That Think You Do
















The Gullibility of Love


Quick quiz: who’s more susceptible to a come-on, regardless if it’s from an overweight salesman with mustard stains on his tie or a mall huckster or …

Would it be the gent on the prowl, the gent between relationships or the fellow infatuated with some immediate amore?

It turns out that the fellow who’s starting or rekindling a relationship is much more susceptible to cons, scams and being taken in general.

What’s very odd is the gender difference. Women starting or rekindling a relationship will be more on guard in general and, once they’ve made the psychological commitment to the other person, less guarded with that other person. Their susceptibility to cons, scams, etc., is highest at the time of decision, normal at all other times.

Well, good so far; being open, available and vulnerable to that special someone is what being in love is all about, and being less open, less available and less vulnerable to others is what being careful is all about.

You have to wonder about that highest vulnerability at the time of the decision, don’t you? Makes me wonder if there’s something in the female psyche that essentially says “Shut down the ability to make good social decisions for this, okay?”

But men starting relationships tend to get on a euphoric high and stay there for a bit. That good feeling, much like the runner’s high or gym high, acts like a low-level, completely natural endorphic anaesthetic that lessens the fatigue after a good workout. It lifts their spirits and causes a sense of bon ami that opens them to bad social decisions, interactions and arrangements.

Right when they’re getting involved with someone. Seems like evolution working in reverse for both genders, doesn’t it?

Again, gender differences apply. Once the euphoria has faded and until they’ve made a psychological commitment to that other person, men tend to withhold more from that other, a kind of “keeping their options open” mindset, that more often than not can destroy a relationship rather than nurture one.

Sad, when you think of it; it’s as if men and women have two different competing cycles when it comes to commitment. The male’s starts strong then grows weak until that psychological decision of “this is the one” is made, and then it grows strong(er) again. The female’s starts weak then grows strong until the “this is the one” decision is made, then continues to grow.

Oddly, it’s not evolution working in reverse. It’s good evolutionary design, yet another holdover from our primitive ancestors that the lower parts of our brains haven’t shaken yet. The drive for species survival wins over good mate choice when no good mate choice presents itself.

So be careful out there. Especially if you’ve just fallen in love.


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Overcoming Lohginess with Personal Inventories

Have you ever had a day where you couldn’t get out of your own way? A day where, no matter what you did, your mind was fixed on stuff that kept you down and out? It might have started with something someone said or something someone did or didn’t do, and in the end, your gumption deficit was all you, you, you!

Just the thing you want to hear when you’re in one of those moods, isn’t it?

There’s a term for that mood you’re in. Some people call it “being glum”, we prefer the term “lohgi” (pronounced LOW-gee with a hard “g”) because “lohgi” sounds more like what you feel than “glum” does.

“Glum” sounds like you’re stuck in something and can’t move, “lohgi” sounds like you’re moving but can’t get up any momentum so no matter what you’re doing, you’re doing it slow. And without enthusiasm. An important part of “lohgi” is the lack of enthusiasm. “Glum” has that “lack of enthusiasm” sound but if you can’t move you’re basically exhausting yourself for no reason. At least with “lohgi” you’re moving so things can change.

If you know how to change them.

First Trick - Practice When You Don’t Need This Trick

The worst thing you can do to battle glumness and/or lohginess is attempt to fight it barehanded when it’s already won.

So don’t.

Instead, when you’re having a great day, when things are completely going your way and life is grand, take a few seconds and ask yourself, “Why are things so good right now?”

Answer yourself with a list, what’s called a Personal Inventory. For example, did you sleep well the night before? Did you have a great conversation with a friend or coworker? Did you see a movie or video that made you smile? Did the love of your life tell you that you were the love of their life?

The reasons you could be having an incredible, one-of, completely over-the-top day are likely uncountable, so just make a list of two to five and keep it in your pocket, on your mobile, on your tablet, as a screensaver, whatever. Just make sure that wherever you put that list, it’s handy and reachable for you.

Now do this again the next time you’re having an incredible, wonderful, or even slightly better than average day. Okay, do it for even your average days.

Do it until your list has about twenty or so different items on it. And keep it handy.

Putting Practice into Play

What you’ve done is teach yourself to catalog your emotional state. The above teaches you to catalog your positive emotional states.

Now, when you get glum or lohgi, do the same thing; catalog your emotional state and this time, create a personal inventory of why things are so lohgi.

