Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's inside women's mind?

An entertaining story I saw in the T.V. series "Northern Exposure" reveals a funny psychological difference between men and women. The guy does his best to act "correctly" and ends up in complete bewilderment at the woman's behavior. 

So here is the story: 

There is a constant sexual tension between the doctor, Joel Fleischman and Maggie O'Connell, the pilot woman. Tension neither of them admits to the other, from fear of vulnerability, but which they are both aware of, without words. 

So in this episode, they are forced to share a motel room, and end up kissing. They then agree to meet a few minutes later to continue it further. Only Maggie falls asleep, after 2 straight days of little sleep. after a few mild attempts Joel could not wake her up and so the whole thing stops there. 
However, Maggie goes back home convinced they had sex. She tells him that the whole thing should not have happened, and asks to continue life as if it never occurred. But she still wants him, fantasizes about how it must have been, and feels very embarrassed around him.

When Joel find out that she thinks they had sex, he decides to do her a favor and end her embarrassment around him. He goes to her place and tells her that he did not have sex with her. She gets enraged, tells him he is a sadistic bastard and throws objects at him until he finally leaves, after nearly losing an eye. 

Next day they meet, and she explains that if he wanted her enough he would have woken her up, or have sex anyway, while she was asleep. "Where is the passion Joel, where is the uncontrolled desire?" He replies that he was courteous by having self control. She replies with frustration "Is this what I inspire in you - self control?"

Joel is completely bewildered. He was certain he did what every woman would have respected him for. 

If she wants him - why did she tell him to forget about ever having sex?  And if she wants to forget all about it - why does she throw objects at him when he tells her it never happened? 
And why does she throw him out of her house, if she actually wants him?

For a guy, this behavior would probably (I imagine) seem utterly bizarre, almost as if, a normal, rational human being is turned all of a sudden into a creature from another planet. 

So what did Maggie O'Connell want?
A guy that will not act safe in pursuing her. 

Someone who, despite any behavior from her side, will act to get what he wants. 

If she sends mixed signals, he should rely on his intuition, he should know the truth in his heart, and pursue it. 

If she creates a distance - he should break it. 

If he is unsure about how she will respond to his pursuits - he should not care for such thing. He should love her so much, to put all his defenses down, and approach her with complete honesty about his desire and intention. 

His best course of action would be to just find her and kiss her, no questions asked. 

Should he be a mind reader? Not quite. What he needs to do is not doubt what he understands deep inside from the look in her eyes, or from times when she looks away. 

If she is afraid of losing control - he should take advantage of it. He should make her lose control. 

He should be brave - braver than she is. Thereby proving her that her admiration is justified. 

Why does she put obstacles in his way if she wants him? Because she wants to be wanted in a certain way. She doesn't just want sex - she wants him to want it madly. She wants him to go after it, even in spite of a psychological obstacle of possible rejection. She tells him "let's forget it ever happened" - but what she wants is for him to tell her "no way". Agreeing to forget - is a choice to be safe, and a sign that safety is more appreciated than the enjoyment of having her. 
Both of them do not admit their true feelings. But for anything to work, it has to be the guy to first break the ice. Why did she throw objects at him? Because him telling her they did not have sex was a sign that he did not want her enough - that he let his insecurity control his decision. It was easy to kiss her when he had clear evidence she wanted it. But to wake her up would require confidence in knowing that she wants him enough to want to be woken up. She needs him to have that confidence to be able to surrender to him. 

So what is the missing element in men that exists in women's mind? It is the fact that they need to know their man can have control over them, and values them enough to put psychological "safety" aside. It's the fact that women want to be conquered that is unique to women, and men find hard to understand. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Positive vs. Negative motivation

Overall, there are two kinds of emotional motivations: pleasant (will be referred to as "positive") and painful (will be referred to as "negative"). Either a man acts to gain pleasure, or to avoid pain. These are essentially the two forms of emotional motivation man experiences. 

For example: we can be motivated to build a house out of a sense of pleasure. We can run away from a snake because of fear. We can give money to a beggar to avoid guilt, or we can buy a gift to a friend because of pleasure. We can study for a test because we are afraid to fail it, or we can read a book because we enjoy training ourselves in rational thinking. 

These examples illustrate an additional implicit understanding - that emotions are motivational force for action. 

The positive and the negative categories of emotional motivation are not meant to play an equal role in man's life.
Negative motivation is meant to help us avoid damage - to deal with disaster and prevent it. To that extent, it is an excellent servant, and useful for our lives.
Positive motivation is meant to motivate us for the rest of our actions in life, in the pursuit of values. Values such as food, house, entertainment, friends etc'. 

Take this opportunity to stop and think for a moment: Is the pursuit of such values in your life a result of positive motivation or negative one? Are you moved in your work by a sense of pleasure, or by a sense of duty? Do you do what you think is moral out of duty, or out of pleasure? 

Motivation in pursuit of values should be from positive emotions, not from negative ones.
Assuming that the pursuit of values is the norm of every day life (what we do most of the time), and disasters are exceptional and rare, motivation from negative emotions should only be present in exceptional cases of correcting a mistake, or when you try to deal with some disaster - but not on the form of daily basis.

It is important to keep in mind that negative emotions do have a significant role, too. Suppose you did something wrong, like, say, acting unjustly to a friend. You would feel guilt, and this will motivate you to correct the injustice. Acting on negative motivation in this case is proper. 
How do you decide what is proper? Reason is always the final arbiter. But listening to your emotions is an important first step to suggest an action.

