All Posts by Doug Miller

Insights From The Field*: Receiving Love Is Just As Important As Giving Love

We’ve all heard “it’s better to give than receive.”  While giving has many rewards, when it comes to our love lives, the biggest, often overlooked and obvious factor in relationship fulfillment is the ability to receive love.

It’s difficult to receive love because in the past, it was not the love we gave that hurt us most, but the love we didn’t receive, and so it is more risky.  The source of this goes back to childhood and the various ways we were not loved or even acknowledged as children.

To be loved as a child is to have most of your experiences and emotions acknowledged.  This doesn’t mean that your parents approve of “bad behavior.” Rather, your parents help you realize that your behaviors are either appropriate or inappropriate while acknowledging your feelings.  This can occur in statements such as, “I know you want Johnny to share his candy, but it is not right for you to grab it from him.”  In short, with this acknowledgement of her desires, the child’s wants get mirrored back and integrated with the appropriate behavior.

In contrast, if the parents respond saying, “stop that, don’t be a bad girl,” this shames the child and the child will take it to mean that she is “bad” when she expresses her needs.  When such messages are repeated, as they often are in a shaming parenting style, over time, the child will have difficulty asking to have her needs met, or even allowing her needs to be met, including in adulthood.  In term of her sense of self, she may come to believe “there is something wrong with me, I am unlovable.”  

When emotions and needs are not mirrored, met and fulfilled, it hurts, and so those emotions are cast away.  We feel that those parts are unacceptable, and that we are not deserving of love. Because of the pain, those emotions are then protected.  So we don’t dare risk exposing the needs, and this keeps love out. Giving love involves much less risk, and so it is easier to give than receive love, but it is only half of the equation and is unfulfilling.

So, what can you do?  You can tune into the ways you do not let love in.  For example, when you are with your beloved or close friend, you can look inside and notice when you put up a wall, detach, don’t accept a compliment, and generally don’t settle into and receive what is being offered.  

With long-term relationships, both partners can get into a habitually distant pattern with one another, a sort of agreement “not to go there.”  It’s best when couples work on this together as both are contributing. Because there is a lot of sensitivity and vulnerability around the issues involved, often professional help is needed.  

In any situation, when your withdrawal persists, you may become aware of childhood memories of emotional neglect, shaming, and other negative interactions with your caregivers.  These are the actual source, and can be worked through in Experiential Therapy and other approaches that directly heal those experiences.  You may know that you are more open when the receiving causes you to feel a bit childlike and vulnerable.  When this happens, just pause, relax and receive, let it really sink into your heart. Know you are loved. Because it is so satisfying and fulfilling, it will get easier over time.  It will also get easier to ask for the love you really want.


To learn more about these and related topics, listen to our Intimacy Hour Radio Show.


*”The Field” is meant in two ways: First, from the professional field of Transpersonal Psychology, how psychology and spirituality interact.  Second, it is my lived, often felt and intuited awareness of myself and others. Many of these insights come from my own personal experience and my “growing edge,” i.e., insights I am realizing for myself, about mine and other’s growth, and my interpretation of the realities of being human.  

The Only Way To Be A Man

“To be nobody but myself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else—means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.” ~ E. E. Cummings

The last thing I want is to be told yet another way how to be a man. I have worked hard, and continue to work, to reclaim aspects of myself lost to traditional male conditioning. Traditional male conditioning, with its old school constricting demands and expectations of manhood has separated all men from at least some aspects of our authentic selves. Now, as modern men, we are facing changing gender roles with new demands in our relationships and at work. As a result, we are being presented with an increasing number of New Models of Manhood. These new models, while more allowing of various ways to be a man, have inherited some of the problems of Traditional male conditioning.

My most intense experience with these new models of manhood came during a time where I had dated my wife for a week, and then she broke-up with me because she felt I was projecting onto her. I was then in the “friend zone.” After a couple of weeks, she posted on Facebook one of those articles on “what a conscious woman wants from a man” and it read like a laundry list of psycho-spiritual superpowers that were impossible for any man to fulfill. I remember reading it and while I was mainly pissed because I took it personally, I had a range of reactions including: “I’m that way,” “I don’t want to be that way,” “really?” “If that’s what she wants, forget it,” “that’s not what a man is,” etc…

I had mostly accepted that we would not be together – “Good luck on finding that guy!” I expressed all of this to a friend, emphasizing how I thought the article was no good. Then, a couple of days later, I went over to her place to help her move, because that’s what friend zone guys do. While there, she happened to pull up the article and began reading parts of it out loud, often saying, “Hmmm, that sounds like you.” Eventually I said, “Ya, that’s a pretty cool article!” LOL! I kid you not. Love can make you do some strange things.

