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Think About Your Goals

Published January 15, 2017 in Philosophy , Psychology - 0 Comments
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I received the following message over Facebook this afternoon from a loose acquaintance.

At how many tweets per hour of [redacted] who threatened to blackball me from the industry for trump vote about how Hillary Clinton “actually won” and how she’s “so scared” should I dump an industrial sized bag of salt on her wounds by replying?

My first answer: please don’t send me this kind of question. No offense, but as a general rule I don’t care about your personal fights – even if they involve politics, and even if I’m nominally “on your side.” [Aside: I’m not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side. Except my wife.] Yes, I just waded into a personal conflict – because it directly touched on my business interests. But as a general rule, I stay out of them.

However, I did find the question interesting. Also, I found this question deeper than it first appears.

Put aside, for the moment, your own political leanings. Imagine the scenario reversed, if you need to.

The obvious answer that most of my real life friends would give is, “no, of course you shouldn’t troll.” On the other hand, the immediate response from most of us would be an intense emotional desire to do exactly that. What should he actually do?

The answer is that it depends, and that’s where nearly everyone fails. Most of us fall into one of two distinct categories. Many would just give into the emotional desire to “get back at” the other person. Others would live by an intense code that doing so is simply wrong. Neither person has stopped to actually think the problem through.

Engage your brain for a moment. The first question is the most important. What is your actual goal? Or, more often, what are your actual goals? Only once you truly understand that can you decide which action leads you closer to that goal.

In this case, I only have partial information. I don’t know the history between the two parties, or their current circumstances. And I don’t know what my acquaintances actual goals are. But I do know a bit.

The person he wishes to troll seems to no longer have the ability to retaliate in a meaningful way. The redacted information makes it clear that she once had financial influence over him, and power over his career. It also makes it clear that this power is now gone. That’s important. If she still had direct power over him, the answer is definitively no. Don’t bite the hand that feeds.

Given that, as a general rule I tend not to troll people unless there’s a purpose. Here we’re talking about Twitter. Will it raise his profile on Twitter, and help him gain publicity? Perhaps a little, with a certain sub group. But probably not much in this case. On the other hand, it probably won’t do him much harm, either.

But from the tone of the message, he probably just wants to rile her up. Sometimes you actually want to do that. An angry opponent makes stupid decisions. But if you’re not actually engaged with someone in a strategic way, what’s the point? If it’s just to get his rocks off, then my advice would be simple: don’t do it. It will just make you look petty.

Quit Whining

Published January 1, 2017 in Psychology - 0 Comments
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A few years ago I made a conscious decision to quit whining. And I’m here to tell you that it’s life changing.

Life.

Changing.

I haven’t been perfect at it. So one of my New Year’s goals this year is to double down on that decision and eliminate even the last of the whining. Because the simple truth is that whining is for losers.

It’s not that whining is something that losers do. It’s that whining turns you into a loser. Whining doesn’t help you. Ever. Rather, it just gets in your way. It only gets in your way, and prevents you from doing those things that can actually improve your life.

Worse, it makes life more annoying for the people around you. Usually those people are your friends and family – the people who might actually help you with your problems, if you let them. Think about it. There’s no way whining ever could actually improve things.

That is my challenge to myself this year – and it’s my challenge to you, as well. Stop whining and fix it. You’ll be ten times happier for it.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness – But Status Can

Published November 17, 2016 in Culture , Economics , Psychology - 0 Comments
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money-can-t-buy-happinessWe’ve all heard the old saying that money can’t buy happiness. Interestingly, science backs this up. Kind of.

First of all, we have to acknowledge the obvious. If you lack the barest necessities in life, money can buy a large increase in happiness. In other words, if you don’t have a roof over your head, clothing to protect you from the elements, clean water to drink, or enough food to eat, then money will definitely make you happier. Of course, in modern terms you don’t need all that much money to buy these things. Those of us fortunate enough to live in the modern western world essentially never have this issue. Even the very poorest of our poor manage to meet these basic needs.

But what happens after that point? Happiness research shows us that increases in absolute wealth (a raise, a bonus, a nice sized gift) make us happier… for a brief time. After that, we return very quickly to our baseline levels of happiness. Even very large increases in absolute wealth – such as winning the lottery – only increase happiness temporarily.

