I had the unique opportunity to ask Dr. Herb Goldberg, a renowned author and psychologist, some heart-opening and mind-expanding questions about his new book, What Men Still Don’t Know About Women, Relationships, And Love. The 32 questions ranged all the way from what to tell teens about money, to what it was like to be on the Oprah and Phil Donahue shows, to how his adult daughter relates to his work, to stupid things we men and women continue to do to one another. In short, what stands in the way of good communication between men and women….My warmest thanks to Herb for taking time to respond to these 32 freewheeling questions about What Men Still Don’t Know About Women, Relationships, And Love. This is a rare opportunity to look inside the mind of a gifted and humane psychologist who has changed the way we all think about the “gender undertow.”
INTERVIEW WITH DR. HERB GOLDBERG
Dr. Dennis O’Grady: Dr. Goldberg, it’s awfully nice of you to take the time to answer these questions. Thanks for helping all of us “see” a better way for men and women to communicate. In the seventies, the reading public was profoundly impacted by your work on men and aggression, so I knew readers today would like to hear your insights into these 32 talking points for men and women that “The Guru of Male Awareness” could speak to:
(1) O’Grady: What do you like most about being a bestselling author?
Dr. Herb Goldberg: Having been trained early on in psychodynamic psychology by some of the great early teachers and theorists, I became aware of what an incredible tool psychology can be for helping us reframe and understand problems and questions that have defied meaningful illumination since the beginning history of man. Writing bestselling books has given me an opportunity to explore so many of the issues and questions that I find absolutely fascinating. The upside of writing bestselling books has been the opportunity to continue to explore and write about these matters and, at the same time, engage other people in a new conversation about time honored questions and problems.
(2) O’Grady: Is there a hard side to having a hit book?
Dr. Goldberg: There really isn’t a “hard side” to having a hit book except for the possible pressure to stay within certain boundaries that publishers want in order to continue to sell books. It’s a constant struggle to maintain reader interest and publisher support and yet stay faithful to my own vision of what is meaningful. I have to continuously remind myself that this is not about being successful. It is about using the opportunity given to me in a meaningful way and to not throw it away by making fame or money a priority. Writing is the one area in life that I hold sacred and don’t want to contaminate.
(3) O’Grady: Looking back, what do you feel was the core message in Creative Aggression?
Dr. Goldberg: The core message in Creative Aggression is that aggression, in one form or another, exists in every human being, and we must learn to acknowledge it and find constructive ways to express it. I tie it to gender because men and women, as a result of masculine and feminine conditioning, have a tendency to vastly distort the experience of aggression. Women tend to repress and deny it and then manifest it indirectly and in self-destructive and other dysfunctional ways. Men tend to replace vulnerable emotion that threatens them with hyper-aggressive destructive responses. Aggression is real, readily distorted, and when expressed in a healthy way can be life-preserving. Creative Aggression was really all about giving credence to the reality of this human experience and its many manifestations and to say it’s okay to be aggressive, but that it’s important to learn to express it in constructive ways.
(4) O’Grady: In your experience, what is the biggest hazard of being male?
Dr. Goldberg: The biggest hazard of being male, or more specifically, being socialized in a masculine way, is disconnection. Masculine socialization disconnects men from their inner lives, their bodies, their sexuality, and most importantly, their relationships. In short, it slowly erodes and eventually destroys their personal selves. Specifically, it results in alienation from their children, the objectification of women, disconnection from their bodies so they lose touch with their physical selves, and in the area of sexuality, disconnection causes them to experience their penises as disconnected plumbing, rather than experiencing their sexual response and problems as a direct expression of who they are as people.
(5) O’Grady: What is the biggest stereotype about men in need of correction today?
Dr. Goldberg: The biggest stereotype about men is that they are the relationship and love spoilers, all by themselves. In other words, when it comes to most personal experiences in life, men are seen as a destructive force that needs to be socialized, while women are portrayed as the ones seeking love, compassion, and intimacy. This negative stereotype has damaged our capacity to make meaningful sense of and transform interpersonal male-female dysfunction.
(6) O’Grady: How do your psychologist colleagues react to your work?
