Posts in Category: Connection

Revoking consent


“This isn’t working for me anymore, I want you to stop.”  When I say this, I have revoked consent for the current situation.  Maybe we can find a way to make it work, or maybe not.  Either way, this, what we’re doing right now, what YOU’RE doing right now, I need it to stop, now.  And I will use my power* to make it stop.  Even if it makes you upset.  Even if you want to keep going.  Even if you don’t care whether I consent to this or not.  And so you learn, that when I say no, I mean no.

*I will use my personal power, I will ask respectfully first and and insist, and if that doesn’t work, I will move in physically to prevent you from continuing.  I won’t power over, I won’t shame, I won’t step on you.  I will do my best to keep anyone from getting hurt.

Assuming that I’m within my own boundaries and I have ownership over whatever it is I’m setting limits on (my body, my stuff, common spaces in the house, enforcing established rules…) this is my current mantra with my kids.  It feels awful and awkward and mean and like I’m making it too big of a deal.  And so I double down and do it more.  Because when I don’t, I’m enabling rape culture and power dynamics. When I don’t,  I’m modeling to my kids that my needs don’t matter very much, that their feelings are more important.  And when they’re older, and in questionable situations, I don’t want them to think that their needs don’t matter very much.

When I let my needs slip behind theirs, when I make exceptions to the rules, when I let them insist, when I give in, when I say no, no, no, no, okay just one – I’m trying to be nice and understanding and kind and reasonable.  But I’m not in the long term.  I’m compromising myself and my values, my needs, my own personal power in favor of their outward calm.  I’m telling them that their tension, their hurt, their upset is a BIG DEAL and needs to be avoided.  I’m telling them that their potential upset is bigger than my own power.  That they need to avoid getting upset.  That if they’re getting upset, then something is Very Wrong.

There’s a concept of consent culture that I’ve seen floating around, where parents ask their kids consent for everything, from the moment the kid can reasonably give it.  I have a few issues with this, but the one I want to focus on here is, what’s the end goal?  I don’t want to bash it completely, but I’m picturing this kid, fully grown.  They’ve learned to ask consent for everything.  Awesome.  They’re not going to be raping anyone.  Awesome.  But they’re also going to be expecting to be asked consent for everything, and that really isn’t the case I’ve seen in the real world.  What happens when someone else comes along and *doesn’t* ask their consent?  What happens when they ask consent but the other person doesn’t know how to say no?  And then, what about the times when consent was implied but never explicitly asked and now there is a victim?  Is it all up to the “attacker” to ask first?  Is the victim rendered a powerless victim as soon as the attacker doesn’t ask consent, no matter what ensues, questionable or not?  I’m finding that the ability and power to say no is just as important as the habit of asking.

My 10 year old is irritated and is bossing my 6 year old around.  He’s going along with it but I can see by the look on his face that this isn’t cool with him, and he’s not speaking up for himself.  I ask him, “Is this working for you?  Do you give her permission to boss you around like this?” and he slowly shakes his head no.  And so I tell her, “this isn’t working for him, find something else to do.”  And she gets angry and stomps and yells (which is why he isn’t speaking up for himself in the first place) and I listen to how outraged she is and I remove her from the situation and hold the limit.  I give her space to vent on me instead of making my 6 year old bear the brunt of her big emotions.  She learns that no still means no, even when it’s hard to say and even when the other person is intimidated by you.

When I notice the nonverbal cues and speak up for the kid who isn’t speaking up for himself, all sorts of magic happens.  I show that it really is okay to speak up for yourself, the world isn’t going to end when it makes the other person upset.  I show how to step in and help in a situation where it’s clear that one person is uncomfortable enforcing their boundaries on their own.  I show that the nonverbal cues matter.  I show my kids that I have their back.  And How it doesn’t have to be an explicitly spoken no.  All forms of no mean no.  Look for the subtle signs.  Even when one party is bigger and stronger or has more social power, that’s not an excuse to bowl over someone else’s needs.

I’m learning a lot through this revoking consent process.  I’m learning that my own comfort matters, and is worth actively doing something to achieve, and that *gasp* I can even make my kids upset over it.  I’m also seeing more clearly the converse – that self sacrifice and avoiding conflict don’t get you anywhere, that bending the rules and “being nice” and not upsetting people just keeps everyone miserable for longer.  I’m gaining confidence in speaking up for others, not just myself.  And I’m building my personal power as I see how much of a difference I can make.