But research and psychology also reveal a darker truth about humanity. Changes in relative wealth bring about lasting effects on happiness – even if absolute wealth remains unchanged. The ugly reality is that money isn’t the driver – status is. When we are richer than our peers, we are held in higher status by the group. And human beings like status. Higher status, as a rule, makes us happier. Lower status makes us less happy. This rule is especially true for women. Call me sexist all you want, the science backs that. But it’s true for men, too.

People feel good when they feel like they’re doing better than their peers. Status succeeds where money fails – it can buy happiness.

So what can you do about it? Making more money gives you higher status, right? Not necessarily. If you get a raise but so do all of your peers, your happiness level is unlikely to change. If you win the lottery, your social status isn’t actually likely to go up very much. It might even go down. People tend to look down on those who didn’t earn their wealth.

The socialist paradise of equal income for all is impossible. But even if it were possible, it would be a social disaster. We’d have more depression and unhappiness than any other system we can imagine would provide. People are not rational, and they are not perfectly altruistic. If all are equal, all will be unhappy. This ironclad law is hardwired into our base psychology.

But part of its impossibility returns to that same psychology. The more equal people are in income, the more they will elevate the stupidest shit to the level of status symbol. I’ve watched retail workers decide they’re “too good” to hang out with other retail workers now… just because their shop moved to a “higher class” shopping center. Same employees at both shops, nobody’s salary changed. They’re both still working menial jobs that aren’t really enough to live on. But now one person considers herself better than the other. If we take away money as the driver, people will find other ways to compete for status.

Human beings aren’t pretty. Don’t expect it of them. This isn’t a pleasant truth. But it is truth.

Gorilla Mindset – BOOK REVIEW

Published June 29, 2016 in Book Reviews , Psychology , Reviews - 0 Comments
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"Gorilla Mindset" by Mike Cernovich

“Gorilla Mindset” by Mike Cernovich

It may seem like I’ve done a lot of reading recently. In reality, I’ve just finished a lot of reading recently. I’ve had a lot of books (especially non-fiction) spinning all at once, and they’ve all kind of wrapped up.

Last week I finally finished reading Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich. This is one that I’ve been reading since the beginning of the year. That’s pretty odd, because one of the great things about this book is how quick and easy of a read it is.

“Wait a sec,” you say. “How does that work?”

This book took me a long time to finish because I was too busy implementing it. Even before I was halfway done, I knew there were things in the book that I wanted – that I needed to do. For myself, I decided to focus on a few things at a time rather than trying to make every change all at once. I’ve had good results with that.

Let me get this out of the way: I detest self-help books. Most of them are completely full of shit and aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Most of them give you advice that isn’t all that helpful. Which is fine, because most of them are written for people who don’t actually want to change. This book isn’t like that. Mr. Cernovich actually wants to help you. For the typical self-help reader, that will make this a book they don’t actually want. But for those looking to actually improve their lives, this is the rare self-help book that’s actually worth a damn.

In simple terms, this book is largely about how to actually accomplish more and get things done. Not only that, it gives good advice on getting better quality out of what you’re doing. That particular combination is powerful for becoming more successful at basically everything you do.

The frustrating thing about reading this book is how many of Mr. Cernovich’s suggestions are ways that I used to live my life. I’ve let many of them slip. I had good reason to. I had some specific life circumstances that I had to react to. But those circumstances are long over, and it’s well past time that I returned to my old mindsets. This book gave me the boot to the ass that I needed to do that. It also brought some excellent new ideas that have proven to be very helpful.

One other thing that’s truly great about this book is that it’s not wasting space on filler. A great many non-fiction books have a single great idea, cover that idea thoroughly in the first few chapters, and then spend the rest of the book repeating that same idea over and over and over. It’s the reason why I have shelves full of non-fiction books that I’ve never finished. Once I got the concept, the rest of the book just wasn’t worth reading. This book isn’t like that at all. Each chapter is actually covering something different. Each chapter covers the basic concept, gives some examples, and then gives a checklist and some “homework” at the end. A few of them also have some interviews with experts. That’s it – there’s no wasted filler.

As Mr. Cernovich himself points out, not every piece of advice in here is for everybody. There are a few things in the book that I don’t think will actually work very well with my own base personality. Take what works for you and apply it. As for the rest… see if you can apply the concept in another way. But if you can get through this entire book without finding two or three changes that will help your life in a major way, then congratulations on the amazing life you already lead. Keep living that life. For the rest of us, this book is a gold mine.

