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heres a fundamental assumption a lot of us make about

sex that often causes a lot of skewed perceptions about


why were not getting the sex/love we want.
Men have a tendency to make the assumption that sex
itself is a need, regardless of who (or what) it comes
from. Women have a tendency to assume that sex can
only be a form of intimacy/love. Both of these are
wrong, and they both get a lot of people into trouble in
their relationships.
But to explain why, I need to explain psychological
needs.

PSYCHOLOGICAL NEEDS
AND STRATEGIES
All humans possess fundamental psychological needs. If
we do not meet our psychological needs, we suffer,
sometimes severely. Just like we need food, shelter, and
sleep to survive, we also need to fulfill our psychological
needs to remain mentally healthy and stable.
Psychologists have studied a number of psychological
needs, but you can really narrow them down to four
fundamental needs: security,1 selfesteem,2 autonomy,3 and connection.4 To be happy,

stable people, we need to meet all four of these needs


consistently. If we are not meeting these needs, our
minds will actually begin to rationalize ways to get them
met, even at the expense of our physical or mental
health. If one is never able to meet their need for
esteem, they will become chronically depressed and
sometimes commit suicide. If one never meets their
need for autonomy, they will fall into a state of
codependence or learned helplessness.

On top of psychological needs, we have psychological


and social strategies to meet those needs. Some
strategies are more abstract and some are obvious. For
instance, sports fulfill our needs for connection, and if
we win, for esteem. A healthy family unit can provide
for our needs of connection, esteem and security.
Learning martial arts can fulfill our needs for security
and esteem. Getting good at math to impress our
teacher can fulfill our need for esteem. Experimenting
with drugs can fulfill our need for autonomy and
connection. So on and so on.
So heres the doozy:
Sex is a strategy we use to meet our
psychological needs and not a need itself.
How do we know this? Because there is no evidence
that celibacy or asexuality is actually physically or
psychologically unhealthy. You dont die from not having
enough sex. In fact, there are many health
risks because of sex. One could even argue that there
are psychological and health benefits from not having
sex.
Now, Im not saying we shouldnt have sex (Im the last
one who should argue that). In fact, sex is great. Sex is
awesome. Sex makes us happier and healthier people.
Im simply pointing out that it is not a

biological/psychological need, but rather simply another


drive.
On the other hand, if psychological needs go unmet for
long periods of time, it will absolutely fuck us up
physically and psychologically. People develop
neuroses, addictions, and even delusions to get their
needs met. Research shows that social isolation is more
harmful than alcoholism or smoking. 5 Depression and
stress are related with all sorts of terrible physical
issues.
No one ever killed themselves because they were too
horny. They do it because of a lack of connection or selfesteem.
The idea of sex as a strategy to meet psychological
needs sounds weird to many because sex is also a
physiological drive, like eating or sleeping. But unlike
eating or sleeping, you can go your whole life without
sex and not be any worse off for it.
The fact is, as humans, weve actually evolved to use
sex to meet our psychological needs, not our physical
needs.

MEN AND WOMEN AND


DIFFERING NEEDS

Much of the mismatched understanding between men


and women and sex comes from the fact that men and
women usually use sex to satisfy different needs.
Traditionally, a womans best route to a secure future
and healthy children was through marrying a successful
man. In the past, women mainly sought sex out as a
form of security. Even today, theres still a lot of appeal
in a man who can provide a secure, stable environment
for a woman.
Women have also suffered a history of having their
sexuality shamed and suppressed by society. Therefore,
many of them have come to feel an inverse relationship
between sex and their need for esteem. Instead, theyre
far more likely to use sex to seek out their need for
connection, since theyve been conditioned to feel bad
about themselves for having sex for other reasons.
Men, on the other hand, have traditionally used their
sex lives as a status symbol with other men. If youre a
man who sleeps with a lot of women, youre usually
seen as a more successful man. Therefore, men have
largely been conditioned to seek sex to fulfill their need
for self-esteem.
Because men and women have traditionally pursued
sex to fill different psychological needs, they fail to
understand each other and criticize each other for not
meeting the need they want met. Men think women are

being clingy and manipulative, whereas women think


men are being insecure and desperate.

