I saw a recent conversation about business people going into government. I’d guess that someone managing a business empire might be good at running a governmental entity with a budget twice that size–say a billion-dollar business translates to a medium-size city. Does anyone know of a research paper comparing business people who go into government with government people who go into business, with comparative success rates based on size of organization or some such?0
Today a reader, friend and BKF brother posted the following:
Bilal Al’amin “accomplishment is a continual thing, it is reaping the rewards that elude us. For all my prowess in martial arts, I’ve accomplished a lot, yet have never reaped the rewards. One can say it doesn’t matter but it does matter, for it gives you a feeling of doubt and second guessing. That is where laws of attraction must be applied in earnest. Yesterday I wrote myself a bestselling review, which I posted on my refrigerator. So that everyday I look at it, I also wrote myself a check in the amount that I am worth, in regards to my writing, posted that as well. What I lacked was applying that concept to my successes. For if you desire to grow from one level to the next you must not limit your vision to just saying I want to be a writer, but to I want to be a successful bestselling author, I want grow financially enough to make a difference in the world, that was what I lacked and now I see so clearly. Works and the law of attraction it works, I was just using it on a minimal scale through limitations of my vision for the future.”
Back in about 1988 when Nicki was about two years old, my agent called me and told me I had a pitch meeting at Paramount for the “Friday the 13th” television series. The premise was simple: there was a haunted curio shop, and if you purchased an item, it forced you to murder people. The stars of the show had inherited the shop, and had to trace the items down and get them back before disaster occurred. The question was: could I come up with an idea for this series?
I was a fan of the movies (hey, who doesn’t want to watch teenagers get hacked up?) and thought: “sure.” I devised an idea I thought would work, and went in to pitch. Drove onto the Paramount lot, filled with optimism, and into the bungalow where they had their offices. There were three or four guys in there, and we chatted a bit (they were “big fans” of my work. They always are.) and after a few minutes I pitched my story.
It was called “Purple Heart.”
It started in Viet Nam. There is a unit being led by an incompetent young officer, the kind of idiot who would send you to retrieve a live grenade in a mine field under heavy machine gun fire. The squad’s NCO is beloved of the men, and due to the officer’s asininity, is killed. The men respond by fragging the officer. Realizing what they did, and that they will be tried and convicted of the murder, they frame the dead sergeant for the crime. There is only one problem: the sergeant isn’t quite dead. He is medivac’d out and taken to the hospital, where he loses both legs, an arm, and an eye…but survives.
The brass is certain that he killed the officer, but realize they could never convict him–he would look too pitiable. An embarrassment. Instead, they find ways to screw him out of his benefits and discharge him dishonorably.
He is mentally confused, and can’t quite understand what has happened to him. Years later, as a squad reunion on his birthday, someone accidentally drops the dime about what really happened. He is shocked, heartbroken. “How could you do this to me? I loved you guys. I would have died for you..”
The party dissolves into acrimony, and he leaves, returning to his cold-water walk-up flat. His landlady pities this poor young man, knows he has nothing, and that it is his birthday. On the way home that day she passed a certain curio shop, where she saw, in the window…a Purple Heart medal someone’s grandfather won in WW2. She bought it, and gives it to the sergeant. She pins it to his chest. “Here’s the medal you should have won…” she says.
And a single tear rolls out of his single eye. He goes up to his room, pulls himself up onto his lonely bed, and goes to sleep. But as he sleep…the medal begins to GLOW. And BEAT. Boom-boom. Boom-boom. Boom-boom. And metal VEINS extrude from the sides of the medal and PLUNGE into his chest. And his empty eye socket begins to glow, and the eye grows back. And the stumps of his legs begin to glow, and his legs grow back. And the stump of his arm begins to glow, and the arm grows back.
And he levers himself up out of the bed, reborn as a creature of vengeance, and goes after the men who framed him, killing them off one at a time, Commando style. Karate chops, barbed wire garrot, pungi stakes dipped in human feces…
You get the picture. I pitched that story, and after I finished, the room was silent. The guys looked at each other, and then one of them said: “we can’t do that story. Because if we did that story people would think that this show was about something. And our only excuse for doing a mass murder every week is that this is pure entertainment.”
I sat, thunderstruck. Realized that my very quest for quality and meaning had sabotaged my efforts to support my family. I NEEDED these men to say “yes”. With a wave of a pen, a single phone call to the finance office, these men could pay me TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS of desperately needed money.
“What else have you got?” they asked. And…I began to babble out ideas, as their eyes turned to glass and they assumed attitudes of mild pity.
“Well, come back any time,” they said, ushering me out. And I left, saddened, confused, and afraid.
But something odd happened. As soon as I stood in the parking lot, it was as if I’d walked out of an opium den, and the toxic lure of money began to lose its pull on me. I breathed more deeply. And I heard a voice in my head. Clearly. It was a child’s voice. And it said:
“Daddy, why did you have me talking to those terrible men?”
That was the voice of my inner child. The little eight-year old boy who first looked out at the world and wanted to be a storyteller. He was crushed. Because his father had tried to pimp him out for money.
For the next months something terrible happened. The natural flow of creativity, the endless fountain of ideas I had always enjoyed just…dried up. I slogged on, but it was painful. Where writing had always been a refuge from the world, now it was pure horror. Torture. I had betrayed my own creativity, and was paying the price for it. I could not go on like this. I remembered seeing the business card of an older writer: “Freelance Hack and Literary Mechanic” it said.
Within a year he was dead of alcoholism. I now understood how it had happened. Somehow, he had betrayed the child within him, and he was a dead writer typing.
I had to heal myself, or die.
I began a daily meditation regimen. Every day I would visualize a place I loved as a child. Santa Monica beach. When I went there, there was no Little Stevie to be seen, but I brought toys and treats anyway, would sit quietly looking out over the ocean, then leave the toys and food and go away.
The next day I’d return, bringing new toys. For weeks, months, nothing happened. In that dream logic way, the previous day’s stuff was usually gone, but it was as if I’d never brought them. But one day…they had been disturbed.
Little Stevie had been there when I was gone. I continued, day after day, sitting for from 20 minutes to an hour, bringing him treats, and more and more often when I arrived the next day it was clear he’d played with the toys, or even eaten the snacks.
And one day, maybe eight months later…I saw, distant on the horizon, the figure of a tiny boy-child. Day after day I kept coming, and noticed that, as weeks passed, he came closer and closer. A sad, lonely little boy, terrified to trust.
And then one day I rose. Just stood there. And he was close enough for me to see his frightened, angry expression. He turned and walked away.
The next day I did the same thing. And that day he stood facing me, but came no closer.
The next week he took a step toward me. And the next day another step. And then I took a step toward him. He flinched, but didn’t run.
And over the next weeks we came closer and closer, until one day he broke, and ran to me, and jumped into my arms, and we hugged each other and cried. “Oh daddy,” he sobbed. “I’ve been so lonely. Where have you been?”
And I swore to him that I would never leave him again, that I would never EVER force him to do the work it was MY job to do. That I would die first.
I’ve never broken that promise. And he has been within me always.