Dr. Goldberg: Different ways at different times. The books of mine that got the most support and approval from my colleagues were The Hazards of Being Male and The New Male. Both of those books received considerable academic, professional, and popular support. My later books which were written without references, such as The Inner Male and What Men Really Want, were largely ignored by my colleagues. That disappointed me greatly. The greatest approval I’ve experienced overall has been more indirect, namely that I believe my books have influenced a lot of the conversation about the subjects I’ve written about, even though often I was not given credit. While I would have enjoyed more acknowledgement, I’m fine without it so long as the kinds of things I write affect the direction of thinking on these subjects.
(7) O’Grady: What’s the secret of bringing a new idea/theory about men and women to market?
Dr. Goldberg: The secret of bringing it to market is to feel passionate about what you’re writing and not to think about marketing it so much as to find ways to communicate it effectively. The emphasis on marketing, I believe, is largely misleading and even poisonous. If what one is writing about is truly meaningful, and one is committed to it, it will find its place. The marketing will be, so to speak, “organic,” meaning that it will stem directly from the quality of the material. If the book is not meaningful or is inauthentic, the best that marketing can do is to con some unsuspecting readers into buying it, but it will for sure quickly fade away.
(8) O’Grady: How would you explain the message in Money Madness to a group of teens?
Dr. Goldberg: The major message of Money Madness is that one’s money behavior and attitude towards money is a direct expression of one’s personality, even though most people believe that they are objective when it comes to money matters. In reality, money behavior is distorted by each person’s dysfunction and, just like one’s sexual expression, remains consistent throughout life, regardless of how much money one has. The secret to healthy money behavior is to work on developing a healthy personality. Psychologically unhealthy people have unhealthy attitudes towards money, namely they use it to hoard, manipulate, buy love, say “screw you” to others, and as a tool for power and control. All of those become bottomless, self-defeating pits. Specifically regarding teens, I would tell them that the amount of money they make or having lots of it, will not make any difference in the quality of their experience. Rather than making money a priority, the emphasis should be on developing a healthy personality. Money will take care of itself after that.
(9) O’Grady: What type of psychotherapy clients do you like to work with the most?
Dr. Goldberg: True psychotherapy, to me, is largely a combination of psychodynamics combined with a humanistic and existential overlay. The clients I most prefer doing psychotherapy with are those who are open to a deep and meaningful exploration of their personalities that allows me to use these formats and do the best possible job.
(10) O’Grady: What was the media response to What Men Really Want? Which media do you enjoy working with the most? Why?
Dr. Goldberg: Since What Men Really Want was the only book I wrote that came out in a paperback version, rather than a hardcover, it didn’t get much media attention or book reviews. It became successful largely through word-of-mouth because it was written directly for women and its mission was to help women see the potential power they have in their relationships with men and the distortions that cause them to throw it away or to mismanage these relationships. Women’s internet sites and organizations were recommending it to each other and consequently, with almost no media attention, it achieved a certain level of success.
In regards to which media I enjoy working with the most, I prefer newspaper interviews and the more serious educationally-oriented radio programs that give me ample time, rather than book-end me with numerous commercials.
(11) O’Grady: How could men become better communicators?
Dr. Goldberg: The secret to good communication, I believe, is self-awareness and empathy. In order for men to be good communicators, they need first to identify how what they say is being experienced by the person they’re talking to. Many men would be shocked to discover that as communicators, particularly in personal situations, but other situations as well, they’re largely talking to themselves or even actually accomplishing the opposite to what they want to accomplish. There are different levels of communication. There is personal communication and external or business kinds of communication. Obviously, men are better at the latter, but ultimately without a high degree of self-awareness and empathy, communication in a meaningful way cannot occur.
(12) O’Grady: What could women do to become better communicators?
Dr. Goldberg: It all depends on whom they’re communicating with. On a personal level, my sense is that women communicate quite well with other women. Womens’ problems with communication are largely in the area where a certain amount of aggressive clarity is required, such as in business situations, where women tend to either overdo or fail at drawing proper boundaries and asserting themselves in healthy ways. In relationship to men, women are blocked because of their tendency to want everything to be “nice,” which severely dampens and eventually destroys authenticity and makes the man feel self-conscious and guilty if he does not respond in a similar “nice” way. Women are just as responsible as men for creating the phenomena of the “silent male,” which is often also associated with the woman who can’t stop talking, even though her male partner has long ago tuned her out.
