What I Learned In Phoenix

My ministry goal has been to inspire, encourage, and empower you to love more and better so that we can make the world a better place for our future children.  Continue reading “What I Learned In Phoenix”

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Love After Fights

They say make-up sex is the best, but the truth is; the farthest thing from the mind during a passionate argument is sex. Beside lingering seething anger, disgust and thoughts of divorce, shame is the most powerful response. “How could I say those awful hurtful things to the person I love the most in the world, my friend, my lover? I would never treat any human being the way I treated her/him, not even my worst enemy. What’s wrong with me?”

But there is an even worse response than shame; the cut off, when the internal vow is “I will never allow myself to be vulnerable with her/him again.” It is often not articulated consciously but it is acknowledged unconsciously and it could signal the permanent end of the relationship. Here the Wall of Protection become rigid and fixed.

The typical response to intense negative encounters is commonly known as the cycle of violence; a protracted build up of tension, followed by a trigger event, the explosion, a period of hurt, sorrow and shame, followed by regret and resolution, a return to a near pre-morbid state, and the renewed slow build up of tension all over again. In pathological relationships this cycle of violence is repeated with greater frequency and more intensity. These kind of relationships require intervention or the relationship will end or someone will get hurt.

But even the best loving relationships have episodes of intense negative encounters; fights. It is instructive to see how the best loving relationships deal with “fights.” Here is what I have observed how love works after fights.

  1. The individual’s first question is, “What is going one with ME that allowed this situation to escalate?” There is awareness that her/his Wall of Protection has be activated so that self preservation has become paramount. There are stressors that have breached the point of being tolerable. He/she then works to manage those stressors appropriately. Fortunately there are only four possible sources for these stressors; money, external relationships, health, and the most likely source, the predominate culture. Recognizing what caused the Wall of Protection to activate is the first step of loving after fights.
  2. Next is the change of focus to the other. Clearly the other’s safety is or is perceived by the other to be threatened. Here the response is easy; love. Love helps create safety for the other. Simply by returning to loving behavior, being a loving kind considerate human being the other’s Wall will come done when she/he feels safer.
  3. Finally, when they have enough safety to move forward, loving couples fight in a different way. Instead of fighting each other they attack the stressors/problems together. Both, now, recognize that they have mutual problems and set out to resolve them together. They have done this well throughout their loving relationship, they will begin again with renewed commitment.

Intimacy is restored in this process. Negativity ceases. And this, by the way, sets the stage for real good sex.

Tools For Lowering Your and The Other’s Wall of Protection

The Wall of Protection exists to preserve the safety of the owner, either you or the other. In the presence of stress or threat (perceived or real) the Wall becomes higher and wider restricting the flow of love between people which allows negative feeling to develop; frustration, anger, resentment, passive aggression, hostility, and so on. The Wall of Protection can even be used as a damaging tool, like a Maxwell’s silver hammer coming down upon her head. The purpose of this brief lesson is to give you tools to manage your Wall of Protection, increase the flow of love, bring stability to your relationships so that you can give more attention to helping the world become a better place.

  1. There are two Walls of Protection in the relationship, yours and the other’s. Before you can help the other lower their Wall be aware of and attend to your own Wall first.
    1. Don’t respond to the negativity, accusations, and “You” statements. These are merely signs that there is a problem to solve. They are part of the other’s Wall and are indicators that the other does not feel safe, or feels threatened. These feelings are in response to something that is real or perceived, known or unknown to you or the other.
    2. If the negativity makes you feel unsafe or threatened then your natural response will be to make your own Wall go up. You may experience a rush of chemicals and hormone as if you needed to protect yourself from a life threatening predator.
      1. Calm yourself. Take a few deep breathes, really. It helps control the flood of chemical.
      2. Remind yourself that the other needs to feel safe again.
      3. Remind yourself that the other is your lover and friend and in spite of the negativity coming your way, give a kind and loving response.
      4. Say, “What can I do to help?”
      5. If the negativity continues to come your way then suggest that you need to take a break for a few 15-30 minutes but that you will come back to deal with the problem. During your break continue your breathing (very important). Remind yourself that the other is your lover/friend to be treated as such. Ask yourself what might have triggered the other’s unsafe feelings (Remember the other’s unsafe feeling probably have little to do with you.) When you feel calmer/safe return to the other with this question: “What can we do to solve this problem?”
  2. Attend to the other’s Wall of Protection.
    1. The other’s Wall of Protection will be restored to its normal place only in the presence of love. You are completely unable to lower another’s Wall. It is impossible, do not attempt. The other will only lower their Wall when it is safe again. Make the other feel safe with love.
      1. Think kind/loving thoughts about the other. The other will feel them.
      2. Smile at the other. The other will recognize your genuine smile and feel safer.
      3. Only say positive, loving and kind words; yes, thank you, how can I help.
      4. Remember the Wall will come done in time, usually less than a few minutes. If longer than three days, seek help.
      5. If the other will allow it (and only if they will allow it) touch the other. Say may I hug you? You can use these to help discern if the Wall is coming down. It also signals to the other that you are safe. Touching releases the powerful brain chemical oxytocin which facilitates bonding and trust. A gentle touch, holding hands, hugging are helpful ways to help the other lower the Wall…IF THEY ARE WILLING. Undesired touching is manipulative and intrusive and creates a strong negative affect. ONLY TOUCH WITH PERMISSION!

