Feb. 22, 2022

Ed S escaped from a cult in an effort to find himself and his tribe


If you have ever felt like you were on "the outside, looking in", you'll gain value from this episode, so stay tuned!  Ed shares life growing up as a Jehovah's Witness and how their rules kept him cut off from the outside world.  When he made the decision to leave the religion at age 27, he suddenly found himself alone, with no support system whatsoever.  With no sense of belonging and feeling very emotionally numb, Ed set out to find himself and his tribe.  A challenging and courageous 14 year journey into his deepest feelings and learning how to be vulnerable proved to be the vehicle that would allow him to find his tribe and a true sense of belonging.

Ed is the author of the Wealth Beyond Money blog.

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Transcript

Coach Maddox  0:03  
Ed S, welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. Hey, buddy, I am so glad to have you here.

Ed S  0:11  
Thank you, Maddox. Great to be here with you.

Coach Maddox  0:15  
So I want to just give the listeners a little bit of overview of how we know each other. How we became friends. So, Ed is probably one of my closest friends, and contributes to my life in ways that I can't even begin to express. In 2018, I started hosting social hours, monthly Social hours for gay men. And one of the guys that was coming to my events regularly invited as a guest. And that night, we met and there was just kind of this instant connection. We had coffee a few days later, and the rest is history. That was, yeah, probably. Well, I started that in 18. But we met in March of 19. So we're getting ready to celebrate our third year of third year anniversary of a friendship here in just a few weeks. So pretty pumped about that. So Ed is in the financial world, he kind of does some consulting, some coaching. He does some writing. And anything you'd like to add?

Ed S  1:33  
No, I, you know, I think it's great that we're remembering our friend anniversary. I think more friends should do that.

Coach Maddox  1:41  
You know? Absolutely. Yeah. Thanks for reminding me. So one of the coolest things that Ed and I do, and this was his idea was at some point back, I don't know, maybe a year or longer ago, he said, he travels. So sometimes he's in town, and sometimes he's out of town. And when he's in town, we see each other every weekend, like, every weekend, when he's out of town. He said, Would it be okay with you, if we like planned a, just a standing zoom every week when I'm out of town? I was like, oh my god, absolutely. So at 11am, every Sunday morning, when he is abroad, we jump on a zoom, and we spend an hour together and it's pretty much without fail. Now, if some one of us has something that comes up, we reach out and we adjust our time. But I we've rarely ever cancelled. Unless there was just something, you know, going on that we just couldn't be together. So it's it's been amazing and awesome.

Unknown Speaker  2:44  
So, Ed, tell me what it means to you to be an authentic gay man.

Ed S  2:54  
Well, authentic gay man. Well, you know,

Unknown Speaker  3:01  
it comes down to

Ed S  3:04  
being who you are, or being perceived, who you are on the outside, who you are on the inside, you know, with very little filter, very little of a behind the scenes. I guess I'm still trying to work out, you know, what that means for me. I guess, you know, it's something that we all do a little bit at, you know, discovering who we are and how we show up in the world.

Coach Maddox  3:37  
By next, that's what this is all about. Exactly.

Ed S  3:41  
And it's and it's, it's great to see role models, you know, people who you can identify it, when you see it, you know, it, you know, and sometimes it's, it's an it's important to have models in your life so that you can recognize it otherwise, I feel like sometimes we're a lot of us are wearing masks, and it's great to have that mask on, you know,

Coach Maddox  4:08  
it is great. It's very freeing, and I agree with you completely. When we see authenticity, we recognize it. And we also recognize it when it's not authenticity, if we're going to be honest with ourselves. So my question for you today, you're personally more personally than that is what is the biggest thing that you have had to overcome in your life, or perhaps are still in the process of overcoming and we've talked a little bit about this. So I know a little bit about where you're where you're probably going to go with this, but Today's a new day.

Ed S  4:51  
Right? Um, you know, I've done a lot of inner work and And I enjoy reading I enjoyed reading what, you know, people who are wise in this topic have to say.

Unknown Speaker  5:08  
And

Ed S  5:11  
I've identified two areas that I've really had to work hard at, mostly because I feel like I didn't get that kind of support when I was growing up. Nick, you know, definitely was always physically taking care of, you know, single family, mother, and always made sure that I had what I needed. generally sell felt safe. For the most part, I grew up in Long Island, New York, and had most of my safety and security needs met. But when it gets to, I'm using Maslow's hierarchy of needs to kind of guide me in what those needs are. But when it came to belonging, connection, and self esteem, that's kind of where I realized not too long ago that I had a shaky foundation, my foundation wasn't that that healthy. And really, it was by looking at other people and how they connect and how they belong, and how they seen themselves how they value themselves. And I started getting a sense of Wait a minute, I'm a little a little shaky here. Do you want me to go into further detail about the belonging thing? Or the?

