Dr. Ben Michaelis is my kind of dude. He writes about the importance of self-awareness and improving the quality of one's life without Oprahfying or Phil'ing it up. He speaclizes in the truth, or what the great 21st Century theoretician R. Kelly dubs "Real Talk". I read his column regularly and thought, hey, maybe this fella would like to take a stab at some of our(GuySpeak Nation) popular questions and concerns. He wrote back with a big-ass, "Yup. I'd love to." and the rest... is below.
Amit "FG" Wehle: Hi Ben, Is it OK if I call you Dr. Michaelis?
Dr. Michaelis: Of course. If you prefer...
Amit "FG" Wehle: Great. Ben, speaking with you could not have come at a better time. Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas/Hannukah and rounding out with New Years Eve is considered a time of great joy and festivities but more often than not a time of great stress and inner turmoil. Why are supposedly fun times such emotional obstacle courses for us? Any last minute coping techniques as we enter, "The most wonderful time of the year"?
Dr. Michaelis: Ironically, the fact that we all refer to the end of the year as the "most wonderful time of the year" is one of the reasons that, for many of us, it's not. Good times are almost always about expectations. When you jack up people's expectations too high they are almost certain to be let down. One suggestion I often make at this time of the year is to be sure to set your own expectations, rather than letting people around you do it for you. Remember, if you are going to be with your family this holiday season, you can be sure that they will press your buttons, because, well, they installed them. Check your expectations at the door.
Amit "FG" Wehle: Your new book, Your Next Big Thing offers practical steps and sort of out-of-the box exercises to get unstuck whether it be professionally, personally, or inter-personally. Can you fill us in on the basic toolset of the unstuck person. You know, like what are they doing, that the rest of us aren't.
Dr. Michaelis: The basic idea behind Your Next Big Thing was to give people very simple tools to figure out what matters to them, what typically holds them back and how to take bold, decisive action on their futures. It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the keys to becoming unstuck is to embrace failure. In my work as a clinical psychologist, I have found the two biggest problems that people tend to have with taking action are 1.) That they are afraid to fail, and 2.) That they don't start from where they are. Let's briefly touch on each of these: It's important to recognize that failure is not a life sentence. It is anything but that - failing is a vital part of succeeding. And when you start to take action - focus on where you are, not just where you want to be. For example, if your goal is to start your own company, don't begin by quitting your job. Make a measured plan of realistic milestones that you can revise and change when circumstances do and write it out! If you take that approach you will get where you are headed - or possibly, even someplace better.
Amit "FG" Wehle: One of the reasons our site keeps growing is because we afford women the opportunity to ask real questions to real dudes and get real answers. Why is it so many dudes are either unwilling or just shut-off from sharing. In other words, when did sharing feelings become girly and not just humanly.
Dr. Michaelis: I know that this little morsel will rock your world Amit, but men and women are socialized differently. We all learn early on which behaviors earn us praise, and which ones result in punishment, or even emotional abandonment. I actually talk about this concept a fair amount in the book. We all have an inner critic inside of us that develops from the voices of our authority figures. It is this voice that often holds us back in life and it is this voice that often says that it's okay for women to be more emotionally expressive than men.
Amit "FG" Wehle: Sex. I'm sure you've heard of it. Many women on this site want to know the inside scoop on pleasing their man. Not only pleasing them but being the bomb-diggity best he ever had. Usually I respond by saying, when it comes to pleasing a man it really often relies on pleasing yourself (the gal) Be open and present and go for yours - in turn your man will be very happy. Would you agree with that, or is there an actual secret you can lay on the line for our readers.
Dr. Michaelis: At the risk of sounding like a clinical psychologist, I think of sex as a form of expression and communication. Like any good communication, people need to do two things: Make sure they are staying true to their message, while also considering the needs of the person who is receiving their message. There. That was diplomatic enough, right Amit?
Amit "FG" Wehle: Your book discusses the importance of knowing oneself -- learning about what makes up your value system. Would you say break-ups, divorces and cheating in general are the end result of values no longer being shared?
