A long overdue catch-up with the Doctor covered social intelligence, dick pics and how to man up without being douchey about it.
Mac: You had a date this week. How did you meet her?
Doctor: Last year she was my student, but graduated ages ago. The college needed a student services officer so I eventually saw her around college. I’d never noticed her sexiness as a student, but then she was walking around in a tight power skirt and blouse… I tolerated this for a few weeks before I blatantly asked her out one morning, in front of a bunch of people, and exchanged Facebook details. I was obviously asking her out, but for anyone overhearing, it didn’t sound suss. Besides, we already had a bit of rapport, built through eye contact and bubbly energy. And the fact that the date went as it did, proved she knew I was asking her out, too: we had sex.
I’ve been seeing several other women, too.
M: So you are in an open relationship with one woman, and sleeping with a bunch of others.
D: We have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.
M: Our last interview was ages ago.
D: Two years.
M: It’s some old school shit. We talked about your ‘game’, your approach, which I would summarise thus:
- Make eye contact,
- Connect in a normal way, with Dale-Carnegie-esque conversation, asking questions, showing interest, etc., and
- Keep feeling into the energy and fan the flames. Follow the contours of it until it leads to its natural conclusion.
D: Yes. I tried that last weekend with that girl at the house party. You know when you talk to a group, you share your eye contact with everyone in the room, strafing the audience? Every time she made that fleeting eye contact, I held that gaze until she bashfully broke it. You can feel if it gets longer every time. Any man can say any bullshit to her, but if he doesn’t establish that… when his conversation dries up, I’ll just pounce. I’m speaking from lived experience, it’s not theoretical bullshit.
M: Is there a subtlety in the first step? Step zero is you decide who you’re interested in, and choose who you’re putting attention on. Then are you doing anything? Telepathically, deliberately? Is it just ‘normal eye contact’?
D: There’s a time frame (a short one, for me) where I’ll chance being normal, where our eyes will probably meet naturally in a few minutes. I have a short fuse here. If that window passes I’ll be gazing at her most of the time, thinking “look at me”, so I can suss out the energy. If she gives me a funny look or is apathetic, there’s no vibe. it’s so useful. I’m still often un-intuitive and plug away a bit. But I’m getting better at just saying “she’s not keen”. There’s an ego to push and get the reason – “I have a boyfriend” – or change her mind. But I’m getting better at shortening that time frame. I want to be where, with the first subtle hint of “not keen”, I change focus to another person or another venue.
M: So you’re saying it’s a bad habit to persist?
D: Yes, 100% of the time I get nothing. Maybe I dance in her direction, even though it’s clear the vibe is not there – maybe you talked myself into it, like “it’s ambiguous” or “I can win her over” – then, no shag or pash.
M: What if she’s the hottest woman you’ve ever seen? Your heart is set on this one girl? She’s your soul mate?
D: I’ve been super keen, whether because of hotness, or vibe, or personality; but there was that sinking feeling later after multiple attempts when I realised I’ve not nothing here. I could have given up with that trusted first vibe and saved letting myself down like I knew I was going to.
But for argument’s sake, let’s say she is your soul mate and she can’t be with you for whatever reason. Maybe she has a boyfriend of three years. Deflate your ego: she’s not going to fuck you on the first night. If you show low emotional intelligence – even subtly, by repeatedly crayfishing her – your worth is lowered in her eyes. Next day, she suddenly breaks up with her boyfriend. But you trusted your instinct and social intelligence – you ‘got it’, maybe you even pursued someone else. Next event, she is thinking “he was cool, and he was into me from that look he gave me…” vs. “he’s that guy who was hassling me a bit that night, it was a bit stressful.”
M: Your framework hasn’t changed but your circumstances have. Does that change how you approach women? Last time you were just a single guy. Now you’re open to sexual novelty, but nothing more.
D: Now I can’t say “I’m open to anything”. I can’t in good faith say that now (unless I ‘break up’ with my ‘girlfriend’, which I can’t because we’re not together! I guess I could be incrementally douchey until she doesn’t like me anymore. How twisted would that be?) I don’t see her as a plan B.
My approach to picking up women hasn’t changed.
M: But your approach is better now.
D: Yes, even if only via negativa (by cutting down epic fails). Last time we talked, my benchmark was a new girl once per month. This year I’ve shagged one every week. It would be weird if I didn’t shag in a week.
M: So what changed?
M: Just get out there, it gets easier.
D: And for me it didn’t take too long, because I’m naturally confident.
M: Do you ever not feel confident?
D: If I haven’t worked out that week. If my diet was a travesty I would also feel un-confident. If I work out and do my intermittent fasting Monday to Friday, then that weekend, I’ll be confident with women. No doubt. Without those, I almost don’t want to go out. I’m not a permanently confident guy. It’s good biology. Imagine if you didn’t lose confidence from eating like a fat fuck: you would have no biological incentive to improve your body and health.
If you let yourself down, you take that hit of low confidence. You don’t have to “build your confidence”, it’s your body saying, “Fuck you man. You didn’t work me out, you didn’t fuel me, you’re not getting any dopamine today, do better next week cunt.” Then next week when you take care of yourself: “Alright, that’s more like it, have some endorphins!” The body has a say, it’s not only the brain and the dick.
M: From an evolutionary psychology point of view, overconfidence is punished over human history.
D: Confidence is optimised by evolution.
M: Many of your crayfishing stories end with you saying “Then I took what’s mine.” What does that mean? You have a feel for this energy. You watch/help it ramp up then you make a move. Do you overreach that? Do you push too far sometimes?
D: This is the pushiest I get: I was talking to this girl, and I was pressuring her to make out with me (not at my apartment, that’s creepy as fuck, at a noisy pub). It was more like “Come on!” a light joking vibe, convincing her. She was a little bit uncomfortable. I didn’t make her feel uncomfortable, but she had uncomfortable emotions. Maybe cultural hang-ups. Pursuing that line of conversation did cause her to feel uncomfortable, but it was in a safe environment. And there was not bullshit like guilt trips.
“I took what’s mine” means: the onus is on me. It’s not 50-50 when she’s given me the vibes. I have to step up. Pash or put my hand on her waist.
Say I met a girl. We had amazing eye contact and vibe. But I had to dance up to her. Almost touching. I had to put hands on waist. I had to lean in for the pash. I had to say “I want to be alone with you.” It was mine because she gave it to me. Some guys are such dumb fucks they don’t realise it’s been given to them, so they don’t take it. So this is my advice to men, because I want to them have the same balls in this regard. “Take what’s yours.” Realise your own worth.
M: but you have a good sense of when it is yours. Someone with less acuity could try and take what’s not theirs.
D: The vast majority of men aren’t rapists. Evolution made us “live to die another day”. You could take on the sabre tooth today to get to those mangoes. Or wait until tomorrow, maybe the tiger is no longer near the mango tree. If you try for a girl in the tribe and she rejects you publicly, maybe it’s over for you in that whole tribe. Or you wait until it’s so obvious, that it’s safe for you. It’s like that meme with traffic control signalers leading into the pussy. We are wired to not take what’s ours, that’s a good bias. When you overreach, you feel like a douche, and you look like one. If I feel that non-vibe, then kept going (even all non-verbally, from 10 metres away), I’ll feel like a douche. And that’s a good thing. For guys to come on too strong with touchy feely stuff, they have to be real douches. With most guys their douchometer is set so low, that’s not a danger.
M: that’s refreshing to hear. Some advice says to push until you find the boundary: “make the ho’ say no.”
D: Push forward, sure, but first: have you checked your douchometer lately? It should have been ringing an hour ago when you looked at her and she immediately looked away. Your douchometer should have pushed up a notch. What kind of advice is making her say No? “I’m absolutely sure. The last 100 chicks I met, I made them all say no”. Mate, you’re a fuckwit. I make the ho’ say yes. And if she wasn’t going to say yes, I don’t push it until she says no. Not because I’m a radical gender feminist. Because I have a brain in my skull.
M: So you go to the venue (house party etc.) and you’re looking for that energy. Is it far to say that’s your whole game?
D: I’m always open to it, everywhere I am. Sometimes I’m less attuned because I’m tired or preoccupied, but by and large I’m open to that little spark.
M: Would your advice be ‘just go out and actively look for that spark’?
D: You have to go to places where there are women, or use Tinder. You can’t let go of the wheel, you have to think ‘where are women?’
M: So you go to house party, you have a good time, and meanwhile you’re open to that energy, looking for existing sparks?
D: I’m at the house party but I’m not only there to drink and chat, I am there to get laid. I’m not in a Brownian motion and accidently bump into a chick. I’ll look for where the hot chicks are, stand close enough to get eye contact. That eye contact was made more likely, but at the same time I’m still looking for that random ‘bing’, your eyes meet. There’s an active mentality of intention, of proximity.
M: That’s distinct from the approach of muscling your way into interactions to run your bit, run your game.