The job of the creative child is to dance, and be told he is wonderful and precious. The job of the adult is to build a safe space for that child to play. To build the walls high, prune thorns off the flowers, and keep the pumas at bay. The child dances. The ADULT works.
In the arts, the creative impulse is the child self. It is the ADULT’s responsibility to market and sell and exert discipline and handle the rejection. What should I have done at Paramount? I should have had back-up stories before ever walking in the room. Or told them I’d be back. But NEVER exposed my creative heart to those men. Never. It was child abuse.
The creative heart doesn’t understand money. Children have NO idea how the parents suffer to protect him from the reality. The children play while the father goes down into the coal mines to work. The child sleeps and dreams while the mother stays up all night mending cloths. The child eats while the adults pretend not to be hungry because there is no food.
The adult understands the world of exchange and symbols like money. To the child, putting a price, a value on the dance, the song, the story is like putting a price on a kiss. They are priceless, or nothing at all.
If you are to thrive as an artist, if you are to survive, you have to disabuse yourself of the notion that quality in art is tied to money. It is not. It never has been, any more than the fact that McDonald’s is the largest and most profitable food organization is tied to the quality of their hamburgers.
If you want your creative “child” to thrive, your “adult” has to do HIS job.
“If you have mastered anything, you know how to master anything else.”
Jerry Pournelle said this to me a long time ago. The implication is that YOU ALREADY KNOW how to succeed at anything, if you really look at what you know, and how you learned it. Bilal is a wonderful martial artist. I so miss playing with him! And he has struggled to make money with it, or with his art.
That means his “child” is not safe. What are the lessons from his arena of mastery (martial arts) that he can apply to being successful in writing? Let’s take a look at a belief chain implied by his note (there are others, but these are common among artists):
- Thinking “if I’m good, I’ll make money/ get rich” in the arts.
- “Talent” determines success.
- Since it doesn’t work that way, the “game” must be corrupt.
- Marketing and sales are bad, wrong, painful.
Let’s take a look at the Martial arts, an arena both Bilal and I have refined over decades. A core text of martial theory is A BOOK OF FIVE RINGS by Musashi Miyamoto. In it, he has a list of nine principles for warriors. They also work for writers.
- Do not think dishonestly.
- The Way is in training.
- Become acquainted with every art.
- Know the ways of all professions.
- Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
- Develop the ability to see the truth in all matters.
- Learn to perceive those things which are not obvious.
- Pay attention to even small things.
- Do nothing which is of no use.
I am going to get you started. I would do more, but really, you need to engage with these ideas personally if you want to learn. So I will take those first four beliefs and couple them with the first four principles. I could have coupled them to any of the nine. PLEASE DO THIS YOURSELF.
- “If I’m good, I’ll make money/get rich.” Couple this with “Do not think dishonestly.” Look around. Is this true? Do the best artists make the most money? NO never happened. Get over it. IT IS NOT TRUE.
- “Talent” determines success” is coupled with “The Way is in training.” Day in, day out. 10,000 hours before you can dare to consider yourself expert. And that’s 10k hours of conscious, focused training preferably following a path laid out for you by a master. And the next one is critical.
- “Since it isn’t true that quality=reward, the system must be corrupt.” couple this with “Become acquainted with every art.” There is the skill and craft of dance, music, painting, writing. And then…there is the BUSINESS of selling them. Look carefully. THEY ARE DIFFERENT THINGS. The apparatus of money-making is NOT the apparatus that develops pure skill. They are very different aspects. And that means that either you find someone willing to take the “adult” role (a lawyer/ agent/ manager) or you will have to do it yourself. And let me be brutally honest: those “adults” are easiest to find if you have already developed your own “adult” in that sense. Sending your “child” out to tap every adult it meets on the arm and say “will you be my mommy? Will you be my Daddy?” is abusive. It is YOUR responsibility to do this. No one else’s. This is why so many artists teach school and do their art at night.
- “Marketing and sales are bad, wrong, painful.” Couple this with “Know the Ways of all professions.” In every money-making enterprise, you need three things:
- To develop a unique skill or talent. Otherwise you are in a race to the bottom with pricing. If you can’t be the cheapest, you are screwed with this approach. Be yourself. Be WORLD CLASS at being yourself.
- Find the “hive” of people who need what YOU have. It is said that an artist needs only 1000 raving fans to support them. You don’t need the world.
- Find the right MEDIA to reach those 1000 fans.
Message, market, medium. THOSE are the three keys. IF you believe you have something worth offering, you have an obligation to share it with the world. A baker must believe in his cookies, be willing to give free samples, put up delicious pictures of cookies, let the smell of fresh-baked cookies waft from his shop. Put his shop where there is traffic, people whose mouths can be induced to water.
Message, Market, Media.
The child dances, the adult markets and sells.
And…sales and marketing are as much a skill as anything else. Don’t you dare think you can master it by reading an article or two. If you have a thousand novels and books on writing, but two books on selling, don’t you DARE think you know enough. That is the child self, who wants and needs to believe his kisses and hugs are of ultimate value. Who will cry if she has to read rejection slips, who just wants to be told she is precious.
It is the adult who can handle a thousand rejections, who can go into meeting after meeting and stand up to the other adults, and walk away without feeling beaten: it’s just business.
This is why I created the “Ancient Child” program, to help you separate the two. This is why I beg people to re-read THINK AND GROW RICH once a year. Why I implore you to use “The Morning Ritual” to shift your energy so that you can take action day after day after damned day.
EVERYONE wants to make a living doing something they love. Something that expresses their hearts. If you want your child to dance, your adult must be stronger, tougher, more resiliant and ruthless, more protective and cunning, like a frontier family whose mother and father must deal with Indians and bears and locusts and every other damned thing…so that the children can play.
It’s worth it, I swear it is. The reward is the sweetest smiles, the dearest kisses, the warmest hugs. “Mommy. Daddy. You never left me alone. You never quit”
And you will be able to answer, honestly: “And I never will.”
One cure for both “Impostor Syndrome ” and raging ego is to think not of yourself, but of the path you walk. I am nothing as a writer or martial artist, but my teachers and role models have molded me well. I express them, not my ego identity.
When I am in the maximum flow state, there is no awareness of “I”. My attention isn’t on me. How can “I” be an impostor, if “I” is not there?
No self-pity. No self-acclimation. No “self” in the moments of deepest commitment to craft or action.
Like most kids, I used to love watching cartoons all day. I’d just fall into the television screen.
The first book I ever read was called “The Five Chinese Brothers”. I memorized the tale, read the pages, and began to associate the printed words with the sounds, with the feelings.
But the first REAL book, chapter book, was probably something called “Space Cat.” And after about fifteen minutes, I would fall into the book the same way I did into those cartoons.
Later, I began to write stories. At first it was just letters and words. But after about fifteen minutes of constant scribbling…it felt as if the page opened up, and I just fell in. It was a wonderful place to be, a safe space for a small, sensitive kid. This was harder than reading. I had to EARN it, whereas “Space Cat” demanded less work…and television cartoons took even less.
But it was so satisfying.