Coach Maddox  6:28  
Yeah, no, no, you're this is, this is your story. So

Ed S  6:32  
alright. So part part of what I struggled with with longing was, I grew up in a minority in New York. So there's that element of it, I also grew up as a Jehovah's Witness as a part of a very religious community that were We were very, we were taught to separate and to stay with our, our community. And we really couldn't have relationships outside of that, I was looked down upon, it was, if someone saw you hanging out with somebody who was a Jehovah's Witness, you could be ratted on and questions, you know, your your integrity and your your devotion. So I grew up very separate, you know, of course, witnesses don't celebrate birthdays, don't celebrate Christmas, don't celebrate lots of the holiday. So that also kind of kept you separate from what everyone else was doing, you know, as as a as a child, everyone else would be celebrating Christmas and Halloween and Thanksgiving, and you'd be I oftentimes leave the classroom while everyone else was celebrating, to to not participate to stay true to my my beliefs. So there was always a sense of not belonging, you know, always being separate. And it was very difficult to connect with people who weren't part of the organization. Because we were constantly being taught that one day they would be destroyed, unless we help them unless we help them change their ways. So I created this very, this distance between people that you could never really relate to human to human. And then within my family, there was also some dynamics that contributed to not feeling like I completely belong. Like I said earlier, my mom was always very attentive, and very, making sure that I had my physical needs met, but also very busy as a single family as a single parent. In New York, as you can imagine, very expensive. But my sister had a lot of, I guess, envy, insecurity, because of her own life path. And always I realized this later, you know, I realized this much, much later, maybe just a few years ago, that there was always a sense of wanting to separate me from my mom because it threaten her somehow. So those three things contributed to my sense of not belonging, not connecting, and you don't really realize how that affects your relationships until you you realize the part that you're playing in that and how your own beliefs are informing forming, how you relate how you connect how you belong. I haven't talked about self esteem, but I think that's a good place to start. And if you want to jump in or

Unknown Speaker  9:43  
no, you're

Coach Maddox  9:43  
you're, you're doing great. I'm loving it. I mean, somewhere in there, I kind of want you to share a little bit about and I'm sure you'll get to this, you know, leaving the Jehovah's Witness faith and the repercussions of that because You've told me about how, as long as you were doing what was expected of you that it was a very loving and, and welcoming and supportive community. You know, once again, as long as you were doing what you were told to do, and how quickly that changes when you stray away from the teachings, because I think that's an integral part, you know, you you've, as you shared with me, you, you went out into the world, when you left the witnesses, and it was a rude awakening, you know, you you found something very different than what you were used to. And that's been probably a big part of the things you've had to overcome. And I've gotten to be a part of that journey, and the three years that we have been friends, and it's been an amazing journey to support you on and to watch you go through. And just blessed to be a witness to that. Yeah,

Ed S  11:05  
yeah, thanks for reminding me. I mean, it's been such a long journey. But with the the witnesses, one of their key teachings is if you don't follow the rules, they have this practice called disfellowshipping. Or, you know, it's commonly known and the other Christian religious says excommunicating. So essentially, if you are, if you admit, and don't repent, from one of the sins or you know, something that they don't allow, then the head the, the fathers of the help, the elders in the congregation, will make an announcement that you have been disfellowshipped, and everyone in the congregation is not allowed to talk to you. And what's what's so powerful about that is that you've been taught to not have relationships outside of the witnesses. And if you break any one of the Jehovah's Witness rules, then you can be disfellowshipped if you don't repent, and no one, so your whole social support network is cut off. Which is a terrifying thing. You know, I don't know how many people out there would be comfortable. Having everybody stopped talking to them. I have friends who just recently have gone through this process, and their whole family, seven brothers, you know, a parents stop talking to them. It's like you are worse than a criminal, you're dead to them, suddenly, you're dead to them, your social, the people that matter the most to you are no longer part of your life. And so you have that challenge. That emotional trauma, and how do you even begin to language that to other people, you know, without really understanding that I think the best phrase I've heard from another witness was, you know, it's the weaponization of relationships, you realize your relationships are weaponized against you. And you're isolated. And then you, you leave that protective bubble, that the safety of that hurt, wounded, and you go out into the world of non witnesses. And you, you realize that there's a lot of apathy, there's a lot of broken relationships, there's a lot of loneliness. And so it's, it's a very difficult place to be when you lost your your, your sense of community, and then you go out into the big world, and, you know, you're just one of many people, and you don't really have the skills to relate to people, you know, you've kind of you know, luckily I grew up in a in a, in a Jehovah's Witness home that allowed me to go to public schools. So I had a little bit of, you know, way of relating, but I was still, you know, I didn't have the high school prom experience. I didn't have birthday experiences, I didn't have getting drunk experiences. I didn't have the trying, you know, drug experience. I didn't have the the sexual experiences I was brand new at age 27. And

Coach Maddox  14:19  
2027 is when you left the witnesses and correct me if I'm wrong, I've known other witnesses that have literally worded it that they planned their escape from the witnesses. And it seems like to me I've heard you speak of that and using that language that you literally you didn't get disfellowshipped you chose to leave and it was literally something you had to plan to to escape.

Ed S  14:49  
Yes. 100% You know, if you if you go the the route of letting people know that you no longer want to be involved with the organization, you write a letter and you officially renounce then you know, then oftentimes that can be made into grounds for no one to talk with you, including your family. So I chose to quietly leave disappear from the organization so that my family could still talk with me and not have that rule to deal with. To this day, I'm still called, texted by elders in the congregation that I was last involved with, you know, encouraging me to become involved and go to the meetings, the frequency has become less. But it kind of feels like you have someone after you your whole life.

Coach Maddox  15:52  
Oh, yeah. Because now that's been what, 13, nearly 14 years ago, that you left and you're still receiving things from them trying to pull you back into the faith.

