From the time I first arrived in New York I noticed something very different about the people I was encountering. Many felt very guarded in comparison to people I tend to meet and interact with in other parts of the United States. This guarded quality prevented them from being quite as open or present in their interactions with others. It often felt as if they had built up layers of armor around themselves.
The tendency to armor one’s self can be a normal response to dealing with the stresses of living in the city. I also began to notice pervasive undertones of fear and mistrust and after sometime I could sense that these feeling states had become part of the collective consciousness. These fears hinder people in their ability to interact with one another, yet very few seem to be addressing the matter. These fears have an especially negative impact upon relations between men and women. I have felt the need to call people’s attention to this issue for some time now, because I recognize the harm that our unchecked fears are having upon us individually and collectively.
Writing Bambi in the Headlights has been quite challenging for me. I’m well aware of the fact that the title and subject matter of this chapter are provocative and can be off-putting for some. At times, I find the need to use strong language to wake people out of their complacent stupor long enough so they begin to pay attention and question their standard mode of operation. My intention is not to offend, but to cause people to thoroughly examine their fears and understand the negative impact that these fears are having on them and everyone in their proximity.
By virtue of being a man, I’ve been on the receiving end of the negativity that is the result of a very fearful and guarded mindset since the time I first arrived in New York City. I know from personal experience and from my interactions with numerous other people how the excessive levels of fear and guardedness kill many potential budding relationships before they ever have a chance to develop. Consequently many people continue to suffer needlessly because the barriers created by their own and other people’s fears are preventing them from meeting and getting to know one another.
There’s something seriously wrong if we have become so neurotically fearful of one another that we cannot even open to the possibility of getting to know someone we meet during the course of our day who could very well turn out to be the best potential match we would even find in our entire lives. My hope in writing this chapter is that it will encourage more people to question their thought processes and beliefs, examine their fears and ways of going about things, think for themselves, tune into their intuition and open up to the possibilities for love and companionship that we often overlook in our everyday lives.
Welcome to New York City
For years, I wanted so much to have someone in my life, but I wasn’t meeting anyone. I encountered women I found myself attracted to wherever I went and often missed out because I allowed my fears to get in the way. I finally began to force myself to talk to women I found myself attracted to. I was very shy in the beginning and made lots of mistakes, but I was fortunate to have lived in Kansas City, Missouri; Durango, Colorado; and Albuquerque, New Mexico during those years because people in these parts of the country were far more open and receptive. A number of the women I met were very responsive and that helped me to feel more comfortable in my interactions. I made lots of friends and some of these connections developed into romantic involvements.
I loved the mountains and deserts of northern New Mexico, but found it very difficult to survive economically. Friends in New York and Boston offered to sponsor me and that’s when I began to make my transition to the east coast. I had learned to be very open and engaging by the time I moved to New York and was excited by the thought of living in a city inhabited by people from every country on the planet. I was surrounded by millions of people, but found it so much more difficult to get to know people or develop friendships.
I wanted to have someone in my life, but I quickly realized that women in the city were not quite as accessible. Many generally avoid making eye contact. Some would turn and walk away or completely ignore what I was saying if I attempted to engage. Others reacted with a look of disgust or recoiled in fear. I had never before encountered such a pervasive fear or negative attitude towards men.
I would fully expect this kind of reaction from a woman if I had done something inappropriate. But I was only doing what I felt was necessary to meet my basic human needs for love and companionship. I was being open, friendly and engaging, but I soon realized that many women in the city do not feel safe with men they are not familiar with. Being approached or engaged on any level is often viewed as an intrusion and in many instances I was perceived as a threat.
I found it difficult to comprehend the level of fear and guardedness I encountered in the city. The perceived sense of danger is highly disproportionate to the actual threat that exists here. The underlying sense of fear and guardedness has become so deeply ingrained in the collective mind of many who reside in the city and that often causes them to close off to the possibility of meeting and getting to know someone.
There are dangerous sections of New York City. But most of the New York is relatively safe compared to numerous other cities across the country. New York City is much safer than the American Indian reservations I have lived on and countries in other parts of the world that I’ve spent considerable amounts of time in. People from these other cities across the United States and parts of the world tend to be more open. I found it so much easier to connect with women in these other places.
Parts of Brazil can be incredibly dangerous, but Brazilian women have a much greater sense of their own power and commonly approach men they find themselves attracted to. That may have a lot to do with the fact that they tend to be more in touch with their intuition and that makes them better equipped to distinguish between real and imagined danger.
People told me on many occasions that one of the best ways to meet potential partners was through introduction, but I was rarely, if ever, introduced to anyone that interested me. Others told me that I needed to go out to events where I could meet likeminded people. I wasted lots of time going to events in hopes of meeting someone, but found many of the women I encountered at classes, workshops and concerts to be just as fearful and guarded as those I met while riding the subway or shopping in a supermarket.