Gorilla Mindset gets five out of five stars. This book is an absolute must read.

SJWs Always Lie – BOOK REVIEW

Published June 28, 2016 in Book Reviews , Culture , Politics , Psychology , Reviews - 0 Comments
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SJWsAlwaysLieI’ve planned to read SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police for quite some time. With one thing or another, I’ve always found a reason to push it off. As a regular and longtime reader of the author’s blog, I had also witnessed firsthand as many of the principles in this book were developed. I already had a basic grasp on the concepts, so the book itself could wait.

A couple of weeks ago, however, something happened that finally forced it to the top of my list. In short, I knew that I needed to read it. The good news is that the book is quite short. I made it through the entire thing in only a few hours. The better news is that I really did have a good handle on the concepts. I handled the situation correctly, and following the principles in this book did indeed shut it down. The bad news is that this book proved decisively that I was indeed dealing with an SJW, a fact that I had previously been uncertain of.

Due to a gentleman’s agreement that I made with the “professional in the room” who helped me successfully deal with this issue, I can’t go into any detail about the exact situation. All I will say is this: the issue began with a baseless legal threat. When I quickly shut that down, it just as rapidly escalated into the beginnings of an internet lynch mob. Using the advice in this book, I shut that down very quickly as well.

The SJW phenomenon is absolutely real, and it’s one of the worst developments in American culture in my lifetime. These people do not believe in politics by discourse – they believe in absolutely destroying the individuals they oppose.

SJWs Always Lie is an uncomfortable book. Many on the left side of the political spectrum will find this book uncomfortable. It is not fun to believe that those whom you might agree with are acting in this way. Moderates – those who actively seek compromise – will find it difficult to acknowledge that some people simply aren’t interested in it. Conservatives will find it difficult to accept the tactics that are necessary to fight back. Those with a libertarian inclination, like myself, will resist the necessity of leaving behind our “live and let live” principles.

Yet necessary it is. This book illustrates the tactics that actually work against these people – the tactics that will prevent them from destroying your life. And I can now say from personal experience that they do work.

This is not a happy book. It’s not a fun book. It’s not a book that you’ll enjoy reading. Yet if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an SJWs two-minutes-hate, you’ll be glad you’ve read it. In short, this is a necessary book. Sadly, the future looks to make this book more necessary, not less.

And for what it is, it’s done perfectly. It is short. It is concise. It is clear and easy to understand. It lays out the principles you’ll need: how to recognize an SJW, and how to fight back. It doesn’t belabor the point, but it also doesn’t leave anything out. For that, I give SJWs Always Lie five stars out of five. Highly recommended – not because you’ll enjoy it, but because someday you’ll probably need it.

My Long and Winding Road to Catholicism – Part 2

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jesus_armwrestles_satanEditor’s note: this post was originally published more than five years ago on a now defunct blog. It was originally published pseudonymously. I have done some editing to clean up the bits that I wanted to keep anonymous. I’ve also updated it a bit to reflect how my thinking has evolved over five years. But the vast majority of this text is untouched.

In Part 1 I detailed my falling out with Christianity as a young man. So how and why did I decide, from a position of agnosticism, that religion is important?

First and foremost, despite my disillusionment with religion, I’ve always maintained a belief in morality. Specifically, I’ve maintained two distinct beliefs about morality. First, society as a whole is far better off with some kind of code of morality than without one. We can argue about the specifics of which code of morality, but I think it’s pretty hard to argue that society is better off without morality. Indeed, I think it’s quite likely that civilization as we know it simply can’t exist without a shared moral code [Editor’s note: I believe this even more strongly now than I did then]. Second, I believe the overwhelming majority of individuals are better off following a code of morality, especially if others in society are doing the same. But they’re also better off even if nobody else is following such a code. There are some clear exceptions to this rule. Kings, rock stars, and a few others might be materially better off ignoring the rules – but even here, that’s not entirely clear. A king who pushes the boundaries too far often won’t remain king for very long.

