Monday, December 31, 2012

Emotional Sensitivity and ADD

In his book, Scattered, Gabor Mate notes that if we add up all the people in our society who struggle from ADD, depression and other common psychological "problems" in North America, we will discover that more than a third of the population "suffers" from these "conditions." When the numbers are so large, is there really an epidemic "disease" running through our culture? Or could it be possible that we we label as "dis-ease" or a "dis-order," might actually be a positive evolutinary trend, contributing to the transformation of our society in a life-sustaining way? Mate postulates that "what is being transmitted genetically is not ADD, but sensitivity." And sensitivity is actually a very important trait for our evolution and survival as a species. Mate reflects that it is sensitive people who best express "humanity's creative urges and needs," and who can best interpret the world through their "instinctual responses." The word "sensitive" comes from the Latin word "sensir," which means to feel. People who are sensitive can perceive, express and respond to many degrees of feeling. This can be a gift when valued and seen as a source of wisdom and power. When our sensitivity is not only about our own reaction to the world around us and how it effects us, but also to how life circumstances and even our own actions effect others, sensitivity can make a profound difference in the quality of human relationships. When emotionally sensitive people live in a world that is emotionally illiterate, emotionally numb and devaluing of emotionality, their sensitivity allows them to register a higher degree of pain. Mate notes that people with ADD are hypersensitive. This is not a fault or a weakness, simply "an inborn temperament." So, just as in homeopathy, where a small dose of a substance has a systems-wide impact, a physical stimulus or emotional experience that might not touch a non-ADD, less sensitive person, can have a profound impact on the highly sensitive, ADD person. Allergies are more common amongst ADD children than in the larger population. Mate concludes, physical allergies and emotionally hypersensitive reactions are both expressions of the same inborn trait: sensitivity." "Since emotionally hypersensitive reactions are no less physiological than the body's allergic responses to physical substances, we may say truthfully that people with ADD have emotional allergies." When people are emotionally sensitive or "touchy," we often say they are "thin-skinned." Mate reflects that people with ADD may indeed be "thin-skinned," "with the nerve endings that send emotional stiumuli to the brain centers very close to the surface." If we learn to work with and channel the increased sensitivity associated with ADD, many positive and transformational outcomes can result. Mate wisely acknowledges that "sensitivity is transmuted into suffering and disorders only when the world is unable to heed the exquisitely tuned physiological and psychic responses of the sensitive individual." Perhaps our lesson is to more deeply and fully come to our senses, rather than accept the emotional numbness and emotion-less norm in our culture.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Making the World A Better Place For Children

"The most threatening health crisis facing children in America today is exposure to adverse childhood experiences." --Journal of Preventive Medicine The first weekend in December, I had the privilege of attending the Life Is Good Playmakers first level training. The Life Is Good Playmakers Training is part of the Life Is Good Kids Foundation, the non-profit arm of Life Is Good, known for their catchy and clever t-shirts and other produces with the famous "Jake"cartoon character image and the words "Life Is Good" imprinted on them. The Life Is Good Playmakers (LIGP) emerged in 2010 when Project Joy, created by Steve Gross in 1989 to help homeless and impoverished kids, partnered with Life Is Good. LIGP found that the three most adverse childhood experiences are poverty, illness and violence, which includes trauma, neglect and abuse. Trauma, poverty, violence and illness all greatly compromise a child's spirit, health and future in life. Play has been found to be the greatest healing force in overcoming these kinds of experiences. Adverse childhood experiences, lead to social, emotional and cognitive impairment. Kids who have lived through or live in adverse conditions may not be able to engage in school or the community. Yet, because of the lack of attention to the emotional and spiritual--and even personal--realities kids live in, kids who are living through difficult experiences are expected to participate as though nothing was wrong or impairing them. There is a prevention gap, where if service providers (teachers, clinicians, physicians, daycare providers) recognize the signs of adverse childhood experience and have the tools to help kids heal, traumatic experiences need not lead so directly to social, emotional and cognitive impairment. When no one recognizes the impact of adverse conditions, and no one intervenes after traumatic experiences, kids may progress to health risk behaviors, such as smoking, drinking and taking drugs, which can lead to disease and disability, which can lead to an early and untimely death. Once the signs of adverse conditions emerge, there is an early intervention gap, where kids can be reached before they develop health risk behaviors. A very helpful model presented during the LIGP training was that of "snake brain" and "dog brain." The snake brain is the reptilian brain, the oldest path. In the snake brain, if you get hungry, you eat. If you get tired, you sleep. The snake brain connects to our most primal urges and needs. Love, connection and thinking are not part of the frame of the snake brain. The dog brain is the mammalian brain, including the limbic system. The dog brain is capable of unconditional love and looks for love and connection. If you don't nurture the dog brain, a child will resort back to reptilian brain and become aggressive. If we have ways to quiet the snake brain and nurture the dog brain, THEN the mind is open to learning. When life is difficult, challenging and does not meet our most basic human needs, we may find ourselves resorting back to snake brain ways to thinking and acting. How do we calm ourselves down and get back to the mammalian/connecting part of the brain? Playfulness is the motivation to freely and joyfully engage with, connect with and explore the world around us. A playful approach can be brought to any activity. It is more about HOW we do what we do, than about what we do. Playfulness can be a vehicle to focus on what's right with the picture rather than on what's wrong, and nurture, foster and sustain healthy relationship. The LIGP training cited some studies done with rats, which showed that when a threat is introduced into an enriched environment (one with rat toys and other rates), play stops. When the threat is removed, sadly, the level of play will be diminished and is highly unlikely to return to an exuberant level. So, in making the world a better place for children, our work is two-fold: find ways to remove threats to play, and find ways to help kids who have been through really difficult experiences grow and heal. An important first step is to recognize that kids have emotional and social developmental needs in addition to cognitive or physical developmental needs. Our society tends to focus too much on the cognitive and physical, without attending to or even monitoring emotional and social developmental needs. Bringing a spirit of play to connecting with kids, listening to kids and learning from kids, will help them feel safe, know that they matter, and that even if sometimes things are difficult, in the long run, everything is going to be okay.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Intimacy and Love

Stan Dale, the founder of the Human Awareness Institute, taught me a wonderful definition of what "intimacy" is: "in-to-me-I-see." Our ability to look deeply into ourselves, know ourselves and love ourselves provides a foundation for others to look deeply into us, know us and love us deeply. To be loved for who we are, we need to feel safe and secure enough in who we are to let others see us for who we are. To be able to be intimate, however, requires a kind of steady loving presence, be it with self or other. True intimacy cannot grow in a climate of judgment. Joel and Michelle Levy send out wonderful quotes of the day, and here is one that provides a wonderful illustration of what love really means: "Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused." --African Saying If we have created the intimacy of loving relationship, and we are deeply seen by someone who loves us, they can remind us of our goodness, our beauty and our wholeness at those moments when we may lose touch with these fundamental truths. Intimacy offers not only a mirror of depth and soulfulness, but also a reminder of our inherent goodness, and the true worth and value of who we are deep down inside. I have often felt intimacy is a food group for the soul. Without it, our souls starve. And with intimacy in gentle abundance, we are nourished and appreciated for who we really are.

