Practices for men - and many others - for doing it right

by Philippe Lewis

(A modified version of this article was also published on the Lucidity Festival Blog)

It seems like everywhere the #metoo movement is leaving men wondering what to do – which is not surprising given that men like to DO things. Sometimes, of course, the incessant doing of men can get in the way and camouflage a feeling of inadequacy or a need to get attention. However, there are men out there who are truly seeing how much work there is to do and are simply ready, willing, and (hopefully somewhat) able to take action, and just need a sense of direction. Because, while this article may be preaching to a choir of clear conscious healthy men (as opposed to their pale substitute, the Sensitive New Age Guy, or SNAG or other types – and then again, even conscious men are apparently committing assault), there’s a multitude of men who are just waking up and looking to make a responsible and healthy difference.

As a man who has been listening since his first partnership with a survivor 29 years ago and as an expression of my purpose, I hope this article will serve as one such sense of direction.

This is an evolving collaborative guide. As the article grows, links and resources will be added in the body of the article, so please follow or comment and share this so that other men get to make use of it in the way that works best for them and the women they seek to serve.

And by all means, if you feel something is missing, please mention it.

Here’s an article about what’s in it for men.

Here's another article similar to this one.

Here’s a third article which shows 3 important questions and challenges asked by men about the MeToo movement.

Here's one last article with a goal similar to this one. It's good.

1. Stop hurtful behavior

The internet is full of articles that tell men what to do and not do. But many of them seem to have been written by women for men to serve women rather than to support men to serve women. And many of these articles not only speak in the language of social justice many men will not “grok” yet (see the section around Social Justice), they also unfortunately focus mainly on behavior rather than focusing on the source of these behaviors and practices to increase the skills and qualities to make these bad behaviors outdated. But they have their use and (some) men will most definitely relate to them.

Here’s one amazing article with a list of hurful behaviors to change and stop. And here’s one moreand another and another. All of them are lists. Pick and choose what you relate to.

Here’s a great set of videos that show harassment in real time.

And if a more spiritual and holistic approach is more your cup of tea, my friend Karl Baba wrote this excellent article.

2. Actively listen and get curious

Good listening is a cross between witnessing (where the listener adds nothing and takes nothing from the experience – nothing to do!), and listening/feeling so that the other person knows they are being felt and heard. When listening, let them know you believe them (use the simple words such as “I believe you”). When hearing a story of assault or abuse, it’s not time to verify, challenge, check, or understand their story. What matters is that they are believed while they stand on shaky ground as a survivor. What matters is they feel that they have someone who is there for them without questions or doubt. Once the story has been told, you may also ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” without pressure, as a gesture to show them you can do more if it’s something they wish. (Here you can find a longer and more precise article focusing on how to support your partner through sexual assault and trauma)

3. Take stock of your life: how you've impacted others – and how you've been impacted sexually and emotionally

The weeks of #metoo have been intense for many, possibly including you. Taking stock of your life can look like writing your own #metoo and #itwasme story. It doesn’t mean you have to post it, but if you do, it should be as a gesture of solidarity towards women, not as a way to explain, condone, minimize or inflate what happened to you or another. Mainly, this is an introspection that helps you situate yourself as a perpetrator and a survivor/victim (past or present). This is a way to connect with the immensity of pain and suffering that is present in our collective consciousness. As someone who has impacted another or has been impacted, this is an opportunity to reach out for reconciliation and repair. As someone who has been impacted, this is an opportunity for forgiveness (see below)

The point of this exercise is not shame or guilt, unless it naturally arises in you in the form of “not ok”. Healthy inner shame supports us in staying in line with our values and the values of our community. External shame is often used by others to meet their values. If their values are different than yours, cognitive dissonance can occur and it is difficult to maintain a sense of integrity. Rather, it’s important to develop strong healthy inner values that support us in engaging well with others rather than adopt another person's values and shame they direct at us.

Here's an article that speaks of some of the challenges of taking stock of one's own history of impact.

Here’s an article that speaks of the immensity of the problem of workplace abuse and harassment.