Ed S  16:06  
Yes, exactly. Exactly. And you literally have to plan your escape. I was in New York, when all this was happening. I I wouldn't say it was intentional this way. But I will say that part of the reason why I left New York was to just be away from all of that, just to start fresh. I moved to Texas. I moved to Texas to be gay. And it's kind of ironic, but, but that's how I found freedom because I was in a very conservative, very intolerant community.

Coach Maddox  16:38  
Well, and I would love for you to share more about how all of that that upbringing, the escape, all of that has played a role in you being part of the gay community and how that's either worked or not worked. So well, how it's been challenging how it's been, you know, what, whatever, whatever you got there.

Ed S  17:02  
Okay. Yeah,

Coach Maddox  17:03  
I think our listeners would be most interested in, you know, hearing that because there are other faiths out there that are equally as strict probably as Jehovah's Witnesses and why it's a high percentage of gay men have a part of their process has been working through the, you know, the whole religious thing, and how do you how do you reconcile God and gay? In other words?

Ed S  17:34  
Yeah, I get, you know, come no surprise to your listeners, that the main catalyst for me to leave Jehovah's Witnesses was having to deal with my sexuality and, and having struggled for many, many years to, you know, to put in both pray the gay away, and have getting no results. So, you know, I tried from, you know, big age, when you realize you may have an attraction for men, to the age of 27, trying to resolve that and disown that part of myself. And, you know, that part of the challenge is you're unable to freely express who you are, because you fear that the people around you, the witnesses around you are going to turn you into the elders and, you know, accuse you of being gay. And then even if, you know, like, they say, Hey, hate the sinner, Hate the sin, not the sinner. Even if you never participate in any gay activities. There's always this little, you know, this, this is black mark on you that, oh, you know, this person is a little shaky, this person's a little, you know, untrustworthy, there's just a little sign that you're not really accepted. What I found really hard with, with being gay and having family that still Jehovah's Witness is, you know, when I had my first breakup, they weren't really in a position to support me emotionally. They, they did, they couldn't really understand or sympathize with me, you know, if anything, I felt zero support from them. Because it just wasn't inside of their their way of thinking, you know, it's like, it's almost like it's a good thing. It's like good riddance. Have you now learned your lesson, you know, is kind of the mentality. So it's, it's very different, you know, what's the word discouraging when you realize that the family that you you hold so high can't be there for you emotionally when you need it the most, you know,

Coach Maddox  19:56  
oh, I I'd love to hear a little bit on it. If you're willing, on a little bit deeper level, how did how did that feel? How did you experience that? When you went through that breakup and, and your family took on the attitude more of good riddance? Didn't you learn your lesson, then then being supportive of you? What, how did that affect you on an internal level?

Ed S  20:20  
You know, Maddix, there's a lot of numbing. That happens from a very early age, a lot of numbing where you don't, don't really practice self expression. You have to kind of almost be perky as a Jehovah's Witness. And you lose touch with a lot of your feelings. When it when my family when I was going through this breakup, my first breakup and family didn't really respond in a way that you that my body was, was was asking, right, a hug, or, or some kind of comfort of sorts. It's almost like my, my mind was saying, this is what you always, this is, this has always been the case. It's never really, it's just an awareness of like, wow, this is an area of my life where there's no support from family. Luckily, I did have some friends who I could share with and receive that comfort. But it just felt very abandoned very, and I think my go to strategy has been to just numb and just not get in touch with those feelings. It's just been something I practice from a very early age.

Coach Maddox  21:48  
Yeah, and I'm sure you're not alone, in that I'm sure we've got a percentage of listeners right now that are really relating to what you're saying, because so many of us, for whatever reason, some of them religious reasons, some of them for other reasons, we're, you know, abandoned by, by family, by friends, by by churches, by schools, just a variety of places where the rug was suddenly yanked out from underneath us. So tell me a little bit about

Unknown Speaker  22:23  
how you've navigated that. Because,

Coach Maddox  22:27  
you know, that hasn't been all that long ago, you're talking about 13 or 14 years, which, you know, is a blip on the radar, when, when time comes, how have you? Well, I guess maybe we you kind of shared where you where you started, what you were up against the challenge? Where are you in that journey to the other side, journey through it?

