Category Archives for "Relationships"

Dec 02

The Virtues & Downsides of Online Dating

By Joseph Bryson | Relationships

If you think about it, the fact that a huge number of modern relationships start on an online dating app isn’t really that surprising.

The internet has allowed for us to be more connected than ever before. We’re using it for business, we’re using it to shop and we’re using it to communicate with our friends and family, so why wouldn’t it also be used for romance? It makes sense considering it motivates out actions perhaps more so than anything else.

It’s not a new thing anyway when you think about what the actual function of it is. The internet has made it easier, but this sort of thing has kind of been around for over 300 years.

Even some 17th Century newspapers had personal ads for those seeking romance, and is that really any different from modern online dating? So really, it’s an entirely expected result of the internet becoming more advanced and more widely used.

Some people think it’s the best thing in the world and has made finding someone much easier, and others think it’s a waste of time and some believe that only the most desperate among us would resort to that.

Now, those who call it desperate are obviously just being jerks, but there are points to be made from both sides of the argument. Let’s have a look at some virtues and some downsides to online dating.

 

Virtue: The Options are Endless

You know the feeling when you’re single and you walk into a bar expecting to find someone you could potentially date or at the very least go home with for the night. Even if you’re confident, there’s only so many women there.

Even among the ones that are actually single and are looking for someone to meet that night, there’s still going to be many that you’re not compatible with. And as for the ones you are compatible with, are you going to talk to them that night?

How can you be sure that’s going to happen? Are you going to talk to every single woman in the bar? You won’t be able to, and that will turn what should be a fun night into a very stressful one. Online dating is not like a bar that has fifty women in it.

Now, there are over 30 million people in the United States alone using online dating sites and apps. That’s three times the population of Sweden. Let’s throw out a rough estimate here and assume that in your area, there are 5-10 thousand women on dating sites that you could potentially talk to.

That’s more people than you’ve spoken to in your entire life. And even if you are only genuinely compatible with a fifth of that number, that’s still a thousand women. Under what other circumstances are you going to find a thousand potential partners?

Online dating is unquestionably the path that will give you the most options.

Downside: Face to Face Communication is Always Better

It’s great that we are well past the days when if we wanted to talk to someone who wasn’t in our immediate vicinity, we had to send them a letter and not hear a response for possibly weeks. We can now write a message and have someone on the other side of the world respond in a matter of seconds.

Nobody will deny that this level of connectivity is indispensable and very useful for making new potentially romantic connections, but humans communicate most effectively when we are actually face-to-face.

This probably dates back to the earliest humans who could only communicate in person but it’s not like we’ve evolved past that, body language, tone of voice and facial expressions are still a huge part of how we express our thoughts and feelings.

And you get none of that in text form and even if you’re talking on Zoom you’re still not getting it entirely. So if you spend a lot of time communicating with someone through text before actually meeting them, you won’t know what they’re actually like.

You might end up with unrealistic expectations of them that they can’t fulfil. Or conversely, you might think that someone isn’t right for you, when you would feel the opposite way if you had initially met them in person.

Virtue: More Upfront information

Whilst it does generally depend on the app or site that you are using, you are going to have access to more information about the person you’re talking to. Some people will say that this is actually a downside, but I personally find it difficult to agree with.

Yes, there is a certain excitement to mystery and if you already know a lot of stuff about someone then it leaves you with less to talk about and discover, but at the same time, the more you know the better you can judge the likelihood of you actually being compatible.

You could have a conversation with someone and not realize until you’re an hour deep that they have a view which you find bigoted, or go on a couple of dates before realizing that you want completely different things out of a relationship. Online dating makes this less likely.

Downside: Cat fishing

You meet someone in person, you can see them and hear their voice. Online they could be anybody. They could be a different gender who is afraid to openly admit their sexuality or someone old and lonely who feels like they’ve missed their chance at love.

Sometimes cat fishing is very sinister and predatory, and sometimes it’s just a case of someone using older pictures of themselves or lying about their age, career or level of fitness. Either way, you don’t truly know who you’re talking to until you’ve met them.

That’s a downside for sure. Hell you might even be tempted to do this on some level yourself. But that’s not fair, you should be truthful and the stuff you feel compelled to lie about probably isn’t as big of a deal as you think anyway.

But if you do feel like you’ll get more responses if you were more in shape, get some exercise equipment and get to work. Or if you feel like you’re in the wrong line of work, start exploring your options. Don’t waste your time lying because the truth will come out eventually.

The most important thing to remember, is that online dating is not the only option. If you feel like the downsides are more significant, then meeting someone in a bar or through your friends or a hobby hasn’t gone away. You can still take that path.

These days, millions and millions of people are using online dating, and you can basically guarantee that you’ll be able to find someone through that method. So even if you are skeptical, it’s worth looking into.

Nov 18

The Difference Between Love and Affection

By Joseph Bryson | Relationships

Love and affection are two words that are intrinsically linked. They are of course similar in many ways: they are both feelings that we harbour for those of us in our lives who are most important to us. 

The Difference Between Love and Affection

Most of us don’t really think too deeply about it when it comes to these kinds of words, and we do have a tendency to just use them interchangeably. But they are actually quite different from each other in definition.

Although they are just words and we can kind of use them as we choose and be a bit liberal in our personal definitions, but when we look a bit more deeply into these actual sensations, we can see that there are two distinct feelings and that the different words are warranted.

This doesn’t mean that you are using the words wrong or that you should alter how you express your personal feelings, but it is interesting to note why we feel a certain way towards certain people and differently towards others.

Both of the words are expressions of endearment, and positive sensations which are based around strong relationships, so what exactly is it that differentiates the two from each other?

It’s somewhat complex:

Love is perhaps a word that we all use a little bit too liberally. We throw it around like it means absolutely nothing, when in truth, love is a feeling that means a whole lot, and that should be reserved for our deepest inclinations.

There are different kinds of love of course. The one we think about most is the love that we have for romantic partners, and the interesting thing about that is it’s the only one with which the use of the word is deemed very important.

