Before you can improve yourself, you need to decide in what direction, or by what criteria you will determine whether or not there is improvement. The site in general is based on the following ordering: your first goal as an individual is to maximize your current and future personal happiness. This is a purely selfish argument and ordering, yet it can make you a far more giving and kind person than you would ever be otherwise, if you do it right.
This is because of the inescapable fact of human existence: a huge part of our happiness is entirely dependent on human company (eg: love, friends, a job / survival, etc.), so the successful pursuit of that entirely selfish primary goal is intricately tied to the question of how 'good' we are in society. In other words: once sufficiently aware, a self-centered individual will want to behave well (as we shall see in numerous ways below), if for no other reason than that others should only want to be in the company of those who do them good, rather than ill. Again, it is a lack of awareness that largely limits these 'others': as abusive relationships show, it can be very difficult for the victim to escape (but less so if you focus on what is explained here, I bet).
In the context of this particular ordering, it is worth highlighting the typical approach, which focuses on moral obligation first and foremost (eg: the core message in most major religions), where in order to not feel guilty (and hence be able to feel happy) you need to treat the people around you well. Unfortunately, psychology (or self-analysis) and history clearly show how people adapt: people still act badly and they hide a whole lot from themselves in order to continue to feel good. In other words: they build patterns that are consistently terrible/evil for many around them, with the subconscious and numerous behavioral patterns naturally intervening to help hide the issues and continue the pattern of bad behavior. Think of any unfair or unjust situation and you have the following: the perpetrator has rationalized all sorts of reasons for behaving as they have (if I don't others will, it's for my family's sake, etc.). After the fact, the perp feels guilt and regret and they pray a bit, but they don't otherwise even bother to think of (let alone act on) how they need to change in order to make sure such a situation (where others were harmed by their action) never repeats itself.
Here is why guilt fails as a control mechanism: it is a temporary and fleeting feeling, no matter what one might try to argue. After all, life must go on, right? Worse yet, it is a mechanism that is very easily prone to manipulation: 'subconsciously', you know whether you can probably get away with 'it' or not, and in fact you will have at your fingertips the constantly computed/updated likelihood of getting away with some particular action - something we are all extremely good at evaluating...
However, by prioritizing your selfish happiness in theory (which is what's going to happen anyway) but focusing in practice on making 100% sure that all the ways in which you find your societal fit are beneficial (or neutral) to others at all times, you automatically find the next piece of the equation: the fact that all people find themselves in the same position of needing company to survive and be happy, and therefore that there is natural positive feedback and amplification as soon as you find and spread an activity or pattern that benefits all parties.
As an aside, I will clarify one detail: I see no problem with middle-men or others getting remuneration for their work when they offer a helpful service. Being beneficial to others clearly does not mean you can't get rich for it (that would break the #1 rule). At the same time, because of the natural pleasure we all get from helping (even) strangers, this way of life leaves you very much ready and willing to selflessly make a difference in peoples lives 'just because you are a good person' or 'just because you feel like it', rather than because you feel guilty or because you want to pity others and yourself.
As well, the positive-feedback is huge, endlessly varied and full of potential from a business or macro-perspective, and it is naturally filled with awesome 'tipping points' as more and more people hopefully switch from being parasites to being in symbiosis, but what's best to focus on is your own personal life: if your friends are anti-parasites, your job is non-parasitical, your love is honest and true, then you are almost certainly one of the happiest on the planet. However, you should note one very important thing: if you are a parasite or manipulator, if you think you are special and therefore more important than others as evidenced by any of your actions, then you will find many doors to this happiness closed, as I certainly am seeking only to work with, befriend and love your opposite, since I know all too well what I risk otherwise, and since quite frankly I seek substance, not just people who have crafted the right image.
In any case, there is one important item to remember from this: anytime there is a difficult question (eg: making reasoned decisions in how you are going to live your real, day-to-day life), if you have trouble deciding between one option or another, remember the primary rule: your choice is not going to work well unless it has some kind of benefit for yourself. But remember as well the corollary: that there are countless ways to achieve your goals, that (selfish) goals are abstract constructs that evolve over time (for selfish gain), that you just need to do some more thinking (and work, most likely) in order to find a solution where all participants benefit, and furthermore that you naturally feel happiness from helping others, in addition to the tangible benefits that typically are given by those who benefited or wish to encourage such behavior. This is your primary goal: maximize your happiness by making sure that your actions are positive-only, and you can be proud, confident, happy, popular and able to reach states of being that are simply not available to those who take the path of lies and manipulation / control.
In order to keep things fairly practical, I will switch to describing common mistakes made by the majority.
Focusing on Image Over Substance
People are constantly bombarded not only with artificial imagery used to further some agenda (eg: commercials, demagoguery on the airwaves, etc.), but also with the observation that it works quite well. For example, to most, it seems, the value and importance in an education lies more in the final piece of paper and statistic (eg: a 4.0 average at X college) than in actually learning for learning's sake, to improve yourself. The question I raise is not *at all* what you need to get by in an interview for a desirable job, or whether these degrees are accurate descriptors (they are to a fair extent) - ie: these practical questions explain part of why it is absurd to ignore appearance entirely - the question is rather whether, deep down, you believe that the #1 thing you need more of in order to succeed is appearance (eg: some public honors, visibility, connections, renown, image, resume details, interview skills, etc.) or substance (eg: having studied to understand, rather than cheating or cramming, or focusing on how to be effective for the company rather than for yourself, or even learning how to be a good friend rather than a popular person with 'hand').
Well, here's what happens in reality when you focus too much of your efforts on appearance instead of substance: you do end up getting that rare job (sooner or later), but you are so far from qualified for it that no matter what you try you still fail miserably, at which point your primary concern in the company becomes hiding your deficiencies and gaming the political/personal arena, so that you can survive or better yet give the appearance of success. After all, most companies barely spend any effort checking references, and in any case you only need to have one or a few allies in your game for that requirement to be made largely irrelevant, so you can build your career out of mostly failing at a succession of ever more impressive jobs. Do you get any sense for how crappy a life that is? Constantly in fear, constantly in denial, constantly living a lie, bitter or resentful at the sense that things never seem to work out in your favor in life...