So let's look at an example of improper negative motivation: forcing oneself to do well at school, because of viewing it as an instance of the virtue of productivity. Doing well at school in most cases is NOT a matter of productivity at all (because school is not fully rational), studying becomes a constant action despite boredom and pain. "If you want to be good - you must try to be a good student. To be a good student - you must learn to endure pain". 
The result is going through years of putting an effort into school because of a desire to avoid a sense of guilt and failure. 
But the process of acquiring knowledge required for your career is pursuit of a value - not an attempt to avoid disaster or correct a mistake. Is it right that instead of pleasure, all one would feel is the pain of duty and self-repression? No. Such a clash is a call to look for a mistake in one's thinking (as I learned the hard way), not a call to continue things as the day before. 

This example demonstrates how rationalism leads to living one's life under negative motivation - out of a sense of duty to obey moral principles, not out of sense of acting selfishly to achieve one's pleasure. (The rationalist idea, in this case is to decide arbitrarily that success in school has to be, regardless of its actual nature, the virtue of productivity). 

Now what would be the long-term consequence of motivation from negative emotions in pursuits of values? Over time, it destroys everything it touches.
In schools, kids are taught that they are good if they learn despite being bored. Over time the result is that they come to hate learning. Not just learning at school, but the act of putting mental effort into anything. 

As an adult, you may start with a job you dislike, training yourself over time not to notice your boredom. After enough time, you lose motivation to do any kind of work at all, even one you could have enjoyed before. How did this happen? you trained yourself to make your emotions irrelevant to your actions. You trained your subconscious to associate "work" with suffering and self-compulsion. 

If you view morality as a duty to hold yourself to - you will continually repress personal desires in order to be "in-line" with those principles. At the end of this road, you either lose sight of what "you" is, or you throw morality completely and attempt to live without principles at all. 
The pursuit of moral values, or virtues, or becoming the hero you have in your mind - should be from positive emotions.
If it is not, that is the time to stop and think - make sure you really understand the principles you attempt to live by. Make sure you can see how those principles are good for you.  

There is only so much time that negative motivation can carry a man.
This motivation is meant as a temporary assistant - not as fuel for every-day actions throughout life. This motivation is "crash and burn", its end result is always bad if used to pursue values. 
After 4 years of stress and repression I had in the technological institute I studied in, I know. 

To the extent that a society is irrational (like bad schooling system), some conflicts are bound to cross your way. 
In a dictatorship, one's actions are motivated by fear as the only possible way to function. 
But - Taking whatever existing conditions under account, try to pursue your values by the desire to gain pleasure. It is selfish. It is good. It is what makes life worth living. 

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Self Esteem, confidence and Motivation

Self esteem is required for motivation. The role of self esteem, or more specifically the self esteem we feel about ourselves in specific fields is ingrained in motivation to pursue values in that field.

The reason we are built this way is because it serves our survival. For example: Suppose you're building a house with your own hands, but you know from experience that you are bad with hammering nails to the beams, you feel lack of confidence in that field: this serves to protect you from the damage you may cause (to your life and your values). Your recognition of your own ability in that field determines your emotional motivation to pursue it. On the other hand, if you're good with hunting animals or dancing, you have high confidence in your ability to pursue that value, you'd feel motivation to pursue it. When you succeed, it reinforces your confidence, and also serves as a reward. So self esteem is both a requirement and a reward for action.

This mechanism can work against you (when a mistake is involved): one example is insecurity with "hitting on" women. In this case, the mechanism of confidence<-->motivation prevents you from not hammering nails into your hands, but potentially (if a mistake is involved) also to be too afraid to hit on women or go after something you desire. 

An example of that would be someone who expects himself to succeed at something right away without a process of learning. When he would fail (and he would, since learning is always required), he would get a sense of insecurity which would dismotivate him from pursuing that activity in the future. And it would be a false conclusion about his own ability. 

Confidence by itself, feels so great, that it can be by itself an added motivation to achieve something. Doing something well, allows you to look at yourself later on as the one who created something well, and be proud of yourself (in other words have higher self esteem). Such motivation is in the background of the desire to improve and do things well (not just "get them done"). 

Self-esteem is a general form of confidence: it does not apply to the ability to achieve values in a specific field, but to living as a whole (to your ability to live). It primarily comes from how one's actions and their result stand in relation to one's principles. Confidence in many small fields integrates itself in our mind to self esteem as a total sum. 

Achieving confidence depends on achieving one's goals, and achieving one's goals depend on one's principles (among other things). 

For example, great entrepreneurs like Herbert Dow,were guided by the principle of making a living by means of creating new products, and doing it well. Dow held this principles not as a mere intellectual idea, but as a passion for creation. He was also rational - never overlooking facts, and he had the correct principles in economics. As a result, he was successful. He was confident, and his confidence grew with his success. 
His self esteem was high because he had the right principles for living, and throughout his life - his actions matched his principles. 

To the extent a person conceptualizes certain virtues as practical to his life, his self esteem will depend on the relation between his actions and what he perceives as virtues. 
If he comes to the wrong conclusions, he will not be able to achieve his goals, and he will become insecure the more years go by. 
For example, if someone believes in mystical powers, and he thinks a man's worth is measured by his ability to possess mystical powers - he will fail time and time again in achieving his goal. He may wish for a red traffic light to turn green, but it won't in most times. He may try to guess your astrology sign, but fail most of the time. And so on. Eventually, he will not be able to achieve self esteem because his principles and ideas are not in line with reality. 

Human beings think in principles. some animals learn from experience and probability (for example, a stick can pull a banana in certain situations). Human beings form ideas, concepts and principles to condense our knowledge. 

Likewise, we use principles to guide our actions, and how we live. 
And this is why self esteem depends on principles, and the relation of one's actions and their success to one's principles.