I used to run the track at Pepperdine University. Took me a few months to work my way up to five miles, but I noticed the same pattern every time. I would run, and for the first mile or so, felt creaking and rusty. Then the next mile I’d feel discomfort, and my body might send me pain messages. Even panic. “You’re gonna die!” But I would answer: “if I’d die from running, I’d probably drop dead later on today anyway. If I die, I’m going to die on my terms.” Kept running…and reached a place where suddenly I was in rhythm with my body. It felt as if I was standing still, and the rest of the world was moving around me. Beautiful. Like writing. Reading. Cartoons. Took even more work, but it was wonderful, and worth it.
Much later, I studied sexual magic. And noticed that once I stopped chasing an orgasm (for either myself or my partner), there was a “gateway” where breath and motion and focus all started coming together, entering the same realm. About fifteen minutes it took.
I’ve found this space physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, spiritually. At one point there are opposites, and pieces, and a collection of parts. Then there is a functioning machine. And then…something living and beautiful appears. And then…even that disappears, and there is just…flowing.
And every time I’ve been through that progression, the outcome has been the very finest and most valuable interaction or performance of my life. That road is the doorway to everything you’ve sought in life.
And the key is to find any thread of it in ALL THREE basic arenas: body, mind, and emotions. And begin to wind them together.
Can you identify moments of flow in all three arenas? In which do you find it easiest? Can you identify your breathing patterns? The qualities of mind? Can you transfer them from one arena to another?
Because if you can, it is like noticing that steam, ice, and flowing water are all the same thing. And once you see that, feel that, KNOW that, you have touched something very difficult to teach.
But easy to learn, if you will actually move, and feel, and think, and ask: “what is true about these things? How are they all the same?”
So…what has been your experience with flow?
I’m gonna tell you about one of my very favorite lies. I tell it all the time. Yes, I do.
I watched “Chicago” again recently, and was struck by the brilliant labors of lawyer Billy Flynn ( a tap-dancin’ Richard Gere. I mean, has he got a John Travolta voodoo doll or something? Do you realize that Travolta turned down AMERICAN GIGOLO and AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN?). Flynn had to get dim but clever, venomous little chippie Roxie Hart (a wonderful Renee Zellwegger) off on a charge of pumping three bullets into her lover.
He couldn’t change the core facts of the case, which had her dead to rights. What he COULD do is control the narrative. Control the STORY. He created a new back-story for her (“A convent girl! A runaway marriage!”), said that she had indeed fallen into an affair but called it off when she found she was pregnant with her husband’s child (“don’t hurt the BABY!!”) that her lover attacked her (“she fought like a tiger”) and that they struggled over the fatal weapon (“they both reached for the gun”). Later he rather flamboyantly suggests that the District Attorney fabricated evidence. He deliberately creates a confusing circus (“give ’em the old razzle dazzle” as the song goes) that confuses the very clear facts, then uses force of personality to imprint his chosen narrative, while the hapless DA, far less charismatic, is unable to maintain the thread of his own story. Verdict? Not guilty.
Remember the O.J. case? Get the joke yet?
Now. About that lie…
When I was a kid, maybe 5th grade, a bully followed me home from Alta Loma elementary school, punching me in the stomach as I walked. If I tried to cover my stomach, he threatened to punch me in the face. The shame of feeling unable to defend myself damaged my self-image for decades, made it difficult to practice marital arts, contributed to my sense of hopelessness and helplessness. I would feel vulnerable, and attend class until I started making contact with my animal self, where I would automatically respond to threat with proper technique. But then that created another threat (“I am small and weak! My skills are attracting the attention of stronger predators! I must stop!”) and the fear would push me back out of the school…until my eroding skills created greater fear of the outside world, pushing me back to the school. This toxic loop continued for SEVENTEEN YEARS. It was so bad that I remember being afraid to go back to my school to reclaim a Levi jacket I’d left there, for terror that someone would ask me to spar with them (the sad thing? They wanted to spar with me BECAUSE I WAS GOOD. Emotionally, seeing myself as the boy who got beaten up, unable to defend myself, I only saw that “they wanted to hurt me.”)
I’ve spoken of my major breakthrough here, the realization that fear was a universal human experience. But never talked about one of the individual tactics I used to clean up the mess.
I had to do something about that memory. In the book A TASTE FOR DEATH, Peter O’Donnell created a monster villain, six and a half foot tall Simon Delicata, “built like a rhino and moves like a cat) who terrified Modesty Blaise’s right-hand man, Willie Garvin, who is depicted as one of the greatest martial artists in the world (I’ve read the entire 40-year run of the comic strips four times, and no one, NO ONE ever lays a finger on Garvin in fair combat. Modesty does in practice, but the real thing? Never. Not once. In the books, yes. I pointed this out to Peter once, and he was shocked, sort of the way Charles Schultz supposedly never realized that Charlie Brown had never kicked that damned football!). Why was he terrified, and have no hope of beating this man? Because when Willie was much much younger, he got into a fight with Delicata, hit him with everything he had, couldn’t hurt him, and was SLOWLY beaten almost to death. The memory went deep into his head “the old psychological domination” Willie said, tapping the back of his own head.
He literally wasn’t able to access his skill and speed and tactical cleverness, and would have died during the inevitable final confrontation…were it not for the fact that Modesty FORCES him to rise above his fear to save her life. Fantastic scene.
I needed to break my own “Psychological domination”, which is kinda like driving with your brakes on. But that bully was long gone. Can’t even remember his name any more. His face is a blur. I just remember the pounding as we walked along West Boulevard. What could I do?
I could take control of the story. I could block and scramble the memory. Would this be cheating? Who cared? They were MY friggin’ memories. I’d noticed that healthy, successful people tended to remember their lives as BETTER, their own actions as more central to change than they’d really been. While depressed people tended to selectively edit THEIR memories: they’d never been loved or supported, never had a victory, never been happy, and so forth and so on.
As House M.D. says: “everybody lies.” The only question is: will you lie to support yourself or tear yourself down. Yeah, I know…”do not think dishonestly.”
But…is it dishonest if you KNOW and ADMIT you’re doing it? And would that be wrong..?
I decided no. So…I began a course of meditation. And would envision that incident. And every time I envisioned it, I felt sick to my stomach. Remembered the pain, and the rage, and the helplessness as the bully pounded me in the belly again and again, threatening to hit me in the face if I even defended myself.
I couldn’t even identify with the situation–it hurt too badly. So I imagined myself sitting in a movie theater WATCHING the scene. Had to bleach the color and sound out of it, make the image small and distant…then finally I could see it without wanting to vomit.
And then…I began to change the movie. Re-edit it to my satisfaction.
I began to imagine that I could go back in the past, and coach my younger self, teach him how to whip that bully’s butt…
Another time I imagined that I was a full-grown adult who could laugh off the bully’s punches…
And yet another time that I was able to talk the bully into being my friend and protector…
But most of the time, I imagined kicking his ass. Throwing him on the ground. Making him cry.
