Regaining Your Voice

I read this article on the Huffington Post today, and it pretty much uncovers one of the ugliest skeletons in the closet, one that I can admit has been a hindrance to my relationships with both men and women.  I’m sure it affects many you know (if not you, too) because it is a societal issue that has been nurtured into us, and it’s the plague of gaslighting (read below).  I’m one of the fortunate ones however, as I have made the decision to grow and ascend in wisdom, and have already come to understand that my voice, and the voice of others (especially women) is tantamount to freedom from our current culture of apathy, stagnation, and dead spirit.  But the first step is always self-awareness.  No one can change you, or hurt you without your permission (a hard lesson from my better-half, who has taken the time to help me find my voice).  Once you are sure of who you are, why you are here, and what message you are here to bring, then no one can take that voice from you.  The problem is, as soon as we are born, we are (often unintentionally) taught from others (parents, family, friends, enemies, teachers, etc.) who never gained their own voice.  It’s a cycle, but it can be broken.  You just have to choose to be heard, and believe that what you have to say matters…

This is a long read, but well worth every word if it brings you to your voice.

In Love and Truth,

A.K.S.

Yashar Ali

Writer: The Current Conscience – http://www.currentconscience.com

A Message to Women From a Man: You Are

Not “Crazy”

You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!

Sound familiar?

If you’re a woman, it probably does.

Do you ever hear any of these comments from your spouse, partner, boss, friends, colleagues, or relatives after you have expressed frustration, sadness, or anger about something they have done or said?

When someone says these things to you, it’s not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling — that’s inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation, pure and simple.

And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.

I think it’s time to separate inconsiderate behavior from emotional manipulation, and we need to use a word not found in our normal vocabulary.

I want to introduce a helpful term to identify these reactions: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a term often used by mental health professionals (I am not one) to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.

The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.

Today, when the term is referenced, it’s usually because the perpetrator says things like, “You’re so stupid,” or “No one will ever want you,” to the victim. This is an intentional, pre-meditated form of gaslighting, much like the actions of Charles Boyer’s character in Gaslight, where he strategically plots to confuse Ingrid Bergman’s character into believing herself unhinged.

The form of gaslighting I’m addressing is not always pre-mediated or intentional, which makes it worse, because it means all of us, especially women, have dealt with it at one time or another.

Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction — whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness — in the person they are dealing with. Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal.

My friend Anna (all names changed to protect privacy) is married to a man who feels it necessary to make random and unprompted comments about her weight. Whenever she gets upset or frustrated with his insensitive comments, he responds in the same, defeating way, “You’re so sensitive. I’m just joking.”

My friend Abbie works for a man who finds a way, almost daily, to unnecessarily shoot down her performance and her work product. Comments like, “Can’t you do something right?” or “Why did I hire you?” are regular occurrences for her. Her boss has no problem firing people (he does it regularly), so you wouldn’t know from these comments that Abbie has worked for him for six years. But every time she stands up for herself and says, “It doesn’t help me when you say these things,” she gets the same reaction: “Relax; you’re overreacting.”

Abbie thinks her boss is just being a jerk in these moments, but the truth is, he is making those comments to manipulate her into thinking her reactions are out of whack. And it’s exactly that kind manipulation that has left her feeling guilty about being sensitive, and as a result, she has not left her job.

But gaslighting can be as simple as someone smiling and saying something like, “You’re so sensitive,” to somebody else. Such a comment may seem innocuous enough, but in that moment, the speaker is making a judgment about how someone else should feel.

While dealing with gaslighting isn’t a universal truth for women, we all certainly know plenty of women who encounter it at work, home, or in personal relationships.

And the act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting.

Why?

Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.

It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.

Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: It renders some women emotionally mute.

These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.

When these women receive any sort of push back to their reactions, they often brush it off by saying, “Forget it, it’s okay.”

That “forget it” isn’t just about dismissing a thought, it is about self-dismissal. It’s heartbreaking.