(13) O’Grady: What’s the most thought-provoking question you’ve been asked about your work The New Male-Female Relationship?
Dr. Goldberg: Probably the most thought-provoking question is whether a truly new male-female relationship is possible. To me that’s thought-provoking because most people’s ideas of a new male-female relationship have to do with transforming outward attitudes and developing politically correct behaviors. Without transforming what I call the “gender undertow,” changing the externals only creates a crazy-making relationship replete with double messages. In other words, the deeper, largely untouched gender core is operating in opposition to the so-called enlightened and liberated external behaviors. When you get that kind of crazy-making situation, seemingly new male-female relationships become much more fragile even than the traditional ones that they seek to replace.
(14) O’Grady: What was your main motive in becoming a psychologist?
Dr. Goldberg: Curiosity about what really goes on inside of people. From the time I was very young, I always wanted to know what people were really thinking and feeling. I came from a family where that was never spoken about and even in the environment around me, I was continuously told that personal questions and curiosity were impolite and inappropriate. Therefore, when I discovered the field of psychology, it became my personal salvation. I was like a fish removed from the land and placed in the water.
(15) O’Grady: How did you get the original idea to develop your theories?
Dr. Goldberg: The original ideas for my theories probably had their roots in my relationship and work with Dr. George R. Bach, who was my mentor and co-author of Creative Aggression. I worked as a group leader in his varied Creative Aggression workshops with couples, singles, business people, etc. That launched my thinking in the area of the deeper dynamics of gender. Also, I began my work professionally at a time when feminism was a major force in our society, and I was personally put off by what I believed were major distortions that were gaining increasing popularity. That motivated me to develop my theories and to write in a way that I hoped would correct some of these pernicious interpretations.
(16) O’Grady: How has your communication attitude been improved by your ideas about gender issues?
Dr. Goldberg: It’s made me much more aware of the huge gap between intention and impact. As a man, I become periodically very aware of how I might be in love with what I am saying, and, at the same time, believing the other person shares my sentiments. My awareness of masculine process allowed me to see that often I was seriously wrong in believing that I was being heard the way I intended. My communication attitude has also been improved by my awareness of feminine dynamics and how women tend to process what they hear. This has greatly transformed the way I talk to women, always taking into consideration the things that I might say that are vulnerable to serious distortion as a result of defensive feminine process. As a result, I get in trouble with women now much less frequently than I used to, even though I still have a way to go.
(17) O’Grady: What is the main thing that men need to understand about women in order to be more effective?
Dr. Goldberg: The main thing men need to understand is that logic, intellectualization, and intention are not what communication with women is all about, and yet that’s the gold standard for men. Men who want to effectively communicate with women need to learn two major things which most men have little to no awareness of and consequently seriously fail in their attempts to bond with women in a positive way. The first of these two is to gain a high level of awareness as to how they’re actually being experienced and “heard” by the woman they’re talking to. The second thing is to understand where the woman is coming from. In other words, effective relationships with women require leading with what she is experiencing and not with what the man intends.
(18) O’Grady: What do women need to understand about men in order to be more effective?
Dr. Goldberg: More than anything else, they need to understand that what they perceive as insensitivity and abusiveness is largely unintentional and often an outgrowth of the relationship. Heterosexual men particularly need women desperately. For most men, the woman in their lives is the sole personal relationship that they have. They very much want it to work, and they very much want to have an honest communication.
(19) O’Grady: What stupid mistake do men and women keep making in their relationship process?
Dr. Goldberg: Probably the dumbest thing that men and women do in their relationship process is to assume that the opposite gender experiences reality and communication the way that they, themselves, do. The shocking reality, particularly under stress, is that men’s and women’s experience of a certain reality is actually polarized so that the impact on the other person is often opposite to what the person communicating is experiencing.
(20) O’Grady: What is the equation for happiness between the sexes, if there is one?
Dr. Goldberg: The equation for happiness is to continuously remain aware that every problem is a two-way street, and that the beginning to making any relationship with the opposite sex successful is to focus on one’s own blocks and distortions.
(21) O’Grady: What did you like about doing Oprah?
