Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now, here's your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host.
In the previous episode, we looked at the objection that becoming attractive could mean you're no longer you, and I had three points. The first point was going through the various personality traits that are attractive and that have empirical evidence for being attractive. The second point being on identity. How do you know who you are? And raising the concept of parts. [00:47.8]
The third point being skill acquisition and looking at approaching getting better with women, becoming more attractive, as a set of skills that you get better at, and along the way of developing facility with these skills and mastering these skills, or even just learning the skills, that if you learn the skills successfully, you, as a result, will develop a character or personality, and that equally becomes a part of you.
It's not a question of when you were bad at the skill that that was the real you, and now that you're good at the skill, it's no longer you. That just makes no sense from the perspective of skill acquisition, and this whole series of questions is all geared toward helping you become more naturally attractive while still being you, and so that this concept of who you are, you're not sacrificing or compromising any parts of you.
For instance, if playing video games is a really big part of your life and you really enjoy it, you don't have to hide that part of your life in order to be more attractive, but that is equally a part of you, the playing, the video-game-playing part of you, as well as another part of you that enjoys socializing with people, going out into the real world and interacting with other people. [02:02.0]
So, it's not so much that the real you is only the video-game part of you, and that even if you developed a skill becoming better with people, that that somehow is not you as well, that that just makes no sense anymore once you've developed a skill.
But, again, all towards the view of becoming more attractive in a way that feels natural, because it is still you and it's actually effortless once it's natural, and that's a big sign that a set of skills has evolved or getting better at a set of skills has evolved to the point of a full personality so that it actually is a full-on part of you. But, of course, that would require that you actually get successful at the skills.
Now, the downside of the view of really buying into the myth that becoming attractive means that you're no longer you, a big downside of it is that you can't change, that you no longer are able to learn anything new, because it's a foregone conclusion. [03:01.1]
You’ve just cut off yourself from developing any new skills or developing any new aspects or sides of yourself, which means that you won't be able to grow personally, or evolve or develop or mature in important and central ways, and as a result, you'll never actually get to flourish in life.
Now, a big misconception of your own personal identity is I hear guys in their teens and early twenties, especially, but even as early as your teens, already asking, “What's the purpose of my life? And who am I?” as if who they are in your teens or twenties is fixed and set, and that's it and that you will never become anyone else. That is tragic and it also ensures that you don't grow or develop, or evolve.
One reliable way of creating happiness in life is by seeing progress in your life, and if you're not growing because you've decided that who you are now at this age and your life is all you will ever be, and that's it, then you will ensure that you don't make progress and, therefore, you've ensured that you will not have an easy way to happiness. You will have cut off progress as a route to happiness. [04:15.8]
If you are, in fact, in your twenties and maybe even in your teens, you, for sure, don't yet know the fullness of who you are. You don't actually know who you are fully yet, and this is good news because there's so much unlocked potential in you that you have not yet discovered, and if you stay open and continue to be open to growth, and to new possibilities and to new avenue of development, then you won't believe what you're in store for. You won't believe how good it gets. But, instead, if your concept of who you are, ossifies, especially at a young age, then it's game over for you already. [04:55.0]
In the previous episode, I addressed these concerns except one and that's going to be the focus of this episode, and I’ve got three points now and this is the first point. I'm just going to dive right into the question here. What if my true self isn't attractive? And this might come about if you've done lots of work on yourself, if you've done all of these various courses or whatever you can get your hands on in terms of learning dating skills and all of that, and it's still not working for you.
Then you start to wonder and the worry is what if the best I can do still isn't good enough to attract the type of woman that I'm really after? And so, the question then is, what if my best self, my true self, isn't attractive enough? That's the first point, which is basically a question.
