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Break From Original Posts For A While

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I’m going to take a break from original posts for a while to catch up on reader feedback. I will be doing posts over the next few weeks that will address reader feedback that I never got around to responding to like I wanted.

If you ever sent me an email or had an unanswered comment on a previous post, you may see it as the subject of a new post.

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Shame is Immature

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This is an insight that may seem a little basic or obvious, but I try not to take anything for granted. Sometimes things I think I’m making obvious people totally miss, and things I think I didn’t make clear enough, people grasp far better than I ever originally hoped.

One such insight I’m not sure if I made clear: Shame is immature.

Remember, shame is the idea that you are fundamentally flawed, and if you do something bad, it proves that you are bad as an entity. Compare this to guilt, which says that if you do something bad, it’s not necessarily evidence that you are bad as an entity. So if a shame-based person tries to hit on a girl and gets rejected, he thinks “I’m am a reject.” If a guilt-based person tries to hit on a girl and gets rejected, he thinks “I’m a regular guy who just happened to get rejected.”

Shame is the root of narcissism and codependence. This is why being narcissists and codependents start avoiding risks and looking for easy ego-boosts, or engage in a lot of self-handicapping, because they feel their very identity is at stake with every rejection. They go into endeavors with built-in excuses ready and always holding something back or obsessed with impression management and self-presentation. Meanwhile, a guilt-based person is less likely to self-sabotage or avoid risks or look for easy ego-boosts, because he doesn’t believe his actions and failures are proof that he is fundamentally defective and inferior. Mistakes and failures are just feedback that he needs to go back to the drawing board.

If you deal with a child, you’ll notice that it’s hard to give them constructive criticism until they’re older. If you tell a kid they’ve done anything badly, they will think they are total failures, are unworthy, or are unlovable. Adults understand this, which is why they tend to over-applaud and over-praise for just about anything the child does.

As the child gets older, however, continuing to do this will stunt the child’s development because it keeps the child in a shame-based mindset. At some point the child has to learn that he can not be perfect or even good at something, and still be worthy of love and still not be defective. The child has to learn that he can be good at some aspects of a craft or task, and can be bad at other aspects of the craft or task, at the same time. Good and bad can coexist in the same entity at the same time. This is called integration.

Shame-based people have a lot of trouble integrating. This is the core of the superhuman/subhuman dichotomy and the suppression-expression paradox. Everything is either-or, all-or-nothing, black or white, one extreme or the other. One mistakes by themselves or others invalidates everything good. You also see this in how kids will tell a parent “I hate you!” when they’re mad at them, and truly believe it. And when their emotions calm down, they love the parent again like nothing ever happened. It’s hard to simultaneously be mad at someone and still love them in that moment, even while still nursing that anger. You find this same tendency in adult Cluster Bs and codependents with the phenomenon of splitting.

With kids, however, because you know you’re dealing with a child, you implicitly understand the shame-based motivations, even if you you’re not explicitly versed in the psychology of shame and use the proper psychological terms. With shame-based adults, however, we tend to assume that they’re are mature adults, and many of them wear the mask of maturity so well that we interact with them on a guilt-based levels and end up getting frustrated or burned as a result.

The point of this post is to train you to start associating shame with maturity and vice-versa. If I write about shame, I’m automatically also writing about immaturity even if I don’t explicitly state that word. And if I’m writing about maturity issues, I’m also implicitly writing about shame issues, even if I don’t use that word.  No matter how well a shame-based person knows how to go through the motions and feign maturity by following rituals and observing social rules, at the core you are dealing with someone who is emotionally a child. And conversely, if someone is immature, you have to realize that it’s not just a cute eccentricity but is also evidence that they probably have a lot of shame-based mindsets, with all the dysfunctions that accompany that.

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Raw Concepts: The Suppression-Expression Paradox

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The suppression-expression paradox simply means that the more a person or group suppresses a natural human urge, the more intense their expression of that natural urge will be once/if they ever do decide to express it.

For example, modern progressive liberals, especially of the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert generation, choose to engage in politics with a certain type of hip, snarky, cynical detachment. There have been several studies alleging that The Daily Show has an effect of causing people to distrust the whole political process, because they end up viewing Democrats as inept, pandering, and bumbling, although well-intentioned, and Republicans as evil and ill-intentioned, and as a result end up becoming cynical and disengaged in politics in general. There is a natural human urge to want to believe in something bigger than ourselves, and to elevate certain people to a heroic status that we can believe in and look up to. Because of our modern era where we get to see how the sausage is made in every area of our lives, and where nothing is too sacred to mock anymore, a whole generation of people began to suppress this natural urge to want to elevate our political leaders to a heroic, exalted status. (I know some of the more pedantic readers may chime in for me to cite proof via peer-reviewed studies or statistics that there is a human tendency to want to elevate people to an exalted, superior heroic status. I can’t do that, or more accurately, I won’t do that because I think there are more than enough historical examples in our textbooks and anecdotal examples in our everyday lives that provide proof of this. But if you want to see a great case made for this, I suggest trying Ernest Becker’s Escape from Evil)

This suppression, I believe, is exactly what caused the level of crazed, uncritical cultlike adoration of Barack Obama that we saw among this same generation of Daily Show viewers in 2008, something the Onion mocked in this video clip:

 

They’re over-the-top cynicism and detachment regarding politics and religion suppressed their natural urge to believe in something bigger than themselves, to give themselves over to a cause and trust in heroic figures. Natural urges that get suppressed build up pressure and start demanding release, and oftentimes once you do release them even a little bit they explode out.

