Be A Man And Suck It Up!
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
This is probably the most important article I’ve ever written. I’m kind of excited about sharing it. I know, statistically, that only about 10% of you who read this will get it, will try it, out and maybe 1% of you will actually get a huge boost in life from it. But that 1% of you that, like me, can really utilize this concept and really stick to it — your life is going to change like mine did.
Since I am a man, I created this a practice for myself, for men and our bottled up night terrors. But there is no reason it can’t also be useful to women.
Right now, in this moment, I feel a pressure to do other work that needs my attention, but I know that this article, in the broader perspective, is just a bit more important than all pf that other work, so I am setting aside the fear that I am wasting my time for a few minutes so that I can share what I’ve learned with you, and maybe it will help you as much as it has helped me.
What makes our day, or even our life, simply not work out?
Our lives are shaped by fears, but we can change that one small step at a time.
As men, we are constantly taught or pressured to stuff all of our emotions deep down inside of ourselves, to suppress all of those hopes and fears and dreams and night terrors. We’re taught that it is weak to acknowledge what scares us or tightens our throats, and a real man is supposed to just focus on getting stuff done.
But the problem with this attitude is that all of those dark things, those chaotic swirls of fear, sadness, and stress that erupt inside of us, all of those things don’t just go away by themselves, they need to be expressed in some form or other. If they are not expressed, they take root in the fertile soil of our minds and grow large and massive, like an unchecked tumor.
Our fears can define our lives, can keep us stuck in old patterns that seem impossible to get out of. Fear of failure or fear of success; either way, fear keeps us far away from experiencing the fullness and awesomeness of our own lives, and sometimes fears and the patterns they engender can break us down and destroy our relationships, careers, and our own real asset, our health.
When I get angry I know that fear is at work deep inside of me.
I know that deep in me there is a fear that is taking root and growing at a rapid pace in the fertile soil of my imagination.
The thing with us guys is that we tend to not notice those fears growing inside of until they fruit — our anger is the apple of that fear tree. And then, boom, we’re screaming at someone online or cussing out our broken down car or whatever. Worst case scenario, we cause violence. And I believe it all stems from our deep fears.
The first fear we have to overcome is simply to be able look at our fears and taste them and just get stuck in there and feel that shit out and define what our fears really deeply are. Whatever they are, I swear, those fears are the worst part of it all.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela
Lately, when a few stressful life events brought me back into that fear cycle (basically, the fight and flight response is triggered by events that are not fight-and-flight worthy, i.e. most of them), I didn’t notice until I started to get upset at every little issue that arose in my day to day life. Us men tend to try to dissolve our fears in sex, drugs, and rock n roll, or whatever else seems like the best temporary palliative. But it is all temporary, and we still need to face our fears and define them if we want to grow up.
In a way, this is what separates the men from the boys. Boys can’t handle facing the naked truth, that the driving force behind many if not most of their life choices is fear. When a boy is finally able to look at those fears and begin to define them, then he becomes a man.
“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi
After journal ling for quite a while, writing hundreds of thousands of words in my free-form morning pages, I have realized that it is the best data dump that I can do each day, the best place for me to simply get all of my thoughts out there. But after a couple of years of stream-of-conscious writing and analyzing my day to day, I realized something was missing in order for me to grow even more.
I was still, even methodically, categorizing and placing any fears or anger or sadness or terrors that I had the day before into neat little boxes in my journal ling that I could control in some way.
“All I need to do to fix this is to do XYZ” I would write, angry at myself while I wrote it for not being able to control my life more thoroughly. But here is the thing.
Life is not really controllable, not at all.
Sure there are plenty of factors that we can attempt to control. But I have the inside scoop about life after losing far too many loved ones to cancer, suicide, and alcoholism. There is an undercurrent of chaos in our lives, and when we don’t acknowledge that part of reality, we run around trying to find methods to organize that chaos and keep the ultimate chaos, death, at bay.
It just won’t happen. We have to give up that control, because in the end we will, all of us, end up 6 feet under.
So how do I as a dude, how do I acknowledge all the dark stuff inside of me and process it, in order to move on?
See that is the thing. I, and most other active and driven people I know, are not interested in dwelling in our shit forever. We literally have more important things, or more fun things, that we want to do with our lives. But in reality, we have to process this trauma and stress in order to move on and do the other fun and exciting things more fully.
One thing I always notice about myself when I began to let the fear factory start up again is that I usually have not taken any time away from the action of my day to day life and am totally stuck in my head. I need some perspective in order to function and process all those heavy feelings that overtake me occasionally, and then I need to let them go. But even then, without a practice to get deep down into my underlying issues, I can simply skim along the surface issues and never reach down into the guts of the thing.
