Steven Barnes

Loneliness, Compassion, and “What Women Want” (2000)

In a recent conversation a touchy subject came up: what happens when our ego-walls are so thick we cannot break them, even if they form a trap, like a car with locked doors tumbling off a cliff. This thought evoked a reader response:

This completely describes my friend who fell down that hole. Sadly, no compassion seemed enough to fill his pain. If he could not have total victory he could not feel his own worth.

In the end, he took his own life.

Holidays, when everyone else in the world can seem to be having a wonderful time, can make isolated people feel even more alone. And that loneliness can lead to self destructive behavior. People can lose “faith” that there is anything on the other side of this pale abyss. Why go on?

The “why” is that there is joy in the world, if we can learn to sense the wind and the tide of life and align ourselves with them. What, then, is the “how?” There are many, and a small moment in the movie “What Women Want” (2000) touches on this.

Nick Marshall is a swinging ad executive with the world on a string. He is fast-tracked but shallow. Raised by his Vegas showgirl mother, he understands the surface of life very very well.

When his big promotion goes to Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt) he is resentful. But then a near-death experience gifts him a miraculous gift: the ability to hear women’s thoughts. It changes everything.

At first he is frightened by is, then he revels in it, stealing ideas from Darcy and claiming them as his own. Seducing women simply by knowing exactly what they want him to say and do. He’s on top of the world! But he also realizes that the women at work consider him to be sleazy and superficial.

His emotional distance from his own daughter, the fact that his own therapist dislikes him, and the realization that he has used his psychic abilities to manipulate people he cared about all begin to stress him.

And then he realizes that his disregard of Erin, a secretary who had wanted to work in the firm’s creative track, has added to her burden of isolation and despair, and she is considering suicide. He has felt her anguish, her shattered hopes and dreams, heard her inner dialogue (“would anyone even notice if I was gone?”) and in his first real act of unselfish kindness, reaches out to her with appreciation and opportunity.

It is an awkward scene, him showing up at her apartment.

Is he there as her boss, with criticism? As a man, seeking sex?

You can see the confusion in both of them, trying to figure out what this means. The old Nick might well have used this moment, manipulated her perhaps into bed, and “scored.” But that’s not what this is about. In saving her, he saves himself. A small moment, but one in which a shallow, facile, manipulative human being becomes an aware adult capable of finding, winning, and accepting true love.


It’s a small scene in a fun movie, but it stayed with me. Nick is alone internally, but seems to have the world. Absent some massive shock, he was on his way to an endless string of superficial relationships, and the chance to miss one of life’s greatest gifts: true love. Surrounded by friends, he would find his “successful” life to be profoundly dissatisfying.

Erin has the same issue, but because she isn’t a dazzler, she seems invisible to the world. And that “being unseen” shrivels her.

That single moment of human contact was the sort of moment that changes lives.

It opens the door to our real emotions, connects us more deeply with our hearts, and opens the door to the possibility of real intimacy — not with THAT person, necessarily.

There is rarely a straight path to life’s most profound experiences .

We have to be who we are, living our lives with integrity, joy, and love, make OURSELVES happy in the “being-ness” of who we are…and then we will recognize others of the tribe of awakened human beings, and they will recognize us.

But…you can’t fake it. That gift, the simple gift of compassion and caring, the “I see you!” gift, is something you give to yourself when you give to others.

If this holiday season you are alone…if you feel at the end of your resources, you might remember the people who are even more isolated, more alone than you. Give to one of them, and you brighten the world. Visit a retirement home. Serve at a homeless shelter. Invite a widow or widower to have Thanksgiving with you. Seek to serve, taking pleasure in the GIVING, seeing that giving as serving yourself. Find joy in service, and no one will ever be able to deprive you of joy: there is ALWAYS someone in life with less than you, just as there are always people with more.

Once you see the path, the “road of trials” that life is for all of us, all there are are companions. When we are depressed, that is fear with no one to fight and no where to run. Our emotions are controlled by our focus. The instant we take that focus off ourselves, we shift. If you can find that place that is the origin of love, and become a source of love in service to the world…at that moment, we can give Thanks for all that life is, and our days within it.

Connect with your own soul, and you may be alone…but you’ll never be lonely.

Give yourself the gift of love.


(By the way: the answer to that implied question: “what do women want?” is devastatingly simple: its the same thing men really want: to be human beings, having a joyful human experience. And…to be SEEN as human, by other humans. We need tribe. And the most important person to see you as human…is you.)

Loneliness, the Holidays, and the Inner Family

Long ago, I was having a conversation with one of my first agents.  I was speaking of my Hollywood aspirations, and the fact that I’d seen so many people hurt themselves trying to “make it.”


“I don’t know what will happen in my career,” I said.   “But when I leave this town, I’m leaving with my sense of honor intact.”


He looked at me with amusement, and replied: “you’ll be the only one.”





Heading into the holidays, I was sent articles explaining why the medical community now considers loneliness as much of a health stressor as obesity, smoking, or alcoholism.  And we all know that holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years can be devastating to people who are alone, IF that alone-ness becomes lonli-ness.


There is a difference, and the difference is how you feel. You can be perfectly happy when no one is around.  Or feel soul-crushing loneliness in the middle of a crowd.


So…let’s back up a step.   If we want a Soulmate bonded relationship with a healthy human being, WE have to be healthy.  We optimally project confidence and self-regard, self-love, as well as genuine interest and affection for others.  To do that, we need to “put our own mask on first” and heal ourselves so that we have something to share with our friends and family.  That internal connection is key to feeling happy and healthy and loved…even if there is no one else around. Which is ENORMOUSLY attractive when combined with a little amplitude, like being good at something your “tribe” appreciates.


So the first step is the most critical one,  because it attracts that potential partner “stochastically” (increases the random predictability of an eventual result without changing the ability to predict specifics).  That’s kind of like knowing that the wind will knock apples off a tree without being able to predict WHICH apple will fall, or where it will land.   You still make apple pie!