It also works in reverse. Many people who are overboard when it comes to acting out any of their natural urges, when they decide to start reining those urges in they often go to the opposite extreme and go overboard in suppressing them. People who started out adoring heroic figures in politics and religion, when they dial it back, often end up becoming incredibly cynical or become proseletysing atheists. Someone who was a hardcore hedonist, when he dials it back, instead of coming to a point of moderation when it comes to vices, instead becomes a hardcore religious person, reading scripture constantly, always trying to convert others, and bringing up God all the time.  That’s why I always believe that the more fervently a person converts to religion and ascetism later in life, the more of an unrepentant hedonist they were earlier in life.

Ponder for yourself how this relates to the superhuman/subhuman dynamic.

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The Psychology of Trolling

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[UPDATE: Please read the comments following this article, especially if you're planning to respond with a comment yourself.  I think there are some good comments that raise some interesting objections, and I responded with some added clarifications that I think people may find helpful. Plus any objections you plan on raising may have already been raised and addressed in the comments already. - T.]

For added context, I highly recommend that people read this series of posts on competitors versus cooperators, either before of after reading this current post you’re reading now: here, here, here, here, and here.

I think this video below is one of the best deconstructions of  ”intelligent” trolls, both the real life and the online kind.

I think a major part of trolls, or anyone who chronically courts controversy for its own sake, which people don’t realize, is that it’s someone who wants recognition, who wants acceptance, who wants love, but on some level has given up on getting it in conventional ways. So they try to troll or generate controversy, because it has at least two payoffs. First, it keeps them from being ignored. Second, since they feel on some level that they will never get the full recognition they deserve, or that people hating them is inevitable, they at least want to try to be hated on their own terms, so they can at least feel some sense of control and dominance (“See? I’m not trying to make you like me and getting rejected. I’m deliberately trying to make you hate me and it’s working! I’m in control! You’re a puppet on my string!”) It’s a form of self-handicapping.

Being an asshole on purpose is self-handicapping much like not studying and going drinking the night before a test is. When people self-handicap by not studying before a test and going out drinking, they’re afraid of themselves and others finding out they’re not smart. If they give something their all and try their hardest, holding nothing back, and still fail, they fear being exposed to themselves and others as being fundamentally defective (this is a shame issue). By not studying and going out drinking before the exam, they reserve an excuse for themselves. If they do badly, they can say “Oh, I didn’t study and I drank before the exam. If I didn’t do that, I could have done well.” If they do well, they can say “Oh, look how good I did! Can you imagine if I actually studied and didn’t drink before the exam?” And if he does study later on, it will look more impressive because of lowered standards. Someone who never usually studies buckling down and studying is far more impressive than someone who has always been an overachieving studier being seen studying yet again.

Similarly, the “asshole on purpose” guy is usually someone who has given up on being loved in a conventional way in response to a sincere, earnest, all-out effort, for whatever reason. So he self-handicaps through assholery. If he treats people like shit and they don’t like him, he can brag “Yeah, I’m such an asshole. I don’t give a fuck! I try to piss people off!” If people still like him despite his assholery, he can say “Man, look at that. I’m an asshole and people still love me. I really must be just that smart/talented/insightful. Can you imagine if I actually tried to conform to society’s norms and work within them how successful I’d be?” And because of lowered standards that come from his usual asshole ways, when he shows an effort to be nice or shows a soft, sensitive side, he gets far more props for it than a guy who is always nice and considerate. It’s like the Jerk With a Heart of Gold character trope you see in movies and TV. The jerk who does a nice thing, no matter how mundane, is so much more admired than the normally nice guy doing yet another nice thing.

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I also believe this is the fantasy need some characters like Hank Moody on shows like Californication fill for viewers. I absolutely loathe Californication and the lead character Hank Moody, yet I keep finding myself hate-watching the show, because I’m always trying to figure out what the appeal is (beyond the obvious, which is the sex and nudity). One of my theories is that many people fantasize about being able to be so irresistible and intrinsically awesome that they can be utter assholes and still end up being loved for it, which to many people is a bigger sign of self-worth than being nice and being loved for it. For many shame-based people, they only act nice out of a sense of weakness, as a way to get approval and be liked. They end up viewing any form of niceness as an admission of low value, both in themselves and in other people. They only persist in being nice because they feel that’s the only option available to them to get approval, because they have such little bargaining power otherwise, maybe because they feel not attractive enough, not rich enough, not socially savvy enough, etc.

That’s why many of these same people turn into total assholes once they feel any sense of power shift in their favor in a social dynamic, like the Nice Guy who laments how his hot female friend puts him in the friend zone despite how nice he is, but becomes a jerk when he’s dealing with a fat and unattractive chick whose comparative value to him is the same as his comparative value to the hot girl friendzoning him. His niceness is totally context-dependent, coming from situations where he feels weak and unworthy. That’s also why many of these same shame-based people, both narcissists and codependents, can’t respect or reciprocate people who love them unconditionally even after knowing all their flaws or make things “too easy” for them. Because they themselves only act nice when feeling weak and out of a feeling of necessity, they project that same motivation on others who act nice and assume they must be weak and inferior too.

