Mastering One’s Appetites: A Critical Character Challenge

In the present series of articles (see also:  Building Character:  The “10 Commandments” of Socialization,  10 Commandments of Character Development – Part 2, 10 Commandments of Character Development – Part 3,  10 Commandments of Character Development – Part 4, and The Power of Truth – Commandment of Character Number 4), we’ve been discussing the life lessons my years of experience as a therapist have shown me must be mastered for a person to forge a solid, healthy character.  In my book, Character Disturbance, I refer to these essential tasks the “1o commandments” of character development.  Adequately addressing week’s topic is particularly challenging.  That’s because the “commandment” we’ll be discussing involves one of the most important yet difficult to explain psychological principles there is, and presenting it in a manner that is both sufficiently explanatory and easily understandable is no small undertaking.  So let me beg the readers’ indulgence in advance for the necessary oversimplifications that follow.

Within us all are two great drives: the drive to thrive (i.e. to survive and prosper) and the desire for pleasure.  And, our inescapable lot, from our earliest beginnings, to be more solidly aligned from the psychological standpoint with what Sigmund Freud called the “pleasure-principle” as opposed to the life-sustaining principle.  Think about it for just a minute.  While there are rare exceptions (as in the cases of fetal alcohol syndrome, abuse perpetrated upon a fetus in utero, etc.) we begin our lives in a Eden-like environment, where all our needs are met without concern.  We’re also “one” with our intrauterine environment and quite “unaware” (i.e., consciousness has not yet fully emerged) of almost everything around us.  Then suddenly, at the end of gestation, we’re thrust into this cold, cruel world, and our first real awareness of earthly life  – cast away from the safety and security of the womb – is not at all to our liking. Most of us cry and sometimes pitch quite a fit, until. perhaps, we’re warmly wrapped or coddled or nursed for the first time.  We then get our first “taste” of pleasure in the relief we get from our distress.  So from a psychological standpoint, you could say that we’re all born in fear of life itself until we get our first taste of pleasure.  And from our first experience of getting our needs satisfied (gratified), everything begins to change for us.  Moreover, if we’re fortunate enough to get consistent love and nurturing (i.e. our needs are met and our episodic distress is tended to) we experience even more pleasure. That’s when we gradually begin to like this thing we call life. We become attached to it (what we really get attached to are all the pleasures we manage to experience) and once we’re attached enough, most of us live in a degree of fear of death unless we experience too much pain.  Many folks who experience unrelenting pain – even pain of a psychological as opposed to a physical nature – entertain notions of death – preferring a release from pain as opposed to a life with pain (which for most of us, seems like no “life” at all).  So, as you can see, from our earliest days the “pleasure principle” has us firmly in it’s grasp.

Coming to value life itself, and subordinating our pleasure-seeking drive is one of the greatest tasks in character development.  As I say in Character Disturbance with “commandment” number 5 (p. 141) It’s all about appropriately disciplining and managing our appetites as well as our likes and dislikes – something impaired characters never learn to do very well.  The lesson we have to learn is pretty simple, really, just very difficult:  sometimes we simply have to do what we really dislike or what causes us pain or displeasure in order to thrive in the long run; and sometimes we must really deny ourselves something that feels really good or we believe will bring us pleasure in order to have the best shot at living a long, healthy life.  Let’s just take one appetite, for example:  our appetite for food.  There’s an old saying:  some people eat to live, while others live to eat.  The saying sums up the grand dilemma many with food appetite control problems face.  Some foods taste really good but they’re really bad for us.  And, of course, most of us are aware that we can always have too much of even a good thing (the rates of Type II Diabetes, heart disease, etc. all testify to this).  Developing character is largely about subordinating our desire for pleasure and our disdain for pain for the greater cause of sustaining life itself. Doing that well involves disciplining all of our appetites (our sexual appetites, and our appetites for power, money, prestige, etc.) and tempering all of our likes and dislikes.

In addition to the many other things they might be, the most seriously character disturbed folks among us are the consummate hedonists. They’re so firmly aligned with the pleasure principle that they won’t push themselves to do anything they find distasteful even when it would be life-enhancing for them and ultimately in their best interest to do so, and they also won’t deny themselves something they take a particular pleasure in even if it’s something taking them steadily down the road of personal destruction.  Disturbed characters also want their appetites and desires satisfied immediately, just as they seek immediate escape from the uncomfortable.  Psychologists call this a failure to learn how to “delay gratification” of their wants and needs.  In Character Disturbance, I give several examples of the kinds of destructive behaviors that result from the disturbed character’s  “hedonistic thinking” and mindset.  In a way, many disturbed characters are like children who never cultivated the will to bear discomfort.  And for years, when I was working primarily with younger persons diagnosed with all sorts of conditions from ADHD to Conduct Disorder, it became abundantly clear how crucial it was to help these youngsters increase their willingness to endure the “torture” of attending to the mundane and boring as opposed to just pumping them with medicine to help them focus.