Dr. Michaelis: That's a big part of it. The other part is communication. When people are not putting in the effort to allow themselves to be understood or to understand their partners they tend to retreat, and... sometimes, cheat. One of the main themes of Your Next Big Thing is Play. When couples don't feel safe enough to play and imagine together, the relationship grows brittle. And brittle things break.
Amit "FG" Wehle:Follow up: There is great debate on these pages whether or not a cheater can be trusted again. What's your take on peoples ability to change - particularly will down low hook-ups and all that stuff? Is it one strike your out, or is "let's just keep an eye on this fella"?
Dr. Michaelis: This really depends on the situation. In couples that are separated by distance or circumstance, when one person looks for sex outside of the relationship they can absolutely return to monogamy. However, when the affair is less about sex and more about a longing for emotional connection, it's often much more difficult to walk the walk of monogamy again.
Amit "FG" Wehle: Three head monster and the inner hero. Not only were those both my old online dating profile names but also "characters" in your book. Can you share a little bit about these two?
Dr. Michaelis: Yes. The chapter about the Three-Headed-Monster was actually just notes of my following you around for a week - seriously though, the Three Headed Monster is made up of Passivity, Procrastination, and Perfectionism - all three of which are huge obstacles that tend to get in the way of people taking action on their Next Big Thing in life. I suggest several techniques for attacking each one of these obstacles in the book in order to get through to the Inner Hero. I know a lot of people think that they are naturally pessimistic, but that's simply untrue. Every single soul has a hero inside of them that is waiting to emerge. It is a matter of listening to that voice and giving it room to breathe.
Amit "FG" Wehle: A lot of readers here share stories of feeling like sh*t because they are pretty damn short ,or have a little flab around their middle, or have slightly unequal sized boobs or, some bacne, loose skin, less than Playboy ready nipples or a double chin. Barring never watching TV, going to movies, flipping through mags or spotting billboards, what's a lady (or man for that matter) supposed to do in perpetually growing image-crazed world. Also, does this font make me look fat?
Dr. Michaelis: I think the font looks great on you Amit. You really wear it well, but you need to own it. This is your font, not your brother's font, your friend's font, or your neighbor's font. We all have our fonts in life and though we can make small changes in our fonts, it is truly about owning the fonts that we were meant to use. When you do that others begin to take notice. It's not that appearance doesn't matter at all - it does - but you can think of it this way - the way you look affects the way people say hello to you - they way you behave affects the way people say goodbye.
Amit "FG" Wehle: What's your take on The One. No, not the Jet Li action flick from 2001, but the idea that we all have a One out there for us. How do you know if a one is The one. Also, if The One is found, does timing, distance, age even come into play or it blindsided by its powerful ONE-ness
Dr. Michaelis: I'm a bit of a romantic in many ways, Amit, but I think that thinking of The One is kind of overwhelming. I don't believe we each have a preordained soulmate per se, but we create our soulmates through our actions - our love, our commitment, our presence in our relationships.
Amit "FG" Wehle: Speed round. Don't think: Go!
My first kiss real kiss could best be described as ...awkward
Growing up I was definitely considered the sensitive one of my friends.
The last movie that made me ball my eyes out was Toy Story 3 - and no, I'm not ashamed to say it. I'm not made of stone. Have you seen that thing?
If I could switch out one body part of mine and replace it, it would probably be my shoulders.
T or F I used to rock (bold all that apply) a mullet, a tail, a fannypack, high top converse, neon pants, overalls.
Amit "FG" Wehle: Ben, you've been awesome. And I'm not just saying that because you have hypnotized me and are holding my stuffed animals hostage. Where can we buy a hardcopy or download your new book. Anywhere else to read you, follow you, smell you?
Dr. Michaelis: It was really a pleasure, Amit. And I meant what I said about your font.
More information about my new book, Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy is on my website. The book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or the Independent Booksellers website, IndieBound. I write for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.com, but all of my articles are on my website. My Twitter handle is @drbenmichaelis.