When it comes to love that we feel for our family, our friends, or even for things that aren’t human or aren’t living, we don’t make any kind of big deal about saying it. We tell our family we love them from the first moment that we can speak.

We tell our friends that even if we don’t necessarily mean it, and that’s okay because a friend isn’t really a lifelong commitment or an obligation. We even say it about food. “I love Peking duck, even though I only tasted it for the first time five minutes ago.”

And that’s all fine, nobody really questions it, and if they do they’re kind of just being a pedantic jerk. But for your partner, when you choose to say the words “I love you,” it’s intended as a turning point in your relationship.

It’s the moment that it goes from something that’s primarily based around discovering shared interests and personality traits, going on dates, doing fun things together and probably a whole lot of sex, to a genuine commitment and an expression that you’ve fond something you want to last.

And all of us are capable of feeling that, though for some of us it takes a bit longer to find it. That all depends on a few different factors, like maybe it’s just because you like playing the field more than you like settling with one person and that’s absolutely fine.

Or maybe it’s because you are more guarded with your emotions and you struggle to let people in and that’s also not something to be ashamed of. But regardless of any of that, it’s a word that has power in romantic relationships.

Unconditionality

And why is that? Well that brings us to what I believe sets love apart from other feelings such as affection, and that’s that it is reserved for something that is unconditional. What are you really saying when you say that you love your partner?

You are telling them that you want to commit to them, that you feel strongly that if you share your life with them, you will be happy. And going a little deeper, you are acknowledging their flaws, insecurities and whatever differences you have and accepting that you can look past them.

Love takes you over those hurdles, it gives you strength to resolve problems that you might face in the future which you may not be able to resolve if you didn’t feel so strongly for the person. It is constant and impossible to shake no matter how hard you try.

And you can feel this for your friends in a way that’s non-romantic and built on a foundation of trust and companionship, and you can feel it for a piece of entertainment or a work of art in a way that makes you feel like you can appreciate the beauty and enjoyment of it over and over again.

So in a way that is unconditional, but it doesn’t have the responsibility of a romantic relationship. You can drop friends you thought you loved if you don’t feel like they’re a positive presence in your life anymore, but that’s not as easy with someone you have a family or a home with.

In that way, it’s understandable why the word love is so much more powerful when it’s attached to romance than it is when used in any other context. And this brings us back to affection and what differs here.

Because affection is not unconditional. Affection is what you feel in those early days of a relationship that we discussed above when it’s not about all of the commitment and compromise that comes with a truly loving, romantic union.

Affection is light and fun. It’s hugs, it’s flirtation, it’s a one night stand after a few too many drinks and it doesn’t have to mean anything. That initial attraction you feel when you’ve been talking to her for a few hours and you want to reach out and hold her hand or make a joke so you can hear her laugh.

That’s affection, and that’s not unconditional. You want to hold her and kiss her but if you leave the next morning and never see her again, you won’t be hurt by that. And if you have an argument, you don’t feel an incentive to work through it. 

That’s the real difference here, and it’s important for you to be able to separate these two feelings in your own mind. Love is lasting, patient and resilient in the face of adversity, whereas affection is spontaneous, energetic and can slip through your fingers with little consequence.

May 15

The Madonna Whore Complex – Women Lovers and Haters

By Marcus Neo | Relationships

Sigmund Freud noticed that men who grew up with strenuous relationships with their mother developed a complex toward women. Hence he formed the theory of the Madonna Whore Complex. Freud argued that the madonna whore complex is a split between the affectionate and sexual currents in the male desire.

While Sigmund Freud theories surrounding the Oedipus complex, penis and castration fears have been debunked by modern day psychology, modern day psychologists have found that modern implications of Madonna Whore dichotomy remains.

The Madonna Whore Complex

The Madonna Whore split may be caused when the victim is raised by a cold but overprotective mother. This lack of emotional nurturing results in a man courting someone with maternal qualities, hoping to fulfil a need for intimacy unmet in childhood.

His need to capture his mother’s attention and affection as a child is later projected onto the woman he chooses to pursue. He ends up looking a woman with similar psychological make up with his mother. Since it’s ‘immoral wrong’ to think of his mother in a sexual manner, he forms an inability to feel sexual arousal in a committed and loving relationship. This returns repressed feelings surrounding the earlier relationship with his mother, hence preventing sexual satisfaction with his current partner.

My personal belief is that men who struggle in their dating and relationships life have some degree of skewed beliefs and towards women. The women lovers have a problem feeling sexually attracted to women they love. The women haters have a problem feeling romantically attracted to women they sexually desire.

In either cases, they are researched to feel less satisfied in romantic relationships. The lover is out of touch with his objectification of women and the hater is out of touch with his need for affection.

This can play out in your dating life (as it did in mine), you feel a lot of emotional affection for your partner, however for some reason, you aren’t able to perform in bed. On the other hand, you’re able to feel sexually attracted for a one night stand (a girl that you never thought of dating in the long run).

The Madonna – The Woman Lovers

Men struggling with the complex hence categorized women as either saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes. Hence, the term “Madonna-Whore”.

Let’s take a look at one end of the spectrum: the women lovers. The men that see women as Madonna put women on a pedestal.

The complex plays itself out in the paradox in which any woman a man sexual desires must be a slut or a whore, and any woman who loves him and adores him is considered pure and consequently, he fears intimacy and feels inferior around her.

The women lovers worship feminine love, romanticize self-sacrifice and suffering for the sake of it. They are usually people pleasing and supplicant. They are the ones that find themselves doing things for women over and over again although there’s no form of reciprocation. They put sex on a pedestal and find themselves in love with their best female friends. These are the men that find themselves doing favours for a girl who has not shown them any signs of affection. 

These men, on the end of women lovers, are out of touch with their objectification of women: their desire for sex.

This may affect men who have little or no experience in sexual relationships. They may find it difficult to accept that women are sexual beings, have sexual needs, enjoy and desire sex as much as men do.