This eliminates the “Friend Zone”. There is no such thing, in a negative way. All there is are friends, people who know other people.  And you are never more than about one friend away from SOMEONE who knows SOMEONE who could love someone just like you.   Everyone you meet is a unique, precious human being, and when you treat them that way, some of them will think “hey!  Great guy/gal!  I know someone who would be PERFECT for them!”


But you have to radiate a genuine joy for life. And that genuine joy is giving you the result you want (happiness) whether you meet someone else or not!  Talk about a win-win-win!


The first step is finding your way to connect with your heart.  And to do that, you have to believe there is a problem so that you will begin the search for an answer.


Once upon a time I didn’t believe I had a problem, and had to get my butt handed to me to open my eyes.  I’m going to tell you that story, with the hope that it will save you some pain.   I’m talking to YOU, “Younger Steve.”  Maybe you’re about twenty.  A hopeful geek.   A little scared of life, but filled with hope.   This one is for you, a message in a bottle sent back through time.


For God sake read and believe this, I beg you.




Long ago, at the beginning of my television writing career, I had the chance to follow up on my Twilight Zone success with another show whose name will not be mentioned here.   Its premise involved haunted objects that triggered murderous behavior.  I didn’t like that premise, but managed to come up with a story (called “Purple Heart” which, many years later, will finally be published in a graphic novel) I felt would actually have some depth and meaning as opposed to just connect-the-dots mayhem.


Filled with optimism (I KNEW my idea was amazing) I drove onto the movie lot, and sat down in front of the three guys running the show. As all such meetings go, I was first offered a bottle of water, juice or soft drink (take it!) we chit-chatted a bit to build rapport and feel each other out…and then the question hovering in the air, the real reason we were all there:


“What do you have for us?”


I pitched my amazing idea, which had some beautiful social relevance, and some thematic depth, and a unique take on an old horror genre. I sat back, basking in the admiration I knew was coming.


And then…something went wrong. I could see it in their faces. My guts churned, and although it felt like the temperature in the room had dropped twenty degrees, I was sweating.


The story editor, a guy who had been listening to my pitch with interest that turned into pity, was the one who spoke.


“We can’t do that idea,” he said.  “If we did that idea, people would think this show was about something. And our only excuse for putting on a mass murder every week is that this is pure entertainment.”


“what else you got?”


There it was, the statement of utter moral corruption, and the poisoned bait.  With a single call, he could contact the business office and have them generate a contract worth TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS, money I badly needed.  I have a newborn baby daughter, and bills, and a dwindling bank account.


So…I started pitching, trying desperately to come up with an idea these guys would buy.  Unfortunately (or incredibly fortunately) while I can generate HUNDREDS of ideas if my heart is in it, when I’m emotionally disconnected I’m no good at all. Nothing I came up with worked at all. They invited me to come back any time, shook my hand, and I left.


And immediately, and I mean the INSTANT I walked out of that bungalow on the movie lot, it felt as if filters were stripped from my eyes.  As if I had stepped out of an opium den.  I almost staggered.  And a voice, heard more clearly than I’d heard it in years, said:   “Don’t you love me, daddy?  Why did you have me talking to those terrible men?”


It was the voice of Little Stevie, the avatar of my creativity and aliveness, my “Inner Child”, the source of my creativity and enthusiasm for life.  I had violated an agreement with that “child” that I’d never consciously known I’d had. What I had done in that room was the creative equivalent of pimping out my little boy to pay the rent. And my some miracle, there were no buyers.


But the little boy knew.


I had betrayed myself.  Become a sell-out and had the blessed humiliation that no one was buying.    I had lost everything, for nothing.   For the next year that creative heart WOULD NOT TALK TO ME.  I didn’t hear the rumble of what Stephen King calls “The Boys In The Basement,” that internal creative family of elves that does the real work as we sleep, working out stories instead of making shoes like the fairy tale.


I was in total misery, combined with fear.  Writing, for the first time in my life, became a chore rather than a joy.   Nothing felt right. Everything was terrible.  I was in pain constantly, that sense of betrayal combined with a fear for my future.  I mean, its one thing to sell out and get PAID for it.   What the hell was I?


And one day I was listening to my judo teacher Swift Deer, talking about the connection between our adult, child, and “elder” selves, and realized that he had hit it: I had damaged that critical connection. My “child” wouldn’t talk to me.  As a result I couldn’t enjoy my wife’s love: how could she love someone as wretched as I?


I couldn’t take the joy I loved in my baby daughter.  I had betrayed a child not much “older” (my “Little Stevie” avatar ranges between the ages of about five and eight), and I feared not being a good father to her.


I HAD to solve this, or I was screwed. And…I came up with a plan.  I swore I would spend at least twenty minutes every day working to heal that connection.  EVERY DAY. For as long as it took,even if that was the rest of my life.


Now. What specific method would I use? I decided to visualize a place that had been a favorite to me in childhood: Santa Monica beach.  My mom used to take me and my sister Joyce there on summer days, and I loved it.


So…I sat quietly with my spine straight and my legs crossed, closed my eyes and visualized the beach.   It was deserted, but I had “brought” a basket of toys and favorite snacks. I sat there for a half hour, and no one showed up. And so I finally just left the basket there and went away, dejected and lonely.



The next day I did it again, brought another basket. The first had been undisturbed.  So was the next. And the next.  NO, the beach didn’t get cluttered: the old baskets dissolved and melted away like vanquished foes in old video games.


But no one showed up.  I sat alone, crying. Lost.  Achingly lonely.





Day after day. Week after week. Month after month this went on.  I lost faith. Wanted to quit.  BUT I HAD MADE MYSELF A PROMISE and could feel that on some level this was a test.  I could sense that Little Stevie was watching, wondering how serious I was. And I realized that even if he never spoke to me again, I owed him this.


Day after day.  Week after week. Month after month.


And then…one day I looked north on the beach,and way way off on the horizon…I saw the tiny figure of a little boy. I held my breath and didn’t dare move.  And when my session was over, I left.


