applied to your life and relationships.

  1. An unwavering love. Metallica and U2 are clearly passionate about what they do. Even after such long and illustrious careers, they communicate the essence of their love through their performance. True passion cannot be feigned. In a relationship, the crux of your emotion will come through. If you aren’t who you say you are, the relationship will not succeed.
  2. A commitment to excellence. Neither band has ever rested on their laurels. Both have worked tirelessly to improve their craft. Each band has gone through questionable periods in which it seemed they had deviated from what made them successful, but they both came out the other side stronger. In your life, the principle of perseverance is critical. “That which doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” is a quote that rings true. As long as you commit to continued growth and take advantage of the lessons learned from adversity, you will succeed. As a result of this success, your relationships will grow exponentially.
  3. Uninhibited enthusiasm. Metallica and U2 create tremendous energy in their performances. The members of these bands are well into their 40’s, yet it is obvious how much fun they have. This enthusiasm allows them to connect with their audiences. The less seriously you take yourself, the easier it is to convey your zeal. Whether your purpose is to entertain, serve, teach, or guide, you will be more effective if you let go of unnecessary fear and stress. Enjoy yourself. Love what you get to do. You will be a magnet which others find irresistible.
  4. An attitude of gratitude. Throughout the night, Bono repeated this statement: “Thank you for giving us a great life.” More importantly, he meant it. Metallica has always stood for repaying the loyalty of its fans. I have been a fan since 1983 and have always known that Metallica means it when they say: “We wouldn’t be here without you.” Do you express gratitude to those who help you, or to those you serve? Do you feel a sense of purpose in the life you live? Do you know that your life is an expression of a higher purpose that can make a difference in other’s lives? If you are grateful down to your toes, you will create a movement. Movements change people. You may think it is silly to use two rock bands to illustrate this point, but consider how many people have been affected by these band’s music.

All of these points allow you to connect more deeply with people. Connecting isn’t as complicated as you may make it. Love who you are. Always look for ways to improve.In anything you do, have fun. Finally, live with an attitude of gratitude. Accomplish these things and prosperity is inevitable. Rock on!