Passive Income 101-your set it and forget it portfolio 

I recently got off of a long talk with my friend Katie Riley. We talked a long time about how easy (but scary) it is to fly anywhere for free, how to get a cheap masters degree (it involves an extended stay in Europe) and the set it and forget it way to invest in real estate. Afterwards it got me thinking, and I decided to skip a few steps and just tell you about the set it and forget it way to invest in stocks.

So a bit more of a pre-amble.

  1. This is about investing. You and I can not time the market. We can not win trying to buy low and sell high. This will crush us every time. We are looking for long term gains (at least 5 years out and more likely 10 years out).
  2. There is another crash coming. The market will tank again. We know this. If you’re going to invest, you have to be comfortable with this, knowing that the market always has recovered and soared to even higher heights. This is the nature of stocks.
  3. You need to do your own investing. Advisers don’t work for you. They work for their company. This means their interest and your interest are not always aligned. If you do get an adviser, they should be a fiduciary. Most of that is too complicated for us. Besides most advisers do not out perform the market over time, which means if you just do what the market does, overtime you will outproduce most advisers-hence you don’t need them.
  4. You need to use Vanguard. Hands down they have the lowest fees for investing. Low fees means you have more money in your accounts, due to the magic of compound interest adds up to a lot of money over time.

To invest you only need four tools.

  1. VTSAX- this is Vangaurd’s Total Stock Market Fund. This is probably the most powerful tool in your passive income portfolio. Because stocks are so powerful this will give you the most bang for your buck with the least amount of risk. the big thing to remember, of course, is that we are investing. That means looking for long term gains through the magic of compounding. there will certainly be crashes and bubbles bursting, but over time this will give us the strongest return on our investment.
  2.  VBMFX- So, say you don’t want to invest all your money in one fund, despite that fact that the larger the fund the more security we have. Or say you simply want to smooth out the ride that stocks can be, then you’re going to want bonds. In fact, some studies show that a 10-25% allocation of bonds (can’t believe I just said that, I sound like one of those investment people now) actually outperforms an all stock portfolio, but only slightly. If you just want the stability that bonds produce, and the added bump in income then you’ll want to invest 10% of your portfolio in Vangaurd’s Total Bond Market Fund.
  3. VTIBX (Vangaurd’s Total International Bond Fund) and VTIAX (Vangaurd’s Total International Stock Fund). If you want to invest internationally, well all you need is VTSAX! Yes, it is the US fund, but most US companies are international companies, which is part of what makes VTSAX so stable, as far as investing goes. Think about it companies like Google and Apple have HUGE international markets. However, if you just want to increase added security look at Vangaurds Total International Stock Market Fund Ex-US. if You’d like to add security to this security you can add Vangaurd’s Total International Bond Market Fund.

The major downside of these international funds, to my view, are the increased amount of money spent on fees. The US based VTSAX has an expense ratio currently of 0.04%. The international stock fund VTIAX has an expense ratio of 0.11%. nearly triple. However these small expenses mean a lot of money is because compound interest. However, it’s still a LOT better than most other companies. This is also why you want Vanguard funds, they are by far the cheapest. Other companies can charge you up to 1% in expenses. This is enormous! But they know most people don’t understand compound interest and and terrified of investing good thing you’re not one of those people anymore.

That’s it. This is the simple path to wealth. It will take time. Investing even a small amount and letting it grow will have exponential effects on your retirement accounts. Investing 50 or more of your income every year will allow you to become financially independent in 16 years or less.

 

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Jordan Harris just passed his PhD defense and is waiting for conferral in august of 2017 (YAY). He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has over 5 years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and families from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He sees clients both in his office and consults online. You can contact him at 318-238-0586 with him online or connect with him through email at jharris@cccofwm.com or follow him on twitter @changeencounter. Also, he is not your financial adviser and information provided should be used at your discretion

If my mom went to therapy (or how to pick a therapist)

Momma!

How are you? I finished S-town. Incredible. I love brilliant people like John B., and I get now why you are disappointed in him. He was a racist. It makes me a little sad that he would not like people like us. Although he didn’t just hate black people, he hated everyone. Even himself. I think that’s what’s sad about the story. You can’t hate others without hating yourself, and in the end that hate killed him.

