What If?

I was going to post this up Tuesday evening, but never got round to it. I’m a bit of a lazy bastard with positing at the moment…

I’ve just got back from my second CBT session. The first one, and half of this one was spent mainly discussing my background. Who I am, my outlook on life, what led me to this point.

We talked about what had brought me there to the professor’s office at that time. In my case, it was specifically my issue with approaching and attempting to chat up women that I consider to be of genuine, real beauty.

I’m past the point in my life where it’s purely a need to feel that I can obtain women for ego gratification. I’m now at the point where I feel like I need to master what is ultimately the single most important decision I’m going to make in my adult life – who I choose to settle down with, and who will raise my children. I want to be able to reflect, and say to myself “I am with this woman because I had the choice of a vast number of potential targets, and out of all of them, I chose her for her beauty and intellectual compatibility with me.” I do NOT ever want to be in the position where I am brutally honest with myself and am forced to the conclusion “I am with this woman because she is the best that I could get.”

Physical beauty is of course only the initial factor. Past that has to come intelligence, warmth of character, and the aforementioned intellectual compatibility with myself. But all of those are irrelevant without that first spark of genuine, instinctive attraction.

My day to day life is not conducive to meeting women of this calibre. I work all day in an office full of male IT nerds, I go to a gym populated by mainly men, and being a natural introvert, I choose to spend my free time with a small, select group of close friends, rather than being an individual who pursues social interactions purely for the sake of it.

With that in mind, we discussed how I might increase the odds as much of possible of meeting the kind of women I seek – not only good looking, but intelligent and interesting also. Given the state of western culture, there is a stronger likelihood that a beautiful women will have a less developed character than that of her less attractive counterpart. Through no fault of their own, life tends to come easy to highly attractive women – people treat them differently, kiss their arses, give them opportunities other people may not get, and as such, there is little incentive for them to try to be interesting, warm, approachable and broaden their horizons. I am of course speaking in generalisations, but generalisations exist for a reason.

The best opportunity we came up with for approaching the problem was from a reverse angle – identifying places where a greater number of intelligent women would likely be, and then assuming by law of averages at least a few of them would be very attractive. One idea was enrolling in the kind of classes that would attract the greatest numbers of intelligent women – creative writing, literature, philosophy, and other arts related pursuits. In order that I remain authentic to myself, it would also need to be things that I am keen on myself, although fortunately I have always had a keen interest in most of the above.

Given that my free time is at a premium at the moment with the constraints of work, exercise, and maintaining my social life, we agreed that this would have to wait until such time as I had become financially independent, and that I could devote the required amount of time to these things. As such, we were left to conclude that street approach is my single best chance of success at the given moment.

Having established this, we then moved on to using a CBT model to break down the problem into 3 stages – the ‘worry” stage (what goes through my head before I consider making an approach on a beautiful women), the “in situ” stage (how I think and behave during), and the “rumination” stage (how I reflect on it afterwards).

We then tried to identify specifically what goes through my mind when I see a hot woman that I would consider approaching. Initially, I was at a loss – I admitted to just standing there immobile thinking “I should approach her. I really should. I’m not doing it. Oh, the opportunity has gone now, never mind.” But after some consideration, and reflecting that in fact the train of thought that prevents me taking action is almost completely subconscious, I realised that the first thing I think is “I would be intruding upon her, and my approach would not be welcome.”

The professor then encouraged me to think “What comes next?” in my mind. Again, this initially proved hard – I was trying to drag a subconscious thought process out into the open and analyse it for the first time. But eventually, a series of steps in my mind were identified. It goes something like: “I’d be intruding. If I did approach, it will not go well. If it doesn’t go well, I will feel like I am making a twat out of myself. I will fail, and walk away and beat myself up. Therefore, I will not approach in order to protect my ego, which I have worked long and hard through my background of relative adversity to build up.” Ergo, I do not approach.

The actual train, whilst interesting, is not in itself important. What is important is how each step in the train is linked – a single initial thought, essentially “I may get rejected” leads to a whole series of linked thoughts, running through my head so fast that I am unaware of them, eventually culminating in my inaction. He said that I needed to learn to cut off the thought process at the first thought. “I may get rejected.” To just hold that thought in my head, and not follow the chain.

This introspective revelation was like a thunderbolt in my mind – I suddenly realised that I am doing this literally all the time: “I should approach that girl. But what if it goes badly?” – train of thought engaged. “I should make a friendly comment to this stranger. But what if they think I’m a weirdo?” – train of thought engaged. And so on.

This was then swiftly followed by a second revelation of “So fucking what?” The matters that I am “What if”ing over are things with no real consequences, other than those I impose on myself. So what if it goes badly? The only person who cares is me. So what if she shoots me down, so what if that bloke thinks I’m weird? No-one was maimed. No-one died. There are no lasting consequences.

I caught myself doing it on the bus on the way home – I saw a really hot girl, and I checked her out, and then immediately thought what would happen if she saw me looking, and thought I was some kind of perv. Except this time, I stopped the thought dead in its tracks, and just answered it with “So fucking what?” She looked up, our eyes locked, and I gave her the biggest shit-eating grin I could muster without flinching. She looked surprised, smiled back, and then immediately blushed, started acting flustered, fidgeting and not knowing what to do with herself!

This is why being drunk works – it completely shuts off the “What if?” in your head. And also why being in state works – you are completely present in the moment, and your “What if?” becomes disengaged.

Reflecting, I believe that this mode of thinking is a holdover from my awkward adolescence, where I was wracked with self doubt and cared hugely what others thought of me. Every tiny increase in my self esteem had to be battled for, and I was petrified of backsliding, hence the ego protection mechanism. These days, I simply could not give a flying fuck what anyone except my closest friends and family thinks of me, and yet the mechanism remains, an outmoded mental dinosaur.

We’re exploring this further next week, but already this has been incredibly liberating – I was never before aware of what was going through my head, and the real reason I wasn’t approaching. And not only not approaching – not taking a lot of other courses of action.

I can tell this is going to be extremely rewarding, and I hope to be able to share some of the insights with you as I go through.

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