No wonder some women are unconsciously passive aggressive when expressing anger, sadness, or frustration. For years, they have been subjected to so much gaslighting that they can no longer express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them.

They say, “I’m sorry,” before giving their opinion. In an email or text message, they place a smiley face next to a serious question or concern, thereby reducing the impact of having to express their true feelings.

You know how it looks: “You’re late :)”

These are the same women who stay in relationships they don’t belong in, who don’t follow their dreams, who withdraw from the kind of life they want to live.

Since I have embarked on this feminist self-exploration in my life and in the lives of the women I know, this concept of women as “crazy” has really emerged as a major issue in society at large and an equally major frustration for the women in my life, in general.

From the way women are portrayed on reality shows, to how we condition boys and girls to see women, we have come to accept the idea that women are unbalanced, irrational individuals, especially in times of anger and frustration.

Just the other day, on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a flight attendant who had come to recognize me from my many trips asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I write mainly about women, she immediately laughed and asked, “Oh, about how crazy we are?”

Her gut reaction to my work made me really depressed. While she made her response in jest, her question nonetheless makes visible a pattern of sexist commentary that travels through all facets of society on how men view women, which also greatly impacts how women may view themselves.

As far as I am concerned, the epidemic of gaslighting is part of the struggle against the obstacles of inequality that women constantly face. Acts of gaslighting steal their most powerful tool: their voice. This is something we do to women every day, in many different ways.

I don’t think this idea that women are “crazy,” is based in some sort of massive conspiracy. Rather, I believe it’s connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis. And gaslighting is one of many reasons why we are dealing with this public construction of women as “crazy.”

I recognize that I’ve been guilty of gaslighting my women friends in the past (but never my male friends–surprise, surprise). It’s shameful, but I’m glad I realized that I did it on occasion and put a stop to it.

While I take total responsibility for my actions, I do believe that I, along with many men, am a byproduct of our conditioning. It’s about the general insight our conditioning gives us into admitting fault and exposing any emotion.

When we are discouraged in our youth and early adulthood from expressing emotion, it causes many of us to remain steadfast in our refusal to express regret when we see someone in pain from our actions.

When I was writing this piece, I was reminded of one of my favorite Gloria Steinem quotes, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”

So for many of us, it’s first about unlearning how to flicker those gaslights and learning how to acknowledge and understand the feelings, opinions, and positions of the women in our lives.

But isn’t the issue of gaslighting ultimately about whether we are conditioned to believe that women’s opinions don’t hold as much weight as ours? That what women have to say, what they feel, isn’t quite as legitimate?

Yashar will be soon releasing his first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

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“[W]hat tomorrow looks like depends on how we spend our focus[.]”

I read a really great entry today by one of Your Feminine Birthright‘s subscribers, and thought it would be wonderful to pass on the wisdom.  Like much of what I share, this post is simple yet groundbreaking, mainly because if unaware, it’s easy for us to get lost in the heat of any moment.  What this sister says is so true: “Everyday, time and energy should go towards the things that will make you who you want to be.”  Plain, and simple.  And though she writes specifically in reference to our relationships to men, this magic (as she calls it) can be applied to any relationship.

In Love, Truth, and getting back to the Middle,

A.K.S.

Focus Vs. Annoyance and Confusion

I sent him to the store and he comes back with a loaf of bread

Someone close says to me: I am extremely annoyed with this man! I sent him to the store and he comes back with a loaf of bread! (She doesn’t eat bread) I’m hungry and upset and I don’t know what to do with myself.

Welcomed suggestion – Take the bread back and use the change to get either a bag of lima beans, lentils, split peas or a bag of brown rice. If you are unable to cook then get a container of dates or 5-10 bananas for the day, an avocado and a head of dark green lettuce.

Once you’re satisfied, FOCUS on objectives – Reel yourself in and move towards your objectives and not away from your issues. What I mean by that is: Don’t focus on what at the moment you perceive is wrong or is the problem. However, place your attention on the things you need to do to get what you need. This upset energy with your man is just a symptom of misplaced focus. Have you worked on your daily to do list; including your rigorous exercise, meditation, vocal practice, water drink age, food plan etc.