When getting upset is Wrong and must be avoided at all costs, that sets a perfect stage for dangerous power dynamics.  The upset powerless person won’t stand up for herself, won’t make a fuss, might not even validate her own upset feelings.  The upset power-over person will be scared, panic, and see the other party as the one who is out of line.  An upset power-over person who is panicking and blaming others is a perfect recipe for senseless violence.

My comfort matters.  It’s okay to be upset.  I have your back.  Nonverbal cues matter.  It’s okay to stand strong.  Every no means no.

My favorite part of all this?  Is how it’s all done with modeling and in ways that I’m completely in control of.  I don’t need anybody else to buy in, I don’t need to lecture, nobody needs to understand anything.  I am empowered to enforce my limits.  I especially like how it models personal power and consent in a way that doesn’t require any cognitive load.  It becomes hard wired into the limbic system and sticks around as intuition even in times of stress or weakness.  There’s nothing to consciously remember.  No just means no.



The Ultimate Life Hack: Love, Power, Boundaries and Vulnerability


I’m a big fan of Brene Brown’s work.  Daring Greatly felt like it was written for me and my family.  I saw shame and armor at every turn.  When I read it, I was thrilled to finally have a target for releasing so much of the tension written into the way I see the world.  Embrace vulnerability, even though it’s painful – it’s worth it.  Clear, concise, even some practical examples of how to do so.  It was still difficult and unnatural and exhausting, though.  Then came Rising Strong, with some more tips and examples of how to take the lows and use them to bounce back better than before.  How to make that vulnerability a little less scary and learn from it.  Helpful, but still painful and difficult.

Then I read a simple picture book, The Conquerors.  With it’s clunky drawings and war theme, I was a little turned off, but then it changed my life.  In the book, the general goes and invades all the countries around and conquers them all because he has the best, strongest army.  Then he goes to the last country that was so small he hadn’t bothered before.  This one, however, he can’t conquer like he’s used to.  They welcome him and his army with open arms and teach them all about their way of life.  The soldiers go home and bring the little country’s customs with them.  The general sees it as “spoils of war” but the little country isn’t destroyed in the slightest.  Everybody wins.

When I think about Brene Brown’s vulnerability with myself as the little country, that it’s not me against the world, but rather me showing the world how I do things… Then it becomes really easy to just show up and be myself.  Be seen.  There is no threat, the threat is just a perception.  I can be completely myself and not have to use tons of defensive armor, because this is *my* turf and therefor I’m in charge and you can’t touch me.  If someone comes in and doesn’t respect that, then it’s easy for me to see that it’s their problem, not mine.  Because this is *my* turf and nobody is in control of it but me.  For someone else to try and take control is laughable.  Show up, be seen, live my authentic life.  Ask for help when I need it, learn from my mistakes, go see how other people live *their* lives (but don’t think that I can control the place just because I’m there).  Aaaahhhh.  I can feel the shame melting into a puddle on the floor and leaving me there, strong, myself, and with the strongest boundaries yet.

Then.  Then.  Then, power and love surfaced as relevent topics.  The idea of using my power to do things on my own, power to ask (not demand) for help when I need it.  Power to stand up for what I believe in.  Power to make change.  Power to choose my own life.  Power to keep trying when the first, second, hundredth time doesn’t work out.  This is personal power, and it’s in direct contrast to using power over someone.  With power over someone, you take away their choice.  You gain power while they lose it.  Or else you give your power away to them.  Let them control you.  You create power dynamics, power struggles.  It’s the opposite of consent, and it’s what most of us think of when we think of power as a dirty word.  Or as a holy grail.  Striving for promotions, sibling rivalry, parents yelling at their kids.  Evil overlords.