Anyway, yes, so therapy. You want to see someone or are you asking for a friend? Either way, here is my advice.

First, you should like and respect your therapist. Everything else I’m going to tell you should be filtered through this lens. If you break one of my recommendations but you like and respect your therapist good for you! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! The single biggest predictor of success in therapy is the therapist-client relationship.

Next, you want to look for a fully licensed Marriage and Family therapist (LMFT), Professional Counselor (LPC) or Social worker (LCSW). Do not under any circumstances go to anyone who isn’t fully licensed. See what happens is after we therapist graduate from therapy school we have a degree, but we have no idea what we’re doing. Licensure boards know this and make us gain experience for 2-4 years in order to become “fully licensed.” In the mean time, the agencies that new therapist work at offer counseling with them at low cost. One clinic I worked at charged $10 and another one $25. This is really cheap especially since most fully licensed therapist charge anywhere from $100-$150. Trouble is going to a new therapist verses a fully licensed professional is like going to see a Nurses Aid instead of the Physician.

Also, I’d stay away from someone licensed as a drug or alcohol counselor. Most addiction counselors just try to convince and shame you into not using drugs.  But one of the things we know is that addiction is a way to self medicate past wounds. So if the best way you can deal with your pain is by using drugs, I assume your pain must be pretty bad and I’d rather not take away your most effective strategy for dealing with that kind of pain.

So what should you look for?

It might help if I break down the different degrees

  1. Psychiatrist- these are MDs trained in medication. Most are not trained in counseling. Truth is medication doesn’t have a great track record for much besides stabilization. Most medication takes about a month to get working, so you shouldn’t be changing very often. Also, any decent psychiatrist will give you a referral to a counselor. So if they change your meds regularly and don’t recommend counseling you need to switch to a different doctor.
  2. Psychologist- these used to be the most highly trained therapist. Now they mostly focus on testing. Testing is helpful if you think you have autism, a learning disability, or some sort of delay. But we’re not looking for those things. We’re looking for clinical skill.
  3. Social workers- they are trained mostly in case management. They are great at making sure you are connected to local resources like food banks, getting medicaid, or enrolling in other assistance programs. Some of them do work clinically. You’ll want to look for a LCSW- Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
  4. Professional Counselor- They are trained in counseling from a individual standpoint. Typically they are licensed as an LPC- Licensed Professional Counselor.
  5. Marriage and Family Therapist- These are NOT marriage therapist. They actually are just as bad at marital counseling (the hardest form of counseling) as anyone else. They are trained to look at how your problem makes sense in the context of your relationships. You want an LMFT- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

So, on top of being fully licensed you want to find someone who has a certification. Most clinical training for therapist is abysmal. If your therapist has a certification that often times means they’ve had a master therapist give them moment by moment feedback on how to work with an issue. This is what we want. Also, if someone has a Ph.D ignore it. I went into a Ph.D program to become a better clinician and …well…eh… it didn’t help me become a better clinician. All a Ph.D means is you’ve read more books and written more papers. If someone has a Ph.D ignore it. I means nothing about clinical skill. If I could do it over again I’d have just found things I wanted to get certified in. We are looking for clinical skill.

Here’s a short list of some of the top certifications in the field

  1. EMDR- top trauma certification.
  2. EFT- the top marriage certification. DON’T GO TO ANYONE ELSE FOR MARRIAGE ISSUES.
  3. MBST-general anxiety, bipolar, depression stuff.
  4. DBT -general anxiety, bipolar, depression stuff.

There are a few other ones, but as long as your going to a fully licensed therapist with a certification they you are MILES ahead of the game. It will cost you, but every dollar will be worth it. If you need help paying let me know. I’ll talk to Laura and try and help you out.

The final thing is that you should like and respect your therapist. Yes, I’ll say it again. The single biggest predictor of success in therapy is the therapist-client relationship. A good therapist should be trained in helping you feel comfortable- which means you should like them. So if your gut is telling you it’s not a good fit, then bounce. Just please, keep looking until you find a good one.

Anyway, that’s my advice. Let me know how it goes. Oh, and sorry I didn’t call you on Monday. I got busy writing for my blog and then it was 11 o’clock … so yeah. I’ll try and call you later this week okay?

