Emotional Terrorism Pt 2–The Age of Aggressive Prudery

They will pathologize you, whilst having their entire worldview ultimately born out of self-loathing… -Milo Yiannopoulos

What is less often noticed is the regressiveness of popular religion in the Age of Enlightenment…I am inclined to conclude that one effect of the Enlightenment was to provoke in the second generation a revival of magic. That is not so paradoxical as it sounds: has not the breakdown of another Inherited Conglomerate been followed by similar manifestations in our own age? -E. R. Dodds “The Greeks and the Irrational”


I relish a good argument and enjoy the opportunity to think out-loud, pour my heart out, play devil’s advocate, or generally be a contrarian. I just love sharing and expanding my mind. However, there is a certain kind of interlocutor that will take advantage of this, while never really addressing my ideas or engaging with me as a person (other than to sling insults), and who is actively stalking the social landscape for opportunities to feel morally superior–so feeble is their sense of dignity that it can only be won at another’s expense. This is the emotional terrorist. I apologize that the following is a rather analytical, dense, and relentless polemic, but to be perfectly honest, I’m too nervous–or rather cautious of expending my emotional energy–to fully share my heart here. This post has been brewing for years now, so I do apologize for only offering the head, and not the body, of this frothy distillation. The reasons for my diffidence will be clear in what follows, I trust.

Pt 1 of this series focused on emotional terrorism in romantic relationships, because the closer we are to someone, the more they can mess with our heads. As we noted, emotional abuse is not necessarily emotional terrorism, which is a specific subset. This post will deal with gaslighting in arguments, debates, and simple conversation–something that comes out most in discussions of sex, religion, and politics. Again, we are not talking about intellectual bullying or just being a jerk; we are talking about gaslighting: the undermining of someone’s faith in their own rational and intuitive powers. Just because someone is so weak-minded that they fall apart with the first criticism or disagreement doesn’t mean we’ve gaslit or abused them (something more resembling the behavior of just those who so easily take offense or fall apart). So it is our challenge here to shine a bright light on what gaslighting actually looks like. The one secure boundary we can draw, however, is friendship and the expectation of trust and intimacy: what might be emotional terrorism to your best friend, is probably just “trolling” to a random Facebook acquaintance.


An Example To Get Us Going

If you could boil my basic concern down to one sentence, it would be: “we chronically overuse the word ‘crazy’ in arguments.” Though this is not technically gaslighting, because I didn’t know the opponent and had no expectation of trust, the following example from a recent FB thread will at least convey the gist of our current subject–the general form (viz Kafkatrapping):

I suggested that in scores of debates, internet threads, etc, I was meeting with a particular strategy, which was to be dismissive, mind-reading, then emotionally manipulative, implying that I was crazy for presenting a certain idea. Low and behold, the very next response implied that this idea of mine (that people use “crazy” too often) was in fact crazy: “if you keep running into assholes everyday, maybe there is another explanation than a vast, coordinated conspiracy designed to persecute you.” Stunning. It is both dismissive, caustic (it implies I’m an asshole), and emotionally manipulative (it suggests I have paranoid delusions of persecution). Just…adorable.

While it might be a good policy to simply avoid such people, online or otherwise, I tend to follow Joe Rogan’s policy of getting material out of anybody–even abusive prigs (though, fair warning, if you behave like Joe in today’s climate, you’ll likely get sued). Anyway, if I’m going to have to suffer through someone’s caustic screed, you better believe I’ll find a way to benefit from it, at the very least by way of understanding various modern pseudo-religions, crafting counter-strategies, etc. Really, every religion gets rather authoritarian as it dies–think Socrates in the twilight of Greek religion, or Christianity just before the Enlightenment, with its Inquisitions–so we should expect no less of “social justice,” with its ever-weakening mandate of widespread racism and sexism. The caustic SJW reaction should not surprise in the least, if you’ve read E.R. Dodds “The Greeks and the Irrational“:

But the most striking evidence of the reaction against the Enlightenment is to be seen in the successful prosecutions of intellectuals on religious grounds which took place at Athens in the last third of the fifth century…the evidence we have is more than enough to prove that the Great Age of Greek Enlightenment was also, like our own time, an Age of Persecution, banishment of scholars, blinkering of thought and even…burning of books.

…we have still to explain why at this period a charge of irreligion was so often selected as the surest means of suppressing an unwelcome voice or damaging a political opponent. We seem driven to assume the existence among the masses of an exasperated religious bigotry on which politicians could play for their own purposes….

If we allow for the fact that wars cast their shadows before them and leave emotional disturbances behind them, the Age of Persecution coincides pretty closely with the longest and most disastrous war in Greek history. The coincidence is hardly accidental. It has been observed that “in times of danger to the community the whole tendency to conformity is greatly strengthened: the herd huddles together and becomes more intolerant than ever of ‘cranky’ opinion.” (p.189-191)

The Three Levels of Taunting

Have you ever observed that as children grow older their insults tend to change from physical, to intellectual, and finally psychological slights? In my experience, this happens pretty reliably, where “poopy-face” gives way to “dummy,” but are both later eclipsed by “mental patient” or “you need serious help.” There is either shit on your face, between your ears, or shit from childhood you haven’t solved yet. Obviously the late-blooming affronts are closer to emotional terrorism than mere bullying, and their over-application is really the subject of our post here. While they appear in more senior children, what we should expect from adults is a de-escalation as much as possible to level two insults, or the rejection of the ad hominem argument entirely. Sadly, just as soon as culture discovered the study of psychology, it’s results were immediately misused–and now today, illiberal progressives, for instance, seem to have (unconsciously) reverse-engineered every single “cognitive distortion” from CBT into a political bludgeon of some kind, as famous social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has pointed out.


Because humans have no “ear-lids,” there are only two ways of mitigating the pain of an insult: to gain some physical distance or to undermine the critic’s character in your own mind (that is, insult him!). So insult naturally leads to insult. Violence, whether physical or rhetorical, springs from powerlessness, so the more someone is insulted and stripped of self-worth, the more they will desire to do the same to others. However, the stronger someone’s mind, the more that insults can be used in entirely different ways. Friends routinely use ribbing and jest as a means of bonding; displaying esteem for a friend’s admirably thick skin, trust that he’ll understand the joke, and a faith that he knows what you really think of him. So we have this gradation, with good-natured ball-busting on one end, bullying in the middle, and emotional terrorism on the other end. However, context and intention can dramatically change the meaning and effect of the exact same rhetorical salvo. When MMA fighter Conor McGregor conducts nothing short of a psychological crusade against his opponents, both before and during a fight, he is not being an emotional terrorist: these opponents know this will happen, would never confuse him for a friend, and have no reason to let their emotional guard down or take any of McGregor’s rantings seriously. I’m not saying that Jose Aldo wasn’t legitimately frazzled and off his game, but that Conor’s behavior should not qualify as gaslighting, simply because there is no element of surprise and certainly no tinge of betrayal–he’s just being mean, which is literally his job.

Can Society Gaslight Us?

As a poet, there is only one political duty, and that is to defend one’s language from corruption. And that is particularly serious now. It’s being so quickly corrupted. When it’s corrupted, people lose faith in what they hear, and this leads to violence. -W. H Auden

Now, here is where it all gets really confusing: what about journalists, activists, and politicians that are “corrupting” our language, sowing seeds of fear, division, and misunderstanding; are they not emotional terrorists? According to Rollo May:

the antonym of symbolic is diabolic, ‘to tear apart.’ The ‘devilish’ functions are thus separating, alienating, breaking relationships, in contrast to bringing together, connecting, uniting. Ancient peoples knew as well as modern ones do of the dangers of the corruption of language. As Plato has Socrates say in the Phaedo: ‘The misuse of language is not only distasteful in itself, but actually harmful to the soul.’

Anybody succeeding in a process meant to obfuscate the truth and stymie discussion is dangerous, but I’d put them more on the level of an actual terrorist or saboteur. If you are reading the NY Times and feel gaslit, stop reading that article or grow a spine. This sounds overly harsh even to my ears given the sheer volume of propaganda, click-bait, and total horseshit that surrounds us, while I grant that in a sense, our collective grasp on reality is being loosened and enfeebled. However, that is why we have education, which should (ideally at least) allow someone to cultivate a buffer of skepticism, form a coherent worldview, etc–after all, what exactly is stopping you from reading some Plato right now? Of course modern education is failing everyone here, but my point is that (given the internet) there is nothing stopping people from finding the resources necessary to develop a sane perspective on the world and we can’t just throw our hands up and paint everything with the “emotional terrorism” brush just because we’ve read some Baudrillard. “It’s all phony–it’s all bullshit!” we want to cry, with Holden Caulfield, but let’s grow up, shall we, and admit that we do have the ability to reject this bullshit, think for ourselves, and on rare occasion, even find others of a similar persuasion to converse with. Again, I write this with trepidation, because modern education does involve a lot of propaganda and political brainwashing–and we do place some faith in our teachers to be mentors of some kind! My point is simply that if that bothers you, what is stopping you from criticizing that propaganda and forming your own views–is the anger not fuel enough? Society is not gaslighting you, because you should hold little expectation of implicitly trusting these people in the first place.

So we are back to our original clarification: emotional terrorism must involve a pre-existing relationship and essentially take hostage in some way the good-will, trust, and desire for affirmation natural to such a friendship. Anita Sarkeesian cannot gaslight me simply by putting up some YouTube videos. While many social justice warriors promote gaslighting and demonstrate how to do it, we are the one’s actually doing the gaslighting to our friends and family. When she says “It’s all sexist, it’s all racist, and we have to point it aaall out!” (strangely enough with a prideful smile on her face) she means that we the people should devolve into a bloody moral panic, pay her homage and coin, and yet do all the work of policing the masses for her (I’m sorry, how is this not Papism??)!

We have every advantage over our friends and loved ones: they will take us seriously, lending a certain self-fulfilling quality to any of our criticisms. When you ask a child “are you anxious; is everything ok?”, he might ask himself “is there a reason why I shouldn’t be ok?”. When you accuse someone of being paranoid, this might make them feel rather paranoid–like, “Why would my friend say that? Does he have an issue with me he’s not bringing up? Is he really my friend? Am I paranoid?”; a line of thought that is riddled with anxiety and paranoia. This self-fulfilling aspect to our stated opinions of friends and family makes certain manipulative insults unusually effective. We have so much more information about such people at our disposal, allowing us to brandish the strongest form of lies: those buttressed on all sides by truth. If our friend is depressed and venting about such n such, it is rather freakin evil to squash his healthy expression of anger, which is a good sign in terms of recovery, and suggest to him, “oh, that’s just the depression talking.”

Everyone gets angry and emotional. Perhaps you know your wife is slightly more spirited than most–the best kind!–and is a little insecure about this fact. Want to mess with her head? Just claim that she’s furious all the time and when she gets upset at this hyperbolic accusation, smugly back off with the retort, “I rest my case.” I’m sure you can divine that this is not merely being mean, but rather evil. Anyway, we will get to the more pertinent examples at the end, but for now, let me try to explain this mess, as well as how we found ourselves here (though Dodds has done much of this for us already).

Rise of the Prig

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. -Steven Weinberg

There have always been prigs, puritans, moralizers, but things have gotten rather complicated as traditional religions have declined. Politics is the new religion and makes ample room for every moral busy-body and self-righteous crusader. In fact, my new definition of ‘religion’ is simply any ideology that justifies your behaving like a prick to other people. (If you are a narcissistic prick, then your religion is simply a monotheism where you are god, the world revolves around you, and you can treat people according to your divine whims.) If your religion is “social justice,” then anyone who opposes your views is obviously against society and justice, so let them have both barrels! Do you see what I’m saying? Any such pseudo-religious ideology fails to understand the basic fact that morality has more to do with how we treat people than the thoughts we might entertain or beliefs we may espouse. If you walk around acting all superior to people because of your views on Israel or gay marriage, I’m sorry, but you have lost the moral plot and become a prig.

You can learn pretty much anything online these days. If you really want to take a look in the mirror, you don’t even have to read books on psychology anymore: Judgement Day is upon us. In that post, I was concerned about early exposure to theories in psychology via movies, YouTube, etc, but that was a concern over true theories being absorbed too young–what about half-baked theories, or good theories crafted into weapons? I could have just as easily titled this post “Judgement Day Pt 2,” for we are currently enduring another round of puritanism along with our web-enabled enlightenment. Just as YouTube can teach someone virtually any martial art, but might equip them to be effective bullies absent the guidance and discipline of going to an actual school, so too can it teach strategies of winning arguments and humiliating opponents. Even I like to indulge in a highlight reel of “Hitchslaps” on occasion. Anyway, even before YouTube, high schoolers were already equipped with a veritable “urban dictionary” of psychological insults to hurl at each other, from “narcissist” and “drama queen” to “delusional” and “paranoid.” Terms from psychology have been seeping into the broader culture for over a century, often leading to abusive drugstore psychologizing and the routine pathologizing of contrary opinions, but this has accelerated and warped as the internet age matures. It is far easier for concepts to “creep” these days:

Many of psychology’s concepts have undergone semantic shifts in recent years. These conceptual changes follow a consistent trend. Concepts that refer to the negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings so that they now encompass a much broader range of phenomena than before. This expansion takes ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ forms: concepts extend outward to capture qualitatively new phenomena and downward to capture quantitatively less extreme phenomena. The concepts of abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction, and prejudice are examined to illustrate these historical changes. In each case, the concept’s boundary has stretched and its meaning has dilated. A variety of explanations for this pattern of ‘concept creep’ are considered and its implications are explored. I contend that the expansion primarily reflects an ever-increasing sensitivity to harm, reflecting a liberal moral agenda. Its implications are ambivalent, however. Although conceptual change is inevitable and often well motivated, concept creep runs the risk of pathologizing everyday experience and encouraging a sense of virtuous but impotent victimhood. -Nick Haslam

The “liberal moral agenda” here is pretty obvious: with overt racism and sexism steadily declining for decades, one must expand these terms (dilating their meaning) to renew the progressive mandate, fostering the very authoritarianism Dodds warns us to expect from any dying faith. When existing concepts can’t creep any further, new words must be coined: what used to be mere “leering” is now “stare rape,” and so forth. When this isn’t enough, smash all manner of exhausted creeds together and peddle it as “intersectional:” the “mortgage-backed security” of political bigotry. Both ends of the political spectrum mess with language, from Righty “Patriot Acts” to Lefty “social justice,” but clearly the scales tip heavily to the left, hitting regressive apotheosis upon adding the “communion wafer” of leftist religion: Black Lives Matter (the most loaded phrase in human history).

You might have noticed that my use of “religion” and “faith” involves a semantic shift, but is exactly opposite to “concept creep:” it tracks a real decline in traditional religion and the use of politics as an outlet for the unspent religious sentiment. Leftist concept creep aims to obscure changes in society instead of highlight them. Anyway, the internet is hardly the source of the problem. Just as children move from the insults of “poopy-face” and “dummy” to “insane person” as soon as they learn about the psychological level, so too did adults begin misusing its findings as soon as the study of psychology was firmly underway. The whole point of psychology/psychiatry is to strengthen a person’s mind; build faith in their rational and intuitive powers. It is the literal antithesis of our subject, emotional terrorism. Yet, by mid-century, some Frankfurt School thinkers were already deploying the insights of Freud, for instance, as political bludgeons–effectively gaslighting their unsuspecting opponents. For some 2500 years philosophers have known that ad hominem arguments are invalid, but somehow, this small group of thinkers revived it into a respected means of undermining someone’s position. Have you noticed this as well? In arguments about the three main subjects you are not supposed to discuss at dinner parties, it is not only that people tend to throw rhetorical shit at each other in these exchanges, but that this is no longer seen as childish or bestial; the ad hominem argument has been revived from fallacy to effective salvo or clever, Jon Stewart-like quip, thanks in part to the Frankfurt School and “critical theory” (whatever that is–for there are only interpretations, right?).

