June 26, 2013

Women: Please Don’t Hold Back. ~ Ben Wills

*Update via The New York Times: “Women are moody. By evolutionary design, we are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partners’ intentions. This is basic to our survival and that of our offspring. Some research suggests that women are often better at articulating their feelings than men because as the female brain develops, more capacity is reserved for language, memory, hearing and observing emotions in others.” Read the full article.


We men are more fascinated and more drawn to your feelings than we are to our own.

It is a common misconception that men are emotionally unavailable. While we may process our feelings in a different manner than you, (more inwardly and slower) there’s a secret that no one shares:

We men are more fascinated and more drawn to your feelings than we are to our own. For us, your feelings are one of the greatest mysteries of the universe; a source of wonder and awe, a source of pleasure and a source of service. Yes. Even the negative feelings. Yes, even when you’re upset with us.

With good reason, you often keep your true feelings from men. The lack of response, attention or presence from men is confusing; men never seem to respond to your deepest nature in a way that you know exists, and you feel unseen, unheard and unmet. It is lonely. You are left yearning for more—a deeper and fuller intimacy which you can taste on the tip of your tongue, but can’t quite swallow the fact you are holding back.

It is you that is keeping yourself from the intimacy you desire. It is your desire to feel safe which overrides your desire for intimacy. It is vulnerable to allow intimacy. On the surface, being vulnerable seems much more painful than holding back and keeping yourself from being hurt. Yet it is even more lonely continuing to be unmet.

Until you experience the pain of being unmet as feeling more painful than the pain of potentially being hurt in your vulnerability, you will continue to yearn for the connection you know is there. You will yearn to be seen and deeply known.

Most of all, you will find that it is not that you yearn for others to see you deeply, rather it is your self that wishes to be seen deeply by you.

An Experience the Other Week.

I was at a party the other weekend. One of the hosts is this petite, bubbly woman whose radiance captured the attention of every single man there (and, likely, every not-so-single men, including myself). When she needed help with something, a man (or two or three) seemed to magically show up without her even asking. When she was off enjoying herself alone or in the company of women, it wasn’t long before she also had the company of men.

I began noticing the impact she was having on men and saw that it had a quality that should not be confused with women who are bubbly and seemingly radiant because they need attention. This woman did not need the attention, but enjoyed it. And, from that place, brought out a very warm and authentic side of men that, truth-be-told, us men don’t often get to display.

But she wasn’t all bubbly and happy all the time. At one moment a guy came up to her and placed his hand on the back of her neck. Instead of responding with anger, (which is rarely your core feeling) she responded with a look, posture and vocalization of disgust that let him know she did not welcome that. She didn’t have to ask him to stop, she let her feelings come through in a way that he immediately responded to. Even after he took his hand off of her, she continued to allow her disgust and discomfort to come through her body—she wasn’t rationalizing with story or logic, and she wasn’t distancing herself from those feelings by feeling angry.

She was disgusted, and she let herself be that, and be seen as that. For many women, the idea of showing a vulnerable, negative emotion like that is nearly unfathomable. It was soon obvious that by allowing herself to be vulnerable—in allowing both the pain and pleasure of her radiance to come through—it drew something very primal, very masculine, from the men around her. Yes, the men were attracted to her, but their attraction came from a desire to serve her femininity.

The Fullness of Your Femininity Calls Forth Masculine Depth.

Full, open, unencumbered femininity draws forth from the masculine its depth, presence and deep desire to serve you. Just as you yearn to be seen, heard and met, the masculine yearns to serve you deeper than you could serve yourself.

Deeper than you could serve yourself.

What an unbelievably scary thought. Take a moment to let that sink in.

If your truest essence is feminine, are you seeking to be seen, heard and known? Or, when you yearn deepest for these things, do you feel more powerfully beneath it the desire to be claimed by the man you love? In all of us, in both our masculine and our feminine, is a deep desire to serve the other more deeply than we can serve ourselves. But also, in both our masculine and our feminine, are our demons.

In our feminine, we look to the masculine to protect us from the tiger within us. In our masculine, we look to ourselves to protect the feminine from the dragons within us.

