Reader Letters #1, Epilogue

I want to take this time to respond to questions from part 5 of the Reader Letters #1 series.

First, here’s a question from Kal Ross:

I saw the solution to being a codependent as mourning first, becoming self accepting second, and then partaking in social interests and having real empathy (which also keeps us from becoming compensatory narcissists since they lack empathy). My question now is how does one become more empathetic and live for the social interests of the people they love as well as themselves? I saw this solution on Schreiber’s site a while back, but I am a bit confused. I used to do a lot of volunteering, but stopped because my volunteer manager was a dick. However, I feel like I need to volunteer to become more empathetic to people and not be narcissistic. Am I missing the point?…

So is regaining empathy another thought process like mourning and self acceptance or does it require certain habits that we can discuss?

It’s hard to tell someone else what it is they need to do to increase empathy. The process is so different for so many people that I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all strategy. But I think if you treat empathy like a goal that you have to force to come to you as soon as possible, you risk turning it into just one more thing on a checklist. It becomes one more item on your checklist of perfectionism, a goal on the road to making your symbol of perfection, your idealized, false self, a reality.

There are plenty of people who are what I call “abstract humanitarians.” They like humanity and good causes in the abstract, and do lots of public displays of good like volunteering and organizing charities, but on a personal, one-on-one level they are angry, mean-spirited, and don’t get along with anyone, and are often cruel and insensitive to people who need their empathy. All these acts of good they perform have done nothing in the way of making them into better, more empathetic people because they only do them for their own self-aggrandizement in the eyes of others. Their idealized, false selves are the types of people who volunteer and do acts of charity, so that’s why they do such things. No other reasons.

Meanwhile there are some people who don’t volunteer, who don’t do charity, because they are too busy working 60, 70, or 80 hour weeks to make ends meet, but when they have the free time to be with their children, lovers, or friends, they are truly connected and selfless. They understand what other people feel when they are feeling it and tap into it and make them feel reassured.

So I think the more you try to focus on forcing empathy by looking for the right “answer” in the form of volunteering, certain habits, or the right thought processes, the more you risk turning the whole endeavor into some easy fix solution and risk treating people like a self-serving means to an end. You can end up falling into an ego trap if you’re not careful (“look at me and how empathetic I am!”)

The most imporant things I can say toward building empathy are first, try to understand what you’re feeling when you feel it, and why you feel these things when you feel them. Is a primary inferiority being triggered? Are you emotionally reliving a childhood trauma? Are you acting like a codependent? Are you dealing with an emotional vampire that reminds you of a vampire you grew up with? Are you falling into a distorted thinking pattern that you need to catch before it spirals out of control?

Be as brutally honest as possible to yourself about yourself when it comes to why you do the things you do when you do them and why you feel the things you feel when you feel them and learn to accept and forgive whatever answers you come up with for these actions and feelings, even as you resolve to improve yourself. The greater your self-acceptance and self-awareness, the better your awareness and acceptance of others will be, which will make your more empathetic, because you won’t feel the need to deny your negative feelings about yourself and project them onto others. You’ll own your own emotional bullshit, and accept yourself as you are, which will free you from feeling the need to push your bullshit on other people and will allow you to accept them as they are.

This is not to make it sound simple and easy. It’s very hard to be brutally honest about yourself to yourself, without the use of rationalizations, denials, projections, or any other of your favorite defense mechanisms. At the end of the day you can only accomplish that by letting go of you ego, that is, your idealized false self. And it’s a different path for everyone. What worked for me may sound to new age and airy fairy for some. What didn’t work for me because it sounded to religious and dogmatic may totally work wonders for others. Explore for yourself. I can’t provide that answer for you, even though I can tell you what worked for me in the recommended resources section of the next post.

My personal definition for empathy is the ability to understand what someone else feels, and to be able to feel that same emotion they feel while they are feeling it. If you are not in the habit of identifying your own feelings and allowing yourself to feel them without judgment, how can you identify the feelings of others, feel them at the same time as they feel them, and keep from judging either yourself or the other person? (Insight (Vipassana) meditation was very helpful for me in this area)

Kal Ross also asked:

Are u going to answer more reader letters in the future?

Yes, and the answers will be much shorter. I only made the first answer so long because it contained issues that I saw in maybe 80% of the reader letters I was sent. I was hoping by going so in depth I could tackle a lot of readers’ problems at once so I wouldn’t keep receiving the exact same issue over and over, thereby allowing myself to move into different areas and problems. The question about whether or not to become a pickup artist was especially popular, hence that monster-sized post addressing it.

I have a few reader letters in the pipeline to answer, but if anyone else wants to ask  advice as well, feel free. I will not use your real name. I automatically give everyone a pseudonym.

Sasha wrote this comment:

I’ve mentioned this book several times and I’ll do it again since it’s THE primer on Emotional Body: There’s No Such Thing as a Negative Emotion.

I haven’t read that book myself, but it looks damn good. I can’t fully recommend it since I haven’t actually read it, but I just purchased it based on the preview, and figured I’d make other people aware of it in case they wanted to read it as well.

Sasha continued:

Since Emotional body lies between mental and physical, if it’s fucked up/damaged/diseased, energy flow between mental and physical gets severely kinked AND both you mental and physical bodies get out of whack (cue in men building strong bodies/minds to contain weakness/pain of the emotional body). The way to fix it seems to be a combo of direct body-based emotional work and mental-emotional work. The latter is good therapy and books/reading like this blog and you probably done lots of reading. The former is things like Chi Nei Tsang or any emotional bodywork that allow you to bypass/quiet the mind.

This is a good point that I downplayed. There’s nothing wrong with finding a good professional to help you deal with stuff, and I feel it needs stressing because there is such a stigma when it comes to finding emotional help from professionals. And don’t feel discouraged if your first few attempts don’t work or are a bad fit. It’s like relationships: every relationship fails until one doesn’t. I found getting formal meditation instruction to do a world of good, as well as going to a hypnotherapist for a short spell. I also hear a lot of horror stories about people going to therapists and spiritual teachers as well, so don’t write off getting help from professionals totally just because of a few bad experiences.

Sasha wrapped up with:

There are two kinds of Hero’s journeys – one is the journey of triumph against adversity, the other is surrender. Gotta mourn sometimes – but not too long and make sure that what you are morning is actually dead.

This is a great point. If you drag it on the self-awareness and core work for too long, it becomes an exercise in self-pity and mental masturbation, or even worse, scar worship. Don’t rehash your traumas to the point where you make your scars into your identity. And if your trauma is an ongoing one, your first priority is to stop the wounding and bleeding before you move on to the healing.

Brian wrote this comment:

I might have missed it, but where do you draw the line between self improvement and attempting to build a ‘false self’?

Self-improvement means figuring out who you really are and accepting who you are unconditionally, and then trying to improve from there. Building a false self has to do with avoiding who you really are and not accepting yourself except on the condition you can improve yourself in specific ways.

That’s why I had that line in the post about “You’re fine just the way you are…and there’s always room for improvement.” Compare that to the attitude: “You are unworthy the way you are…unless you improve to become X,Y, and Z.” The former is self-improvement and the latter is building a false self.

Jim asked in his comment:

I don’t get it. For me, I mean.

I still can’t motivate myself without using external influences or beating myself up. I lack the discipline and it takes a lot of motivation to develop that discipline. If I develop discipline using poor motivators, the discipline will always be based on these. I don’t see a way out of this.

What is it that we are supposed to mourn? I don’t see getting rid of my less-desirable coping strategies as all that mourn-worthy.

If you are happy being motivated in the way you’re currently motivated, so be it. This isn’t for everyone.

For many people, living a life primarily motivated by external validation is ultimately unfulfilling. Many people reach a point where the accumulated pain of remaining the way they are far begins to outweigh any fears they previously had of losing their identity and sense of self if they tried to significantly change. It’s similar to how the junkie can’t change until they hit rock bottom.

Other people don’t hit rockbottom but are lucky enough to have the foresight to see that a rockbottom will come if things don’t change.

Then others are perfectly fine with the way they are, even if they’re other-focused and driven by external validation. They can happily remain that way until they die. If being ego-driven works for you, it’s not my place to try to convince you you’re unhappy. It would be the height of hubris to tell you that your contentment isn’t genuine and that you can only be happy if you follow my way of thinking. This advice is more for people who have lived an ego-driven life focused on chasing external validation and continue to feel frustrated and unfulfilled and happy no matter what.

Jim also added:

I can mourn that my parents weren’t perfect, but that seems ridiculous – I should accept my parents’ faults as I accept my own.

Reread the five stages of grieving/mourning. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. See that last step? Acceptance. Do you see how you contradicted yourself? You say mourning your parents lack of perfection seems ridiculous, and instead you should accept their imperfections. But the final point of the described mourning process is acceptance. The five stages of mourning clearly say so. If you feel you should accept your parents lack of perfection, then you are basically saying you should mourn your parents lack of perfection, since the mourning process is an acceptance process.

The misunderstanding comes about because you, and several other readers, only think of mourning as the part where you feel sad and never get over it and replay bad thoughts and feelings and never move on. That’s not mourning, that’s wallowing, which is an incomplete mourning that gets stalled at one of the first four stages of denial, anger, bargaining, or depression. A mourning isn’t complete without that final step of acceptance, which you seem to agree with.

YOHAMI wrote this comment:

The grieving your parents stuff. Maybe it’s not grieving. They seem to have come up with that with terminal patients. 5 steps my ass…Dont chase the mourning etc.

I want to clarify something on the 5 Steps of Grieving information from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross that I wrote about in the last installment. People seem to misunderstand and think that the grieving process I discuss is something I’m telling them to chase.

I’m not telling people to chase the mourning process, or even to begin the mourning process. I’m advising people to complete the mourning process they’ve already started but never finished. The difference is important to understand. You see, if you experience a loss, even an emotional loss like the chance to have an emotionally healthy childhood with parents who loved and supported you unconditionally, you are automatically and immediately going to start mourning that loss, whether you want to or not.

You may not realize you are mourning that loss. You may be in the first stage of mourning called denial. You may be still invested in perpetuating the myths that you had a great childhood, that your parents were loving and supportive, or that it didn’t bother you as much as it did. You may be in the anger stage. You may be going through life as an angry person, always flying off the handle at imagined slights, especially from authority figures that remind you of your parents. You may be a codependent harboring tons of covert anger and passive-aggressive behavior toward emotional vampires in your life, emotional vampires who unconsciously remind you of your parents. You may be in the bargaining stage: you’re using your ego to bargain with life itself. You’re telling life, on an unconscious level, “Send me an emotional vampire who reminds me of my parents so that I can get it right this time.” Or “If I become this image of perfection, this idealized false self in the form of a player/pickup artist/hot chick/homemaker/white knight/badass/alpha male/beta male/tycoon, I will heal my primary inferiority and all my pain once and for all.” All the final, fictional goals that we set for ourselves in order to become our idealized, false selves, all the bad relationships we inexplicably seem to find ourselves in, all the neuroses we develop, all the complicated defense mechanisms we create in order to protect our fragile self-images, these are all forms of bargaining that we do with existence while mourning our emotional losses.

