Monday, 30 September 2013

The Men's Version of the ACoA Promises - Part Two

Okay, it's time to deal with the "intimacy" stuff.Because this is about the same place asthe feelings of loss and emptiness I mentioned at the start. So let's take a look at the ACoA promises:
1. We will discover our real identities by loving and accepting ourselves.
2. Our self-esteem will increase as we give ourselves approval on a daily basis.
3. Fear of authority figures and the need to "people-please" will leave us.
4. Our ability to share intimacy will grow inside us.
5. As we face our abandonment issues, we will be attracted by strengths and become more tolerant of weaknesses.
6. We will enjoy feeling stable, peaceful, and financially secure.
7. We will learn how to play and have fun in our lives.
8. We will choose to love people who can love and be responsible for themselves.
9. Healthy boundaries and limits will become easier for us to set.
10. Fears of failures and success will leave us, as we intuitively make healthier choices.
11. With help from our ACA support group, we will slowly release our dysfunctional behaviors.
12. Gradually, with our Higher Power's help, we learn to expect the best and get it.

I'm right there with 3), 6), 9), 10) and 11) and using words loosely, I'll go with 2) as well. I have no problem with 12), though I'm not good at expecting the best, nor with 5) and 8), though putting both into practice in this town could leave a man with an empty diary.

What give me the heebie-jeebies are 1), 4) and 7). And until I was half-way through this, I thought that was my fault.

"Discovering our real identities", "sharing intimacy" and "learning to play and have fun" arethe promises held out by therapists and self-help authors everywhere. That's because those goals appeal to women of both sexes, who make up the main market for therapies, and everyone gotta keep the customer satisfied. I'm a man of the male sex (there are men of the female sex as well, and I get on rather well with them), and those things don't describe my way of being in the world at all.

The dictionary says "intimacy" means something along the lines of "comfortable familiarity". However, that's not the freight it carries in these circumstances, where it means a mixture of closeness, empathy, trust and mutual understanding. And that's not the freight it carries for the insecure and needy people who fill therapist's rooms and read self-help books: for those people it means "making me feel as if someone cares about me and that the huge hole inside me gets filled up just a little".Dealing with needy and insecure people, our provisionof "intimacy" gets judged by the easing of their pain, which is a recipe for disaster, and anyway, their pain isfor them to pay a therapist to treat.And let's just say something else while we're at it:regurgitating the minutia of Her Day or Her Fears when you get back isn't intimate and it isn't sharing, it's dumping the garbage, and it's just rude and thoughtless.

Okay. I'm done with that.

ACoA and the therapists claim that we will feel connected with others by sharing our past experiences, hopes, fears, ambitions, circumstances and dreams. That happens to be true, but it also happens to be as rare as a big Lottery win. A prudent life has to be built on the assumption that, after we leave university,we will not meet anyone with whom we will connect, let alone connect and want to have sex and live with. (This is one reason a lot of clever young men and women go into accounting and consultancy, so they continue to be surrounded by clever, personable and ambitious young people for another few years. From my experience, regular companies do not have many pretty people working in them. And the people in the hip companies are painfully intent on letting everyone know just how freaking hip they are. Way too hip to get next to co-workers.) Whether or not you lead a good life should not depend on having the luck to meet someone who doesn't put their meanings to your words. If you believe in Evolution (or God) you have to believe we Evolved (or had Created) mechanisms for that. And we did: it's called art, literature, drama, comedy. (Only some art communicates, the rest is entertainment.) Art can let us know there is someone else who shares our views, beliefs and concerns.12-Step movements tell us that we will find such people in their Rooms, and for some alcoholics, druggies, adult children and the rest, that might be true, but it's not true for all of them. (I found getting sober changed some things but not everything: I couldn't make friends when I was drinking, and I can't do it sober either.)

After all, if it was easy to find people with whom to share in this marvellous way, why would the human race have invented booze, drugs, maypoles, dancing, travelling theatres, fireworks, the printing press, the movies, chocolate, nightclubs, painting, sports and free weights? Our forefathers did it because they needed stuff to add pep, zest and contemplation to their lives. I have a friend who can remember as a young girl sitting round the village fire listening to the adults talking and telling stories to make the evening pass. If that was as much fun as it needed to have been, those adults would not have TV's in their houses now. But they do. The human race needs diversions and accomplishments.

So in a manly no-nonsense spirit I'm going to replace 1), 4) and 7) as follows:

1) We will exercise, eat well, groom and dress well, and experiment with anything we fancy until we find some stuff we really like. We will avoid junk food, junk culture and junk people, and if necessary sit in peaceful silence until something or someone worthwhile comes along. We will not go on being limited by what those SoB's in our past told us we can't do.

4) We will find the confidence to: choose the right people to work with so we can advance our ambitions and plans; choose attractive, well-balanced people to form relationships with; and to handle the occasional crazy person who just makes life more interesting.

7) We will make damn sure we entertain ourselves the way we want to be entertained at least once a week.

Sure I would love to meet someone who "gets me", and who hears what I say, but in the meantime I have to go on breathing. Even if I did, I would still need to earn a living, iron my shirts, stock the fridge, cook my food, commute and exercise. Also sleep and commute.Instead of talking about the benefits of something that may never happen in the ACoA's life, it would be better to talk about how one lives with hope, self-respect and an immanent sense of disappointment that one's feelings could be more vibrant and rich, but just not today.

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