Tag Archives: reciprocity


I recently read a brilliant essay on tolerance that clarified for me why I haven’t always experienced successful outcomes while practicing it! Here’s a quote to think about from that article:

“[Tolerance] is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.” –Yonatan Zunger, ‘Tolerance is not a Moral Precept’

I’ve found that one of the many unpleasant effects of pleasing people, trying hard, being compliant and demonstrating unfailing compassion and kindness is that it’s stunted my emotional growth. It’s made me weak, naïve and dependent. It’s taught me to be powerless.

At this point in my life I’m making different choices, and as I do that I’m losing my fuzzy-headed, goody-two-shoes, sweet maiden aspect and becoming much clearer about who I am and what I believe in.

I’m not the only one, either. My second-hand exposure to social media through my partner, as well as my own reading of blogs, articles and essays, demonstrates loud and clear that many of us are in the process of refocusing our beliefs and values. Just yesterday I read an article about the devastating impact of the presidential election on close relationships and social media communities, as well as the way it’s opened up new connections.

As I listen, watch, read, write and think about it all, I return, again and again, to the conclusion  that we’re all dealing with the same underlying ideas and issues. I know there’s a lot of heated and poisonous ideology out there about race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender politics, religion, and even what we eat, but underneath all that distracting noise are the same issues of tolerance and intolerance, power and identity, and fear.

I’ve written previously about reciprocity. When I read Zunger’s blog, I immediately understood why my practice of tolerance has had, in some cases, quite devastating results. Once again, I was extending something I wasn’t receiving in return. Having been well trained (and slightly dim) it didn’t occur to me before that it’s not my responsibility to meet intolerance and disregard for my own boundaries with continuing tolerance. I’ve clung to the dangerous belief that if I just model and demonstrate well, the other party or parties will get it, and want to live in a more peaceful and effective way (my way, of course!)

After all, I don’t want to stoop to their level!


This is a pretty effective set of shackles. Like many women, I’ve accepted them meekly for most of my life.

I’m bored with that now. It’s never worked well. It’s always left me terribly and painfully vulnerable. Turn the other cheek sounds like a lovely ideal, but in practice it sucks. In my study of combatives, I’ve found another option: Go in peace, but if a predator attacks you, be so explosively aggressive that you become the predator and they become the prey. Take them out of commission as fast and effectively as possible and get away from them. Permanently.

I know, I know. Unattractive. Not nice. Being part of the problem rather than the solution. Violence solves nothing.

That’s all fine, if it works for you.

It hasn’t worked for me. I’m not sure why it’s unattractive and wrong to defend myself (or others), except, of course, from the predator’s point of view.

I don’t care what the predator thinks. Predators have to take their lumps, just like the rest of us.

It seems these days going in peace means having no opinions, asking no questions, voicing no disagreement, stating no beliefs and citing no personal experience. There’s sure to be someone who will step in and try to shut us down with violence, abuse and threats if we speak up.

I love the idea of tolerance as a peace treaty. It gives me everything I need. It accommodates my intention to seek and support connection. It allows me to continue to be completely disinterested in someone’s religion, sexual preference, gender experience, physical anatomy, race, ethnicity, diet or reproductive choices as a criterion for judgement. Tolerance as a peace treaty leaves ample room for the things I do care about—authenticity, compassion, power with rather than power over, the desire to connect. It’s a peace treaty I can honor whole-heartedly.

Right up until someone tells me to shut up and sit down, make myself small, stop asking questions. Right up until someone tells me what to believe, what spiritual framework to use, what to think, what agenda to accept, what to do with my body and what my boundaries should be. Right up until I feel uncomfortable, in fact. Then the peace treaty is broken, and I give myself permission to exit, quietly if allowed and like a fighting tigress if hindered.

Tolerance is not an expression of weakness. It’s not permission to use and abuse. It’s not an agreement to abdicate self-defense. It’s not a suicide pact.

Nobody is entitled to tolerance.

Tolerance is a gift that must be both given and received. Let’s be worthy of it.

All content on this site ©2017
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Pseudo Self

A reader asked me, after my last post, what the difference is between engaging in reciprocity and people pleasing. This is a great question, and it gave me the subject for this week’s blog.

First, I want to answer that question.

Reciprocity minus authenticity equals people pleasing.

If we’re engaged with others authentically, we naturally have things to offer out of our true selves. At its best, reciprocity is a dance between real people with real-person strengths, weaknesses and needs.

People pleasing is an indirect plea for love, acceptance, approval or attention. It’s all about trying to get something back, not about giving out of the abundance of true self. We people pleasers don’t believe we have anything authentic to give that anyone wants, so we watch and listen carefully and try to play a role that we think will please.