Finally, love.  Mr. Rogers said, “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring.  It is an active noun like struggle.”  If love is an action, what are the everyday actions we use to show we care?  How do I love someone?  How do I show my love?  What does love feel like?  What does it take to be lovable?  What is self love?  I realized that the actions I use to express love – helping, guiding, teaching, protecting, preventing pain, not causing hurt – those are all power dynamics.  If I show love by helping, then to receive that love, you need to be helpless.  If I show love by guiding, then to receive that love, you need to be malleable without strong will of your own.  If I show love by protecting, then you need to be weak.  If I show love by preventing pain, then when you are in pain, I’ve failed and I’m not lovable.  If I show love by not causing hurt, then how do I speak up for myself when it conflicts with you?  How do I hold strong boundaries and stay true to myself when you are helpless and weak?  And how do you stay true to yourself when I need to feel lovable and I’m trying so hard to help and guide you?  This kind of love feels like strength and weakness.  Power and control.  It’s easy for me to see how we get our identities wrapped up in power dynamics.  I am the teacher.  I know stuff.  Lots of stuff.  More than you, so I can show you I love you by teaching you.  I am lovable because I teach.  How dare you tell me I’m wrong?  How dare you not accept my teachings?  How dare you be uninterested?  Don’t you understand that those things hurt my identity?  Don’t you LOVE me?  Am I not lovable!!?!?  And if I’m hurting, then who caused it, and why wasn’t I protected??  I must not be lovable.

Show me you love me

I want love to feel like acceptance, to feel expansive, like being understood, like safety and security.  Like the best place to explore and experiment and figure myself out.  The safe landing pad.  Open, cozy arms.  Shoulders to cry on.  And so I’m upgrading my love actions with listening, understanding, and respecting boundaries.  Self love as understanding myself, figuring out my own boundaries, and respecting them.  I’m releasing the power dynamics and outgrowing the need for an identity in order to be lovable.  I am unconditionally lovable purely because I exist.  I am lovable because I have needs and limits and I communicate them.  I am interesting because I’m a person and I have a story.  I’m lovable because I don’t have it all together.  I can see and respect and love you and not be threatened by you, because there are no power dynamics in our relationship.  

And just like that, the vulnerability armor explodes into a cloud of glitter that sticks to the puddle of shame on the floor.  And I’m free, and can walk away.  There is pain, and there is hurt, there is old trauma that I can finally process and it will cause tears, but there are shoulders to cry on and feeling low is just another way to be lovable.  Conflict is a chance to better understand someone (love!).  Failure is an opportunity for understanding (love!).  In order to be lovable I just need to exist.  I just need to exist.  And when there isn’t someone right there to shower me with love when I need it, there’s always self love – it’s not a booby prize.  I can always understand myself and my own needs and limits better, and use my power to get them met.  And that feels really, really good.


Who’s in charge here?


Sometimes I want everyone Out.Of.My.Space.  It feels like everyone’s encroaching, everyone has an opinion, there are so many shoulds, and it’s not even my own anymore.  It’s a canvas for the world to define.  Then I picture myself spinning in a circle with my arms out, ripping the encroaching walls to shreds.  Spinning with a burning torch, making a ring of fire to mark MY SPACE.

Fire Dancer

But then I remembered the picture book, The Conquerors.  How the people who defended their country lost to the stronger general, while the tiny country that accepted the invaders with open arms not only stayed intact, they were able to spread the joy of their way of life.

I like people.  I want more people in my life.  I don’t really want to chase everyone away.  I want to invite them in.  What if my burning circle of fire isn’t so much a defense as it is a definition?  This is MY SPACE where I am in control.  In this circle, I am in charge, I am the only authority.  Anything from anybody else is merely a suggestion, a comment card.  Anyone with a raging, authoritative opinion clearly has issues because this is my space and they have no authority.  I can easily brush them off.

And what about someone else’s space?  If my space is mine, then their space is theirs.  I don’t expect to have any authority.  I can instead come in with genuine curiosity, to explore and see what works for them and learn and take ideas for myself.  That feels really, really good.  I don’t have to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes or being offensive.  If someone takes offense, then it’s probably their issue and not something I’m doing wrong.

All that’s left is to show up in my own space and be authentic.  Which is what everyone’s been saying all along but feels so hard, impossible, vulnerable when it’s a should – but now it feels easy.  The hardest part is looking at and owning my own mess.  But since I own it, I can clean it up (or not) on my own terms and not worry about being judged for it.