D: In my experience, when I’ve forced it (and sometimes it’s legit, there’s only that one table left and we’ve struck out with everyone else, there’s no chance of eye contact. If we approach and are somehow super charismatic, there’s a 1% chance once of us will fuck one of them; otherwise we are going home alone), it has never, ever worked. At that house party, I’m never muscling in. It’s low investment on her part. A brief zap of energy/non-energy. It was high investment for me to go into the room. It gives a new nobility to “chickening out”. I leave her alone and demonstrate emotional intelligence, am not downcast – “message received” – and continue on. Guys who are cocky enough and oblivious enough will push, and then most guys are too chickenshit to be intentional and pay attention to the energy. I’m in the middle. ‘Thank you for coming into the room,” she unconsciously says to you, “It’s flattering, but ZAP. Got it? Got it. Thank you for getting it”. I looked at her once. Versus the guy she complains about the next day to her girlfriends, “He wouldn’t leave me alone”. You don’t intrude on her space when you’re a complete fucking stranger.
M: The whole concept of ‘upping your game’ doesn’t hold water from that perspective. Focusing on techniques is barking up the wrong tree.
D: I defy anyone to show me a controlled study of pickup techniques. These self-styled players go out every night and get laid once a week. One is bound to sleep with you in spite of your douchery. She can see though your veneer and let it slide because she can see that you’re actually her type. And they always want to move onto the next girl. I actually think it’s all bullshit. That’s the null hypothesis. You have to prove to me that it’s not, and that it works.
M: Then what about a normal dude with middling results? Advice for Average Joe?
D: He should lift heavy things off the ground once a week, and he should “take what’s his”. Trust yourself when it’s negative AND positive. When she is giving you nothing, it’s ok, move on. When she’s giving you something positive, that’s when you take it.
When a lion sees a gazelle, for sure it licks its lips. It’s not killed yet, but there is that anticipation I feel that way about living animals that we eat. I look at a cow and I realise I’m the same way. I think all meat-eating people are. The likenesses of the animals are usually in the logos of restaurants and so on. A chicken with a thumbs-up or whatever. When you peel back the social conditioning. Nature’s a bitch. Abattoirs are much more humane than a lion brutally eating a gazelle alive. Society tells us slaughtering a cow is wrong. But humans are omnivores, which are partial carnivores, which are bloodthirsty animals. Now make that all about sex.
M: We’re all rapists?
D: No, the lion killing the gazelle is natural. Rape is a social aberration. Even the douchebags are an aberration in my opinion. I’m saying “take what’s yours when it’s given”. There will always be a strain of monsters in the population: psychopaths who exploit the current system. Natural selection guarantees that (with current technology, where we can’t turn off the “dickhead gene”). But they’re the vast minority and I’m not talking to them. You mentally lick your lips when you see a hot babe, whether you accept or deny that. I say accept it, embrace it.
M: In terms of confidence, do you get nervous around women and how does it occur to you?
D: I get nervous before I start talking, that’s when it’s all intuition, I used to invest anxiety into conversation – am I interesting or funny enough? – now once we’re talking I don’t worry. I think intelligence is more diffuse when it comes to attraction than “We talked about Satre and the meaning of life”. Even academic intelligence is subtle, maybe you use one low frequency word, incidentally, and people realise unconsciously that you’re well-read. Just be yourself, for fuck’s sake. Talk to women like a normal person.
M: Going back to eye contact, perhaps you have an eye connection across the table at a dinner party whilst the guy next to her has a scintillating conversation.
D: Exactly, the conversation is overrated. Just don’t be a psycho or a freak. The energy is there or it’s not. Good luck to you.
M: So you can’t do anything about the energy in that moment, you’ve done or (or not done) the work prior.
D: Yep, reading books, working out, etc.
M: Last time we chatted, you said that, when the energy isn’t there you don’t care so much, you relax, the level of fucks goes down… but that has a zen effect, like it can itself turn things back around.
D: if the vibe is there, she is invested and everything I do/say is amplified in her mind. If the vibe isn’t there, her mental “record” button is off. I can be more loose. Shooting for the “life of the party” vibe. Even if I go over the top, because her record button is off, she’ll vaguely remember me as an outgoing guy, next time.
M: Or, she might get triggered for better or worse, and start recording.
D: You can tell if someone is a bit baffled or taken aback. Then you can back off and apologise. This might sound clinical but I’m just breaking it down retrospectively. In the moment I’m just talking.
M: Last time you said an area you could improve on is being open to different modalities of connecting. Being with something that’s not dancing.
D: I was too lazy to invest in non dance floor methods, because I don’t like them as much. My talents lie in the non verbal arena. Has that changed? The root impulse to hit the dance floor is still there.
M: What’s your ‘funnel’ for meeting new women? Did you set one up consciously?
D: It’s random. If there wasn’t my work, for example, I’d go on Tinder more and find dates there. In a big city, unless you just stay home, you’ll just meet women, unless your hobby is sumo wrestling or something.
M: No point in trying to engineer it, then?
D: You choose the point on the spectrum (between sumo wrestling and more female-oriented recreation) given your level of game and requirements. You might have a funnel, like you go to one place every day. But it’s not necessary.
M: Is Tinder is going well?
D: I have a lot of old matches from sporadic nights of browsing. I’m just being honest with my profile, me in a black t-shirt smiling, here’s what I like. And no bullshit like “hey gorgeous, ur hot, how u doing? weights arent the only things I pick up.” I’m being honest and open without being blunt or guarded.
M: A girl I know takes glee in posting douchey profiles on Tinder. A lot of guys come out with guns blazing, “wanna fuck?” etc. I had a very normal conversation and date with her, and we eventually hooked up. I feel like I was almost lucky because I was definitely thinking about her naked from the first. I just didn’t mention it and get named and shamed.
D: Everyone is thinking about it. The women are thinking about it. “I hope he has an 8 inch dick”. Even marriage is basically a sanction for sex. “And now you may mate.” All 7 billion people can agree, even though it’s none of their business. Is it alright with you, person on the other side of the world from another religion? They can mate like every animal does without any inhibition, even bacteria? Ok good, he can put his D in her V. Even the most conservative women has that end point. “I hope he’s the one I’m saving myself for.” Dick pic guys on tinder are not forgivable. “But everyone is thinking that. He’s just wet behind the ears” No, he’s lazy and a dickhead. Dick pics are the digital version of flopping your cock out onto a table at speed dating, so she can admire your length and girth.
M: Final thoughts?
D: Every man should be like me in this regard: I love eating pussy. Hair is a bonus for me. It means she’s a grown woman. The majority of women cum through clit stimulation like cunnilingus. If there are any guys out there who aren’t into it: bro, what are you doing? Even if (god forbid) you can’t get it up for whatever reason, if you eat her out like a champ she’ll be back for more.
M: you went to tantra with one time, and you seemed pretty naturally attuned to it.
D: I’d had sex that day, I think that helped. I was relaxed and care-free. “I don’t do to-dos; I’m a sex-having guy!” Also some lingering inebriation in my system. Where I excelled was that eye-gazing exercise with Judi. I gave her the most orgasmic orgasm she’s ever had the following week (it was from cunnilingus) My D was not required, although it did enter the fray subsequently.
M: I’ve taken your pot advice on board. It’s definitely helped me.
D: Yes, go nuclear on the most beautiful women. Perfect 10 or bust. Don’t waste your time with non-babes.
And to recap, the devil is in the details. By “details”, I mean concrete stuff. Pick up a heavy thing. Put your tongue on a clit. Don’t over-intellectualise this stuff.
The Doctor and I have had enjoyed many adventures and long late-night, wine-infused conversations about women and the chasing thereof – so much so, that we have our developed our own dialect around it. Beautiful women are cray, so the pursuit of said women becomes crayfishing. During one such chat, Siri took notes.
Mac: I write about sex to understand where I’m at; growing up I was shy and often introspected about how to better relate to people, and in the process I became fascinated by social dynamics. My definition of success with women is: you can generally have the kind of relationship you want, with the kind of woman you want. Would you agree with this definition, and that you’re successful with women?
M: Let’s talk about your general approach regarding women. I don’t know if you were ever analytical in your thinking about this, or if it’s just bottom-up. Pick-up artist types are very analytical, whereas you don’t seem that way. Did it always just come naturally to you?
D: From age 18 onward, yes. In school I was bullied and so more reserved. But as an adult outside of that toxic environment, my personality ‘blossomed’ and became very extroverted.
M: There is a caveat around this whole subject, because you might not think about attraction consciously and I know that it’s easy to over-analyse and retrofit ideas and theories onto unconscious action; as you often say: talk is cheap. With that caveat, let’s talk. When you first notice a girl you like, perhaps you see that hot babe at the house party, what happens next?
D: My approach is indeed instinctive or bottom-up as you put it, but after the fact I am able to look back and analyse (this analysis rarely changes what I do next time; I don’t analyse in order to change my behaviour). The babe at the house party: I get tunnel vision. It’s not necessarily subjectively enjoyable (it can cut me off from other things I could be enjoying). It starts with the eyes. It’s a cliché but the eyes truly are the windows to the soul. If I get eye contact, that tells me what happens next. If there’s a ‘good feeling’, I talk to her, dance with her, or otherwise act to keep that energy going between us. I feel when the time comes to cross that line from ‘just friends’ to something else (putting my hands on her waist, going in for the kiss, etc.), there is an energy I pick up on, not a checklist (nothing like ‘we have talked for 2 hours, then she looked at me in this certain way…’). It’s like 2 magnets; you can feel the field when you hold poles close together. You can almost trace the contours. I act based on that field.
