In recent weeks I’ve written posts on hypo- and hypermasculinity and the role of the anima and animus, what these have in common is that they both deal with reactions to environmental stimuli, often in early childhood that continue to influence behavior well into adulthood.
We know that human beings are not born as blank slates, we are born with a number of genetic predispositions that affect our personality, our performance and various other parts of our lives on a day to day basis. Our genetics influence many aspects of our behavior and perhaps one of the more well-known are “The Warrior Genes” , known to influence antisocial behavior and predispositions towards violence.
From the day we are born, we are also socialized by our parents, our peer groups, relatives, family friends and various other sources of patterns that we internalize. Before we can think in abstract, before we can reason, before we can even speak, we are internalizing and implementing patterns of behavior and thought. The manifestations of such behaviors can subtract or add to our genetics, a famous example is researcher James Fallon who despite possessing both the neurological and genetic correlates of psychopathy, does not engage in many of the negative behaviors associated with the genetic or neurological makeup . He largely credits this to his positive upbringing, and the positive patterns that he learned as part of his socialization. Such patters are among the oldest we have in our life, they are the deepest ingrained in our mind and burnt into our brain, having been repeated throughout most of our lives.
A Tale of Two Boys
For a second imagine that we found ourselves in a ceteris paribus situation, where we have 2 boys, with identical genetics, but raised by two sets of parents who are identical in every way except their personality. They receive identical socialization until they start school, and on the first day, both boys get their ass kicked by an older boy. The parental reaction is quite different.
The father and mother of one boy sit him down, tell him that bullies never win, that they will talk to the teacher about it, and that the best reaction is to show no reaction when provoked.
The father of the second boy, tells him that getting your ass kicked is part of life, but that a man must be able to stand up for himself and takes him out into the garage where he has an old punching bag, and starts to teach his son how to box.
What has been communicated to each boy in such a case? In the first case, the boy has been told that:
A) Aggression and force means you end up losing in the end.
B) Standing up for yourself is bad, you should take your beating with stoic calm.
C) They will solve the boy’s problems for him.
In the second case, what has been communicated to the boy?
A) Life is hard, and it will hit you hard at times.
B) You have to roll with the punches and stand up for yourself.
C) I will teach you what I can to help you handle your problems, but you have to handle them yourself.
In such a situation, the first boy has had a set of information communicated to him, that says that using aggression/power/force is wrong, that standing up for yourself is wrong, and that other people should fix your problems for you. Can one imagine if that pattern of behavior is projected forward throughout a man’s life, always stand down, never fight and let other people solve your problems. Don’t be surprised if such a man is weak, conflict avoidant and unable to get what he wants.
Now project the second set of information forwards, a man who knows life is hard, but stands up for himself, goes after what he wants, relies on other people for information, but never action. This is a man who is likely to get what he wants, who will not be taken advantage of and who is capable of facing down the world.
Throughout our childhoods various messages like the ones above are communicated to us, either covertly or overtly, explicitly or implicitly, often by people perceived as authority figures, at an age where few if any humans have much of a defense against indoctrination. Once one reaches adulthood and is capable of reasoning, abstraction, critical thinking and so on, these patterns are so long ingrained and buried within the mind that they happen outside of our consciousness. The boy who was told that aggression was bad and that avoiding conflict is good, doesn’t have to do this consciously anymore, he demonstrates that he does with hunched shoulders and an averted gaze. The boy who was told to stand up for himself, and that conflict is a necessary part of life, likewise manifests it through confident body language and strong eye contact.
At this point, neither of them know why they behave differently than the other boy, and have become two very different men, but knowing the whole story it becomes obvious, the messages they internalized from their authority figures when growing up, and the perspectives of their authority figures have had effects long after they were received. Now, this is no excuse for carrying those messages, as every man beyond a certain age is removed from the source of influence, and owes it to himself to overcome a poor starting position.
Fixing Negative Internal Messages
A common theme among men in the sphere is a tendency towards too much introspection, but it is a form of introspection that begins at the wrong starting point, namely to find errors in themselves that permit them to erect barriers against improvement. This creates a circular chain of events, wherein the man perceiving a fault inside himself, makes an attempt to fix it, self-sabotages and then takes the failure to correct the perceived fault as confirmation of the fault.