Over and over and over again. Until the original memory was damaged–I no longer identified with it enough to cause the shame, pain, and nausea, like scratching a record until it no longer played. Until, when I remembered it, I automatically selected a more empowering memory, a different interpretation (I was only PRETENDING to be hurt, so that he could feel like a big, strong guy to counter his own insecurity, you see…)
Scrambled that memory. Built a new one. Imprinted it. Ran it forward and back and back and forth until I have no EMOTIONAL memory of what happened that day. I could find it, reconnect with it…but why would I want to?
I changed the story. Just like you can change yours. And when you organize the events of your life, you get to organize them to that they empower you, or so that they tear you apart. And you can do it for your children, or family, or readers–because every story you write or tell is only about one of two things: what human beings are, or what the world is.
We don’t ever REALLY remember things the way they were. While we are obliged to search for truth, we also have the right to be happy, and healthy. If I’d seen total truth, the memory would have given me no pain at all. But as long as I was still lying to myself (“I’m still small and weak!”) I might as well tell an empowering lie.
That lie, no worse than the other lie, gave me power, eased the pain. And led me to being able to embrace truth. Strange…but true.
Controlling the story you tell yourself controls the results you get. And controlling the stories you tell OTHERS influences the world, powerfully. Lifewriting, and the techniques embedded in it, is/are incredibly powerful, so powerful that it is critical to remember the most basic gatekeepers of morality. Simple principles like Musashi’s “Do not think dishonestly” or the Sufi “the beginning of evil is to treat people as means, rather than ends.”
Without such basic principles, self-justification can lead us down the path to destruction, as it did Walter White in “Breaking Bad” or as will happen to Jimmy on “Better Call Saul.” Small actions, every step justified…leading to hell itself.
Does power corrupt? I don’t think so, any more than sunshine and rain destroy. They also create life. Whether it bakes the earth or drowns the crops, whether wheat or weeds grow…is all a matter of degree and circumstance. But the things themselves are neutral. The universe doesn’t care.
So we must. Or the most basic principle I know of for the test of good and evil cannot be met: “does it make the children safer?”
Let me tell you about a time I walked away from power, even though all was well, even though everything worked out, even though I operated on the side of the angels.
Many years ago, I made friends with a co-worker. My wife and I socialized with him and his wife. Call him “Harry.” A good, smart guy, maybe a little reserved. I liked him. One day I got a call from his wife that kind of spun me (it was one of those: “why in the hell is she talking to ME?” moments I’ve kind of gotten used to.)
She told me that her husband Harry was deeply depressed. Addicted to pornography. Would lock himself in his office all night watching it on his computer, and hadn’t touched her in months. And…was starting to talk about suicide. She was terrified for him, for them. He wouldn’t see a therapist, or talk to anyone about it.
And yeah, you guessed it: she asked me if I could help.
WTF? I couldn’t believe it. I mean…why me? And then I heard a little voice in the back of my head that said: because you can. And she knows it. Somehow, she does.
I believe that on some level, people can read your mind. I really do. And so I said to her that I’d try.
Wow. Well…I’d been studying Neuro Linguistic Programming for a couple of years, and thought I was pretty good with it. And thought that maybe it could be of use. NLP is the study of intra and inter-human communication, the “machine language” of human consciousness. It controls the symbols that we use to represent reality. The “story” we tell ourselves.
So I decided to tell a story. Could I? Wow. What a challenge! Nothing more than a marriage and a human life possibly at risk. No pressure, right???
So…the next day I called Harry and, with a slight quaver in my voice, asked him if we could meet for dinner. I…(quaver) needed some advice, and he was the only person I could think of to go to. He was surprised, but agreed.
We met the next day at a restaurant. I was uncertain, insecure, had a hard time meeting his eyes. But the whole time I was doing this…I was using NLP techniques called “matching and mirroring” to get into synch with him. I matched his breathing patterns. Body posture. Verbal predicates (he spoke in auditory terms if I recall correctly, so I’d say things like “I’ve heard…” and “sounds to me like” and so forth as opposed to “it feels”, “I see” or “I know” which would be kinesthetic, visual, or digital)
Once I had matched breathing, posture, predicates, gestures and so forth…ALL below the threshold of awareness (It doesn’t work if the person knows you’re doing it) I went deep inside myself and induced a state of deep relaxation/awareness in MYSELF. Because by this time Harry and I were deeply connected, he began to follow me. I slowed my breathing. Relaxed my shoulders. Wove slightly, rhythmically side to side, and noted when he began to follow me.
Well…all the time, I was telling him that my marriage and life were doing badly. That I was depressed, and starting to wonder what it was all about. Whether anyone would miss me. Yeah, I know it sounds bald to you NOW, but I was very careful, and by this time, “Harry” was deeply entranced. Really. Sitting right there at the dinner table. And I asked him what advice he might have for me.
And he began to say something about remembering the good times in life, and not letting the bad overwhelm me. Knowing that I would get through it all, in time.
I watched his eyes. He believed what he was saying. He FELT it, his eyes misting up just a little.
Now, pay careful attention to what I did next. All of this was subtle, but I have to make it explicit to show you how it worked. And it would NEVER have worked had I not established rapport and guided him into a relaxed place.
“Are YOU (I pointed at myself!) telling ME (I pointed at him) that every time I (pointing at him) am feeling depressed, I (pointing at him) should remember the good times?”
He nodded, weaving as if he was drunken.
“And are YOU (pointing at myself) telling ME (pointing at him) that every time I (pointing at him) am driving down the street and see a red light, I (pointing at him) will remember to STOP the negative thoughts, and every time I (pointing at him) see a green light, I (pointing at him) will remember to GO FOR IT, to just put the pedal to the medal and use that good mind I (Pointing at him!) have to solve any problems and take action…”
And so it went. His pupils dilated, weaving like he was about to fall over. I was laughing my ass off inside. This was amazing. Like magic.
Well, after about five minutes, I brought him out of the trance, back to the room, tested to be sure he was cool, thanked him for his time…and we said good-night.
About a week later I got a call from “Harry’s” wife. “Steve!” she said. “What did you do?”
“Ummm…I just talked to him. Why?”
“Well, he came home that night, grabbed me and kissed me and took me to the bedroom and…” I don’t blush a whole lot, but I certainly did during THAT conversation. Wow.
He hadn’t looked at pornography again. He was diving into projects he’d abandoned months ago. He told her he loved her for the first time in years…
Babbling thanks, she hung up. So far as I know, he has not relapsed.
And I stopped practicing NLP after that. What had happened scared the living hell out of me. Why?
Because, even though things had apparently worked out, I realized I was REALLY good at this. And frankly…I knew I wasn’t honest enough to have that kind of power. I KNEW it. Knew that I would use that to manipulate people, justifying my actions at every turn, until it was all at the level of unconscious competence.
At which point it would be too late.
And that little bit of moral rot at my core (remember the giggle?) would hide deeply, and convince me that all was well. I would be capable of twisting and warping my entire world, all the time convincing myself I was the Good Guy.
Thank GOD I’d seen that nasty little bastard inside me, and heard it giggle before it could hide.