Compare and Contrast

Got that first list handy? Great. Now compare it to your lohgi list. What you’re looking for are items on the positive list that are missing from the lohgi list. This is about learning what causes you to be lohgi and what causes you to be happy, not which list has more entries.

Ask yourself, right there in the middle of your lohginess and while you’re looking at your lists, what’s different and what’s made things different. Pick one or two things that are different and make sure they’re from the same list; either one or two things from the positive list or one or two things from the lohgi list.

Pick a Direction and Go

Consider those one or two things that are different. Are the one or two things from your positive list? Then consciously move towards them. This may mean emotionally moving away, it may mean physically, spiritually, mentally or some combination, doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you move towards them.

Are they from your lohgi list? Then consciously move away from them. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally or some combination thereof, doesn’t matter, move yourself away from whatever you’ve picked from your lohgi list.

That’s why “lohgi” is better than “glum”. You’re moving anyway, may as well move in a direction that’ll help you than sit there being stuck and unable to do anything about it.

Don’t you think?


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Why Do Guys Hang Out in Groups?

Why is it guys are rarely seen as onesies or even twosies? How come guys, when they go out, tend to require crowd control? There use to be a joke about women going out in groups when they went out socially and guys really do have girls beat when it comes to social gatherings.

Girls, in case you haven’t noticed, tend to go out socially with the same group of females regardless of the event or destination.

Guys? Males only require another male, preferably still breathing. It reminds me of Billy Crystal’s line in When Harry Met Sally, “Women need a reason to have sex, men need a place.” In the case of social groupings, women need to trust the others in the group and that trust isn’t necessarily based on each group member being female. A female will “group” with an unknown female only as a last resort, when all previously established social ties and bonds have either failed or don’t exist. This trust factor goes back to something I’ve mentioned in my writings elsewhere; female social networks tend to be horizontal — more correctly lateral and not to be confused with “equitable” — in nature, male social networks tend to be vertical — more correctly hierarchical — in nature.

Males don’t have to trust who they’re with. It helps, of course, but trust is actually down the ladder a bit from things like a desire to emulate, to share in the other male’s charisma, to be associated with, to make use of. Women, if they trust, will emulate and share charisma (often the more charismatic female initiating others into charismatic ways) and freely associate.

But “make use of”? The intentional use and misuse of female social circle members has been rare. One business matriarch who’s helped several women advance their careers told us during interviews, “Betray the sisterhood? Women who betray women are ostracized and women in the business world can’t afford to be alone.”

What about men who betray men? “That’s a completely different story,” she told us. “Men betray men by befriending an enemy. You see that in corporate boardrooms all the time. Men count ku. You stick a knife in this guy’s back and he won’t rest until he’s stuck one in yours. Women don’t do that as a rule. They’ll just tell all their women friends to watch out. Men will say ‘You can’t work with somebody’. Women will say ‘You can’t trust somebody’. Women betray women by betraying women.”

Just because the social dynamics are different, don’t think alphas and betas (also known as “generals and colonels” in some scenarios) don’t exist. Dominance games exist in both genders although they’re more obvious in male social networks because males need a leader, females, as Billy Crystal said, need a reason.

Males group to get ahead first by recognizing member heirarchy, establishing their place in it then monitoring group dynamics for opportunities, second for mutual support. This holds true for business, elite combat troops and playground pickup ball games.

Women group first for mutual support, although this is changing in the digitally driven world because social anonymity is far more accessible than it was in the past. Mutually supportive “girl groups” are still thriving in cities because massive urbanization is completely changing the rules of gender-based affiliations.


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Dressing for (Reproductive) Success

You’ve heard the expressions “Clothes make the man” or “She’s a smart dresser”? These are statements of social mores applied to personal grooming and in case you haven’t heard, grooming is extremely important when it comes to mate selection and reproductive success.

The former, “Clothes make the man”, can be used either in appreciation or depreciation of how a man dresses. Is he a “sharp dresser”? Then he’s someone of importance or influence, someone worth getting to know. Is he somewhat unkempt? Then he’s probably an intellectual, someone who spends more time working with his head than his hands. Is he slovenly? Then stay away from him, he’s dirty, unclean and can’t be trusted.

How about her? Does she “know how to pull it off”? Again, she’s knowledgeable, smart, knows her way around, can be trusted. Does she “accentuate the positive”? Then she appreciates her looks and wants others to, too. And way at the other end of the scale is “She dresses like a slut” meaning she dresses in ways inappropriate for a given social setting.