M: You always had a natural ‘feel’ for that energy field?
D: The first time I felt it was age 16 at the school dance with my first crush. I felt it over the course of about 30 minutes. I was hesitant, but I felt I could trust it and that, as long as I didn’t ‘chicken out’ before the end of the night, I was in a good place. Later that night, I had my first kiss. As soon as we kissed, I vividly remember thinking: ‘I need to trust that feeling, always’. That ‘magnetism’ is the truth.
M: You’re talking a lot about energy, not about saying specific things. Do you talk about specific things in your interactions, or just go with the flow?
D: I have no lines or particular things I say. The closest to a rule I have is: make sure you take an interest. I ask questions. I don’t want to pontificate or tell a story for ages. I want to get her talking.
M: That’s interesting, because you talk for a living and are a great storyteller, so I would have thought of your words as the big arrow in your seductive quiver. For example you push conversations into tense areas–maybe it’s unconscious or maybe deliberate–in a beneficial way: you’re spiking her emotions with those hot spots.
D: I do sometimes do that, but I think that when I do, it’s because maybe I get a sense that the connection isn’t quite there so I don’t care as much. When I’m aware I’m doing it, it’s because I don’t care. Maybe she rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe she’ll react badly and I get to write her off, or maybe she’ll surprise me with a retort that will turn the interaction around. But, when I’m into someone I don’t consciously push the envelope.
M: The corollary to all this would be: if a man is wondering what to say/which line, you’d say he’s barking up the wrong tree. He should look to the vibe or the feeling more.
M: Although I reckon guys are attracted to the idea of structures, scripts, magic bullets, and hard and fast rules.
D: There is a paradox: ‘The only rule is that there are no rules.’ What if I said, ‘Be natural’, is that then a rule? ‘Make eye contact, feel the energy, smile, then see how it goes’ – you can codify anything and make it into a rule. But for me it’s not about rules. I can look back and break it down but I’m just acting naturally. For me that means eye contact, a smile, a friendly hello. Get off on the right foot. Sometimes guys barge in like a runaway snowball, ‘HEY! How you doing?’ Maybe it works for them. But for me: if I have eye contact, I’m not caring about what to say, because I see the chemistry.
M: Good for you, but another guy might not be able to detect this field. What about him?
D: Unless you’re really ‘aspy’, you can sweep away the clutter to unbridle your instincts; often we weigh it down with critiques, conditioning, judging – a girl looks at you, you feel something there, but then verbal mind kicks in: ‘Does she like me? She talked to that guy, maybe she likes that guy, maybe it’s a coincidence she looked at me…’ I am guilty of this. Last year there were two girls at a house party, I was attracted to both of them and I felt a vibe, but the ‘blah blah blah’ in my mind thought that the first girl was taken because she was acting very warmly toward this other guy (who turned out to be gay) and that the second girl was lesbian. That’s the ultimate self-sabotage: ‘she’s not only not into me, she doesn’t like men!’ The latter asked me out in the end, luckily. There’s another paradox here: to fight the chit-chat in your head, you can have ‘ground rules’. My one ground rule is now, ‘she always wants me.’ I don’t care if I see her kiss a guy. It’s a rule that’s ‘written down’ in my head, that will counteract the mental chatter. I’d rather have no chatter in my mind, but I’ll go with a rule over a massive essay of chatter. Of course, the ultimate dream is to be totally zen, living in my body with a clear mind.
M: I assume like all men, you would like to be better with women. Do you actively work on this?
D: The one area I’d like to improve is ‘knuckling down’ in situations. Because I like to act on body language and go by feel, my favourite way to meet her is dance. Basics – ‘What’s your name?’, etc. – then to dancing. We can make out on the dance floor. I can discover her life story later. I enjoy that and it’s valid, but I also think it’s sometimes a cop-out because many situations have no music to dance to. What about a beer garden? But I need to remember: even conversation can be a dance. We could talk philosophy, the weather, politics, whatever… music gives you a melody to dance to together, and the conversational words are like rope that connect you to a person for a time. You have body language, vocal tonality, etc.: that’s your dance. I’ll dance to anything with a beat and be confident I can ingratiate myself with a woman. I need to remember that conversations are the same. Sometimes I feel I ‘bail’ on conversations – ‘I can’t be bothered’ – even though I’m told I have the gift of the gab.
M: That sounds hypothetical – you’re not overly worried about this. You don’t consciously push yourself in this way.
D: Sometimes I do. My feelings recently at a party were to disengage with a woman I was chatting to, I wanted to bail and just talk to you or my friend Jules. I mean, we weren’t even isolated from the group so nothing was going to happen. Two hours of chat for a number!? But then I thought, ‘No’ – if I bail on situations like that, a lot of opportunities would be gone.
M: You’re whinging about talking to women! And you love a good chat!
D: The thing is, some people are intelligent and similar to me, and we just hit it off. I chatted to Alba for two hours one-on-one – she is is well-informed and educated. It was effortless. It was great! But sometimes, other people aren’t as good, at least the first time around (it can change over a few dates, though). That spark where you can talk to someone until sunrise – it’s great but it’s so rare, so it’s a bad filter. I’d be very lonely if I waited for those. Maybe there will be awesome conversations down the line. So I’m more whinging about hanging in a non-stimulating conversation. I’m well-read in philosophy and psychology, so maybe it takes me a bit more to set me on fire. It’s not just with women, but with men too.
L: Zeroing in on someone specific and knowing your ‘type’ is something you talk about. Focus.
D: The focus is twofold: in the moment (that tunnel vision), and secondly, maybe the next day after I got her number, the focus is still there. I am going about my day but I’m very singleminded. Other girls on the periphery – they are now off the radar. I don’t want to waste time. Number on Friday night, text Saturday, line up drinks for early next week. I’m thinking about the next step. Dating is ‘try before you buy’. I don’t want to faff around with the test drive. I would rather get it happening, quickly. If the test drive is no good – I know it’s not for me, great! Move on. Imagine one stove with ten pots of soup on it. All lukewarm pots. Put one on the boil, crank the heat – dip the spoon, if it takes awesome tuck in. If it tastes like shit, bin it, next pot of soup.
M: Do you generally take that approach (beyond women?)
D: I don’t know. I think women pick up on it and like it. They can tell if you’re devoted, it sets something off that’s ancestral. If they’re in a cave, they want their man home at night with fresh mammoth. They don’t want him off visiting over ‘caves’. They might tell you verbally that they don’t want a guy who comes on too strong, but they still respond to it.
M: Maybe they mean they don’t want a needy guy.
D: Being ‘needy’ means leeching things out of them. Being devoted means providing for them. The ‘come on too strong’ guy might send 100 texts in a row. Really, it’s just that he’s a loser. ‘Too strong’ in the good sense would be ‘hey, I’m here, available. Take it or leave it’, without being submissive. I’m still the man. She can have me. I maintain the man-ness because I said she can have me. If she’s a ‘no’, there are others.
M: I’ve wondered if knowing what your ‘type’ very specifically, is part of your success. Men I know who are good with women can describe their ideal woman specifically.
D: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted brown women. At age 17, I was discovering my taste. There was this amazing Indian woman called Vishi. When I saw her… it’s like tasting food – you don’t choose to like food, you just put it in your mouth and find it to be delicious. Then I ended up dating Lauren for 8 years and she is pasty white! And all through that time, there were many brown-skinned women who left me slack-jawed. Lauren is pretty and I like her, but when we split up I felt I was free to go after anyone.
M: Do you wish you did that in the first place?
D: Yes. I even regret not getting Vishi’s number. I ‘knew’ i would see her on day 2 of this seminar we were at, so I left it until then – but for whatever reason she wasn’t there. And she had no date for the formal! It was no accident she mentioned that to me.
I also like women who smile and laugh. Intelligence is more important to me than many guys, but not as important as a good nature. I want a vivacious creature I can communicate with through a smile. So my ‘type’ is not just about looks.
M: Given your natural, feeling modality, you’re probably not one to pontificate on how other men should conduct themselves – but do you have any advice for me?
D: Focus. For me it comes naturally, so yes, it’s a bit rich for me to tell you to be more focussed
M: but ‘everything’ you do is natural.
D: You might not get that feeling of tunnel vision, naturally. But let’s say that after the vicissitudes of the night, you find yourself with a number – set aside time then. It’s the soup analogy. Even if all you want is short term, you should still heat one pot of soup at a time. There can be short-term devotion. You might have many soups and they all ‘flake’. Women are flakey, naturally. You can neutralise the flakiness with devotion.
More advice: a lot of guys get this wrong, I see it a lot so I know it’s great advice. Within flirting, there is this aspect of teasing, “treat ‘em mean to keep ‘em keen”, demonstrating you don’t need her. But the problem is, I believe that works only when it’s very natural. A lot of guys have told me that they always think, ‘how can I wind her up/tease her?’ It comes off as too intentional, super clunky.
M: If you don’t have a feel for that energetic back and forth, I guess that an easy way for some guy to understand the concept is just give her some jabs.