These beliefs may hinder your social interactions with women, you may being afraid to be physically intimate with her, believing then women do not like to be touched. You may feel that she may be more sexually experienced than you, thus feeling inferior to her.

Thw Whore – Woman Haters

Psychologist Richard Tuch suggested that woman-haters become who they are because as a young boy, because he suffered frustration and narcissistic injury at the hands of his mother, in adulthood, the boy turned men seeks to avenge these mistreats through sadistic attacks on women who are ‘stand-ins’ for his own mother, hence forming a hatred for women.

These men are the ones that see women as ‘whores’. They see women as something to be researched and conquered. They see affection and love as something that’s worked for and struggled for. They perceive women to be fundamentally different from themselves. These are the men that go on angry rants about how women not knowing their social roles, that they ‘belong to the kitchen’, being dirty slutty for desiring sex and etc.

It’s also important to note that women haters don’t exactly hate women. Rather, they experience a love hate relationship with women. They may also perceive women as fundamentally different from them. They may also maintain dysfunctional and manipulative relationships as the women they end up attracting profiles that match them in bitterness and distrust.

These beliefs are commonly expressed in the pick up artist community. Woman haters tend to gravitate towards being players. They are often out of touch with their desire for love and affection.

The Madonna-Whore Complex Expressed in Modern Culture

Through my years of talking to men as friends and a dating coach. It’s not uncommon to hear men saying that they want to marry a ‘good girl’:

She preferably has to be virgin, hasn’t dated a lot and is ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’. He, on the other hand, desires to date and have sexual experiences with as many other girls as possible, that he would never think of starting a romantic or committed relationship with them.

This is the conflicted desire of wanting to marry a ‘pure and innocent girl’ but then they couldn’t have sex with her, because if that’s true, that’ll mean she’s a dirty, down-ridden ‘whore’. However, when he wanted to have a sexual relationship with a woman, he’ll never date her, as sex signalled ‘her lack of morals’.

Love is only reserved for the ‘good’ girl, the girl you can bring home to Mum, the one who’s of ‘marriage material’. Sex, on the other hand, is reserved for the ‘bad’ girls.

This is commonly expressed as: “I want to have sex with many girls, but I ONLY want to marry the good one, that hasn’t had sex a lot.” This also suggests ‘good girls’ don’t desire sex as much as ‘bad girls’. Or ‘good girls’ are defined as good because they haven’t had multiple sexual experiences.

Not only this is a double standard, but this categorisation of female sexuality leads you to properly appreciate your partner as an integrated person with different needs.

Your Beliefs: How Do You View Women? 

The Madonna-whore dichotomy can often be unconscious and subtle. It can be difficult to pin point if you’re a woman hater or lover, even if you’re struggling with women flipping to and fro between these two different beliefs, flipping back and forth depending on the situation, and depending on the girl.

Regardless, both belief systems are unhealthy fixations. The woman lover obsesses for love, the woman hater obsesses for sex. Both belief systems lead to manipulative and dysfunctional relationships. Both fail to see the opposite sex as equals. One sees them as superior, and the other as inferior.

For the woman lover/ hater, when confronted with a girl they sexually desire, they would view her as a trash-ridden whore, something use for their own pleasure and amusement. On the other hand, when confronted with women with good morals and or status, they put her on a pedestal, seeing her as something pure, perfect and of a higher order.

I’m not saying that this psychological theory is carved out in stone, however, the Madonna-Whore complex concept can be used as a model to better your beliefs around female sexuality.

Curious if you harbour some of these beliefs?

You can ask yourself some questions:

  • What are your beliefs with women like?
  • Are you living out those double standards?
  • How do you feel and react if your partner earns more than you?
  • How do you feel about women desiring sex as much as men do?
  • Do your interactions with women involve the objectification of women?
  • Do your interactions with women lean towards feminine worship?
  • Has the relationship with your mother affected how you perceive dating and relationships with the opposite sex?
  • Did you grow up with a cold/ distant/ abusive mother?
  • How is your relationships like with female counterparts growing up?

These are difficult questions that can lead to difficult answers. However, be honest. These questions helped me become more introspective about my emotional maps and belief systems. It has also helped me become more objective my relationship with women.

Moving Forward

So, assuming you’re a pussy pedalling individual or secretly belief that all women only belong to the kitchen, how can you get better? The cure to the Madonna-whore dichotomy isn’t simple. The only way to resolve your anger or worship toward is to confronting your deep-seated beliefs. It involves being introspective about your beliefs towards women.

Firstly, it is to perceive our female counterparts as equals. This means not worshipping or objectifying female sexuality. Secondly, it is to do the therapeutic work required to resolve any misgivings or anger. This may stem from your childhood, this may not. Ultimately, women are not to be worshipped nor objectified. They are similar to that as men: with needs, desires, virtues and vices.

Works Cited

Hartmann, Uwe (2009). “Sigmund Freud and His Impact on Our Understanding of Male Sexual Dysfunction“. The Journal of Sexual Medicine6 (8): 2332–2339

Baraket, O. (2018). The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy: Men Who Perceive Women’s Nurturance and Sexuality as Mutually Exclusive Endorse Patriarchy and Show Lower Relationship SatisfactionSex Roles, 1-14.

Tuch, Richard (2010). “Murder on the Mind: Tyrannical Power and Other Points along the Perverse Spectrum“. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 91 (1): 141-162.

 

May 03

Attachment Styles – The Why of Rollercoaster Relationships

By Marcus Neo | Relationships

Ever felt like you can’t live without a certain relationship, be it a friend or a romantic partner? Or do you find yourself too afraid to be alone or make decisions on yourself? Or do you feel that you are repeating the same mistakes in your relationships with your partners time and time again?

In psychology, attachment theory can be used as a useful model to explain why your relationships have succeeded or failed in the manner they did. It can also point out repeated patterns of your relationship problems. In general, there are four kinds of attachment: the secure, anxious, avoidant and anxious-avoidant.