Playing Poke Tag


In the game of poke tag, the first player is ‘it’.  They choose a ‘victim’ to poke. The goal is to be incessant and calmly annoying – not to hurt.  The ‘victim’ can do whatever they want to get the first player to stop, but it doesn’t “count” until it’s a respectful request.  So avoiding, poking back, yelling, ordering… Doesn’t work.  It is more like permission for ‘it’ to be more annoying.

Once the ‘victim’ makes a respectful request for the poke to stop, ‘it’ gets to choose if they want to honor the request or not. If they choose to continue poking, now they’re on the ‘victim’s turf and that player can do anything they want to get ‘it’ to stop – I’m thinking of big scary lion rawrs, and running around.  Once the ‘victim’ tags ‘it’ they become ‘it’ and can choose their ‘victim.’

This boundary game teaches that you and only you are in control of your actions.  You are free to torment, even.  You don’t have to be bound by other people’s limits and you don’t always have to be nice, but you are responsible for your actions.  It also teaches that it is up to you to defend your own space.  That respect is critical, but that you have the right to use force when necessary to defend your boundaries. 

Do something other than poking.  Mix it up. Try to catch the other person off guard. 

Get suspenseful after you’ve asked ‘it’ to stop – surprise them with a big hug or kiss or tickle attack, or chase them all over.


All You Need is Love


People need love.  Period.  With love, oxytocin flows, your heart opens up, colors are brighter, and life is easy.  So put on your rose colored glasses and get to it already!

Oh wait, that doesn’t work.  It’s more complicated than that.  And yet, it isn’t.  If the goal is a balanced nervous system, then the nervous system is in charge.  Your basic needs need to be met, and you need to trust that they’ll be met.  Trust.  Trust comes with oxytocin.  Oxytocin breeds trust.  You know what else you need in order to trust your needs will be met?  You need to feel worthy.  The seeds of worthiness are seeds of love.  To feel like you matter.  To someone.  To yourself.  To anyone, to anything.

In order to digest your food and get the nutrients out of it, in order to not associate it with toxicity, you need a healthy gut.  In order to get a healthy gut, there is a ton of advice out there – whole foods, paleo, gluten free, GAPS, low FODMAPS, open detox pathways, fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, I could go on and one…  But the undercurrent that I don’t see many people talking about is the terrain.  In order to make any meaningful shift, you have to shift the terrain.  The neurotransmitters that control the gut.  And what controls those neurotransmitters?  Your mind.  Your nervous system.  Your stress levels and associations.  How much you trust and how much you feel love.  In all situations.  Because your gut is with you in all those situations, you don’t leave it behind at home.

In order to rest, your mind has to be able to rest.  If you’re busy or anxious or checked out or in any other way not present, then your mind is working in overdrive to keep you away, and that’s not resting.  If you’re feeling loved up, you want to be here, now.  You can relax into the present moment.  Rest.

I could trace the lines to Movement and Engaging your Mind as well, but won’t for the sake of getting on with it.  If you’re curious, Connect and ask me (wink).

So now we’re left with love.  And how to feel love.  How to trust that love is there.  There’s love in relationships.  Parent-child, friendships, romantic love… And then there’s self love.  If the goal is to trust that love is always there, and you start with the assumption that none of us are at the endpoint yet, then the most reliable solution is going to be one that doesn’t rely on anyone else and their own issues.  Self love.  You know best how to love yourself.  You might be able to feel it best when it comes from someone else, but what about when they’re having a bad day, when you’re clashing with them, when the insecurities in your head grow and nobody’s there to stamp them out for you?  What happens if your beloved dies, and that bond of love is shattered?  The most reliable love is self love.  You are worth it.  So get on with it and you’ll be golden.

Oops, still not that easy.  That logic got me to the point that I could accept love without flat out assuming the other person is lying, and to want to feel the love.  Once you can feel the love, then it’s time to learn to generate it on your own.


Loving unconditionally


There are a couple parts to the idea of being loved unconditionally.  Of feeling unconditional love.  First, you need to be able to feel the love.  Second, unconditional means the love needs to not be tied to anything you have control over.  A few generations ago, parents punished their kids for “being bad” and then we wised up to the harm that was causing and started instead to love up our kids for “being good.”  But it’s two sides of the same coin.  Both are using love and connection as power over another to change their behavior.  That’s not unconditional love, that’s manipulation and it blurs the lines between self and other.

