"Journeying from Guilt to Love"

An intriguing interview with don Allan Hardman as featured in February 2003's
Common Ground, the leading San Francisco/Bay Area periodical for personal transformation.

Allan Hardman is a Toltec master in the lineage of don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements. During his apprenticeship with don Miguel, Allan learned that we are all dreaming all the time, creating our own perceived realities. Our suffering arises from flaws in the belief systems that underlie our dreams. A belief system, combined with the continuous drama going on in one's head, forms a parasite that consumes personal power. The Toltec path provides tools for stalking our beliefs. By doing so, we can reclaim enough personal power to change our dreams from dreams of hell to dreams of heaven. Allan has dedicated his life to sharing and elaborating on this message.

In this interview, Allan exposes the secret fears and guilt experienced by most men. He illuminates the source of this suffering and how it manifests in men's relationships. Allan explains why, in both men and women, the inner Judge speaks with a masculine voice. He shows that the basic needs of men and women are more similar than different; consequently, our relationships can provide closeness and support for our spiritual journeys to freedom. Finally, Allan shares his inspiring vision of masculinity, a vision based on the universal acceptance found in the World's Greatest Lover.

CG: Miguel Ruiz has written about the Dream of the Planet, a system of beliefs that causes suffering in humans. What do you think the Dream of the Planet says about masculinity, about being a man? Is there one message or are there lots of messages?

AH: There are lots of messages that intersect with each other. Every subdream has its own standard. For instance, the Catholic dream tells us what it means to be a Catholic man; and the dream of marriage tells us what it means to be a husband. Then there are the dreams of women about what it means to be a man, the dreams of boys, the dreams of old men and the dreams of the male CEOs. There are all these dreams, and they overlap, but some of their messages are miles apart or even contradictory

CG: Let's talk about the overlap. What's at the core of all these dreams of masculinity?

AH: The most remarkable thing is that men feel guilty about being men.

CG:: How did you discover this?
AH: I've led workshops and power journeys where I've taken the men aside and asked them, "Who taught you to be a man?" At first, men talked about their fathers and mentors and so on. But when they talked about their childhoods I heard statements like "My dad wasn't around much," or "Dad was working all the time," or "Dad left when I was six," or "My dad was an alcoholic." And I said, "It doesn't sound like your dad was teaching you to be a man."

CG: There's a powerful negative message there: that men are invisible to their children. But where does guilt enter into the picture?

AH: In those workshops, men came to the realization that their mothers were the ones who taught them about men, and the message was usually: "Don't be like your dad!" It creates a fascinating bind.

When I was a kid, my father was there, and yet I sensed that my mother was unhappy. Even though it was a perfect Beaver Cleaver kind of household, I sensed, without her saying anything that she had sacrificed too much for the marriage.

And in families where the fathers were out on binges, the mothers sat at the kitchen table with their sons, saying things like "I hope you never grow up to be a louse like your father. He's not home; he's not taking care of us, and I have to do it all." However it was delivered, the message was: "Mother is hurt, and Dad is hurting her." I believe a little boy is genetically wired to be a hero, a rescuer of damsels in distress. When he sees his mother as a damsel in distress, he wants to rescue her. It's his nature. He looks for the villain, and the villain is Dad. But as a boy he's totally identified with Dad and his maleness. So he wants to rescue the damsel, but the villain is maleness and so is he. And if he tries to confront Dad, the boy discovers how absolutely impotent he is.

So the boy becomes an impotent hero, trying to rescue the damsel from himself, which he cannot do. He takes on the guilt of being both the perpetrator and the impotent hero. That's what it is to go into the world as a man: guilty for being a man, believing that men hurt women, when in reality he's just taken that guilt from the outside and none of it is his.

CG: How did this guilt affect you in your own life?

AH: One of the greatest gifts Miguel ever gave me was pointing out this bind to me. He helped me see that I had created a lifetime of rescuing damsels as a strategy, to address my guilt. My thinking was that if I could rescue a damsel in distress then I could redeem myself and feel less guilty about being male.

CG: Did you ever rescue a damsel in distress?

AH: No. I'd meet a woman and say, "If you had me, you'd feel happy and your personal power would return." But the dark truth was that I couldn't afford to let her heal and grow, because then I'd be out of a job. So I had to sabotage her growth and healing so that I could stay in relationship with her.

CG: I'll bet that's the story of a lot of relationships.

AH: A lot of relationships! When, I discuss this with men in groups, a lot of them turn pale, because all of a sudden the truth about their lives and relationships is revealed. They realize how impotent and guilty they feel about being men. In that state, it's impossible for a man to show up and say to a woman, "I'm a man, and I want you." He's afraid that she's going to criticize him and find out how impotent he is. So he tries to figure out how to talk like a woman, even though he's not one. He tries to learn feminine ways of talking about his feelings so he can have relationship with the feminine, but meanwhile he's afraid of women because of his male impotence, his failure, and his guilt. He can't let them see those things.

