Day 2 Breakfast

Addiction Boundaries and Intimacy

The conversation has been edited for clarity in reading. The meaning has not been changed and nothing has been deleted.

Chris: 

Breakfast in Venice. This is Day two.

So you were saying that a lot of people come to explore Venice 

and… 

Graham: 

…and explore their creative energies. A lot of people come here and write and find things flow. It’s just what we’re finding. The ideas and thoughts about men and masculinity. I find they flow when I just stop for a while and enjoy where I am and enjoy the surroundings and nature. 

Chris: 

It’s beautiful. I’ve been in that flow, I have to admit. This morning I woke up and got on the email too fast and so it broke my flow, but I’m back. 

So, Graham, here we are, we’re two interviews in. I asked you an important question talking about tantra yesterday? 

But, before we dive into that, we haven’t really done an introduction of who you are and where you come from and what brings you to this material, what gives you the expertise that you have. So, maybe share a little bit of that. 

Graham: 

I’ve had a long and, well not that long, but I have had a varied life. But it has been a really interesting life. It has built up a lot of my insights and knowledge about men. 

When I was young, I left school and went into the theatre, went straight into the professional theatre, working behind the scenes, working as a technician. 

Chris: 

Is that why you speak that way? You sound very theatrical. You sound like… 

Graham: 

Oh, yeah, yeah. I’m a total ‘Thespian’. 

Chris: 

I was going to call you a ‘Thespian’, but I didn’t want to offend you. 

Graham: 

No, but the great thing about that was at the age of eighteen I went straight into meeting all sorts of people. One of the great things about theatre is it’s a place where people who don’t fit in go, often either as actors or as technicians or whatever. 

So, I went into the theatre and I met men and women and gay men and gay women, and start to learn all about how people are, the hang ups people have and also the masks. 

I worked a lot in that, I became a lighting designer. I was always a very creative person. My creativity came out in lighting. I spent most of my life both in the theatre and in architectural lighting. I ended up lighting lots of Cathedrals of England, doing lighting strategies for cities and a lot else. So, I had a very, varied life, a very creative life. I had a long marriage. I married in my late 20s to a girl I met in the theatre and we were married for over 30 years.

Chris:

It’s a long time in today’s day and age… 

Graham: 

It’s a long time. For me, you see, this was an important thing, for me, marriage was for life. You got together as a couple and you made it work. I had a lot of experience of working at the relationship, working at a relationship that finally fell apart. It fell apart for all sorts of reasons, a lot of personal reasons that I won’t go into. One of them, I realised afterwards, was that, in the end, I just wasn’t there. I wasn’t present in the relationship. 

Chris: 

So, whatever happened, it led to a lack of presence. There are many things that can lead to that right?

Graham:

I turned away. I actually ended up using sex as a weapon, or lack of sex as a weapon. 

Chris: 

I’m sure that’s not uncommon. 

Graham: 

I found that my lack of presence made the relationship much harder. We talked about this in the conversation yesterday, about the lack of presence in a man, the lack of the interest by the man in what the woman is doing. 

Chris: 

What’s interesting is that a lot of people think that when the sex stops, or when that’s the problem in the relationship, there’s a lot of stuff that led up to that point. But that’s one of the final symptoms of a marriage lived wrong. 

Graham: 

Yeah, it’s definitely a symptom. It’s not a cause. I know, in my case, it was a symptom of the fact that everything had really gone by then. We still felt we loved each other. It wasn’t one of those marriages that fell into lots of bitter argument. When we ended up getting divorced, we got divorced in an amicable way. 

But the love, the real connection had gone. There was no connection left. There was no attempt on either side to take the other person into consideration. There was no real attempt by me to stand up and be a man and just own what was going on. 

One of the interesting things I did, which did not work, was that I tried to solve the situation for my wife, who was an alcoholic. This is something men do. Men are solvers. We’re great at business. We’re successful at business. We’re successful in our lives because we solve problems. I’m fantastic at solving problems. As a designer in buildings and cathedrals and theatres, I earned a lot of money because I was always able to solve a problem.

Chris:

Can I ask you one question about that, Graham? Because when you look at alcoholism, when you look at any type of obsessive, compulsive behaviour, any addictive behavior, it’s typically somebody looking to relieve themselves from a life that’s unmanageable, from the feelings that are unmanageable, their emotions are unmanageable, it’s an unmanageable reality.

Graham:

Yes, absolutely. 

Chris: 

While one person might express that in alcoholism, still another might express it in a sex addiction or a love addiction or pouring their sexual energy in other places other than their primary relationship. 

Do you feel that a lot of what you were doing at the end of the relationship was to deal with her alcoholism, or do you feel like you were expressing yourself in ways, in other places, to deal with the unmanageability—the unmanageable reality of the relationship, did you yourself have your own addictions? 

Graham: 

Oh, I did. It took me a while to realise that I had my own addictions and they were very simple. They were to control, and they came out in a sense of anger.