The related mistake that people typically make: believing that talent is something that one is born with. Although your genes certainly define you in a number of ways, surely you recognize the importance of personal development in 'nature vs. nurture'. Just like how becoming a world-class athlete is 10% ability and 90% hard work (+ some luck, obviously), being amazingly effective and smart is something that is 10% ability and 90% hard work. Only a very naive person is impressed by the body of a typical bodybuilder, since most now know that getting there is just a question of eating and exercising a particular way - although please note how you need to be spending an extreme amount of time and effort for several years to get the results they show, just like how you need to dedicate yourself to proper learning for a number of years in order to become uber-smart. (In a later section I will give details on what to do to become far smarter than you most likely are now).
Continuing on the general topic, consider the result that image yields in the personal space. Clearly, the best looking people (women in particular, but men as well) get to be automatically popular and desirable, and regardless of that, what matters is results, right? Due to living in a body that makes us keenly suffer when we are sexually frustrated or when we have no tender physical contact, due to having a mind that makes us suffer when we are rejected or undesired, people quickly learn to greatly fear being alone, so much so that people generally think 'all is fair in love an war' - as in, just like how rape and pillage (or murder, at the very least) are tools of war, you can excuse lying, harmful deceit, manipulation, etc., so long as it is for your love...
What's so interesting in the application of all this to 'love' is how once more you clearly only have the image of love if you have used nefarious means to acquire it. For example, abandonment play works with both men and (especially, pretty) women, so if you work at it you can fairly easily get a gorgeous lover, to your merriment as you bask in the jealous gaze of others, but in reality that person does not want 'you' in a way that can exist once the games and tricks end. We naturally want what we can't have, so if you are skilled at gaming this tendency in people, you can make a lot of them want things that they don't actually have a reason for desiring. In other words, for the spell's duration, which itself is heavily dependent on you constantly reinforcing the lie or game, you know deep down that the other person doesn't really love you for who you are and that they would likely leave you if not for your tricks. Rather than focusing on improving the relationship (they all take work), you are busy building ways to keep your game going. The irony for the one gaming abandonment play is that in time they typically get overwhelmed with desire for the other party, as their hold is never more than tenuous. After the breakup, the gamer is often left with years of desperate attachment and idiotic behavior. The lamest part though is how things generally repeat themselves for the 'victim', frankly.
I hope people will excuse the quotes I put in 'victim', just previously, as what I mean to highlight is how first-time (and even repeat, to a fair degree) victims are true 'victims' and how first-time offenses are quite possibly accidental/excusable, whereas most repeat victims / perpetrators are closer to what is generally termed co-dependent behavior. Because we mostly rationalize our immediate desires (as an ex-smoker, I know something of addiction), our minds are often clearly working against reason (an example of 'un-reason' being harming yourself) due to a wide range of conflicting desires (eg: I don't want to quit smoking, but I want to quit smoking). Above all, the reason for quotes around 'victim' is for you (and myself, as always) to consider applying those quotes to the victimhood that exists in your personal thoughts about yourself. Most people seem to still be kids at heart: they prefer to think thoughts that infer a parent / authority figure who will listen and appropriately take care of injustice. As 'adults', they toil to make sure they can dominate and get their 'justice'. While it is true that you can try to get justice, it is inherently fickle and difficult to achieve, whereas self-improvement is immediate and entirely under your control. Yeah, it sucks to have to adapt to selfish jerks, but I know better than to hold up any of my personal plans for them. Justice and revenge are luxuries I afford myself rarely, not because they seem unachievable or unworkable to me, but because I know the parasite's life sucks already (without any extra effort on my part) and because I know that they will have 'won' in a far larger sense if they manage to impact my life any more than 'that'. I try to resolve things and if I can't I work to exclude the person from my life, to their clear detriment - I move on, and that way I am guaranteed at least not to suffer again from the same thing again. I am not afraid of being alone - why should I be? It's only temporary, and in fact you always end up missing it once you have too much company.
In any case, none of the control points work without ruining things. A woman (or man) who bases her relationships on sex appeal lives in fear of growing old, apparently ignoring the fact that we all end up old and un-sexy, unless your winning solution is an early death. In fact, those beauties that live a life based on their transient 'hotness' all live a life that either stupidly ignores the inevitable 'not-hot' tail end of life, or they fear for the future and try not to think about it too much. A person who uses money as the basis for their relationships (or as a crutch) ends up surrounded by sycophants, in full knowledge of what 'really' motivates things, just like a man (or woman) who uses strength or physical domination forgets how at best they will retire at some old age and then end up all alone, un-valued by all but their paid yes-men, if they can still afford them.
The solution is multi-part: it's not just that you need to improve your behavior (most people behave poorly and most people base their behavior on others, so much of what you have deemed OK should likely be re-examined, and in any case, there is always room for improvement), you also need to better notice this type of behavior in others (you are most likely suffering from it on a regular basis). The primary goal is, once more, for you to find ways of achieving your selfish goals that are not harmful or harmfully deceitful AND in making sure that all the people in your circle are themselves not behaving in ways that are deceitful or harmful to you or the people around them.
One glaring thing that is so often ignored: bad people all have friends who they treat mostly well (that's why these 2ndary folk are their friends, after all). Perhaps the simplest example of this is how, if your love relationship was born in the betrayal of the other's last lover, then you are most likely going to be cheated on yourself. Similarly, thieves are quick to drop each other (consider things over the span of 10 years), but more generally: if your friend is the type of person who would bully someone 'just because it is fun', and you figure that you are safe from this because you think that your friend sees you as a different type of person, think once more of how much things change in 10 years' time. In any case, it is extremely rare that you would find someone who is bad only to his non-friends - in other words, evidence of bullying or other harmful behavior is just evidence of a larger problem: notice the fact that this friend of yours thinks it is OK to harm others so long as he/she benefits from it, notice how as a friend you are going to therefore also be someone who gets harmed for that person's benefit, sooner or later. Finally, notice how the victims have the rest of us on their side and how we'll do our best so that the lot of you to take your proper punishment, if we can.