4. Examine your internalized misogyny and misandry, and what you are doing to free yourself of these limited and limiting beliefs

What are your views on men and women and non-binary folks? In what way do you perceive any of these classes negatively or as “less than”? In what way to do believe members of these classes are too crazy, dumb, out of control, victims, or perpetrators? Or something else negative? If you believe that “men are often <negative quality>” or “women are often <negative quality>” (just to name two examples) then you have internalized misandry or misogyny. It’s not about statistics, it’s about negative beliefs that you hold regardless of statistics. 

There is a lot more to say about this (and I will amend this section when I do) but for now, looks at these two statements:

1. Internalized misogyny eminently impacts women and your relationship with women by how you as a man perceive them in any way that isn't true or real about them (and also in the ways they perceive themselves), especially (but not exclusively) if these ways are negative, objectifying, and demeaning. 

2 Internalized misandry eminently and directly impacts you and men and your relationship with yourself and with other men by the way you perceive men to be something that isn't true or real about them, especially (but not exclusively) if these ways are negative, objectifying, and demeaning.

These two statements may look similar, but the way they play out is very different. This is mainly because as a man, how you relate to women as "other" is different than how you relate to men as "me" and "us". As a result, internalized misandry can look like normalizing bad/abusive behavior  (thinking that it's not that bad or that it's fine) or demonizing men -- believing that all men are monsters and rapists/abusers-in-the-making. And in the same way, misandry can impact how you perceive and engage with women by normalizing/demonizing. 

Something I wrote recently: "Men having negative views about themselves as men is a real thing and it affects everyone, just differently and at various degrees with different men. This section is not about the larger social reality of misogyny and misandry, it's about the specific impact it has on each man and the people they engage with through the men's actions. An individual who hates and shames himself for being a man isn't going to engage well and with empathy with others. That's just a fact and challenge that must be examined as it touches a man much more closely that misogyny does.

By internalized misandry, I'm speaking boys and men being raised to self-castrate their hearts, shut down their emotions, and push themselves past reason and body and heart to achieve empty goals to achieve status, not purpose. That's the sort of internalized hatred I'm speaking of. Because people who love themselves don't hurt their bodies, don't shut down their feelings, and don't push themselves out of a sense of competition. And when they finally manage to realize this and their empathy and self care/love begin to kick in, it also begin to make sense why everyone wants and needs it. This is a relationship to needs and care for self and others that can't happen very well when self-hatred is present."

5. Learn self-care and create a support structure for yourself with therapist and allies

Don’t do this alone. Toxic masculine scripts tell men that they need to be independent and handle things on their own. This is not the best way to engage in the kind of steep learning curve that becoming a better more emotionally sensitive man requires. To do this well, you will need to develop a better relationship to needs, to care for your body, your heart, and your mind so that you can engage well and with all your resources when things get difficult. The process of growth will be demanding emotionally and physically. This is why you need to learn to feel into yourself to know when is time to recharge, when you need to self-soothe, when you need to be a bit more caring or ask for help. This is where a good therapist and/or coach, and allies come in. These people are not meant to save you from your emotions and your experiences, they are meant to support you in in becoming a better more aware person. This will mean both spending money and offering gratitude to whoever desires to see you succeed. And of all the ways you can do this, joining a men's circle is probably one of the most effective way.

Here's the website for the ManKind Project, a very popular men's circle with chapters all over the world.

In the San Francisco Bay Area (in California, USA), there is also Tribe of Men and The Men's Circle

6. Learn the ins and outs of (responsible) consent and safer sexual engagements

Responsible consent is when someone is ready, willing, able, and informed about the nature of the engagement (who, what, where, when, why, how) they are about to take part of. This means basically being fully understanding and aware of what they are getting themselves into and how (reasonably) well things are going to turn out. This also means that they can take responsibility for their part in the engagement because they have everything they need to do so. Responsible consent also means making sure everyone (including ourselves) is responsibly consenting. A “yes” is a great start, but you have to make sure it means more than just permission for the other person. Yes is just a word. Permission is not responsible consent – this is where a lot of people get it wrong. Being intoxicated is not responsible consent. When you engage with someone, you want to make sure you are both consenting responsibly. If you don’t check and fully trust that your partner is responsibly consenting, you are creating a risky and irresponsible engagement. Consent is generally a state of being happy with how things are going in that engagement, but the level of happiness, of "yes" varies over time as things change and evolve. When the level of "yes" drops to a level when the person is no longer ready/willing/able/informed (for many reasons, some of which can be emotional/physical/primal/spiritual/intellectual/physical/social, or because of how they feel, because the pace is wrong, because it's no longer what they desire or because it's not within their boundaries – or because of that person's strengths / weaknesses / experience / limitations) then it's time for the engagement to stop/change/end.

