Category Archives for "Self Improvement and Social Skills"

Dec 22

How to Reject Someone When You’re Not Interested

By Ellen Orton | Self Improvement and Social Skills

It’s impossible to create and maintain relationships with everyone we cross paths with. True, being rejected is a bottom-tier feeling, but it doesn’t mean the other party is excited about it. So what happens when someone you’re not interested in starts making advances? How do you reject someone without causing a backlash?

How to Reject Someone When You’re Not Interested

Bring It Up

In most cases, ignoring the situation and your pursuer only tends to complicate and strain the existing relationship. That is because your admirer believes you are yet to notice them or their advances, or you are just shy to reciprocate. Dragging on will only make it worse for them, and there is really no need to torture them with ambiguity. Bring it to an end as early as you can, especially if it’s a friend.

Preserve their Dignity

The goal is to let them down easy, not to tear their heart out or humiliate them. If you’re looking for how to reject someone nicely, it means that they are not bad or shameful people to associate with. If anything, their qualities are what make this tough. 

Even if you once met a boring person, you should not further limit yourself in communicating with others, look through dating sites and risk going on a date. 

Assume Responsibility

This might seem tasking and unnecessary, but when planning on how to politely reject someone, it is only fair you relieve them of any fault. To reject someone is a brutal task, so it would be kind to take fault. If possible, suggest that you share mutual attraction; it’s just that you want to protect their interest and feelings. You just seem to notice the flaws from your standing point should your relationship develop further.

The Friend Zone

Social media has somehow managed to turn friendship into the ugliest bonds, especially when one party harbours deeper feelings for the other. However, offering your friendship means you did not reject them as a whole, and you would like them to be in our life.

Some people make better friends as opposed to lovers, and friendship is not a consolation prize.

Using Cues and Hints

In most cases, not everyone can hold such a conversation or have the guts to be straight up about their lack of interest. So what happens now? If you’re looking for how to nicely reject someone without being upfront, then you should try sending cues instead. There are several things you could do to get your message across. Here are a few tips on how to politely reject someone.

Tips on How to Politely Reject Someone

  • Say You’re Seeing Someone Else

Even though lying about your relationship status is ill-advised, sometimes it is the only way to go. This is especially helpful if your pursuer is insistent on their advances. Telling them you’re already in a committed relationship makes it less awkward and personal. If you’re the witty kind, it won’t hurt to look up funny ways to reject someone, but be careful with your delivery.

  • Suggest Hanging Out in Groups

Inviting other friends to hang out with you means that you are not interested in them that way, and you had not considered going out with them in the first place. If anything, friends act as buffers to prevent awkward situations and topics.

  • Say You Have Plans

Now, you can’t use this card more than twice, but it can really save the situation. Someone who likes you will want to spend time with you, so choosing your plans over them gets the message across. The goal is how to reject someone nicely, so please don’t go posting about how bored and lonely you are.

  • Ask to Introduce Them to Someone Else

It’s only fair you learn how to reject someone over text, especially if you don’t meet often. Thanks to texting, it is less awkward rejecting someone, and you can always change the topic.

You can ask to set up your pursuer with a friend. This will prevent them from being hung up, and it also helps to shift the attention away from you. Of course, you want to ask the said friend first to avoid them being rejected twice.

  • Steer Away from Jokes and Sarcasm

The point is to avoid being a jerk, so be very careful with your choice of words. Even when working on how to reject someone funny, be careful about the jokes or quotes you use. They might seem funny or witty to you, while your pursuer might feel insulted.

If you’re trying to keep light on rejecting someone nicely via text, keep your sarcasm in check. It will help from further complicating the situation. Naturally, when someone is being rejected, their response will not be reacting to humor.

  • Be Careful With Your Lies

Naturally, a poker face will complement your lies perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you have to lie about everything. Keep it minimum – it is easier to sell a smaller lie. You can be blunt with your lies as well, especially if your pursuer is insistent. You can use your religion/culture card to get out of most situations. Some lies might be petty, but they will get the message across.

Don’t Leave Room for Uncertainty

Lastly, you will want to ensure that you leave no wiggle room in the situation. Establish your boundaries. Some people make advances because they misinterpret your actions and behavior, meaning you might be sending out mixed messages.  Rejecting someone is not a pleasant activity, and some will want to put it off as long as they can. Be sure that this will make it any easier for the people involved, so be done with it as soon as possible.

Apr 13

Choosing your Friends Wisely – Be Reliable and Avoid Sloth

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

I remembered one of my most negative life experiences as a young 21-year-old. That was when I started studying social dynamics, personality development and self-help. One tenet of attracting women is courage and standing up for yourself (and others). 

Two of my friends were squabbling and told one of them to stop emotionally abusing her. He told me: ‘why didn’t you take my side’. He also happened to be the main social connector in the social group I was part of. He suddenly stopped inviting me out for all events. The rest of the group didn’t care or asked why I stopped showing up for group events. Life just went on. Slowly, in another repeated process, these so-called ‘friends’ started falling off.

In one of my previous business masterminds, I enthusiastically shared strategies and information that I paid thousands of dollars for. I never understood why the so called friends in the mastermind perceived it as being arrogant instead of being inspired and/or appreciative that I was sharing it for free. 

Ouch. These life events taught me a whole deal about friendship. Losing friends can be one of the most difficult things a young man has to deal with when you’re in your twenties. Especially when you’re standing up for your values. However, I embraced pain and put it into improving my dating life. 

Fast forward years later, I’ve had a dating life equivalent to a Chinese lord in ancient China (not at Emperor level yet), I built a profitable business in the dating coach for men industry in Singapore, travelled to many parts of the world and progressively began doing better than these peers around me in  multiple aspects of my life: academic performance, dating life, fitness, personal finances and business. I became well-traveled, well-spoken and had my first taste of business success. I became a lot more reliable and accountable than my teenage years.

Choosing your Friends Wisely: Boundaries

There seems to be a particular boundary issue in Asian culture. To give you an example: you’re ‘supposed’ to just share drinks on the table because someone in the group  decides to order an expensive bottle and you just happened to want to go to the club with friends to chill. If you don’t fit in socially into that particular situation, you’re considered an asshole.