Unknown Speaker  22:57  
You know, one of the

Ed S  23:02  
one of the things that helped me realize is that, you know, we have conscious beliefs, and we have unconscious beliefs. You know, conscious beliefs are the things that if I were to, you know, if I asked you, you know, are you conservative, are you liberal? Are you, you know, do you like chocolate, like vanilla, you can rattle off the answers pretty quickly, because you haven't, you know, you're conscious of what you like, or what you believe, or what your which, which puts you stand for the harder ones or the unconscious beliefs. And, you know, I've I've done lots of therapy at the month of psychedelics, I even met up with a hypnotherapist who really helped me understand the power that unconscious beliefs can have on you. And I realized through that process, that I had a lot of unhelpful, unconscious beliefs around relationships a lot, because of where I'd come from, because of family because of the religious upbringing because of the separation of belonging, a lot of you know, places where my relationship beliefs weren't helpful. And so I started really studying relationships, you know, looking at people who have healthy relationships, reading books, on relationships, and looking at the relationships in my life, and getting in touch with for the first time, my feelings about that relationship. You know, and I found it quite simple. You know, one of my good girlfriends said that, you know, after she spent some time with with with a friend, she'll check in with herself and and be like, Well, how was that? You know, did you enjoy that? You know, what was how did you feel about that, that exchange? And I found that incredibly helpful to step back and look at well, you know, here's how You know, me and my friend have related, I left feeling happy, I left feeling lifted, I left feeling, you know, happy, joyful, playful, whatever the word is. And if that's the case, I invite more of that in my life. But if I leave a relationship, feeling sad, questioning my self worth, upset, you know, drained, then that it's a relationship that I don't really want to, you know, spend time on, you know, and that's been a very helpful way to just check in with myself, how am I feeling when I relate to somebody and then assess and then make an adjustment. And that's, that's where, you know, as you mentioned, when we first started recording, connecting with you on a regular weekly basis, is because of that, you know, it's because of, when you when you relate, when we relate, specifically, I feel lifted. I've mentioned this many, many times. You know, I feel uplifted, I feel inspired, I feel I feel nourished and refreshed. So I make more time for that. And well,

Coach Maddox  26:14  
and I do too, I just want to throw throw that in for the listener, I do too. I love our weekly meetings, whether they be in person or over zoom. And so yes, I always walk away feeling lifted, feeling seeing, feeling heard. So you and I have had a lot of conversations, you know, when we first met, I would say that you were up in your head a lot. Pretty, pretty cerebral. Not you, you still were experiencing, I think a pretty fair amount of numbness. And we've had a lot of conversations in the three year friendship about this, because it's been part of my journey as well to dip down and to more fully feel the feelings. And you know, it's not just about feeling the feelings. A second part of that is to be willing to express those feelings, express those emotions outwardly being putting ourselves in a place of vulnerability, and we've had a lot of conversations about that, I'd love for you to talk a bit bit about that portion of, of the journey and what that what it's been like and, and, and how you've gained value from coming somewhat, not saying beating your head is a bad thing. You know, we don't ever want to let our head make all of our decisions, we don't want our heart to make all of our decisions, either the beauty and the best decisions come from, I believe, the integration of the two, the marriage of the two, when we bring our heart and our head together, we make our best decisions. So yeah, I'll just let you share a little bit about that portion of your journey.

Ed S  28:00  
Yeah, it's a work in progress. You know, we're talking about almost three decades of numbness and not checking in with your feelings and you know, conversations with you and getting in touch with with those feelings. Creating a space for that

you know, we talk a lot about you know, there's, there's, we talk about happiness in our culture, I'll be happy, joyful, and it's kind of this rah, rah, you know, everyone be happy. Don't be sad, you know, don't show emotions. So it's a cultural thing, too. It's not just my personal situation,

Coach Maddox  28:42  
it's now being called toxic positivity.

Ed S  28:46  
positivity. That's, that's probably a good way to put it. Yeah, toxic positivity. Whereas other emotions, like sadness, for instance, is as you don't see it, you know, you may be on TV, you know, maybe on movies, but you don't like in your relationships, how often do you see sadness, maybe the loss of a loved one or, you know, something tragic happens, but other than that, you don't really see sadness too frequently. So, you know, that's something that I've struggled to, to be more open about expressing. And I know, You've encouraged me, I have other friends who have encouraged me to be in touch with my sadness. Now, there's health reasons for it. And I have I have had some opportunities to practice, you know, put on a sad song, just to kind of elicit, you know, to kind of bring up those sad feelings. And claim that part of me as well. You know, it's not just the happy, happy ad or, you know, or, but there's also sad ad, and there's also angry ad, you know,

Coach Maddox  29:56  
I think it's important to acknowledge that sadness and anger are not our enemy. None of our feelings are our enemies. Feelings aren't good or bad feelings just are. We're the ones that put labels on him have good or bad feelings just are and they deserve to be acknowledged, they have their place, they, they deserve to have their own life.

Ed S  30:26  
Yeah, you know, we've talked a lot about babies and children, you know, they'll express sadness a lot more often. At some point, that kind of stops, you know, maybe because of being called names? Well,

Coach Maddox  30:43  
I think as children, when we come into the world, I've really given this a lot of thought, we come into the world being fully authentic. And then we go through a variety of experiences. And we get all kinds of external messages, that literally over a period of time, by the time we're 789 years old, we are completely cut off from our authenticity.

Unknown Speaker  31:10  
But we come into the world, pure, authentic, pure,

Coach Maddox  31:16  
then we basically I get beaten out of us. And then we have this, this period of time where we spend out of authenticity. And it's, and there's something about it that's not comfortable, and it doesn't really work for us, we can't put our finger on it, and then we begin to spend, when we do start to see the light, then we spent a good portion of our life trying to rediscover that part of ourselves that we were cut off from his children, there's this big gap in the middle of where we friggin lose ourselves. And it's pretty universal.