When I “came back” the next day, I notices that some of the toys in the basket had been moved.   Some of the snacks eaten.  And there were little footprints on the sand.


I sat, quietly, and after a time looked off to the North…and there he was. A little, just a LITTLE closer now.  And every day from then on just a little closer, a little closer.


One day he was close enough that I could see his face. He was crying, his face puffy with tears.  I stood up and opened my arms, and he backed away.


The next day I just stood and watched him.  He was so small and vulnerable. I had hurt him so badly.  I could feel the pain radiating off him like waves of heat shimmering against the sand. Day by day he got closer, until we were only standing a few dozen feet apart.


And then…I took a step. And stopped. And he stepped toward me, and stopped. And I took a step. And he took a step…


And then he ran, leaping into my arms, wrapping his arms and leg around me and holding me so desperately tight, and he sobbed “Oh, Daddy…I’ve been so scared, and so lonely.”


And our tears mingling, holding him so tightly I thought he’d burst, I said “I swear to God.  I will NEVER leave you alone again.”


And…I never have.  No matter what it has cost me career-wise…and it has.   I don’t care.  I have my family.


It made me a better husband and father. A better writer. A better martial artist. A better man.


And years later, when my first marriage died from errors we had made long before we said “I do,” I was able to heal myself by going back to that beach, playing and connecting with that little boy, healing my heart so that when my Soulmate appeared…I was not desperate and lonely, but connected and whole…and ready.


This is what I want for you, Young Steve. Never, ever sacrifice your inner connection, no matter what. And if you are lonely this holiday…connect with your heart.  Find the source of love within you.


Do that…and you’ll never be lonely. And frankly, you won’t be alone long, either.



With all my heart…


A Soulmate Is Born

Maybe its time to let the old ways die.”— Jackson Main

There is a moment in “A Star Is Born” that is almost too painful to watch. In it, deteriorating Country Western singer Jackson Main is watching his wife Ally receive a “Best New Artist” Grammy. Inebriated, he wanders up on stage to join her. Right there on national television, he loses control of his bladder and wets himself, visibly. Imagine the humiliation and pain, the self-loathing not just triggered by something like that, but triggering the action itself. Can you imagine what it would require to screw up that badly? How much rage and fear at Ally’s success that would produce a passive-aggressive nightmare like that? The mixture of love and hate? And what of the aftermath, after you “sober up” and apologize, apologize, apologize. There’s only one problem with apologizing for an alcoholic outburst: it works once. Maybe twice. After that, if you drink you KNOW you are going to screw up again, and you cannot blame the alcohol. You chose diminished capacity. Perhaps it’s a medical problem, but you cannot deny that a problem it is.

Moments like that change everything. And the saddest part? In the midst of her humiliation, what Ally did was try to protect him by covering the wet spot. Love. Pain. Fear. Anger. Success. And…the most horrific public failure, all mingled.

THAT was a moment none of us would want to live through. And one hypnotic to watch.


Let’s overview the film.

Jackson Main is a hard-drinking C&W singer, raised by an abusive, alcoholic father. He wants love, like the rest of us. There is a serious problem: He does not love himself, and all of the adoration of his audience means nothing with the empty space within him. He sees Ally and is blown away by her art, her purity, her goodness. He decides that he will give her the chance of a life-time and lift her up. And we sense that he is hoping that just perhaps, if he can give her the gift she wants — success — she will reciprocate by rescuing his broken heart.

The problem is that the gaping wound in his heart is too large. As her star rises, eclipsing his, her total adoration of him isn’t enough and he begins a self-destructive spiral. Without faith and self-love, he cannot accept the chance that he might damage her career — which is clearly more important to him than their love, as his career was more important than his life. He was a scrambled man, turned inside out, the external world full and the internal world empty.

And this conflict destroys him. Ally, more genuinely tough and integrated (the love of her father is obvious and deep, giving her a foundation) his sacrifice allows her to integrate stardom and artistic integrity. She was a healthy human being. He was not, and the light of her love withered instead of nurtured.

A Soulmate has been defined in many ways, but for the sake of this discussion let’s say this: a soulmate is a person who, when you meet them and are with them, you feel the doorway to your future opening before you. There are so many values, intentions, energetic “frequencies”, mutual attractions and other things contained in this notion. The most important part is that everything is matching up: sexual attraction, emotional connection, values and life direction, mental “vibing” and even a spiritual union.

We all crave this kind of connection, even if some of us don’t believe it is possible, or that we can find it. Some make the mistake of thinking a Soulmate relationship should be some level of perfection where there are never arguments or disagreements, and the Soulmate “knows everything you need before you say it.” That is a grotesquely immature notion, a holdover from pre-verbal infancy, when mommy and daddy knew you needed changing, or a bottle, or a hug, even though you had no words.

Finding a Soulmate is one of the most precious experiences in life, and the first step we can take, even before we meet them, IS TO BECOME HEALTHY HUMAN BEINGS. That’s it. Not complicated at all. Brutally simple. If we don’t…if we aren’t…how can we attract and hold a healthy person? Its hard for a relationship to be healthier than the people within it.

Remember Groucho’s “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me for a member” line?

If we don’t respect and love ourselves, won’t we have to see anyone who loves us as flawed? And if they AREN’T flawed…won’t we fear losing them? It’s an emotional nightmare.

And indeed, Jackson DOES try to tear Ally down at one point, criticizing her looks. She is too strong, retreating from him rather than letting him damage her, and he must apologize. When his life falls apart, had he loved himself, had some sense of faith in his ability to heal, or at least know that Ally was strong enough to make her own decision to love him, and that destroying himself was the LAST thing she would have wanted….he could have healed and grown.

What was the origin of his emptiness? An adored father who treated him as a drinking buddy rather than a son. Damaging his emotions and possibly even his brain chemistry.

Love was right there. Healing was right there. Human connection, in a world where loneliness is said to be a greater killer than obesity or smoking, was RIGHT THERE in his hands, and he couldn’t grasp it, and that is why “A Star Is Born” is a genuinely tragic love story.