Isn’t being accountable for what you spend and keeping others accountable for what they spend a rational behavior? Or is it a social norm to let minor purchases slight in the name of ‘friendship’.

I’ve NEVER had issues going dutch with women on dates. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for friend. There’s something perverse about the Asian culture that you’re expected to buy someone a meal or a drink, and then he/she treats you back a week later and the cycle repeats itself.

You Want to Associated Yourself with People Better than You: You Want to be Reliable

I knew my success, drive and no-nonsense approach to keep myself and others accountable is going to rub most people the wrong way. I also slowly understood that people do not merely exchange bodily fluids, money with each other, but also self-esteem. People with healthy self esteem are going to understand accountability and responsibility. However by this time I knew I could generate acquaintances and surface-level friendships in almost any social setting through social skills. Hence, I wasn’t too worried when I piss people off by holding them accountable.

Mike, from PickUpAlpha wrote about the importance of smaller social groups and the meaningless of the big Asian social group that permeates Asian culture. He also sees many Asian acting betas in order to fit into a social group. I often tell clients that they are going to go through an identity flux if they desire mastery in this area. If you start stepping up, not many people are going to like it. Especially if you weren’t the popular or cool popular guy in your teenage years.

There seems to a perverse Asian phenomenon where people defer to people with social status, power, authority and monetary influence. When I was growing up, everyone deferred to the rich kid that pays for bottles at the club with his Daddy’s credit card. Secondly, I don’t think it’s solely an Asian problem, however, it’s more prevalent in Asian cultures. There’s no need to defer to some asshole just because he has a big house and uses his Dad’s credit card to pay for bottles at the club. I’m not saying you need to burn bridges either. 

Charlie Munger, a billionaire, has so often wrote: you want to avoid unreliability and sloth. His partner, Mr Buffet, has also mentioned: you want to associate with people with better behaviours than you and you’ll drift in that direction. I can’t advocate the notion of choosing your friends wisely. If your peer group aren’t upwardly mobile and socially punish you for attempting to better your life, then to hell with them.

Apr 11

How to Overcome Anxiety – a Psychologically Research Guide

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

I remembered starting my first business when I was 22. I dropped out of accounting school and started a website. In, three months, I gave up and told myself: I’m not cut out for this. This isn’t for me. I had too much anxiety and  froze up, not knowing what to do next. If you see an attractive stranger walk by us on the streets. You look at them, faintly hoping they’ll look at us. They might even you a hint or two and even if so, we freeze dumbfounded there with anxiety running through us, unable to make the next step. 

Studies show that fears, anxieties, traumas are imprinted on our brains in similar ways that our physical habits are. They are hardwired into us and never disappear. They are our emotional habits, just like all our other physical habits. If you can build a habit to study hard for examinations, it’s the same ability to build an emotional habit to feel less anxious during social or sexual situations.

How to Overcome Anxiety – Understanding Anxiety

Here’s the thing about anxiety. Everyone has a degree of social and sexual anxiety, no matter how rich, handsome or beautiful they are, it’s part of being human.

The good news is that although anxieties can’t be removed, it can be replaced with higher order behaviours. You can build a habit of acting against your fears.

The people who perform well in a high pressured situation as compared to those who flunk is not due to the lack of anxiety, but how well they managed their anxiety. They both experience similar anxiety, however, one is trained to harness it rather than to be crippled by it. People who are confident in their abilities become more energised and assertive with their anxieties. Their nervousness even goes to help them perform.

I asked myself: How can I look forward to my days? How can I be excited about going to the examinations and feeling competent instead of seeing it as something that is a pain in the butt. How can I be excited to head out with friends on a night out to potentially meet a new romantic partner? Can it not be a non – stressful event? Can it not been as something to be competed and fought against, and something that’s collaborated and enjoyed? This is why I looked into research on how anxieties are formed and how to overcome it.

Principle 1) Questioning our Deep Rooted Beliefs

Someone can be rich and popular but still don’t feel any more secure in their day to day confidence. There are deep rooted beliefs about ourselves that we aren’t willing/able to let go of. Our past pains contribute to our present pain and this may hurt us in all areas of our lives. 

One way to overcome anxiety is to understand why you’re feeling anxious in the first place. This is to question our own thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. This requires self awareness. It’s helpful to take a step back and ask yourself whenever you’re feeling anxious about something. You can ask myself if it’s that really true that if you perform X desired behaviour, you’ll get a negative Y result. 

The other thing you can do is to attempt to understand if a past experience or trauma contributed to your current anxiety. If you’re afraid of start business, could it be because you failed with money in the past and you convince yourself that you’re just not cut out to be an entrepreneur. The process peeling one layer back and another can be emotionally painful whilst doing so, but necessary in the long run.

When I lost money in the stock market, I convinced myself for a year that I merely sucked as an investor. However, that wasn’t the case. One bad trade don’t make me a bad investor. That one horrible trade that I made just meant that I failed at a trade when I first started out. It doesn’t say anything about my long term identity. 

Secondly, instead of believing what’s ‘true’ why not believe in something that’s helpful. Psychological research shows that our human psychology is at most times, biased and unreliable. We often convince ourselves of the ‘truth’ to ourselves and others, whereas, in plain reality, it’s often far from actual reality. So at the end of the day, there’s actually no final ‘truth’. Hence, it’s better to believe what’s helpful, rather than what’s ‘true’, since what’s true is often what we merely convinced ourselves.

Principle 2) Defence Mechanisms

Now, let me get to our excuses. It’s what I call: defence mechanisms. It’s the lies you and I tell ourselves day in and out when you fail to approach that girl, hit the gym or start a business.  You and I all have defense mechanisms that run rampant when it comes to different aspects of life. The common defense mechanisms can morph between apathy, blame, avoidance and procrastination, depending on your life circumstances and different past experiences and upbringing. 