Anyway, returning to Californication, I think a major part of its appeal is that fantasy of having such value as to be able to afford to self-handicap via assholery. Of being able to be effortlessly cool, so naturally valuable, that even if you try to fuck things up by being an asshole and make no effort to cooperate, you still end up being loved, and when you do burn bridges it’s always on your own terms, not on anyone else’s. (I also think that’s why so many narcissists choose to be abusive to loved ones when they don’t have to. For them, being loved for being nice is something anyone can do, but being loved despite being a fuck-up or asshole is proof of being a superior being.) Also, because of the lowered standards that come from self-handicapping, any minor, mundane bit of normal humanity that Hank Moody shows is blown way out of  proportion. This is because a lot of people want to be rewarded for the most token, superficial gestures, the bare minimum.

You can see a lot of these principles at play in this article about Tucker Max that came out a while back. When you look at his childhood, you can see the abandonment that came about from his mother and how that led to him to lose faith in being loved just for being him, and why he began self-handicapping with that deliberate asshole persona.

Of course the problem with any form of self-handicapping is, even though it gets you a short-term payoff that makes you feel good at first, because what you really want deep down is conventional success, once the rush from self-sabotage wears off you realize you are no closer to your real goal, or worse, are actually farther away from it. For example, the student who always self-handicaps by not going to class, not studying, and partying hard may get a series of short term ego boosts each time he self-handicaps, but for long term conventional success he’s going to have to eventually work hard and give it his all. He can’t self-handicap forever. Sooner or later he’s going to reach a challenge where his natural gifts and half-assing won’t be enough. Similarly, the deliberate asshole, if he wants the type of deeper and more fulfilling long-term social connection he’s yearning for, he’s going to have to stop self-handicapping, show some vulnerability, and be willing to give something his all and risk failing at it.

Because deep down, despite their exteriors, deliberate assholes actually want to be approved of, recognized, respected, and loved, they just fear  deep down that they can’t get those things the conventional ways, and therefore must self-handicap, so that if they’re hated at least they’re hated on their own terms. This is why the moment a deliberate asshole, a controversy seeker, or a troll feels that he is being hated or rejected on what aren’t his own terms, he becomes incredibly thin-skinned, surprisingly so for someone who claims not to care what others think and actively courts controversy so much. That’s why I love the tweet below from Jay Smooth about Lisa Lampanelli:

 

Unfortunately, most people, when they rush from self-handicapping wears off and they realize they’re back where they started and still in pain, instead of giving up the defective coping strategy, instead choose to double down on it and self-handicap even more, which again gives a short-term emotional payoff, and again leads to no real long-term fulfillment and the return of the original pain they were trying to avoid in the first place, and the vicious cycle (circle?) continues.

Trolls and chronic controversy seekers want attention, recognition, love, and approval, but have just given up on getting them in conventional forms via conventional means. Unfortunately, the same faulty coping strategies they use to deal with this problem in the short run are the exact same ones guaranteed to exacerbate the problem in the long run.

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Movie Recommendation #4: Young Man With A Horn

If you have been reading my past few years of posts about Cluster Bs and codependents and find them interesting, and most importantly, if you personally relate at all to those posts, I highly recommend you watch the movie I’m recommending today, Young Man With A Horn. It airs tommorow (Wednesday, March 20) on the cable network Turner Classic Movies at 11:45 AM. Set your DVRs.

There is a popular archetype of the girl who chooses bad boys and jerks over good guys, but not enough attention gets paid to the guy who chooses bitches over good girls, especially when the bitch is scorching hot. But it’s far more common than people acknowledge, and this movie touches on that. It shows how a musician, played by Kirk Douglas, who has some codependent tendencies (he’s not a doormat in life generally, but does have some abandonment issues from childhood that signify he has anxious attachment issues), and the chemistry he has with a Cluster B woman, played by Lauren Bacall. The psychodynamics between the two are incredibly well-done and true to life, and I was very impressed by the screenplay as a result.

One of my favorite scenes of the movie, if not the favorite scene, is this one where the idealization has worn off and the devaluation has set it in:

Something this movie touches on, that I haven’t gone into much detail yet on the blog but plan to eventually, is how narcissists and other Cluster Bs are often consumed with envy and jealousy of their codependents, even though on the surface they never let it show. Even the codependent himself would be shocked to realize the extent to which the narcissist is jealous of them, but this jealousy is actually a major reason for much of the abuse that comes in the relationship. In this movie, Bacall’s character is a sophisticated, spoiled intellectual with all the “right” friends, all the “right” clothes, who goes to all the “right” parties and lives in all the “right” places, but because her world is so externally-defined, she has no “core” or true value system or passions. She lives her life directionlessly and in full contempt of others who do have passions and core beliefs and real human connection. Much of her disdain for Kirk Douglas’s character comes from the fact that he has a calling, has a passion for it, pursues it relentlessly without holding anything back to preserve his ego or save face, and has real human connections.

Since she is too emotionally immature and spiritually lazy to undergo the discomfort and risk needed to achieve true growth, she needs to surround herself with people she feels she can leech that energy from. What happens instead though is she just ends up trying to destroy them instead in order to feel better. She “punishes” them for having passion and not being empty like she is. Their very existence not only fails to empower her like she hopes during the idealization stage, but it starts reminding her of what a fraud she is and how she’s not as superior as she pretends to be after all, which makes her start to abuse them during the devaluation stage.