It speaks to every wounded heart that wants joy, that calls out for love, and somehow manages to throw it all away. If he had STARTED by loving himself, healing his heart, then when he met Ally, the two of them might have had a chance. But even if they hadn’t…he would have been happy…would have had the chance to meet someone else and the two of them could have been happy together.

The first step is yours: healing your heart. Learning to love yourself. Then, when you don’t NEED the love of another person, you are free to want it, find it, nurture it.

When the lover is ready, the beloved will appear.

If only Jackson had been able to let his “Old Ways” die, indeed.

This holiday season…give yourself life’s greatest gift: the gift of love.

Begin by loving yourself.


Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #10: The Student Becomes the Teacher

A glooming peace this morning with it brings.

The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.

Some shall be pardoned, and some punishèd.

For never was a story of more woe

Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.



And that is the end of the play.   The last step of the Hero’s Journey is “The student becomes the teacher.”  Also such names as “the return to the village with the elixer” or “the movement to the higher level.”


When we finish one journey, we begin another, but our journey also stands as example for others.  One purpose of great art is the binding together of social values: after viewing, the audience would often gather for coffee or wine and discuss what they saw. In that sense, Romeo and Juliet is a treasure trove of discussive possibility.   What we need, however, is not bad examples but GOOD ones. There are a thousand ways to get lost for every way we might find our way home.


And if you find your way to a loving, happy relationship…share the wealth, by example if nothing else.



Once upon a time, there was a boy named Stevie. His mother and father divorced when he was about six, and his mother never remarried. He was nerdy and unpopular, and none of the girls he liked liked him.   His hunger to find love grew and grew, and when he got to college he finally met a girl he loved, and who loved him, and after years of living together they married and had a daughter.


But…his ignorance of the way relationships really worked caused problems, and they had made errors in the construction of that relationship which, in time, grew until the problems were greater than the desire to be together, and the marriage began to crumble, and it failed. Lost, lonely, devastated and more insecure than he had ever been, rather than building his castle atop the rubble.


And in doing that, he learned that he had to start by loving himself, valuing himself, or he would have nothing to offer a healthy woman.  If he wanted honesty, he had to offer it.  If he wanted beauty and power he had to offer them.  That realization changed him, and changed his focus, so that it stopped being about “what do women want?” and started being about “who am I?”


And it was the hardest, and most rewarding work he’d ever done, and as he walked that path, he met the love of his life.    Now…that wasn’t the end of the story, it was the beginning of another:


How to nurture love every day

How to communicate

How to argue with integrity and compassion

How to raise children together.

How to keep the passion sizzling decades in

And so much more.  Winning your love BEGINS with “I do.”   And continues every day after, if you want to keep it alive.


That is what little Stevie learned. And in thanks to all the people who taught him along the way, he and his love now share what they learned, what they know, in the hope that everyone will find what they have found, and have what they have together.


That is where THEIR story stands.


Where is yours?   The steps are:

1)love yourself.  Heal and value your time and energy.

  1. Commit to loving another person. Admit that you want it.
  2. Understand the mating game in a way that blames neither side, and forces both to take responsibility
  3. Don’t worry about the people unattracted to you: you only need The Right One.
  4. Play the game of love with integrity and compassion…but enjoy the game. It’s the very best game in the world, when the players play fairly. There are no rules…but there more certainly are principles.



In general, those steps should be taken in that order. The good news is that self-love has all the joy and creativity you seek, and requires no cooperation from another human being…but simultaneously increases your likelihood of meeting that person.


Mindfulness, connecting with the source of love and life within you is your path to this wellspring.    Commit to making this connection every day for the rest of your life.


Be the Hero in the loving adventure of your lifetime


Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #9: Confront Evil and Win

IF only Tybalt and Mercutio had only been wounded instead of killed…

IF only Romeo and Juliet had been a little older and wiser…

The English-speaking world’s most famous love story might have ended with a wedding instead of a funeral, and been a comedy instead of a tragedy.

If you’ve never had the sense of “we were made for each other!” that timeless sense, that “discovering the other half of me” sense, that “sweet mystery of life I’ve finally found you” sense.

For the naïve, the first time you have experienced the blend of love and sex, it can feel EXACTLY that way. I had that with my first real love, that sense of melting together, of infinite possibilities, of fate’s door opening to reveal a path unknown.

Heck, I was just a guy looking to be happy in life, and hadn’t really understood that the next level of joy was COMMITMENT to another human being. The RIGHT human being. I remember a woman who lusted after me sexually telling me that something changed in me after my mother died. “Your green light went on” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, its as if you were a Taxi with a red light on the roof, meaning no passengers allowed. Not for a long trip. Maybe a short one. And now….you have a green light. You’re looking for something deeper, longer.” And there was a bit of sadness in her voice, because she had a “green light” too…but we were heading in different directions. For a short trip? Sure, that could have worked. But the real thing? A bonded, loving relationship trying to build a life together?

No. Our values, hopes, dreams, and energy “frequency” didn’t match. We could have pretended they did for a weekend…but it would have been foolish, and dishonest, to pretend it was more.

That article speaks to the “If you were meant to be together, you will be together” notion. And…that is a perfectly reasonable idea, rather tautological in fact, if you simply say “if it didn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be.”

In other words, you don’t get to say “we were meant to be together, and SHE/HE didn’t see it!” or

“We were meant to be together, but the world stopped us.” No, if it didn’t happen, it wasn’t “meant to be.”

Stalkers seem to get this wrong all the time: “we’re meant to be together, I just have to show them.” THAT attitude sounds like a special, Valentine’s Day episode of “Criminal Minds”, doesn’t it?

To use this, you have to love yourself enough to be complete, to satisfy all of your own “needs” leaving on ly “wants”. You also have to genuinely enjoy your own company, enough to really believe that you would want to be with yourself. NO CHEATING HERE. You really have to have that sense of satisfaction and joy.