Solidity and integrity of character in large measure arise out of a person’s willingness to value life above all else and to put the pleasure principle in it’s proper place as the humble servant of life.  True, a life with no pleasure is not much of a life at all.  But a life of indulgence – geared strictly toward the avoidance of all distasteful and the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake is a reliable recipe not only for an early physical death but for a certain death of spirit as well.  It’s a matter of proper balance.  And people of good character have necessarily become the masters of their likes and dislikes and effective managers of their appetites.  They know when to say “no” to themselves when there’s something titillating that they should probably stay away from and when to push themselves to do something even when it’s painful because it serves the greater cause of life and in the long run is helpful to their overall well-being.

One hears a lot of talk these days about all the various “addictions” people have. And while I know that genuine addictions do exist, many folks whose lives are out of control are not so much suffering from an addiction as they are from a failure to learn the important lessons of self-management – lessons that must be taught from an early age and reinforced many times over the years.  In next week’s post, we’ll delve into that topic a bit deeper before moving on to the next “commandment.”

64 thoughts on “Mastering One’s Appetites: A Critical Character Challenge

  1. I have seen this evolve in my own life, sometimes slower than I’d like but I’ve seen an interesting thing happen. Just an example……Doing things like dishes, laundry, household chores. I used to be fairly unable to make myself tend to things like this when something more enjoyable was an option and of course there was always something more enjoyable! I’m really not sure what happened or when it happened and I’m sure it is still happening! Somewhere along the line i actually grew to enjoy doing these things, taking pleasure in a job well done and the benefit mentally of having things in order.
    It’s almost as if I just stopped differentiating between something that had to be done and something I wanted to do. Maybe just a simpler mind set……to learn to just take “pleasure” no matter what I’m doing? maybe the middle road? Not detesting the mundane and not over valuing or seeking out the whew hoo “excitement”. Just living life as it comes and letting go of preferences to the best of my ability.

    1. Puddle I know what you mean. The chore converts into a source of pride, like mastery or respecting oneself and everything that makes up oneself.

      1. Claire, I think it may be a form of self respect and when you get older, ideally you derive “pleasure” from doing things that are in your best interest vs being a child and just doing whatever suits you? I don’t know.

        When you typed about the DonJuan movie……something occurred to me, just a thought…I wonder if this is partially to do with life moving faster and the family and communities breaking apart, leading to a more self centered perspective in general.

  2. I work with some younger colleagues and one thing I notice is they have zero interest in people yet grow frustrated when those same people don’t find them fascinating in return.

    They grow really frustrated, as if I’m a screen that is supposed to give them feedback. Or if my “oh, that’s neat” comment is not big enough, as in “wow!” they seem to get really peeved.

    I was taught growing up to ask the other person about themselves, to show interest in the other person and who they are. And it wasn’t superficial, you can’t help but find people interesting when you do this.

    It doesn’t follow the commandment above exactly but it’s one I’ve noticed. In another Character Disturbance Pushback event the movie “Don Jon” addresses this one-way tendency trending in our culture right now, it was thoughtfully produced and carried a worthwhile message.

    1. It is a great feeling, when other people recognize us and I believe there are few people, who genuinely don’t care about being appreciated by other people around them. Some just haven’t grown bigger than their innate narcissism.

      1. It’s all part of human interaction. Ideally you are around a lot of like minded people and they are genuine when they recognize something you have done or discovered, yeah? But like Claire said……it’s kind of easy to take interest in people in general because they are all so fascinating. We are all on a learning curve and as long as you mean no harm, thats ok. If your heart is in the right place to start with I think learning is always an end result, even when you do something that is off track. If the other person cares about you and your relationship with them, they will make efforts to help you understand and grow.

      2. Don’t some disturbed characters fool others to think they care, at least a good portion of the time? Is it easy to be affable when one sees another person fulfilling a special role in gratifying them? Can’t some people take an ‘interest’ in other people that’s more of a cold, calculating kind, seeing them as objects to be used?

        1. of course…….that’s the Spath in a nut shell !
          I just looked up the meaning of “affable” and this is how they gave the example! LOL

          he would have us believe that his sexual advances were merely the charming excesses of an affable rogue.

          J, I think that in relationships it’s a mix? Because in a relationship, you meet each others needs. You see a value in the other person, therefor you want to meet their needs and visa versa. I value you and what you add to my life. You make my life better. you are special to me, unique. I want to show you that and I want to be with someone who feels the same towards me.
          Isn’t there always a certain subjective interest? how do you recognize a value if it’s not a value that you adhere to yourself? Like, if someone is a very ambitious person…a “mover and a shaker”…..I would not be interested in that quality because it’s not a quality that I value in a person. So I would not be interested in that person I suppose. Someone else might be though.

        2. You are probably right J, but in this one case, at least CAs in their own twisted way, see everyone has having potential worth.!!!

          I’ve met some CAs who don’t remember peoples’ names and other CAs who were really good at probing into people and getting to know them inside and out.

      3. I mean, true interest in people has to be seeing them as valuable in themselves, beyond what they can do for us.

        1. Very perplexing subject. My CA parent was very good at seeing other people as having worth, first in their own right, then figuring out how CA parent could use that person’s strengths for CA parent’s own gain.

          After getting away from CA parent I’ve met people who to me are excruciatingly boring in that they have zero curiosity about people. They think they have all the answers about everything, or they never even got so far as to say “I have all the answers” just zero contemplation.