It is not that you, in your feminine, can’t take care of yourself. You most certainly can. It is that, when you are deeply cared for, your femininity blooms in the recognition that this moment is all that there ever is, so why plan for the next moment when this moment right now is all that exists?

But, of course you must plan for the future. At the very least, planning and preparing for it can give you the space to feel more fully open and alive in the future. But even entertaining the notion that the future exists is such a masculine perversion. And, at the same time, discounting the future is often foolish. But, but, but—this moment!

This ambivalence (or complete disregard) about the importance of the future is one aspect of the tiger that lives within you—the tiger that the masculine serves by keeping it from consuming you.

A man who, when you come home from a challenging day, hands you a glass of wine, sits you down on the couch, rubs your shoulders and asks to hear about your day, that man is in service of your feminine. He is bringing you back to the moment by letting you unload the burden of your past several hours. And when you come back to that moment and back into your radiance, regardless of if it is “happy” or “unhappy,” you are both served with the gift of your femininity.

This is one way that the masculine can serve you, with his depth of presence, in a manner better than you can serve yourself. But the masculine can only partially be in service if you don’t allow the vulnerability of your deepest, truest feelings.

Your Story is Not Your Feelings.

It’s scary letting yourself be seen. If you’re joyful and it’s not received, how quickly will your joy be gone? If you’re sad and it’s received harshly, how much more painful will it be?

These are questions that should not be taken lightly. If you’re not ready to be fully seen, take it slowly. If you’re the type that prefers to be blown open and raw when making conscious change, jump right in. But whichever you choose, be prepared. Allowing yourself to be seen is deeply vulnerable. And a vulnerable life is often a painful life, even to the extent that joy and peace can feel painful.

I will often ask clients “what are you feeling now?” or “what did you feel when that happened?”

What most often happens next is a story. “Well, when he did that, it triggered this thing in me that reminded me of when I was a teenager. And when I was a teenager, I handled it this one way, but tried to handle it this other way.”

You may have noticed that, in that “story” there were no words that described feelings.

You will often get caught up in thoughts and words and your rationality. It is unfortunate that our culture expects everything to be objectively justified and that your personal experience isn’t valued in the same way. Because our culture does not value your personal, subjective experience as deeply as it could, you will often go into story.

To not go into story, and to go into the truth of your feeling, in that moment, this is your practice.

Because you are probably unpracticed at communicating how you feel to men (or even women), it will feel clumsy at first. You will have to be intentional and you will feel awkward. I see this with myself, men and women, friends and clients every day. When I point out that, in their response, there was no communication of feeling, they’re stunned. And confused. And, every time, the first time I point it out to them, they don’t even know how to respond or think about it.

You are probably the same way. You probably don’t actually know how to identify and communicate your feelings. This is not your fault. This is the fault of our culture. But it is your responsibility to change.

As a man, I used to believe that you as a woman were 100 percent aware of your feelings and how to communicate them. I was wrong. And, despite the fact that most men are nearly emotionally inept, I’ve found a couple of simple tools to help both women and men, (in fact, I’ve had more men bring these tools to me than women) to communicate their feelings, to themselves and others.

Identifying and Communicating Your Feelings and Emotions.

If you and your partner do not clearly talk about your feelings (and go into story, for example, or not even communicate them at all), or you have a difficult time identifying your feelings, a great place to start is with my two favorite feelings charts.

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions was my first foray into understanding my own feelings better. I like it because it’s simple and clearly demonstrates two things: 1. that each feeling has an opposite (e.g. sadness and joy) and 2. that some feelings are actually combinations of other feelings.

Plutchik’s-Wheel of Emotions. Photo: via Wikimedia

The first way that I’ve found these wheels of feelings/emotions to be useful is for identifying my own feelings, or having a client identify theirs. Then, when I ask “what were you feeling in that moment?” or “what are you feeling right now?” they are able to point to a specific feeling. The benefit? That feeling is far more accurate, precise and real than their story. Once you know what you’re feeling, then you can work with it. When you’re lost in story, it’s nearly impossible to work with what you are actually feeling.