Highly Sensitive Men

In her 1997 book, The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Elaine Aron described the experience of "high sensitivity" as neither a weakness nor a choice, but a matter of wiring and physiology. According to her research, about 15 - 20% of the population qualifies as "highly sensitive." And interestingly enough, equal numbers of men and women have been found to be highly sensitive. While sensitivity overall may be judged as more of a curse than a blessing in many circles, especially the business world, because of gender stereotypes, it is more likely more acceptable to viewed as a highly sensitive as a woman than as a man. If a man is highly sensitive, what does he do in a world full of stereotypes of male tough guys, emotionless corporate leaders and bullies who pick on anyone who shows an inkling of vulnerability? Poet Rick Belden wrote about his experience as a "highly sensitive man," noting that "being a sensitive man remains misunderstood." He describes an experience of trying to get closer with a woman he liked, someone he had worked together with for several years. He had written a book of published poetry and shared it with her. When he asked her what he thought, the response was not what he had hoped for. "I think you are abnormally sensitive for a man," she told him. How sad. And at some level, how tragic. Here, a man took the risk of showing his vulnerable side, and instead of being appreciated, he was judged in a negative way. Belden notes that as a boy, he was humiliated countless times for his sensitivity by both adults and other children. In a culture that attributes tenderness, compassion and sensitivity as primarily feminine qualities, Belden asked "how can I be as sensitive as I am and still be a man?" Belden notes a blogpost by Peter Messerschmidt: "Society has an alarming ability to 'steal the souls' of Highly Sensitive Men, leaving them feeling sad and confused." Our culture lacks heart in so many ways, and more fundamentally lacks emotionally safety. We have to be careful where we let down our guard or disclose our vulnerabilities. Belden also cites Ted Zeff, author of The Strong, Sensitive Boy: "By disowning their sensitive side, many males become half a person." While it hurts to show vulnerability and be judged or attacked, it may hurt even more not to be able to be who you are. One could argue that there is STRENGTH in sensitivity, not weakness, and the sensitive person--male or female--has a special and valuable power to express himself/herself and relate to other people at a much deeper level than the "non-sensitive" person. In fact, the power of sensitivity can add richness and meaning to the experience of life. It takes courage to be vulnerable. It takes courage to exercise sensitivity. Yet vulnerability and sensitivity can be stronger forces than intellect or brute strength. Sensitivity can pierce the veil of isolation that entraps so many people, perhaps more men than women, walking the earth. Self-acceptance may be the most powerful tool for the highly sensitive man. If you accept yourself for who you are and how you are, then your sensitivity becomes a kind of compassionate sword or even sword of precision discernment, rather than an open wound. If we bring more of the power of the heart to our culture, perhaps highly sensitive men will be held in higher regard than their less sensitive, more analytical counterparts. We need to redefine what power and strength really mean. And when we bring the power of the heart forward, we respect and admire the highly sensitive man, and the gifts he can bring to those he loves and the world at large.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Male Speak For Females

When women speak, do men really hear them? After years of studying communication patterns between men and women, Allison Armstrong, creator of the "Celebrating Men, Satisfying Women," workshops discovered that women may not realize men hear best when spoken to in a more natural "male language." Given the history of male and female roles in the evolution of our species, where men were hunters as women tended the home and hearth, men are biologically wired to solve problems, and focus on immediate tasks at hand to protect and care for their loved ones. If a woman uses language that resonates with his desire to protect, solve and care, her words will be most effectively heard. Allison looked at what made men and women feel safest. For men, producing creates safety. When his ability to produce is thwarted, a man will feel a sense of tension or anxiety. If a man is trusted and respected, he feels supported in his efforts to produce results. Women, on the other hand, need connection to feel safe. When a women can't connect, she may feel at risk, unsafe and all alone. Attention and interest help a woman feel connected, If a woman does not feel connected, she will experience tension and anxiety. Here is where understanding male language makes a world of difference. If a good man wants to help, protect or provide for a woman, but the way she is speaking to him does not give him a clear target or a likelihood of success, the woman may actually be thwarting the best intentions of the good man. Here is an example: A woman really wants her partner to go with her to see a movie. Her greatest desire is to have him sit beside her and be close to her, so she can feel connected. If she asks, "Hey, do you want to see 'XYZ' movie with me, the man may very well say no, unless he happens to be really interested in that movie." The woman will feel disappointed, because he won't be sharing time with her. If instead she asks her question in a way that gives her male partner a better target, "Hey, I love to spend time with you and feel connected to you. Going to see "XYZ" movie on Saturday would make me really happy," the answer is more likely to be yes. Realizing that good men WANT to make their loved ones happy helps a woman understand that it is not just what she wants but how she communicates what she wants that makes all the difference in her connection with the man she loves. Men respond well to language that gives them a clear target. Being told, "here is a problem I have to solve," gives a clear target. Being told, "I need help with the following situation," also gives a clear target. Because men want to make the women they love happy, being told what will make a woman happy also gives a man a clear target. Being able to success at solving a problem, helping or making a woman happy, gives a man the good feeling of producing, which helps him feel safe and successful. When the woman sees that the man she loves is indeed solving problems, helping and doing things that make her happy, she feels connected and loved. Perhaps much of the tension between men and women can be eased by understanding some of our primal drives and language that can help us bridge the gender gap. How men and women react to problems is different based on this wiring. Men tend to hone in on a very specific goal and keep a very strong focus until the goal is achieved. If a man decides the goal is not likely achievable, he will quickly drop it and move on to something else that is more likely to yield success. Women, who are biologically charged with the task of keeping babies alive, will come up with an endless list of possibilities how to solve a problem, care for a loved one and make a relationship work. If something that really matters does not seem achievable, women are less likely to drop it and more likely to find a creative way to succeed, against all odds.

When Forgiveness Is Not Good For the Forgiver

We often hear that forgiveness is a virtue, something to always aspire to. Forgiveness leaves people happier and healthier than those who ruminate and hold grudges. The theory goes, that if you can forgive, you can forget. This may be true in many cases, but according to research by Jim McNulty at the Florida State University in Tallahassee, forgiveness can also have its costs. If the person you are forgiving repeats their troubling behavior or takes your forgiveness as a license to behave badly again, there is danger that the forgiver can turn into a "doormat," rather than a hero. Professor McNulty, according to a study cited in the Wall Street Journal, studied the diaries of 135 newlywed couples, and asked each partner to answer the same question each day for a week: "Did your spouse do something today that you didn't like and did you forgive him or her?" He discovered that for people who forgave their partner, they were 6.5 times more likely to report that their partner had done something negative again, in comparison with partners who did not offer forgiveness. In other words, forgiveness of bad behavior can let people off the hook for behaving badly. Dr McNulty notes, "The potential cost of forgiveness is that it doesn't hold the partner accountable for their behavior." Sadly, being a soft touch or having a good heart can turn you into a doormat. If you don't stand up and confront a bully, someone who has transgressed your boundaries or someone who has taken your goodness for granted, you might find yourself feeling like the sacrificial lamb. McNulty found that people who withheld forgiveness fared better than those who offered it when relating to people who repeatedly transgressed known boundaries. It is one thing to forgive a nice person, who made an innocent or unconscious mistake. If the transgressor feels badly about their behavior when called on their mistake and ultimately wants to work to preserve mutuality and equity in a relationship, then forgiveness can be an act of love. Forgiving a person who has demonstrated that they either don't know or don't care about the impact of their behavior on others, may not be the best choice for a healthy relationship. The moral of the story: don't offer forgiveness carte blanche. See if your transgressor is a caring, kind person who will feel remorse for having hurt you and take actions to correct their behavior or if your transgressor shrugs off your hurt as though you and it don't matter. Only forgive those people who truly deserve your forgiveness And as the serenity prayers says, let go of the rest.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Resilience, Self-Worth and Self-Expression: Ben Speaks Louder Than Words