Secure Attachment

People with secure attachment strategies are comfortable with displaying interest and affection. They are also comfortable being alone and independent. They are able to prioritise relationships, draw clear boundaries and stick to them.

They also have a positive perception of others and positive perception of themselves. They make the best romantic partners, family members and friends. They are capable of accepting rejection and moving on despite the pain but are also capable of being loyal, sacrificing when necessary. They have little issue trusting the people they are close to and are trustworthy themselves.

Anxious Attachment

People with an anxious attachment style may value intimacy to an extent that they become overly dependent on the attachment figure. Compared to securely attached people, people who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to have a less positive perception about themselves.

People with anxious attachment have a positive perception of others and negative perception of themselves. This strategy may be developed in childhood by infants who receive affection and care with unpredictable sufficiency.

Avoidant Attachment

People with avoidant attachment types tend to be independent, self-directed and are often uncomfortable with intimacy. People with avoidant attachment have a positive perception of themselves and negative perception of others. This strategy may be developed in childhood by infants who only get some of their needs met while the rest are neglected.

Anxious-Avoidant Attachment

People with this attachment style are much less comfortable with expressing affection. They frequently deny and suppress their feelings. They commonly have a negative worldview on others and view themselves as unworthy. These mixed feelings are combined with unconscious, negative views about themselves and others. They often have other emotional problems in other areas of their life: substance abuse and depression. This attachment type is commonly developed from abusive or negligent childhoods.

Here’s a useful model.

Psychological research backs it up as well, people with the same level of self esteem end up dating each other.

Research also suggests that anxious and avoidant people frequently end up in relationships with one another. It normally goes like this: the avoidant types are so good at putting others off that often times it is only the anxious types who are willing to stick around put in the extra effort to get them to open up.

I may be generalising, but think of the man who constantly pushes away a woman’s needs for intimacy. If it’s up to a woman with a secure attachment, she’ll simply accept the rejection and move on. However, an anxiously attached woman will be more determined by a man who pushes her away. The avoidant man then is reassured that he can behave independently around her and still ultimately avoid emotional intimacy (he’s avoidant right?).

You can argue that women that are willing to stay around and be manipulated are probably anxiously attached. The inability of an avoidant attachment styled male to express genuine affection and intimacy triggers her anxious attachment that makes her chase even more that in turns rewards the avoidant style that he adopts. She chases, he runs, and this goes in circles.

The implications from an emotional needs standpoint can run deep. The anxious and the avoidant have a fundamental belief that their emotional needs aren’t important. The avoidant denies their emotional needs by avoiding it, and the anxious attempts to force theirs by overcompensating. Ultimately, both end up failing to get their needs met in a relationship.

I experienced this chaser and chase pattern in my first serious relationship with my ex-girlfriend. Every time I chased, she ran. Every time I got sick of it and threatened to leave, she came back chasing. It was constant, tiring too and fro. It felt exhilarating at times, however, it’s not long before that relationship ended up exploding. The problem with such romantic relationships is that it can feel as if you made progress after going through emotional whirlwinds with the other party. The higher highs of reconciliation and the lower lows of arguments and fights. It can be mistaken as ‘love’ or ‘passion’.

The Narcissist and the Co-dependent

One other way to think about attachment styles is the narcissist and codependent dynamic. I am going to generalize again here, but bear with me. The narcissist is usually the ‘taker’, and the codependent is normally the ‘giver’. In many dysfunctional relationships, you can find the giver and the taker. The giver is the one that always gives and gives without takin as he or she feels intrinsically unworthy and unaware of his or her own emotional needs.

  • The Narcissist

The taker and the narcissist always takes and takes because he or she is unable to meet their own emotional needs and is attempting to fill a void.

The narcissist only cares about his or her own needs. He/ she is the overly domineering one in social interactions. This is the annoying individual who is always going on and on about him or herself and is unable to empathize with the people around them. It’s always him, his stories, her failures or her successes. They aren’t generally unable to listen.

Hanging out with a narcissist is equivalent to social waterboarding.

They always require more. That is because external validation is a temporary high. It feels good at the moment but is still an empty victory. I’ll argue narcissists get more results in their dating life than co-dependents solely because of their willingness (and blindness) to assert themselves in spite of negative social feedback.

The taker, the narcissist is unable to generate self-esteem from within and hence strives to generate it externally.

  • The Co-dependent

If your life choices, decisions or self esteem is dependent or another person, you may have a co-dependent relationship. This can be your best friend, your parents or your romantic partners.

Co-dependents find themselves in relationships where their primary role is that of the rescuer. Their happiness is reliant on their ability to meet their partner’s emotional needs and not their own. 

Unresolved patterns of co-dependency can lead to other problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, sex addiction, self-destructive and defeating behaviours. Co-dependents also have higher chances to form abusive relationships, stay in stressful jobs or relationships.

The listener, the giver, the co-dependent who listens to the narcissist’s troubles quietly and doesn’t give any input. He or she just takes it in and may seem sympathetic to the narcissist’s sorrows. That’s because the only way the listener can feel loved or accepted in that social situation is to tend to someone else’s emotional needs.

For the Overly Attached: Note on Roller Coaster Relationships

Ultimately, rollercoaster and dramatic relationships lack true intimacy and boundaries. Both individuals do not get their emotional needs met. They both are unable to accept love and validation, yet at the same time overcompensate in getting their needs for recognition, love and validation from each other (or others).

Psychologists argue that our unconscious is constantly attempting to seek out attention, love and validation that we miss out from out parents growing up.  There’s research suggesting that parents who view their children as an extension of their own self, hence, getting their needs met by the child leads to the child to believe that his or her own needs aren’t important. The child becomes attuned to the parent’s needs and feelings instead of the other round.

This plays out when someone attempts to get their needs met from people around them as adults. This can be from areas of their lives other than their relationships. You may overcompensate and seek to meet your unmet needs through sex, achievements, financial pursuit or just about any area of life.

