There’s so much that men cannot understand about the experience of women, if anything at all, and it can therefore be challenging for us to really get the significance of what’s happening in the world when it comes to women’s liberation. To deeply empathize with what women have had to endure for millennia, largely at the expense of men, and what it is that they are attempting to liberate themselves from and empower themselves around at this time. It’s hard for men to understand how monumental this #metoo movement, and similar movements, are in the world, and how important it is that we all support this forward momentum. Because in supporting this movement, we support the rising of feminine empowerment, medicine, and light. And as the divine feminine is liberated within others, she is liberated within us all.
In order for the divine feminine to be set free, the divine masculine must be liberated as well. It’s a package deal. We’re all in this together. And in order for both to be liberated, there has to be room for all experiences to be heard. For all pain to be honored, validated, empathized with, and integrated.
One challenge when it comes to collective healing is that we have a tendency to want to quantify pain. To say our suffering, or perhaps the suffering of marginalized groups that we wish to serve as allies to, is worse than others, and therefore everyone else should shut the hell up and hold space for us or them. And regardless of whether or not this is “true,” when we hold this attitude that our pain is more important, and don’t allow space for the experience of others, we cut off our ability to empathize. And empathy is where healing begins.
Just as it’s challenging for men to deeply understand the experience of women, it’s equally difficult for women to deeply empathize with the experience of men. But we have the power to open the door to feel into the experiences of one another, and it begins with letting ourselves be seen, and allowing ourselves to see others.
I imagine there to be three main ingredients in the recipe for creating opportunities for empathy, and, in so doing, contributing to collective healing and liberation:
- Courageously allowing ourselves to vulnerably express our feelings and perspectives.
- Consciously choosing to lower our defenses.
- Being willing to deeply consider the perspectives of others.
I’d like to share something about my personal experience as a man in order to allow opportunities for empathy. For some, what I’m sharing may not seem like a big issue compared to others, or off-topic from the main narratives, but for me it feels important, and it’s what I woke up inspired to write about today. I’ll be bringing the first ingredient for empathy, and I’d love for you to bring the other two, and perhaps together we can co-create something that helps contribute to healing and liberation for all.
I’m going to begin by expressing from the perspective of a part of me that feels victimized, then moving in the direction of more empowered perspectives as my evolution unfolds. Thank you so much for opening your heart and joining me on this adventure in empathy, vulnerability, and collective integration…
“Bring my desire? Are you fucking kidding me? Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?”
This is the way I’ve felt for much of my life. Not only because of intense fears of rejection, but because if I bring my desire and it’s received in a way that I don’t intend, I could be labeled in horrible ways, like perpetrator, violator, predator, or perhaps even rapist. And I fear that these labels could get me banished from community, or maybe even put in jail, and put a mark on my “permanent record” for life. And who knows what the feelings I would have in response to such an experience would do to me internally?
(I wonder if there is an equivalent fear for women in our society of one wrong move potentially leading them to be condemned and banished. If there is any one thing that they worry they could be accused of that could cause an entire community to turn on them in an instant. I wonder if women can understand and empathize with what it’s like to be one ignorant choice away from losing everything, and how insecure this can cause someone to feel.)
To my knowledge, I’ve never been labeled by anyone in these devastating ways, and I imagine part of the reason for this is that I’ve played things incredibly safe when it comes to expressing my desire. I’ve been scared to death of “getting it wrong” and feeling rejected, and perhaps even receiving one of these horrifying labels and facing the potentially disastrous consequences.
As “nice guys” (otherwise known as men that attempt to hold their desire in check, then feel victimized and judge other men that express their desire, as well as women that enjoy receiving these expressions), we often feel that our choices come down to taking the incredible risk of expressing our desire and hoping to god that we’re “correctly attuned,” or being alone and hoping that, at some point, someone will overtly express their interest in us. And now, with the #metoo movement, expressing desire feels more dangerous than ever. Men are being viciously attacked left and right for inappropriate expression of power and desire. Not exactly a recipe for nice guys to come out of their shells. (I don’t mean to invalidate these expression of anger in any way, but simply to point out what may be going on in the minds of “nice guys” throughout this process.)
I keep quoting “nice guys” because acting in this way isn’t really all that nice. There’s a deception to not expressing what’s real for us – or “desire smuggling,” as some call it – and an uncomfortable energy that accompanies this lack of transparency. But the reality is that it doesn’t feel safe for many men to express their desire. Yet we repeatedly get the message that this is what women want us to do.
“But not like that!”