The Wall of Protection is one of the most important aspects of a person’s life. It makes people feel safe. The Wall should be honored and respected with love. These tools can help.

Love Under Stress

For me it’s a bad day. Lots of pressure. Time demands. Performance accountability. Too many meetings. Difficult transitions. Bad sleep last night. Problems. More problems. Even more problems. Frustration threshold breached. I can actually feel the cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine flowing through my veins. Rational thinking impacted. Ready to fight or leave. Can I still love?

Yes…but it takes more work. My practice is to see every encounter with another person as an opportunity for love, either the giving or receiving of it, or having some unknown effect, or merely honoring the other with my full presence. Love is action, doing, planning, and with these distracting demanding events the call to love requires concentration, and attending to the other in spite of competing processes. It’s more work but it is the most important work. I resist the distraction with much more effort. It doesn’t just flow. It’s feel less natural. I know that if it feels less natural and more adaptive then others will sense it. They will wonder what’s wrong. They may assume the non-natural adaptive response has something to do with THEM. They may think “Why is he acting that way about me.” They may question the relationship, the sincerity of the love given. Nevertheless, I must provide a loving response.

Yes, I can still love and the other can feel it and know it because my angst is normal angst and I am not in a crisis. All crises are stressful, but not all stress is a crisis. My normal angst is not like an epic earthquake that kill thousands and leaves thousands more homeless. In fact in light of the crises much of the world experiences my angst is rather…whimpy. Moreover, I have much to learn about people who love in the midst of a real crisis. Mostly they temporarily disregard their self needs and devote all their attention to the immediate need, whether it is tending to the wounded, burying the dead, or removing the rubble. Dead is different than frustrated. They love in the face of death. Humm. When I’m overwhelmed I’m going to remember that.

Yes, I can still love when money is bad, relationships are on the verge of destruction, sleep is deprived, and the future is uncertain. When I do love while stressed I will heal myself. Although healing myself while loving not my intention or my goal it is part of the miracle of loving. When I love while stressed, love, even restricted love, still flows through me, touching me, then love reaches the other accomplishing its task. It is better to love stressed than to not love at all. In fact, as we have seen in the crises of the the world…

Love under stress is the best kind of love.

Love Questions for Mom

StoryCorps suggested several question to ask Mom for Mother’s Day. Here is a great activity; Sit down with Mom and the family and record or just share these questions.

  • What does she remember about the day she became a mother?
  • How has being a mother changed her life?
  • What parenting advice would she like to share with her children?
  • What are her hopes and dreams for both her future and for yours?
  • What are some special memories she has of her mother?
  • Would she sing you some of the songs she used to sing to you as a child?

Have a great Mother’s Day!

As A Result Of My Meeting With A Couple I Changed My Blog Page

We met about their upcoming marriage. She asked specifically about L.O.V.E. and I was pleased to share with them. My personal believe is that meetings like these are “worship experiences.” These meetings are not counseling or therapy or even necessarily educational. What they are is an exchange of love. I recall the words of Jesus “When two or more are gathered in my name, I am with you.” I hear His “command:” “This is my commandment, that you love one another.” So whenever I meet with people, publicly or privately, I am aware that it is a divine opportunity, a love encounter. Pretty weird, right? I know. But don’t you think the world would be better if we approached every encounter with love at the center of it? What do you think it would do for your marriage? Your business?

So I went back to my blog page and I re wrote the page on “Consulting/Speaking.” This is what I wrote: I meet with individuals, couples and organizations. Meetings with individuals and couples are not psychotherapy or counseling or even Christian counseling (While my life experience has been nurtured in the Christian tradition my focus is more narrowly focused on love). I have a Pastoral presence (loving, accepting, guiding, caring, spiritual, giving) and essentially these meetings are love lessons focused on your concerns. Meetings with organizations focus on love as an empowering energy for people working together. Our meeting will draw upon recent research in neuroscience, organizational psychology, relationship education and my own insights into spirituality. These love lessons provide practical tools that are easily incorporated into daily life and add significance and meaning to life. Our meeting will be an opportunity for us to share life together in a spiritual moment surrounded by love. In addition to being loved we will experience wisdom, learning and empowerment for changing the world.

Then I renamed the page “Meet With Bryan.” Perhaps I should have name it “My Love Meeting with You.” Naw… that’s too weird, true, but too weird for this culture.