In a different vein, consider having a lover that likes to tell you the details about how various people were hitting on them during the day: what they are typically trying to do is to make you feel insecure, by reinforcing the idea that they could leave you any day and immediately find a number of desirable replacements. I only once ever told a girlfriend of mine about the details of some stranger hitting on me. Sharp as she was about these types of things (and low on trust, I guess), she immediately objected, but her objection was raised too quickly, as I was quick to explain: the ending (and reason) to my story was the opportunity it gave me to explain how the event made me realize all the more how happy I was with that gf and how I really was not looking elsewhere, as I explained to both the 3rd party and my then-gf, something that seemed like a good thing to mention when your desire is for things to become more intimate and trusting. Unfortunately, she was someone who only seemed interested when my own interests were low (ie: it seemed like I could only sustain the relationship with her if I gamed this aspect of her, something I actually don't really know how to do, let alone considering the antipathy I naturally have for all forms of manipulation), but the long view I take on it is that the relationship was doomed from the start, due to mismatch on a number of fundamental things.
I will be frank about one down-side to focusing primarily on substance: it works flawlessly for friendships and business, but in today's image and manipulation-heavy world it will make your dating life more difficult, although ultimately I don't really see how this is reason enough: in the end, if you base your life on manipulation then your love life is a sham and it's going to suck.
Fear of Being Wrong
I mentioned this briefly in the old Politics section (now offline), but it's worth considering in greater detail. The vast majority of people I meet or interact with are unable to accept criticism, unwilling to learn from most of the people around them.
If someone corrects you, or criticizes you, or takes time to tell you something that you disagree with, then consider the two very different parts of the equation:
- Are they wrong or right?
- What's their reason for telling you?
A wise person learns from everyone around them - even from those who are trying to manipulate them, if nothing more than learning/knowing how X has actually tried to manipulate you. An even wiser person will actively seek out feedback, since evidently most people hold back most of their critical opinions since they are generally not wanted. Think about it for a bit: all of us are not perfect, we are all wrong about certain things, for all that we may be right about others. We have countless people around us who have naturally observed all sorts of things that are obvious to 3rd parties, and yet most people absolutely hate and avoid all types of personal feedback...
One of the reasons is clearly this Image Over Substance issue I mentioned earlier: the image-defined individual cannot bear to acknowledge the slightest blemish to their image, since doing so opens the door to more examination, or sets a precedent. In fact, I imagine that seeking out honest feedback is fundamentally undesirable to all 'enhanced/manufactured image'-type people, who ultimately know all too well just how much they exaggerate and BS. It is not possible for such people to accept being wrong or to seek critical feedback.
But even for the wider set, it often seems like a case of the following: many truths apply simultaneously and the negative/wrong one is used as the driving factor (a glass-half-full-type thing): people are gripped in the fear/horror of being wrong, when instead they could be thinking that they are now possibly 1 less number of things wrong, compared to before (ie: less wrong than before = more right than before, yay!). Note the 'possibly': you only improve if you adapt based on the feedback received. If you ignore it, you remain just as dumb/stupid/wrong/failed as before. Exhausted at the thought of all this work? Well, it's not at all like you should be thinking about how wrong you are, all or most of the time, but you should be honestly considering it at least a few times a day...
Worth mentioning is also the detail of when it is acceptable to receive criticism, or how it should be done. A true friend is someone who takes the trouble of figuring out how to give you helpful advice (evidently, it's up to you to decide whether you'll listen), but it is also often necessary that you be able to listen if something in your behavior is problematic for the friend in question. In other words, critical information from a real friend is something very valuable, but regardless you often will see it abused. One clear example is anytime critical things are mentioned in front of a third party. A true friend will do things in private, whereas something more complex lies behind the critique in public.
For example, consider a mother who highlights her child's failings in public: this is generally the case of an adult who has a greater agenda with the child (eg: a desire to put pressure or punish, in order to teach some lesson). Sadly, children are not born with decoders for this, so they do not often turn this into positive results (eg: learning how to be effective, how to get your homework done, as indeed homework is just a kid's version of adult 'work', both being 'unfair' and yet potentially enjoyable as well - a life lesson that needs to be learned, basically). Anyhow, I digress: this example shows that there can be more subtle reasons behind 'public shaming', but regardless it does not make it any more acceptable, IMO: if you have something to say, as a parent, in public in front of your child, then tell us frankly rather than as a snide remark, but beyond childhood (during which you don't get to decide things), that this is not acceptable behavior, or at least that you recognize it for what it is: typically an exercise in control and punishment.
To keep all this practical, it is important to focus on yourself and on what you can do, rather than thinking too much about examples that pertain to another person. Spend some time at night, to consider anew the perspectives that others brought to you, spend some time thinking of how you reacted and whether that was the most desirable reaction (perhaps including how to try to react differently); if you can, spend some time trying to think of other likely or similar mistakes, try to change and improve yourself, as indeed you are the only one who can. Spend some time thinking about your friendships and whether they are widely positive, and if not, try to think as much about your own failings as of the others' failings. Like attracts like, so if you think your friends suck it may be an indication that you need to up your own game. You can't expect more from your friends than what you are willing to offer yourself.
That being said, the decision of accepting or pursuing self-critical information is part and parcel of a life that focuses on Substance Over Image: the more you refine yourself (removing those parts of yourself that are wrong or bad), the better your Substance and resulting Image over the long-term, and thus the easier it becomes to accept criticism. Unless you also work on making sure that your underlying Substance is truly positive for society and all participants, then you suddenly make your problem so much more complex that you will never navigate it as successfully (as explained previously, on a number of levels, you ruin the object of your desire by obtaining it improperly, by taking harmful short-cuts).
For all those who have lived in the wrong for most of their lives, and who perhaps feel that they have too large a task before them: you just don't understand how much simpler life becomes once you make the switch. Everything becomes natural, smiles included. Granted, making any type of change takes some work and a willingness to give up and sacrifice other things, since you can't do it all. The key thing though is that when you look back, you will see how you ultimately won't miss what you had to sacrifice (eg: your power over others, or your ability to exert coercive control).
