Full article can be read here at www.norasamaran.com
Attunement is not a ‘task’ that can be carried out. Connection isn’t forced through willpower or memorization; rather, it occurs when you allow your true self to be seen, making room for naked vulnerability while giving and receiving. You can make a sandwich for a partner in a securely loving or disconnected way. You can look them in the eyes in a connected or disconnected way. Even while having sex you can kiss or cuddle your partner in a way that focuses on physical sensation while blocking actual connection. You may be ‘trying really hard’ to take care of someone and may still be giving off microscopic, but very loud, emotional signals that tell them you are not with them. The cues that tell the limbic brain ‘I’m with you; we are connected,’ are tremendously subtle.
We live in a largely misogynist American culture and world that very commonly hates, distrusts, harasses, and looks at women as objects. Sadly, social norms cater to these views and many men impose such views often very directly and aggressively, and women who are trained in such ways as well by the misogynist norms, can impose them with equal effectiveness passively. How are we to know what to do about this with no education, no leadership, no vulnerability, no reaction, no conversation? Left to our own devices we will most often not end up as attuned feminist adults, even though we may think we are. How do we know how to name it when it happens and how do we know how to talk to people about it in ways that won’t cater to backlash when it comes up?
Becoming attuned to be a feminist man starts with other men and how they relate to each other. For men, a good place to start is eye contact. Men easily cater to communicating with one another mediated through a ‘man box.’ This involves barely making eye contact and when they do it is a brief sideline contact with the rest of the body in a flight-or-fight mode. This makes the eyes and body language say, ‘I’m really not connecting, I’m really not vulnerable, I’m really not fully here.’ Men don’t want to be seen looking, they don’t want to be exposed for caring. Their brains are leading them to a place that caters to the easiest way out. Men have been trained to do this. If they witness all without exposing themselves and then make decisions on where to go, then that is a powerful position right? In a very short term sense, yes, but in a long term life connection and happiness sense, definitely not. Non-feminist men are selling themselves short and everyone around them they come into contact with.
These subtle forms of disconnection guard against vulnerability and blocks secure intimacy. It creates a confusing fabric of instability between friends and especially between people who are attempting intimacy. When you’re just friends with someone it’s easy to notice who has problems with this but you’re just friends and many of us probably think that the relationship doesn’t have to get to that intimate friendship level. What would happen if we got to that level of intimacy with our friends? I’m not talking about sleeping with your friends but rather connecting with them on a critical, challenging, and honest level. Whether it’s an acquaintance, a friend, or partner, the limbic brain doesn’t notice your words. It only reads nonverbal cues, and it reads them lightning-fast and the reactions we get from them are the substance of what needs to be talked about.
If you are a man and find that women you get close to don’t seem to get secure with you, try asking them about their interpretation of these subtle forms of communication you put off. After all, one only receives the benefits of being vulnerable by in fact being vulnerable and without communication it is very hard for it to happen. Contextualizing insecure traits or attachments does wonders for creating a more shared understanding for people involved.
Another thing a feminist man can do is to make those connections in their own minds and name them outright. The point is to once again communicate and analyze what is actually going on and get more of a back story rather than just simply blaming women who have had trust bonds break. Examples would include blaming women for ‘liking jerks,’ or shaming them for various relationships that might have been more anxious, disorganized, or insecure but probably did serve a purpose at the time. By doing this, we are holding women accountable for trial and error in figuring out love and relationships. Men come across as possessive and egotistical by making these scenarios about them as they feel hurt or other emotionally negative feelings from a situation that had nothing to do with them. Feminist men can put these pieces together. They can acknowledge their own vulnerabilities, look you in the eye, and contextualize. They don’t stigmatize the relationships of others as they wouldn’t do that to their own relationships.
It is hard for men to confront powerful feelings going on inside of them when they approach a situation in any relationship, especially an intimate one, and do not get what they want. The result for women, unfortunately, is often scary due to men’s immaturity levels on handing these emotions coupled with their larger physical prowess and often unchecked aggression. However, how would you feel if you always got what you wanted? Would that really make your life worthwhile? The image of a spoiled five-year-old comes to mind. Many of us are children walking around in adult bodies. We’ve never imagined a world or connections that weren’t presented to us already in visual cues or social norms. If you find yourself not exactly connecting with women consider the effects of patriarchy and misogyny across lifespans that women have to deal with. Would people going through such things perhaps need more individuals in their lives who are available, responsive, and attuned? What is inside of you that is holding you back from fully embracing such things? It’s not about just doing nice things for people like buying them things or taking them out to dinner but about doing your own healing so that you can grow to actually feel vulnerable, to actually feel trust, to actually look people in the eye, to actually be responsive and capable of contextualizing.
What do women really want and need? They need help in repairing the harm of misogyny and don’t want to be stigmatized. Be the man that can give them a different kind of experience than the men who have harmed them. If this is difficult then go forth and take on that inner work. Own and recognized where gaps might be occurring and how your own approaches to social norms and ego and sexual/relationship power dynamics might be involved. As a man, make it clear that this issue overall is yours and many men’s responsibility to work on and not a failing problem in women or ‘others’ in general.