  • The Blame/ Anger

Some of the common ones that I get from myself and people around me: my parents fuck me up, I’m just born like that naturally. I mean, it’s society’s fault, all women are haters. It’s easy to blame something and be angry at someone or something, paint yourself a victim than to take responsibility for something in your life. 

  • Avoidance

When I started improving my dating life, on some nights, I’m completely avoid about social situations by convincing myself that I don’t care. I somehow convinced myself that I don’t want/need to talk to girls and I’m perfectly cool about it. Yeah right Marcus, you are full of crap, you have been talking about this whole approaching girls fearlessly thing the entire week, now that you’re in the club you are not going to talk to a single girl?

  • Intellectualization

Intellectualisation is also another form of avoidance. However, in this case, instead of completely avoiding doing that action, you convince yourself that you can learn more about that subject. Hence, instead of actually performing that action, you end up reading and watching videos or tutorials on how to do that action. 

There’s nothing wrong to get a more insightful perspective on how to better attract women or build a business. However, if you find yourself reading one book after another without doing anything about, then you’re probably using knowledge as an excuse. 

Sometimes, behind these defense mechanisms are emotional truths and realities that we’re out of touch with. The trick here is spotting the excuses you give yourself, and acting despite these excuses. 

How to Overcome Anxiety Principle 3) Progressive Desensitization

When it comes how to overcome anxiety, many are going to teach you a lot of nonsense. Some say it’s a purely a matter of willpower and hustle. Some say that anxiety isn’t real. Others say to focus on the positive and ignore the negative. Some say: just man up the fuck up, grab your balls and just do it.

This strategies work in the short run. However none of these are sustainable and it can actually harm you more than help you in the long run. These solutions only create short term gains, they don’t create permanent habits over the anxiety. Remember, anxiety is an emotional habit wired into your brain and to overcome it, you must hardwire a different, more positive habit on top of it.

Through my experiences as a dating coach for men, I noticed that many of the guys from the community were hyping themselves up before going into the club to meet women. This isn’t really a sustainable strategy in the long run.

One of the most reliable methods of helping you overcome your anxieties is referred to cognitive behavioural therapy, often known as CBT. CBT is based on the concept of progressive desensitizations and gradual exposure to something that makes us afraid.

This is effective on two fronts: 1) It slowly develops our willpower over the course of time instead of overwhelming us at once, and 2) Builds a strong base of confidence in our ability to handle a situation, makes us less likely to freeze up.

If you’re afraid to start a conversation with a stranger at the library, you can start by asking strangers for the time and directions, to build you up, to get some social juices going. Nothing else. Then once you can do that comfortably, you build up to asking strangers for directions and then inserting a compliment. You can get creative with your exercises here. The trick here is this: You continue to progressively push yourself until you’re comfortable with the action.

Willpower is a muscle that can be depleted, and also can be built. If it’s not exercised, it becomes weak. The longer someone becomes a couch potato, the harder it is for them to get up and hit the gym. On the other hand, people who have a lot of discipline and positive habits are able to adopt new habits and push through uncomfortable situations much easier.

Principle 4) Self Acceptance

What you resist, persists. When it comes to fear and anxiety, don’t you notice that the more you focus on it or fight it, the stronger it becomes.

When I was in an academic setting, the more I was afraid of failing my exams, the more I was afraid of picking up my pen and doing some practices to score. Hence, I ended up failing, despite investing an enormous amount of mental effort stressing out over the examinations. It almost felt as if I put in the effort, and yet had no results. 

The times where you accepted that the fear is there, and things may not go how you’d like them to go, you decided that you were okay with whichever outcome that is going to occur, you relaxed and performed fine.

Instead of focusing and spending a huge amount of mental effort on how to beat your anxiety, you can just say to yourself: “You know what, I’m a nervous guy, and this isn’t going to go away or get any easier. I am just going to live with it and act despite it.” This relieves the pressure of not forcing yourself to not feeling anxious.

Till this day I still feel anxious when speaking to someone new. On some days, I still convince myself that I don’t want it, or I don’t need it. Despite writing hundreds of blog posts, I still feel anxious or avoidant when publishing an article. Our emotional habits don’t go away, they merely get replaced by higher order behaviours and habits.

Self development, at the end of the day is changing how you feel about others, and yourself. It ties into concepts such as anxiety, our attachment system, self esteem and etc. The bedrock of acceptance commitment therapy is to go with, instead of against your negative feelings and thoughts as opposed to challenge it.

On the other hand, taking the ACT approach, If I were to just accept these negative thoughts, and be non judgmental about it, I wouldn’t spend the mental energy ruminating over those thoughts in my head.

The Art of Defusing From Your Thoughts

In acceptance commitment therapy, whether a thought is true or not is not that important. It’s far more important if that thought is helpful or not.

Thoughts are also stories we tell ourselves. The mind never stops telling stories, not even when you’re asleep. It is constantly comparing, judging, evaluating, criticizing, planning, pontificating and fantasising.

We all have beliefs, the more we tightly hold on to them, the more inflexible we come in our attitudes and behaviours. 

Fusion happens when you’re blending with your thoughts.In a state of fusion, it seems as if our thoughts are our reality. What we’re thinking is actually happening, here and now. Our thoughts become the truth, the truth of our reality. 

Now, how do we defuse from this ‘self created truth’ to the actual reality of things? 

To defuse your thoughts, it’s first to bring to awareness an upsetting thought that takes in the form of ‘I am X’. For EG. ‘I’m not good enough’, or I’m incompetent’. Preferably a thought that often recurs and that usually bothers or upsets you.

Now, take that thought and insert this phrase in front of it: ‘I’m having the thought that….’ 

Now, this time, phrase it longer ‘I notice I’m having the thought I am X’.

This practice gave you distance from the actual thought as if you “Stepped Back” from it.

You’re no longer making your thoughts your identity, you’re no longer making it your truth. 

Principle 5) Taking Valued Based Action

One part of acceptance and commitment therapy is to take valued based action. Your values are different from goals. A value is a direction we desire to keep moving in, an ongoing process that never reaches an end. You can make the analogy that a value is akin to heading west, no matter how far you travel there’s always farther west you can go. Getting married is a goal. Being loving, honest and empathetic. These are values.