…historian Christopher Lasch criticized the Frankfurt School’s initial tendencies towards “automatically” rejecting opposing political criticisms on “psychiatric” grounds:

The Authoritarian Personality had a tremendous influence on Hofstadter and other liberal intellectuals, because it showed them how to conduct political criticism in psychiatric categories, to make those categories bear the weight of political criticism. This procedure excused them from the difficult work of judgment and argumentation. Instead of arguing with opponents, they simply dismissed them on psychiatric grounds.

If emotional terrorists had a “Koran”, it would be the above school of thought. Now, obviously there have always been intellectual bullies, and just as apes throw real shit, I’m sure humans have always flung the rhetorical variety at each other. Timothy Leary suggested that “the only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours.” My point is that people even 200 years ago didn’t have nearly the ammunition that we can muster today–if you like, we are comparing musket-based warfare to satellite-guided drone-strikes.

Now, it is not irrelevant to investigate the ad hominem level of an opinion, but one commits a serious fallacy when this totally eclipses the object-level. Even a child knows that just because someone was drunk, or angry, or totally bonkers doesn’t simply invalidate everything that they say. Given the correlation between madness and genius, this would force us to throw out the better part of all culture, goddammit! The most frustrating aspect of this kind of gaslighting is that the claim of “crazy” from (often rather deranged) individuals strips one of the opportunity to call them on their particular brand of crazy, on pain of hypocrisy. Because they say it first, they sort of own the “crazy” space, and make you defend yourself or devolve into worthless character attacks.

Listen, I have some respect for many postmodern or Frankfurt School thinkers–exponentially less for their “followers,” I might add–but there is a very important point that needs to be driven home here: there is a difference between applying “critical theory” to a paper you are criticizing in “Critical Inquiry” and applying it to the face of an inebriated dinner guest! The latter has some presumption of friendship, generosity, benefit of the doubt; some expectation of conversation, or perhaps argument, but is actually being abused if all he meets are character attacks, niggling objections, and strategies meant to derail the “conversation.” Critical theory is meant to be applied to papers, perhaps to formal debates by political pundits, but if you are using these all-too-clever, but intellectually dishonest tactics on your friends and family, you are an emotional terrorist–not just a jerk. Entering into a debate when really you don’t believe in truth, the individual, or objective reality–harboring no desire to persuade, only shame–is incredibly disingenuous, but really just makes you an intellectual bully. Doing this to your unsuspecting friends, family, or acquaintances can be gaslighting. Anyway, back to how we got into this mess…

The fact that I hesitated for more than a minute before starting this paragraph is revealing in itself. I’ve attacked a foundation of modern leftism, and plan to add more attacks still. Already, having criticized “critical theory,” which dominates most of the humanities departments in the western world, I’m feeling uneasy. It is simply rational to be a little paranoid when you are rather certain that your opponents are entirely paranoid! But then I have already played into their hands, haven’t I!? Doesn’t matter: these folks will find you psychologically crippled regardless of what you actually say. Afraid of Islamic terrorists? Well then, you are “Islamophobic,” etc. For the record, I am not “Islamophobic,” but “theo-phobic:” rather terrified of most religions, not least of all political ideologies that involve just as much magical thinking. Modern neo-progressivism, for instance, is just such a bizarre, aimless cauldron of incompatible philosophies, smashing together (the feeble specter of) J.S. Mill, postmodernism, the Frankfurt School, Chomsky, etc, with such abandon I honestly wonder how much of this stuff any of them have even read. Fan of postmodernism and Chomsky? Might want to rethink that one son:

Criticisms of postmodernism are intellectually diverse, including the assertions that postmodernism is meaningless and promotes obscurantism. For example, Noam Chomsky has argued that postmodernism is meaningless because it adds nothing to analytical or empirical knowledge. He asks why postmodernist intellectuals do not respond like people in other fields when asked, “what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn’t already obvious, etc.?…If [these requests] can’t be met, then I’d suggest recourse to Hume’s advice in similar circumstances: ‘to the flames’.”

Seriously, Chomsky is on the same page as the New Atheists here:

“Postmodernism, the school of ‘thought’ that proclaimed ‘There are no truths, only interpretations’ has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for ‘conversations’ in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.” -Dennett


But you can’t, can you? They just offer such great rhetorical strategies! Plus, those French names are gorgeous and just excrete sophistication. Recall from Pt1 that central bit about “intentional vagueness”? Well, look no further than postmodernism. The following is basically the equivalent of an MMA fighter holding his opponent on the ground or against the cage, wearing him out, but not throwing any significant blows—just trifling, annoying rabbit punches. This stalls the competition, tires both people, but much less the one doing the “holding.” Thus, they win a rhetorical war of attrition at best, a stalemate at worst, but have nonetheless derailed the other person’s attempt to express an idea. I’ll call it the “lay and pray” or the “dump n hump” strategy.

The postmodernist will start big and gradually reduce their line of questioning to the very granules of which an argument is made, until the target is unable to provide adequate detail or is simply exhausted from explaining each and every stage in their argument. Put simply, postmodernism is deliberately designed to win a debate without actually having the debate. It is self-evident that this is intellectually dishonest and it is the shield upon which neo-progressivism prevents, diverts, or deflects any legitimate criticism of its precepts. It is the result of critical theory… (quote from minute 9 of the video in the last link)

Given my love of Bruce Lee, perhaps you were wondering why I do not admire this as a way of “fighting without fighting” as per the scene in Lee’s last film.  Answer: In the scene, Lee is escaping a violent assault by means of his intelligence, while the postmodernist is pretending to be in a fight, and just stalling–something Lee would disdain. My god, one can always say “mind if we change the subject?”. Anyway, a related source of the problems of ubiquitous and malevolent psychologizing must be mentioned, regardless of the character attacks on me that might follow: Stalinism. Here is an interesting introduction; an interview between Elizabeth Wasserman (in bold) and Christopher Hitchens:

You write a lot about the intense bitterness that the left still harbors toward Orwell. I wonder whether you think this is something typical—leftist intellectuals today are often accused of intolerance of criticism, especially from within, and of intellectual bullying and censorship in the name of political correctness. Do you see their Orwell-bashing as a manifestation of that, or as something more profound?

I think you’re right—it’s an aspect of that. I think Hannah Arendt said that one of the great achievements of Stalinism was to replace all discussion involving arguments and evidence with the question of motive. If someone were to say, for example, that there are many people in the Soviet Union who don’t have enough to eat, it might make sense for them to respond, “It’s not our fault, it was the weather, a bad harvest or something.” Instead it’s always, “Why is this person saying this, and why are they saying it in such and such a magazine? It must be that this is part of a plan.” Some of that mentality is involved, certainly, in the way the old left people like Raymond Williams write about Orwell. They never lose that habit of thought.

Political correctness, by the way, is a very mild form of this. I mean, people who talk about political correctness as being a kind of thought police have no idea of what a thought police is. But political correctness does have the same mentality. It means that intellectual argument is doomed. Objective truth simply becomes a thing to jeer at, because obviously there’s no such thing as objectivity—unless of course you’re politically okay, in which case you can be objective. Any child can see through that, but many adults can’t.

Wow: “replace all discussion involving arguments and evidence with the question of motive.” Motive! True, PC is a mild form of thought-policing, but Hitchens died before seeing the Left utilize far more authoritarian tactics. It is almost as if Hitchens was single-handedly holding at bay the more extreme or radical of the leftists, who waited until his own cancer took him out of the game before spreading to the cultural lymph nodes, metastasizing into SJWs of all stripes. The reason I’m so reluctant to mention the above is that it is technically called “Cultural Marxism,” which though a legitimate term, is also attached to a so-called “conspiracy theory.” Therefore, if you suggest, as Arendt and Hitchens do, that Stalinism really did change the way we communicate–and intentional (conspiracy) or not, might have disrupted western civilization in this manner–you must be a paranoid schizophrenic. Do you see how clever this is? The strategy is to call any political opponents crazy, but if these opponents suggest that you are being disingenuous and just trying to destroy the conversation, they are proving to be crazy and paranoid “conspiracy nuts”! Do recall the example that got us going in this post.

Anyway, Stalinism, critical theory, Cultural Marxism, these things are difficult to untangle, but whatever the ultimate source of the rise of the priggish age, what is clear is that it affects our personal relationships just as much as stymie our political progress. We must relearn how to talk to each other.

End of Conversation

As Jonathan Haidt and others have noted, political discourse in this country has now become impossible–both sides hate each other too much and don’t even seem to be speaking the same language. Concept creep and the politicization of language have undermined our shared lexicon; “socialist” and “republican” have become dirty words perfectly suitable for invective; and what would otherwise be unthinkably horrible speech and action are somehow acceptable against “the other.” The far Left has been using gaslighting-like strategies for ages, but the really scary thing is that the Right has figured out that there really is no talking to such people; that if you must debate them, you should use the very same tools of insult and character assassination, only pre-emptively. Ben Shapiro advises conservatives to hit first, hit hard, and make sure they don’t get up. You can see him deploy that strategy in this video. Well that’s it folks: all-out war; the death of conversation, debate, and compromise. While bullies and obfuscators are terrible for society at large, this gets downright emotionally abusive when deployed around the dinner table.

Strategies and Counter-Strategies

Sadly, Shapiro is right that the best counter-strategy to the rhetoric we have been discussing is to never engage with such people, but with friends and and especially family, that is not always possible. So let me first reiterate my concluding advice from Pt1: the emotional terrorist is most often simply projecting, so while one finger points at you, four point back at them; giving you a road-map of their psyche and potential weak-spots. Here’s the rub though: this drags you right down to their bloody level! When an SJW tells you to “check your white privilege,” they are judging you based on your skin-tone, which is technically racist, but to call them out on it is essentially pointless–you are now just flinging poo with the rest of them. This is part of the genius of identity politics: they refuse to interact on any other level but identity politics–and bait you by violating their very own principles! I suspect that, having run out of targets, they mean to scare some out of the woodwork by acting like authoritarian bullies; they intend to manufacture some racists and sexists by being unbelievably nasty and driving a wedge between various groups. There really is no talking to such folks–believe me, I’ve tried. Some of us try to adopt the strategy of the enemy, which is incredibly tempting given that many SJW’s and so forth display clear signs of mental illness, but this is only a way of battling them, not winning them over or winning over the third side! The Defeat of the Left is a good example of an article that flirts with this strategy, using language like “Paulin’s language (is) almost psychotic”; or “behind the nervous breakdown it reflects” or; “leftists can only turn in on themselves in a frenzy of rage.” Simply put, the author Geoffrey Wheatcroft is not a freakin psychologist! While his adoption of leftist gaslighting strategies is rhetorically effective, it is so only to his base: anybody on the left will be entirely alienated. It might be good for this author’s career, but it is terrible for the country.

It repays the effort to consider Shapiro’s strategies, like changing the frame, and so forth, but honestly I’m kind of despairing at the moment that there really is no way to break through and have a real dialogue. So, just like having a crazy girlfriend, the best move is to simply move on! However, you might need some tactics to cover your retreat, so that’s what we’ll explore by way of a conclusion.

Here is the gist of an encounter with abusive, neo-progressive rhetoric of the strongest possible variety; far subtler than mere cry-bullying because it is defensive in nature: As you try to introduce an idea, you are interrupted with all manner of niggling objections, questions about minutia, and a general attempt to compromise the flow of your thoughts. You likely will never be able to finish said thought, even in a 30 minute discussion. You are treated with contempt and disdain, but very very calmly, so that any hint of emotion, sarcasm, or any other sane response to this treatment can be written off as “oh, look at the little kiddy losing his cool!” It is a strategy of “getting your goat” and holding it hostage. The treatment is inhuman–as if you were a dissertation or paper–and so any human response will be attacked as emotional, and thus lacking of objectivity (even though postmodernism itself rejects objectivity!!). Perhaps before, but certainly after you respond with anger, sarcasm, or just a “wtf dude!”, the specific ad hominems will be leveled at you: you don’t have enough experience to comment, you’re the wrong gender to comment, or the old stand-by’s: “that’s crazy;” “you are off your rocker;” “unhinged.” Because of concept creep, you really can’t call them on gaslighting, for they can just claim that they were using ‘narcissism,’ ‘paranoid,’ or ‘crazy’ in their new, loose, every-day versions. Your opponent has plausible deniability. If you really press him, he can always just say he was kidding: “stop being so sensitive.” I’ve personally lost my cool before in this situation and was met with “I’m rather disappointed that you took this to the personal level.” Astonishing, truly astonishing: an entire argument of calmly uttered ad hominem, mixed with prickly contempt, and I’m the one “taking this to the personal level”?…just…(*sigh). Cunning worthy of a 16th-century French courtesan.

Now, the simple fact is that if some dude tried to pull this stuff among exclusively male friends, he is likely to get slapped in the mouth–he deserves as much–so the craftiest of such people will make sure that this is done in mixed-company, making any display of emotion (especially aggression) all the more impolitic. This is why that scene in Crocodile Dundee is so pleasing (and wish-fulfilling): the caustic boyfriend is distracted then punched in the face.


“He said you hit him. You’re not in the pub at walkabout creek anymore!”

“Ee was beinna pain.” -Dundee

Lol. Sadly, we should be so lucky to get such a slow pitch, such an overt jerk. Be prepared for the one that has “the third side” with them, remains calm and unflappable, and can get away with aggression by being passive about it. A dude-bro, or just a sane man, would laugh this off and just think the other person a “pussy,” because it is slightly more often women who are passive aggressive like this. But because it involves insults and direct disagreement, which usually women avoid, I’d call this the “unflappable vagina” offense. Though it stinks, I can’t even call it a “libtard” strategy, because it is so damned clever!

You may choose to point out that it is rather paranoid of them to be psycho-analyzing their dinner guests instead of listening to and engaging with them, but again, this sucks you right down to their level. It would be better to reply to “that’s paranoid” with “and I’d care about that opinion if you were a psychiatrist.” This response is ad hominem, but a valid one. You see, you can’t abandon all ad hominem in an argument, lest you jettison the invaluable charge of “hypocrisy” as well. My point is that you shouldn’t merely fling turds. Make sure the ad hominem is pointed: if he questioned your credentials for offering up your point, then it is fair game to call his into question. Oddly enough, it is less manipulative, and truly generous and sane of you, to de-escalate from the gaslighting to the bullying type of insult here; the level of “that’s dumb” or “you’re not getting it man.” This entire rant is about the total eclipse of stage 2 insults: instead of being ignorant in this instance, wrong, or too dense to see the truth, you are “delusional,” “off your rocker.” My whole point is to warn of the dangers of this armchair psychologizing. Something like “and if I need a therapist, I’ll make sure to give you a call” is the closest you can get to a solid counter-argument that calls out the game being played without fully stooping to their level.

Another response that might expose the game would be to shift the frame to the conversation itself. You could try to do this sincerely, by saying for instance “hey, take it easy on me man…can I finish this point please?” but that is pretty weak. Sadly, a stronger reply is really what is needed; something like the following:

“(after hearty laugh) Man, this is the first time I’ve ever felt like I was in that Monty Python skit where the guy pays for an argument, except, instead of just having a room for arguments and one for abuse, there is a third, ‘all-of-the-above’ option called ‘critical theory.'”


“Has anyone you know ever admitted that arguing with you is like being interrogated by a KGB officer who was ordered to break you using nothing but passive aggression?”


“Let’s change the topic. What do you want to talk about.” This might sound weak, but the simple truth is that the sorts of bullies we are talking about don’t really have much to say: they are all about opposition, not proposition; criticism, not syllogism; progressivism, not historical reality; sophistry, not philosophy. They were probably just thankful that you gave them material to criticize, rescuing them from revealing that they don’t have any true beliefs or opinions of their own, just various “narratives.” You can usually tell that an SJW, for instance, is full of it when they talk about racism or other atrocities while grinning–“omg, that is SOOO problematic!” (said with a slightly manic and prideful exuberance).

