All people have weak points that if pressed causes them to react in predictable and often destructive manners. In alcoholics anonymous for instance, a recommendation is to stay away from situations and people who have a high probably of causing a recovering alcoholic to drink.
The Red Pill is largely centered around sexual strategy and a major aspect of this strategy is centered on becoming the best man it is possible for you to become. However, in pursuit of this goal there are many ways that the world attempts to trip you up, in what I view as the Universe’s rite of passage. If attaining a high status as a man through building yourself brick by brick, was a simple task with no stumbling blocks, every man would be a high value man.
This ranges from appeals to congruence, wherein people expect you to remain congruent with their internal image of you. Shaming tactics that utilize psychological discomfort in a social setting to enforce a given set of behaviors. Fear tactics that seek to exploit fear of loss as a means to control your present and future behavior. Furthermore, exploit the triggers in your personality that they are aware of, in order to alter your behavior so that it is more to their liking.
In many ways the red pill is a conscious reprogramming of your own internal operating system, wherein one seeks to eliminate behaviors, habits and ways of thinking to better support the long-term goals one wants. As our internal operating system is something that is largely constructed by the unconscious learning from our surroundings during the socialization process, many of the default reactions support the blue pill illusion, not the new red pill aware vision.
The terms “trigger” and “triggering” have somewhat lost their meaning since Social Justice Warriors have abused them more than strategy consultants abuse the term “synergy”, however the underlying concepts are in both cases quite sound. Within psychology, a trigger is something that causes a person to relive a memory or memories of a traumatic event, often associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. In this post, I will be using a slightly different definition, where a trigger is something that causes a person to revert to previous behavioral or mental patterns that have a destructive effect on their work to better themselves.
Physical triggers are those that exist as one moves around the physical world. To utilize the AA example, it would be bars, clubs, and other places where the consumption of alcohol is a significant part of experience. These can take many forms and are often highly personalized, but can be summarized as putting yourself in situations where your negative behaviors are likely to manifest. While it’s often a good idea to challenge these behaviors and attempt to gain a larger degree of control over them, attempting to do so, much too early in the process of self-improvement, is likely to have larger consequences.
Mental triggers are somewhat more difficult to control than the physical ones. As the physical triggers often make their presence known in certain locations or situations, the mental ones may appear seemingly out of nowhere. Often they are the first cause in leading to a person seeking out a location that permits them to act out their physical triggers. The physical triggers can therefore be avoided as one becomes aware of them, not so for the mental triggers.
A gentleman I spoke to a little while ago for instance, had a history of serial monogamy, as does many other men. From the time he was 14 until his late 20s, he had not been without a long-term monogamous relationship for longer than 6 – 8 weeks. Furthermore, he had rarely played the field in this period, thus he had a bad case of “catch feelingsitis” where he would fall in love with any woman he slept with, and attempt to make it into a long-term relationship. This created a very interesting pattern of behavior, where shortly after his previous relationship ended, he would follow the standard advice of sleeping with a new person. So far, so good. However, he would then instantly develop oneitis for what was intended as a one night stand.
This had the consequence of landing him in bad relationship after bad relationship, because he would do no vetting and no resume check, prior to entering the relationship. These relationships would last from a few months to a few years every time, and be characterized by the cluster-B pattern. Once he became aware of this pattern in his life he could make an effort to change it, by altering the underlying psychological mechanisms that resulted in the behaviors.
The Cascade Effect and Engineering Failure
What I theme the “cascade effect” is that once a person makes a small deviation from a planned course of action, this has a tendency to lead to more and larger deviations over time. A typical example would be someone who has a cheat meal, that then becomes a cheat day, then a cheat week and finally ends with discarding the diet completely. New behaviors will at this point be conscious choices and consists of acts contrary to your internalized patterns, and thus may result in reverting to the old mode of behavior. Someone who recently took up weight lifting may instead prefer to relax, and thus may make a string of excuses for why they should put off the gym until tomorrow, only to repeat the same internal dialogue the next day.