CG: So as men we're afraid of women, we can't let them succeed, and we can't acknowledge our own vulnerability in the process. How have men dealt with this bind?

AH: One strategy is to look for victims to rescue and then not actually rescue them. Another is to be a rebel who doesn't need anything from anybody: the independent guy who can take 'em or leave 'em.

There's also a strategy of bonding with the feminine. Some boys, in their desire to rescue mother, bonded with her emotionally: They find a lot of comfort in women by pretending to be women. It's like dressing in drag to go into the harem: They dress up in feminine emotions because of the fear of revealing themselves, standing forth as men, and claiming their roles as men.

CG: Through your work with don Miguel Ruiz you had the opportunity to not only deconstruct the Dream of the Planet, but also to build and live your own dream of masculinity. Would you like to share any of the conclusions you've reached?

AH: Yes. One of my favorite movies is Don Juan de Marco, about the World's Greatest Lover. When I think of myself as a man, I think of the world's greatest lover. I've made a list of the ten qualities of the world's greatest lover, and I think it's going to be the list of the qualities of a real man. Women can be great lovers too; but there's something inherently masculine about that dream.

In the movie, don Juan says something like, "Women see in my eyes the reflection of their beauty, so they can't help but fall in love with me." To be a mirror like that, one must be generous and free from guilt. Don Juan de Marco shows up as a man saying, "I want you!"
Now, that voice is alive in women too, the one saying, "This is what I want." But I think that there's something particularly masculine about saying, "I want you!" I haven't found very many women who would refuse a man who knows what he wants. They can surrender to that kind of love without having to be small.

CG: What do you mean?

AH: In the system I grew up in, a woman had to be very small to surrender to a man. But in the context of the world's greatest lover a woman can surrender and still be huge and powerful. Having a powerful man containing her energy gives her the potential to become even bigger.

CG: One thing about the Don Juan de Marco movie is that people tend to focus on don Juan's sex-life. But he had loving relationships with men, too, like that scene with the male nurse Rocko. And his best developed relationship was the with the psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Mickler. So how does your ideal man, the world's greatest lover, interact with people who are not his sex partners?

AH: He interacts in virtually same way. He sees all people as beautiful beings. To be the greatest lover in the world is to see the beauty and perfection in everything. And if his brand new car gets rear-ended he will be the greatest lover of the person that rear-ended him.

CG: What does love look like in that context?

AH: That kind of love is acceptance in seeing the perfection of the person, their actions, and life itself. If someone hits your car unintentionally, then they were doing their best. Even if it was intentional, they were still doing their best in some limited sense. If you are a great lover, instead of taking it personally, blaming them, and being a victim, you see that they were doing their best. Perhaps they were talking on the phone, were dealing with a child in the car, or were drunk.

To be the world's greatest lover is to see that perfection and never feel victimized by it, to accept the whole world on its own terms, the way it is. You are in communion with God, the Creator, saying "Your creation is perfect, and I love the way you did it."

CG: Even if God's creation involves the destruction of my car?

AH: Even then. Only humans put negative judgments on events like that. They don't intrinsically have any good or bad built into them. We add all that. The accident is not good or bad, but the mind perceives it in those terms.

CG: All my suffering arises from my mind's perception of good and bad?

AH: Suffering comes from the mind, yes. And to be the World's Greatest Lover is to have a mind free of those judgments.

CG: Speaking of judgment, Miguel Ruiz has written about the Judge and Victim that we carry around inside our minds. I know that this teaching plays a big role in your work, Do these entities, the Judge and the Victim, have their own genders?

AH: Yes, they do. I describe the Victim as the part of us that carries the feelings, which are hurt by the Judge. And most people assign the feeling body to the feminine. Even though this model is a dangerous place to get trapped, it's also usable. So we could say that the feelings that get hurt, the Victim Child judged by the Judge, is the feminine aspect of the Self.

Now let's look at the Judge. When we were little, the Judge was outside of us; it was the voice of those who made us wrong for being who we were. When we internalized the Judge, we were trying to beat that voice, judging ourselves before they could judge us. If we could change our behavior before they could judge us for it, it would be less painful, less shaming.

I conceptualize the Judge as that part of us that wants to protect our feelings from being hurt. When we were little, that part tried to say, "Don't talk to me that way. It's not fair. You're wrong. I didn't do it!" as a way of protecting the feelings and the feminine side. That tells me it was a masculine part, a protector who says "No! Stop!" But if you're three years old and you do say those things to someone who's angry with you, they will teach you very quickly that it's not okay to talk back to them that way.

