Reader Letters #1, Part 5

Links to the previous installments of the series:

As you’re already aware, this is the final part in a series of letter from a reader named Bill. The advice in this series  is specifically meant for people with codependent tendencies, so keep that in mind as you read through, although I think people with other neurotic tendencies can also definitely benefit from it. I hope you enjoy.

[Once again this is a long post, so you may want to make it more readable by clicking this link for the print-friendly version.]

I.

The Meditation

I was going through a down period a little over a year ago where I was just overcome with an overwhelming malaise. Not quite a depression, just a type of listless apathy. A numbness where I couldn’t even muster up enough emotion to get depressed. I decided to throw myself into activity to get over it. Yoga, buddhism classes, language classes, and other activities. My idea was that if I could just act happy and interested in life, the feeling would follow. The old “fake it till you make it” philosophy.

The other motivation for this to me was this idea of no longer collecting “someday/maybe” activities that I never acted upon in the real world, and they were piling up. It was a growing bucket list of activities that I tried to impress people with by mentioning in conversations my intention to pursue them, but I never started or if I did start I never followed through. It made me feel like a phony. So I started attacking them three at a time, and I was determined to do it not to impress others but for the enriching experiences and the people I would meet.

To backtrack on what motivated me to make this change: I made friends with an emotional vampire in my workplace. Everything she did in her life was a calculated attempt to impress people and get positive attention (narcissistic supply), and it was so ugly a trait to see in someone else she became like a harsh, funhouse mirror to me. You know how a funhouse mirror might take a part of your reflection that looks harmless and exaggerate it until it looks grotesque? I feel like there are people who come into our lives to act like our psychic harsh funhouse mirrors by being such grotesque, exaggerated reflections of our shortcomings that they shock us into self-awareness. This vampire did that service for me, and I’m forever grateful to her for it. She was incredibly draining, evil, and toxic, and I’d like to say our friendship ended, but looking back it never actually began because you can’t be friends with a false self. Like everything else about an emotional vampire, the connections are always a calculated illusion.

One of the things she did was always name-drop interesting, highbrow books, movies, places, and hobbies, but she never had more than a cursory knowledge of them, and it was always just enough to bluff and impress people, but never enough to actually discuss them insightfully with anyone who was acquainted with the topics on a deep level. Also, she was an “about to” person, as in always “about to” start a hobby, “considering” a personal growth endeavor, “thinking of” writing a book, “about to” make a life-affirming change, but would never actually follow through and do anything. She just liked the narcissistic supply she got from the positive feedback others gave her when she made the announcements. Like all narcissists, she preferred to be judged on intentions rather than actions. But after knowing her for a while and seeing how ugly her behavior was, I decided I was going to do my best not to be an “about to” guy, and I started a flurry of activity on my bucket list.

The first three areas I decided to tackle were French language, yoga, and buddhism, focusing on Vipassana or Insight meditation. I told very few people I was doing these things, unless they came up organically in conversation. The first couple of weeks of Buddhist meditation classes were okay, but didn’t feel groundbreaking. I got frustrated. I approached it too intellectually, because intellect was always my way of attacking everything. I treated it like something to study for, just memorizing buddhist terms and concepts like I was studying for a test. Totally missing the point.

Also, there were a few suck-ups who pretended to ask sincere questions, but the questions were clearly calculated to impress with their level of pseudoinsight and false humility. For example, much of the subject matter and readings had been about letting go of ego, and there would always be some guy who would ask some question that was really just a self-aggrandizing speech about how much ego he realized he had after meditating. It was a type of humblebrag that wasn’t really asking for any particular answer to any particular question, but rather was just a speech designed to show off how insightful and deep he was. This would then spark competitive follow-up “questions” from other students that were also disguised humblebrags. I started finding the Q&As tiresome and found myself tuning out whenever a question was asked.

One day, though, a girl finally came forward and asked the teacher a sincere, vulnerable question. She said “I hear all of this about letting go of the ego and the false self and not being a perfectionist, but I don’t live in an ashram or a monastery or a temple. I live in the big city. And I really want to embrace this, I really do, but a big part of me is afraid to let go of my ego, because if I do I keep thinking it’s the same as embracing mediocrity. How do I let go of this harsh false self, this ego, this part of me that keeps beating myself up and comparing myself to others, yet still keep striving to improve myself? Once I give it up, will all the drive I need to succeed just evaporate too?”

I thought to myself, “Damn, finally, a good question.” I had given up on ever hearing a good question in the class. I looked at the teacher and she just had this expression of warm, compassionate bemusement that somehow reminded me of a warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookie and really struck an emotional chord with me. It felt like a loving parent who sees her child struggling and getting frustrated with something that the parent knows is not as insurmountable a problem as it seems to the child in that present moment, but nonetheless she wants to be sympathetic to the plight and not belittle it. The look on the teacher’s face made it obvious she heard this question countless times in the past and that she at one point was in the same position.

She simply responded to the girl, “There is one thing you have to keep telling yourself throughout this process, and it’s something I continue to tell myself to this day: ‘You are fine just the way you are…and there’s always room for improvement’.” Those words were like a sledgehammer to my chest that knocked the wind out of me. So direct and so simple. The most important part to me was that she said “and there’s always room for improvement,” rather than “but there’s always room for improvement” which would make the acceptance feel a lot more false and conditional.

From that point on, every piece of personal growth I pursued, everything I read, every piece of advice I got from people, every goal I set, every memory I recollected, every emotion I processed through meditation…I processed all of it through the filter of that mantra: “You are fine just the way you are…and there’s always room for improvement.”

You don’t need self-hatred and shame to fuel your self-improvement. In fact, using the false self and the ego and the shame and self-loathing that inevitably accompanies them to fuel your self-improvement always ends up sabotaging you and making you fall into ego traps. It makes you create new false selves to replace old false selves, new faulty coping mechanisms to replace old faulty coping mechanisms, new defense mechanisms to replace old defense mechanisms, and worst of all it encourages you to play it safe by choosing to go through ego protection measures rather than the deep pain that accompanies deep awareness.

Albert Einstein once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that you can’t solve a problem using the same level of awareness that created the problem. Most of our problems with self-sabotage, pain, unhappiness and unhealthy attachments came about because of points in our life where we absorbed messages about conditional love (we’re only lovable so long as we’re pleasing someone else, usually our parents) and because we developed self-hate (usually through the critical voices, even when well-intended, of parents and authority figures). Trying to fix these things through more conditional love (this time from ourselves) and through more self-loathing is trying to solve a problem using the same level of awareness that created the problem to begin with. This is a perfect example of what Einstein was warning against. We’ll discuss awareness more in depth later on.

Most people are stuck in the black-and-white, all-or-nothing destructive thinking pattern where they’re either mired in self-hatred and telling themselves “I’m a disgusting piece of shit if I’m not perfect, so I’m going to do everything I can to be the best and if I fail I’m worthless” (the faulty coping strategy of overcompensation) or they go to  another opposite extreme of  magical Pollyannaish thinking and say “I’m perfectly fine and have no issues and don’t care about anything and I don’t need to change anything about myself” (the faulty coping strategy of avoidance) or they choose yet another extreme and say “You know what, I feel like a piece of shit, and it’s because I really am a piece of shit. I accept it, that’s never going to change, I know I’m fundamentally flawed and unlovable so why even pretend I can change?” (the faulty coping strategy of surrender). The three coping strategies are primal, animal coping strategies. We see them in nature all the time, and in evolutionary discussions they’re often referred to as the fight, flight or freeze response (more accurate than calling it the “fight or flight response”).

Just like our lizard brain tells us to fight, flee or freeze in the face of physical danger, we also have a tendency to do the same thing when faced with emotional annhilation: we fight (overcompensate), freeze (surrender), or flee (avoidance). However, because human beings are not animals and have more evolved mental and emotional functions, we have additional, healthier coping strategy available to us. We can transcend the primal fight, freeze or flight response we instinctively revert to when faced with emotional threats, and using awareness we can choose a fourth coping strategy called the healthy coping strategy.

The healthy coping strategy consists of :

  1. self-acceptance, where we make unconditional peace with our shortcomings, meaning we stop exaggerating them and being paralyzed by them, and we make peace with our strengths, meaning we stop downplaying them and refusing to use them to their fullest. This means accepting our true self, not accepting our old false self (surrender), avoiding our old false self (avoidance), or developing a new and improved badass false self (overcompensation). The old you you hate and want to get away from is no more your true self than the new you you’re aspiring to become is.
  2. self-awareness, where we become aware of what issues are going on with us as deeply (depth of understanding, qualitative) and widely  (breadth of understanding, quantitative) as possible and formulate our larger values, principles, goals and strategies for dealing with these big picture problems. We try to identify as many issues as we can, then we try to understand these issues as deeply as we can. Here is the catch though: if the awareness is purely intellectual, if it doesn’t come with the deep pain that comes with emotional awareness, then it’s not true awareness. It’s actually another defense mechanism in disguise called intellectualization, and it’s actually a pseudo self-awareness. And if our strategies for dealing with these issues are just more forms of intellectual introspection and more “brain hacks,” the progress is an illusion. That’s why you can meet people who can verbalize all their issues very well, and may even have been in therapy for years, yet they never improve. They never gain emotional awareness to accompany their newfound intellectual awareness, and they never form concrete action strategies to eventually implement their insights.
  3. self-disciplined action, where we take the insights and feelings we gain from the first two elements of the healthy coping strategy and transform them into Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive action items, also known as the S.M.A.R.T. criteria. Without this final element, the other ones are doomed to become mental masturbation. Without the insight of the other two elements, this one over time just becomes busy work and prolonged time wasting in the guise of self-improvement. This is the stage where we sometimes have to “fake it til we make it.”

All of it is important, the big picture conceptualizing and strategy stages and the small picture stage where we deal with methods, tactics and immediate actions. Sun Tzu said “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” That means all the self-awareness and self-acceptance in the world without disciplined action Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

II.

Top-down or bottom-up?

Looking at the elements of the healthy coping strategy, you need the top levels of self-acceptance and self-awareness in order to do the big-picture stuff like defining values, purpose, principles, goals and grand vision. Self-discipline is the ground level you have to master in order to carry out the heavy lifting, to stick to your plan, to fight the procrastination and mental masturbation, to implement tactics, to react to unexpected urgent curveballs that pop up, and to do the concrete, daily tasks and actions needed to keep your immediate comfort concerns met.

A big question that comes up a lot when deciding to work on organizing ourselves in any way is the question, should I start from the top-down, working on the big picture by defining principles and goals first then working my way down to the little picture by defining my tactics and short-term actions, or should I do a bottom-up approach, where I do the exact reverse? Or to put it another way, strategy first followed by tactics, or tactics first followed by strategy?

In the first four parts of this series, I spoke a lot about not looking using tactics as quick fixes to core issues. I spoke at length about how being hypertactical and not going for deep insights just makes you worse. So I’m sure many of you assume I’m going to tell you the way to go is top-down, right?

I did once believe that the more enlightened way was to start with the top-down approach of defining your larger values first and working on specific tactics and actions later, but I now think the opposite. This seems counterintuitive, but it’s not. I still believe that our core issues are the most important targets to tackle when improving ourselves. I still believe that focusing solely or primarily on tactics and manipulations and actions at the expense of deeper insight is a fool’s mission. The problem is, sometimes we need to get the small things under control in order to get the distance and time perspective necessary to properly evaluate and tackle the big picture. We need to develop good short-term tactics and rituals to make our daily lives manageable enough to allow us to move on to tackling bigger stuff.

I realized the superiority of the bottom-up approach after reading the personal organization book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Here’s an analogy to illustrate the problem with the top-down approach:

Imagine there’s a new leak that suddenly pops up through a spot in the ceiling in your basement. The source of the plumbing problem that caused the leak is somewhere in the pipes deep in the walls of the house and could be originating on any floor. Your house is huge, so you can’t find the plumbing problem easily, and walls may even have to be broken and torn down. It could take weeks or even months to not only find the source of the plumbing problem but also take stock of all the damage the leak has caused behind the scenes while it went unnoticed.

So say you decide to focus on spending the days, weeks, or even months it will take to find the source of the plumbing problem on your own. You’re going to read plumbing books, break walls, trace the leak back to the source if you can, find the parts you need, consult experts, and whatever else it will take. You’re determined to treat the core of the problem and not the symptoms, because if you treat the core, the symptoms will automatically be fixed, right? So you ignore all the basement water damage in the meantime.

While you’re setting up to do all this, all the furniture in your basement is getting waterlogged. So you’re forced to take a break from finding the source of the problem to go downstairs and remove all your furniture from the basement. Okay, the furniture has been removed. Now you can go back upstairs to try to focus on the big problem of tracking down the source of the leak.

Suddenly a family member calls upstairs to you to let you know the water level is rising in the basement thanks to the leak, so the tiles and hardwood are getting soaked and may end up permanently ruined. So you have to go back downstairs, mop up all the water, go to Home Depot to buy some supplies, drive back home and put plastic tarp over the tiles and the hardwood to protect them from water damage, and then you set up a giant tub to catch all the water.

Now that all this is set up in the basement, you try to go back to looking for the source of the problem, but new emergencies keep popping up in the basement that you have to attend to. You never get enough peace of mind and spare time to really focus on hitting the problem at the source, because the immediate emergencies and minute-to-minute chaos in the basement keep you occupied and your attention divided. Yes the basement leak is actually just a symptom of a bigger problem and not the actual source of the problem, but sometimes you need to focus on getting symptoms under control first so that you can be in the right frame of mind and properly implement the strategy needed to tackle the core problem. Otherwise while you’re busy trying to fix the main pipe stoppage, you’re house has become flooded and you’ve accumulated tens of thousands of dollars of totally avoidable damage.

Self-improvement is similar. When the small, trivial matters accumulate and spiral out of control, it keeps you too busy and frazzled and distracted to ever muster up enough resources and focus to really tackle the big, core problems properly. You have to get the small, day-to-day emergencies and your smaller obstacles (like finances and time management for example) at a workable level so that you can move on to tackling larger core issues.

Here is the trap, however,  when you choose to work on the small stuff like symptoms before tackling the big stuff. Sometimes you work on the small, immediate stuff first and get a good routine down and you get some immediate and initially positive results and then you start fooling yourself that maybe symptom treatment really is enough. You even start thinking “Maybe there really is no core problem to address.”

Going back to the plumbing example, you don’t just get the superficial, small stuff down to a workable level. You go above and beyond. You replace the basement ceiling with a more waterproof ceiling that water will have more trouble getting through. You replace all the water damaged flooring and walls with brand new, more water resistant materials. You clean up any sign of water damage, and the basement now looks brand new. You get so impressed by how great and improved your new basement looks, you start to forget about finding the source of the previous water problem. You even start convincing yourself that maybe it never really existed.

You’re so proud of how your new basement looks that you go as far as to put even more furniture and appliances in it, more expensive than the stuff that was in there before it got water-damaged the first time. Every now and then you get a sign something isn’t right. A section of the wall or ceiling is soft and spongy, but you apply a quick fix. There is a weird moldy smell, but you buy better air fresheners and exotic, aromatic plants. After a while you get into a cycle of endless quick fixes and superficial improvements, all the time denying the severity of the core water problem.

You just keep having a ball and ignoring warning signs until WOOOOSHH!! a whole section of the ceiling collapses in the basement from all that accumulated water building up on top of it. The water is rotten, dirty, stinky and putrid and a bunch of moldy, rotted material falls out of the hole in the ceiling and ruins everything.  Or a whole other part of the house ends up getting destroyed as the water pressure that used to come out of the leak in the ceiling now finds another route and explodes out of a different wall of the house.

The point is, you have to implement just enough short-term solutions and tactics to get the chaos of your daily life and moods under control, but not get carried away to the point that you never move past that level. Sometimes people, when they see the immediate results they get from implementing some quick-fixes and a collection of methods, get cocky and become sidetracked, believing they can just stay at the level of short-term fixes and tactics forever. They get addicted to tactics, easy fixes, and rituals, using them as mood-changers and ways to dodge tackling core problems, the way a junkie uses his drugs. The tactics and short-term fixes get him so overconfident he even starts tackling bigger  life decisions. He feels confident enough to pursue relationships, get married, or even have kids, just armed with his arsenal of short-term tactics. Then like the plumbing problem in the previous example, the ceiling comes collapsing down and the core problem rears its head again when least expected, except it’s even worse than it was before. Like Sun Tzu said, tactics without strategy are just the noise before the fall.

So in summation, the first step of using the healthy coping strategy is to work from the bottom up by first developing self-disciplined actions. That way you get the physical, emotional and intellectual chaos of your life manageable and under control enough to allow you to focus on those big-picture core issues. Once you get those big picture core issues under control and get your vision and life strategies settled, then you can switch to a top-down approach. When you form your self-disciplined actions this time around using the top-down approach, your tactics won’t be just about getting the chaos of your life to manageable levels, they will be about converting your new found core values into tangible, positive real world results.

[I want to point out an important exception to everything I’ve laid out so far, however. This article is specifically directed to a letter from a specific reader named Bill, who I describe in the earlier installments. He had pronounced codependent tendencies, and for codependents, eventual core issue work is a must. However there are some people who actually don’t have that many major core issues, but instead have just picked up some bad thinking and behavioral habits along the way in life that are self-sabotaging. For people like this, some of the quick fixes and tactics can actually be enough. They just need a little bit of course correction rather than an overhaul of their whole life navigation system.]

III.

Clearing the Runway

In David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, Allen calls the process of using a bottom-up approach to personal organization by getting the chaos of everyday life under control first before approaching the big-picture issues “clearing the runway.” You’re basically making sure the runway is free of debris and obstacles before you start trying to take off.