Ed S  31:56  
You know, something that I think in family is where you first learn, you know, you might, you might have a father, or sibling or somebody who doesn't allow you to really express your emotions. And that's where it first starts, like you're saying, six or seven years old. And then it depends on what relationship choices you make. When you're older, you know, you know, in your teenage years, you're so focused on being accepted and being liked that you'll do just about anything to, to fit in, not authentic. It's completely about what the crowd wants. And then we carry some of those relationship patterns into our older years. And really, I find that having relationships that encourage authenticity, having relationships that allow you to be authentic, makes all the difference in the world makes all the difference in the world. Because if you have one or two friends that encourage the authenticity, why don't you have friends that allow your authenticity, then when someone comes along in your relationships, who doesn't allow that you you're like, Whoa, hold up, something happened here. You know? You have, you know, any

Coach Maddox  33:10  
reference?

Ed S  33:11  
Yeah, you have a red flag that goes up that says, Wait a minute, you know, why? Why am I being boxed in here by in this really? Like, what's that about? And then of course you can you can explore that with the person you can, I don't know, there's all sorts of things you do. But that awareness is so important. And I think it for me, it highlights the importance of having relationships that allow you to be authentic, and in especially if we come from a place where you weren't allowed to be authentic. It's it's it's safety. You know, it's it's relationship safety. Yeah.

Coach Maddox  33:52  
No, it's so amazing how subtle suddenly it happens. how subtle the messages are, most of the time that that cut us off from that authenticity. But we don't even realize it's happening until one day there's just a part of us that's completely missing an action. I can recall. I was raised in a very affectionate family. I say that. Yeah. Yeah, it was a pretty affectionate family. But I'm seeing some subtle nuances in there now. But you know, every night at bedtime, I would go in and hug mommy and daddy Good night hug and kiss mommy daddy and say good night. And I can remember I can't remember exactly how old I was. It must have been five, six, maybe seven. I went in one night. And my father informed me that I was no longer to kiss her hug him that I was too old for that. I can still kiss and hug mommy. But I couldn't kiss and hug daddy. Because I was too old for that. Now later in life, I asked him about that and he had no memory of that. But I had a very clear memory of that, because I always had kissed him at that time. And suddenly, I got told that was not appropriate any longer.

Unknown Speaker  35:09  
That hurt.

Coach Maddox  35:15  
And that cut me off from a part of my authenticity, man, somewhere in my, I would have to say maybe mid 40s. One day when I was visiting my dad and getting ready to leave, may have been even later than that. Because because it was after my mom passed. So it was even later than that, it was probably I was closer to probably upper 40s or close to 50 I was getting ready to leave. And I grabbed him and gave him a hug. And his whole body tensed up, like, you know, like, he didn't say anything. And I just kept doing it. Every time I parted from him, I would hug him. And over a period of time he stopped tensing up. And then he got to where he would hug me back. And he was a short man, he was only five, nine, and I'm six foot four. So when we would hug his head would be right way down here around my collarbone, you know, and he got to where he would turn and kiss me on the neck. But it was a slow boat to China. It took a while for that to happen. But it was amazing to me how he succumbed to that, and then learned to really appreciate it, I knew that he really appreciated when he started kissing me on the neck. But look at the distance from the time I was five until I was nearly 50, before I reclaimed that piece of that authentic piece of myself where I could actually hug my dad again.

Ed S  36:50  
You know, you it sounds to me, like, you know, as a child, you were expressing your affection. And then that expression of yourself wasn't, wasn't allowed for for many, many decades for your father at least. And but that's that that's exactly those are the little moments that what a massive, you know, yeah, 40 years of that being shut in, a not allowed. And,

Coach Maddox  37:25  
you know, and we get this in so many different ways, you know, boys don't cry. I mean, there's just so many ways where we get cut off from our authenticity. You know, studies now show that the the emotional aspect of men and women are almost identical. In fact, some of the studies have shown that there is a slight margin where men actually have a capacity and propensity to be a little bit more emotional than women do. Which was fascinating to me, I just came across this recently.

Unknown Speaker  38:00  
And yet,

Coach Maddox  38:01  
that's not what's happening in our everyday society. It's not what's supported. And we wonder, you know, why the, the homicide rate is so high, and that's and the vast majority of us homicide is committed by men.

Ed S  38:23  
This

Coach Maddox  38:24  
authenticity and vulnerability piece plays a role in our overall health and well being. And yet we spend a good portion of our lives completely cut off from it. You know,

Ed S  38:37  
Maddox, and a big piece of that, like I was saying earlier with the relationships is taking an inventory of the relationships in your life. And, you know, who are the ones that allow you to express yourself freely and support you, and who are the ones who put these limitations on you. And get very clear, and sometimes it's a very hard decision, I've had to have some pretty hard boundaries with my, my, some of my family members because of that, because I realized that I can't express myself authentically with them. And so I've had to limit my time with them and allow more time for people who can because it's a part of me that I'm no longer willing to, to now, you know, it's a part of me that I'm no longer willing to shut up about. If someone isn't willing to hear you and allow you to be self expressed, then you know, that person may not be the right fit for you. You know, this, you can have a discussion, you can bring it up, you know, you can do all these sorts of things in the meantime, to see if it's worth rescuing. But sometimes people aren't willing to change or you can set a heart and we've talked about this about saying, Well, you know, this is what I like to do and if you're not okay with that, then we're gonna have to you know, find a different way to relate, you know,

Coach Maddox  40:02  
those, those people usually become part of my acquaintance list rather than my inner circle. You know, there's nothing, they are where they are, and I can respect that. And at the same time, I'm not going to invest a lot of my time and energy in that, because it's not going to be fulfilling to me. You know, I'm feeling compelled to share and you and I've had a little bit of conversation about this, I didn't get the messages growing up that boys don't cry, not from my mom and dad. Now I got it from the outside world, son, but I didn't get it. In fact, I had an experience where my my dad was very supportive. I was probably maybe I was in a sec, fourth grade. And I'll say that story for another time. But I didn't get those strong messages. And I've been a pretty emotional man, most of my life, I cry very easily. I'm very at peace with that and comfortable with that. And over the last year or so I have been more expressive of that with the people that I trust you being one of them. I have a handful of men, both straight and gay, that I have allowed myself to be very vulnerable and emotional in their presence. And one of the things that I have said to you, and I've said that some of the others, I'm an empath, you know, I feel other people's feelings.