In all cases, though, these terms are applied according to social mores and give us the ability to “judge a book by its cover”. Recent studies indicate that humans make quite accurate assessments of others within a few seconds of seeing them, so evidently we are pretty good at judging books by their covers when it comes to how people look and dress.

Dressing and Reproductive Success

An individual’s reproductive success has two basic forms. There’s the immediate “I passed my genetic code on to another generation” and “My offspring survived long enough to pass their genetic code on to another generation”. In humans, the first is “I have kids” and the second is “I have grandkids”.

What’s interesting is that how one dresses is actually a pretty good signal of their reproductive fitness and hence, reproductive success. But in a strange way…

Dress for Reproductive Success

Studies show that people who dress to be comfortable, not to overly draw positive or negative attention to themselves, tend to have stronger relationships and longer lasting relationships than people who dress to impress. Our ability to accurately judge someone within a few seconds applies to clothing because clothing is modern society’s concept of reproductive fitness, and our evolutionary ancestors relied on their quick assessments of skin color, plumage, jaw lines, smiles, eye color and clarity, joint size, … the list is quite extensive, to make those mate selection judgements.

By all accounts they were pretty darn good at it because Tada! homo sapiens sapiens (that’s us) are here and our cousins, homo neandertalis aren’t.

So if you really want to dress to impress

You have to ask yourself if you want a relationship to last a little while or a while longer. Are you dressing for a short term relationship? Dress to accentuate, to draw attention to, to highlight.

Are you dressing for a long term relationship? Dress to be comfortable with yourself, with what you’ll be doing and how you’ll have to move during your day.

Marilu Henner in L.A. StoryMarilu Henner’s Trudi character in L.A. Story said it all with “Before I go out, I take a quick look at myself in the mirror. Whatever first catches my eye, I take it off”.

Short term relationship? Forget what Trudi said. Whatever catches your eye first, keep it on.

Long term relationship? Trudi’s right on. Whatever catches your eye first, take it off.



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The Stranger The Better…Okay, A “Little” Stranger Is Better

A fascinating piece of social research has made it to my desk. It deals with males’ success rate with females in typical mating situations.

To readers outside of social anthropology, this means “What can guys do to make sure girls notice them in bars, at clubs, in the mall, in the hall, in the cafeteria, at the dance, …?”

The research points out one of those things that’s obvious. So obvious, one might ask, “Somebody had to do research on this?”

Well, yes. Because when you think about it, it’s not what most guys do in typical mating situations and that’s probably why few males have the kind of success they want.

The Trick Is

Be a little different from your mates, your buddies, your pals, whatever you want to call them, when you go out as a group. Or if you’re not going out as a group, be a little different than most other guys when you go out where other males will be.

For example, wear flashy suspenders with bright accessories on otherwise drab, run of the mill clothing. Or a different kind of hat. Or a clown nose.

The trick is to get women to look, even for a second because that one second puts you one second ahead of the…umm…competition.

Women may not flock to you and they will, generally, be more receptive should you approach them.

It Works Because

It turns out that women of all ages cue to the different in mating situations. Neuroscience uses the term “difference sorters” for this and it means that, given one-hundred things that are all the same and only one thing among those hundred that are different, females as a group will devote attention to the one different thing before they’ll pay attention to any one of the one-hundred similar things. Evolution has designed them to look for the one perfect jaw and good teeth (for example) among all the other jaws and teeth because that one perfect jaw and good teeth meant a good hunter, good provider and better genetic material for her offspring (than the hundred other fellows with common jaws and teeth), meaning her genes had a better than average chance of survival, too.

Those evolutionary factors are still hard at work even though the pampas or forest or mountains have been replaced by malls, dance halls, cafeterias, offices and so on.

So if you’re just a little different — not a lot different — females will notice you and make a mental note that you’re interesting.

Specifically, they will note that you’re more interesting than the other males around you.

And guys, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, being interesting works really well when it comes to attracting females. Nice cars, big bankroll, great job, expensive clothes, great bling, these are all good things, too, no question about it.

Of course, they’re good because they’re interesting. Especially when your competition doesn’t have them. Such things make you…umm…different.

Here’s What You Can’t Do

Different is nice and it has to be different within certain boundaries. You can’t land your hovercraft in the company parking lot and expect to get the kind of attention you want. You’ll get attention, I’m sure, simply not the kind you want from females you’d want interested in you.

