Friday, July 17, 2009

Don't Just Feel.... Do.

A culture may be called decadent when its members exult in what they are, rather than strive to become what they should be.

What characterizes the protagonists of great fiction in an ascendant culture? It is that they are not yet what they should be. The characters of Western literature in its time of flowering either must overcome defining flaws, or come to grief.

The more one wallows in one's inner feelings, of course, the more anxious one becomes. Permit me to state without equivocation that your innermost feelings, whoever you might be, are commonplace, dull, and tawdry. Thrown back upon one's feelings, one does not become a Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker, but a petulant, self-indulgent bore with an aversion to mirrors.
One of the great myths of our modern self-esteem cuture is that there is such a thing as your "authentic self," and that to do anything other than what you feel you want to do is somehow phony. Children are taught to have self-esteem whether or not they deserve it. That is: feeling good about oneself is decoupled from actually doing anything worth feeling good about. It's a profoundly damaging thing to believe. If you are already perfect just the way you are, why bother doing anything at all? (Andrew Sullivan said it better than I can in Time.)

One can get away with this kind of soft-headed sophistry in a comfortable society and a robust economy that has been built on the hard-work, sacrifice, drive, and yes, ambition of millions of progenitors. In moments of true crisis (and no, wondering what you are going to do after graduation does not count as a crisis), the absolute worthlessness of people who operate this way is exposed. Who would you rather be in a foxhole with: a boy who thinks he's special no matter what he does; or a man who questions his worthiness unless it is backed up by measurable action?

It's a short hop from the self-esteem culture to a common mistake people make when they read this blog and other writings on similar topics. The complaint goes like this: "You are being inauthentic. You are being phony. If you knowingly calibrate your actions based on careful study of human nature, you are being manipulative and just a sad human being."

Let me tackle the "manipulative" charge first, because that's easiest. In any social situation, in any situation whatsoever, a person has things they desire and things they do not. When you go to the coffee shop to get a cup of coffee, you are acting on a set of desires. That's obvious, and not evil at all. It's just getting some coffee.

"Well fine," says the arguer, "but what about when your desires involve other people?" To which I reply, it's exactly the same. When you are having a laugh with a friend, it's because you want to. When you get angry at someone who cuts you off, it's because —in that moment, at least— you want to. And when you talk to a pretty girl, whether you use game or not, it's because you want to be with her (whether as a friend or a lover or both, it makes no difference). There's absolutely nothing wrong with this either. Of course, when other people are involved, they may have desires counter to your own, and that's where human interaction gets so famously sticky. But the mere presence of other actors does not make one's own actions wrong.

Finally, on the charge of being "manipulative," I'd also point out that I'm not using my knowledge and skills to hurt anyone, cheat anyone, or steal from anyone. I don't "trick" women into bed. I just put myself in the best light possible. It has been and always will be up to her to decide if she wants to comply. Calling game manipulative is like calling a job applicant manipulative because he shows up for the interview wearing a sharp tie and a crisply pressed suit. Should he come dressed like an unshaven slob because that's somehow more "real"?

So much for that. But what about the "phony and inauthentic" charge? To even level such a charge, someone has to be operating from the assumption that everything he or she does, feels, or thinks is magically sui generis, and uninfluenced by any outside factor at all. A special soul, or little set-apart homonculous in the brain that operates the machinery of the body and speech. Of course, this is a patently absurd assesrtion, which is why no one ever actually asserts it. (Your very ability to read this sentence, which feels so natural and easy to do, is predicated on an incredibly long list of environmental factors, not least of which is you happen to have grown up hearing and reading English all around you and not, say, Swahili.)

But logical assertion is not the strength of our little straw man. He just feels that what others are doing is inauthentic. He can never exactly say why. In the self-esteem culture, it's enough to feel one's way smugly through life, and never back things up with reason or, heaven forfend, action. It was not always thus. There have been many cultures, including our own North American one not so long ago, in which feelings might have made for interesting discussion, but in which it was far more important to analyze a situation and act accordingly. The discoveries surrounding modern physics, modern cellular biology, and modern computing felt strange and foreign at one time, too. But behold the wonders we have wrought: space flight, the polio vaccine, and this blog, natch.

The irony of the advance of biological anthropology and the study of cognitive biases is that it has come in an age in which (most) people are less prone to put in the hard work and study necessary to make use of it. Because their sense of self-worth is caught up in daily affirmations rather than daily action. They are like Holden Caulfield, so befuddled in a haze of "authenticity" that cheerful, direct action actually offends them in some vague though tangible way. Everything's crumby, don't you know?

And the grandest irony of all is that those in the "authenticity" camp have world-views that are every bit as socially and biologically constructed as those who see through the illusion. They just don't have the courage or the intelligence to admit it.

However you, dear reader, can use this to your advantage. Sometimes people worry about "game saturation." You only need worry about this if you are using canned one-liners from Neil Strauss's book. If your game is based on a solid understanding of human cognitive biases and human social dynamics, you're already well on your way to a solid and lasting happiness determined by decisive, informed action — and no book or movement will alter that.


  1. My response

  2. Interesting post, 691. I left my comments over on your site.

    One thing I might take issue with is your assertion that all the things in your list we can all agree are "shallow." I would make the small amendment that if done solely for that reason, they are shallow. A lot of the things on that list can come about as byproducts of living as a cheerful, energetic, socially-engaged and interested person.

  3. People need to realize that all people are selfish and that the only person responsible for looking after your best interest is yourself. Praying to god or any type of higher being will accomplish nothing.