This movie is not just good because of how psychologically rich it is; it’s also a fun, well-written and well-directed movie that’s generally enjoyable to watch just for entertainment value. I’m eventually going to do a full-scale deconstruction of this movie, so I recommend you DVR and watch it now so that you won’t be lost.

Again, it airs tomorrow, Wednesday, March 20, at 11:45 AM on Turner Classic Movies.

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Reader Response Requested: How Would You Define Maturity?

In recent posts about gender maturity, I thought of maturity as the same definition a politician once used to describe porn, which I’ll paraphrase now: “I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.” I figured everyone basically shared the same idea of what maturity was.

Several people made a point, which I agree is valid, that we should have a common agreement about the definition of maturity. And others have mentioned studies that I need to read. So I decided, before continuing that series, let’s come up with a common agreed definition of maturity. Also, any relevant studies or evidence, feel free to provide.

I will put the most popular choices into a poll that can be voted on. Then I’ll proceed with the series.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines mature as:

Having reached an advanced stage of mental or emotional development characteristic of an adult.

That still doesn’t tell us much though, so let’s see if we can refine that or go into an altogether different direction.

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Raw Concepts: Cognitive Dissonance

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The picture above has a good summary of cognitive dissonance.

Another of my favorite definitions of cognitive dissonance appears in the book Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions by Stephen L. Macknick, Susana Martinez-Conde, and Sandra Blakesee, and will from now on be my go-to definition when bringing up the concept in future posts:

[Cognitive Dissonance] arises when two competing ideas, behaviors, facts, or beliefs are in conflict in your brain.

You’ll be seeing this come up a lot in future posts.

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The Limitations of Human Perception, Part 1

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Let’s do a thought experiment. The point of it will become clearer in future posts, but for now bear with me.

Imagine you went to another planet and met the natives there. By use of special machines, you were able to communicate with them.

An interesting thing you realize about these natives is that they have no noses. The dominant species of this planet has evolved to have no noses and has never had a sense of smell. They have never even developed language to cover concepts related to smell. There’s no equivalent word for odor, stinky, aromatic, fragrant, inhale, breathe, or any other words that can be linked to a nose and a sense of smell.

Also, since flavor comes from one’s sense of smell, there are no equivalent words for tasty, delicious, flavor, flavorful, and so on. The sense of taste actually has to do with the sensations that food creates on our tongue via the taste buds. Flavor on the other hand comes from our sense of smell. To illustrate, if you pinch your nostrils really hard and then try to eat something like a lemon or a piece of bacon, the appropriate taste buds on your tongue will still tingle to indicate whether the food is sour or if it’s rich and fatty, but the food will register no flavor. 

How would you describe the sensations of scent and flavor to this species? Since all the information they’ve ever known in their lives has related to the senses of sight, taste bud tingles, touch, and hearing, you would be forced to try to convey the concept of smell using language and concepts related to those four senses. How could you pull it off?

Or how about if the species had evolved to have no eyes and therefore no one could see or was ever able to see. How would you describe the concept of sight to them, or give a visual description to them of something? Could you describe the color blue or green to people who have no idea what a color is in the first place?

But the irony is, the species with no sense of smell, who have never had a sense of smell, the would have no idea if you didn’t tell them that they were missing out on something. They would think that the four remaining senses they used to perceive the world around them was giving them a complete sense of objective reality. They would have no idea that there is a whole universe of potentially useful information right in their midst, all around them, that they can’t perceive and take in.

Over the history of the existence of their species, they would likely evolve other ways to compensate for the lack of ability to smell. Their eyes perhaps could evolve to the point where they can tell if food is spoiled simply by looking at or touching it. Their taste buds could evolve differently. Any of their remaining senses could become quantitatively or qualitatively different to compensate for their inability to smell.

So think of human beings. We perceive and explain the world using language and concepts limited by our five senses. We often believe that the information obtained using these five senses gives us an objectively accurate and complete representation of reality. Who knows how much potentially useful information is floating around us right in our midst, but invisible to use because it falls outside the realm of our five available senses, just like the aliens in my example live in a world of smells that they are oblivious to?

The point I’m trying to make is, what we perceive to be objective reality is not actually reality, but is an approximation of reality constructed using what limited tools of perception we currently have available to us. We’re going to be revisiting this topic a lot, so it’s important to understand it.

One example I can think of us happened in Haiti to my family during the recent earthquake. My family members who survived it all told me that before each tremor happened, the dogs and other animals would flip out and run for cover. I found this fascinating and started doing research on it, and sure enough it’s true, as you can read here and here. Some people claim that their animals started getting agitated days, weeks, or even months before natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. A video about this can be seen below:

Scientists aren’t sure whether this is because of dogs having an extra-heightened version of a sense humans already have, like hearing, or because of dogs having a whole extra sixth sense that humans don’t have at all. If it’s the latter, you can see the difficulty scientists are presented with. Trying to describe a brand new sixth sense using our current language, which relates to the five senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing, would be like my thought experiment of trying to explain smell and scent to a species using language only related to the senses of sight, taste buds, touch, and hearing.

Just like the hypothetical species wouldn’t even have the cognitive tools to even properly process scent concepts, if dogs do have a sixth sense that we don’t know about, we as humans may lack the cognitive tools to properly process whatever that sense is, so we may never end up being able to comprehend or explain it.

