She's Not Your Mother: Finding Joy in the Journey
As I wrote last week the ‘capacity to be alone’ involves the ability to be yourself in the presence of other people, under the social pressure to conform to the expectations of others or how they want you to be.
Yes, I know this sounds amazing, but let me be the bearer of bad news: it is not as easy as it seems. The social pressures to conform are immense, and you will feel a backlash from some people for being contrary to what they expect or how they want you to be. In putting yourself out there, trying to approach women you don’t know, trying to get a conversation off the ground, trying to date and figure out all of this relationship stuff, or even coming out of your own shell in your current relationship and expressing true feelings that have gone unexpressed for years, you are going to run the risk of rejection. At times a woman’s rejection is going to be brutal and cold, or at least feel that way. You have to remember that SHE IS NOT YOUR MOTHER. She might not love you unconditionally as your mother did (or at least should have), and she is not obligated to like you, love you, or stay with you forever. There will be tension and at times pain. It will be a learning process, and you have to be willing to grow from it, experience the pain that comes with it, and most of all be OK being alone. This is part of your learning process. What you may not realize yet is that this is the best position you can be in to finally create the life you’ve always wanted! If you get too attached to the reaction of a woman and cannot bring a playful attitude to the equation, even in the face of rejection, you can kiss any possibility of attraction goodbye.
Let’s try to equate flirtation, dating, sex life, and relationships to playing, since this is typically where we as adults show how capable or uncapable we are at playing. Our ability to play begins in childhood. Play is the most natural thing that children do. A child’s ability to play is a sign of health, and has long been the indicator psychologists have used to assess the well-being of a child.
Winnicott states that the child raised in a Good Enough way “is able to play, to get excited while playing, and to feel satisfied with the game...” whereas the child whose needs were not properly met “is unable to enjoy play because the body becomes too physically involved.” In the school yard this would equate to the one kid who always needs to win to feel that the game went well, and who makes every other kid miserable if his team lost by telling the other kids they cheated, talking trash at the end of the game, or even starting a fight after the game is over. The child cannot control their excitement level, their disappointment, or how they handle their emotions. In fact, even if this kids team wins he is usually bragging, laughing in the faces of the other team, and just makes the game unenjoyable. This child’s ego depends on winning and making sure everybody knows that he has won. We all remember this kid from the school yard.
We see the adult equivalent when a man attempts to approach a woman with romantic or sexual intentions at a bar or night club, or even during the day, but we usually overlook it. A man approaches a woman, she rejects him, and how he responds to this shows how much his ego depends on her accepting his advances or how playful and free of her judgment he is able to be. If he is still playful and free even in the face of rejection this can spark a woman’s interest, and attraction is still a possibility.
Recently I attended a Meet Up group geared toward helping men find relationships to scope out my competition and see what they were doing to help men. The leader of the group made a comment to some women who passed us, trying to start up a conversation to demonstrate how to flirt or do pick up I suppose. These women completely ignored him, obviously not interested. Instead of moving on from the first failed attempt he started making comments, raised his voice, and said “Smile, it’s Free!” If there was any hope that an interaction could develop with this group of women, it was all lost at that point when he showed how easily he became stuck on failure and that his ability to play the flirtation game was limited to winning; he showed them that if it did not go his way he would get hurt or angry and try to make them feel bad for not reciprocating his interest. What fun is that? He was obviously hurt by the women not acknowledging him at all, and to act on this so quickly probably signaled to the women that this man’s ego is dependent on their approval of him and that he is likely needy and would not be fun to start an interaction with, flirt with, much less be stuck in a relationship with. As men we’ve all been there to some degree, and we’ve all had to learn to get over these bites to our male egos and deal with rejection from a woman we really like or even love. For some this lesson has been harder than others. The bottom line is that we’ve all felt this, and if you are responding with hurt feelings or snippy comments to a woman not being receptive to your advances you are not in the right head space and I can guarantee that you are not going to be able to engage with the woman.
This same example of a woman not responding to a man’s advances can be seen on a more serious level. There are men who react to the same kind of rejection by getting angry and insulting a woman with a plethora of possible names reserved for deriding women. Other men really take the rejection personally, thinking there is something wrong with them and retracting into isolation or withdrawing through heavy drinking. Even worse, a man may be openly belligerent and call the woman a name to her face escalating into a direct conflict. In this case the man’s ego is severely hurt, and he needs to make the woman out to be bad so that he can feel good about himself again because he cannot feel good within himself. This is a man who needs validation from a woman to feel good about himself. Like the child above, this would be a man who is attached to winning, and makes everybody else feel bad if he doesn’t get the outcome he wants. The man in this example is too attached to the outcome, or is too aroused or overexcited by the sexual tension involved in being around women, and because of this cannot bring the essential playful attitude into his interaction with women. His ability to play is severely compromised.
If this is how you’re reacting to rejection you have not established a good enough relationship with yourself. Being aware of this and learning how to meet your own needs first is paramount. You need to know that the secret is that the joy you are seeking is within you. Life is your experience. Life is about finding joy in that experience and once you understand that secret, you possess a power that distinguishes you from other people and makes you attractive. The experiences you have in your life will not always be positive or how you think you want them to be, but they all make up your unique journey through life. Whether you want it to or not this journey is happening. It is your journey and your journey alone. No one can do it for you and no one else can take this journey away from you. It is a matter of whether you are going to actively participate in it or just take a back seat and let life happen to you. Whether you grow from these painful experiences or not is contingent upon you making a commitment to this journey. If you choose to be an active participant in this journey you are on the path to Self-Actualization. On this path each painful experience can be an opportunity to grow and improve yourself or your behavior rather than simply retracting from what is causing the pain. Every time you get rejected by a woman it teaches you the lesson you will come back to time and time again: life is about finding the joy within yourself.
That means you will need to be willing to learn from your mistakes, be forgiving of yourself when you do make a mistake (and believe me, you will), have a sense of humor about it, focus less on the destination (getting the girl) and focus on enjoying the journey (the fun you experience during interaction, flirtation, and relating). If you can put your fears aside and open yourself up to taking risks, you will be able to bring this playful attitude into your interactions with women, and you will start to see more success develop in your interactions with women, your dating life, as well as your relationships. It is in your best interest to have fun with this process.