So, we have learned that what otherwise might be considered bullying can turn into abuse simply by adding the element of trust and expectation of friendship, where the target’s heart is invested in good faith–and in more than a “gee, I hope people on the playground like me” kinda way. Emotional terrorism, or gaslighting, is basically just undermining someone’s faith in their own reason and intuition. The best of such attacks are those that are slightly true, or beyond the target’s current attempts at introspection (I mean, do you really know that you for sure don’t harbor racial prejudices!?). The emotional con artists will most likely have taken these attacks from things they’ve noticed about their own psyches, so you can be relatively sure that they are essentially projecting: four fingers still point back to them if the mark isn’t rattled enough by the one finger not to notice. And this is the point of gaslighting: trip them up, rattle them, get their proverbial blood up and cloud their reason so that you can get what you wanted, whether that is the pride of the victor, social proof, compliance from a lover, or what have you.

After I wrote nearly this entire article, I attended a party of some 20-30 people–one of the funnest parties I’ve been to. Sadly, there must always be at least one SJW killjoy. I listened very sympathetically to this rather brilliant preacher for about an hour and a half, without much chance of getting a word in edgewise, let alone corralling him into actually making a point. Finally, sensing I was getting restless, he turned to the subject of the Armenian Genocide and was overjoyed to hear that I had heard of it but didn’t understand it. Moral superiority at last! He implied that I was crazy and I warned him that I’d accept a charge of “ignorant,” but not “crazy.” Instead of explaining the subject to me, despite my frequent questions, he danced around the topic until he could extract from me something he could criticize: I asserted that the US was not “exceptionally good,” but hardly “exceptionally bad” by historical standards; at which point I was called a “genocide apologist,” “totally insane,” and so forth, while this tool leaned in towards me aggressively, unaware of the fact that my right hand could switch off the lights in less than a quarter second. Instead, I so totally destroyed his little world, in less than three sentences, that he not only spazzed-out, looked down and couldn’t talk, but also left the party. What did I calmly utter? “Oh, I know what you are doing. You’re gaslighting. CBT therapists call what you just did ‘mind reading;’ often simply projecting onto your opponent. Yeah, I’m not having it.” That’s all it took. His girlfriend earnestly apologized, explaining that “he does this to people, including me all the time–I don’t know why.” Well, we all know why, don’t we? Brilliant, and extremely well-read as this person was, he is deeply insecure and was merely using his knowledge to establish a moral high-ground and pontificate as long as he could–bullying or baiting any dissenters into crestfallen consent. Well, the joke was on him–completely exposed and unable to face himself, he had to leave in disgrace. It’s easy to bully people who are either less intelligent or less well-read, but don’t try it with those who are neither, suckah–you’ll end up the “underwear bomber” of emotional terrorists. This kind of person “preys on the good will of strangers,” as Sargon explains in his video, but unfortunately for them, not all of us will be stuffed into their “trick bag,” as Mr. Black calls it. Bulverism and Appeal to Motive can take such a con artist a long way, but I’m not having it and I encourage you to calmly call out this kind of game whenever you might encounter it. I assure you, it totally evaporates when brought out into the open–the light of Reason casts a sort of spell all it’s own.



Posted in Education, General Observations, Martial Arts, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | 2 Comments

A Message To MGTOW Pt 3: The Women Who Torture Me

In this third installment of a series intended to cleanse my inner MGTOW, we will move from pain to humor, feminism to humanism, but the repeated theme is this: things are not always as they seem and can even be the reverse of such appearances.

GuidoReni_MichaelDefeatsSatan (e.g. that’s not a woman, but the Archangel “Michael”…who is not male either.)

My team of lovely physical therapists might look innocent enough as they gently bend and twist my body, but while it may seem like they are just giving a massage, they are more like some kind of Greek goddess sending great crackling sheets of lightning through my entire being–like Electroconvulsive therapy with the electrodes placed instead on the feet. Ironically, they then do, in fact, place electrodes on my foot (an H-wave machine: electroanalgesia), which is the most pleasant part of the therapy. But before this final mercy, there are two hours of self-torture, guided misery, and then the laying on of hands–pure sadism issuing from these evocators’ grizzly fingers of impalement; introducing me to the Un-Holy Spirit, or what Schopenhauer might call “the sound of the universe.” By some strange magic, these sibyls manage to concentrate the following day’s entire store of pain into 20 or 30 minutes a day in advance–not exactly “sparing” me the pain if you ask me today, but certainly when you ask me tomorrow.

Now, its hard to quantify pain. I can’t relate to these women what getting kicked square in the balls feels like, but they can understand that whatever it is, it’s not as bad—nor certainly as lasting—as a broken heart. But if I were to stick to their clinical meaning of pain, I’d use this frame of reference: having a full-power kick checked forcefully and clashing shin on shin.

(first sparring class: 14 year-old–on the right–versus assistant instructor–on the left)

That is excruciating pain, and you can’t walk on that leg—it might even be broken, as in the case of Anderson Silva, Corey Hill, and other UFC fighters. Now, this is what I’d like to say to these women: you lovely, compassionate, and skilled ladies cause me something close to that amount of pain continuously for 10-30 minutes—and I love you for it! As far as the feminist notion of instinctual, deeply buried misogyny, I consider this to be a knockdown argument against it. If I had any hatred towards this alluring and crafty gender, I would have kicked you each by now, for, as any study on torture proves, everyone has their breaking point.

So this is what I’d say to a particular brand of feminist: men don’t innately hate women–I’m heart-broken and angry yet retain this much control of myself–and if there were some unconscious misogyny in me, you’d expect it to come out when a team of women conjure steady, sustained, 10-out-of-10 pain signals from the world of my body. It takes every ounce of my restraint to short-circuit my pain reflexes—so much that I’m useless for about four hours afterwards; recovering; dead to the world. I literally slur my speech sometimes as I slide off the massage table. How could I do this if I hated the people causing me pain? Besides, I’m a skilled martial artist with many kicks at my disposal—on a hair trigger–and I’ve gorged myself on enough violent movies and video games to turn Elijah Wood into a psychopath, if such media “conditioning” really were capable of such things. Again, things are not what they seem: the problem isn’t the overabundance of such hyper-masculinity in a boy’s life, but the utter dearth of it–the absence of strong male figures in his (actual) life displaying anything like healthy masculinity…but I digress…


Instead of bending to this perfectly rational impulse to defend my bodily integrity, I relax and comport myself; and that feeling of relaxing, of giving up the will to command motor function and passively experience the sheets of lightning pouring through my body, without response, takes enormous and sustained effort. Gripping the table and not kicking them is like a two-hour MMA workout in terms of recovery time. The body’s self-defense mechanisms increase their volume the more they are ignored. I’ve found that laughing out the pain is helpful, but a good joke at such times is even better–you forget you are in pain for a brief moment. However, in this politically correct, lawsuit-happy country, humor can also be quite treacherous (for a man, that is) and this is really the topic of our post here.

You see, as a man, you are often rather disarmed by the beauty of the women around you–and like those pain signals, the feelings aroused by their presence demand expression, by which they might find annihilation. You find yourself saying things in your head like this: “Ah, my dear Amanda, you must have changed your hair–it looks like the helical or braided structure of a solar flair or Birkeland Current dancing radiantly about your glowing face.”

This kind of reverie offers a brief escape. But wait, is this comment more suggestive of “Juliet is the sun,” or the image of Medusa? Glad I didn’t say anything. Then another thought strikes you: “somehow she looks more beautiful every time I see her!” You briefly consider telling her–then recoil in horror at the likely outcome. (I ended up giving her a more subtle compliment about her hair). Perhaps if you phrased it right: “Amanda, you are more beautiful every time I see you. Seriously, it is getting downright disarming at this point!” Could the feigned anger and accusation take the edge off the fact that I’m hitting on her whether intending to or not? (Truly, I have no interest in romance with anyone right now–I actually just wanted to see her smile). You see, the gung fu of healthy narcissism demands that you hit ‘close’ on all these windows, though letting them play for long enough to judge their character and encourage better material. Wit is really just letting this process unfold until you experience good material, and hitting ‘open’ or ‘send’ as quickly as you can! Wisdom is knowing what to overlook, but I digress…back to the pain.

What’s that? Ah, now she starts demonstrating various exercises while she presses her body against the wall; standing on her tippy-toes, she is at this point basically an atlas of female musculature and curvacious form. The inarticulate rage begins to build, evoking fantasies of playfully–yet half seriously–telling her “Damn it Amanda, you are not allowed to wear black yoga pants to work! I need to concentrate on every part of my body but that one, thank you!” I hit ‘close,’ and as soon as I do, these thoughts stream in: “Not kosher, dude. Besides, if you really check in with yourself, this is just jealousy confused for anger, and those yoga pants give a man a will to live and fight on–so I praise thy yoga pants, dear muse!  As a gentleman, I promise that I’ll only appreciate from peripheral vision–but that devil is slippery, so accidents happen.” I smile to myself as a warm feeling takes me away.

A courageous man named Ralph painstakingly lays down on the massage table next to me, making an even four dudes lined up in a row, bracing for what I imagine would be a feminist’s wet dream. Ralph sits up, looks over at Amanda, and says…

Amanda, seeing you over there with those little green plastic gloves, you are the picture of a perfect wife…you are cleaning the place up, taking care of us…ah if I were 10 years younger.

The whole room erupts in embarrassed laughter. Then, as I’m laughing, temporarily oblivious to physical pain, a useful thought finally occurs to me…

Ralph, you are one brave son of a bitch, telling a sexist joke right before one of these lovely sadists lights into your crippled back!

The room erupts again, but without the embarrassed or “hot-potato” feeling it had just been haunted by–yet still riding on it’s inertia. Each of us guys received the relief of a good couple minutes of hearty laughter and smiles. Amanda was beaming red with mirth and flattery. We will get to my political comments in a moment, but first let me say that my comment is a better example of the gung fu of healthy narcissism. I managed to diffuse any insult, while praising Ralph both for his humor and his bravery; compliment the entire female staff, and create something of a feeling of belonging or community in the room. I suck at this, so give me this victory, will ya…I’m gonna need all of your good will to get through the following remarks about gender politics.

You must understand, a man can only restrain his incessant will for so long when it comes to various pains and passions of the soul–far less time than he can restrain the imperatives of physical pain. We often make sexist jokes or otherwise “inappropriate” comments, but much like “objectifying women,” they seem to only get offended when this is done artlessly and by the wrong people. So again, let us be gods of social judo! I say this not merely to encourage wit and verve instead of winks and whistles, but also as a warning: it is not legally or socially safe to really behave like a man in modern American society. You might think that people understand the fact that in certain situations (like those involving excruciating pain) allowances must be made because humor is imperative–and usually something of the “black” variety. But, the nano-thin knife-edge that separates well-intentioned humor from sexual harassment tends to lacerate regardless. Ralph had spent three years working with these ladies and while the elephant in the room had to eventually make an appearance, he already had enough rapport built up to pull off this move. One is not often afforded that amount of time–nor a verbal judoka at one’s side to temper the reaction.

Listen, I make no excuses for assholes, I’m just trying to put this idea of a “hostile work environment” into some kind of sane perspective. Certain work environments are hostile to begin with, towards any gender or race, and these have historically been jobs for men (e.g. law enforcement, military, the hospital operating room, etc). Men deal with the stress of this sort of work with a certain battery of strategies: denial, gritting it out, and especially, dark humor! A male surgeon simply has a harder time dealing with compassion fatigue by having a good cry about it. Cops utter offensive quips; soldiers tell dead-baby jokes; and surgeons mock the dead or the frailties of the human body. They simply have to! They are men, they are maximally stressed out, and they have to maintain their sanity somehow. Unfortunately, all of these jokes, especially dead-baby jokes, might be considerably more offensive to women than men.

However, now that women have entered these previously male-only spaces, there is a tacit understanding that they be as tough–physically and mentally–as their male coworkers. What (apparently) happens quite often, however, is that women experience this not simply as a hostile workspace, but one hostile to women in particular. I’m not saying that women are weaker–Ronda Rousey would make one bad-ass cop!–but that sometimes they expect that the rules of female etiquette still be in place. They sometimes misunderstand compassion for cruelty. I’ve heard soldiers referring to cigarettes as “death sticks,” but far from a sadistic attempt to conjure death anxiety in their comrade, it compassionately assumes that death was already on his mind and seeks to temper it with an illusory sense of control–displaying a defiant contempt of fate. Whatever element of schadenfreude exists in this humor, it is likely just a test of the other persons strength–it seeks to eliminate any insecurity about how reliable that person will be under fire. Let’s not begrudge them this form of solution to anxiety. Dr. Heidi Kraft’s book “Rule Number Two” recognizes the psychological boon that certain seemingly cruel practices can mean for demoralized troops in her chapter titled “Friday Night Fights:”

The fact that a boxing ring made the trip to Iraq was actually one of the sanest things to happen in that place.

This stellar psychologist reports that while some black humor was sent her way–mainly to ease her anxiety–there were no “shit tests,” as she was not a warfighter. Had she been, you better believe she’d get hazed a bit–but there is nothing innately wrong with this form of “brotherly un-love.” Kraft candidly talks about being so terrified while being transported by Humvee that it was all she could do to just keep control of her weapon and avoid shooting a Marine by accident. These are the sorts of things that invalidate your “credentials” as a shooter and a Marine has every right to test his comrades a bit to ensure he’s protected. I’m not saying that plenty of men wouldn’t be similarly frazzled, just that other men and women have a right to test them a bit and see how they hold up. These tests can be blunt or humorous, but clearly black humor is far from the only minefield that men must carefully tip-toe through in some modern workplaces.

You see, when arguing or discussing an issue, men are somewhat accustomed to blunt–even inflammatory–speech. Rarely is the comment “dude, that is inflammatory” any kind of objection or cause for losing social capital. If a woman enters that argument, however, things get rather dicey–blunt or barbed comments are now “attacks,” “oppression,” “harassment,” and so forth. A woman can generally get away with a caustic screed in response, shouting the guy down and destroying his social capital without a hint of hypocrisy. Not only is this hazardous for the guy’s social and legal freedoms, but it is also a dangerous confound in situations that call for quick–and potentially lethal–reactions. Cops and soldiers should be entirely focused on restraining and monitoring these reactions; focused on protecting people’s bodies, not their feelings. Again, this is no license to be an asshole, but let’s be a little compassionate with people who do these difficult jobs, eh? If we try to really understand the minds of men, we will find that the obvious is not always the right interpretation.

Take cat calls, for instance: really, the guy feels helpless, unworthy and ashamed, yet drawn to a beautiful woman by what he’d be embarrassed to admit is the feeling of an innocent moment’s crush. This is so intolerable, that he twists attraction into lust, jealousy into anger, and shame into inflated pride. And again, cat calls are not universally loathed: I’ve seen plenty of women flattered to the core, so long as it issues from a handsome, wealthy potential-suitor. Of course, the majority of this nonsense is in fact guys just being dicks, but lets not be so hasty to place some kind of woman-hating rape instinct in every man’s soul–let’s just see them for the flawed people that they are. We must remember that rage and violence stem from powerlessness, so the (sometimes) stated feminist goal of reducing men’s power can end up making rage and violence more prevalent! This is why we saw the rise of the hyper-masculine action movie hero of the 80’s: in a world with less actual power for men, in an age when men were encouraged to explore their “feminine side,” and so forth, violent movies were the only stabilizing force for his alienated male psyche.