One of the revelations in the book man’s Search for Meaning, written by Viktor Frankl, who was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived years of unspeakable horror in Nazi concentration camps reported that the people who survived longest in the death camps are those who are connected with a deeper purpose in life. The deeper purpose if often rooted in values. One of Viktor Frankl’s values is in helping others, and so, throughout his time in concentration camps. he consistently helped other prisoners to cope despite the atrocious conditions. He also helped them to connect to their deepest values. Taking values based action gives our lives meaning and a powerful antidote to give your life purpose.

Principle 6) The Struggle Switch

The more we struggle with or against these feelings, the more trouble we create for ourselves. When these negative emotions show up, the thing is not to struggle against it, but to just let it be. Our anxiety levels are free to rise and fall. Some times, they’re high, some times, low, more important, you’re not wasting your time and energy struggling against it. Initially, you can willpower through your issues. However, willpower is going to run out.

When we beat ourselves up over our own thoughts and emotions, then that’s when the struggle switch is on.

‘This can’t be good for me.’ ‘I’m such a crappy friend’ ‘I shouldn’t be doing this.’ ‘I’m acting like a child’.

You end up feeling guilty about being angry. You might feel angry about feeling anxious. There are secondary emotions that might come a long with the primary emotion. It’s a vicious cycle. There’s no avoiding discomfort. However, there’s no need for additional suffering. This struggle switch is like an emotional amplifier. When you switch it on, we can have multi layer emotions such as anger about our anxiety. You can feel guilty about our your depression.

When it’s turned on, we’re completely unwilling to accept the presence of these uncomfortable emotions. Not only you’re unable to get rid of them but you’ll also do whatever it takes to get rid of them: this may be through pornography, binge eating and etc.

These are control strategies. Instead of avoiding or struggling against these feelings, it’s better to ‘expand into it’. Expanding into your negative emotions is similar to the defusing technique. It is to step aside from your thoughts and observe your emotions. By allowing these sensations to be there, two things might happen. Either your feelings will change, or they don’t. It doesn’t matter either way because this technique is not about changing your feelings but accepting them.

Closing Thoughts

There’s no fool proof technique to overcome anxiety. It’s going to take practice and effort to practice. Now, I believe that not all negative emotions or thoughts should be merely ‘accepted’. Negative emotions can push us towards value based actions during times of need. Furthermore, it’s not enough to just accept all your negative thoughts or negative feedback. If you see a clear pattern in your life and you’re feeling upset about it, then perhaps you got to do something different. 

Lastly, these techniques shouldn’t be used as control strategies. When you’re throwing your arms in the air and being frustrated and pissed off at why ‘defusing your thoughts’ isn’t working as it should be. You’re probably using it as a control strategy. There’s nothing to control here. Just a plain awareness of your thoughts, accepting them, nodding at them. With no judgement. Our anxieties don’t go away, you merely form better habits on top of them.     

Mar 27

How to Stop Watching Porn – It Can Ruin Your Life

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

I remembered that I had a Windows 95, a dial up connection and that was all I need. I was one resourceful kid. I caught on the hard core stuff really fast. The BDSM porn, lesbians and foot fetishes. You name it, I watched it. It was only when I started in reading up on psychology that I was exposed to the effects of pornography that I started limiting my intake.

In the men’s dating advice community, there are many positive reports from guys who went through the ‘no fap’ diet. It’s proposed that if you are masturbating too much, watching too much porn and not getting much out of your sex life, then going ‘no fap’ can help. So, can reducing pornographic intake help in multiple areas of your life? If so, how can you stop watching porn in an effective manner?

The Science of Pornography

The intake of pornography is researched to be a supra normal stimulus to our brains. This means, it’s way more pleasurable than the average arousing stimulus. Our brains aren’t ready to take in those kind stimulus and hence develop a need for higher forms of stimuli and arousal. This is why you become desensitised and develop a need for more novel stimuli through fancier or more hard core pornography.

Ultimately, pornography paints an unrealistic picture of sexuality. This skews our perception of what beauty is and gives us unreasonable standards for sex with the people we meet. In my younger days, I used to think that having sex with a porn star in multiple crazy positions would define my masculinity.

That can’t be further from reality. The majority of partners you meet aren’t going to live up to the unrealistic narratives in pornography films. Sex is an intimate act for both partners. When it actually happens, it’s usually nothing like you see on computer screens. Sex is actually an activity where either parties may feel unsure about themselves. Everyone get’s a little nervous before an intimate act. It’s nothing like the hard core bravado you watch on pornographic sites.

Shame, Guilt, Addiction and Pornography

Okay, if you’re wondering if pornography is an actual addiction. It’s debatable. Whilst it isn’t a ‘real addiction’, you can’t ignore the data that shows many people do experience real life problems with it. It has been linked to issues such as unhappy and unsatisfied partners, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Whilst pornography ‘addiction’ isn’t validated as a clinical form of addiction, I’m guessing that there is some correlation between toxic shame and pornography overuse. I suggest that because there’s research that suggests that clinical addiction is used to cope with shame, to soothe out their feelings of inadequacy. They just do it through alcohol, drugs and etc.

There’s research suggesting that toxic shame is related to pornography usage. It also suggested that people that had shame were less motivated to alter their behaviours. I’m not going to go on about the differences between guilt and shame int his article, however they found the exact opposite when it came to feelings of guilt. There are other factors leading to compulsive and addictive pornographic usage as well: namely: depression and anxiety. In my personal experience, healing shame through the means of hiring a professional therapist can be a useful way of dealing with overconsumption of pornography, not to mention therapy offers insights into depression and anxiety as well.

How to Stop Watching Porn

Now, let’s get serious here. It’s not only your dating life or your relationships you’re talking about. It’s your entire life. This will not only determine dating success, but also determine your ability to hand up work on time, increase your productivity, cure cancer or send someone to Mars. It’s life changing stuff.

I’ll share with you some methods that have helped me over the years.

