Tag Archives: advice

A History of Problem Solving: A Selection from The Alphabet Versus the Goddess

“Long before there were cities, books, and inkwells, there were clans, caves, and middens. Human societies were shaped by the exacting rules of evolution: losers became extinct, winners survived. The crucial module guaranteeing the tribes continuance was the family unit. All members prospered under this arrangement. A man was cared for by a solicitous woman and learned about the pleasures of playing with small children. A woman enjoyed the security she needed to devote her time to her offspring. Each gained a friend, lover, confidant, and helpmate. Children matured in a safe atmosphere guided by two caring role models. The tribe as a whole could count on the steady replenishment of both skilled hunters and pregnant mothers. This system works better than any alternative ever tried.

A husband and wife, over time, begin to resemble one another in physical appearance. The melding of their physiognomic features is also reflected, to varying degrees, in their souls. A woman’s presence in a man’s life tends to soften his hard edges, just as her proximity to him tends to stiffen her central core. A mate increases the possibility that each member of the couple will exhibit that difficult-to-define quality called common sense.

Men and women often arrive at conclusions and plans of action differently. Some situations are best addressed by focused, step-by-step “masculine” logic, while holistic, “feminine” intuition comprehending many components in a complex whorl is better in others. Couples benefit from having access to each other’s major hemispheric processes, which over time also strengthens their own personal minor mode. The blending of feminine knowing and masculine reason in each individual and each couple generates good sense. The wisest figure in the mythologies of ancient cultures was often a hermaphrodite- a male-female- such as Tiresias, a blind seer.

Humans belong to that class of animals called “social predators.” Their hunting strategy resembles that used by wolf packs and lion prides; all members of the social unit hunt in concert to kill prey. The protracted childhoods of human young made female participation on these forays unfeasible. The all-male hunting party came into existence in only our species and with it the ethos of the left brain.

The template for all subsequent male projects remained the original hunting party, the ultimate purpose of which was to kill. Therein lay the problem. When men began to spend extensive time in each other’s company, they amplified each other’s hunter-killer instincts. When the hunting party became an “army,” the prey became other humans. The result has been a historical record pungent with the acrid smell of fear, havoc, and death.

The greatest counterbalance to men’s death-dealing inpulse is to engage them in the lives of women and entangle their legs with children. The most dangerous result of these all-male cultures bereft of the input from women is the loss of common sense. The phrase “common sense” has several meanings. In one, it is the wisdom of all the senses, a holistic and simultaneous grasp of multiple converging determinants. In this meaning common sense is intuitive and is often the opposite of logic. In another meaning, it is the wisdom of more than one person. It is the result of the give-and-take of face-to-face conversation with another, which allows one to ‘hear oneself think.’ In this second meaning, common sense is wisdom generated ‘in common.’

Confronted by a knotty problem a person of turns to a trusted adviser, not so much to receive the solution as to engage in a problem solving dialogue. A man can resort to two entirely different advisers: his female significant other or another man. His interactions with these two most likely will be quite different.

There are certain conventions men generally obey when talking to each other. Dialogues occur in the light, with no physical contact, and both men are dressed, facing each other vertically. When a man consults his woman, it is often at night, in the dark, while both are horizontal in a position of repose, and there is frequently skin touching skin.

In both these colloquies, he talks in order to bounce his ideas off his listener and evaluate his or her response. The male adviser or woman confidante serves as his sounding board. Men, over many centuries and across a diverse range of cultures, would concur that in interpersonal matters, the best “sounding board” is often a soft pillow with a woman’s head on it. Further, this syzygy of skin, night, and goose feathers is conducive to sleep. A thoughtful person when confronted by a difficult dilemma for which others demand an immediate answer will frequently withhold his reply until after he has “slept on” it. By using this common saw, he tacitly acknowledges the vital importance of talking over the problem with his mate before falling asleep and then letting the right hemisphere dream its wisdom into his response. Come morning, horizontal thinking has worked its magic and the individual has arrived at an answer that makes common sense smile.

Men need the counsel of women to help them sort out what is important from what is folly. This need is particularly acute if the man is the head of a vast enterprise. In such situations the other men to whom he might turn for advice-those under him-will often have their own personal agendas, which may influence the opinions they give their alpha male. The wife of the alpha male is often a truer resource-sharing his life, her fate is intimately entwined with his. And the alternative kind of wisdom she brings to his problem make her counsel so uniquely valuable to him.