Chris: 

An addiction to an emotion—an emotional addiction. 

Graham: 

An emotional addiction. I missed that for a long time, because I, like many people, assumed addiction was to some chemical drugs or alcohol. 

I realized it after a particular event when I got very angry with something that was happening. I noticed the way my eldest son, who was in his 20s at that time, shut off. I suddenly had an insight and I realised that, despite the fact that my wife was an alcoholic, I’d actually been doing more harm to the family than she had. 

I don’t blame anything that happened on my family or on my wife. A lot of it I put on the anger I had, which was my reaction, and I thought it was justifiable.

Chris:

Right. We always do.

Graham:

It was a reaction to what was happening. My son was more upset by the anger I showed. It may have caused more awkwardness in the relationship. 

Chris: 

I totally get that because I’ve been in the same place. I’ve experienced that. The anger, the emotions, being addicted to that, that pattern of behaviour that does a whole lot of damage. You thought it was justifiable yet you were being angry inside the relationship with the family, what were the repercussions of that? You say, it really took a toll on your family and the kids. 

Graham: 

The kids cut off. I mean, I lost, for a few years, I lost emotional contact with my sons. They closed off because they were more fearful of how I would react to situations than how my wife would react. She just shut off, which was almost easier for them to deal with. 

Chris: 

Either pattern is debilitating. 

Graham: 

The interesting thing was, when I realised what was happening, I joined Al-Anon, which is a 12-step group for Friends and Families of Alcoholics. The most impactful situation for me was the day that I spoke to an AA conference—Alcoholics Anonymous—and I spoke to about 300 alcoholics about my addiction to control. It was fascinating for them because they realised that, of course, this was totally fed by alcoholism, because what I was trying to do was solve what was going on. 

Chris: 

Solve the problem. 

Graham: 

But, my solution involved me controlling where she was in the relationship. 

Chris: 

That’s not uncommon. If you talk to 20 people in an Al-Anon meeting, they’ll all tell you the same, exact thing. 

Graham: 

That was one of the things that fed into how I now look at being a man and look at relationships. I think I talked yesterday, about this ability for someone to stand on their own, to face their fears because I know that in alcoholism, one of the greatest causes of it is someone’s inability to face who they think they are, their greatest fear is that they won’t like who they are. I know, in my wife, her alcoholism was not to do with me so much, as to do with her issues in her life and how she thought she was as a person… 

Chris: 

Her internal reality. 

Graham: 

Her internal reality was completely it. So, she put on a mask and she didn’t like the mask. To hide away from the mask she drank and then that created its own mask and, no doubt as you have seen, that rolls on and on and on, and over the years gets worse and worse. 

It gets back to how you are with yourself. It gets back to facing your fears. You talked yesterday about facing your fear of moving from being a boy to a man. One of the things about being a man is facing who you are, whatever you are. Not saying, “He’s a great man, I’m going to be like him.” It’s saying, “I’m a great man. I’m going to be who I am.” But then you’ve got to face who you are. 

Chris: 

I want to express something, but I don’t know if I’m going to get it out right. When I look at a lot of the people that I idolise, to the people that were heroes for me as I’ve been growing up, growing into a man, which is kind of funny, because I never thought of myself as a man. 

I’m in my forties and I still question whether I think of myself as a man. I look at some of the people and as I now get more of a mature, or an adult, view of some of the people that I used to idolize, I see more and more the underlying issues that they have dealt with, some of the external trappings of their success or the way that they interact with people, instead of the things that I saw before. 

Now, as I’m older, I’m starting to see what’s underneath it all and it’s, “Wow! It’s all the same issues that I’ve dealt with.” All the same issues whether it be around sex, or relationships, or how I feel about myself, about self-love, drugs. All the things that I’ve had judgment about, that I’ve done in my life. Self-judgment, needing the approval of others. All the things that I’ve tapped into, all these little places that I’ve been at various times of my life and that were so dark. All the areas I didn’t want to look at, I’m now seeing that, no matter who it was that I idolised, or who it was that I looked up to, most of them wrestled with all the same demons. 

I pointed this out to you yesterday, I was looking online, and you see Sugar Ray Leonard comes out and says in a book he’s writing, he’s telling who he is to the world. And he’s saying, “Listen, I was a substance abuser. I was not faithful inside my relationship. I was out philandering. I was sexually abused by a boxing coach.” He’s saying all this stuff. 

When I was reading the description of it online, they were saying he was hesitant to put it out because he didn’t really understand it himself. We all go through, well, crap, lots of crap in a lifetime. He was grappling with it. Now, he puts it out there for the public and he said it wasn’t so much to try to inspire somebody else or try to do anything like that. It was cathartic, so that he could actually get out, his own life experience and it was more for him, for his sake, telling his story and being vulnerable, opening up to the world saying, “This is me, this is who I am.” 