I continued to approach women I found myself attracted to in the city whenever the opportunity presented itself because I rarely met anyone if I didn’t. I always wanted the women I interacted with to feel safe and comfortable. I made every effort to just be open, friendly and respectful and to give them space if they didn’t want to engage.
I talked with women I met on the subways, commuter trains, in supermarkets, at parks or wherever I happened to find myself. I learned to let go and move on if I felt there was no resonance. But I found myself enjoying many long and animated conversations with women who gave me their emails and phone numbers. I ended up going on lots of spontaneous dates where we spent much of the afternoon or evening together. On many occasions I could feel a certain level of rapport and it was obvious that the woman I was connecting to really liked me and was enjoying the interaction. On several occasions the woman I was engaging with gave me a hug as I got up to leave. The natural course of interaction would be to talk again by phone, to meet for coffee, go out to eat or to enjoy any of the millions of other things that one can find to do in the city. But in the vast majority of instances, I never saw or heard from them again.
It was quite apparent that many of the women I met in the city were lonely and in need of companionship. Their first impulse was to feel comfortable and open up to me, but at some point afterwards the autopilot fear mechanism would kick in that says “Wait a minute …There are so many crazy people in the city …I opened up to and trusted this guy and exchanged contact information …I don’t know this person …he could be some kind of a predator …stop …play it safe.”; and then I never saw or heard from them again. Some of the women I eventually did connect with told me they too were struggling to reconcile between their fears and the fact that they really liked and wanted to connect with me. Others said that their friends had tried to talk them out of meeting with me.
It’s important for all of us to find a balance between the yin (feminine) and (yang) masculine in our lives. I have a number of close male friends, but I usually find it much easier to relate to and prefer to spend time with women. I find women to be the more interesting of the two genders. They are also probably more intelligent in many respects. I usually find it much easier to share what I’m thinking or feeling with women.
I enjoy meeting and getting to know women from different cultural backgrounds whenever the opportunity presents itself. I relate to the vast majority of women I get to know as platonic friends or sisters. I enjoy the exchange of energy and ideas with the women in my life and spending time with them gives me a greater sense of yin-yang balance. One of the things I find most difficult about being in New York is the vast divide between men and women. This divide is clearly evidenced in the fear that makes it so difficult for women to open up and trust men they encounter along the way.
After living in New York for a few years I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me. I spoke with one of my friends about what was happening and asked her if she saw anything about me that women would find threatening. She responded by saying “You’re one of the safest people I know.”
I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and spend time in cities in other parts of the United States and countries in other parts of the world. I was a shocked to find that women in these other places were actually noticing me. They would often make eye contact, smile and even engage me in conversation.
At one point I traveled to Ohio to do an internship. I met someone within a few weeks’ time and that developed into a relationship. A few years later I started talking with a woman who sat next to me on a bus in Sri Lanka. We exchanged contact information, emailed back and forth, talked on the phone over the next few days and then she had me over for dinner with her family the following week.
Sri Lanka can be very dangerous, but one of the things I like most about being there is that the people I encounter tend to be much more receptive and I feel they are very present as they interact with me. I’m able to meet and make friends with people wherever I go when I’m in Sri Lanka. Developing meaningful connections is the norm when I spend time in other cities and parts of the world. It’s so much easier to connect with people who are not controlled by their fears because the interaction can flow naturally.
The difference in other cities, states and parts of the world I have spent time in is that people in are more likely to operate from a place of openness and curiosity. They also have a willingness to engage. It’s a very normal thing for men and women to feel attracted, check each other out, approach one another and express their interest. That makes it so much easier for people to connect.
There seems to be a huge disconnect between men and women in the city. Women that I have gotten to know tell me that the guys are just as likely to disappear or flake out. Many are fearful of making any kind of commitment. Men often say they will call but never do or they disappear as soon as they get their physical needs met. Many have commented on the lack of continuity. There’s a mindset among many who reside in the city that views people as being disposable “…if you don’t like someone, you just drop them, disappear and go find someone else.”
People living in the city can easily become so distracted by everything going on around them that they to lose touch with their feelings. Some become so disconnected, or have lost touch with themselves to such a degree that they cannot be present or available to anyone else. They may be starving for some kind of meaningful connection with other human beings and in many instances engage in conversation with someone they have never met before. It often feels like we’re making a connection with someone when we find ourselves deeply engaged in conversation with someone we’re meeting for the first time but that sense of connection can be illusory.
The person we spent a good part of the day conversing with may have enjoyed a chance encounter with us, but the natural flow of interaction often seems to get disrupted. People living in the city are continually flooded with more sensory impressions that one can process. Many are so caught up in their work and are easily distracted and feel overwhelmed by everything going on around them that any plans of reconnecting soon fall off their radar screen. What often happens is that we never see or hear from the other person again.