In “Of Means and Ends” I talk about confusing the means to an end as an end and vice versa, and this has causal implications. The men often identify the consequences of an internal message as the message, in essence viewing the effect as the cause. Robert Kiyosaki talks about such internal messages in “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, where he grew up with a message that summarizes as “People who have money have money because they are unscrupulous bastards” that he had internalized and which lead to self-sabotage whenever he attempted to improve his financial situation. He was unable to do so until he had identified and in effect re-programmed himself with a different message.
Once the message has been identified through introspection and self-analysis, it is time to reprogram yourself. The following is a model used for deprogramming members of cults during an extraction that I’ve found some use applying, the model has 5 stages:
- Discredit the figure of authority
- Present contradictions
- The Breaking Point
- Identification and transference
The goal of this step is to remove the person from whom you received the message from a position as an authority in your life. For instance, when we are children we tend to view our parents and to some extent other adults as “all-knowing” sources of information, in effect they are idealized as sources of perfect information in our minds. As we grow up, this position transfers from parents to peer group, and ideally then to ourselves as an individual. However, there are remnants of the message remaining within us, from the time when they had a lot of power over us.
This part of the process serves to remove the power of the message itself from having influence in your life. An example of such a message I dealt with some years ago, was my mother’s message of “Looks do not matter”, which she would repeat while spending an excessive amount of time on her appearance. This represents the “message vs reality” paradox, or the “Do as I say, not as I day” perspective.
The breaking point is reached when the old authority and message are no longer holding excessive influence over your life and behavior. While the message remains a part of your programming, you are consciously aware of the fact that the authority was no authority and the message itself was a poor one. At this point the new message you send yourself slowly starts to take priority over the old message, and you will start to self-sabotage less.
The self-expression step is when you start to feel negative thoughts about the old message and authority and this is a natural point in the “5 Stages” where you move from focusing on a single message, to focusing on every message you can bring forth consciously that came from that source. At this stage, you will start to feel, express and think negative thoughts about the authority and the messages you have received from it.
The identification and transference stage is perhaps the most important step, as it represents the movement from other-programmed to self-programmed. It is very common during this stage to define your message in strict dichotomous terms opposing that of the authority and the old message. This will become less severe with time, however it is necessary to prevent any backsliding stemming from old habits and routines.
The goal of rewriting your own internal messages is to get rid of those things that are holding you back from embodying the “doer” aspect that is a requirement for masculinity. If you find yourself engaging in the much utilized “fake it until you make it” methodology, yet find that you have certain sticking points that are holding you back, odds are there is an internal message in there causing self-sabotage.
Summary and Conclusions
Some my take this essay as me condoning weakness, but the reality is that once a boy becomes a man, he also becomes responsible for everything in his life. Thus, while one of the boys in the story above was raised to be a conflict avoiding punching bag, he owes it to himself to fix that problem once he is able to do so. Not doing the work required is a failure on his part, however in order to be able to do the work, he must be aware of the situation.
One of the exercises I’ve been doing recently, to the exclusion of much else, is to sit and meditate while attempting to remember various scenes from various stages of my life. While there is a thing to be said that the memory of events that happened a decade or more ago is likely to be spotty at best, if you can remember something that happened many years ago very vividly, there is most likely something about that event that still affects you.
Being able to get the bottom of what affected you about that event, and dealing with it as an adult is a major step forward in rewiring your brain. Part of what makes the red pill such a bitter medicine is the fact that in order to swallow it you must let go of your illusions. There is no soul mate, there is no just universe that rewards you with a soul-mate for being a good boy, women aren’t sugar and spice and everything nice. The world is merely filled with various shades of human being, none of whom you owe anything, and none of whom owes you anything.
The only person one truly has to be accountable to at the end of the day, is you. Your parents may have given you “fat genes”, and have given you messages that being fat is OK, and that it’s perfectly alright to use food as a psychological coping mechanism, but once you are an adult, they are no longer responsible for you being fat, you are.
The outsourcing of blame for things that you actually control is one of the major plagues of our modern society. Be defined by where you ended up, not where you began.