So I came up with a process, a ritual I call a BAMJo, which is the“Be A Man Journal”. Basically it entails becoming aware of every one of those moments when you think to yourself “Be a man, dude, and muscle up!” or something similar, and to note them down in your BAMJo. The next day, you write them down in the BAMJo and start to figure out what the hell is going on. Usually, we have to “be a man” in some kind of stressful or difficult situation, and after a while it can all grind us down into dust. Essentially, we’re digging up the root of our fear in order to examine it in the bright light of day instead of letting it grow out of control deep down in the dark areas of our souls.
The process is this: Every morning, or night, or middle of the night, or middle of the day (it’s totally up to you, but I like to write in the morning or super early morning, when all of my fears and terrors are surfacing and causing me to sweat) open up the notebook, or the laptop, write down the date, and begin to let it all out. I’ve identified three basic questions: What fear did I face yesterday? How do I embrace it today? What am I going to do to erase my fear tomorrow? FACE, EMBRACE, and ERASE. If you want an acronym, that is the FEE to be free of your fear.
This particular journal , the BAMJo, is all about the dark stuff. We’re trying to exorcise demons here, not figure out how to build a chicken coop. or talk about how grateful we are for our lives. That comes later, when we work through the shit that makes it impossible to even go forward. This is a TRIAGE situation — just like wilderness survival or medical emergencies, we need to take care of one thing at a time before we get to a steady state. But even then, we need to stay on top of the TRIAGE.
In our BAMJo, we let out all those dark fears that we don’t tell anyone, the things that have pissed us off, the ways in which we think we are worthless and not deserving of love, or the terrors that we have that we’ll never make anything out of our lives, and that we will die alone, penniless, and loveless. Anything that came up inside of us the previous day that causes us to say to ourselves “Be a man,” anything and everything.
This is a private journal. After a while, you can burn it or delete it. But it’s good to keep it around for a bit, to remind us of the cycles and patterns of our fears-based decision making processes.
And to remind us that our fears generally don’t amount to much, and that basically, if our fears do come true (and they do occasionally), we’ll get through it, we’ll figure out how to make it through that shit and come out shiny and strong as usual.
If we don’t acknowledge these inner conflicts, the eminent psychologist Carl Jung has pointed out, they will manifest in our outer world, straight up, every time.
When we keep a BAMJo, we have a better idea of what is going on with us. We can act with consciousness, we can began to be better men. We know what our fears our, really, the fears we feel deep down inside when our best friend dies and five years later we still haven’t looked at all that roiling chaos inside, the fear and sadness and stress of it all. If we don’t process life events like that then can we can get eaten up inside. And then we become someone we don’t really recognize, somebody living his life based in a place of fear.
Even though we don’t talk about them with anybody at all, we have them: our fears of being a shitty father, our fears of being a shitty lover, our fears of being a shitty businessman — all of these fears need to be held up to the light of day and examined before we can take any forward action, before we can move on and be who we really are: Good and gentle men.
Our unconscious is like a basement where we keep all the old stuff we think we might still need but never use. It just collects more and more dust as we age, and becomes more of a burden on our psyches. Usually, it’s okay to get rid everything we haven’t used for years. It’s freeing, and we can move on.
We need rituals to move on. The BAMJo is like taking up a piece of junk from the basement and looking at it and trying to figure out where it came from, and finally getting rid of it.
Basically, we are doing a fear inventory. Then, in the last bit of our journaling time, we need to make at least one promise to take action to bring up that next remnant of the past from the basement, and go through that same process, over and over, until we have an ability to be more present with our fears and not reactive and dwelling in a fight and flight type of existence.
See, this isn’t about becoming a better person, necessarily. This isn’t about success. Those things will come as they will, but what this is all about is living in the present. Fear has us living in the future or past, and love has us living in the present.
Courage isn’t the lack of fear, it is the acknowledgement of fear and moving forward in the face of it to find out what is on the other side. And, usually, when we come to the other side we find love, finally.
I really appreciate you reading my thoughts and giving me some time in your life.
I do want to encourage you to give this a try, especially if you know damn well that you are constantly stuffing things down inside yourself, and they keep popping up on the surface of the lake, like fishing bobbers on fire.
I’ve created a PDF template that you can use — print off a dozen or more copies and remember to fill them out daily, using about 5 to 20 minutes of your daily time, or more if needed.
After a period of time, a month or a year, have a ritual and burn your BAMJo pages in a bonfire signifying to yourself mostly, and to the rest of the world secondly, that you have moved on.