Which brings up a side topic that explains part of why there is a downside to focusing on Substance first: on a playing field where others don't shy away from reprehensible behavior, it's nice to be able to 'save' the object of your desire by virtue of reverse 'trickology'. There are countless times and ways in which the skills and abilities of an Image-focused type can be useful, but you can't do it all. You can be analyzing someone's behavior and speech primarily with Image-related concerns in mind (eg: how do I convince people of what I want them to believe) or you can be trying to detect their divergence from the honest / 'good' / coherent perspective you supposedly have in mind. Which you do while you communicate with your lover/friends/clients is indicative of the type of person you are, deep down, or rather it limits your reactions immensely, and hence limits who you can be. You can't have the same bright thoughts and useful mental capacity as a 'real' person if your primary concerns are generally false and manipulative.
One might be surprised to see this criticism of selfishness, coming as it does after an intro that seems to state the opposite: that we should focus on our self-interest first and foremost. The clear difference is the following: a smartly selfish person thinks of the others as much as himself because he/she understands the immense benefits that come from that (they truly are staggering), whereas the self-centered individual makes the dual mistakes of not thinking enough (ie: only thinking from a self-centered perspective and forgetting / not being aware of the rest that others include in their reasoning), as well as making the mistake of building (largely mental) arguments that are based on an ordering wherein their interests matter far more than those of others - something that all smart interlocutors and potential partners will object to.
Clearly, it is to your personal advantage to avoid self-centered people if you can (I don't think it's something that changes easily or quickly), and self-centered people need to learn to think in new and wider ways if they are to hope to have friends who aren't themselves all self-centered.
Not Knowing How To Listen or Argue
The lamest testament to our culture of lying is what we widely teach as the ultimate in rhetorical skill: the ability to argue any point, as encouraged in universities and high-schools world-wide, where you are given a topic and you need to present arguments supporting that particular viewpoint, and then later offer arguments for an opposing viewpoint. The true master? The one who is able to convince the listener that any two opposite statements are true, in a single session.
Think about his for a bit, think of how sick and wrong this is: there is no question of trying to develop the widespread ability for discovering and destroying the lies of others - it's all about showing off the skills you need to work as a part of the group that lives off of the lies and injustice that ruin so much of life. I feel ill at the thought of naive kids working hard to be celebrated as the best bullshitters available. Then again, that's clearly where much of the best money is (well-paid lawyers, banking, government elite, media, etc.), so you can count it as part of the establishment's machine, I suppose.
Anyhow, what you need, as an individual, is to stop and review what you are typically doing when you communicate with someone: are you just listening solely in order to find counterarguments, or are you instead prioritizing honest consideration for what is being presented to you by others? (I am speaking to myself more than anyone in this last paragraph, especially lately, but whatever: the general idea is to try our hardest to be open minded)
As an aside, I will mention one tricky aspect inherent to communication: if you can't think of anything interesting to reply with, then your interlocutor may get bored with you and you will have somehow failed. Part of our quest for popularity and value is the quest for being judged right in this strange 'contest'. We need to spend a lot of resources figuring out how to reply, so it is frankly quite difficult to manage both that and all the rest, simultaneously.
I would likely be considered a rather open minded and easy-to-talk-to person, and even then I know that I often misunderstand what people are saying (my ears heard one thing, and yet my brain thought it meant something else), or at least I'll notice how I could have replied with something better and smarter, and therefore I rarely miss the opportunity to revisit recent conversations during down-times. Where I differ from most, it seems, is that I don't hesitate to fix my deeper mistakes, such that I am soon a changed person as a result. It seems likely that for many, the fear of being wrong or of self-analysis turns the analysis sessions into an exercise in 'how do I need to refine my game so that I don't get ridiculed again / manipulate better / etc.', not noting how the ridicule originated in their own absurdity or how there is no need for manipulation, let alone a true benefit to using it. In short: to stop being so short-sighted, you need to accept new thoughts, which invariably means leaving previous ones.
As an aside, I will mention how it is very valuable to read certain things multiple times. We typically get 10% to 80% of the meaning in a given sentence on first pass, with how close you are to 80% being not so much due to your skill as a reader but to the simplicity of the text or its similarity and relevance to recent thoughts and context. Emails should almost always be read at least twice before even thinking of replying (I make a mistake in often jumping ahead with my thoughts based on an incorrect first pass understanding). The lower the quality of the information, the less need there is to read it more than once (unless it is poorly written). The best philosophical passages require ten or more subsequent scans (and significant time) to be made sense of - you cannot possibly be understanding much more than 10% if you are trying to take it as an uninterrupted stream, because each sentence may have far more meaning than you realize. In fact, greater understanding often comes at random moments, even months later, as something of a surprise.
In any case, the fact that most people always are in the 'focus entirely on finding self-serving counter-arguments'-mode is really sad when you consider that as an individual, you are therefore always defending the status quo and the inevitable repeat of past history, be it in politics or with your family and friends. You stay stuck, unable to change, afraid of the future and the coming calamities that you know are unavoidable based on said bad-history+no-changes combo, falling ever further into depression as you lament your constant lack of self-growth, coupled with constant reminders of personal insufficiency.
What Nietzsche said is true: in the realm of thought, 'what does not destroy me only makes me stronger' - your mind simply does not have the ability to be harmed solely by thinking something. Clear the dirt in your thoughts, let in some better thoughts (based on your own evaluation, as it's all 100% up to you to determine, ultimately, what your best course is). This is the #1 thing stopping most people from being powerful, from freeing themselves of all this resentment-based living: stop being afraid of new thinking, listen and learn to notice when people are BS'ing you, and learn to notice when you are BS'ing others (and if so, fix the underlying causes that motivate you to BS and manipulate).
In general though, I think that society as a whole (all individuals, basically) would benefit from a greater focus on highlighting BS. Unfortunately, the majority of the establishment, that huge system of entitlement that seeks to protect itself, is based on BS and lies. And this is precisely why it is so important to learn to better argue and think: because people are taking advantage of you at the polls, in your business, and in your love life, more often than not.
Control = Weakness
If you can become a person who is positive-only, while still making enough money to live a decent life (not a difficult thing for anyone, really: it's the decision + working at it for years), then you are set to live the best life on earth: when you are old or sick, the people around you will be there for you. They will deeply love you.