As a child, that protective part of you shouldn't have been put in that role. It was the adults' job, theoretically, to hold a safe space for you, protecting you from abuse and judgment so you could grow up and discover who you were. For me, the ideal parent is one who says, "I'm so grateful that Life gave me the stewardship of you. I'm going to protect you and hold a safe space so that you can grow up and be who you came here to be. I'm excited to find out why you're here and who you are."

CG: But how many parents are prepared to do that?

AH: Very few are. Most parents judge the child instead of protecting him, and when the child tries to protect himself by talking back, the parents judge that.

So the child learns that the male aspect, the protective aspect of the self, is impotent. That part turns inside, still trying to protect, and says to the feelings, "Don't cry! Don't let them see you vulnerable!" and so on. Whatever rules come from the outside, the protective side internalizes them and tells the feeling side to shut up and stop being vulnerable.

CG: So these messages that came to us in childhood got trapped in our minds, and we're hearing them forty years later when they're no longer appropriate?

AH: Exactly. The messages got trapped in a part of the mind that was trying to protect us. Protection, in this model, is a masculine role. So the inner Judge is almost always masculine, whether he's in a man's mind or a woman's mind. As a hypnotherapist, I have taken many people into trances, journeying inside to meet their Judge, and it has almost always been masculine.

As adults, those messages are still trying to protect us. The Judge says: "You shouldn't have come to this party. Look at what you're wearing. Everybody else is dressed better (or not as well) as you and now they'll think you're weird. And if they think you're weird they'll reject you. And if you're rejected you'll be alone and you'll be abandoned on a street corner. That's a miserable outcome, so you'd better do it right."

That voice follows us and haunts us all our lives.

CG:: In your work as a spiritual counselor, do you find that men's spiritual needs are generally different from those of your female clients?

AH: On the surface they seem different, yes. But underneath is always the same core: people's desires to be authentically who they are without the fear of abandonment or rejection and all the subconscious ways we deny ourselves that authenticity.

Perhaps men deny themselves more, because of the way they're domesticated, the guilt we discussed earlier. They have so much judgment around emotions. One of the ways men try to rescue women is to get them to stop being so emotional. Men often just don't know what to do with emotions. But with both men and women my work is to help them be comfortable with the truth of who they are.

CG: This is a very reassuring message. The fundamental issues are the same, whether you're a man or a woman. That leaves lots of room for understanding. Even though I'm a man, I still have the same fundamental insecurities about showing myself to the world that a woman might have.

AH: Men are from Earth, and women are from Earth!

When I work with couples and they come to the joint realization that that they have the same issue (even though it may manifest differently) then there can be cooperation. When they see that their internal struggles are the same (to be authentic and stop judging the self), then there is closeness. They come closer in the midst of their struggle, rather than separating on account of judging and resisting each other.

CG: Back to your outlook on masculinity, How should one live as a man?

AH: I think being a man is a glorious thing, and one of the glorious things about it is that it gives us the opportunity to love women -- or other men. Being in a body, male or female, gives us the opportunity to love. To love physically, to love spiritually, to be the World's Greatest Lovers-- what a privilege! Let's quit being guilty about being men and step forward and embrace life. Let's say "yes!" to Life and claim our places as spiritual warriors.

The old image of men as physical warriors was about hacking and slaying. Perhaps we don't need that any more. But as spiritual warriors we can hack and slay the old agreements and beliefs, throw them off, and step forward into Life itself. We can embrace Life and be the World's Greatest Lovers.

CG: We can show up like birds in bright plumage saying, "Here I am!"

AH: Yes! You don't see a male peacock ashamed or guilty about his plumage. He's not guilty when he courts a female. Mating and reproduction are the essence of life. Life is out there celebrating and reproducing itself, and that's our nature too.

If everything were imbued with the Divine Being during the creation process, then we must be imbued with that Divine Creator as well. To step into that celebration is to step into relationship with the Divine. That, to me, is the highest way to live as a man: as a spiritual warrior, knowing my own divinity and reflecting that divinity back as a lover to my beloved, which is all of creation.

CG: Thank you, Allan, for sharing your beautiful vision!

AH: My pleasure.

Allan Hardman is a Toltec dream master in the lineage of Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements.

Stephen Gold is a writer and educator residing in Santa Rosa, CA, where he helps his wife of twelve years raise their six year old son. He holds Ph.D. from Stanford University and aspires to be a great lover.




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Allan Hardman is an author and expert on personal and spiritual transformation, relationships, emotional healing-- and a Toltec Master in the lineage of don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements.™ Allan teaches in Sonoma County, CA, and from “The House of the Eagles,” his winter home in Chacala, Nayarít, Mexico. He guides Journeys of the Spirit to sacred sites in Mexico, and hosts wellness vacations in Chacala. He is the author of The Everything Toltec Wisdom Book, and co-author of two books with Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss, Dr. Andrew Weil, Prince Charles, and others. Visit Allan’s extensive website at www.joydancer.com, and TACO, his online spiritual membership community.