To feel happy, healthy and connected, most human beings need to feel loved and seen for who they truly are. This is particularly true for children, who grow best and thrive when they are in environments that cultivate their authentic selves in a safe, respectful way. Something has broken down tremendously in today's world, where bullying is epidemic from the playground to the boardroom, cutting across age, class, and education level. While we use the phrase "dog eat dog world," I have never seen two dogs attack one another with the intensity and impact of two human beings. We truly live in a "human eat human world," and the consequences are grave for our children as well as ourselves. Judy Giovangelo is working to make a transformational change in the tectonic plates that govern the socio-emotional practices in our schools, in our homes and in our culture at large. She founded Ben Speakes Louder Than Words after losing her middle son, Ben, to suicide on April 16, 2009. Judy shared that when she was presenting at a high school with 850 students enrolled, she learned that 75% had a psychiatric diagnosis and/or were taking psychiatric medication. 50% of the students smoked pot. The numbers are staggering. In our increasingly competitive world, there is no space for human emotion. If emotions are "energy in motion," and we have no room for them to move, our emotions, have to either implode or explode. In this context is it any surprise that cutting, road rage and bullying are epidemic as our emotions explode? Is it any surprise that addictions to food, video games, shopping, internet porn and substances are also epidemic as we numb ourselves to keep from imploding? We are creating a culture of disempowered youth, whose minds and bodies are filled with negative thoughts, words, feelings and actions. We are taught to look outward and feel the void of a connection with our inner voice. Judy's message through her work is that we must transform the way we think, feel, speak and act. We must learn to find our inner voice, and find pathways for meaningful self-expression. We must be the change we seek in the world. And change begins within. Our thoughts and feelings have great power. When we bring positive thoughts and love to our thoughts and feelings, this powerful energy informs our words and actions. Judy does a wonderful demonstration, inviting someone to come to the front of the room, and think about a negative experience while holding out their stronger arm. She invites the person to resist as she pushes down on their arm. Having been her test subject for this experiment, I experienced first hand how little power I have to resist her push when thinking about a negative experience. Judy then invites her subject to think about a positive experience, and pushes down on the weaker arm. When Judy tried this with me, my weaker arm was unmoveable. There is a short demonstration was a visceral illustration of the power of position thoughts. Judy's work invites us to empower ourselves. We must embrace our pain. It is part of being human. And we must meet our dreams with strong positive emotions. Joy creates resilience. We need to learn to take space to dream and set higher goals and take action one step at a time. We need to learn to walk through the world with gratitude, since gratitude only creates more circumstances that evoke gratitude. Judy invites us to live in our hearts, the place our power truly lives. She advocates mind-body practices, like yoga, which help us find this space within. She also underscores the importance of the arts in all forms, so that kids learn to express themselves rather than repress themselves. Whether you talk it out, write it out, sing it out, draw it out, pain it out, dance it out or rap it out, self-expression grows self-worth and self-esteem. At the end of September, Judy produced the 3rd "Concert To Remember" as a fundraiser for Ben Speaks Louder Than Words, but as a living example of the power of self-expression. For more information on this transformational work, e-mail or check out Judy's website

Meeting Our Basic Human Needs Creating A Village to Support Our Children and Ourselves

While Maslow talked about a hierarchy of needs, in our culture we tend to focus on the bottom of the pyramid, our needs for food, shelter and clothing. We often don't think deeply enough about our emotional and spiritual needs. "Self-actualization," which was at the top of Maslow's pyramid, always seemed to be an intangible, hard to grasp concept, unlike the physical and tangible items at the bottom of the pyramid. Clearly, we need food, shelter and clothing to survive, and if our basic survival needs are not met, life is very hard. However, in order to truly live and even thrive, once our food, clothing and shelter needs our met, we have other basic human needs. In 1990, my colleague Brian Schulz and I developed a list of 6 Basic Human Needs. Each one of them is fairly simple, yet most of us live our lives without our "recommended daily allowance" of most of them: 1. The need for abundant, nurturing, non-sexual touch and holding. 2. The need for full expression of emotions and a listener who responds to this expression with warmth, understanding and respect. 3. The need for play and pleasure. 4. The need for satisfying creative work. 5. The need for a satisfying and uninhibited sexual life with a loved and loving partner. 6. The need for immersion in and contact with the natural environment. In a culture that is increasingly virtual, crazy busy, disembodied and moving so fast that many of us lose our grounding, what is basic for the heart and spirit become luxuries or even points of numbness. When we rely on texting and Facebook for our communication, and don't take the time to stop, breathe and go within, we become increasingly disconnected from ourselves, the natural rhythm of life and the world around us. We forget that "the way it is" is not the way it has to be. What kind of template are we passing on to our children? Are we even aware that our own disconnection creates a new kind of poverty in a world of endless material possessions and electronic devices? The emotional and spiritual poverty level is rising, including isolation as a way of life for children and adults alike. Many young people have not been mentored in the art of conversation or even self-expression beyond the texting short cuts. Is it a surprise that when Ben Speaks founder Judy Giovangelo surveyed a high school population of 850 students, 75% had medical diagnoses and/or were taking psychiatric medications? If we do not learn to live in our bodies, express our human feelings, honor our feelings and body sensations as wisdom and personal guidance, and recognize it feels better to have trusted others walking beside us in this journey called life, we only dehumanize ourselves and our children. Children need some basic experiences to provide a foundation to be able to identify and meet their basic human needs as an adult: 1. Abundant, loving, nurturing, non-sexual touch and holding 2. Comfort with our bodies, their movements and sensations. 3. Being listened to with care and respect, with particular attention to our emotional experiences and needs. 4. Mentors, parents and other adult figures who will encourage and cultivate the process of finding our own voice. 5. Time for play, pleasure and fun. 6. Appropriate structure, support and freedom (the magic balance changes with age), as we learn to study, take in knowledge, write and do school work and projects on our own. 7. Immersion and contact with the natural world. 8. Models and rituals of spiritual connection, to teach us to go within as well as look outside to the larger world. To create this template, we need to work together. We cannot do it alone. And working together means face to face gatherings, where we as human beings share time, space and unfolding moments of life. Our cybervillage has certain advantages, but it too easily removes us from the fabric of face to face life. Slowing down, making time for self-care and time with others might seem like a radical concept in today's world. Yet, it is critical for our survival, and even more critical for providing a lost model for today's and tomorrow's children. Let's rebuild the face to face village and not get lost in cyberspace. My hope is that some of us still remember viscerally the joy and value of face to face human contact, and that we have not become sufficiently numbed out, drugged out, self-medicated out, and worked out, that those kinds of sensations, feelings and experiences are just a distant memory. Time to lose our minds and come to our senses! Copyright 2012 Linda Marks

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Heroes and Bystanders

If someone you knew were in danger, what would you do? Would you call for help? Would you risk your life? Would you be so overwhelmed that you would just sit there like a deer in front of the headlights? A 2009 study led by Sara Staats, a professor emeritus at Ohio State University in Newark found that empathy, care and concern for others run high amongst people with "heroic tendencies." What kind of traits might you find in someone who is more likely to help another person in a car crash, a personal crisis or another kind of emergency? * a tendency to frame events positively and expect good outcomes * a strong sense of ethics * above average coping skills * a belief in their ability to tackle challenges and beat the odds * a spiritual belief system that includes a value for giving back * a sense of courage or bravery * a sense of caring and empathy for others As we look at the traits that help distinguish a hero from a bystander, we come up with the definition of one's "character." Here is a simple test that appeared in the August 22 Wall Street Journal, if you would like to measure your heroic potential" "Answer each question on a six-point scale, with 1 being 'strongly disagree' and 6 being 'strongly agree.' * I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me * Fears do not keep me from pursuing my goals * I try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective * Despite numerous setbacks, I usually succeed at getting what I want * Fear does not stop me from doing the right thing * I want to be competent and I believe I can be * Being truthful is extremely important to me" The higher the score, the greater your heroic potential! Copyright 2012 Linda Marks