My inconsistencies reflected in the above story indicate how I was lost in the new models of manhood, and albeit, in love. That experience, my very mutually accountable marriage, and my life dedicated to the study of psychology, have led me to the conclusion that the only one way for us, as men, to be healthy, fulfilled and empowered, is to be true to our authentic selves. Authenticity means being true to who you are and expressing this truth in your interactions in the world.

Authenticity is a process of frequent discovery in each moment and an honoring of how you actually are, not a static goal or definition. While the new models allow for greater options for men, only by turning inward, healing personal wounds and reclaiming aspects of self lost to traditional male conditioning, can a man move toward greater authenticity.

Traditional and New Models of Manhood

Traditional male conditioning has influenced all men to one extent or another, and much has been written about this. On the positive side, traditional conditioning includes being honorable, strong, self-assured, externally responsible, protective, and more. Boys, and men, are often shamed if they do not live-up to these traditional standards. Shame is the experience that there is something wrong with who one is, and so shame can cause men to stuff “unmanly” aspects such as vulnerability, emotionality, receptivity, deep social support and more.

The New Models of Manhood often include detailed descriptions or lists of the “Conscious,” “Awake,” or “Superior” man. These new definitions challenge and expand on traditional male conditioning. One value of these new models is in providing the freedom and new permissions for men to try on various and more complete ways of being a man, e.g., greater emotional awareness and exploring deeper sources of masculine power. As these new and broader definitions become more accepted in society, men have more flexibility to be who we truly are, to be authentic.

Traditional Risks For The New Man

New models of manhood have inherited some of the problems of traditional male conditioning. These problems interfere with men’s abilities to relate to or accept what is being offered with the new models and interfere with authenticity. While shame is addressed here, future topics in this series are summarized at the end of this article.


No matter how inclusive any New Model of manhood is, it can evoke the shame that was part of traditional male conditioning, while providing its own shaming message. As indicated above, boys and men are often shamed if they do not live-up to the Traditional standards and so we stuff “unmanly” aspects of ourselves.

Because any new model of manhood offers an implied expectation of what it is to be “a man,” it can repeat the shame of Traditional male conditioning. I myself have experienced this, and witnessed it in other men. Saying “An Awake or Conscious Man is…” can ring very similarly to “Man-up.” In this sense, these frameworks are new, and albeit better, wine in old wineskins.

As soon as there is an expectation that a man has a particular feature, male shame unconsciously may rear up in resistance and defensive reactions including withdrawal and dismissal. A man may engage in intellectualized arguing regarding the validity of the new model. Alternatively, the man may “prematurely” adopt the designated feature, professing that he actually possesses the newly desired feature while that feature is actually out of step with his authentic self.

There is a solution: By emphasizing that a man be nothing but his true authentic self, shaming and the shaming reaction are removed.

Consider the difference between saying to a man, “We are here for you to be exactly who you are,” versus saying, “This is how you are supposed to be.” The latter message creates a separation between who the man actually is and some external ideal. Valuing our authenticity above all else places us squarely in ourselves, with our unique attributes and gifts, and this is the place from which fulfillment and power flow.

Internal Authenticity for Manhood (I-AM)

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. ~ Carl Jung

A very important question is: How is a man to know when he is living authentically? Broadly speaking, a man may not be living authentically when he is feeling unfulfilled and/or not empowered. He may also be experiencing a general malaise or anxiety about his life. He may be losing his sense of zeal and purpose for life. He may not feel a sense of agency in his life, feeling that life is happening to him and not happening through him.