Being on sensory overload overwhelms one’s capacity to cope and that makes it much more difficult for people to process their emotions. Fears, frustrations and the day to day stresses of living in New York City that are not processed have a very powerful influence upon an individual’s whole outlook on life. These powerful emotional forces affect the way an individual interacts with other people and the world around them. The internal noise generated by the highly charged emotions they have failed to process may prohibit them from tuning into and trusting their intuition.
We all need to exercise reasonable precaution, because there are mentally and emotionally disturbed or dangerous people in the world who pose a serious threat to our survival and wellbeing. Women have additional reason to exercise caution because they are faced with the additional threat of being violated sexually. Women who have been assaulted or subjected to other abuses at some point in their lives may feel especially vulnerable. And those who are unable to process their fears are more likely to live in a state of hypervigilance. These fears are being continually reinforced by much of what they hear from their friends or read about in the news.
I recently and witnessed two men following and making sexually inappropriate comments to two women who had just gotten off the 4 train at the 59th Street subway station in Manhattan. Sadly, there are incredibly damaged men who harass and intimidate women by following them, making grossly inappropriate comments, gestures and sexual advances or exposing themselves on the subway. Many of the women I know or work with were sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
Women who lose their ability to tune into their intuition are more likely to default to their autopilot fear response and therefore react or make decisions out of fear. That can make it considerably more difficult for them to differentiate between men who are a legitimate threat and those who are compassionate and caring and have the potential to become good friends and loving companions. Instead, they are more likely to generalize their sense of fear and danger to men they are not familiar with. Men who make any effort to approach or express interest in them are often viewed as some form of predator.
People who lose touch with their own internal source of guidance are more likely to depend upon external guidelines or rules. Many women living in the city seem to lose the ability to tune into their intuition and trust their own judgment. This disconnect is continually being reinforced by society’s messages that are telling women they are not safe.
Many women who reside in the city operate with a set of rules that say “Don’t make eye contact. Don’t give out your contact information. Any encounter that takes place in a public setting such as a shopping mall, supermarket or subway will go no further.” What many fail to comprehend is that a man they encounter in any of these settings could easily turn out to be the best match they will ever find in their entire lives. Sadly, those who lose the ability to tune into their intuition and distinguish between individual men often interrupt their opportunity to meet and develop a connection with someone truly special. Consequently many men and women are not finding the love and companionship they need and desire. For this reason, many remain alone or they end up settling for some less than suitable someone they met through an introduction by a friend or some other “appropriate” channel.
Women have said to me on occasion, “You’re a man …you don’t understand.” It’s true that I could never fully understand what it’s like to be a woman, however I have worked in some of the more dangerous parts of New York and Boston for years, lived on American Indian reservations and have spent a great deal of time in developing nations such as India and Sri Lanka. People have tried to rob or assault and do other sorts of horrible things to me so I know far too well what it’s like to be in grave danger.
It’s very upsetting for me to witness or hear about men who perpetrate abuses against women. I work with many survivors of childhood emotional, physical and sexual trauma and it pains me to see the suffering they’ve had to endure. I witnessed abuses of the ethnic Tamils by the security forces in Sri Lanka and I feel horrified that tens of thousands of innocent civilians were killed by indiscriminate shelling carried out by the Sri Lankan government during the closing days of the war against the Tamil Tigers.
We may have suffered at various points in our lives as a result of the actions of individuals who are of another culture, race or gender, but it’s important that we not generalize these negative experiences to all members of a particular group. We need to maintain a healthy perspective by understanding that the people who perpetrate acts of violence comprise a much smaller percentage of the overall population. There are far more nice, normal and goodhearted people. Part of being a fully functional adult involves learning to distinguish between the undesirable people and those uniquely special individuals who can truly enrich our lives.
Mr. or Ms. Right can come along anytime and anywhere. It is critically important for us to develop our intuition so that we can differentiate between the people we do not resonate with, who are toxic or who could possibly harm us in some way and those uniquely special individuals who can truly bring something of value to our lives. We need to be open, receptive and willing to engage whenever and wherever we find the opportunity to connect with someone with whom we truly resonate.
I’ve been teaching the class, “Healing the Loss of a Love and Attract Healthy and Loving Relationships” for some time now. Men and women often complain to me because they are not meeting the kind of person they desire to be with. Yet many have created so many barriers around themselves that are making it difficult, if not altogether impossible, for anyone to get close. In many instances they do not even see the part they playing in creating their own reality.
Some of us are fortunate enough to find ourselves in situations where we meet someone special and everything seems to fall in to place. For many of us, love will not come easily, if at all, unless we go the extra mile. We need to become more pragmatic about finding a loving companion. That may involve meeting as many potential partners as we possibly can. Being proactive by taking constructive steps to meet potential partners whenever the opportunity arises will increase our likelihood of finding the love we truly desire.