I got to tell you, that’s been my path recently. Standing up, being transparent saying, “This is me. Take it, leave it.” It’s a very powerful place to be. You look at that and you see why people would hide it, why people would hide behind the masks of the things that have happened because it’s a scary place to stand vulnerable, but there’s strength in it. 

Graham: 

There’s strength in it, but the scary thing is, you don’t know where it’s going to lead you. 

Chris: 

Yeah. You don’t have a clue. 

Graham: 

Both in yourself and with other people; we don’t know what’s going to happen. 

Chris: 

How is it going to be received. Who’s going to attack you? What I found is that once you’re standing there being bare naked in front of the world, then who cares at that point? The shame that’s involved with something like sexual abuse or something that maybe somebody went through. When I was kid, I went through something similar. There was some sort of molestation that happened in my past. When you look at that type of thing there’s so much shame that’s attached to that. You would never want the world to know that. So, you get all these dark, hidden secrets that all of a sudden arise when you’re willing to share your story with the world. I believe that there’s so much power in that. You look at that, and you think, every one of those important people that you admired, every person that you looked up to—and I’m talking to Chris right now—all of those people you look up to, they have this whole story happening behind. 

I had a good friend of mine, Scott Mednick, who was one of the co- founders of Legendary Pictures in producing the movie Superman Returns. He did a lot of different movies like that. He said, “You know, Chris, we can’t see our own perfection.” So, in not seeing our own perfection, what we do is we project perfection onto somebody else, and then they don’t meet what our ideas of perfection are and we tear them down. Which is really a wild concept, because nobody can meet our ideas of what perfection is, so we are all inherently flawed, at the same time, we’re all inherently perfect. 

Graham: 

What I look at in men is a clear ability to accept who you are, with all the imperfections. It’s not about creating some beautiful picture of how wonderful you are, it can include that and often does, but it’s with all the hard hurts, with all the harm, with all the bad things, the cruel things, the abusive things of your life. Once you can come out and allow them to be there—accepting—then you can grow in yourself. So, in my situation, the one thing I realised in my marriage was that I went into that marriage because I needed, emotionally, some kind of a protection. 

Chris: 

You wanted the protection from the woman? 

Graham: 

No. Just from life. Even in my 20s, I still wasn’t ready to be out in the world on my own. 

Chris: 

You felt like a marriage would give you that? 

Graham: 

That’s what I realise now.
I’d left home at 18, left the bosom of my family, which was great, 

and I worked on my own in this wonderful and strange world. I realise now, looking back, that I felt frightened in this world. I was shy. I really wasn’t able, in myself, to cope with it and I retreated into a relationship, to marriage and children. That was a security because it gave me responsibilities, to look after my wife, to look after my children. 

Chris: 

It changes you emotionally when you have those responsibilities too. 

Graham: 

It gave me a wonderful mask and it was really a lovely mask, but it meant that the heart of the relationship wasn’t based on me owning up to myself or accepting who I was.

Chris: 

So, you weren’t—and we said this, I think, on the first interview we did —you weren’t a whole human being coming into that, you were a partial human being looking for completion. 

Graham: 

Yes. Looking for completion. In many ways, my ex-wife provided that completion, for a time. 

Graham: 

But only as long as she was strong. When she started falling apart because of her own issues, I had nothing to…

Chris:

So, that idea works for a while until it falls apart, doesn’t it. 

Graham: 

Yeah. Not only works, it’s beautiful. There are many beautiful relationships that happen for a few years because, you fulfill each other’s needs for a while. That feels is really good. That feels so good. Chris: 

True. 

Graham: 

Then either you don’t have that need any more, or your partner stops fulfilling it, or your partner wants to go their way, or wants their needs fulfilled that you’re not filling. There’s this fragile structure. 

Chris: 

Or the need wasn’t really filled because it couldn’t be filled by somebody else. It had to be filled by you, which is what you are all about, with your authenticity. So the need is still there but you’re in a relationship that provides only a temporary bandaid. 

Graham: 

As things started falling apart. I went into personal development. I did what a lot of people do, I went to a seminar, started learning about myself, and I went through a process that I now work with men on, of awareness, of being aware of who I was, acceptance, accepting what is there and then working on that, and authenticity, building a life of authenticity, a life where I was just me. Then I changed. 

When I left home in my fifties, I went and got a flat in London. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever actually lived on my own. It was the most scary thing. I realised I’d never faced the thought of actually facing the rest of the world from a place of just me—nobody else, no other structure of either friends or family or what-ever. There is no structure there to support me. I found I could do it. I found I was strong. I found that I had the abilities and emotions and strengths that I didn’t know I had, because I’d never approached them. 

Chris: 

Certainly, because you would rely on other people or try to. So, when you look at that, putting yourself in a position where you had to rely on yourself and learn that you could do those things was vital. Graham: 

Vital. Only then, could I even think of relating to other people, whether in a business sense, an emotional, intimate sense, or just in terms of friendship. 