As men clear our conditioning and heal emotionally, internally deeper and clearer emotional and intuitive information is available. Once the emotional blocks are removed and distorted emotions cleared-up, listening to our emotions and intuition provides true direction. It is like, with less interference and greater self-awareness, the internal compass is re-calibrated, more sensitive and truer to a man’s inner guidance system, allowing him to find his authentic way. When a man is authentic, healed and whole, he spontaneously lives a fulfilled and empowered life.

What We Can Learn from Toxic Man-Shaming

The following is a response I had to a man who came into The Men’s Group that I run on Facebook (If you want, in a Facebook message, ask me to join the group and put your email so I can add you). He came in and called the men in the group “snowflakes” and other typical toxic shaming names. One man who had just joined the group left because of it, but we talked and he came back into the group.


So, I have had a couple of private messages with the man who posted the problematic post yesterday. First, I want to say that his language was insulting and demeaning and at least one man left the group because of it, so I took action to remove him. In our private messages, he continues to be challenging to me personally and I have offered to post it all on my public timeline while tagging him. While I believe his language and approach are classic for the traditional male, there are some points worthy of discussing and he said at least a couple of useful things.

1) He raised the question of spending too much time dealing with our sorrow, self-pity and pain, and contrasts this with being more powerful and useful in society.

As I understand it, this is actually a point that contributed to the end of the men’s movement in the 90’s. Specifically, the “mythopoetic school,” involved with introspection, personal healing, accessing inner strength, was in conflict with the “activist school,” believing that men needed to be active in the outer world to bring about appropriate change. I’m not saying his comments represent the latter school.

Personally, I don’t see the conflict, and firmly believe that “as within, so without,” i.e., as men change themselves, they will bring that change to the world. That said, it is a great question regarding how we balance both approaches, or if it is necessary to do so?

2) He described some of the criticisms of the patriarchy as presented here as the “guilt mantle of “patriarchy.”

I get this point, and while guilt can be paralyzing, working through our transgressions as men, and recognizing the problems with the patriarchy, calling it out, and healing it in ourselves and our systems I see as worthwhile work. He expressed that the patriarchy is a “survival plan,” i.e., by criticizing the patriarchy we are giving up what was “built to be the strength and protector.”

I don’t agree that we have to give up the positive aspects of masculinity because we are criticizing the negative. Also, we need protection, but protection from what? Protection from other men who are disregarding others and lacking compassion for their fellow man. It is likely that many in the mythopoetic school see that humanity is caught in a warring state, and the only way out is to change the fear and dominance based paradigm, one man at a time, to change society and the world. Of course, due to actual threats, we cannot all drop the mantle of protection, but we also can participate consciously in changing it, while we are strong and protect.

3) And I agree: “There’s nothing wrong with being powerful…Men’s ‘healing’ should take place in the transition from adolescence to manhood. Shit happened when you had no control and that sucks and you learn to discern the pattern as previously described (insecurity vs. evil).”

He suggests: “It’s pretty fucking simple,” which I certainly disagree with, and don’t know a psychologist who would agree with this.

4) He suggests that “there’s nothing wrong with shrugging off shit people do to you.”

My response is that there is a big difference between healing and shrugging things off, and that shrugging off childhood trauma and emotional disconnection, without actually healing, becoming whole (the same root as heal), on an emotional and even physical level, contributes to warring culture, abusiveness, lack of intimacy, poor emotional control, unconscious fears of deficit, etc… These then manifest in all kinds of negative ways in society.

5) He then defines vulnerability as the “quality of being easily hurt or attacked,” and suggests that we are “celebrating” that. Harkening back to “3)” above, he says, “Yeah, we’ve all been hurt, so fucking what? Do you want to be more vulnerable? Why?” I sent him an article on what is meant by psychological vulnerability, and I’ve posted it below. I can only be patient that he didn’t understand the psychological meaning of vulnerability, and to his credit, look what he said next:

6) To his credit he said, “And that article about ‘vulnerability’ is not the traditional (dictionary) definition of vulnerability, that is semantics confusing the issue. What they are describing [in the article] is warrior, unfearing, knowing your weakness and how to protect/work with it. This is strength, this is willingness to know your personality and accept it. It’s knowing you didn’t create this personality, it’s what life handed you and now what are you going to do with it.”

I really like that! I can see here that he at least understands the actual courage, difficulty and warrior nature of really getting to “know thyself” and even more, to heal and take responsibility.