Or maybe it’s love in response to achievement or lack of love (I’m thinking about time outs or just not giving attention) in response to difficult emotions.  Maybe it’s jumping in with tons of “I love you’s” in response to a meltdown, with the goal of stopping the outburst.  More blurred boundaries. 

Unconditional love means loving someone up just because they’re there, not because of anything they did or didn’t do.  It doesn’t mean loving them up because they’re having a hard time, and it doesn’t mean loving them up because they’ve done something you’re grateful for.  It’s loving them up because they exist, or because they asked you to.  It means the only reason you say no is because of your own personal limits and boundaries.  Not because of anything on their end. 

Imagine you’re dealing with anxiety and you’re not sure right from wrong.  You want to try to sort it out, but you’re scared of making a mistake.  You’re scared of offending or inadvertently pushing someone away.  Now imagine the feeling of love and acceptance.  If you knew, beyond a doubt, that that feeling of love was waiting for you no matter how your experiment turned out, you would be free!  You could figure out right from wrong, you could make mistakes, you would have no fear of social reprocussions.  Or rather, no fear that a mistake would cost you your self worth.

What if as a parent, or a partner, or even a friend, “loving up” were tied more to the clock/calendar than to actions?  What if you knew that you would be safely held, physically or metaphorically, at a given time?  And that nothing would get in the way of that?  

What if you needed to be loved up, NOW, before it’s “your turn” and you could just ask for it, without feeling ashamed?  Without fear?  Knowing that the only reason you would be turned away is because of the other person’s needs, which have nothing to do with you?

Unconditional love is feeling loved, just because you exist.  As a parent, my current experiment is to make sure to carve out some time of each day to enter the world of each of my kids and try to love them up in various languages.  No matter what’s going on, who’s doing what, or whether it’s a good day or bad.  To not only be sure I’m loving them in languages they understand, but to check in with the other languages and see if there are any holes in the buckets, see if there’s any mending that needs to be done. 

How do you love your loved ones unconditionally?  Do they feel your love?


Love and Boundaries


As I ponder the love languages, I personally have trouble with a few of them due to boundary violations.  The five languages are: quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and physical touch.

It has been groundbreaking recently for me to figure out something that would really be helpful, that would truly be of service to me, and to not only identify it, but to ask for it and then receive it.  Wow.  Bliss!

Up until recently, acts of service, to me, has meant being grateful for the things that others are doing for you.  Which doesn’t particularly feel like love if it’s not something I wanted in the first place, and can kind of feel like twisting a knife if it’s something I specifically wanted/needed to do myself.

There’s a boundary and self worth thing going on here.  A few things.  Knowing what’s me and what’s the other party is a big part of it, and then there’s drawing a line against the stuff that I don’t want, and drawing a line asking for the things that I do need.

I’m learning, there are a few facets to the nebulous concept of “boundaries.”  There’s understanding what’s me vs you, what’s my motivation vs your motivation, my needs vs your needs.  Where do I end and you begin?  And then there’s finding the needs and limits and enforcing them – making sure that I don’t overextend or take on too much, and making sure that I get what I need and the help I need.

So when someone does something for me in the name of love, but it’s not something that actually services me, it blurs the line between me and you (why *are* you doing this “for me”? And begs for stronger lines, clearer communication.  “Thank you for doing that, but I’d actually rather do it myself.  What I could *really* use help with is ______.”

And then there’s the love language, words of affirmation.  Another that I bristle at.  But there have been times where I soak it up like a dry sponge.  I think the difference is when words of affirmation is being used as a manipulation tool.  If we’re in agreement that my job is to get on your track (as some see child-parent or employee-boss relationships) then words of affirmation are great – they confirm that you’re on the right track and you won’t be shamed.  (Me vs you is getting seriously blurred here) But if you see people as separate, with their own needs, desires, motivations, then words of affirmation just degrade that sense of self.  Another boundary violation.  Alfie Kohn has a lot to say on the topic in his book, Punished by Rewards, and Kelly Bartlett has some alternatives in her book, Encouraging Words for Kids.

So in order to *feel* loved by the various love languages, you need to be able to accept the love offering.  And in order to do so, healthy boundaries are a must.  Without them, “love” can degrade your sense of self, and make it hard to figure out what your own needs and desires actually are.