In my book on dating for men, a core point I make is


that men need to develop themselves independently of
women to get their needs met on their own as much as
possible. I would argue the same goes for women.
Pursuing sex to compensate for your neediness in selfesteem or because you feel a lack of connection in your
life will only cause you to behave in unattractive ways.
End of story.
Once youre able to meet your psychological needs with
a variety of sources in your life (healthy family life,
social life, professional life, etc.), then you can pursue
sex from a place of power and abundance (attractive)
and not from a place of neediness and desperation
(unattractive).

Men and women get caught up in their own needs and


then project those needs onto everyone around them.
Women see men as cold and brutish because they
expect them to have the same need for connection that
they have. Men see women as manipulative and
deceitful because they assume women use sex as a tool
for self-esteem like they do. In both cases, theyre
wrong and mischaracterizing the people lying naked in
front of them.

SEX, ATTACHMENT, AND


OUR PSYCHOLOGICAL
NEEDS
Humans have evolved a psychological system
of emotional attachment. Totally involuntary yet
universal, regardless of culture, age or race, we get
deeply and strongly emotionally attached to one
another throughout our lives. It starts with a child to its
parents. And assuming our parents dont fuck it up too
much, that attachment moves beyond our parents and
onto some (not all) of our sexual partners. The rise in
oxytocin, serotonin, drop in testosterone levels,
decreased prefrontal cortex activity these processes
are designed to get us drunk on love with each other
long enough to at least raise a highly functioning,
healthy child or two (or ten).

And so while sex is absolutely a physiological function,


and in some ways its no different than eating or
crapping, evolution has intertwined our drive for sex
(note: a drive, not a need) with our psychological needs
for esteem and connection. Theyre intimately linked.
And they cant be unlinked. Even if one manages to
suppress those needs, they come roaring back in the
forms of neediness and overcompensation.

Thats why even the most cold-hearted player


eventually has an emotional implosion, usually at the
most unexpected time. Thats why women want to be
romanced and swept off their feet. Its why we keep
going on date after frustrating date with nothing to
show for it. Thats why overuse of pornography makes
you feel like a loser, because while youre getting off,
youre just reminding yourself that youre not good
enough (esteem) to be loved (connection).
Its about emotional needs, psychological needs.
Sex is not like eating, because a) you dont die without
it, and b) its inevitably an emotional experience when
you have it. Nature has cleverly wired us this way to
put our psychological needs first and then use sex to
fulfill them in order to trick us into sticking around and
taking care of one another. Sure, we may still try to get
a little sumthin sumthin on the side now and again.
And sure, when we break up and feel crappy, we may
go on a little sex spree to feel good about ourselves.
But thats just it. Its not about the sex, its about how
we feel about ourselves. Thats the way nature made it.
And its not changing any time soon.
Footnotes
1. The human need for security can be seen from the evolutionary
view in Buss (1996); from the psychodynamic view in Becker
(1973), Freud (1909/1961), Erikson (1959/1980), Horney (1950) ,

and Psszczynski et al. (1997); and from the humanistic view in


Maslow (1954) and Rogers (1961).
2. The need for self esteem can be seen from the cyberneticcognitive view in Bandura (1977), Carver and Scheier (1982), and
Locke and Latham (1990); from the psychodynamic view in
Erikson (1959/1980), Murray (1938), and White (1959),; from
social psychologists in Aronson (1992), Epstein (1990), and
Solomon et al. (1991); and from the humanistic view in Deci and
Ryan (1985, 1991), Maslow (1954), and Rogers (1961).
3. The need for autonomy can be found in Bakan (1966),
Csikszentmihalyi (1997, 1999), deCharms (1968), Deci and Ryan
(1985, 1991), Laing (1960), Maslow (1954), May (1967), and
Rogers (1961).
4. The need for connection can be seen from the evolutionary point
of view in Bowlby (1969/1982), and Buss (1996); from
psychodynamic and object relations theorists in Bakan (1966),
Erikson (1959/1980), and Greenburg and Mitchell (1983); from
social psychology by Baumeister and Leary (1995), Epstein (1990),
Hazan and Shaver (1987), McAdams and Bryant (1987), and Reis
and Patrick (1996); and from humanists in Deci and Ryan (1985,
1991), Maslow (1954), and Rogers (1961).
5. House, J. S. (2001). Social isolation kills, but how and why?
Psychosomatic Medicine, 63(2), 273274.

n the 1920s, women didnt smoke. Or if they did, they were severely judged for it. It was taboo.
Like graduating from college or getting elected to Congress, people believed women should
leave the smoking to men. Honey, you might hurt yourself. Or burn your beautiful hair.