Consent cycles like this: Connection leads to trust, trust leads to consent, consent leads to more connection. And then the cycle continues. This is why you have lovers and partners who don't need to keep check with each other for consent. Ever noticed that as you connect more and more with someone, you seem to mutually get better at doing the things that you both want? That's the cycle of consent. The first cycle is crucial in going for the win. In that sense, *permission* can be the willingness to engage without connection by going out on a limb to trust and allow something to happen to see if the cycle will continue. In a world where women are concerned being assaulted all the time, this trust is a gift: treasure it and honor it.

There’s a lot more to say and articles about consent (such as, don’t twist anyone’s arm, ever).

Here’s a brilliant article by my friend Daniel Schmachtenberger that nails this perfectly.

Here’s another great article on rape culture vs consent culture.

Here's a brilliant article on consent and how intricate it is.

Ok, now that you know what responsible consent looks like, here’s a short list of what a safer sexual engagement should look like:

Here are the basics of safer sexual engagements (most of these involve some form of consent or agreement):

  • FEELINGS: Share how you feel about the engagement that is about to happen, even if you don't know what exactly is going to happen.

  • BOUNDARIES: Make it clear to each other what you DON'T want sexually.

  • INTENTIONS, DESIRES & PACE: Share or make it clear with each other what you enjoy – in terms of activities and in terms of pace – so the other person doesn't have to guess.

  • CONSENT: As you go from first to second to third to fourth base, ask for consent. If nothing else, look for consent around ANY penetration. See above for what responsible consent looks like.

  • SAFER SEX: Use condoms or other barrier for ALL fluid contact with genitals UNLESS you both agree not to use them.

  • INTOXICATION: Don't have sex intoxicated unless you have a conversation where you both agree intoxication is okay BEFORE you become intoxicated (because consent while intoxicated is not responsible consent)

  • MEANING: Share with each other what it will mean to you if you have sex with each other, and ONLY have sex if you agree that the meanings are compatible.

  • TRAUMA: Share with each other about patterns related to trauma (physical, emotional, sexual) that the other person should know about and how to care for you well if these patterns show up

  • TALK: Have a chat about all of the above BEFORE having sex and also include things like latests STD infections, tests, and results.

  • FEEDBACK: Get in touch with each other after having sex. Ask each other how it was and if there is any way to make it better next time without pressure that there will be a next time.

  • SAFE SEX: Sex is inherently risky for many reasons (physically (because of diseases and infections, as well as emotionally and relationally, and even spiritually for some people). As such, there’s no safe sex, only safer sex.

Here's an awesome website about how to do the safer sex conversation before getting in bed with someone.

7. Apologize, own, and offer to make amends, repair, and forgiveness

Someone in your life may have reached out to you to let you know you have hurt them. Or perhaps no one has, but you know you have behaved badly with some people in your life. Or, perhaps you don't know and you are waiting for the other shoe to drop. In fact, you may never know the full extent of the hurt, suffering, damage, or impact you caused, but you should know that regardless, you are accountable for it, intentional or accidental. If your presence, words, or actions were a part of someone’s hurt, you are responsible. And while it may be possible for someone to recover and heal on their own, your participation can make all the difference. So after taking stock in (see the section about Taking Stock), it may now be time to reach out to those you may have hurt and let them know you would like to apologize and make amends. Then you wait for them to let you know if they are interested, how they feel about it, their pace, their desires, and their boundaries around it. This is a gift for them more than it is for you to feel better about yourself. It can of course be about both of you, but if you can make it about them first and foremost, you’ll find that the rest (the part about you) will happen too. If you make it about yourself first, however, you may never connect with them and their suffering (here’s an article that describes some version of this). If you are centered and resourced as a person, this gift will feel good to offer. If you’re not, it will be difficult for everyone. In the second case, pace yourself. Rome was not built in one day. Facing the harm we caused another human being --because of unconscious behavior, because of a lack of sensitivity, because of conflicting needs, or simply accidentally-- can be extremely challenging. It takes practice and resources, but we can get better at it. Make sure you have allies supporting you in this crucial work. It is said that our capacity to apologize, make amends, and repair are is one of the most important skills to have in relationships. Without it, when harm occurs, we become disconnected for those we harm, and there's nothing we can do to reconnect.