Chris: 

Now, that’s interesting. That is very fascinating. I’m looking at my own life and I’m looking at people that I’ve seen. When you find yourself in a position where you’ve got to take care of yourself, and you find that you can and you polish up the weaknesses in your game until they become your greatest strengths. 

Chris: 

You’re, by force, put into a situation where you have to make up for those weaknesses. 

Graham: 

You have to dive behind the mask. You have to let the mask go. You have to accept that whether there’s abuse in your life or whether, like me, my upbringing was very normal middle class, I didn’t suffer abuse. I didn’t have alcoholic parents. I actually led, in a sense, a very simple, normal life; but I came out of it, screwed up. I was screwed up because my father was very loving,and as a loving man, he was incredibly dominant. He always had to have the last word, which is why with you, I keep wanting to top you! To say something. 

Chris: 

You can tell. That’s alright. 

Graham: 

I learned it from my father. I had to fight to get a word in that ended it, with my father. So, I’m really good at that. 

Chris: 

Okay. I’ve got a couple of questions that are popping in my mind. Can I talk to you a little bit about boundaries as a man? When you think of boundaries, here’s the way I think about them. There are still areas in my life where I’ve got clarity about boundaries, there’s other areas where I’m not real clear. It’s something that I have to look at and say, “Okay, I need better boundaries there.” When I think of boundaries, I think of those areas where you’re going to let somebody in, versus, not let somebody in. 

When I was a kid I had, because of whatever my life experience was, I had brick walls around myself emotionally. Nobody got in emotionally. As a result, I wasn’t present in my relationships. I just was not there, because, “you are going to hurt me, nobody’s getting in.” And that was the way I’ve lived my relationships for my entire life. So, as I become more aware of that and let those walls down and, say, “Okay, I’m going to let people in,” but I don’t have the awareness of what’s the healthy boundary there? What’s a good place? How far do you let somebody in versus not. When you look at being vulnerable as a man, you were mentioning that the place to go if you’re in your fear or you’re in something like that, is to other men. 

That’s a place of safety. Whereas with women, it’s not necessarily a safer place. How do you set up the boundaries? Where do you let the woman in? Where do you let people in from a vulnerability perspective? What do you share with other men? What’s the sense of healthy boundaries emotionally for a man? 

Graham: 

Boundaries are very interesting. What I come to realize is that the boundaries are very fuzzy. When you go into yourself, and for example meditate, when you let your logical brain go, one of the things you find is that you cease to have a skin, almost. The physical boundary of your body disappears. 

Chris: 

I’ve had that happen. 

Graham: 

That’s what I realised emotionally. In a sense, there aren’t really any boundaries. We create boundaries artificially. Masks are boundaries, the boundaries you’re talking about—the brick walls—how you let those down is—very carefully. Think of it like a drawbridge. In medieval England, castles had drawbridges, somebody’d be coming from a distance, so the drawbridge would go up because they didn’t know who they were. They didn’t know whether those people coming from a distance are coming to attack or be friends. 

In a castle, they have lookouts trying to see who it is. Then, there’s a process of communication to decide whether to let the drawbridge down and let the people in. I think that’s how we operate. We cannot trust people. We start off with a boundary that we deliberately put there to protect ourselves from invaders—emotional invaders—people who want to take advantage. We need to sharpen up our awareness of other people, of how other people are, but be willing to let our boundary down before they let theirs go. We invite people into our lives. It’s a step by step process of looking at how someone is, opening up a boundary, letting someone in, allowing them to let a boundary down and then, there’s a reciprocal process. I think it starts with ourselves.

Chris:

Its’ a nice metaphor. 

Graham: 

I think with a woman we have to start. If we, as men, keep a boundary and expect a woman to open up, we’re not going to get anywhere. 

Chris: 

And, by the way, that’s very, very common. You know, my greatest wish when I would be in a relationship is for the woman to open up, but I had brick walls up. So, how’s that going to happen?

Graham: 

Look at the whole alpha male thing, ‘pick up artists’. They learn what they call ‘inner game’. They learn the game of how to attract a woman. They learn how women love power and strength. They learn how to play to that. They get something that, for one night, is fabulous: they get great sex. They don’t open themselves up. They don’t actually let a drawbridge down, they keep it up. So, the next day, often the woman goes, “Phffft,” and he’s off, because there’s nothing exposed. There’s nothing revealed about the man. 

Chris: 

But they are not there for that, they’re just there to get… 

Graham: 

Oh, I know the men are not there for that, but in the end, what do they get?

Chris:

They get nothing emotionally. 

Graham: 

Yeah, nothing emotionally. They had great sex for a night and they get to brag to their mates.

Chris:

Which is the whole status mask type thing anyway. I can see how that would be a lonely, crappy existence. 