Love you!

Your manchild.

Ps. What’s our next podcast going to be? I’m thinking Revisionist History, Making Oprah, or LaVar Burton Reads? Whatcha think?

 

Passive Income 101- Stocks, Bonds, and Funds.

A little recap: If you own stock, you own part of a company. So if you own Pixar stock then everyone at Pixar is working to earn you money. As Pixar was bought by Disney, then everyone at Disney is working to make you money. Disney bought the Star Wars movie franchise. If you own Disney stock then every time a new Star Wars Movie is released you get a slice of the pie. Stocks are excellent at combating inflation, which is important because your money is always losing value. 

Bonds are money you are paid to lend. If you own a Pixar 10 year bond then Pixar promises to pay you every year for 10 years, plus give the money back at the end of 10 years. Bonds are great for dealing with deflation (when the cost of goods goes down) because when things are cheap money buys more!

 

Funds are your security. If you invest in a group of business, you’re more likely to get a return. The more stocks or bonds you invest in, the more stocks and bonds in your fund, the more likely you’ll get a return. Funds increase certainty in investing.

This is why investing in total stock market and total bond market funds are the way to go. But first, make sure you understand how the market works.

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Jordan Harris just passed his PhD defense and is waiting for conferral in august of 2017 (YAY). He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has over 5 years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and families from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He sees clients both in his office and consults online. You can contact him at 318-238-0586 with him online or connect with him through email at jharris@cccofwm.com or follow him on twitter @changeencounter. Also, he is not your financial adviser and information provided should be used at your discretion.

Passive Income 101-The Three Rules

For a long time money scared me. 401ks, S&P 500, IRAs. What does any of that mean? You might as well have said, “Yeah I’ve got my flux capacitor in a C-3P0 run by my 808 and heartbreaks.” Because I didn’t understand money I stayed away from it.

However, over time I’ve come to see why its so important to understand how money works. I’ve also learned that in any arena you can go very far if you just follow the fundamentals. As long as you do the fundamentals well, they will carry you most of the way. The fundamental method of investing today is Index Funds. Or you can go crazy and invest in Index funds. I’ll get more into that later, but first let’s go deep into the three rules because the rules make the method make sense.

What most of us aren’t taught is how safe investing is. In fact if you only invested the day before every crash you’d still be doing really well. I’ll get more into this later.

 

Here’s a calculator about how much you really make an hour. When I learned about this it blew my mind. The funny thing is none of this is new. Back in the 50s-60s there was a movement that talked all about this. Your Money Or Your Life, which was a workshop then a bestselling book, is kinda of the book that started it all, at least for the modern era.

Those are the three rules: invest, save, avoid debt. Next I’ll be talking about what stocks, bonds, are and some of the basic rules of the stock market.

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Jordan Harris just passed his PhD defense and is waiting for conferral in august of 2017 (YAY). He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has over 5 years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and families from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He sees clients both in his office and consults online. You can contact him at 318-238-0586 with him online or connect with him through email at jharris@cccofwm.com or follow him on twitter @changeencounter. Also, he is not your financial adviser and information provided should be used at your discretion.

Passive Income 101-Why?

Here are the links I told you guys about. Here’s the post from Collins which got me hooked on why this was important. I’m sure after hearing a bit about my story you understand why it resonated with me. I’m also including the link to his stock series. This will be where I’ll be drawing most of my info. Feel free to comment. It’ll help me get clearer in explaining and understanding.

Also, I’d love it if you guys subscribed. You can do that below!

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Jordan Harris just passed his PhD defense and is waiting for conferral in august of 2017 (YAY). He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has over 5 years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and families from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He sees clients both in his office and consults online. You can contact him at 318-238-0586 with him online or connect with him through email at jharris@cccofwm.com or follow him on twitter @changeencounter. Also, he is not your financial adviser and information provided should be used at your discretion.

Vampires, Poltergeist, and The Vicious Cycle

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Once upon a time I spent a summer on the other side of the planet in a place called Papua New Guinea or PNG as the locals call it. It was really good for me to meet black people who were different than Black Americans, as I felt like I was so different from the Black Americans I knew. I remember one night in particular, I was talking with a friend’s sister. We’ll call her Red, because she, like her brother, had red hair (yes, black people can have red hair).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/photographs-redheads-of-color_us_55db9929e4b0a40aa3abf017

We’re out on the bush talking philosophy with this lady from the bush when she asked me about vampires.