7) He said something else I really like, “It’s not ‘suffering,’ it’s being a man, something to feel in the core of your being, it’s destiny. I do not “suffer” being a man, I live in gratitude for the experiences I’ve had.”

I have already shared this with him.

All in One Love

The Men’s Group

Here is the group description for The Men’s Group on Facebook, included here to outline the values brought to my men’s work.


~ There are many ways to be a man ~

“To be nobody but myself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else – means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.”
~ E. E. Cummings

This group is a men’s only group. It is a place where together, we will delve into our personal issues, problems, triumphs, etc.. as deeply experiencing men who have moved beyond, and want to expand, the traditional ways men have lived thus far. As such, it is not a “Men’s Rights Activists” group.

Anyone can post in this group or add members. Feel free to add anyone who you think may benefit and/or contribute.
No political posts or comments will be accepted, nor expressions of political stance.
Spiritual/ Religious posts and comments are only welcome as they are directly, clearly and strongly related to men’s issues.
Otherwise, political and spiritual posts and comments will be deleted.

Group Rule: What happens here stays here. While you can discuss your own experiences in the group, avoid any information that might identify another man, e.g., name, location, or attributes that might reveal identity. It may be a good thing to share some of what you experience here with your closest/intimate friends/partners. Nonetheless, even there, you can keep this group the safest place it can be, and this is a good way to practice boundaries and to lend strength and value to the group.

Everyone’s ideas about what men need to be our fullest and most fulfilled selves are welcome. Two of the basic values that will recur in this group are vulnerability and emotional facility, which have been deprived most men in our conditioning. So, think back about the messages you got about being vulnerable and emotional, how you got them, and if you like, share them here. A third basic value is connection and support, and that is what this group is for.

A fourth basic value for this group is our personal empowerment: Not power over, as tyrants, but power with one another. The principles of this group are designed to support increased authenticity, which is the source of personal power and alignment. As such, the spirit of this group is one of personal courage and strength in our vulnerability and emotions, while supporting others. It is likely that we have intended to use power in positive ways. Also, in the discussions we could separate the sort of entitled power bestowed by the patriarchy, from what feels like power that is genuine, deeper, personal and transpersonal or archetypal, and emerges from the authentic self, again, balanced with and informed by self-aware vulnerability that adds to our compassion.

This group adheres to a “no man left behind” policy. We will all move forward and liberate ourselves together. There will not be a shunning of any man for making a mistake or behaving in this or that way. In the past, at least one man left the group, but he returned, another who was aggressive and shaming, presenting the toxic masculine, did not return of his own choice. It is believed that we can all learn together and must learn to support one another through whatever arises from each individual. While it is encouraged to lead off and follow through any interaction with vulnerability, sometimes conflicts will arise. That said, any chronic and repeated patterns of disruption to the group principles could result in a temporary removal from the group. If things are again repeated, removal may last longer. By following the principles in the group description, no man will be left behind.

Conscious Relating – How to Go From Triggered to Comfortable Intimacy

Originally Published in The Good Men Project

You can make the choice to defuse and unravel the emotions that keep you from your deepest joy.

We all have emotional triggers. And as a relationship deepens into intimacy it’s almost inevitable that both of you will set off one or more of the other person’s alarms.
You know you are being triggered in your relationship when you are repeatedly experiencing the same intense emotional reactions that result in painful and frustrating interactions. This will often include feelings of anger and/or emotional and physical withdrawal.

This is like two minefields walking across one another, so heart-based vulnerability and receptivity is what’s needed.

While there are various ways to heal emotional triggers, many of these have in common a coming into awareness of an earlier emotional wound that is resolved through compassion and self-love. The process described here is a way to work through emotional triggers with your loved one. It is often necessary to spend time in self-exploration, e.g., journaling, before engaging in, and along with, this process. When done patiently and compassionately, including with self-compassion, this can be part of a conscious healing relationship.

It is difficult to impossible to work through and heal triggers when you are in the middle of reacting, so taking time to cool down, which often includes getting some space, and even brief time apart can be essential. Otherwise you are just reacting and can get into a mutual-triggering-cycle. This is like two minefields walking across one another, so heart-based vulnerability and receptivity is what’s needed. Remember, your triggered response is a defense that is there to protect you, so be gentle and appreciate your triggered defense, it has served a purpose that is no longer adaptive and prevents you from getting the love you want.