When we fail at these final fictional goals we experience secondary inferiorities, which in turn trigger our primary inferiority and cause the core pain from our childhood losses to come flooding back into our emotional memory. This is when we experience the fourth step of the grieving process, which is depression. Most of our depressions in life have been us going through this fourth step of the grieving process. Most of us tend to deal with our depressions not by progressing to the fifth step and finally finding acceptance but rather by finding a way to return to the previous three steps. We come up with new ways to bargain (step 3), such as using defense mechanisms again or finding new, “better” final fictional goals to pursue and bigger and better false, idealized selves to aspire to. We may try to get ourselves out of the depressive funk by converting the feeling into anger (step 2). We may deny (step 1) the bad feeling by using methods like dissociating through drinking, drugs, excessive shopping, sexual conquests, or other compulsive behaviors  or immersing ourselves in distractions like our favorite forms of entertainment. And at various times we end up depressed again (step 4).

If you look at most of your life, you may realize that at any given point you were always in one of the first four steps of a mourning process you couldn’t complete. You’ve been wallowing, whether you consciously acknowledged it or not. You’ve been mourning your childhood losses your whole life, which is why it’s so painful and filled with stretches of denial, anger, rationalizations (bargaining) and depression, but never acceptance. What I was recommending to people in the last installment was not to start the concept of mourning. It’s too late for that. You unwittingly started the grieving process a long time ago, and you never had a choice about it. I was telling you to stop the dysfunctional coping behaviors that keep you bouncing around the first four steps and figure out a way to get into the fifth stage of acceptance, where you forgive life for the bad hand you were dealt and find a way to make peace with it and move on.

Adam wrote this comment:

the only healthy sexual relations I’ve ever had is when I’ve refused to talk about myself, and forced the relation with the girl to be a multichannel output on her end flowing towards me, while I consume but give little to nothing in return. And this has made girls crazy about me. But it leaves much to be desired, and it ultimately makes me lonely. I had hoped that someday my wife would be my best friend, and that it would be honest sharing of myself, completely honest where everything that I am is shown to another, and she does the same with me, and that we face the trials of life together. But every girl that I have met so far seems immensely self absorbed, uncaring, and pretty unable to really connect with another person emotionally. And if I do attempt to voice my own thoughts without filter, it leads to romantic rejection. Something like that just can’t, in my experience, lead to a healthy sexual relationship.

pain answered with this comment:

Part of this may be age. 16 to 20, every single person you’ve ever met at that age is a retard. Sorry if that seems harsh or judgmental. Quite frankly, serious relationships before age 25 are almost always a waste of time. Teenage relationships are a just sexual urges wrapped in some drama.

It sucks that the hottest ones are still too young and dumb to have a real relationship with. Life wasn’t made fair.

I agree with pain.

Adam, it’s hard to answer you without knowing specifics of your case, but I will say you’re 20 and very young and you need to just be patient. You’re way too young to be chasing a serious girlfriend anyway. You’re 20 years old, why would you want a serious girlfriend? If these girls you meet are self-absorbed, uncaring, and unable to really connect with anyone, be glad they don’t stick around. You’re better off without them.

The first thing you need to do is not be so hard on yourself, because it will lead you to second-guess yourself excessively, become nervous before you even talk to a girl, and then when you do talk to a woman that nervousness and lack of self-acceptance will be what actually causes your rejection and not the actual honest self-disclosure. There are some guys who will say the most politically incorrect thing but honestly believe and accept their own bullshit and sell it with conviction, and women will eat it up wholeheartedly. And if the woman doesn’t, the guy feels it’s her loss and moves on. If you aren’t comfortable in your own skin and second-guessing your own worth, it doesn’t matter if you say what you really think or whether you are telling her bullshit: either way you won’t get far, except with bad or fake people.

Another thing that happens is that sometimes people confuse being honest with being tactless and insensitive. Make sure that when you say you say what you feel “without a filter” that you aren’t doing anything rude. I remember in college when I had a friend who was pursuing authenticity, he took it as a license to throw all tact out the window and became unintentionally offensive.

Again, I don’t know the specifics of your case, but people tend to accept people they feel accept themselves. You can only get so far by faking self-acceptance, and its usually with people who are fake themselves. Focus more on whether or not you accept yourself and less on whether other people accept you, especially if these women are as shallow and selfish as you say. And most of all, you’re 20 years old! Don’t get so heavy and self-absorbed right now, and have fun experimenting with dating and what works for you. Don’t be in a rush to get tied down to anything or anyone or get wifed up to the first woman who accepts you sexually.

And to add to what pain said, in post-“Sex and the City” North America nowadays, many hot women don’t evolve beyond glorified Disney Princess and Mean Girls socialization patterns even into their 30s, remaining spoiled brats well beyond a stage where it could possibly be considered cute by a normal man with dignity. Given how childishly spoiled and entitled adult professional women have become these days (and yes, I know there are exceptions), I can’t imagine how bad women who literally are children have become.

R wrote this comment:

What about genetics? Cannot those problems be inherited? I mean abused parents make abused childrens and thats sounds logical.

I don’t believe you can blame everything on genetics. I think the nature vs. nurture debate is a tired one, and one without much merit. It creates a false choice fallacy where people act like the only choices are that what people become is fully determined by their genetics or what they become is fully determined by their environments. Genetics and environment both play a role. But I don’t care how good someone’s genetics are, the environment still plays a stronger role.

Your genetics may have some effect on how you’re treated. If you are a cute baby that naturally acts coy, people may treat you better, which trains you from youth to showcase your cuteness and to act coy, which in turn makes people treat you better. This creates a positive reinforcing loop: your genetics, which involve cuteness and coyness, cause your environment to give you good feedback, which causes you to express certain parts of your genetics even more, which in turn causes your environment to give you even better feedback. Take an unattractive and colicky baby on the other hand. The baby’s genetics cause it to have an unattractive appearance and demeanor, which may cause people to refrain from playing with the baby or may even cause them to be mean to it. Say this negative feedback makes the baby act even more unpleasant, which makes people mistreat it more. This is a negative reinforcing loop.

In ways like that, your genetics can certainly play a role. But you can’t say that because genetics play a role, that somehow proves that environment doesn’t matter. I don’t care how good someone’s genetics are, if you beat them down emotionally and physically long enough, they will become broken people in some manner. If the environment is shitty enough, it doesn’t matter how high their IQs are, how athletically gifted they are, or how good their immune systems are.

M.E. wrote this comment:

I am confused by the seeming all-encompassing nature of these concepts (narcissism, codependency, neurosis, etc.). It seems like any human interaction or behavior could be discussed in the light of narcissism and codependency. So then what is the use of these concepts? How can we say for sure that they are meaningful labels for people and not just aspects of universal human behavior?

I’ve gotten similar comments to this several times regarding this series.

Why would the universality of these observations somehow invalidate them? This is a human nature blog. It says so right up there in the subheading under the title at the top. Human nature observations should be universal. I think the fact that they are universal is exactly what makes them useful. They are meaningful labels for people precisely because they’re aspects of universal human behavior.

What’s more useful, a key that only opens one door or a key that opens almost all doors? The latter only lacks value if everyone else on earth has the exact same keys, but most people don’t understand these basic human nature concepts. One just has to look at how dysfunctional society is and how it keeps repeating the same mistakes to see that.

M.E. continued:

The second issue I have is that psychological disorders these days are often treated exclusively with medicine and CBT. How do we know for sure that these childhood influences really cause the patterns discussed here? How do we know that this isn’t just the result of selection bias causing us to fit causes (parental neglect) to effects (loneliness, low self-esteem) when other kids who might have been more neglected never develop the same issues?

Psychological disorders these days are often treated exclusively with medicine and CBT because they’re cheaper, they get faster results, and that makes them easier and preferable in the eyes of insurance companies as well as in the eyes of customers with limited budgets and a quick-fix mentality.

It’s the same reason why most doctors treat high cholesterol and heart disease with statins and medications over making people eat healthy and exercise. They give a quick talk about how you should eat right and exercise, but the main focus is quick fixes and magic bullets in the form of pills. Does the fact that most of these problems are treated with medication instead of deep, profound insights and lifestyle changes change the notion that shitty diet and lack of exercise are the real causes of the problem?

How do we reconcile these ideas with the existence of families where one identical twin develops psychological problems and the other does not? Conversely, how do we explain the fact that the likelihood of developing depression is strongly correlated in identical twins even when they are raised in separate families?

Not all psychological problems are the same or have the same root causes. Some forms of depression may  be genetic in nature. There certainly is evidence for that theory. In such cases it makes sense that identical twins may both develop the disease despite being raised in different families. Other forms of depression however may come from childhood traumas that come from being raised in an abusive family. In those cases, one twin may develop psychological problems while another raised in a loving family doesn’t develop mental problems.

In general though, you’re making the same mistake as commenter R of looking for a neat either-or categorization where things can either be labeled as having wholly genetic or wholly environmental causes. Few health problems can ever be categorized that neatly.

And if these stories really are true, that parental neglect really does cause these issues, then why are we prescribing Prozac to people?

A lifetime of eating high-carb crappy processed food until becoming obese and refusing to exercise play a huge role in causing diabetes. Yet many doctors just prescribe diabetes medication to people without doing much else. Do you see the logical fallacy you’re making here? The fact that doctors prescribing a drug or a quick-fix surgery for something doesn’t necessarily mean they’re attacking the true cause of the problem. Just like a doctor can’t force someone to eat better and hop on a treadmill every day to help their diabetes, a mental health doctor can’t force a depressed person to do the hard work needed to fix their core issues. Sometimes all the person wants, or can afford, is a quick-fix. But treating a symptom is not the same as proving a cause.

Also, I never said every last case of depression or every last mental health problem is caused solely by childhood issues. Some problems can be genetic, like schizophrenia and other disorders for example. Genetic mental disorders are often caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Childhood traumas may worsen and exacerbate these genetic disorders, but they don’t cause them. However even in cases like these it doesn’t hurt to work on the trauma issues in addition to treating the genetic issues. It certainly can’t hurt.


The next post will be one listing a bunch of website links, videos, and book recommendations that supplement this series for those who want to do more research on things I’ve spoken about here or see some of these concepts discussed in more depth and from different perspectives.

49 Responses to “Reader Letters #1, Epilogue”

  1. Adam,

    I think a follow up is warranted. When I was a teenager, I wasn’t too successful with women. Mainly because I’m ugly and deformed. Women didn’t want me for casual sex. So I figured the best way for me to get sex was to be the serious relationship guy. As serious relationship guy, I would offer something that would make women want to sleep with me other then my looks, which would never measure up.

    Sadly, that’s just not how it works. It may seem like some women that are are interested in serious relationships, because they say they are, but we should know by now that saying isn’t the same as doing with women. They want to think they are serious relationship material, which is different then wanting it enough to become the kind of person that actually is serious relationship material. Only as they get older does this change for some of them.

    Also, I don’t mean to boil your situation down to one thing. Life is rarely about one thing. Your problem may be with the nature of culture of people your age more generally. When I was young and living in a row house with a bunch of dudes it was very bro culture. I got over it pretty fast, even though they stayed like that for many years afterwards. Of course when I got bored of that I could just move away. I didn’t need bros the way I need sex. You just have a harder time with women because you need them in a way you don’t need other peers, even though you’ve matured faster then most of your peers.

    So being serious relationship guy is as much a genuine desire on your part as a veiled mating strategy. And yet, it just doesn’t work at that age. Sorry, society is designed for the round pegs and the round holes. For us squares that don’t fit in round holes the answer at various points of our lives is, “go fuck yourself.”

  2. I found this series just a few days ago, and did a double-take at first – my first name is Bill, and for a moment, I was wondering if someone had written in my issues. 😉

    Unfortunately, I’m not that unique. (Which is a small relief, but given the misery, I think I’d rather be unique. But then, I wouldn’t have received several hundred dollars worth of psychological explanation for free.)

