Connection Busting Behaviors

How we behave has a huge impact on the quality of our connection with both self and others.  In this post, I am going to explore two classes of behaviors: those that deepen connection and those that tend to bust connection wide open. Let’s start by making a list of some of those behaviors:

Emotional Maturity

Growing up is about developing Emotional Intelligence (understanding of human emotions) and Emotional Maturity (EM), the ability to use and apply Emotional Intelligence (EI) to connect more deeply and authentically with yourself and others. Peter Vajda does a wonderful job of explaining the process of growing up in his article on Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Maturity. In his article, he points out that although Emotional Intelligence is important, the real work lies in applying EI to the process of growing up by realizing that many of the coping challenges we face as adults lie in the experiences we had as … Continue reading

Getting Clear

There is a process we use in our men’s work called a “Clearing”. In this process, we separate data, judgments and feelings, then look for shadows that may cause us to project an unhealed wound onto someone else. A clearing may be needed if, for example I yada yada yada Although a clearing can be done with an empty chair, it is most effective if it is done with the person I have the charge with. Let’s call that person my “Mirror”, because they are the target of my projections. And yes, virtually all clearings are about projection. There are … Continue reading

Data, Judgments and Feelings

In resolving conflict, it is useful to separate or parse the active elements involved in the conflict. These elements can be broken into four groups: Data – the facts of the situation. The “objective truth” that can be easily agreed upon. An example would be, “The temperature outside is 60 degrees” or “We have $2,000 in our bank account.” Judgments – the thoughts and beliefs I have about the situation. Judgments are not data and judgments are not feelings. Using the data examples, judgments would be “It’s cold outside” and “We are running out of money”. These are personal interpretations … Continue reading


The difference between a judgment and a discernment is really quite simple. A discernment is something I see dispassionately and clearly without any emotional charge. I may or may not be correct in what I see, but I am able to hold it very lightly. There is a quality of detached curiosity to my discernment. Judgment, on the other hand always has an associated charge or trigger. If I have a judgment, it is highly probable that my defenses have kicked in and that I have a strong feeling in my body. Judgment is toxic to connection. A simple example that … Continue reading

The Victim Triangle

The Victim Triangle The Victim Triangle (also known as the Karpman Drama Triangle) is a simple but profoundly useful way of looking at dysfunctional relationships in action. I was introduced to this model by Garth Alley who was my counselor in the late 1990’s. He used it to describe what was happening between me and my partner. I would get upset with something she said or did and wanted her to change her behavior.  I blamed her for something and she tried to turn it around and blame it on me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but blame … Continue reading

Conflict Resolution

My wife and I have been married for over 40 years, and we have had countless conflicts in that time. And we are still happily married and quite in love with each other. What’s our secret? It’s simple. Here are some basic principles that have worked well for us: Fight to resolve, not to hurt. Remember that I can be right or I can be in relationship. I can’t have both. Hang in there, Drop my defenses. Own my shit. Fight to Resolve Conflict in a relationship is not a zero-sum game. It should never be about winning. Instead, conflict … Continue reading


Accountability is about keeping an agreement I make with someone else. Integrity is about keeping an agreement I make with myself. Accountability is external to myself while integrity is internal. Wikipedia defines Integrity as “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards.” I define integrity as the alignment of my thoughts, words and actions. What happens when accountability and integrity clash? Let me answer this with a story. In October, 2004 I staffed a Mankind Project New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA) … Continue reading


In more than 40 years of marriage, I have made plenty of mistakes. My partner may have made a few too, but that’s for her to decide, but if I think she has made some mistakes, I have a choice to make: do I want to hang on to my judgments about the mistakes I believe she has made… or not? Jack Kornfeld is a well known Buddhist teacher. He defines forgiveness as “Giving up all hope for a better past“. I think this is a very wise and useful perspective. In essence, it echos the Eagles song, “Get Over It!“ … Continue reading


A number of years ago, I was traveling to a Mankind Project New Warrior Training Adventure on Vancouver Island in Canada with three other men who were helping to staff the weekend.  We got to the Canadian border and the border patrol officer started asking our driver a number of questions. We were ordered to park and enter the administrative building for further questioning. Ultimately our driver was ordered to turn around, but the rest of us were allowed to continue… without our driver’s car. I called my wife who was at work in Bellingham and asked her to drive … Continue reading

Empathy vs. Sympathy

Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow or pity for the hardships of another while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. Although compassion is often welcome, sorrow and pity do not enhance connection. All three are reactions to the plight of another, but empathy is sitting down with someone and feeling remembering the experiences you have had in similar circumstances. When my brother’s wife died of cancer, I felt sorrow and compassion, but because I had not yet lost someone so close to me, I could not empathize with him. All I could do was sit and hold space … Continue reading


It’s Monday morning and I am in re-entry. I completed a very intense training this past weekend and I am still in a bit of an altered state. The training is called LT3 (Leadership Training 3) and is the capstone of the MKP leader training programs. I felt considerable growth and clarity as a result of the weekend. On Friday evening, we did a process and I granted myself license to try something different. The leader gave me some tough but insightful feedback later that evening and I could feel myself starting to spiral downward… into the rabbit hole of … Continue reading

Taking a Hit

In September, 2013, I staffed my 33rd NWTA weekend. I am considered a senior staffer, one who knows the weekend quite well. I was asked by the weekend leader to step onto the leader track for the weekend because he didn’t think there were enough experienced men. I have staffed with this leader before and it worked quite well, so I stepped on as a leader in training (LIT)… for this weekend only.