The violence started at a young age.
I remember being picked on in primary school. I was overweight as a kid, which made me a primary target for other kids to make fun of. They would gang up, call me names and run off. I could never catch them. I still hate running.
As a kid, I was incredibly sensitive. The intensity of my emotional reactions to being picked on was beyond my capacity to manage. Later in life (48) I’d be diagnosed with ADHD.
ADHD wasn’t around when I was a kid, so I was unable to receive the support I needed back then. As a result, I would experience intense emotional outbursts, which became increasingly more difficult to manage on my own.
What I quickly realised was that if I hit these kids hard enough they’d shut up. A punch in the arm or leg seemed to sort things out. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was training my nervous system to react to verbal violence with physical violence. This would soon come to haunt me.
The name calling persisted throughout my high school years. Being sensitive and having strong emotions wasn’t an asset at 12 -13. My family wasn’t good at expressing emotions or allowing space for emotional experiences. We were encouraged to shut up, put on a brave face, and never show people there could be something wrong.
Being a highly energetic kid that could not sit still (ADHD remember), I had a lot of energy to move. I got in trouble a lot. I remember one specific incident that was a turning point for me: - I was in trouble with my Mum for swearing. She screamed, “You wait until your Father gets home!” I was like, “ Fuck you! You wait until he gets home. I’m going to tell him what you did!”
I can’t remember what she did, but I do remember when my Dad came home. He went through me like a ton of bricks. He pulled his belt out. We were yelling at each other. I had told him what Mum had done, she lied, and told him she didn’t. I lost my shit. Eventually Dad turned around and said, “I will never believe you over your Mother. Even if she is lying, I will take her side. You will never come between your Mother and I.”
At this point, I just wanted to die. I had no one. My Dad would never have my back and my Mum would lie point blank. Feeling abandoned, alone and only 13 years old. A rage and resentment began to burn deep inside of me. Fuck them and everybody else.
I remember walking towards the front door one day and thinking to myself, “I have to keep myself safe. I need to protect myself.” The only thing that seemed to work was the threat of violence or violence itself. It felt like the only thing I could trust. This was how I could survive. I would save my anger, store it up inside, and unleash it when it was needed.
At the age of 14 I started karate, this was awesome for me. My combative tendencies had an outlet. As my skills progressed, my relationship to violence changed. The better I got, the less I needed to prove myself, and the more responsibility I felt I had towards others.
Things settled down for a while. I surfed, played guitar in a band and eventually left school to pursue a career in hairdressing. Which at 17 I thought was pretty cool. I got to hang out with women all day and get paid. It was a win-win as far as I was concerned.
I had 2 primary relationships that became violent. One when I was 18-21, feeling the pressure and weight of an emotional storm from a woman I loved was too much for me, my old habits flared. In the first instance there was pushing and shoving and then one day I slapped her. I knew I had to get out of there, I didn’t want to be this man.
The other relationship was from 26 - 33. The violence of her words “I hate you, you are lazy and useless, I hate that I am with you” would reverberate through me. Every cell of my body was flooded with emotions. My head would spin. I would feel out of control and at a loss as to how to respond to the verbal tirade coming my way. I wanted to please her; I wanted to be the man she needed; I wanted to be good enough, but I didn’t know how.
Intense discomfort permeated my body. I had no tools or capacity to be with it. As arguments would escalate, so would my fear.
I didn’t have the courage to have the boundaries I needed, I said yes when I should have said no, and no when I should have said yes.
This only served to magnify any challenges in our relationship.
I felt so worthless, powerless, and unwanted in the face of these emotional onslaughts. Feeling isolated, alone, and threatened by my partner I would eventually feel trapped, backed into a corner with nowhere to go.
That sensitive, deeply feeling kid still lived in me. I felt abandoned and betrayed again by someone else I loved. The resentment I had for my mother and her lies, and my father’s betrayal and abandonment had created a fire that burned deep inside of me.
I started with punching walls, doors, throwing whatever I could get my hands on. Anything to discharge the emotions in my body. The hurt, the pain and betrayal would become a violent storm. Eventually that rage turned to the woman in my life.