It’s a hard point to argue that individuals are better off following a code of morality even if others around them don’t, and it’s something I’d have had a hard time explaining even just a few years ago. The benefits aren’t always immediate and obvious. But the short answer is that a clear code of morality makes it easier for others to interact with you and trust you, even if they don’t follow your code of morality. All they have to do is understand your code. If they understand it, and know you’re serious about it, it gives them a clear understanding of exactly how far and in what ways they can trust you. Being too trusting is a good way to get taken advantage of, sure. But being very trustworthy is a good way to build up social capital. Trust is a huge bit of grease that makes the mechanics of socialization go more smoothly, and we need other people (if only to serve as minions in our evil overlord schemes). Even pagan societies pushed men to be trustworthy, and they benefited from it. Our modern hedonistic culture often loses sight of this.

I’ve always had a strong sense of this, and as an adult I haven’t really felt like I needed a church to tell me about it. I also very firmly believe that you don’t need religion to have morality. But my marriage brought with it a new challenge. When the kids eventually come, how do you teach them to be moral? Sure, I can lead by example. But frankly, religion is very valuable as a teaching tool for this. I know from my own experience growing up that church, for all its flaws, helped teach me what it meant to be a good and moral person.

Religion also plays another role in society that we should all recognize by now: it tempers the worst sexual impulses of both men and women. The emphasis on faithful marriages that all religions traditionally have keeps both female hypergamy and male promiscuity in check, and that’s good for everybody – especially children. Oh, and there’s convincing research that married couples that regularly attend church together are quite a bit more likely to stay married.

Also, over the years I’ve come to believe something about human beings: we’re not the rational creatures that we pretend we are. Of particular relevance to the topic at hand, people need religion. I think it’s biological. A more devout Christian would argue that God gave us that need. An anthropologist might argue that we’ve somehow evolved it. I don’t think it much matters which is the case. We need religion. In the absence of anything else, we’ll start to Worship the Thunder God [Editor’s note: this was a reference to a comment left on the original posting of part 1]. We can’t help it. It’s part of who we are. The most striking modern version of this is the modern west’s cult of liberalism. Make no mistake, it’s every bit as much a religion as fundamentalist evangelicalism. Indeed, the two faiths are more alike than they are different.

George Lucas of all people once made a comment in an interview in Time magazine that has always stuck with me. I tried to track it down, but Time appears to have taken it offline. Paraphrased, he explained that we could think of the old cave man days as being a 1 on the religious scale. Things like pagan mythology could be considered a 3 or a 4. Modern religions could be viewed as somewhere around a 7 or an 8, and we’re pretty proud of ourselves for that. The thing most of us don’t realize is, the scale goes to a million.

For all of the man’s pompous asshattery (and there’s kind of a lot of it), I think he had a pretty valid point here. Not only is there a lot we don’t understand, but we don’t even have a good idea what it is we don’t understand. But there’s another good point buried in here as well, and it’s one that he probably didn’t even intend to make. Indeed, it’s a point that most of the modern educated elite seems to completely miss as well. It’s a simple and clear point, but it’s completely and utterly politically incorrect. If you even try to utter it the multiculturalists will jump down your throat for it. But if you study them abstractly for any length of time you’ll come to the inescapable conclusion that the dominant religions of the modern world are more advanced than other, older religions. And I don’t mean that in a tribalistic, “we’re better than you, neener neener” kind of way. I mean in some clear and distinct ways.

But that will be part 3.

The Whole Series

Ted Cruz is an Aspie

Published April 28, 2016 in Politics , Psychology - 0 Comments
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Vox Day has come around to my theory that Ted Cruz is an Aspie:

I didn’t take seriously the claims that Ted Cruz might be autistic until now. Seriously, on what planet is anyone going to support HP-killer Fiorina, particularly in California?

When I first started telling my wife that he was an aspie last fall, she thought I was crazy. Then she started coming around. When I first started posting it publicly a few weeks ago, nobody took it seriously. But the last few weeks have made it almost blindingly obvious. Only an Aspie would make the mistakes that Cruz is making lately. His campaign is falling faster than a lead balloon. I call zero chance of a contested convention at this point.

Does Ted Cruz Have Asperger’s?

Published April 12, 2016 in Politics , Psychology - 1 Comment
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Locutor is hardly the first person I’ve heard posit this theory. My coworker in the cube next to me at work insists the same thing. I have an alternate theory: I think Ted Cruz has Asperger’s Syndrome – or, as they call it these days, High Functioning Autism.