Look, everyone needs a pat on the back and validation at some point. The question to ask yourself is this: are you pursuing something from a standpoint of values or are you scratching an unresolved emotional need?

The Attachment Theory – Self Esteem Model

The problem with a lot of dating and relationship advice is that they don’t encourage the expression of emotions from a secure standpoint. Instead, they promote insecure strategies such as using of lines, techniques, not calling back in X amount of days in attempt to manipulate someone else into doing something. They aren’t effectual on the long run, and may only work on individuals who aren’t able to express themselves directly as well. You’re blocking out any genuine real emotional engagement. You’re still not getting your emotional needs met.

If you’re wondering if attachment theory has something to do with one’s self esteem. You’re right. Psychologists also hypothesised a model showing one’s attachment strategy corresponding to the self image of yourself and your perception of others. Your attachment style is connected to self esteem, emotional needs and vulnerability. These ideas are interlinked.

How to Find Our Your Attachment Style

How do you know if you are overly/ underly attached? You may do a self test to figure out which attachment style you fall under. There’s an attachment theory test that you can take to find out your attachment type. If you don’t want to take the test, then rely on the following examples to roughly give you a guess on your style of attachment. 

You can ask yourself some questions:

  • Do you have your own life handled or are you merely using your relationship as an excuse?
  • Flip it around and ask yourself if the person across you has his or her own life going on, or is he or she living vicariously through her relationship?
  • Are you dependent on each other for each other’s happiness, or are both of you already happy as individuals with or without a relationship?

Can Your Attachment Style be Changed? 

Is there hope for the anxiously attached hopeless romantic or the commitment phobic avoidant? Or maybe you are reading this and determined you’re either a pushover codependent or a raging narcissist. Hear me out. The good news is that attachment styles can be changed. The bad news is that it’s slow and difficult.

I was a classic hard core avoidant throughout my teens up till my early twenties. Since I started therapy, I had one anxiety uncovered after another. There were periods of my life where I swung heavily from avoidant to anxious. You’ll be surprised to find that underlying avoidance may be anxiety. There were other periods where I was going through phases of emotional vomit and flipped manically in and out of being anxious and avoidant.

There’s also research suggesting that an individual with an insecure attachment who enters a long term relationship and the other party who has a secure attachment can be “raised up” to the level of secure over an extended period of time.

Unfortunately, insecure attachments such as the anxious or avoidant can also “bring down” a secure attachment. Other extreme negative life events such a divorce, death of a child, serious accident, lost of friendships can also cause secure attachment types to fall into a more insecure attachment.

Conclusion

There’s no quick fix for changing attachment styles. Similarly, there is no quick fix for a lack (or overflowing) of self love.

If your happiness is derived from making extreme sacrifices to meet other people needs needs. Then it’s a red flag. If you’re the giver or the listener, then you need to stop being a pushover. It’s time to stop being Mr Nice Guy/ Woman. You’ll need learn how to assert your own emotional needs and get your needs met in your relationships.

Now, I am not saying you can’t sacrifice for each other in a relationship. However, there’s a difference between sacrificing for someone and a lack of relationship boundaries.

Or maybe you find yourself as a raging narcissist and constantly get pushed away by others. You may want to take a step back and learn how to empathise with others. The point here isn’t to be overly selfish or aggressive. It is to find a fine balance between caring for their own and other’s people’s needs.

Unfortunately, I’m not immune. In my life, I had my fair share of stages in my life where I fell into co-dependence or fell into narcissism. 

However, all in all, I’m happy to report that today, I’m a lot better at handling my relationships today.

Ultimately, attachment styles can give us a good frame work on healthy relationships.

So are you saying that all healthy relationships non dependent on each other? Nope. The best forms of relationship are not completely independent, but interdependent. An interdependent relationship is where two partners support each other unconditionally. They are able to generate self esteem as an individual. They aren’t vicariously living through their partner. It’s two emotionally independent individuals consciously choosing to support one another.

Works Cited

Alan Rappoport, P. (n.d.). Co-Narcissism: How We Accommodate to Narcissistic Parents.Retrieved from AlanRappoport.Com: http://www.alanrappoport.com/pdf/Co-Narcissism%20Article.pdf

 Hazan C.; Shaver P.R. (March 1987). “Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process”J Pers Soc Psychol52 (3): 511–24.

Feb 29

How to Be Vulnerable – The Power of Vulnerability

By Marcus Neo | Relationships

I grew up in a culture where men aren’t supposed to be showing their emotions. You know, the typical Asian male. He’s suppose to stoically get into a good University, do something related to Science or Math, get a ‘stable job’, get a wife, raise a couple of kids and achieve career success, whatever the hell ‘career success’ means.

How to be vulnerable? What is vulnerability? You may think it’s some thing you do that’s feminine, soft hearted and sprinkled with fairy dust. 

Singapore, my home country, also happens to be one of the costliest cities in the world. A patriarchal society where the metric of success of largely measured by material wealth and academic success. You’re supposed to achieve these pursuits stoically. The expression of any emotion or vulnerability along the way is seen as weak.

However, vulnerability isn’t only limited to the emotional aspect of it, but also social vulnerability and physical aspects of it.

Boldness

The first form of vulnerability is your willingness to risk rejection and embarrassment. The truly confident individual will not be afraid to show that he’s attracted to her. The truly confident man pursues a woman based on his own values and desires.

He’s has no problems with rejection. He understands he cannot be accepted by everyone, and rejection is inevitable. This form of confidence also cannot be attained by external factors.

The process of attracting women is controversial and polarizing by nature. Why do you think all the girls go for the ‘bad boys’? That’s because they stand for something. They are a leader and are willing to face humiliation, rejection, and controversy.

Ramit Sethi, talks about excellence versus vulnerability. He doesn’t really like people talking about ‘how vulnerable they are’, because he argues that it’s easy to be vulnerable, and difficult to be excellent. I’ll argue that excellence, is also part of being vulnerable.

The Power of Vulnerability

I define the second form of vulnerability by the willingness to open yourself up. The majority of men get confused with what vulnerability looks like. They think it’s a macho activity where you HAVE to be dominant or right in every conversation. 