You need to feel you are unique, precious, that your heart is a thing of infinite value. And to know that while you are unique, in a world of seven billion people, there are millions you could love. All you have to do is be confident enough to put your “green light” on, knowing that you can survive rejection, and then put yourself out there. Meet people, find a vehicle for your voice. “This is who I am” you say to the world, like a bird signing in the forest. IT isn’t trying to attract EVERY bird. Just the right one.

You only need one. I’ve talked to countless people with long, happy marriages. And most of them met that person in under fifty dates. Often around twenty-five. To me, that implies that the person we’re looking for is in our web of personal and professional association. Further, that there are SEVERAL potentials, because many of them will already be in relationships or otherwise have their “red lights” on.

Just one. Who is right. And ready.

Considering that that person is probably known to someone you know NOW, or no more than two people away, there is no such thing as a “Friend Zone.” Only friends, who might introduce you to THEIR friends, if you are a good person, if you don’t make the mistake of confusing lust with love. If you love them…you will want them to be happy. If you can’t grasp that, you are an obsessive child, and they were right to run from you.

And you can admit that you have that wound IF YOU LOVE YOURSELF. And if you don’t…you can learn to. That is always available to us. And it is the starting place.

The person you were “meant” to be with, looking back over your time line, you will be with. But first you have to be whole within yourself. No bullshit. NO cheating. No pretending. No “Pick Up Artist” games. No “Make A Man Fall In Love With You.” No pity parties about how horrible the Other Sex is.

NO taking advice from people who have not themselves run the race and won the trophy: a relationship of passion, joy, love and purpose that has lasted over twenty years.

Ignore what the others say. Listen to your elders, not the children burning in the fire of First Love/First Sex.

That’s how Romeo and Juliet ended up dead, you know.

Love yourself…and share the love!



Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #8: The Leap of Faith

Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #8:   The Leap of Faith




“Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!

Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on

The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark!

Here’s to my love! Drinking. O true apothecary,

Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.


And with those words, Romeo commits suicide.


And here comes the moment which, if these lovers had not been children, tragedy could have been averted. Romeo found Juliet apparently dead, and at that moment, the pain of living without her exceeded the fear of death, and he chose death. She awakened and found Romeo dead, and her pain of living without him made HER choose death.


If Romeo had possessed the wisdom to know that his broken hearts would heal, he might have taken a different action. Then Juliet would have awakened, and they live happily ever after.


His problem was a lack of faith.   IN this context, faith is a deep conviction in one of three things:


  1. Faith in himself (that would be able to heal and love again)
  2. Faith in his companions (perhaps that there would be another woman he would one day meet as fair and perfect as Juliet
  3. Faith in a higher power (perhaps that God would not make only one perfect partner for us)


Any of these would have saved the story from utter tragedy. Probably made a lesser tale, however.


Romeo and Juliet FAIL their “leap of faith.”  Too much pain, too narrow a view of life and love.


My first marriage had died, and it absolutely tore my guts out. I felt as if I had totally failed as a human being, that no one would ever love me again.    I just wanted to work my way back into the dating market, find happiness–but the problem was that I had no “game

I discovered that I had no “game”.  I’d never picked up a woman in my life, and my efforts to make connection with the ones I knew just seemed to end up with one disaster after another.


The breakthrough came when I realized a simple reality: you can create a relationship with someone on your “frequency”, at your level of integration and evolution. NOT someone below or above that level.   I was attracted to confident, beautiful women…but I was not confident or balanced myself.   A lioness wants a lion.  My very need for love was crippling me.


I remember laying in my bed in my solidary room, thinking through all the pieces of the puzzle. To create a relationship with a powerful woman, I had to be a powerful man, and not be “bleeding” emotionally all over the table. I couldn’t the love I craved unless I didn’t NEED that love from another human being. I could WANT it, sure. But if I NEEDED it…I was screwed.


What could I do?  I couldn’t get it if I needed it. And I’d need it until I got it…


Wouldn’t I?  And I remembered the words of Ram Dass:   “All that you seek is already within you. In Hinduism it is called the Atman, in Buddhism the pure Buddha-Mind. Christ said, ‘the kingdom of heaven is within you.’ Quakers call it the ‘still small voice within.’ This is the space of full awareness that is in harmony with all the universe, and thus is wisdom itself.”


The love I sought was within me.     I remembered a very special visualization/meditation designed to heal and evolve the heart, and began to apply it to my own life.


And in a few weeks, things began to change. It was rough at first, I’ll admit. My head was filled with doubting voices, and at times I felt silly.  But I kept the FAITH, and soon I was HAPPY.  Happier than I had been in years. I no longer chased after women: but had a sort of detached curiosity and interest, combined with an affectionate respect. Saw them as complete human beings who might be very interesting to know better, but were complete in themselves.   And to my astonishment, removed from any sense of lack, I became UNCANNILY  attractive to women, getting the reaction I’d always desired.   And that lead directly to meeting the woman of my dreams.


That “missing link” of self-love, self-respect, healing, I continued to refine over the years, finally teaching it at a high-end stress clinic in Santa Monica to millionaires and movie stars.  And called it The Ancient Child.


As a means of connecting to the love within you, it has no equal.  And if you have ALL the love you “need”, flowing from within you, you have the freedom to have “choice” in what you want, what you DESIRE, from outside you.   You are free, and confident, and self-contained.


Most of the “Pick Up Artist” or “Get A Man” courses are about FAKING this state of health and happiness.  FAKING genuine confidence and balance. But…why not actually BE healthy?


If only Romeo and Juliet had been better balanced, healthier, wiser people…we’d have been denied one of the great literary works of the Western World.  But…your life is not an amusement for the crowd.  It is YOUR LIFE, and you have the right to be happy. Moreover, every person who seeks and finds happiness helps others see the possibility. Your fire lights the way for the rest of the world.


Have FAITH that within yourself you have the strength and love you’ve sought from others.

Have FAITH that there are others who are looking for someone just like the healed human being you have the potential to be

Have FAITH that the world is not so cruel that there is only one human being out of billions who could share your path.