In the aftermath I’d wake the next day like I had a hangover, but 10x worse. The shame was almost indescribable. I felt putrid and disgusting, it would get worse as the day went on. I experienced overwhelming sensations in the front of my body and particularly my face, I wanted to scratch or peel my face off.
I often couldn’t remember what I had said or done. It was a blind rage. I hated myself. The thought of having to look my partner in the eyes knowing I had betrayed her trust devastated me. I had hurt the woman I loved and cared for. The same woman who I felt was my responsibility to protect. Yet here I was, the one putting her in danger.
The violence didn’t arise daily, weekly or even monthly. It was a slow burn. I would push down my hurt and pain, trying to overlook the name-calling, I would tell myself that it didn’t matter. Every time I pushed something down, it added fuel to the next time I would snap.
The more shame I felt, the harder I tried to please her, to be a good man worthy of love. I knew I had a problem, a big one. I knew I couldn’t sort it out on my own. I needed help.
Our relationship was complicated, the woman in my life had severe health problems, well beyond her control that required strong and highly addictive painkillers. This added to the ups and downs of our relationship.
The relationship felt heavy with responsibility - supporting her medical conditions, being the breadwinner, being my son's primary carer, taking him to daycare and often having him with me at work after daycare, then home for the evening routine.
For 2 years I asked her to come to see a counsellor or psychologist with me. Each time the answer was no, she didn’t want her addiction seen by any professionals. Eventually I got on my knees and begged. No shit, I was a crying, bawling mess. I said, “I’m not asking you, I’m not telling you. I am begging you. I can’t take this anymore! I hate myself! I can’t manage my anger! I can’t control my temper! I need help!”
The answer was still, no!
Shortly after that we broke up. I rang a mate who was a psychologist and said I needed help. He came by to see me ASAP. He couldn’t treat me, being friends and all, but recommended someone who could.
I booked an appointment straight away. My healing journey had begun. I loved my psychologist, he guided me to a deeper understanding of myself. He helped me see how my brain functioned when I was under stress and afraid. He explained why I couldn't remember things, and showed me how to catch myself before a conversation or argument could escalate.
It seems crazy, but I would have much rather fist fight a man than have to face a woman's emotions.
I found a woman’s emotions far more terrifying. He helped me to see what was happening in my body, how to acknowledge it and then share it as a way to heal myself.
He gave me practical real life tools that worked. I began using them immediately. I even looked forward to the challenging conversations with my ex-partner to practice my new skills.
That time was the last time I was violent in a relationship.
It was 16 years ago.
I kept practising. I began to notice more and more feelings and sensations in my body. But now, rather than getting upset, angry or violent, I was getting curious.
About a year later I met a woman. I was scared as hell things would go the same way. I told her about my past, the violence, how scared I was and the beast I struggled with inside. She loved me as I was. We had our moments for sure, but never once was I close to being violent.
Eventually this relationship ended, and ended well. I have so much gratitude for her and the healing our relationship provided.
I was hungry now to know more. I had this feeling, like an intuitive whisper, that a relationship could be so much more. I was fed up with what I was being sold in books, movies and our culture. I wanted to know how to create a deep, loving intimacy that two people could thrive in.
The beast and I were on a mission, this time though we were working together.
I made a commitment to myself: no more relationships until I knew how to create the one I wanted.
No matter how lofty, overly romantic and crazy my goal was, I was committed. I got a tattoo on my arm that represented what I wanted, two fish, two hearts, water and a sunset. Inspired by a time I was sitting on the beach in Bali watching the sunset. The ocean is stunning on its own, and so is the Sun. When those two come together they make something beautiful, that evokes awe and wonder. This is what I wanted, two whole and powerful beings that are so much more when they are together than they are on their own.
I started searching. I'd seen counsellors and psychologists, studied meditation and healing. However, I needed the tools and skills to cultivate deep intimacy. I wanted to know how I could create a relationship where two people could heal and grow and become closer through the experience.
I got a life coach, he was brilliant. It wasn’t everything that I needed, but he pointed me in the right direction.