- That’s overrated. If you have eye contact and those basics, you’re 75% there. And, some women are sensitive! You can ruin it with some stupid ‘neg’.
M: I tend to assume that if a girl is hot, she has high confidence. I know that’s false, it’s a bad habit. I was talking to a woman who was (seemingly) very confident and taller than me. I started teasing her about being tall and it went very wrong.
D: Men sell themselves short (no pun intended) – and I don’t mind that they do, more women for me! Attraction is innate. Why do two deer have sex in the forest? Did they have a conversation? Did he wind her up? No. We aren’t that different. We built this edifice of verbiage. It holds us back. She is smiling and you have eye contact? She already likes you. Then you jab her with this forced joke – you’ve fucked it. Dale Carnegie (of How to Win Friends and Influence People fame) says “Don’t criticise”.
We were at Mr Falcons talking to 3 hot girls after Game of Thrones, and you broke 2 Carnegie rules. I saw you approach one of them. You were good at breaking the ice: ‘What did you think of the episode?’ ‘OK, slow at first but it got good’ Carnegie rule #1: don’t criticise; rule #2: ask questions. The natural thing is to follow up. ‘Why did you thing it was slow?’ You contradicted her and didn’t follow up. She went sour, I could see it in her face, she was thinking ‘So, my opinion’s wrong? Oh L…’ I’ve often seen you begin with a criticism. Also at the house party with Stephanie, you said ‘Hi’, then immediately criticised her opening remark. In a way I suppose you’re imprinting your dominance. But she probably thought ‘Here’s a handsome guy, oh! he’s talking to me’. Ask a question! ‘What’s your name? How do you know the host?’ It’s risky to jab. You’re attractive, you don’t need to resort to that. Back yourself. That’s the take-home message, and it’s a positive one. You’re already enough (or not), before you’ve opened your mouth.
M: What if you don’t feel you’re enough?
D: Acceptance and Commitment Training [link]. Ask yourself: is this feeling useful or not?
If you’re in a life-threatening situation, fear helps you survive. It literally gives you super-powers by releasing various chemicals. When you feel like like you’re on top of the world, feeling great, it’s similar: you’ll have new abilities, you’re more creative, etc. When you’re not feeling like this, you do your best. For unhelpful feelings (you feel like shit, or flat): it doesn’t ruin your chances but might mean a different tack. Own it. Accept, be quiet and receptive. Let the universe give you things/people (or not). I have done this and people approached me. If I had TRIED to act counter to what I feel, maybe it wouldn’t have worked. Expand into your feelings. If they’re on your side, take the lead. If I feel ‘I’m on fire’, I’ll go in and be the life of the party. Or, perhaps I look within and I’ve got nothing. Let that be your modality. People might say, ‘This guy, he’s got nothing. That’s kind of interesting!’ [laughs] Maybe looks come into it here, I’m not downplaying looks. Just saying I don’t always sideline feelings. Sometimes they’ll charge me up, sometimes they abandon me. I can go with it either way.
M: You have this trust with being in touch with your feelings, which helps with that approach. If you are a more socially anxious person, you might very rarely feel ‘on fire’.
D: You can still ask if your feelings and thoughts are helpful. I don’t really get anxious, just flat. It’s like bringing food to a party – you might have abundance some occasion, you just got paid, nothing another time. Go with it. It’s a good analogy because I was completely broke last year. At the Superbowl, I was honest about it and people shouted me drinks with knowledge that I had nothing and could not repay them. I don’t lead myself or people on.
M: Like fear giving you super-powers, maybe social anxiety, in terms of getting nervous around beauty, gives you the power to seduce her.
D: I saw a brown woman on the bus – I felt alive, and my heart was pounding. The queue my body was giving me was, ‘I don’t need to wait for eye contact this time.’
M: Some men think that feeling is the problem. They want to not have it when they approach a woman.
D: Then what kind of man would you be? If you talk to a hot babe on a bus and you don’t feel nerves, you’ve numbed yourself in a non-healthy way, or you literally have brain damage. People numb themselves with drugs, alcohol, brutally talking to themselves – ‘I’m going to fail anyway’ – but that’s taking the wind out of their own sails.
South Korea is the best of east and west – although things are looking sketchy recently with North Korea’s change in government and subsequently renewed aggression toward the south. But enough about that: you didn’t come here for political commentary – you came for cheap thrills, amirite?.
China put a massive damper on my trip to Korea. My cash was effectively trapped in the country for several weeks, so I was in Seoul with not a won to my name. Fortunately, ‘Jess’, a very sweet Canadian girl from my hostel took it upon herself to make me her charity case, and lent me a large sum of money. I did my best to repay her by being super-nice, buying her dinner (admittedly with her money) and crushing her supple pussy. It wasn’t strictly prostitution but it was definitely more than a few shades of grey.
Not surprisingly, a man with no money is not a huge turn-on for women. To the best of my understanding, it was a combination of my sexy Aussie accent, my awesome karaoke skills, my blatant candour and my tales of adventure abroad that comprised the magic mojo formula. Whatever the case, she seemed into me when we met (but then again, that’s how they always seem to me, true or not. “Always assume she wants the D” – it’s a more beautiful way to live). After dinner we went out to karaoke for a while with some colleagues of hers (she is an English teacher), then they all went home for an early one. I was keen to carry on so together we went to one of the best-named bars in the world: Ho Bar (there is actually a chain of Ho Bars in the Hongdae area of Seoul, named numerically. I think we were at #9). I led Jess in and sat down next to some semi-foreign-looking people who turned out of be adopted Koreans from Europe, who were back to discover their roots. When they left, we joined a table of young insane drunk girls, ABKs (Aussie-born Koreans) on vacation. One of them seemed fairly into me (no, really) and I began chatting with her as she poured me a bourbon and coke from a big premixed pitcher. I don’t remember what started it, but at one point she challenged me to gambei! and we knocked it back. Cultural note: when you drink in Korea, it’s usually in the form of soju (Korean rice wine), which is poured into a tiny cup then shot. You’re not supposed to serve yourself so you find yourself in these rapidly escalating situations where you’re pouring each other shots from bottles, saying gambei (cheers), then shooting the stuff down in rapid succession. This crazy girl immediately filled our cups and shot again. I looked on amused as this got faster and faster, falling behind as she had downed several midis in a matter of minutes and collapsed to the floor. As her friends tried to help her up, she began ‘dancing’ on the floor by throwing herself around in a great imitation of an epileptic fit! That marked the end of a fairly typical evening in Ho Bar.
Back to my hostel and Jess and I chilled out of the floor, chatting. In all honesty, the thought of sex with her hadn’t really occurred to me seriously at this stage because I couldn’t really see through the logistics. She was holidaying in a dorm bed, sharing with a bunch of people with no privacy, and I was actually renting a tent on the balcony in EXTREME proximity to two other occupied tents, and had already gotten several warnings to quieten down from the hostel owner, who often slept in the adjacent room. If there’s a lesson to this meandering tale of debauchery, it is this: fuck logistics.
A textbook case of “One thing led to another” followed. We ended up making out on the floor, then in my tent, again with no dark intentions but then she went down on my of her own volition and gave me the best head I’ve ever received. After a short break she broke out this killer line:
“Ready for round 2?”
And it was on. The whole tent was wet by the end, like that car in Titanic. The dude in the first tent was actually fine with it. The guy in the other tent never spoke to me again.
The following night we went to a reggae bar. Again, I had no intentions with her. In accounting terms, I wanted to diversify my portfolio and was keen to try and capture the Korean flag on home territory. However, again we ended up going home together and things really escalated. When we went only the tent balcony, the hostel owner was sleeping on the floor next to my tent like some kind of sentry and immediately awoke and spotted us, so I quickly changed tact and gave an innocent “Hello!” then walked past the tents onto the roof stairs. We ended up fucking 5 floors up overlooking downtown Seoul, with her bent over and braced against the door of the utility closet. I can’t be sure but I swear I heard someone applauding when I finished. Definitely the most public place I’ve ever done it.
On my journey to get to the essence of confidence, I explored Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with the help of a psychologist. In summary, CBT is about becoming a black belt of the mind, thinking rigorously to challenge limiting beliefs and outdated narratives, so that you can empower yourself with solid mental habits. This entire way of thinking struck me as a tip pointing to a huge iceberg. There is a subtle subtext that many may miss, but which occurred to me as an important springboard for a new direction of inquiry. CBT whispers, “Don’t believe everything you think”, and if you hear it, new questions open up. Should I believe everything I feel? If my thoughts aren’t in charge of my actions… who/what is driving them? You can wax very mystical/philosophical at this point if you want… or you can stay on the psychological research train, and travel to the next, and last, stop: ACT station.
You’re the sky
ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Training, and is the current cutting edge in psychological therapy. I’m no expert, but my mother is (being a clinical psychologist) and I know that this is the paradigm she uses in the trenches of chronic pain sufferers, cancer patients and wrist slashers.
There are several books bringing ACT out of scientific journals to the masses. I read two by Dr Russ Harris, who is an Australian populariser of the core concepts: The Happiness Trap and The Confidence Gap (he digs rhymes). The main take-away message is basically this: you have limited control over your thoughts, feelings and sensations, which are like the weather in that they are somewhat unpredictable. Be like the sky: make room for the weather, and let your values drive your behaviour. What would the kind of man you want to be, do? Do that.