People are so afraid of being alone, or of not having the ability to command respect, money, influence, sex, etc., that they naturally focus on the most certain ways of getting their immediate desires (we most certainly are not naturally wired to consider the long-term over the short-term). It is understandable that people should so often go this route: not only do we witness the seeming infallibility of these methods, or become trapped as victims (with the resulting thought being that it's far better to be the perpetrator than the victim), in addition, there is the paralyzing fear that comes from knowing that your happiness is dependent on other people making a decision, including the sweet temptation that is using means of control or manipulation to influence said decision in your favor. After all, 'everyone else' is doing it, right?
Consider a line used to represent an ordering of states of being, from 'extreme victim', to more moderate states of victimhood, to neutrality/symbiosis, to moderate types of control and manipulation, ending with extreme examples of control (eg: massive parasitism, murder, rape, robbery). People fail to notice the one bright spot (symbiosis) and waste all their lives focused on the rest.
It should be obvious, once more, what the end result is as a controller: you either get super-lucky and manage to live the lie 'till you die in your old age, maybe content (but hugely lame, in reality, as maintaining lies is a full-time, exhausting shit-job), or your lie(s) get exposed and you suffer some major consequences. But beyond all that is still just the fact that if you suck, then your friends suck, your love life sucks and your life is all a big lie, no matter the glamor and shine.
The powerful man who dominates his wife and friends, whose power (be it physical, financial, or otherwise) and thoughts are largely committed to maintaining subservient relationships, looks to me like the weakest of men, as I know that he is doing all this because he is afraid, deep down inside, and that it is his insecurities that make him behave this way. And well he should be afraid, as all power is transient and fleeting. One moment you are at the top of the world, and the next, it's over. Beyond that is the pure stupidity of a life that only works while you are young enough: at some point, we all get so old that we lose everything we had: looks, acumen, power, relevance and even respect, if the later was based on the previous being in abundance.
The beautiful woman who bewitches men (and vice-versa): she is even more pathetic since she will lose her rare looks inevitably and relatively young. She is like most athletes, whose personal odds of success and path is even more absurd, unless it comes with a whole lot more than just a life about sports at a young age.
It doesn't matter what 'hand' you have: in the end, it all goes away, so if your relationships are maintained or exist largely thanks to this 'hand', you can be sure that your retirement age will be a miserable existence.
The Princess Ideal
There are a number of fundamental flaws I see with the ideals that most (young) women carry. In particular, this dream for life as a Princess, where you have stunning beauty, vast wealth, youth, and guaranteed success as an adult, as indeed the queen and king get to even decide the parameters of what is 'success', so it represents 'happy' life on easy-street.
Royalty was made obsolete by the time of Napoleon and the entire idea that a person should be able to live grandly due largely to entitlement is entirely revolting and inherently unfair to all other parties. For another, the reality of all crutches (eg: beauty, vast wealth through inheritance, advantage in sports, etc.) is that it generally makes the individual develop themselves less, rather than more, thanks to the fact that we are naturally lazy (optimizing, one might argue) and hence typically only make effort when we really need to.
Consider the counter-ideal to the one based on entitlement: that you would have become so great a doctor / xyz that based on your hard work, perseverance and resulting skill, you are the best of the best and truly worthy of the accolades of your peers. Consider the practical reality of life: if you develop skills, rather than depending on entitlement, then you have built-in value, regardless of circumstance and in all fairness. At that point, you are no longer dependent on the grace of others.
Perhaps I picked the wrong angle just then: consider that you might become someone so stylish that you are attractive to the most discerning eye and that you have also developed the skills necessary for being an awesome girlfriend / wife / mother, and hence are incredibly attractive to the ideal man, who in Barbie games is concerned with his love life, rather than his professional one (the focus of most male games, although in the end they equate to one another). As I mentioned in the introduction, the wonderful situation of two people in true symbiosis is really something interesting, and I would say it is worth imagining and refining in games as a child (male or female), but the focus should be on personal benefit through symbiosis rather than from entitlement (or success through force/power, as in GI Joe).
One common mistake I see gorgeous women make constantly: overestimating the meaning behind their rare beauty, once the relationship has started. Granted, most men will put up with more if you are beautiful, but a wise woman should realize that only a scumbag goes out with someone 'only for her looks', just like only a lame guy puts up with major BS or dysfunction 'only for her looks'. Without even going to such extremes, consider for a second the one thing that matters in beauty: whether or not the other person is sexy to you or not. That's it - other peoples' opinions don't actually matter. And quite frankly, for me there are clear disadvantages and reasons to avoid gorgeous women: not only do they tend to be far more dysfunctional than the average (no doubt in part because they are always being gamed by manipulative dicks), but there is also just a sense in society that you are probably a superficial person if you end up with a beauty. I would just as soon be with someone who is super-sexy to me but not that sexy to the majority. Regardless, consider how likely someone is to build a life-long, awesome love relationship with a woman who tries to get by largely on her looks, even though she may not realize it.
I recall a then-22 year old girlfriend once telling me her great plan, which evidently I had a remote possibility of sharing with her 'if I would be so lucky': beyond a strangely precise expected age by which she figured she would have found (decided on) her man (gorgeous and fun as she was, it was somewhat understandable), then spent x months / years in very specific stages of evolution towards the married state, upon marriage her honest expectation was that the first year would be one where she would be treated as a princess by her spouse/servant, after which she was going to feel charged and ready to go to make and raise a kid, as a team... Granted, she was young, but she was also a typical single child, hence far more self-centered than what I am seeking or used to. Fundamentally, she felt that she was special enough to be entitled to a year's worth of princess treatment - if indeed I loved her, I should be willing to give some of myself to her, no? Well, from my perspective, someone who isn't able to see me as an equal today or in the plan years from now is almost certainly not going to see me as an equal after that date, no matter what they are promising themselves or others.
The key thing that I feel should be in mind anytime you are in a relationship: trying to make it a relationship of equals. In each pairing, you will commonly find some imbalances (eg: one has more wealth, is better looking, etc.). Why is everyone out there trying to get the most out of their advantages, when the result is bacteria-level competition for spoils of war? I unfortunately can't find the URL, but I recall reading a great article at Wired.com that described the research this fellow's team has been conducting on marriages, wherein they videotaped couples and analysed their behavior, to then later correlate that with rates of divorce, decades later. The overwhelming result? That respect was by far the easiest measure for success, or conversely: that lack of respect for your spouse is an almost-certain guarantee of future divorce.