Unknown Speaker  41:30  
And I said to you one day, you know, when every time I cry, in your presence, you cry,

Coach Maddox  41:41  
you may not cry on the outside, where I see tears coming down your cheeks, but you're crying on the inside, because I can feel it. And I asked you, is that true? And you said, Yes. And I have since then ask other minutes straight and gay. You know, I'm an empath. Every time I cry in your presence, you cry, and they have validated as you did each of them have said, Yes. They're not quite where they can express it outwardly. But yes, they are crying on the inside. And this lets me know, it's been across the board. Now, I'm not talking about a long list, but I am talking about a variety of different ages and different sexual orientations, all identify as men. And each one of them has said yes, when you cry, I cry, I may not show it. But yes, I cry when I see you cry. And that tells it's very telling.

Unknown Speaker  42:39  
We all have this inside of us.

Ed S  42:41  
And you know, seeing crying in a, in a, in a setting, you know, outside of the loss of, you know, out of funeral, you know, kind of like the settings where you expect that kind of thing. Like and just in relating it, it sends the message that it's okay. You know, that it's it's a human thing. If anything, it brings people closer, you know,

Coach Maddox  43:08  
you're absolutely you know, and and another thing to speak to is you said outside of loss or a funeral. See, this indicates to me that we largely equate tears with sadness. Well, I can't speak for anybody else.

Unknown Speaker  43:24  
But I can say

Coach Maddox  43:28  
the vast majority of the times when I'm crying is not sadness. Now, is there occasionally when I cry for sadness? Yes. When my mother died, did I cry from sadness? Yes. When my father died, did I cry from sadness when my best friend died five years ago? Did I cry from sadness? Yes. And have there been times in between, but it's usually the exception rather than the rule. More, more. Most of the time, when I cry, tears roll down my face. And sometimes I actually boohoo it is when something has touched me so deeply, somebody has said something to me, it's touched me so deeply. I've overheard something or witnessed something that has touched me so deeply. And I, I, my, my everything about my being wants to honor that with tears.

Unknown Speaker  44:32  
And I

Coach Maddox  44:33  
love that, actually, that part of myself. I absolutely embrace and love that part of myself.

Unknown Speaker  44:39  
You know, you know,

Ed S  44:42  
part of being human is our, our interest in sex. And, you know, it's, there's, you know, the orgasm is part of part of part of that appeal. But, you know, you've been watching you and Thinking about this, you know, you can also have a heart gasm

Coach Maddox  45:04  
you know, I don't know that I would have ever thought of it like that. And but honestly, oh God now that you call it out, it's it's like those tears are there is a release and and this intense thing that happens inside of my body when I cry that is the emotional equivalent of the physical experience of an orgasm. Yes. Wow, what a connect the dots. What an amazing thing.

Ed S  45:38  
I don't think I've shared this with you until now. But it is, as a result of us having these conversations and thinking about sadness and crying and hard and you know, energy. It's like, for me, it's like, oh, wow, it's like a hard gas man. And my question to myself was how many you know how many heart chasms might have a? You know what I mean? Like, what does that look like? For me? And it's a beautiful thing. You know, what, when you're inspired by, by art, by a movie by a kind gesture, by gift by thoughtful words, by, you know, these are the things that that kind of leads that I don't think we're pursuing that as often as maybe sexual, you know?

Coach Maddox  46:22  
You make a beautiful point. I mean, now, I probably, you know, I'm at a point in life where I'm, I'm so open to the whole heart gasm as you're calling it, that I'm having probably more heart Gazans than I am orgasms. Yeah, you got to get it anyway. You can't I guess, you know, the other thing that bears saying is, I read I listen, I'm always studying something. And there is a study now that has validated they they have the science has tested tears and found out that tears have a pretty strong component of cortisol in them. Tears are a way that are, you know, for those of you don't know, quarter Zoll is that hormone that our body injects into our bloodstream in that fight or flight moment when we've been triggered when we're upset about something when something's going on that's kind of pushing us near our over the edge cortisol just dumps into our bloodstream. And it's, it's a necessary hormone. But we live in a society now where cortisol is being dumped into our, our bloodstream, way too frequent too much, which can lead to a host of heart disease and many, many other physical illnesses and ailments. We have to have a way to process and purge that cortisol and they've discovered that absolutely. Tears is one of the ways that our bodies purge that unnecessary or unused cortisol.

Ed S  48:03  
And it makes sense. Because when you cry for whatever the reason that you feel like, I know I do this, you feel you're energetically different. You know what, when you cry, you feel clean. I don't know how to explain it. But that might be it, you know?