The opposite of authenticity is pseudo self. I explored pseudo self when I went through life coaching, but a Google search will provide you with the history and background of the term. Wiki has a good page about it.

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Essentially, pseudo self is a survival mask that many of us start making as very young children. The construction of pseudo self is so deeply rooted in pain and fear that by the time we’re adults we can no longer tell the difference between the mask and our authentic selves, and the mask has all the power.

This kind of pseudo self is not like the superficial mask we all wear occasionally for social occasions, work occasions and family reunions. For the most part, we know that mask is a mask. Everyone around us wears one, too. Those masks are called manners and social skills (at least in polite conversation).

The survival pseudo self is a much darker mask. Think man in the iron mask. We create it and don it to survive, but over the years it becomes so much a part of us we can’t tell the difference between our flesh and the iron. It tortures us, but we don’t know how to take it off, and if we did know, how could we dare to do it?

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

Our culture in the United States is deeply committed to keeping that mask firmly in place because our culture is based in capitalism and conditional love, and the foundation of capitalism and conditional love is the belief that we need to be different than we are.  We need to buy things to be. To be what? Fill in the blank. Just to be. What do you want most? Love? Sex? Money? Power? Whatever it is, a half hour of commercial television will help you start a list of the things you need to buy to achieve it. Everything on that list is another rivet in the iron mask of pseudo self.

We are so brainwashed by this as parents, teachers, partners and human beings that we unconsciously perpetuate a paradigm of conditional love. We relate to one another through competition, power over, and all the things we need to be okay. We withhold love, affection, friendship and the “like” button. We’ve created a culture of pseudo self.

Being does not arise out of buying. We’re all born with the power to be. We have access to that power all our lives. Nothing can take it away from us, but we can be trained to surrender it. We are trained to surrender it, and we do.

Photo by Emma Backer on Unsplash

Many of us are actively taught from childhood to create a pseudo self. Telling little boys not to cry or play with dolls, telling little girls to be “nice,” telling women to sit down and shut up, telling anyone they should say, believe, eat, vote for, wear, be interested in, or want anything is supporting construction of pseudo self.

However, the pseudo self can be challenged. The iron mask can be broken down and removed. There are people who show us the way to authentic self, but it’s a stony path, because it means challenging the foundations of our culture and beliefs. It means challenging a lifetime of behavior and the expectations of others. It means breaking rules, and most people are not tolerant of those who break rules.

The blog I wrote last week is an example of challenging pseudo self. Think about this. I’m a perfectly ordinary middle aged woman living in central Maine. My stats show I have about one hundred readers. Not even half of those readers know me or have ever met me, and I don’t know them. Only one or two readers have actually commented on the blog, and I have seven subscribers, most of whom are not friends or family.

Yet it took every bit of courage I had to post that blog. I broke just about every rule I’ve lived my life by when I did so. I challenged what I was taught about being attractive, being intelligent, being kind, being nice, being a peacemaker, being womanly. All this because I dropped the mask and expressed my frustration, my anger and my passion and used the word “fuck.” Repeatedly. In front of around one hundred people, most of whom are strangers.

Photo by Nicole Mason on Unsplash

I had a sick stomach and crying jags. I felt panicked and anxious. I didn’t sleep well. I haven’t been able to sit still or relax. For three days, I couldn’t even log on and look at stats and so forth, or do any behind-the-scenes work on the blog.

Letting the iron mask of my pseudo self slip was horrifying, but I also noticed a feeling of relief. The rebel in me celebrated. I dared. I allowed myself to be. I wrote the real truth about how I feel. Everything on the blog is written from the heart, but only the civilized half! The last blog came from a different part of me, the strong survivor part, the primal female part, and that’s the best part of who I am. It’s also the least socially acceptable.

I usually feel like a mess. My life often feels like a cluster fuck, to use my favorite expression.  If that’s too much for you, then substitute car crash, train wreck, or something you feel is more appropriate! I try really, really hard in life and my intentions are wonderful, but I’m not perfect. Not a perfect daughter, mother, sister, friend or partner. Not a perfect writer, blogger or anything else. But I am. I’m someone real. I refuse to live the rest of my life in my iron mask.

At the end of the day, when I’m dead and over, I don’t want a wake, a funeral, a party or a nice obituary. I want someone to be able to say:

“Damn, that woman was real!”

For more on pseudo self, check out this link: http://www.becomingwhoyouare.net/true-selffalse-self-part-2-the-false-self/

I’ve also updated my resources page.

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Reciprocity 3: Reality Check

When I began this blog, I made a deal with myself to stop pleasing people. I hope you don’t think this decision led to happily ever after. Aside from a couple of notable exceptions, I’m not making friends and influencing people among my nearest and dearest. Still, I’m determined to grow and heal, whether it pleases others or not.