Few men who have enjoyed a good relationship with a woman would disagree with the proposition that a woman’s assistance in male problem-solving is indispensable. Eliminating her from the process greatly increases the possibility that a man might make a wrong-headed decision about matters of import. History books are filled with such examples.”

~Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess

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How Do We Know HOW to Fall in Love?

Is it any wonder we have a hard time determining who to love if we have never been in a relationship that led to commitment and marriage? How are we supposed to know what we want and need in a partner when we have never had the “right” one?

If we cannot truly know what the right partner looks until we have it already…maybe this is the wrong angle to take. I have wanted every partner I have evet had to be the right one…but they we appeared to have disagrees. Was I therefore wrong about my feelings? Is it just luck when you find someone who feels the same way at the same time?

We have to believe in our partners, believe they know what it means when they say, “I love you.” Even if our love ends before forever, we have to somehow trust ourselves and our partners. How do we learn this?

Love is indescribable. Love is not teachable from textbooks and chalkboards. Learning to love is a rite of passage; one that we all must go through alone. But how do we know we have got it right? Just like climbing a mountain, there are many false peaks to love.

As we are thrown into this trial by fire, the hardest challenge is to build our ability to trust ourselves. Advice and how-tos are everywhere; all professing to know the secret. How tempting it is, though, to want to help people find the light of love once you yourself have found it! It seems that you truly cannot hurry love, but you can make the road much more confusing.

Our knowledge of love may need to be built up over time like a stalactite. Unconsciously, knowledge has been filtering in from our own families and from the media. These thoughts and beliefs influence how we maneuver through the obstacles we will all face.

In the spring of our loving lives, we begin slowly, with beautifully irrational crushes; obsessions with some boy or girl in class who we get nervous around, dream about and stare at way too often. Without knowing it, we have begun our journey. It seems natural to start loving with this innocent romanticism.

This love is about developing our emotional hearts, exercising our love muscles. Looking back at my school-age crushes, my feelings were more about me than anything the boys were or did. It was one-sided practice love.

Teenage dating is practice of a different kind. Mutual attraction and affection allow basic exploration of the acts of love. We learn to kiss, hold hands, spend time together as more than friends, and, most importantly, how to communicate our love to our partner. By trying these first two-sided partnerships we experiment with what works and what feels good.

Are we really ever compatible because of shared interests or how we like to spend our Friday nights? Or is it just that we both decide to make the relationship work and be the best partner we can be for the other? My own interests change from year to year; my partners have all introduced me to new interests as well. I can adapt to spend my Fridays in new ways. So what is the essential element to a relationship that works?

Most romantic movies end with the first kiss, at the beginning of a beautiful romance. What comes after, Hollywood? What does it take to maintain love and commit to love? What are the characteristics of a husband or a wife that we should look for? I just want more than a passionate kiss.

So many of my married acquaintances speak about the ups and downs of marriage, complaining for themselves more than offering advice. I have never expected marriage to be utter bliss, but so many people seem to want out when things get hard. Our culture and times are making it acceptable to end relationships when they are no longer fun. Are we happier when we are unwilling to persist with our partners through the hard times and seek greener pastures or deeper pockets or younger breasts?

I just wish we could stop idealizing love by selling it short- by limiting the love stories we tell to the romance of the falling into love. We need more examples of love that lasts and deepens.

As I maintain an open heart to welcome another man who I can love, and by whom I can be loved, I am looking for one thing above all: the desire to actively participate in maintaining and sustaining love. I want someone who knows that love gets better with age, that love is much more than a first kiss.

I am not done learning yet myself, but I am putting aside as much advice as I can, getting in touch with what I truly want and trying to find a really good partner for myself…not just a good person, a good friend, or even a good potential father. Those all can be aspects of the person, but I took those pieces of advice too literally, and I have forgotten to find my own “definition” of Mr. Right may be defined differently and that too is part of this process.


The Tipping Point

Creating lasting relationships seems to challenge many people these days, while they are just as adamant as ever that they want to be in one. A committed partnership still seems to be the goal. Many people have written about the changing face of marriage and family. We are seeing people marry later in life than before, wait longer to have children, co-habitat more often and for longer before marriage…etc. Yes, I see this happening too, but I do not want to analyze it as a phenomenon for fun, I want to analyze this trend so I can improve my chances of finding someone who wants to get married and have children about the same time I do in life.