Consider:

  • Ted Cruz’s body language always seems just a little off. It doesn’t fit quite right and people don’t know what to make of it.
  • Cruz has almost negative natural charisma.
  • Everything Cruz does comes across as calculated rather than genuine – as if he had to learn how to interact with people.
  • Every now and then Cruz spectacularly miscalculates how his actions come across, getting it so wrong that everyone is left scratching their heads.
  • Like him or hate him, judged by raw IQ he’s quite probably the smartest of the candidates who ran this year.
  • He’s well known (and massively disliked) for his lack of social skills.

Can I make the claim definitively? No. It would require an interview with a trained psychologist for a definitive diagnosis. But I’ve been fairly convinced for a while.

tedcruzawkward

Trump Wins Because San Dimas High School Football Rules

Published February 26, 2016 in Culture , Movies , Politics , Psychology - 0 Comments
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Every time I see a Donald Trump rally, speech, or debate I’m reminded of the following scene from the film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure:

If you’ve never seen the film, or if you can’t watch the video for some reason, the context is that each student at San Dimas High School has to give a major presentation as their final exam in history class. The student in the clip above is one of the school jocks. His presentation is poor, his grasp of the history appears to actually be even poorer, and any sane teacher would give him an equally poor grade. A generous teacher might be able to squeeze him into a D.

BillTedBut when he finishes his presentation by belting out, “San Dimas high school football rules!” the crowd loves him, and they go nuts to show it.

This, in a nutshell, is why Donald Trump is winning the race for the GOP nomination. It’s why a Donald Trump type will always win in our current system, and it’s why he’ll win the general election in the fall. The vast majority of voters don’t care about the history lesson. It doesn’t matter who is giving the history lesson – they will always find it boring and tune it out, just as the audience did above.

Trump understands this. His entire campaign has been to cut out the history lesson and focus on the only part voters care about. To the typical voter, Rubio and Cruz and Hillary and even Bernie sound like the history lesson. Trump just wants everyone to know that San Dimas High School Football Rules!

There are only two ways to defeat Trump. The first is to out-Trump him, which might well be impossible. The second is to turn the history lesson into an epic multimedia entertainment spectacle. Unfortunately for those who want to stop Trump, Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan are not among the 2016 crop of candidates.

Trump is a Cult of Personality – and So is Evangelicalism

Published February 23, 2016 in Culture , Politics , Psychology , Religion - 0 Comments
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One of the more interesting data points to come out of the South Carolina Republican primary is how well Donald Trump did with self described evangelical Christian voters. Interesting – but not surprising.

First, the data: Trump pulled 34% of their vote, compared with 26% for Ted Cruz and 21% for Marco Rubio.

The reason this isn’t surprising? Donald Trump’s following is a cult of personality. Trump’s major selling point isn’t his policies. It’s not his ideology. It’s not even his good looks, his business sense, or his wealth. Trump’s major selling point is his personality. Voters are attracted to an alpha male who leads the pack with swagger and assuredness, charisma and vitality. Most of all, he’s entertaining.

Evangelical Christianity functions the same way. What draws evangelical Christians to any given church? You’ll hear lots of answers, ranging from the atmosphere to the style of worship to the particular beliefs being espoused. But what you’ll also see, almost universally, is that when the pastor of the church changes the makeup of the congregation also changes dramatically.

Tellingly, when people leave the congregation of one church to join another after a pastor change, the church they choose almost always puts the lie to any other reason they’ve given in the past for choosing. The ideology will be different. The atmosphere will be different. The style of worship will be different. Sometimes all of it will be different. Quite often the spectator will choose an entirely different denomination. And yet the congregationalist will once again use one of these reasons to justify his choice.

Sometimes people are honest enough to acknowledge that they just like (or dislike) the pastor. Most of the time they’re not. We all seem to inherently know and accept that that’s a poor reason to choose a pastor, and a far worse reason to choose a different denomination. It’s even worse for someone to admit that the pastor is the reason they chose to become Christian at all – but that happens, too.

Donald Trump may not be an evangelical Christian. But he appeals to them for the same reasons their pastors do. He’s energetic, bold, assertive and strong. He calls it like he sees it and doesn’t back down. But above all, he’s interesting.