Feeling loved and self worth


In order to trust that your needs will be met, you need to feel like you’re worth it.

One of our basic needs is connection, but I’ve argued that it’s not something you get directly – rather it’s something you get by meeting other needs in a social environment.

I’m here now to talk about love.  Are love and connection the same thing?  Maybe?

When you feel loved, you feel valuable, and your self worth goes up.  You are better able to prioritize your own needs, you’re better able to meet your own needs, and thus you’re better able to trust that your needs will be met.  Love can be generated internally (self love) or come from friends/family/partners.  It can be big and encompassing, or it can be small and everyday.

To understand it better, I start with the five love languages, and the idea that you have a primary and secondary love language.  Quality time, acts of service, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch.  And I want to add to the list, listening time.  Holding space and acceptance.

I’m curious about how a language becomes ‘my’ language.  And, what about the others?  I’ve had love languages feel like the opposite of love before.  Specifically doing an act of ‘service’ that is more for the do-er than for me.  Or words of affirmation (“Good job, I’m proud of you!”) that feel more like manipulation than love.  Others I’m indifferent to.  Gifts don’t make me happy, but I don’t bristle at them either.  I see story and story again, though, of people giving gifts as a love language, as a direct result of living through a time of scarcity.

Here’s my hypothesis.  What if the ‘love languages’ are really more like buckets?  As we’re growing up, we need each bucket filled enough that we understand how to then keep it filled ourselves?  Kind of like how a parent will tie a kid’s shoe until they know how to tie it for themself. And the the kid takes care of it on their own.

Now suppose each of these languages is more like a place where that process is likely to break.  You need to know that you’re whole and can generate each of these things for yourself, but sometimes the trust is broken.  You weren’t ever shown how.   You have certain languages that feel really good, some that are neutral, and others that you don’t even bother with because either you don’t know how to receive love in that language or else it hurts too much and just feels irritating.  If you have holes in one language it feels like you’re unlovable there.  Or not worth it.  If you know how to receive love in another, you want more and more of it to try and fill the hole, but since it’s the wrong language, the process never really completes.  It feels good but you still want more.  It’s your ‘primary love language.’

I propose that we all need to learn our worth in each of the love languages so that we can turn around and take care of ourselves in each of those ways.   Each of the love languages becomes a bucket to fill, a developmental box to check off.  And then any time you are having trouble prioritizing yourself to get your needs met, you can love yourself up to calm the anxiety.  Or ask for love from someone else.  Ask to have your worth modeled to you so that you can learn or re-learn how to do it yourself.




The basic needs of movement, rest, fuel and engaging your mind have been around for all of time.  No person in the history of time can survive for very long without these basics.  And yet, there are so many ways to think about *how* to get those needs met.  So many belief systems or mindsets that we, as the human race, have evolved around getting our needs met.  I’ve been focusing on two.

The first mindset is what this blog is all about.  I call it Inside Out, or the Care and Feeding model.  The idea is that you put your basic needs first, and that you are responsible for both making sure your needs are met, and for trusting that they will be met in the future.  This may mean other people actually meeting the need, or it might mean you meeting it yourself, but if it’s not working, then it’s your job to do what it takes to get it working.

The second, I’ve been calling Rise the Ranks, or Hierarchy mindset.  In this system, everything is ranked, whether it’s salary, job title, academic grades, clout, authority, success, personal preferences, social ladders, or how hard you’re trying… It’s all ranked.  I see each ‘thing’ as a ladder, and then as a person, you choose which ladder(s) you want to define your identity, and you try to rise.  Rising is good, and staying still is acceptable, but falling lower is shameful.  And because shame is a social construct, image is really important – more than your actual position on the ladder, it’s about where others perceive you to be.

I call them mindsets, because which mindset you’re using colors how you see everything.  This article sums that concept up nicely.  The way you do anything is the way you do everything.  It’s a kind of a limbic imprint.