“Do you believe in vampires? I don’t know if I do.” This might seem strange for a 30-something woman to ask me, a then 23 year old boy if vampires exist, but in the bush it was well known that tree spirits inhabited the local river. Besides, I was an expert on vampires, as I had recently read the twilight saga at my sister’s request about a year earlier. I looked deep into her eyes and said,

“Think about it this way. Wouldn’t they want us to think they didn’t exist?” I said, trying to put a twinkle in my eye. Her eyes widened in awareness.

“You’re right!” She gasped. And I almost choked on my spit.

I have no idea what happened after that. In the morning she’d gone back to her village, so I never got the chance to say vampires are not real enemies. But there are real enemies. Poltergeists are real. The amalgamation of negative energy, left over from relationships gone awry. And they don’t want us to think they exist.

The other day I was working on some stuff and I had to run out to the school library to print something out. My wife was on the phone so I didn’t say anything to her. I didn’t want to interrupt her conversation with her brother. Besides I would only be a minute. Of course I’d forgotten that I’m a bibliophile. I’ve got a serious thing for books. I can’t walk past one without cracking it open, leafing through its pages, and sniffing deep, talking long draughts of its moldy, mildewy scent.

Of course I came back an hour and a half later. My wife was, ahem, upset?

“Where were you? You didn’t even take your phone!” She snapped as I came into the bedroom. Apparently she’d been in bed for a while, not sleeping.

The poltergeist had entered the room and was tempting me. Trying to get me to feed it negative energy. I wanted to say “Back off. I’m a grown man. You don’t have to check on me.”

To which my wife would have replied. “You think you can control everything! You don’t get to just do that! You don’t get to just walk out and not say anything,” which of course would have only fed the poltergeist.

But I didn’t give in. I sat down on the bed and said “You were scared, huh love? You thought something might have happened to me.”

“Yes!” She said exasperated. “I didn’t know where you were.”

“I’m sorry. I got caught up at the library.”

“Can you just not do that next time?”She asked. She wasn’t even angry anymore.

It’s not always easy to do. Sometimes the poltergeist gets me before I know he’s there. But I’m getting better at catching him when he rears his head. See here’s the thing – Poltergeists are the enemy. They will lie and make you feel like your partner is the enemy, but above all you must remember that your partner is just that, your partner. The enemy is the poltergeist, and he WILL feed off of your negative emotions and put a huge wedge between you two. And when you learn this it will bring you two closer. Nothing brings a couple closer together than dealing with poltergeist.

A friend of mine calls their poltergeist their cycle. They say things like “we got caught in our cycle, but we were able to see it.” Or “we almost got caught in our cycle, but I noticed we were doing it again.” I’ve heard of others calling it a wolf or a dragon which comes in and rips into their relationship. I don’t care what you call it as long as you remember who the real enemy is, and that as you fight against the enemy you will grow closer with your partner.

Jordan Harris just passed his PhD defense and is waiting for conferral in august of 2017 (YAY). He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has over 5 years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and families from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He sees clients both in his office and consults online. You can contact him at 318-238-0586 with him online or connect with him through email at jharris@cccofwm.com or follow him on twitter @changeencounter.

What they don’t tell you about sex.

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As a marriage therapist I occasionally have to deal with issues around sex. My therapeutic understanding of sex was shaped by a mentor and friend of mine, James Vann Rackley. He not only taught my sex therapy class, but also performed the ceremony at my wedding. I don’t remember much about my wedding except that I was nervous. I mean like really nervous. My panic must have been obvious because as I stood at the wedding arch waiting for the music to begin, Rackley, kind giant that he is, decided to check on me.

“How you doing?”

“Okay. A little anxiety.”

“Performance anxiety?” He said with a sly smile.

Oh Rackles shackles. That goof ball.

But seriously I wish he had taught me more about sex.