    Everybody is acting on their own interest. Even the so callled volunteers of public service do it because the action makes them feel accomplished or "good" emtionally. People who donate money to also feel better about themselves since they have been brainwashed by society and cultlure to believe that the act is good, thus worthy of positive emotions when the action has taken place. Life loses its mystery when you realize that humans are driven by emotion and chemical impluses.

    Using game is not maniuplative, since naturals are born with it and use it subconsciously. The good about aquiring experience is that once you know how women and game works in reality, you automatically come up with your own version of game and thus have no need of going back to reading those PUA BS. Nothing is more valuable than having a good mentor or example when you are growing up.

    At the end of the day, people are going to die so hedonism calls for being "selfish" by satisfying your own goals and desires. Nothing is going to matter when your heart stops and your conscious is obliterated by the defunct brain matter. So screw the self-esteem issue I see no problem with being an selfish narssasistic jerk is I am able to live a life I desire. Those are merely labels losers attach to me, so that they can numb themselves from reality.

  4. MD

    You're right. But many times you forget that these things are shallow because you do them naturally. To someone who doesn't do them naturally, however, it does feels shallow and arbitrary and manipulative; there is an ick factor. Because of this, they are reluctant to engage in them. But the only way to get good at these things is to get over the ickiness and embrace the shallowness.

    So, my point is that when someone accuses game of being manipulative, the real answer is: yes, it is manipulative, but so is everything so get over it.

  5. @Anonymous:

    I agree with you in principle. But I have to say I have mellowed in my ancient old age.

    I don't see a need to be a "selfish narcissistic jerk," and still get pleasure out of life. In fact, I find I get more pleasure if I play along with some of the basic expectations people have about decency and consideration for others. As long as they don't want me to debase myself by embracing some twisted equalist philosophy, I'm happy to be a generous, friendly, open-handed person.

    But I think that's the same thing you are saying: who cares what people call it, right? You know what's best for you.


    True dat. It doesn't matter what terms we use, as long as we're consistent. You can always spot a rat when he wants a word to mean one thing for himself and something different for everyone else.

  6. I failed to mention the concept of labeling. I never advocated acting like a selifsh jerk; I was merely illustrating that usually losers meaning those who are disgruntled with life view people getting what they want with envy/jealously and attach lables to "put them down." I find this extremely enjoyable since I know I am doing this right when a women calls me an "ahole" or a "jerk" becaues it translates to me being unmanipulatable by their feminine powers. This is covered in PUA material as shaming language or tactic, women are especially gulity of using cliche phrases such as "grow up" and "you can't handle a real women" when they fail to change a man's behavior.

    Caring about people's opinion doesn't lead to anywhere worthwhile or beneficial, unless it is constructive criticism from a trusted friend. People usually give advice through ignorance or with their own selfish agenda in mind. Such as women who take their boyfriend shopping, purposely choose unflattering clothing so that other women will avoid him.

    Being happy, courterous and respectful is very important for the first meetings. All people judge you in the first few mintues via appearance, body language and vocabulary. It is extremely difficult to change their perception once they have categorized you in their mind. Example, my friend never mentions that he is part Asian to women... you can see the change in reaction of women when they assume that he is not well endowed, thus eliminating him from the short fling category.

    Master Dogen hopefully your generocity comes from a place of mercy and not forced by the aggression of others. Accepting inferiority is a sign of decreasing testosterone, I would lift weights and get t replacement. Nothing personal, but old men lose their drive and "manliness" as they age.

  7. Anonymous:

    Ah, don't worry about me, chap. I was just being facetious. I'm not actually old. I was just comparing my current self to, say, my 18-year-old self which was several years ago.

    I'm in my prime and still on the upslope of "manliness". And when I'm nice to assholes it's because I choose my battles. Of course, as you say, there's a fine line between being "above it all" and letting people mock you or fuck with you or take advantage of you. I find that a clear mind and a feeling of inner-strength is all that's required to tell the difference and act accordingly. You're absolutely right that putting a little shit in his place has a distinct appeal.

    True words on the lifting ... young or old, there's nothing like blasting your quads to charge up the old phazer banks.

  8. Awesome post, MD. Couldn't be more spot on.

  9. with practice, game b/c instinct anyway...once you internalize the beliefs and belief in yourself, it's not manipulative....early on, and i've always felt this, routine-based game is disingenuous, but it builds the beginning momentum some guys need in the confidence department...and it opens their eyes to glimpses of the matrix at work when they are around women/people.

  10. I always considered "be yourself" to mean "be congruent."

  11. I always considered "be yourself" to mean "be congruent."

    Very pithy. This works well both as a philosophical statement and as a way to interpret what other people mean when they say "be yourself."

    And of course, being congruent is one of the most important things in dealing with women, and one of the hardest barriers to overcome for aspiring PUAs.

  12. You're wrong to give daily affirmations such a bad rap. You're acting as if they're one and the same with laziness, but there's no correlation. A man can take cheerful direct action every day, and *also* recite affirmations. As for their effectiveness, do you really think that, every other factor being equal, the guy who tells the mirror "you're ugly" will outperform the guy who tells the mirror "you're awesome"?

  13. GLowing Face Man:

    Good catch. Actually, I am in agreement with you. I should have phrased that better.

    Perhaps a better way to say it is: "People who think they are special no matter what and therefore never take any action that might risk disproving it."

    You're right: affirmations have little or nothing to do with it.