          It is tough to say which people frighten me more!!

        2. “You see a value in the other person, therefore you want to meet their needs and visa versa.”

          I find that an apt description. We want the other person to honor us just like we honor them.

          “Isn’t there always a certain subjective interest? How do you recognize a value if it’s not a value that you adhere to yourself?”

          I think that one can find another person interesting, even if that person was contrary to the subject’s values. One would just find them interesting in a different way.

          1. LOL, and then there are people who are definitely interesting and best kept at a distance.

        3. Claire, it makes sense that only caring for oneself doesn’t exclude awareness of others’ nature.

          Where does that lead us? Maybe it’s better put that true interest in others asks how one can be mutually beneficial.

  3. Dr. Simon,

    Thank you for your recent post.

    You have so clearly made this distinction between valuing life and pleasure. It is clearly made, yet I’ll admit having read your post 3-4 times letting it sink in… I have not heard it put so succinctly before.

    Reflecting upon this the past couple days I realize the benefit to being routinely and consciously in touch with the choice between life and pleasure. Sure, most of us intuitively learn that there are times to deprive ourselves of pleasure. Yet, I can imagine the possibility of greater freedom and grace in living, less indecision and agonizing over choices that may be the result of realizing the choice is always there: “Will it please me?” vs. “Will it contribute to my/others health and overall well-being?” Certainly it is fine to choose pleasure, but conscious awareness of the ever present choice between pleasure and life introduces the possibility of a higher level of control and skill in living.

    For example, I imagine that I am driving out west and spot a wild tumbling river in the gorge to my right and I feel a strong impulse to experience it more closely. Acting on the pleasure principle alone, I might immediately drive off the embankment and be one with the river–forever. Of course, considering life would prompt me to wait for a safe exit to the right. In this sense, constant awareness of the hazards to life creates contexts where the pursuit of pleasure is safe and even life-affirming. This is a comical example, yet I am mortified to realize that on occasion I have chosen the proverbial cliff.

    1. …which makes me wonder, “In what areas of my life am I ‘jumping off the cliff’ instead of choosing life?…

      1. Chris….Do you think that there is a way to do both? I know sometimes choosing pleasure is blatantly the “wrong” choice. However sometimes I think it is possible to do both…..actually your example is pointing at that!
        I’m glad you are back……I have so many questions I’d like to ask you!

        1. Hi Puddle. Sure, I do think both are possible. I think it’s one of those balancing things, and it’s not always easy to choose. Suppose I get home from work and I’m really tired. What is more life affirming? get some needed rest or try to stick with my exercise routine? I know which one would be harder! 😉

          1. Chris… doubt! Every afternoon I run into something similar…… by 2-3 pm I am mentally shot. I literally can not wrap my head around another choice/ decision/ activity/ project. So, what to do about dinner? Usually I just can’t do it. And when I say “can’t”, I mean CAN’T! It’s like a car out of gas… can’t move! So, dinner gets turned into a snack or left overs or worse. But I know my brain needs to stop! But my brain probably also needs food and nutrition……things like this are very difficult to figure out.

            So, rest or exercise? Maybe just a small bit of exercise and THEN some rest. Keep the afternoon exercise short and easy and fast!

    1. I’ve been working with a few young-ish (early 20’s) adults and I can tell you, even the ones who are not CA still have some strange selfish traits.

      What I really notice is: the ones who were raised in families where they had more siblings, are the most adaptive.

      I hate to say this, but: the ones who were only children often have great test scores and credentials, but … just. don’t. get it. They don’t get that other people exist. They don’t get that when someone asks them to be considerate in this one area and they say “sure” and then fail to follow through, that their life will get difficult (the siblings will retaliate in other ways.) They grow frustrated easily when people do not clap at everything they say. They make friends but cannot seem to keep them and scratch their heads over why.

      It’s just bizarre to witness. I think they grew up with the Internet and are used to just pressing a sequence of buttons and getting what they want. They have loads of knowledge in certain areas, but very lopsided and inadequate experiential knowledge in other areas.

      It is really scary to think what’s coming in the next five, ten years as more and more of these only children raised by screens emerge into the adult world. But in the work world, they tend to not be valuable assets over the long term. They want to be valuable assets and they are often very intelligent but they sap morale and seem unteachable.

  4. ” “It’s unsurprising that Mystery’s approach is deeply rooted in evolutionary theory; the preface to Mystery’s book begins, “Nature will unapologetically weed your genes out of existence if you don’t take action and learn how to attract women now.” Pretty harsh. Darwin’s theory of sexual selection as a combination of female choosiness and male competition is uncontested in the Community. The social Darwinism of the pub and club can therefore be approached like a science.” Dominance itself is a huge help in groups(especially in larger ones), because otherwise making decisions that concern a group would be more cumbersome and time-consuming with everyone attempting to sort it out, quibbling about this and that. The role of a leader is to be a fast, efficient decision-maker. Decisions of a leader aren’t automatically good, but a leader can guide to prosperity or ruin(or not make much of a difference at all).

    How does this relate to the matter? Considering evolution, we’d be lost, if evolution favored only the aggressive and the selfish. Haven’t males with empathy been necessary for survival of offspring?