Like…

There are two types of desire, spontaneous and responsive. People with spontaneous desire, the more culturally accepted form of desire, typically experience desire “out of the blue” and typically desire sex more frequently. This is the majority of men (75%). People with responsive desire experience desire in after being exposed to an erotic context and therefore tend to be pathologized for “wanting sex less” or for not being aroused. This is the majority of women (85%). If you’re the responsive partner, and it can switch at times, the trick is less about making yourself feel desire and more about being willing to explore what feels good and maybe in the course of that, you will feel desire. So just do what feels good.

or…

Arousal works like a car. There is an accelerator and there is a brake. The accelerator is anything that turns you on. The brakes are anything which turn you off. Most problems of arousal are caused by too much pressure on the gas way before the brakes have released. The biggest brakes are stress/anxiety/worry. What does this mean on a day to day level? It means that often times people have trouble with sex because they are stressed/anxious/worried. This tends to show up in men as premature ejaculation or performance anxiety. In women this can show up as trouble getting aroused or having an orgasm (although female orgasm is complicated so this might not be the only thing).

So, if you wanna turn them on focus more on the releasing the brakes and less on the accelerator. One of the biggest brakes is pressure to perform. So, relax that pressure and simply do what feels good.

And…

“only a minority of women are really reliably orgasmic from intercourse alone — the overwhelming majority are sometimes, rarely, or never orgasmic from intercourse and require more direct clitoral stimulation…the cultural narrative around women’s orgasms is that they happen with intercourse, while the reality is sometimes they do and often they don’t. [Also] the percentage of women who never have orgasms [is about] 5–10%.” — Emily Nagoski. Also, it’s quite common for a man to lose an erection during sex. Something like 50% of men do. So sometimes she can’t orgasm and sometimes he can’t keep it up. Okay. Why not just focus on what feels good.

All this leads to a central revelation: Sex is more about pleasure than orgasm.

Jordan Harris just passed his PhD defense and is waiting for conferral in august of 2017 (YAY). He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has over 5 years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and families from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He sees clients both in his office and consults online. You can contact him at 318-238-0586 with him online or connect with him through email at jharris@cccofwm.com.

Yes, You’re Sane.

Back in college there was this girl. She had an old school style and a voice brimming with soul. Let’s call her Amy.

Amy_Winehouse_-_Lioness_Hidden_Treasures

I remember the first time I saw her on stage. She was singing Six Pence None the Richer’s Kiss Me, and I thought “If a guy like me could be with a girl like that…” Then, in the spring semester of sophomore year we randomly ended up hanging out late one night. When I got back to my dorm I sat down with my buddies and raved about how cool this girl was.

Amy and I hung out almost every day for the rest of the semester, and I could tell she was feeling me. Some times I’d make her laugh so hard that she’d do this thing where she’d giggle until she snorted, and then look around, wide-eyed and embarrassed like, “Who did that? Was that me?”. One day near finals week I made a move. I asked her out and suddenly she flaked. Couldn’t get a hold of her. Amy stopped answering her phone. When she finally did respond to my text she started talking about “friends.”

For the entirety of junior year I gave Amy the cold shoulder. If you were with me you ignored her. She did not eat in the cafeteria and she did not walk around campus. So cold was my shoulder that even Amy’s friends shivered when they neared me. She was a ghost and I was not a medium. Everyone once in a while I’d catch a glimpse of her and she’d look at me knowingly. Then she’d advert her eyes and have the audacity to laugh at something a friend said.

I was hurt bad. I made my best friend Ryan promise that if I should ever make that mistake again he would punch me in the face. Which he didn’t do and at the end of my senior year I once again ended up sitting on a curb furious, wondering what was wrong with me.

What I didn’t know then was that being alone, abandoned, or relationally isolated is just as painful as being eaten alive by a lion. We are mammals. This means we are relational by default. We need relationships just as much as we need air, water, sleep, and food. The only difference is how much suffering we can endure in their absence. We can’t endure a lot of suffering from suffocation. We can endure a lot of suffering from abandonment.

When we face that kind of pain, we only have a few options. One is to move toward it and try to conquer it. I’ve known a few of us who lean this way. Isolation and loneliness loom, lurking in the corners and some of us get big. Some of us get mad, and yell and shout and throw things. We blow up your phone. We come by your apartment. We refused to be ignored. Some of us do this because when faced with abandonment even tainted attention is better than none. Some of us pursue.

Some of us swing the other way though. Some of us do what I did to Amy. We shut down. We turn cold. We turn away. We say never again because we can’t take it and because we believe if you knew how much we hurt, you couldn’t take it either. I know a lot of guys who do this because if they let out their pain they are afraid they might hurt a woman. Since they’d never hurt a woman, they just keep freezing their pain. Some of us withdraw. 

What I learned recently that I wish someone would have told me was this: You’re not crazy. You make sense. Some of us get cold and silent and withdraw when we feel a relationship begin to falter. Of course. Shutting down is a way of not feeling the pain which could break us. Some of us get big and demand to be heard and pursue at all cost. Well yeah. Because any way of being seen is better than being invisible.

Sometimes we switch roleson certain issues. Sometimes we switch roles even in the same argument. But there are really only two ways. Either way you make sense. You’re just as sane as I am.

Bonding and Living Below the Line

Recently I had my first night working in the church nursery. Two two-year-olds were already bouncing from bookcase to ring toss when a third entered. She was a chubby cheeked girl named “Emily” and she was not happy with mom. Every time mom would make for the door Emily would start to cry. We all know that call; one part breathless wail of distress and two parts ultimate agony.

Mom eventually left and during this time another mom had handed me her six-month-old, Jackson.

As Emily wailed, Jackson began to cry. I tried walking him, shushing him, bouncing him, spinning with him but nothing worked. I suspected, partially because he kept looking in Emily’s direction, that he too felt the pain of Emily’s wail. My heart started to thump. I had no idea what the first two kids were doing BECAUSE THE SECOND TWO WERE FREAKING OUT! My wife looked at me and pleaded, “Can you go and get Emily’s mother? She not calming down.”

“Let me try.” I said.

“Okay. She’s not usually this difficult. In the past I just hold her and within a minute she’s calmed down.”

I went over to Emily and knelt down. Her hands were up and she was making a flicking motion at her hair. So I stroked the back of her head saying, “You miss your mommy. You’re sad. You miss your mommy so much. You’re so sad.” Emily almost immediately stopped crying and leaned her head forward so I could keep stroking. “And you have such soft hair. Can you feel how soft it is?” Emily started flexing her tiny fingers, “And you’ve got nice strong hands. Can you move your hands? And you’ve got a nice loud voice. Can I hear your voice?” At that point she’d completely calmed down, Jackson stopped crying and Emily started stroking her hair, feeling its softness.

After a few minutes we sat down on one of the stools and tossed a teddy bear back and forth, later we moved to stacking rings, then we closed by playing with a pink castle and a unicorn.

Now I used some therapeutic techniques. Pacing and leading. Empathic conjecture. An assumption that body image is self esteem. Picking up on minimal cues. But the organizing principle, the central idea is that she’s hurting because she feels alone.

Our ability to see others’ pain and aloneness is what a friend of mine calls living below the line because you have to look below the surface. Living below the line is hard. One of the biggest barriers to living below the line, to seeing what’s going on below the surface for others is when we haven’t had someone do this for us. If we haven’t had someone who sees below the line for us, sometimes we don’t know what’s going on inside of ourselves.

Another barrier to living below the line is how terrifying vulnerability can be. It’s easy for others to see our underlying pain and loneliness when we’re a little girl in distress, but when we’re a teenager smoking copious amounts of weed and actively failing out of high school or when we’re a husband who’s had an affair, people don’t look so graciously on us. They tend to get angry or shut us out. All they see is the behavior above the surface not the pain below the line. Someone has to be able to hear our pain and isolation without freaking out themselves. Instead, some of us harden our hearts and brainwash ourselves into thinking we weren’t meant for that sort of openness in a relationship.

The thing is if we don’t live below the line we die. If you’re a baby it’s called failure to thrive. If you’re older we don’t have a name for it, but you get sick more often, your immune system starts to glitch, and you get all sorts of diseases at higher rates. We’re built to live below the line.