You can’t wear gold like Mr. T in his heyday if you’re going to a friend’s moving party.

Be different, yes, but be different within the setting’s limits. Stand out enough to be seen, not stared at.

You’ll do fine.



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Framing Decisions

This post is about the intersection of two usually minor things. Gnats, really. Annoyances and not much more. Things you’d just as soon swat as put any real effort into.

However, when they come together and they often do, they come together like two freight trains colliding in the night.

We talking way beyond dangerous here.

Vulnerable

Have you ever had a day when you felt just a little “out of sorts”? A tad discombobulated, perhaps? You’re just not firing on all cylinders and you know it? You’re a little off, maybe?

There are lots of signs that these are true even if you don’t recognize them as such; you take things more seriously than you should. You take things the wrong way. You’re more sensitive to others’ opinions. Jokes aren’t as funny as they should be. You’re melancholy. You feel a little cold even though everyone else is perfectly comfortable. You deny yourself simple pleasures — a stick of gum, a piece of candy, that last cup of coffee — for no real reason you can think of. Things like that.

The common term for this malaise is vulnerability. Everybody has vulnerable moments. It’s normal, even healthy. There’s lots of reasons for a sense of vulnerability. The best thing to do when you feel vulnerable is take a moment and figure out what’s causing it. There’s always a reason. Sometimes you’ve caught a cold or the flu and it hasn’t completely manifested yet. Sometimes your stomach’s upset but not enough to knock you out. Ditto a headache. Other times it can be something that’s happened or happening in your life. A friend is moving away, a raise doesn’t come, a relationship ends or begins. Perhaps a bad nights sleep, or dreams that left you feeling a little off.

Whatever the cause, take a moment and see if you can figure out what’s making you feel vulnerable. Often being able to point your finger at the cause of feeling vulnerable is enough to make it go away.

Decisions

Have you ever had a day when you need to make a decision? Doesn’t matter if it’s minor or major, it can be anywhere from “Should I have another cup of coffee?” to “Should I relocate my family for that job?”

All that matters is that it’s a decision that has emotional elements and is more than a logical “Yes/No” type question.

Train Wreck

Feelings of vulnerability can be thought of as mild or minor depressive episodes. Everybody has them and they’re only a concern when they don’t go away or escalate. What’s important for this discussion is that they’re depressive, meaning that different parts of your brain and different aspects of your conscious and non-conscious selves are not communicating optimally. No where near it, in fact.

You are, in a sense, under the influence of a self-generated narcotic, hypnotic, soporific, take your pick.

The point is, you’re not in any condition to make a decision of any kind. You’re not in the right frame of mind to make a decision.

Make a decision when you feel vulnerable and your decision will be based on avoidance of pain, not on attracting pleasure. You’ll be making a decision in a depressive state, you won’t be thinking clearly, and your sense of vulnerability will cause you to act emotionally, not logically. You’ll flame someone you could just as easily ignore, you’ll say something you shouldn’t to someone you care about or who cares for you, you’ll be less kind when you could be more.

It’s amazing what a little vulnerability can do to our lives.

Looking Both Ways Before Crossing the Intersection

Fortunately, there are some simple fixes for avoiding such train wrecks and they all begin with self-awareness. Literally, do you feel or sense something’s amiss?

Then stop what you’re doing until things pass (and they will). Meetings can usually be postponed, phone calls can be rescheduled, projects can be delayed an hour or even a day with little to no difficulty.

Quite simply, when you sense something’s amiss, take a moment and see if there’s any decisions you need to make. Most will be minor and can be postponed until your vulnerability passes.

Is there something truly important that can’t wait? Ask a trusted friend or co-worker’s advice and help. Strategize with them. Listen, pay attention, seek input and feedback. Is this person truly trusted? Tell them you’re feeling vulnerable. They’ll understand and help you through it. Most times just talking it through with someone helps to put things in perspective and you become aware of what’s causing the vulnerability so you can deal with it.

So the next time you’re feeling vulnerable and have to make a decision, don’t.

That intersection is a dangerous one to cross. Look both ways then look again.

Chances are you’ll figure out what’s bothering you, be able to chuckle and shrug it off, then make the decision with a clear mind and heart. The greatest benefit is that you’ll be in better control of your life. You’ll be able to appreciate and deal with your moods rather than be dictated by them. No small achievement, that.