He doesn’t just run his mouth on everything and anything. There is weight in his word. When he makes a mistakes, he’s willing to apologize and admit it. He’s unafraid speak up, even if it means getting rejected. 

Now, take the second person. He has always done everything in his life to fit in to society. He studied hard because that’s what society told him to do. He gets a job not because he truly enjoys it, but because he’s afraid of not fitting in. He avoids conflicts. He never takes any risks in his life, too concerned about fitting in. When he fucks up, he tries to blame others or pretend like it never happened.

Who will you trust? Which of these two men is more powerful? Which one do you think women would be more attracted to?

In the dating advice for men community, the reason why many people memorize lines and techniques is because they are still lines as control strategy: it is ultimately to avoid the fear of rejection, instead of hiding behind scripted lines and routines, why not take some risks and be comfortable with your vulnerabilities?

Word On Vulnerability and Boldness

OKAY MARCUS!

Let’s tell women about my dead goldfish and how much I cried when I flushed in down the toilet. She’s going to love it and have sex with me.

One mistake that many people make when it comes to vulnerability is seeing it as an exchange.

Vulnerability has to be expressed unconditionally, as a gift, and not used as technique or a line. If you share a heart-breaking story to get attention, validation or love from the opposite sex, then you’re not being vulnerable, you are downright manipulative and desperate. 

However, if you’re sharing a story as a means of relating to the emotions and experiences of someone else. Then, that’s just the who you are. That’s an honest expression. There’s no desire to control her perception of you.

Emotional Vomit

Secondly, you should not use being vulnerable as an opportunity to unload an inappropriate amount of emotions and personal history onto someone else. 

Emotional vomit is difficult as it’s genuinely vulnerable, but on the other hand, it’s you being honest about how pathetic and needy you are.

It may feel good in the moment. However, emotional vomit only doesn’t actually fix anger or hurt. Emotionally vomiting actually points you to do the healing, however, not is ISN’T the healing itself. However, at times, it’s necessary, and part of the process. I recommend consulting a therapist, where healing can be done in a safe environment.

The golden rule: any form of vulnerability HAS as to be accompanied with personal accountability.

How to Be Vulnerable (like actually)

Let me ask you, what’s the difference between having a general enthusiasm for meeting new people versus using scripted lines hoping to get a positive reaction from a potential romantic partner? One is a long run behaviour and one is a short-run behaviour. One is sustainable and the other one isn’t. One is a vulnerable behaviour and the other isn’t. 

Vulnerability is actually nothing like that, it’s about being introspective and engaging emotionally. 

If you’ve bottled up your emotions throughout your life, the more painful these actions are going to be. The less you talk about your shame, the more you have them. Eventually, you’ll have to be responsible for your baggage.. If not, you’re just going to be resentful, angry and frustrated, turning off everyone that comes your way.

Perhaps you realize your anger of towards you ex girlfriend stems anger towards your parents and this is the first time in your life you’re forced to confront this issue. When I was rubbing up against my emotional realities, I found myself at developing weird beliefs and getting extremely angry at certain people in my life.

The Shit Test Paranoia

The term ‘shit test’ is a common terminology used in the men’s dating advice industry where woman consciously uses tests to figure out if a male is really who he portrays himself to be or not.

Hence everyone’s half afraid of ‘shit tests’. Usually, these guys rely on ‘game’ and perceive other people’s behaviours as something that can is controlled. They think it’s a logical mathematical game to be won, they see social interactions as something that you can just run the numbers and it will just happen. These behaviours fall into non vulnerable behaviours.

If you take this worldview, the friendly way she jokes about your hair suddenly becomes shit test. That honest question about your job becomes a ‘shit test’. That concern from her that you don’t speak to your Dad becomes a ‘shit test’. Every time a genuine question of what you do for a living becomes a shit test, every time a woman makes fun of you becomes a test, on the other hand, she could just be genuinely concerned and or interested.

It’s a miserable perspective.

Sometimes, they’ll continue to pursue a woman even when it’s a clear big fat NO from her. Why? That’s because he thinks that she’s merely ‘testing him’.

If you’re strong in your values and boundaries, then it doesn’t what the opposite person across you says. I don’t care if she’s testing me or not. If she’s trying to play mind games with me, then I’ll simply ignore her and move on. I prefer spending my time with women that don’t play mind games. 

Of course, I know, there are people out there that purposely set hoops for you to jump through. However, we’re looking for high self-esteemed, non-bitchy, non-manipulative partners to be with, right?

  • The ‘I Have a Boyfriend’ Issue

Now, you’re going to run into this common line. Some girl down the road is going to say that she has a ‘boyfriend’.

There could be mainly a couple of reasons why she’s saying that: 1) she really has a boyfriend. 2) She’s not interested and is politely rejecting you. 3) Let’s presume she’s REALLY testing you. Then she must be quite screwed up person to tell you that she has a boyfriend to try to get you win her over

Hence, it doesn’t matter, just move on. If she is trying to fuck with you emotions, then she is out.

The Unconventional Primer into Vulnerability

I was primed to be the macho sort of man: show no feelings sort of male throughout my teens. I did martial arts, football, studied accounting and all that manly activities that a ‘man’ should do. However, no matter how manly you are, every individual has his vulnerable end. On the dating end, I can’t count the number of people I know who are confident with women that aren’t the ‘macho’ types and leaned towards the sensitive types.

In some cultures, you are conditioned to not show any signs of negative emotions from resentment, anger and sadness. In a culture that emphasises ‘saving face’, you are taught to suppress emotions and personal inadequacies as a means to ‘save face’. Usually, they are further covered up in secrecy and shame.

The ability to be vulnerable in our relationships is healthy regardless if you are in a collectivistic or individualistic cultures. Yes, Asians included.

This is why mental health is a stigma in Asian cultures.

