According to an ancient Hindu legend, there was once a time when all human beings were Gods.
But they abused their power and so Brahma, the chief God, decided to take it and hide it in a place where it could never be found. He decided to hold a council of the Gods to help him decide the best spot.
“Let’s bury it deep in the earth,” said the Gods.
Brahma answered, “No, that will not do. Humans will dig into the earth and find it.”
“Okay, let’s sink it in the deepest ocean then,” replied the Gods.
But Brahma said, “No, not there. For they will learn to dive and they will find it.”
Then the Gods said, “What about the highest mountain top, out in the farthest corner of earth?”
But again Brahma replied, “No, that will not do either. They will eventually climb every mountain, scale every peak, and once again take up their divinity.”
The rest of the Gods were exasperated. They threw up their arms in surrender. “There is no place!” they hollered. “The humans will proliferate, and they will find it anywhere we put it.”
Brahma was quiet for a time. He thought long and deep. Finally he looked up at the rest of the Gods with a knowing twinkle in his eye. “Here is what we shall do,” he said. “We will hide their divinity deep down in the one place they will never look – the very center of their own being.”
The rest of the Gods rejoiced. Of course! It was the perfect place! They all formally agreed on it, and the deed was done.
Ages passed, and since that time humans have been on a desperate and unending search — travelling every corner of the planet, digging, diving, climbing, and exploring – for the one thing they know they’ve lost… something already within themselves.
In my thirteen years coaching men on their dating lives, I’ve heard a lot of the same questions asked over and over.
“How do I talk to women?”
“What do I say?”
“How do I get her to like me?”
“How do I make more friends?”
“How do I flirt?”
“How can I be more confident?”
If you’re reading this now, it’s probably safe to assume that you’ve asked at least one of these questions — either to yourself or someone else. If you’ve ever asked one of these questions, chances are you’ve gotten the wrong answer.
Because you’re asking the wrong question.
What if I told you that you have mechanisms in your brain which build the strongest bonds in the known universe — both platonic and romantic — with every human being on the planet? What if I told you these magical brain mechanisms works without you having to do ANYTHING — just like your heartbeat?
I’m not talking about the kinds of connections where you talk about sports, collaborate in business, or chase women or whatever. I’m talking about the kinds of connections that are the number one determining factor in your overall happiness. I’m talking about the kind of connections that — if we don’t have them — are the leading cause of addiction, depression, anxiety, and suicide.
If we have this magical connecting thing inside of us, why do we still feel lonely and disconnected from others? It’s a good question, and one that nearly every human being has asked himself at one point or another.
Before I answer the “why”, let me first identify these mechanisms:
The first magical part of our brain that I’ve been referring to is our collection of mirror neurons (the largest amount carried of any species in the known universe by a long-shot). In short, our mirror neurons fire when someone in our periphery exhibits some emotion or behavior. This triggers the release of brain chemicals that cause us to feel the same feelings and behave in similar ways as the person we’ve observed (Preston & Waal, Decety, Gallese), with yawning being the most accessible example of this .
An emotional bond forms whenever we empathize with — or feel the same feelings as — another person. Our mirror neurons automatically do this for us.
The second mechanism in the brain which “magically” bonds us with other living things is the release of oxytocin when we make prolonged eye contact (Uväs-Moberg) or share physical contact (Field). For the unaware, oxytocin makes us feel bonded to others. Combine a shot of that with the emotional connection provided by your mirror neurons and voilá, you’ve got the strongest bond in the known universe, courtesy of your brain.
Of course, it’s not that simple. Try to stare into a stranger’s eyes and touch them and more often than not you’ll be met with hostility. Usually we need to allow first our mirror neurons to do some emotional harmonizing before another person will feel comfortable allowing themselves to become more bonded with another person.
But again, if our mirror neurons do this automatically for us then why do most of us still feel so disconnected?