Women, Men, Space and Power: Not Giving Up Me to Be Loved By You

When my colleague Margaret Paul wrote the book, Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved By You, with her now ex-husband, Jordan Paul, that title always struck a chord in me. As a woman, I was raised to "please my man," which meant being nurturing and submissive and putting his needs ahead of mine in the name of love. For many, many years, I tried hard to be a "good woman," a "good wife," and a "good partner," yet instead of being valued and appreciated for my goodness, I would find myself being taken for granted. One of my friends even gave me a book on "how to be a bitch," thinking it would help me get better results with the men in my life! Social expectations of making a loved one happy at one's own expense go both ways. Men seek to show their love by pleasing the woman they love, and in doing so, often give up some of their core masculine power, ending up feeling unappreciated and taken for granted in the same way I did as a "good, loving woman." Over time, what has become clearer and clearer is that the juice in relationships is most juicy when we stay true to ourselves and our core sense of power. Rather than just trying to please the other person, it is critical that we stay anchored in ourselves. A good man who wants to make a woman happy, might go over his own edge and cave in on who he is and what he needs, an important lesson for woman and men both from the work of Allison Armstrong. Like Allison, I have found now that I am safest when a man stands up to me and holds his ground. I do not want a man I love to cave in. If that happens, I feel like he has emasculated himself and I am left feeling effeminated (the female equivalent of emasculation, which I wrote about in last month's newsletter). Allison notes, "Sometimes we're our own worst enemies, and we most need our partners to protect us from ourselves." Allison also believes that "a confident, authentic woman, a woman who is true to herself, is the most attractive and inspiring to men....A woman's integrity can save a man in his most desperate moments." Sadly, as a woman becomes more attracted to a man, or as she surrenders into her feminine, and becomes more vulnerable and dependent, she is likely going to feel pulled to adapt to do what she thinks will please him the most. Allison reflects that women are peacekeepers and conflict avoiders, and will do whatever it takes to keep the peace, "even when it's contrary to her values and what she needs to maintain her sense of self." It is critical when we engage in love relationships that we preserve our own internal sense of space--the space to stay true to ourselves, our values and our passions, and not lose this space by "caving" in an effort to please the other person. We all need a certain amount of time and space to breathe, to be and to maintain of sense of self. "When we collapse our space, the person who is most loved and needed by our partners disappears." While it might feel like a relief to avoid an argument or conflict, short-term, in the end, the collapse of our own space and/or our partner's space leaves us "truly alone," as we and/or they disappear. To create truly empowered relationships, we need to make agreements with ourselves and our loved ones to hold our space. Conflict or disagreement can be a ground for learning and better understanding. And there can be juice is standing our power, with respect, even when we are not on the same page. Relationships best grow and thrive when we don't feel we need to give up "me" to be loved by "you." Coyright 2012 Linda Marks

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Grace Grows Power

I have always liked the image of the leader who exercises his or her power by helping other people learn to lead themselves. Some of the greatest teachers I have had have also been the most humble. Thomas Berry, a great theologian, who I was fortunate enough to dialogue with when I was writing my first book, Living With Vision: Reclaiming the Power of the Heart impressed me with his grace and humility, which only fortified his wisdom and his impact on me. When a leader puts a graceful foot forward, his/her message is most easy to receive and digest. Sadly, we have too many examples of heavy handed leadership, and the kind of power that is traded in a zero sum game. In this model of power, if I have more power, you have less. If you take up the lead, I am threatened, because I move down the ladder on the food chain. Heavy handed leadership disempowers in the long run, and sometimes in the short run. When power is infused with grace, if I have more power, I can use it to put wind underneath your wings and help you fly. If you fly, I can celebrate your movement and direction. And whether I take joy in having been part of your movement or simply take myself out of the equation and celebrate YOU, there is more joy, energy, possibility and power with the graceful hand. Power with grace is also power with heart. The heart has enough space to see and embrace people for who they are, what they have to offer, with a soul deep lens rather than a critical judge. Hearts do not operate from the zero sum game model. Instead, power with heart only grows more power. Like a plant shooting of a tendril, which can be planted in a new garden spot to create more life. Heart power nourishes and fertilizes. Heart power enlivens and promotes growth. And heart power, when grounded knows no bounds in the best kind of way, while also respecting our own internal boundaries and the boundaries of others. The natural world offers many examples of power with grace. If you sit under a large tree in the summer, you can feel the solidity of its trunk and the expanse of its branches, and also bask in the protection it offers you from the summer sun. The tree is quiet and needs no compensation for being there with and for you. It just is there. The tree offers power through being. Rocks also provide power with grace. Whether you sit on one by the ocean or lean your back against one in the woods, the rock, like the tree, is just there, and offers power through being. If we can learn to recognize that power can the expression of life force and passion arising from within, naturally, when we are connected and move from our hearts and souls, we can be purveyors of graceful power--a power that empowers, instead of takes away. May we learn from the great wise ones, whose humility is as notable as their words and actions. May we strive to cultivate and nurture graceful power from the inside out. The world will be transformed to a much safer, more joyful and sustainable place. Copyright 2013 Linda Marks

Efemination: A Female Parallel to Emasculation

When I started interviewing men for my book Healing the War Between the Genders: The Power of the Soul-Centered Relationship, one theme I heard frequently from the men I interviewed was how women, on the one hand, complained that men never talked or shared their feelings, yet on the other hand, if they did take the risk of talking, interrupted them, judged them, and got angry at them rather than just listening and honoring them for speaking. The issue of men feeling emasculated by the women in their lives surfaced as an important theme. Men need to be trusted and feel honored by the women in their lives. Men want to make women happy and they need clear targets to succeed in doing so. If rather than giving a man a clear sense of what will make her happy and then appreciating him when he does exactly what she asked, a woman just complains and focuses on all the things the man isn't doing right, the woman undermines the man's innate sense of power and masculinity. Recently, I have begun to realize that just as women can emasculate men--meaning, undermine the man's innate sense of power and masculinity, men can undermine a woman's innate sense of power and femininity as well. However, I have never encountered a word for this. So, I am choosing to coin one: "efemination." Just as a man needs to feel trusted and honored and appreciated for the ways he tries to make a woman happy, a woman needs to feel that a man is really there for and with her, making sure she is safe, and taken care of enough to surrender into her receptive feminine essence. David Deida writes about the masculine-feminine polarity--and to the degree a man embodies and acts from a rootedness in his sense of masculine energy, a woman can surrender into the softness and vulnerability of her feminine energy. If a man asks a woman to always take care of him, clean up his messes, and lead with her masculine side, there is no room for her to surrender into her feminine energy. This kind of behavior "effeminates" a woman. I can think of several experiences I have had repeatedly in my life where I have felt "efeminated" by the men around me: The simplest one is when a man says he will do something: call me, make a restaurant reservation or do a project, and then he "drops the ball," and does not keep his word, I am put in the position of being "the bitch" who has to hold him accountable, since he is not holding himself accountable. Having to remind a man that he did not keep his word or do what he said he would do is NOT fun to have to do. And the response, no matter how gently and graciously the message is given, is rarely positive. Men don't like to disappoint women. They don't want women "angry" at them. Yet, if a man does not keep his word and a woman follows up to ask what happened, it sets the woman up to be "disappointed" or perceived as "angry." Another example has happened on several occasions. Me and several other men need to drive a long distance to a meeting or conference. Somehow, my car is the one that is selected for the journey. And each of the three men driving with me comes up with a reason they cannot drive the long distance to the event. I remember vividly when I was driving 3 1/2 hours to a conference in NY more than 20 years ago, and had offered a ride to one male colleague. A second male colleague then asked to join us. And the organizer of the conference asked if I might also include a third male colleague, one who knew my other two colleagues, but who I did not know. I do not particularly enjoy driving on highways long distances. And at times in my life, I have even been "highway phobic"--getting panic attacks when driving on the highway too long, or with too many large trucks or speed demons on the road. I voiced my feelings about driving on highways long distances to my three males colleagues, and asked for some assistance. The responses were: "My back hurts. I can't drive," from the first colleague. "I'm sick. I don't feel well," from the second colleague. And I did not even know the third colleague. He was a total stranger. So, the whole situation felt very awkward indeed. We set out on the road with me driving the three male colleagues, feeling very badly about the situation. Why did their needs to be taken care of trump my vulnerability? What would have happened to these three men if I was not there to drive the car? Would they have not made it to the conference? Or would they have had to rise to the occasion and come up with another solution? I found myself feeling "efeminated." I was being asked to "take care of" these men. And they had little regard for my vulnerability or need, in spite of the fact that I stated that it really wasn't okay for me to be driving for 3 1/2 hours. In situations like these, when men just take for granted that a woman, in this case, me, will pick up the ball and take care of things, to push back is very uncomfortable and often does not end well. I have learned to set my boundaries. I can very gently say, "this is how I feel" or "this is what I need" or "it would be very helpful to me if you could ......" But if my listener misses the message, and just wants to hook up to what my friend Brenda many years ago called "the cosmic tit," my voice is not heard and my attempts to be considered are in vain. If I am fortunate enough to have a listener who believes relationships are a two way street, and mutuality and balance are key--including between men and women, the result is a much more comfortable solution. If in the driving situation, a man says, "I understand. Neither of us really like to do this. How about I drive one way and you drive the other?" I feel more space to surrender into my feminine core. If the men say, "You should not have to take on the burden of driving us. It is our job to help you too," there is even more space to surrender into my feminine essence. When women talk about men as "big babies," perhaps what they are saying at a deeper level is that they feel "efeminated" by the men in their lives. They do not feel the men are bringing masculine energy to them, and they feel forced to move into the masculine for things to get done. Being able to shift our consciousness as men and women and realize that no one wins if we emasculate men or effeminate women. And everyone wins when we are able to support both men and women in coming from their true essence and power. Copyright 2013 Linda Marks