Dr. Goldberg: Actually, my experience on the two Oprah shows that I did was disappointing. In both cases, I was put on a fairly large panel so that I couldn’t really get into any of the things we were talking about in a meaningful way. I felt like I was “Oprah fodder.” She’s very powerful and charismatic and clearly dominates the atmosphere. People go on her shows because clearly it sells books; however, you very much have to play by her rules.
(22) O’Grady: What was it like to interact with an all-male audience on the Phil Donahue Show?
Dr. Goldberg: It was absolutely wonderful. It was the first time Phil Donahue ever had an all-male audience. In fact, Donahue’s audiences were always primarily women. The men were excited, and I was excited, and it was great to be in a format where we had a full hour of give-and-take about matters that were very meaningful to me as well as the men at that time. Phil Donahue was great to work with because he didn’t try to dominate the show. He excelled at bringing other people out.
(23) O’Grady: Is there a funny story that comes to mind about one of the radio shows you took on?
Dr. Goldberg: I did one just this past week-end on one of the rock stations in Los Angeles. The interviewer was a middle-aged man, sitting there wearing a black glove, ala Michael Jackson, who proceeded to tell me that he had discovered the secret to lasting relationships with women, namely celibacy. He also prided himself on defending his religious attitudes. So while he was often sitting there talking about Paris Hilton to his listeners, and recording from a studio that played highly sexually charged music, he was expressing all of these idiosyncratic views with passion. I felt like laughing, but of course I didn’t.
(24) O’Grady: What newspaper or magazine story about you or your work made you irritated?
Dr. Goldberg: Rather than a story, I was very irritated when the New York Times reviewed The New Male, and the guy who reviewed it, named Jeff Greenfield, who’s a CNN contributor, described my book as “old news,” sort of indicating that I was rehashing old ideas about gender. I was irritated mainly because that book was filled with ideas that, to my knowledge, had never been written about in the way I was writing about them. He didn’t refer to anything specific in the book. If he had, I wouldn’t have objected. What I felt was that he had a negative immediate response, or maybe even a competitive one, and hadn’t really read through my book. Since this was my first New York Times review, it hurt.
(25) O’Grady: What one thing could men and women do together to get along better for the betterment of all?
Dr. Goldberg: Recognize that a lot of the horrors that go on in the world are the direct outgrowth of defensive gender socialization. Men as bottomless workaholics who define themselves by being successful competitors and achievers at all costs, and women who define themselves through bottomless consuming of products and obsession with their own appearance, are very much at the core of the destruction of our planet. When that is overlayed with a full awareness of our dependency and connection to nature, we have a formula that is devastating for human beings. Unfortunately that is continuously disguised by the fact that there are short-term rewards for being the ideal man and the ideal woman, and we are all seduced and controlled by that. The emphasis on healing the environment probably can’t work unless we can transform and control gender compulsions.
(26) O’Grady: What do men and women still not get when it comes to talking to each other?
Dr. Goldberg: Romantic fantasy obscures the fact that in all traditional relationships, men and women have an opposite experience of the same reality, but they act on the naive belief that the other person who supposedly loves them shares the same reality as they do.
(27) O’Grady: How would you like What Men Still Don’t Know to change our worldview?
Dr. Goldberg: Right now, I would settle for just bringing back a meaningful and balanced discussion about gender. Pop psychology today and academic psychology as well have, I believe, created a major regression in our understanding of very complex, yet exciting issues.
(28) O’Grady: Have your kids or grandkids been changed by your books?
Dr. Goldberg: I think my daughter has been influenced by my work, in that my conversations with her about her relationship with the man she’s living with and her general attitude towards men, even before this relationship she’s in now, have always been striking to me because of her tremendous sense of fairness, balance, lack of distortion, and a focus on her own growth and her own issues. She developed her career first and had her first serious relationship at the age of 25, which I thought was really great. Maybe she wasn’t just influenced by my books, which frankly I don’t think she’s read very thoroughly, but more by our many conversations and maybe even what I’ve attempted to model for her. Frankly, I’ve never heard any negative stereotyping coming from her. Also, she’s always very clear and assertive and in a non-blaming way regarding her boundaries. Finally, and I’m not sure whether she got this through anything I’ve written or not, you can pretty much say anything to her with the assurance that she won’t distort it or make you feel bad about something you’ve said.
