Today I'm going to talk about two weaknesses I have and two excellent books which address them. One book was recommended by my friend Brian Sharp during an awesome presentation he did at the Game Developers Conference (video coming soon, Brian?). It's called Difficult Conversations. The second is called the Time Paradox, which I got off my friend Derek's reading list (Derek provides notes for every book, which gives you a good idea of whether you'll like it or not).
Unless I've dated you in the past, you might be surprised to hear that I'm not very good at expressing myself. The irony, of course, is that blogs are about self expression, and the authors that make themselves most vulnerable often have the most success. But if you look at my past articles, I very rarely talk about my feelings. I'm transparent about who I am, what I do, what I've done, where I go, what I think, etc., but how I feel is notably absent.
This is mostly true in real life, as well. I joke around a lot and I'm sarcastic, often in excess, probably because it spares me the necessity of talking about how I feel about anything. In most situations this is fine, and in most situations I don't really have any feelings that ought to be talked about.
In other situations, especially in relationships, it does become a problem. An ex once called one of my friends, crying, saying "Tynan has no emotions!". When I go into a relationship and never express how I feel or show any vulnerability, I don't get as close as I could. The girl either responds by also clamming up, or by getting frustrated when she opens up and I don't. My lack of emotional output is incorrectly interpreted as a lack of interest.
Two events in my life contributed to this. Gambling is the first; being a professional gambler over a long period of time required me to disconnect somewhat from my emotions. Life is too stressful if you get excited every time you win and get upset every time you lose. By the end I could win tens of thousands in a day and it felt like a normal day. When I got busted at the end and lost more than that, I also went about my day like usual. Overall I consider this to be a positive thing, but few things are completely positive or negative. Emotions can be fun, and I don't feel a lot of them. I'm too pragmatic, maybe.
Pickup also contributed. Before pickup I made the mistake of sharing WAY too much with every girl. Beyond the point of making myself vulnerable, I would tell the girl everything I was feeling, which made my emotional state her responsibility. Since then I've been on the other side of the fence and I understand what a burden it is. The antidote in pickup is to cleverly avoid any sort of rejection by never showing any emotion. This works well in the club, but once you're trying to actually connect with someone it becomes an impediment.
I bought Difficult Conversations pretty much exclusively because Brian is an excellent communicator. He strikes a good balance between being light and serious, and I thought that maybe if I read the book I might be pulled over to the serious side a bit more.
But what Difficult Conversations boils down to (to me, at least) is how to express emotion in a reasonable way. It's so well articulated that even being as resistant to emotional self-expression as I am, I found myself nodding in agreement as I read it. The authors give a lot of examples of conversations. The "before" conversations are realistic and to the untrained reader seem hard to negotiate. The "after" conversations are also realistic and do a good job of putting the techniques in context. Near the end the examples became a bit contrived and unrealistic, but that was only the last ten percent.
Another thing I liked about Difficult Conversations was how well it handled my objections. I'd be thinking, "Yeah, but you can't just go around dropping your emotions on everyone in your path", and two chapters later they'd talk about the importance of restraint and "negotiating with your feelings".
One of the most valuable ideas I picked up from Difficult Conversations is that the conversation you think you're having isn't really the one you're having. People tend to argue the facts and blame, but these aspects don't create productive conversations. Instead, what people are actually thinking about (and trying to convert into facts and blame) are how each one contributed to the situation, how they feel about it, and how they think the situation reflects on them. The reason you talk about these things isn't to make everyone feel good and happy, but because they're the root causes of the difficult conversation, and only by addressing them can you work towards resolving the situation.
Relating to Others
I almost gave up reading Time Paradox halfway through. They have a quiz you can take to see how close to the ideal "time perspective" you are, which I took. I was dead on for all but one, which was the "future fatalistic" timeline. I expressed that I didn't have any expectation of anything happening after I die, and apparently I should believe that God is going to take care of me.
So I almost stopped reading, thinking "these guys are idiots". I still don't agree that I should believe that something magical happens after I die, but I'm really glad I stuck with the book. It talks about how each individual views the past, present, and future and how these views shape our lives and decisions.
Time Paradox is full of scientific studies, and it's made very clear that the authors have spent their lives dedicated to researching how we interact with time. The biggest thing I got out of it was an understanding of why other people make some of the decisions that they make. I can think of a number of situations where people made decisions that really baffled me: taking dumb risks, passing up huge opportunities, making weird career decisions, not making health a priority. As I read the book, though, I realized that when you see the world through different time perspectives, you have different priorities and thus make different decisions.
I've always found it difficult to put myself in other people's shoes, but Time Paradox helped a lot. Even if I wouldn't make the same decision that someone else would, I can better understand his motivations, priorities, and thought process. Fascinating and useful stuff.