Apologize and Own: This means taking responsibility for the pain you created, for your part in abusing your power, for creating trauma, for hurting them, for gaslighting them (if you did). It’s about doing it without offering excuses. An apology is letting the other person know you recognize the impact on them, take ownership for this impact, learn from this experience, and at a minimum be willing to do your best not to hurt them (or anyone else) again.

This link will take you to a version of an apology process, which is not about making yourself wrong or being wrong, but rather about recognizing impact, intentional or accidental, which is much more useful for the practice.

Make Amends/Repair: Once you’ve fully owned the impact and apologized and if the apology has been accepted, you may offer to make amends and repair the trust that has been lost. Ask the other person what you can do, and do your best to accede to their request(s). Ask them if this will help repair the trust that may have been lost. It may not, and this is okay. The other person may not know how to repair the trust and this may never change. It is not for you to decide what they need. It is for them to take the time and space to explore this at their convenience, not for you to push or pressure them in following your needs. The loss of trust often looks like a form of grieving, and grieving happens on its own schedule. This can be frustrating for you as the person wanting to make amends, which is totally normal. Make sure you have support in this process.

Forgiveness: One way to look at forgiveness is “letting go of the need to be angry and hurt”. In this context, forgiveness is for the person who was hurt, not for the person who apologized. When done freely, the person who forgives experiences the gesture as a movement towards freedom. As the person who apologized and offered to make amends, you may ask the other person for forgiveness knowing this, as a final gesture of support and gift despite the hurt you caused in the past.

Challenges around apologies: With the unfolding of #metoo along with the fact that conflict have been happening for as long as humans have been in existence, it's become clear that people tend to not be very good about offering apologies. But that's not the only relevant aspect. How the apology is perceived is highly dependent on people's perceptive filters. For example, people might blame someone for not delivering a good apology and because this person is already demonized, confirmation bias tells people that this person is bad so of course they won't want to apologize, so we need to beat it out of them, end of story. But from a system perspective, the question is "what is missing from the system that the repair process isn't going well" and then add the missing resources to the system.

Here are some reasons why a person might not be apologizing well. This might be you:

  • Shame/guilt/blame keeping them/you stuck/triggered/unable to act

  • Cognitive dissonance (their/your experience of the events is different than the other person's

  • Lacking a real understanding of what happened/the nature of the engagement (to the other person, of why they had different experiences)

  • Egregiousness/lacking remorse (and why this is the case, such as retaliation from previous hurts by the other person or from earlier experiences in life)

  • Lack of experience with the proper language to express the apology (if English is the second language)

  • Cognitive dissonance around what happened vs what they/you are able to conceive they/you are capable of

Here’s an article on how NOT to apologize.

Here’s an article on steps for when you’re harassed or abused someone.

Here's a video of Dan Harmon publicly acknowledging past bad behavior. And here's a video of a (positive) response to it. 

Here's a great article on how men can (re)approach women for that first kiss, especially when it doesn't exactly go according to plan. Sometime, the apology happens right away, sometime it happens much later. 

Here's an article on the right way to react to consent violations. 

8. Learn to engage well in social justice conversations

Social Justice is defined as “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society”. Thus, conversations about social justice are about how to support everyone having an equal opportunity in life. And because some people/classes/groups are given better opportunities because of deeply ingrained cultural beliefs and systems, the solutions generally look like taking power away from members of one group and giving them to another. This of course causes upset within the privileged groups as they have not learned to make do without this power (which they often don't realize they have). This combines with members of the privileged group having little clue around how hard things are for the oppressed group, to make it difficult for groups to see eye to eye. As a result, there’s plenty of foot-in-mouth type of comments happening in both direction. And, add to this the idea that regardless of membership within a privileged group, it’s still possible for anyone to experience trauma, abuse, assault, and insecurities, the conversation around who is suffering the most or the least – and who should do what about it – becomes very challenging.