Which leads to my next point about the limits of human perception: in addition to our five senses, human perception is limited by the established cognitive framework, thinking habits, and processing capabilities the human brain has developed over your lifetime. The human brain is the central area where much of our sensory intakes are perceived, processed, interpreted, and responded to. The limitations of how our specific brains work lead to limitations in how well we can process and perceive reality via the sensory information we take in. These cognitive limitations on reality perception play a big role in our personality conflicts, our susceptibility to logical fallacies and con artists, and the cognitive distortions that often cause us problems in our daily dealings.

The ways in which the features of our brain contribute to our limitations in perceiving objective reality will be the focus of the next installment of this series.

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The Myth of Female Maturity, Part 2

[I want to remind everyone, if you have questions you want me to ask Andey Randead, the author of The Great Female Con, continue to ask them in the comments section to today's or yesterday's post. Thanks. - T.]

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A few clarifications up front, to clarify yesterday’s post: I didn’t mean to imply women were somehow incapable of maturity. I think women can easily be as mature and logical as most men. I just think society in general and men in particular often allow them not to be for various reasons, or even gives them incentives to act immature of tantrum. It gets worse the more attractive the woman is. I also wasn’t saying women are intellectually inferior or have less intellectual potential, or that men are generally better than women just by virtue of being men. In fact, I think women are smarter and savvier than men in many ways. Finally, this is specifically about today’s women in the modern, developed world, especially the West, not womankind from the beginning of recorded history or from all over the world. Now that we have that out of the way…

When Kay Hymowitz was promoting her book called Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, many mainstream publications like Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and others coveered it. I realized when the press for the book was going around, a lot of men were willing to agree that men were indeed far more immature than women and that they need to “man up” and “step up.” When gauging the reaction to the book’s premise, I tried to mentally screen out responses from either extreme of the spectrum, from hardcore feminists and from men’s right’s advocates (you can usually spot both pretty easily once you know the buzzwords to look for), and focus on just response from “regular” guys and girls, people who didn’t see themselves as gender war advocates. As is usually the case for such articles, I found plenty of regular guys who were willing to accept the charge that men were immature and self-centered, and very few regular women who were willing to step up to the plate to defend men. There were some exceptions, sure, but for the most part most women just continued the pile-on and most guys give a lukewarm at best defense, or joined in the pile-on (again, this is not including responses from hardcore feminists and MRAs). Some MRA sites linked to the articles so you started getting floods of criticial comments from them, but I don’t count those as the typical male response.

Other major books that appeared in the same vein and got lot of mainstream press coverage include Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity by Gary Cross and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel. We also see articles with titles like “The Crisis of Male Immaturity” and “The Basement Boys” appearing often in major outlets. It made me wonder how books and articles with the same premise but the genders reversed would be treated by the mainstream media? Could a book with such a premise ever get such a high-profile launch? And how would regular guys and regular women, the ones who don’t view themselves as ideologues or gender warriors, treat such a book?

Yesterday I discussed such an ebook, The Great Female Con. I put up a post describing a premise from the book that I knew was going to be controversial, about how society’s commonly accepted belief that women are, on average, more mature than men, simply isn’t true, and that if anything, the opposite premise is true: the average man today is more mature than the average woman.

There was significant backlash, and much of it was from men. And this is something I totally expected, and I think it actually adds more evidence to the maturity theory. Men are, on average, far more willing to give women the benefit of the doubt, attempt to see things from their viewpoint, and rush to their defense, far more often than women are willing to do the reverse. Men are quick to pull the misogynist card on other men, but you rarely see women pull the misandrist card on other women. In fact, I have met many women who don’t even know the word “misandrist.”

The comments I got about the post on Reddit on a regular’s men’s section were nearly unanimously negative and along the lines of these two comments:

This article talks about all the stupid some shit women do, and completely ignore all the stupid shit some men do. That’s pretty immature in my books.

And:

This is silly – you’re trying to counter one myth, that women are more mature than men, with another myth, that men are more mature than women?

Neither sex is more ‘mature’ in the long run.

Again, very mature responses. They show empathy for a class of people they don’t belong to, a desire to take the high road, a willingness to give the benefit of the doubt and reach a mutual understanding. And again, these were the only types of male responses I got there.

Now, let’s look some of the comments to the post that appeared on the blog yesterday. Cameron said:

You haven’t provided any evidence to support this statement, perhaps the book does but even the quote itself doesn’t really support the statement.

How often does the average woman demand any higher form of proof when someone makes a sweeping claim about male immaturity? Maybe it happens, but I rarely see it, and even if it does happen it doesn’t happen to the same frequency I see men defend women and demand proof before accepting any negative ideas about them.

Kevin said:

In my opinion I don’t see how anyone could even begin to make a case that one gender is more or less mature than the other, even if we’re talking about ‘on average’. It seems like a debate where no matter what position someone wanted to take they could cherry pick a bunch of examples to support their view.

If someone wanted to point out specific instances of how one gender is immature or mature in particular ways, sure. But talking about what sex more is mature on the whole seems unanswerable.

I responded:

Okay, just look at this response. That’s a VERY mature attitude. How often on an article about male immaturity will you see such a response from women in defense of men? And even if you do see it, what is the ratio of such responses to responses from females cheerleading the main article?

Kevin responded:

I totally agree that in the specific situation of discussing the other gender’s maturity levels women show a more immature, double-standard-ish attitude on the whole.