In The Confidence Gap, Harris applies ACT thinking specifically to confidence. It’s one of the best self-help books I’ve read, simply because it’s science and practice, sans bullshit. The book is organised around 10 rules. Read and win.
Ten rules for winning the game of confidence
1. The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later
I’ve talked about this in previous posts: it is a game-changer because almost everything I’ve read on confidence tends to get the order wrong (especially Law of Attraction-type thinking, a la The Secret). First, do things to get into that confident state, THEN do the thing with confidence. There is definitely some value in pumping yourself up before that scary thing you want to do, but if you’re pushing your limits and living big, sooner or later (probably sooner), you’re going to find yourself on unfamiliar territory, outside your comfort zone, doing something you’ve never done. It would be unnatural to feel confident under such circumstances, which brings me back to my working definition of confidence which is rooted in action, not feelings: the ability to express my true self in (almost) any situation. Throughout this post, I’ll use the word confidence as shorthand for this ability, as opposed to the feeling of confidence.
2. Genuine confidence is not the absence of fear; it is a transformed relationship with fear
This rule is the next logical step from rule one – in fact, every rule on this list follows on from the previous one (really, there is only one rule of confidence: be a friend of every emotion and thought within you, but not a slave). If confidence is about action, what about all of that energy you have been spending on trying to be confident (instead of doing confidence)? Put some of that energy into getting comfortable in your discomfort, and the rest into living a kickass life. Personally speaking, this is the point of real leverage for me in all of this ACT business. Amongst my family of personal ‘demons’, the most serious troublemakers are not thoughts, but feelings. I might know that my fear is groundless and cannot hurt me, but it might still stop me from taking that step into social freefall. What to do? ACT’s answer is ‘expansion’ – make emotional room for the fear, discomfort, dem feels: become the sky. One technique for this is to non-judgmentally examine the sensation of your feelings as if you’re a friendly scientist. Where is it in your body? What shape is it? Is it throbbing, hot, cold? For me, this one technique justified my purchasing of the book. If you can relate, I also recommend reading The Flinch (available free on Kindle).
3. ‘Negative’ thoughts are normal. Don’t fight them; defuse them
Cognitive defusion is a big concept in ACT. The idea is that the mind is a ‘reason-giving machine’ – it will often have a reason why you can’t/shouldn’t do something or be someone. Somehow, popular self-help has made this ‘wrong’ or even ‘unnatural’, when in fact it’s your mind’s job to play devil’s advocate to keep you alive. The fact is, if you never think negative thoughts, you literally have a mental defect. The problem is not the thoughts themselves, but our beloved pastime of ‘fusing’ with them by making them personal or factual. Fighting so-called negative thoughts is fruitless at best, so instead defuse them via techniques such as consciously noticing and naming the thought (“I’m having the thought that I can’t so this”; “Ah, it’s the old ‘I’m a loser’ story playing in my head again”, etc.). You can also use visualisation here, e.g. seeing your thoughts as leaves on a stream, or cars driving by you as you sit on a bench. Mindfulness meditation, where I focus on the breath, is my primary way of practicing defusion.
4. Self-acceptance trumps self-esteem
Your reason-giving machine will always have some self-doubt to serve you. It’s for your own good! I talked a lot about self-esteem in my previous post, and how you can challenge lazy negative thought habits. However, unless you experience ego death on a mountain in Nepal, you’ll be practicing your defusion skills over the whole course of your life. Accept yourself. It’s easier and more powerful. Self judgement is not ‘workable’ (I’ll elaborate on this concept of workability under rule 6).
5. True success is living by your values
A lot of ACT content probably won’t sound new to anyone who has ever attempted to better themselves (which no doubt includes everyone reading this). The ideas ring familiar to anyone who has picked up a self-help book or sat in a monastery – in fact, parts of ACT are sometimes compared to eastern philosophies, particularly the emphasis on building mindfulness through meditation. The cool thing about ACT, and in my opinion, something that strengthens its position, is that controlled research has basically backed up what effective, wise people have known for thousands of years, whether they be Shaolin monks or more contemporary gurus such as Carnegie or Franklin. For example, ACT talks about personal values, a familiar concept to anyone who has picked up any book in the more western self-help tradition. I wrote a list of personal values a long time ago during my self-help junkie phase. If I’m being honest, I wrote them primarily because Tony Robbins told me to, and because they made me feel like I had my shit together. (Reading motivational books will still have the latter effect, no doubt: they are a good time, real page-turners on the whole, but there is a reason the self-help section of the bookstore has new bestsellers in it every year – they affect practical change on only a minor cohort of their readers. If they worked, the section would only be populated by a small handful of timeless classics). I didn’t really understand the point of values, I just knew you were ‘supposed’ to be able to articulate them. The Happiness Trap was the first book that very clearly explained the ‘why’, and backed it up with logic and even science. The main reason is related to the concept of the Happiness Trap.
The Happiness Trap
The concept goes like this: in our quest for happiness, we take deliberate steps to get more ‘positive’ feelings and avoid ‘negative’ feelings – smart plan so far, right? – however, managing our mood is not only limited in effectiveness and very energy-consuming, in doing so we unconsciously curtail our overall life satisfaction by making our life smaller. An obvious example would be that doughboy munching pizza on the daily, because it tastes great and makes him feel good (it’s his favourite, and takes the edge off his stressful graduate job at Ernst and Young), all the while damaging his health. Here’s a more subtle example: that girl over there is heartrendingly cute, you want to meet her but you’re nervous, so a round of Dutch Courage is in order. You approach her slightly tipsy after the third courage injection – maybe it works out, maybe not – either way, fast-forward a year and you can’t imagine not drinking at a social event. Beer has become a crutch. And if you live in Sydney (or anywhere else where there is a criminal amount of beautiful women), perhaps you’re starting to get an impressive little beer gut, too (an important caveat here: ACT is not against indulging in ‘bad’ habits on occasion, but in addressing the ones that start to get in the way of your life. I like meeting women on the beach, in the cafe, and at the laundromat – it tickles my romantic bone – so for me I don’t want to rely on alcohol even a little).
The value of values
- A way to avoid the Happiness Trap. If you’re not living for the feelgood or the payoff, what is living about? Your values describe your way out of the trap. If the journey really is more than the destination, you need to clarify how you’re going to travel.
- Values are action-based, and prescriptive. Values are how to live right now, no matter what’s going down. Freedom to choose our action is the ‘last of human freedoms’ and the most powerful. By writing them down, I am forced to become conscious of them and challenged to live a life that is my own, not based on environment or circumstance or transient desire.
- Values support goals, in terms of clarifying important goals, and in providing a framework for motivation (by serving as a reminder of their importance) and approach (by prescribing specifics of the “how”)
- It’s the only way to guarantee success. Rule 5 is about taking on a new definition of success. You can never ultimately control your results, but you can potentially control your behaviour.
Getting your values on paper can be a mission in and of itself. It took me a long time. One technique I found useful is to think about different areas of your life (wealth, sex, health, etc.) and ask yourself what you want to have, do and be in those areas to uncover your big themes. What do you want, and what kind of man do you need to be to have/do those things? As an example, some of my values are acting with confidence (no surprises there), following my bliss, and living at my edge.
6. Hold your values lightly, but pursue them vigorously
The same goes for all of these rules. You can run the risk of falling into a neurotic trap by adding ‘musts’ to values which, at the end of the day, are a transient narrative, not laws. The bottom line is a concept called ‘workability’. Don’t think about thoughts/rules/values in terms of “Is it true?”, but instead, “Is it useful?” or “Is what I’m doing working to give me a rich and fulfilling life?”. As an example of this type of attitude, Harris advocates adopting values that you recognise as useful, but not necessarily a part of your habitual attitude (e.g. you realise that tenacity is habit shared by many successful people you admire, but you know that you often tend to give in easily. You might still claim ‘tenacity’ as one of your values… you do value it, after all). Workability is a pretty sweet foundational approach to anything you do to change yourself, actually. “Is this thing making my life more awesome?”
7. Don’t obsess about the outcome; get passionate about the process
ACT inspires a mastery-based approach to life. As per rule 5, we have a new definition of success, which is process-based, not result-based. Because it shifts the focus to action in the present, rather than managing internal state or thinking about future achievement, I have begun thinking about mastering various skills much more: investing in myself instead of merely striving for some result that is actually beyond my control anyway. Of course, this approach ironically is the best strategy for traditional success a lot of the time. Historically, I have been focused on controlling internal experience at the expense of skills focus. This is energetically expensive, difficult and ineffective. My new approach: a trial and error skills-based practice. This is “Life is about the journey, not the destination” in practice. Take two examples.
- I still have the desire for social charisma, status and respect, but by focusing on personal skills such as honest expression, listening and social intelligence (and yes, I definitely see these as skills), I move the locus of control for this ephemeral area of success closer to myself, and will most likely have more genuine interactions, too.
- Regarding wealth: instead of focusing on goals like “Get a job” or “Get rich”, I can build skills such as networking, personal branding, identifying market opportunities and clarity of purpose. This feels much more rewarding most of the time, and is probably more financially rewarding, anyway.