Now, while we are at this business of doling out some benefit of the doubt, let’s also extend it to women, for, in my experience, these complaints are far more often encountered in arguments about gender politics than in actual work spaces. Women are simply not that fragile and the feminist implication that they are should be the insult. Even many liberals get this. The feminist will respond that I am blind to these forces, which are deflected away from my consciousness as if my penis were producing a strong force field. I’m tempted to grant them that. But I usually find that the feminist is moving between a few different scenarios: if the work space scenario isn’t going well, suddenly you will find yourself talking about cat calls, or rape! You slam on the breaks in the conversation and ask “how did we get from dead baby jokes to rape?” Clearly I’m admitting some of these sexist forces, especially in the realm of cat calls–I’m just asking us to hesitate before careening into the issues of domestic violence and rape. Besides, having been told that I’m blind to something, I keep a keen eye out for it.

I eavesdropped on the aftermath of Ralph’s jokes, and these women were speaking very warmly and mirthfully about him to each other. Let’s give women some credit: they ARE actually strong enough to hang with the men–some salty ladies even surpass them in steely grit–and they likely don’t feel discriminated against by their coworkers as often as the media and various advocates would have us believe. I’ve known some tough ladies in my day. I’ve seen a few bumper stickers that gave a humorous warning, tagging the driver as an “evil war-bitch from hell.” I have some female friends that can dish the insults with the best of them. My best friend refers to hard-core, lunatic feminists as “Twat Nazis”–an apt monker she invented before evil chicks like this came on the scene. There are all kinds of women. I’m only arguing that the Ronda Rousey type of girl is less likely to feel threatened or claim sexual harassment spuriously than someone with a different–and much more liberal–upbringing. But this is tragic, because in many cases guys are not meaning to be offensive. Men socialize by insulting one another, but they don’t really mean it. Women socialize by complimenting one another… But they don’t really mean it, either! Misunderstandings are nearly inevitable. So let’s replace that nano-thin knife of prejudice-divination with Hanlon’s Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Things are not always as they seem. Let me leave you with a last example–one that was of personal importance to me as I rehabilitate my ability to love again. MGTOW philosophy seems to hold as a core belief that women are biologically incapable of true romantic love; that they are no different in motivation than a female chimp presenting her rump in exchange for food. Now THAT is offensive! But far worse, it is incorrect–besides hamstringing a guy’s ability to love and trust (it’s true intent, I imagine). Any guy who has been “taken for a ride” by a lover can sympathize with this feeling, but let’s be discerning here. When I felt something like that hatred of female nature well up in me, I studied it, and found, as per our theme, that it was not really anger–or at least anger whose object was the female gender. I was angry at myself. I’ve never had much money, but when I honestly inquired, I realized that when I did have money it was a joy to share it–I’ve never felt like more of a man than when I was the one paying the bills. Yeah, yeah, MGTOWs, I’m basically a pathetic dupe, blah, blah. Seriously though, my anger at women valuing money, career stability, etc, in there partners was simply anger at myself for not having money or career stability. Powerlessness turned to anger; insight turned to peace. I have little doubt that it would be my pleasure to share the profits of a healthy career with the right woman; someone who hurts me so good–or better still, someone who does that to other people for a living!

So, I’ll leave you with a question: did the following joke that I uttered last week in PT cross the line? Was I being offensive, but oblivious to this fact? Amanda was issuing pitiless orders to a female patient, while Carolyne and I were talking about sadism. Amanda joked about being a tyrant and I spotted an opportunity, saying “you know what, I imagine you ladies have happy healthy romantic relationships–I mean, you get out all of the nagging and abuse here at work. You must have the happiest husbands in the country.” They all chuckled, some while looking up towards the ceiling quizzically and gently nodding. Did I miss a hint of embarrassment or resentment? After I read your answers in the comments section I’ll actually ask these ladies and we’ll see.

Posted in Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations, Human Movitation, Martial Arts, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | 2 Comments

A Message to MGTOW Pt 2: The Gung Fu of Healthy Narcissism

Receive phone call while in the middle of a good thought. “Hello,” I say, and immediately recognize who I’m talking with. No sooner does this recognition hit than I interject, contrary to every exchange I’ve probably ever had with them, “hey do you mind if I go first—maybe distract you with an interesting thought…do you have the time?” Of course they did. If they were just frantically calling to confirm a detail or what have you, they would respond “no, sorry, in a rush…” You relieve them of the burden of explaining what they need from you, making conversation or buttering you up. Plus, they are usually pleasantly surprised and thankful for the brief but novel break from their own habitual mind. This kind of leadership—if your foot is kept firmly on it’s throat—establishes context, rapport, and banishes the awkward silence, if done artfully.

The challenge and burden of assertiveness is staggeringly difficult if you retain a conscience. We actually love the Don Draper-type person for his bold leadership, creativity, shrewd—if bloodthirsty—criticism, the setting of a higher standard, but most importantly, his social graces. Yes, a man can have assertive social graces—though in modern American society these come with social and legal hazards. What I’m talking about is control and assertiveness with knowledge and good intentions. Your girlfriend is getting herself all worked up and you dive in there and hug her, hostile though she seemed, and feel her melt! (Sometimes this requires soft words in addition–of impeccable taste). She might fight you for a second before melting, or you might find a knee trying to occupy the very same space-time as your crotch. Gut call. No advice I can give ya, other than ask yourself beforehand “did I do it?”–but those of you with a conscience didn’t need that advice.

My experience with relationships yields that such interventions are 90% good, super effective—they feel heroic also btw. I’m sure you women have been with controlling guys, but that’s not exactly what I’m saying—though you wouldn’t have stayed with such people had their leadership and authority been without any merit whatsoever. No, the great destabilizing force was the unexpected argument, the one where you don’t even get the “honey, we need to talk” warning—or worse, the unwitting, yet miraculously clever, ambush. I’ve even applied the social gung fu move of suggesting a certain time on Saturday where my girlfriend could voice anything and everything and I calmly and patiently listen, for up to an hour. Strangely, Saturday rolled by and she was having a great time—it wasn’t until I was 5-hours deep into a project on Sunday and ready to really produce the goods that a shitstorm blew in from Venus. A man would have to be a god of social acumen to preempt these by careful, well-intentioned assertiveness. So let us be gods! Let us risk our testicular comfort for the preemptive and solution-offering assertiveness of authentic manliness. Is this not a more relevant skill to research and master than pick-up-artistry?

Posted in Relationships | 1 Comment

A Message to MGTOW


“Oh, I have still not said my final word about women.” -Arthur Schopenhauer

If modern women were familiar with the philosopher, this pronouncement would make them shudder. In this day and age, however, nobody is familiar with him–even though he was the undisputed “original hipster.” Today you can pass for a misogynist just for saying “I disagree with the idea of patriarchy,” so I have often fantasized about introducing feminists to Schopenhauer just to acquaint them with the real deal. However, as far as this quote is concerned, it was given near the end of the philosopher’s life and he was speaking with a female friend, appending these words with kind ones towards her gender. It looks like the MGTOWs have found him, but in this case Schopenhauer’s actual life is more instructive than his famous—and likely peerless—polemic against women. It is tempting to indulge in some woman-bashing alliance with the old curmudgeon, just for the thrill of uttering heretical words against a now tyrannical and sacrosanct feminism. However, we would do better to look to the man’s biography before going for that juicy invective, as it is here that we will truly find wisdom.

Believe it or not, Schopenhauer somewhat softened his position on women later in life—perhaps due to fame, or perhaps because he was not by that age assailed by that nagging drive for sex. It is also possible that he grew wiser! Furthermore, he is only really a misogynist on paper, treating women very differently in his actual life. He clearly liked women—and not just as convenient avenues for relieving his manly appetites. He quoted Byron in his personal diary: “the more I see of men, the less I like them; if I could say the same of women too, all would be well.”

This MGTOW video wants to highlight that great men could already see that marriage was a bad deal in the 19th century, when it was in fact a far better deal than it is today. This is a powerful point, to be sure. If back then it meant “to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties,” then today we need a more drastic piece of libel than Schopenhauer can offer us. However, one must keep in mind that marriage back then was hardly about romantic love, but instead, children and politics. Some people married for love, but much more often the “love story” was just that, a story to cover over unseemly practical, political, and procreative functions. There must have been enough romance at the time for Arthur to be disappointed with his parent’s marriage:

I am acquainted with women. They consider marriage only as an institution for their care. As my own father was sick and miserably confined to his wheel chair, he would have been abandoned had it not been for an old servant who performed the so-called duty of love. My Frau mother gave parties while he was wasting away in solitude and amused herself while he was suffering bitter agonies. That is the love of women!

I don’t want to get buried in a discussion about his relationship with his mother, significant as it was, so let’s just dismiss Freud for practical reasons here. Any man familiar with dating will have had plenty of experience with nasty manipulative women to base his misogyny on without needing to hate his own mother—not to mention rejection by these women, or worse, rejection by the truly desirable ones. But again, Schopenhauer was not just a misogynist: he deeply loved his sister, and was madly in love with a woman at least once. Arthur reflected to a friend that “as far as women are concerned, I was fond of them—had they only wanted to have me.” As Cartwright points out:

This summarizing reflection on his relationships with women by the sixty-eight-year-old Schopenhauer reveals one of the significant bases for his misogyny…he devalued what he desired but could not have.

He slept with plenty of women, many of them prostitutes, knocked up at least two women, and for years had a secret affair with a woman that he loved quite deeply, calling her “the only being to which I was genuinely bound.” She had agreed to follow him after he left Berlin but decided against it, breaking his heart. Another biographer, Rudiger Sfranski, notes that most of the misogyny came from “the bitterness of a rejected lover. Over and over again, Schopenhauer fell in love with women who did not want him.” The philosopher’s official misogyny must be chalked up to professional frustration, loneliness, a bad female landlord/neighbor, a selfish mother, bad dates, and a broken heart. If you sat the man down to share a pitcher of beer, he would likely have a much different take on women. He was taking his revenge on women in print, but let’s not forget that he didn’t abuse them physically in the real world.

If I were to share a pitcher with my favorite philosopher, I would remind him that nearly the first piece of wisdom given to readers of his “The Wisdom of Life” is to never trade health for any other good–and it just so happens that love and affection are extremely good for your health. However, this is easily countered: as Nietzsche so perfectly states it, women make the highs higher and the lows more frequent. Again, this is at a time when women were more “behaved” than today; so much so that they manifested hysterical symptoms from repressing so much of themselves–symptoms which pretty much disappeared along with their culture. That is, it should be uncontroversial to say that modern women are far more difficult to live with than your good, cultured German housewife of 1815. Today you might find yourself dating a “woman” who has been educated on nothing but “Sex and the City” and feminist “literature,” whose situation is far different than the German housewife, but who will expect the very same things of you–and far more. Today, marriage might mean the tripling of one’s duties and the eradication of one’s freedoms. This is what gives rise to MGTOW, though of course some men (i.e. all religious ascetics) have always gone their own way. There are all kinds of MGTOWs as well, some that are still dating, etc, but it looks like a core tenet of this movement is an acknowledgment that they are no longer capable of love. This is terribly sad. At a time in history when women have enormous social, political, and financial power, when they can provide for themselves and don’t need to rely on men so much, when they could always pursue love and not money, many nevertheless treat him with utter contempt and try to con him.

Women complain to me about being objectified physically, but I’m not sure they could fully appreciate what it would feel like to be objectified in that way, plus a host of others: to feel like you were valuable for your wallet, the social status and connections you could provide, and your looks only insofar as they make her friends jealous (raise her reputation)–or how about cannon fodder during wartime. Consider the truth in this little scene. Even when these don’t seem to be in play, and a girl seems genuinely attracted to me, this nagging doubt keeps whispering in my ear “well, she’s baby crazy, so clearly she wants your genetic material dude…if your being articulate turns her on at all, it just does so as a fitness marker—it has nothing to do with your soul, really.” This intuition was born in the 8th grade for me as I was struck by the fact that it was just words, just the right string of words and the panties dropped—it has nothing to do with who I am, really, but who I can pretend to be; what kind of show I can put on. Yes, this is precisely the same fear that women often complain about: courtship having more to do with objective, material considerations than matters of heart and soul.

Culturally, we are now, both genders, teetering on the edge of a precipice that no other species has encountered: we have lost most of the reasons to believe that love and sex aren’t just Nature’s “tricks.” We legitimately fear that women learn about a man’s mind only insofar as she needs to manipulate him in order to get resources, while the man only learns about her mind to get laid. There is this nagging suspicion hanging over everyone at the bar that whatever romantic or chummy feelings come up in this courtship are lies told by your body, later to be transformed into the lies you tell others—the “love story” of how we met, etc. Our philosopher was emphatic that the sex drive was nothing but this “trick” of Nature’s, but this also commits the genetic fallacy: who is to say what can be done with this trick? We’ve turned animal lust into the Eros that builds civilizations! Surely nobody would argue that we are incapable of spiritualizing our sexuality, but I digress…

One thing seems clear: modern women seem to expect the world to be full of gentleman without requiring there to be many ladies. They complain bitterly about men, but will shout down any criticism of women with the NAWALT reply (not all women are like that), but despite their criticisms of men, they don’t seem to have the foggiest idea what they actually want. Consider this scene (minutes 13-18). However, MGTOW philosophy is in disagreement with Schopenhauer on the NAWALT point, for they claim that women defend their gender because of innate “own-group preference,” where Schopenhauer would say the following:

A.S. womenHe would argue that women are just taking your general statements personally, while they might relish such juicy gossip when you are not around. The NAWALT reply makes some sense from a woman’s point of view, but to a man, it is difficult not to answer the claim “me and my friends aren’t like that!” with “oh, yeah? And how many of your friends have you dated?!”

Yet, the possibility of truly liberated women, without anything to prove or any gender to bash while they proved it, could begin to restore our faith in love and marriage. As Schopenhauer remarked to a female friend, “when woman succeeds in raising herself above the crowd, she grows ceaselessly and greater than a man.” He would know: look at his mother. Well, she is finally in a great position to do this! Women have enough power in society today to support themselves and seek men only for romantic companionship. So how are women behaving? (I know some damn fine women, but I mean that dreaded concept, “women in general.”)

Then there is the question of children: can women divorce themselves from their biological drive to procreate? My last girlfriend was at least twice as pessimistic as me about the state of the world and its future, agreeing that it is a crime to bring another conscious being into this mess, and yet she was entirely baby crazy. Basically modern men want women that don’t exclusively think with their vaginas, and women want men that don’t exclusively think with their dicks. What a man wants to see is some connection there between a woman’s rational outlook and their biological, emotional self—some dialogue whatsoever. Otherwise he’s terrified that this whole “romance” thing is being driven by her unconscious biological imperatives and has little to do with who he really is. It would be unfair to say that MGTOW claims women are all gold-diggers–intentional con artists. Their fear is that women are unaware of their real motives: not that they are innately selfish, but innately slaves to selfish genes. Given the fact that they don’t seem to have reliable insight into what they want from men, this is a very real fear.

Anyway, I just wanted to encourage MGTOWs not to entirely give up on the idea of romantic love, on finding women similarly detached from their social and biological imperatives, and to correct their perception of this oft-maligned philosopher. It may seem rather strange that I bring the old pessimist to the discussion in defense of love. In fact, it might look something like the following:


And truthfully, his philosophy is not likely going to help you maintain a good romantic relationship. After all, much of it is about resignation from this world–not that he fully practiced the asceticism that he preached. He wrote that the thousands of prostitutes in London were “a bloody sacrifice on the alter of monogamy.” See what your girlfriend has to say about that little gem. Besides, pessimism is almost a crime in America. I’ve personally had this argument a few times…once for simply criticizing a vapid Ted Talk:

pessimistHowever, my point is that MGTOW is nothing new and would do well to thoroughly research the great men that came before them. What needs to happen is a female version–WGTOW– so that MGTOWs would have a pool of real women to date. There are certainly plenty of these women out there.