    Would there be humans, if cavemen had been brutes, who only care about getting gratified before moving on the next conquest, like we tend to use the word to describe the caveman mentality?

    There’s some fallacy here that if you aren’t a modern “caveman” in your approach, you must be some passive weeny, who can’t make it. Not true.

    1. I think the PUA theory is based on a caricature of humanity that rings more of gorilla social structure than human. What we really know about “cave men” from studying traditional societies is that their social structures varied quite a bit (e.g. see Jerad Diamond’s recent book “The World Until Yesterday”) and at least some were fairly egalitarian. And, BTW, humans aren’t even that closely related to gorillas as they are to chimps and, more pertinently, bonobos which have a much looser social structure (read “Sex at Dawn” by Jetha and Ryan). In anthropological circles, I believe that human males are regarded as fairly cooperative compared with other primates: For example “Male Parental Investment” or MPI is a trait usually considered high in humans. (See, for example, Robert Wright’s “The Moral Animal.” esp. p. 58 onward).

      1. This “PUA” article has shattered me emotionally………why? because of the one line in the article about touch.
        “You build Comfort and Trust once attraction has been established through rapport, which pick-up artists believe can be fast-tracked via touch. Seduction is possible once a woman is sufficiently attracted and comfortable.”
        I think that is how the Spathtardx hooked me, literally right from the first night. It is something I lacked as a baby, as a child and can’t provide myself as a single adult female. being held is like kriptonite to me and he requested that the very first night we were together. He asks me to lay on his shoulder and to let him hold me. I have NEVER had a man do that before and I actually remember thinking it was strange but being touch starved and, at a subconscious level, craving it like a drug…….I was hooked. That was an aspect to the relationship that was never missing. Even huge fights and breakups……always followed by him holding me. He ALWAYS asked me “put your head on my shoulder……I just want to hold you”.
        The thought that the reality of the whole entire relationshi* was a complete scam, right from the beginning is just so disturbing to me I can’t even find words to express the feeling. Every “I love you”? For almost two years? when I actually meant it 1000%?
        It’s devastating. It’s beyond heartbreaking. I think the combination of heartbreak, humiliation and deception is something that a new word needs to be invented for.

        1. worse J……..I don’t even know.
          I’ve been watching these shows about psychopaths, women and men. To me, it’s so unimaginable what other people can do to people. it stretches my mind beyond description. You know how it is when you think of the vastness of the universe or the distance between planets or galaxies? Just the distance to the edge of our galaxy is something that hurts my brain to think about but the question is still there. like the thought/ question is not something i can remove from my mind. It is something that I can not understand from my limited perspective yet I want to know because then my mind would be able to let go of it. It’s the same way with this whole CA/ spat mess. It is so bizarrely unimaginable that what he did actually happened. then when the reality sinks in again……it just fills me with so much pain, sadness and humiliation,,,,,indescribable.
          These people do it to their own parents, spouses, CHILDREN! HOW? how could you be with someone every day, in their home,,,,,,see the look of love in their eyes, listen to their words of devotion and expressions of gratitude and appreciation for you and know that you are leading them down the road to emotional and mental ruin?
          It’s not like I loved or even liked everything about him…..I was in a constant battle within myself because the messages were so mixed, his expressions of love and caring one minute and the lack of corresponding actions the next. I did not feel safe and that is all I wanted and it’s what he promised. I didn’t know what to believe. and I know I have my issues and that I’m far from perfect and have a lot to learn in regards to relationships so it was easy for me to self blame and self doubt…….not to mention the tactics he used to fuel that innate tendency.
          I just read something I had saved in a computer “note”. I don’t know who wrote it or where I copied it from but I could identify with it so strongly NOW.

          “Women represent to the male narcissist the greatest potential threat for sustaining a narcissistic injury. Narcissists, for this one reason, fear the female gender, but do not evidence their fear when associating with females. Instead their behavior and words indicate a dislike and distrust of female motives and intentions.

          The narcissist is incapable of coping with the myriad array of emotions that women are capable of displaying. Dealing with these feminine emotions is a potential and real threat to the narcissist’s image as a man or a lover. Female sentiments mentally tax the narcissist. Because he exhausts so much energy thinking about himself, he doesn’t have the vigor to handle female emotions. Since he knows that he is incapable of sustaining a meaningful relationship with a woman he sees these emotions as an even greater threat for narcissistic injury.

          A narcissist is skilled at the art of verbal abuse and the narcissist is proficient at verbally abusing women. Narcissists like to frustrate women. Their behavior toward a woman keeps her on the edge of insanity because she doesn’t know what is coming next. The narcissist uses what he deems the blunt or brutal truth to eat away at any attributes that a woman might have. The woman is left with no self-esteem when the narcissist is through with her. This is the way he wants her. If her self esteem is not in tact he can gain control over her and retain her as narcissistic supply.

          Narcissists proficiently spin a web of suspense around themselves. They feed on the idea that they are mysterious to others. This is an additional way they have of aggravating women.