Meditation On Your Wall of Protection

It is NOT defensiveness. What ever value the term “defensiveness” had has morphed into negative image of a personal character flaw that is often used to put the other in a class of damaged “less than” people, like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, sub-human, even ugly, and full of shame. So “Stop being so defensive” is an accusation that demands a return volley with equal or greater force, as with dueling swordsmen; attack, counter attack until the enemy is dead or vanquished, the victor standing proudly over the pathetic victims corpse, the hunter, rifle in hand, foot on slayed animals neck. “You are so…defensive.” Human dignity won’t allow me the use of the term “defensive” even when referencing my worse enemy.

They are not defensive. They are protecting their self. My self is the most important aspect of being. My life among these billions of people is differentiated by my self. It is me, who I am. I must have value or purpose or I might as well not exist. So I will run when chased by a lion. And I will fight when I perceive you are a threat. Protecting my self is the fundamental aspect of being human. Don’t call me “chicken” because I am brave, so brave that I am afraid that others might see me as not brave and I will protect my image of being brave. Brave is who I am. “Did you just call me ‘chicken? I’ll show you a chicken! Here look in this mirror. That is the yellowist, ugliest, worthless chicken in the world! In fact, your mother was an egg laying, dirt scratching, bug eating chicken before you were hatched!” Touche!

The Wall of Protection is a gift from God to maintain your dignity, preserve your integrity, guard your worth and project your value in the world. I love my Wall of Protection. You have heard the saying, “Good fences make good neighbors?” Well “Good Walls of Protection make healthy people.” And since my Wall of Protection is so essential to my well-being I recognize that you also have a beautiful Wall of Protection and I honor it!

Now, Walls of Protection have no value other than their utilitarian nature. They are not living beings. They are tools, like a car, a hammer or a gun. They are designed for a purpose. So Walls of Protection can be used for good or for evil. Walls have height and depth, made of various material, some even have gates. So access can be regulated and items protected. But Walls of Protection can be used offensively to keep people out, even people who normally would have some access privileges. One can punish others by denying access. This can be a problem. This is a good topic for another time.

What I have learned about Walls of Protection has given me tremendous insight into to people. It helps me humanize them, seeing them as like my self, who has an essential need to protect, value and honor myself so that I can be more than a contributing factor in the world, but one who can relate to the other, my spouse, children, friends, community, world, and in the process observe them, and their Wall, and we, together, can work to make our human neighborhood safe and empowering to accomplish all the work we need to do in our world of love and relationships.

Dry Rot Is A Wood Destroying Living Organism That Leads To Singing

Dry rot is a fungi that grows where it can. On my house we found it in some of the exposed fascia. There was a lot of it. Most people either ignore it until they move and a home inspections calls it out as a necessary repair. We are not moving but we had “deferred maintenance” as long as we could. “Deferred maintenance” is a real estate term and a nice way of saying the owner is a lazy cheapskates and serious procrastinator. Dry rot looks just like the name implies dry and rotten. So we had it repaired.

Once repaired all the wood trim on our house needed to be painted. Choosing paint colors in a multigenerational family can be challenging (Jennifer and I share a home with her elderly parents, Jack and June). Jack does care what the new color is. June has an opinion. And if you know June then you know saying she has an opinion is somewhat of an understatement. After some protest it was decided to paint it black (much to the delight of Rolling Stone fans).

The painter’s began the work.

Meanwhile, life goes on. Our family business consumes many hours daily. Jennifer and I are up before 5am. If we don’t go to the gym she pulls out her computer and off she goes. All day long it is people, emails, meetings, problem solving, crises, joy, heartache, headache, until we are home again (if we are in town) often near 9pm when a few more emails are dispatched. Life is work with a little smelling of the roses along the way.

The painters start work about 7:30. Congenial fellows. They are prompt, too. Clean. I noticed that they frequently sing when they paint. I didn’t stop and ask them what they were signing. I didn’t want to intrude. Painting is often a solitary work, even with there are several of them on the property at one time. I found one up the ladder painting one of the difficult to reach areas. He was singing. Paint brush in hand his face was manipulated like he was singing into a microphone or an audience. It was a peaceful song. I thought, “When was the last time I sang at work?”

This singing came about because we needed to attend to the wood rot. The fungi was removed, the wood repaired and primed, and the painters came to seal it and make it look pretty again. And they sang a song.

I suspect that you may have some spiritual wood rot in your life. Neglected areas that just need to be cleaned up. In the old days we used to talk about “getting back with the Lord.” Revival. Renewal. I’d like to recommend that you do something about that. Talk with your spiritual “contractor” about what it would take to get rid of that rot. Then let the painter come. They are like Angels. They will attend to the repairs with singing over you, like the painters at my house. Their songs bring peace and beauty and freshness that every soul needs. Don’t defer your maintenance.