Personally I wouldn’t see that as any kind of evidence that women are globally more immature as a gender. I think you have to look at things on a case by case basis.

Again, note how even as he admits I have a point, he still tries to find the most mature, nuanced, evenhanded angle to the issue. I see this happen over and over, that men on average will do their best to discuss these issues  in as fair and nuanced a manner as possible, and often give women the benefit of the doubt, in  a way that rarely happens when gender is reversed. To me, the responses I got from men to the last piece was just more evidence of that male maturity I was mentioning.

I think there are several reasons why this happens.

First, society is far more comfortable with teaching women about the dark side of men than vice versa. It starts in childhood with both the father and the mother’s advice to the daughter, and it continues into adulthood. I touched on this yesterday, and I’ll repeat it here, so forgive the overlap.

For example, I think books like The Great Female Con  educate men to be aware of the dark side of many women. I think this is very important because I think the average man puts the average women on a pedestal far more often than vice versa, and men are trained and socialized by both parents to do this from young. Women on the other hand get an education from both parents on how to protect themselves from the dark side of most men from a very young age. “All men want is just one thing.” “Give it up too fast and he won’t stick around.” “He’s just not that into you.” “He won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.” “Don’t let yourself be alone with a guy you barely know.” “All men will cheat given the opportunity.”

Meanwhile, I don’t think men are capable of even believing the average woman has a dark side. They think only the outliers do. (I believe this is why the Madonna/Whore problem is still prevalent today.) Women are totally fine accepting that the average guy has a dark or unsavory side and that they need to be informed about that, without believing that doing so makes them man-haters. Yet men feel like the mere entertaining of the idea that the average woman (not just the mythical “bad girl”) can have an unsavory side will transform them into instant misogynists.

For example, go into the relationship section and see how many relationship books aimed at women warning them about shady men. These are the female-targeted versions of books like Women’s Infidelity and The Great Female Con. Book after book about dogs, cheaters, players, emotionally unavailable men, narcissistic men, “Nice Guys” (the apparent latest bogeyman of the dating world), immature men who need to “man up!,” passive aggressive men, verbally abusive men, men who string women along with no intention of committing or marrying, and so forth. In fact a NY Times article once estimated that over 85% of codependence books are aimed at women. Yet you hardly see women on blogs, message boards, or book review sites falling over themselves to point out that it’s only a subset of men like that, or to defend them in general. Even when women admit that all men don’t fall into the bad categories described in a book or article, they make it clear they found “one of the good ones,” which still implies that the good ones are a minority of what’s out there.

However, when the tables are turned and the advice is about warning men about the dark side of many women, guys really resist it a lot more. The comparative lack of demand for such books alone speaks volumes. Men complain about the cynicism, decry the misogyny, say they don’t want to think of women that way, they want to make sure it’s clear that it’s only a minority of women that are bad…they hate the very idea of any negative generalization about women. I’m not saying to demonize all women, start hating everything about them, and become a misogynist, but at the same time too many men are Pollyannaish and give them the benefit of the doubt to an extent that they never do for us, which ends up with a lot of guys getting totally blindsided later on. Many guys write me to ask about how they can learn to be less codependent and develop better boundaries, and from talking to them I’ve become convinced the biggest culprits are the implicit, unexamined belief that women are on average inherently more mature and empathetic than men, and the belief that if they stop viewing “good” women as naturally exalted enlightened creatures and start accepting them as a human mix of strengths and flaws, they won’t be able to still love them anymore. The Manic Pixie post touches on this latter idea.

As I said yesterday, I think these Pollyannaish beliefs men grow up with about women give men a lot of faulty, idealized expectations about women, and when they get blindsided and hurt enough times by women not living up to these ideals their parents and society put in their heads, they overcompensate in the opposite direction with extreme misogyny and a feeling that they’ve been lied to their whole lives. I think a lot of the new misogyny we’re seeing wouldn’t happen if society and parents were as comfortable educating boys about the dark side of women as they are educating women about the dark side of men.

Second, I think a lot of  this comes from unexamined childhood beliefs. There is a popular story and I don’t know if it’s literally true or just a parable, but I think the principle it describes is worth sharing anyway. It’s a story about circus elephants who from a very young age are tied to stakes that are hammered into the ground. These baby elephants yank and yank at the stakes but can’t uproot them. Eventually they just accept that they can’t pull up these stakes and stop trying. Eventually they grow to giant size adult elephants and are now strong enough to yank the stakes out with ease, but they never do because they’ve been conditioned to believe the stakes are stronger than them. Supposedly, elephants have been known to burn to a crisp in circus fires and not escape because they never realize they’re strong enough to yank out the stakes. They just let themselves burn up, because that childhood belief is still that strong in them. They never examined it again in adulthood and retested it.

Similarly, I think a lot of men grow up believing their mothers are infallible and all-knowing. Their mothers always seems to know when they’re lying or doing something wrong, so they think her superior wisdom is unquestionable. But the truth is they were just a stupid little kid. Any reasonable adult would know when they were lying or did something wrong. Their moms weren’t omniscient, they were just young and obvious kids.

Additionally, because little girls mature faster than little boys, boys grow up seeing girls around them acting a lot more mature than them. Even though later in life these same men are on average much more mature than the women around them, they still remember their childhoods when the average girl their age was more mature than they were, and they still think that’s the case today.