1) If you can’t quit porn overnight, leave it to the last activity of the day. You can use pornography as a reward for the productive work you’ve accomplished during the day. You’re using this to rewire the pleasure reward mechanism in your brain. Ideally, you want to land yourself in a position where you have accomplished so much work in the day, that you don’t really want to jerk off to ‘spoil the good track record’.

2) Psychological research shows that building habits in a small way is a more sustainable way to do it rather than flooding yourself with too many habits at one go. Habits are built small and then compounded over time. Starting small such as keeping masturbation and pornographic intake the last activity of the day is a small step that anyone can start applying in their lives.

3) If all else fails, fly to another country for a week or two. Travel can be used as an effective means to break and build habits. Whenever I’m out of the country, I’m much more productive and I don’t use pornography that much. You can use environmental changes to break or build habits.

4) Create an environment of inevitable success. When I was studying in the United States, I was stressed out of my head, behind time on my academic schedule and had a ton of assignments to finish. On top of that, I had personal responsibilities such as laundry, phone bills, making friends and making sure I go out on dates. I suddenly had much more important priorities as opposed to using pornorgraphy.

5) Take a step back and ask yourself the underlying reason you are using pornography. Are you’re using pornography to cope reduce stress? To relief oneself from boredom. Or used to cope with negative feelings or situations? Research suggests that individuals with maladaptive coping skills are much more vulnerable to using pornography as an outlet. Hence, are you merely using porn as a coping strategy?

6) If you do wish to masturbate… think of women you’ve met in real life instead of using pornography clips. Let’s say you met a girl last week in the club and you’re sexually aroused by her. Instead of relying on pornography, you can fantasize about her. It’ll tremendously re-wire your mind to more sensitive and engaged with real life interactions.

7) Change your environmental cues that leads you to watching pornography. Habit researchers found that in order to create new habits to break the old ones, you should not focus on the behaviour but the environmental cue itself. You can do this by installing pornographic blockers, restricting your computer and etc. Clinicians have also recommended such a method.

8) Therapy. If nothing else works and you find your life being interrupt by your intake of pornography. I recommend working with a clinical psychologist. Cognitive behavioural and acceptance commitment therapy has been researched to potentially help with pornography addiction.

The Positive Effects of Not Watching Porn

Going out a masturbation diet and limiting pornography is one of the methods dished out to be more sexually motivated. Self development books such as Think and Grow Rich talks about the ability to transmute sexual desire into creative pursuits such as productive work or art, instead of it depleting one’s energy and motivation. Successful personalities such as Steve Jobs are said to withhold from having sex just to get a creative boost at work.

If you’re overusing pornography, you may also have found yourself desensitised in your dating and relationships life from the years of using pornography. You may find yourself numbed to a real woman’s touch. This is because you are probably desensitised from unrealistic portrayals in pornography. On top of that, a female touch is completely different from the tight grip of your hand.

It was only when I started being serious about getting my dating life handled that I consciously chose to limit pornography and masturbation that I felt more motivated and confident. I also made sure that whenever I’m seeing someone, I would also limit pornography intake as well. (Read: This is to also ensure performance)

Over the years, I’ve never really quit cold turkey or completely. However, the times that I consciously limited my pornography intake, I’ve felt the positive side effects of it. I used to worry and get nervous about performance issues from being desensitised. I am happy to report that I’m facing less of these problems with the reduction of pornographic intake.

Cutting down pornographic intake has also helped me performed better in other areas of my life from academics, sports and be more confidently aggressive in my dating life. The women I notice on a day to day basis became more beautiful and I started appreciating their physical imperfections instead of fake pornographic displays. There’s also a noticeable improvement in general motivation and sense of well being.

When I find myself watching pornography on a more frequent basis, I find myself a lot more judgmental of the women I’m willing to approach. There’ll be a perfectly beautiful girl who walks past me and I’ll put it off and give myself the excuse that she isn’t hot enough. I also notice a difference in general anxiety. I feel more grounded and centered going about my day to day activities when I’m not on pornography.

Relapse and Should You Quit Pornography Completely?

Through the years, I didn’t see a need to quit pornography completely, I actually attempted a couple of times and I found myself unable to focus after a week. However, I am sure that I’m not addicted to it. There are many periods when I’m feeling the urge and if I’m not dating someone, I’ll ‘relapse’ and use pornography there and then.

Here’s my verdict: it’s different strategies for different people. Personally, I believe by keeping pornography intake to a minimum is sufficient. There are clear benefits. If you’re an upwardly mobile individual trying to balance out academic commitments, business commitments and personal relationships… it can get stressful. Sometimes, you just need to get one out. That’s perfectly okay. Just make sure it’s done in moderate dosages that don’t affect your day to day productivity.

It’s ultimately up to you to figure out what works for you. I don’t see it as an all or nothing thing. If pornography isn’t interfering with your day to day life, there’s no reason to be super strict on a no fap diet. There’s no hard and fast rule. However, I do encourage limiting pornography intake on the whole.

Works Cited

Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767

Koukounas, E., & Over, R. (2000). Changes in the magnitude of the eyeblink startle response during habituation of sexual arousal. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38(6), 573–584

Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5-6), 257–271.

Schneider, J. P. (2000). A Qualitative Study of Cybersex Participants: Gender Differences, Recovery Issues, and Implications for Therapists.Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 7(4), 249–278.

 

Mar 03

How to Stop Self Sabotaging – The Psychology of Self Sabotage

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

However, why do some people effortlessly cruise through life and why do some people fail, year after year, repeating their same screws up in multiple aspects of their life? There are decades of research that points our behavior is rooted from our unconscious and seemingly derived from our past (childhood experiences). 

Yet, the majority of advice ignores this aspect of emotional life. I began to take an interest in psychology when I realised I couldn’t get to bed at without stuffing a beer down my throat during my first year in University. On one hand, that experience frightened me, but on another hand, I realized I needed to research this area of life.

How do people end up in positions, that they don’t want to end up in the first place?

Think of the rebel, the school drop out, the bankrupt and the convict. They are apathetic, and indifferent to certain areas of their lives in a certain manner. I asked myself, why do some people freeze up and get stuck for years? Why do some people have to exert huge willpower in get certain areas of their life right? I self sabotaged and deleted my projects multiple times. Why do you have a constant nagging and self critical voice behind your head?