If you’re constantly worried about what others think about you, then you’re never going to take a risk due to your fears of upsetting others. If you’re constantly attempting to save face in front of your girlfriend or partner, you’ll never get the support on the problems that you are facing. You’ll always be at the will and bent of others either in a subtle, or not so subtle way.

If you’re like me, you are probably brought up to follow the rules, get a practical degree and get that safe, secure nine to five corporate job. Follow the rules, make no mistakes and everything else (including your dating life) is going to magically take care of itself. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that.

You’re conditioned to base your self worth based on on performance roles such as academic grades, type of job and other objectified metrics in your life. Unfortunately, functional and healthy relationships don’t work that way. They are borne out of boundaries and values such as mutual respect and empathy.

Instead of competing like a child over who has the bigger, better and faster.. you can be vulnerable and put yourself out there? If you gave up your entire life just to sit in a nine to five just to get that swanky car simply to prove something to yourself or your parents… it’s time to start exploring projects that genuinely interest you.

The Power of Vulnerability 

I don’t just hold these standards in my relationships in my dating life. I hold these standards with my personal friends, my business partners, my clients and my family.

You put in less effort, you’re no longer spending time coming up with witty one liners, you’re no longer spending time worrying. You actually get to enjoy your relationships. Well, the whole point relationships IS to enjoy each other’s company, RIGHT!?!

If you’re genuine and honest in your behaviour, people are more likely to respond in a genuine and honest manner. If you constantly attract manipulative women who’s constantly testing you, then there’s something manipulative in you that you don’t see yet.

The majority of us were brought up in way as to not express our emotions: don’t be controversial. don’t be unique. Don’t do anything ‘crazy’, ‘stupid’ or ‘selfish’. Only be ‘useful’ to society. Only pursue projects that have an end outcome. Straying from the conventional path is labelled as ‘rebellious’. Expressing yourself openly about topics such as sex is shamed upon. Going through divorce is seen as taboo. Expressing yourself in an upfront manner is perceived as rude.

They can come from our upbringing, culture or a combination of both. Perhaps, our parents themselves were shit poor with their emotions.

So how can vulnerability look like in your day to day life?

It can come in many minute manners. For some, it can mean actually putting in work for an examination, and finding out if you were all that smart or not. It can come in the form of finally taking action in your relationships and building the required social skillsets and behaviours to better your dating life. The art of being vulnerable can be expressed by pursuing that lifestyle or job that we’ve been hesitating to pursue, making that career switch, that business hustle, and other pursuits that we’ve held back because of the fear of what our family, friends and society might think.

You’re going to rub up against your fears. You’re going stand out. You’re going to risk rejection and embarrassment. You are going to face inevitable failure, in a multitude of tiny and macro ways. Unlike everything else people tell you, real personal growth is not always rosy. In fact, many a times, it’s often downright painful. However, it’s necessary for long term growth and happiness.

Feb 27

How to Overcome Shame – Toxic Shame Recovery Guide

By Marcus Neo | Relationships

Shame is a concept ignored in many of the dating and relationship advice and self help community. I mean, after all, it isn’t exactly sexy or the new trend to be talking about your childhood issues. However, my personal belief is that people struggling with issues in their personal life to relationships may be struggling with shame.

How Does Shame Occurs

Shame is the belief that you’re fundamentally flawed as a human being. Shame often leads to emotional discomfort and the gnawing belief that one is inherently flawed, defective and unworthy of love. Shame is different from guilt. If you feel guilty, there’s no judgment on yourself, on the other hand, shame places a judgment on the self.

Shame may be formed in childhood, and is the result of early trauma, emotional abuse and negative experiences. 

  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Strict/ Religious Upbringing
  • Neglected family background
  • Growing up in dire economic conditions

These events may lead the child to internalise that he or she fundamentally isn’t worthy of love as an individual. That he or she is only worth of love from his actions or achievements and not as a human being. The child has to learn that he can not be perfect or even good at something and still be worthy of love and still not be defective. They are the repercussions of trauma.

Shame causes us to disconnect from pleasure or comfort.  Suppressing one’s core feelings take a huge amount of energy. It saps motivation and willpower to pursue worthwhile goals. Meanwhile, you are accumulating stress hormones, leaving you emptied out, with headaches, migraines, problems with bowels and sexual dysfunction.

Trauma triggers a fight or flight response. This cause anxiety or avoidance. You either react by being hyper aroused (anxiety) or you shut down from the stimuli (avoidance). It’s also an issue of being stuck in the past and as much a problem of not being fully alive in the present. The apprehension about being hijacked by uncomfortable sensations keeps the body frozen and the mind numbed. 

In order the avoid these negative feelings, some of the common coping measures of people inflicted with shame are:

These actions not only aren’t helpful, but they also exacerbate pre-existing shame. They create a deeper sense of emotional discomfort and a more powerful need, desire to escape and dissociate.

It’s suggested that shame based individuals didn’t receive the nurturance, unconditional love and their needs fulfilled when they’re a child. 

Someone that is shamed may seek to fulfil these unmet needs in adult pursuits through accomplishments, sexual pursuits, financial goals or any other means. This leads an ever fluctuation of self esteem and mood, because the external world isn’t static and one’s self esteem cannot completely dependent on the external world.

Ultimately, if you go on to attempt to meet these unmet childhood needs solely through external pursuits. They are band aid solutions. 

In such cases, one may react to an insecurity by either avoiding, surrendering or overcompensate around that insecurity. If one is overcompensating in that certain aspect, it can feed further into that insecurity. For example, if an individual is insecure about his sexuality around women, attempting to overcompensate and sleeping with a hundred girls is can still feed that insecurity. The long term goal to get comfortable with his sexuality isn’t trying to have sex with the entire planet but to find that middle ground of not overcompensating or avoiding that insecurity. 

The Problems that Come along with Shame

  • Self Criticism 

One of the effects of shame is self criticism. The amygdala is designed to detect threats in the environment, when we experience a threatening situation, the fight or flight response is triggered and the amygdala sends signals that increase blood pressure, adrenaline and cortisol.

