That Think You Do

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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I’m nine feet tall and six feet wide

I know this will come as a shock to many readers and I apologize ahead of time for bursting anyone’s bubble.

It seems that men exaggerate certain aspects of themselves when it comes to getting dates.

I know. Shocking and true.

I recently took part in a discussion about social stereotypes, stigma and stereotype threat, things made popular in Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us (Issues of Our Time). Most of the discussion was well reasoned and…sane. It got a little crazy when the subject turned to what the genders expect from each other when it comes to dating.

Women, it seems, learn very early on (guesses went down to 13 years old, consensus was 14.5 years old) that guys will…exaggerate…about anything and everything. Working males will put themselves at risk to demonstrate success. Some will buy large, flashy vehicles that they can’t afford, for example.

I wondered if this accounted for Ford truck sales. Pickups, muscle cars, roadsters. Older males, it seems, favor vehicles that indicate skill and knowledge rather than raw power.

I once commented that the size of the tires on such vehicles was inversely proportional to the size of a man’s…

Anyway, a woman I knew told me that wasn’t necessarily true.

All males will buy large, expensive watches, jewelry — anybody remember the “Italian Horns”? That’s what we called them. Evidently you can still buy them. How many of you knew that the number of curves had meaning? Imposed by the women. And evidently accurate.

And guys, it’s not what you think.

Some men, if they can’t get the upper body profile they believe women crave via the gym or heredity, will resort to cosmetic surgery or other means.

I was reminded of studies conducted with male bower birds. Male bower birds arrange their nesting areas to make themselves appear larger to prospective mates.

I was impressed at the renditions of male vanity.

And that it crossed species to easily.

And then I asked, “Isn’t what you’re describing the male version of the woman who gets cosmetic enhancements? Not just surgery to promote health, but surgery to enhance secondary sexual characteristics with the goal of stimulating mate-seeking behavior in desirable males? …”

No, really. I said it just like that, I swear.

“… Or who purchase enhancing or somewhat revealing clothing?”

Okay, that I did say pretty much like that. And that’s when things really opened up.

Men, it seems, don’t look beyond the covers. The majority of men, anyway (I was graciously informed I was an exception. I don’t really think I am and I wasn’t going to argue the point). Women know when men are posturing and won’t be able to live up to the promise.

“And men don’t, you think?”

Men do. They just don’t care.

And so the discussion went until we agreed that in all such cases the core belief of the individual was one of lack, of not being enough in and of themselves, of simply not being comfortable being who they are.

That caused many of the females in the discussion give a quiet, glassy eyed, deep throated moan of desire. “Finding a man comfortable with himself. Yeah.”

It was acknowledged that women, like men, look at arm-candy first.

Sad, true, and at least admitted to among this group of social academics.

But then it got into “who’s for this night” versus “who’s for always” and there was general agreement that the person picked first often isn’t the person who lasts.

Long term, successful relationships, it is agreed, are based on what’s within.

So to both sexes, some advice that reminds me of the old adage regarding buying stereo equipment, “Figure out what you can afford and spend half of that on speakers.”

Guys and gals, you can purchase and enhance if you want, but spend half of that enhancing budget on what’s inside you.

It pays off again and again and again.

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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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How Do You Define “Love”?

Long, long ago in internet time (okay, back in 2005 or so), a personals/online dating company came to NextStage and asked if we could create a tool — a Love Gauge — that would tell if people were a good match for each other, ie, would fall in love. Even better, could the tool determine how long lasting that relationship would be. We responded, “How do you define Love?”

There are three basic kinds of Love

Humans are capable of three basic forms of love; Agape, Philios and Eros. Most people can figure out Eros pretty quickly; it’s the ritualization of reproductive sex. I write “ritualization” from a cultural anthropology perspective. Our brains’ most powerful circuitry, the neuroanatomical pieces that will win every argument every time, still rule our lives in this order:

  1. Can I survive?
  2. Can I mate?
  3. Can I eat?

People are amazed at how much time our non-conscious minds devote to insuring those three things can happen. All that talk about altruism and giving one’s life for another? Those are easily explained by behavioral ethology. All that talk about fidelity? Look to cultural anthropology. Making sure everyone has enough and the right things to eat? Watch the Food Channel.