This posed a problem for the tobacco industry. Here you had 50% of the population not smoking
their cigarettes for no other reason than it was unfashionable or seen as impolite. This wouldnt
do. As George Washington Hill, president of the American Tobacco Company, said at the time,
Its a gold mine right in our front yard. The industry tried multiple times to market cigarettes to
women but nothing ever seemed to work. The cultural prejudice against it was simply too
ingrained, too deep.
Then, in 1928, the American Tobacco Company hired Edward Bernays, a young hotshot
marketer with wild ideas and even wilder marketing campaigns.
Bernays marketing tactics at the time were unlike anybody elses in the industry. Back in the
early 20th century, marketing was seen simply as a means of communicating the tangible, real
benefits of a product in the simplest and most concise form possible. It was believed at the time
that people bought based on facts and information. If someone wanted to buy cheese, then you
must communicate to them the facts of why your cheese was superior (Freshest french goat
milk, cured 12 days, shipped refrigerated!). People were seen as rational actors making rational
purchasing decisions for themselves.
But Bernays was more unconventional. Bernays didnt believe that people made rational
decisions most of the time. In fact, he believed that people were fundamentally irrational and so
you had to appeal to them on an emotional and unconscious level.
Whereas the tobacco industry had been focused on convincing individual women to buy and
smoke cigarettes, Bernays saw it as an emotional and cultural issue. If Bernays wanted women to
smoke, then he had to shift that balance and turn smoking into a positive emotional experience
for women by reshaping the cultural perceptions of smoking.
To accomplish this, Bernays hired a group of women and got them into the Easter Sunday Parade
in New York City. Today, big holiday parades are cheesy things you let drone on the television
while you fall asleep on the couch. But back in those days, parades were big social events, kind
of like the Super Bowl or something.
Bernays planned it so that these women in the parade, at the appropriate moment, would all stop
and light up cigarettes at the same time. Then, Bernays hired photographers to take flattering
photos of the women which he then passed out to all of the major national newspapers. Bernays
then told the reporters that these ladies were not just lighting cigarettes, but they were lighting
torches of freedom, demonstrating their ability to assert their own independence and be their
own woman.
It was all fake, of course. But Bernays staged it as a political protest because he knew this would
trigger the appropriate emotions in women all across the country. Feminists had just won women
the right to vote a decade earlier. Women were now working outside the home and becoming
more integral to the countrys economic life. They were asserting themselves by cutting their hair
short and wearing racier clothes. Women at the time saw themselves as the first generation that
could behave independently of a man. And many of them felt very strongly about this. If Bernays

could just hitch his smoking = freedom message onto the womens liberation movement, well,
tobacco sales would double and hed be a rich man.
And it worked. Women started smoking and got to enjoy lung cancer just as much as their
husbands did.
Meanwhile, Bernays went on to pull off these kinds of cultural coups regularly throughout the
1920s, 30s, and 40s. He completely revolutionized the marketing industry and invented the field
of public relations in the process. Paying celebrities to use your product? That was Bernays idea.
Creating fake news articles that are actually subtle advertisements for a product? Also his idea.
Staging controversial public events as a means to draw attention and notoriety for one of his
clients? His idea as well. Pretty much every form of marketing or publicity were all subjected to
today began with Bernays.
But heres something else surprising about Bernays: he was Sigmund Freuds nephew.
Freuds theories were some of the first to argue that most human decision making was primarily
unconscious and irrational. Freud was the one who realized that peoples insecurities drove them
to excess and overcompensation. Freud was also the one who understood that people are, at
heart, animals and are easily manipulated, especially in groups.
Bernays just applied these ideas to selling products and he got rich in the process.

Bernays used Uncle Siggys ideas to build an advertising empire. He also later made Freud
famous in the US by getting his theories published in magazines.
Through Freud, Bernays understood something nobody else in business ever understood before
him: that if you can tap into peoples insecurities if you can needle at their deepest feelings of
inadequacy then they will buy just about any damn thing you tell them to.
This form of marketing became the blueprint of all future advertising. Trucks are marketed to
men as ways to assert strength and reliability. Makeup is marketed to women as a way to be
more loved and garner more attention. Beer is marketed as a way to have fun and be the center of
attention at the party. I mean, my god, Burger King used to market hamburgers with, Have it
your way that doesnt even make sense.
After all, how else does a womens magazine that shows 150 pages of airbrushed pictures of
women in the 0.01th percentile of the population in terms of beauty make money other than

turning around and selling beauty products next to those exact same airbrushed women? Or beer
commercials that show raucous parties with friends, girls, titties, sports cars, Vegas, friends, more
girls, more titties, more beer, girls, girls, girls, parties, dancing, cars, friends, girls! Drink
Budweiser.
This is all Marketing 101 today. When I first studied marketing when I started my first business,
I was told to find peoples pain points and then subtly make them feel worse. Then turn around
and tell them my product will make them feel better. In my case, I was selling dating advice, so
the idea was to tell people that they will be lonely forever, that no one will ever like them or love
them, that something must be wrong with them oh! And here, buy my book!
I didnt do that, of course. It made me feel icky. And it took me years to really understand why.
In our culture today, marketing often is the message. The vast majority of information that were
exposed to is some form of marketing. And so if the marketing is always trying to make you feel
like shit to get you to buy something, then were essentially existing in a culture designed to
make us feel like shit and well always want to overcompensate in some way.

One thing Ive noticed over the years is that of the thousands of people who have emailed me for
advice in one form or another, a large percentage of them didnt actually seem to have any
identifiable problem. Rather, they clung to bizarre and unrealistic standards for themselves. Like
the college kid who goes to college expecting to go to insano pool parties with bikini-clad
women on a daily basis and is then disappointed when he feels socially awkward because he has
to go to class and study hard subjects and make new friends and constantly be unsure of himself
because hes never lived on his own before. The latter experience is totally normal, yet he
somehow shipped himself off to university with expectations of Animal House every weekend.
This sort of thing is happening all over. I know for me, my conception of romance and a
relationship when I was young was some cross between a random episode of Friends and a Hugh
Grant movie. Needless to say, I spent many years feeling frustrated and as though something
must be inherently wrong with me.
Bernays was aware of all of this, by the way. But Bernays political views were like a diet
version of fascism he believed that it was both inevitable and in everybodys best interests
that the weak be exploited by the strong through media and propaganda. He called it the
invisible government and generally thought the masses were stupid and deserving of whatever
smart people convinced them to do.
Our society has evolved to an interesting point in history. Capitalism, in theory, works by
allotting resources to fulfill everyones needs and demands in the most efficient way possible.
But perhaps capitalism is only the most efficient means of fulfilling a populations physical
needs needs for food, shelter, clothing, etc. Because in a capitalist system, it also becomes
economical to feed into everyones insecurities, their vices and vulnerabilities, to promote their
worst fears and constantly remind them of their shortcomings and failures. It becomes profitable
to set new and unrealistic standards, to generate a culture of comparison and inferiority. Because
people who constantly feel inferior make the best customers.
After all, people only buy something if they believe it will solve a problem. Therefore, if you
want to sell more stuff than there are problems, you have to encourage people to believe there are
problems where there are none.
This isnt an attack on capitalism. Its not even an attack on marketing. I dont think theres some
big overarching conspiracy to keep the sheeple in line. I think the system simply creates
certain incentives that shapes media, and then the media go on to shape a callous and superficial
culture based on trying to always live up to something.
Overall our system has done pretty damn well, and still does for the most part. I like to think of it
as the least worst solution to organizing human civilization. Unbridled capitalism simply
brings with it certain cultural baggage that we must learn to be aware of and adapt to.
Oftentimes, the marketing in our economy pushes insecurity onto us that is not helpful and that
intentionally triggers inadequacies or addictions within ourselves to make more profit.

Some may argue that this sort of stuff should be regulated and controlled by government. Maybe
that can help a little bit. But it doesnt strike me as a good long-term solution.
The only real long-term solution is for people to develop enough self-awareness to understand
when mass media is prodding at their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and to make conscious
decisions in the face of those fears. The success of our free markets has burdened us with the
responsibility of exercising our freedom to choose. And that responsibility is far heavier than we
often realize.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Procrastination but


Were Too Lazy to Figure Out
July 12, 201514 minute readby Mark Manson

have something important to tell you. Something really important. Im talking about life-

changing, paradigm-shifting, plane-of-reality-transcending, poop-your-pants-and-call-yourmother important.


But I dont feel like writing it down right now. So lets watch this video of a guy doing overhead
barbell splits:
Aaanndd, Im suddenly motivated now. OK, lets do this!
Its ironic, but for two days now, Ive been procrastinating writing a post on procrastination. Ive
done it all. Ive distracted myself with other, less important work. Ive taken breaks that
extended about three hours longer than they should have. Ive done that thing where I sit on
Facebook and then I close the window, open a new one, and instinctively type in Facebook
again.
If I were to graph out the process of my own procrastination it would look something like this:

The red bar includes all of the negative feelings associated with getting off my fat ass and doing
something productive. Things such as lack of sleep, mental fatigue, being distracted by a few
personal problems going on, the uncertainty surrounding whether what I write will be any good
or not, insecurity that people may hate it, that theyll call me bad names and make disparaging
comments about my mother, etc.
The green bar includes all of the positive feelings associated with writing this bad boy. Feelings
such as the pleasure of creativity, the relief of knowing its done, the chuckles I get writing the
inevitable poop jokes that are to come, knowing that I helped people out, the simple pleasure of
writing, and so on.
As you can see though, the red bar the aggregate of associated negative feelings is higher
than the green bar the aggregate of associated positive feelings. Therefore, I just dont write a
fucking thing. I sit on YouTube, then Facebook, then take a nap, then spend way longer than Id
like to admit figuring out how to make an ugly bar graph with smiley faces on it.1

And instead of writing that life-changing, pants-pooping, mother-hollering, epiphanic psychospiritual orgy of life advice that I promised, I sit here, analyzing my own laziness.
But such is being human.
The model above is simplistic but it essentially explains why we often dont do the things that we
should. That raise you never ask for. That attractive person you never ask out. That mother you
always forget to call. The article you dont bother to write. The unpleasant feelings outweigh the
pleasant ones, and so we avoid the unpleasantness, even if were making our lives worse in the
process.
It often isnt until the 11th hour, until the night before, until someone is screaming at you or the
threat of complete and utter failure is breathing down your neck, that the equation finally shifts,
the pressure becomes too much and the associated positive feelings of doing said action
outweigh the negative ones. It becomes more painful not to do something than it does to do it,
and thats when the bastard finally gets done.
Your Typical Ways to Beat Procrastination

There are a couple strategies that trick your brain into doing something it doesnt really want
to do.2
One is by creating whats sometimes referred to as an environment of inevitability. Basically
what that means is that you create an environment where its more difficult not to do something
than to do it.
For example, if you want to lose weight, you can go buy $500 worth of personal training and
schedule classes for the next 10 weeks. Now the pain of wasting $500 and not showing up for the
classes will outweigh the pain of getting off your ass and going to the gym.
I basically got through college by forcing myself to go to the library every day. I discovered that
if I was there, I would inevitably end up studying. If I just went home, I would fuck off all week.

To
p productivity hack: sleep in the library.

Another common strategy for beating procrastination is what I call The Do Something
Principle. The Do Something Principle basically says that if you want to do something
anything then you just start with the simplest component of that task.
I was procrastinating writing this article, so I just told myself that Id open up a blank document
and write the first sentence. Strangely, once you bring yourself to write one sentence, the next 40
get quite easy.
Same goes for the gym example. Just tell yourself to put on your gym clothes. Thats easy. Then
once your gym clothes are on, you feel like a moron if you dont go work out. So you work out.
The Do Something Principle takes advantage of the fact that action is both the cause of
motivation as well as the effect of motivation. And once you take one small, simple action,
theres a momentum that builds inside you, making the rest easier.
But, while these strategies are all sexy and make you want to rub your nipples with cocoa butter,
they dont get at the root of your procrastination problems.

D
ont start rubbing your nipples just yet, your procrastination problems still arent
solved. Image source: Comedy Central

These are like the band-aid solutions. They get you through to the next day, but they dont solve
a lifetime of laziness.
Because if youre like most people, then you experience procrastination over and over and over
again. Its incessant. And thats because theres a deeper issue underlying all this stuff.
The Root Cause of Procrastination

So heres the deal. When its something dumb and plain like taking out the garbage, we all know
why we procrastinate. Garbage sucks. It smells bad. Its annoying to pick it up and walk it
outside. Were lazy. And so on.

It usually isnt until our garbage is overflowing and spreading the sweet stench of rotting flesh
throughout our house that we finally feel motivated enough to do something about it.

But what about the serious and sometimes personal stuff on which we procrastinate? Applying
for that new job. Breaking up with your boyfriend. Starting a web business. Writing your
masters thesis. Telling your girlfriend you have herpes.

These are deeply emotional, stressful events. And as such, we go to extreme lengths to avoid
them, procrastinating doing them for days, weeks, even months or years, even though we know
theyre best for us. We feel permanently stuck.

This sort of procrastination Oh, Ill go back and finish my degree one day, goes on and
on and tortures us, yet the red and green bars never rebalance to where were able to do it.
This is due to the fact that underlying our worst procrastination is a deep underlying fear that
doesnt go away. Maybe its a fear of failure. Maybe its a fear of success. Maybe its a fear of
vulnerability. Or maybe its a fear of hurting someone else.
But theres always a fear behind this sort of procrastination. Procrastination, when not rooted in
some petty displeasure, when debilitating and life-destroying and hair-greying in its intensity, is
always rooted in some form of fear.
But where does this fear come from?
Mansons Law of Avoidance

Chances are youve heard of Parkinsons Law. It says that work expands so as to fill up the time
available for its completion. So whether youre given two weeks or two days to finish a project,
youll feel like you need all of the time given to you.
Youve also undoubtedly heard of Murphys Law, the immortal, Whatever can go wrong, will
go wrong.
Well, next time youre at a swanky cocktail party and you want to impress somebody, try
dropping Mansons Law of Avoidance on them.3 What? Never heard of Mansons Law? Of
course you havent, I just made it up. Check it out:
The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid doing it.

That means that the more something threatens to change how you view yourself, how you
believe yourself to be, the more you will procrastinate ever getting around to doing it.4
The crazy thing about Mansons Law is that it can apply to both good and bad things in ones
life. Making a million dollars can threaten your identity just as much as losing all your money.
Becoming a famous rock star can threaten your identity just as much as losing your job. This is
why people are often so afraid of success for the exact same reason theyre afraid of failure
it threatens who they are and what they know now.
You avoid writing that screenplay youve always dreamt of because that would call into question
your identity as a practical insurance adjuster. You avoid talking to your husband about being
more adventurous in the bedroom because that would challenge your identity as a good, moral
woman. You avoid telling your friend you dont want to see them anymore because that would
conflict with your identity as a nice, forgiving person.
These are good, important decisions that we consistently pass up because they threaten to change
how we view and feel about ourselves. It sounds insane, but its true.
I had a friend who, for the longest time, talked about putting his artwork online and making a go
of it as a professional (or at least semi-professional) artist. He talked about it for years. He saved
up money. He even built a few websites and uploaded his portfolio.
But he never launched. There was always some reason. The resolution on his work wasnt good
enough. Or he had just painted something better. Or he wasnt in a position to dedicate enough
time to it yet.
Years passed and he never did it. Why? Because despite dreaming it, the reality of being an artist
threatened his non-artist, non-vulnerable identity.

I had another friend who was a party guy, always chasing after the girls. Yet, after years of living
the high life he was terribly lonely, depressed and unhealthy. He wanted to give it up. He spoke
with a fierce jealousy of those of us who were in relationships and more settled down than
him. Yet he never gave it up. For years he went on, empty night after empty night, bottle after
bottle. Always some excuse. Always some reason he couldnt slow down.
It threatened his identity too much. The Party Guy was all he knew. To give it up was tantamount
to psychological harakiri.
We all have a set of beliefs of who we are. Generally speaking, we protect these beliefs. So if I
believe Im a nice guy, I will avoid situations that could potentially contradict that belief. If I
believe that Im an awesome cook, then I will seek out opportunities to prove that to myself over
and over again.
Generally, the hardest things for us to do in life are full of emotional resistance. Whether its
putting in the time to study and make good grades, or finally moving away from our hometown,
or shutting up and starting to write that idea that were always telling people about, we avoid
these things because in some way they threaten to contradict the beliefs we have about ourselves.
The kid doesnt study because she believes herself to be a rebel and a loner. The man doesnt
leave his hometown because he secretly believes hes not good enough to be successful
anywhere else. The woman never sits down to write the book because ironically, the possibility
of failure would threaten her belief that shes smart and capable of anything.

If you believe you are only good at video games, then you will avoid anything that
doesnt involve video games.

The belief always takes precedence. Until we change how we view ourselves, what we believe
we are and what we are not, we cannot adopt the decisions and behaviors we spend so much time
avoiding.
The Subtle Danger of Positive Thinking

Theres something funny that happens to me when I write these articles. The more I think about
how amazing an article Im going to write is going to be, the more I procrastinate and the harder
it is to write it.
Conversely, when I stop caring whether the article is great or not, the article feels as though it
writes itself and it usually turns out great.
Chances are youve experienced this in some area of your life as well. The more you care about
the outcome, the harder it feels to achieve. The less you care, the more naturally it comes to you.

Its backwards in a way. The more I try to convince myself that Im a brilliant writer and that I
have something important to say, the more the simple act of writing an article threatens my
identity, and the more I procrastinate writing it.
Whereas if I just believe that Im just some random dude who puts words on paper, eventually
the act of writing then threatens nothing and procrastination stops.
This is one (of many) ways that positive thinking can actually derail us. Most peoples approach
to deep-seated procrastination is to give themselves a lot of positive self-talk:
Come on, you can do this. Youre so smart. Youre amazing. You can do anything you want to
do.
But the more you talk yourself up like this, the more you attach your identity to superlatives like
being the smartest and most amazing, the more any action has the ability to threaten that
belief.
And because it threatens your newfound belief of being this amazing, perfect little snowflake,
youre less likely to actually go do it than you were before.
The Solution: Kill Yourself (Figuratively, Of Course)

In Buddhism, theres a strong emphasis on letting go of the concept that we even exist at all.5
What this means is that, psychologically speaking, your idea of who you are is constructed
throughout your life with a bunch of arbitrary stuff. Buddhism argues that this stuff actually just
traps you and that youre better off just letting go of it.
It sounds wonky, but there are some psychological benefits to this.6 When we let go of the stories
we tell about ourselves, to ourselves, we free ourselves up to actually act (and fail) and grow.
When the wife admits to herself, You know, maybe Im not a great wife or good at
relationships, then she is suddenly free to act and end her bad marriage. She has no identity to
protect.
When the student admits to himself, You know, maybe Im not a rebel, maybe Im just scared,
then he is free to be ambitious again. He has no reason to feel threatened.
When the insurance adjuster admits to himself, You know, maybe theres nothing unique or
special about my dreams or my job, then hes free to give that screenplay an honest go and see
what happens.

Because I have some good news and bad news for you: theres very little that is special about
you or your problems.
My recommendation: redefine yourself in mundane and broad ways. Choose to see yourself not
as this rising star or unheard genius. Choose to see yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal
failure. Instead, see yourself as just a few simple things: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator.
This often means giving up some grandiose and pleasant ideas about yourself: that youre
uniquely intelligent, or spectacularly talented, or intimidatingly attractive, or especially
victimized in ways other people simply could never imagine.
We like telling ourselves these stories. They make us feel good. But they also hold us back.
Define yourself in the simplest and most mundane ways possible. Because the narrower and rarer
the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will begin to threaten you. And with
those threats will come the avoidance, the fear, and the procrastination of all of the things that
really matter.
Footnotes
1. My retarded-looking bar graphs in this article are loosely based on cognitive
cost-benefit analysis, a central idea in behavioral economics.
2. I would call these mind hacks but then Id have to hate myself.
3. And when they ask Manson, who? just make sure they dont think you
mean the serial killer.
4. Mansons Law is basically just a particular encapsulation of self-verification
theory from social psychology. Im really not smart enough to invent this stuff
myself. But fuck you, Im putting my name on it anyway.
5. This is often referred to as No Self in various literatures.
6. Morgan, H. (2010). Self and No-Self: Continuing the Dialogue Between
Buddhism and Psychotherapyedited by Mathers, D., Miller, M. E. and Ando,
O. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 55(5), 726728.