I feel like it's not my place to say this to a master pua, but anyway..
David Deangelo has some programs that address handling emotions: "Man Transformation" and "Becoming Mr. Right."
A lack of emotional expression communicates to women that we can't be trusted to act on our emotions. They want to know that our emotions will motivate us to fulfill our role in the relationship.
Being an emotional spaz, on the other hand, says that we can't be trusted to act appropriately when we are strongly emotionally affected.
It sounds like you're in denial of your emotions. Perhaps You've learned to suppress them because you've been more towards the spaz end of the spectrum.
Emotional denial, I think, is normal for men. We're sort of.. emotionally damaged... literally.
I think you'll have to accept your emotions before you can learn to act appropriately based on them.
If that last comment wasn't long enough, an addendum: In addition to therapy, I practiced Buddhist meditation for about the same period, on and off for the last eight years.
The most interest insight I've had from that is that you can, with practice, let things run "in parallel": instead of needing to suppress emotion to remain calm, you can just let it be there, doing its thing, while at the same time you're functioning in some other way - planning your bid if the turn comes up a spade, or whatever.
I think part of that's what they mean when they talk about "no-self" in Buddhism: the more I meditate the less it feels like "me" having these experiences, and the more it's just some experiences kind of doing their thing, like I'm just this bag with a bunch of stuff in it. So I see, oh, planning mind thinking about poker play. Fear's there, too. Oh, so's anger, at how that last play went.
Yeah, wow, I totally never saw this post. Now I'm going to comment on it months after the most recent comment.
I've worked with a therapist - psychoanalyst - for around eight years now and credit her with a lot of my views on emotion. Before I went to her - actually the reason I went to her, fundamentally - was that I was really out of touch with my emotions. First, I was really technically smart and into math and science growing up. Second, I was closeted and in denial about being gay for 19 years. The former gave me a good way to experience life without emotion; the latter gave me a reason.
I got lucky with my therapist: rather than the unfortunate stereotype of the psychoanalyst who only digs into history and mommy and daddy, she focuses very much on the present moment, on my relationship with her, what I'm feeling at any moment.
I think G's post up top is interesting but doesn't really coincide with my experience. For me, becoming more expressive of emotion (and it's still an ongoing process) has taken three things:
#1: Practice doing it. At first, just knowing what I was feeling at any given time was like staring into a very dark room and trying to make out shapes. The more I did it, the more my metaphorical eyes adjusted and I could see things more clearly. This one is just raw practice, there's no deeper component to it.
#2: An understanding of the fear that dissuades me from sharing emotion. It does make you more vulnerable to share this stuff, especially the unflattering emotions, which vary I think for everyone but for me are things like admitting I'm afraid, depressed, frustrated, dejected, or angry. This is the kind of stuff you naturally learn not to overshare in pickup and that's the right thing. G's post sounded to me like being emotionally healthy is about being unable to hold your emotions back at any time, but that's a little silly. You do want to interact intentionally with those around you a lot of the time... the third insight is that eventually, in intimate relationships, you do yourself a disservice if you can't turn that planning mind off, and so:
#3: The realization that sharing even unpleasant emotions is important to developing an intimate relationship. It took my therapist literally years to get me to blow up at her. I grew up in a family where expression of anger meant something was horribly wrong, and so I was extremely, extremely resistant to showing it, and felt horrible guilt and discomfort if I ever did. Eventually she managed to demonstrate to me that we could get really angry - livid, even - at each other, and nothing bad would happen. It also meant separating expression of anger from saying hurtful things, which I had always tied together in my head, too. Now I find it quite refreshing to be angry. And the key insight was, developing an intimate relationship involves helping the other person get to know you, and your emotional experience of life is a huge part of who you are as a human creature, so if you're unwilling to share that, you're holding the other person at arm's length.
Before working with her my attitude was, why would I want to share unpleasant emotion like anger or sadness? I don't want to dump that on anyone else. I'll share it if it's attached to a big problem that needs solving, but sharing it for no purpose other than to be like, "look, I'm really angry!" didn't make any sense to me.
Now I get it.
Don't discount #1, though. A lot of it is just raw practice. Numbness to emotion just takes time and disciplined practice to train away.
I have read "Difficult Conversations," also from the library. This one's impressive. It condenses a great deal of the best wisdom I have found into a clear and readable volume. The reminders about what we know and don't know about a given conversation are particularly valuable to me. I also like that they apparently take their time in discussing the three levels of a given conversation and all the rest of it, but after all that information it's a fairly short book. That takes real skill.