Graham: 

Not one that I’m interested in.
There’s another thing, there’s a very interesting kind of reciprocal 

to this that I’d like to just mention. There’s a lot of fear that men have nowadays. There’s a lot of fear that’s come from, not just the feminist movement, but from the fear that women have of men. This comes from alpha males and pick-up artists and dominant men There’s an enormous pressure for men to not abuse women. 

It’s even got down to people being accused of date rape. A lot of men now have built up a lot of fear. on a genuine date, of what happens on the first night, on the second night. When can you take a woman to bed, when can you do that, when is she going to come turn around and accuse you of abuse?

Chris:

I’ll tiptoe around people sometimes. I’m a public personality, but I’m a human being as well. I’ve got to tiptoe because what’s real? What’s not real? I’ve got a very unusual situation where if I’m going to go out on a date with somebody, is she’s going to say that it’s because I’m a powerful person or because I’ve got this going on, or that going on. If I date one person and then go out with somebody else, the people look and they say, “Oh look, he was with her, and then he’s with her.” Whether or not I’ve slept with them, that’s regardless of the issue, they look at it, and they go, “Well, you know, he was with this two people.” Well, who did you date? You know, it’s really weird. It’s a tough situation.

Graham:

And there’s no simple answer. The answer only comes from being strong and confident in yourself as a man and in choosing how to open up to a woman. If you start to open up emotionally and the woman is able to open in an emotional state, it can go further, because there’s some genuineness there. But, in your position you want to be careful how you do that.

Chris:

I lived all over the world, so I travel all over the place. So, if I’ve met somebody in one city and then meet somebody in another city, people will think, “Well, look at that. Oh, look, he’s got somebody in every city.” That’s not the case. 

It’s the case to some degree because that’s where I am and then, I’m gone the next week. When you look at that, if somebody is in their home state and they’re dating it’s not going to be in a different city. It’s going to be in the same place. If you’re dating three people in one town, or you’re starting to get to know somebody and I’ve got one here and one there and one there that I’m getting to know, to decide whether this is even a relationship, or whether I want to have that connection. But, for me it’s okay, three different cities. 

If I was there, it would be one city and it would be the exact same. So, it’s very difficult. I tiptoe around on a lot of those things, and it’s an uncomfortable position because what you just said I think really stands out to me which is really important. There is a quote that goes “be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is who you really are, your reputation is only who people think you are.

Graham:

Yes, that’s it perfectly.

Chris:

That’s what you’re saying.

Graham:That’s what I’m saying. It’s not who you think you are, it’s who 

you know you are. Other people will always get you wrong. Other people have their own agendas and people will take you down a certain route because it helps them. People may want to knock you down, but it comes back to who you are inside. That’s why being a pickup artist doesn’t work, because who you are inside is a screwed up, messy little boy who wants to prove that he can screw any woman he finds. Well, big deal. Men have done that throughout history, and where has it got them?

Chris:

I hear you. Exactly. 

Graham: 

If you are who you are, if you have your own strength and your own knowledge, you can build a relationship, which is fabulous. But that relationship may not be permanent; it may not be forever. 

You know, I have friends in cities all over the world. They don’t go, “Oh, but he’s also got a friend in New York, and he’s got a friend in London.” Okay. They’re not friends I have sex with.
I’ve built my life to the point where I can virtually go anywhere, in 

Australia, in Europe, in America. And I got friends – friends I’ve built up online, friends I’ve built through associations. I find now because I own who I am I have male friends, female friends. I have such wonderful friends because they look at me and they go, “Oh, I know who you are,” because I reveal myself to them. 

Maybe a last little story. 

I was President of the International Association of Lighting Designers—it’s an international association with about a thousand lighting designers around the world. At the first board meeting, when I was running it, we decided to have an icebreaking session where we would all say something about ourselves. People talked about themselves and people said who they were, just talked about business, mostly stuff that everyone knew. It came to me at the end and I introduced myself, and then I told them the story about how, when I was 21, I used to work in a strip club in Soho in London. My job was to stand there and catch the clothes from the women. 

Chris: 

I thought you were dancing. Oh, stand there and catch the clothes for the women. How perfect is that?

Graham:

When they came running off naked, I could give them their clothes.

Chris: 

That’s great. 

Graham: 

This collapsed the whole board because they didn’t expect that of me, and I was opening up something of myself in a situation where it may not have been a good idea.

Chris: 

How did it go over? 

Graham: 

Really well, everyone was knocked out. 

Chris: 

Of course they were, they’re jealous. 

Graham: 

They were jealous, yeah, the men were jealous. The women wanted to know how I reacted to the bodies. But that’s a different story. 

Chris: 

Yeah, that’s a different story. Another time, another place, okay. These are the Graham Reid Phoenix files… We’re going to go either like the X-Men movies they have coming out. We have to go back and trace your origins and we’ll go right back there. We’ll have some young movie star play you back in the day. 

Let me ask you a question about sex. Or should we save this to the next interview? 

Graham: 

Let’s talk about sex later. 