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Moving Beyond Relationship Duress

A colleague of mine recommended a powerful new book that shed great light on why we are struggling so greatly in relationships today. The book, Sex 3.0 by JJ Roberts, traces the evolution of human relationships from our pre-industrial days when nature guided human behavior, to our modern world, where a long list of societal rules and expectations demand what is "normal"and "acceptable" in relationship behavior. Roberts points out that what is "natural" and what is "normal" are not necessarily the same thing. Those things defined by nature are "natural." Those things that are defined by society are "normal" and often they are NOT "natural." In some cases, they are truly not healthy. When we are "forced" into following social norms, so that we are perceived as "normal" and "acceptable," we find ourselves experiencing "relationship duress." Relationship duress is when people in a relationship feel unspoken or spoken pressure to build a "fence" around a relationship because they are SUPPOSED to do so. For example, if a couple has been dating for a couple of years, they may feel internal and external pressure to get married. While marriage is a perfectly good thing, when two people define what marriage means to them personally and make a decision to get married because it has personal meaning to them, that is a completely different situation than the many couples I have worked with who got married because they and/or their families thought they "should." The phrase "make me an honest woman" or "make me an honest man" in reference to getting married versus continuing to have a loving, sexual relationship but not be married, illustrates the societal pressures to sculpt a relationship into a form to be "normal" and "acceptable," rather than because it has inherent meaning to the two people in the relationship. Marriage is just one example of a societally expected "fence" that we "should" put around a relationship. Some people feel "obligated" to have children, whether or not they truly wish or have the skills to parent young human beings from birth to adulthood. Getting a corporate job may be the result of societal pressure, rather than a personal journey to define right livelihood. We "fence" ourselves in many ways without deep thought, and often, without the consciousness that there is another way to take life's journey. All forms of relationship evolved at a time in our history where they made sense. Once upon a time what we call "traditional gender roles," were necessary for our survival. Men needed to hunt and farm. Women needed to tend to the home and hearth and raise the children. As our world evolved to the 1950's model of relationship, the man was the "breadwinner" and the woman was the "homemaker." This distribution of labor helped a family unit have its practical and domestic needs met. In 2012, the models that evolved out of previous eras may need to be updated so that we do not feel trapped under the weight of relationship duress. Men and women both work. Men and women both earn money. Men and women both have parenting gifts to provide to their children. Couples need not be just men and women, but men and men and women and women. And for some people, gender does not fit neatly in a "male" or "female" box. Trying to fit ourselves into societally defined boxes creates relationship duress, including with our relationship with self! Roberts feels that a healthy basis of relationship is "mutual reward," regardless of its force. If two people feel a connection and can contribute to one another's lives in mutually rewarding ways, then there is a healthy basis for the relationship. Roberts notes, "In life, the most valid choices are the ones you truly choose." So, if we remove the pressure to box or fence or overly define our emotional and spiritual connections with loved ones, and instead focus on what resonates, what makes us happy, what brings us joy and what feeds our souls, we are likely to invest in relationships because they are healthy, rather than because we feel societal pressure to do so. I believe people will naturally take responsibility for their connections, make commitments that assure safety and respect for themselves and those that they love if they are given the space to build relationship on a foundation of love, connection and authenticity. If you enjoy someone's company, why would you not want to spend more time with them? If you and a loved one develop skills to work through differences and ride the rapids of life, why would you leave someone who you have been building a history with? Giving ourselves and our relationships the space to be build on love, connection and true choice, following their own trajectory with their own unique timing, can move us beyond relational duress and into a space of helping one another be the best and happiest people we can be. Copyright 2012 Linda Marks

Friday, June 29, 2012

Electronic Cocaine: The Seductive Pull of Computers

The other day I was thinking of taking a glance at my e-mail while driving, though I know the practice of checking incoming messages on a handheld device is now illegal. I looked ahead and saw a policeman down the road. "Okay. Bad idea," I said to myself. As I approached him, however, I saw that he was not even looking in my direction, attention firmly glued to his own handheld device. He was typing and reading with all his attention. I could have been typing while driving and he would not have even noticed that I drove by, never mind was doing something I shouldn't do. Wow! Our addiction to our computerized devices can render us oblivious to the world around us, to the here and now. Dr. Peter Whytbrow, director of UCLA's Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, believes that the chronic state of distraction that is epidemic today, as people text, glance at wall-mounted TV screens and constantly check e-mails, even as they sit in close proximity with other people, illustrates "how modern American culture has outrun the biology of our brains." With the growth of the Internet, the ever-increasing capability of the handheld device, and a world that seems to know no bounds, Whytbrow observed "a dangerously rising tide of growing psychosocial stress and shrinking physiological balance." "Many of the usual constraints that prevented people from doing things 24 hours a day--like distance and darkness--were falling away," says Whytbrow. Our way of life was becoming manic, marked by "excitement over acquiring new things, high productivity, fast speech--followed by sleep loss, irritability and depression." The physiological consequences of our manic way of life are significant, including "epidemic rates of obesity, anxiety and depression." People have drunk the Kool-Aid and now thoughtlessly walk "down this path of continuous stimulation." We cannot seem to control ourselves. Whytbrow asked WHY? His conclusion? "The computer is electronic cocaine for many people," he reflects. "Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. You essentially become addicted to novelty." We become entrapped in the wiring of our reptilian brains, where responding to any psychosocial challenge "triggers some measure of the fight or flight response." We are not running away from sabertooth tigers. We are fighting off work overload, feeble attempts at "work-life balance," and rush hour traffic. Stress is not short-term and done, but long-term and chronic. We learn to become "aggressive, hyper vigilant and overreactive," according to Whytbrow. Our cortisol levels go up, contributing to anxiety and obesity. Is it a surprise that anxiety is now, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, "the nation's most common psychiatric complaint?" How do we learn to switch it off? Becoming aware that we are in a electronic haze or trance, and that we are becoming high performing lemmings, ready to throw ourselves off the psychic and emotional cliffs of life without the blink of an eye, is the first step. Learning how to stop, slow down, take a time out and meditate, relax, take a walk, close our eyes and take a deep breath are CRITICAL skills for both our mental and physical health. If we do not know how relaxation feels like, it is too easy to carry on in the addictive fog of overactivity. We need to learn to get grounded from the inside out, and to let our lives belong to us, rather than giving our power away to be doing other people's priorities. Awareness is the first step. What we focus on expands. So, time to focus on taking space and slowing down! Copyright 2012 Linda Marks Quotes come from "Manic Nation: Why Americans Are Anxious, Stressed, Depressed and Fat (And What We Can Do About It" by Mary Fischer, published in the Pacific Standard.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Don't Cry Out Loud: Living Unhappily Ever After