The only objection I could come up with is that the example they use to set up the book and to summarize their processes centers on a stressful contract work situation that I would have avoided in the first place or communicated about up front. All in all, that's not much of an objection, given that it's also a very common situation.
Keep reading and recommending, Tynan. You have good taste.
I borrowed "The Time Paradox" from the library. Zimbardo has enough bravado to refer to the Stanford Prison Experiement more than once. I would not be asking people to study my famous failure decades later.
The book has some good and important points to make, especially about the dramatic differences in how people view time. I especially agree with his view of addiction as limiting one's viewpoint to the present. He fails to notice the later stages of addiction, though, when hedonism changes to fatalism, still within the present. Also, they give very little information about the "present holistic" outlook, which is the only one they see as healthy in its own right, not needing to be balanced out by others. If I undestand this work correctly, the "present holistic" view of time is much of what I have acquired via 12-step recovery. All in all, the book is worth spending the time to read. At the very least, it raises one's awareness of differing viewpoints, potentially leading to the empathy that you (Tynan) mentioned in your original posting.
@ Starbuck: :) Good to know there are still some guys out there that have enough understanding of women and humans in general not to be fooled by the largely hyperbolic PUA "community".
@Cyd: I don't know you either, but I feel for you. So many women have told me similar stories. Don't despair, there are still some evolved cavemen that have not turned into metrosexual PUAs out there.
Hear hear to what G. said! Now, I don't know Tynan and don't know if these thoughts expressed are true of them, but I have dated a PUA, and as such....know for a FACT that everything stated applies to him. No balls, no heart, no courage. Just insecurity, narcissism, deep confusion and despair, and an ultimately meaningless existence. And no, it wasn't Mystery. ;P
Tynan, thanks for the thoughtfulness in your post and for the willingness to be as vulnerable as you can. Follow your instincts and you'll get what you need.
As far as "G," I find him difficult to understand. My suspicion is that he uses pomposity to cover up his hostility. It came out at the end though, when he could not resist name calling. I'm a communication major; I know that more and longer words don't communicate; they hide poor thinking.
I have the feeling that your respondent who claims to be a relationship coach can talk about deep feelings but has yet to discover his own.
As I've been immersing myself in poker, I've been overwhelmed by the parallels with pickup, in theory, practice, and in my experience as a student.
I'm not sure if this is pure coincidence, my mind trying to find a pattern where there's not one, or a genuine underlying pattern that probably extends to other areas of learning.
Pickup is the only other thing I can think of that I learned rapidly and by immersion. I made it my world for a year or two. As a result, I remember the learning process, whereas something like web development I can't really remember because I've been learning gradually.
Play to Win - First off, its important that I look at life like a game. When I look at it like a game, I am able to objectify it and limit the impact my emotions have on the decisions I make. When I look at life as serious, and making mistakes as terrifying, I become nervous, anxiety ridden and always looking over my shoulder. When I look at it as a game, I look for ways to "game the system". By that, I mean that I look for the most effective ways to do something and give them a shot. A majority of the time, these ideas don't turn out as planned, or fail even if they do turn out as planned. When I played tribal wars, the first step to winning was learning how to play the game. Learning how to break out of conventional norms and expand my horizons. This also meant doing the exact opposite of what I had been doing. Effort and trying hard doesn't mean a thing if your doing the wrong things or going in the wrong direction. The next thing I learned is that it is A LOT of work to be the best, you need a whole lot of luck on your side and even then, your still 95% likely to fail. And that saying on top is nearly impossible. In the initial stages, I worked far harder than any of my other teammates, I had focused rules and regulations that dictated my actions and did my best to stay under the radar and not get noticed. This is the point where luck came into the equation to a large extent. I had built only offensive units and was nearly 100% open to attack. It is a paradox that at the times that I am the strongest and in the most powerful position, they are also the times that I'm the weakest and most venerable to attack. All that I really had to protect me was appearances and whatever bluffs I could manage. The second part of the luck equation was my surrounding environment. To start off with, I had a strong tribe with me to help me in my conquest. The second was that I had a non tribe member who was a solid player and had invested a lot of time and energy into building up some plump villages that were ripe for the taking. The more I look back, the more I attribute my success to good luck and my failures to lack of skill, effort and time, coupled with burnout. It takes a lot of effort to get to the top of the top, but I've learned to be careful and heed the warning of the tortoise and the hair. Natural ability and skill won't out last persistence and determination. I believe that those, regardless of skill, with the burning fire in their bellies will always come out the victors of the war.