Coach Maddox  48:20  
So what do you think it is that is holding you back from that outward expression of tears and crying because because I know when you're crying on the inside, and I've seen you get maybe a little bit chokey a couple of times, but I've not yet actually seen you cry. I'm waiting for that, you know, because that's something I really want to experience as a close friend, I want to I want to experience that with you. And I'm patiently waiting. But because to me, I and I'm not talking about this on any kind of weird sexual thing, but I'm a sucker for a man that can cry. I don't care whether he's strike gay, I don't care if he's old, young, I don't care. I don't. I'm a sucker for a man that can cry. It draws me in like a moth to flame I want to come and sit right next to you. Because in that moment, I really feel this deep sense of, of connection and brotherhood. So back to my original question, what do you think is the thing that's kind of holding you up from that outward expression?

Ed S  49:27  
You know, we're gonna we're gonna go a little deeper here, huh? Well, you know, we talked about some of this, and I was reading a book about dopamine and it was talking about having a dopamine reset. And, you know, I like to, to smoke some weed in the evening to go to sleep. And I noticed that it, it, it kind of reduces my feelings. It's It kind of numbs to be honest with you. So I stopped doing it for a little bit. And I did notice that I was able to tap More into sadness, my range of expression was a little bit greater. So I'm putting that out there because I don't know you know how that may maybe your other listeners may be relating to this but I sometimes wonder if not just things like like weed but alcohol or other drugs are used to kind of disconnect from those things.

Coach Maddox  50:39  
You know, with with pot, they science has said for some time now that pot is not addictive. Now, what they're talking about is a chemical addiction, a subset of substance of addiction. But we also know now that you can become emotionally addicted to anything, way beyond substances, you can be emotionally addicted to shopping, or gambling or sex or work or working out at the gym or you name it, you can you know, my personal favorites always been shopping when when I need to, like avoid some type of uncomfortable feelings. I just got my by myself something pretty. And and then there's been times not so much in the latter part of my life, but at a younger time when I also used sex addictively to avoid the uncomfortable feelings. And it's, it's a real thing. So so we're not here to bash pot or to bash any of that stuff, everything in moderation. But yes, I'm with you. I do think that many of those things, substances, or even some of the non substance, things can numb us to what's going on inside of us can can help us avoid or trash compact those feelings back down, which we also know is a recipe for physical health disaster. You know, trash compacting our feelings is never a healthy thing.

Ed S  52:16  
So you know, so I've started as part of my, my daily meditation, to practice emotions and energies that I want to have more of in my life and, and to be honest with you, I'm not including sadnesses of that, which is something that I probably could, could include, you know, and it's not something to to avoid, it's something that can be incorporated, that can make you feel more whole. And I will tell you this, when I have gone on my, on my, on my abstinence on my fasts, there definitely is. There's a kind of intimacy with yourself. You know, there's a kind of like, you're, yeah, there's something not between you and your most vulnerable side, you know, you're connected to your most intimate self. And that's a nice thing. And I can see how that can help you improve the intimacy with your relationships, you know, they kind of go together.

Coach Maddox  53:17  
Oh, absolutely. And it is a nice thing. And for a lot of people, it's scary as shit, to think about that intimacy with self. That's not an easy, you know, once you once you taste it, and realize it's nothing to fear, that does become a very good thing. But until you have literally tasted it and find out there's nothing to fear, it's scary, scary, scary. I'm glad to hear that you are spending more time doing that. And that makes me happy puts a smile on my face

anything else to add about you know, what you think is kind of preventing you from from that outward expression?

Unknown Speaker  54:13  
Um yeah,

Ed S  54:17  
you know, thinking about it. I know that in my family. My grandma, my mom's mom passed away. My mom, obviously, she was sad, but she also wasn't able to. She wasn't able to express tears in her eyes became read. And I remember asking your mom, your eyes read, say I can't cry. And as we're, as we're speaking about this, I'm remembering her going through the loss of her mother, and how difficult it was for her and I went, wow, you know, that's the example I've been given my entire life. You know, not that the emotion isn't there. But that's been the example I've had My entire life,

Coach Maddox  55:01  
right? We know the emotions there. It's just letting it come up and come out. Yeah, you've had a lifetime that's been modeled to you. In probably the faith you were in, you probably didn't see anybody get emotional or even that was probably not a safe space wasn't created for that. You haven't? I mean, I'm beginning to think maybe I've been one of your only models to really see that. And, and just so the listeners know, you know, a lot. And I'll ask you rather than me saying, but how many times in the three years that we've known each other? Have you? If you had to take a wild guess how many times have you seen me cry? Not in Word cry, but outward cry tears, like cry? How many times

Ed S  55:52  
have close to a dozen? I'd say at least more?

Unknown Speaker  55:56  
Yeah. Yeah. So I keep you know,

Coach Maddox  56:03  
exampling and giving permission. You know, I was on a on a zoom call with somebody recently, and I got all choked up. And I said, Excuse me, I'm having a, I'm having a moment. And he smiled really big. And he said, I've never been in conversation with you that you didn't have a moment. Any just any said, and it's what makes you beautiful. He every time we had been in a conversation, I had, like, shown emotion. And I mean, I realized I'm kind of the oxymoron. And I haven't always been able to do this, especially around the gay men. You know, this was something that I could do around my female friends. Because they're like that, but it's only been in the last couple of years. Well, in the time you've known me is where this is all I've been able to actually lower my guard and be vulnerable. With gay men. I mean, that's a part of my journey that has played a gigantic role in my decision, and my inspiration to do this podcast. Because my, my willingness to finally let down my guard and be vulnerable with other gay men has changed my life in ways that I can't even begin to express with any kind of accuracy or do it justice.