          And, please ladies don’t invade the narcissist’s personal space. Remember the narcissist can occupy your personal space anytime he wants because he considers himself “special”. If you cross the threshold of his personal space get ready to encounter a narcissistic rage.

          The narcissist may sign a marriage certificate, but in his mind he is never “really married” to you. He has simply captured you as a source of narcissistic supply. You are either financially advantageous to him, increase his status, or with your beauty you are an enhancement on his arm.

          Narcissists do not enjoy sex or want to have sex with those that they consider to be significant others (wives, girlfriends). But, they will jump at the chance to have sex with a woman they consider to be a vamp. Sex with significant others requires intimacy and a narcissist is incapable of achieving intimacy with others. Narcissists are prone toward having a Madonna/Vamp Complex.

          He uses denial as a defense mechanism and does not see his extracurricular affairs as being adultery. He reasons that there are no “emotions involved” in these affairs so he is not cheating. He fails to admit to himself and others, however, that for him there are no emotions involved in his marriage either. He simply is not capable of feeling any emotions even in his marriage.

          The narcissistically disordered cannot fall for another and make a relationship with a woman into a true partnership of a sexual or platonic nature. Their disorder prohibits their abilities to manage either kind of situation. Women sooner or later will desire intimacy. This will over shadow all other parts of the relationship and for the narcissist the relationship will become unworkable. A narcissist can never feel another’s love and is completely incapable of returning anything that looks like love to his female partner.

          And, if you think that you have “fixed” him, think again. If you want to secure two-three months of a seemingly normal marriage or relationship, either threaten to leave him or leave him. He will pursue you relentlessly. When you’re back in his hold securely, he will immediately revert back to his old self.

          Women may over look the grandiosity and attention seeking of the narcissist, but the lack of the narcissist’s ability to exchange feelings of a loving kind is deadly to all intimate relationships.”

        2. I don’t want to worsen your pain in any way and I hope making up a new word doesn’t do it.

          Would “devastagonizing” be descriptive enough?

          1. J, I appreciate your feed back always and take complete ownership of my pain. You are fine, please don’t think you are making matters worse.
            Wow,,,,,that’s one crazy word you came up with there!! LOL!
            There is no word……nothing really encompasses the result of having been with Spathtard…..the damage is on too many levels for me to comprehend or put into words.
            Thanks J

          2. you are on a roll J! Quite honestly, I think that a whole new vocabulary and dictionary are required when it comes to these monsters! A Spathsaurus ! LOL!

    2. I think the PUA phenom emerged around the same time “The Rules” did, as a reaction to all the postmodern 1960s-1970s discarding of traditional courtship norms.

      In Sheep’s Clothing lists one of the traits that can make us a target to manipulation: over-intellectualization.

      All that post-modern questioning of social norms that happened in the 1960s 1970s 1980s forced us to over-intellectualize things. The PUA community was an over-correction in the opposite direction.

      PUA is like wolves trying in their own screwed up way to develop self-sufficiency character development traits. Like they had to go back to primal behavior and they’re back at the year 100 A.D.

      It’s a whole generation — even more pronounced now — that never learned “individuation” from their parents vs. “enmeshment”. And also had no rulebook to even toss out anymore. Just winging it from scratch, no Character Development taught in church (because fewer people go to church, allowing religion to become more polarized from mainstream society) and no longer legally taught in public school.

      A few of those PUA leaders over time had to “come out of the closet” and admit to their followers as having actually fallen in love and gotten married.

      1. So why *are* these PUA sites popular and with whom? First I propose that the men attracted to these sites are not necessarily of the same breed as the PUAs themselves. Moreover, I think that many patrons simply have been disenfranchised from traditional dating; reflecting a significant shift in the dating/marriage arena over the past 30-40 years. Claire identifies the seeping of post-modernism into the population, and I think that this may be one way of putting it, but the historic currents shaping the dating pool are complex, involving broad categories of: feminism, secularism, modernism, media, capitalism, wealth, family courts, internet dating… BTW, besides PUA, another sign of the implosion of dating/marriage in the U.S. is the rise of the idea of the internet bride; another obvious attempt at an end-around the U.S. dating game.
        As I guy, naturally I’d like to be more attractive to the opposite sex. And so I, like many, have dived into the dark waters of the internet to see what enlightenment might be found there. Invariably (with rare exceptions) what turns up are the pick-up artists and their brutish view of human nature. Seen from the viewpoint of a guy, here are a few additional reasons why I think some men find PUA appealing (at least initially):
        ==>Pick up artists sell the idea that seduction is primarily a matter of technique. This must seem terribly promising to those of us who have had reason to doubt our attractiveness; to doubt that a woman would have us (and stay with us) if they REALLY knew us. It is the impulse to take the easy way out and “cheat” (aka manipulate) to achieve short term gains. In some, the impulse undoubtedly arises from the childish expectation of immediate gratification that Claire wrote about; but others have been roughly handled by women and have reasons to doubt that being a “nice,” reliable, straightforward guy is good enough (Lori Gottlieb’s book “Marry Him” provides an interesting view on this). Moreover, PUA theory promises to offer these men control in an arena in which they have felt little.
        ==>The idea that one is confronting “the harsh realities of things” (e.g. by rooting their theory in–a superficial understanding of–evolution as J points out) appeals to male instincts (socially constructed or otherwise).
        ==>Nobody wants to be a beta. The implication typically is that if you don’t follow the PUA program you are an inferior man (as J. points out). And these PUA blogs rarely fail to poke fun at so-called betas. So PUA patrons are goaded to “man-up.”
        ==>I am making a wild guess that the PUA approach has a special appeal for certain men who already have high opinions of themselves. And we might imagine them thinking: “Oh, yeah!!! I always knew I was an alpha!”.