The thing is, “like that” can be very subjective. What one person likes, another may be repulsed by or interpret as a violation. And it can often feel like there’s no room for error. No space for men to be in a learning process around all of this. Just: “You fucked up. Here’s your label. Get the fuck out of my face. And why don’t get the fuck out of my community while you’re at it.”
I’ve felt a lot of frustration around all of this. Victimized by a world that shuts down my expressions of desire. A world that forces me to settle for what I can get rather than going for what I want. But something I’m looking at a lot lately is how I can move away from victimized perspectives, because I feel that any time I see myself as a victim, I disempower myself. And from this disempowered place, I have little room to consider the perspectives of others, and to empathize with their experience, because I’m so caught up in my own.
This doesn’t mean that I deny the feelings of the parts of myself, or others, that feel victimized. I attempt to honor all expressions that arise and not shame them for being where they’re at or try to talk them out of how they feel. And once these feelings have had the chance to express and experience the compassionate act of allowing them to be as they are, and perhaps receiving validation, empathy, and appreciation from me as well, I then move on to considering perspectives that may be more empowering.
I’m going to talk to the “nice guy” within me now, in an attempt to appreciate him, empathize with where he’s at, and validate how he feels…
I know that you’re scared to express your desire. Rejection is fucking awful, and the potential consequences beyond that look absolutely devastating. I totally understand why you’ve played things safe. And, in many ways, I appreciate this choice, because you want to make sure your desire is welcome, and not harm anyone in the process of getting your needs and desires met. I find that very admirable.
And I know that you’re confused as well. So many mixed messages about how to bring desire. When to bring desire. Making sure you’re adequately attuned. Being assertive and masculine. What women want. What women don’t want. It’s overwhelming and easier just to hang back and see what comes to you. And there’s wisdom in this. In not acting with limited understanding, and from a place of insecurity.
Thank you for caring about yourself and others enough to highly consider your actions. Thank you for giving yourself space to be in a learning process around all of this. I appreciate your willingness to slow down and take a deeper look at yourself, and at what ways of showing up in the world feel best for you.
…I feel that my “nice guy” has been evolving over the past few years, and that a lot of this has to do with the level of honesty, vulnerability, and transparency I now have the courage to bring when relating with others, and with my willingness and desire to self-reflect in order to empower myself by moving away from perspectives that leave me feeling victimized.
A lot of my insecurities and “nice guy” tendencies have to do with a fear that if I simply be myself, I’ll be rejected. And that’s not about the world, that’s about me. That’s about my own feelings of unworthiness that cause me to show up from a fearful and insecure place.
And there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s simply where I’m at. And when I do feel that there’s something wrong with anything about my experience, or with who I am, that’s about me too, because I’m the one that’s making it wrong. No one else can make me wrong unless, on some level, I agree with them. My agreement with another’s unfavorable story of me suggests an insecurity or lack of integrity in my story about myself.
As I’ve started owning that my experience is about me, I’ve been feeling more empowered. Because if it’s about me, I have the power to do something about it. And if I’m blaming and feeling victimized by something “out there,” I’m giving my power away to something outside of me.
So what can I change within myself? What power do I actually have?
For me, a lot of my power seems to come from my courage to be vulnerable. I’ve found that I can empower myself around my insecurities by owning and naming them. Because it’s hiding them that gives them their power, and that causes others to feel discomfort in our relating. They feel the tension that I’m feeling internally, and often a desire to move away from this uncomfortable energy.
In naming my insecurities, I release them to the world, and they have a chance to receive reflections of compassion and empathy. And as I experience myself as being loved and accepted with my insecurities, rather than despite them, I begin to feel less of a need to be a “nice guy,” and the courage to simply be me. I stop hiding and performing and begin trusting myself to be who I authentically am, and to express my authentic feelings and desires. And I have the incredible experience of my vulnerability drawing people in rather than pushing them away.
Throughout this process, I shed layers of shame and fear and become more honest and transparent with myself and others. Why? Because I’m learning to love and trust myself, just as I am. The lovability of parts of me that I don’t know how to love are being reflected to me through those that I’m bravely showing them to, and through these loving reflections, I’m learning to love these parts of me, too.
As I continue to more deeply love myself, and all my beautiful parts, and to experience that being vulnerable is creating the connection I’ve been longing for, I feel less of an impulse to hide what’s true for me, and a greater desire to expose more of myself to others. And over time, I begin to feel at peace with who I am, and how I show up in the world.
As I feel this inner peace, the courage arises to welcome my desire to be part of my experience. And as I welcome my desires, others welcome them as well, because there’s now more transparency and less insecurity behind their expression.
And as my “nice guy” evolves, I no longer feel like a victim, and I realize I never was one to begin with. I simply didn’t have the courage to empower myself by owning who I am and how I feel.