I was treating Harry as a “thing”, playing him like a toy. And even though the final result was good…the end did NOT justify the means. Unless I could respect him and love him and honor him at EVERY MOMENT, I could NOT trust myself to have the ability to dive into a human soul like that, and re-wire the works.
So I stepped away from NLP for years, until I healed more deeply, and could trust myself more.
And then, only then…did I begin coaching people again. Once there was no giggle, only a deep and pervasive sense of profound humbleness and thanks that I could help another precious human being heal themselves. To step completely out of my ego and let “it” happen.The techniques are interesting. It is fun to be clever, or smart, or even brilliant.
But there is something more important. To be GOOD. To see human beings as extensions of yourself, not as machines to be fixed or puppets to be manipulated. That other path is the road to hell, no matter what your intentions.
If you want to help the world, heal yourself first. Diminish the need to lie to yourself about why your relationships, your body, your career are what they are. Love yourself, deeply, as you would your own most beloved child. In accepting your own failings without excuse, you join with all imperfect, wonderful humanity.
And then…learn to extend that to a loved one. And then…learn to love everyone. While protecting yourself, love them so deeply that you are sharing your light, not just using “technique.”
Tell them the story of how YOU changed, in a language they can understand. Metaphor, parable, fantasy, fiction, autobiography or biography. Tell the STORY of how change happened. Be honest, not clever.
You can run out of clever. You can never, ever, ever, run out of the truth. Truth is revolutionary. Stories are the most powerful medicine we can give ourselves, our children, our world…so long as they are grounded in truth.
Break the Matrix.
What is your empowering story?
Last Christmas, I gave myself the single best gift I’ve ever had: three hours of private instruction with a man who, for various cultural and practical reasons, might well be the greatest martial arts instructor in history, Danny Inosanto. He was Steve Muhammad’s Kempo instructor, Bruce Lee’s lead student, and considered the world’s greatest authority on the beautiful and devastating Filipino martial arts. He’s eighty years old, travels the world teaching every weekend, and is still blur-fast and kinesthetically as perfect as a human body can be. He moves more stiffly now than when I trained with him in the early 80’s, but when performing his beloved arts he moves like a teenager. He is always training in something: currently Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Russian Systema, and Capoeira, I believe.
We worked sticks, knives, empty hands, push hands, kicked the bags together, worked Capoeira footwork, talked Bruce Lee and training after fifty (a classic comment: “you can stay in shape as you get older, Steve…it just a little harder to motivate yourself every year”) and how I could continue to improve despite a busy life…specifically, daily training and taking frequent workshops. He said that some of his very best students no longer attend weekly classes…but they work out at home, and come back to the school for intensive training a few times a year.
He is a master of masters. No slightest question about it, and it is always fascinating to get close to such people. In EVERY case, what I’ve seen is daily focused play, real love for the thing they’re doing, performed over decades combined with an encyclopedic knowledge of their field. The only “talent” I see in common, ever, is the ability to maintain that focus and enthusiasm long after most people have given up and pretended they didn’t care.
This is why the concept of “talent” is such poison to me: I never see it lift people up. Only to excuse why people quit: “I didn’t have the talent.”
But how do you do that? Keep going over decades? First, a clear outcome. WHAT do you want. Then, you have to have reasons to do it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it even after everyone else has gone home. And that means you find something you LOVE and put everything you have into it. But…we are motivated by both PAIN and PLEASURE. So the best of the best of the best will and do use both.
One of the things I do is to speak quietly and carefully to Masters, and discover what the core memories might be, the “Epiphany Bridges” that made the light bulb go off in their heads and realize that they had found a path to knowledge andpower which, pursued, would bring them joy in life. “The purpose of life is to be happy” said the Dalai Lama. Not just to “not hurt” or “not be afraid” but to be HAPPY. FORGET “to do” lists until you are clear on your OUTCOMES and the emotional reasons you MUST have them. Have enough “whys” and the “hows” take care of themselves.
So…what was I really about with Danny? Why did I really want those three hours? I wanted to know what motivated the master, that’s what. (I’ve done this with Elon Musk and other ultra-performers, by the way. Stories for another time).
So…what is his core motivating memory? He was in elementary school, and there was a bully who terrorized the playground. Like everyone else, Danny was afraid of him. One day, this bully attacked a friend of his, and Danny jumped into it and got pounded. The teachers pulled the two of them apart, and for a moment the bully was restrained and Danny was not. Danny jumped in and punched him in the nose. Blood squirted and the bully howled. As the teacher pulled Danny to the principle’s office, he thought to himself: “he bleeds too!”
He bleeds too. That single image, of an apparently invulnerable bully who could be stopped, or hurt, by skill and courage and timing, has motivated Danny his entire life. Wow.
Do you know the first time YOU got excited about the possibility of your chosen area of mastery? And if you insist you aren’t interested in mastery of anything…why not? Why settle for “being good” or “being expert”? Why not find the thing you love, put your energy behind it for a lifetime, and produce the results that would really make your “inner child” happy? Because you can’t make money? Money isn’t skill at your art…it is skill at marketing. And a good marketer can market ANYTHING. All that requires is 1) belief that you have something of value to offer the world and 2)lack of fear of rejection, 3) modeling successful marketers. Develop these, and then decide what you want to do with your life, AND DO IT.
So…in your “Morning Ritual” you should have your “outcome” but also connect with the DRIVING EMOTIONS that give you power. You can always tell when people do their job “for the money” as opposed to being fascinated and committed and passionate about the project.
If you want to make money, remember that money comes from sales and marketing, and sales is “a transfer of enthusiasm from one person to another.” This is why people in business meetings so often say “we’re really excited about X…” because through practical experience they KNOW that they have to get excited in order to make things happen. Sometimes they’re just going through the motions, of course. But if YOU can be genuinely excited, you have a chance to infect THEM with that enthusiasm. And then there is no sales resistance, and the project can cook.
So…for me, three things are primary: family, writing, martial arts. That means that the first thing when I wake up in the morning, I can remember the MOTIVATING FORCE OR IMAGE behind each of them. Tap into the emotions, the “why”. Love and passion connect to the moment I realized that a lioness needs a lion. T is a lioness. If I want the fun and passion and contribution of being a worthy mate to her, I must be at my best. I connect with yummy reasons to hold this energy.
Writing? I remember the moment I realized I was born to be a writer, standing in front of an audience at Pepperdine University, having won a short story contest and reading it to the group, watching the Alumni smiling and applauding.
Martial Arts? Remembering when I backed the worst bully I’d ever known down because I was willing to die and he wasn’t. Stepping out into the middle of the street on Washington boulevard, inviting him to join me to continue the fight. And…he blinked.
The peace and power I felt, calm in the midst of danger, transformed my life. The joy of holding the attention of these successful people transformed my life. The memory of watching beautiful women walking with powerful men as hunting pairs transformed my life.
And there is another level. If I rotate between these visions, these feelings, sometimes I can find a place inside me that resonates with all three. I cannot quite tell you what it is–it is not a thing of words. But when I find that place IT IS HUGELY GENERATIVE.
THAT is the place I seek in morning meditation. In Tai Chi. In writing. In connecting with my wife, or my son.
