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.
By the title of the post, you might think this about to be some amazingly woven story of how restricting my calories helped me build talent and thus get married. Nope. It's just a post about a few really good books I've read recently.
Good Calories, Bad Calories
Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes is a pro-meat book which covers dietary "history" since the 1950s. What I liked most about it was that it covered three angles simultaneously, the political angle (which, unfortunately, seems to have as much of an impact on our nation's diet as any other angle), the research angle, and the biological angle.
We tend to overcomplicate our decisions. Most of the time we know what we should do, but don’t do it. I struggle with this at times as well, however, one method I’ve found useful in making the right decisions is shifting perspectives. Whenever I can’t decide what action to take I shift to one of two alternative perspectives.