This past month I had the opportunity to see songstress Melissa Manchester perform at Scullers Jazz Club. Her songs are really powerful and her delivery soul-rendering. One of the songs she is best known for may be described as the American emotional national-anthem, written by Carole Bayer Sager, "Don't cry out loud." From an early age, when our sensitive hearts are hurt, scared or disappointed, the adults around us get uncomfortable, and tell us to stop it, to keep our feelings in check. In essence, we are taught exactly what "baby" in the song is taught: "don't cry out loud...just keep it to learn how to hide your feelings..." This may "look good" on the outside and allow us to appear to "fly high and proud," but inside, it sets us up for a life of silent suffering, isolation and the epidemic of anxiety and depression that permeates our culture. On the other hand, we are enamored with "positive psychology," to reinforce that everything is better if we only look at the bright side. A wonderfully insightful article in the Wall St Journal, entitled, "How to Live Unhappily Ever After," challenges our obsession with the positive. Writer Augusten Burroughs comments, "'I just want to be happy.' I can't think of another phrase capable of causing more misery and permanent unhappiness. With the possible exception of, 'Honey, I'm in love with your youngest sister.'" While, in theory, being happy is healthy, being able to define happiness and then build your life on a "happiness blueprint," is well and good, this is not always as easy as it sounds. Burroughs notes that while she experiences moments of joy, joy, like most emotions are fleeting. We can "enjoy" a joyful moment, but then things change. And well they should. If you see a flatline on your heart monitor, what does it mean? Feeling any one feeling all the time, even a good one, is a kind of emotional flatlining. Burroughs writes, "In our super positive society, we have an unspoken zero-tolerance policy for negativity. And she aptly comments that "Beneath the catchall umbrella of negativity is basically everything that isn't super positive." Who truly feels "great" all the time? Is it not more important to be AUTHENTIC--and be in touch with how you actually feel than to report a politically correct feeling state? If you feel how you truly feel, Burroughs suggests you have a "baseline." Being able to feel ANY emotion without censorship and judgment can lessen the intensity of what we label as "negative emotions." By feeling what you truly feel, you relax and release whatever emotional energy you are experiencing, rather than tightening up and in doing so, holding on to it. Some things that happen to us in life are truly painful. Losing a loved one hurts. And that kind of loss creates a hole that may NEVER be filled back up. While time may help us integrate a loss, and find a way to go forth in life without our loved one by our side, we may also always feel their missing presence. Burroughs notes that you don't have to "heal" to be "whole." And to be whole in our humanness means feeling pain, loss, anger, fear and other emotions we (unfairly) judge as "negative." By distancing from our true feelings, we only diminish ourselves. And by embracing the most unbearably painful moments in life, we become more human and whole. In Burroughs' words, we become "larger" than we were before. So, here's to celebrating the negative as just the mirror image of the positive. And if we can embrace and experience ALL of our humane feelings, we can at least find more peace of mind and heart. Copyright 2012 Linda Marks

Friday, April 27, 2012

Transforming Health Through Wellness

While traditional health care seems to focus more on treating illness than promoting health, the tides may be turning based on some current work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An April 16 article in the Wall Street Journal, noted that the CDC is using measures of "well-being," which includes mental and physical health, "to develop a more holistic approach to disease prevention and health promotion." "Well-being" as a metric allows us to move beyond biochemical frameworks to include the human factor: having supportive relationships is one of the strongest predictors of well-being. Rosemarie Kobau, a public-health advisor on quality-of-life programs, commented, "Well-being moves us closer to looking at health in a positive sense--as more than the absence of illness." In contrast to our scientific, "facts only" medical point of view, it makes good sense that even a person who is suffering from a particular ailment will be healthier when they focus on personal goals, like being able to be most productive at work and to spend quality time with loved ones, rather than on "comparatively abstract targets like blood sugar levels." People who experience a sense of well-being have fewer hospitalizations, fewer emergency room visits, miss fewer days of work and use less medication, according to studies. It is not surprising that when people experience a greater sense of well-being they are more productive at work and more active in their communities. What figures into well-being? Contentment and happiness. Satisfaction with life. Fulfillment and engagement in activities. Feeling connected to other people and a larger community. All of these things correlate with an absence of "negative emotions" such as depression and anxiety. What is interesting about well-being is that it only correlates modestly with income. The strongest correlation between income and well-being is for people at lower income levels. In the studies, younger and older adults experienced greater well-being than middle-aged adults. Societies that are more economically developed, which lack corruption in government, and offer high levels of trust while providing for citizen's bsic needs for food and health offer greater well-being. Not surprisingly, people who scored high in well-being spent 60% less on health care in a 12 month period of time than people who scored low on well-being. So, take time to slow down, listen to your heart, find and follow what fascinates you and make time to connect with loved ones. These kinds of "simple," yet essential gestures will increase your well-being, and with it, your health. Copyright 2012 Linda Marks

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When Greed Overpowers Other Human Values

While Gordon Gecko fostered the notion "greed is good," when you get too much of a "good" thing, "good" can become "bad" and even destructive. Former Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith wrote a powerful editorial in the New York Times this month,which argues that our financial institutions, and Goldman Sachs, as an example, having fostered the growth of a "greed at all costs" culture, that ultimately eats everyone in its path. The greed monster, as Smith experienced it, eats not only its children, but also its customers, its opponents, and ultimately our humanity.

Smith puts forward that the accomplishments he is proudest of "have all come through hard work with no shortcuts." Yet, Goldman Sachs, and the world it is part of, is all about shortcuts, without focus on achievement, or even doing right by one's client.

Smith notes, "The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example, and doing the right thing." But today, making boat loads of money has replaced those higher values, and "if you make enough money (and are not currently an ax murderer), you will be promoted to a position of influence."

To be focused on getting your clients to buy, sell or trade whatever will bring the greatest profit to Goldman Sachs is not in the client's higher interests and often are not in the client's interests at all. The client's success and satisfaction is not part of the Goldman Sachs "success equation."

Smith reflects, "It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don't trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn't matter how smart you are."

So, we have created a culture of master manipulators and salesmen, doggedly pursuing their narcissistic goals at the expense of the very people they once were in business to serve. And in the culture of no conscience, the fact that the practices that are being rewarded will ultimately sink the Titanic are not even reflected upon. "More, more, more. Me, me, me. Now!" is the corporate cheer.

In my eyes, this is the definition of hell on earth: people so absorbed with their own selfish interest that they destroy others without blinking, looking back, or in the worst case, even thinking about it. The financial services industry is riddled with a moral cancer that sadly is spreading to all of the commericial sector with metastases in government, health care, education and most all public institutions.

Our atom bomb is coming from within. And if we want life to continue without the proverbial mushroom cloud, we need to take action with our mind, hearts, voices and feet. Standing for interdependency. Making people aware that we don't live in a vacuum and there are consequences for our actions. Acknowledging if our actions harm others, this is not a good course of action. All of these steps are needed to transform our world to a more humane one for most if not all.

By taking a stand and speaking up in a public forum, Greg Smith has taken a very important step in confronting the monster. May more of us have courage to do the same. And may we band together to overthrow the dragon and restore respectability to the practice of business and commerce, where customer satisfaction and customer needs are restored to their proper place at the top of the food chain.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When Art Goes Virtual, Does It Also Go Extinct?

My basement in annointed with the plastic tubs filled with photos I took during the first years of my now 16-year old son's life. My piano bench is home to the notesbooks of lyrics and staffs of tunes to the songs I wrote when I was 16 to 21. My bookshelves include physical copies of not only the books and magazine articles I have written over 27 years, but also a plethora of meaningful tomes about healing, psychology, relationships, nature and all subjects dear to my heart.

Tapes and CD's adorn my bedroom, offering the opportunity at a moment's notice, to journey through time with songs. There is something comforting about being able to reach out and touch not only parts of my life history, but also the wealth of sensual nourishment that music, photos, books and other forms of artistic expression provide.

In our increasingly virtual world, anything physical can be relegated to judgment as "clutter." For me, these physical artistic relics are treasures, and my room, the treasure chest.

As our world becomes more virtual, these treasures, all products of creative expression, become increasingly optional, and in some cases, on the verge of extinction. Why "clutter" your home with "things" if you can get it on-line or on your iPod? I feel sad that what might be sacred to me might be considered archaic archives, but without recognized historical value. What I find even more disturbing is that if my iPod fails me, if my computer crashes, and if everything backed up gets lost in the cloud, there will be no physical traces of my sacred items.