If your value in the couple is based largely on your beauty, then what do you think is going to happen to you when you are 50? Do you think it is fair to entirely blame the husband for leaving the ex-beauty, when the later has established behaviors and expectations that she should have special treatment thanks to that beauty? Both parties basically get what they deserve, insofar that it is mostly life-in-denial that blinds people to this, regardless of their 'surprise' at the end. It's not much different from the gold digger who leaves the other party as soon as the money is gone, although perhaps it is far dumber since it is inevitable that we all grow old. In most cases, you have plenty of advance warning that your partner is scum or superficial, so what's your reason for ignoring all the signs?
The mistakes on the typical (US) male side are generally as bad or worse, and indeed it takes two to tango, with the typical American guy having a misshapen feminine ideal that fits with the Princess-ideal to a large degree.
One particularly dated view is the one that assigns particular roles to men (who make money) and women (who look after the home and kids). This approach is largely doomed to fail nowadays, in part because the wife/mother is left with little to no purpose once the children grow up and leave, but even more so because it is fundamentally a co-dependent relationship. Regardless, people still try to follow these roles, as if they mattered.
I'm a guy, and I know how to cook and clean very well: in part, this makes it bearable to live alone (my life doesn't depend on having a 'gf' as a cook or servant), but in a more positive sense it makes me much more desirable, since I not only have skills, but also am willing to do my share of the housework. More than anything: I know it's fun to cook with company, rather than doing it by yourself. The ideal is a partner you love to do things with - not just a division of labor.
At the same time, it's not like there is a problem with there being some break-down of tasks by gender in any particular case: I'd rather mow the lawn and do brute physical work, more often than not - it's fun for me. At the same time, let's also be honest with what often happens: the wife is nowadays not only working a full job but also cooking/cleaning every day, while the man who maybe happens to make more money is somehow excused from such duties. If one has a 12 hour day (including commute) while the other doesn't, then clearly you take that into account, but both parties should be aiming for a fair arrangement between equals.
Here's the greater unfairness of the male/female divide proposed by the old model: at 45-50 years old, the man is making more money than ever before and he is still very active and social. By then, the kids have moved out and the reasons for involvement at home are minimal. Unsurprisingly, most men have their 'mid-life crisis', as they suddenly discover that it is more fun to leave the wife, who no longer has anything in particular that fits their desires, than it is to stick to their broken ideal and morals. You barely need to rationalize any of it, since over 60% of marriages end in divorce...
What is apparent to me is the control and fear that both parties bring to the table in such relationships, from the very beginning: the man is afraid that his wife might leave him, so he wants financial and other points of leverage and attachment. In retrospect, the same is true for the stereotypical housewife, who fundamentally is suggesting that she should have motherhood as a safe job with benefits, all the way through retirement. Deep down, both parties sense quickly when they are losing 'hand', and they work constantly to maintain and guarantee their further dominance over the other on those things that matter to them personally - albeit within a framework of rarely followed limits and with a set of marital laws as backup.
The far better model, in my opinion, is the one that accepts the inevitable: things change, people change, and you yourself will change and realize that you were mistaken in some of your desires and past decisions. Having kids is a major responsibility that should not be considered lightly, and hence marriage (rather than simpler commitment to life-long union) is not something that should be 'easy' to leave - but when is it ever? No matter what you call it, once you have kids with someone, you are attached to them forever through a shared responsibility and concern. Rather than try to game your relationships out of fear of abandonment, aim for balance and shared growth. I know this is likely anathema to the way that most people think right now, but you are better off giving up the control points and seeing how things really are, without those 'aids'.
Or more pertinent: good relationships take an honest commitment to being 'good'. If both parties are chiefly concerned with leveraging their advantages for short-term gain then both are blocked from making any headway as a 'real' couple and they have failed, no matter how good it looks from the outside. Where is the synergy, where is the love? Extreme or strong desire is deemed synonymous to love, but they are distinct, with strong desire being but an aspect/property of true love.
As such, I would propose that the ideal is the case where both parties can leave if they want to, where neither party has a desperate need for the other (I've been desperate: I know I adapt to desperate circumstance just like everyone else). Desperate people are almost sure to behave improperly, so why are people trying to make sure their 'friends' and close ones desperately need them? It is a recipe for disaster: it is co-dependency.
How much time do we each spend thinking of what we can do that is new, for our lover, on a daily basis, and are those sparse thoughts not typically being co-opted by a subconsciously self-serving agenda? It's OK for our thoughts to be self-centered (it's the truth), so again remember the better truth: scratching your own back barely works, no matter the tool you pick, whereas with your lover it is just about as good to give as to get, and you even get a nice chat with your best friend, typically. The more you give, the more you get, once both are in sync.
Anyhow, the more visible and clearly dangerous problem for men is likely the resentment that so many feel towards women. I will take a quick aside to mention that such resentment is likely just as present on the female side - I've happened to be a fly on the wall while gals talked about men, and it boils down to the same thing: both sides feel resentful at the object of their strong desire for not being what they want them to be - even though we are basically all just the same, between men and women.
Resentment is always evidence of failure ON YOUR PART (or mine, whenever I happen to feel it). It exists when we largely fail to find ways to act or adapt, instead simply repeating unpleasant situations/emotions time and again. There are countless ways to react to things - why does everyone just keep focusing on everything but how to personally change? The solution is obviously not to freak out or get pissed off - the solution is to THINK ABOUT IT until you find something better. The improved solution, generally, takes more than one thought to formulate, refine and turn actionable...
Dating Advice For (Hetero) Women
Here's most likely one of the top things currently for women to guard themselves from: (Google) The Mystery Method. Hopefully none of you will pay a dime to that evil manipulator, but it is definitively worth investigating the method's details, as the system really works and it is being used by men all over the place.
To spare you the research, here is my own synopsis: it basically is just a highly detailed manual for abandonment play. Particularly noteworthy however is the one observation that is at the core of this system: the more gorgeous a woman (or man), the more habituated to special attention she becomes. To such a mindset, the easiest way to make an impression is to think up (barely) subliminal ways of displaying your non-interest and clear rejection. A ploy that functions based on how we want what we can't have works particularly well on someone who gets too much desire, normally.