Lately, though, I’m getting bored with myself. I’m bored with my one-dimensional, civilized blogging. I’m bored with living up to the most mealy-mouthed, simpering word in the English language: Nice. I’m tired of hiding my rage, my passion and myself. This blog lacks vitality. It’s too fucking nice. It’s naïve, in the way women who try too hard are naïve. Women like me.

I can do much more than nice.

So, here’s this week’s post.

Reciprocity is a fine, fancy-sounding concept, but it’s not much use in the real world. The real world is all about Fuck You.

In the real world, men own women; parents own children; addictions, technology and the media own all of us and the biggest narcissists and bullies run the world. The real world runs on the power to control other people. This is because most people can’t control themselves, so naturally they take it out on everyone else. If we’re standing too close, it doesn’t matter who we are. Don’t kid yourself. Child, parent, lover, spouse, oldest and most loyal friend—it all counts for nothing and reciprocity is NOT in the equation.

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

If you don’t believe this, just look at the way we treat our home, poor old weary Mother Earth. Everything we need is here. Everything is provided. What do we do? Take a crap on her and poison her and then complain because she doesn’t give us enough.

Gratitude? Dream on. Thankfulness? You must be kidding.

Reciprocity, connection, boundaries—sure, sure. But in the real world, if we rise from our sweet-smelling bed every day, brush our teeth with milk and honey, say a cheerful good morning and work as hard as we can at loving and supporting others with the hope we’ll get it back, we’re not very bright. You know what we’ll get back at the end of the day from most people?

Fuck You, that’s what.

Because we’re human. We’re not inexhaustible. We want to be loved, too. And eventually we’ll piss someone off. We’ll say the wrong thing, or we’ll be wearing the wrong color shirt, or (most unforgiveable of all) we’ll forget for a moment that we are not the priority.  That’s when it happens.

Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

An explosion.

Unforgettable words.

A scene.

A thrown dish.

A fat lip.

Fuck You.

And it’ll be our fault, because they haven’t had their coffee yet, or they’re hung over, or they hate the job they’re about to go to, or they didn’t get laid last night, or we’re failing our job to make their world a better place. We disappoint, we have a boundary, we say no, we dare to ask for something, we fail to comply. We make them crazy and we make them treat us like a piece of shit. As far as they’re concerned, we can take our love and shove it up our ass.

And if we’re stupid enough to persist in trying to understand, trying to placate or sympathize with a bad mood or a hard experience, trying to alleviate their pain, then we really will deserve what we get, which will be another

Fuck You.

AND if we think our willingness to forgive and repair will be reciprocated by theirs, if we think taking responsibility for whatever we did wrong (even though we’re clueless about what it was) will cause them to do the same, if we excuse and minimize and tell ourselves they didn’t (couldn’t) mean what they said, then we deserve every name, every accusation, every curse and every blow we take, because we’re stupid, we’re pathetic, we’re in denial and people like that get destroyed.

What is it about “fuck you” we’re failing to understand?

But don’t listen to me, sisters. Go ahead, spread that love around. If you keep demonstrating reciprocity and everything else you want, they’ll get it. They’ll love and value themselves the way you do. They’ll love and value you and your relationship. You’ll be able to make peace, keep it glued together, avoid further catastrophe if you try hard enough.

Sure you will. Good fucking luck with that.

Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

Women like me are in a very small cage made out of niceness. We’re constitutionally unable to do anything but be nice and try harder. We’ve been VERY well trained. We won’t make a scene. We’ll be an adult. We’ll forgive anything. We’ll never take our pain out on someone else, because we don’t want to make someone else feel the anguish we feel. We conspire to prioritize the needs of others. We don’t talk about our own despair and isolation. We don’t blame anyone outside ourselves for our difficulties, we just soldier on as well as we can, feeling guilty about our stress and failure and meekly accepting blame for everyone else’s shit and if, one day, we are hurt or frustrated beyond bearing and we DO explode, well, then there’s outrage and injury! Then there are trembling lips and tears! It’s for everyone else to put a needle in their arm, or powder up their nose, or soak their lives in alcohol. It’s everyone else’s right to melt down, lose control, self-destruct, say hateful things and generally behave like 3-year-olds. Women like me are for blaming, forgiving, cleaning up the mess and taking responsibility. We are NOT recipients of forgiveness.

Reciprocity, my ass.

Yeah, reciprocity is great, if you can get it. So’s a good fuck, a great job, a loyal friend, a new Subaru and a vacation in the Bahamas. In the meantime, wake up and live in the real world. Take your finger out, pull up your socks and move on. Live or don’t live. Love or don’t love. Look for reciprocity.  It’s out there.  Some people are adult enough to participate in it.  Never let it go if you find it.  But prepare for

Fuck You.

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted