Having no ability to experience happiness (RW93)

In December of 2017 John's psychiatrist asked him the age-old question: "Are you happy?" John had been seeing this psychiatrist for a year and this was the first time he would ask him that? They had been talking about all this other stuff and it had just never come up. All those years John had a pat answer for it, meant to push people off the question, and he is still legitimately confused by what people mean by the word ”happy” As soon as he would ask what they mean by it, they would go to the next tier of words, like ”content” or ”without anxiety”. The immediate problem of describing what they mean by ”happy” is that there are not a ton of exact synonyms for "happy”.

John is not sure if he ever felt happiness or if he would even know if he did! He feels a very complicated set of feelings and every single beautiful moment in his life is colored by the awareness that the reaper is standing over his shoulders and that every next day some awful blood wave could happen to any of us at any time.

For example John is not upset at being late or other people being late, and he knows it is very important to a lot of people, but he has no feeling about it. He might be upset if he would miss the train, but he doesn’t feel disrespected when people are late, even if he went through great trouble to be somewhere and the other person doesn’t show up. He might be a little bit ”meh” about that.

It is the same with color blindness: You wouldn’t know that you are colorblind unless you are always confronted with other people talking about the important distinction between green and blue while you couldn’t tell them apart. Some people are colorblind for years and don’t know about it until they are in the middle of their lives because it has never been that big of a deal for them. There wasn’t even a distinction of green and blue in the language until modern times.

John doesn't know if every human is capable of feeling the whole range of human emotions. Emotions are being generated by a series of chemicals, experiences, and certain wirings that are very different in different people. John’s emotional life does clearly not line up with the emotional lives of most people he encounters. When people are describing their feelings when they get upset about others being late or they are being in love or not in love, they often feel ruined or they sometimes even want to kill themselves.

John doesn’t identify with those experiences from a pragmatic standpoint. He has obviously been broken-hearted, even to the point where he was inconsolable, but on a day-to-day basis or a yearly basis he is looking for pragmatic solutions to emotional experiences. He is not looking to fly aloft on the wings of an emotional eagle and either be removed from the fires of Mordor, who don’t appear to care about him, or ride that eagle like an eagle-rider, but he just wants to be fairly planted and not be destroyed because emotions do have the capacity to destroy.

John can see the usefulness of emotions as an instrument of creation and he likes to use them as tools to make something, but he is very conscious of them primarily being the building-blocks of destruction. People make bad decisions motivated by emotions and if you took all the decisions in history that were made purely out of emotions and you would put them in two piles, good decisions and bad decisions, the pile of bad decisions would be a lot higher. When emotions come flooding in John always wants to take another look at them before making any choices, be it intuitively or by practice based on his intuition.

It is why John doesn’t have any tattoos, why he is not married, it is the reason for a lot of things, and people might think that John is guarded and closed off and not experiencing the full breadth of life. His psychiatrist married his college girlfriend and one of the ways he does not sync up with John is that he clearly believes that finding a life-partner is a virtuous goal in the process of becoming a full human being. He says that you need to be vulnerable and open and recognize the goodness in people. It is problematic between them because he certainly does not hesitate to suggest it as a solution to John’s problems.

His psychiatrist perceives John’s take to be unhealthy and while John is perfectly willing to consider that, his psychiatrist's description of "healthy" is based on his own experience, like: "Meet your partner at 22 years old in med school, get married to them and be married to them happily for 40 years!" That ship has sailed for John. Is there some practical take on it starting at 49 years old? How would you create a life that feels like you would have been married since you were 22, but with a person you only met when you were 49?

That person would presumably also not be 22, although John is not discounting the possibility, but he doesn’t think that a relationship between him and a 22-year old would be successful in the long term. This person will therefore also be in their 30s or 40s and will also have a lot of life experience. Are they going to mix their silverware in their silverware-drawer and ”Alright, it’s like we have been married forever!”? John’s psychiatrist clearly believes that there is some solution based on an admixture of true love and practical solutions to day-to-day problems.

John does not think of himself as lonely and a lot of the time people will try to solve for loneliness. How can John doubt that he experiences happiness while he knows he doesn’t experience loneliness? John is pretty sure he doesn’t experience happiness, but Dan is saying that John has the capacity to do it, which would also include the capacity to feel loneliness. John is not sure that this is true.

Having a lonely night with nobody to call (RW93)

In December of 2017 John had an evening of loneliness where he was laying in bed and had some stuff he wanted to talk about. He has a lot of names in his phone that he has collected over the years and sometimes he opens it up and starts flipping through it, looking for somebody to call because he has something to talk about and he can’t talk about it with the 15 people that he otherwise talks to about stuff.

John has some guy friends whom he sits and bullshits with and they can talk about their feelings for a discrete set of things, but if John starts talking about feeling insecure or if he starts telling a story that doesn’t feel very good, they will get uncomfortable. They are close friends with one another, but it is not a group of guys you talk to about your marital problems. They are all married, but they don’t talk about their relationships with one another.

Then John has a group of guy friends whom he can sit and talk about life with. They can talk about things within relationships, but that gets a little touchy when you are asking people to really examine what they are doing, and if you probe too much, the topic gets changed.

John has female friends whom he can talk to much more candidly about the world of emotion, but his female friends all have agendas with him, which is just human nature. Anyone who says there isn’t a difference between men and women has never raised a child. Women have the ability to speak much more eloquently and candidly about the world of the mind and the world of human experience, but they have conspiracies and plans that men just don’t!

John’s guy friends are just happily unsophisticated and don’t want to think about their feelings because thinking about your feelings has side-effects and there are swirling undercurrents, overtones, and plots! If you put two guys and two girls in a crowded room and each guy and girl was a couple, but they were all engaged in secret affairs with one another and were sleeping with one another’s spouses, there is a very good chance that the women would perceive the infidelity while the men would be oblivious. That obliviousness is part of how men create so many problems in the world, but also partly how they manage to do things.

John’s closest friends have always been women, which can be dangerous, particularly when you are friends with someone you used to date or someone who you should have dated, but you never did. There are 1000 different tendrils of feeling for the energetic way that women see their idea of community and for the way their minds are.

There are a lot of things that John can’t talk to their female friends about, especially because it is never agenda-free. He also has female friends who are very different from normal women. They are on the spectrum of fighting their own culture and don’t have a lot of female friends and all their friends are boys. That is also a trope! There are not a lot of guys like John where their best friends are women, but there are a lot of women where all their best friends are men. John has a lot of those female friends and he can’t talk to them about stuff either.

Some of John's friends are probably listening to this show and will tell him that he can always call them, but there was a reason he didn’t call them either. There are just things he can’t talk about! He talks to his mom about a lot of things, but she is not an empathizer, she is not ”Naawww, sweety”, but she is more like ”Well, you should have done something differently!”, but John has confidence in her. He doesn’t distrust her and she doesn’t generally have an agenda with him other than she hopes he is happy!

John described this lonely night to his psychiatrist and his reply was that this is what a life partner is all about. You could see the excitement on his face that this was a way in. John replied that for the occasional night where he doesn’t have anybody to talk to about a thing, his solution was to assume upon himself the stack of 40 moldy bear skins that being married would entail? The idea that you would tell everything to your wife doesn’t feel right either. John had girlfriends, but on those lonely nights his girlfriend isn’t the place to go with everything. It seems to be a really small gain for the majority of the day-to-day in-and-out of maintaining a relationship with somebody.

The person John wished to talk to would be a female friend who had a fully open connection to her emotional life and her heart, and a knowledge of John and his passage through time. Their friendship would have survived many hurdles and they would still be tight. John has this type of relationship with many people, but at the end of that there is often the feeling that maybe down the road they were fated to be with one another and this looming unfulfilled dream would be the thing that would destroy John’s ability to be truly confidential with them.

This leaves maybe a handful of people who have been through it all a million times. They have access to all of their feelings and there is no sense of fatedness like an elephant in the room either, which makes their relationship even closer. There are still some moments that John can’t be candid about because it would be too close and there isn’t enough detachment. It is rare! John isn’t lonely otherwise, he has close friends who can walk through life with him.

Not being affected by emotions, not being good at life (RW143)

John denied during his entire adult life that anything affected him emotionally at all, but he gradually started to acknowledge that he is very emotional. Whenever he gets emotionally affected by things and then claims that he is not, he is forcing his emotions through tiny little holes on the sides of things, creating major problems for him and everybody around him. Acknowledging that he has emotions is important, but still very difficult.

He is now in a situation in his life where he is not only moving house, but a lot of things have happened to him in spring of 2019 that have pointed out his emotions. He is 50 years old and has an eight year old daughter. He needs to feel his emotions openly and process them in real time, but he doesn’t know how. When he was a little kid he was consciously trying to not feel emotions and was blocking them off as a tactic of self-preservation.

As he got older he found that whenever he let his guard down and showed emotion, someone attacked him and tried to murder him with feelings. When he was trying to get to know women in his early 20s and figure out what his relationship to them was he felt really outmatched by any woman he was interested in and by any guy he was in competition with. Every time he showed some vulnerability, the result was that he was murdered.

It was obvious that John was doing it wrong. No-one had taught him, he didn't have any role models, he rejected the Standard Model, but he didn't replace it with anything. He had a whole philosophy of how men and women should be together and how we should all live in peace and harmony and mutually make the world a more egalitarian and better place, but that did not help. His philosophy was not shared by anyone and when he would go on dates or tried to be a boy, he just felt a constant feeling of shame and he was just an incompetent.

John had already been a hardened little child, but this hardened him off even more. He didn’t understand other people, he was not giving them what they wanted and he was not getting from them what he needed, which made him not want to reveal himself all that much more. In High School he realized that his sense of humor and his quick-wittedness could be weaponized to protect him from other kids, which worked for a long time (see RW130).

It wasn't until his thirties that John felt like he started to live in the world in a way that he didn't feel like a complete alien, largely because he had crossed about 85% of all human activity off the list. He could not or would not get married or have a job. He had eliminated all these behaviors and he started to manage within a very small world that he could manage. He is not trying to get a good job, he is not trying to meet somebody and fall in love and get married. None of those things are possible options.

John was trying to be friends with the girls he liked and hopefully when one of them wanted to kiss him he was not going to run. If he could manage to do that he could hang in there. He needed to make enough money to eat and if he could get some 25 hour a week job and could hold it down and not get fired he would be able to live in a shared apartment space.

The systems he built back then are the ones he was still living by, but they were not enough anymore. He still felt not very good at life because he was not trying to fall in love or be loved, but he was just trying to not run away and to make enough money to get the things he needed. He had no long term plan, he had no bucket list, he was just making it.

Caring about things and admitting it (RW143)

It all comes down to: ”How can I admit that I have feelings and that those don't make me vulnerable to being murdered?”, to say to a girl ”Hey, I really like you! I like hanging out with you a lot!” has always filled him with dread because as soon as you voice it, it is almost like you just wait for the other shoe to fall, you wait for that person to not even say ”Actually I'm not that into it!” but you just wait for that person to ghost you.

John does not want to be ghosted and when he likes somebody he goes ”Cool, great to see you, come by any time!” with a comical level of teenage fake cas. ”Hey, what's up? Oh, cool! Great. No no, great to see you, come in! Let’s hang!” It was hard won for John to even have the ability to do that, but how do you get to a place where you say ”Hey, I really like you!” without them saying ”Oh, great! Let's get a shared bank account!” or for them to say ”Oh, you really…? Oh… cool!”

John doesn’t want either of those things! He has never been able to work out a situation with somebody where he wasn't frantically explaining all the ways in which he wasn't capable of whatever it was they needed. Saying ”Hey, this really matters to me, this show that I am doing with you, Dan! It matters to me, I don't want to stop doing it, I don't want to lose it.” for example will put him in a position of vulnerability.

Dan could say ”Oh, I've been thinking about it and I am navigating very much out of this, I am getting really busy lately.” John knows Dan is not going to, but those feelings of abandonment or unworthiness have been in him so deeply from the age of 3 on and a lot of the swagger he brought to life is just the swagger of somebody who taught himself from toddlerhood that if he gave a fuck about anything then somebody was going to take it away, so he just doesn't give a fuck about anything.

It is not what John wants to teach his kid, and the only way to not teach her that is to not practice it, and the only way for him to not practice it is to care about things and be honest about it. How awful can it be to care about things and let people know? This is so ingrained and reinforced in him!

Being attractive for having power and wit (RW143)

John gets a lot of flak in his family for having a type of girl that he likes, but he rejects that he does because he thinks of himself as someone who likes everybody and recognizes beauty in everybody. Then his sister will laugh and say ”Oh, so it is just a coincidence that if you put pictures of the last five girls you have dated or the last 15 girls you have dated in an album, a normal person would think they were all pictures of the same person?”

John does not agree with that assessment, except every once in a while he sees a picture of somebody that he is close to and then he realizes it is a picture of somebody else that he is close to. It isn't their appearance that unites them, but a quality of inaccessibility.

John is always in fear in his relationships. Even when it is 100% clear that the person he is with is very into him and wants to be with him, he is pretty sure that they are just faking. He doesn’t know why they would be faking and what they would be getting out of it, he doesn’t know why they bother, but he is always quizzing them. ”Are you faking? Do you want to be here?” - ”Yes, for the 1000th time!” - ”I mean, I believe you, but really though?”

When John was young his mom filled him with a lot of ideas about how women interact with men, and those ideas have been very hard for him to surmount over the course of his life, even knowing that his mom doesn't have a super-healthy worldview and really didn't when he was a kid. For instance John doesn’t like the old canard that the number one thing that women look for in men is a sense of humor. He doesn’t take that as a compliment because he doesn’t want to be liked for his sense of humor, he wants to be desired and coveted as an object of beauty. He doesn’t want somebody to overlook that he is gross because he is funny.

John always had power and a lot of that power was innate, but when he realized that he could weaponize his wit, it gave him power in a teenage context. He couldn't be pushed around anymore, but he could also generated energy, he had authority, and as his life went on he developed a lot of authority and power. It is present in him and if he walks into a room of 30 people it is clear that he has it, even if none of them have ever heard of him, know him or anything. It is just clear! John sees it reflected in other people and knows it is there, but he is not asserting it, he doesn’t walk in and say ”All right everyone! Gather round!”

John does not like that power to be an attractive force or something that is sexy. He does not want someone to say ”I'm really attracted to your power!” because what they are saying is that they are not attracted to him in all the other ways. You see these portraits in human life of a shabby, gross, older guy who has money and a younger attractive manic pixie dream wife. We look at it and find something gross about that. Maybe that manic pixie dream wife really loves the man?

In our 20th century collective unconscious a feeling based in something prehistoric that ”a man and woman had a little baby” (lyrics of Three is a magic Number by Schoohouse Rock!) has idealized the Adam and Eve version of a couple. They are roughly the same age, maybe he is two years older, and they are roughly the same attractiveness, they are from the same culture and from the same time. If you get too much deviation in any of those factors the relationship starts to become grotesque. The man should be bigger than the woman but if he is dramatically bigger or if he is not bigger, both of those things become oddities. The man should be a little older, but if he is much older or if he is younger it becomes an oddity.

All of that is cultural, none of it matters, but you collect enough of those oddities, and John’s insecurity is such that he starts to feel like they are pretending to want to be with him for other reasons. They are willing to overlook the grotesquery because they are somehow baffled by their attraction to his wit or power. John wants to be loved as a whole person!

John tries to elicit compliments with his partners, but he hates doing it, like ”What do you think of this mustache?” and almost never does he get ”I really like that mustache and I think it looks great on you!", but almost always he gets ”Well, you managed to pull it off somehow!” They mean it as a compliment that John pulls off even that dumb mustache because of his wit and power. No-one else could wear that dumb mustache except John managed to pull it off because that is his magic.

All he wants is ”It looks great, and you look great, and I love the way you look!” Small stuff! John is sure there are a lot of people out there whose relationship is mostly based on how they look and they really wish that somebody would compliment them on their ideas every once in a while, like ”I know I'm pretty, but didn't I do a good job?”

John has the opposite problem, and yet it is very real to him. He knows he has wit and he sees his power reflected in other people. He knows he is going to be fine and he is not worried if he is going to make it. If he walked out the door right now and someone was standing there and said ”All you have is what's on your body right now and that's it and everyone you know is gone from the world. Good luck! You got a coat, you got $200 in your wallet and every person you ever knew is gone. You are walking down 1st Avenue and there is no-one to call and nowhere to go"

John would be fine, no question! He is not afraid! That person might be the first person who will ever say ”I'm not really attracted to your sense of humor or your masculine power, I just think you are really foxy and I kind of overlook your wit!” and it might be the person John will end up marrying. ”Really? You don't think I'm funny?”

It would never work because they would need to think John was funny, too. All of this is small-child insecurity that has blown up into fully adult-sized insecurity in an adult body and it is all connected to the fact that he never felt like anybody really wanted him, and definitely nobody wanted him as he was. His mom and dad loved him and they wanted him, but they just wanted him to be very different than he was.

Being happy the way you are (RW143)

”We don't want that from you anymore, we are happy with you the way you are!” is very hard for John to accept because he internalized he is not happy with who he is. Dan wonders who is happy with who they are, but John knows that some people are. A lot of people don't ask why, and when they get done with work they say ”Now I got the weekend!” The weekend isn't supposed to accomplish anything for them, but now they get to do whatever they want and then they get back in the saddle.

They never step back and go ”Why am I doing any of this? Why is any of us doing any of this? What would be a better system? How could I arrange the traffic lights so that they allowed traffic to flow freely and yet never impeded someone who was just trying to get down 2nd Avenue at 5pm?"

They are not spending their imagination capital on trying to figure out how to make the city work better and they don't then carry the burden of the traffic lights with them from traffic light to traffic light. John feels capable of solving the traffic light question if he had the right team and the right resources, and because he is not doing it he can't drive through town accepting the traffic lights as part of nature, because they are not!

John recognizes the human hand behind all these things, that human hand is connected to an intention, and that intention is derived from a set of myths and discoveries and science, which is the product of something metaphysical. John wants to know about all that stuff and he feels a personal responsibility about it that doesn't belong to him because it is not his responsibility!

The arc of human history that led us to conclude that how the traffic light at Fourth and James should be timed is thusly not up to John. He can't go back, he can't intervene, no-one is going to appoint him chief of traffic lights at any time, and he is not interested in it enough to devote the rest of his life to becoming chief or traffic lights.

John almost said he needs to just put that into a shoe box and put it in his basement, but that is not where it lives! John already got enough things in shoeboxes in his basement that aren't his responsibility!

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