Have Faith.


Love yourself…and share the love!


(you can get a free copy of The Ancient Child meditation.  Just go to:

Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #7: The Dark Night (and “the last dog on Earth”)

Romeo returns from exile to find his Juliet apparently dead.  He commits to death.  Juliet awakens from drugged sleep and finds Romeo dead. She too commits to death. This is their “Dark Night of the Soul.”–


O, here

Will I set up my everlasting rest,

And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars

From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last!

Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you

The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss

A dateless bargain to engrossing death!”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


I think we’ve all been there. Lonely, we felt a vague ache within us that we might not even acknowledge. Then…we meet someone, so beautiful, so attractive to our eyes that we can feel something within us say: YES!  THIS ONE.  We see our fate, our destiny stretch before us.   The notion of spending our lives, making love, sharing dreams, raising a family, growing old together with THIS ONE is almost overwhelming.


So we try things.  Meet. Court. Open our hearts. And at some point…it all goes to hell.


I remember the very first girl I ever asked to “go steady” with me. Her name was Sonja, and we were in Junior High together.   Just the cutest little thing.   I was too shy to ask her directly, so I asked a mutual friend, Neil, to ask her for me.  He called me and said she would give me her answer the next day.


All day long I had butterflies in my stomach. I saw her glance at me in our classes, and giggle with her friends. It was just a crush…I was only about fourteen…but I imagined us having lunch together, going to school dances together (maybe she would even teach me to dance!) study together, walking home holding hands. If I was very very lucky, maybe I would even steal a kiss or two.


All day long I could hardly concentrate on my classes. When would she give me her answer?  Yes?  No?   Was this the beginning of something wonderful..? She even SMILED at me a couple of times: oh, frabjous day!


Then in the last period of the day, she passed me a folded piece of paper. It passed from hand to hand until it reached me, and with trembling fingers I opened it.


“Dear Steve,” it said.  “I wouldn’t go with you if you were the last dog on Earth.”




Boom. There it was. The bottom falling out of my stomach. The very first heartbreak of my life.  I wasn’t’ even angry with her…I blamed myself.  How dare I try to fly with such an angel?


Depression, despair, fear. Fear that no one would love me, that I was broken, that the happiness I saw others experiencing was never to be mine.   All the burning acid in my gut, all the sense of shame and guilt and embarrassment, knowing the others were laughing at me, that all my friends knew what had happened.


I spiraled into the depths of the “Dark Night”, which is the place where it seems that all of our abilities are insufficient to reach our goals and dreams.


I never should have asked her!  I should have had the courage to ask her myself!  Everyone else in the world was happy except me!  How dare I even dream of being happy, thinking that an attractive woman would ever be attracted to me!  All the voices in my head, screaming at me. Laughing faces sneering at me, scratching cat-claws of her laughing friends ripping my heart to pieces.


And…I knew that somehow, someway, some day I would be happy.  SOMEHOW. I didn’t know how.


But there was a voice deep inside me. It was a younger Steve.   The one who, long before, at the age of five or six had had no father, who looked at every man my mother dated (and there weren’t many of them) and wondered: Are YOU the one? Will you be my Daddy? And when they went away, curled up and cried and wondered if I was so ugly, so broken, that no one wanted me.


That younger me…that part of me is the part that writes, that plays, that has the joy in life.   I heard his screams and something inside me rose up.


IF NO ONE WANTS TO LOVE ME, I WILL LOVE MYSELF.  I looked at the women I was attracted to and realized that ALL of them were attracted to larger boys. Stronger boys. Smarter boys.  Older boys.  Athletes and leaders.   And at that moment, I could have taken the Incel path, and resented them.  It’s not fair…


But that was the screaming of the “Child” within me, a boy some eight or nine years younger than I was.  And I realized that I was not that child…I was the one who had to PROTECT that child.  Somehow…instead of resenting Sonia, resenting the lovely girls who liked the older, stronger, more confident boys…


I DECIDED TO BECOME ONE OF THEM. Somehow, in some way, one day I would BE one of those boys who attracted the kinds of girls I yearned for.   Somehow, instead of blaming them, I congratulated them on the self respect to go for what they really wanted and needed.


Somehow, even then, I sensed that Sonia knew my timidity did not make me a good prospect.  She was holding out for more, as was her right.  And in the depths of my pain, it was hearing the voice of the even younger child within me that gave me STRENGTH.


One day…I will be strong.

One day…I will be confident.

One day…I will have the power to build my life, and be a good prospect for a pretty girl looking to build her life.


One day.


Not today, thought. Not then.  And I didn’t know how I’d do it.  But I did know that the only other course was either being alone…or “settling.”


You know the people: “well, she was all I could get.”  “Oh, he ain’t much, but I guess he’s mine.”


That’s not enough. You want to look in your lover’s eyes and know she ADORES you.  You need to look at her, hear her voice, watch her move and feel your heart SING.


I didn’t make Sonia’s heart sing.    And if I really liked her, really wanted the best for her…then I wanted that for her.


I cried at night, yes. But somewhere, under the tears I was thinking:


One day…


And one day finally came.


Love yourself…and share the love



Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #6: Confront Evil, meet Defeat

Look for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man“–Tybalt.   Wm Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


Imagine the horror Romeo feels at the moment his best friend Mercutio dies.  In rage, he slays Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin), and is banished from Verona.  In a moment, the play spins from being a light romantic comedy into a tragedy. There is no coming back from this event.   A game for children has become a deadly serious adult matter.


Love into hate.   Faith into despair.  Rather than two families united, they are torn further apart.   The ultimate ending begins HERE.

It is important to grasp that “evil” can be an overstatement here. The forces that oppose us can be fear, confusion, ego, desire, values conflicts, mistaken beliefs.  With that understanding lets go forward:



I loved a woman once, and had dreamed of a life with her.  I was in heaven–it seemed the very best life I could imagine.  All my hopes and dreams, come to life.


