Ray Arata is a leadership coach and diversity consultant. He recently authored the book, Wake Up Man Up Step Up; Transforming Your Wake Up Call to Emotional Health and Happiness. Here are some questions I had for him and some answers from the book:
Q. Does emotional illiteracy (EI) affect every man?
A. At some level, EI affects all men. Rare was it for men to have a male role model such as one’s father to show you how to feel your feelings and how to manage them in relationships. It often takes a man’s own emotional pain to motivate him to heal his past and become emotionally literate.
Q. Are there a set of core values all emotionally literate men have in common?
A. Specifically, emotionally literate men resonate with these values: vitality, accountability, truth, authenticity, and integrity.
Q. How are you similar to (or opposite) your father or the father role model present in your youth?
A. There are five fatherly influences* that connect us to our fathers, both in how we are like him, as well as how we aren’t. The important distinction here is how, despite our protestations of possibly not wanting to be like him in a certain way, that we are like him despite ourselves.
The five fatherly influences are:
Fatherly Influence #1: How your dad demonstrated what it
meant to be a man
Fatherly Influence #2: How your one-on-one relationship with your father laid the foundation of how you relate to other men
Fatherly Influence #3: How your dad dealt with his feelings
Fatherly Influence #4: How your father related to your mom
Fatherly Influence #5: How your dad dealt with money and
influenced your views and relationship with money
Q. Does a man’s relationship history with his mother affect his love life?
A. It’s likely that your first experience relating to a woman was with your mother or female caregiver (e.g., stepmom, grandma, aunt, or older sister). This experience formed your impressions of women—how to talk with them, how to be in a relationship with them, how to receive love, how to listen, and how to behave with women in times of conflict.
Q. Can a man’s lacking personal power to move forward in his life be related to his relationship with his mother?
A. Many young boys with no father around them unknowingly give their power to their mom at a young age to avoid upsetting her. Dad might have simply been at work, leaving the primary child rearing to mom. Dad might have been passive himself. By working hard at never making your mom mad, you effectively agreed to keep your mouth shut, stuff down your needs and feelings, and do whatever it took to keep the peace. Yet, later in life, you became a man and found out that the power in your balls now resides with your mother. As an adult man, you don’t know how to stand up for yourself or have access to a necessary personal vitality that is often required to take risks. This transference of power from boy to mother is known in psychology as “emasculation.” Maybe it happened to you. It happened to me.
Q. Does my avoidance of my emotional baggage negatively impact my children?
A. As I began my journey of being a better man, my focus (as a father of three) had to be on the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health of my kids. When my divorce changed things significantly, my aware- ness of all areas of parenting—and the very real responsibility of what this meant—translated to one thing: I realized that I needed to attend to my own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health because I was the model upon which they would seek to emulate.
Q. What is really true about my anger; am I sad, afraid or grieving a loss?
A. Unconscious anger often violently manifests outward as a result of inner feelings of sadness, fear, or grief/loss. Unacknowledged shame often manifests as a violent inner reaction to yourself in reaction to sad- ness, fear, or grief/loss. Put another way, anger is fear or sadness/grief felt but not expressed the moment you feel it. Because it’s buried, it festers; when it finally gets to the surface, it shows up as anger.
Q. How are my unconscious biases about women (from mom) showing up in my business relationships with women?
A. In order to answer this question, you need to look at the fatherly influence that states “ How your father related to your mom”. Looking here may provide partial answers.
Q. Do I have difficulty-trusting men in business environments? If so, what do I do?
A. The answer to this question is similar to the prior question around trusting men in general. The answer is to get curious about old beliefs and behaviors that stem from your relationship with dad and to see that those old strategies don’t work today.