Archive for the ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ tag
Enmeshed - relationships in which boundaries between self and other are blurred and what results is a tangled mess beneath the surface while to all outward appearances the world sees two separate beings
Nice Guys frequently find themselves in these kind of entangled relationships. In an enmeshed relationship it is confusing to figure out who exactly owns which mood, which position, which belief for the other person is quickly drawn into the mood, belief or position. If one becomes depressed, both are depressed. If one decides on a life-style change (such as diet), both embrace the life-style change. Often, from the outside, it appears as though the relationship is the perfect relationship where both parties are a perfect fit in all ways.
The enmeshing Nice Guy makes his partner his emotional center. His world revolves around her. She is more important than his work, his buddies, his hobbies. He will do whatever it takes to make her happy. He will give her gifts, try to fix her problems, and arrange his schedule to be with her. He will gladly sacrifice his wants and needs to win her love. He will even tolerate her bad moods, rage attacks, addictions, and emotional or sexual unavailability – all because he “loves her so much.” (Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy, p. 114)
There is a problem with this. For all of his effort and intention, the Nice Guy isn’t really there for his partner. He is there to meet his unmet needs of childhood. And as a result, as Glover puts it:
“The Nice Guy’s pursuing and enmeshing behavior is an attempt to hook up an emotional hose to his partner. This hose is used to suck the life out of her and fill an empty place inside of him. The Nice Guy’s partner unconsciously picks up on this agenda and works like hell to make sure the Nice Guy can’t get close enough to hook up the hose.” (p. 114)
And what results is a relationship that fights against itself, a relationship of unidentified unconscious conflict where intimacy between the individuals has no chance to authentically appear. But what is perhaps even more dysfunctional is the missing intimacy with the self. Filling the hole makes the Nice Guy oblivious to all the things about himself that are functional, the parts that work. The task for the Nice Guy is to discover those hidden parts of himself that are bubbling under the surface. What does he really want from life, what does he need to feel “complete?” This last part is the hardest to discover for childhood and life patterns have taught him that an “other” is the key to being complete. Yet, the real path to wholeness is to discover the missing pieces within and not put that burden on another person. Once that work is done, there is a chance for real, intimate and healthy relationship.
Today’s photo was borrowed from a site that talks about how young males were castrated in order to be able to sing the treasured female voices in the papal choir during the eighteenth century. Most of this was done with parental consent in hopes that the honour of being in the papal choir would help take the family out of poverty. Sacrifice. We tend to sacrifice our children.
However, this post isn’t about castrati, it is about how men psychologically castrate themselves in hopes that they become more lovable. In today’s world, being masculine is viewed through a distorted lens. Too many years of crude, rude, and violent patriarchal rule has left a sour taste in the modern psyche with regards to men and male sexuality. Today we teach our male children to be a kinder type of person. Young men now willingly help with childraising, housework and being involved in the lives of the women they marry. They abandon male friendships and become best friends with their female partners. However, somewhere along the way, they lose something integral to being male and the women in their lives let them know it. “Where are your balls?” is heard by these men who have tried so hard to be the perfect man for the treasured magical other, their mate.
I am bringing another quote from Robert Glover’s book called No More Mr. Nice Guy here that I found to help me understand a bit more of who I am and how I got this way:
“Due to their family and social conditioning, Nice Guys tend to seek the approval of women. Even as they are trying to become what they believe what women want them to be and doing what they believe what women want them to do, Nice Guys tend to experience tremendous frustration in gaining the approval the so intensely desire.
This frustration is due to the reality that, in general, women view men who try to please them as weak and hold these men in contempt. Most women do not want a man who tries to please them – they want a man who knows how to please himself. Women consistently share with me that they don’t want a passive, pleasing wimp. They want a man – someone with his balls intact.” (page 97)
Yet, how in this modern world does a man grow his balls back? The answer isn’t easy, nor does it guarantee much in the way of keeping a relationship that is wounded, wounded in part because a man ceased being a man will balls. The task demands that we begin to honour self, to believe that in taking care of oneself, one is actually making it easier for others to connect with ourselves. When we focus so much on others, being there for them, anticipating, consoling, giving, placating, providing, protecting – all the things that sound good but when taken to the point that it tells others that we think they are so weak and fragile and helpless: there is a natural tendency to push back by the others. Do we retreat and try more subtle approaches to pleasing, or do we get the message.
Our partners deserve to believe in their own strength, to know that they are capable and independent people who chose to be in relationship. Our partners deserve to have a partner who is capable and independent who chose to bring the full self into the relationship with them. And, in the real picture, the full self of a man has balls.
There is no doubt that each of us is not much different than this block of ice that has broken off from the shoreline, from what once was a massive ice cover hiding a river flowing beneath. But, as I look at this image I see something of myself, a part of me that has been frozen for too long. When I say frozen, I am referring to my lack of engagement with the world in an authentic manner. Rather than being fully authentic, I have invested a lot of my energy to project an image of myself that strives for perfection. I wanted to be a person that everyone liked yet I didn’t believe that anyone could actually like me if I let my hidden parts be seen by others. My approach would fit very well into Glover’s description of “Nice Guy.”
“As much as Nice Guys try to look good and get people to like them, . . . [their] . . . defenses keep people at arm’s length. Like most Nice Guy patterns, these unconscious behaviors actually accomplish the opposite of what the Nice Guy really craves. While desiring love and connection, his behaviors serve as an invisible force field that keeps people from being able to get close to him.
Nice Guys have a difficult time comprehending that in general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy.
Humans connect with humans. Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.” (Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy, p.46)
Attending to the process of daring to be honest with my self, I am beginning to peel back the layers of disguise that I have used since childhood. I am not a child anymore and have nothing to fear in being honest with myself and in turn, honestly presenting the self I rediscover to all those who are in my life.
This is an image that fits well with what I am “feeling” at this time. I am posting shorter reflections and a bit less because I am learning to shift from thinking and analyzing into a place of feeling. I have to admit that I have denied, bottled up, and diverted feeling for almost all of my life. In saying that, I am talking about my feelings with regard to my self. Otherwise, I have been a “feeling” kind of guy, one who finds it easy to empathize with others and resonate with emotional affect. I might be prone to deny my own self-feelings, but I am definitely a “Nice Guy.”
I want to thank one of my faithful readers, a photographer (Hi Paul) who suggested a book about nice guys to me in one of his comments – No More Mr. Nice Guy, by Robert Glover. As I read I am seeing so much of my story, my responses, my habits and my sub-conscious belief system exposed for what it really is – being a “Nice Guy” is not such a good thing. I want to bring a few of Glover’s words here that have resonated with me:
“Why would it seem rational for a person to try to eliminate or hide certain things about himself and try to become something different unless there was a compelling reason for him to do so? Why do people try to change who they really are?
After spending several years examining the Nice Guy syndrome from every angle, there is only one answer to this question that makes sense: because it does not feel safe or acceptable for a boy or man to be just who he is.” (Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy, p. 19)
Beliefs of little children who take on the blame and responsibility for everything that goes wrong in family and tries desperately to fix it through disguising and changing him or herself with the belief that in doing so, the world be be a better and safer place. And sometimes, the process of disguising oneself is a vital strategy for real safety as if one is swaddling oneself in layer upon layer of buffering materials. But, because a child is a child and is essentially powerless to affect change in the adult world that surrounds the child, all that really happens is that the child grows up to be an adult still hidden behind layers and layers of buffering material – layers that deny feeling and leave one frozen in the childhood belief system.
Fortunately, we do have an option to leave this eternal winter of being locked in under and within the ice which freezes feelings. Spring has begun the melting process.