Chris: 

You want to talk about it later? 

Graham: 

Not at breakfast. 

Chris: 

Oh, not at breakfast. We’re going to talk about sex at lunch. Cheta, maybe you want to make a note, so I can remember to talk to Graham about sex at lunch. 

Graham: 

She’s good at reminding me about that. 

Chris: 

Let’s go back to our question that we had on the second time I spoke with you, about the tantra. 

I’m more and more saying, “Hey, that’s some place I want to go to understand it simply from the perspective of being present and improving intimacy inside my relationships, because intimacy was something that I had closed off from before.” I’m getting infinitely more well versed in being able to go to that place which I’m thrilled about, just being present with somebody. 

But being present physically with somebody without the sex, that’s I think a lot of what the tantra helps people to do. So, it’s not about a goal about getting anything accomplished. It’s about being present. When you look at that, is it important – this is the question I asked you before—is it important for somebody to practice tantra and have tantric experiences when you’re learning that, with somebody other than their partner?

Graham:

Yes it is.

Chris:

Really?

Graham:

Yes it is. The reason is very simple. One of the things in tantra, or similar types of meditations, one of the things you’re exploring is your energy. As a man, I know I’ve connected with my masculine energy and it’s very powerful.

Chris:

But that is with another man, isn’t it? 

Graham: 

With another man or another woman, it doesn’t matter. I have a powerful energy which I always used to think was just a sexual energy. It’s not a sexual energyit’s my male, my masculine energy. To explore that, you need to see how that relates to another energy, particularly a feminine energy. How the two rotate around each other. One of the interesting things about not doing it with your partner is that you escape from any sense of dependence on the other person. In any relationship, even although your aim is to stand on your own, not be dependent, not have the other person fill your needs. You never quite know whether that’s what’s happening. 

You can’t always look from the outside and be completely aware of the basis of your relationship. So, when you explore the energy with another person, with another woman, particularly one you don’t know. I’ve done meditations with women I’ve literally never met before. I don’t even know their name. I don’t know who they are. We 

Chris: 

Masculine and feminine? 

Graham: 

Masculine and feminine energies relate. 

Chris: 

Now, are we talking about sexual energy? 

Graham: 

No. This is the energy that is deep down inside us. Sexual energy is just a very small expression of that. It’s an expression that comes out much more in the physical realm.

Chris: 

Now, when you think of the chakra and energy centers, does that come into play here?

Graham:

Yes. It starts deep down at your base chakra, and that’s where it gets confused with sexual energy because that’s a source of your grounding —your sexual energy is such a power both for men and women, it’s such a powerful grounding force. David Deida talks a lot about growing the energy down in your base chakra and then firing it out of your spine. 

Chris: 

We think of the kundalini rising. 

Graham: 

Yes. 

Chris: 

This is what we’re talking about. 

Graham: 

Kundalini is a basic energy that both men and women have. It gets expressed in different forms, particularly sexually. But before that happens, there is a deep, deep energy inside, and that energy can react and relate to an energy of another person, and particularly between a male and a female—a masculine and a feminine energy. 

There’s, for example, a great meditation you can do when you sit together and when you get into a breath that responds to each other. One breathes out, the other breathes in. You can get a circular energy going from the male body, low down into the female body, coming up out through the female breath, in through the male breath, and you get a circle—just an energetic circle—a circle of breath, that you can use to explore how you relate to each other. You forget about speech, you forget about getting to know who the other person is, or what their name is, and you forget about anything physical between you. You start to understand your energy, you start to understand how you can relate to another person. You move back out and you find the relationship between that and how you relate to your partner. 

Chris: 

What’s the big value in that? I come back to why. Why would somebody do that?

Graham:

Because you want to develop. I certainly want to develop and know the intimacy of my partner. By intimacy, I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about energetic intimacy. The intimacy that is not about what their name is or what their job is, or where they came from. It’s about who they are as a person and why that person gives me power and strength and gives me an enjoyment which is far beyond me myself. Chris: 

Now, Cheta, I’m going to ask you one thing from you at this point. Is this what you’re talking about when you say, “if the man is present, when he’s present, then you don’t need to test all the time?” 

Cheta: 

Yes, that is it. 

Chris: 

That’s it. So this practice, this tantric practice can help somebody to actually develop that presence, which is what the woman wants more than anything.
Cheta: 

That’s correct, yes. Because you do this in this meditation, you get such a feel for where you are, in yourself, as well as in combination with the other energy and that’s where you have the polarity. You have a pure form of polarity, which is just amazing. 

Chris: 

Fascinating. Now I’m seeing how the tantric practices aren’t necessarily sexual. Right. It can be brought into—and correct me if I’m wrong—it can be brought into the bedroom.

Graham: 

In an intimate relationship, once you really exchange those energies, then you can take it further, but that’s in the context of a close, intimate relationship. 