When I find THAT place I know I’ve hit something special, and when I tap that spring, it connects to everything else in my life. It is amazing.
But it all starts with WHY DO YOU DO IT?
What is your “he bleeds too!”
Find that…and the door to mastery opens for you.
One of the things that gets me excited to wake up in the morning is that I never know what people are going to be talking about on my pages. What emails or texts I might get about one or another issue. What will be a theme for the day? How can I help people?
Well, today what came up is painful childhoods. Abusive step-parents, bullying, neglect. Painful stuff, damaging our self-worth and what I call “self-love.” Without it, we search for love outside ourselves.
For instance: I have a student who has a girlfriend who is more sexually experienced than he is.
He won’t leave her, but thinks of her as slutty. Wants to be the greatest lover she’s ever had, and is constantly repelled and angered by her descriptions of previous affairs and their…attributes.
He constantly asks what’s wrong with her. My answer is that as far as he’s concerned, NOTHING is wrong with her. If she has half a brain she knows he considers her “slutty” and if she has any sense at all, knows that he would throw that in her face in an argument. So it would be stupid to ever open her heart to him, risking real damage. So she attacks him in his insecurity, so that he will either run away or, finally…grow the @#$$ up and take responsibility for his own emotions. He is stuck in the “dark night of the soul” and cannot take my advice: withdraw from all sexual interactions until he is a healthier human being.
I have no idea if he’ll make it through. He has no faith in her, none in himself. Wants to skip the work that needs to be done. Newsflash: you can’t do it.
Every time I hear about her bringing up her past experiences, I think: good for you, girl. Keep those defenses up. This is the wrong guy.
A family should be the place you can tell the truth. A place to heal. Where you can drop your defenses, your artifice, your masks. We all wear them: our masks get us through life, but they are so, so heavy. If you can put them down, absorb emotional nutrients, rest and recover…you actually return to the fight STRONGER. But if you cannot put them down, ever? They will break you.
And if you don’t have memories of a happy childhood? If you don’t have a healthy birth family? Well, that’s what friendships are for.
There is a movie currently in the theaters, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2, which is all about a “family” of dysfunctional beings who, together, are massively stronger than they are as individuals.
I don’t want to tackle it because too many people haven’t seen it yet. But I think we can discuss the first film profitably. (And speaking of profit, note that the subject of “family” looms large in both GUARDIANS and the “FAST AND FURIOUS” films, suggesting to me that there is an enormous hunger for simple human connection. Understand this, feel this, learn how to express it…and you will empower your work…
And possibly your lives.)
O.K. Every character has an arc in the first film:
Quill’s mother died and he was kidnapped by aliens on the same day. Raised by an abusive father who trained him to be a thief and threatened him with death by cannibalism every day, he learns commitment and connection, self-sacrifice and the beginnings of love for others. And in that, he finds self-respect and the beginning of transformation.
Gamora was kidnapped by an alien who raised her and her adopted sister Nebula to be deadly, emotionless assassins. When Quill, who is sexually attracted to her, actually commits an action of self-sacrifice her heart is touched: another being in the universe actually cares, for the first time in her life. It is the beginning of her transformation.
Drax the Destroyer is an empty hulk, filled with nothing but the commitment to kill in vengeance for the death of his family. A friend with an autistic son considers Drax’s over-literal mind to be representative of a person on the Autism/Asperger spectrum. Whether neurological or environmentally/experientially triggered (abuse, etc.) Drax has nothing but the wish to die killing, until he realizes that drive placed the lives of good people at risk. He expands from simple self-interest to the acceptance of other beings as real entities, not just shadows in his own internal tragic play.
Rocket Racoon is the product of an experiment that tore him apart endlessly and reconstructed him into a super-intelligent highly aggressive predator. Bitter and utterly self-contained, he cares about nothing except his faithful follower Groot, who can express himself only in three words. Groot, in essence, makes Rocket look downright communicative in comparison.
And Groot’s arc is inextricably intertwined with Rocket’s. Although he can speak only three words, in some ways he is the most open, expressive, joyous, loyal and emotionally healthy member of the entire crew. He offers a flower to a child. He is capable of utterly selfless action: who didn’t tear up when he gave his life for his companions? “We are Groot”. And make no mistake, Groot DIED in that moment. “Baby Groot” is a clone. He is not Groot. And in the second film, they love him at least partially because he is a symbol of the sacrifice that saved them. And that Sacrifice opened Rocket’s wounded heart, and made it inevitable that he step up to the plate, join hands with his companions, and create a circle of power capable of containing cosmic forces and besting the villain.
Through Groot’s sacrifice, they became a family, tentatively willing to accept responsibility for each other and try to move forward in their lives.
Those are their individual stories. Now as a group:
ONCE UPON A TIME there were a group of misfit thieves and criminals who had been damaged and abandoned by the world. Thrown together, they were forced to tolerate each other to defeat an evil larger than any of their small lives. Clever and courageous, they mastered and out-foxed every challenge until meeting one that was too big, only conquered through the mortal sacrifice of one who saw that they were all part of the same soul. This sacrifice gave them the strength to move beyond their egos, to expand, to trust and hold each others’ hand in the face of death, and in doing that to not just win…but earned the greatest reward any of them could have: a place in the universe, people to trust. A future, together.
They were heroes, the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, but more importantly…they were a family.
That was the first film. The second continues to explore the themes of love and family, and together, they’ll make about two billion dollars. Because we’re all searching for connection. And denied a healthy connection, we become bitter and selfish, stop believing it is even possible to make a connection with someone outside ourselves, and most horribly lose even the connection to our own being.
- We must love ourselves enough to be fiercely protective. ALL the “Guardians” are strong as individuals.
- We must open ourselves to loving another. It is love, and ONLY love that has the ability to open the floodgates of emotion. Make us expand our ego walls.
- We must ask “who am I?” and “what is true?” Both films are about the search for identity, and understanding. As we expand, we must seek such understanding to survive in the adult world, as well as accept ourselves and others.
- We must find our tribe. People of similar values. Believe what they DO, not what they SAY. Behavior is truth. Rocket Raccoon believed in love because he SAW it in action.
- Win. By victory, you know your path is a valid one. When that victory brings love and joy to the world, and safety for children, you know it is a righteous one. And then, of course, you move on to the sequel.
The way out of the box is love. We have to shift our “story” to believe we are worthy, precious, as worthy as anything in the universe. Until we do we cannot accept the love of others, cannot believe they see anything inside us worthy of sacrifice. “I’d never join any club that would have me as a member.”
We have to believe. We are as precious as the Nebulas.
We are all Starlords and Ladies.
We are Groot.
Be the hero in the adventure of your lifetime.
I got this great note in response to my recent post on “The Tyranny of Evil Men.”
Thank you for this, Steven. You saved me from making a terrible mistake.
I remember as a kid, being at a gathering of relatives, and the subject of racism came up. Feeling in an evil mood, I very carefully led the discussion into sports. And proposed, carefully, that blacks were superior physically. Took about thirty seconds to start getting agreement. And then discussions of American history. And yes, it was quickly agreed that blacks would not have done the terrible things whites had done in regard to slavery. And then that the greatest, earliest civilizations were in Africa, and that the rest of the world had stolen their knowledge. WE were the natural geniuses…
Oops. Physical, spiritual/moral, and intellectual superiority, all in one package, all with about five minutes of probing.