My last love presented the beautiful possibility of a sapiosexual woman: someone who gets turned on by intelligent conversation. I’ve now downgraded my expectations to simply finding a woman who likes sex and who likes good conversation, separately. While my heart is temporarily closed for business, I still retain my ability to love and hope that I find someone to have a good conversation with for the rest of my days–someone who can touch my soul with both her voice and her hands. Whether I’d sign a standard marriage contract, however, is a question for another post.

Lastly, I’d say that I wouldn’t have been able to hang on to my hope for love if it weren’t for Rollo May’s “Love and Will,” which brilliantly articulates the cultural shift that we are the epitome of, as well as Roger Scruton’s “Sexual Desire.” For you MGTOWs out there who found anything of interest in this post, you could do no better than read Irvin Yalom’s “The Schopenhauer Cure.”

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I haven’t written on this blog for over a year and a half! Wow. I had just gone through the breakup of a 6-year relationship, had lost a job, and was failing to find a good fix for a persistent leg injury. On top of that, I started to notice that my blog posts were turning into chapters in the book I was unconsciously writing, so I finally felt ready to begin writing “The Feeling of Thought” in earnest. A few months in I fell in love again, god help me. I can only shake my head and lament with Oscar Wilde that “women…inspire us with the desire to do masterpieces, and always prevent us from carrying them out.” That year I was able to accomplish precious little with my book and it was everything I could do to get some time to write out my thoughts in some notes at the end of the day. Fast-forward and I’ve gone through a foot reconstruction surgery, another breakup, and am making another push to write my book (currently I’m about 1/4 done). However, again I’m finding surprising and disparate thoughts creep into my mind that I need to dislodge and get a good look at, lest they distract me in my main project. So I’ll pen something here from time to time, though I hope to transition to a new blog with the same title as my book. Enjoy!


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Defending A Life Of The Mind

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. -Mathew 10:16

My last post, “Against A Life Of The Mind,” warned that pursuing a life of the mind is not very useful, practical, rational, or comforting. It concluded with a warning about mere dabbling in certain mental disciplines: that adding a little bit of consciousness can be destabilizing, much like how your natural gate becomes awkward the moment you start really being aware of how you walk. However, let me make the argument for a life of the mind and explain the utility of pursuing certain mental disciplines far beyond this kind of dilettantism.

I could wax eloquent here about intellectual pleasures, the joy of epiphany, and so forth, but that won’t be very compelling to most people on a purely hedonistic level in this age of synthetic drugs and video games. Aside from just quoting Mathew 10:16, the simplest argument I can offer here is that thought is a form of violence. The disciplines of philosophy and psychology are martial arts. They are most commonly applied as offensive weapons, as a form of social judo, so one would be well advised to learn enough of them oneself to avoid being thrown off balance, manipulated, or hurt. When learned intuitively or informally, these disciplines are nearly always pursued for dominance and power, which goes by many names: influencesocial proof, status, respect, recognition, and self-esteem. People generally learn just enough of these martial arts to overpower others, but not enough to overpower themselves, as this would threaten the very security they aim to derive from such competencies. My last post facetiously advised that one forget about wisdom, virtue, etc and simply become cunning and manipulative, but the truth is that an intuitive study of philosophy and psychology is precisely how people become so. We are kinda stuck with this situation and must often fight fire with fire. That is the depressing side of my argument anyway.

The Upside


The beauty about these martial arts, whether the physical, emotional, or intellectual variety, is that the more rational thought & concentration you apply to them and the more powerful you become, the more peaceful you will be, as violence springs from powerlessness and insecurity. People are violent during their desperate pursuit of power, but are peaceful once it is within view.

Even if someone studies philosophy to overpower others with rhetoric, psychology to manipulate them emotionally, and martial arts to hurt them physically, he will eventually have to turn that will-to-power inwards, towards his own self, if he is to grow more powerful still. Thus, the truth of Blake’s dictum: “if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.” With persistence, one will discover that the carrot is always more powerful than the stick, that people are influenced far more by a leader than a cynic, and that a positive solution is always stronger than a smug criticism.

Professor Anton is correct that we cannot eradicate violence with violence, but he is referring to scapegoating and directing violence outwards, not directing it inwards to its true source. One must become one’s own best critic, an opponent to one’s self, in order to reach the highest levels of power and thankfully this has the side effect of fostering gentleness. Peace can be discovered through conflict. There are times when we need to criticize, correct, scold, and restrain, but it takes practice to learn how to do this with care. It is through proper contest that a man learns how to keep his ego in check, keep his thoughts on ice, and spare someone shame instead of always trying to win regard through disregard.


We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound or offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him. -Montaigne

A gentleman is not someone who wears “kid gloves” into every situation he encounters, for many situations require a measure of violence, whether verbal or physical. Martial arts training, in the broader sense of the term I am introducing here, produces gentleman precisely because it demands the application of measured violence. Through this training people learn the exact amount of care and gentleness that can still be preserved in various unfortunate situations. They become existentially secure, having already proven themselves in supervised and honorable contests with others. The process of producing gentlemen can only be assured, however, when both the physical and verbal/social martial arts are studied together, as man has physical, emotional, and metaphysical insecurities that incline him towards violence. The three disciplines here discussed must not only be studied persistently, but also studied together, in order that they balance each other out.

While I contend that self-awareness is a good thing, the more of it the better, it must be this well-rounded self-awareness that I describe above, otherwise it is simply neuroticism. One must be aware of the total self. Aristotle reminds us that “an education of the head without one of the heart is no education at all,” but also recall that Aristotle’s Lyceum was a gymnasium! That is, the human being is the amalgam of head, heart (really the right frontal insular cortex), and bodyPlato was a wrestler; Socrates a warrior!

Ernest Becker reminds us that madmen are the best reasoners we know and this is their undoing. The “reality head” would do well to shift his awareness from abstract matters to matters of the body and of the proverbial heart. Those obsessed with psychology often lose the objectivity and rigor of logic while nonetheless spending too much time in their heads and too little in their bodies. Those who spend all of their time concentrating on kinaesthetic matters and physical combat can lose touch with the true purpose of their training, when to apply it, as well as lose objectivity as they become consumed with ritual practice that often borders on religious compulsion. Truly living a “life of the mind” (for men, I might qualify) requires the balanced and persistent study of all three disciplines, lest some part of one’s self be overlooked, misunderstood, or sometimes over-trained. Together they provide a preventative medicine for the mind.

So there you have an argument for a life of the mind. Read on if you care to understand this ambiguous situation a little better and how it came to be.

The Birthing Pains of Consciousness

Fools and wise folk are alike harmless. It is the half-wise, and the half-foolish, who are the most dangerous. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There was a time before philosophy; a time when the human mind was not conscious of itself in the way it now is. “People” were not capable of long-term deception, rhetoric, or overt emotional terrorism. They could be cruel and nasty, just as primates are much of the time, but they were not yet capable of evil. We tend to think of such primitive times as being the most evil, but this is a mistake based on a lack of written records before the dawning of consciousness (though many early writings refer to a lost “Golden Age”). People in prehistory actually suffered far less than we do, not only because true deception and manipulation were impossible, but also because they couldn’t consciously recall past suffering or imagine future horrors. They were non-conscious: largely confined to the specious present and the memory cues available in their immediate environment. This is what grounds the idea of a “noble savage,” by the way, though he was not so much noble and virtuous as simply incapable of true evil.

Julian Jaynes describes the breakdown of this bicameral mind, but it’s a mistake to think of this as a single precipitous break. In fact, Jaynes describes four stages, and it is the first stage that is actually the most terrible. In our ancient, hunter-gatherer existence, it is true that wars were fought, but tribal leaders hardly endeavored to “conquer the world.” Furthermore, these tribal leaders didn’t rule with an iron fist, as this post explained. They didn’t need to because the tribe was held together by myth and mutual reliance. The breakdown came from the mixing of huge tribes and the conflict of their many incommensurate myths, customs, and languages–the same situation we are presently in, if you will notice. Thus consciousness was born as an offensive weapon for destroying the gods of your enemy, or defensively, for hiding ones true beliefs and feelings while being ruled by foreign overlords. It hasn’t really lost its edge in the last few thousand years either, has it. This is why cocktail party discussions about religion, politics, or metaphysics get so heated. Our body codes a moral threat (a threat to our myth/worldview) as a physical assault, because it was blind adherence to that very myth that ensured inclusion in the tribe and thus physical security.

It is highly instructive to notice that the nastiest times in human history occur in the first stage of the emergence of consciousness, when there is just enough to deploy deception, emotional terrorism, and religion as political control, but not enough for the populace to use these weapons against their overlords or to give these overlords a crisis of conscience. Similarly, in modern times, which are infused with consciousness to begin with, this little bit of consciousness initially acts to weaponize the disciplines under discussion and bring out the worst in them. Thankfully some people discover true power in the process and can stop acting out of pure insecurity. Over historical time, conscious awareness eventually gave us rule by law, philosophy, history, science, etc. However, in modern psychosexual development people usually get stuck in the first one or two stages, using consciousness as a blunt instrument to gain social power. Furthermore, once they reach a plateau of such power, any further researches and study seem to undermine their intuitive and aggressive application of these disciplines. Even the seasoned street fighter largely stays away from formal martial arts training lest it mess up his intuitive fighting style and thoughtless aggression. If consciousness is such an effective weapon, why do social predators usually avoid becoming terribly self-aware regarding their art? Why don’t they use more rational thought and study their discipline formally?

Martial Prowess After The Birth Of Consciousness

The monks who developed Shaolin Kung Fu thought that humans didn’t have natural fighting instincts and therefore proceeded to observe and imitate those of animals. The truth is that conscious humans don’t have fighting instincts, or rather, these are obfuscated by man’s very consciousness. In bicameral times, the martial arts did not exist. In fact, courage didn’t exist, because homo sapiens didn’t have free choice or knowledge of what death really meant. This allowed these humans to push their ligaments and muscles incredibly hard, just as animals do. They could fly into battle with such reckless abandon that they were likely able to perform physical feats beyond what a conscious human could possibly demand of himself. As “humans” evolved, primitive culture allowed for the propagation of spear-throwing and club wielding techniques, which co-evolved with “human” morphology, such that throwing a spear just kinda feels natural for the human form. Thus, non-conscious humans learned hunting and fighting intuitively through serious play. When consciousness was added to the equation quite recently, however, real trickery entered human warfare, of the Sun Tzu variety. Suddenly men could use courage to face down the intimidating charge of an enemy, baiting him into over-committing, and so forth. The conscious human mind was suddenly becoming far more important in determining success in combat than the physical attributes of an individual’s body. However, in this process “people” lost that natural berserker aggression, that “animal courage” of the mythical Achilles. From the emergence of self-awareness on, this natural, intuitive grace and confidence has had an uneasy relationship with the rational mind, which can blunt the former with indecision and prudence, but also hone it to finer edge. This uneasy relationship is what gave birth to the martial arts.

Consciousness not only exposed humans to their own mortality, disrupting their natural confidence, but similarly disrupted their intuitive theory of mind and worldview. Thus the verbal/social martial arts were born in order to preserve, recover, or replace a lost certainty and deal with a new and increasingly ambiguous world.

WMDs (Weaponized Mental Disciplines)

Jaynes implicitly describes consciousness as a mental weapon developed under the pressure to cope with, and defend oneself against, alien peoples of unintelligible languages and unpredictable behaviour competing for the same habitat, i.e. space, or means of subsistence. -Walter Ratjen (2013 Jaynes Conference)

Consciousness first emerged as a mental weapon. For the most part, humans still wield this weapon much as any primate would: to seduce and manipulate each other, to climb the social hierarchy, and generally to stress each other the hell out. We tend to think of consciousness as some kind of immense power that we wield, some great advantage we enjoy over the animals, as it is largely responsible for our domination of the natural world. However, while it is true that we are the most successful predator on the planet, this has also rendered us the most likely prey. Consciousness is a rather mixed blessing when it comes down to it. Though it has added true love to the lust of pair-bonding, it also added anxiety to fear, hatred to anger, guilt to shame, and so forth. Hold on, aren’t I supposed to be defending a “life of the mind”? Let me explain something about “minds.”

Animals have minds–they just aren’t conscious ones. Primates, for instance, have theory of mind–it just hasn’t been weaponized yet. Some animals even have primitive, non-conscious cultures, perpetuated by imitation, but “a life of the mind” is not possible for them. While man was still a pre-conscious animal he yet developed incredibly sophisticated cultures that began to allow him to experience himself, albeit through projected deities, hallucinatory fugues, and so forth. The imagination had man, instead of man having an imagination (largely the state that small children live in, if you will notice). This was the mythical “golden age,” when non-conscious religion organized human societies via a non-conscious “operating system.” However, when this operating system broke down, various mental disciplines were weaponized, a word that we use to describe the forging of something potentially dangerous into something stupendously harmful. A blade, for example, is not inherently a weapon; it can be used as a surgical scalpel or a shank. Similarly, consciousness is not inherently good or evil, but radically empowers either possibility. However, I highly doubt that the first blade was used for medical purposes, so true is Heraclitus’ dictum that “war is the father of all things,” and the same is true of consciousness. For instance, religion used to be a shared mythos that held a tribe together and preserved forms of non-conscious wisdom that helped them survive and get along together, but add consciousness and you see religion produce The Crusades! Similarly, in modern society, kids who haven’t reached the so-called “age of reason” can be cruel, but they are hardly capable of real evil. Add a little bit of reflective self-awareness and you see kids get really nasty. Though these diabolical little creatures have “minds,” these minds are entirely dedicated to monkey politics and they hardly enjoy a “life of the mind,” which is positively discouraged for the most part, as schools generally pursue an agenda of domestication, not empowerment.

My favorite disciplines to study are psychology, philosophy, and physical combat, which you will notice are not included in the curriculum of most schools. Nevertheless, everyone pursues a shallow study of each, half-consciously, but with just enough consciousness to weaponize them. Though the higher primates can be extremely cruel and fight bitter duels over mating rights, gang up on individuals and kill them, etc, it takes conscious humans to be evil enough to bully an individual physically, emotionally, and intellectually to the point that he mutilates or kills himself

When learned intuitively or informally, these disciplines are nearly always pursued for dominance and power, as I mentioned. This will-to-power manifests initially as physical combat in the form of play-fighting, rough-housing and sports, progresses to psychological play-fighting in the form of teasing and ball-busting, and then finally culminates in rhetorical sparring and every form of priggish snobbery imaginable (most commonly political or religious). While we generally think of physical violence as the worst kind of such aggression, the sad fact is that self-awareness itself opens the human mind to enormous amounts of anxiety–some call this existential guilt–and this insecurity is taken out on others in ways that are hardly preferable to a little schoolyard shoving match.

The martial discipline of philosophy is deployed in the forms of biting rhetoric, harsh criticism, needless contrarianism, scientism, and religious fundamentalism, to name a few. Plato remarked that “rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men” and I don’t need to remind everyone that teenagers generally act more like tyrants than philosopher kings. In schools today, the emotional insult of “dumb ass” slowly begins to grow more barbed and articulate as kids figure out the cognitive errors of their compatriots and start to reveal them with immense glee. Schopenhauer astutely pointed out that social intercourse is often governed by the following maxim: “to disregard is to win regard.” This might as well be the clarion call of the modern age, where science is paraded about in the form of scientism more often than not, allowing people to cut down each other’s beliefs at will with a glib “that’s a myth” or “prove it!” without ever having to state any positive beliefs of their own. The delight that people derive from criticizing each other’s political and religious positions is just incredible, when you think about it. Humans are much more interested in proving their superiority and mocking their fellows than in finding god or enjoying good governance, it seems. This basic sentiment was expressed well by Oscar Wilde when he stated that “morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people that we personally dislike.”

