My Break Up with a Multi-Millionaire (and the peril of his outrageous wealth)
Last year I found myself in a relationship with an extremely wealthy man. He calls himself an alpha-alpha male. Double alpha. Leader of leaders. And that’s the way it genuinely seems to him.
I came to see him very differently.
Money and power can attract many people who want to be a part of that world. For some, the experience of being associated will be more important than being completely honest and authentic. It can be a tall order for even the best of us to initiate difficult conversations to speak the truth, and even more so when it might jeopardise a connection of some privilege.
The more money someone has, the more opportunity there is to express the fullness of their nature — that’s equally the good and the bad of themselves. Habits, interests, personality quirks, desires etc.
To be surrounded only by those who agree and encourage can obviously be problematic.
Rich or poor, every human being has shadow aspects. Reflection on those shadows offers the opportunity for personal growth. Denial retards it and compounds disturbance. For those whose inclination is to put their heads in the sand, a lot of money can make that avoidance so much easier and the dangers are multiplied. Everything pleasurable can be indulged and everything uncomfortable can be more readily dismissed. This kind of false insulation from reality can radically derail personal evolution and maturity.
If you have no one in your circle who’s prepared to challenge and risk upsetting you with the truth, then you’ve established a precarious position for yourself. There’s all sorts of delusion you can buy into.
This man I was seeing has finished with his corporate life and he’s now interested in improving his health and raising his consciousness. It’s his new vocation. He collects people around him who are similarly engaged in self improvement. One of his commendable practices involves asking people to alert him when he’s slipping into particular bad habits that he’s focussed on improving.
Whenever we’re trying to change behaviour patterns it’s fantastic (and brave) to disclose our intentions to others and enlist their help in the process. Having others onboard can make us more alert, more accountable and can certainly transform us much more quickly. It’s so important to be willing to listen to the voices of opposition.
There are stages that we move through as we become more proficient at addressing personal weaknesses. Early on there can be a tendency to hide the things we don’t like in ourselves. Maybe we smoke in secret, or fly into a rage behind someone’s back, or lie about how much money we spend. We don’t like these traits so we attempt to keep them hidden as much as possible.
Maturing in our journey of uncovering the real truth of who we are, it gradually begins to feel safer to reveal ourselves to others. There is more relaxation around being seen in our vulnerabilities and being witnessed as we grow. With appreciation of being authentic and real, (rather than feeling compelled to appear good/acceptable/perfect) these uncomfortable aspects can become doorways to liberation, rather than secrets to be defended. Inviting assistance feels empowering rather than shameful.
We might disclose to a friend exactly how many cigarettes we’ve been smoking each day. We might tell our partner the real reason why the crockery was smashed. Or we might go to a meeting with a spenders anonymous group. The admission helps to begin untangling us from our crimes.
This process of revealing is a healthy way to progress when we’ve identified our shadow behaviours. This is the first level of acknowledgment — owning and disclosing those things we’ve recognised. The next level beyond that relates to the aspects we haven’t yet managed to fully identify in ourselves. Consciously dealing with these aspects requires a new measure of fortitude. This is the territory of failings or vulnerabilities that are somewhat hidden from us and that we haven’t yet allowed to fully permeate our consciousness.
This is the alcoholic who swears he’s just a social drinker, the bully who thinks she’s just forthright and ambitious, the celebrity who’s so practiced at acting that they have no idea anymore that they’re actually being fake with themselves.
These are the aspects we unconsciously hide from seeing fully. So, it can be quite an uncomfortable shock when someone brings the reality of these things to light for us. It can feel like instinctive self preservation to deny the accusation and shoot the messenger rather than confront distasteful parts of ourselves.
This is where the man I was with kept failing and this is exactly how he’d managed to convince himself that he was an alpha-alpha male.