We are very familiar with establishing the basic settings in our TVs, cameras and other devices. Imagine setting the tint of your television to maximum green. No matter what appears on the screen, everything will have a greenish cast. Similarly, if the brightness is set on dim, your screen will show an unusually dark picture. A similar mechanism is at work in our brains. This mechanism, called a limbic imprint, has been deliberately used for thousands of years to train animals, everything from dogs and horses to elephants and circus bears. For example, baby elephants are routinely chained to a small stake in the ground early in life. The elephant rages against the stake with all his might for a few days, until he finally stops. When he grows up and has enough strength to pull this stick right out, he doesn’t ever try.

In each mindset, you have needs, you have rewards – what you expect to get once your needs are met, and you have tools that you use to get your needs met.  And in each, there are things to avoid, as they will make life harder.

In the Care and Feeding mindset, your primary needs are the basics – Movement, Fuel, Rest, and Engage your Mind.  By meeting those needs in a social environment, you meet your need for Connection.  When your needs are met, you have organically found an identity and you know who you are.  You are more empathetic and generous.  That is your reward.

In the Hierarchy mindset, your primary needs are your Identity, and to Rise.  The idea is that if you are successful enough, if you play the game well enough, your basic needs and your need for connection will be taken care of.  Being taken care of is your reward.

It has been an interesting exercise to take different things and try them on in each mindset.  Listening, for example.  In Care and Feeding mindset, listening is a useful skill, that leads to more connection and helps everyone rest.  It is very powerful for improving life for everyone – If I can listen to you, you can process and rest.  You can then use your energy for meeting other needs more efficiently, AND we’ve connected.  And maybe as you’re meeting your needs more efficiently, I can benefit.  Or maybe I can’t, but someone else can.  Once your needs are met, you are free to be generous with others.  In Hierarchy mindset though, it’s a different story.  If I listen to you, then I’m helping YOU and hurting myself.  It’s all a competition.  By boosting you, I’m endangering me.  It’s like grading on a bell curve in school – if there are only so many A’s, then it’s not in my best interest to help anyone else learn the material.  Or maybe I listen to you and it hits too close to home and now I need to spend energy thinking about it instead of rising the ranks.  Or maybe you listen to me and now, horrors, you see that I’m not the image that I’m projecting.  Ooooohhhh that’s shameful.  I’m not as good as you thought I was.  And now I won’t be taken care of.

Similar thought patterns could go into the concept of generosity.  In Care and Feeding mindset, generosity is great.  You’re fulfilled, the other is helped, everyone’s happy.  In Hierarchy mindset, the primary motivator is to show how high up the ranks you are.  Which can also make it shameful to be the *receiver* of generosity.  Or maybe you’re grateful for the generosity, but only so far.  Once you’re out of your hole, you’d better be the one giving.

How about judging other people?  In Care and Feeding mindset, there’s no point.  Oh, you’re dirty and hungry? Here, use my shower and eat my food.  You’re struggling? I’ll listen and help you brainstorm.  You did WHAT!?  I’m going to watch and see if I can learn something new.  In Hierarchy mindset, it’s a super powerful tool.  About as useful as listening is to Care and Feeding mindset.  Oh, you’re dirty and hungry?  Well I’m clean and fed, I’m better than you!  You’re struggling?  I’m glad *I’m* not in your shoes.  You did WHAT!?  I am clearly higher up the ladder than you, that’s nonsense.

Shame is really useful in the Hierarchy mindset because it reinforces the ladder, and motivates rising.  And really, if what you’re doing *isn’t* rising the ranks, then I don’t want to be associated with you because you’re likely going to bring me down with you.  The bottom is a shameful place to be.  Falling is even more shameful.  If you’re important to me and I see you falling, I’m going to shame you to remind you of where you’re headed!  Stay on track!  Our lives depend on it!  We won’t eat!  I picture ancient agrigarian cultures who had to work so hard just to survive, there was no room for the bottom of the ladder, you really would die and bring the whole family down with you.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. -Brene Brown

It’s interesting to note that the tools that are so useful to Care and Feeding mindset pretty much sabotage Hierarchy mindset and vice versa.  Care and feeding thrives on listening, curiosity, and collaboration.  Hierarchy mindset thrives on shame, judgement, and authority.