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Truth Be Told

A friend and I recently got into a conversation on the nature of truth. I was taking notes and the conversation took an unexpected path. Reviewing my notes, I asked if I could share what was said and he consented.

Fair warning; what follows may make some readers uncomfortable.


I learned about the price of truth when I was a kid. A child, probably. Before I was ten, anyway.

My dad was in the bathroom, getting ready for bed, I think. He started yelling. He yelled a lot. If he wasn’t yelling, he was making fun of us or telling us we were stupid.

Anyway, he yelled for my sister and me to come. My sister is older than me by five years. She got there first. He was standing by the sink, pointing at a glob of toothpaste in the sink.

Truth be told, I don’t even remember what it was. I think it was some toothpaste.

I do remember he stood over us and pointed at whatever it was and asked who left that there.

My sister said she didn’t do it. “Who did?” I don’t know, she said.

He looked at me. “Did you do that?”

No, dad. I didn’t.

“Well, you’re the only two in the house. I didn’t do it and I know your mother didn’t do it, so who did do it if neither of you did it?”

To fully get this you have to flashback to when I was about 1-2 years old. My room was on the top floor of our house, down a hall from my parents’ room. Halfway between was a staircase downstairs and downstairs was my sisters’ room. I have two sisters, both older than me.

So one night I woke up and wanted to go see my sisters. I don’t know why. Who knows what a kid does at 1-2 years old? So I got up, turned on the hall light and got to the top of the stairs.

Well, my father came rushing out of his room, my mother close behind, and he lifted my up by my right arm. He began hitting my behind. Not tapping, not even lightly slapping. This was a full grown man holding me up by my arm and smacking my backside so hard I was rocking back and forth like a pendulum in a bad clock.

I started screaming, my mother started screaming, I could hear my sisters screaming, and my father is still yelling at me “Where are you going? You get back in your bed! Where are you going? You get back in your bed!” with each tick of the clock.

And I started to pee. Maybe that’s why I got up, maybe I needed to pee and wanted my sisters to get the potty seat for me, I don’t know.

But I started to pee and I’m making a puddle on the floor and my father’s really bellowing now and he shouts at the top of his lungs “Did you do that?”

And I’m crying and I’m screaming and there’s more tears coming out of my eyes than there’s piss on the floor and I’m swinging by my arm and I’ve bitten my lip swinging back and forth and I can’t stop pissing and I’m screaming back at him, “No No No No NO” and looking back it was stupid, of course. I was pissing right there on the floor in front of him, so now he calls me a liar and if you thought he was having at me before, you didn’t know my dad. He use to beat me with a rubber hose he got when he installed a clotheswasher for my mother. That’s another one for you, a full grown man, strong to begin with, swinging a three foot long rubber hose at his baby kid because something didn’t go right in his god-damn day.

So I’d learned early on that no matter what happened, it would end up with me getting hit.

But this time, standing in front of the sink, our father getting louder and louder yelling at us, seeing my sister’s face get redder and redder, I basically decided fuck it. It didn’t matter.

Remember I said I had two sisters? For as long as I remember my oldest sister had this scar on her wrist, not like an attempted suicide scar, this was like a regular hospital scar and you could see where the stitches were and stuff. My parents and aunts and uncles always said my sister got bit by a goose and I always thought that was odd because we never lived anywhere near any geese. I found out years later my father had broken her arm. He’d thrown her down the stairs for some reason, before I was born, and they’d taken her to the emergency room to fix her up.

But back to the bathroom. I decided it didn’t matter. I looked at my dad and I said, “I did it.”

My sister let out her breathe.

“Why did you lie to me?”

Because it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I tell you the truth or if I lie. If you want to hit someone you’re going to hit someone, so it doesn’t matter and I might as well tell you the truth.

My mother was always telling people I was a deep thinker. I read a lot when I was a kid. Still do. So I’m not sure if I said it just like that, but that’s pretty much what I said.

Well, my father stared at me. I could tell he wanted to hit me but I’d told the truth and told him the other truth, that he was a bully and a bastard and it didn’t matter what the truth was, all that mattered was if he needed to hit somebody and that somebody was going to be me. I knew he wouldn’t hit my sister. She was getting older and for some reason he had real taboos about hitting a woman. I think because his father, my grandfather, use to beat the crap out of my grandmother when he was a kid. Hell, that’s probably where he learned it.