Now we move into the second point, which is the answer, and the answer is, then, in that case, you don't know who your true self is yet. Now I'm invoking the approach called IFS therapy. I've mentioned IFS therapy in a lot of episodes before, so I'm just going to do a quick recap here for this context here just in case this is your first episode, and there's a specific and particular view of the true self in IFS therapy. [06:11.8]
Okay, so what is IFS therapy? IFS stands for Internal Family System therapy, because it was first devised as a type of therapy coming out of systems therapy, specifically family systems therapy, and the founder, Richard Schwartz, discovered that our internal selves, our internal psyches, are organized in the same way as family systems are organized. Hence, internal family systems.
IFS therapy is one of the most rigorously backed up, empirically-based, evidence-based therapeutic approaches out there. IFS therapy is posted in the NREPP, the National Registry for Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, which is maintained by the U.S. government’s SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. [06:59.3]
In its listing, it's written that the IFS therapy is subjected to independent rigorous scrutiny and is deemed to show significant impact on individual outcomes related to mental health. In particular, studies indicate promising effects from IFS therapy on the mind, in terms of depression and anxiety, on the body, in terms of physical health conditions, and on the spirit, in terms of personal resilience and self-concepts.
There are several great resources for introducing yourself to IFS therapy, including the books by the founder, Richard Schwartz, and a new book that came out in 2021 called No Bad Parts, which I highly recommend. But if you want an even more succinct summary and kind of taste of IFS therapy, you can consult the book by Bessel van der Kolk called The Body Keeps the Score.
I feel very confident in referring this one, recommending this book, because I just checked The New York Times best-seller list just before I hit record, and as of today, Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score is No.3 on the combined print and e-book nonfiction list, which is a very competitive list and it's been on that list for 75 weeks already, and this is a book that when it drops off, comes back. [08:16.5]
This is 75 weeks on this list, and then in the list for paperback nonfiction, it is number one. In paperback nonfiction, 171 weeks on this list, and this is one of the most competitive categories, paperback nonfiction. The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk. There’s an entire chapter on IFS therapy.
In fact, this book was originally published well over or 10 years ago and that was when I read it, and that's how I first heard about IFS therapy through van der Kolk 's book, The Body Keeps the Score, and he's got a chapter on there that's well-written and easy to understand, and I think I would recommend that as the first pass, and go check it out. [08:56.6]
One of the many modalities, I think one of the three or four modalities that he recommends in IFS therapy is a really, really powerful therapeutic model that I use as my default approach. I am trained in over a dozen therapy and life-coaching models and approaches that are all effective in their own ways, but, overall, my default preferred approach is IFS therapy.
In IFS therapy, there is a special view of the true self. This is a term of art in IFS therapy and the working assumption is that everyone has a true self that is characterized by eight qualities, and these are known as the eight Cs to help us remember them. They all start with the letter “C”.
The assumption is that we all have a true self—I prefer the term “higher self”—that is composed or characterized by these eight Cs qualities, and let me just tell you what the eight Cs are and they are calm, connected, creative, compassionate, curious, clear, as in clarity of thinking and mind and of perspective, confident and courageous. [10:09.0]
In addition, I would throw in their accepting and intuitive, and grounded and caring, right? These qualities mark our higher selves, our true self, and when you ask the question, “What if my true self isn't attractive?” or “Are those qualities attractive?” they are. Of course, they are attractive and some of them are especially sexually attractive, but more importantly, have you met this true yourself in you? Have you met your true self? Have you been able to embody your higher self?
In IFS therapy, the practice goes of first accessing your higher self and only from there can any real work go or proceed, and one of the reasons it's important and very helpful to work with an IFS therapist is that, in most cases, people are not able to access their true self on their own. [11:03.0]
What they do is they get to access the true self of the therapist—or, basically, another way of looking at it or putting it is, the therapist stands in for the client's true self to get to know the various parts of the client and have them trust enough to relax back, so that the client's true self has more room to emerge. But the assumption there is that we all have a true self that's composed of these powerful and wonderful qualities, and it's really about accessing that true self in us, and then the work proceeds from there.