Confused yet? Regardless, people are experiencing suffering and no one should have to. Not you, not them, not anyone. Yes? From there, what should we do?

The currencies of social justice are responsibility and accountability. Responsibility is your ability to impact another person (usually negatively). There are 3 kinds of responsibility: direct, complicit, and self. Accountability is owning up to any actual negative impact you have caused in the past (see the section about Apologizing)

To engage well in social justice conversations/circles, you’ll need to learn a LOT about privilege (earned and unearned) and how to speak and act responsibly with it. You’ll need to learn that one person or group speaking about “men” does not necessarily mean “all men” and only applies to you “if the shoe fits” (and your fear of it fitting does not mean it fits). You’ll need to be familiar with language terms and concepts including victim-blaming, tone policing, mansplaining, “not all men”, gaslighting, and many more – and will need to know how easy it is to engage in all of these bad behaviors inadvertently, especially if you are not clear on what they mean and what behavior/words means that you are doing so. Unless you’ve had enough practice, you’ll not only likely show up badly and likely piss people off, you’ll also likely be deeply confused.

You’ll need to learn to properly understand your situation in terms of privilege and in terms of how you are perceived around privilege (earned and unearned) and trauma/insecurities/abuse. These (real and perceived privilege) can be different as people can’t know about you at first glance. The result of this can feel like prejudice and projection (because it is). For example, you may show up like a white cis-male but you may have come from a poor family, or you may be queer and closeted, or you may have a history of abuse. This is where you can begin to authentically connect with others along these different experiences. Not as a defensive mechanism, but rather as a gesture of solidarity.

And, you’ll likely have to master the art of speaking disclaimers that show your awareness of your privilege so that people don’t misperceive you. This is where you might want to find an ally (someone who is ready/willing/able to support you on this steep learning curve) in that realm so that if you get caught in a shitstorm, they will be able to assist you in engaging better without pissing anyone off any further. Or do the necessary repair after the fact. Because it’s likely that people will get triggered as you learn to engage well. This is a territory that requires practice because emotions tend to run high.

There’s a lot of articles that explain how to show up in terms of social justice, but they often seem to be written by those who already know the lay of the land and are explaining it to the choir. Another way it to connect with your ally to dissect an online conversation you were on in order to figure out where you messed up.

Beyond all of the above, social justice is a deep field which will take time to properly engage with. But the perspectives are well worth the work.

Here’s a video which explains privilege in an easy to understand fashion.

Here’s an article that explains privilege extremely well.

9. Engage other men and (freely consenting) women around the transgressions you owned, your growth process, and your commitment to do better

This can look like writing and posting your #itwasme stories or just sharing. Note that the story should be about the impact you caused from the standpoint of the person impacted, not about you. This is your journey of understanding what you did not understand or did not want to understand when the transgression happened. This is your journey of learning to feel into what happened, not a process of absolution or a way to get kudos or gratitude (though some may come your way). In this engagement, the only goal is to feel the hurt you caused, not just imagine it. For some men, this can take a long time to experience and go into. Initially, you might just feel like it’s old news and you’re over it. But it’s very much possible that the person impacted is not over it and are still feeling the impact to this day. And even if you have been in touch with this person and have made amends, you’ll still need to feel the impact in order to fully integrate it and grow. And when you reach the bottom of it, you will know because you will have a very specific experience: humility. Not the humility someone else might tell you to feel (“Be humble!”) but rather the naturally arising experience of feeling the hurt you caused to another as if this person were you. And this is when you can fully appreciate the impact and (often) the nonsense of hurting them and taking something away from them: their freedom, their choice, their innocence, their aliveness. Little by little, traumatic experiences have a way of chipping away at someone, and knowing you were a part of this may be very difficult. This is where support is important because feeling this completely is what will allow you to integrate and authentically formulate how you will do better moving forward – beyond lists that will give you stamps of approval from others.

But there’s more: below the experience of humility, you will also begin to have access to exploring the insecurities – and possible trauma or abuse – that may have been at the root cause of the behavior that led to the harm that you caused. This is a terrain best explored with a professional and allies (see the section on Self-Care)

Here’s one article about feeling.