Anyway, he told me to go to my room but from then on he plotted. I think I scared him with what I said. I would catch him watching me, looking for excuses. One time I accidentally emptied a box of dishwashing soap into the sink. My mother asked me to do the dishes, I said sure but I didn’t realize how loose the cover was on the box and I spilt most of it in the sink.

My dad was out in the garage working on something and not getting it fixed, so he was already frustrated all to hell and he’d come in for some coffee, and when I emptied the box, I don’t know, it was some kind of challenge to his manhood or something. I think I was ten or twelve when this happened and he backed me into a corner of the kitchen and was punching me in the stomach, in the face, he was boxing me, again a full grown, strong man punching the shit out of a kid, not holding back, punching me as if I was coming after him. I don’t know. After a few minutes he quit. I guess he was tired at that point. My eyes are black, my lips are swollen, my stomach’s aching because he’s hammered me to the point that I can’t breath.

He storms out of the kitchen, back to the garage and my mother’s patching me up. She didn’t try to stop him, oh no, but once he’s done she comes in to patch me up. She was always like that. Thank god it had already been established at school that I was a clumsy kid and always falling down stairs, over things, tripping over my own feet.

I wonder why it took so long to people become aware of child abuse sometimes. After I left home I asked my mother why she never nailed him on the back of the head with a frying pan. “He’s your father,” she said. Oh, okay. He’s absolved.

But I’d already learned the price of truth was power, and you always get power when you tell the truth. I’m not talking about always telling the truth when you’re with friends or that kind of thing, I’m talking about telling the truth when it makes a difference.

That day in the bathroom I got power over my dad and he’s never forgiven me for it.



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No, I would not give you false hope (On Mothers and Children)

Some readers may recognize this blog’s title as the opening line to Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion”. Research indicates that how mothers and children get along is determined very early in pregnancy. The fetus receives signals from the mother’s body regarding how well she’ll be able to provide for her offspring during life.

In other words, if you’re pregnant and you don’t take care of yourself the fetus gets a biochemical signal that health, etc., isn’t important and that biochemical signal changes how the fetus develops.

A mother who doesn’t eat well sends a signal that food will be scarce so design a body that will store calories for lean times. This leads to childhood obesity and other disorders.

A mother who doesn’t exercise regularly signals for a lethargic lifestyle.

A mother who doesn’t see to her needs sends signals that she won’t see to the growing child’s needs.

Whoa!

I’m not surprised by this information. I’ve long believed that families create energies and those energies are inherited. I recognize how metaphysical that might sound and I don’t mean it to be such except in the sense that I have no other language to express it. Basically, if a parent has a bad attitude about themselves, their health, their psychological and emotional well being, that bad attitude gets passed down to their children.

That’s the nurture part of Nature versus Nurture.

I also know lots of research is demonstrating that traumatic events (especially repeated traumatic events, such as abuse of any kind, including bullying) can shape a developing brain towards the negative. A victimized child gets wired early on to believe they are a victim. It takes lots of therapy, lots of work and lots of willpower to change that belief when the child is an adult because, by the time adulthood is reached, that wiring is “fixed”. Like wiring in a house, you need to tear down the wall to put in new wiring.

This is the first time I’ve seen evidence that Nature is strongly influenced by Nurture. It also works the other way. This also demonstrates that Nurture — how we raise our offspring — is strongly influenced by our Natures — our beliefs about ourselves.

A reporter on a regional news station (Boston, MA, area) said he believed people should be tested before being allowed to have children. They need a license to drive, to have a gun and so on, so shouldn’t people need a license to have a child. His statement came after a story about a particularly abused child.

Personally, I agree with him although I wondered what kind of feedback his offhand remark received.

In any case, make sure you’re healthy — emotionally, physically, spiritually and physically — if you want a healthy child.




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Family Patterns

Many, many years ago I was on a panel at a psychology convention. We were discussing themes of abuse (the way abuse reveals itself in society).

I stated something that was so obvious to me (from research, from training, from experience) that I assumed it was both known and well recognized in that community: any rational individual who is the victim in an abusive relationship and decides to stay in that relationship is no longer a victim. Now they are a contributor to their own abuse, hence they are a willing participant in their own abuse and any rational person who willingly subjects themselves to abuse can’t be a victim.

They’re probably no longer rational in the classic psychological sense, and equally they are no longer a victim.

This is fairly obvious reasoning to me. I thought it would be obvious to everyone else.