I’ve been pondering the feeling of ownership lately.  Ownership is about a sense of control and a sense of authority.  It’s about power and decision making.  Ownership over your own life is really important.  While it’s technically possible to get all of your needs met without it, it makes the trust factor very difficult unless you submit all control and have someone or something or a system in place that you can trust implicitly.  If that system fails, though, it’s still up to you to find something that works, and so there goes ownership again.  But if you’ve been dependent all your life and suddenly the system fails, chances are you won’t easily step up to own the situation.  And so for the sake of a robust system, I choose to develop the skill of ownership as much as possible.

What is appropriate ownership?  Where are the boundaries?  What’s stepping out of line?  Let’s start with, you have ownership over anything that is yours.  If it’s not yours, you don’t own it.  So what is yours?  You have possessions.  Those are yours and you are in control of them.  You choose where they belong, what they’re used for, who can use them and when.  They’re yours.  You don’t have to share, and if somebody takes them from you, they’re out of line.  That said, if you want to keep your possessions, it’s your job to defend them.

Now let’s extend the concept of ownership beyond possessions.  You are responsible for making sure that your needs are met.  You own your own needs.  What does that look like?

Fuel.  Ownership of what you eat and how you nourish your body is about having preferences, and having the ability to choose what you eat.  It might mean listening to cravings and disgust, or it might mean choosing what diet you want to follow.  It’s freedom and liberty to make your own decisions about what goes in your mouth.  It’s the opposite of being told what you have to eat (Eat your vegetables!  Finish your plate!) or what you can’t eat (No salt!  Sugar is bad. Limit your calories.  Low fat.  Low carb.  No red meat.  No antinutrients.  No processed foods!)  It’s the opposite of food regulations that prevent you from consuming what you want to consume (raw milk, undercooked meat, locally butchered meats), or being forced to consume something you don’t want (pesticides, preservatives, artificial color and flavoring, GMOs).

Engage your Mind.  Ownership of how you engage your mind means choosing your own interests and projects, and choosing what you want to work on and when.  It’s the opposite of being told what to learn or where to work or clickbait.  It’s the opposite of zoning out in front of the TV, watching whatever comes on next.  It’s freedom and liberty to say what interests you and what you want to be doing with your time.

Movement.  Ownership of movement.  I’m going to have to come back to this one.  Freedom and liberty.  Is it about being free from reflexes?  Is it about developing at your own pace?  Is it about moving your own way, when you want to?  Is it the opposite of being stuck inside or stuck in a desk?  The opposite of being forced to run or forced to do something you don’t want to be doing?  The opposite of moving on someone else’s schedule?

Rest.  Ownership of rest would be about choosing when you take a break and how long of a break you need.  It’s going to bed when you’re tired and sleeping as long as you need.  Ownership of your space is choosing what goes in it and how it’s organized and decorated – your possessions.  Having ownership of your emotions means being able the express them in a method of your choosing, as needed.  Ownership of your mind means you are in charge of how it’s organized.  Others can listen, but they can’t tell you how to think or what’s right and wrong.  It’s the opposite of being forced to share, of not having your own space, of forced apologies and holding back tears.

Connection.  Ownership of connection is about choosing who you spend time with.  Choosing your social environment, and the culture in which you’re living.  It’s the opposite of your parents choosing your friends, or living somewhere with a culture that just doesn’t fit who you are.

Separate from the needs, I’m thinking about timers.  When you set a timer for yourself, you’re owning how you use your time, but you’re not really owning meeting your needs.  If you’re deeply involved in a project and loving it and the timer goes off and you have to stop and dig yourself out into a different mental state – maybe to go eat lunch, that’s something.  It’s not having full ownership over how you engage your mind.  You’re not eating because you’re hungry, you’re eating because you should.  Which might not necessarily be a bad thing, but I think it should be distinguished.

The common theme coming through is that ownership is about freedom and liberty, and it’s the opposite of external control.  Rational thought still feels like a form of external control on this one to me.  Which isn’t to say that it’s bad or unnecessary, just that it’s not the same as total freedom and liberty.  We’re caught in a major transition time period of history.  Just the fact that this blog is interesting is an indicator that we can’t trust all of our instincts and we need/want to be doing personal work to grow from how we were raised.  Rational thought and control is a critical tool for that process.  I would argue, though, that a few generations out, when we are so well practiced at getting our needs met first and foremost, and it’s been completely ingrained into our limbic systems and society, it would be totally instinctual and we wouldn’t need the rational control anymore.  And timers might seem ridiculous.