Everyday, time and energy should go towards the things that will make you who you want to be. Be careful not to give any energy at all in the direction that has nothing to do with that. As, no matter what – however we spend our time – this is what we are creating tomorrow with. Therefore, what tomorrow looks like depends on how we spend our focus! This is a precious and magical fact. Heed this with diligence. Let us focus my friend, Let us focus!

Why the present is a gift

The following entry was written by one of the most important people in my life: my King.  His words are revealing, sincere, and speak VOLUMES!!  The simplest wisdom is often the most life changing…

In Love, Truth, and this very Moment,

A.K.S.

Original post here

The Power of Now!!!

Cover of "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Se...Cover via Amazon

In her memoir Eat, Pray, LoveElizabeth Gilbert writes about a friend who, whenever she sees a beautiful place, exclaims in a near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” “It takes all my persuasive powers,” writes Gilbert, “to try to convince her that she is already here.”

Often, we’re so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy, what’s happening right now. We sip coffee and think, “This is not as good as what I had last week.” We eat a cookie and think, “I hope I don’t run out of cookies.”

Instead, relish or luxuriate in whatever you’re doing at the present moment—what psychologists call savoring. “This could be while you’re eating a pastry, taking a shower, or basking in the sun.

When people in a study took a few minutes each day to actively savor something they usually hurried through—eating a meal, drinking a cup of tea, walking to the bus—they began experiencing more joy, happiness, and other positive emotions, and fewer depressive symptoms.

Why does living in the moment make people happier—not just at the moment they’re tasting molten chocolate pooling on their tongue, but lastingly? Because most negative thoughts concern the past or the future. As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”  The hallmark of depression and anxiety is catastrophizing—worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and might not happen at all. Worry, by its very nature, means thinking about the future—and if you hoist yourself into awareness of the present moment, worrying melts away.

The flip side of worrying is ruminating, thinking bleakly about events in the past. And again, if you press your focus into the now, rumination ceases.  Savoring forces you into the present, so you can’t worryabout things that aren’t there.

FYI  ladies and gentlemen, our mode of consciousness can be transformed!  The key to becoming free of the egoic mind, with all its consequences, is to become deeply conscious of this present moment, or, as Eckhart Tolle often calls it, “the Now.”  The consequences of being in the Now may also be traced out from his book.

Connectedness – In place of separation is a two-fold connectedness. To be present is to become reconnected both with Being itself, and with all other beings. Presence is a “state of felt oneness with Being … connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible … that is essentially you and yet is much greater than you.”  That in turn enables us to enter into deeper relationships with others. “Coming from Being, you will perceive another person’s body and mind as just a screen … behind which you can feel their true reality, as you feel yours … Compassion is the awareness of a deep bond between yourself and all creatures.”

Acceptance – Rather than resisting life as it actually is in the present moment, one accepts it for what it is, without labelling or judgment. “Allowing it to be as it is … takes you beyond the mind with its resistance patterns …”

Tolle speaks not only of acceptance of what is, but also of surrender to it.   This “is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life … to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation.”

This may easily be misunderstood, and Tolle goes on to explain that he is not suggesting anyone should accept for evermore some unpleasant situation in life. That is mere resignation. Surrender is a purely inner phenomenon, changing our attitude so we accept how things are at this moment. Then we can act positively to change the ongoing situation, and such positive action is likely to be far more effective than if it arose out of the anger, frustration or despair of resistance.

The Joy of Being – Instead of pain there is peace, stillness and joy. Instead of loss of Being there is reconnectedness with Being. Instead of external substitutes for joy there is an inner joy which is independent of external conditions. “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease.” “You abide in Being — unchanging, timeless, deathless — and you are no longer dependent for fulfilment or happiness on the outer world.”

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