I studied here in Australia and around the world with internationally renowned teachers in their fields. I listened, learned and practiced.
I'd found the medicine I needed. I had found Sacred Intimacy. It was exactly what I was looking for. I came to recognize women as sacred. The hurts and pains they were feeling were often showing me something about myself. How I was showing up and when I needed to make an adjustment. They were helping me become the man I wanted to be.
Women began to respond to me in new and different ways, I saw their emotions as an opportunity to learn and grow. Men wanted to know what I was doing and seeing, and how they could do that with their partners.
I had found the courage, confidence and strength I needed. And shortly thereafter, I found the woman I'd been looking for. It just so happened that she was one of the teachers I found to help me heal. A powerful strong woman who inspired me to be the man I longed to be.
This was 5 years ago. Her love was, and is, like a soothing balm on my aching wounds.
She could see and feel the pain of the past that lived inside of me. She realized quickly my independence and strength and knew it was driven by trauma and pain. She helped me see that I had resentment and fear living inside of me. So much of what I thought was authentic - feelings and expression - were actually rooted in fear and trauma.
How could I love as deeply as I wanted to whilst carrying fear and resentment towards women?
I was protecting myself from women, some part of me saw them as a threat, dangerous and not to be trusted. So we went to work. Excavating my heart, my body and the fear and pain I carried. Freeing my body of the self-protective behaviours that kept women at arm’s length from my heart.
I realised that no relationship had ever had a chance of surviving, their attempts to love me could never have been received. No one could get close enough.
She helped me learn how to receive love. I practiced receiving love every day. From all the feminine sources in my life: my woman, the ocean, the bush. I breathed it in. At first, I felt nothing.
I kept practicing, and slowly I began to notice subtle feelings of aliveness in my body. A tingle here, a sensation there. My sensitivity was coming online.
This was weird at first. I started learning to receive in small ways, when my partner offered to get me a drink or food I started saying yes instead of doing it myself. Uncomfortable at the time, but a start.
I also began to pay attention when she started touching my body, particularly my arms and chest. I had always hated being touched. From when I was young, it felt like a woman’s touch was an attempt to “get something from me”. It felt depleting, with a sense of loss afterwards. With her touch I learned to receive more deeply. I kept telling myself to allow this, allow the touch.
Irritation would often arise, I allowed myself to feel irritated, it would always pass.
Slowly I could feel her loving coming through. I could feel my body become more alive with her touch. I would feel more energised afterwards. I found this intriguing, so I practised more.
Pretty soon I could feel her presence across the room, I could feel her body across the room. I could feel her mood, her feelings, sometimes before she could.
Together we learned to love the beast, to feel and see the energy that he brings to our lives, and how it can be accessed to deepen our love and intimacy. As I healed and deepened my woman was healing, she was becoming a more expressive, feeling and open woman.
Other women and men could viscerally feel and see this.
People started asking questions, wanting to know more.
My Woman, Martina, wanted me to teach with her.
I was like hell no, and yes please all at the same time. And so I began to teach. My journey and experience with frustration, resentment, anger and violence was healing for other women and men, and spoke to the possibility of what they could create in their own lives.
The shame, guilt and remorse still sits with me to this day. I'm not sure it will ever leave my body, or that it needs to. I’ve worked with it for years in a variety of ways from therapeutic to spiritual. And today I've decided to put all this experience to good use.
If you're struggling with some of the challenges I’ve faced, here are three points to support you to begin your healing journey:
Boundaries are essential, yet they can easily slip into control. Learn to know the difference. A boundary is something to govern oneself. E.g “I feel unsafe and am scared of how I feel right now, I need to have a break from this conversation. Can we resume talking in 30 minutes please?” (boundary) Versus “I feel unsafe and am scared of how I feel right now, can you please stop being so angry?” (this would be control)
Be aware of your own triggers or feelings that lead to anger. An example of mine is feeling worthless, powerless and trapped. When I am in a confrontation I actively scan my body for these sensations. When I feel them arise I speak them out into the conversation. If necessary, I use point one.