The discipline of psychology usually takes the form of gaslighting, emotional terrorism, overzealous teasing, as well as essentially being a jerk and denying a fundamentally social animal the solace of inclusion and brotherhood. There are just too many forms to even scratch the surface of this martial art, but one will recognize the violence often hidden in the backhanded compliment, the loaded question, the humble-brag, and many other psycho-martial techniques that are all, as Ernest Becker might call them, “petitions for self-worth” at the expense of another’s. Physical play-fighting often becomes too violence simply because kids don’t know the rules (ie whether a knuckle in the ribs is a fair move in playful wrestling). Similarly, there is nobody establishing the rules for a fair contest of ball-busting, leaving every little cadre of kids to work out among themselves where to draw the line between public character assassination and simple kidding.

The physical martial arts hardly progress past physical coercion and bullying except when combined with these verbal/social forms. It should go without saying that these disciplines are most often combined in some manner, such as when an emotionally hurtful ad hominem is added to one’s rhetoric while aggressively leaning towards the interlocutor. The more consciousness is added to these pursuits, the more insidious they become initially.

It is not ferocity but cunning that strikes fear into the heart and forebodes danger; so true it is that the human brain is a more terrible weapon than the lion’s paw. -Schopenhauer

Peace Through Conflict

Again, I am not suggesting that even these “weaponized” mental disciplines are evil, for they each have their own utility. Competition makes life interesting. I’d far prefer to discuss politics than how the Yankees are doing, even if my partner in the discussion is a snob. Intellectual sparring, even if it gets nasty, at least motivates thinking and spares us from the boredom of small talk. Similarly, teasing has many uses, especially when it doesn’t go too far. There were plenty of awkward, weird things that I did, said, or thought that I am thankful to my friends for disabusing me of. Teasing can be its own form of care and a gesture of solidarity. Gossip has been a check on the powerful for a very long time. Regarding physical violence, this helps develop physical strength, knowledge of where you stand in the pecking order, and if done right, a sort of “unit cohesion” and trust. But this all worked better in tribal or “village” life and easily goes awry in the modern metropolis where we hardly rely on those we went to school with even if we did bond with them, trust them, and develop a “team” mentality. We are on our own in modern society and cannot rely on the “tribe,” our buds, the team, or whatever. This is why the personal practice of the “martial arts,” as I’ve been using the term, is so necessary. In modern society, the violence that we see is not the result of too much martial arts training, but too little, as the martial arts afford an incredible opportunity for a real moral education. One can gain many life lessons from a street fight.

Ernest Becker argued that human beings are fundamentally conflicted, having two opposed drives: Eros and Agape. Agape is like people’s naive vision of peace or heaven: an eternal melting into the mother’s breast, acceptance, safety, etc. Eros is the desire for expansion, challenge, individuation. The warrior has nearly always sought acceptance by the tribe (Agape) by means of proving himself in competition with his fellows (Eros) towards the ultimate purpose of joining his brothers in the hunt or in battle (Eros again)–this is how he aligned the two antagonistic motives. The desire for expansion is an expansion of self, beyond one’s current self, such that an agon within the soul is sought; a competition with ones self, often by means of internalized hero figures (Plato’s Socrates for Plato, etc). We expand and grow by competition and conflict, not by tolerance, acceptance, Agape, or peace (in the naive sense). The male spirit (“thumos”) must be sated, it must grow powerful, otherwise it will not be at peace, but will feel vulnerable, unproven, unworthy and it is out of this insecurity that it becomes pathologically violent. The martial arts both humble the ego and encourage the spirit, and this is done through conflict, not chanting “love, love, love.” Furthermore, men need to learn to withstand and dispense measured violence, as the earlier Montaigne quote aptly gets across. Internal peace is not the absence of conflict–this would just be a dull mental emptiness–but instead, a system of tensions and compromises resulting from many iterations of contest and turmoil simmering into a semi-stable, but also flexible equilibrium. It is this form of peace that still allows for a passionate life.

Just as the martial arts were born of an uneasy relationship between the conscious, rational mind and ones intuitive “animal courage,” so too are the verbal martial arts born of such existential insecurity. The more you learn the more you discover your own ignorance. The more psychology you read, the more unsettled you are likely to become as you realize how mad we all are. It is out of this deep insecurity that people lash out at others, using what little they have learned as a blunt weapon to externalize their own pain. This is why a well-rounded martial arts curriculum can both render people far more peaceful and act as preventative medicine for the mind. The equilibrium of peace is forged from countless painful contests which are best performed under some kind of guidance and supervision. Instead, we leave kids to figure this all out on their own.

The physical martial arts really shouldn’t be taught without some kind of “verbal judo.” I’ve talked my way out of every street fight that has ever come looking for me. Usually this can be done with humor, irony, and other verbal tools that are actually the greatest countermeasure to the emotional warfare described above. When it comes down to actually saving your life and limb, martial arts schools should really dedicate at least half of their class time to discussing human (and primate!) psychology, “social jiu jitsu,” and so forth. They should be places that teach shame-inoculation in addition to stress-inoculation; places where the human-all-too-human can be laughed at and accepted in the same class. There is no better place to teach kids how to manage their own egos than a place where there egos are not the only parts of them that could get bruised. Receiving carefully controlled blows toughens one’s hide against sticks and stones, while taking carefully controlled criticisms and taunts thickens one’s skin against words. The dojo should be a school that teaches the brotherly art of un-love. This is how guys prefer to bond anyway, you might have noticed. Humans require physical touch and need to accept their bodies, but dudes prefer a punch on the shoulder to a lingering embrace in this regard.

Alfred Adler wrote that “neurosis and psychosis are modes of expression for human beings who have lost courage,” while Ernest Becker adds that this is the same as “a failure of heroism.” The martial arts were developed precisely to instill courage in an animal who had suddenly become conscious of the certainty of its own death and was thus exposed to anxiety, indecision, doubt and the threat of meaninglessness. Bullies strike at a rather compromised animal, so what better means of protection than a discipline that teaches courage and gives its practitioners a firm rooting in their own bodies? Why would we leave this to a PE teacher or Football coach? It also baffles me really that most McDojo’s still teach nothing but kata, punches and kicks. Why not discuss the psychology of violence? Why not also hold debates on fiery topics to stress-test a kids ability to control himself? The Dojo shouldn’t necessarily be where we teach our kids to think, but it seems a rather ideal place to teach them to feel. To the modern mind, making loud screams and breaking boards seems to be a rather foolish, even laughable act of a childish mind, but inside every man is child who just wants to play, Nietzsche reminds us. Our modern world requires far too much instrumental reason from us already.

Madmen are the greatest reasoners we know, and that trait is one of the accompaniments of their undoing. All their vital processes are shrunken into the mind. What is the one thing they lack that sane men possess? The ability to be careless, to disregard appearances, to relax and laugh at the world…

…the only secure truth men have is that which they themselves create and dramatize; to live is to play at the meaning of life. The upshot of this whole tradition of thought is that it teaches us once and for all that childlike foolishness is the calling of mature men. Just this way Rank prescribed the cure for neurosis: as the ‘need for legitimate foolishness.’ The problem of the union of religion, psychiatry, and social science is contained in this one formula. -Ernest becker

There simply is no better, more natural source of such “legitimate foolishness” than the martial arts. Male children especially are quite fascinated with violence and all of its many tools. This natural curiosity can be used to teach them about their own will and instruct them as to the proper objects of their desires to compete, to overcome, to protect, etc. Furthermore, it can be used to promote discussion about philosophical topics like justice, virtue, and evil. The verbal sparring involved in debate is a perfect proving ground for moral and emotional maturity. One must be able to keep his thoughts on ice in debate, which is excellent training for keeping your cool generally. Personally, I don’t really fully trust any man until I’ve argued with him or sparred with him, as you must interact with someone’s ego under harsh conditions to really gauge its stability and security. In George A. Miller’s history of psychology he describes Henry Jame’s method of raising his children.

He (H. James) organized his family into one of the most high-spirited and exclusive debating clubs in all history…

…It would be difficult to devise a better way to learn to think for oneself, or to learn that intellectual combat need not interfere with personal affection.

In fact, neither physical nor intellectual combat need interfere with personal affection, and can often form an incredibly solid foundation for it. Though Plato is right that rhetoric is the art of governing the minds of men, so too can it be turned inwards in order to govern a man’s own mind. The will-to-power need not lead to megalomania. Man’s natural yearnings simply need to be educated and turned inwards. Aristotle tells us that “wit is educated insolence” and that “anger is a gift”! Instead, for decades we have chosen to tell boys that their natural insolence and aggression are either culturally conditioned evil or the natural evil of their primitive nature. We have tried to educate them as we would girls, hoping to make them more peaceful and cooperative. Instead, a man’s natural fighting spirit is either directed at the market and the scene at the bar, or it is drowned in alcohol and mindless television as the life slowly fades from his eyes like a caged gorilla. Educators should have been trying to stimulate these natural curiosities and direct them beyond the intuitive goals of self-serving competence, but as stated earlier, education is more about indoctrination and domestication than promoting a life of the mind.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. -William Blake

The workhorse of philosophy is the reductio ad absurdum. Sometimes one just needs to take things to their absolute limit in order to see the flawed logic or the wisdom in the contrary view. For instance, if you think that causality invalidates the idea of free will, you would do well to take this to its logical conclusion and ask yourself if anything at all is free. The determinist is inclined to answer in the negative, but if nothing whatsoever is free, then how does one explain energy, matter, motion, evolution, or anything for that matter? Is the world not freely existing or “worlding?” You see, this debate is so intractable because diametrically opposed motives drive the whole thing: Eros for free will; Agape for determinism. The above method of purging a certain view of its own flaws must be applied to the topic of violence. When this is done, one will find that the natural male fascination with violence and power (Eros), is equally just a plea for security, acceptance, and love (Agape).

People simply can’t fathom a certain paradox of human nature: that to find the light one might need to endure a dark night of the soul; that to combat cynicism one might need to become increasingly more cynical, pushing through cynicism to the “post-cynical;” that to find non-delusional optimism one might need to pursue pessimism to its very limits; that to promote peace people might need to study warfare; that to prevent violence we might need to empower people. The writer of Mathew understood this, advising us to be wise and innocent; cunning and gentle. While ‘wisdom’ and ‘innocence’ are antonyms, there is no contradiction in this council. Hopefully this essay has allowed you to see how one can eventually lead to the other and that someone could hold them both in a healthy tension.

Posted in Consciousness, Education, Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations, Human Movitation, Martial Arts, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | 1 Comment

Against A Life Of The Mind

“Wisdom is knowing what to overlook.” -William James

I recently published a post criticizing an article titled “Philosophy: A Diseased Discipline,” which offered as “wisdom” the suggestion that we would do well to overlook most of philosophy, as it is a hopelessly muddled and obscure practice that isn’t very “useful.” I wish to offer a counter-position to my own post, which criticized this view, for there is in deed a sense in which the practice of philosophy is quite “irrational.”

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. -Ecclesiastes 1:18

The author in question is right that philosophy isn’t very “useful” if he means that it is unlikely to get you a job, a date, or relieve your anxieties about the world. In fact, the practice positively compounds most of the ills of modern life. The more you learn about the world, the more of its suffering you are exposed to. The greater your consciousness, the more pain you are capable of feeling. The more possibilities you see, the more anxiety you face. The more you learn the more you will discover how truly ignorant you are, which is rather discouraging. Philosophy is liable to make you humble and virtuous, which are terrible traits to possess in the modern world. To the extent that you cultivate some intellectual superiority through the practice of philosophy (which is impossible to hide for long), you will alienate those around you, especially those who have more financial and social power than you. No boss wants to be out-shined intellectually. Women are interested in being seduced, not enlightened by your words. Do recall what Oscar Wilde said about romance. Virtually no modern career requires general knowledge or wisdom, but only specialization. In fact, there is pretty much nothing except intimate friendship, which is nearly impossible to sustain amid the modern rat race anyway, that will reward your investment in your mind, in growing a soul worth having. So perhaps the author of the above Less Wrong post gives us wisdom in James’s sense and we really can overlook philosophy. He would remind us of something Oscar Wilde learned:

It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.

If I were to really give a young boy “wise” council on life and success, I’d tell him to forget about truth, honor, justice, virtue, and wisdom, but instead, become fierce and cunning, treacherous and deceptive, while hiding all such things under the confident and amiable visage of a sociopath in suit and tie. There is a path to success that society will actually reward. Preserve a piece of your true self and your knowledge of the true narrative just so that you can keep the various stories straight in your head and avoiding tripping over your own lies. There are pills that will help you sleep at night; pills to help you go all day. Their are pills that will dull the existential despair; pills that will enliven an empty and meaningless life. Boredom will hover over your secure little life like a bird of prey, but massive industries exist to distract you and they only appear to be growing larger and more sensational. Now go get-em slugger!

As you may have guessed, I write all of this with a sense of irony and duplicity, but I’m not being insincere. The real message, if you caught the irony, is not that philosophy truly is a diseased discipline, but that we are a truly diseased culture if the practice of philosophy can only hinder your flourishing in it. There is a lot of crap philosophy out there, true; but there is also a lot of crap science out there, crap law, and crap food, but we should hardly dispense with science, law, and food now should we. Besides, William James reminds us that all that is required to be a philosopher is to hate someone else’s way of thinking; that anger and indignation can be a great spur to intellectual activity. However, be warned that the benefits of a life of the mind often don’t cover the costs, depending on what kind of benefits you seek and how much suffering you can endure, of course.

The running joke among philosophy TA’s at UCLA while I was there was that “a Ba will teach you just enough philosophy to fuck you up.” They weren’t kidding. Be warned: my three fields of interest (philosophy, psychology, and physical combat) are not to be “dabbled” in, as a little knowledge will probably do more harm than good, absent further dedication. Each man forms an intuitive worldview that will most likely be entirely shattered by a little reading. Each man has an intuitive theory of mind, which again will probably be violently upset by a little study, unleashing torrents of anxiety into a feeble consciousness hardly built to fathom its own existence. Each man develops an intuitive fighting style that is always hobbled when he first tries to apply rational thought to it (though he will nonetheless probably still be lulled into a false sense of security). Therefore, if you already live with some sense of peace, whether by means of ignorance, beer & football, or a hipster Buddhist lobotomy, you should absolutely stick with that method. Dabbling in the above arts not only threatens to disrupt one’s natural grace and sense of security, but worse, renders one more dangerous to other people when this awkward phase is surpassed, as these disciplines are usually pursued (at first) for power. However, if you are already in this awkward phase or beyond it, I’m afraid the only way out of the hole you dug yourself into is to keep digging until you reach the other side.

Posted in Consciousness, Education, Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations, Human Movitation, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | 2 Comments

Materialism Is Magical

It recently struck me that the philosophical materialism that I most commonly run into is secretly an extremely anthropomorphic view. To assume that matter is “inert” or “unfree” assumes that it has intentions that are being thwarted; that it “wants” to go somewhere and is being impeded by something. This “something” is usually other materials or the “laws” that supposedly “govern” them all. As it happens though, water, rocks, and light are perfectly content to go wherever they happen to go; to just “be,” or to be jostled and moved by any other objects or forces. They don’t care. They have no intentions. If anything, one would think that they would prefer to bounce off other materials or forces, as this would allow them to do things that they otherwise couldn’t do under “their own steam,” so to speak. I’ll remind the reader that it is ironically the resistance of the water around you that allows you to swim. But, after all, non-living things in nature don’t care one way or the other.

I really don’t know how people can countenance this sort of materialism given modern physical theory, quantum mechanics, etc. Physics tells us that stable as something like a rock appears to be, it is nonetheless in constant motion at the atomic and smaller levels. The rock just “appears” to be inert, to be “in-animate,” while it is, in fact, constantly and freely “rock-ing.”