I was escorted from the conference under guard. The negative response was that intense, that visceral. Things were thrown at me, I was shouted at, insulted and if people got close enough, I’m sure I would have been eviscerated. Nobody quoted Blaming the Victim at me and, to be honest, the intensity of the response indicated I’d probably revealed an uncomfortable truth rather than said something idiotic. We laugh at idiots, we punish truthsayers.

That was then. Now this concept is pretty well established in the therapeutic community: if you don’t leave the abusive relationship you’re no longer being “abused” in the traditional sense because you’re participating in the activity.

Echoes Dying in the Canyon

Recently that experience came back to me via a couple I know, Tom and Jenny. Tom left Jenny and his two children. Jenny was close to gathering them and had made plans to leave Tom because he was increasingly psychologically and emotionally abusive to her.

She was very close. To protect herself and her children. Very close.

And, she told me, in the middle of one particularly hellish bout where he was yelling, she was crying and the kids were screaming, he stopped.

Stopped, she said, as if he’d been shot. His face changed color, she said. His jaw was clenching and unclenching, his cheeks were so tight and white they looked like painting canvas. The muscles in his throat looked like they were strangling him. His eyes were swollen and so red she thought he might have had an aneurism or burst a vessel somewhere.

And he looked at her and through clenched teeth said, “Jenny, I am so sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing. I have to leave. I can’t do this to you or the kids anymore.”

He grabbed a jacket, walked outside, closed the door, got in his car and quietly drove away.

The sudden lack of yelling, crying, screaming and shrieking, she said, was more deafening than his raging at her.

But the echoes of his abuse remained.

A Voice in the Wilderness

Tom called her a few days later. He was in therapy. As part of his therapy, Jenny was asked to come in for one session so his counselor could explain things to her.

Warily, she agreed.

Tom, the therapist explained, had contacted him and described, quite calmly, what he’d been doing to Jenny and that he hated it. He didn’t know why he was doing it. He couldn’t seem to stop it.

The therapist said that Tom’s coming forward on his own was an incredible step. The therapist could not guarantee that Tom would change but Tom’s coming forward was a very strong indication that Tom, at his core, wanted to change.

Jenny, if she was willing to help Tom, would need to learn a few techniques for handling confrontational behavior.

She would need to learn to talk loudly, distinctly, clearly, confidently and affirmatively to Tom should he become abusive. Not yell back, more like yell with. Instead of “Why are you yelling at me?” more like “Think about what you’re really yelling about! What’s really going on here?”

She would need to be a voice of reason, a voice directing Tom to health when Tom needed to gather all his mind’s energy because he was becoming lost in some primitive emotional wilderness.

Patterns recognized can be interrupted

Slowly, things are getting better. Tom is still in therapy. His treatment of Jenny, it turned out, was learned.

From his father.

Who probably learned it from his father.

Taichi Sakaiya wrote “Any form of society that becomes fully established and passed down through generations has self-perpetuating cycles to reinforce the conditions it requires to exist.” in The Knowledge-Value Revolution and what is true of societies is true of families and groups. Lines of force, fields of energy pass from father to son, mother to daughter, across genders and generations.

There is no telling how far back this type of behavior goes. Therapists know that families display behavioral patterns generationally. A perfectly understandable behavioral pattern in one generation is passed to the next generation and is slightly exaggerated. That slight exaggeration is picked up in the succeeding generation and exaggerated even more.

The common examples of such things are irrational fears. Someone demonstrates an intense fear of spiders (for example) and, tracing back, we discover that their mother had to thoroughly clean any room where a spider was found and that their grandmother was always uncomfortable seeing a spider.

The behavior is a response to some trigger. Together and done often enough, a pattern forms. Good therapists help clients recognize and change the patterns.

But Patterns Here Need to Match with Patterns There

Patterns, especially behavioral patterns, need matching patterns to thrive, kind of like interlocking puzzle pieces. One piece in isolation tells you nothing about the puzzle but without it the complete picture isn’t revealed. Psycho-behavioral patterns are evolutionary in nature. Therapists are aware of this, too, and call it enabling. This brings us back to the individual who stays in an abusive relationship. That individual is enabling the abuser to be abusive by staying in the unhealthy relationship.

The person with the irrational fear of spiders will only retain that irrational fear if they are routinely around others who allow, encourage or enable that fear to be demonstrated by acting against the trigger (the poor spider in this case). If that irrational fear — that behavior — isn’t encouraged, nurtured, enabled, it will not flourish, what therapists call “fail to thrive”.