These creeps will constantly be switching back and forth between being reasonable and witty (you need to work out the equivalent of a comics' routine to really be successful) and being abusive, as they try to make their victims doubt their sense of self-worth and thus seek affirmation.
The apologists say things like "it lets a guy who otherwise would never have a chance at a hot babe be able to ..." - I don't finish the thought because I do not see how you can finish such a sentence successfully: manipulation is not OK, even though many women do it as well. The rationalization on the part of the manipulator is always the following: they say and maybe even think that the 'game' is temporary, that it is just to get things started (or to balance a remarkable sense of unfairness - resentment?), when in fact it is nigh-impossible to successfully make the switch as they propose: it requires a fundamentally false person becoming a fundamentally true person while the relationship(s) remain fixed - such a change is far larger than just a given relationship, and is something that doesn't happen in a moment but over time and through painstaking, sustained effort (ie: change is not easy, automatic, or isolated).
Anyhow, other than that, I would suggest focusing on always asking yourself if your interlocutors seem to respect you (and others) or not. No matter what, you want to be with someone who respects you, but IMO that doesn't mean having the guy pay for everything - quite the contrary, that is a mechanism for the worst of them to build unbalanced relationships where financial rewards replace far better things.
As a random guy, I might also suggest to 'most women' that they reconsider their own sense of respect for others: are you considerate to the people you decide to semi-'date', or do you just blow them off without a word? I have been so rudely stood up by so many women in NYC that it made me finally turn away from the entire group. Ironically, I am aware that it isn't any better from the female perspective ('most guys' treat them just as poorly, or worse). The better question for the reader: just doing 10% more can make all the difference. I will confess that I have not been 100% perfect in all of my dating pseudo-life, as (for ex.) sometimes I was too undecided and finally, exhausted from over-thinking it, I was too lazy/undecided to send that note saying that I was not interested at nearly the right time - but I generally try pretty hard to treat all the people around me decently, ex-potential dates included. I may have had to cancel appointments or had random things come up (and done my utmost to make up for it), but I have never come remotely close to what seems to be the norm out there. I know it's not easy to find the right way and time to say no (when you just want to move on), but we generally need to try harder, if indeed we are to think of ourselves as upstanding people.
Dating Advice for (Hetero) Men
It's probably a good thing to be focus on abandonment play as well, on the male side. From women, it is most effective as a tool when they are very attractive, so the trap then becomes a certain type of pretty woman. As an extreme, she can be someone who is a cock-tease, someone who ends up not being available as anything more than a friend, even though in the first few meetings (and from time to time, whenever you seem to lose your 1-sided romantic interest) she certainly spices things up, incoherent as it is to the rest of her dialog. In the wider sense, abandonment play does not need to relate directly to the sexual, as it is more a question of fear of abandonment/loss than of the particular benefits that come from non-abandonment. A one-in-a-million charming beauty at just the right age is rare and desirable enough just by (him)herself that the other party remains eager and hopeful even in the face of veritable crumbs and abuse.
What is painfully clear in all such scenarios: I don't enjoy getting aroused for no real reason and I don't like wasting my time. I am 38 years old - not 15. Guys: if you want to play twisted games (and get laid rarely, unless you are a real shit-head), then you can try your luck at what they offer, but in my experience it is never worth it (even when it does sometimes lead to a relationship). Nothing is ever free of machination, in such a world. Trying to make sense of it is an astounding waste of time and effort, especially considering the prize: it is never more than the illusion of success. You can't fix people: only they can fix themselves, at which point you can maybe help.
What is perhaps more interesting is the following concern: we all want what we can't have. While I criticise my ex-gf for only having been interested in me when I was not interested, I know the reverse was (and is) largely true, and it drives me nuts dealing with it. Do I really want what I want, or is it just because I have somehow been driven to want it? Both are true, neither are true/important: more than anything, we just need to be aware of how we tend to react so strongly to abandonment play and we need to do our best not to fall prey to it or use it ourselves.
The same workaround applies, if you wish: as you interact with people, validate that the person is not gaming you or others, that they are truthful and kind, and you probably have found a good one. Don't waste too much time with the rest: if bad behavior repeats itself, even after discussion, if the other person is too far from willing to improve, then move on. Whenever bad things keep repeating themselves, shouldn't you be asking yourself why you haven't yet extricated yourself? Don't underestimate the effectiveness of their ploys (male or female) to keep you as you are. For that matter, don't bother trying to make sense of their actions: they don't make sense, fundamentally.
In any case, I don't think the real ideal that men have for their wife is for her to be weak: we all want to be
proud of our partner, and frankly we all need one who is capable and helpful, rather than just
self-centered or ornamental. Strong women make strong men stronger. Weak men need weak women.
(interestingly: vice-versa on both of the previous sentences, including symbiotic/chaotic aggregate growth potential in the first and tipping point-like losses in the later, as individuals undermine one another to get a greater share of each dwindling resource)
How To Deal With Bad People
Consider the situation for those who have to contend with a bad landlord (or conversely, for those who own property and can find themselves dealing with bad tenants). How smart are your strategies and reflex actions, when confronted with reprehensible behavior?
I recall this one apartment I rented in Ottawa, a dozen years ago now or more. The landlord was a total creep who, as it happened, worked for prime minister Chretien's office... For example, a pair of my foolish neighbors (the house was split into 3 apartments) had accepted to rent based on a verbal agreement and hand-shake (legally, this should have been binding). Once they showed up with their moving truck full of furniture, right in the middle of a snowstorm, they learned that they were either going to have to accept an extra 7% in rent per month or figure out other living arrangements...
These poor folks were so livid at this (and all the other crap he followed it up with, over the year) that it poisoned their lives for the entire time they were stuck there (and surely thereafter, due to the resentment that no doubt remained). They got so mad that they basically conspired to help the bank's agents when they were trying to foreclose on the owner for unrelated reasons (to no avail).