Just like the elephant’s childhood experiences lead to unexamined beliefs that keep him believing he’s too weak to uproot the stake he’s tied to, even as an adult, a man’s unexamined beliefs stemming from his childhood experiences with his own mother and his female peers keep him believing he’s less mature than the women around him, even when that no longer remains the case.

Finally, I think the Maturity Paradox comes into play. I discussed the Maturity Paradox in a series of 4 posts you can find here, here, here, and here. You can about it more in depth there, but what it comes down to is that there’s a concept called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which says that the least skilled people are far more likely to overestimate how skilled they are and underestimate how skilled others are, while the most skilled  people are far more likely to underestimate how skilled they are and overestimate how skilled others are. The Maturity Paradox applies that same rationale to maturity, which is a form of emotional skill, and says that the people who are the least mature are far more likely to overestimate how mature they are and underestimate how mature others are, while the people who are most mature are far more likely to underestimate how mature they are and overestimate how mature others are. Due to the Maturity Paradox, the average women is more likely to overestimate her maturity level and underestimate the maturity level or men, while the average man is more likely to underestimate his maturity level and overestimate the maturity level of women.

When I interview Andey Randead, I plan to get into this topic a bit further and use examples from his book.

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The Myth of Female Maturity, Part 1

 

[Note: this is specifically about today's women in the modern, developed world, especially the West, not womankind from the beginning of recorded history or from all over the world.]

One of the most accepted premises of our society is that women are more mature on average than men. It’s so accepted that it’s hardly ever questioned, either by men or women. Look at TV commercials or sitcoms, where the guy is often a childish buffoon or oaf and the woman is the long-suffering, patient, and more mature partner who must act almost like a mother to the man’s child. If you watch talk shows, news programs, and stand-up comedy, also, pandering to the idea of female maturity and pointing out the ways in which men are immature is an easy way to get ratings, audience approval, and a cheap laugh.

This wasn’t always the case, however. For example, think back to shows like I Love Lucy, where the roles were reversed and the male Ricky Ricardo had to act like a surrogate parent and deal with his female spouse’s immature, buffoonish ways, and clean up the messes her immaturity would cause. Such a show wouldn’t be allowed to exist today, but at one point in Western society it was the norm to assume that the average man was more mature than the average female, and this belief was often reflected in the popular culture of past eras. However, if a show nowadays ever tried to return to that dynamic, it wouldn’t go well. Not only would women likely be outraged, but so would modern men. At the very least, the immature woman would have to be treated within the show as an acknowledged exception or anomaly, to ensure to the viewers of the show that the creators know most women are not immature, whereas with the immature men depicted on television, there isn’t as much concern with assuring the viewer that the oafs on the screen are not meant to represent the typical male.

There is a ebook called The Great Female Con by Andey Randead that I have recommended as essential reading in my Recommended Reading Section, have been emphasizing lately on my Facebook fan page, and mentioned in recent blog posts. One topic the book discusses is whether the average woman is indeed more mature than the average men. Randead makes the case that while they are savvier and more socially sophisticated, they aren’t actually more mature (emphasis is from original text):

I tried to understand why females seem less mature and more selfish than men. First, I looked at specifics to see that they actually are. Did you ever watch a group of grown women at a strip show? It’s like a group of teenagers. You’d think they’d never seen a penis in their lives. They laugh, they scream, they grab, and they suck. Unbelievable. I always used to think that this was because women were not used to this luxury of seeing male strippers, and since it was a novelty, they were goofier about how they responded to it.

Men, on the other hand, have been doing that for years. They are much more civil and reserved. They basically just sit and watch. No teenage antics, usually. So I figured that once the novelty wore off, females would eventually act similarly to the males. Well, guess what? It’s been many years since the advent of male strippers, and females are still as goofy and immature as ever. Even though most have seen more dick ends than weekends, they still react in an immature, childish way towards it. Is it because they’re embarrassed? The way they grab at the guy’s cock would suggest not. Is it because it’s a novelty? They’ve been doing it for thirty years now. Is it because they haven’t seen many before? Fat chance.

Although this is one silly example of women’s immaturity, I believe it is an indicator of one of my theories. There is no question that women mature faster than men both physically and mentally. However, I believe they only mature to a certain point. Men, although slower, mature to a higher level. This is why women can do and say much more to men than men can do or say to women. Men are mature enough to deal with it and let it slide. Women aren’t.

As a man, if I were to make any comment that was even in the slightest bit derogatory, disrespectful, or degrading towards women, every woman in the room would jump up and protest, yet women can say the exact same thing about men and guys just let it slide. So much so that women don’t even realize when they’ve made a comment that is really sexist towards men. That’s not training or tolerance on the men’s part; that’s a higher level of maturity at play…

Women are like maple trees, men like oak trees. The maples grow fast, but only to a certain point. The oak takes time, but grows to a higher level of maturity.

This point about how easy it is for women to say stereotypical or sexist things about men with men just taking the high road and not making a big deal about it is very true. For example, when Lorena Bobbitt made the news for cutting off her husband’s penis, plenty of talk show hosts, both male and female, made lots of jokes about it. And female entertainers especially made jokes where they portrayed Bobbitt in a positive light. Some women even joked they were going to “pull a Lorena Bobbitt” if they ever caught a man cheating on them. Now imagine if a man, because his woman cheated on him, disfigured her genitalia in any way, and then talk shows and comedians of either gender tried to make light out of it? Would the average woman be able to laugh it off?