        1. You “guys” are in way over my head but I did want to mention another thing besides mail order brides that has made the media and that is under age prostitution in foreign countries. I don’t know what to say other than it all makes me sick to my stomach.
          My opinion is that these male attitudes have been around for eons and are just now more visible……the proverbial cat is out of the bag. One story after another about child porn, pedophile priests, on and on and on……..hedonism, debauchery anything goes when the whistle blows as long as you don’t get caught.

      2. Great analyzing, Chris.

        There are mentions of many books here and I’m going to throw another one in. What comes to mind reading your post, Chris, is a book by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, based on Jungian psychology. It’s called King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. It’s about archetypes, universal primordial patterns underlying human thought and behavior. While the book focuses on the male side of the equation, it does mention in passing the same archetypes apply to women, too.

        The book talks about how there has been a crisis of masculinity in our world, resulting in a shortage of truly empowered, generative men. There’s more of Boy -psychology around, resulting in emotional fixation on immature levels.

        As for immature archetypes, there are healthy ones in Divine Child(creative inspiration), Precocious Child(curious search for knowledge), Oedipal Child(connection with other people) and Hero(enthusiasm and daring).


      3. These archetypes, immature and mature ones alike, have their healthier, full expressions as well as shadow sides on the active and passive side.

        The shadow sides of Divine Child are High Chair Tyrant(narcissistic, egomaniacal, arrogant, demands adulation, can be abusive) and Weakling Prince(victim of life -attitude, no drive or taste for life, helpless, passive, passive-aggressive).

        The shadow sides of Precocious Child are Know-It-All Trickster(smart-aleck “I know better” -attitude, deceitful, ridicules others’ failures, exposes others’ faults, lacks motivation to make himself someone truly special through effort, doesn’t want to honestly earn anything, envious of others’ success and seeks to ruin things for others to prevent them from being better than him, problem with authority, unwilling and unmotivated to take responsibility for his own life, “condemned forever to be on the outskirts of life”(pg. 32), “has no heroes, because to have heroes is to admire others”(pg.33) )* and Dummy(slow on the uptake, lacks vigor, slow to learn, dull-witted, can actually know more than he lets on out of desire to avoid responsibility).

        *Curiously, Moore and Gillette state: “The Trickster is the archetype that rushes in to fill the vacuum in the immature man or boy left by the boy’s denial of and lack of connection with the Divine Child. The Trickster gets activated developmentally within us when we have been depreciated and attacked by our parents(or older siblings), when we have been emotionally abused.”

        The shadows of Oedipal Child are Mama’s Boy(too attached to his mother, caught up in chasing the union with a woman, unwilling “to deal with all the complex feelings involved in an intimate relationships”(pg. 36), can also manifest in compulsive use of pornography) and Dreamer(withdrawn, preoccupied with intangible things).

        The shadows of the Hero are Grandstander Bully(“claims center stage as his birthright”(pg.37), show-off-superiority -attitude, inflated conception of his own invulnerability, often manifested as denial of death) and Coward(pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?).


      4. The book has some old conceptions about abuse/weakness -dynamic, for example that a granderstander bully’s “attacks against others are aimed at staving off recognition of his underlying cowardice and his deep insecurity”(pg. 37) or that under a tyrant’s rageful display “is a sense of worthlessness, of vulnerability and weakness, for behind the Tyrant lies the other pole of the King’s bipolar shadow system, the Weakling. If he can’t be identified with the King energy, he feels he is nothing”(pg.67).

        Some old misconceptions there alright. Of course, if I were to analyze with my amateur mind, I’d conclude that archetypal warlords(taken from Dr Simon’s latest article on Counselling Resource, Radical Ideologies, Deadly Ways of Thinking) can have moments, when they feel they are going to lose position(maybe some get that feeling very easily). Or perhaps it’s that aggressors pity themselves and bemoan how life has been hard for them.

        Since many are willing to believe there’s a smidgen of good deep insdie everyone, it’s so easy to interpret these kinds of details the certain way.

      5. More mature archetypes(the titular King, Warrior, Magician, Lover) also have their shadow potentials on the active(Tyrant, Sadist, Manipulator, Addict) and passive side(Weakling, Masochist, The Denier, The Impotent).

        All these archetypes have always been around. All these shadow potentials are just as natural to us as the beneficial ones. Nature can be scary.

        1. Wow, what a post J! Thank you. I will need to re-read again later. Certainly I will check out your book suggestion. Jung’s archetypes have not settled well with me in the past, but you have re-inspired me. I especially appreciate your last three sentences. Just this afternoon, while working about in the garden, the thought visited me that it is necessary to accept this mixed bag of impulses/archetypes as our nature (So why have I had trouble with Jung?! lol).