The view I’m attacking here commits another blunder in addition to anthromophizing materials and forces: it reifies physical “laws” as if they were physical objects, like rocks, that could limit or stop the motion of another object. This reification makes people assume that “Gravity” governs the Earth’s orbit, instead of realizing that the Earth, the Sun, etc actively and freely gravitate. That is, their mass is what accounts for the attraction, while this attraction hardly issues from some metaphysical plane outside the universe like a puppeteers hands. There is simply no reason to view the Earth as being “controlled” or “governed” by gravity; no reason to assume the Earth is “controlled” by the Sun rather than “liberated” into a regular and orderly orbit. That is, no reason unless you assume the Earth “wants” freedom from this orderly orbit!

You see, scientific laws do not ultimately “explain” reality, they describe reality. In fact, they usually only describe the limits of the freedom of a given phenomenon. Thus, the speed of light ‘c’ is only the limit on how fast light can travel, while it is perfectly free to be slowed down to all manner of speeds. If we create some grand unified theory and all the known forces of nature are described by a single, one-line equation, their still remain the questions of 1) why does that exact equation happen to describe everything (ie why is everything like this)?, 2) why is there so much of this “everything” for such an equation to describe?, and 3) what is this grand unified thing or force that this equation describes so precisely and efficiently (ie what is matter/energy)? The equation might describe how things move, but it cannot explain why they move, or why they do so at this rate, or why they always have, etc. Another remaining question would be, “why all the diversity; why does the universe, as explained by this unified theory, bifurcate and diverge into all manner of phenomena as it manifestly does?” The force or forces of nature remain, as Schopenhauer argued, qualitas occulta even after science has ultimately run its course. To quote a prior post of mine:

Nature is not governed by law. Nature is lawful, meaning full of law-like phenomenon. Forces are not distinct from matter-in-motion. Forces are matter-in-motion

Nature is full of law-like or orderly phenomenon, but there is nothing outside nature ordering it. This order is simply the limit of the free powers of nature. So if rocks, water, light and the Earth are free in this sense, where does this leave the Free Will debate? Could we be the most complex known combination of all of these active and free forces and thus deserve the moniker, as this prior post argues? Living things can be said to have purposes which can be hindered by objects and forces. But again, it is the resistance of water that allows movement while swimming, coupled with the energy and force inherent to the human body itself, of course. So if gravity has you down, remember you wouldn’t be free to run along the Earths surface without this being so.

Posted in Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations | Leave a comment

‘Less Wrong’ Than You Might Think Pt3 – Philosophical Intuitions

“A man is well equipped for all the real necessities of life if he trusts his senses, and so cultivates them that they remain worthy of being trusted.” -Goethe

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” -Albert Einstein

“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover.” -Henry Poincaré

The first post in this series argued that people might lack good introspective access to their own will not because introspection is inherently weak, but to the contrary, because they introspect too rarely and are out of practice. The Less Wrongians argument is rather vapid, as you certainly wouldn’t criticize Calculus just because most people are terrible at it. Instead, you would demand they practice their Calculus, not read a bunch of heuristics and biases literature to find out why they don’t care to practice their Calculus! They seem to think that humans have “instincts” instead of sensitive imprinting periods for certain cognitive skills, and proceed to criticize these instincts in order to convince us how relevant Less Wrong is and how much we need its deep wisdom to overcome our animal nature. If Pinker’s “language instinct” is right, should we criticize this instinct when people speak poorly, or should we tell them to buy a dictionary and simply try to express themselves more eloquently? Sadly, the Less Wrongians prefer the former in every case I’ve reviewed, attacking introspection, intuitions, and even, in this case, the whole of philosophy, as it often involves arguments based on intuition. The latter post attacks the greater part of both Analytic and Continental philosophy as being useless, but what they really mean is that it won’t help you build an AI or become more “rational.” Would they similarly criticize romantic poetry as well? Totally useless because it won’t make you more rational or help you code the next iPad app? This is laughable.

We do not have instinctual intuitions; our intuition can be informed and educated. What better tool for this than philosophy? Even reading through bad arguments helps update your intuition: this is why they still teach you outmoded physical theories when you study Physics at university. By this author’s logic we should also scrap “Science” and start over, given the pessimistic meta-induction.

Do they have no respect for Einstein, who read Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and many others; a man who claimed that he thought with his muscles? Do they have no respect for cognitive scientists like Pinker, whose books are replete with references and ideas from mainstream philosophy? They claim to have respect for Dan Dennett, but don’t seem to have read any of his books, which are also replete with references to mainstream philosophy quoted with great admiration. The book “Inside Jokes,” which Michael Vassar lent to me, admits that it doesn’t really make much progress on Arthur Schopenhauer’s incongruity-resolution model, despite having the advantage of all of this lofty “cognitive science.”

Here is a fun line to think about:

As Michael Vassar observes, philosophers are “spectacularly bad” at understanding that their intuitions are generated by cognitive algorithms.

What is wrong with “cognitive algorithms” and why is this so important for philosophers to understand? Birds that need to migrate South have such cognitive algorithms in their little noggins and they appear to be highly reliable. Humans have far more highly evolved algorithms and can even update them. Not all algorithms are of equal utility or quality, so shouldn’t the philosopher simply be more interested in distinguishing good from bad intuitions, or better still, which intuitions to use when? As it happens, this is precisely what they do all day. Its like the author of this post doesn’t think that philosophers can be skeptical about their own minds and knowledge! This is preposterous! Ever heard of a philosophical school called Skepticism or a branch of philosophy called Epistemology? Ever consider that these gave birth to your precious Science? Ever consider that epistemology and skepticism were first intuitions? Apparently not.

The post reveals its own biggest bias in its claim that “humans are loaded with biases.” “Loaded” with biases? My god, its a wonder we all don’t just accidentally choose to bite into our own flesh or put our babies in the microwave! “Loaded” with biases? Not even cognitive scientists talk like this: they respectfully point out where we naturally make bad inferences and so forth, while acknowledging how truly magnificent the human brain is most of the time. Scientists similarly point out where our senses tend to prove unreliable, but they hardly claim that our senses are “loaded” with error, my god!

Less Wrong is clearly its own dogmatic religion, something it ironically attacks with immense glee. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to have a very nuanced understanding of neuroscience. Certain posts mention the “baloney generator” in the left hemisphere, referring to Gazzaniga’s “interpreter module,” but then glorify left hemisphere capabilities to the complete exclusion of the right hemisphere, somehow failing to see that it is the former that produces the tendencies of religious dogmatism. They need to read some McGilchrist.

The post claims that “a few naturalistic philosophers are doing some useful work.” “Some useful work”!?! Naturalistic philosophers built Science, humanism, the enlightenment, and Less Wrong writes the enterprise off as largely useless? This is preposterous. Have some respect. This post is just impossibly arrogant:

Philosophy has grown into an abnormally backward-looking discipline. Scientists like to put their work in the context of what old dead guys said, too, but philosophers have a real fetish for it. Even naturalists spend a fair amount of time re-interpreting Hume and Dewey yet again.

So looking back is some kind of vice? History contains no lessons? This author could use a “fair amount of time re-interpreting Hume and Dewey yet again” himself, not to mention quite a few other “old dead guys.” Oh but he has, claiming to have based some of his hypotheses (such as the above) on his “thousands of hours in the literature.” He doesn’t seem to have learned much in those thousands of hours if his central hypothesis is that these thousands of hours were a waste of his time. Does he not see that he undermines his own authority here? He doesn’t even recommend reading Quine, one of the few philosophers he seems to have some respect for:

Update: To be clear, though, I don’t recommend reading Quine. Most people should not spend their time reading even Quinean philosophy; learning statistics and AI and cognitive science will be far more useful.

“Useful” for what? That is the meat of the issue. He means, “useful for building AI or building a new iPad app.” Go figure, studying AI will be more “useful” for building AI! As for building a soul worth having, I’d recommend reading some old dead guys. As for trying to understand your deepest self, I’d recommend looking to authors who wouldn’t write this self off as just “cognitive algorithms,” as if that was very useful or enlightening.

Bob: “What is your deepest longing in this world, your brightest dream, Dave?” Dave: “Who cares, longings and dreams are just cognitive algorithms.”

Bob: “What is ‘love,’ Dave?” Dave: “Just pair bonding instincts, Bob.”

Is this what passes for knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment these days? Is this what passes for “useful” and “cutting-edge” philosophy? The author of this post thinks that instead of studying the dry words of dead men we should make progress by “scrapping the whole mess and starting from scratch with a correct understanding of language, physics, and cognitive science.” Does he not realize that this “correct understanding of language, physics, and cognitive science” was born of “the whole mess” and would be nothing without it? The author continues:

Eliezer made most of his philosophical progress on his own, in order to solve problems in AI, and only later looked around in philosophy to see which standard position his own theory was most similar to.

Aha. “In order to solve problems in AI.” Again we meet the heart of the issue. Go figure that Eliezer would have to blaze new trails in contributing to a brand new field. But was he really blazing trails, given that he found “standard position[s]” that “his own theory was…similar to”?

AI is useful because it keeps you honest: you can’t write confused concepts or non-natural hypotheses in a programming language.

Really? You can’t write confused concepts in a programming language? Ever used Microsoft Vista?

Of course, there is mainstream philosophy that is both good and cutting-edge: the work of Nick Bostrom and Daniel Dennett stands out.

Does this guy not realize that Dennett has enormous respect for much of philosophy and defends a compatiablist notion of Free Will?

But if you’re looking to solve cutting-edge problems, mainstream philosophy is one of the last places you should look. Try to find the answer in the cognitive science or AI literature first

Did this guy never think to himself before leveling broad attacks at “mainstream philosophy” that it might be responsible for solving all of those used-to-be-cutting-edge problems that now make way for the new ones he endeavors to work on? Baffling.

Swimming the murky waters of mainstream philosophy is perhaps a job best left for those who already spent several years studying it – that is, people like me. I already know what things are called and where to look, and I have an efficient filter for skipping past the 95% of philosophy that isn’t useful to me. And hopefully my rationalist training will protect me from picking up bad habits of thought.

Ah, I see…so I should avoid reading most of philosophy and instead simply rely on you, oh great swami!?! What makes him think that “what is useful to [him]” is useful to the rest of us? Many people might be seeking truth, wisdom, insight, moral growth, and the expansion of their consciousness and mental freedom instead of confining the “useful” to building a superintelligence that might make up for his dearth of intelligence, given the pathetic meat-computer he is working with, “loaded with biases” and all.

After finally admitting that philosophy is unavoidable, as we all wake up in the morning as homo sapiens, with the problems endemic to our species, he goes and says the following:

you’re probably better off trying to solve the problem by thinking like a cognitive scientist or an AI programmer than by ingesting mainstream philosophy.

So the really tough problems in ones life, like “what is a meaningful use of my time here?” or “should I stay with this girl?” or “why should I not pursue my narrow self-interest alone?”…these problems are better solved by thinking like an AI programmer? This encapsulates all of my aversion to the Less Wrong blog: it preaches to the choir, advocating that computer programmers and math geeks study more programming and math in order to better their lives, instead of studying their own human nature and grappling with the fact that they are a homo sapien. No, better to study statistics and long for a transhumanist future free of the problems of being human than to simply master your own humanity, order your will, and build a soul worth having.

But why must I rely on Less Wrong, given that “nearly all these terms and ideas have standard names outside of Less Wrong”? What have they contributed to philosophy outside of their ideas about AI? If this is what “cutting edge philosophy” looks like, you can count me out. The job of philosophy is not to promote science nor to build a computer superintelligence. The job of philosophy is to build better men, free their minds, and contribute meaning, passion, and clarity to their lives. This is what is “useful” about it. Furthermore, as Russell would say, “there is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge,” so perhaps “useful” should not be the goal governing all of your learning. To the Less Wrongian wondering what use philosophy might have for him, I would again turn to Russell for advice:

To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.

Posted in Education, Free Will and Responsibility, General Observations | 1 Comment

Emotional Terrorism–Towards A Workable Definition


‘Emotional Terrorism’ is a great term, but it is in danger of losing all meaning and utility precisely because of the grand scope of its potential applicability or aptness. This post is an attempt to pin down a good working definition. This article’s use of the term, for instance, is virtually worthless. This article gets closer, sometimes supplementing the appropriate term ’emotional blackmail.’ Why the difficulty and ambiguity? First of all, ‘terrorism’ itself is extremely difficult to define. However, the core of the difficulty for our present discussion is the following:

  • Human beings want to be liked, accepted, and long to feel safe knowing they are part of a tribe. To be ostracized meant certain death during most of the history of our species and we therefore interpret bullying, rejection, and isolation as threats to our very existence, while the fact that today we physically survive hardly ablates the feeling of being symbolically dead.

However, I want to restrict the term in question to something far more specific, lest I go on ranting about “negging” at bars, cyber bullying, and every form of snobbery & rudeness. This is no easy task, for technically, the negative takeaway, threatening to leave at the drop of a hat, could be a form of ET if the person has fallen sufficiently in love with the purported terrorist, but this maneuver is easily spotted and is too broad or vague to help us with our definition. This definition will not do, for emotional abuse is more properly just “emotional warfare,” not “emotional terrorism.” While a show of blunt military power can be meant to “terrorize” or cow a nation into submission, the threat is actually directed at the other nation’s own military power, not its civilians, per se. We invented the word terrorism for a reason. In a romantic relationship, arguments and the threat of arguments are a necessity and could be considered a “just war,” in the analogy, with mistakes and misunderstandings being “proper targets.” Emotional abuse would be an “unjust war,” while ET is a specific form of this.

What I have in mind is the sort of double bind that people in romantic relationships often employ to gain more power and control over their partner by attacking “improper targets” with such unscrupulous “weapons.” It must involve a hostage of some kind; a fear, an anxiety, or a psychological (or social!!) weak-spot that is being ruthlessly exploited. Though we will get into many examples later, let me attempt to hone your imagination in on the concept I’m attempting to articulate here: the common form of ET that I have seen in both romantic and other relationships is the use of one’s influence with a person to undermine their sense of their own competence, their trust in their own intuitions & thoughts, and their self-confidence, rendering them ever more needful of one’s guidance and influence, thus establishing a self-reinforcing cycle of unhealthy reliance. This is not ETs universal form, however; it just always has some element of gaslighting, of this kind of psychological crippling and undermining of someone’s sanity.

ET is more pernicious than political terrorism in a sense, because with the latter one can actually employ a policy of never negotiating with terrorists. A relationship, especially a romantic one, however, is just one long negotiation, so this is not a possible strategy. In fact, the only strategy is flight, especially for men, as the fight (argue) option is basically not available without encumbering enormous social and legal hazards. So this article is meant to explore some common tactics of emotional terrorists in the hopes of making them more easy to spot and escape, while hopefully also offering some tools for de-escalation that one could employ before a full-scale tactical retreat is in order.

There is one last aspect to my preamble here, one that will be difficult to digest: though both genders certainly can be emotional terrorists, it is generally women who employ the tactics that I am here discussing. Sadly, emotional terrorism, dissimulation, manipulation, and such tools have been women’s only means of power for a large part of human history, but things have changed and we need to demand an end to ET, not least of all because crafty men are getting the hang of it also. However, when a narcissistic man uses threats of violence, that is actual terrorism being employed–he is “terrorizing” his family, for instance. If such a man uses threats of physical violence, implied or overt, to his romantic partner, again this is “unjust emotional warfare.” It is “emotional terrorism” if this man knows that his partner had an abusive father, is unconsciously attracted to such behavior, loves him, and has been trained to comply in order to get security and love. This is the improper target that he is exploiting or taking “hostage,” creating something of a double bind. By and large, men are not clever enough to use real ET. Sorry, but these are the facts and I’m trying to be honest about this murky area of human intercourse. Men are more prone to use emotional “warfare;” women “terrorism.” A man is more likely to yell “bitch!” when raging; a woman “you have a small penis and are secretly terrified of your mother!”