In the areas of self-improvement and psychology, one way to clear the runway are methods like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a method created by Aaron Beck. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is very different from Psychodynamic therapy, as you can see here in this comparison. Psychodynamic therapy is about going deep into core issues, and figuring out the unconscious motivations that may you act the way you do, and getting insights into your family, your upbringing, your childhood traumas, and your formative experiences. Another major feature of the psychodynamic style is that the relationship of the client to the therapist is a major element, as the therapist often tries to force the client to transfer any unresolved parental issues onto the therapist so that the client can work them out properly this time around.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is not about going deep into core issues, childhood traumas, and family psychological dynamics. It primarily focuses on getting quick, immediate results by changing patterns of thinking (the “cognitive” part of the name) and changing patterns of behaving (the “behavioral” part of the name). It is not as time-intensive as most psychodynamic treatments, it is less concerned with the roots of the psychological problems, and it is more concerned with immediate results through thought and behavior tactics. CBT also assigns a lot of homework. In fact, when you buy a CBT self-help book, you can usually expect to see a lot of exercises and thought experiments for you to complete.

CBT does things like identify the most common faulty thinking and behavioral patterns, then teaches you to recognize them when they arise, and then challenge them using evidence and observations, and then practice thinking healthier thoughts and acting out healthier behaviors.

For example the book Boost Your Self-Esteem with CBT by Wilding and Palmer identifies some of the most common distorted thinking patterns like:

Generalizing the specific: We come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. We use words such as “always,” “never,” “nobody” and “everyone” to make a general rule out of a specific situation.

Mind reading: Mind reading is one of the commonest thinking errors we make when our self-esteem is low. This is fatal to self-esteem because we think that everyone agrees with our negative opinion of ourselves.

Filtering: We take the negative details from a situation and then magnify them, while at the same time filtering out the positive aspects.

Polarized thinking: We think of situations, people or the world in extremes such as good or bad: ‘I must be perfect or I am a failure.’ The problem is that we usually find ourselves on the negative end of our polarized extremes.

Catastrophizing: We predict and expect disaster. We notice or hear about a problem and immediately decide that if this terrible thing did happen to us, we would not be able to cope.

Personalization: This involves thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to us; we instantly decide that a comment is really directed at us personally.

Blaming: This is the opposite of personalization. We hold other people, organizations or even the universe responsible for our problems: “It’s all her fault we lost that contract.”

It’s all my fault: Instead of feeling a victim, we feel responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone around us.

Fallacy of fairness: We feel resentful because we think we know what’s fair, but other people won’t agree with us.

Wilding and Palmer point out that much of these faulty thinking patterns come from a harsh critic inside us they name the Personal Fault Finder (PFF). They then go into ways to silence the PFF and challenge it whenever possible.

The book also goes into self-acceptance, and differentiates healthy self-acceptance from the unhealthy variety:

Self-acceptance enables you to conquer your Personal Fault Finder by saying: “That’s fine. I don’t mind about these particular things I am no good at. I can accept my shortcomings without diminishing myself.”

If you can learn to do this with calm, inner peace – and even a little humor – the results can be quite spectacular…

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” – Carl Gustav Jung

For many people, the idea that they can accept themselves, warts and all, and not stay plunged in low self-esteem seems a paradox. If you already think you are a loser, then surely accepting this is simply throwing in the towel?

Well, that depends. What is described above is unhealthy self-acceptance. Healthy self-acceptance differs from this in several important ways.

Healthy self-acceptance encourages you to accept specific weaknesses about yourself – while at the same time rejecting the idea that having these weaknesses makes you an overall no-hoper. People suffering from depression tend to have an unhealthy lack of self-acceptance, and see themselves as generally worthless. A more optimistic personality will reflect only on specific areas of weakness, and not see these weaknesses as meaning that they are not “up to scratch” in general terms.

Someone with an unhealthy lack of self-acceptance will consider their weaknesses untenable, and revert to the idea of global uselessness. Healthy self-acceptance embraces acknowledging your weaknesses while not writing yourself off because of them. You understand that it is okay to have skills deficits, make mistakes, get things wrong or not have the strengths of the next person. You say, “This is called being human, as we all are” and you retain your self-respect.

An unhealthy lack of self-acceptance does not encourage change. It allows its followers to stay as they are, lost in self-criticism and low self-esteem. Their ideas conform to the view that there is no point in trying when failure is a certainty. Or they are “all talk” – the diet/exercise regime/study course starts tomorrow, and tomorrow never comes. Healthy self-acceptance gives you energy and motivation to change. Accepting weaknesses does not mean retaining weaknesses. Change is seen as positive, and accepting your shortcomings without any loss of self-esteem will enable you to meet the challenges it provides you with.

Insight: It is extremely important to grasp the difference between healthy and unhealthy self-acceptance. Make sure you understand it.

God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

CBT on “faking it until you make it”:

…A good way to improve your self-esteem is to pretend to have it. Your PFF will encourage you to look around at others and point out how confident they are – and how lacking in self-esteem you are in comparison. You are not going to teach yourself now how to check the validity of those thoughts – you have hopefully already done a lot of work on that – but rather to learn how to appear just as confident as everyone else – many of whom will be “faking it” successfully, just as you will be.

A plus of pretending is that, after a while, we don’t have to pretend any more. It becomes natural. We occasionally hear the comment “He/she has told that story so many times now that he/she actually believes it.” This is a version of that. Telling yourself you are confident when you are not is an untruth. But the more you tell it – and in this case, practice it – the more you will believe it. You will gradually find it easier and easier, and feel less and less self-conscious. So let’s start pretending…

CBT on external validation:

A common problem is that, where our self-esteem is low, we look for someone else to make us feel better. We decide that if we are liked and loved by others, then we will like and love ourselves.

This thinking error is what leads to relationship failure. For if we don’t like ourselves, why would we expect others to like us?

As you can see, there isn’t much analysis of childhood trauma or roots of core issues. It’s mostly new ways to reframe thoughts and new behaviors to replace old behaviors. I think if you have hardcore codependency issues and unhealed core trauma, these tactics won’t be enough to give you the deep, long-term healing you need to have a truly healthy life. I think like in the plumbing example above they’re just a really good way to fix the “symptom” leaks and remodel that basement.

That’s not a bad thing though. CBT is still very valuable. Doing a lot of this stuff is great for “clearing the runway” by using tactics and quick fixes to get our day-to-day lives under control and getting us in a good mental space for attacking deeper, fundamental core issues. I just wouldn’t recommend staying stuck at this level of self-improvement if you have deep issues.

Other possible options for clearing the runway could include hypnotherapy or the Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) books of Albert Ellis. Or an exercise regimen, a supportive religious group, a Buddhist retreat, reading organization books like 4 Hour Work Week or trying minimalism through books like Leo Babauta’s Power of Less or reading books and taking classes revolving around dating tips and getting rid of social anxiety, making friends by taking classes, joining a community garden, or whatever works for you at giving you an immediate sense of inner peace and mental clarity. What works for one person when aiming to clear the runway may not work for another, and there are no right or wrong answers.

Now that we’ve discussed the tactics and short term fixes, let’s move on to the bigger picture of core issues, awareness and strategies for the rest of this piece.

 

IV.

Core Issues: The Easy Fix Mentality

So now, what to do about the core issues after the runway is clear? This is going to sound like quite the copout but at the end of the day, only you can decide that. I can tell you things I found helpful in my life, but part of the cure is figuring out your own journey for yourself, so if you look for me or anyone else to spoon-feed every last detail of the journey for you step by step, you’re missing a lot of the point, and you won’t get as strong as if you do your own search through trial and error.

See, one of the biggest problems we as a society have is the addiction to the “easy fix method.” We want 5-minute abs, we want liposuction and plastic surgery, we want master cleanse crash diets, we want study cram sessions, we want to get absolutely ripped in 90 days, we want an exercise regimen spoon-fed to us, describing every last exercise and rep that doesn’t require us to do any thinking of our own.

Some people call it the “quick fix” method, but I think that “quick fixes” are just a smaller subcategory of a bigger, problematic mindset I prefer to call the “easy fix” mindset. The easy fix mindset comes in several forms:

  • the quick fix: this is when a fix is expected to work instantly with just a short-term burst of work
  • the low-pain fix: this fix may not be quick, and in fact may be grueling and time consuming in some ways, either because of the physical exertion required or the long hours demanded, but this fix is actually an easy fix in disguise because it allows us to avoid the type of hard work that we’re afraid will cause us deeper psychic pain. For example we may rather work 80 hours a week in an underachieving job that doesn’t mentally challenge us because we have a deep-seated fear of both success and failure, because we are perfectionists who fear trying something challenging and failing at it, thereby ruining our ego-preserving illusions of perfection, or because we fear our work is of low quality and don’t want to be revealed as a fraud. The pain of working 80 hours in underachieving, mindless work may be time-consuming but it’s far less painful to us than doing the hard work of figuring out what we really want to do in life, trying hard to actually accomplish it, and risking the blow to our ego we’d receive if we gave our all to a goal we really valued and still came up short.

The low-pain fix is incredibly deceptive because on the surface it’s often time-intensive and looks like a lot of hard work and appears to be the polar opposite of the quick fix. But both the quick fix and the low-pain fix fall under the bigger category of “easy fix” because they represent the easy way out, meaning the least personally painful fix for you  in terms of potential ego damage.

To give an example from college, I knew a guy who would go through extraordinary lengths to either cheat on exams and assignments or come up with the most unproductive methods of what I call “pseudostudying,” which was just loads of time dedicated to unproductive busywork for most of the semester (like making huge piles of index cards for months on end that he never reviewed), topped off with a high-pressure cram session the night before the tests. If you looked at the sheer amount of time and effort he spent coming up with methods to cheat or doing the unproductive busywork of pseudostudying that never really challenged him to learn the material, you’d realize he actually put in a lot more time and work-hours than the A-students. But all of these approaches, despite how labor-intensive they seemed on the surface, were actually easy fixes because he was too scared of the challenge of figuring out how to get disciplined and study productively and properly.

He couldn’t figure out how to work consistently, efficiently, productively and diligently, and that caused him pain and bruised his ego and made him feel like a loser. Constantly testing himself on his grasp on the material throughout the semester and challenging himself to engage the material on a deeper level through study groups and teacher-hours put him at risk of realizing how inadequate he was, thereby bruising his ego, so instead he wasted time creating piles of piles of flashcards he never reviewed, doing last-minute cram sessions and making cheat notes.

He got to preserve his ego by saying he never had a chance to review those flashcards, but if he did review those flashcards he surely would have memorized it all. He could preserve his ego by saying that he was forced to cram, but if he started studying earlier he surely would have mastered the material. Classic self-handicapping.

When I discussed the seduction community in Part 4, many of the people attracted to it are into easy fixes. Some expect to read one book or attend one boot camp and become instant master seducers. Others don’t expect a quick fix, but instead expect an easy fix in the form of a low-pain fix. These are the guys who expect that they will have to work hard, that they will have to do a lot of reading of seduction books, that they will have to approach woman after woman and get rejected, but what they don’t realize is that although it looks like on the surface they are the opposite of the quick-fix guy, they are actually doing the closely related activity of using a low-pain fix: it’s less painful to their ego to do all this work of reading manuals and approaching women than it is to really face their core, emotional self-worth issues head on and heal them. They are taking the easy way out with all that labor-intensive stuff because years of going through those motions is much less challenging and painful to their ego than even one hour of really working through their inner demons head on and unflinchingly. They’d rather go through the motions than go through the emotions.

This is why intellectualization and mental masturbation, two forms of pseudoawareness, often don’t bring about lasting change. They’re easy fixes. It’s pain avoidance disguised by hours and hours of a form of hard work that’s ego-protecting, pain free, and therefore “safe.”

Both types of easy fixes, whether the quick fix or the low-pain fix, are forms of procrastination through unproductive activity. They are both examples of choosing forms of pain, sacrifice, and work you don’t fear and doesn’t threaten your ego and your need to appear perfect over choosing forms of pain, sacrifice, and work you do fear and does threaten your ego and your need to appear perfect.

Steven Pressfield wrote a book called The War of Art, a great self-help book all about the psychology of procrastination, which he calls “Resistance.” In it he drops a bombshell notion about Hitler:

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.

Again, the irony of the low-pain fix. It may not be quick, it may not be simple, it may be more draining and more time intensive, but in mind of the neurotic person determined to protect his ego at any cost, it’s definitely an easier fix than approaching what he fears most head on: being proven a failure in an endeavor that really matters to his ego.

Pressfield has more to say about the courses of action our egos fear:

Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign.

Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates t the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that the enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance…

The more Resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you – and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it…

The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.

What Henry Fonda does, after puking into the toilet in his dressing room, is to clean up and march out onstage. He’s still terrified but he forces himself forward in spite of his terror. He knows that once he gets out into the action, his fear will recede and he’ll be okay.

In this case, for the codependent, the project is self-actualization. People choose quick fixes and low-pain fixes because they fear the pain of dealing with something head on, and that something is usually a form of rejection and ego-bruising. Once we identify what this is we fear, it’s essential that we face it. In the case of Bill, the original letter writer at the beginning of this series, every counterproductive and neurotic life strategy he had was centered around his fear of being rejected in the present and risking reliving the rejection he felt at the hands of parents that new rejection could cause. Therefore the most important thing Bill can do is face his fear of rejection head on and make peace with it. Pursuing easy fixes like the seduction community and Machiavellian dating strategies are just more manifestations of the easy fix mentality.

If you’re pursuing self-help and you fear vulnerability most for example, vulnerability is exactly what you have to learn to embrace and make peace with, not to suppress.

 

V.

Building Awareness: Narcissists and Codependents Are Both Addicts

If you ever want to really understand narcissism and codependency, one of the best ways is to educate yourself on addiction. The dynamics of addiction are incredibly similar to the dynamics of narcissism. In fact, the term codependent was first used in relation to the loved ones of alcoholics. Later on social science researchers realized that the loved ones and children of narcissists shared many of the same traits and family dynamics as the loved ones and children of alcoholics, and the term codependent was expanded to include the people in the lives of narcissists as well.

I think this makes sense because a narcissist is not just like an addict, but rather the narcissist actually is an addict. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply, and will do many of the same things to get it that a junkie will do to get a fix or an alcoholic will do to get a drink.

On the other hand, while the narcissist is an addict whose drug is narcissistic supply, the codependent is also an addict, and his drug is the narcissist.

I’m going to take some insights from a great addiction book called Willpower’s Not Enough by Arnold M. Washton to illustrate how narcissists and codependents are addicts. First off, throughout the book Washton emphasizes repeatedly that at the heart of all addictions is the easy fix mentality, which is why the concept of mood changers hold such an appeal to an addict. The narcissist uses the drug of narcissistic supply as a mood changer, and the codependent uses his own drug, which is the actual narcissist, as a mood changer:

 

What Mood Changers Do For Us

To understand why addictions are so epidemic, we must examine what mood-changers do  for us, what are the payoffs? After all, they must be meeting some of our needs – however self-defeating – or we wouldn’t keep turning to them, risking our careers, health, family life, and peace of mind.

Superficially it seems that people engage in addictive behaviors because they find them fun, pleasurable – at least in the beginning. But when a person’s drug has potentially negative consequences and he continues using it anyway, we must conclude that he is deriving deeper, unacknowledged payoffs from it – secondary gains for which he is willing to risk a lot.

Let’s look at what – collectively – we may be getting out of our mood-changers, at some of the ways they “serve” us. This will help us understand the persistence of the addictions epidemic and why current approaches to it (like the War on Drugs) are unlikely to work.

Relief from Isolation

 In a society where people have a lot of trouble with intimate relationships and lack a sense of community support, drugs and other mood changers provide welcome relief. Although in the long run addiction causes greater isolation, in the short run it provides contact and often camaraderie with other addicts – or numbs feelings of loneliness. Thus, the addictive involvement creates its own sense of belonging and community, albeit a self-destructive one.

Distraction from Feelings

Addictions provide activity and rituals that keep us busy so we don’t have to feel our feelings or the emptiness inside. They insulate us from despair, from the lack of deeper meaning and purpose in our lives, and from the feelings and conflicts that we may fear may overwhelm us.

Pseudopleasure

In a society where work values have heavily invaded recreation (making it goal-oriented, rather than creative or fun), mood-changers give us a chance to “lose ourselves,” to be temporarily released from self-consciousness and time-consciousness. They keep us from confronting just how little genuine pleasure and joy we actually have in our lives.

Illusion of Control

In a technological society in which people feel they have less and less control over the conditions of their lives, and yet revere power and “performance,” many of our mood-changers prop up feelings of being in control, competent, and powerful – or numb us from feelings of impotence and helplessness. Addiction is a sign that we are “looking for power in all the wrong places.”

Constant Crisis

Addiction-prone people don’t want to feel their real feelings but at the same time don’t want to experience the emotional “deadness” inside that results from repressing these feelings. Addictions provide constant excitement and crisis, substituting for a real sense of being full alive.

Predictability

The ritual of drug use and its dependable outcome eliminate choices and make life simpler and more predictable, which is particularly appealing for people who feel unable to cope with current stresses and responsibilities. Instead of achieving a simpler, saner life, we turn to addictive behaviors of all kinds.

Image Enhancement

In a society based largely on projecting an image that is acceptable to others rather than on being honest and authentic, mood-changers help us feel more acceptable to others, mask fears that we are not enough as we are, or numb us from painful feelings of self-judgment and measurement. They substitute, then, for self-acceptance.

Suspended Animation

In the trance of the high, the addict is frozen in time. The past cannot haunt him nor the future worry him. There is just the here and now of the drug experience. With so many people lacking the skills to face normal life problems, mood-changers put life back on hold, thereby substituting for problem-solving skills…

 

Then Washton describes the Addictive Belief System:

“I Should Be Perfect (and Perfection Is Possible)”

Our increasing belief that perfection is attainable is at the core of our addictions explosion. If we truly believe that perfection is possible, then we can never measure up…

“I Should Be All-Powerful”

Someone who is vulnerable to addiction also has severe delusions about the limits of his power, believing that he should be able to control not only himself but other people, too, and just about everything else.…

“I Should Always Get What I Want”…

“Life Should Be Without Pain and Require No Effort”

The core of addictive thinking is inherent in this belief. If we insist on avoiding emotional pain, on being comfortable all the time, we will have to seek ways to avoid reality, to escape our mood. That is what the addictive person is saying through his behavior. “If reality is not what I want it to be, I will simply refuse to see it.”…

“I Am Not Enough”

Perhaps no single belief is more painful and more central to the development of addiction than this one. It amounts to a total rejection of the self, to the destructive conclusion that “Who I am is unlovable, unworthy, and undeserving and if this is discovered I will be abandoned.”