Since I have recently created a new online dating profile, I have had the opportunity to read the descriptions of what single men want in their own words. What a fascinating body of knowledge. To research this would be incredibly interesting! Now, before I continue, I want to acknowledge that I am aware of research that states you cannot determine your compatibility with accuracy based on just reading through online profiles of potential matches. However, I do believe that there are some characteristics that will sway my decision in the direction of not wanting to meet them. I am looking for a partner who wants to be as dedicated to our relationship as I am, desiring a relationship for the same reasons.

At this point in my life, I have realized I am ready and willing to be in a committed relationship, one that I hope could last for life. This has been something I have always wanted for myself, but it was not until maybe two years ago, that I knew I was ready for it. And even then, I did not fully recognize that my partner has to also be truly ready for that as well. This seems incredibly ignorant of me, but no one has talked me through relationships in a way that addresses all these interesting facets.

The advice I have always gotten about love, has always seemed a bit superficial or approximate…never truly on its mark. For example, I have been warned to look out for red-flags, but somehow never received my list of what they all are; I have been warned that the partner who cares the least has the most power, while being encouraged to be vulnerable, to love with my whole heart, but never told that power has no place in a true relationship. Thankfully, I have heard enough advice, enough contradictions, and had my heart broken plenty, so I do not need advice from outside. I have all of the necessary knowledge inside myself.

Some of that previous advice was about how to avoid co-dependency (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency), a big, awful, scary term meaning the state of a relationship where people are not together for love but because their happiness depends on fulfilling the needs of the other or of controlling the other. It is love gone twisted! My last relationship was beginning to take on some co-dependent tendencies…mainly on my part, and I can see how it happens, even to the best of us.

A partnership is about being “co-______”…so if the blank is not dependent, than what is it? “Co-independent?” That sounds pretty nice, but it is not the whole picture either. “Co-creators?” Hmmm…that isn’t awful, but it is more than too. What do you think about the terms, “co-dedicated?” I am liking that one!

After a few failed relationships where I felt like the least powerful, because I cared the most…I started thinking I was asking too much of my partner to love me as much as I loved him. When you are being told to protect yourself because you wear your huge heart on your sleeve, what are you actually being told to do? I just heard, “don’t love so much,” “don’t show him you are that interested.” My reaction: I lowered my standards, giving more people the chance to love me, while I kept loving as hard, as deep as I had done before.

This is not the answer either though. While I kept loving the men in my life with as much enthusiasm as always, I had stopped loving myself enough. Lowering one’s standards is basically admitting you are not deserving of what you want…it is basically self-harm. And hence we come to a state where I am off balance, not grounded in self-love, so it is easy to tip over into co-dependency, where you derive happiness from the other, from the act of loving them, but not from yourself or really from your partner either.

My intention was pure…I wanted to commit myself to a life of love and partnership. My understanding of how to achieve this was been misguided. First, self-love should be maintained and cultivated so one can come to another individual grounded and balanced. There is a sense of stillness and calm that I feel when I describe this sense of being. When you are in a state of still connection with your inner Self…you can then recognize the same sense of self-awareness in another. These are the partners to seek out for a relationship where co-dedication can truly occur.

Past advice has hinted at this, but never sunk home for me. I have been told many times to make sure I can give myself what I need rather than seeking it from others. This has seemed deliberately cryptic! My Mind could not wrap itself around this. Now that I am coming to this truth on my own, I simultaneously marvel at how simple it seems now while also acknowledging that I could not have been convinced to understand this earlier. Perhaps there is a way to address this disconnect in understanding the advice given on love. Somehow all the advice is not helping people truly grasp the concepts until they come to it on their own anyway.

It feels wonderful to finally understand what a relationship should look like, on my part and my partners. My standards have risen once more.

This feels like the tipping point; I was like so many others, all desiring love and relationships, but being so very ignorant of all that it entails….until now. I now see that both people must put in their equal share…of love and dedication, of resources, of time. I am now ready for an equal relationship  The profiles I have been reading online often can indicate when someone has also reached this point. They have tipped from being boys who want some girl to love them into men who want to love a woman who loves them. 

Maintaining this balanced partnership means living on another tipping point. Relationships must be actively participated in to keep the balance. When one partner starts to refuse to do her share or the other offers to do more than he is required, the balance can tip from co-dedicated to co-dependent. I am beginning to see that by my willingness to love so much and do so much, I forced my partners into a co-dependent role. I took away their opportunity to be equally dedicated. What a humbling epiphany!

Self-love can help us all stay grounded, allowing balance and stillness into our relationships. 


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