To attempt some parity and alleviate any concerns about potential misogyny, let me give an example of male ET tactics:

  • knowing that his girlfriend has crippling self-esteem issues and a bit of the “learned helplessness” of the depressive, he criticizes her savagely so as to further undermine her self-esteem in order that she leans on him more for help, given how obviously powerful he must be, while he unconscionably confirms a view of herself that she has grown comfortable with and that garnered her care and support in the past. If he’s a real son of a bitch, he can use the “you’re too needy” card at will, then the “you know you need me” card whenever she attempts to stand up for herself.

Emotional Terrorism

Intentional Vagueness

If I were to write a book on this topic, I think the first nine chapters would involve planned ambiguity or intentional vagueness. Here is a specific example to get us started:

  • Jane: “You just aren’t hearing me David!” (insensitivity is a common knock on males in modern society; the blundering oaf the most common caricature)
  • David: “I’m trying Jane, please be more specific. Do you mean this?” (he takes a guess and in so doing has taken the bait)
  • Jane: “How dare you put words in my mouth! You don’t know me better than I know myself!” (continues to refuse to explain herself)
  • David: “I’m so sorry, I’m just trying to understand. I didn’t mean to imply I know you better than you know yourself. Please explain your feelings.”
  • Jane: “I can’t explain! They are feelings! How dare you force me to press my complex inner experience into words, definitions and reasons!” (she claims she doesn’t really know herself and therefore can remain purposefully mysterious while blaming the confusion on the man’s lack of emotional intelligence)

You could call this tactic, in many instances, the “Solipsism Card.” Defensively withholding the truth of one’s inner being and then accusing the other of failing to understand is pretty fucked up and destabilizing. Another’s solipsism is always ET in that it makes you question your grip on reality and makes intimacy impossible. It is a tactic that can also be used offensively due to the fact that a romantic partner is a witness to your life and should provide necessary perspective. I once revealed to my girlfriend the deepest existential wound in my soul only to be met with the retort “Well, I don’t see it that way.” This is when one should smile and walk away, or depending on the level of crazy you are dealing with, run away.

Here is another example, one that I’ve run into with a couple different women, but which really shouldn’t fly at all: “He’s not my ex-boyfriend. You have no right to feel jealous when I’m with that guy, because he’s only my ex-boyfriend to you. He’s just my friend.” There is a distinction in there that she has a right to draw, but the way it is being deployed actually denies the man’s feelings and reality (ie his justified jealousy) and messes with his sanity. She needs to say “I know that his (actually!!!) being my ex makes you uncomfortable, but please feel at least a little comforted by knowing that I only see him as a friend and couldn’t even imagine ever hooking up with him again.” But even here, she cannot claim that his feelings are irrational. Guy’s, you can always pull the legitimate, Clive Owen, “because I’m a fucking Cave Man!” card.

Women know that they have a right to their feelings, but they can tweak this truth to protect their preferred interpretation of their feelings, an interpretation that they feel to be true and thus protect it too from any scrutiny or analysis. Thus they can hide in the various levels of abstraction, claiming that their man is denying their reality, denying their feelings, or otherwise commandeering their person when he probes for some clarity. Sometimes the preferred interpretation itself can be withheld and the other party has no recourse to address it but by guessing (ie “putting words in her mouth”). For the record, your feelings are always real, but they may not be justified or it may not be justified to direct them at the people you currently choose to.

Here is another oldie but goody employed by either gender: claim to have some grievance with the other person, but never articulate the magnitude of the problem relative to other things in one’s life that one is suffering from. This is a good way of extracting maximal leverage, as one can hide one’s entire existential burden neatly behind the grievance, essentially asserting that the other person is responsible for it. Here is how this can unfold:

  • Dave: “Ok, Jane, I’m sorry I didn’t get the laundry done, but you seem to be falling apart as a result. How much of your suffering would you say this is causing you, versus your work and family stresses this month?”
  • Jane: “A lot.” (intentional vagueness)
  • Dave: “Yeah, but how much. Can you give me like a ballpark figure? A tenth? Half?”
  • Jane: “How dare you try to extract numbers and statistics from my feelings. These are my emotions we are talking about!” (evasion and vagueness in combination with the male insensitivity cliche)
  • Dave: “I understand that, sweetie, but I’m just trying to get you to think about how you might be taking out some of your stress on me unjustly.”
  • Jane: “So you already assume its a negligible part of my suffering, huh? So you know me better than I do? Is that it?”
  • Dave: “So it’s not negligible? Its a big part?”
  • Jane: “Yes!”
  • Dave: “But that must mean more than a quarter, or something, of your suffering is about laundry, right?” (points out the absurdity)
  • Jane: “I don’t know! How does someone put their feelings into lifeless numbers? Are you saying my feelings are silly?” (claims solipsism–only she knows the truth–but then claims not to know with any degree of certainty, giving her carte blanche to extract as much leverage as she wants, which is best applied by doubling down on the emotional insensitivity angle)

ET must involve some form of vagueness or deception. Let’s explore the example of using sex as a weapon.

Sex As A Weapon:

Guys, if you have done something legitimately hurtful, stupid, or insensitive, your woman is not going to be in the mood, so her withholding sex is not ET, it’s karma. As it happens, you are being given an opportunity to show contrition and care, which might very well put her in the mood. Handle yourself well, gentleman! However, quite commonly, women will withhold sex so as to dissuade their lover from arguing or to otherwise get what she wants. This is still not ET, if it is in the open. If she goes with the migraine excuse, we are getting into ET territory. Let’s say a woman knows that her man is upset with her about something, but she doesn’t want to give in to his needs/demands, and can sense his frustration mounting. He ignores his frustration and tries to have an intimate evening with her, which he is hoping will blow off some of his steam and get them closer and more ready for discussion & compromise. When she gets the drift that he is turned on, she tells him that he is so angry and frustrated all the time and this kills the mood for her. As the testicles swell along with his frustration and mounting blood pressure, a certain inarticulate rage builds up that she can then use as further justification for withholding sex. He now will have a very hard time keeping his cool when he approaches the issue he needs her to address, while worrying about having sex withheld from him if he loses his cool. His balls are now an emotional hostage.

I don’t mean to harp on women here, but I think we all know that they use sex as a weapon directly far more frequently. Here is an example of men using it a little more indirectly:

  • Jane: (with real pain and concern in her eyes, not the wieldy and venerable ‘crazy-face’) “You don’t spend enough time with me and it makes me really uncomfortable when you get so many calls and texts from Jennifer and Ashley. Don’t you get to talk to them in person quite enough? You know they are into you, right?”
  • David: “Ughh! You are so needy and paranoid! You make me feel so claustrophobic and upset. I’m going out to blow off some steam.” (they both know the people he hangs out with habitually are attractive, into him, etc. This reinforces the message that David is a marketable item whose company is highly sought after while getting across the subtext “better not control my freedom or piss me off like this or I’ll cheat or leave.”)

This is the ET equivalent of yelling “Allahu Akbar” before hitting the button. Narcissists of all forms love to use sexual jealousy as a weapon. However one tries to justify it, stocking the “on deck circle” is always a form of ET, even if it doesn’t meet all the requirements of my definition. You see, the actual terrorist is really not saying “god is great” when he yells “Allahu Akbar,” but “I am great, for I’m the very hand of the Almighty.” Similarly, the emotional terrorist is saying “I’m great–in high demand; you don’t deserve me and should have to chase me.” I guess actually cheating would be hitting the button in the analogy.

Defensive versus Offensive ET

Just as with actual terrorism, the emotional variety can be used defensively or offensively. A terrorist can defensively set up shop in an orphanage or offensively take over a passenger aircraft, just as an emotional terrorist can defensively play dumb, for instance, or offensively start a spat on certain ambiguous premises. We generally only think of the offensive variety of ET, but it is actually far more pernicious in a defensive mode. Look at this exchange, for instance:

  • David: (calmly and with great care and sensitivity) “Jane I am really angry with you. Why would you do such-n-such?”
  • Jane: (with look of feigned terror) “I don’t feel safe talking about this.”
  • David: (steps back) “What do you mean hun?” (this doesn’t make sense given his peaceful body language and nature)
  • Jane: (fidgets) “Please stop pressing me to explain myself, I don’t feel safe doing so.”
  • David: (who now categorically CANNOT express ANY anger) “Jane, do you mean you think that I am too angry to really hear you correctly…that I’d misunderstand?” (both of them know the true meaning but he is being threatened with a different connotation)
  • Jane: (gets more uncomfortable, as her gambit is getting exposed) “I’m going to go talk to Jennifer about this and get my head straight.” (avoids being pinned down to an obvious meaning/subtext, avoids having to explain herself, avoids being called to task for hurting him, neutralizes his anger, all with the implicit threat of claiming physical abuse, which is driven home ruthlessly by bringing a female friend into the equation, who can’t see the peaceful body language and might assume the worst about David)

We have seen some offensive forms of ET already, so I need not harp on the obvious, except to note that the next example is such an offensive strategy.


This offensive strategy is really nasty and is usually used only by females, to my knowledge. Quite simply, it involves treating a guy like crap (i.e. being a bitch) for as long as it takes for him to mutter the word ‘cunt,’ at which point the woman can claim victory and retrospectively justify her being a bitch (i.e. b/c she was with a man who was capable of uttering the unmentionable ‘c-word’). Bill Burr discusses this strategy in many of his comedy specials (see the end of this clip). He explains that if a woman is right in an argument she sticks to the point and keeps you to the point until you are on your knees apologizing. Touché! But if she is wrong, she may think up nasty things to say to distract the man, bait him, and grind him into such a rage that he might utter an insult, at which point the argument is now about that insult and she wins. Burr offers great advice: guys, just know that if a woman gets angry and hurls insults, you have won, so long as you don’t take the bait and play it cool. “Honey, I think we should discuss this later when you calm down,” etc. Total victory! Another nasty thing about the bating strategy is that it can be played as a “long game,” for years, gradually chipping away at a guys will-power and restraint to avoid telling the woman what she is acting like. He can hold out for half a decade, but if he eventually takes the bait, even post-breakup, all bets are off and he is open to a ruthless character smearing campaign with no recourse whatsoever. For some reason it’s ok for women to sling insults, key cars, destroy property, generally go berserk, but that ‘c-word’–it’s the ultimate trump card. (note: I’ve never called a woman the ‘c-word’ in my life)

This form of ET utilizes a prevalent feature of most forms: enlisting outside help. (The terrorist equivalent is subverting the populace of the target country or allied countries with propaganda.) We already saw an example with the whole “I don’t feel safe” routine. However, there are far subtler versions. For instance, if a woman (or a man, for that matter) feigns ignorance and misunderstanding, then implies that she/he wants to discuss this with friends or family, or that the couple needs to see a counselor, this is also an implicit threat of spreading the misunderstanding and potentially slandering the other person. It shifts the risks of the misunderstanding onto the other party even though they are responsible for it (the other party can’t understand it for them, after all). The relationship counselor should have 10 books on his shelf addressing this and preparing him to be vigilant, especially against the female in the relationship, who any of us are predisposed to feel like helping/protecting on an instinctual level. Now we are getting into the really murky territory of this black art.

More Subtle Forms

Here is one of the single most tricky forms of ET to deal with, again, usually employed by women, who generally appeal to emotion more than logic in arguments, if you will forgive a generalization that offends but that you likely share with me.

  • David: (delivers eloquent and well-reasoned argument for his case)
  • Jane: (stymied) “We both know you are better at using logic than me, so stop muscling me into submission!” (plays on social stereotype of the domineering male)
  • or….Jane: “Stop using logic, this is about our relationship…it is about emotions!” (plays on social stereotype of clumsy man with no intuition or emotional intelligence to avoid reasoning about emotions at all)

The really tricky part about this is that men often do just blatantly out-muscle women with rational argument during an emotional exchange that doesn’t require so much logic, but calls for a soft touch (literally and figuratively). Perhaps this is the male equivalent of this form of ET: to play on the female stereotype of the irrational women during a time when she is quite emotional (and SHOULD BE!), while his using logic, being inappropriate, etc offends and thus frazzles her even further. This is especially tricky when there is a disparity in debating skills and abstract, analytic intelligence. Thus, the rule should be that any advantage should be put out in the open and OPENLY compensated for on both sides. The professional logician should have to double-up on his comforting body language, soft tone, etc, etc. A sensitive, intuitive woman, on the other hand, should be responsible for covering for her logic-addled man’s lack of sensitivity, for instance giving his pronouncements a generous reading or volunteering one, like “I think what you meant to say was something more like this, right?”

Here is another subtle form of ET that both genders do, in their own way: treat sex with a blasé, cavalier, or counter-intimate attitude. If a guy treats sex as “just fucking” and withholds total commitment and intimacy, this protects him, while potentially exposing his woman, all without offering emotional parity. He will usually defend this with some bullshit evolutionary psychology and what have you, which undermines his woman’s right to demand his intimacy and vulnerability, while treating these emotional needs with contempt, as if they were silly anachronisms (this plays on the irrational female prejudice). To be honest, I see this a lot in dating, but not very often in committed relationships. The female version I see in both situations. This involves a woman doling out sex as if it were a gift that a woman gives to a man, essentially denying the reality of her own sexual needs so as to 1) protect herself from intimacy, or 2) undermine his sexual self-esteem, as if he couldn’t get her in the mood or is somehow unworthy sexually. This gives her ultimate control and plays on the social norm of the mindless, horny male who will just hump anything he can get his hands on. This makes the man feel inadequate, but vaguely sated; cared for, but not himself supportive; like he needs her, but she doesn’t need him. Furthermore, he can’t really ask for more sexual intimacy, because “oh, you horny guys, always just wanting more,” when the guy actually might want more intimacy. Lastly, both parties know she has sexual needs, so there is an extremely vague, but real, threat of someone else matching her unspoken fantasy.

Closing Remarks

As mentioned earlier, if you are facing an emotional terrorist, the only real counter-measure is to run. However, you will likely need to be throwing blocks and strikes as you retreat, so I’ll leave you with one sure fact that I have uncovered that may help you: the narcissistic solipsist really only knows their own internal world, meaning that whatever insults or accusations they send your way, these are pure and untainted projection, so know with certainty that these are a road-map to their soul. I hope you can make use of that knowledge better than I was able to.

Probably a whole book should be written on appropriate versus “cheap” targets, but in closing, I’ll mention that quite often men are stuck in social double standards that make it quite impossible to argue with women as doing so exposes far too many “cheap targets.” If he is too emotionally supportive and tries that Mark Wahlberg tone, he is open to being called a ‘pussy’ or, alternatively, accused of being patronizing, as if the woman couldn’t handle a real debate and needs kid gloves to be put on. If the guy fails to put the kid gloves on, he is open to being called an insensitive prick. If he stumbles through some compromise between these, he can be accused of not being clear, of equivocating, and generally not speaking in a conversive, natural manner. Basically he’s screwed if the woman really wants to nail him to the wall. He is the hapless fool with no emotional intelligence or domineering patriarch if he uses logic and reason, but a fag or amateur if he appeals to emotion. Generally men can keep their cool during a debate, keep their thoughts on ice, better than women because they have more experience with verbal combat and the bar for what is offensive is already established far above what women are generally comfortable with. (Again, generally) women have a harder time focusing on the topic instead of the subtext; the argument instead of the underlying relationship. To make matters even worse for successfully negotiating a romantic relationship, men and women have different “ramp up” times and “cool down” times vis a vis adrenalization. All of this makes argument and negotiation between the genders truly rather treacherous. I sincerely hope that we can at least expose and eliminate as many forms of ET as possible, as this is just needless baggage heaped upon an animal whose knees are already close to buckling.


Emotional Terrorism is a distinct and specific form of emotional abuse in a relationship that utilizes an improper weapon in the form of a double-bind or self-reinforcing dynamic employed to generally undermine sanity; takes a hostage–a target that is “cheap,” such as someone’s sexual jealousy; and thwarts honest communication with intentional vagueness and deception in order to gain leverage, control, revenge, or other unworthy goals.

Posted in Human Movitation, Morality & Ethics, Relationships | 8 Comments