He was proficient at the first level of seeing his shadow and enlisting help but he was impossibly challenged at allowing others to alert him to the behaviours he could not admit to. He was annihilating messengers left, right and centre. There was a trail of casualties behind him — people whom he had once had very close relationships with but who had called him to account on issues that he refused to look at. Anyone who stood up to him about unacceptable behaviour didn’t last long in his circle. He froze out anyone who might possibly challenge his authority so that he was consistently surrounded by yes people. Anyone who was close to him knew this and so, of course, they learned to modify their behaviour if they wanted to stick around. And because there were many interesting opportunities around this man of great wealth, there were many who decided it was better to bite their tongue than to rock the boat.
And so it is that people at the top like this can come to think that they are an alpha-alpha personality. With no challengers in sight it’s very easy to crown yourself king.
The Real Alpha-Alpha Male
If there is to be such a thing, then the alpha-alpha male is one who’s position can never be diminished — even when exposed in the most confronting personal challenge. In fact, his position of high regard is only further galvanised by the way he deals with the things that might be the undoing of another.
An alpha male (the regular, single alpha male) has many qualities that make him attractive to men and women alike. He has great presence, power and inspirational leadership qualities. He is purposeful and courageous, keeps his word, and invests wholeheartedly in his pursuits. He is capable, trustworthy and likable.
So the alpha male is a pretty impressive guy. His honour and integrity stand him out from the average man. If someone is to qualify for the double alpha status, well of course then that will require graduating to a whole other league of impressiveness beyond.
It’s a relatively simple qualifier though. Not necessarily easy, but quite simple. And it hinges on the capacity to demonstrate transparency in facing the parts of themselves that aren’t so amazing. For as much as these people have pride in who they are, they can also concede in a moment of crisis that they aren’t perfect.
The tendency for many of us when we find ourselves in a hot seat (of making a big mistake or being witnessed behaving badly) is to shut down, run away, shift the blame, get angry or defensive, or just hide out and ignore the situation until it blows over. The exposure of a deeply confronting predicament can be uncomfortable enough to bear on our own, let alone facing it amidst an audience.
But the true alpha-alpha, leader of leaders, acknowledges that they are fallible human beings and the next level impressiveness that they demonstrate is that they don’t hide their fallibility when it’s exposed. Certainly not from themselves, and they don’t pretend for a moment that they can hide it from others. Instead, they proceed with a disarming willingness to deal completely honestly and unreservedly with their failings. Even in the immediacy of it occurring. They allow their rawness to be witnessed amid the chaos rather than retreating until their internal storm has passed — wherever they are and with whoever has triggered it. They allow their process of recovering themselves to be seen. This is some of the most potent leadership there is.
They don’t pretend the issue isn’t theirs, they don’t repress the associated emotion, they don’t put on a brave face to hide their discomfort, they don’t leave the scene to resolve the issue in private.
They stay with the problem at hand, they own it, they stay with their feelings (whatever they are), they stay with the people who are present, they stay with the uncertainty of being out of control and not knowing the answer yet, they stay with themselves in that moment to allow the episode to run it’s course. They dig deep within themselves to face the discomfort and allow themselves to be transformed by their honesty with it.
This is next level power and authenticity. And it comes simply via a willingness, firstly to be real and secondly, to be witnessed in that realness.
This is a challenge for anyone, not only to those in places of power who feel they may lose their position if they reveal their weaknesses. But a true leader of leaders will inspire deeply via his ability to stand unflinchingly in the face of his own challenges. Through the potent power of vulnerable disclosure, his weaknesses can only ever make him stronger and he can never be defeated.
But we rarely find our shadows all on our own. We usually require engagement with others in order for them to come into sharp contrast. Some people are more willing than others to support this journey by bravely speaking uncomfortable truths. We must learn to covet those who are willing to lovingly disturb us by highlighting our blind spots.
Needless to say, this man and I didn’t last very long together. We value very different things in people. One of the things I prize most in relationships is our mutual capacity to support each other’s highest potential. There can be enormous growth that comes of course, from loving and affirming all that’s beautiful, but I expect that we also pay equal attention to confronting all the awfulness in one another whenever it emerges along the way. Because essentially the shadow depths that we’re prepared to dive to will ultimately determine our contrasting heights of brilliant success.
We must bravely dive deep into our darkness if we want to fly.
The best partnerships will assist in both directions.
Originally published at https://executivesoul.com.au on October 28, 2019.