Ed S  57:31  
You know, I'm thinking, as we're speaking about this, you know, we talked about sadness and vulnerability and authenticity, and, you know, kind of allowing your heart allowing yourself to feel your heart. You know, sadness is really a guess a common way of that being shown that your heart your heart is being moved? I would say and, you know, I'm curious what you think, you know, it's really being willing to be moved by your heart that, that we're talking about, you know, it's like, are you willing to be inspired or willing to be moved? Are you willing to be yeah, there's that energy thing that comes from this energy center? And are you willing to allow that to happen in your life, you know, and whatever way that looks. You know, I'm just kind of starting that awareness with myself is one of the moments in my life where I'm allowing my heart to feel loved to feel sadness to. I don't know, I it's not well formed. But But there's something there that I want to make, I don't know, maybe see what you think about

Coach Maddox  58:49  
as, as men we have been given messages throughout our life that showing vulnerability is a weakness. And I have been on both sides of that. And now a pretty substantial amount of both sides that and that, that I can speak very clearly knowledgeably and say that nothing could be farther from the truth. That it is not weakness to be emotional. In fact, it is absolutely the opposite. In a world that has told us that it's not okay to be emotional. It's not okay to be vulnerable. to actually do that takes an insane amount of strength and

Unknown Speaker  59:32  
courage.

Coach Maddox  59:36  
I want to say that again, in a world that does not foster or promote men being emotional or vulnerable. It takes a shitload of strength encouraged actually do that. So when somebody says, you know, weakness, I just scoff at that. No, you know, in my experience, the more vulnerable I become the stronger and more powerful Powerful and, and more courageous. I become, and nobody could ever convince me otherwise, that's my story and I'm sticking to it

Unknown Speaker  1:00:13  
good stuff. Good stuff. Well, do you

Coach Maddox  1:00:20  
have anything else you'd like to add about your your journey? Or have we come full circle? I've loved every moment of this.

Ed S  1:00:29  
Thank you, man. Same here. Oh, I feel uplifted. You know, like what we said to you feels like church without the baggage. It's all the good side of church.

Coach Maddox  1:00:40  
Yeah, the good stuff without all of the thou shalt nots.

Ed S  1:00:46  
Exactly. I just wanted to add, you know, if, if you have, you know, any listeners that come from a background of like, you know, religious abuse family cutting you off? You know, yeah, that really, you know, there are people out there who had been through a similar experience, it may not be something that a lot of people can understand. Because not everyone comes from that background. But there are people out there who understand and can really sympathize. And I really made it a point to connect with people like that in my life. And it's very healing, to realize you're not alone. And that there are people there who can accept you, who are incredibly loving, who allow you to express your vulnerability who can comfort you that can provide a safe space. In Yeah, and this is why, you know, I, I've enjoyed watching this journey, the podcast, because that's what this is, you know, it's a space for that. So I just want to make sure that the people who've gone through that experience know that there are others of us out there. And you know, nothing like connecting to to help heal, you know, so

Coach Maddox  1:02:03  
there are others of us and we are seeking you out. If you're willing to go there with us. We are seeking you out. Beautiful, beautiful,

Unknown Speaker  1:02:10  
I love it.

Coach Maddox  1:02:12  
So it is time for the rapid fire questions. Are you ready? I'm ready. Some rapid fire answers. If you only had a moment to live, and you knew right now, you only had a moment to live what would be your greatest regret

Ed S  1:02:40  
loving not as often as I as I could be limited love. Beautiful.

Coach Maddox  1:02:49  
At the end of your life when you're about to take your last breath. What is the feeling that you most want to feel as you look back on your life?

Unknown Speaker  1:03:04  
What is it feeling?

Ed S  1:03:12  
Just hope you know what like when you look at a masterpiece of work of art that's just beautiful that moves you to have that feeling about your life, you know, to just you don't have the need. You don't have to look at a piece of art to feel that but you look at your experiences and the people and everything that you've done. And that's the feeling you get inside of you like that feeling I would like

Coach Maddox  1:03:37  
so beauty and gratitude. Is that what I'm hearing gratitude? Yeah, beautiful. And last question. What is your superpower?

Unknown Speaker  1:03:54  
Guess

Ed S  1:03:58  
the power, resourcefulness, being resourceful you know, you get lemons make lemonade, you know.

Unknown Speaker  1:04:07  
Got it. Love it. Well,

Coach Maddox  1:04:10  
yeah, this has been awesome. I know it has been for me and I hope it will have been for our listeners as well and for you. It's been a beautiful thing to have you as a guest. I can't thank you enough. And I want to leave you with one thing. And that is I want you to hear that you are indeed

Unknown Speaker  1:04:32  
an authentic gay man.

Ed S  1:04:34  
Thank you medics. Loving my friend. I love you too.


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Ed S

Author at Wealth Beyond Money

I work with established business owners and busy professionals interested in growing their wealth beyond money.