Of course, I was soon similarly aggrieved, as the owner swapped my good parking spot, which I had planned to sub-let, for a worthless spot, simply because he had been forced to move into one of the apartments and wanted my spot for himself. After failing to resolve things amicably (my lease was very specific), I immediately went to file a small-claims court case against him. It was set for 9+ months in the future, but it carried a clear message/fact that this creep of course factored into all his future actions: he never bothered me again for the remainder of my year there.
As a strange twist of fate, I ended up missing the court's appointment - worse yet, I let the fellow's wife convince me that I had indeed missed it when I ran into her in the courthouse's lobby, when I obviously should have checked personally. I may have missed my chance to exact my thousand+ dollars of flesh from his scaly hide (the day after 'The Last Christmas Party' was difficult to bear in the courthouse), but regardless of that I ended up finishing my year with nothing more than slight regrets. I had no resentment, since I knew I my actions had definite impact. Best of all, I didn't get nearly the same amount of false dialog from that creep, compared to his norm with the rest.
Interestingly, I had no such recourse when I suffered recently from a terrible landlord in BedSty (a bad part of Brooklyn), as I was unable to figure out how to file a claim at the New York City Housing Court even though I endlessly researched it online and wasted a whole day at my local/appropriate courthouse. Their absolute requirement ended up being that I wait in a daily-reset line for ~1+ days to talk to a government lawyer who was going to 'guide me' (unless I had my own lawyer, I guess). As if housing court isn't all made up of very simple issues (eg: no gas, no cooking, heating or hot water for months), as if individuals aren't punishable by fines when they bring wrongful suits (and hence there is no need for control before the fact, even from the 'poor'). IMO, their type of throttling is far more than just a desire to cut costs in the judiciary (and it ignores the crippling productivity costs engendered), but I was undeterred nonetheless.
My next step was to communicate (in writing, as always) to the landlord how I had spent my day in court and was willing to spend as many days there as necessary to finally 'get my day in court' - making the same point as before: cross me and I will come after you smartly. To remain 'smart', IMO, you need to only ever do (and thus think of) above-board actions, as indeed you should be seeking justice, not revenge. Act ethically within the law and you are not only likely to succeed - you are also not likely to ever regret any of it.
Thus, with the understanding that the landlord's people were nothing more than cravenly self-interested, my communication with them focused on explaining how the entire building was organizing itself and on how much all this was going to cost them in internal resources, business liabilities and expensive legal fees if it ever moved towards the courts.
Soon after, most of the greater problems got resolved and tenants were remunerated a reasonable amount of their past rent. However, the landlord remained impossible to deal with, especially due to the overwhelmingly false dialog, which was always spoken rather than written and which never failed to disappoint, and so I was stuck looking for another apartment once more.
As another example of how to derive benefit from adverse situations, consider my last month at that place. By then things were so clearly unbearably bad that I could not ethically remain quiet when prospective tenants came to visit. The pretty girls the owners hired to help drive sales had no impact on me, at least, and thus they very quickly stopped showing the place. I not only had freed myself of the hassle of the constant intrusions from prospects who haven't even seen pictures: I had also managed to stick it to them for all the right reasons, yet again, and they were going to be at least a month without a tenant. Better yet: the landlord was still eager to keep me for an extra month (I was a very good tenant, otherwise), which was certainly nice to have as an option as I struggled to find a new place (anything!).
My next rental, which cost me a relative fortune, was certainly better in some ways, but the last two months were telling: the landlord opened the sales process to any/all brokers in NYC - a limitless group that totally saturates the space - and let's not forget how the higher the rent, the greater the reward (for the same amount of work), hence the greater the over-saturation and frenzy. The landlord didn't even bother gathering pictures for the brokers, let alone floor plans, so beyond the many individuals who came just to take pictures of my personal space, I basically had dozens of pointless visits from unqualified leads who were looking at a place that clearly didn't fit their needs...
When I called the landlord to complain, their reaction was basically "gee, that's too bad, but what's done is done", as after all I was on my way out and what could I do? Having just explained the situation and even gotten verbal agreement that this situation was unacceptable, I immediately stated how I was ready to explain to every single visitor the many reasons why they would likely want to avoid the place. Suddenly, I had the landlord's agent's attention. I could have pushed to force them to do any number of things, and indeed they left me with the difficult question of 'what do you want us to do'. My biggest problem with that is that I am already super busy thinking of a whole bunch of other things far more important to me than their hassles - basically, I don't want to have to do their job for them, especially not after having paid over 40 g's in rent over a single year...
As such, I didn't push for a proper resolution as much as I maybe should (could) have, but I still made my greater point to the landlord: their approach was not OK and they knew how I was likely to react, so I left it up to them to figure it out. In the meantime, this left me free to speak my mind to any and all who visited my place, and (in part) through my warnings to the many brokers who wanted to get their own secret pictures of the place (warnings that if I started to get far too many visits I would effectively put a stop to it), I ended up avoiding (I think) a fair bit of the deluge that otherwise would have been my lot. It seems that the landlord still managed to find a tenant, which was good for me as well (fewer visits), but I wonder if they will bother to improve their processes at all. I bet not, since few people react with anything more than token resistance (with my case being but a question of degree of token-ness).
Worth noting is how these examples apply beyond landlord/tenant issues and deal with the general question that is 'how to deal with unfairness effectively'. Perhaps the key thing to not lose track of is your reason for 'sticking it to him': it's not revenge or justice that matters (both are abstract concepts that exist solely in each person's mind) - what matters is for things to be resolved, ideally in a way that does not burn bridges or limit future options. We tend to lose ourselves in wanting revenge / justice for the past, so much so that quickly it becomes the primary goal, to the exclusion of other thoughts. The past matters because it is a harbinger of the future, and justice/revenge matter because they infer that we are less likely to suffer again, but what matters above all is getting desirable results - ie: being happy.
As such, when I find myself forced into a confrontation, I use escalation very selectively and briefly: as soon as my threat registers in the other party's consciousness, I switch tracks and explain how I am not seeking to harm them and only wish that we both stop hurting one another. My communication with the self-centered is not focused much on how wrong they are (that never goes anywhere, by itself) - it focuses on how my counter-actions are irreproachable and unavoidable and on how, as 'painful' as doing the right thing is for them, they will end up losing a lot more if they stick to their preferred path.
To Be Continued