So Eros, erotic love, is pretty much physical in demonstration and mental in causation. Humans need to think sexually in order to perform sexually and the former, the thinking, must always take place first.

Philios is the “higher” form of love and the term from which Philadelphia, “The City of Brotherly Love”, gets its name. Philios is the love we have for our family, our friends, our neighbors and so on. On a cognitive level, are there things you’d do for your friends that you wouldn’t do for your lovers or vice versa? If yes, those differences are demonstrations of how you consciously and non-consciously segment Eros from Philios.

Agape is the love “God has for man” and is actually recognized in two forms, top down — God to us — and bottom up. The love we have for our chosen deities is the “bottom up” form of agape love. Not only that, but the “love” we have for country, for causes, for institutions, for groups, et cetera, all fall into the agape category. Whenever we believe there’s a “love” relationship between us and something we recognize as “greater” than us, it is coming from the parts of the brain that register and respond to agape love. The emotions a toddler has for their parent, recognizably older siblings and adult near-family members (grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, etc) is agape in nature, growing into philios (we hope) as they mature.

Part of human neural design is that we are capable of experiencing these three loves separately, simultaneously and in all mixtures possible.

It’s wonderful, how we’re designed.

Back to Making Tools

The company that wanted a Love Gauge was, it turned out, primarily interested in Eros and Philios, and they weren’t particular which one dominated at what point in the relationship so long as people were satisfied with their partnerings long enough not to blame this company should a relationship turn sour.

Our tools’ technology base currently is capable of recognizing agape and philios, but not eros.

Darn, huh?

So we told them that. We shook hands and walked away.

NextStage's Compatibility Gauge- NSCGBut not before we developed a Compatibility Gauge. We developed the Compatibility Gauge because we thought going through the motions would help us figure out how to recognize and measure eros.

Well, it didn’t.

But then I got a call from a friend who’s also a regular client in a completely unrelated industry, one that builds on and offline communities. We got to talking about recent projects and I mentioned NextStage’s Compatibility Gauge (”NSCG” for short). I explained philios and agape to him and he said, “So it can determine if two people will get along, just not if they’ll fall in love, right?”


“Can it determine if two groups will get along?” Yep.

“How about someone coming into an existing workgroup. Could it determine if they’ll fit in and contribute?” Definitely.

“How about if someone would be a good manager for an existing team?” Yup.

“Can it determine if two companies should merge?” To a point, yes.

“How about if someone would be a good CEO for an existing company?” Ayup.

“Brands and fans?” Yes. “Brand persona and Consumer Persona?” Yes.

“So it can figure out who should be accepted into a particular branded community for testing purposes?” Yep, sure can.

Not to mention who’d make good political running mates. Or who’d be good friends.

And thus a tool was born.

But wait, there’s more…

A while later (a long while later in internet terms) I was talking with someone else and they made an offhand comment that got me to thinking about a way to modify one of our existing tools, NextStage OnSite, NSOS. NSOS traditionally reported on website visitor en masse, not individually. It could determine group behavior and response but wasn’t designed to report on individuals.

But what they said gave me an idea of how to modify the math inside that tool so that it could report on certain elements of individual behaviors. The results of that can be seen on NextStage’s Facebook page (and please beFriend and Like us while you’re there).

Modifying NSOS brought me again to a Love Gauge concept. There had to be a way to do it, I simply wasn’t understanding the problem correctly.

So I asked our technology “What is Love between two people?”

First, yes, we can actually ask our technology such things and get an understandable response. Second, because our technology currently “thinks” like a child albeit a child with a vast knowledge of how humans interact, it responded with

  • Eros: Pleasurable compassionate attention to another’s person
  • Philios: Consistent demonstrations that another’s peace and understanding have equal value to the self’s peace and understanding
  • Agape: Trust beyond knowledge, understanding and experience

We’ve gotten use to our technology being Zen-like and Koanish. For example, “Pleasureable compassionate attention to another’s person” makes quite a bit of sense when one breaks the phrase up a bit; “Be aware of their physical, emotional and psychological pleasure/pain thresholds and move between them as they wish. Focus more on them than on yourself.”