Then one day I got a phone call telling me she had made a decision that seriously endangered both her, and our chances of a  relationship.  There was nothing I could do.  In that moment, I saw that our values were either totally different…or she had made a dreadful error.  There was literally no way to come back from what had happened, and although both of us knew it, we pretended to think otherwise for a while. The horrible telephone conversations, strained visits, and mutual accusations ripped my guts out. I wanted to act, but there was nothing to be done: she wouldn’t accept my help.  Every day that passed felt like another death: of dreams, of hopes…and of my own judgement.


Why hadn’t I seen it coming…?  And that, ultimately became a salvation.  If I was in horrible pain, if I could just keep my eyes on the ball: I will love again. I WILL find my way through this.  And…if I can learn the lesson here, I never have to make this mistake again.  What is the lesson? What is the lesson?


I remembered something NLP expert Tad James had said: If you learn the lesson, you can release the pain. The pain is only there to get your attention.


The lesson was that she hadn’t made a mistake. She was just being who she was. What had happened was a natural outgrowth of other decisions. She was on HER journey, not just a puppet on mine.  My martial arts and shamanic studies teacher Swiftdeer had once said: “Do not trust people.  Instead, rely upon them to do what they see as their own self-interest.  It is up to you to determine what that is.”


It was MY problem.   Not hers.  She was just being who she was. I HAD CHOSEN HER.   If I had attracted her, more importantly been attracted TO her, she was a mirror for my own heart and soul.   If I could look deeply enough into that mirror, learn that lesson, I could both support her in whatever way it was healthy for her to let me do that, and also go my own way.


If I loved her, let her go.  Don’t try to control.  IF there had been something I could do, then obsession might have had some point.   But if there wasn’t…well, loving her was fine, but didn’t I love myself as well? Didn’t I love that child in my heart enough to nurture him when he was screaming in pain?


Even though I was in agony, I could see that if I could learn the lesson…if I could nurture my own heart…if I could find my way out of this dark, frozen cave I had fallen into…


That on the other side of this I would be a stronger, better, healthier person.   Capable of making better decisions.  If SHE learned too…well, perhaps we would be able to meet on the other side.  BUT LET HER GO.   If I didn’t, and she was in a death spiral…I was going down with her. And if she was on her own journey, and had rejected my help, was I not infantalizing her to say she needed to take it?  And if she was that infant, what was I saying about myself, if she was the best I could do at that moment?


No. There was no way out but to find a way to die and be reborn.  God, I didn’t want to do that. But if I didn’t…I was finished.


And tomorrow, we’ll talk about the road back.



Love yourself…and share the love!


Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #5: Allies and Powers

Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #5: Allies and Powers


“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

-Romeo, in Act 3, Scene 2, as Mercutio offers to protect Romeo in battle




The fifth step of the Hero’s Journey, “Acquiring Allies and Gaining Powers” is simple acknowledgement that we must learn and grow. Do different things, see the world in different ways.  If you do what you’ve done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve got. If you want different results, you MUST do different things.




I recently got a query from a student (“George”)  who had become enamored of a lady on a social media site.  They had corresponded, they had some mutual social media friends, and when she finally agreed to meet him in person, his heart was about to pound out of his chest.   He had wanted love, connection, passion for years, and here was the chance right in front of him!


She had expressed a desire for a fancy smartphone, and he decided to buy her one, and present it at their first date.  With his heart full of hope, he did just that…and then watched as she took it and then backed away, “ghosted” him, leaving him confused and angry.


It is easy to say that “George” made a mistake.    Harder to put your finger on what he could have done differently.  Wisdom is the result of experience, and experience is painful.


If “wisdom” is one of the “powers” Romeo needed to keep from committing suicide (the knowledge that the love he felt for Juliet came from within HIM, if he was complete within himself, he wouldn’t’ have killed himself, knowing that he would recover, his heart would heal and that he would find love again.   Paradoxically, allowing Juliet to “go” would have resulted in her awakening and a joyous reunion.)


How do you get wisdom without the experiences?  ASK OTHERS WHO HAVE BEEN ON THE JOURNEY.  It is simple, really. So simple that we forget that ALMOST EVERYTHING we’ve learned in life we learned by modeling the behavior of others: how to walk, talk, ride a bicycle, read, write…everything.


Love is no different.   The beautiful thing is that even among people our own age, experiences will vary.  You will be more advanced in certain arenas, your friends in others.  But the very best mentors are people who are older, who have experienced the journey of life for longer, and are further along the road.


“But things are different now!” yeah.  They always are. But there are things that are the same.   FOCUS ON THOSE.


I had the extraordinary pain of courting the woman of my dreams and watching it all fall to ashes.  The more I gave the faster she backed away.  Sound familiar? As my marriage had recently gone the way of the dodo, I felt horrible, desperate, confused. Was there something broken about me?  Was I so ugly and stupid?   What kind of idiot was I, that everything I tried to do was wrong?




WHY DID IT HAPPEN?   I had to learn by painful experience: relationships have a thing called “rapport”.   Each person is traveling at a given pace, in a given direction.   If they have experience, they know that people lie, and cheat, and wear masks.


So if a beautiful woman has had any experience at all, she knows that there are predators, men who will pretend to be what they are not.  And she will reveal herself one bit at a time, an unfolding, like a flower spreading its petals slowly.   Imagine that each of you is holding a deck of cards.  You put down a card: “Hi!  My name is Steve!” she puts down a card to match you:  “my name is Mary.”  And you proceed, putting down one card after another: what you do, what you like, where you’ve lived.  Bits of your relationship history, your hopes and dreams and values.


One at a time. You put down a “card” and then she does.  MAYBE you put down two at a time.  If she still only puts down one…OOPS! Slow down.


The “power” there is awareness of incremental progress. Building rapport and not breaking it by moving too fast.   You learn either by experience, observation…or modeling friends and mentors.  ASKING.


What had “George” done?  The same thing I did.  I gushed out my guts, dumping them on the table in a steaming pile: I LOVE YOU!!