Self sabotage plays out in other areas of our lives as well: dating partners that you aren’t really interested in, avoiding emotional intimacy, not showing up for University classes, not putting in the required effort in work, rebelling without any cause or objectivity or not finishing what you started and more. I was that student who who didn’t go to school, missed test after tests, didn’t purchase the required textbooks and yet constantly rates himself perceived himself as ‘intelligent’.

How does Self Sabotaging Occur

Self handicapping is researched to be a cognitive strategy used to avoid effort in the hopes of keeping potential failure from hurting our self esteem. Students don’t study their tests to their best of their abilities in fear of potential failure and they won’t be ‘as smart’ as they thought they would be. 

I was like that for the past decade. I avoided tests, didn’t study for them at all, and barely made it through my first year in University. This was done with the excuse and subtle arrogance of: if I had studied, I would have done so much better”.

This plays out in our dating lives: not asking a girl out, not asking her for her number when she’s obviously giving you positive signals, not texting a girl early enough, afraid that she’s not going to reply, not dressing to the best of our abilities, not hitting the clubs when you’ve obviously spent hours and hours thinking and preparing for it, are the multitudes of manners all of us fear rejection (despite contrary evidence that she likes you) and self handicap ourselves. 

Habitual self handicappers may also constantly pass up emotionally healthy individuals to date and are always dating girls who are married or in committed relationships or have constantly glaring emotional issues to date. This can also play out in your dating life by choosing emotionally abusive, absent partners over and over again.

Some people are fortunate to be naturally charismatic from young, with women. They are called the ‘naturals’, some people like me have to learn it to a certain extent. Some people are ignored right from the start, had to learn it, got good at it, however, are still stuck emotionally when they are ignored.

This is the guy that has has multiple PhDs but still beliefs he is dumb. This is the guy with 6 pac but still beliefs he is sexually un-attractive.

  • Self esteem

One common way people self handicap is to make the task they want to achieve much harder than it is. This pans out through alcohol consumption, choosing unattainable goals, refusing to perform a technique or task or technique. This is done so that if he or she fails, they can put the blame of these self created obstacles.

Once being a competitive martial artist, I notice in the self handicappers that they’ll drinking the night before a competition. Or not putting in the required practice and drill time for the fight.

  • Self Doubt

When there’s constant self doubt, the constant tension in your head invariably leads to hesitation and procrastination. It causes you to push the brakes with one foot even as the other is pressing on the accelerator. 

There’s no overnight fix for this constant self doubt in us, just like a host of other issues. The key is almost always awareness to your critical inner voice and regularly to contest those self defeating thoughts and beliefs. 

  • Past Trauma  

There may be disparaging messages you inherit may have come from overly critical parents. This might be because they might have set unrealistic standards for us during our developmental age. They may consistently tell you that you are not good enough or incapable. 

If you weren’t positively encouraged for failing as a child, your avoidance and procrastination may be shielding you from the emotional pain you experience back then many years ago when you weren’t prepared to handle the humiliation by overly harsh parents. 

It’s researched that a wrong style of parenting can internalize negative messages in children. If you are raised to fit only a certain mould, your place is to serve the parent rather than the parent augmenting your self, that when you form a continual and nagging self doubt. You’ll invariably be fearful of giving credit for fearing of being seen as arrogant or behaving selfishly. 

The child who grows up with a secure attachment can rely on their caregivers to meet their needs. This secure attachment bond helps lay the foundation for good relationships and self image in adult life. Insecure attachment is characterized by failure to meet the needs of the child by caregivers through inconsistency or insufficiency. This type of attachment theory can lead the child to question his worthiness and may contribute to the development of a general sense of self doubt.

The Compulsion to Repeat

Why do people subject themselves to some sort of abuse, or even self abuse in the form of physical, emotional or even sexual? Why do people stay in totally abusive friendships, romantic relationships, jobs and rationalize it away?

If you take the Freudian approach, you’ll say that, that is because when they are a child, that’s a form of love they’ve been conditioned to. They can’t feel love any other way. Some people can only feel loved when they are abused, abandoned or neglected. 

How to Stop Self Sabotaging

  • Cognitive Restructuring

There’s no easy way around how to stop self sabotaging. The first is the most common manner of learning new mindsets and ways of thinking such as cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring is the orientation of belief and some form of behavioural conditioning or another. You’re attempting to re-wiring your belief systems on a cognitive level.

  • Therapy

Over the years, I’ve shared my experiences in psychotherapy. However, I’m always met with skeptic looks or hidden thoughts of: ‘I had a happy childhood. This doesn’t apply to me. To many people, discussing the unconscious is sounds like a whole lot of crap. People that go along with this are often heard saying: “stop crying, just man the fuck up and get a long with life”.  This is especially true in an Asian, Confucianists culture, it’s difficult to have an objective view on your parents and upbringing. No one talks about it.

One of the ways to stop self sabotaging is to understand your own behaviour, process the trauma and get help from a clinical psychologist. The research backs this up as well, with patients being more successful if they took a long term approach to it. The majority of my friends I recommended never started, or drop off after once or twice. They then go back repeating similar behaviours, hence a compulsion to repeat. You’re covering the leaking wound with a bandage after bandage, never healing the wound it self. 

People who have not made effort to understand their unconscious motivation from their past behaviour will be deemed to repeat it. 

Closing Thoughts 

Your behaviour is the root of many of your decisions, success or failures. It determines if you finally dumping that crappy ex boyfriend of yours, to start attending University lectures or to start a business. The ‘why’ you do something and why you don’t is rooted in your behaviour. You either take it seriously, and understand it, or not.

Secondly, our beliefs and emotions are researched to largely biased and unreliable. What you believe and feel true at any given moment, may be totally wrong. Only when we step outside ourselves, beyond the padded walls of our minds, that you can gain a wider perspective of the issues at hand. This is hard to do.