That “Be aware of their physical, emotional and psychological pleasure/pain thresholds and move between them as they wish. Focus more on them than on yourself” is actually something our technology can measure and report on because love, regardless of the form, is more about the mind than the body and a lot of what’s in that definition is mind-based, not body-based.

We’ve gotten use to our technology being smarter than us.

And by the time my next That Think You Do post is published, that Love determining tool should be available. We’ll be making it available here for your…um…pleasure.

So stay tuned.

And in the meantime, go play with The NextStage Compatibility Gauge. It might save you some headaches before you go out on that first date.

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Come on by and say hello.

RVMsmallfrontcover.jpgSign up for The NextStage Irregular, our very irregular, definitely frequency-wise and probably topic-wise newsletter.

You can follow me and my research on Twitter. I don’t twit often but when I do, it’s with gusto!

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

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Men Get Stupid Over Sex

I’ve been laughing my head off over some recent research findings. I’m laughing because the research is…well…funny to me. Kind of like certain types of comedy. Some forms of comedy derive their power by demonstrating our own foolishness. We’re actually laughing at ourselves through the safety of the comedy.

So it was with this research. My chuckles came from a friend’s one line commentary, used as the title to this post.
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Did You See What He Was Wearing?

I share a little story in Reading Virtual Minds about how a woman, a complete stranger to me, helped me pick out a pair of pants while I was shopping. Lots of readers contact me about that story. The incident occurred because both the woman and I were middle-aged. Another, even more significant reason the incident described took place was because I was purchasing casual pants. Nothing flashy, nothing extravagant, nothing intended to catch people’s eyes.

Well, that last part isn’t exactly true. It has more to do with knowing how to catch specific eyes.
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Men, The Stimulus Package and Fear of Commitment

I recently heard “…that is supposed to be the purpose of a stimulus package, give a push in the back to those afraid to financially commit.” and it tickled me in so many ways.

The Stimulus Package was targeted more towards male-dominated jobs (construction and manufacturing are the common examples) than to female-dominated jobs (education and health care are the common examples). There were reasons for this having to do with necessary upgrades to infrastructure, the fact that the recession hit male-dominated jobs in greater numbers than female-dominated jobs.

I almost sound like pundit, yes?

Do a quick search on these things and at some point you have to notice one truly amazing thing — My gosh but we’re still a sexist nation!

So lets remove the socio-economics from the discussion for a moment and look at our current economic situation from biology, psychophysiology and cultural-anthropology perspectives.

What do we learn? The Stimulus Package targeted male-dominated jobs because men are afraid of commitment.

I so like stripping away all the high level stuff and putting things into an anthrogynopological perspective.
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Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

Some readers may remember the Tom Lehrer song by that name. In case you don’t, enjoy it here:

Dr. Ruth, a NextStageologist of long standing, and I often sing it when we’re together. Most people don’t know that Tom Lehrer started out as a brilliant mathematician. He got into music when he realized he could make more money with his catchy melodies and humorous lyrics than by calculating ·Ñ functions (”dot del” if your browser doesn’t support the Symbol font).

This post isn’t about Tom Lehrer per se, except that in preparing this post he came to mind and I love to share.

Pigeon Love

It’s about pigeons, men, and listening to women talk about them.
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Be Wary When The Boys Play Nice

It is one of the marks of any society that cooperation and competition go hand in hand. Cooperation is the “Let’s all work on this together” side of things and competition is the “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” side of things. Both are survival traits and human societies work by keeping these two survival traits in balance. We can’t help having them. They’re remnants of our primitive psychologies, economics, culture, … There’s an awful lot that comes into play.

In western culture though, specifically in that ever diminishing male-dominated part of it, competition and cooperation go hand-in-hand in some odd and fascinating ways.

The basics are this; Catch two boys misbehaving and they’ll point their fingers at each other (competition). Catch a bunch of boys together when only one of them is misbehaving and they’ll band together, punish them all or punish no one with no middle ground (cooperation).
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