I just mentioned the other major category, the first category being the true self and that being a category of one, the true self, and then the second category is our parts, and our parts as accounting for our individuality and our uniqueness. This question of “What if my true self isn't attractive?” a big part of what people, let’s just say men on the internet looking for any advice, a big part of what they're trying to do is to develop-- [12:07.7]
From an IFS perspective, what they're trying to do is to develop parts of themselves to become more charming, confident, charismatic, and so forth, and it seems like they're having trouble. If you have trouble doing that, you're having trouble helping these parts to do that, and one of the reasons it's so difficult for most people to do that is because those parts actually need the person's true self to superintend the process.
The reason for that is that most parts are burdened. They're carrying burdens that have forced them into the roles that they're currently in, and in terms of the burden system—now we go to the third point I prepared—which is the difference between a burdened part or burdened system and an unburdened part and an unburdened system. [12:56.0]
Let's first look at how the parts generally are when you go and encounter them, or how they normally are as you are, where you normally are embodied by parts that take over our consciousness and take over our functioning in day-to-day life. We often have parts that take care of our work functions.
We have parts that take over for our parenting functions and for when we hang out with our friends and all that, and we have parts that come up, come to the fore when we're with our parents. These are all parts of us and they're not our true self, and that shy, awkward, insecure part of you is not your true self either, but maybe it is an equal or full part of you.
Let's look at what some of these parts are like, these burdened parts, and our parts can also be subdivided into two broad categories, protectors and exiles. They're called protectors because they're protecting the exiled parts and then the exiles are the ones … Actually, I’ll tell you what the exiles are when I get to that. [13:56.1]
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First let’s look at the protector parts. Our protectors obviously are protecting our internal system. They're protecting our vulnerability. They attempt to keep us in control of every situation and relationship in order to protect us from feeling hurt or rejected. [14:52.3]
These protector parts can be like managerial parts, which might turn out to be like controllers or strivers, or caretakers, or the judge or critic, or a passive part or a pessimistic part, a cynical part. It could be a planner part. It could be an achiever part and there are different types of achievers. It could be a joker part. Those are all parts that are trying to or are doing those roles, and are carrying out these jobs in order to protect the system, the vulnerability in you.
We also have more extreme protectors and these more extreme protectors protect the system by soothing or distracting from or it could be soothing the parts of us that get triggered that are holding hurt and pain, or distracting from going to our vulnerability. Pretty much any activity can be used to get away from those uncomfortable, vulnerable feelings, but common ways, common avenues of or roles that these protector, these more extreme protector parts take on, these tools that they use, these strategies or mechanisms that they go to are addictions. [16:01.5]
You can be addicted to almost anything, but you can be addicted commonly to work or sex, or dieting or exercise, of course, substances, but it also could be porn, video games, sleep, shopping. Pretty much anything can be an addiction if you overdo it and become unable to control it, and it becomes a way of distracting from going to or facing vulnerable emotions or vulnerable experiences.
You can also notice that these more extreme protectors will come up in terms of suicidality, self-harm, violence, dissociation, distraction, obsession, compulsion, indulging in fantasies, indulging in rage, numbing, blanking. These are all more extreme protectors that come on after the fact when a triggering has already happened and then they come online to distract from it or to soothe the pain.
Then we get to the second major category, which are the exiles. The exiled parts in us are young parts that are holding the most painful emotions and these exiled parts have been isolated from our conscious self in order to protect our overall internal system and for the exiles’ safety, or it's believed to be the exiles’ safety that our protected parts believe it's for the exiles’ safety. [17:16.7]
These exiled parts become increasingly extreme in an effort to be cared for and in an effort to share their story, to be seen and heard, and understood and to have their needs met. Our neediness is felt most acutely by these exiled parts of us, and they carry extreme burdens from being wounded in the past. This can feel like a dependency, a neediness, a shame, a worthlessness, a fear or terror, or grief, loss, and intense loneliness, intense neediness, or just “pain”, quote-unquote, extreme emotional pain. The exiles are holding the most extreme emotions in there, the most extreme painful emotions. [17:57.0]
Those are the two broad categories of parts, protectors and exiles, and I’ve just described the burdened protectors and burdened exiles. Then through a process in IFS therapy of unburdening, which is a delicate process and should really not be attempted on your own, for your first few or first several times experiencing it, you really ought to go to a good trained professional. You can find them through the IFS Therapy Directory.