Something I learned from therapy, is that numbness, denial, apathy, anger, hurt and sadness are often sandwiched in-between each other. The way to heal and grow is to see it for what it is, and not to deny, avoid or idealize it. Getting in touch and processing the hurt, anger and sadness is a painful process. This requires introspection, therapy and confronting self esteem issues rather than will powering through it. However, it’s definitely worth it in the long run.

 

Sep 28

How to Get Out of Depression – a Guide to Psychotherapy

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

Our decision making in all areas of life comes from unconscious aspects of our minds. If there’s something you are overly anxious about, there may be an underlying emotion that’s repressed or are unconscious about. If you’re constantly unhappy or constantly stuck in toxic relationships friends and family members… then perhaps there’s something there as well. Or just maybe… you may be facing some form of depression.

How to Get out of Depression: The Benefits of Psychotherapy

I’ll argue that many people struggling in different areas of their lives from relationships to personal finance may have emotional stories that are out of touch with. These stories come in the form of past traumas, difficult childhoods and negative experiences that they themselves have not confronted and/or are completely unaware of. Yet, they go on years after years of chasing superficial fixes and are oblivious to their own emotional realities.

For example, through the years in my dating life, I was only confident with women that I wasn’t too emotionally invested in. It didn’t matter if she was attractive or not… as long as I wasn’t emotionally invested, I could ‘perform’ and get her attracted. However, when it came to a woman I actually felt something for, I’ll screw it up in the multitude of ways possible.

The Struggle with Depression and Mental Health

When I was much younger, I completely flunked my examinations and got dumped by my ex girlfriend over text message in a time period of a couple of weeks. I was due for military enlistment in a month and needless to say those chain of events lead to a minor depressive period.

In such times I often looked to friends and family for advice but mostly they ended up giving me superficial or judgmental advice:

‘Just don’t think too much’
‘You’re over thinking it’. 
‘You need to be more spiritual. That’s the problem with you Marcus’ 

I read the research on psychotherapy, I saw the potential benefits and I jumped straight in. I didn’t really cared about what others would think. Stigma? Good. Unconventionality? Even better. I never bought all that unscientific NLP, superficial self help advice. In fact, I hated it. I need something more concrete, something that is based on the scientific method. Okay, psychology isn’t a hard science. I’m aware of that. However, it’s the closest bet.

I checked myself into psychotherapy at the age of 21. However, in hindsight, I didn’t see benefits of psychotherapy seriously until my third year into it. That was because I went into my sessions with the Mr Know It all attitude:

‘Yeah, I’ve read the research behind it. I know my issues.’

However, intellectualising and/ or verbalising your issues are one thing, but processing and grieving through them is a whole other ball game.

Do You Need Therapy?

Now, if you’re wondering if you are depressed and need therapy, here is a simple, helpful checklist I stole from Mark Manson’s article.

  • You have emotional or sexual impulses you don’t have control over angry outbursts, fear of intimacy, sexual anxiety, bouts of depression, etc.
  • You come from a difficult childhood, had absent parents or a poor relationship with your parents.
  • You’ve suffered some major traumas in your life (death of loved ones, abuse, major health problems, etc.).
  • You have compulsive behaviors which interfere with other areas of your life: i.e., drug/alcohol abuse, etc.
  • The majority of your relationships in your life are dysfunctional and/or unhealthy (always fighting, lots of blame/guilt, etc.). This includes friendships, significant others, family members.
  • You are overly pre-occupied with one aspect of your life. Common examples include an obsession with being “cool” or popular, obsession with impressing others, a constant need for approval from others, even obsessing about improving yourself (feeling like you’re never good enough), etc.

Through therapy, you’re forced ask better questions:

  • Why do you get nervous around that attractive person who is a complete stranger?
  • Why are you so invested in what others think of you?
  • Why are you avoidant of commitment?
  • Why do you feel unworthy of dating someone you’re genuinely attracted to, but feel completely worthy of dating someone you feel so so about?
  • Why do you measure yourself and base your self-esteem with certain achievements/ sexual conquests?

Here’s a catch 22: if you’re constantly desiring to better yourself, doesn’t that stem from the belief that you aren’t already good enough?

Psychotherapy can help you:

  • Understand how past traumatic events determine your attachment style, that determine the quality of your relationships
  • Why you may be overtly critical or judgment of yourself (could it be because you had an overly critical parent?)
  • The root of your lack of motivation, your anger or apathy in life
  • Help you be aware of your subconscious negative beliefs, the subconscious ways you measure yourself with others, and other unconscious drives
  • How you self sabotage yourself (not studying for exams and partying the night before) This might be rooted in a fear of failure from childhood

There are tons of other benefits, however, these are the main ones that helped me in my life.

Through therapy, you start digging into your past: your emotional development and your childhood. Perhaps you always find yourself in toxic romantic relationships or get uncontrollably angry when someone criticises you on something minor, then perhaps there’s an unresolved emotion or belief there that you aren’t conscious about.

Perhaps, you had an absent father and you’ve been resentful against him for all these years. That unconscious resentment causes you to be lack in sexual confidence with the opposite sex. Maybe, you’ve avoided commitment throughout your life because your ex girlfriend broke up with you over one text message. Maybe you lack confidence in your social life because you’ve been teased and bullied growing up. There may be multiple connected reasons and our psyche doesn’t work like an algorithm… but you get the rough idea.

Starting out, I initially thought psychotherapy is a process where go in a room and cry it all out on a couch. However, I eventually found out that uncovering and working through negative emotions such as disgust, shame, anger, rage, ice cold bitterness, contempt and hatred is part of the therapeutic process as well. Psychotherapy helps you process anger and hurt in a safe environment. When you become more aware of those emotions, you are able to exert a great control over your behaviour.

Psychotherapy and the Stigma in Modern Culture

Unfortunately, modern culture also stigmatises getting help from a clinical professional. From personal experience and research, especially in the Asian culture, mental illness, depression is still stigmatised in general. Modern culture doesn’t exactly reward open conversations on emotions, depression, isolation, sex and relationships.

Ironically, the things that matter in life.