        2. J……Im curious about this information…..and I agree with Chris…….Nice post!
          In some situations, people actually are victims, their power is subdued by outside forces or trickery or military force or societies norms. I think of children…..women 100 years ago and even more recently. It wasn’t all that long ago that suppression and blatant abuse went on unchecked in this country.
          I don’t know what my point is, LOL but I guess I find myself wondering……at what point does someone actually gain the right to be considered a true “victim”?

        3. Indeed, an actual victim stance, not just playing the victim to gain position. These archetypes can manifest in so many different ways. For example, The Sadist can be a warrior, who hurts others wantonly, so emotionally detached it leaves “the door open to the “demon” of cruelty”(pg.89). However, it can also manifest in someone being a workaholic, who keeps himself busy to avoid asking himself what he really wants in life.

          This is from another psychological school and the book is relatively old, from 1990. I simply am used to seeing small connections.

        4. As for victimhood, it’s pretty much reveling in being disempowered as opposed to seeking solutions. Being a genuine victim of something is one thing(and getting victimized is what we all want to avoid), but it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone would forgo seeking to gather themselves again in favor of futile search for compensation for suffered wrongs, real or perceived.

          Isn’t victim mindset essentially investing our power in a wrong place? Aggressors don’t care, they may even get enthused to pound on some more. Some people more neurotic may aim to accommodate a victim-minded person for a while being, even giving in, out of pity and false sense of obligation. At some point, those folks likely also get fed up(depending on their level of self-respect).

          Someone with a claim for victimhood mustn’t have very strong self-respect, either, now that I think about it.

      6. Of course, the book also says that those identifying with hte so-called Boy-psychology “got that way honestly”(pg.13). I doubt it. Don’t most rotten eggs be who they are because they’ve decided they like that the best?

      7. I’ve gotten on tangents on this. Dr Simon, I recall you having said you’re making a book on family dynamics affecting molding of character. Perhaps King, Warrior, Magician, Lover could be one resource for reference(with its Boy-psychology -section), even if just to see what kinds of concepts latest research has proven wrong or cast into doubt.

        1. Just in the early stages of this book development, J. And it won’t just focus on family formative dynamics but also the whole socio-cultural piece. And because I have so many issues with much of the latest research, it will rely heavily on hundreds of case studies and experience, looking only to a few solid and time-tested research findings for validation of perspective.

        2. Thanks for your answer. Making a great book of substance requires effort, so I’m willing to wait for it. When it appears, I’ll buy it.

    3. Gotta scribe these references for later refs, because the discussion is so rife with them.

      I like how discussion(not just this one, but discussion here in general) explores many sides of different things. There’s references to anthropology, postmodern questioning of values, influences on the dating scene etc. PUA has always rung hollow to me. It reeks of posing and inauthenticity.

      While the Jungian reference may seem like or perhaps lead to over-intellectualization(also mentioned here), it does make sense that we have instinctual underpinnings in lower parts of the brain that don’t go away by wishing and can cause us problems even if our intentions are good or screw up those intentions. For example you want to have a peaceful evening and bam! provocation or loaded language by someone else really gets you and you lose your cool.

      Archetypal language(what else should I call it?) can be a bit difficult to get behind and have a bit of an abstractifying(?) air, though as someone, who’s done this inner work for a while, I can understand that all these instincts can argue for themselves like hell and boil in the subconscious causing further problems if they aren’t confronted. (I don’t think it’s as cut-and-dried as that, though.)

      And it makes sense that building inner structures is work. There are many ways in which people can come across as not-quite-having-arrived-there-yet. Sometimes they have good intentions. Some well-intended people can have wounded inner child underneath. But unfortunately good intentions by themselves don’t help. Also, as it’s been said, defects in one’s psychological make-up come out under stress, adversity or hard times.

      Neocortex/ego is useful for confronting, modulating and channeling those instincts. It’s not clear it ought to be part of the process, but examining psychological perspectives may help if you’re willing to look inside and can look at limitations of those perspectives, too.

      1. Timothy,

        Great post and insight, I wish I had more time to explore and comment on this subject matter. Timothy, If you don’t mind my asking I know you have been posting for I think the last year, I can’t remember whom the CD was you had to deal with. Just trying to know the regulars better. Thank you

      2. Hey thanks!

        LOL Not even for a year, BTOV, I’m so fresh here. Some of the discussion seems a bit unusual, but I guess that’s a pleasant surprise.

        I think I’ve mentioned it at some point that I’ve been manipulated by and met many different CDs. Many of them just seem to merge into one in my mind, it’s like they’re one barely distinct person over and over and over again. Tactics may differ and some may seem more clever, but somehow all seem like a same person. Weird….

        But I do remember a few ones a little more readily. I remember one guy in one social circle, who I suspect was a psychopath. That intense, zoning stare! I played unaware, ran away with as little notice as I managed to and stopped contact with that particular social circle. I hope he didn’t get the smell of me. Avoid at all costs.