Chris: 

Right. In another context, you just have that level of intimacy and you’re able to explore that without bridging in to the sexual matrix. 

Graham: 

That’s right. 

Chris: 

I got it. You’ve alleviated a lot of my fears around that. I’m getting where you’re coming from on that, but it’s still a scary thought for somebody that’s hung on to old notions of the world and old notions of control. 

Cheta: 

Well, you can imagine in a situation like that when you do a meditation like that, it brings out all your fears. 

Graham: 

Sure. 

Chris: 

Are you good enough? 

Cheta: 

Can you hold up the energy, are you going into your pattern of control? Are you able to allow the other person freedom to explore? There’s so much coming up.

Graham: 

Also the fears of jealousy. Seeing your partner in what appears to be a very intimate situation with another person. In my case, seeing Cheta with another man. When I first started practicing this, the fears of jealousy came raging through my body. 

Chris: 

So, you actually went through this. This is good to hear, you know. 

Graham: 

There was one meditation where I delved right down into my anger, my fear, my jealousy, and it was a very cathartic experience. What I was exploring was me. I thought I was reacting to what I was seeing. I was actually exploring whether I was confident in myself. because jealousy is about fear that you aren’t good enough. 

If you see your partner with another, say, you see your female partner with another man and you feel jealousy, that jealousy comes because you fear she may not come back to you. You fear that she’s going to find him better than you in whatever way. You know, I felt that. When you face that fear and you go beyond it and you just go “I’m me. She’s with me, and it’s because I am who I am.” 

Cheta: 

That’s where the detachment comes in again. You know, the aloneness —I am who I am—and she’s going to choose me for my energy, as opposed to the things that I make happen. 

Chris: 

Will she choose me? This strikes to the heart, the core of fear. One of those core fears that most people have. When you look at what someone’s biggest prime concern in their life or core fear or core wounds, it comes back to, “Am I lovable? Am I good enough?” 

Graham: 

It strikes to the heart of why people try and to commit suicide, why they drink, why they take drugs, why they get angry with other people, why they abuse people, why they lock people up. We’ve all faced it, and we still face it. I talk as if I’ve got all this sorted out. I still have a base fear of “am I good enough?” 

Tony Robbins talks about the ‘primary question’, I looked into it and I found that my primary question was: “Will I be found out?” I had a great outer mask there. Would people see behind it and find out who I really was? When you transfer that into intimate relationships, wow, that’s powerful. I’m now open myself to who I am, to other people. 

There’s still that nagging thought there, “Am I really honest? Am I really being who I am? Do I still have the mask?” 

Chris: 

I feel kind of fortunate on that. I feel like this year I put myself out to the public in a way that I never have before. I tell you what, it’s liberating, it’s exciting. It feels good to say, “Okay. Now, attack me now.” And there’s nothing to attack. It feels good. 

Now, here’s the thing I want to ask you a little bit about this because I know you’ve got your 40 day challenge. So, the 40 day challenge is designed to do what? What is it designed to do? 

Graham: 

It’s designed to start by taking men inside and becoming aware of themselves. It’s taking men inside. Number one is: Do you love yourself? What have you taken from your parents? How do you react to your friends? 

The first third is taking you deep into these questions of where you come from, in yourself, in your family, in your intimate relationships. Then, it takes you through a period of, having discovered that, having written it down or faced it, do you accept that? Is that who you want to be? Can you accept it? Can you go, “I’m cool with that; I’m cool with the world knowing that. I’m okay.” Now you may come out and want to change some things, but only if you start with accepting who you are. 

It finishes by looking at how you are in the world. So, taking the person that you’ve discovered, how do you relate to other people? How do you show yourself to other people? How do you deal with your intimate relationships? So, for example, you know, one of the exercises is to be with another person. We talked about this in our earlier conversation. Can you expose yourself emotionally and energetically to your partner? What I don’t do is teach you any techniques. What I do is get yourself to teach yourself how to be a man. 

Being a man is not following a particular model. It’s not like here’s Clint Eastwood, if you look at how he does things, do that and you’re a man. It’s about what I call personal masculinity. It’s about developing your model and your acceptance of being a man, standing in who you are and showing that to the world and living it. Accepting that. For example in relationships, if you’re a man who hasn’t got a relationship, you’re looking for one, you will start attracting them precisely because you’re not looking for them but because you are who yourself—you are who you are in yourself.

Chris:

Now, that to me is a…is a huge promise. It’s a huge target. 

I’ll be going through the 40-day challenge. So I’ll be in there like everybody else. I’m really looking forward to it. Tell me why you chose 40 days.

Graham:

Forty days, it’s a very old concept, it actually comes from the basis of Lent. If you go back to the New Testament before the crucifixion, at the end of Christ’s life. He went out to the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. There he grew up as a man, he was in his thirties. When he was facing his final frontier—what he knew he was here in this world for— his destiny – to be crucified. 