From the way I’d come on, I had to be either a fool or a predator.  George had gone from zero to Engagement Gift before they’d shaken hands.   There is no way a

woman with self-respect and experience would not look at that and wonder what he wanted.


And if SHE was a predator?  A user?  He’d simply fallen into a trap. She got the goodies and ran.  If either of us had unfolded more carefully, revealed ourselves more gradually, MATCHED THE PACE OF OUR PARTNER…


A lot of pain could be avoided.   I asked, and observe, and finally learned. Applied what I learned. And when I had integrated that understanding, almost immediately I met the love of my life.


How do you learn?  ASK. Find people who have been married happily twenty years or longer.  Talk to them.   A LOT of them. You will begin  to see things in common, form your own theories.  Compare them with others.   This is a game for awake, aware, adult human beings. You are playing with the circuitry that creates helpless baby humans.  Whether you are using birth control, are gay, or even beyond the time of reproduction, the circuitry, more ancient than human thought, is still there, make no mistake.


If you have problems in an arena of life…if you want to rise to the next level…you need to find guides along the road ahead.


If only Romeo had done such a thing, that immortal play would have been a comedy rather than a tragedy.   Probably a minor work, yes.  Don’t let YOUR life be memorable for its tragedy.   Please


Love yourself…and share the love!

Steven Barnes

Romeo and Juliet’s Journey #4: The Road of Trials

The course of true love never did run smooth.“–Midsummer Night’s Dream


The fourth step of the Hero’s Journey is called the “Road of Trials.”


This is basically everything that the character does to bridge the gap from where they ARE to where they want to BE.


In my own life, I was alone, broke, and overweight.    Living in that one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver, Washington.  In order for me to prepare myself to meet and bond with my eventual Soulmate.


I had taken one major action: met the girl of my dreams and actually lucked my way into dating her. I had figured out two of the major flaws that kept me from being on the level of the woman I desired.  One was that I had lost my spiritual center.  It hit me hard, but I couldn’t deny it was true: I had stopped meditating, cut myself off from the source of love and deep energy in my life. Probably one of the reasons I was so attracted to this amazing woman: she HAD that energy.  I was at risk of being a vampire, because I didn’t have my own source.


I asked “what should I do?” and came to a decision: the spiritual guru I’d studied with, had a group of followers up in Seattle.  I could connect with them, and hopefully re-center myself.


I called them and it turned out that they met every Sunday to work in the kitchen of a restaurant they owned, and also play and congregate. With a heart full of hope, I drove from Vancouver to Seattle, smiling and singing.


The people were gentle, sweet, loving, filled with light and joy.  If the guys seemed a little “yin” to me, and the women just a little…bland?  No makeup, no “flirt” energy…oh well, that was fine. Maybe I was seeing something important, right?


We cleaned the kitchen, served and cooked food, and played vollyball. Great, great time.  And after, we had a feast.   I was so happy, felt at home, felt  my spiritual heart opening.  Everyone was talking about their plans for the week.  Someone asked me about my own life.


And I said that I was feeling great, and that on the way home, I was thinking of stopping to see a woman I knew, very attractive, and that I was feeling optimistic about the potential connection…


And the room went SILENT. Boom. Dead.  People gave me the side-eye and edged away from me.   WTF?


Slowly, the sound in the room picked back up again, but people weren’t talking to me. One of the seniors came up to me and asked if they could speak to me outside for a moment.  I said sure.


My stomach was filled with butterflies.  What was going on?   The guy looked embarrassed.  “Steve…” he said.  “Didn’t anyone tell you that Guru wants us to be celebate?”


If you had dropped me off a ladder onto my head, I couldn’t have seen more stars.  Oh CRAP!  THAT was the energy I’d been seeing.  And no, no one had said a thing to me, nor was it stated in any of the books or videos or lectures I’d seen and heard.  I instantly “got it”: these people, radiating a spiritual energy, were balanced in the male-female sense within themselves.   Heterosexual relationships are about creating that balance between two people. In THAT sense, from THAT perspective, the more balanced you are, the less energy there is for sexuality to release!


I was devastated.   Here was the greatest spiritual path I’d ever found, and it wasn’t for me. Why?  Because I am a sexual creature. That’s just the truth. And my attitude is that if God didn’t want me to have sex, he would simply take away my ability to physically respond, if you know what I mean and if you’re an adult I think you do.


Confused, disappointed, but just a critical bit enlightened, I realized that I had a challenge: to simultaneously open and deepen my spirituality AND stay connected to my sensual and sexual energy.


I had made a commitment to a journey (find love)

Along it I had learned I needed to grow (enhanced spirituality) to be an appropriate partner for the kind of woman I desired

I connected with my past spiritual path (driving to Seattle)

And discovered that it was no longer appropriate for me.


Was it ever?  I saw it was.  That there was a reason I’d not been told about the celibacy: because I needed something from it, a glimpse of something very special, which the Guru really did possess.   What I needed was to find that same energy while walking a path of loving connection to another human being.


I needed to find a new balance, something I’d never found. Something I wasn’t even totally certain existed.  But…others had found it.  I believed that with all my heart.


So it was out there.  And driving south that night, angry and frightened and more aware, I swore I would find that balance, a way to be centered in the divine without losing my fleshly hungers. There HAD to be a way for all those things to balance.


What seemed true was that I wasn’t going to be able to follow a clearly marked path.   My journey was MINE.  The masters had left clues, bread-crumbs, but no clear path for someone like me. And realized that  it was possible that this is just the way of life: if you are to live authentically, eventually you reach the end of the marked path, and must travel alone…for a while.


And with faith I proceeded, alone, and began to learn the lessons I seeked, and get the results I craved, until I was ready to emerge from the forest onto the path…where I found another soul who had been wandering, and we joined hands.


The road of trials.  You will have your own journey.  I can speak of mine.  And you can talk to others and get their perspective. But ultimately…you will walk alone, at least for a while.


Make your peace with that, and the rest is, if not easy, as natural as putting one foot ahead of the other.



Love yourself…and share the love!