        Another one was relatively mild compared to the psychopath and not intent on harming me personally, but nevertheless pretty sneaky and I fell for one of her tricks, like on autopilot. It was one woman in vocational school. Another woman was having a presentation and stumbled on presenting her ideas. This sneaky one was sitting next to me and whispered how embarrassing that was and I went along with it. Those kinds of instances are a bummer. I avoided contact with that other woman, who might’ve been a nice girl to know. The sneaky one pretty much tried to seduce me on a few instances later on, but I drifted away from her for unrelated reasons I don’t go into.

        Currently I don’t have to deal with a CD and good so.

        Thanks for asking. Kinda tend to forget others don’t read my mind haha.

      3. BTOV, sorry for forgetting to ask you, I was supposed to, but then I was interrupted while writing a comment and had to attend to an errand.

        What about you? How long you been posting here? And do you ask that others often?

  5. “The determined pick-up artist can switch from “proactive” to predatory at the drop of a fedora.”

    Yikes. Having a one-night stand or casual sex with a consenting partner is one thing. This guy clearly respects no boundaries.

    “Since the Community deploys the strategies of hypercompetitive “meritocratic” societies in which self-promotion is indispensable to survival, Roosh felt he was responsible for making his night a success. If the inexperienced teenager had been more reluctant, it seems doubtful he would have relented.”

    If this guy is to be believed, he has gotten what he wants from many women already. Talk about bad case of hedonism.

    1. However, there is one bit that awakened another thought in me.

      About necessity of self-promotion: Of course it’s important, when we think about it in the context of workplace recruitment. If someone doesn’t appear to have confidence in themselves and their skills, how could we see them being able to give their share of benefit? However, this natural necessity does give an edge to more deceptive aggressors.

      Dr Simon, what do you think about doing an article about the nature of self-promotion, its functions and its shadow side?

      1. I second that request. When I came to this country, I heard stories of people routinely lying in their resumes. And somehow it was considered a valid get-ahead strategy, showing you as a go getter. America actually encourages impression management at every step of the way (if you want to be “successful”).

        1. I was born in the U.S. and have heard never to lie on your resume but absolutely to present your experience in the best possible light.

          It’s different from lying.

          1. Thank you Claire. I’m sure that many of us never have. Yet, just now, I Google “lying on resume” and find a rich list of websites dealing with this! It must be, at least, fairly common.

            Anyway, I’ve always liked the business motto “promise less, deliver more.” It’s hard to disappoint that way.

      2. Here in Finland, at least, lying in a resume isn’t encouraged. Surely there must be some way to achieve success without being deceitful.

        1. Seriously………..Lying is rampant at every level and it goes on way before resume time, there are students that have other students take tests for them to get into colleges. I honestly think this is all an overpopulation problem at it’s core…….there are just too many people in the world to raise, educate and sustain in a viable, healthy way.
          I myself had severe, undiagnosed learning disabilities as a child and i’m just now, at 53/ 54…finding out that I have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I absolutely cheated my way through most of High school. I actually have no idea how I managed to graduate and often wonder if my parents paid to get me a diploma. As it was……cheating and all of it, I graduated in the very bottom of my class, maybe 250 out of 257 or so people.
          I tell you this because I don’t believe that my high school cheating is an accurate reflection of my character. In my opinion I should have been pulled aside and put in a different learning environment. I honestly (no pun intended) think that I just slipped or got shoved through the cracks. I’m not stupid but I am absolutely not the type of person who can learn in a traditional school environment. CAN’T. AND math? OMG! It literally just shuts me down mentally……like an intense fatigue overcomes my brain just writing the word “math”!
          Anyhow, If there are so many people in the system that there aren’t enough people/ teachers to give students the quality time required to provide them with the education they need,,,,,,,it just cascades from there.
          Same with parenting…….it takes time, QUALITY time! If parents are more concerned with getting ahead, keeping up with the Jones’s, etc…than they are with imparting quality character traits to their children,,,,,,,I think we are seeing the results of all of this in the world now. It’s just spinning out of control and to be honest? It frightens me.

        2. J, I’m sure there are plenty of successful people in the world who didn’t lye or cheat to get there. But there are plenty who did as well.

        3. The ones I know who made it really big were not liars. Except once in a while in say, politics, a whopper liar who never had any substance would slip through.

          But in business, the ones who made it big, they knew how to play it close to the vest when needed, but they did not get caught up in how clever they were. If they did, that shifted too much of their focus to how clever they were and would cause them to lose sight of their product, or their business, or the work in front of them, for too long.

          The ones who were skilled manipulators and also had some actual skills such as speaking and writing and numbers and technical chops, sometimes they made it to middle management.

  6. Another great article, like always! Looks at things from many angles. I’ve always found trying to deny myself everything is impossible and I hate trying to be a good boy and please everyone and soemtimes I’ve even just said “F**k it” when a perceived need hasn’t been too pressing. (“perceived” haha. Also, there’s actually a book named F**k it. Yes, really.)

    Another sides to this, though:

    *When a need is perceived pressing(like if I don’t go to work, I don’t get any money and then I have more trouble living), that helps go through discomfort in order to ensure standard living.

    *Groups have been mentioned here and they can have a tremendous pull for individuals to conform, even shoving aside personal desires. That can be healthy or unhealthy.

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