One caveat: don’t fall in the trap of practicing to perfection at the expense of action. There is always value in practice, but don’t fuse with a remedial story: you probably don’t have a skill deficit.
8. Don’t fight your fear: allow it, befriend it, and channel it
If you’re living a life of acceptance, commitment and mastery, fear becomes a part of your practice, a source of power for your process. I can’t help but think of Batman Begins when I read this rule. In the first of the trilogy, Bruce Wayne learns to channel his fear to become very powerful. Take a leaf from Batman’s book.
9. Failure hurts – but if we’re willing to learn, it’s a wonderful teacher
I have thought a lot about learning lately. I read and study a lot, but what is the formula for translating the incredible amount of knowledge we possess into practical effectiveness? The way I like to look at it is this: learning is automatic. You are learning at all times by constant trial and error, little course corrections here and there. This means that the clearer you are on your goals, and the more experiences you expose yourself to, the more you will learn. Two quotes about success and failure that I love:
“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate” – Thomas J. Watson
“Fail harder” – Mark Zuckerberg
Of course, this is all easier said then done. To assist in coming back from a failure, Russ Harris suggests using questions like the following to shift your focus in a good direction:
- What worked?
- How can I grow from this?
- What do I want to stand for?
- What’s the next step?
This is more of a CBT concept, but pretty useful, so there it is.
10. The key to peak performance is total engagement in the task
The three big tools in ACT are defusion for thoughts, expansion for feelings, and finally: connection for engagement. You might have noticed that these are fancy words for fairly simple practices, and indeed, connection is merely a matter of being present in what you are experiencing: noticing shapes, colours, sounds and sensations. You can consciously work on this by doing things mindfully, e.g. a chore such as washing the dishes, during which you pay great attention to the task and its experience, instead of listening to music, chatting or daydreaming.
So there are the 10 rules of genuine confidence.
If you’re familiar with Attraction Institute’s core concepts from End Game, ACT is a practical guide for moving from ‘getting’ to ‘creating’ as a mindset.
If you’re not, I can say that ACT is a paradigm shift for me, and exactly what I was looking for during my exploration of the concept of confidence. Of course, the journey itself is never-ending, but I notice myself being more action-oriented, and more apt to call myself a liver of life, not a student. Speaking of which, this is the second of two pretty heady posts. Next week: back to shenanigans and debauchery.
Meanwhile: if you want to go deeper, read any of the three books I’ve mentioned here.
I mentioned in a previous post that, in a quest to understand self confidence, I sought the help of a psychologist and went through a program designed to address questions of self image over the course of several months, and made a promise to go into detail in a future post. Welcome to the future: today I’ll take you through the fastest crash course in self image online.
The course was quite technical in a way, including a model of self image and how it is created, complete with multiple diagrams. I expected to include this depth of information within this post, but the fact is that since completing the course, I’ve found that its greatest value has been as a sign post to the next stop on my quest for profound confidence. More on that later – meanwhile, for this reason, this post might prove somewhat more introspective than your average, apologies.
As I’ve mentioned, the course was based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is a contemporary model for clinical psychology. It was very useful to look at something that has been proven effective in the trenches of both scientific research and therapy, rather than the average book/course on confidence, which seem to be based more on anecdotes and mysticism. Generally speaking, the focus of CBT is on examining one’s thoughts and beliefs, and challenging those that are negative or misguided. I think of it as training to be a ‘black belt of the mind’: you are becoming more rigorous in your thinking and focus, more self-aware, more wise. You want to get wise, right?
First, a definition: when I talk about confidence, I am talking about a level of self esteem that gives me the ability to be fully expressed in almost all situations, ie. to ‘be myself’ anywhere, anytime, with anyone. The word ‘confidence’ has other meanings, of course – notably, the feeling of confidence – but I am focusing more on the belief based definition. The feeling of confidence can change with circumstance, but true self esteem is solid.
So what is self esteem? I’m using the CBT definition: it is our belief about ourselves, which is a collection of personal beliefs from various sources, for various reasons that are rational: we believe things because they represent an understanding of the world that helps us cope with our environment. Personal beliefs tend to become strengthened over time, because we unconsciously help preserve them through rules and assumptions that we develop based on these beliefs. If we want to change them, then, we need to look under the bonnet and make the unconscious, conscious. Time to step into the dojo.
So the course focused on becoming aware of my self beliefs, and challenging any that were undesirable by challenging them and replacing them with alternative beliefs. It wasn’t about bullshitting myself into thinking I’m brilliant, but by challenging ‘errors in thinking’. Below are some of the errors I’m more guilty of. As you read it, think about which ones you perpetrate the most.
- Black and white thinking: Viewing the world in extremes; everything is either awesome or shit.
- Shoulds: The word ‘should’ often indicates a rule or goal that is inflexible.
- Filtering: ‘Rose-coloured glasses’ and ‘beer goggles’ are examples of filtering; viewing the world through a biasing lens that may have come about through a transient emotion or just mental habit.
- Generalising: In the context of unhelpful thoughts, this involves turning a one-off failure into a perennial or pandemic one.
- Exaggerating: In the context of unhelpful thoughts, this involves amplifying the negative through unjustified descriptors/superlatives.
- Catastrophising: Assuming something has gone/will go wrong in a big way, including dire future projections often starting with ‘what if…’
- Personalising: Almost nothing is truly personal, so personalising an external outcome is often an erroneous and unhelpful thought.
- Feelings = Facts: A feeling is at best an opinion, and does not correspond to a fact.
- Mind-reading: You never truly know what someone else is thinking.
By being aware of, and labeling thoughts, you are able to challenge their validity. For example, you see a beautiful woman sitting alone in a cafe, reading Cleo, and hesitate to approach her, thinking, “She is not showing any signs of interest and I don’t want to hassle her.” This is an error in thinking. Which type of error would you categorise it under?
With self-awareness, you might say silently to yourself, “mind-reading.” You are merely projecting your thoughts onto her, and actually know nothing about her. You can take it a step further replace the error in thinking with a more balanced/helpful thought: “I don’t know what she is thinking for sure. I’m going to find out of the truth of the situation.” Another example: you might see her and think, “If I talk to her, it’s going to be super awkward.” I would personally call this Exaggerating. Things might be a little awkward – you are two strangers meeting for the first time, after all. But the worst that can happen still isn’t that bad. This kind of process will help you to take action.
The next step is to apply the same kind of mental inquiry to more deeply held beliefs. For example, here are the personal beliefs that I looked at during the course, and their more balanced alternatives:
Most people won’t like me.Many people will not have a strong opinion of me. Some people might like me. Some people might dislike me. I don’t know how to live, and I’ve missed out on real living.I’m creating my life the best way I know how. Like everyone, I experience both challenges, and amazing things. My journey is unique. I’m not good with women.Sometimes, I have awesome, beautiful experiences with women. Sometimes, I have bad days. I’m a man. I’m not good enough.I have certain positive aspects that I can leverage to get what I want in life.
Again, the aim is not to bullshit yourself. Try it for yourself. Using a structure (such as this list of questions) helped me.
Of course, mental exercises are only half of the story. To attack self beliefs, you will also need to take action in order to gather evidence against them.
Philosophy of personal beliefs (warning: blue sky thinking ahead)
Whilst going through the process of systematically challenging my beliefs, I found that I still had a high level of belief in one of them. I then had the thought, “What’s stopping me from letting go of that belief?” This question struck me as strange, since I generally consider beliefs to be understandings of objective real-world facts, and not just things that can be taken on or discarded at will.
When confronting one’s personal beliefs, especially regarding oneself, it is very tempting to simply say, “Well, I believe it because it’s true.” We like to believe we are objective, and more to the point, these are the beliefs that we have nurtured and strengthened throughout our lives. In a way, we are objective: these beliefs have come from somewhere, and we have adopted them because they were the most empowering explainers of our environment at the time. On the other hand: our personal lives are not a hard science, so it is more difficult to be empirical about any one belief about a personal matter.
There are two ways to look at belief, and why we believe what we do.
- I believe something because I am convinced by evidence that it is true. This is the rational/scientific way of looking at the concept.
- A psychologist might say I believe something because it is the most empowering narrative I can perceive.
For example: I believe in gravity. This can be seen through either explanatory lens: is both because of overwhelming evidence in support of the existence of this invisible force, AND because the belief prevents me from jumping off a cliff and hurting myself. In this example, you could take it one step further and say that my belief is empowering in this instance precisely because it converges on an accurate view of the world – that is to say, the most empowering possible thought is an understanding of the truth.
When it comes to personal beliefs, it is more difficult to differentiate the objective truth and the psychological payoff for the belief. For example, the belief “I am charismatic” could be argued somewhat objectively, or merely have been adopted because it feels good and is empowering to take on such a positive belief. After all, this kind of belief would probably be self-fulfilling: it would make you more relaxed around others, and therefore probably more approachable and socially creative. So with charisma, like gravity, we can see it as objective or subjective and, like gravity, both reasons for belief converge on the same code of behaviour (don’t jump of tall buildings and be socially open, respectively).