When my son has children, and technology has evolved to a state we cannot even imagine today, how can I show them the photos that document their pre-birth family history, if I have not taken measures to preserve them through physical photo albums? Will the on-line photo albums of the year 2012 become as archaic as the record player but without the physical status to allow an archeological dig?

When art existed only in the physical world, we took more care to preserve it, archive it and treasure it. Now, people create images or click their smartphone camera and delete them as fast as they created them. They are just entertainment tidbits for the moment. We are so in the "now" that we forget there is a context of past and future too.

Even more fundamentally, the industries that served musicians, photographers, writers and other artists have gone the way of the dinosaur. I recorded a tape of original music in 1983 in a recording studio on reel to reel equipment. Today, people record music at home on their computer. Sadly, the value-added of the sound engineer (as well as the sound engineer's livelihood) gets lost in the shuffle.

While it might be exciting to skip the two-year production cycle it used to take from writing a book to having a physical copy in hand, I assure the e-book that was "written over the weekend" sans editor is not at the same quality level! We are so focused on instant gratification that we rarely take the time to create the quality product that will stand the test of time.

Perhaps it is because I am kinesthetic first and visual second that all the popular e-platforms don't grab me. Kindle, no thanks. I want to touch my book and mark it up with my pen! iPod, help! I like to see ALL the material on my CD in one glance, and have a simple enough selection that I can wrap my mind around it!

While some people say that our virtual technology for publishing photos, books, articles and art is revolutionizing the world the way the Guttenburg Press once revolutionized publishing, I worry that this evolutionary wave will leave more casualties in its wake. Like the difference between a nuclear cloud and a BB gun. Might we be losing more ground than we are gaining?

There is a spiritual aspect of physical art as well. Bringing a vision into physical form grounds it. It anchors it. It assures that it is real.
While a fire may burn away precious archives, somehow that feels like less of a risk than computer software evolving to burn away what was once "state of the art."

When I was in 8th grade, my class made a time capsule and buried it in the schoolyard with the possibility of digging it up decades later. Could the kids of today make a "virtual time capsule" and be assured it would even exist decades later?

I feel strongly that music, photographs, books, paintings and other art forms benefit from having a down-to-earth old-fashioned physical representation. Imagine what future archeologists will be missing if they try to unearth a world so enamored with virtual reality? Or will we evolve to cloud dwellers who exist on-line but not in human form? Ask Siri. She has an answer to everything!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learning Our Love Languages

Finding ways to love another person on their own terms means learning what makes them feel loved. While one person might feel loved when their partner tells them "I love you," another person may feel loved when their partner gently nurtures them with loving touch.

Author Gary Chapman helps us understand what we and our partners need in his very helpful book, The Five Love Languages. He reflects, we needed love before we 'fell in love,' and we will need it as long as we live." Love is a kind of soul food, but what we each need for proper nutrition may feel elusive to another person.

If we don't know how to fill one another's "emotional love tank," in time, the tank becomes empty, and we feel unsatisfied in our relationships. Chapman came to realize that people have different love languages, if we can learn what fills our partner's emotional tank, it will radically impact how s/he feels about the relationship and about us.

Chapman identifies five different love languages:

1. Words of affirmation: For the person whose love language is words of affirmation, "verbal compliments or words of appreciation are powerful communicators of love."

2. Quality time: Giving someone your undivided attention, be it taking a walk, going out to dinner or just sitting on the couch, can be a soul food in this "era of many distractions." This includes really listening to one another so that both partners feel heard and understood.

3. Receiving gifts: "Gifts come in all sizes, colors and shapes. Some are expensive, and others are free." If your partner's primary love language is receiving gifts, then each item you give is a gesture of expression of your love.

4. Acts of service: Doing things you know your partner would like you to do is what it means to give acts of service. A lovely home-cooked meal. Cleaning the house. Walking the dog. Managing the finances. All require thought, planning, effort and energy. "If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love."

5. Physical touch: For some people, physical touch, be it holding hands, kissing, embracing or making love, is their primary love language. "Without it they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled and they feel secure in the love of their" partner.

Once you learn what your primary love language is and what your partner's is, providing what your partner really needs is a conscious choice. What they need may not be what you need, but if you give them what they yearn for, their emotional love tank will be full. And two full people have a lot more love to share!

Hacking and Cybercrime: The Dark Side of Facebook

In mid-February, I woke up to a Cybernightmare. The only problem is it wasn't a dream. A hacker broke into the Facebook account I had built carefully and thoughtfully over a four year period, and with the flick of an eye (or perhaps the click of a mouse), disabled my account, unfriended my 1679 friends and obliterated me and all of the community service group pages, event pages and professional group pages I had created.

I felt more than cyber-robbed. I felt cyber-raped. With so much hype about social media as a necessity for business survival, discovering there is no recourse when someone destroys your cyberexistence is beyond devastating. I learned painfully that Facebook has no human beings offering technical support. I tried all of their possible on-line pathways to report and try to solve the problem fruitlessly. The assistance of the five most technically savvy people I know did not make a dent in the problem.

When cybercrimes are committed, there is no cyberpolice to call. Who do you call? Was the crime even committed locally? Did the person who hacked you even know you? Was it deliberate or just someone's idea of a fun prank? Lots of questions. No answers. And huge impact with no solution, except to start the hard work and month of effort to rebuild ones social network all over again.

Several people have said, "Facebook is free. You get what you pay for." I find this untrue and misleading. Facebook is using all of us to create a multi-billion dollar business empire. All of our profiles and detailed information is the currency that is traded to make the Facebook founders and investors their megabucks.
I do not wish to be use or exploited as a faceless piece of data. It is a kind of cyberslavery, capturing the personal and business lives of the masses.

The cybermonster has gotten out of control, and it is eating its children. The more removed from human systems our world becomes, the more freedom there is to wreak havoc with no accountability and no consequences. The cybercriminal is anonymous, invisible, unfindable to all but the most technically sophisticated--untraceable.

To add insult to injury, as I started to rebuild a new profile and try to refind my real world friends on Facebook, I was "punished" for trying to add too many people at once. "Do you really know this person?" asked Facebook, as I clicked on the profile of someone I had just spent time with. My clicking "Yes, I know them in real life" was not good enough for the computer algorithm. I was punished for "inviting people I don't actually know" and blocked from friending people for 2 days.

While all the bells and whistles of Facebook are fun and seductive, rarely do we have reason to think of the dark side of this addictive technology. When friends and business associates don't even send regular e-mails, but instead contact one another through Facebook, losing ones profile is the equivalent of being lost in a tidal wave. Radio silence and no way to let anyone know.

Perhaps it is time for a CyberFBI. Or a Citizens United For Social Media Rights and Accountability Movement. We need to occupy our lives and our social networks again, and not just give our power away to a very hungry business that does care about any of us personally. Until people band together and take action against the monolithic cyberpresence, hacking and cybercrime will proliferate unmanaged and uncontained.

To create such a fundamental infrastructure for people's businesses and lives without the conscience that a human technical support department represents is dangerous and frightening. Time to take out our flashlights and shine some light in this darkness!

Copyright 2012 Linda Marks

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mentoring Boys to Men

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"
-- Frederick Douglass

The teenage years are both challenging and developmentally critical for teens as well as the adults in their lives. It is a time when boys look within to ask "who am I?" and look outside to explore "what does it mean to be a man?" Teenage boys look for role models to help them figure out what "being a man" actually means.

"Boys need good men in their lives as role models," notes Boys to Men Mentoring Network founder, Craig McClain. "They need men who care about them, will accept them for who they are and where they are. Rather than telling them to do things differently, they need men who will listen to them and just be there for them, and accept their journey--the faults, the grace and the glory."

Boys to men is an international non-profit educational organization with a local chapter here in New England, that provides boys/young men a safe place to talk about who they really are and to gain some tools to further them on their path towards becoming a mature man. Sadly, in our crazybusy culture, having the time to just be with other people becomes an increasingly rare experience. According to statistics gathered by the Boys to Men Mentoring Network, a teenage boy spends an average of 30 minutes of focused time each week with the male in his house, but 40 hours of time with video games.