Next, when my friend Amy Lee told me about the Feelings Wheel, she pointed out something that I’ve found highly useful: When you’re feeling one thing, it’s almost impossible to feel its opposite in that moment. If you’re sad, it’s nearly impossible to also feel joy. This can be used the other way: If you want to feel sad less often, practice finding the joy in things.

Another thing you can see clearly with these feelings/emotions wheels is how an emotion evolves as it gets more intense. For example, at first, you might feel apprehensive about something. But as it intensifies, it turns into fear. And, even further, evolves into terror. By seeing the progression of how a feeling can evolve, you can recognize sooner “Oh, this is apprehension. If I don’t do something about it, this could turn into fear and terror.” Likewise, you can work backwards. If you feel terror, you can unwind it to see where it was less intense and showed up as fear, then even further back as apprehension.

The Feelings Wheel. Photo: via Flickr

Finally, what I really love the most about these feelings/emotions wheels is that they clearly demonstrate how many of our feelings are actually combinations of feelings. In Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, it becomes clear how feeling Loved is a combination of feeling joy and trust. Or feeling optimistic is a combination of feeling serene and interested.

As you begin working with these, you will not only have a more refined awareness (like you might have with flavors of wine), but you will also find the experience of your emotions and feelings to be richer. Consciously practicing becoming aware of the nuances of your feelings brings a richness to your experience. Suddenly, you find yourself hiking through the mountains and feeling Love as layers and nuances of Serenity and Acceptance and Joy and Trust, not just this crude amalgamation of feelings that you label “Love.”

Calling Forth the Masculine by Allowing Your Unbridled Emotions.

Identifying and communicating your feelings is only the first step. It’s like learning about color before learning to create art. Becoming intimately familiar with color will allow the art that is in you to come out, unencumbered and unbridled. As you paint, only when hues, values, saturation, brightness, etc, become second nature, will their nuance flow through you without thought. And so it often is with your feelings.

You will find that the process of allowing your feelings for the sake of identifying them is just like learning the nuance of color. Your experience of the subtle differences of your feelings, which were previously happening but completely out of your awareness, suddenly become obvious.

As you gain intimate knowledge of your own feelings, you will soon find words to be crude and inadequate.

How do you describe the feeling of a sense of the kind of eternal, never-ending Peace that brings your breathing and heart rate down to almost nothing as time seems to stop? “Peace” just doesn’t cut it.

How do you describe the pain you feel when your partner is lost in his duties and obligations, and his presence has been taken from you in a moment when you feel like you need it the most? “Sadness” or “grief” or “despair” just don’t fit.

How do you describe the knowing you hold that your being exists beyond the edges of the universe…that you are not separate from the universe or even a part of it, but you are, in fact, the universe? Amazement? No. Powerful? Sort of. Loving? Not quite…

They are just not the right words. In fact, there aren’t words for what you feel. And when there aren’t words, how do you communicate how you feel?

You don’t; don’t try and communicate what you feel. As soon as you do, you’ve moved partially out of your feeling.

Focusing on communicating it, or even wanting to have your feelings/emotions received or understood takes you out of the true nature of your femininity: Being.

You must allow yourself to be eternal peace, to be the pain of loneliness, to be the universe.

You keep yourself from experiencing yourself as you are because you fear your own power. You hold yourself back. How could anyone meet you there? The entire universe and what’s beyond it? Who meets the universe? How could anyone, let alone a man, meet me as that?

And only when you allow yourself to be as full and powerful and vulnerable as you really are, will you find your answer to those questions.

*This article has been adapted from the original which can be found here.  


Relephant Read: 

To The Women With Warm Hearts & Cold Hands.

Why Men Withdraw Emotionally.


After a heart-wrenching breakup in 2006, Ben Wills sat of on a mission to understand himself, relationships and women. Today, he serves women in reconnecting with, and opening fully to, their femininity. Learn more about Ben on his website, or connect with him directly on Pinterest and Facebook.


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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: via Phyllis on Pinterest}


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