Let’s look at a recent controversy that occurred on the show The Talk, a blatant ripoff of The View, when a news story was discussed involving a woman who cut off her husband’s penis and threw it in the garbage disposal and shredded it because he filed for divorce. One of the hosts, Sharon Osbourne, proclaimed among other things that it was “quite fabulous” and “hysterical”. She even added that she still lights candles by Lorena Bobbitt’s picture and “loves her.” Meanwhile the female audience laughed uproariously.

 

Imagine if a national broadast show hosted by men with an audience of men did that about the abuse of a woman who filed for divorce? First, I highly doubt it would ever happen, but even if it did, I doubt the audience reaction would be so enthusiastic and overwhelmingly positive. And you can bet the man would be fired.

Thanks to men’s advocacy, more men are waking up to these double standards, so something happened to Sharon Osbourne that never would have happened even a decade ago: men organized and protested. They did so until the show was forced to address it and apologize. What do you think of the sincerity of the apology however?

Picture if a man, after doing something so offensive toward women, snickered when trying to later apologize for it. Would he still be allowed to keep his job the way Sharon Osbourne did?

There are plenty of other examples of double standards that show how women are actually less mature than men. Who is more likely to throw a tantrum and make a public scene in a couple, a man or a woman? It’s anecdotal,sure, but in my experience, both as a participant and as an observer to others, it’s more often the woman. Randead touches on this too:

 

I have made many enemies over the years because I refuse to be made to feel uncomfortable when a personal situation between a couple arises. Invariably the female will make a scene, disregarding that anyone else with them is becoming uncomfortable while witnessing this. They will cry, yell, and talk about personal things, right in public and in front of whoever happens to be there at the time.

Stop and think about this. That alone proves a level of immaturity, selfishness, and lack of respect. If a man were to act this way in public, he would be outcast from society. No one would ever want to be around him again. He would be classified as a loser, a wife-abuser, and an asshole. Yet women do it all the time, and it’s tolerated.

Take Chris Rock’s point he made in a standup routine once: “Don’t argue! You cannot win, you cannot beat a woman in an argument. It’s impossible. You will not win. Cause men, we are handicapped when it comes to arguing cause we have a need to make sense” But why is it that women on average are so much more logic-impaired and prone to emotion during arguments than men? Again, because they’re less mature.

In the next installment, I’m going to discuss two reasons why I think men uncritically accept the idea of women being more mature than men.

Recommended Reading:

The Great Female Con is an ebook I read years ago, and it, along with Anatomy of Female Power which I think it’s on par with, challenged a lot of my views on the world. Even if you don’t agree with everything it says, it definitely makes some great points that are very thought-provoking. It’s one of those books where after you read it, it’s very hard to “unread” it and ever look at the world the same ever again. I’ve been re-emphasizing this book lately because I plan to write several articles discussing its theories, as well as interview the author Andey Randead about the book. You can buy it here, and I highly recommend you do so.

UPDATE: Since the author of this book has agreed to do an interview with me, and this post has already generated such controversy, I encourage people to comment and leave questions for the author that you would like answered, whether negative or positive. I will include them in my questions. Thanks.

UPDATE 2: I left this comment below, and I think it adds a lot of nuance that wasn’t originally in the post, so I’m adding it to the main body of the post, even though it makes the post a little longer than I originally wanted it to be:

I am not saying that women are INCAPABLE of immaturity, or that EVERY man is more mature than every woman. (Not that you’re accusing me of saying this, but I point this out in case someone else is planning to take that route)

However, I think on average it’s a point that needs to be considered. Society contemplates the inferior maturity of the average man all the time, in commercials, nonfiction books, media articles, etc., but the moment an article suggests the reverse is in for a storm of controversy.

As a result, I think a lot of average guys end up internalizing without questioning it this idea that they’re automatically less mature than women, and it starts affecting all their adult relationships.

I also think this knee-jerk response against such considerations is a big reason why so many men become over the top misogynistic. They start off at one extreme, believing one myth for so long, and when they keep getting burned by this Pollyanna belief, the hurt causes them to overcompensate in the opposite direction, feel like society “lied” to them, and they become misogynists thinking all women are bad and man can do no wrong.

I think if society was as willing to talk about gender issues more evenhandedly in both directions, and consider things like whether the average woman is less mature than the average man as easily as it considers vice versa, less men would become raging misogynists down the road, because they’d develop more realistic and less idealized views of women, become less hurt and betrayed when women don’t live up to these idealized views, and less likely to switch to the opposite extreme after being burned a few times by the average woman.

Women in general are far more aware of the dark side of the average man than vice versa. For example, look at the advice a woman receives about men from the time she’s a child, both from her mother AND her father: “All men are just out for one thing.” “Make sure a guy does x,y, or z for you before you consider making him your boyfriend,” “He’s just not that into you if he doesn’t do a, b, or c,” “Never let yourself be left alone with a man you don’t know,” and so on and so on. Take the reverse, what is the advice the average man receives about a woman? How often are men every educated about the dark side of the average woman, either by his father or his mother? Usually instead he’s trained to idealize women and find better ways to audition for them. This also leads to men having lower standards for female behavior and demanding less from women, which I think contributes to the immaturity.