If you feel a lot of anger or are stuck in anger while alone, it can help to release the anger by pounding a bed with a pillow or your hands and screaming and cussing, and this itself may bring up some memories. (Note: If you have a history of anger management problems, any anger work should be done under the direction of a mental health professional.) Once the anger is released often other emotions like sadness and/or fear emerge and you are already into the next stage of the work as described below. It can also be good to have a pre-established agreement that when things get heated, you will take a time out, so that no one feels abandoned in their hurt.

Once you’ve moved through the initial anger, fear, or sadness you can come together and calmly discuss what occurred. Using the principles of Nonviolent Communication can be helpful. (Harvel Hendricks book Getting The Love You Want also has some good strategies.) Always deal with only one partner’s trigger at a time. You can go through one after the other until there is resolution; though you probably don’t want to do too much at one sitting, or even in any few day period, as this work takes time to integrate.

You have penetrated the defense, you have some intellectual understanding, but have not yet healed the wound that is being defended.

Through the calmness, as you talk, you will notice the rise of emotion that, unchecked, becomes the triggered reaction. This is when it is important to allow for some “contained reactivity.” Observing practice can be helpful here: Observe the emotion arising, without being in the emotion. Then, gentle pointing for your partner, and gentle insights for yourself. Ask “what is this?” as you explore each emotion, one at a time. Keep curious and ask questions of yourself and your partner—what is the basis, what’s really going on, when have I felt that before, and before that, and before that? You can trust yourself to follow the right path.

Once you have some understanding, it is important not to stop there. You have penetrated the defense, you have some intellectual understanding, but have not yet healed the wound that is being defended. This is like getting your hands on a great treasure box, and never opening the box. To open the box, you have to go further into the emotions and the historical interactions that brought about the reactive emotion.

At this point, it is necessary to feel the fear, pain, shame and other difficult emotions that you have been defended against feeling. (My wife, Elicia, does great inner-child work with her clients to heal at this level.) Sometimes, it’s just emotion, and you will have no idea where it came from, because it may have been preverbal. No worries, the healing is in the emotion, not so much in the memory. Feeling and expressing your emotion, with your partner, not just talking about the emotion, is a powerful way to heal through these deep-seated emotions. It may take added courage to ask, gently and specifically, for what you want, and even ask again if what was offered doesn’t feel quite right, e.g., “just listen and acknowledge me,” “hold me.” Practicing this will assure that you get what you want in your deepest relationships.

You may also become aware of various limiting beliefs that sort of “ride along” with the emotion. For example, “I am unlovable,” “I won’t get what I want.” These can be moments of great insights that you can challenge as they arise in awareness in the future. While changing these beliefs is part of the process, it is the emotional release that really heals. This is why affirmations alone rarely work.

Regarding shame, there is a saying, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”

One big one for me was feeling shame, with an associated lack of self-love. So, I would get triggered whenever I felt I wasn’t doing something right. This includes times when I was just being offered support, because instead of feeling “here is some support,” I was feeling, “you dumbass, you are so incompetent, you need help.” I would come back with sarcasm or more overt snappy anger. So, I was cutting myself off from support and getting pissed when support was offered. Unfortunately that’s how we roll sometimes, making sure we don’t get what we really want, arghh! Furthermore, adding to our difficulty, when I got pissed, even a little bit – to cover my hurt – this would trigger her issues around her raging father. So she would withdraw, and then that would trigger my abandonment feelings, and we were off and running; there was layer upon layer of trigger/defensive protection.

Regarding shame, there is a saying, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” Shame’s directive is “hide” and so it has its own defense, never to be revealed. By sharing in the uncovering of shame with your partner, your are disarming shame’s main defense. Through the process described above, we got to my reactive shame response that was at the base of some pretty nasty and undermining behavior.

While my issue is largely resolved, I still sometimes have to breathe and pause when feedback and support are offered, or at worst, I catch myself almost immediately when I am reacting. In our potentially conflicted interactions, I stay calm, and wow, this is a great and empowering feeling compared to getting triggered!

All in One Love