In college, I was often the only guy in the room around a group of women often enough to try another experiment. Pull in my energy. Start apologizing for the evils of men: the wars, the violence, the domination and sexism. Why, the world would be a better place if women controlled it. Women have more empathy and wisdom. Even endurance and strength! The apparent differences in performance are all social constructs.
Two things became pretty obvious: one that it took about ten minutes to get those heads nodding. Second: I got laid a LOT.
And not to put too fine a line on it, I’ve also performed the experiment of being in a room filled with white people, and quietly, soberly being “forced” to admit that, well, black people have a long way to go…that most of us were…well…very good at, you know, entertainment and sports, and SOME of us were pretty damned smart (tears sparkling in my eyes. Pats on the back) but…well, you know…
And gotten the “oh, Steve, its all right. You’re not one of THEM. You’re one of US.”
And of course, the experiment of being in a room filled with guys, and gotten them to chuckle along with how we’re being really nice to let women consider themselves equal. But if they ever went too far, they’d reap the whirlwind…
Nods, agreement, and hand-slapping.
Done this with gays and straights. Christians and Muslims. Believers and Atheists, Liberals and Conservatives. Same damned result every #$%$% time.
Meaning: everyone thought they were superior. Everyone also blamed their opponents for thinking they are superior. Everyone discounted the humanity of everyone else, and everyone would be an oppressor given the opportunity.
There was no safety anywhere. I’d been hurt by everyone, rejected by everyone, offered safe harbor only if I lied and distorted…and knew that the instant I stopped agreeing, they’d turn on me.
If there is no safety in the external world…what do we do?
Octavia Butler said it: that the thing she found most troubling about human beings is that
- They have a tendency toward hierarchicalism
- They believe themselves to be higher on that ladder than others.
And no matter where you look, you’ll find this to be true. And it was easy to see the trap as the pendulum swung back and forth: oppressed becoming oppressors, and either exterminating their opponents, absorbing them, or being oppressed in return.
An endless cycle of misery. How to avoid either being oppressed OR becoming an oppressor?
How do you step off the carousel? And if you do…how will you survive? Because SURVIVAL, personal (death and pain) or genetic (sex and pair-bonding) are the two most powerful drives in human nature. They trump everything else 80% of the time, and people willing to put love or truth above survival are so rare they become heroes of legend.
How to find your way out of the trap?
By controlling the STORY you tell about the human race. Remember the five-step process:
- Love and nurture yourself. The story: “I am worthy of love and protection.” So long as you are in pain, or feel threat, you cannot help but thrash out in fear and anger. You’ll numb that pain with drugs or powerful negative emotions…or all embracing “love” that is actually a plea for mercy. Be strong.
- Love another human being. The story: “Love is the most powerful transformative force, and I can have lasting love in my life.” If YOU are not strong, you can give your love to someone who is, who needs that softness, and trade it for protection. We do this with equals all the time, trading strength and love even-steven. But you can also go Yin-Yang, finding someone with great emotional/intellectual/physical strength and offering them genuine affection and healing in exchange for protection. You stand together, and are stronger as a team than you would be individually.
- Understand human history without guilt, blame, or shame. The story: “Human beings are basically just creatures moving away from pain, and toward pleasure. Capable of great good and great harm. And the greatest sin is harming children, or using people as means rather than ends. We all do this at times. I commit to a different path.” This CANNOT be done unless you love and forgive yourself enough to look deeply into your own soul and ask why you have not achieved your dreams, broken promises to yourself, lied and distorted and blamed. Take responsibility. The instant you do, you will understand why history has been what it is. As long as you operate in the delusion that you are above this, that you have not been driven by fear and anger, not lied to yourself and others, you will hallucinate that “the other” group, whether they are defined by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, politics, wealth, or whatever are the “evil” ones. Grasp that the problem is in the mirror, but LOVE that reflection as well as hold it responsible, and everything changes.
- Find your tribe. The story: “though I may walk alone for a time, if I speak my truth, I will attract others who see and feel the same reality. They are looking for me now.” Don’t waste time arguing with trolls–they will tag-team you into exhaustion. Instead, support those who see the world as you do, and let those who do not go their own way, in peace.
- Win. The story: “If I clearly define success in my own terms, and it is aligned with natural law, victory is living every day on my own terms.” With compassion and consideration, by the same sense of fair play and sportsmanship you would like others to show toward you. But win. Be healthy, happy, and successful. NOTHING attracts attention like walking your talk with joy and power.
We invest enormous energy maintaining the separation. One of the most fascinating things that I ever learned was from the discipline of sexual magic. The cultures that look at this powerful force without winking and simpering (although there IS a lot of laughter and giggling and sighing!) say something to the effect that “the intensity of an orgasm is in direct relation to the amount of ego released at that moment.”
In other words, if you can remember your name, it wasn’t good sex. Or to put it another way, as in a nuclear reaction, when two particles fuse, part of the mass is released as energy. When two human beings fuse, the degree to which they release their separate identities is the degree to which they release the energy bound up in their egos.
We carry a huge amount of energy bound up in our labels and self-justifications, our prejudices and the lies we tell to protect us from admitting we have them, that we are often the mirrors of the very bigots we decry.
The secret to life is to just…be. As opposed to carrying all that armor, and separating human beings into categories of greater and lesser worth.
The energy released is immense, almost incalculable, similar to the energy released in deep creative thought, the “flow” state when a reader sinks into a book, or a writer dissolves into the story.
This is a new opportunity, to change the story that you tell about yourself, your partners, the world, so that you can achieve the only goal you’ve ever really had–to be happy. Everything else, EVERYTHING else, was just a means to an end.
And every time you resolve a duality, TELL THE STORY of how you did it, what happened, what you have seen when others either evolve or remain trapped at their current level…or most tragically, devolve under the weight of their lies. Tell the story to your friends, your children, your readers, the world. Every word is an action. Every action changes the world.
Lies are shadows, cast by our egos blocking the light.
Embrace the sun.
I think that in one sense the “Power” of human beings is in direct relationship to the degree to which they identify with spiritual forces rather than anything operating on the normal human level of existence at all. But in terms of relationships, in 99% of the cases I’ve seen over the course of my life, if men gained more financial stability and/or wealth, women found them more attractive. And as women gain more of an hour-glass figure, THEY become more attractive to men. So when I encounter people who are lonely, or wondering why they can’t attract the people they themselves are attracted to, that’s the first prescription. Nothing, of course, works every time, and simplifications are just that–simplifications. But it’s a lot like “are you taking in fewer calories than you are burning up?” in that if you haven’t handled the basics, it’s not surprising that you aren’t getting the result.
Why do I believe this so strongly? Because it’s most of what I see. Because statistics show that the best thing a guy can do to improve his chances with women is own his own house. Because of the dozens of women who have told me that for various reasons they wanted to reduce their attractiveness to men–and gained weight to do it. And that they became invisible. I can only hear those stories so many times before I begin to factor that in.