10. Engage perpetrators immediately and effectively without becoming a rescuer

When men (or any human) behaves in a way that hurts or will hurt another human being, your responsibility is to stop this from happening as soon as you realize it. It takes practice to do this well. It takes practice to do this safely and effectively for yourself and others. It may look as simple as “Hey, what are you doing?!?” or “Hey, stop this!” or “Hey, that’s not cool. Stop this right now!” as soon as it happens. But you can only do this well and solidly when you have a deep sense of integrity around it. It’s much more than keeping your eyes and ears open for bad behavior and it’s much more than being a “protector”. It’s about engaging everyone in what you see and adding a spotlight where things were dark and murky and hidden. Speak of what you see and what you hear. Call “in” when you can, asking a potential or active perpetrator about their behavior to see if they can realize what they are doing and the harm they are causing and working with them to do the steps in this article. If calling in doesn’t work, calling out will be your best option, letting the greater community know about the transgressions and the danger this individual represents. Don’t do this alone.

Here’s a great article that engages me on how to engage other men around rape culture (and a lot more).

Here’s another great article about islamophobic harassment (which also works for harassment towards women.

11. Learn to support victims and survivors of sexual violence effectively. Learn how to be a good partner, friend, helper, and ally

There are as many ways of supporting people as there are people. You may have ideas around how survivors of sexual violence should be supported – or how you would LIKE to support them, but all of this is irrelevant unless you find someone who wants to receive what you have to offer. A much better approach is to ASK the women in your life how you can best support them. Some will just want a solid presence, some will want good active listening (see the section on Listening), some will want you to call another man out, and so on. The best way to support someone is by being available, responsive, engaged, and committed. This is not about receiving gratitude, although gratitude might show up. This is about giving freely to someone who lost some of their freedom and aliveness to sexual violence. This is about giving away a bit of your privilege to make someone else’s life a better one. So approach women in your life who trusted you enough to share their stories with you and ask them the simple question: “How can I support you in a that works best for you?” and do your best to do that EXACT thing. Simple. As a man, being in service can often be very rewarding for its own sake.

Oh, and one more bit: “Ally” is like a honorary title: it is a given to you, not something you normally claim. For some people, “ally” means something very specific and highly committed, and you using this title without having done the work will occur as out of line.

Here’s one article with steps to support survivors I wrote

12. Develop your empathy and emotional intelligence/literacy

Emotional intelligence/literacy is a human’s capacity to engage well with another human through emotions and feelings. If emotions were steps in a dance, then two emotionally intelligent humans would dance a graceful dance without tripping each other and without falling on the ground. In order to engage with emotions, you need to be able to feel those emotions in yourself and other people. Then you need to be able to discern what these emotions are (beyond “I’m upset” or “it doesn’t feel good”. Then you need to be able to understand why these emotions are present, and formulate an intelligent, caring, compassionate, useful, timely, loving, supportive, etc response. Then you need to be able to express this response well. Then beyond that, you have to be able to self-reflect on the process I just mentioned as well as receive feedback on that process.

Still with me? If I had spoken of ideas instead of feelings, I bet most men would understand more easily.

The reality is that in the US, most boys and men are not socialized to learn and practice emotional intelligence. This is because they have been raised with toxic masculine scripts that state that emotions are weaknesses and that males are biologically less emotionally intelligent than females. This is not only untrue, but research has found that males babies are actually more sensitive than female babies. The result is men are less emotionally intelligent and have less empathy (one of the main skills of emotional intelligence).

So what can you do? Begin the long road of learning to become more emotionally intelligent (understanding that most women are WAY ahead of you around it). It’s like realizing that you know zero cooking (compared with some friends) and having to learn to cook for yourself. Yes, it’s going to be crunchy and it’s going to take time to learn to do it well. Fortunately, you can find allies and practitioners who will help you. And books. This is a BIG one that will facilitate many of the other items above if you learn it. And, it’s not something that be rushed. But you have to be careful to avoid asking for emotional support in a way that will occur to others as emotional labor – ie they are doing the work for you. There’s nothing wrong with support, but when others are doing all the work of feeling and translating everything for you, it does nothing to support your growth process and it burns out your allies. Here’s an article to help you figure out if others are doing all the emotional labor for you.

Here is an articleanotherand another about teaching boys. And here are books on the topic as well. And here are is the work of Daniel Goleman on emotional intelligence.

Dig in. This is going to take a while.