This system was designed to deal with physical attacks and is activated just as readily by emotional attacks. From ourselves and others. Over time, increased cortisol levels lead to depression by depleting various neurotransmitters involved in the ability to experience pleasure. It leads to a lot of unneeded daily mental stress, as if you’re constantly in fight or flight mode.

  • Self-Handicapping

Shame based individual’s self handicap themselves a lot. This can play out not only in your relationships, but in all other areas of life.

This is because they perceive every rejection or failure as a judgment about their identity. It’s the guy who doesn’t studies and goes into the examinations. If he failed, it would be an easy excuse to say: well, I didn’t study after all. If he did alright: he’ll be able to say that he could have done better if he had studied. It’s much easier to go in half assed, and not put his identity on his line, rather than give it his best, and put himself up for failure or rejection.

  • The Sub human/ Super human Dichotomy

Shame based individuals may also have trouble integrating worldview. This is also known as the subhuman and superhuman dichotomy. Everything is all or nothing, black or white, one extreme or another. Everyone’s your best friend or your enemy, every pursuit is your life purpose or a waste of time, everyone girl you date is either your soul mate or a time sink. They cannot see a situation or a human for it is good and bad, and understand that it can both occur at the same time.

How to Heal Your Shame

In my own experience, it’s difficult to heal shame through willpower or pure discipline.

  • Psychotherapy

Human beings are driven by unconscious and subconscious drives and some times, circumstances that are out of our control. Our minds are really good at building up defence mechanisms.

You may find yourself in temporary frustration of the surroundings around you, upset at how little you expected out of yourself in the past, upset at all the decisions made out of shame.

Nonetheless, the only way is through and the self responsibility of healing growth and change. 

So far, I’ve discussed methods that are self generated. However, as with everything done by your own, it has limitations. 

One of the most helpful ways to get a third person’s perspective is the hire a professional psychologist. You’re dealing with someone who you can openly talk about your shame, who is capable of not only listen to it, but help you with it. 

There are many forms of therapy that can help with resolving trauma and shame ranging from cognitive behavioural therapy to EMDR therapy.

In psychotherapy, the aim of it is to make unconscious emotions conscious and to grief through them. You may find yourself being angry at certain people in your life for no reason. More often than not, behind anger is almost always hurt and sadness. Instead of feeling hurt, you covered it up with anger.

It’s only after you identified the root of these responses that you can start identifying your behaviours.

One cannot put traumatic events behind until they are able to acknowledge what has happened and recognize the invisible narratives that are running their behaviour.

  • Cultivating Mindfulness

Shame often leads us to be disembodied, removed from our physical experiences and often unable to experience the pleasure that we would normally experience if not for all the layers of shame. 

Learning to locate tense body parts and progressively relax them in anxiety-provoking scenarios (real or imagined) allows us to re-experience our bodies in non-shaming ways. This way, you nudge yourself to explore our sexualities in new, safe and pleasurable manners, you can chip at your emotional habits.

One of the techniques I found helpful over the years was to be aware of how I was feeling of my body. This is to simply focus on the sensations in your body when you’re in different situations. 

You can yourself questions like: why does that part of your body feel stuck when I’m talking to this person. Was I repressing a certain emotion? 

Mindfulness puts us in touch with the transitory nature of our feelings, beliefs and perceptions. Simply noticing our annoyance, nervousness, anxiety, helps shift our perspective and opens up new options other than automatic, habitual reactions. You can recognise the ebb and flows in your emotions, and ultimately have more control over them. 

Expressing yourself mindfully by being more forthright about your thoughts, feelings and desires to yourself can help. That’s because by expressing your shame, expressing parts of yourself to the right people… you can start to heal and gain acceptance.

  • Meditation

Meditation can also help by observing our thoughts, emotions throughout our day. By being aware of our beliefs, you can test out new beliefs and find new evidence to support new beliefs.

  • Challenging Your Core Beliefs

You can also attempt to figure out where did these negative beliefs came from. These beliefs probably came from past experiences in your life. This may come in the form of overbearing, critical parents, past trauma from past experiences. For EG. If you had been constantly turned down by your parents when you were seeking affection as a child. You’ll may constantly feel unworthy of love or attention as an adult.

In my case, my core belief is that I’m not ‘useful’, ‘smart’ or ‘hardworking’ if I don’t have a ‘practical’ degree. The counter argument for that would be: I’ve consulted two businesses in their digital marketing campaigns and achieved results for them, there’s no reason why I’m not ‘useful’, ‘smart’ or ‘hardworking’.

  • Self Compassion

Through the last few years, researchers have taken an increased interest in the subject of compassion. There’s been research done between shame and self compassion. 

Research also suggests that self compassion is significantly associated with positive mental health benefits and adaptive function.

When I first started bettering my social skillsets, the primary motivation was to get better with women and influence others. There were many instances where I ended up feeling empty inside at times. It’s almost as if I was trying to please others, or become someone else in order to win their approval. I felt like I could understand them, but they couldn’t understand me. It’s not enough to be understanding or empathetic to your world around you. You got to extend it to yourself. 

  • Social Support, Safe Relationships and Communal Rhythms

Safe relationships are important for the healing process. You need to find someone who is emotionally mature enough to talk to and express your hurt and anger without giving you biased advice or judgment. Social support and safe relationships are one of the key factors when getting better with trauma. 

In my opinion, it is difficult to express grief in modern society. You need to find yourself someone that can REALLY listen. Family members or friends around you might feel impatient if you’re in the grieving process. This is why I highly recommend hiring a therapist and letting them help you through this process.

I also recommend keeping a community of friends around you and take part in social activities. Socializing is a helpful activity to find a sense of connection.

There’s research that suggests taking part in activities involving music and communal rhythms can help with trauma. This can come in the form of aikido, kickboxing classes, tango dancing and other forms of communal rhythms. Some of these activities helps you reconnect with your bodies. Traumatized people are afraid to feel, remember? Though playing and exercising together, you feel physically attuned and experience a sense of connection.