(29) O’Grady: What support do you need to get this important message out?
Dr. Goldberg: Nowadays, it’s very hard for a book to surface, and since I’m not on the speaking circuit like I used to be, I need to find up-to-date technologically-focused ways of making my work more visible. I need support in helping me do that because these are areas I was not educated in.
(30) O’Grady: Overall, what is the life changing message that runs throughout, What Men Still Don’t Know?
Dr. Goldberg: The life-changing message is that the horror show that is part of what’s going on around us today is created as a result of our gender compulsions. If we can become fully aware of them and begin to transform them, we could radically change the reality we live in. Another life-changing message is that we don’t have to change the world in order to do that. People can significantly upgrade the quality of their lives and their experiences by making these changes in themselves.
(31) O’Grady: What question would you like to be asked about, but often aren’t?
Dr. Goldberg: Actually, I haven’t had that problem in most of the recent interviews because the interviewers often graciously ask me if there are any questions I would like to be asked, and so I tell them what those are. However, in general, there isn’t any one major question that I particularly want to answer. It’s more the overall in-depth conversation. If there were one question that in my fantasy would like to have asked, it would be, “In what way would you like to be understood? What are the things that you feel many listeners just don’t get?”
(32) O’Grady: What’s your answer to question #31?
Dr. Goldberg: The answer to this question is that what I’m writing about is not just about making gender changes, but in transforming men’s and women’s total consciousness of reality. A major breakthrough in gender defensiveness would result in a massive alteration in the way we interpret and experience life.
Dennis: In conclusion, it personally means a whole lot to me, Herb, to be able to talk to you today. And, of course, I will also post your answers on my site, and link it to your site and other articles found there.
Herb: Hope this helps! I thought your questions were thoughtful, meaningful, and enjoyable to answer. Thanks for asking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR HERB GOLDBERG, PH.D.
The prolific author of numerous articles in addition to his eight books, Herb Goldberg is an ardent men’s advocate and explorer of the hidden dynamics of gender and relationships, and is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. A gifted writer who is passionate that his readers understand the complexity of the deeper, unconscious aspects of human behavior, Dr. Goldberg communicates the excitement of the personal journey. He has appeared on numerous talk shows and has been featured in publications such as Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, USA Today, Men’s Health, and Psychology Today. He has been a regular guest on CNN programs, as well as having been interviewed several times in years past by Charlie Rose and Larry King. Radio interviews have numbered in the hundreds. Selections from his books, as well as original articles and interviews have regularly appeared in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men’s Health, Mademoiselle, Psychology Today, Vogue, Women’s Day, Ladies Home Journal, New Woman, McCall’s, Harper’s Bazaar, and Women’s Digest, among others.
ORDER YOUR OWN COPY TODAY
You can order your own personal copy of What Men Still Don’t Know by clicking on Barricade Books or on Amazon. You can talk to Dr. Goldberg and receive sound advice, at his site that also features, What Men Still Don’t Know About Women, Relationships and Love.
ADDITIONAL TITLES BY PSYCHOLOGIST AND AUTHOR DR. HERB GOLDBERG
Creative Aggression: The Art of Assertive Living (with George R. Bach)
The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege
Money Madness: The Psychology of Saving, Spending, Loving, and Hating Money (with Robert T. Lewis)
The New Male: From Macho to Sensitive But Still All Male
The New Male-Female Relationship
The Inner Male: Overcoming Roadblocks to Intimacy
What Men Really Want
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT DR. GOLDBERG AND RAISING MALE AWARENESS
“The Guru of Male Awareness” — Washington Post
“The Betty Friedan of Men’s Lib” —The New York Newsday
“Goldberg is at his best chopping a path through the jungle of relational power dynamics that hide men and women…The narrative will vividly convey the molasses viscosity of our modern dilemma…guys won’t find a better guide.” —Houston Chronicle
Information provided by Eisner Public Relations. Contact: Carol Eisner. (310) 839-1400. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO IS DENNIS O’GRADY?
Dennis E. O’Grady, Psy.D., is a Dayton region communications psychologist, corporate trainer, and passionate about improving relationship communication. Dr. O’Grady is the author of Talk to Me: Communication Moves To Get Along With Anyone.