Homo sapiens have been around for roughly 250 000 years, and resistance has been around at least as long.
Sometimes it’s just not what you do…
When I was first learning how to meet and interact with women I was coming off of a particularly stormy week. I had spent the past 4 months going out on weekends and weeknights to clubs and coffee shops trying to sharpen my love-skills. I was approaching a lot of women I was interested in, but nothing was really catching. I would have an awkward date here or there, very rarely, but the results were anemic for the amount of work I was putting in. In fact, while I was going out to meet people nearly 4 times a week, I only had a handful of dates in 4 months. That was right before my first serious freak-out.
Sometime in May I had managed to book almost 5 dates in a span of three weeks, all of which fell through. I flipped. I began rattling off a bunch of angry text messages to some of my closest guy friends, bitching about all the effort I was putting in without getting anywhere for it. I was wallowing, angrily, in self-loathing, depressed and frustrated by my situation. I remember actually confiding in a friend that I didn’t know why I had to go through with all this bullshit – the learning and “self-improvement” – when other guys had it so easy. I was convinced that there was actually something deeply flawed about me.
The problem wasn’t the cancellations or the time I was actually putting into sharpening my social skills, though. Deep within our subconscious rests a little part of the mind that’s charged with crafting an identity for ourselves. This part of the mind is an integral part of our perception of who we are. Wrapped up here are fundamental thoughts and beliefs about the world and how it works, as well as core assumptions about our own character, our own true nature. From this springs our own personal expectations about the world, including our innate ability to interact with it and the success we’re able to achieve in it. These deeply-seeded beliefs are wrapped up tightly and take years to develop. They’re the product of every interaction or thought we’ve ever had.
And changing them is a bitch
At a practical level, once we have a certain assumption, or model, about the world, we filter new information based on that model. If information is consistent with our own current model of the world, then we’re likely to incorporate it into our model and use that new piece of information to make sense of further information. If a piece of information is seen to disagree with how we think the world is, we’re much more likely to dismiss it as crap. Changing these beliefs comes down to much more than just uttering the phrase, “limiting-beliefs,” and being done with it – there are very real psychological defenses at play that aim to keep the status quo. Changing those assumptions means challenging your own personal identity on a primal level. It means tearing down your own assumptions about who you are, and what those assumptions mean for how the world should treat you or the limitations the world has imposed upon you. That’s scary stuff.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, what triggered my freak-out was not the flakes themselves, or how hard I had tried to improve myself with little to show for it – what sparked my blow-up was actually being able to set up that many dates in that short amount of time. It was a breakthrough in terms of just what I was able to achieve. What sparked that blow-up was the psychological battle that was taking place within me, where powerful new evidence was threatening to upset my core identity. Instead of seeing the situation for what it was, I thought I was doing horribly, that I would never improve… I hated myself.
You can’t beat Jack
Part of the psychological defenses that come into play is the inability to see your past clearly. Whenever you have a breakdown you’re always wrapped up with a couple simple thoughts: I suck, I try so hard but I still suck, I’ll never improve. If a person was actually able to see his own development clearly at this point in time, he would see a path of progression that would look quite pleasing. Any breakthrough comes only after tangible skills are thrown skyward. Recognizing that can help short-circuit the psychological defenses that are sparked.
For me, that came down to a couple more experienced guys, Martin included, telling me just how much better I was then, compared to when we had first met. Even though I thought it was a blatant lie at the time, it did force me to reassess my own situation, and gave me the strength needed to keep pushing myself.
The road to success is never straight, and at times it can be difficult to understand just how far we’ve come and how it’s changed us. If your intention is to stay on it, though, remember that personal breakthroughs are often accompanied by a psychological crisis, and to have a good friend ready to pull you back out of the ditch.