Most of the time, of course, the addictive person doesn’t walk around saying this to himself. But this underlying belief gets expressed through various self-rejecting thoughts such as “I’m no good,” “I’m bad,” “I’m selfish,” “I’m stupid.” He then filters everything that happens to him through this core mistaken belief and bases his behavior on it…

“I Am Unable to Have an Impact on My World”…

“Externals Can Give Me the Power I Lack”…

“Feelings Are Dangerous”…

“Image Is Everything”

The addictive person erects an image, a false self, that he hopes will be acceptable. In most cases, though, he doesn’t even know that he has done this, for the image he projects has become second nature, an automatic reflex. He has merged with the mask.

Many of the most popular mood-changers help to prop up these false images…

The addiction-prone person will go to any lengths and risk almost any negative consequence to self and others to maintain this all-important image. It is his ticket to acceptance. [For the codependent, this false self is the white knight rescuer, for the narcissist this false self is the flawless superstar. – T.]

“I Should Be Able to Meet My Needs Indirectly”

If I can’t be me (because doing so might get me rejected and abandoned) then I might as well just give up and meet my needs indirectly—through those people, substances, and other sources outside myself. This is a belief in the efficacy of the quick-fix.

The quick-fix takes many forms. For example, a teenager downs several beers in the school parking lot before going in to the dance in order to “fix” his nervousness and make it easier for him to approach girls and talk to them. It’s quicker and easier than the long-term solution that would involve learning social skills to increase confidence and self-esteem. But because he doesn’t know how to do this (and probably hasn’t been helped to learn), he turns to the quick-fix instead.

But the quick-fix mentality involves more than always taking the short-cut to solving problems. It is a posture, an orientation toward life. It’s a passive way of relating to the world. It stems from a belief that long-term gratification can’t be found. It seems futile even to try, so we opt to at least get something while we can and a quick-fix makes us feel better today, even if it causes misery tomorrow.

Washton then goes through a list of traits to describe people the addictive personality: Self-obsessed, lacking knowledge of their true self due to overidentification with idealized, false self for so long, inner emptiness, without meaning and purpose, excessive approval-seeking, self-censoring, guilt-ridden, trouble managing anger (the narcissist can’t restrain it while the codependent can’t express it properly), underlying depression, emotional numbness, inner tension,afraid of taking appropriate risks, hidden dependency needs, trouble with authority figures, poor coping skills, wishful thinking, never wanting to grow up, without boundaries, need for immediate gratification, no internalized “good parent” voice, intimacy problems, and trouble having real pleasure.

Additionally, Washton goes through a description of codependency:

WHAT IS CODEPENDENCY?

Codependency is a serious problem that results from being obsessively involved with an addict’s problems. Codependents are typically so preoccupied with and so totally wrapped up in trying to rescue, protect, or cure the addict that they send their own lives into chaos in the process. The addict is addicted to mood-changers, while the codependent is addicted to the addict. A phenomenon usually seen in family members (parents, spouses, siblings) of addicts, codependency must be distinguished from a normal, temporary crisis response in people who genuinely care about the addict and try to help, although often unsuccessfully. Codependency occurs when the helping boomerangs into hurting for both the “helper” and the addict, but with the helper continuing this destructive behavior anyway. Codependents become trapped in a vicious cycle. It is an addictive loop where well-intentioned efforts to help only perpetuate the problem by enabling the addict, although all of the alternatives appear to be more frightening or hurtful.

Features of codependency follow:

1.       In codependency the chief impetus for one’s behavior comes from the addict rather than oneself. The codependent lives by reacting to the addict rather than by acting from his own center.

2.       Codependency is an addiction of its own. The codependent is addicted to the addict, just as the addict is addicted to the mood-changing drug or activity. It has the same symptoms as other addictions: obsession; loss of control over behavior; continuing codependent behavior despite negative consequences; and denial that one’s behavior is a problem (see Table 3).

3.       Codependency, like other addictions, is progressive. Unless treated, it becomes worse.

4.       At greatest risk for codependency are individuals who already suffer from low self-esteem and who look to the addict (or others in general) for confirmation of their self-worth. Children of addicts (ACOAs) as well as those who have been sexually or physically abused are typically prime candidates for developing codependency problems.

5.       Codependency is encouraged to some extent by our culture. The wife who picks up the pieces behind her alcoholic partner, for example, covering up the problem while holding the family together financially and emotionally, often wins the admiration of other relatives and friends. People may say about her, “What a saint!” Her addictive illusion of being all-powerful and always in control helps bolster her own sagging self-esteem.

Washton then gives this advice for codependents:

  1. Learn to put the focus of your attention and the bulk of your energy back into your own life. Detach from the addict with love.
  2. Examine your own behavior and attitudes. You are the only person you can change, so put your effort there.
  3. Maintain your dignity.
  4. Forgive yourself. Even if you have made mistakes in the past in dealing with the addict in your life, you didn’t any differently then. Have compassion for yourself.
  5. Live in the present. Don’t anticipate problems or dwell on the past, as doing so drains energy from dealing effectively with today’s problems.
  6. Get support in your life, too. Don’t remain isolated in your singular focus on the abuser.
  7. Create a satisfying life of your own, one that includes recreation, hobbies, and plain old fun.

I can’t recommend this book enough for people who fear they may either be codependents or emotional vampires, although the latter are unlikely to ever be self-aware enough to purchase such a book. Even though it is technically an addiction book, it has given me more insights into the roots of narcissism and codependency than just about any book explicitly about narcissism and codependency.

 

VI.

Toxic Shame

The reasons why narcissism, codependency, drug addictions, shopping addictions, sex addictions, gambling addictions, and relationship addictions have so many similarities in the ways they’re dysfunctional and in the ways they engage in disordered thinking is because they all have toxic shame at their core, and they all focus on building false selves as ways to cope with the toxic shame.

It’s important to understand the concept of toxic shame if you want to fix any of these patterns within yourself. If your idea to cure codependency is to form a new overcompensating grandiose false self or if your idea to cure your narcissism is to create a new super-humble, enlightened-seeming false self that is the opposite of your old grandiose false self, either way you’re still being motivated by toxic shame and the addictive thinking patterns described in the previous sections. You are doing what Einstein warned about, and trying to solve problems using the same level of awareness that created the problems.

An essential book for understanding the phenomenon of toxic shame is John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You. Bradshaw describes the way shame can become one’s whole identity:

[S]hame as a healthy human emotion [humility] can be transformed into shame as a state of being. As a state of being shame takes over one’s whole identity. To have shame as an identity is to believe that one’s being is flawed, that one is defective as a human being. Once shame is transformed into an identity, it becomes toxic and dehumanizing.

Toxic shame is unbearable and always necessitates a cover-up, a false self. Since one feels his true self is defective and flawed, one needs a false self that is not defective and flawed. Once one becomes a false self, once ceases to exist psychologically. To be a false self is to cease being an authentic human being. The process of false self-formation is what Alice Miller calls “soul murder.” As a false self, one tries to be more than human or less than human.

I want to take some time to discuss this more than human or less than human phenomenon. I find a lot of people who are shame-based have very black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. When they’re feeling good, they are grandiose and the best who ever lived, and when they are feeling bad, they are the lowest who ever existed. Either way, whether they’re acting narcissistically or like codependents, their shame still leaves them self-obsessed and engaging in distorted thinking.

I can’t stress enough how related and similar codependency and narcissism are. That’s how they’re able to form lasting relationships with each other and it’s also how a codependent can behave like a narcissist under the right conditions and vice versa. Even when beating themselves up, the shame-based person is engaging in a type of disguised narcissism. They’re saying, “I’m so bad, I’m worse than anyone who ever existed. My pain is so much bigger, so much realer, so much more unhelpable and unfixable than the pain of anyone who ever existed. Even how I’m messed up is bigger and better, I am a one-in-a-million level of screw up. The way I’m screwed up is uniquely bad. I’m one of the worst sob stories in the history of sob stories.” I call this mindset “The Superiority of My Inferiority.” It’s a type of disguised grandiosity and superiority.

People like this are often what therapists call help-rejecting complainers: those frustrating people who always spill their guts to you and ask for advice, but never want to take it or claim that it won’t work for them or take it in a self-sabotaging way so that they can tell you “I told you so! I told you I’m beyond redemption!” The payoff for these shame-based people is that they get the payoff of getting people invested in trying to solve their problems. This investment and attention is a form of narcissistic supply. But in their mind being so screwed up is a warped way of feeling unique and special. Subconsciously it’s something that gives them a perverse pride and identity because it’s something they feel they’re better at than other people. If they turn out to be fixable, their dysfunction is not so special and one in a million after all. If it’s easily fixable it’s just average, so their inferiority is not actually superior to all other inferiorities. Also, if the other person is allowed to fix them in a meaningful way, the superstar and center of attention becomes the helper and his incredible skills and advice, and not the help-rejecting complainer. This counterintuitive conception of superiority is why they choose to stay broken, or why when they do decide to improve themselves they go overboard with compensatory narcissism, switching from the codependent mindset of “the superiority of my inferiority” to the narcissistic mindset of “the superiority of my superiority.”

This all-or-nothing, black-and-white, champion-or-worm mindset is what Bradshaw describes when he refers to shame-based people always being compelled to feel either more than human or less than human through false self creation. This is why shame-based people balk at the idea of letting go of their false self and letting go of their egos. This is why shame-based people think that without self-loathing, lack of self-acceptance, and overcompensation, they will lose the will to improve themselves and become losers. It’s because to them, their only choices for identity are the more than human grandiose self or the less than human wormlike self. So in their minds, rejecting the former means accepting the latter. What they don’t realize is that both selves are false selves. One was a dysfunctional false self that got them through childhood and family and the other is a dysfunctional false self they created to get them through adulthood.

Bradshaw goes into more detail:

Unconditional love and acceptance of self seems to be the hardest task for all humankind. Refusing to accept our “real selves,” we try to create more powerful false selves, or we give up and become less than human. This results in a lifetime of cover-up and secrecy. This secrecy and hiding is the basic cause of human suffering…

A toxically shamed person is divided within himself and must create a false-self cover-up to hide his sense of being flawed and defective. You cannot offer yourself to another person if you do not know who you really are…

Toxically shamed people tend to become more and more stagnant as life goes on. They live in a guarded, secretive and defensive way. Then try to be more than human (perfect and controlling) or less than human (losing interest in life or stagnated in some addictive behavior)…

As the shame-based child forms her primitive conscience, shame becomes immorality or neurotic guilt. The conforming child believes he can do nothing right, and the rebellious child believes that whatever she does is right and everyone else is to blame. This is the beginning of either a neurotic or character-disordered lifestyle…

The character-disordered try to be more than human. Since being grounded in healthy shame is the permission to be human, the toxically shamed become polarized trying to be more than human or giving up and becoming less than human…Either side of the polarity is shameless. The more-than-human have to be perfect to cover up their feelings of being flawed and defective. The less-than-human feel flawed and defective and act accordingly…

Scott Peck describes both neuroses and character disorders as disorders of responsibility. In The Road Less Traveled, Peck writes:

The neurotic assumes too much responsibility; the person with a character disorder not enough. When neurotics are in conflict with the world, they automatically assume that they are at fault. When those with character disorders are in conflict wit the world, they automatically assume the world is at fault.

All of us have a smattering of neurotic and character disordered personality traits. The major problem in our lives is to decide and clarify our responsibilities. To be truly committed to a life of honesty, love and discipline, we must be willing to commit ourselves to reality. This commitment, according to Peck, “requires the willingness and the capacity to suffer continual self-examination.” Such an ability requires a good relationship with oneself. This is precisely what no shame-based person has. In fact, a toxically shamed person has an adversarial relationship with himself…

It is crucial to see that the false self may be as polar opposite as a superachieving perfectionist or an addict in an alley. Both are driven to cover up their deep sense of self-rupture, the hole in their soul. They may cover up in ways that look polar opposite, but each is still driven by neurotic shame. In fact, the most paradoxical aspect of neurotic shame is that it is the core motivator of the superachieved and the underachieved, the star and the scapegoat, the righteous and the wretched, the powerful and the pathetic.

In earlier installments of this series, I described primary and secondary inferiorities. Primary inferiorities describe those childhood wounds that we allow to define us and that we spend most of our lives reliving in some effort to finally get them right and get closure on them. Many of our adult goals and attempts at superiority in the here and now are ways we’ve created to “cure” whatever our primary inferiority was. Whenever we fail or get frustrated in our adult goals, this creates bad feelings known as secondary inferiorities, and the more our secondary inferiorities mirror and echo our primary inferiority, the more painful it feels. This is because we wind up not only reliving the pain that came from the original primary inferiority feeling we’ve been trying to escape our whole lives, but now we also have the feelings of inadequacy from our secondary inferiorities to add to the mix. The new pain gets added to the original, deep childhood pain feeling it triggered.

Bradshaw describes the role of toxic shame in creating this dynamic of primary and secondary inferiorities:

Shame is internalized when one is abandoned. Abandonment is the precise term to describe how one loses one’s authentic self and ceases to exist psychologically. Children cannot know who they are without reflective mirrors. Mirroring is done by one’s primary caregivers and is crucial in the first years of life. Abandonment includes the loss of mirroring. Parents who are shut down emotionally (all shame-based parents) cannot mirror and affirm their children’s emotions.

Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were. Mirroring remains important during our entire lives. Think of the frustrating experience which most of us have had, of talking to someone who is not looking at us. While you are speaking, they are fidgeting around or reading something. Our identity demands a significant other whose eyes see us pretty much as we see ourselves…

As shaming experiences accrue and are defended against, the images created by those experiences are recorded in a person’s memory bank. Because the victim has no time or support to grieve the pain of the broken mutuality, his emotions are repressed and the grief is unresolved. The verbal (auditory) imprints remain in the memory, as do the visual images form a scene that becomes attached to the existing ones to form collages of shaming memories.

Children record their parents’ actions at their worst. When Mom and Dad, or stepparent or caregiver, are most out of control, they are the most threatening to the child’s survival. The child’s amygdala, the survival alarm center int heir brain, registers these behaviors most deeply. Any subsequent shame experience that even vaguely resembles that past trauma can easily trigger the words and scenes of the original trauma. What are then recorded are the new experiences and the old. Over time, an accumulation of shame scenes is attached. Each new scene potentiates the old, sort of like a snowball rolling downthe hill, getting larger and larger as it picks up snow.

As the years go on, very little is needed to trigger these collages of shame memories. A word, a similar facial expression or a scene can set it off. Sometimes an external stimulus is not even necessary. Just going back to an old memory can trigger an enormously painful experience. Shame as an emotion has become and embedded into the core of the person’s identity. Shame is deeply internalized.

This relationship between shame, primary inferiorities, and secondary inferiorities form the foundation of what are known as repetition compulsions.

 

VII.

“But What Do I Do?”

From an article that describes repetition compulsion, a phenomenon that I described in the previous installments although I didn’t use the official clinical term:

But there is another insidious phenomenon frequently afoot. It is a variety of what Freud called a “repetition compulsion.” A repetition compulsion is a neurotic defense mechanism. Here’s how it works: The repetition compulsion is an attempt to rewrite history. The history we try to rewrite is typically the troubled relationship with our parents, particularly the opposite sex parent. When the early parental relationship is fraught with frustration, disappointment, rejection, abandonment, neglect or abuse, the child is in a precarious spot psychologically. In order to survive these narcissistic insults, children must deny the reality of their predicament, as well as their intense anger, depression and despair. Instead, we cling to hope: childish hope that, if only we can be good, perfect, smart, quiet, funny enough, etc., that will win over mom or dad and they will finally love us as we need them to–as we are, unconditionally. The child mistakenly believes the problem with the parental interaction resides with them–an archetypal developmental misinterpretation–and that, therefore, they have the power to control and rectify it by changing into someone more acceptable. And so we try desperately to do so, over and over again, but to no avail. Because the reality is, the problem lies not with the child, but with the parent, who, because of his or her own psychological or situational limitations, is unable or unwilling to provide the love, structure and acceptance all children require to thrive–and deserve.

Naturally, no parents are perfect, and so we all go through this in one way or another. Just as our parents did. The hope of being able to change the parent’s response by becoming what we perceive he and/or she want us to become wards off what psychoanalyst James Masterson (1990) terms the “abandonment depression.” So long as we cling to hope, we avoid sinking into despair, which, particularly for a child, would be devastating. In adulthood, this childhood scenario is unconsciously and compulsively recapitulated by most of us to some extent. Our “inner child” (see myprevious post) is still active, and still seeking to turn the rejecting or ambivalent or emotionally unavailable or abusive adult into a loving one. Only now, it is no longer only the parent of the opposite sex, but potential love interests of the opposite sex that are targeted. Symbolic stand-ins for the parent. Most adults have an uncanny attraction, a kind of unconscious “radar,” for members of the opposite sex (or, in some cases, same sex) who, in ways often initially imperceptible, resemble–psychologically if not physically–the parent with whom we had difficulties. And these are the people we tend to “fall in love” with or with whom we get involved. We choose them unconsciously, of course. That is the nature of a neurosis. It’s a “blind spot.” Who would consciously choose—and often remain–with a partner who is rejecting, unavailable, or emotionally/physically abusive? That would be pure masochism. But it is not mere masochism in this case. It is a powerful repetition compulsion at play.

That wounded, rejected, abandoned little boy or girl is still trying to win mommy or daddy’s love. In order for the repetition compulsion to play out, the love interest must, by definition, possess at least some of the emotional deficits or traits as did the original parent. Indeed, that is what the repetition compulsion is all about: a recreation of these relationship dynamics, so as to provide an opportunity to, this time, change the outcome. The inner child thinks: “This time will be different. I will get this person to love me. I can change him or her, if I only try hard enough. I won’t fail again. Then I will feel loveable.” But tragically, this futile effort is doomed to failure. For if, as part of the repetition compulsion, we specifically choose individuals who cannot love us because of their own limitations and problems, what are the odds of making them do so? Can we “fix” them? Force them? Transform them? Cure them? Not very likely. The rational adult part of ourselves knows that. But the wounded little boy or girl within is still trying, just as he or she did with the parents, each inevitable failure reinforcing feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and unlovability. And so it goes.