If you have someone you can live below the line with, you can work through anything because you bond. Bonds are the linchpin. We know this innately. Bonding is why Harry is the Boy Who Lived (#MotherSonBonds). Bonding is how Vader remembers who he is and turns on the emperor thus bringing balance to the force (#FatherSonBonds). Bonding is why we send in eight men in to save Private Ryan (#BotherBonds #FamilyBonds). Bonding is why we cry when we realize Jack’s notebook is the story of their love (#MarriageBonds).

We’re built to live below the line. And yet some of us shouldn’t. If you haven’t yet found someone who’s safe, then don’t live below the line. Not everyone has earned the right to hear your story.

Safety, Adventure, and That Time Ryan Held Me.

Contrary to what we’ve been told, safety is the birth place of adventure.

A few months ago I was kickin’ it with my BFF Ryan. He and some friends took my wife and I rock climbing in the canyons of Colorado. We drove on rolling roads until we wound our way through a tunnel and pulled over on a median in the heart of a canyon. We hiked up a hill, gravel slipping under our feet, until we came to where the mountain side met the canyon wall. I looked down, saw my car a tenth its size, and I lost my breath. If I’d slipped from there I’d go tumbling all the way down.

Ryan clipped into the rockface and started climbing while I belayed. After he reached the top he repelled down and I slipped on my rope and harness. I got a foot off the ground when my legs started shaking like a sewing machine’s needle. Stop it. Stop it. What’s wrong with me? I’ve done this before. Stop it. But of course I can’t. I can no more stop shaking than a little girl can stop crying when she wants her momma.

“Hey man. I don’t know what’s going on. But I think I just need to sit in the harness for a minute.” I said.

“Yeah man. No problem. Take as much time as you need.” Ryan replied, and pulled down on his rope, taking the slack out of my rope. I could feel the harness tight around my butt and waist. It was then that I could feel that he had me. I wasn’t going anywhere.

I stood up, attacked the wall and summited it.

That is what safety does. Safety sets you up to have a safe base from which to explore the world. That safe base, which is really just knowing that someone has your back (#bonding), changes everything. Without a sense of safety people feel like they are going crazy.

Here’s what I didn’t know that someone should have told me about safety.

  1. There are set, innate cues of safety. When someone smiles and the muscles around the eyes move, that’s an innate safety cue. When someone’s voice has a melodic quality it’s an innate safety cue. These are signals which allow us to relate socially to other people, which by default calms our bodies (hence helping us feel safe). Safety allows us to come close and begin bonding. This social safety system is the same system — nerves/muscles/brain system — we use for eating BTWs. Which is why we comfort eat. It’s also why when a baby is distressed you can feed her and she’ll stop crying.
  2. In your brain predictability = safety. This is why neutral faced people (#RBF) sometimes freak us out. They aren’t sending out safety signals. When we don’t have safety in the relationship, neutral is dangerous. My friend’s father gets paranoid when he goes to big cities. He’s from a small town where he knows basically everyone. Of course. In his home town things are predictable. He knows the guy at the diner and he knows the lady at the gas station. In big towns he doesn’t know what’s going on. None of the people are familiar and almost none of them smile back. Of course he’s paranoid.
  3. A lack of danger does not equal a sense of safety. Safety cues equal safety. I remember when I was moving from middle school to high school. My parents took me to visit Loyola-Blakefield, an all boys preparatory school.
(Just so we’re clear I did NOT go to this school. It was just too rich.)

Campus was like a European city with cobblestone walkways and Gothic clock towers. At lunch the student guide took me to the cafeteria. The hallway to the cafeteria was lined with cubbies stacked and double stacked with book-bags. I thought, Wow. This is what it’s like to have money. You don’t have to worry about anyone taking your stuff. That is a safety signal.

How different does that feel than schools with gateways guarded by metal detectors, hallways lined with police officers, holsters hugging guns tight to their hips, and chain linked fences looping the perimeter?

I’m not saying that you should or shouldn’t have armed police officers in schools. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a fence around a school. I’m saying if you’re going to have a fence you’d better paint it, because lack of danger does not equal a sense of safety and lack of safety drives us crazy.

Once we have this sense of safety, and it is a felt sense (not a cognitive/ thinking process), we can bond. Once we bond we’re bulletproof. Safety is the birthplace of adventure because safety is the prelude to bonding.

Remember none of this is mine. We’ve known it for 20–30 years. It’s just been locked away in academia.