I’d guess there were more cases of women who found MORE men attracted to them as they gained weight than you’ll find guys who believe they are more attractive when they are broke. But don’t bet on either state increasing our attractiveness to the opposite sex, if your happiness and emotional health are at stake. It’s a sucker’s bet.
Now, the more evolved will simply walk their spiritual life path, finding partners along the way. That’s great, and a pretty high-level performance. Graduate school in life, where too damned many people never made it out of junior high.
As for the feminists who said that all sex is rape–that’s just pain, rage, frustration, and sheer manipulation of naive and guilt-ridden males. It is simply asinine to suggest that no woman is as powerful as any man. The AVERAGE woman has less Yang power than the average man. And the ignorant can be persuaded not to look at the other forms of power. In essence, they are blinded and intimidated into believing that men control everything, have everything, and are engaged in some bizarre conspiracy to control women.
The funnier thing was when some of these women wanted me to believe that, as a man, I was personally responsible for this. Odd how they, as white people, weren’t personally responsible for racism. They are just using the weapons they have to try to dominate the discussion. Like everyone else. Women who want to dominate men seem usually to use guilt. Like men who want to dominate women generally use fear. (And when women are larger than their male partners, physical intimidation does indeed seem to creep into the equation.) It’s equal bullshit. It’s been my experience that most “feminists” I’ve met don’t actually believe in equality of the sexes. They believe in female superiority. What I mean by this is that I found it absurdly easy to lead them into enumerating why women were superior, as long as they didn’t realize that’s what I was doing. This is opposed to women who are successful and powerful who don’t particularly take a political position about gender. It is equivalent to most of the “black power” folks I knew. They weren’t interested in “equal,” even if that’s what they talked publicly. Get them in private, and they’d laugh about how blacks are smarter, more spiritual, better athletes, better lovers, etc.
I personally think that happens whenever you find someone who has a political bent–they have staked out a position and believe their position is superior. And use either guilt or fear to try to get their way. I guess what this boils down to is that I just don’t like politics much. I think it warps perception just as much as religion: there has to be a “right” and “wrong”, something to push against, and the establishment of just who is which always seems to make winners and losers, forcing black and white value systems into very gray zones of human behavior.
Great note today on beauty and power from a reader:
(All names changed)
The reader said:
“I don’t, really, think women have it worse than men, or have less power, or anything, if I confine my analysis to who has the most dating and relationship choices, in countries like the US where there’s relative equality (as opposed to places where women’s families arrange their marriages, and sometimes men have more choice over what gets arranged for them). At most I think that some men have the delusion that women hold all the cards and have all the sexual power, and need a reminder that the ability to say yes or no isn’t more power than the ability to pursue or not, etc.
But what I do think is: If I look back at my own choices, any “power” that I looked for wasn’t *that* much. I never demanded that a guy be tall; the Mark I actually married is quite tall, but the Mark I didn’t marry, and Jim, were only my height, which is short for a man. I never demanded he be strong. Pete worked out, but the Mark that I didn’t marry was a computer nerd who did no visible exercise (and was young enough to be thin anyway). I didn’t insist that they come from money, or be headed toward obviously wealthy lines of work; guys who were taking a chance on a creative profession were fine by me. What I did make my bottom line was that the guy have or be headed toward a decent college degree, that he not use drugs or alcohol to excess, or that he have *some* ambition (professional, creative, activist, whatever) that I respected.
Now compare that, not necessarily to what men actually want, but to what women get told men want. The pretty super skinny models, the articles by one set of people that urge you to get married right away in your twenties because your chances will fade almost instantly, the articles from another set of people assuring you that men want your body but never your heart, the articles from yet another set reminding you of some imperfection in your appearance that you absolutely must lose, and the ones which urge, not win/win beauty ploys that will also make your body healthy and strong, or even win/meh ploys like make up, that don’t make your body strong but don’t hurt it, but weight or shoes or whatever that actually *aren’t* good for your health and comfort. And, if you do the comparison *that* way, it’s easy to come away thinking women have it way worse in the relationship department.
Of course, if you’re coming from the perspective of someone like Andrea Dworkin, who was raped, suffered domestic violence, and was an exploited prostitute for a while, then there’s quite a different set of reasons to see women as having it worst, but I’m not really talking about those reasons here, but the more illusory ones, the ones that are the result of comparing your own desires, which usually don’t involve demanding a millionaire, with the messages you get about what men want you to be, which often *do* come across as if men demanded unreasonable perfection. Even actually *getting* pursued by men doesn’t always shake that, because there’s also the “men are dogs and only out for one thing” message, and if he wants “just sex” it’s not supposed to count to your credit.”
First, I think this is all very sane, and points to a problem with the way human beings sort information. In general, body, power, and emotional balance are the basic human qualities we offer each other in relationship. They are also what we bring to our careers (physical energy and appearance, motivation/focus/clarity, and ability to bond and empathize) and the determiners of our physical fitness. So it is hardly surprising that these factors are so controversial and misunderstood.
In general, I think that our bodies hold the animal energy, our emotions and intellects are our human space. The illusions that women buy into (be as skinny as an anorexic model) are great for the diet industry, the fashion industry, and anyone who doesn’t want to compete with a juicy hourglass-figured body. The illusion that men buy into (be rich as the only way to attract women) is great to keep society’s grindstone moving. However “rich” is measured in a given society, I promise that only 1% of that culture can actually be “rich.” Which means that about 99% of the men who believe this myth see themselves as failures.
So women diet and stress themselves to death, men work themselves to death, both sides think the other has the best bet. I think that the belief that men are in control is used to motivate men to higher and higher levels of aggression and work, even if it kills them. Both men and women promote this idea, just as both men and women collaborate in the projection of illusions about what men find sexually attractive.
It really is sick, and all I’m trying to do is to discuss what the world looks like from the position of: nobody is in control. Men and women are being used by our genetics, and societies are mostly the product of our unconscious drives writ large. That “calorie in/calories out” is roughly equivalent to “beauty/power” or “make more money than you spend” in terms of basic rules for managing wide aspects of body, relationship, and finance. That until you have these handled, or at least taken into account, chances are very very good that you are running in circles. If your car isn’t running, it may be true that your plugs are out of timing, or your oil is low. But if your tank is freakin’ empty, look at that FIRST, before you worry about the brand of gas, the octane, or whatever else.
These things are basic. Ignore them at your own risk. If you ignore them, and you’re happy with your life, GREAT! But if you lack energy, love, freedom, or joy, and one of these three is out of whack? Before you look for more complicated and oblique answers, let alone a quick-fix, please look here.
And never, ever, ever take a course of action designed to “attract the opposite sex”, “lose weight” or “make money” that conflicts with your values and core identity. It is my belief that our animal selves, human selves, and spiritual selves can all work in harmony. And I believe that you do NOT have to sell yourself out to make anyone happy. You have responsibilities to the child you were, the adult you are, and the old man/old woman you will one day be.
Anyone who tries to get you to put them first is automatically unworthy of the honor.