So what is the answer to all this? One of the big problems I got during this series was constant emails saying “But what do I do?! All this awareness is fine, but where do I go from here? What do I do?!”

“What do I do?!” is a very common reaction. We feel like we need to do something active to erase the pain as soon as we start feeling it.  This rush to do something feels very admirable and impressive because it sounds so noble and proactive, but this rush to action is not as good as it often seems.

There are many times where I read a great book with a lot of insight, then I’ll go on Amazon to read reviews and I’ll see negative reviews along the lines of  “This book was very enlightening and told me everything wrong about myself and showed me why I’m screwed up, but it didn’t tell me what to do! One star!” And I think to myself, how can you just brush aside something as major as awareness? Why do so many people just brush aside deep levels of emotional awareness as casually as if someone just informed them of the weather and immediately ask for someone to spoon feed them what to do next?

I realized that the act of brushing aside deep emotional awareness and asking “Awareness is fine, but what do I do?” is a disguised version of the easy fix mindset. It’s very similar to the addictive thinking described above. It says “I feel bad, I feel inadequate, I feel pain and shame, and I need a mood changer.”  Read the section about about addictive mindsets and belief systems and you’ll see what you mean. The brushing aside of deep emotional awareness and the obsession with doing something, anything, immediately in order to dispel the pain that comes from deep emotional awareness is a form of the quick-fix mindset, a desire to be perfect, an inability to accept one’s own flaws and an inability to tolerate frustration and pain, traits which get people into these emotional messes in the first place.

Deep emotional awareness is a huge deal. Don’t underestimate how important it is. Don’t try to shortchange it or sweep it under the rug. There’s a reason why I wrote the first four parts of this series in as emotionally brutal and blunt and upfront a manner as I could. I wanted to knock the emotional wind out of people. I wanted to dredge up all the nasty emotional pain and awful memories they’ve been keeping suppressed and bring them into conscious awareness and force them to marinate in the pain a little bit.

Far too often when we are faced with emotional truths or dangerous ideas that threaten our self-image and have the potential to bruise and annihilate our egos, our first response is to resort to our favorite faulty coping mechanism and our most familiar defense mechanisms. As Bradshaw describes:

The pain and suffering of shame generate automatic and unconscious defenses. Freud called these defenses by various names: denial, idealization of parents, repression of emotions and dissociation from emotions. What is important to note is that we can’t know what we don’t know. Denial, idealization, repression and dissociation are unconscious survival mechanisms. Because they are unconscious, we lose touch with the shame, hurt and pain they cover up. We cannot heal what we cannot feel. So without recovery, our toxic shame gets carried for generations.

Since we can’t heal what we can’t feel, this is why the defense mechanism of intellectualization doesn’t work for inspiring lasting change.  Intellectualization is described as below:

Intellectualization is the overemphasis on thinking when confronted with an unacceptable impulse, situation or behavior without employing any emotions whatsoever to help mediate and place the thoughts into an emotional, human context. Rather than deal with the painful associated emotions, a person might employ intellectualization to distance themselves from the impulse, event or behavior. For instance, a person who has just been given a terminal medical diagnosis, instead of expressing their sadness and grief, focuses instead on the details of all possible fruitless medical procedures.

Mental masturbation is a form of intellectualization, which is why it doesn’t ever lead to deep, lasting improvement. It’s a way of using intellectual insights as a way to avoid the deep pain of emotional awareness, and as I repeat, you can’t heal what you can’t feel.

Don’t run from emotional awareness, and don’t underestimate how important it is to your growth. Eckhart Tolle said in A New Earth that “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” And he also explained:

To recognize one’s own insanity is, of course, the arising of sanity, the beginning of healing and transcendence…

The good news is: If you can recognize illusion, it dissolves. The recognition of illusion is also its ending. Its survival depends on your mistaking it for reality. In the seeing of who you are not, the reality of who you are emerges by itself…

The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist. The old mind-pattern or mental habit may still survive and reoccur for a while because it has the moment of thousands of years of collective human unconsciousness behind it, but every time it is recognized, it is weakened.

When you get deep emotional awareness, your job isn’t to immediately find self-improvement activities so that you can distract yourself from the pain as quickly as possible. Your job isn’t to use defense mechanisms to protect your ego. Your job is to increase the pain, to push deeper into the pain and follow it to its source and process all those emotions.

But how do you process this pain?

 

VIII.

Mourning

What you have to do with the emotional awareness you gain from this process in order to push deeper into it and fully process it is to mourn what you lost. And I’m being literal. You have to mourn it.

Therapist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross created a model for understanding the grieving process we go through when we suffer from a terminal illness or a loved one dies. These were called the Five Stages of Grief (described here, here, and here) and are as follows:

  1. Denial – A refusal to accept the truth. “It’s just not true.” “This can’t be happening.” “I feel fine.”
  2. Anger – Looking for someone to blame and be mad at. “Why? It’s not fair!” ” How could this have happened! I can’t believe it!” How could they do this to me?”
  3. Bargaining – Looking futilely for ways to feel in control. “I’ll do anything for a few more years.” “If only I got her medical attention sooner.” “God, please let me wake up and see it was all a bad dream.”
  4. Depression – “I’m so sad. Why bother with anything?” “Things will never get better.” “My life is over.”
  5. Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay.” “I can’t fight it, so I may as well prepare for it.” “I hit rock bottom, but now I can see the way out and I’m on the way back up.”

Kubler-Ross eventually expanded this model to include not just terminal illness and death but any form of catastrophic personal loss, including careers, breakups, divorces, or an infertility diagnosis. What you have to do as a codependent in order to push through and process the emotional pain that awareness gives you is to apply the 5 stages of grief model to your childhood injuries and losses.

With death and illness, nature itself forces us to go through all the five stages, because death is such an undeniable part of existence. We have no choice but to stop denying, rationalizing and bargaining. The physical reality is of death is so undeniable we simply have to reach acceptance.

However psychological losses are much, much trickier, and we can use defense mechanisms until the day we die to keep ourselves from reaching the acceptance stage when it comes to these emotional injuries. Denial, regression, acting out, dissociation, compartmentalization, projection, reaction formation, repression, displacement, intellectualization, rationalization, undoing…the available ego tricks our mind uses to keep us stuck in the denial and bargaining stages can seem endless. Jumping into distracting activity, “doing” something, is yet another defense mechanism we can add to the list, and it’s especially insidious because it feels like it’s mature and emotionally healthy.

An important thing to realize is that while we all have certain needs that we need to have filled, some needs can only be filled during certain periods and by certain people. These needs are context-specific. Childhood needs are an example of this. Childhood needs can only be met in childhood, and they can only be filled by our parents or caretakers.

Have you ever seen the cliche of old man in the club? That guy who looks way too old to be in the nightclub wearing a muscle shirt and trying to mack on young chicks and looking like a laughing stock? Or the tacky cougar looking like a hot mess and stank dancing at the club? Or the guy who didn’t sow his oats by getting laid in high school and college, and now spends decades trying to make up for it, except no amount of women ever seems enough? What happened with these examples is that they had a need that should have been met at a certain period of their lives and from certain people. The old man in the club needed to complete his party stage when he was younger, with people his age. The tacky cougar needed to complete her attention whore stage when younger, with guys her age and older, not college kids younger than her. The guy trying to find completion through endless sex needed to complete his player stage in high school or college, with girls his age.

When you try to fill needs that should have been filled during a specific bygone period of your life, by specific people, your chasing a lost cause. You’re trying to fill a void that can’t be filled. You’re chasing a ghost. You lost your chance to have those specific needs filled, and you have to mourn that loss, accept it and move on.

The same principle applies to the type of emotional support and mirroring you needed in your childhood from your parents. It’s a shame you didn’t get it during your childhood, but it’s too late to get it now. Even if the right people,your parents, tried to give it to you now, it would provide some closure, but it still won’t quite get the job done because the period when you most needed it, your childhood, has passed. It would be like if you were starved for years as a child so you grew up short and underdeveloped. Then at 30 you try to stuff your face nonstop in hopes that you’ll reverse it and now grow tall and strong.

Alice Miller discusses all these concepts in her book Drama of the Gifted Child:

Is it possible, then, to free ourselves altogether from illusions? History demonstrates that they sneak in everywhere, that every life is full of them – perhaps because the truth often seems unbearable to us. And yet the truth is so essential that its loss exacts a heavy toll, in the form of grave illness. In order to become whole we must try, in a long process, to discover our own personal truth, a truth that may cause pain before giving us a new sphere of freedom. If we choose instead to content ourselves with intellectual “wisdom,” we will remain in the sphere of illusion and self-deception.

The damage done to us during our childhood cannot be undone, since we cannot change anything in our past. We can, however, change ourselves…

Intellectualization is very commonly encountered…since it is a defense mechanism of great power. It can have disastrous results, however, when the mind ignores the vital messages of the body…

[I]t is impossible for the grandiose person to cut the tragic link between admiration and love. He seeks insatiably for admiration, of which he never gets enough because admiration is not the same thing as love. It is only a substitute gratification of the primary needs for respect, understanding, and being taken seriously – needs that have remained unconscious since early childhood. Often a whole life is devoted to this substitute. As long as the true need is not felt and understood, the struggle for the symbol of love will continue. It is for this very reason that an aging, world-famous photographer who had received many international awards could say to an interviewer, “I’ve never felt what I have done was good enough.” And he does not question why he has felt this way. Apparently, it has never occurred to him that the depression he reports could be related to his fusion with the demands of his parents…

For example, at the height of his success an actor can play before an enthusiastic audience and experience feelings of heavenly greatness and almightiness. Nevertheless, his sense of emptiness and futility, even of shame and anger, can return the next morning if his happiness the previous night was not only due to his creative activity in playing and expressing the part but was also, and above all, rooted in the substitute satisfaction of old needs for echoing, mirroring, and being seen and understood. If his success the previous night serves only to deny childhood frustrations, then, like every substitute, it can bring only momentary satisfaction. In fact , true satisfaction is no longer possible, since the right time for that now lies irrevocably in the past. The former child no longer exists, nor do the former parents. The present parents – if they are still alive – are now old and dependent; they no longer have any power over their son and are perhaps delighted with his success and with his infrequent visits. In the present, the son enjoys success and recognition, but these things cannot offer him more than their present value; they cannot fill the old gap. Again, as long as he is able to deny this need with the help of illusion – that is, with the intoxication of success – the old would cannot heal. Depression leads him close to his wounds, but only mourning for what he has missed, missed at the crucial time, can lead to real healing…

As adults, we don’t need unconditional love, not even from our therapists. This is a childhood need, one that can never be fulfilled later in life, and we are playing with illusions if we have never mourned this lost opportunity. But there are other things we can get from good therapists: reliability, honesty, respect, trust, empathy, understanding, and an ability to clarify their emotions so that they need not bother us with them. If a therapist promises unconditional love, we must protect ourselves from him, from his hypocrisy and lack of awareness…

It is precisely because a child’s feelings are so strong that they cannot be repressed without serious consequences. The stronger a prisoner is, the thicker the prison walls have to be, and unfortunately these walls also impede or completely prevent later emotional growth…

The child must adapt to ensure the illusion of love, care, and kindness, but the adult does not need this illusion to survive. He can give up his amnesia and then be in a position to determine his actions with open eyes. Only this path will free him from his depression. Both the depressive and the grandiose person completely deny their childhood reality by living as though the availability of the parents could still be salvaged: the grandiose person through the illusion of achievement, and the depressive through his constant fear of losing “love.” Neither can accept the truth that this loss or absence of love has already happened in the past, and that no effort whatsoever can change this fact…

We cannot, simply by an act of will, free ourselves from repeating the patterns of our parents’ behavior – which we had to learn very early in life. We become free of them only when we can fully feel and acknowledge the suffering they inflicted on us. We can then become fully aware of these patterns and condemn them unequivocally…

[H]is problems cannot be solved with words, but only through experience – not merely corrective experience as an adult but, above all, through a conscious experience of his early fear of his beloved mother’s contempt and is subsequent feelings of indignation and sadness. Mere words, however skilled the interpretation, will leave unchanged or even deepen the split between intellectual speculation and the knowledge of the body, the split from which he already suffers.

One can therefore hardly free an addict from the cruelty of his addiction by showing him how the absurdity, exploitation, and perversity of society cause our neuroses and perversions, however true this may be. The addict will love such explanations and eagerly believe them, because they spare him the pain of the truth. But things we can see through do not make us sick, although they may arouse our indignation, anger, sadness, or feelings of impotence. What makes us sick are those things we cannot see through, society’s constraints that we have absorbed through, society’s constraints that we have absorbed through our parents’ eyes. No amount of reading or learning can free us from those eyes…

It greatly aids the success of therapeutic work when we become aware of our parents’ destructive patterns at work within us. But to free ourselves from these patterns we need more than an intellectual awareness: we need an emotional confrontation with our parents in an inner dialogue.

When the patient has emotionally worked through the history of her childhood and has thus regained her sense of being alive, the goal of therapy has been reached. She will then be able to use the tools she has learned whenever feelings from her past are triggered by present events. As time goes on, she will use them more and more effectively and will need less time for this work. The “map” of her life will be available for her whenever she needs it…

Once we go through the five stages of the mourning process for our childhood losses, we stop denying the reality of our family dynamics and the pain they caused us. Then we allow ourselves to feel whatever anger and rage issues this awareness of our childhood creates in us. Then we allow ourselves to deal with whatever depression this causes in us in a mature way, without using quick fixes and mood changers as a way to hide from the pain. Then we refuse to bargain with reality by not using defense mechanisms or other ways to escape ego pain and preserve our false selves. Then finally, we’ll have learned to accept the childhood loss, accept the primary inferiority it caused in us, and eventually accept our imperfect true selves.

What this mourning process  does for us is change our relationship to our childhood losses. And once we make peace with these childhood losses, then new setbacks in the form of secondary inferiorities won’t suddenly trigger the pain and shame of the primary inferiority anymore. When new setbacks come to us, yes they’ll still hurt, but they won’t cause a rush of repressed childhood pain, shame and self-hatred to flood our psyches and reduce us to crumbled heaps. We’ll be able to put new setbacks in their proper perspective and see that they don’t make us less than human worms. We’ll also be able to keep good things in perspective, and realize that a couple of good external things, be it new sexual notches, material possessions, money or fame, while they may feel good, don’t define us and don’t make us larger than human.

This creates the ultimate form of unconditional self-acceptance.

It’s unrealistic to tell people they can give up all forms of attachment completely, or that they should give up all appreciation of external validation and superficial ego boosts. These things aren’t always unhealthy. The key is whether you desire these things to fix a core deficiency and overcome a primary inferiority, or whether you’ve made peace with these primary inferiorities and just treat such things as enjoyable, occasional bonus in life, not as something you insatiably need just to feel any semblance of self-worth.

 

IX.

The Transformative Power of Social Interest and Empathy

In the book and movie Fight Club, the character Tyler Durden famously said that self-help is masturbation. I agree and disagree.

Self-help can be masturbation, if you use it in an ego-driven way to be better than people, or if you use it in a self-obsessed way much like an addict uses mood-changers. What transforms self-help from masturbation into intercourse is social interest and empathy, as I described in my post The Theaters of Operation.

Sometimes we think we’re engaging in intercourse because we’re pursuing a pleasurable, ego-boosting experience in the company of another person, but instead what we have is pseudoconnection, and what we’re actually doing is mutually masturbating with another person’s body. This is something they often say about narcissists, that they don’t actually make love in a deep, connected way to another person, they instead just masturbate with another person’s body instead of with their hand because they want the ego boost of an audience and the gratification of external validation.

You also see this in conversations. There are conversational narcissists who just treat conversations as an opportunity for intellectual masturbation using someone else’s mind as a sounding board rather than engaging in the true connection and exchange of ideas and emotions  that comes from mature, verbal intercourse.

Apply this dynamic to self-help. If we engage in self-help alone in our rooms, burying our noses in books and blogs, just remaining self-obsessed and self-conscious and fantasizing, then self-help is masturbation. If we engage in self-help with others, but in a pseudocommunity where we don’t exercise true social interest or empathy, and without connecting or ever being vulnerable, then we’re still intellectually masturbating, except now we’re doing it with other people’s minds as an audience for the ego boost and external validation. Self-help only transcends the level of masturbation if we go out there and live life, connecting to people and being vulnerable and genuine and not being ego-driven. Really trying to add value to people’s lives for it’s own sake and not for the narcissistic supply. If we try to learn as much from others as we try to teach them, and always reciprocate and be grateful. If we use what we learn to really live fully out in the real world in a way that’s not overly self-conscious, rather than live in a fantasy world in our heads where we’re self-obsessed.

Social interest and empathy transform the toxic trait of narcissism into the healthy trait of genuine self-esteem. Social interest and empathy transform the toxic trait of shame into the healthy trait of humility. Social interest and empathy transform the toxic trait of pathological guilt into the healthy trait of a good conscience. And most importantly of all, they can transform a false self into a true one.


82 Responses to “Reader Letters #1, Part 5”

  1. Brutal. I couldnt ask for more.

    Awareness = aceptance, and aceptance = love.

    Parents… eh… let me personalize that. My parents. They were supposed to love me unconditionally. Or if they werent “supposed”, I needed it. But they didnt. So I hated myself for it. I worked harder. I surrendered. Etc. Accepting that it just happened and that there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s was a phase. wow. That acceptance is more painful that I thought it would be.

    Then Alice’s comment than adults dont need unconditional love… what? we dont? I dont? but… my mind goes on spirals.

    Then you bring it home and mention the unconditional acceptance of the own self. Hum. Man that was what I was expecting from my parents and now Im mourning, isnt it?

    So as Im seeing it:

    Parents, my parents, were supposed to love me unconditionally. The healthy result of that childhood would be that I accept myself unconditionally, and that then I can operate from there and look for fun on the world, face pain danger etc, but with my core unbroken.