I’d even go as far to argue that if I had access to therapy earlier on in my teens, it would do so much better than those boring counselling sessions from the school counsellor (who no one really cared about her advice anyway).

In treating depression through psychotherapy, there’s also difference between being  labelled a ‘patient’ or a ‘client’. The word ‘client’ is often used by psychologists who think of psychological disorders not as illnesses but as problems in living.  

Whenever I attempt to openly discuss therapy with my Asian friends, it gets kind of touchy. They are afraid of how going to therapy perceived.

If you think about it, seeking help from a therapist is similar to getting a personal trainer if you’re serious about getting really good at bodybuilding. You’re just getting one for your mind and emotions. I also have adviced friends and clients who face repeated problems and patterns in their life to try out therapy. The majority of them ignored my advice due to the stigma surrounding it. However, if you look at me, I’m probably a pretty alright individual. I travel regularly, dated a bunch of attractive women in my twenties and publish awesome articles like this. Yet, I worked with a psychologist to continue doing so.

Celebrities, multi-millionaires, successful entrepreneurs, athletes, top performing people, musicians, artists and people who are influential in society have used psychotherapy not to merely treat depression but help them with work life performance.

Secondly, if you really are strong or masculine, then if you can’t openly discuss a ‘touchy topic’, that would merely imply that you’re actually weak. I’ve used therapy for years already in my own life and it’s has helped me in all areas of my life from taking steps towards building a business, bettering my academic performance, fostering better relationships with my parents and to building better self awareness.

There’s no shame about it. If you need it, consult one.

The Different Forms of Psychotherapy

Okay, now let’s get to the different forms of psychotherapy.

When most people think of therapy, they think of going into a room, lying on a couch and crying their heart out after some sort of hypnosis. That’s entirely untrue. The majority of therapies don’t involve hypnosis and it’s a two-way interaction between the therapist and the client.

Here are the basic forms of therapy that’s most commonly practiced:

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is primarily a short term treatment that takes involves challenging one’s unhelpful thoughts and beliefs when facing a difficult problem in our day to day life. This is more surface level and it’s often focused on changing the way you think in a situation.

Acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) is a branch of CBT. It’s focused on being mindful, being accepting of negative thoughts. It does not attempt to directly change or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings but instead encourages you to develop a new compassionate relationship with your negative thoughts and feelings.

  • Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy focus is to reveal unconscious content of your psyche in an effort to alleviate psychological tension. Psychodynamic therapies focus on the client’s motivation. Either conscious or unconscious.

  • Humanistic Therapy

College students who sought out therapy demonstrated symptoms such as feeling of alienation, failure to achieve all they feel they should, difficult relationships and general dissatisfaction with their lives. Psychologists often refer to these problems as existential crises.

Whilst psychodynamic therapy focuses on conflicting motives. The humanistic therapy model believes that mental issues arise from low self esteem, misguided goals and unfulfilling relationships.

In the view of humanists, an individual is intrinsically motivated by growth and psychological well being. This differed from Freud’s assumption that a personality is divided into conflicting parts that is dominated by a selfish ID driven by hedonistic instincts and pressed conflicts.

  • EMDR

EMDR is a form of therapy that emphasise the role of distressing memories in some mental health disorders, particularly (PTSD). The goals of EMDR is to engage the brain’s natural adaptive information processing mechanisms, hence reliving present systems. It’s used to treat both PTSD and trauma.

There are many other form of psychotherapy, however, I’m pointing out the general ones that most psychologists use.

The Limitations of Psychotherapy

Okay, is hiring a therapist a cure all for all depression and your life problems? No, psychotherapy, isn’t a cure-all. Ultimately, you have to be responsible for your life and problems.

  • Taking Responsibility

Like all life improvement tools, you still have to take full responsibility for our own issues and problems.

Showing up to a psychologist and expecting him or her to just fix your life is not going to work out. Psychotherapy should be seen as a supplement, as opposed to a crutch.

I would also add that your therapy sessions should be challenging and not fall into a comfortable pattern. There was a period where I found myself repeating myself in 2-3 sessions and I requested for a switch of topics just to mix things up. You can measure the success of therapy by the more number of clients leaving therapy. That means that it’s working.

Note: if you’re looking to better other aspects of your life such as your dating life. Then learning conversational skills such as cold reading and actually taking action are equally if not more important. There isn’t any therapy in the world can get completely rid of your social or romantic anxiety. You’ll still have to put in the work, go out and take action.

  • Treat it Like Hiring a Trainer

You got to treat hiring a therapist like hiring a trainer for you. He or she is there to spot you, however, you need to do the heavy lifting yourself. They are not there to be your friends or completely validate your problems. The more people are leaving therapy, the better it is. That means that it’s working. They are a professional service: to help you facilitate and offer you emotional insight at your current problems.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, there’s research suggesting that the majority of people come out better from therapy. There’s also research suggesting that people that commit to therapy for a longer period of time, 5 years, come out better.

There are influential reads that led me to take psychotherapy a lot more seriously: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Volk, and Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. They are written by clinical psychologists. These books gave me insights into how psychoanalytic repercussions can run deep and you can’t exactly ignore them.

This may sound far reaching, but I believe that everyone, rich, famous, successful or not can benefit from some form of therapy of another. You may be good at academics but shit poor in your relationships. You may be good at fitness but overspend your pay on the weekends. There’s always a behaviour that you can seek to be more in control of.

My personal belief is that hiring a therapist and using it as a tool is going to be the norm half a century from now. In my own life, I’ve seen considerable improvements and I consider myself a successful client.

Works Cited

Campbell LF, Norcross JC, Vasquez MJ, Kaslow NJ (2013). “Recognition of psychotherapy effectiveness: the APA resolution”.

Knekt P, Lindfors O, Sares-Jäske L, Virtala E, Härkänen T (Feb 2013). “Randomized trial on the effectiveness of long- and short-term psychotherapy on psychiatric symptoms and working ability during a 5-year follow-up”.

Denise D. Ben-Porath, (2002). Stigmatization of Individuals Who Receive Psychotherapy: An Interaction Between Help-seeking Behavior and the Presence of Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: