Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting Through Shame Over Your Sexuality

I probably could write an encyclopedia on the subject of shame from just the personal experience I have with it, so I’d like to keep this short by limiting this blog to the subject of shame and sexuality.

Society places the most shame on women and gay men based on their sexuality/sex life. Women are stuck with the virgin/whore complex and gay men are told that even their feelings are evil. In certain contexts straight men are shamed as well. A man who chooses to refrain from sex is commonly put down by his fellow males (the exception to this would be in devote religious circles). While the intent of the insults is often benign and playful the damage to the male’s self-esteem can be equally great. What’s even harder to face is when women put down men for abstaining from sex or lack of sexual experience. The feeling of shame in these contexts can be likened to being kicked in the gut (or someplace much lower). Straight males are often made to feel shame by their religious upbringings which hold, in the case of Catholicism, that even thinking about women and sex is a sin for having “unclean thoughts”. Granted that these religious upbringings are greater in the case of a gay male or woman, the shame felt can still be overwhelming. In my case the shame brought on by religion has (mostly) faded away with my religious beliefs, but those feelings of shame have been reinforced (in many cases) by women in my life. They have often treated my sexuality as though it were some dirty (and perhaps sinful) thing while flaunting their own sexuality freely and unashamed.

Provided that your sex life does not include rape, sexual assault, nor deception one should NEVER be ashamed of their sexuality. Who you love and desire is part of who you are. It is not, nor has it ever been, a matter of your choice just as one cannot choose which foods or colors they will like the best (I have a special place in my heart for the color crimson). The mater of your sex life is a choice, but it is a private choice that only involves you and who you share a bed with. It does not involve anyone else in any way. People who object to who you choose to sleep with (whether it be 1, 1000, or none) are forcing their own sexuality problems on you. I deeply empathize with those who struggle with their sexuality and the emotional whirlwind that comes with it; however, struggling with your sexuality does not give you the right to harm others over their sexuality.

It is my personal opinion and educated guess that a large part of the homophobia expressed today is deeply seeded with men (and occasionally women) who are secretly gay themselves. They have come to hate themselves through shame and thus think it’s only fair to hoist that shame on others. I’ve noticed that a similar phenomenon happens when women feel undesirable or sexually repressed (often by religion) in that these women tend to be the ones who try to shame and repress the sexuality of other women. Again I empathize with all people who struggle emotionally, but they should be seeking a hand to lift them up out of their despair rather than pulling everyone else down to their level.

The best tool in dealing with shame is to remind yourself that you have the right as a human being to feel whatever you feel. The desire to have sex is as natural as sleeping, eating and breathing and the desire to repress it will only bring pain. Realize that you are not alone in feeling the way you do. You also have the right to sleep (consensually) with whomever you want and your value does not deteriorate one bit. If you were a good/likeable person before you had sex you will still be that good/likeable person after. It is important for you to surround yourself with the people who will feel the same way about this. A friend who shames you about your sex life is not a friend worth having. Realize that those who try to shame you on your sexuality are probably struggling with shame about their own sexuality. Their hurtful words are not an accurate reflection of you but of their own injured and troubled emotions. Be whoever you want to be, make mistakes, learn and be happy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Art of Arguing

I’ve noticed that many of us tend to avoid conflict with those close to us because they fear arguing as the ultimate evil. This never made sense to me. I prefer to not argue with people I do not care about (what’s the purpose in that?). I do care what my loved ones think so arguing often becomes necessary. Not only is arguing necessary in many occasions it is quite enjoyable if done the right way. In order to make an argument productive and enjoyable I strongly suggest the following guidelines:

The Rules of Argumentation
1) No name calling. Stick to the argument. This includes sarcasm, mocking and any form of personally insulting behaviors.

2) Ideas may be criticized and/or insulted to the full extent possible, but be sure to explain why they deserve criticism.

3) Arguments must conform to LOGIC only and not belief nor emotion.

4) Emotions may be declared as a matter of statement if they start the sentence with the phrase: “I feel”. You may not infer nor imply that anyone else feels the way you do without statistical documented proof. You may not imply or state outright that anyone “made you feel” any way.

5) Arguments must continue until there is a clear winner (Breaks are acceptable but make a clear date/time to resume the way a court case would).
5a) People may call upon a mutually agreed unbiased 3rd party to declare winners to arguments.

6) Make a point to listen and learn from your opponent. Assume at the onset that the disagreement is purely a misunderstanding so seek to understand your opponent.
6a) Do not get offended by your opponent not understanding you. Take it as an opportunity to clear things up and realize that someone seeking to understand you is a compliment of respect and affection.

7) Do not be afraid to be wrong. Being wrong just means you have learned something new. There is no shame in it.
7a) Do not celebrate your victory if you won the argument. If anything you should be apologetic to your opponent and be grateful they finally understand your point of view.

8) Talk in segments no longer than 3minutes (5 in a rare occasion) then take a clear pause to allow your opponent to respond before continuing. Responses must also be under 3 minutes long.

9) Do not talk over or interrupt your opponent (provided they are following rule 8).

10) Do not substitute semantics, wordplay, or cliché for legitimate argument. You may use these methods to introduce a point, but then you must still explain why they apply.

11) Have fun. It’s easy to get upset about ideas you are passionate about, but remember that you have found someone in your opponent that is also passionate about the subject. Enjoy it the way you would enjoy any competitive sport.

12) Seek clarification. If the way an argument is made sounds confusing try asking a “are you saying that…?” question. Often times we will all make arguments but leave out important details because we forget what we know isn’t common knowledge.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top 10 Mistakes Women Make on their Internet Dating Profile

1) Showing Too Much Skin
Women have figured out that showing more skin gets them more attention in life, but many haven’t stopped to think about what kind of attention they were getting and from who. If your profile pictures show you in a bikini or lingerie (sometimes even less) you are likely to get the attention of all the men on the site looking solely for sex, but you are just as likely to scare off any guy looking for a meaningful relationship. Every time I see a gal with a cleavage shot I think: “why is she trying so hard?”. It leaves men with the impression that your self-esteem relies upon your looks and many men will find you too sexually aggressive. Feel free to take a sexy shot in a fancy dress or a cute outfit, but you are best to leave something to the imagination.

2) Ticking Biological Clock
If you can, avoid mentioning your deep desire to have children. Men are aware of the fact that most women want to have kids, but that conversation needs to happen after you begin a relationship with someone. Don’t try to skip steps here ladies. You’re not even on your first date and you want a guy to make promises to you that only your husband needs to make. Guys will get freaked out if it’s too obvious that you are husband/father –of –my-child hunting. Most guys will tell you that they are unsure if they want kids or not (if they are being honest) and it makes you sound crazy to try to force him into a decision on the first date. If you absolutely feel the need to mention anything on this subject be sure to say that you are patient and waiting for the right time and place to have a child.

3) Child Worship
Many single mothers find dating sites attractive and they have every right to be there as childless women do. The mistake women make is in overemphasizing their connection to their children. Men will run for the hills when they see statements like “my child is my world” and “I want a man who will love my child like I do”. If you have kids, men will assume you love them and that they are important to you. Instead of shoving instant fatherhood down your date’s throat, try to reassure him that you are independent and have the mommy thing covered. Men expect that they will be able to go on dates with you without the kids being there, so be sure to have some sort of babysitter ready. You also should make clear that you actually have the time to date. I’ve seen countless profiles where women say they are unbelievably busy between work and parenting. If this is the case reassure your potential date by saying you have a few hours a week (at least) that can be dedicated to dating. You will of course want to introduce your date with your kids at some point. It’s safest to do so at the beginning of a serious committed relationship. You don’t want to break your kids' heart by getting them attached to some guy who might not be around in a week.

4) Ambition
This has got to be the most ambiguous/confusing word that appears in every woman’s profile. Ambition means different things depending on who is saying it. If you must use this word, explain precisely what you mean by it. Most men when they see that word they think “she’s after a rich man” or “nothing I can accomplish will be good enough for her”. Be realistic with your expectations. Not every woman can marry he future president or CEO of a major corporation. A word that can be used as a substitute with a much more positive spin is “self-growth”. Most men want to improve themselves whether or not they are in a relationship or not, but where they choose to grow can be different. Is financial growth all there you are looking for? What about emotional, spiritual, or social growth? Which is most important and which is least?

5) The Royal Treatment
As a man gets older and wiser he learns to avoid women with a “princess” complex. Women who are looking to be worshiped as a god are very unattractive to most men. The men who are attracted to this type of woman are likely to be submissive and passive with low self-esteem. Don’t ever refer to yourself as a princess, “looking for my prince”. It shows maturity to be proud of yourself for who you are: a smart, fun, beautiful woman. Make it clear on your profile that you are looking for an equal (I always like the phase “partner in crime”). Also, go watch “The Philadelphia Story”. Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant may enlighten you on the ways of love.

6) The Party Girl
When you are in college your female friends always loved the rowdy, loud and drunk side of you, but as an adult you'll find that men do not find this appealing. If all of your pictures are of you getting "smashed" or you mention in your profile that you “just want to party and have fun” you are servrely deterring men who want a serious relationship. Don’t get me wrong. Men want a girl who is humorous and fun, but if you are serious about holding on to a good guy try not to come off as an obnoxious alcoholic.

7) Grammar and Spelling
Do I really need to explain this? In general men don’t mind grammatical errors as much as women do (there are probably no less than five typos in this blog), but when you type like a 7 year old or a high school dropout it makes it hard for men to respect you. I’ve gotten messages that say: “WuD uP BOI u FEiN!” You’re not cool and you are certainly not literate. You expect this from teenage girls from the inner city, but I’ve seen women 30 years old talk this way. I don’t care how good you look; I’m not writing you back.

8) Anger/Negativity
Most people at least try to smile and be friendly when meeting strangers. Yet many women have become so jaded by the dating world that they use their profile as a soundboard for airing their grievances of the male sex. Ladies, we know dating is hard and there are a lot of horrible men out there, but treating every man as guilty until proven innocent isn’t going to win any hearts. It makes perfect sense to be cautious especially if you’ve been recently hurt. Consider talking with your close friends about what you are angry about instead of posting it on your profile. Also consider whether or not you are emotionally ready to date. Have pictures of yourself smiling and set a positive /hopeful tone to your profile and you’ll be much more successful.

9) Confusing Pictures
Pictures matter to men on dating sites. Men are visual creatures and infatuation begins with what we see. If you are thinking that “looks shouldn’t matter” consider how that can work both ways or consider only looking for platonic friendships. You want to make sure that you have multiple pictures of you and just you. Cell phone pictures at arm’s length and mirror picks aren’t likely to show your good side. If you don’t already have good picture of you, have a friend that owes you a favor take pictures of you in the park. Make sure photos are well lit and in focus. In addition to having a decent headshot with your eyes and face un-obscured (glasses=ok, sunglasses=not ok) you need to have one shot that shows your body (at least from the hip up). Pictures should also be taken within the last year or two unless you honestly haven’t changed much since that photo (high school pictures for a 35+ woman are unacceptable). Realistically women, the guy is going to see how you look when he goes on a date with you. Isn’t it better to weed out the guys who have no attraction to you? If it is unclear from the pictures how you look (including but not exclusive to your body type/size) he’s likely to assume you are unattractive and ashamed about how you look.

10) Unclear Expectations
Men on dating sites will view dozens of profiles a day. When he decides who he is going to message he wants to know who is likely to write him back. It is just as important to let men know what you are looking for as to write about who you are. What are the traits in a man that make him boyfriend material and which are the most important? It is also vital that you let men know about any “deal-breakers” or “red flags”. Taking this step helps you just as much as the guy messaging you. Guys who know they break one of your deal-breaker rules will not waste time writing you and you will not have to waste time reading dozens (if not hundreds) of messages from guys you don’t want to date. Try to be positive yet clear when writing these.
Here’s a good example: “Single dads are amazing people and I respect them very much, but I’m not interested in pursuing a relationship with one”.
Here’s a bad example: “if you are a douchebag or loser don’t bother writing me”. What makes a guy a douchebag or loser? Chances are the douchebag and losers don’t think of themselves as such.

If you don’t set clear expectations, men will probably think you don’t know what your expectations are (a sign of immaturity). If you’re not sure yourself what you want in a relationship take some time to reflect on what worked well and didn’t work in relationships in your past. If you don’t have a lot of relationship experience, think about the dates you’ve been on and/or think about the close friendships you’ve had. What made the good dates good dates and the bad dates horrible? What brought you close to your friends?

The best advice I can give any woman on an online dating site is to find a strait male friend or relative they deeply respect and have them view your profile and offer feedback.

Monday, January 10, 2011

On Anti-Materialism

People become pretty confused when I describe myself as an anti-materialist. There is a kind of materialism which places value in the material world: everything that can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted. If you are thinking of this type of materialism I am in fact a materialist to my very core. However, when I refer to myself as an anti-materialist I refer to the type of materialism which places value on human possessions: any objects which can be bought and sold or the currency itself. I recognize the need for certain objects like food and housing to be able to continue existing. Moreover I recognize that certain objects can be indeed pleasurable to use. I do not recognize the need to own material objects, and I am extremely baffled by those who see the value in acquiring massive amounts of those objects or currency.
Most importantly I believe in valuing the relationships between people above the value of material objects at all times. This has led some to refer me to a humanist, but I would never self apply this title. I do not believe that any deep or lasting happiness can come from ownership of material objects; moreover, placing value of those objects over human beings will lead to unhappiness.
I do not believe that any human being has a right to own any object. By what authority can we make this claim? Our founding fathers were mostly wealthy land owners who pursued property rights in order to ensure their own power. They had no right to kill millions of Indians who were living on this land before them. Indians who, by the way, asserted that no one has the right to own land. Most people in this country who are religious follow a god which tells them in clear language to abandon their worldly desires.
So I ask you what right do you or I have to own anything? We were born into this world owning nothing and we die the same way. We may claim that our parents gave us an object but where did they get it from? Every material object starts as raw material from the earth. Some may argue that the work we put into an object makes it ours to sell. I will agree that there should be value in work. I assert that while we may come into possession through hard work, it is not due purely to our hard work that we come into possession. We own things not from just rights but merely by the capricious hand of luck. Most of the rich did not earn their wealth but were born into it and simply made more. Can anyone say that Paris Hilton would be as famous and rich today if she were born to any other parent? There are some (such as Andrew Carnegie) who did start from humble beginnings and I do give credit to such people for their achievements. As much skill and will power as these people possess even they had to deal with a good amount of luck. So many factors leading up to their success were established without their knowledge by the hard work of others.
“That there are so many are ready to live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society”-H.D. Thoreau
I submit that it’s a selfish and childish self importance that promotes others to claim the rights to property as if screaming and threatening made it true. So if you can accept that you have no right to ownership of material objects how can you (or anyone) claim that any object is worth more than a connection to a human being?

Next time you and your loved one have an argument about material objects or money remember to think and say: “It’s just a thing, its not worth hurting you or our relationship over”

Motivation and Action

Probably the most undervalued and unconsidered part of social interaction on a micro and macro scale is motivation (both negative and positive). There are those who do not take into to consideration at all in situations: “this person just should or shouldn’t do X action”. From a purely emotional standpoint this may make sense; however, this way of thinking is entirely useless when trying to change a person or persons behavior. There are those who do realize the value of motivation, but they make a critical fallacy in assuming that what motivates them to do or not do an action “Y factor motivates me to X action therefore it should motivate everyone to X action”.
Try to think of motivation the way energy and mass interact in our universe. According to Newton: “an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion unless being acted upon by an outside force.” Logically, it is safe to assume that a person or group of persons will stay the same unless being motivated to change. This is not to argue that all motivating factors are equal but are in fact relative to individuals according to their environmental conditions and cognitive thinking system. For an example of the former: I wish to motivate males to use condoms while engaging in sexual intercourse. In order to motivate them I may inform them that condoms prevent procreation. This attempt at motivation would not be successful for males who are in capable of procreation or desire procreation as an outcome of sexual intercourse. In order to motivate the men not deterred by my first factor I must devise a factor that takes into account each individuals environmental conditions. We may think it is universally true that people with do anything to avoid pain and death but experience will show us that this is not always true.
We must also think of motivation on as a quantities measure. We may find that a factor is successful at motivating a person or persons, yet yields insufficient or no change in action. If I paid you 50 dollars a day to be my chauffeur you may consider it but end up turning me down, but what if I offered you 500 dollars an hour. A parent may conclude that putting a child in a time out chair for 5 minutes does not motivate their children to behave, but they discover that it become very effective when used at least 1 hour. The quantity of motivation can sometimes be enormous to the point in which it exceeds the abilities of any one individual. It may be possible to attain assistance from others who may be motivated (or already are motivated) to help u motivate that individual.

Let’s put this in concrete terms. You want to motivate your mother in-law to stop nagging you. We first acknowledge that the behavior is a one way verbal interaction. We must carefully observe the current motivating factors that stimulate said mother in-law to nag you. Does she call you up or arrive unprovoked to nag you? Does she nag after you say something in particular? Let’s assume that after some investigation we determine that said mother in-law
gets motivated by the love of her daughter to nag you as a direct reaction to your wife/husband conversing with her: specifically complaints about you. We can approach the solution to this problem in a number of ways. If you make an emotional plea for sympathy to your mother in-law this may evoke feelings of guilt in her motivating her away from the action of nagging. However, she is likely to feel more motivated by complaints from your wife/husband than by your attempts at motivation. Your motivation is +50 but she is negatively motivated -75 so you are still 25 points in the hole. Instead we will attempt to attack this motivation at its source while providing a new motivation not to engage in the act of nagging. If we cannot motivate the mother directly we can use your spouse to do so. We explain to your spouse how hurt you are by this nagging and how it damages your marriage. We may then convince your spouse a) to not complain to your mother in-law about you or b) he/she can continue to complain but only if your spouse agrees to motivate your mother not to nag you. Assuming that we come to solution B your mother in-law will then be now motivated to not nag you by the same sources that motivated her to nag you in the first place.

As an exercise I want you to think of someone or some group of people that you’d like to change their behavior. Ask yourself what can I do to motivate that person or group? What assumptions am I making about my source(s) of motivation? What motivates this person toward the action that I don’t like and how can I overcome that motivation?

The Depresion Scale

When people ask me how I feel and earnestly want an answer I often struggle to define in concrete terms exactly how good (or bad) I feel at that moment or in general. I think it would be useful to use a quantifiable measure of mood. A sequenced scale of 1-10 would seem most appropriate for this use. A 10 would mean that you feel no signs of depression as in you are completely content. Note that this does not mean you are perfectly happy, but merely not feeling bad in any measurable way. Perhaps we could use 11-20 for a happiness scale, but I fear that would exclude those who are feeling both happiness and depression simultaneously through different aspects of their life (ie: they were dumped but just got a pay raise). In any case let’s focus on the 1-10 depression scale. A 1 would mean that that person has reached their own personal lowest emotional state before losing sanity or experiencing an emotional breakdown. By its nature this value would be relative and often unknown as the person may not have experienced their true maximum depression threshold. I would define my own 1 as the point to which I become overwhelmingly suicidal. I would not only think about suicide but plan the ways I could do it and be convinced to go through with those plans if not act on them.
When I defined this scale to my friend she inquired where I’d rate myself at that moment. I told her I was a 5. This shocked her: “that bad huh?” I tried to explain that for those of us who suffer from some form of lifelong depression a 5 wasn’t that bad. For most of us I would assume that this would be the norm in fact. Someone who is functionally handling their depression (depression can never be “cured”) knows ways to manage being at that level on a consistent basis and may not show any outward signs of depression whatsoever. This is why is a bad idea to assume that you know whether a person is depressed (no matter how close you are to that person). I would submit that if a person is only a 5 or lower once in a great while (even if they hit a 7 or 8 once a week) that would be a person I would define as normal or not depressed. I really can’t say how many people would fit into this category but I would be greatly surprised if this number was over 50% of the population. Doesn’t depression become the norm then. I would say it does not simply because the evidence shows that in other periods and cultures the depressive state expressed in nowhere close to the majority. In this country (as well as some others like Japan) individuals put such high pressure on themselves and others to achieve that it causes many if not must of use to suffer mental disorders. Expecting ourselves to do more than what is logically possible is a recipe for insanity. Our senses conflict with what our brain is telling us and the conflict causes cognitive damage.

I’d like you all as my readers to think about how you would rate yourself on my depression scale both how you feel about life in general and how you are feeling on this particular day/moment. Ask yourself if you feel that you are alone in this feeling and ask yourself if there is anything you can reasonably do to make yourself feel better (if you need to). If you don’t see yourself as depressed ask yourself: how many people do I think are depressed in my environment and how should I interact with them?