    But they didnt teach me that. I only learned that I was flawed, their love was conditional, so my self love is conditional as well, and I’ve spent / invested my life on copying with that, and there’s a double fantasy about it: on one hand I LONG unconditional love, like, I miss it really bad. On the other hand, I act and project and work hard and stuff so I can DESERVE unconditional love. But since “unconditional” stuff cant be “deserved” nor “worked for” nor can be “measured” this is all doomed. It’s like a structure with some missing colums, that only stands because the missing colums are off the picture, because you frame the picture every time in a way that the flaws are left of the picture.

    Anyway.

    I can mourn my parents not loving me and my lost childhood. Fucking painful. It’s also fucking painful to see all the subsequent wasted opportunities and wants that got frustrated because that previous phase was broken. But whatever. I can mourn.

    What Im seeing is that accepting that loss, being completely aware and still on that loss… fills me with acceptance, fixes the “leak”. Aceptance = love? seems like what I was supposed to learn from my parents is closer to this.

    I never figured “mourning” to be a healing process. I´ve been so much anti mourning and anti-surrendering and champion and “you go tiger” and “you can do it” and “defeat all odds” and stuff. Stuff that works in the real world, but the base is pure denial.

    Anyway, Im starting to rationalize this. Need to follow my emotions and cry some more. Fuck.

    Thanks.

  2. “Stuff that works in the real world”

    I mean, denying failure and overcompensating through actions = the actions can produce real results, and deny measurable failure.

    The emotional world though… the psychological world… doesnt seem to give a fuck.

    If we ever create artificial intelligence, we should fix this thing on the design. It’s broken:

    “Children record their parents’ actions at their worst. When Mom and Dad, or stepparent or caregiver, are most out of control, they are the most threatening to the child’s survival. The child’s amygdala, the survival alarm center int heir brain, registers these behaviors most deeply.”

    If that’s true, then no matter what the parents do nor how good they are, all childs have trauma / and every childhood is traumatic / everyone has leaks, and everyone needs to go through the therapy and process of introspection and breaking into adulthood by mourning childhood.

    Who the fuck designed this thing.

  3. YOHAMI,

    Perhaps I’m misreading your comment, but I think it goes something like this:
    My pain has given me the power to achieve XYZ. My pain is the source of my drive. How can I achieve without the pain?

    Myself, I developed codependent traits because as a young child my father had a bad heart attack and was absent for some years. I had to assume to role of my father (only child) that I was unprepared for and take care of my mother. I developed a white knight complex trying to save my mother.

    Also, he was the primary bread winner and we could not make ends meat. So I internalized my inability to help my mother make the mortgage payment at eight years old with, “I need to grow up and make a lot of money.” I viewed getting rich as a do-over. Sure, I can’t go back to eight years old and make the mortgage payment, but I can ensure my kids don’t live through that, and my kids are like a do-over at childhood where I fix all my parents deficiencies as a parent myself.

    That pain became a motivation. And it was a powerful motivation. It really did help me go to college, start a career, make some good money. Pain can be a “constructive” force. It can give you power, in the dark side sense. But it also has a cost. Evertime you tap that power source, you taping into the dark side. It takes its toll. Sometimes its concrete (like when I nearly ripped a lot of people off working on wall street before I quit), but sometimes its more subtle, like it takes a little piece of you everytime you use that pain as a source of strength. It exacts a price, even if its not immediately apparent.

    Recentely, I started reading a lot of work by C.S. Lewis. Most people know him from the Narnia books, but he was actually a very skilled adult writer and Christian theologian as well. If you looking for a good intro to adult Christian theology, I recommend checking him out.

    Lewis writes continually about how few things are inherentely good or bad. It’s the manner in which we use them. My codependent traits are good in the sense that they have helped me achieve, and they do make me more disposed to empathy. I do think it will help me be a better father one day. Other times they have been negatives, like if I get obsessed with one thing (money) or I let people walk all over me (trying to save women when I shouldn’t). The same could be said of the other coping mechanisms (remember, we use all three even if we use some more). They have positive and negative characteristics.

    The most useful thing in this entry for me is the idea that the issue can’t be “fixed”. I’m never going to fix my codependency. I can only learn to control it. I need to learn to draw on its power positively while also controlling it rather then letting it control me. Awarness is a part of it.

    I had a hard time with the concept of giving up ego. Of giving up the pain. It seemed so strong. The pain seemed at the center of everything I had accomplished in life. How could I let go? Wouldn’t I be letting go of who I was? How does one kill ego without killing self?

    Part of what worked for me is faith in God. It’s hard to explain without having you read a lot of books, but I am both of myself and of God. I don’t need to get all my power from my own ego, that I could be given grace and strength from God. This is a very difficult transition. You go from gaining your power from within, from the ego, to gaining power from without, from what is all around you.

    Going from using the dark side to the light side is a big change. It can seem like you are losing something even as you gain something. If you’ve always been very goal focused it sometimes feels like mediocrity, as the girl said. But really, it’s recognizing that you are ok, and there is room for improvement. You are ok if… you are ok but… can drive you. Because otherwise if…you don’t do XYZ or but…your not XYZ is a powerful driving force. Its implied that fear paralyzes people and that’s bad, but not being paralyzed isn’t necessarily good either. Its do or die, so many people do of of deperation and fear. But it also means your ego is driving you, rather then you are driving your ego. You may think you are accomplishing things, especially if its societally approved things like money or notches, but you aren’t being self driven towards those goals. You aren’t in control of your ego, it’s in control of you.

    I think the best advice here is that you need to go through a grieving stage. I’ve always been trying to accomplish something. I’ve always wanted to DO something to fix whatever I think is wrong. Unlike flash card guy, I was actually successful at what I was doing, but I also wasn’t really asking the question, “why do I want to be successful at this in the first place.” I was like the guy in The Graduate whose parents think he’s messed up for taking more then a few weeks to figure out his life’s goal. For me, not doing things for awhile and just grieving is a huge step forward. You can’t switch the source of your strength in a day. In real life there is no throwing the emporer of the bridge to redeem yourself. It just takes time.

  4. That was thorough, and well worth the wait. I think I’m going to need to re-read it a few times in order for it to sink in, though.

  5. pain,

    “My pain has given me the power to achieve XYZ. My pain is the source of my drive. How can I achieve without the pain?”

    Yeah. Actually I asked Ricky pretty much that exact question.

    Also thanks for sharing your stuff. Like that notion that when you tap the negative forces, pain, fear etc for drive, it takes something from you.

    Yah it does.

    What Im thinking about the mind / emotional world. This is quite stupid.

    Say Im a football player. I play the for the championship, and lose. But I refuse losing. So next year I train harder and put myself into it, and win the championship, and keep winning the championship every year.

    But somehow, my “mind” is still trapped in that first lose experience. Stupid.

    Say I fall in love with a girl. And the girl treats me like shit and dumps me. But I refuse to being dumped. So I learn and work my shit and have a lot of girlfriends and a lot of love.

    But somehow, my heart is still broken, trapped into that first experience when I was dumped.

    Say I was poor. I was homeless. But I refused poverty. So I worked my ass off and after 15 years Im rich. I made it.

    But somehow, my mind is still there. Back when I so unsure about everything.

    And it’s not like it’s always evident that there’s stuff rotten. It happens, it gets all revealed, it all crashes, something happens, etc. Like the basement analogy.

    So what the fuck yo?

    What works in the real world doesnt work on the mind. I fix the issue on the real world but the mind needs something else. Or, the mind cant be fixed because what happened happened. It’s all illusions and you cant fix a dream with another dream.

    Or. wtf.

    My issue is that no matter what I do Im still in pain. Or was. Maybe all this understanding and mourning (grieving dreams… wtf. why do I cry for something I didnt get when I was so young… why does it feel so real, why have I been carrying this?). wtf. anyway.

    Yes, I still have a lot of things I want to do. And I want to be able to do them without the pain. Or. I want to know that Im not doing them because of the pain. Or trying to fix a pain and cure a dream with another dream but keeping everything the same and keep a hurt open.

    Dude. Say your brother dies. But you do some vodoo magic operation and you bring him back to life. You defeat death. You’re happy now, so is your bother… but not your mind. Your mind doesnt care he’s alive. Your mind now needs to mourn and yell for all those injustices and all that pain.

    Say you’re hungry. Then you eat. Your body is happy now. Ah, but not your mind. Your mind is still hurt because all that hunger.

    OH WTF.

    The mind is such a pussy.

  6. Pain,

    “Part of what worked for me is faith in God. It’s hard to explain without having you read a lot of books, but I am both of myself and of God. I don’t need to get all my power from my own ego, that I could be given grace and strength from God.”

    Can you elaborate on that? how do you use your faith, etc.

  7. I’m not quite as willing as Ricky to go all 20,000 words here, nor would I do as well as the source material.

    There are of course a lot of things to read, but the first thing that got me into it was Lewis. He was an athiest who converted to Christianity late in life. His prose is beautifal.

    My order may not be the best way to do it, but it’s the way I got into it.

    1) The Screwtape Letters
    2) Mere Christianity
    3) The Abolition of Man
    and then so on…

    There are heavier theological hitters then Lewis, but everyone has got to start somewhere and I think he’s a good place to start. His work is available in pretty much any bookstore, amazon, or kindle. You can also get audiobooks on itunes, the one for The Screwtape Letters was delightful.

  8. Thank you Ricky. Lot to work on here. But you’ve put this together in a way that addresses many/most of my concerns and sticking points, many of which I didn’t know I had until I read parts 1-4, and some which are new to me reading this, but feel relevant.

    Thank you.

  9. 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?

    Also, this is coming from a person who has read about Codependancy and Narcissism and I stil live with my Narcissistic parents, so I am reparenting and getting to see where their actions are manipulation rather than reality. I also have been reading about improvement and have been more social and taking up a healthier lifestyle than I had before. By all this, I mean to say that I am not intending on merely asking for a quick fix. I am still mourning my lack of unconditional love from my parents while living with them, but I also want to work on empathy as well. It seemed like after I found out how my parents really were, I have lost empathy for me. I also found out that my parents did good acts as obligations rather than out of empathy. I would like to unlearn this same pattern of behavior that they have taught me.

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

    p.s. I think I will ask Mark Manson about this as well; I’d be interested in what he’d have to say about Empathy.

  10. By the way, I wrote a thank you not but it got erased when I put it in my comment above, because the editing time limit was up so I will rewrite it here.

    Thanks TheRawness for this series, as it helped me understand a lot of my deeper childhood issues. I look forward to whatever you got coming up on your blog.

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

  11. Yohami,

    I’ve mentioned this book several times and I’ll do it again since it’s THE primer on Emotional Body: “There is no such thing as a negative emotion”. It’s main take-away – you’ll heal your pain when you will feel someone feel you feel your pain while you are feeling it. When I felt my pain *in full intensity* in the presence of someone who (unlike my parents) could let it inside them and feel it with me, the pain left me.

    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.

    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.

  12. Sasha,

    http://www.amazon.com/Theres-Such-Thing-Negative-Emotion/product-reviews/1598002589/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

    Thanks. looking for a downloadable version

  13. To add:

    I really don’t think this work (emotional) can be done solo at first. The book is an awesome map but the work requires a “parent” to learn new emotional circuitry from and/or recall your own. At least that’s what it took me – 1 session with one practitioner and 2.5 with another. Once the foundation was set, I could steer/deepen on my own.

    I disagree with Barron’s premise that we are emotional beings first, mental second and physical third. I just think the emotional level has been ignored for so long and lacked tools to work with it that when one discovers it, it seems primary. But it’s not. It’s just a part of spirit -> soul – > mind -> emotions -> body flow.

    P.S.I doubt you’ll find a downloadable version of this book.

  14. Sasha,

    Yep, none, no kindle, no pdf, I added it to my amazon kart but that´s likely to take months. Shame.

    I like the concept “no negative emotion”

    If you dont frame any emotion as negative then what you do with them? experience them. accept them. feel them. if you dont like what you feel I guess you can always change (circumstances etc). Rather than block the emotions or protect yourself from them.

    This whole mourning / grieving so far feels like, allowing myself to feel all that crap that I’ve put behind layers. So maybe it’s not the “grieving” at all. Maybe it’s the acceptance. Some stuff is flowing already.

    What was the role of the “parent” in your therapy? did you personalize this person as your parent and interacted with them, or did they do some other stuff? and when did you do this thing?

  15. The 1-session guy was just a master therapist who could feel my heart-pain caused by a very recent event (2 weeks at that time) and relieved me of it immediately. No parental associations. This has shown me that unless there is quick progress, healer is no good.

    The 2.5h (and more) CNT practitioner was the woman who (afterwards) I conceptualized as a much more sensitive version of my mother. Ironically, later on she still hurt me exactly in the ways my mom did – just on a much more sensitive level…

    Thinking this all over again, she helped me bring up to the surface old memories of powerlessness, old compressed pain and just let me feel fully in her presence – with no attempts to sooth me even though I was screaming like a motherfucker from her lightly touching my stomach. All that unfelt emotion IS stored in the body and a sensitive practitioner can bring it to the surface for faster progress. In contrast, my own mother could never be around me at full intensity of joy/pain/rage/ecstasy. She soothed – me or herself

    This was 1/2 year ago. Later on I could do the same massage on myself and could trigger old stuff when time/context was right. I think it’s important to stay in the now and still fully honor that child and to allow yourself to receive as much love as you can. It’s those who had a deficit of love and who want it so much at those who aren’t open to receiving it. (Sidenote: Working the anus can help to learn how to receive in general. Seriously.)

    I’ve known other people who later in life met older folks who just gave them the love/mothering/fathering they lacked in childhood. Nobody sought those out specifically but everyone had inner hidden desire for that. It seems impossible, however, to satisfy those childhood needs in any significant way in a peer or (especially) sexual relationship.

    ******

    Your writing has changed significantly since you ended your relationship. It comes from a higher place and has much more heart. Much has clearly moved and shifted.

  16. There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it I have now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis; my punishment continues to elude me, and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing.

    Beta

  17. I’ve decided I’m not going to rush in to answer comment questions right away but instead allow commenters to exchange ideas and feedback. The reason for this is because I want to see whether the lingering followup questions are arising because a particular reader just happened to miss something I clearly stated already in the piece, in which case another commenter will probably set him straight, or if any lingering confusion is the result of deficiencies in the original article itself.

    Any recurring themes I see in the questions will get a followup post. Any questions I think are just an isolated concern of one or two readers I’ll respond to in this comments thread.

  18. Ricky,

    For me, I wish the last section was longer. There are still unanswered questions out there, but another piece may be better for answering them anyway.

  19. Hearing that anything I wrote is too short is a first, haha. I do plan to expand on that section in a future post now due to that feedback, pain. Thanks.

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

  21. 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.

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

    Perhaps you mean that I should mourn the loss of that innocent child that I used to be? He’s been gone since I was 4 or 5 years old, though… I don’t remember what he was like.

  22. Jim,

    Im still going through this but this is my simplified / to the point version:

    You identify with yourself and that identification creates a set of emotions. Some of the emotions are negative and some are positive. As an ego inflation thing, you push and repress the negative and try to make it as positive. In the process the ego gets split, the undesired part goes repressed, and the desired part goes hyperinflated. Both are “false” and both rely on some identification with something that is not there to begin with.

    If you need to punish and reward yourself, you’re… fuck this stuff is simple but I dont grab it all yet. If you treat yourself like you’re a third person, you have several layers of bullshit and a false context for all that bullshit. Chances are all the stuff you motivate yourself for and all the discipline you think you need is about investing energy so you can mold your superficial / desired false ego, so it grows more powerful than your deeper, undesired, yet also false ego – in hopes the emotions from your false shiny one prevents you from feeling the emotions from the undesired dark one.

    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. Thing is, deep down there, as long as you have issues, you’re repressing something and holding to fake stuff in order to heal or satiate or calm some pain and bullshit. The aim is not to feel the pain. So all you do to not feel the pain keeps the pain under control, but alive. The moment you channel and allow yourself to experience these dark emotions, the moment you become that stuff you are trying so hard to avoid, your false, dark, negative, undesired, repressed, weaker… you explore those emotions, which can be “grieving” because maybe it’s something you lost… but can be something else. Can be a desire. Can be a hurt. Can be when you lost the trust or when you got something broken, or the moment where you decided to do X and not to become Y or whatever. You feel those emotions, and it’s a freaking vivid thing, like it was happening right now (it is!), and if you dont push it down nor repress it… the whole thing dissolves. Or a better word, it flows. it moves, it becomes alive, you’re that, but you’re also not that.

    Anyway. So much for a “succint” view.

    Dont chase the mourning etc. Focus on what you’re avoiding. And face it without war nor repression. Embrace it without an ego embracing it. Live it without a separation. No judgements. No “must be” no “should be” nothing. When that thing is experienced, both extremes of the fake thing become the same and the nothing, and you feel incredible alive. At least that’s my experience so far.

  23. Shatteredperceptions on April 14th, 2012 at 12:39 AM

    I found this article on psychology today. I think it’s the author of the Tiger Woods book anyway its a good summary of a theory of whats going on today. I don’t know how to insert link here but here is the url. Just thought I’d share.It has a lot of insight into relationships.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/repairing-relationships/201204/the-detour-away-healthy-relationship

  24. Shatteredperceptions on April 14th, 2012 at 12:40 AM

    oh, ok link automatically posts…feel dumb right now 🙂

  25. Shattered,

    Good link. This, though:

    “why be honest in a relationship when there is a higher probability that the woman will discover the real you, determine that you are incompatible with her and reject you before you have reached your goal of romantic intimacy?”

    Eh. When you get into a relationship that happens quickly and is based on charm and superficiality and here-and-now “fulfillment”, the girl is equally guilty, say, she is also being filled by the same bullshit that you are and is looking by similar quick fixes and has equivalent, complimentary fuckedupness. There’s no “discovering who you really are” nor reaching for romantic intimacy on her part. There’s give and take and crap and role playing. Dr Bruns is falling on the Bias that men want the quick thing and women want the good thing by default. If that was the case, and women wanted the good thing by default, this stuff would be easier. The problem would solve itself: Half the population would be able to correct you when you do stupid shit.

    The real problem is that the vastly majority of people are fucked up, including you, and the people you relate to, including women.

    So, Dr Bruns view is alright except that he blames media and men as a whole, giving a pass to women. So can he repair any relationship? nope. He’s making the problem worse by blaming one and only one side, and blaming an abstract “media & the outside world” for anything he cant pinpoint on the man.

    Try this: clean yourself and do the right thing, drop your bullshit, be honest and sensitive, with zero game playing, and go out there and meet real, regular women. Chances are you wont even like these women. And whose fault is that?

  26. I’m refraining on answering questions about the main post for now, but I wanted to chime in and agree with Yohami about the article. This is what men were talking about in the last comments section when complaining about women never being expected to show agency. The article was good but one sided as far as giving women a pass on their own dysfunctional contributions to they dynamic. They’re not active agents according to the article, just passive victims of men and the media.

  27. When I was young, I thought the most intimate thing a woman could do was have sex. Some bangs later I’m over that idea. I still don’t know what the most intimate thing a woman can do is. However, I know what the most intimate thing a man can do is…show weakness.

    Weakness is like a poison that repels women. Any break in the facade and they recoil. In this aspect my adult relationships have been secondary triggers that hit on my primary childhood issues. My original problems came from my father getting sick and my having to save my mom. When he finally came back, the impression I got was that much of my mom’s love for him was permanently lost due to the weakness his illness represented.

    I inherited all his health problems. Physically, I’m quite weak, no matter how much time I spend in the gym. And I get sick more then most people. Modern medicine means I live a normal life overall, but its still there. Other aspects of my life I’ve improved. Money, status, personality, culture. But there is little I can do about my body, in that way it’s much like the limits on a woman’s appearance.

    In my adolescent and adult life I’ve been sick many times. In middle school I needed bone corrective surgery, so I was left very weak right at puberty when I was suppose to be meeting girls for the first time. As an adult I went to the hospital for an immune system problem triggered by getting mono. The result: my girlfriend dumped me coming out of the hospital because she, “couldn’t handle seeing me like that.” (I was too weak)

    The brutal undeniable fact about the sexes is that male weakness is unacceptable. Polygamy, not monogomy, is the natural state. So most men, simply put, won’t measure up. This is true regardless of what they do. It was built into their genes at birth. And its true no matter how much men work to improve themselves, because its your relative rank to other men, not your absolute level, that makes you acceptable to women. For one to rise, another must fall. Only around 40% of us will be winners, with an even smaller portion having a harem. That is why showing any kind of weakness is the ultimate intimacy for men.

    I don’t have a lot of answers for you on this issue. All I can say is that if you can come to peace with yourself, you no longer need a woman to come to peace with you. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That’s why I can post here knowing the girl I’m seeing might read it. Either she’ll process it and deal with it, or she won’t. I desire her understanding, but I don’t need it.

    I feel I’ve become a good man in every facet within my control, and that I’ve developed the tools to continue to grow in new challenges. The things beyond my control are beyond my control. I no longer judge myself over them, nor would I allow the judgement of another to hang over me.

  28. I’m 20 and had previously immersed myself in the pickup community about four years ago so as to stop constant romantic failure. I started dating my first girlfriend soon after. But after my first girlfriend broke up with me, I fell back into depression and decided that I wanted a relationship that was less superficial and less charged by lust. So I began to seek out a healthy relationship, one based on friendship and honest sharing with another. For three years I’ve searched for that, and found plenty of girls willing to share their emotions and lives with me. In them, I’ve recognized kindred souls, similar people in terms of goals in life and also in terms of their overall emotional landscape and their reactive tendencies towards particular real world events, both personal events involving themselves and those that were far off and removed from the self. Intellectually, I attempted to encourage them to explore their own ideas, providing them a sounding board and providing nourishment and feedback. Emotionally, I allowed them to speak their minds and to tell me about their lives, occasionally chiming in with questions that, I was told, helped them learn more about themselves. I was there for them, and I think I established a pretty solid base of friendship. In return, what I wanted was for them to help me learn more about myself, allowing me to voice my ideas and my insecurities, my hopes and my dreams. Because that’s what a friendship is I thought, just honestly sharing with another. Each time I did, there was no patient listening on their part. Of course it varied from person to person, but overall there was a shift in their non verbal and verbal behavior towards contempt. A sort of judgement too, as they would frequently tell me how I had erred. And that was fine, it was their method of listening and reaching out to me. Those aren’t the ones you want to be friends with anyway I decided, and I moved away from them. But the more women I met, the more that I tried to fulfill this basic schema, the more I would run into these same problems, one where there isn’t acceptance of a person or a willingness to listen to the other. Most women I met simply seemed to want to talk about themselves, ignoring me, and then when I did speak about my life, I would be treated with thinly veiled disgust.

    “Really trying to add value to people’s lives for it’s own sake and not for the narcissistic supply. If we try to learn as much from others as we try to teach them, and always reciprocate and be grateful.”

    That’s exactly what I had hoped to do. Of taking a person as an interesting story that I could immerse myself in, seeing their perspective and way of life. But, for some reason, most attempts at female friendship tend to never be reciprocal, rather they are just taking from me, while I am supposed to just shut the fuck up and listen. But I myself question this very thought. Am I simply looking for approval of myself externally in this definition of friendship that I have constructed? And what would be an appropriate reaction to the voicing of my thoughts anyway? Maybe I simply have not learned to produce self-love and self-approval.

    Now, about the production of a healthy sexual relationship, 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.

  29. Adam,

    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.

  30. Yohami,

    “Awareness = aceptance, and aceptance = love”

    “Say I fall in love with a girl. And the girl treats me like shit and dumps me. But I refuse to being dumped. So I learn and work my shit and have a lot of girlfriends and a lot of love.”

    Seems like your concept of love is thouroughly fucked. Might want to figure out what you mean by that before you start trying to solve problems that involve it.

  31. Different T,

    “Seems like your concept of love is thouroughly fucked.”

    That works better if you explain what you mean.

  32. Shatteredperceptions on April 15th, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    I totally agree about that as I commented on that article..both MEN and WOMEN are guilty of that and are responsible for consequences. Although you have to be careful about snap judgements.. The woman and man who gets even involved in a petty relationship like that needs to reassess themself…sorry if I wasn’t clear on that idea. I’ve heard excuses from men and women about it “not being their fault” depending on their gender bias. Just replace men with anyone who does this in the article and I wholeheartedly agree.

    And please don’t get into it’s all women’s fault either.

    And please don’t think everyone is petty and stupid. I am under 25 but my parents didn’t raise no fool.

  33. This will seem a bit odd, but I watched Bridesmaids last night and besides being a really funny movie I felt it did a really good job of depicting some of these dynamics.

    The main character is a woman hitting rock bottom. She was a skilled baker that tried to open a bakery in the middle of the recession and it failed. She’s flat broke. Her only relationship is a dissatisfying fuckbuddy relationship with a rich dbag alpha character played by the Don Draper guy. He wants to get off and then tells her to GTFO. It’s very much textbook codependent/narcissist.

    I actually liked the way they handled her relationship with him. She does eventually dump him towards the end of the movie, but they don’t really play his character up as being in the wrong. As he drives away at the end he says, “you used me.” And it’s true. She wanted to feel attractive and wanted and worthwhile with everything else in her life being messed up. He did that in the sack. However, she also liked how distant he was because there was no genuine relationship for her to fuck up (like she had fucked up her life). There is a tendency to blame the narcissist in these relationships, but really they are feeding off each other.

    The mirror image of that is her relationship with a cop. He’s the nice guy that would be good for her. They hook up, but then when he does something genuinely nice for her she runs away saying, “I don’t need to be fixed.” The subtext of course is, “if you try to fix me and I fail I’ll just feel worse, and I fail at everything.” To the movies credit I liked the way they played the cop. He’s not a pushover nice guy. After dealing with her drama and crap he tells her it’s over. When she tries to apologize he rejects her. Only after a long humorous apology montage of sorts does he finally believe she’s earned the privilege of a second chance. He also has some moments of good flirting and teasing. Simply put, he’s a nice guy but with a backbone and some game.

    Without going into details, most of the movie focuses on the relationship between the women and it’s full of lots of codependent/narcissist drama. I liked how the main character transforms from codependent to raging narcissist in the rock bottom scene, showing how they are just two sides of the same coin.

    The main character has to go through a journey where they come to terms with their own bullshit and you hope she has turned over a new leaf and is ready to start acting positively in her life. She gets back together with the cop and you hope it will work out between them.

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

  35. Shatteredperceptions on April 16th, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    Why does every other romance in pop culture remind me of these dynamics? Could it also be a desire to conform? Lack of decent role models? Like kids wanting to be cool and do what the messed up society wants. Besides the genetics (interesting theory R) predisposition to lead you there like an openness to experience gene there are the messed up parents that raised this generation.

    Keep your kids away from this stuff but not too sheltered but realistic best thing any reasonable person can do for a son or daughter. I think maybe environment and genetics play a part not just mental illness and f ed up family I mean it’s so widespread. Like alcoholism all these people can’t all have those issues due to illness and addiction? Or could they? One can wonder if some (not the hardcore cases) of these people were taught differently if these psychological issues would even exist. After all some people in two parent homes have these behaviors. I felt the pull to be insane from peers and even older people around me at one point. Stay sane. 😉 okay, last comment don’t want to overdo it it’s just a very interesting topic.

  36. Shatteredperceptions,

    “Why does every other romance in pop culture remind me of these dynamics?”

    Stuff must be biological, everyone goes through the same, it’s universal.

    But it also makes the people “broken”. The mind, stuck in the past, trying to escape negative emotions, in motion, working, but unable to be content = playground for exploiters. Everything out there (media, education, religions, politics, etc) needs you to be broken so you take a side, and pedal in their desired direction like there was no tomorrow.

    And if Buddhists say “life is suffering” maybe that’s what they mean.

    Maybe all the animal kingdom is going through his. Maybe the big “mind” is that stupid. It holds to the past and projects to the future and that’s how it constructs stuff and forms. But what do I know.

  37. “Why does every other romance in pop culture remind me of these dynamics?”

    In every romance I can think of, one person is a codependent, the other is a narcissist.

    Love songs are either: “I need you / cant live without you”, or, “you’re mine, you do as I say”.

    One of the persons have a price tag, and the other person works around it. One is a messiah / the salvation, the other is saved / grateful / works hard towards the other.

  38. “Each time I did, there was no patient listening on their part. Of course it varied from person to person, but overall there was a shift in their non verbal and verbal behavior towards contempt. A sort of judgement too, as they would frequently tell me how I had erred.”

    @Adam & @pain
    Adam, I’ve experienced the exact dynamic you described in your entire comment to a tee. For reference, I’m 26 and have dated age ranges from 23 – 38. It’s not isolated to age. Like yourself, when I essentially go compensatory narcissist vampire mode, they lust, become compliant and experience ‘love’. Sex is great but like yourself, I find myself feeling lonely. More recently, as I’ve focused on getting my life together holistically, those moments feel less lonely.

    ————–
    SN: The exception to this was the BPD/narcissist that triggered a chasm of primary inferiority. She fed off my codependency as I fed off her narcissism until a combination of my passive aggressiveness towards her indifference and violation of my boundaries caused me to distance myself emotionally. That triggered her deep fears of abandonment and the rationalization hamster of why our relationship needed to end (she was the victim and I was to blame) went into over drive all while (surprise -_-) another guy entered the scene. After 2 years of emotional cutting, the wound was finally deep enough to shock me into confronting my primary inferiority. In no short order, it and the support of my close male friends saved me from the nights I where mixtures of anger/sadness tore through my chest and stomach in a butterfly frenzy mixed with contempt and day (night?) dreams of extremely violent thoughts towards her new lover plus becoming a light weight stalker. When I realized how low my thought process became, I took the sliver of awareness I had and called the guy who was to be the best man in our wedding (<—yeah, marriage, lol I know right?). This led to another close male and psychologist in training to point me in the direction of "Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder". My friends, that book, the manosphere in general, T's articles (been reading since 2009ish) especially, have helped me chart a more positive masculine identity.

    So others might benefit if applicable:
    Book: http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Walking-Eggshells-Personality-ebook/dp/B004DNXGFQ

    Particularly useful is the section where the author begins to point out why you as a codependent would be attracted to a narcissist and what you could do about it.
    ——————-

    As I've come to a greater awareness of narcissism, codependency and the compensatory narcissist dynamic, I've been able to spot how readily codependents will thrust themselves into their self-prescribed role if I display sufficient narcissism. If I tried the route of genuine friendship, contempt and repulsion sets in. I've yet to see an exception. The only way I've found for this to be possible is via Athol Kay's Married Man Sex Life. As he explains, there needs to be a mixture of alpha and beta for excitement/dopamine and safety/love/comfort. While this may work, I believe it will have a lower success rate in the presence of codependency/narcissism dynamics as the pendulum of desires will swing unbalanced to one end of the spectrum. That unbalance will eventually wreck things.

    While I have found women who are actually very good listeners and do try to give honest constructive feedback, I have this intuitive feeling of when too much vulnerability is shown as distance and contempt on their part increase.

    Blame hypergamy, evolution and biomechanics perhaps? It seems that so long as the feminine primal instinct to sort for potential mates exists, then 'weakness' may be repulsive with the exception of the narcissist who sees it as an opportunity to control and maintain a steady narcissistic supply.

    ———–

    I haven't given up hope. Thanks to these articles, I have a clearer path on where I need to go next (core work). As I read heavy hitting articles like this, I find myself projecting unfavorable traits onto people in my life. In those moments of awareness, I try to ask the question 'where have I done this?' and I draw blanks. Somewhere, I know I have done these things but it's almost as if there's a subconscious or unconscious script that's been developed that literally *blocks* me from seeing the issue in myself because presumably, it'd be/was that painful.

    In those moments, I'm like *shit*, I really need to have core work and work on these inner issues. Ego/false self protection is a motherfucker. I can't perform open heart surgery on myself. To try or even pretend would be as T explained 'intellectual masturbation'. Anytime I get really close to the issue and how it relates to myself, especially deep-rooted pain, projection and whole litany of other issues fire up full time to distract me. Even writing this I find myself feeling somewhat spacey/cloudy. It's weird. Even the thought of core work Sasha mentioned where she was screaming frightens me some. To be that out of control with a complete stranger feels weird. Emotions are screaming danger while the mind is saying this is what the fuck we gotta do.

    Through everything I've read up to this point, I've come to realize that I don't trust my own emotions due to what I think was a covert narcissistic family.

    While vulnerability and facing my emotions scare me, I want to live a life free of just what Yohami described as the reactions/compensations for the unconditional love that was missing as a child. To get to the place of "You are fine just the way you are…and there’s always room for improvement" is a beautiful thing to me. To let go of the negative self-talk critique script and all the others would be awesome.

    Thank you for this T. I've struggled with this my whole life and for the first time I feel like the light at the end of tunnel isn't fluorescent, but actually sunlight.

    Now I just need to keep moving towards it.

  39. (R)Evoluzione on April 16th, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    This post defines “epic.” Much to chew on. Thanks, T.

  40. I would like to say thank you first and foremost. It was through this website that I got the courage to deal with my pornography addiction and my codependency issues. I had such a horrible relationship with my father and mother, and I was self aware enough that I could see that I was repeating these issues with all my relationships that I was having with members of the opposite sex. It has been about a month and a half since I enrolled in therapy and have begun to make recognizable changes in my habits because of this work. It has been so hard dealing with these issues because for me, porn was a way for me to disappear from all the pressures and feel the love that I wanted from my parents. This last part you posted has been very influential to me because it gave me a way to start to deal with these feelings instead of leaving me on the hook on how to deal with the feelings that were arising. Call it what you want, but after reading this last part, I actually sat and forgave my mother for all the things that I was repressing in my life because I just thought that by faking that everything was alright then it would eventually would work itself out. This strategy is deceiving because you do start to see results by faking it, but after a while you start reverting back to past behaviors. In the short term, it felt awesome for me to rid myself of porn for 6 days since this was the longest I had gone since I was 14 years old without watching porn. However, it has been such a habit for me that after 6 days I was dying to see what brazzers or naughtyamerica scenes were new. It was not the sexual aspect of the scenes at all just a mere fascination.

  41. Too bad you didn’t replied to me about genetics. There is intresting read on the subject that you should become familiar with if you want to expand your worldview. Mothers role is quite diminished in it:

    http://www.amazon.com/No-Two-Alike-Nature-Individuality/dp/0393329712/ref=lp_B000APGAUE_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1334780422&sr=1-2

  42. R: I’m letting the questions and responses gather so I can respond to them all in one single followup post.

  43. By the way R, I clicked your link. I saw it was a book by Judith Rich Harris, and I own her other book Nurture Assumption. I am aware of her research and find it really flawed and unreliable. I’m not a fan of her work.

  44. You talked mostly about two of the coping strategies people use (Surrender and Overcompensation). I was wondering if you could elaborate on avoidance. What do you think is the difference between a person doing that and a psychopath?

  45. GFP – Subscribe to the blog because I’m going to dedicate a post to that exact question. But short answer: this is a controversial view but I think narcissists, histrionics, sociopaths, and borderlines are all manifestations of the same emotional issue and they all fall under overcompensation. There is a disorder called avoidant personality disorder that I think is a far better illustration of the avoidant strategy. Chronic daydreaming is a common example of being avoidant.

  46. 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?

    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?

    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?

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

  47. Wow, this was genuinely epic & written with wonderful care and love. Thank you very much Ricky.

    The notion of ‘mourning’ particularly hit home. Not only did it ‘knit’ everything together but it feels right, within my inner core, as the way to be. A righteous path as it were.

    I guess, also, you could say in spiritual terms it’s essentially a synonym for ‘surrendering’. A practice all the Great teachers espouse. But that is a word I have found difficult to pin down as a practical understanding.

    It is undeniable we humans at first need to feel like we are doing something. The maxim ‘from having to doing to being’ seems apt as a hierarchy or flow chain of spiritual awareness & healing.

    And where mourning works is that it’s universal. Everyone has felt mournful or mourned at one point or another, so it has a root, however tenuous to a ‘doingness’ practice (though ultimately it leads to ‘beingness’).

    By contrast, how many people have sincerely experienced surrendering? Very few. It’s connotations are disparate and typically associated with weakness and spiritual wishy-washyness.

    So something clicked with mourning for past losses. For where I am at right now, it is a practice that resonates.

    So all afternoon, I noticed my mind was asking questions like ‘how do you mourn?’ and thinking things like ‘I need a 101 ways to mourn book so I really get this right and achieve XYZ result’.

    However, these thoughts were captured by awareness and instead a solution presented itself that all I have to ‘do’ to mourn is set my intention in that direction.

    The ego then retorted that this means to dwell and become miserable, but awareness countered that I dwell and am miserable for large parts of my existence anyway! I can at least then, give mourning practice a go, with all my heart.

    So driving home today, not long after reading to conclusion the article, I contemplated upon some of the losses I have suffered and experienced in my life. Within 10 minutes of honest focus, I could feel a burning red heat all over my face & head. I was laughing almost in a maniacal sense, an automated laugh. Inside, I could feel, with a clear intensity a swirl of energy.

    It’s almost as if some of my repressed emotions, whilst locked away became sort of ‘de-categorised’ from whatever specific emotion they were initially (not) felt as, and are kept instead as pure energy. So as it was being released, I wasn’t feeling sad, or angry or any particular emotion per se – but as I mentioned above – a swirl of energy that was neutral in flavour & tone. But it was definitely energy in it’s purest form.

    It occurs to me now in retrospect that the energy was not who I am, even though it has been stored within my being. I would say then it was like being an observer as a tornado emerges from a filing cabinet right next too you. It’s right there, in close proximity but it’s independent of who you are.

    And the effect of this experience, alongside the laughter & getting a hot head was a deep sensation of being purged from the inside out. The type of deep clean that is intensely satisfying.

    Even now, 9 hours on, I still can feel that feeling of guttural freshness in my solar-plexus and chest area. Subjectively, I felt 10 pounds lighter too. It’s like it’s spring inside my body. Incredible.

    As I was driving at the time though, I was somewhat cautious to not go overboard but still, there was a faith to just go with it. To neither embrace nor cling. Any thought of resistance was soon caught & let go of too. It came to a natural end after about 15 minutes, and the quote ‘God only gives you what you can handle’ sprung to mind as a thought of disappointment arose.

    So anybody who hasn’t tried to adopt and go through mourning yet. I hope the above may serve as testimony of sorts. I am aware the ego just wants to mourn best it can for a temporary duration, ‘and then I’ll be fixed and super powerful/strong/irresistible’..

    But this is an ongoing process and I begun today. I’ll have to mourn too, that it won’t fix me, and it won’t make me all of the above. In fact, there’s an infinite no. of things I could mourn, but I’ll try to focus on the most pertinent or re-occurring patterns & losses.

    For example though, I mourn for the reality I’ll never be 6 foot. And that my height of 5″9 is it. No more growing for me. And this is painful.

    Ditto for never doing my best at school, and leaving with mediocre results relative to what my teachers suggested was possible. Thus handicapping, to a some degree, my medium term career options. And that I’ll *never* get to replay my school years ever (a big one for me).

    And there’s a million & one more disappointments I can face head on.

    So I’m interested in how you will approach mourning and your perspective on it. I am all ears, and welcome ways to improve!

    P.S. I assume, by mourning past losses it eventually fosters a level of perspective about life thus making the potential for future losses less frightening as you both heal & freely let emotions come and go?! And as a byproduct, a lot of the thoughts and attachments that led to mourning are seen for their futility. Is this fair comment?!

    Best

    Ashley

  48. AJ

    I experienced something similar. Mourning – Id say it’s a “Face it while letting it go”, being present and experiencing something that was repressed, as opposed to “remember what you lost, regret it and twitch in pain”. Well it has some of that too.

    Before, when I meditated, I used to focus on the cleansing, and by that I mean, I focused on the clean / empty / impersonal / silence. I was focusing on the good while trying to not feel the pain. Or if I focused on the pain, it was because I wanted it to go away. It was about enduring it. Or pushing it out. Or killing it. Or understanding it so I could do something else and not feel it anymore.

    This new stuff instead… its like going right into the very personal shit and taking a dip on the mud, but it doesnt feel like all the internal alarms and locks and walls and signs were telling me it was going to feel. Instead of dying and going crazy, I feel more alive, and I feel more ego has been burned than with the other technique. Im lighter too.

    So thanks again. This hasn’t been pleasurable, but I needed it.

  49. I see so much pain and suffering in these male commenters regarding their relations with the fairer sex. It is sad. Could their pain be solely a result of poor psychosocial development, such that successful “core work” will find them satisfied and content?

    Commenter “M.E.” makes a tantalizing observation:

    “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?”

    This suggests that the complete and total eradication of these supposed psychological dysfunctions would result in some sort of self-sustaining, self-contained unit of consciousness. Entirely rational and bereft of passion. What to say then for INTER-relationships with the Other? Perhaps these New Humans can rub their smooth crotch-plates together in a simulacrum of intimacy?

    I think commenter “pain” hits on something closer to the truth:

    “The brutal undeniable fact about the sexes is that male weakness is unacceptable. Polygamy, not monogomy, is the natural state. So most men, simply put, won’t measure up. This is true regardless of what they do. It was built into their genes at birth. And its true no matter how much men work to improve themselves, because its your relative rank to other men, not your absolute level, that makes you acceptable to women. For one to rise, another must fall. Only around 40% of us will be winners, with an even smaller portion having a harem. That is why showing any kind of weakness is the ultimate intimacy for men.”

    Similarly, the experience of commenter “Kuraje” seems to dovetail with that of “pain”:

    “If I tried the route of genuine friendship, contempt and repulsion sets in. I’ve yet to see an exception[…]While I have found women who are actually very good listeners and do try to give honest constructive feedback, I have this intuitive feeling of when too much vulnerability is shown as distance and contempt on their part increase.

    Blame hypergamy, evolution and biomechanics perhaps? It seems that so long as the feminine primal instinct to sort for potential mates exists, then ‘weakness’ may be repulsive with the exception of the narcissist who sees it as an opportunity to control and maintain a steady narcissistic supply.”

    It seems to me that perhaps the very knots so many men here find themselves in are not the result necessarily of childhood trauma, but rather the unrelenting, unremitting demands of women to secure the best life has to offer, and that since men fall along a spectrum of Power (or Competence, or Ability, take your pick), that there will perforce be losers who wrestle with their lackluster place in the pecking order. And furthermore, that no amount of “core work” will change this cold reality.

    Pundits sometimes lament the sick materialism of the modern age, which drives overburdened, overworked men into therapy for feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Might it be the case that the true cause of their despair is not some nebulous notion of “core work”, but rather the ever ratcheting demands of women in their primal state? I can’t help but be struck by the similarity between your psychological moralizing, and the Christian impulse to chastise the sometimes destructive excesses of self-interested exuberance.

    Is your resolution to these dilemmas to exhort young men to be satisfied with the leftovers in the SMP? To assign them a fatty and subsequently abjure their objections with your hand-waiving about “entitlement?”

    Do you have the integrity to post this comment? Or does it conflict with your Mission?

  50. Do you have the integrity to post this comment? Or does it conflict with your Mission?

    Please don’t use the reverse psychology of questioning my integrity and daring me to post your comment. I don’t know why you felt that was necessary, but it really turns me off and indicates that healthy debate with you isn’t likely and will go nowhere fast. I posted your comment, which I do to all comments anyway, but now I’m not interested in addressing it. If another commenter wishes too, they can feel free.

  51. T., I had attempted to post 2 or 3 comments previously over the past few weeks and they never appeared. The first one — I just assumed it was a browser/blog glitch and didn’t sweat it. After the second comment didn’t get posted, I assumed your new policy of circling the wagons and excluding certain types of discussion here was being applied to my contributions. While my comments were deliberately provacative, they were not insulting or out of bounds by any means. I assumed you were beginning to create an echo chamber here and that certain controversial opinions were being censored. While I respect a blogger’s right to police his comment section, I felt a blog devoted to open discussion of hot topics was being hypocritical in attempting to massage a party line. I’ll take you at your word that you approve all comments, in which case: apologies for the unintentional snark.

  52. Those earlier comments of yours may have ended up in my spam folder because I didn’t see them. I get hundreds of spam comments a day so I don’t always spot the real comments that accidentally ended up in there, especially when hundreds of them have accumulated.

  53. By the way, the comment of yours that I approved last night I did indeed spot in my spam folder, which is why I think your previous comments may have ended up there as well.

  54. “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?”

    This suggests that the complete and total eradication of these supposed psychological dysfunctions would result in some sort of self-sustaining, self-contained unit of consciousness. Entirely rational and bereft of passion. What to say then for INTER-relationships with the Other? Perhaps these New Humans can rub their smooth crotch-plates together in a simulacrum of intimacy?

    +1, except you somewhat delegitamize the concept of rationality in your response.

    “Polygamy, not monogomy, is the natural state.”

    and

    “Blame hypergamy, evolution and biomechanics perhaps”

    What are some other characteristics of humanity in its so-called natural state?

  55. Okay Anominous, I read your comment and want to respond to it, but honestly there’s just so many strawmen in there.

    You say:

    Commenter “M.E.” makes a tantalizing observation:

    “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?”

    This suggests that the complete and total eradication of these supposed psychological dysfunctions would result in some sort of self-sustaining, self-contained unit of consciousness. Entirely rational and bereft of passion.

    I have no idea what you are talking about here. “Self-sustaining, self-contained unit of consciousness?” Did you not see how often I describe empathy, building relationships with people, having social interest, creating reciprocity in interactions? I tell people to work on their relationship with themselves first and use that to define their relationship with others, rather than doing the opposite tactic most people pursue where they try to get validation from others first, then use that validation to define their identities. This isn’t the same as telling people to become some self-sustaining, self-contained unit of consciousness though. We are naturally tied to others and need a sense of community to maintain our very sanity. And where did I ever say anything about complete and total eradication of psychological dysfunctions? Is such a thing even possible? If so, I never suggested that.

    What to say then for INTER-relationships with the Other?

    Again, more strawmen. How did I ignore the area of inter-relationships with others? You seem to just cherrypick the things that support the strawman you want to argue against, or invent arguments I never made, while ignoring anything I wrote that doesn’t support the strawman you want to tear down. I wrote paragraph after paragraph about how to connect with people in a less ego-driven way, without being primarily motivated by shame, propping up a false self to impress people, and I discussed trying to cut down on one’s defense mechanisms so that one can actually have better inter-relationships with others rather than having pseudo-relationships where one person’s phony, defensive grandiose exterior is interacting with another person’s phony, defensive grandiose exterior and no one really connects and the whole thing is just totally dysfunctional and mutually exploitative.

    If you managed to read this whole series and still came away thinking that I ignored inter-relationships totally in favor of a totally self-contained human, I really don’t know what else I can tell you. You seem really intent on seeing what you want to see when you read something.

    Perhaps these New Humans can rub their smooth crotch-plates together in a simulacrum of intimacy?

    Again, another strawman. What is this “smooth crotch-plates” business about? When do I advocate for men to renounce masculinity and women to renounce femininity in order to crease some new third passionless pseudo-gender with no sexual polarity and sexual tension left? And how does my telling people to become more self-aware and to give up a lot of the defense mechanisms they use as armor in their daily lives and to choose partners who are also somewhat self-aware and not invested in defense mechanisms somehow translate to encouraging a “simulacrum of intimacy?” So if what I describe is a “simulacram of intimacy,” is today’s commonly accepted way of interacting with relationships, where one person presents a phony overcompensating persona to impress another person’s phony overcompensating persona and vice versa, only for both parties to become eventually disillusioned and distant over time when the fantasies give way to reality…is that a more genuine intimacy?

    I think commenter “pain” hits on something closer to the truth:

    “The brutal undeniable fact about the sexes is that male weakness is unacceptable. Polygamy, not monogomy, is the natural state. So most men, simply put, won’t measure up. This is true regardless of what they do. It was built into their genes at birth. And its true no matter how much men work to improve themselves, because its your relative rank to other men, not your absolute level, that makes you acceptable to women. For one to rise, another must fall. Only around 40% of us will be winners, with an even smaller portion having a harem. That is why showing any kind of weakness is the ultimate intimacy for men.”

    Similarly, the experience of commenter “Kuraje” seems to dovetail with that of “pain”:

    “If I tried the route of genuine friendship, contempt and repulsion sets in. I’ve yet to see an exception[…]While I have found women who are actually very good listeners and do try to give honest constructive feedback, I have this intuitive feeling of when too much vulnerability is shown as distance and contempt on their part increase.

    Okay, so there are many women like this who revile any form of weakness in a man. And what’s the point? How does this disprove anything I say?

    If women dislike you because you are weak and needy, who gives a fuck? You shouldn’t view the problem as being about why such women dislike you, the problem should be about why are you weak and needy in the first place? That’s the point of this series. Yes women can be mercilessly cruel to those who are weak and needy, but at the same time there are women more unforgiving of this than ever, and there is an epidemic of weak and needy men like we’ve never seen before. Where do both phenomena come from? Genetics and evolution play a role, for sure, but Western women are being raised and socialized to be more entitled and narcissistic than ever and Western men are being raised and socialized to be more more codependent and overcompensating than ever. Ending the inquiry at the level of female hypergamy is treating the symptom as if it’s the cause. Instead of focusing on the fact that so many women hate weakness in men more than ever, I’d rather understand the roots of why so many men not only feel weak and inadequate and needy but also why they feel hopeless about their ability to overcome these feelings.

    Again, pain and kuraje may be right about how women treat weakness and neediness. But it’s a mistake to approach the problem as one of how to please women better. Be strong for yourself, not to impress women or other people. Because if you’re only trying to appear strong in order to get other people to like you and judge you worthy, you’re still weak at your core anyway, no matter how you try to overcompensate with your behavior. But if you learn to accept yourself and improve yourself without being motivated by self-hatred and shame, you will no longer give off that weak and needy energy that repels women in the first place.

    It’s also important to know the difference between vulnerability, which I advocate, and weakness and neediness, which I don’t advocate. The former shows strength and comes from a place of self-love and humility, while the latter comes from a place of self-loathing and shame. A lot of guys think they are being vulnerable when they’re actually being weak and needy, then they turn around and think the answer is to overcompensate by adopting a phony alpha persona, which itself is a form of weakness and neediness, except more disguised. And you should only choose to be vulnerable with people who prove themselves to you, not indiscriminately. Weak and needy people, because of their self-hatred and shame issues, tend to choose bad, selfish people with their own shame issues, the exact kind of people who revel in crushing weakness when they see it. When a lot of guys complain to me that they showed vulnerability and it didn’t work, I probe further and realize they were often actually showing neediness and weakness, and to the totally wrong person, someone demanding and selfish.

    Too many men obsess over whether they measure up to women’s standards and don’t spend enough time wondering whether women measure up to their standards. Why? Because most men don’t even have standards for women other than that they be hot, that they not work at a fast food joint, and that they’re not especially ghetto or white trash. That’s it. They will put up with tons of their bad behavior, their outrageous sense of entitlement, their unreasonable demands, and their delusional double standards, all the while wondering how to jump through their hoops better. And why do many men jump through these hoops without question? Because of core issues of inferiority from their upbringing. And why do so many men feel they have no right to even exist if a hypergamous women doesn’t judge them worthy? Again, because of core issues of inferiority from their upbringing. They can’t approve of themselves unless a demanding woman approves of them first, and a demanding women won’t approve of them because they don’t approve of themselves, which in turn reinforces their self-hatred, which in turn reinforces the rejections they receive from demanding women, and voila! negative reinforcing loop at play. That’s why I advocate attacking core issues, because unconditional self-approval at the end of the day is the only way to break this cycle. Trying to control other people by forcing women to somehow become less hypergamous is a waste of time. And adopting phony alpha personas to impress these women is also a waste, because you will still feel like a fraud.

    It seems to me that perhaps the very knots so many men here find themselves in are not the result necessarily of childhood trauma, but rather the unrelenting, unremitting demands of women to secure the best life has to offer, and that since men fall along a spectrum of Power (or Competence, or Ability, take your pick), that there will perforce be losers who wrestle with their lackluster place in the pecking order. And furthermore, that no amount of “core work” will change this cold reality.

    Core work won’t change the reality, but it will change how you deal with the reality. For example, why do Western women have such unrelenting, unremitting demands? Especially hot ones who bring nothing to the table but their looks? Because too many men agree with their ridiculously high self-assessments. Why do so many men agree with their ridiculously high self-assessments? Because of how lowly these men were raised to view themselves and their self-worth. Because of how their upbringing trained them to be people pleasers and to generate no self-worth from the inside, only through the fleeting approval of others. If demanding, shrewish females are such a primal and natural and unavoidable state, why is the problem so much worse in the West and in North America especially, while other countries don’t have the problem as bad? Because we have created generations of remarkable codependent men. The more men value and respect itself, and do so for its own reward, not because they think doing so will impress women, the better off they’ll be.

    Besides, if you are right, and men feel worthless because they can’t meet the unrelentingly selfish standards of women and because too many men are not powerful enough to get the women they want, the problem isn’t one of blaming selfish women for what they want. The problem is understanding why men are putting such a high premium on what selfish women want to the point where they will literally hate themselves if they can’t provide what these selfish women want. Why do you feel that men are obligated to judge themselves by how well they impress these selfish women? No one is putting a gun to their heads to court these entitled status-hungry princesses. Why isn’t the option of simply not dating them, not courting them, and not even humoring them on the table? For example if you look at the Men Going Their Own Way movement in America and the Japanese herbivore movement, men have taken the view of “why not just boycott modern women if we don’t like them.” These men have decided they’re fine just the way they are and if women are so demanding they’re not worth dealing with and changing for. It’s better than saying “I have to feel bad about myself because women don’t think I’m good enough, and the solution to my self-image problem is to get women to approve of me.”

    Is your resolution to these dilemmas to exhort young men to be satisfied with the leftovers in the SMP? To assign them a fatty and subsequently abjure their objections with your hand-waiving about “entitlement?”

    Now here is a big problem I have with this “manosphere,” and that’s “fatty” shaming. These men spend all this time complaining about female hypergamy and the unrealistic demands of hot women and how women shame guys who are not badboys or rich guys as “creeps,” yet these same men will turn around and shame women who don’t meet the upper echelon of their beauty standards as fatties and uglies. You’re doing the exact same thing to women who aren’t hot and thin that you complain hot, thin women do to men who aren’t powerful. With the obsessive hatred of “fatties” and even average women by modern men, is it any wonder that a hot woman feels like she’s God’s gift to the world? Guys like you basically give the hot woman her inflated sense of self-worth by acting like nothing else, no other type of woman, matters or even merits humane treatment. A lot of guys out there would pass up a 6 or a 7 with a great personality and a wonderful character who treats them like gold to chase a 9 or a 10 that will get them envious looks from other people when they are out but treat them like utter dogshit in public and in private over the most trivial of offenses. Then they wonder why these women feel entitled to act the way they do. These guys attract shallow, superficial women because they themselves are shallow and superficial.

  56. One more thing Anonimous: what do you mean when you say “biomechanics?” It doesn’t mean human nature, which is what you seem to think. I’m a little confused over your usage of it.

  57. Ricky,

    I really like your reply. I agree with 90%.

    I will say this though. Celibacy/MGTOW/Herbivore is an incomplete option at best. Relationships, sex, and starting a family as very important to a lot of men. One can just say, “women today are too crazy to be worth it,” but even if that’s true that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a great and sadening loss implicit in that statement. I don’t think detaching from the other sex is healthy either, for individuals or society.

    Also, I don’t necessarily agree that sliding down the looks curve is a solution. Hypergamy is often greatest amongst the 6s and 7s, and they are often the least mentally put togethor. The hot girls, especially after they are 25+, can often be the most togethor because at least they have self confidence and experience. They know they are hot. They don’t need to prove it to themselves by screwing alphas.

    If you ask me who the sluttiest most insane girl in a club is, it’s never the 9. The 9 usually has it togethor to some degree. It’s the 6 or 7 wearing something too tight with a lot of makeup and some tattoes. Just drop three points in looks doesn’t mean your going to find a good mate. I think this is part of the reason behind hypergamy too (giving up on looks doesn’t necessarily get you a “good” guy).

    Women’s lib was mostly about liberating beta females to chase alpha males. Personally, I find that it’s the beta females most off their rockers these days (with young alpha females a close second).

    I think the commentators general point is that even if all men come to terms with themselves, do core work, and “improve”, it’s not going to “fix” the sexual marketplace. Where “fix” = going back to a society where 80% or so of men marry and raise their kids in two parent households.

    Now, maybe you don’t believe that’s a good system and you don’t think it needs to be fixed, or maybe you just think the current technology doesn’t allow it regardless of what is “good”, but it does seem to present issues when the long run equilibrium is only 40% of men having reliable poon access or a chance to start a family and a majority of children being raised by a single parent. I don’t think such issues should be swept under the rug, even if we can’t do anything about them.

    I think your way of dealing with that reality is the best option, I just think our options sort of suck (or even if I’m doing ok with my options, I acknowledge plenty aren’t and can’t). I’m not going to mourn that fact all day, I’m going to take action and do what I can, but I don’t think the “answer to a health life” is going to be found here by everyone. It may be an improvement, but its not a 12 step program to being a successful and happy person.

  58. “Did you not see how often I describe empathy, building relationships with people, having social interest, creating reciprocity in interactions? I tell people to work on their relationship with themselves first and use that to define their relationship with others, rather than doing the opposite tactic most people pursue where they try to get validation from others first, then use that validation to define their identities.”

    I guess I’m looking at this whole dynamic from a deeper level, in the sense that I can’t escape the conclusion that every human action is self-interested, and that no matter how sincerely someone seems to be interested in you, that it is in fact their own needs which are the real center of the interaction. But I have been called a cynic on more than one occasion.

    And isn’t it also the case the one is defined just as much by what one *does* as what one *thinks about oneself*? I have to wonder just how much qualitative difference there is between the person who seeks the external validation of being a community leader to find an identity and purpose, versus the person who decides “in his own head” that such is what he wants to be and goes about achieving it. One must assume that whatever cogitations were used in this internal decision making process involved images and impressions of external events, pleasures and rewards. (I realize I’m veering close to sophistry with this)

    “And where did I ever say anything about complete and total eradication of psychological dysfunctions? Is such a thing even possible? If so, I never suggested that.”

    Forgive me if I interpreted this series as an attempt to improve your readers’ lives by directing them to various forms of therapy in the service of resolving core issues, e.g., codependency, narcissism, etc. I guess I’m thinking that should these psychodynamics be “resolved”, you might run the risk of denaturing much of what accounts for the emotional passion of romantic relationships. The fact is, much of our object relations are born of early parental influences, such that cliches like “men marry their mothers, women marry their fathers”, exist. And I don’t see that being a bad thing necessarily, assuming one’s parents aren’t fucked up.

    “When do I advocate for men to renounce masculinity and women to renounce femininity in order to crease some new third passionless pseudo-gender with no sexual polarity and sexual tension left?”

    If you remove the more evolutionary recent psychodynamics of ego-issues from the equation, in an effort bring things down to a more “real” or “natural” state, I’m left wondering how you avoid reducing people to animals — rational animals, mind you, but animals nonetheless. After all, isn’t procreation the fundamental reason women and men get involved in this dance? If it weren’t for that fundamental fact, we might as well all become homosexuals and have “real”, genuine relationships with everybody on a purely rational basis. But the element of sexual reproduction introduces a lot of baggage. Most people are uncomfortable with admitting the animalistic purpose of their couplings. Abstract notions of romanticism were created to elevate or transcend the banal reality. I would posit that there is some overlap here with the psychodynamic issues you are addressing. Admittedly, my point of view is coming from a somewhat narcissistic romantic.

    “If women dislike you because you are weak and needy, who gives a fuck?”

    Is there a “silent eyebrow-raise” emoticon?

    “You shouldn’t view the problem as being about why such women dislike you, the problem should be about why are you weak and needy in the first place? ”

    Come on T., you know that the perception of what is considered “weak and needy” is entirely relative. Let’s leave out the “needy” part for now, since I believe most men with a casual familiarity with the manosphere have already internalized that lesson. But “weakness” is a broad concept encompassing myriad behaviors, and what might be considered “weak” by a hot chick, is considered “thoughful” or “considerate” by a less hot chick. I’ll defer to Pain’s post above mine for further elucidation on this point.

    “Instead of focusing on the fact that so many women hate weakness in men more than ever, I’d rather understand the roots of why so many men not only feel weak and inadequate and needy but also why they feel hopeless about their ability to overcome these feelings.”

    Fair enough. Props.

    “Be strong for yourself, not to impress women or other people.”

    I have to ask, what does it mean to “be strong for yourself”? What is to be gained, if your success vis-a-vis other people is not on the table? Why not just be a slacker, play video games and coast at your baseline level without having to struggle and put forth effort? Just to give yourself another feather in your cap? It seems to be the efforts of men throughout time has been to apply themselves precisely for the goal of achieving some desired result in the external world, usually involving other people.

    “For example, why do Western women have such unrelenting, unremitting demands? Especially hot ones who bring nothing to the table but their looks? Because too many men agree with their ridiculously high self-assessments. Why do so many men agree with their ridiculously high self-assessments? Because of how lowly these men were raised to view themselves and their self-worth.”

    Another *eyebrow raise* is in order here.

    “If demanding, shrewish females are such a primal and natural and unavoidable state, why is the problem so much worse in the West and in North America especially, while other countries don’t have the problem as bad?”

    Lower levels of economic productivity in other countries, where women have not yet reached economic parity with men, as they have in the West. That’s it. Women are more deferential and forgiving when a man’s wealth can give her something she needs. As soon as women get their lower level Maslow needs met, their expectations rise. Nothing to do with the state of men, *necessarily*.

    In conclusion, I would just like to point out that my comments here are directed only at those statements of yours where I can be contrary. I’m fully on board with all your other points which I did not address. I feel you are doing good work here and look forward to more. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I wasn’t really expecting it since I was a bit “off”, as they say, when I made my original post. I have a habit of taking concepts and drawing them out to logical extremes to study them better. But I’m pleased that you were able to use my post as a springboard to further elucidate your own point of view.

  59. this is unbelievable. it goes into the internet hall of fame. wow.

  60. Once I reached this:

    “This creates the ultimate form of unconditional self-acceptance.”

    I teared up. You told me much of what I felt and learned already. I just needed someone to repeat it to me. I feel like I am on the right path.

  61. Just finished reading this again. Pfff. Brutal.

    Also my several comments about the mind being a pussy… nevermind that. The problem isnt the mind, it’s not that the mind gets stuck in the hurt. It’s that the emotional body receives a wound, and the whole thing contorts your mind to protect the wound, so you can do other stuff and survive, but then you get distracted and never heal the wound. The mind is just a tool, the poor tool. I guess we were meant to live shorter spans.

    “This creates the ultimate form of unconditional self-acceptance.”

    Very fucking powerful line indeed.

    Goes on hand with “there’s no such thing as negative emotion”

    Accepting pain and rage and whatever was hidden there. I’ts been a couple of strange months. And thanks again.

  62. Not who you think it is on June 2nd, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Yesterday I got knocked back by a woman and got hurt. Then through some clever game it was back on and I felt great. Then I thought, what the fuck? Why do I care so much? I’m seeing other girls. She’s not the love of my life.

    It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed this, that I equate female sexual affection with happiness and self worth. By chance I found this and read all parts last night and today, interspersed with intospection and a couple of minutes of bawling.

    You hooked me with your proof that womanizing isn’t about sex – if it were, we’d just go to a prostitute. Now I can see that the validation I was seeking is unobtainable because it’s too late, I’m not that unvalued child anymore.

    I’m exhausted. I’m done with mourning. I’m off to live my life.

    Thank you

  63. Thank you very much for your articles. I read them with indulgence and it gave me a lot. Especially part 4 and 5 gave me much insights, as I was turning towards the Pick Up community.

    For the moment I only have to make two little comments. First, Hitler did actually paint: http://www.tz-online.de/bilder/2009/08/19/448528/729868843-bild-adolf-hitler.9,c;do;ym;qei;psy;P5oWQ.jpg and applied for the art acadamy but was rejected (two times?).

    Second; I got the impression from the text, that a cognitive behavior therapy is possible by reading a book and doing exercises. Maybe it wasn’t what you wanted to say, so much the better. But if so, or if other got the same impression; I strongly doubt that. As far as I am concerned, therapy evaluation has shown than one crucial criterion for the success even in cbt is the relationship between therapist and patient, although this relationship is not an explicit theme between the two. My guess is that almost all people with issues drop out of any book-instructed therapy, especially if they have core issues, as long as there is no therapist to guide them, help them and motivate them. (not necesseraly because of a lack of motivation but because of resistance, which comes into play sooner or later if issues are touched).
    I write this because I’ve met a lot of people who think they can solve their problems by reading (self-help) books and I think it is important to stress that this is an impossibility. Not that your Reader Letters advocate this approach, but I would have appreciated a clear stand-off from it.

    besides that: thank you very much. I recommend your homepage.

  64. Very powerful. Thank you. I just want to be clear on this: Is there hope for the narcissist, specifically for the compensatory narcissist, to ever feel real love, connection and empathy?

  65. Fik: The compensatory narcissist has hope for sure although at his worst he may be incredibly resistant to constructive feedback. For the pure narcissist it’s almost incurable.

  66. Thank you. Because, you see, I think I’m a case of compensatory narcissism. I’m painfully aware of it, though, and I think I can even identify the point in time when I tried to be grandiose and failed epically (I’m very shy, always have been).

    Now I think I understand me CN is the cause of my underachievement and interpersonal problems. I feel uncaring, unloving and guilty about it. I’m not exploitative, of course, and I have a highly developed sense of justice and am/used to be pretty sensitive in general.

    I feel comforted — after reading some guy who says “They are not real people”.

  67. How do they differ, the pure narcissist and the shy/compensatory type? Is it the level of awareness of the deep wound that makes the difference?

  68. Fik, did you read the other installments? It’s explained in more detail. But in a nutshell the pure narcissist has always been a narcissist and usually grew up pampered and has always had limited awareness of his or her own self-hatred or experiences it in brief flashes. The compensatory narcissist is someone who wasn’t always a narcissist and was more overtly mistreated and has more awareness of his or her self-hatred issues.

  69. Sorry if I’m being stupid. I’m desperate. So, if I have always been shy and insecure, almost BPDishly so (?), and known about my self-esteem issues, chances are I’m a compensatory narcissist? My father is a narcissist, most likely pure, and was psychologically abusive, always arguing with me like he would with an adult, subtly mocking me afterwards; never felt real love from him, I was his trophy; my mother, on the other hand, was overprotective and loving. I think the grandiose fantasizing began in my early adolescence.

    This void I feel, this selflessness… It’s killing me. I feel I should die, I feel bad about those who love me and I feel bad about myself.

  70. Most of my memories are of shame.

  71. One of the first things you have to do Fik is stop beating yourself up and calling yourself names. Really watch the things you say to yourself. They matter. You have grown up with someone who is abusive and mocking and you’ve learned to internalize the voice in your dialogues with yourself. You were bullied by one parent and pampered by another parent who probably overcompensated because she felt guilt for not protecting you for the bad parent.

    I like using labels like codependent, compensatory narcissist, and pure narcissist and others because such terms makes it easy for people to do research on the things that bother them, makes it easy for people to find communities of like-minded people, and makes it easy to find books or describe problems to therapists. But you shouldn’t use the terms as a way to convince yourself you’re even more defective and to pathologize yourself. You didn’t deserve how your parents treated you and you don’t deserve how you treat yourself. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t get sucked into self-pity either.

    It’s important to realize your issues and their roots, which you seem to have started to do, and you also have to deprogram a lot of the bad thinking traps you’ve been brainwashed into by your bad upbringing. But don’t start putting pressure on yourself to fix everything overnight, because that type of perfectionist thinking is the kind of shame-based thinking your parents instilled in you and you later learned to instill in yourself. It took a lot of years of bad conditioning to get you here, it’s going to take a while for you to make your way back from it. You may need to do a lot of reading, see a therapist, go through a few bad therapists to eventually find a good one, distance yourself from toxic friends and family in order to find new good friends and family, and go through a lot of trial and error.

    Have patience and stop beating yourself up and be ready to learn a lot through reading and mentors.

  72. My father was more detached than abusive, though he did have his moments of the latter quality — that’s what I remember the most. Otherwise, he was pretty much absent. Yes, that, and his constant arguing with my mother, who always ended up in tears, is what I remember the most. His casual, carefree whistling and singing as I seethed with anger and frustration. When there was an audience, my brother and I were his extolled trophies — much to our embarrassment; at home, we were pretty much nothing at all to him.

    I’m currently seeing a therapist and he dislikes labels. Sometimes I feel he doesn’t fully grasp just how fucked up I (feel I) am. Who knows. We’ll see.

    I had a crisis which landed me right into therapy. Hopefully that, the crisis, will enable me to subvert these structures that keep me from fully/truly feeling in touch with other human beings.

    Thank you, T.

  73. I actually do get why your therapist dislikes labels and it’s a valid viewpoint. Sometimes people get fixated on the labels and drag nosing themselves rather than fixing their problems. Or they use the labels as a new identity to live up to and become more resistant to change. They become attached to this new label and make it into their identity. But on the other hand once you have a label it becomes easier to research your problem and to find the right communities and support groups or to discuss issues with others.

    I think the key is to use labels to the degree they are useful tools and to stop at the point where you become attached to the label and make it your identity. The catch is, shame based people have trouble not getting attached to labels and have trouble by making labels and they external things I to their identity, so this advice is easier said than done much of the time.

  74. Yeah, specially since I have no idea who I am anymore.

  75. Fik, what you’re undergoing is something called “disintegration anxiety”. It’s where you are in the limbo of letting go your old beliefs about yourself but not knowing what self-image to replace them with. Fear of disintegration anxiety is why some people would choose the self-image theyre used to even if its painful over trying for a new self image that feels foreign to them

    I’m going to do a post on disintegration anxiety soon

  76. Im very interested on that subject too.

  77. That would be awesome. I’m not ever going back to what I was, to the extent of my powers. That’s what awareness does to you, right?

    Wish me luck in my journey to become a complete, realized, connected, unafraid, loving human being : )

    Thank you.

  78. Fik,

    “I feel uncaring, unloving and guilty about it. I’m not exploitative, of course, and I have a highly developed sense of justice and am/used to be pretty sensitive in general.”

    That would be a contradiction in terms.

    “My father is a narcissist, most likely pure, and was psychologically abusive, always arguing with me like he would with an adult, subtly mocking me afterwards; never felt real love from him, I was his trophy; my mother, on the other hand, was overprotective and loving.

    Notice your associations.

    “Wish me luck in my journey to become a complete, realized, connected, unafraid, loving human being”

    What the fuck are you talking about? Seriously.

  79. “That would be a contradiction in terms”.

    Not necessarily. Perhaps. And? That’s how it came out.

    “Notice your associations”.

    What is it that I should notice?

    “What the fuck are you talking about? Seriously”.

    Okay.

  80. PUA is going to …fucking ruin your life

    You will be fucking addicted to womans Narcissistic Supply, ALL of your FUCKING LIFE will be addicted to that fucking EGO BOOST womans are going to give you

    and
    im not just talking about sex(PUA dont give a fuck about sex)

    but EVERYTHING (a glance,a hug,a kiss,an sms,a call,a Facebook message!!!!!)

    and
    when you dont get such supply…..

    THE DARKNESS….. comes

    Dealing with such a pain it´s the worst thing i´ve experienced in my life,i´ve tried EVERYTHIG to make that creepy feeling fade away(cigarettes,drugs,alchool,more PUA books,self help books,meditation),NOTHING is going to help you…your little castle of lies is going to crumble anyway.

    I dont have any other choice,i´ll just let the pain wrap my body and my soul

    God…have mercy of this little man….

  81. You really need to take a step back and take a breath, man. If its really that bad you should look around for a good therapist.

  82. Thank you man, i take a step back now,i need to chill out… I just wanted to vent a little bit,…

    your blog( i’ve red a lot of your rticles) was about seduction before, can i ask you what was the “trigger” that changed your mind??