He questioned that. He went out for 40 days and 40 nights into the desert and he questioned it. He argued with God. He argued about whether he was the right man to do it. He argued about whether he was up to it. The devil came to face him, tried to talk him out of it. He went through this process of saying, “Am I the man to do this?” At that stage, although he comes from God, he was a man. He did the ultimate. He had to decide who he was as a man and that his destiny was something that He was going to face. We all face that. Okay, we’re not here to be killed for the rest of the world but we all have our destiny. We all have our demons to face. 

The idea of 40 days, the idea of a month and a half, for a period where you concentrate the focus while living your daily life it’s different. You can do five, seven days in a seminar, where you get such an intensity that often disappears for people, because it’s unreal. The key to the 40 days is that you still live in your real life, your everyday life. Every day, you focus on one little aspect. You bring up what demon is there. In some cases, there are no demons there for you, that’s great. 

Chris: 

I’ll be surprised if somebody felt no demons. There was a book that I read called ‘Gurus—Men with Feet of Clay’. The book was an analysis of different types of gurus that have been with us throughout time, either a Sigmund Freud, the spiritual leaders that we know today, or a Winston Churchill. People that led movements. The author said that, to a person, they all had in common what they call ‘the dark night of the soul’, where they were wrestling with their personal demons and they either went away into the forest or desert for 40 days, for example. They came out, they emerged like the Phoenix rising. 

I asked you before, is your name really Phoenix? That’s your birth name, isn’t it? 

Graham: 

It really is. 

Chris: 

That’s wild. You couldn’t pay for a name like that. That’s beautiful. 

Graham: 

But it is me. When I wrote the 40 day Challenge, originally, I did it online. I published a post every day for 40 days. For me, the process of writing it was a like a Phoenix rising out of the ashes—rising out of the ashes of my old life. 

Chris: 

I see. Whether it’s a man listening to this, or whether it’s a woman that’s listening for her man, or for her men—the people that she cares about. This is that type of an experience where it’s about rising from the ashes to face the world in a new way. Whether you’re biblically inclined or whether you’d like to look at that as a metaphor, however you do it, it’s coming out and rising up to become the man you can be, to face the challenges of today and tomorrow, and to embrace your destiny. I’m excited by this. You’re proposing other work with men. 

What’s the idea behind this work that you’re doing? 

Graham: 

One of the great things about men is the fear of being with other men. It’s a whole different issue from intimacy issues with women. Men have a great fear of homosexuality. There’s a fear of what comes up when you’re close to another man. Men either don’t relate to other men—they spend their time seeing women and having sex—or when they do, they do it through a mask. They do it through getting drunk, watching football and other similar activities. They don’t really get down to deep emotional issues. What I want to do in live events is take men away doing male things. 

In the middle of that, I want to get men to really face each other and face the things that they don’t want to face with their women. It’s important to open up emotionally to women, but it’s also important not to expect women to solve your deep emotional problems. One of the ways of dealing with this is to take them away with other men into a situation of safety and power.

Chris:

I’m tapping into that right now. This is my midlife crisis, right? So, there’s a perfect time for me and you to go on a trip with a bunch of guys for the week, getting into that tribal backpacking mode, but also having exercises and the things that cause bonding at greater levels. Discussions about what we’re afraid about, as a man who’s always cut off from that type of thing, I can say that some of the most rewarding spiritual and emotional moments that I’ve had have come from that type of activity.

Graham:

With my writing online the third biggest search term is ‘male bonding’. There are so many men looking for how to bond with other men, how to get involved without it appearing to be sexual, without it appearing to be intimate. In a way they don’t want it to be intimate. This is a very difficult issue that men need to face. It helps men to understand how they could just be, to see how another man is, to get the lessons, to see the models, and to see that it’s okay to be emotional. It’s okay to have some screw up’s inside. It’s okay to fear women.

Often you feel can’t talk to your partner, say, about sexual issues 

you’re having. But, if you can be open with another man and you talk about things that you’ve kept to yourselves, you can grow powerfully. At the center of all this is me as a man, standing there totally open. There’s not much left to reveal. You’re hearing a lot of it right now. 

Chris: 

But the thing is, when we look at those types of those events, what I liked about that was that they are so sexy. I mean, I don’t hear about that happening any place. You could, as a man, anchor yourself into that experience—a male bonding experience—where you have male friends. This is something I’ve never really had. 

Would you bring that in? You know, I always felt more comfortable hanging out with women that I did with men. That’s part of the reason that I’ve had the unbalance that I’ve had in my life. When I think of these ideas, they’re sexy to me. When you say, “Chris, do you want to go beat drums in a drum circle in the woods with six guys?” I’m going to tell you, “Take a hike.” 

When you say, “Do you want to come on a Harley trip across the country?“, to anchor myself into that experience, twice a year, provides for me a groundedness in who I am. I think it’s powerful. 

I still want to talk to you about sex, but let’s do it in the next session. 

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