I often tell people, “You’re surrounded by many thousands of single people here in the city who want so much to have someone to love and be loved by. Start engaging with the people around you. Many of them want to have someone special in their lives just as much as you do.”
Some are very resistant to the suggestion of opening to the opportunity to connect with the potential friends and companions within their proximity. I have sometimes responded by saying “You’re telling me that you want to have someone in your life. You keep complaining because you don’t and yet you’re closing yourself off to ninety-something percent of the opportunities you have to meet someone truly special.”
I understand that you are have concerns about your safety and are fearful of encountering some form of predator. You’re not some fragile helpless victim. And if you’re really paying attention to your intuition you will be able to distinguish between the kinds of people you encounter and determine who you chose to allow into your life.”
“Cupid is not going to descend out of the heavens and pair you up with your true love. Keep in mind that the weeks, months and years are passing by rapidly. The time of your life is coming and going …if it hasn’t already passed and you are getting older with every passing day. You may very well be missing out on the love of your life and eventually find yourself in the position of so many people living in New York or Boston who end up getting old and they have no one to share their lives with. How incredibly tragic.”
“Stop whining about not having someone in your life. Get out there and actually participate in life as an adult by engaging with the people around you and especially those you find yourself attracted to.”
Confronting our fears
One of the women I’ve been working with in New York recently said to me during a session “I’m afraid to relax because I feel that I always have to be on guard. But I’m also becoming more aware of the fact that being on guard all the time is creating such a state of tension in my body and that is causing me to lose touch with what I’m truly feeling. I need to learn how to relax so I can get in touch with my true feelings.”
We need to examine our fears to see if they are valid and proportionate to the threat facing us. Living in a state of guarded apprehension and generalizing one’s sense of danger to the other half of the human species is not a normal or healthy state of mind or way to engage with other people and the world around us. It is an indication that we have serious emotional issues that need to be addressed and may also be in need of professional help. It’s important for those of us who are so controlled by our fears to seek out help before we do further harm to ourselves and poison other people around us.
We have all been hurt, traumatized and taken advantage of in one way or another at various points in our lives. The things that have hurt us or caused us to feel afraid will always have an effect upon us, but that doesn’t mean we have to allow them to run our lives. It’s important for us to do the best we can to heal our wounds and confront our fears. Because life is not worth living if we are allowing ourselves to be so controlled by our fears and hurts that we cannot even be present enough to embrace the opportunities to connect with other human beings and experience the deeply fulfilling love and companionship that is available to us.
It’s important for us to understand that risk taking is an inherent part of life. Any venture that is worthwhile involves risk. Without risk, there is very little possibility of growth or personal development. We need to stretch by venturing out of our comfort zone. For many of us that means taking a chance to meet and get to know people we are not yet familiar with. With practice, we learn to evaluate character, and that helps us to determine who we’re going to open up to and how close we allow them into our personal space.
It can be very difficult to develop a sense of community or form the kinds of attachments that are necessary to develop healthy and loving relationships if we are so fearful of one another that we cannot engage in conversation and allow the interaction to take its natural course. Approaching and expressing interest in someone we find ourselves attracted to is a completely normal and natural part of how we express our needs for love and companionship. Our ability to find love and companionship will remain severely hindered until we develop the ability to approach and express our interest in one another and become receptive to another’s expression of interest.
We need to understand that it is highly unlikely that we will have the opportunity to meet and get to know the kind of person we truly long to be with if we do not engage with the people we find ourselves attracted to when they are in our proximity. We need to be engaging with the men or women we find ourselves attracted to wherever we are and whenever the opportunity presents itself.
We have a choice. We can allow our fears to run us or we can choose to show up and participate in life. It’s just common sense. We need to be meeting and getting to know as many potential partners as possible. The more people we meet, the more likely we are to find a suitable match. But that cannot possibly happen if we are choosing to remain in a fearful and guarded state of mind that we cannot engage in conversation, exchange contact information, communicate via email or phone and meet again.
We need to do the best we can to engage anyone we find ourselves attracted to in conversation whenever the opportunity presents itself. We can always make our exit by finding a way to excuse ourselves if we not enjoying the conversation. It’s important for us to continue to engage if we resonate with the person and find ourselves enjoying the interaction. It is important for us to proceed by exchanging email, Facebook, phone numbers or whatever other pertinent contact information. Write, or better yet, pick up the phone and call. And be sure to respond to another’s efforts to reach out by answering emails and returning calls. We need to allow for the the natural course of interaction by meeting in safe settings where there are other people present such as coffee shops or museums. And we need to continue to meet as long as the connection feels good and has a mutually beneficial quality. This is how many healthy and loving relationships begin. Showing up and participating in the mating dance greatly increases our likelihood of finding the love we truly need and desire.
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