But when you start getting it, it will literally feel like a new emerging superpower that will allow you not only to feel your own stuff, but also to connect more easily and deeply with women. And this is an important thing they want with their partner: the ability to deeply connect with their partner.

Brene Brown (in her many books that pertains to Shame and Emotional Intelligence – here’s a great article about it), she identifies 4 attributes of empathy:

  • To be able to see the world as others see it—This requires putting your own "stuff" aside to see the situation through your loved one's eyes.

  • To be nonjudgmental—Judgement of another person's situation discounts the experience and is an attempt to protect ourselves from the pain of the situation.

  • To understand another person’s feelings—We have to be in touch with our own feelings in order to understand someone else's. Again, this requires putting your own "stuff" aside to focus on your loved one.

  • To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings—Rather than saying, "At least you..." or "It could be worse..." try, "I've been there, and that really hurts," or (to quote an example from Brown) "It sounds like you are in a hard place now. Tell me more about it.”

Here’s one eBook with practices to support the development of your emotional, somatic, and primal intelligence.

13. Get Familiar with your attachment style and its shortcomings and develop a more secure style

There’s a theory out there called “Attachment Theory” which states that every human develops – within the first 12 months of life – a strategy for survival based on the way their primary caregiver(s) – usually their parent(s) – took care of them. There’s 3 main attachment styles: secure, anxious (tends to need more attention and fears abandonment) and avoidant (tends to need more freedom and fears being engulfed). Each handles intimate relationships differently. Anxious and avoidant attachers tend to attract each other very easily because of the emotional/sexual tension that arises and the insecurities both exhibit, and then begin what I call the anxious/avoidant tango. Comparatively, secure attachers will occur as unexciting (even boring) to insecure attachers while anxious and avoidant attachers will occur as full of drama to secure attachers. This may seem overly simple, but in practice it appears to explain a LOT of how people engage with friends, lovers, and partners.

Knowing your attachment style will very likely shed a fair bit of light around patterns that are present in you or your partners. This mini-test will help you find out what your style might be. The book “Attached” will give you a good start on the topic.

Here is a brief article on attachment theory.

Here is a description of the major attachment styles: secureavoidantanxious, and anxious-avoidant (a mix of the two, aka disorganized)

Here is an amazing article about sex in attachment theory by Sue Johnson (author of the book Hold Me Tight): "A secure couple can have all three kinds of sex, Synchrony SexSolace Sex which is focused on reassurance, and Sealed off Sex focused on sensation only, at different times, but it seems that the ability to have Synchrony sex – at least some of the time – to integrate sexuality and bonding makes a huge difference in a couple relationship. Sex is a dance – anxious and avoidant music limits the dance – Insecure attachment constrains sexuality."

If People Had Honest First Date Conversations (or an anxious woman meets an avoidant man)

Avoidant and anxious attachers have good reasons for what they’re doing — often stemming from experiences and adaptations in childhood. I’ve read attachment books and found they can be shamey of avoidant states. This long article is the best source on avoidant states I’ve read so far. This is another great one written by my wife Paget.

More great articles:

The Real Source of Neediness

The Reasons You’re Attached to Someone Isn’t What You Think

The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture

For Men Who Desperately Need Autonomy

Additional Resources I compiled.

14. Learn about platonic touch and learn to receive it from more than only female partners and female friends

It is said that much of men’s desires are channeled into sex because above all else they miss PLATONIC TOUCH.

This is a huge problem in today’s society: by the time boys reach adolescence, their hormones are raging, while at the same time they are getting less touch from their parents as they learn that homophobia means they have to forego all touch with other men, resulting in a severe dip in the amount of touch they receive and a craving for it that women quickly become the target of.

Here is an article about how the lack of touch is destroying men.

Here’s another article about how the lack of gentle platonic touch is impacting men.

In order to compensate for this, as a man you might consider finding others ways to fulfill your basic human need for you, from cuddle parties, to massage classes, to contact improv or other dance classes, to sexuality or tantra classes where touch is permitted within a container that is safe for everyone. Fathers are especially lucky in this area in that they get to rediscover platonic touch through engaging with their children.

Here’s one eBook I wrote with practices to support the development of your emotional, somatic, and primal intelligence.

by Philippe Lewis