This requirement that behavioral patterns find enabling matching behaviors is also why, when one person seeks to stop some behavioral pattern, their partner is faced with a tough decision: Either they recognize their own behavioral pattern and change it as well or deal with the (often painful) change in the relationship.

In other words, if person A is the abused member of an abusive relationship and decides to leave that relationship, person B either has to find someone else who’ll participate in their own abuse or stop being abusive.

Wallace and Pat

Also long ago I met a couple, Wallace and Pat, who were “swingers”. One day Pat confided that the only reason she took part in swinging activities was because she believed it was the only way she could keep her marriage together. I could have told her that she couldn’t complain about her husband’s behavior nor could she voice disfavor. Instead I asked, “What is Wallace providing you that you believe you can’t find elsewhere?”

She thought long and hard. Finally she said, “Identity.” And behold, there was a memory of her father’s flirtations with other women in the neighborhood and her mother’s toleration of his behavior. Thirty years later Pat was with someone who enabled her to be the kind of woman her mother was but only more so, thus providing Pat with a familiar identity “perfected”.

The Devil You Know

Pat was comfortable with a known devil, specifically a devil that helped her recognize who she was in the world. Pat, if she left Wallace, would either have to consciously craft a new identity for herself or find a new Wallace who would help her perpetuate her old identity, one based on her mother’s behavior.

And the Devil You Don’t

Tom hated the devil he knew and is working to create a new identity for himself. He and Jenny say they’ve fallen in love with each other all over again. They also admit there’s still some moments when things are rough. Jenny’s recognizing some things in herself that need changing. They’re learning how to recognize devils and avoid them.

The kids, after some touch-and-go times, seem to be enjoying the ride.





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Men Who Give Birth Get Along Better

It turns out its extremely easy to make men get along well with each other.

Get men pregnant and they'll get along just fineAll you have to do is get them pregnant. More precisely, you have to cause them to give birth.

The reason for this should be obvious. The extreme majority of women, regardless of where they’re from, what language they speak, their income level, their education level, their whatever, all share one thing and one thing only that’s denied to men: child birth. Child birth is so female oriented (duh!) and such a bonding element among women that there are birthing rituals and ceremonies going back to the dawn of time, all of them male exclusive.

The act of birth, of creation, creates a bond among those who experience it that can not be broken.

Men, it turns out, don’t have to be completely denied these kinds of bonds. Some readers may know of my anthropology studies with the GrandMothers of the Three Women’s Nations. One of those GrandMothers, an elderly Paiute Woman, taught me the ceremony that enables men to give birth. In truth, I suggest it to very few men. Very, very few. Most men, in all honesty, can’t go through with it. For one thing, it requires a complete abandonment of the male psyche and adoption/acceptance of a female psyche. Most modern males aren’t comfortable enough with their own sexuality to willingly accept a female sexuality for even the shortest period of time.

(and if you read the above and could only put it into a gay or homosexual context, I rest my case)

One method for helping men get along (not involving the Grandmothers’ training yet directly traceable to it) involves having men get together and take part in a communal creative experience.

What must be unique about the experience is that the creative output must be ephemeral, fleeting. It must be formless, shapeless and substanceless so that no one male or group of males can point to it or some part of it and say “I did that” or “I did that part”. Whatever is created must be done by all involved equally, so there’s also no ku-counting or notetaking or scorekeeping.

It can, of course, be something physical like a barn, a boat, even a box will do. The core element is that the shared, communal creative experience be remembered, not necessarily what that experience created.

Here’s the amazing (to me) part: Once this ceremonial birthing, this creation, is done and all have shared the birth pains and joy of it, the men involved are amazingly able to work communally on some real-world problem, anything from building a shed to creating a company.

And women can take part, too, birthing right beside the men, once the men have allowed themselves to have a shared creative experience.

Some readers may be thinking “He’s writing about team-building”. I appreciate that thought and what I’m describing does, yes, build teams but only much after the fact. Teams require leaders and followers, captains and soldiers. The experience I’m writing of does not. In fact, it rebukes them.

Everyone coming to the creation ceremony will have their own expertises and some may lead for a bit, but without equal partnership and equal input and equal levels of creativity, the ephemeral offspring will be misshapen and odd.

So, if you want to get along with the goal of getting something done, and if you can’t seem to get everybody together on it, maybe the real problem is that the men have never given birth.


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Have you read my latest book, Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History? It’s a whoppin’ good read.

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