Internal Locus of Control - The importance of an undying fire in the belly in unquestionable, but the question becomes, what is fuelling that fire. Is it the desires of friends, family, and society, or does it come from deep within. Would you follow this path no matter the thoughts and opinions of anyone else. This is an aspect that I've been slowly developing, and that I don't believe you ever finish developing. For me, it started off with taking control of my emotions. I used to put my emotional hot buttons out where everyone could see them and push them. This caused particular problems in past relationships. I didn't look at myself as an independent person anymore, and felt I needed their approval and acceptance to be a complete person. Looking back I realize how that creates a lose lose situation for everyone involved. Today it drives me crazy when people look to me for their self esteem. Not so much in a way that it bugs me, but more just seeing how silly the situation is and the pain of seeing my past and current self in their actions. After I took back control of my emotions, I was able to create my own independent prospective of my life and the things that I wanted to do. I feel this is really where I learn from my mistakes, but also appreciate the importance of taking action. When I followed advice of others in the past, I didn't take credit for both its successes and its failures. Now I do what I do to simply learn and experience the consequences of my actions. No one knows better than me how many mistakes I make, but I love them all in their own little way. Each has their own value and lesson packed into them. Each time that I take a step back to analysis my mistakes, I learn a little bit more about myself and who I am. My favourite learning process is going to the extremes in a category of my life, experiences and then determining my preferences. Looking back at leaving all my stuff at my apartment, I don't regret my choice because of what its taught me. But its also made me realize that being a complete hardcore minimalist might not be exactly what I want. But after voluntarily experiencing the extremes, I have a much better idea of what it is that I want and that which provides value to me. One of my favourite parts about minimalism is the removal of the excess. I learned to question the possessions in my life, how critical are they, what would happen if I didn't have them anymore. I learned that I might miss something here or there, but for the most part, I have ready access to anything that I really want or need.
Focus - While focus is a double edged blade, I have found it to be a tremendously important tool. I feel like I have a natural ability to focus really intensely on things that I get really interested in. When I first heard a tape about real estate investing, everything really clicked for me. That one drive out to Vulcan sparked a journey that I'd best describe as lifelong mastery. I devoured books on the subject for months. Then moved onto experiencing it for myself. I learned to cut what didn't work and stick with what did. I then developed the fortitude to let my investment grow on its own. I then began to count my chickens before they hatched, which was quite the mistake. I took the prospective that its better to live for today and worry/plan for the future as it comes. I look at this as taking my eye off the ball. I then realized that my financial area of my life really needed my focus again. I think I've done a pretty good job of simplifying and getting down to the basics of whats really important. The lessons I've learned are well worth the cost. I've also realized that skills don't always transfer. I know a very specific skill of buying and holding physical silver in small denominations. That doesn't mean I know what will happen with the bond market, the stock market, or even the silver market. Everyday I learn, everyday the market works to find my weaknesses and use them against me. The best solution I've come up for this problem is the internal locus of control. I love my silver just the way it is, it doesn't need to do anything for me to be happy with it. And even if I lost it, I realize that its not that big of a deal. The learning experience I received is a far greater value than its nominal worth. To be honest, I'm really just trying to game the system. Practice new methods of playing the game, see which works out best, and even just gain some prospective by playing the game for an extended period of time. I love having a longterm time horizon, and I believe its the key reason why I have been successful in the market where others haven't. I'd be perfectly content to hold onto my silver until I die, and passing it on to my children and grandchildren. With that prospective, drops in price have a minimal impact on my emotions. And at times, I even embrace it because it allows me to stack even more metal.
Delayed Gratification - I believe the key features to delayed gratification is a longterm prospective and accepting everything as it is, not needing change. When I enter into relationships now, I first make sure that I'm happy with and can fully accept both myself and the other person fully and completely, just the way they are right now. I understand it is likely that one or both of us will change as time passes, but that change isn't a requirement or expectation. Nobody is perfect, and I know how far from perfect I am, and that I will never become perfect. My only real objective is to walk the path. The path is never ending. While there are forks in the road and different destinations to reach, following the path is the only thing that is truly important. I believe this prospective ties in with having a longterm prospective. I look at relationships and everything else in my life as learning experiences. I don't enter into a relationship believe that she is the one and only girl, I look at her as the perfect girl for right here and right now. That's all we really have. I would never take a girl who might be perfect for what I imagine my future self to be, but she isn't perfect for my current self. It creates the requirement of change, which I believe creates unhappiness. Honestly ties in very nicely here. I don't censor what I say so that I don't hurt feeling or pretend to be someone I'm not. I'd much rather tell a girl the truth as I see it, have her flip out on me and leave, then to lie and pretend that we are right for each. This type of honesty can create short term pain, but I believe it prevents future pain. I find it interesting how much all these different traits or principles tie into each. Its really difficult if not impossible to have one really nailed down, but not the other. They are all interrelated, and as you integrate one feature, the others will be affected as well.