"Even having a parent at home does not mean you get focused time with that parent," reflects Boys to Men New England founder, Dave Bolduc. "If a father comes home from a long day's work, if he hates his job, if he is tired, he just wants to sit in front of the TV and chill." If there is no father at home, there may be no steady male for focused time.

"Boys need a man in their lives," continues Bolduc. "They need to connect. My father never came to a ballgame of mine. I didn't hold it against him, but I wanted him to come see me and be proud of me. If parents are not aware of the moments that have emotional meaning in a boy's life, like a ballgame, and if a parent/father is too busy to take time for these key moments, the boy feels a gap and a yearning."

"Society has missed this, saying that boys will figure things out on their own," acknowledges McClain. "I have asked thousands of boys what kind of man they want to be, and no one has said 'a drug delaer,' 'a bum,' 'a wife beater,' or 'a gang member.'...(however) boys take the choices that are available to them, if they are not given another choice."

The space of mentoring has been lost in our society. When we lived in more of a village atmosphere, and even earlier in the 20th century when boys apprenticed, mentorship was present. As society evolved, mentorship got lost. Boys have a mentorship need. Adult men have a place inside where they yearn to mentor. Today, there is a void around the mentorship need and no clear place to fill the void. Boys look to each other, to television, to video games. Men are disconnected from each other.

One unique aspect of the Boys to Men program is that it is not just one man being a role model for one boy. It is a community of men and boys aged 11 to 90+ years old that allows us to return to a way of being where we are collectively raising our young. Boys (called Journeymen) and men (called Mentors) support one another in weekend trainings and in regular meetings called "J-groups" that work to build emotional intelligence.

"It is really important for men to teach boys emotional intelligence," underscores Bolduc. "Boys need to learn how to be able to show their feelings, how to put words to feelings and to be able to trust people. We as men learn how to tell the truth, to be who we are, to be vulnerable. We learn how to be healthier men, including with the women and children in our lives." And the boys get a healthy emotional role model of what it means to be a man and how men are constantly growing, evolving and healing in the journey of life.

When mentors work with teenage boys, they get a lot of healing for their own time as a teenager. Teenage years are often filled with pain, and most men don't wish to revisit that pain ever again. In the J-groups, mentors discover that their tought times as a teenager can help them provide an emotionally meaningful space for young men.

One man called it the "mentoring bone;" once awakened, there's a drive to do it. This applies both to men who have been successful fathers and to men who aren't fathers. Both want to be useful to other people, and feel a common calling and desire.

"It's in men's DNA to protect their family and be good men," reflects McClain. "Society has gotten away fromit. Families don't do it. We want school, television and the media to do it. They don't do it. So we do it and become better men ourselves."

When boys engage with authentic and vulnerable men, it catalyzes a spark of brilliance, genius and ingenuity that lives inside them. One Boys to Men leader observed that a switch goes on and even hardened boys come back to life. The boys experience an opportunity to become who they really are and not who society is telling them to be. Boys to Men can create a generation of authentic, grounded, emotionally literate men. And ultimately, this will create a different world than the one we are living in now.

In order to bring the spirit of their adult-teen mentoring work to a larger community, Boys to Men New England is organizing its first benefit concert on Sunday, April 22 from 7 - 9:30 pm at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston. The theme of the concert is "Voices of Boys and Men." A wide range of musical performers and speakers have been selected to provide the "voices."

Musical features include nationally known singer/songwriter David Roth, Rhode Island father-son duo Jesse and Jack Gauthier, cabaret singer Jay Uhler, poet/musician Remon Jourdan and award winning barbershop group Sounds of Concord. Barbershop singing provides a community experience of mentoring and music. Just like a sport, barbershop is a process where the more you learn and get coached, the more fun it is when you actually get on stage and perform. The group encourages high school music teachers to contact them for support in helping students sing at their schools. Youth barbershop group G20 will also be performing at the benefit.

A featured speaker that evening will be Kim Odom, whose son Stephen was tragically murdered three years ago at age 13 walking home from a basketball game. Hosted by Magic 106.7's Tina Gao, the centerpiece of the evening will be a film clip featured the Boys to Men program, showcasing the spirit, work and mission of Boys to Men.

For tickets to the "Voices of Boys and Men" Benefit at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, contact Linda at To learn more about Boys to Men New England visit

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Women, Emotions and the Heart

In my work, the relationship of the emotional heart to the physical heart is very clear. When someone is sad, their heart might be heavy. When someone is happy, their heart might feel light. When someone is nervous, their heart might be tense. As someone feels emotional relief, the tension in their heart relaxes.

When a woman experiences stress, her brain speeds up and alot of blood flow goes to the emotional part of her brain. She's designed to be emotionally activated under stress. This leads to feelings and a need to talk about what she is feeling. If a woman does not talk about what she is feeling, her stress level goes up. If she has no one to hear her, is shut off from expressing her feelings by a listener who does not want to or cannot hear her, or she is unable to speak, her stress level continues to rise, and takes a toll on her physical heart, as well as her emotional heart.

One way women relieve emotional stress is by giving. Giving generates the hormone oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone, which reduces her stress level and helps her feel better. However, if a woman just gives and does not get replenished, she will burn out from giving without being nourished in turn.

Concord, MA cardiologist, Malissa Woods, recognizes the mind-body connection in preventing and healing heart disease for women, and has designed a program to help reduce heart disease in women using 'a breakthrough mind-body approach' that combines tradntional medicine with emotional balance.

Featured in the Boston Globe on January 29, Dr Woods has just published a new book, Smart at Heart, which outlines 'a holistic 10-step approach' to help prevent and heal heart disease. She oversees a study at the MGH Revere HealthCare Center whose participants are 'low-income, stress-laden' women. By joining together, and finding a safe place to share their stories and seek support, they also treat the "common risk factors for heart disease," which include depression, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sadly, low self-esteem.

Wood notes, "You're not going to exercise and eat right if your life is in shambles." Women need emotional support to sort out the obstacles in their lives so there is space to take care of themselves. Wood found that anxiety "permeated" the lives of most of the women in her study. "Surrounding yourself with people who have good habits" and building a strong social network is important for health and balance.

Mind-body practices like yoga, meditation and even mindful exercise help women listen to their emotional heart as well as care for their physical heart. Making small changes to your physical environment, like clearing a pile of old papers, can decrease emotional stress on your heart.

Women need emotional connection and expression, both with themselves and with others. Feeding emotional, spiritual and physical connection all contribute to a healthier female heart.

Learning to Love Another Person on Their Own Terms

What makes you feel loved?

Do daily phone calls make you feel connected or hounded?

Does a home-cooked dinner feel like loving nourishment or being smothered?

What feels loving to one person may not feel loving to another person, even when there is good intent behind a gesture, words or an action.

We often think what makes us feel loved is universal. And there are surely some universal elements to feeling loved. However, our "loveprint" may be as unique as our fingerprint, and for a friend or partner to learn our love pattern or even love language, inquiry and dialogue is often necessary.

With the fantasy image of "being in love," that is often portrayed by the media, we can come to believe that if someone loves us, they should "just know" what makes us feel loved without any communication at all. While for many women, receiving flowers or jewelry gives a loving message, and for a man, being given the space to put his feet up after a long day and channel surf expresses love, more personal and intimate ways of feeling loved may be smaller and more unique to the individual: a tender glance, a gentle squeeze of a hand or sitting next to one another on the sofa may charge up the love battery each day.

Gary Chapman even speaks of different "love languages." In his book The 5 Love Lanaguages, he notes that for different people, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch are a primary love language. If a person whose primary love language gives a hug to someone whose primary love language is words of affirmation, it may not have the same impact as "I love you" in spoken words.

Learning that we all have unique combinations of these 5 love languages and taking the time to compose a personal love dictionary can help the experience of loving bring more appreciation for both giver and receiver.

Copyright 2012 Linda Marks