    So first off, thank you for going into such detail – it was a B!TCH to read, but very rewarding – especially as I noticed the Codependent/Narcissistic axis in myself and other family members. MAJOR help in correcting my life going forward. I’ve been talking to my girlfriend about it, and sent her links, along with my notes from the first three pieces. Some of the details diverge wildly, some converge so closely it’s eerie. For instance, the narcissistic family is in place, yet they are still married; but there are secrets in the family, which destroys trust, and being dumped on by mom as if I were a girlfriend? Being kept a child in X ways and then suddenly told by dad, “I might not come back from this job, here’s the financial documentation you might need.” Uhhh…. WTF do I do with this? I’m 16 and haven’t even had a checking account yet? You won’t let me learn to drive ’cause it’ll cost too much, but you want me to take care of mom and my sister…?

    Lots of incidents, no reason to list them all – but the major checks are there, up to an including mis-application of PUA styles to regular life. It definitely is an issue, as it allowed a codependecy (likely started with the family, but not clinical) to fester (won’t say “mature”), and then at a certain point in a bad relationship, you figure being the “nice guy” isn’t working, your needs (even when verbalized – whole OTHER can of worms there!) aren’t getting met – you figure F*CK IT, I’ll do whatever I want! It’s working for her, and I’m being played like a puppet!

    Which then just puts the narcissistic side into overdrive. Fortunately, while I haven’t had many girlfriends, I value quality over quantity, and I do some introspection, so -reading this was a good “wake up call”. I knew I was off course, this helped define it a bit – and also allowed me to establish a mental lens / framework to view the other actors in this family psychodrama. (“Family” here is the girlfriend and her daughter and me. My blood family has issues with all my girlfriends, ever, and likely will until they die. Frickin’ textbook. :-P)

    Since I pointed the woman here, and we’re tying to work things through, I won’t post details; she’ll know who she is and who I am, if she reads everything. Besides, I’m done venting. Time to get things moving in the way _I_ want again.

    And given we’re all three headed for counselling, this is invaluable – if you DON’T go into mental health, it will be a major loss for the world. 😉

    Thanks again.
    “Greg” (my middle name)

  3. Greg,

    I think you need to reread his series again. If you’re response was to send your (I am assuming) emotional vampire girlfriend the link in the hope that she will change and then love you unconditionally, then I think you missed the point.

    There is nothing wrong with sending it to her, if you care about her and you think it will help her. But you can’t force anyone to change – they have to be ready. And even if both she and you did change, you would be very different people. What makes you thing that a relationship would still be desirable for you and/or her?

    You need to question why this one girl is so important to you in the first place. If the relationship is destructive, then she is probably not worth it. Focus on accepting yourself and then what happens will happen.

    A lot of young guys start dating a (semi-)pretty girl, and then desperately try to hold on to her because they think “she is way out of my league. If I lose her I will never get another one like her again.” This is self-defeating: it ensures that you will lose her or be miserable with her because you are always fearing the inevitable.

    You’re 16 for Christsakes. If you accept yourself and work on improving it, you will have plenty of women to choose from later. Find one that is already worth being with, not one you have to fix.

  4. I liked this explanation of the five steps. Before I understood like, “the steps you need to do in sequential order to eventually accept… ok ready? good. Lets start by DENYING!”

    So, I dont want to deny, I dont want to bargain, I dont want to get depressed… I want to do what’s real, whatever is needed to face the reality and heal. Thing is, I dont want to “accept” either. Stupid right? or not. I dont want to jump into the acceptance either, because half of these issues are inexistent / being pushed into you. Accepting them makes no sense and heals nothing.

    I like from this explanation, the curve between denial and acceptance. It’s beautiful. And it can be worked in reverse.

    You start by accepting something that you consider sacred, like a belief, but it gets disturbed so you get sad or angry, you bargain, you do the whole thing and end up denying the former reality.

    Which can be healthy or toxic. What did you move closer to, what did you reject, what did you embrace, what did you… etc. Did you reject atheism to become a racist? see?

    Deny and acceptance are on the extremes, with bargaining anger and depression as intermediate states. But none of this says anything about what’s real.

    You can mourn your father and he can come back from Irak the next day. What was your grieving for? you can face and accept your fears that nobody loves and *accept*, but that acceptance might land you on some next dream, equally incorrect or misguided or fake, and not necessarily better than the previous one.

    But what Im liking is the no-resistance thing. Because resisting the emotion creates turbulence, and adds bullshit to the already bullshited frame.

    See. I have my issues. I was this little kid and I picked, from my reality, or maybe my genetics pushed me there: nobody loved me. My mom was cold and my dad was uninterested. I didnt get warm feelings or rewards, but I got the punishments. Then I met some girls I fell in love deeply, and I saw them like they were roses on the desert, like *salvation*, so of course they didnt want me, because I was too thirsty and etc. So the riddle and puzzle I’ve carried all these years is how I am supposed to become and who should I be so I could be loved, so I can get any of the love back, because I do *love* a lot. Or, maybe I dont, because all of this is just an illusion. But that’s the story.

    So. insert denial and bargaining and depression and acceptance.

    What’s to accept? go deeper there. That I wasnt loved… cant be measured at this point. All I know is that I FELT I wasnt loved. I´ve been through cycles of anger and stuff. And denial, but not denial about how I felt, but denial of the destiny that feeling pushes me to: the total loserdom insignificant existence. So in a way, accepting the no-love validates that loserdom existence. So here goes denial and anger and stuff. It´s been a long cycle.

    But the thing is, the whole thing, including the wounds, are fake. You can apply denial and bargaining and acceptance etc, but the whole game has been rigged. Honestly, at this point I wonder if any of my troubles had really any cause. How about, if like with the girls, I was causing the rejection, or I was making the pain stand out as a choice… if I was going deeper on the shade because that’s where I wanted to go, and not because it was my only choice?

    Who forced me to become a loser?

    Didnt I consistently take choices to go in that direction?

    So I like the denial-acceptance and what’s in between, but what Im finding the most useful here is the no-resistance. To feel the stuff and not jump in random directions to avoid the pain that explodes when I hit something. Because there are a hundred of pre-decisions and directions and ego investments everywhere. And I want to take charge and do something about it. Let’s call this reaction a “denial” of the emotion, and what I plan to do and my projections are a “bargaining” on the issue, and when I cant bargain, I feel “depressed”, then I have to “accept” the feeling. And down to that microcosm, this is really helpful. Accepting these emotions, being these emotions. I’ve cried more in the past few weeks than in the last 20 years.

    And for no *reason* really, it’s not like new stuff is happening. It’s just nodes and nodes of bullshit and micro hurts and mechanisms that had nowhere else to go. If I kept moving I would be getting more of the same. So Im standing still and letting it be.

    Accepting the past or … not sure if Im getting this point across. What I think happened is not what really happened. But it doesnt matter. It’s my accumulated energy what I have to face and accept. Or that´s what I got from this series so far.

    It’s less about grieving for my lost childhood in a historical sense, and more about my current, repressed feelings of not being loved, that press like a stone in my chest. It’s less about the N girl who didnt love me 15 years ago, and more about the anger I can feel right now in my throat. And the defenseless of all of it, that I have tried to protect with layers and layers of overcompensation, walls and yada yada.

    When you put this in the context of reality, it can be used for manipulation. You can get someone to do the denial->acceptance of cancer and then tell them, hey, it was a joke! you dont have cancer! welcome to my movie! denial->acceptance of your dead and raped children and then hey! it was a joke! come kids and say hi!. denial->acceptance of the death of god, or the existence of god, or the fakeness of the whatever *ism you’re in, etc. Etc. This is a powerful thing, from one extreme to the other. So I dont want to even have a preference and try to *accept* stuff. Im simple not making resistance and being aware and letting it flow. If this makes any sense.

    Im having burst of crying and bursts of laugh. Im having strong memories. I feel like ten or twenty different incarnations or, postures, getting diluded and mixing with each other and all the previous attempts of being me… naked and melting. In a non so pleasant way, but that feels true and good when the screaming settles down.

    Maybe Im going crazy? thanks Raw!

    nah. I think this is opening a way that was out of reach (that I kept out of reach) until now, and that stuff will work out. So thanks Raw.

  5. An extra note on acceptance and emotional vs physical world.

    Let’s say you’re a young sheeple and you get hurt inside, you get sad, and you start lagging on the herd. When you start lagging, you become easy pray for the wolves that are around, picking on the weak.

    So what’s best for you? to accept and get into your sadness, which will debilitate your body and land you as a nice dinner for the wolves… or to deny your pain, deny the sadness and overcompensate, so you push back into the heard, probably closer to the head?


    What’s good for your emotions isnt good for your survival.

    If you’re a female sheeple, the herd will protect you and carry you when you’re weak.

    If you’re a male sheeple, the herd will expect you to get over whatever is troubling you on your own, or get out of the way (get the fuck out and die)

    I was hurt when I was younger. And I’ve carried the hurt. Being truthful to how I feel makes me weaker, which makes the herd exclude me, and I get served to the wolves.

    Denying, covering, working around, patching the hurt, enough and as long as it doesnt get in the way and lets me control my body like I wasnt hurt, works wonders in terms of appreciation of the herd. Overcompensating works even more wonders.

    You know that deform, paralitic guy that won the Olympics? overcompensation. You know that orphan with not so rich parents that nobody cared too much about but he created a company that is now called Apple? overcompensation. You every hero story ever? overcompensation. It just works wonders.

    It just doesnt work on an emotional level.

    Your body goes back to the herd and maybe you end up leading the herd. But that portion of you is still back, weak and visible, bleeding, with a pack of wolves ready to jump on top of it.

    Fucking insane.

    Once the wound is there its cumulative. At least it is as a man. Every failure and weakness gets used against you, so the more you recognize any weakness, the more the herd pushes you out, making you even weaker, and making the issue deeper. So over time, if you go through cycles of rejection, failure, setbacks, stuff, LIFE, sometimes a series of events click and multiply, like for no reason, it sets you back… way back, back when you were young…. When I was young.

    So. Maybe I was supposed to be loved by my mom and family. Maybe when I was that little and innocent and I got my first wounds, I was supposed to be able to go back to the herd and be taken care of. And learn to heal. It just never happened. That’s the “all I want is unconditional love” thing. It’s an old longing.

  6. And since I keep thinking about this:

    When we’re kids we think everything is possible and we’re aiming for happiness. We’re also psychos, but that’s another issue.

    The adult world, which is already corrupted, forces upon us. The adult world wants us to drop the dreams, drop the shine, mold into society, become slaves, etc. Guess what the process is?

    Denial-> anger-> bargaining-> depression-> acceptance.

    Oh bingo, you accepted the lies? now you’re a slave zombie. Congrats.

    So that’s what I mean with this being an abstract process that can be used for good or evil or to wake you up or to make you sicker. “Acceptance” isnt the answer on it’s own. Sometimes rebellion fits better, and rebellion is denial plus anger plus bargaining. The roadmap is not so simple, like, you just need to accept things and let go and be done. In a way, fuck accepting. Embracing reality, becoming awaken / aware also means denying a lot of stuff. And it’s a war worth fighting.

  7. I see the picture better now. I guess empathy is something you have to cultivate and eventually you make it part of your intuition. Hopefully I can pull this off, and that way I can feel my way through life instead of thinking about every little thing. One thing I noticed that made me sad about my life is that I actually have to think about how to deal with things that make people sad or hurt, instead of just feeling what is the right thing to do. This goes anywhere from having to think about what to say to people when they are sad or hurt because I am unable to feel empathy for them. Sometimes I just feel that what they are worrying about is trivial and that they haven’t really suffered. This block me from reaching empathy. I think I need to feel that everyone I meet has problems that are worth complaining about. My biggest problem now is thinking everyone’s problems are cake shit compared to my own.

    The Rawness said

    “My personal definition for empathy is the ability to understand what someone else feels, and to be able to feel that same emotion they feel while they are feeling it. If you are not in the habit of identifying your own feelings and allowing yourself to feel them without judgment, how can you identify the feelings of others, feel them at the same time as they feel them, and keep from judging either yourself or the other person? (Insight (Vipassana) meditation was very helpful for me in this area)”

    What I get from this post is that empathy is not just about feeling good about others and loving others, but also feeling bad, commiserating, if someone else feels bad. This means empathy considers other’s bad emotions as well as good emotions. All this time, I had thought empathy is only about feeling good about others and being a happy person and a “loving” person. I hear people say, “I am a loving person. I love everyone. and I love to help people” When I hear that, I feel that I have no empathy because I don’t feel like a “loving” person all the time and I am not happy all the time. I had forgotten to be loving, you shouldn’t always be happy, but you should also feel sad about what others are sad about.

    Actually, I think I got it. I based empathy on the idea of the “loving” person. I think the whole “loving” person is kind of bogus. It’s more like a persona. You don’t have to tell people you are loving if you really are, you just show it. No reason to showboat you much of a loving person you are. Real empathy doesn’t have to be shown off or flaunted.

    An empathetic person feels for others and doesn’t have to make that his identifier. It’s kind of like how some insecure men say they don’t give a fuck about what ppl think of them. Real men who don’t give a fuck don’t tell ppl they don’t give a fuck. Otherwise, they are telling ppl they actually care about what ppl think about them and want ppl to believe that they are manly. Hence, they say “I don’t give a fuck.”

    Hopefully, I am getting somewhere with this.


    at first I thought you were venting, and still think you kind of are still venting. So right now, you are getting mad over your situation, which is probably because of your family, girlfriend, genetics not making you good enough, etc. I think i get it, because I am kind of mad right now at my family and the world too. This might mean you are in the anger stage…. wooops, those stages again.

    I understand what you mean by rebellion. It’s better than embracing reality, the reality of fucked up parenting, reality of girls doing bullshit to guys, and how jerks with good looks get all the girls. I think that there are 2 things I can say for this

    1. Before you embrace reality, you have to figure out certain truths in the way people deal with each other. Once you do this, it might make you more optimistic than mad or sad.

    What I mean by this is that the reality of life isn’t always full of harshness.

    An example would be the whole genetic thing. My friend has amazing genetics, good looks, sliky hair and girls love this by the way, good eye hand coordination that made him an athlete and very popular, and he had a family that had good enough social skills that picked up and chatted up the ladies really well. He doesn’t need to approach, he just looks at girls and they fall for him. This is genetics, the environment on the other hand played out the wrong way. He didnt have a girl before but because he was popular, his mom got angry with him and made him stressed out. This shows genetics isn;t everything, it doesn’t make you happy, it just gives you an advantage.

    The environmental reality is that bigger muscle tone CAN get you more girls, and hot ones too. People didn’t used to think I looked good, until I started working out, and then they started complimenting me. Certain girls would hint that they wanted to be with me. This reality of liftin weights to improve your looks is one thing that made me feel that life isn’t always harsh, nor is it unfair to those with good genes. Also, this reality that girls can be as shallow as guys and want guys with looks, works in ur favor if u want to start lifting. I gaurantee good results.

    This is what I mean by embracing reality. It doesn’t always make you a slave. It doesn’t always have to be grim, emrbacing reality means embracing the good and the bad, and the problem with the good is that it is always hidden. But you gotta find it, and itll make your life better, get you more girls and stuff.

    2. Rebellion isn’t always a bad thing. Anyone with nice guy syndrome (and yes I used to have this too) should rebel to an extent, as long as you don’t take ti too far. Rebel against the whole idea of jerks taking girls from nice guys, rebel against bad parenting, rebel against society fucking everyone up. The only thing you have to remember is don’t go overboard with rebellion, don;t hurt anyone emotionally, pyshcoogically, or physically, because at this stage we’re loose cannons. Anything can happen. A while back, I rebelled against this guy who made fun of me in the gym in front of this hot blonde chick as a joke. I caled him an asshole, and the chick was real upset. Neither of us got the chick, and I looked angry and crazy infront of everyone, but that rebellion helped me learn that I shouldn’t tolerate jerks saying mean things. I should have called him out on that abd said, nice line, do you use it on all the girls you meet?

    rebellion teaches you to change your behavior and stop tolerating other ppls bad behavior. And after ur done with this stage, well, you gotta accept life… and this means accept that everyone is fucked up, but you don’t got to be fucked up, and then life can still reward you if you find the good parts of life. The best way to rebel is to stop patholigically helping people. Stop helping ppl out of ego, that says you are a nice guy and you help others. It’s superficial helping because it fuels ego. This is good enough for rebellion, becuase girls get helped out all the time without giving anything in return. Hence, nice guys get freind zoned. I stopped helping girls unless I really need to or they need my help because they are in danger. Also, I learned (and this is part of acceptance and its a good thing) that most girls don’t want to be helped because they feel they want to be independent (feministic idea). Some girls will even tell me they’re fine even though its obvious they are crying. It’s a good and bad thing, but you might as well accept it. It won’t be cahngin anytime soon.

    So yeah, accept the good out of life, and rebel by not helping ppl. Then start becoming more empathetic and then you probably will help ppl later on genuinely instead of out of the need to be nice. And yes, the 5 steps aren’t set in stone, they go out of order and combine with each other at certain times. And also unconditional love is an ideal for ppl our age, most ppl don’t emotionally mature until they get much older, most ppl our age are selfish and cant give that love to you, especially women in the dating world. Theyr just as fucked up as we are. And parents, they have failed us. We cant get back unconditional love from them. I can’t get back love from mine.

    In the end, though, you do accept it. And you probably will, after u rebel. Just don’t do anything bad or crazy.

  9. Kal Ross,

    Re: empathy. Try intentionally caring about other people’s happiness. People you dont know. Not trying to fix / change / solve. Just caring. Feel what they are. Help IF they request it. Then leave. Some volunteering work is good for that, some isnt, it really depends on the piece you’re lacking. What works for me maybe it’s not the same that works for you. The end result is pretty uniform though: to be able / open to feel what other people are feeling, plus a layer of understanding where they are coming from.

    That said, empathy is not the same as compassion. Some people can really feel you, yet use it to get stuff from you. I’d pick compassion over empathy on its own.

  10. Kal Ross,

    Thanks for your response. And yeah, Im venting. I probably sound like a 15 year old, and in a way, I am. That is where all the frustrated energy is coming from.

    Im 36 though. And I did a long, long freaking workout to get to the complete opposite of that frustrated energy. Now that I got a clear glimpse of what happened, I would say that, I hated who I was, so I pictured who I wanted to be, then spent 20 years in ups and downs reaching it.

    I used to be poor, awkward, unattractive, my family didnt want me, my friends were more losers than I was (omega circle), etc.

    Now I have a lot of money, Im extroverted, confident, muscular, cocky, funny, all wise, guys look up to me (as they should) and I have had success on pretty much anything I have attempted. Last time I got rejected by a girl was… fuck. Five years ago? just before I embraced Game. I was on a nice self help path (still fueled by overcompensation) when I discovered game, and “ALPHA”… it was like seeing god. A god I could become. And I became. I did it.

    So why am I still unhappy? all that repressed and leaking energy and all the old identification and identity and crap. It’s all there, in layers, deep down, unresolved.

    I did what Ricky has been talking about, about projecting and chasing a false self, and thinking that when you reach it you´ll get the happiness, but happiness doesnt happen, “entertainment” and “void validation” does. Maybe you’re getting some real good from life, but it’s tasteless, because you (well, I) werent doing nor addressing the stuff that really mattered.

    Overcompensation seems to be a way to avoid the issue. Im a bit puzzled because from the outside, overcompensation works in phyisical tangible ways. If you’re poor and you work double shift and play it smart, you get money. Why doesnt the money cure you from your “I am poor” old self?

    Ah. Fuck the mind.

    You addressed the rebellion and stuff. Yeah. I agree with what you’re saying but I think I wasnt clear. Im not talking about rebelling against reality, but rebelling against “reality.”

    It goes like this. Your family and initial circle determine your “reality”. Your emotions, belief, friends, circle, upbringing, etc, give you a “reality”, that could be christianism or muslim-ism or feminism or capitalism or whatever the fuck they decided you make you into. And none of that is real. If you perceived the unreality of that, probably you went through the phases of denial->acceptance.

    So that’s what Im talking about. If you accept the “reality” as reality you’re a zombie, and a slave, not a slave of the real, natural world and laws of physics and energy, but a slave to the system, emotional frame, a slave to the story where other people framed you in and you framed yourself in.

    In my case, I was being fed with circumstances and emotions where it was OK for me to fail.

    I was ugly, poor, shy, awkward, in a third world country. If you had a million bucks, would you bet them on my success? if you had to choose a destiny for me, would you put me in the loser-forever bandwagon, or in the “next big thing” one?

    And that’s where reality vs “reality” and rebellion and stuff sets in.

    Im thinking that what happened, is that I DID generate an identification with that “reality” I had an ego and a full persona there. A person who wants to live and survive, and live his full story = which is the story of a victim loser. Makes sense? that was YOHAMI, the one that was given to me.

    So it’s not really about the emotions, it’s not like feeling bad and alone and crap, the problem isnt the emotions on their own, the “problem” is when you identify, personalize these emotions and create an identity, an identity that projects itself into the future and says “this is what I am”.

    It’s less about feeling frustrated when I was younger, and more about me trying to figure life that it was ALWAYS going to be like that. It was ego. And the rebellion was against that “reality”.

    So. Im accessing all of that crap and letting it be. Because these inferiorities dont die when I reach grandiosities. Instead, they undermine the grandiosity and the whole thing becomes a schema that I end up not enjoying, and consequently Im forced to reset and reboot and try again, only to reach new highs that quickly taste the same as the last ones.

    It’s Ricky’ example. The basement and the leak. I couldnt say it better.

    So. Again. Im thinking the issue is the identification and ego and it projecting into the future. Im re experiencing all of that frustration and honestly, it wasnt that bad. It was / is incredibly intense and alive. The issue seems to be when it is “all there is, this is it, this is me, this is my future”… I created a negative one, then had to create a god to go kill that beast. And now Im sitting down with both and in a way it’s like none of this ever happened.

    Boy the games we play.

    And yeah, Im venting. If not here, where? 🙂

    If I had taken the time to build a bomb, like Ricky did with these posts, I would like to see the buildings falling and the explosions and shit blowing up in the air. So, this is my building and my collapse. Sharing every broken window and leak and fireworks here.

    Thanks for reading.

  11. *And none of that is real. If you perceived the unreality of that, probably you went through the phases of denial->acceptance. You rejected or rebelled a bit, but then you had to “grow up” and accept the lies, embrace the “reality”, become the identity they had reserved from you. You become the “reality”. A false one.

  12. Ross,

    “The best way to rebel is to stop patholigically helping people.”

    For a codependent, yes. for a nice guy, YES. for any ego-driven super dude, yes. Stop helping.

    I wonder what does rebellion look like for a pure narcissist though. I cant compute it. They still need it (?), but what shape would it take?

    Or maybe the anger would jump into acceptance without rebellion?

  13. Thanks for your response.

    I didn’t mean to imply that it HAS to be a dichotomy. I only mean that I would assume doctors would BELIEVE they are attacking the true cause of the problem. We talk about how people with heart problems need to eat better, even if they don’t end up doing it. But nobody talks about this psychoanalysis stuff anymore, it seems to have faded from the cultural landscape. So I guess my question was, is it because we know better now?

    As for your assertion that a key that opens all doors is better: I would agree, except that neurotic issues are considered pathological. And it’s hard for me to accept the conclusion that MOST people are mentally ill, that MOST families are at some level abusive. Because then the question is, what is mentally healthy? Is it possible that none of us have ever met or will meet a mentally healthy human being? That’s kind of a scary thought, isn’t it?

    I mean, most young people I meet are healthy. They run marathons, they bike centuries, they have no severe medical problems. So it seems bizarre to assume that almost all of them are mentally unhealthy.

    I don’t really accept the whole “society is dysfunctional” meme either. Our society has its problems, and it may be headed toward catastrophic collapse if we don’t get our environmental issues sorted out, but our population is better provided for than any in the history of the world. I don’t outright dismiss the thesis, but I also don’t think it can be stated as an axiom.

  14. M.E

    Depends on what you call healthy and dysfunctional. People are alive and eating fucking and working, and society is “functioning”, and the population is being provided. It’s amazing the amount of material and technology and comfort we have compared to any other time in history.

    Still… it depends on what you call healthy and dysfunctional.

  15. Another point on genetics vs. environment after reading your reply to R:

    The environment that counts is the perceived environment, not the actual environment. So one child may find his parents just fine while another finds them neglectful. But then it’s not the parents’ fault, it’s the child’s perception.

    So the thing that bothers me is that we may be saying that neglect may be causing these coping mechanisms, but what if the neglect is entirely in the child’s imagination, and a neutral observer would not agree it was really there.

    Then because of this child’s faulty perception, he goes right on perceiving everyone to be neglectful, not because he has some psychodynamic pattern, but simply because for genetic reasons he is more prone to feeling hurt than another.

  16. M.E., before I proceed to answer your points, may I ask, are you an avid manosphere reader or website reader in general? And if so what are your favorites?

  17. I read reddit a lot. I’ve read a fair amount of PUA and self-improvement literature. I initially stumbled onto your series via Mark Manson’s recent blog post on how PUA is not beneficial for most people. I recently read Karen Horney’s book on neurosis and wanted to know what happened to those ideas. Not sure if that answers anything.

  18. Did you read a lot of evolution and evolutionary psychology books as well? Or PUA material that made heavy reference to evolutionary psychology

  19. Oh also, did you ever read The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker? Or anything that makes reference to “blank slates?”

  20. I have read just about everything by Steven Pinker.

  21. I am going to butt in about PUA material that has evolutionary psychology in it. I just want to say a lot of it is bogus. I took a class on evolution and I read psychologytoday and I can’t find half of the stuff PUAs talk about.

    Also, alot of PUA’s material on evolution is about the alpha male, and it sometimes uses animals as references. A good point to note is that humans are pairbonders, meaning we have to establish intimacy with our lovers to take care of the children, otherwise the children get fucked up (codependents, narcissists good examples). Also think of adopted children. The animals PUAs references are not pair bonders, and they’re usually animals whose children, if they were abandoned, can survive on their own. Humans are not like that.

    Also, PUAs like to reference evolutionary psychology to show that we are meant to have multiple partners. That also doesn’t fall in line with evolution.

    The surprising thing is that according to evolutionary psychology, we are meant to stay with one partner socially (marriage), but we are meant to cheat as well (other mammals do this too, and penguins do it, even though they only choose one life partner, they have sex with other penguins). It’s strange, but we are sexually polygamous but socially monogamous.

  22. M.E. –

    Okay, I had a feeling you did some evolutionary psychology reading, particularly Steven Pinker, because I notice that when I debate people who have read a lot of Pinker, they get hung up on the nature vs. nurture issue, and feel that almost any line of reasoning focusing on nurture is somehow discounting or ignoring nature, or genetics.

    A big problem with Pinker, though I love his writing and ideas, is that the blank slate position he loves tearing down is largely a strawman. No one, not even behaviorists like BF Skinner, believes genetic predispositions play little to no role in defining human nature, and that is especially true for modern academics. He eliminates all nuance and subtlety from his opponents’ arguments in order to advance his own.

    You can read this discussed in more detail at these links. If you can get your hands on a review of Pinker’s Blank Slate by Patrick Bateson called “The Corpse of a Wearisome Debate” from Science magazine. I couldn’t find a link to the full article online, but maybe you’ll have better luck.

    Here are some more links about the strawman Pinker constructed, well worth reading if you want to balance the Blank Slate with some opposing viewpoints. Even though it’s a lot of links, I post them all because I think you may find the answers to a lot of your questions there without me having to make this comment excessively long:

    Very few academics and social scientists of a respectable nature believe in a blank slate theory, or a nurture-only theory. In fact, if you read most psychologists, they account for genetics. For example, one of the sources I used for my Reader Letters Series was Jeffrey Young. He discusses the three faulty coping strategies of surrender, avoidance, and overcompensation. (He didn’t invent these ideas, they are basically psychological versions of the flight, fright or freeze response discussed in biology, but he’s one of many psychologists who discuss these faulty coping strategies.) Young discusses how children can be born with certain genetics that leads to them having something of an innate behavioral pattern called a temperament. This temperament likely owes much to genetics. Two different children may have different temperaments due to their genetics, so even though both are abused, one child due to his temperament defaults to the faulty coping strategy of overcompensation and rebellion, while the other child defaults to surrender. Just because there is a genetic component at play here doesn’t somehow make the psychological elements disappear from the equation or make the nurture aspect irrelevant. There is obviously still psychology at play, along with the genetics. The problem is, I find when people read too much evo psych they start seeing everything as a black-or-white, either-or argument between nature and nurture, and assume if you are talking about nurture you are implicitly rejecting or ignoring nature. Psychology already takes into account the nature, it’s just that it’s easier to focus on and change the nurture than it is to change the nature. It’s important to UNDERSTAND the nature, like knowing that one child is oversensitive to criticism and has a temperament that lends itself to surrender while another child has a more easy going temperament. But in the long run, what’s easier to control, one’s evolution and genetics or one’s environment?

    Say for example a man has a lot more testosterone than the average man, so he is very aggressive and hot-tempered and more easily provoked to violence. Studies also show that excess testosterone has a tendency to inhibit verbal ability when a person is angered. That’s why when men get angry, they tend to verbally shut down while women when angry can go for the verbal jugular far easier in an argument. It is also proposed as a theory for why a lot of men feel provoked to violence in arguments, because they get frustrated by their inability to properly respond tit-for-tat verbally to a tongue-lashing they receive from their female partner, and that frustration causes them to get physical as a compensation. They discovered this when women who were injected with testosterone suddenly found themselves unable to verbalize arguments or comebacks during arguments.

    So we know that by nature, people with extremely high testosterone react a certain way when angry that is different than the way people without high testosterone react when angry. Does knowing this fact somehow make knowing about psychodynamics and nurture irrelevant? Of course not. Psychologists take these innate differences into account when forming their theories. None of this changes the fact that this person’s upbringing and life experiences will affect his personality development in largely predictable ways.

    To go back to your example of the hypersensitive child who sees neglect where more normal people won’t, there is still psychology at play. For example if this child is hypersensitive to how others treat him and sees neglect everywhere in all behavior, and this is due to his genetic makeup, his hypersensitivity will surely show in his behavior. The child will be sullen, moody, angry, withdrawn, or throw tantrums. How do the parents react to this? Some parents may react by becoming angry and shaming, or they may even punish him for his hypersensitivity. They may tell the child to shut up or stop being a sissy or mock him for being so sensitive. (overcompensation by the parents) This may cause him to grow up emotionally repressed and macho and always feeling guilty for his emotional reactions. They may be so self-absorbed they don’t even notice the child is hypersensitive and easily upset. (Avoidance by the parents) This makes the child not only retain his temperament but to grow up to choose partners who are to self-absorbed to recognize his needs. They may respond to the child’s temperament by spoiling him and coddling him and shielding him from anything that might possibly hurt his feelings. (Surrender by the parents) This makes him grow up into a fragile thin-skinned human being with shaky self-esteem that expects others to cater to his hypersensitivity. Or he may have parents who understand his needs and have empathy and do what they can to be sensitive to those needs without coddling him, while helping him mentally adapt to the point he is strong enough to be independent and less hypersensitive. (Healthy response by the parents)

    Do you see what I’m getting at here? Acknowledging nurture does not imply an ignorance of the important of nature. Acknowledging nature does not mean that nurture becomes irrelevant. No serious psychologist or social scientist is naive enough to truly believe in a blank slate. Even in not explicitly discussed, the effect of one’s genetics is implied. The interplay between nature and nurture is so complex and subtle that trying to separate them cleanly is a fool’s mission. However I find a big problem Pinker and a few very popular evolutionary psychologists is that they’ve painted this false picture of blank slate psychologists and social scientists, which has been a huge disservice to their readers, who then start analyzing all debates through this lens. That’s why when you were debating me the way you were, I had a feeling you had read a lot of Pinker, because you seemed to be falling into a lot of the same “nature or nurture” thinking traps many of his readers end up adopting.

    In summation, to address the original question of your comment, the fact a child is genetically predisposed to react a certain way to something doesn’t mean that he has no psychodynamic pattern at play, it means that his genetic predisposition is one of many ingredients in his psychodynamic pattern. As long as we have brains, it’s impossible for us not to have a psychodynamic pattern, whether it’s healthy or unhealthy.

    This comment is longer than I wanted it to be, but this issue comes up often, not just from you, so I hope addressing it in depth will put it to rest once and for all.

  23. Thanks for that in-depth explanation. I think that explains the issue pretty well.

    I think I realize that the dichotomy is a false one (certainly Blank Slate was one of Pinker’s lesser works).

    What I was really getting at is whether certain character traits are fixed and can only be masked by treatment, or whether these traits are caused by specific experiences and can be completely eliminated through better processing of those experiences.

    Let’s take your example of the man who defaults to violence in an argument. Today, society’s position is that this man is bad. Once he has hit his spouse once, he is likely to do it again. The woman should leave him and take the kids. He should be abandoned to a life of solitude and guilt, because he let his temper get the best of him.

    So here, we are taking the position that the man’s behavior is innate. We don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but it’s something intrinsic to the man. Any treatment we can give him is at best a coping strategy, and it will still leave him prone to violence, but maybe he will count to ten first and refrain from hitting his spouse. Yet he still has these unforgivable impulses that some other man (for whatever reason) might not have. It’s only a matter of time till they show themselves.

    Conversely, if we take the perspective of psychoanalysis, we say that this man has some issues caused by his upbringing. Maybe he is unconsciously imitating his abusive father. Maybe he is unconsciously rebelling against social convention due to his strict upbringing. Maybe he grew up in a household where words were ineffective and he sees violence as the only effective means of communication. All of these sound like perfectly plausible stories.

    The question is, will any amount of repeating these stories, accepting them, mourning them, whatever, change his tendency to violence? Psychoanalysis appears to say yes. Modern society appears to say no.

    In short, I’m trying to understand whether there is really any hope for people with unfortunate character traits, or if they’re doomed to a lifetime of ineffective behavioral therapies and self-help techniques that don’t really get at their innate defects.

  24. The question is, will any amount of repeating these stories, accepting them, mourning them, whatever, change his tendency to violence? Psychoanalysis appears to say yes. Modern society appears to say no.

    First thing I want to express, psychodynamics is te examination of how people interact on a psychological level and it examines the roots of one’s problems Psychoanalysis on the other hand is a very specific form of psychodynamic therapy. It is what Freud did, and it probably obsesses over roots of dysfunctions in more depth than any other form of therapy. It is probably the form most obsessed with introspection and insights into the childhood traumas. It can get very complicated and jargon-filled and it is known for its depth of insight but it’s not very action oriented. Many people accuse it of leading to mental masturbation and leading to patient who can intellectually dissect add explain their problems to death but actually accomplish very little in changing for the better.

    I am not well versed in psychoanalysis. I discuss psychodynamics, but I actually did not discuss much psychoanalysis outside of Freud’s repetition compulsion theory. A lot of it is honestly too complicated for me.

    Most of the books and sources I linked to on my blog were not psychoanalysis. I just want to make that clear because not only you but several others keep saying my articles are psychoanalytic and theyre not. They are psychodynamic though. I don’t want readers to get confused.

    I am curious as to what you posted above though. You say modern society says no to the question of whether the wife beater can be changed. How does it say no? Why do you believe that? It just seems like a very board statement and I was wondering your reasoning behind it.

  25. Sorry, I guess I got my terms mixed up. So psychodynamics is a broader term that encompasses psychoanalysis?

    Regardless the second question: well, for one thing, we have permanent criminal and sex offender records. And the rates of recidivism are quite high for people who have committed sex offenses. When the whole Rihanna-Chris Brown thing was going on, people said she should leave him, they didn’t say he should stop beating her. Etc.

    More broadly, we generally find people to have stable personalities and personality flaws that don’t seem to change very much. A person who is a go-getter might go on to become a CEO. It’s rare to find a typical low-self-esteem loser to wake up in his mid 30s and go on to become successful. The same applies to any area in life, success with women, creative success, what have you.

    Then there is the example of addicts – you have heard the idea that alcoholics must always be considered alcoholics, whether they drink or not. And if any pathological behavior, whether codependency or narcissism or violence, can be described as a form of addiction, doesn’t it therefore follow that any codependent person will always at some level remain codependent, whether they choose to indulge in their codependency or not?

  26. ME,

    I read your stuff with the subtext on genetics and it brings some weird results:

    “When the whole Rihanna-Chris Brown thing was going on, people said she should leave him, they didn’t say he should stop beating her.”

    Summed to:

    “Then there is the example of addicts – you have heard the idea that alcoholics must always be considered alcoholics, whether they drink or not.”

    Would leat to Chris Brown being a woman beater, whether she keeps beating women or not.

    But enter genetics, that makes Chris Brown a woman beater, whether he has ever beaten a woman or not.

    Flawed thinking.

    For me the key is here:

    “More broadly, we generally find people to have stable personalities and personality flaws that don’t seem to change very much.”

    If we part on the basis of nature + nurture, with the nature being pretty much unchangeable, then the nurture / circumstances are key.

    Most personalities are stable because the nurture is stable, and / or the personality occupies itself with keeping the circumstances stable. Say. Addicts look for new stuff to get addicted to. Driven people keep looking for stuff to be driven about. Depressed people keep looking for stuff to be depressed about.

    Assuming these personalities have enough control over their circumstances.

    Which we dont, when we are born, and we dont when we grow up. We just dont. We dont control nationality, social class, education, resources, all the way up, all those forming years, until our personality has enough power and influence over our own circumstances so we can get busy with recreating them.

    We play with whatever is given to us. For some its picking between “frivolity and mundane” for some is “guns and drugs”. Say, I had almost zero chance to get into the crack culture, or the guns culture, and ZERO chance of getting into the CEO Wallstreet culture. My world was too apart.

    And personalities are mostly stable. It takes a big event, a cataclism, a life crisis, a major reboot for personalities to change. But they do happen, the miserable loser becomes a winner, the frigid frivolous woman grows a heart, the successful caring guy becomes an evil murderer. It might take war, depression, whatever = change. It happens.

    Since it happens, and since we adults have control over nurture, and since the political movements and state and etc can control how is it like for new generations, this “nature” thing can be explored, known, etc, but the jump to say that some people can be assumed as CEOS before they even run a company, and some other are criminals before they commit crime, is not just absurd: it’s not going to work.

    You´ll get non-functional CEOS and non-guilty guys in prison, criminal ceos, unexpected wife beaters, etc. Not gonna work.

  27. Following the genetics logic, Steve Jobs was a CEO before he even created Apple, and Chris Brown was a woman beater before he had met Rihanna.

    And I guess Rihanna was already a star and Bill Gates was rich already etc. Full predestination. It´s like the Blank Slate, but reversed.

  28. The subtext for me is whether or not people with psychological issues can successfully resolve those issues.

  29. ME,

    Do you think you can acquire psychological issues due to trauma, circumstances, brainwashing, torture, drugs, etc?

  30. If it can be damaged, it can be repaired. If it can be constructed, it can be deconstructed – and then constructed in a different direction.

    The genes / etc are the clay. The final shape depends on what you do with it.

    Can someone resolve their psychological issues? I’d say the real question is, do they want to?

  31. I’ve got mixed feelings on your answer, but thanks for the response.

  32. I’m not sure. I have little experience in that regard. There is PTSD, of course. I don’t know how similar someone with PTSD is to someone who has always had a fucked up personality.

    But it’s certainly not true that anything that can be damaged.

    I would say David Foster Wallace (for example) definitely wanted to resolve his psychological issues. It’s hard to imagine that after decades of treatment he hadn’t tried everything.

  33. M.E., I think continuing to focus on the content of your responses would be a pointless distraction, because I think there’s something deeper going on here. I’m more curious to know what your personal relationship to these issues are. What issues of your own do you bring to the material? What parts of this material do you feel resonate with your problems?

    The reason I ask is because often when I find someone gets stuck on a single certain aspect of a post to the exclusion of the rest of it, it’s because they feel that single certain aspect threatens their ego and identity somehow, and if they don’t resolve it to their satisfaction their very identity or self-image is at stake. Since at this point I don’t know anything about you except a few comments and a username, I can’t say if that’s what’s going on with you, but I’d rather know that before going down the road of having an exhaustive intellectual debate on content that just ends up being a smokescreen for a different issue (a mistake I used to make a lot when I first started blogging).

    So what I want to know is, it seems like there’s a certain part of you that’s invested in getting the answer that working on core issues is an unproductive exercise and that genetics are truly the problem. You seem quite resistant to arguments that say otherwise. I’m wondering if you have any motives, even if unconscious, for this line of reasoning. For example, I notice that when all I used to do was talk about evolutionary psychology and engaging human nature on a tactical level, many people enjoyed it greatly and my feedback was nearly 100% positive. When I started blogging about a year and half ago about killing ego-driven ways and doing a lot of hard soul-searching and painful awareness building, a theme that really peaked with this last article series, I got the most reader resistance I ever got in the 5 years this blog has been in existence.

    What I realized is that focusing on evolution and genetics and blaming everything on hardwiring is very attractive to people because you can just put all the blame on external factors and focus on the quirks of other people. And tactical advice is also attractive because it may be time consuming and complicated but its relatively painless because it doesn’t challenge you to look at uncomfortable truths about yourself or relive pain you’ve been trying to repress. However core work and healing childhood wounds and really digging deep into things you’ve spent your whole life trying to forget, destroying the illusions you’ve created about your past and the lies you’ve told yourself about yourself…that’s WAY harder and scarier than learning 48 laws of power, 30 days of game, and years of mental masturbating on interaction tactics.

    I find that tends to be the biggest reason why people insist on returning to the nature vs, nurture and “psychotherapy doesn’t work” arguments. Because if they can convince themselves and others of that, it lets them off the hook and gives them a reason to avoid the core work they fear doing.

    I don’t know you or if that’s the case with you, and I accept it totally may not be, so that’s why I’m asking you how you personally relate to the idea of childhood injuries, core traumas and codependency issues. SO I’d like to know.

  34. Reading about David Foster. Depression + drugs + addiction + electroshock. Lol. Sure. Amy Winehouse also wanted to be happy.

    Im not saying there are issues that cant be cured. You can get physically crippled, so I guess you can get, or be born, psychologically crippled too. But there’s the bell curve etc. And for every rarity there’s usually something that can be done about, as long as it can be identified / understood / addressed.

  35. The other thing with David Foster Wallace…if you want a method to have 100% track record before you consider it worthy of undertaking, you’ll never end up pursuing anything. The fact that it didn’t work for David Foster Wallace doesn’t mean you need to throw out the whole idea. Every idea, every movement, every method has had its notable failures along the way. It’s like saying because we’ve had horrible plane crashes through history it invalidates the concept of air travel as a viable means of transportation.

  36. Thank you for the responses pain and Ricky. As far as why I’ve always wanted a serious relationship, I’m not really sure exactly why. But I think there are two main reasons. Once I hit puberty, I became extremely religious and I had hoped to get married early to have a proper outpouring of sexual desire. This meant finding love soon, and I aimed for around 19-20. When I started dating girls I thought each one would eventually be my wife. A slightly unhealthy fantasy to have in a fledgling relationship I dare say. I’ve since decided to engage in premarital relations, but that general feeling of getting married early still remains.

    But there’s something more there too. There’s a hope to make amends. I’ve always been a vain man in terms of physical appearance. When I was a child, most strangers upon initially greeting me would call me handsome, something my mother and aunts would also constantly mention. I loved these compliments and it always made me feel warm and happy. Do you have a girlfriend yet? Oh you’re so handsome. You have a great smile. Basically, the only compliments I can remember receiving as a child were for my looks.

    I was a brash and overly confident kid. When I moved from New York to Atlanta at the age of eight, I would loudly tell all the kids that I was smarter than them since I came from a better school system. And I shunned everyone because I legitimately felt they were beneath me and I just read alone. Eventually, a kid in my elementary school who was well liked started hanging out with me. And then the rest of the school accepted me. It only fueled my egotism. This was also the only time in my life so far that I actually rotated between groups of friends. I remember it being tiring and always feeling torn in my responsibilities for a group. I had rivals who deeply resented me, but I was always happy to be around them because they helped me become better.

    I very vividly recall the first two times someone mocked my appearance. The first time was of my smile. But I had received such constant reinforcement on that front that I didn’t care. The second, however, was on the shape of my head.Afterwards, it was all I could ever see. In high school, I was so obsessed with my hair and my head, I would spend hours staring at my head, fixing my hair into a particular way, trying to achieve a certain look. The right hair line. The right look. What would make me look attractive again. I was convinced that I had grown up to be an unattractive person. I was ugly now. I was handsome as a child. And I ended up hideous. It tormented me. I could never tear myself away from the mirror in the mornings. I had to look right. I was always late to school as a consequence. I asked my Mom about it once, eighth grade. And she laughed. Said my father had it too. But I couldn’t see such a defect on his head. She said it was just the way I cut my hair. But this head problem wouldn’t go away. This was the only obstacle to my success. The only thing stopping me from being handsome again. Vanity is an interesting thing. The more you stare at yourself, the more your own image becomes foreign in your mind. Different lighting, different environments, you become hypersensitive to the way you change. It’s as if there a million images bombarding you as you stare. I’ve stared at myself in the mirror for so long sometimes that my very appearance begins to melt and rearrange itself. My face blank, I can see attractive and I can see hideous at the same time. Pretty freaky huh?

    Around this time, I had a terrible fight with one of my sisters. I always fought with this particular sister. It was just foolish baseless animosity. And one night, I was feeling down already and I just wanted to hurt her. So I purposefully said some things that I knew would wound her at the core. I knew her well, and I spoke every bad thought she had ever had, telling her that we all knew this and that, basically doing my best to confirm that she was fundamentally worthless. And when I was done, I burst into tears.

    I couldn’t believe what I had done. Why did I say those things? I apologized and for three years, this was the last thing I thought about before I slept. That moment. I told myself that I would never do such a thing ever again. And I resolved to change myself, now believing, very very deeply, because of the way I had lashed out for no reason and the mockery of my appearance (which was a daily occurrence then in eighth grade due to a bully pestering me), that I was a bad person.

    It was around this time that I became interested in girls. Now, I was convinced that I had to make amends for that dirty deed previous and that asshole self I had once been, boasting and bragging of my accomplishments. So I dreamed of saving these girls. Of stealing away all of their hurt and pain and making them completely and entirely happy. And I dreamed of being never speaking of my accomplishments, allowing them to be seen only when absolutely unavoidable.

    Basically, I’m a mix of a narcissistic personality and a codependent one. I need praise for my intelligence, my looks, everything. Even now, I swim in memories and count compliments for my looks to see if I’m handsome. Because I have no fucking idea if I am or not if someone doesn’t tell me it. “She loves me! And see how I transform before my very eyes”–The Sorrows of Young Werther. But at the same time, I tend to prop up people’s emotions and themselves while ignoring my own needs, as noted in the earlier post.

    And I also work to actively deny myself external validation now. I decided that it didn’t lead to lasting comfort. But I guess I funnel that towards an extreme.

    Ok, so that was a bit of background, now let me describe to you my junior year in college so you get a sense of how these things manifest, and maybe a reader will spot things in my behavior that I’ve missed.
    I go to an elite university, and my first year there I was scared. Had I been ranking myself too highly? Were these people smarter than me? Where exactly did I fall on the intelligence ranking? Wasn’t I genius? These people are all fools. It led to paralyzing insecurities popping up during all classes.

    Eventually, during sophomore year, a professor talked to me, told me to have a bit more courage and belief in myself, complimented my final paper a lot, and gave me some things to read over the summer. I read a lot during the summer, felt smart, but always had a nagging feeling that the professor didn’t mean the compliments and simply wanted a good evaluation (He indirectly called me brilliant! Shit man, how the fuck was that paper brilliant? And what do you mean by indirect? I would think going back and forth). I came back to school with more confidence nonetheless.

    Now, romantically, I hadn’t been involved with anyone for a while. But I had met an interesting prospect the previous semester. My friend had told me that she would more than likely be happy to date me, but I blew that option off. Two reasons: a) overwhelming jealousy. This friend had had a fling with this girl before I had met her, but the very idea that someone I knew had been there first made me sick. I liked the girl, but I couldn’t bring myself to care for her sexually anymore. Shouldn’t matter I kept saying, but ultimately the feeling was too powerful. b) Once I had gotten to know her, her spilling out her life to me and me trying to give advice, I tried to do the same with her. Telling her about my feelings, my insecurities. But, like I had said, nothing came from her. I told her I was shy. She scoffed and said no you’re not. I barely speak to people. I don’t know who she thought she was talking to. I told her about my insecurities revolving around intelligence. Fear of rejection. My overbearing father. And each time there was just this annoying silence and a moving away.

    Not just that. The things that hurt the most were her assumptions. I write stories and poems but I don’t talk about them with people. I avoid showing people my writing for fear of failure and a lack of appreciation. I make excuses. I don’t see the point I say because a) people rarely give good feedback (everyone feels like they don’t get poetry nowadays) b) i myself don’t think much of my poetry and what’s the point in sharing it? Fuck it. Who cares? Does not sharing my poetry hold me back from significantly advancing my own poetic skill? Does constructive criticism need to be a part of the creative arts? Or if one continues and does his best to fulfill his own artistic vision will he not succeed? Of course he will.

    But I made the mistake of letting slip to my some close friends that I write poetry. And the little fuckers told everyone. So this girl is suddenly attempting to flatter me by calling me a poet and people start to say things like I’m a romantic. And I roll my eyes and refuse to share my poems, because goddamn it they aren’t any fucking good! I write for me, it brings me personal satisfaction, the slow process of improving and getting my thoughts out onto a page are very enjoyable. But I don’t want to fucking share that yet. Because people think I write poetry, but I don’t share any of it with anyone, despite a reasonable number of poems written (about one every day for the past two years), my close friends have begun to scoff and accuse me of only writing poems to attract the opposite sex. I just sigh.

    Another part that hurts and comes from this whole need-approval-yet-will-not-speak-about-self-put-others-first thing. I come from a pretty well off family but I hate buying things. I don’t really see the need. I don’t really dress well or have any expensive things. I’m fine with that except when new people I meet, such as this girl and most all of my college friends, judge me by my clothes and appearance, and then conclude that I’m poor. This girl asked me “are you just making excuses for your family” when I tried to explain why I went to a barber in the ‘ghetto’ part of town as opposed to the one near our school (I didn’t know option b existed). And I just set my jaw and said “Yeah you’re right”. I should have just said no, but I was just so furious that she had just assumed I was poor. Let her wallow in her idiocy I decided. She deserves nothing else. And now my friends hug me and ask questions like “Adam, do you not want to do X because of the money?” Jesus.

    I met two other prospective romantic interests and get to know them. One is extremely argumentative and my friends hate her. She acts a real bitch. I’m not really very attracted to her, but I’m wondering why she acts that way. So I stick with it, keep talking to her, do my best to not reward bitchy behavior and see why she acts that way. I thought we ended up pretty good friends. I go out on a date with her near the end of the semester and she says let’s just be friends. I shrug and say ok, because I’m still happy that I stuck with the friendship, believing very strongly that both of us had benefited. I try to talk to her again after the date. She won’t acknowledge me. Ah well.

    Second girl was more me zapping her. I talked to her about my writing. And all the recognition that I secretly dreamed of but was too afraid to pursue for fear of it being both not sustainable and of it leading to possible rejection, started to come from her. She asked me if I wrote. She didn’t go to my school, didn’t know my friends, so I just started telling the truth. Yes. I write stories, always unfinished though. I write poems, but I think they suck. Let her read one. She shows me something she wrote. I’m think a creative partnership is brewing. We spend a lot of time together with no one else around. I recognize a kindred soul. She’s a bit older than me and I tell her how I’m feeling and she relates experiences where she’s felt the same thing. I’m falling for her. But for her, I only pursue a relationship at the urging of my friends. I never really got that vibe from her when together. In retrospect, when we first met I’m fairly certain she was attracted to me. And as time moved on and I remained aloof, mainly because I was distracted by girl 1 all the time, I think that attraction she felt lingered. But eventually, as I revealed more about myself, it fell through. And because I had refused to satisfy myself sexually at the initial meeting due to a wish to have a friendship first and prove myself above lust, I felt like I lost when she said let’s just be friends. I’ve tried to keep in touch though I’m in London. And I’ve been distant on the phone. But she doesn’t pick up my calls anymore.

    Here in London, I was the only guy in a group of nine. I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to the girls. I don’t want to reveal my intellectual interests for fear of seeming pretentious. I didn’t want to reveal my writings and poetry for fear of being found wanting. I didn’t want to reveal my drawings for fear of being found to be a shitty drawer. I didn’t want to reveal my sense of humor for fear of sounding like an ass. I didn’t want to speak during class for fear of taking over the conversation and seeming like an ass. I didn’t want to talk about my past experiences for fear of it painting me in the wrong light. So I isolate myself from the group entirely. I don’t talk to anyone. I live with two of the girls. I barely speak to them at all, except a few conversations which I use to confirm my anger at the female sex. Aha! Here it is! Explicitly said! Every girl I’ve tried to harbor a decent friendship with suffers from this issue of just loving douches! Except that it’s too small a sample size to draw such a conclusion. Except that I have trouble with all human relationships, not just female ones.

    Despite all of this, I start dating a girl who lives in London. And I refuse to get too in depth about my life and who I am. Works well enough. I break up with her after a month. And I figure, well that worked well enough. How about this: Fuck the friendship idea, if girls are attracted to me, I’ll just fuck them and leave before they can hurt me. I’ll get sexual satisfaction, remain emotionally distant, and get the fuck away. It’s essentially why I left my girlfriend just now. Because I was afraid she didn’t like me anymore.

    One of my professors seemed to like me. Whenever I spoke during class, he gave me full attention and told me that that is a great idea. Writes a comment on my paper that I have great ideas and should talk in class more. I gave a presentation on a book near the end of the semester, and, unlike the others in the class when they presented, he deferred to me after I gave the presentation and gave me the chance to lead the ensuing discussion. I declined. Retreated inward. Later he told me that it was a great presentation. I felt hurt and disgusted at such praise. I hadn’t given my all, blowing off rehearsing and completing a write up that morning before class. I felt like there was more to say. I felt like he was just trying to give me more confidence and that he didn’t really mean it. At one point during class, I asked if I could say something and the professor took out his pen, and prepared to take notes on my comment. As if I was a professor. I felt like bursting into tears. I felt so hurt. And I felt like my comment was not good enough. I’m staying in London this month now that school has finished and he’s said that he will drop me a line. I’m scared.

    So what do I do? Yes, overcome my insecurities. My god has this post been therapeutic. You can probably see me figuring myself out as I type. I keep a journal but the idea of explaining myself to someone else seems to clear things up far easier than just writing for yourself. Probably something to consider when thinking of my progression as a poet. I guess the most important thing is to just continue to do my best to honestly talk to people about who I am and how I feel. Generate self love and acceptance, which I’ve certainly gotten better at doing. Try and have fun with relationships. Get over my vanity. Not be so extreme in my desire to escape external validation. Shit, just grow up and be proud of myself, not hate on my accomplishments, not think I’m a sack of shit. Cool beans. I’m exhausted after typing this and when reading over it I cringe. Am I trying to represent myself as somebody, to make more or less of myself than the reality of me? No, I guess not. This was pretty honest. Or at least it was the relating of my view of my life.

  37. And what was that? Just a desperate attempt to solicit praise from strangers. For someone to say, look you’re a, b, c. Be positive. God, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want people to sing my praises. But it’s hard for me to get away from it. Though that attempt to get away has made me unhappy too.

    I’m not really more mature than my peers pain. I’m just a kid struggling with issues and I guess that earlier post was really just me placing the blame on external factors instead of focusing on me. I guess my peers do tend to be self absorbed, but more reflection led to a more nuanced understanding of my situation.

  38. But I don’t care how good someone’s genetics are, the environment still plays a stronger role.

    This was actually one of my complaints about this series. Genetics seems to play the larger role here. Most psychological disorders have an large genetic component.

    And environment does not just mean social or parental environment. It can mean accidental exposure to some chemical or some kind of radiation (e.g. cosmic rays) that makes some molecule in your body zig instead of zag. As an example, lead exposure while growing up can dramatically increase aggression.

    Furthermore, even when there may be triggers for certain pathologies in the social environment, those triggers are often so common that everyone gets exposed to them, and so they explain nothing.

    A lot of the Freud derived stuff that you seem to favour has been largely abandoned by people in psychology. For example, the sort of deep analysis (as opposed to CBT) you have recommended in the past has zero empirical support. It doesn’t really do anything. Placing the blame on bad parenting or problems with your potty training also has zero empirical support. Bad parenting can give you bad childhood memories, but has almost no impact on your ability to function as an adult.

    Not that there isn’t a lot of really fantastic stuff in your essays, but it is often in spite of your sources. Hell, even Freud wrote some really insightful stuff, in spite of his theories.v

  39. This is starting to go on circles. Thursday, I wonder did you read any of Ricky’s responses in this comment section?

  40. Riddick, I feel the same way and am wondering the same thing.

  41. “Bad parenting can give you bad childhood memories, but has almost no impact on your ability to function as an adult.”

    LOL. Thursday, can you define “function as an adult” please.

    If parents have no impact on your ability to function, then nor does politics, environment, religion, social class, money, etc. So I guess your definitions of “function” and “adulthood” mean something else.

  42. I find that tends to be the biggest reason why people insist on returning to the nature vs, nurture and “psychotherapy doesn’t work” arguments. Because if they can convince themselves and others of that, it lets them off the hook and gives them a reason to avoid the core work they fear doing.

    Or you could just be wrong. It definitely does not exceed the bounds of logical possibility that someone could have the best parenting etc. and still, purely, from the genetic and physical make-up of their minds, still have these pathologies.

    And when we look at these things we do find considerable evidence for a genetic component, as well as some evidence for environmental but non-social compenents, and we don’t find any evidence for, for example, a parenting component.

    Instead of inventing psychological reasons for why people are disagreeing with you, you might want to consider that they might just disagree with you for some reason reasons. Anyway, I don’t mean to get too harsh here, because I have learned a lot from your work here, and think it quite valuable, but I also think you’ve gotten some things wrong. There’s no need to take it farther than that.

  43. In short, I’m trying to understand whether there is really any hope for people with unfortunate character traits, or if they’re doomed to a lifetime of ineffective behavioral therapies and self-help techniques that don’t really get at their innate defects.

    Again, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that some people may be so doomed.

  44. A big problem with Pinker, though I love his writing and ideas, is that the blank slate position he loves tearing down is largely a strawman.

    Alas, no it wasn’t.

    I’ll give a couple examples. John Money was one of the big names in the sex and gender research. When a young boy lost his penis in a circumcision accident, Money, based on his very blank blank slate theories, recommended that his testes be removed and he be raised as a girl. Of course, disaster ensued.

    I also invite you to read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, where he asserts without irony or qualification that absolutely anyone could have achieved what he achieved with the same training. IQ denial has a long and glorious history.

    These are only the two that I can think of right off the top of my head, but they are by no means isolated attitudes.

  45. I considered earlier writing in detail how I personally relate to these issues, but it would have been an extremely long and masturbatory screed. Ultimately, how can we know?

    I can tell you that in my ways I am a stereotypical codependent person. My mother studied psychology and is now a therapist. She has always tried to get me into therapy (even when I was 6) and seen everything I do in terms of some psychological disorder or another. She used to fight a lot with my dad, in a very demeaning way. He has always been relatively nonverbal and submissive, and she would always yell at him, demanding that he spend more time on doing things around the house, demanding this and that. She would yell at me about these things too. It always made me really angry, completely furious. But there was nothing I could do.

    I had a moment of clarity in the summer before 8th grade I think, when my mother yelled at me and said she was yelling at me because she had a headache. That’s when I realized that she didn’t yell at me because I did something wrong, she just did it because she felt like it. So I tried after that point to resist her and to rebel in some way, but there was nothing I could do. What was worse is that there seemed to be two realities: the reality in my mind, of her as the enemy, as a completely shameless and manipulative person. But she never in the smallest way acknowledged this possibility. She has never once even admitted to raising her voice at anybody. And nobody else has either. Even my dad, whom I believe she has treated like a dog, always defends her if I say something to him about it.

    Toward the end of high school and during college, she would always try to get me to tell her that I loved her, she kept saying that I used to be different and that she wanted us to work on our relationship. The thing is, I never loved her, not in the smallest way. I have sometimes pitied her, or felt bad for her. But I have never felt that she was really my mother. So it seems odd to me that she has these memories of things being better. But she has always demanded that I treat her the way she thinks she deserves to be treated.

    But I have also always been shy with other people. Part of that is because I missed kindergarten and half of first grade due to frequent illness. Then we moved to the US from Russia, and I spent close to a year basically unable to interact with people for cultural reasons. Even today (I’m 29), I still find there are small things I miss out on. I have no accent, and nobody can tell I’m an immigrant, people just think I’m weird. But on rare occasions there are issues of missing context.

    So the point is, I’m a lot like my dad in some ways. I’m shy, I have trouble relating to people on an emotional level, I have trouble even understanding what emotions I’m feeling and why. You would say that this is a symptom of codependency, but I don’t think so. Unless we insist that my dad and I are both codependent by coincidence, or that he chose a woman to marry who would reinforce his codependency issues. I’m also like my mother in some ways, I tend to be needy and emotionally unstable. I resent my parents a great deal for choosing to produce such a defective child when by all rights their genetic lines should have ended with them.

    My mother has always tried to get me to see a therapist. She has always tried to get me to take medication. For a while, I did these things, but it never really helped me. Medication had zero effect on me (I tried many SSRIs), and the therapists did nothing but repeat common tropes that I have seen on the web and elsewhere. The therapist I saw the longest told me that my mother was “narcissistic”. I don’t know if it’s true, because I still have zero independent confirmation of this fact, but it was nice to hear it at the time.

    So then I had another moment of clarity driving to work a few years ago. I had spent years sitting on my couch, trying to figure out what was wrong with me and how I could fix it, and then I wondered, “what if there’s nothing wrong with me?” What if this whole life-long idea that I needed to be cured was fictional? I think that realization did more to help me with my issues than anything else.

    A few weeks ago, I came over to help my parents move a couch and my mother complained as soon as I walked in that I don’t do the smallest things for them because I came 15 minutes late. I was very angry at this. Then as always she insisted on giving me food. I wanted to refuse, because I felt angry, but she told me that it would be unacceptable if I left without accepting it. I told her that she offended me with her words (which had been typical, we would spend hours gardening for her and she would then tell us we didn’t care about her and never did anything for her if one flower ended up broken). But she simply said that I was too easily offended and gave me the name of another therapist to see (a psychodynamic one in this case). I still haven’t called him.

    As far as my relationship with others, I have never been too good with people. I have generally tended to have close friendships with one person at a time, which have generally been somewhat codependent in nature. During high school and college, I would have these obsessive, long-lasting crushes on girls who would never return my interest. They weren’t really sexual in nature, it was more of an intense longing. Then I realized at some point that no matter how close friends I am with a girl, I will always be secondary to whoever she is having sex with at the time. So that’s when I decided I need to do that. I formed this mostly artificial interest in sex where I would try to get girls to have sex with me, which they mostly refused to do.

    I spent a long time on OkCupid, where most girls again would not respond to me. I met probably close to 100 girls over the years, but most of them have been completely uninteresting to me. I have had a few “online relationships” with girls from OkCupid, where I would chat with them daily, but I never wanted to be with them in real life (because they were unattractive). The more I like them, the less I can be myself, so there have been a few that I wanted to be with but they wouldn’t see me again.

    Then I found /r/seduction, and they told me to stop wasting time on OkCupid and talk to people in real life. I try that every so often and it doesn’t work too well. But I do go to clubs and get drunk, which lets me make out with girls on occasion. This is probably the closest I’ve had to healthy relationships with the opposite sex.

    So, there you go. I’m obviously very fucked up. I suspect I’ll end up an alcoholic or end up in prison or kill myself sooner or later (or possibly all three). But it’s not clear to me what fraction of my fucked-up-ness is inherited from my parents genetically, what is inherited behaviorally, what is a product of my social isolation, what is the result of my coping mechanisms such as they may be. And in the end, I think the greatest benefit to me has been to simply try to believe I’m normal and try not to focus on what’s wrong with me.

    So hopefully that explains my skepticism and how I personally relate to it.

  46. M.E.

    Your mom is a bitch and your father is probably also fucked up. And you’re fucked up too. And the fuckedupness is probably in your genes too – say, if you had been adopted by a healthier family, maybe you would have been bitchy like your mom and shy like your father anyway.

    So there you are now. That’s your clay. Plus your clay took shape and was gardener by these people with issues.

    So fucking what.

    That’s what I tell to myself at least. It might work for you.

    In my case I cut contact with my family and circle of friends. I even changed my name. I created a new identity, alas Douglas Morrison when he left town. Then a lot of trial and error reinventing myself. It wasnt easy, and I found, thanks to Ricky’s posts why I wasnt being “happy”.

    But, so fucking what.

    There are ways to handle your situation. Figure out who you want to be. It will take time and will be hard but will also have rewards and be enjoyable. But it’s up to you to do something about. “Do” something about it.

    In my case I blocked and repressed a lot of negative influence while I was overcoming my fuckedupness, thinking that was enough. Appearently I had to feel and mourn and let go at the time, instead of blocking / fighting it back. Oh, live and learn. Still, it’s up to you. Cut contact, reinvent yourself, figure who you want to be, what do you want from life, and dont take no for an answer. If you get NO just try a different way.

    Whatever you get it’s gonna be better than the three outcomes you listed. But it’s 100% up to you. You have to give a shit.

  47. Thursday,

    Yes there are curve bells right? some genetic shit. In the same way healthy parents can have a dwarf baby, and dwarf parents can have a normal sized baby… there are people who’re born fucked up. You´ll find cases, these exist. Good parents and all and the kid is a sociopath. Or socipath parents and the kid is caring and balanced.

    But that’s clearly not the normal scenario. Environment and experience influences your psyche, just like environment and diet influences your body.

    Muscular / fat bodies are not genetics only. Healthy / sick minds are not genetic only. In general.

  48. I’m going to answer the various unanswered recurring genetics questions and points in this thread in my next post.

  49. I highly disagree that Pinker set up a strawman. I don`t`know so much about the field of psychology but my impression has been that it was one of the few fields that had a lot of nature theries as well as nurture theories. I studied at a Norwegian university. In Norway the fields of sociology, anthropology, criminology, gender studies and education are almost entirely blank slate. I took some courses in some of these subjects, i hung out with students in all of these subjects for years, I knew professors in many of these fields and I interviewed several of them. They were almost entirely and aggressively blank slaters. Anyone who believed that there were any more than a miniscule difference between genders, for example, was ridiculed and seen as downright evil. Recently a Norwegian comedian that had a degree in sociology and philosophy made a documentary series called Brainwash in which he interviewed key Norwegian researchers in all of these fields. They were vehemently and aggressively blank slaters. What he did was to debate them with arguments from evolutionary psychology to expose how uninformed their views where and to present a more balanced nature nurture view. In the aftermath of the series tehre was a very long and intense public debate about nature vs nurture where many other researchers in those fields wrote articles and they where blank slaters of the most stereotypical kind as well.