Perhaps it holds true that real empowerment comes from an accurate self image. This would imply that a positive, balanced, flexible self image is actually an accurate one – or to put it another way: I am in fact charismatic, so I might as well submit cognitively to the truth of my bountiful charisma.
In the next episode
Being a black belt of the mind is useful, but limited. Ultimately, we all have limited control over our thoughts and emotions. Cognition isn’t the end of the story. If it was, the solution to pandemic obesity would be to tell everyone that it’s unhealthy. The cognitive approach, as described in this post, works best when you are absolutely buying into limiting beliefs. If you believe deep down that you suck, then you’re just plain sloppy in your cognition. This is black and white thinking – every human has good and bad qualities – and you could benefit from doing the mental equivalent of going to the gym for a high intensity workout every week until you’re ripped. But I found that this wasn’t really the main issue for me. Going back to that hot babe in the cafe. Was it really my thoughts stopping me, here? Did I really believe that things could go really badly, or that she was definitely not interested? Challenging such thoughts can be useful, to a degree, but for me, the issue was my relationship with my emotions and bodily sensations. I have a whole lot of head knowledge, but that only gets you so far. I am becoming more enamoured by a ‘catch and release’ approach to thoughts and feelings, where I’m almost completely concerned with what kind of man I want to be, to the exclusion of transient desires or even practical outcomes. In the world of psychology, my personal journey is mirrored by Acceptance and Committment Training (ACT) becoming dominant over CBT as the new prominent paradigm. More on that later (if you want to skip ahead, the sign post pointed to The Happiness Trap and The Confidence Gap, both by Russ Harris).
… was not really that bad, let’s be real. I didn’t get king-hit, raped, shot, or incarcerated. Life is good in Sydney overall, this is more a long dark night of the soul kind of story.
I met up with my friend Dolly on Oxford Street, which is the trendy gay part of the city. It’s crawling with freaks of all creeds – but affluent, trendy freaks, to be sure. We were to meet Dolly’s (platonic) girlfriend, Lindsay, who was visiting from out of town.
I was into her before I met her: she was sweet from a distance as she approached, then closed the gap rapidly to greet me with a world-class hug. Hugs ain’t hugs, let’s not pretend they are: some people just know how to give good hug. I have tantric friends who are fond of dishing out epic, 5 minute (or longer) hugs which seem to be something they pick up from their practices, or the tantric community. This hug, though, was just a regular hello hug, all natural, and all juicey.
I seems as though when you go out a lot to bars, clubs and similar dark loud holes, you start to develop a sixth sense for which women are currently in mating season. Or perhaps more accurately, you uncover that sense – I suppose it’s a natural thing. We all come from a long line of successful seducers by definition, so it follows that we would all come out of puberty knowing this stuff on some visceral level. Why do we trip up and make it something complicated, awkward or difficult, that we have to learn? Maybe in this here fancy information age, we are all just a little bit too in our heads. I know for sure that I fall into that trap, and perhaps this is the moral of the cautionary tale that follows. Incidentally, I found out later from Dolly, long after this Hindenburg of an evening, that Lindsay was, indeed, fresh out of a breakup and looking to fuck the pain away.
We went to Art Factory, which hosts all kinds of cool live events. I’d been there twice previously, once to see the awesome Crystal Castles, who describe their sound as “like snakes fucking”; and for Insert Coin, during which they filled the place with retro coin-op machines, a pre-teen wet dream come true, where I spent most of my time playing Ninja Turtles (as Raphael obviously, who we all know is the best turtle). On this particular evening, there was a DJ playing hiphop classics, which conveniently is the only music I can really dance to.
The three of us were dance floor and I was wondering how to initiate my seduction, when Dolly excused herself to go to the toilet. Perfect. I danced in close, but didn’t quite bring myself to pull the trigger. People talk about Dutch courage, that extra confidence bump you win from an ice cold beer – but sometimes I like to grab a bit of douche courage, by going to the gent’s (ok I’ll admit that phrase doesn’t quite work, since douche means so many things in addition to soap. Dump courage?): you have a chance to chill for 2 seconds, regroup and decide what comes next in the night. Thus, II excused myself to go pee. I was never great at making that final social leap into the abyss, but in the bathroom I promised myself that when I returned, I would find my balls, go for it, and see what happens. I never got the chance to follow through.
Returning resolute, I marched toward the dance floor to witness this devastating scene: Lindsay, in the arms of some random dude we hadn’t met yet, pashing to Coolio. If it was a movie, at this stage the camera would slow zoom and hold on my face of crushed hope, then montage into some bleak near future, all to the tune of bittersweet beats. Unfortunately this her e that I’m in is no movielife, so you don’t get to skip your timeline forward past the slow, awkward moments while listening to Lana Del Rey. A friend of mine is quite fond of punching inanimate objects at these times, which is fairly cinematic to be sure but I opted to keep my finger bones intact and got the hell out as gracefully as possible, which is to say, I left Oxford Street over an excruciatingly long period of time, devoid of any social grace whatsoever. I said a sudden goodbye to Dolly without explanation, then sought out Lindsay, who was now canoodling by the bar with the dude. I tend towards calling the elephant in the room out, and I decided I couldn’t leave without saying something. I didn’t care that the guy was right there, and said something along the lines of “I’m really attracted to you, but I’m going to leave now because it appears I was too slow.” She actually agreed, and the man seemed apologetic about the situation. I couldn’t even claim the consolation prize of hating this man, who had the balls to move in and do what I couldn’t: he seemed like a pretty stand-up kind of guy.
Outside, I ran into a guy I met doing improv comedy – who was having an amazing night, chatting up a storm with girls on the street, people all around him, just loving it. As if savouring every moment of the pain, I opted to salt my wound by having a drink with him before finally heading home.
I mentioned all of this to Dolly a long time later. She thought is all a little James Blunt of me: I literally met Lindsay maybe an hour before my departure, what is she to me? “So you didn’t get my dick wet, grow up”. And I’m not kidding myself that she was “the one” (I believe that “the one” doesn’t exist outside of science fiction), but the whole experience definitely became a defining event of sorts for me. I’m not some kind of lady’s man, but since then, one thing I almost always do is make her say yes or no. I’ve been called ‘too forward’ and I’m pretty sure I’ve scared a lot of women off, who might have hooked up with me had I taken things just a little slower – but I’d rather be too fast than too slow. I’ve been both, and I know which one hurts more.
Amazing realizations about how far I have come have become routine aspect of my life ever since Get Real almost 4 years ago. And this one is all about acceptance, like really accepting, where women are in their lives.
I began Get Real because I wanted to get a handle on “rejection” by women. Rejection used to destroy me for weeks, sometimes months. And the rejection could be something as simple as smiling at a girl and receiving no response to the more intense: “I just don’t like you in that way.” Before Get Real I was richly dependent in every aspect of my life and that led to such intense feelings of powerlessness and disconnection that I eventually fell into a dark depression and all sorts of suicidal feelings.
I naturally turned to women as a source of filling this empty hole in my life. And so with so much at stake, so much of my whole sense of psychological health and well being at stake, a rejection of any degree shattered me to pieces.
Today I experience rejections as forms of connection. I actually feel closer to the woman who expresses they do not like me “in that way.” I experience them as being free and open with me about how they feel and I can literally feel connected with them in that moment.
In other words, I have the ability to accept where women are, what appeals to them, what they feel they want, and how they are going about giving themselves what they want. I can simply accept that they are the best judges of what is best for them. And if they do not imagine me as a part of their adventure in life as anything more than a friend, acquaintance, or just a co-worker, I don’t push or pressure because, well, I have no NEED to. Not like I used to…
Don’t get me wrong. It still stings when life does not turn out exactly as I would like, but I do not blame women or anything else for those “stings.” Those stings are not about those women, or the way the world is, there is no “stimulus and response” here. Those stings are painful, but they no longer cut as deep as they once did. Instead, those stings have an equally rewarding flipside: they show me what I want and give me direction.
The more I fail, the more clear I get.
What is the feeling of “clarity”? For me, it’s feeling powerful, confident. It’s feeling connected to my own experience, too. In moments when life and relationships take a turn in a direction I did not want them to go, I don’t resist these changes. I flow with them, especially when I have no control over where a woman is in her life, how she feels in her life, how she views relationships, how she engages all the choices and decisions that she faces on a daily basis.
“I Just Want To Slap You”
Recently, I was talking with a friend. She sat down next to me at a bar. And we struck up a conversation about life, relationships. She would later tell me that she enjoyed feeling a reconnection between us in that moment as we chatted about ideas in a pleasant manner. She was trying to understand my perspective on relationships, life. She told me she enjoyed feeling reconnected to me.
Much later in the evening when, as we continued our conversation, she expressed to me that she could not imagine why anyone would talk to anyone else unless they felt a desire to have their views about life validated and understood. I pushed back against this saying: “Well, I really do not need your validation for my views.” She immediately felt hurt, annoyed, and told me: “I just want to slap you, wring your neck.” She meant it, too. Like she really felt disconnected, hurt. I could feel it. So in that moment, that single moment, where she felt the most disconnected from me, I actually felt the MOST connected to her.
Connection occurs when there are as few barriers between two people as possible.