That answer is where things start to get difficult for us. The reason why our magical bonding mechanisms seems to be broken more often than not is that we’re not using them. Why? Because our brains kind of suck at multitasking.
When we’re tapping into our problem-solving abilities (“How do I achieve x?”) or other more analytical brain processes, it’s almost impossible to let that magical bonding process occur at the same time. It’s like that advice you’ve heard but never quite understood: you “get the girl” when you stop trying to get the girl.
Men in particular struggle with this. The mirror neuron system in women, on average, is more active than ours. Additionally, it’s easier for women, on average, to multitask (Brizendine). On other words, it’s typically easier for a woman to tackle a logical problem one minute and emotionally connect the next than it is for us.
This is all relative though. While former UFC champion Ronda Rousey would still lose a fight against similarly trained male fighters, she’d still kick most guys’ asses on the planet. The biggest block for us in achieving deep emotional connections is societal conditioning.
Girls are often encouraged to develop emotional intelligence and connections from a young age. Boys, on the other hand, are often punished for being emotional and rewarded solely for their analytical and athletic prowess. It can be said that girls get love when they emote, while boys get love by figuring stuff out and accomplishing. It’s no surprise that men then spend their adult lives logically trying to figure out how to get love (and why 99% of the dating advice we receive is analytical and doomed to fail.)
If there’s one thing that my work with thousands of men has taught me, it’s that despite these hurdles we face, any man can re-develop his ability to share these deep connections that we’re all dying for. In order to teach men to access that magical part of themselves and connect with anyone, I like to start by highlighting the ways which our analytical brain regularly cuts us off from these mechanisms.
There are three overarching ways in which our brain isolates us from others despite our best attempts to connect:
- Analyzing/figuring out
“What should I do?” “What should I say?” “What does this mean?” Here’s a hint, whatever answer your analysis gives you is incomplete or just flat out wrong (typically infected with your fears and insecurities.) Moreso, while you’re thinking about something you believe is helpful, you’re actually just shutting down your magical connecting device because thinking about something is easier than emotional intimacy.
It starts with us: “I’m not good enough for them.” “I’m too good for them.” “I’m a weirdo.” Then, that judgement is projected outward: “She’s an asshole.” “Those people suck.” “This is stupid.” It’s all the same though, just isolating us further from others because that voice in our head (aka, our ego) knows it’s much safer that way.
Most of us walk around most of the day with our guards up. We try to manage the responses from those around us in order to achieve what we believe to be the optimal result. You can’t blame us. When we put ourselves out there emotionally and we’re punished for it by the unpredictable responses of others (as in our childhood) it really hurts. However, those walls we create around ourselves only serve to isolate us further. They make us feel like no one understands us, no one could possibly get us, and that we really are alone.
Why does that voice in our head (ego) seem so intent on keeping us miserable? That answer is easy when you consider it’s primary function: safety and security. Want to have food available and a quality roof over your head for the foreseeable future? Your advanced analytical capabilities have that covered. Want to create the most prosperous society in the history of the world? All hail analytical thinking!
But when it comes to happiness and connection, that voice straight-up sucks. Not on purpose, he just wants to keep you safe and secure. There’s nothing scarier to him than the unknown, and there’s nothing more spontaneous, more unpredictable, and more chaotic than our emotions.
Our ego is terrified of his unpredictable, emotional, free-loving neighbor. So he attempts to figure out how to analyze, judge, and control him to try to prevent any embarrassing outbursts. He tries, but he fails miserably — repressed emotions become unstable emotions.
He’s not completely wrong though. Sometimes there are people we’re better off keeping a distance from. But at this time in history — as we prescribe more drugs to combat depression and spend more time staring at glowing screens than into others’ eyes — we arguably need that connection more than ever.
It’s time to take some risks before it’s too late.
So how do we overcome five-thousand years of conditioning, achieve harmony in our brain, and enjoy the deep connections we were meant to? Check out Part 2 to find out.