Backsliding into past behavior patterns is simple and this is the reason why the physical triggers should be avoided at first and focus should be on securing that the new, more productive habits are repeated until they are firmly established. Scott Adams mentions building “systems” and what that breaks down to, is that one should engineer life around maintaining the good habits that lead to achievement of the end-goals.
The idea behind Total Quality Management (TQM) is that a process should be created in such a way that it’s very easy to do it right, and to do it wrong requires effort. For instance, if one is assembling computers, there is only one way that parts will fit, as opposed to it being possible to put them in multiple configurations. The reasoning behind such a process is that most humans seek to do their job right, and most humans seek the easiest path, thus if they must expend more energy to do something wrong, they are less likely to do so.
Nobody begins a self-improvement process seeking to fail, but there are ways that they can engineer their own demise. I spoke of this in “Stuck in the middle“, where the focus was on trying to make many monumental changes in parallel, in a very short period of time. This means that they have set themselves up to fail as a result of having built too steep of an incline for themselves. Building the potential for cascade effects is another way of failing, so is maintaining their old haunts and habits. Testing willpower against temptation is an important step in the process, but doing so constantly is likely to increase risk of failure.
Stuck in the Middle
In last week’s post the topic was a man stuck in the middle between too many concurrent self-improvement efforts, resulting in not getting results in any of them. However, one can also become stuck in the middle between the new self, the old self and the best self. The Purple Pill is a prime example of being stuck in the middle between the red pill and the blue pill. One accepts red pill truths, but attempt to work around and with them in order to realize the blue pill fantasy. This is a conflict between the socially mandated and reinforced world view and the newly adopted world view.
Anyone who has ever undertaken a major self-improvement project in their life is familiar with the reaction “You are not being the real you” or some variation thereof, this is often spun as coming from a place of concern, however what is taking place is that the construct of you a person has in their head, does not match what they observe. Thus, they decide to encourage, threaten or guilt you into reverting to patterns that reflect their internal image of you. This reaction often comes from the relative loss of power they feel as a man goes from being the presently dictated socially approved version of a man, which is often based in the view of men as flawed women.
Such interventions will often seek to take advantage of your previous programming, in many cases by exposing you to those situations or psychological positions that had previously worked as a means to control you. This mirrors the extinction burst often observed near the end of Cluster-B relationships, when the cluster B person will utilize every single tool that had previously worked as a means of controlling you in rapid succession to regain control.
Summary and Conclusions
When a man first finds the red pill they are often able to identify and explain many of their previous failings. Men’s deductive problem-solving approach is highly useful in that once we are made aware of an error, the path towards correcting it often becomes clear and it comes down to execution. The challenge comes in the fact that most of the previous failings have been established over a long period of time, and thus are the default behavior. When attempting to correct these failings, the man faces not only challenges within himself, and internalized patterns, he also faces social reinforcement of those old and destructive patterns.
One of the keys to lasting change is the engineering of life and mind in a way that reinforces and maintains the new patterns with a minimum of effort. A man beginning a self-improvement process does so full of energy and determination, and thus can maintain sub-optimal processes for a time, however as the process extends in time, his probability of failure increases. This may be those who get within 5 – 10 lbs of their goal weight, and then decides that they can relax a bit, only to yo-yo back up to their previous weight. Men who decide that they need to play the field after a break-up only to find themselves in a new monogamous relationship with their one-night stand. Men who have gone from a 4 to a 6, and are now getting attention from female 4s and 5s, deciding to cash in their chips instead of playing another round.
These men may be moderately satisfied with their results so far, and thus see less value in getting that last 20% of results, not realizing that the last 20% are also those that bring the most value. Thus, they expose themselves to their triggers again, find their old programming slowly seizing control of their behaviors and in half the time those results took them to get or less they are back to “just be yourself” and the blue pill illusion.