In that moment, maybe even without her knowing it, she leaked out how she really feels about what it means to connect with others: to feel validated. Moreover, she had all this passion behind it. I could feel her frustration with me and perhaps with what she feels to be a natural part of human interaction: we seek validation from others.
Words can be the source of misunderstanding, barriers that give the impression of connection, of sharing, but what gives any word or communication its meaningfulness is not the words but emotional content: that is, the passion, the intentional force in a statement meant for a particular someone and for a very specific purpose.
It was not her words or ideas that gave me a sense of connection with her, but the strong emotional content that really gave me something to connect with.
It’s hard for many people in our culture to understand that having one’s perspective or thoughts or viewpoints validated from others is not only NOT necessary to feel connected to others but is actually a barrier to deeper more fulfilling experiences of connection with others. There is so much talk in our culture about differing views but so few are actually able to open to these differences because they desire to be heard (validated) more than desiring to feel how those radically other people feel and experience their life. Society cultivates habits of “tolerance” and not really empathy, or being in feeling with others.
I am now able to accept rejections by women, challenges by women, or unexpected changes in the direction of relationships without falling to pieces because I can feel were they are, where they want to be, and how they are going about giving themselves what they want.
Women are the best judges of what works for them. And sometimes they are courageous enough to let you in on their worlds and when they do, I just accept it, enjoy it, connect with this openness, even if they are challenging or rejecting. I require nothing more…
There is no shortage of beautiful women in this City of Villages. Living in a state of bachelordom, I’ve made a commitment to interact with some new beautiful stranger every day. Sometimes this feels awkward, sometimes it feels as it should: natural as looking at the tissue after blowing your nose. Almost everytime, a good story follows. Here are some recent encounters.
The woman in the park
I went to the park with my good friend and partner in crime Le Petite Panda. He plays a little guitar and I sing occasionally, in the shower – so we decided to form a band, of sorts.
Professional, we were not. I didn’t even know the lyrics to the songs we were practising, and was reading from my iPhone the entire time. I find that even when it comes to my favourite songs, I rarely listen to the words: it occurs as just another instrument to me. Some people listen to music intellectually, I suppose, whereas for me it’s an emotional experience. In spite of this, we seemed to cause a bit of excitement. One gent approached us and gave us $2. We didn’t have a guitar case or fedora in front of us and certainly were not in any way busking – but he just loved it and felt like sharing some love back. Another local was walking past carrying a djembe, and stopped for a while to join in. This guy was actually a real musician, with a lot of talent, and I have to quietly admit to being humbled at first, but at the end of the day he was just like us: loving the music and looking to share and express, nothing more.
Last but not least: a very cute brunette entered the park and chose a spot of the grass to sit and write… a spot quite close to us. When she later got up to leave, I ran after her and stopped her.
“Hey, I just wanted to say – I’m not sure if you were listening to use specifically – I did notice you sat near us while you wrote in your diary – in any case, I hope you enjoyed listening, and I hope it helped you write.”
It turned out that she had been listening to us: at the time she arrived, we were playing Runaway, which she explained was basically the theme song of her ex-lover. We had actually brought her to tears with our mediocre tribute to Kanye! I tried for an insta-date:
“You must live nearby. Do you drink coffee? Because I’d like to get one with you.”
She didn’t want my number at this stage, and said she was too freshly broken-up. I pushed it once, “Well I could take your number and you can just ignore my texts for a while, and maybe when you’re out of your man-hating phase you can ring me back.” She found that amusing but stuck to her guns.
The woman at Macquarie Park station
A girl sitting with me on the train was listening to music and reading an old, tattered book. Eyeliner, black dress, black boots, exceptionally beautiful. We were in a ‘quiet carriage’ (no chatter allowed), so it was dead quiet. As luck would have it, we both got off at the same station. She walked so fast that I had to run a little to catch up to her on the stair. Feeling a little awkward, I opened with:
“Excuse me. I wanted to ask you something, but we were in a quiet carriage so I didn’t want to talk in there.”
She looked a little startled and gave me nothing else. A little off-putting but probably to be expected, given the context and the time of morning (6.30am).
“What is the book you’re reading? It looked interesting.” Fear and Loathing. She didn’t give me much on it and I haven’t seen it (I tried once but was too stoned to last past the opening scene). “My other two questions were, what happened to your thumbs?” They bore matching bandaids, and I made a dumb joke about Mario Kart. She was still walking at commuter speed and actually went out a different exit to the one I was headed for, I followed her out. I didn’t feel confident at this stage to just stop her: she seemed rushed and we hadn’t really reached that icebreaking hook point in the conversation. I bantered a little more before we got to a crossing – I still wasn’t really feeling a vibe, but you have to just go for the prize sometimes so I said “Do you want to do lunch or a coffee later?” “No – I have a partner.” “Fair enough. You seem really sweet. Maybe I’ll see you on the train.”
The woman at the bus park
She was way to hot to have any business catching public transport, frankly. Her features were western European and petite, with a pierced nose. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She started smelling her lustrous hair like were were filming soft porn… I opted to sit there like all of the other zombies, not talking to her. I was extremely down on myself, with a lot of negative self-talk: thoughts like “Not going to talk to her, too uncomfortable. Nothing will come of it, anyway, so it’s unnecessary discomfort.” Then I started arguing with myself. “If you want beautiful women so bad, do you think they’re just going to be served on a platter? You need to go after them when you see them.” She eventually alighted from the bus.
Sometimes, Lady Fortuna likes to give you a second shot. The next day, there she was again. And this time, she gets off where the bus parks, end of the line: same as me. No excuses. I actually stalked her for a block, but couldn’t bring myself to get there. I felt like shit afterwards. “I’m a pussy. I’m shit with women. I feel really angry at myself, like I should be past this.” Really negative shit that doesn’t improve my motivation, make me more attractive, or make my life better in any way. I chatted to Big A about it online and he provided some warm fuzzy inspiration.
Luke Mac: Why do I just leave my balls at home sometimes?
Big A: Your balls were there. they just needed warming up beforehand. This requires constant warming and limbering up. After visiting the Vatican and strolling around after we chatted, I stopped a gorgeous girl from France, by the river in Rome. While approaching her my mind had the usual doubts and also some positive thoughts too – this is for me, why not expect things to go well? fuck it just go for it and let the adrenaline carry your legs. As luck would have it she was travelling and was open to have a chat. We talked, walked to Piazza Navona, drank wine, ate mozzarella, ate truffles, ate gelato, walked more and went back to her apartment and got primal. After a nap with her hand laid on my chest she subtley asked me to leave at 4am. If there is such thing as love in an evening that was it baby! Still reeling from the experience 2 days later and would have loved to see her again (i tried my best). Oh well. C’est la vie as the fucking French say! This is fucking life indeed. But the full story: before that I missed two other different opportunities. One I didn’t approach, one I was really nervous and it didn’t go well. Constant gardening required. If you could just get confident, then you’re confident for good, that would be ace. It’s not like that but I guess confidence returns quicker each time. like me learning spanish again.
It’s when you bail that you get upset. isn’t that weird. even if we try and fuck up we still think that was awesome. it’s almost like just showing up is enough to feel, maybe not happy, but alive and fulfilled. I mean this generally, not just with women.
As an aside, it occurs to me that it’s not such a big deal just to get off a bus to meet a girl. Sydney ain’t that big and there are a lot of buses. Something to keep in mind when that cutie jumps off at the wrong stop, or you see that perfect 10 at the cafe you’re driving past. No excuses.
The woman (girl??) on the park bench
This one was just funny. At a North Sydney mall, there was a beautiful woman sitting alone on a park bench, smoking. Heads were turning as businessmen walked past. I sat down and said, “I just finished work for the day, how about you?” Her reply: “Um well, I just finished work experience.” SHE LOOKED VERY MATURE FOR HER AGE OK! DON’T JUDGE ME.
So… The passed week was quite insane, I had the pleasure of kissing three girls in three days.
Now you might be confused by the title, so let me clarify. 2 Days after kissing the last girl I was quite confident, and stupidly I allowed my self belief and self acceptance to translate to ego. Because of the thought of having kissed 3 girls in such a short amount of time I began to believe this was something I could do consistently, and that thought would be my downfall.
You see, no man can have any woman he wants. If we could, it would imply we’re able to control the external environment, and if you’ve been down the PUA path you know that it simply cannot be true. Here I was feeling all powerful and confident because of what I’d felt I’d achieved. So I added a cute girl on facebook and we started chatting, got her number and we continued via text, when all of a sudden she just stopped replying. This shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. That all-familiar feeling of rejection and powerlessness had found it’s way back inside. All because I had forgotten why those girls had kissed me in the first place: I was already internally fulfilled, I needed nothing from them, I simply wanted them.
“There’s a Taoist saying that goes something like ‘Everything that’s ever happened or will ever happen, is happening right now.’ ” – End Game
The saying basically states that the way you currently perceive the world is also the way in which you perceive past events and imagine future events. So when I needed the girl I was messaging, 3 for 3 became 0 for 3.
I learned a very important lesson here – In each moment you have the choice to be fulfilled internally, and if you lose sight of that, you can kiss all you’ve worked at so far goodbye. Luckily you get a second chance every second.