I also provide some work. I have a private practice. Currently we don't have any open slots, though slots do open up over time, so you can always write to support@AuraTransformation.org to inquire or to get on the waiting list. But you can also find them through the IFS Therapy Directory. I also have recorded courses that help the process and also help alongside the process, and also helps to prepare you for the process, and you can access all of those through the Platinum Partnership. [18:55.5]
Let me just describe to you what it's like after the unburdening process. Unburdened protectors are able to release themselves of the neurotic patterns and roles that they took on in order to protect from vulnerability and pain, and as a result, they're able to take on a balanced approach to your day-to-day responsibilities.
They become effective and collaborative, encouraging other parts in you and other people, and they advocate for growth and contributing talents. They can be lovingly parental and nurturing, and you'll discover an ease in feeling confident, in having a clarity of mind, in sharper discernment and being more helpful to others, being creative in problem-solving, being able to access a higher degree of competency in your various roles and responsibilities, and then being able to access an overall calm. [19:47.5]
Then, the more extreme protectors also, once you've unburdened them, they are very effective at soothing your younger parts through activities and diversions that are healthy. They can add spice to your life with passion and adventure, and healthy risk-taking and humor, and they are passionate advocates for fairness and stand up to injustice. They lend courage and confidence to help you act bravely in challenging situations, and they can add a lot of passion and sensuality and sexuality, and fun and adventure into your life.
This happens as a result of them letting go of their burdens, and the protectors will let go of their burdens only when they see that the exiled parts that they've been protecting are safe and are also unburdened. We start the process by going to the parts that are holding the pain the most intensely, and the protectors there are protecting the exiles, so if the exiles don't need protecting anymore, then the protectors can relax and let go of the roles. But if they feel like they still need to do the protecting, then they don't relax and they stay in their burdened roles, and so we go to their exiles. [21:00.8]
Once the exiles aren't burdened, then the protectors are almost naturally unburdened. In some cases, they don’t even have to go through any kind of unburdening process or ritual. It just happens automatically, so that the unburdening of the exiled parts in us is a real central step here.
When your exiles are unburdened, they are able to access or you're able to really sense their tenderness and sensitivity, and that childlike curiosity and delight that is a natural part of all children, and it becomes easier to advocate for connection and care and feel freer to reach out to others, and they offer intuitions about others' feelings and they enjoy being open and trusting.
Now you're able to access, in a natural and effortless way, these qualities of play, of playfulness, of continuity, of being open, open-minded and open to new experiences, and natural curiosity and a natural sensitivity and warmth. All of these qualities can be attractive and many of them are sexually attractive, and when you're able to unburden those parts of you, you naturally have access to these attractive qualities. [22:07.6]
In addition, parts can learn, train, develop, and get better at, improve at, master their jobs and their roles. We're assuming in the unburdened system that they're taking on roles and jobs that they enjoy and are really into, and then it becomes really fun—and I think we've all or, hopefully, we’ve all experienced what this is like when there's something you really enjoy, and then you do it over and over and over, because you're spending so much time doing it because you enjoy it so much. As a result of spending so much time doing it, you become really, really good at it, and that's an example of what it's going to be like when your parts are unburdened.
I became good or became better with women over the years as a result of helping my parts that enjoyed socializing, enjoyed dating. I got really excited about the whole prospect of it and really enjoyed the process of it, and immersed myself in the process of it, and as a result, became very, very good at it, and developed a kind of mastery around it. Then coaching others in it was a whole separate skill set that required other parts to come on and help out. [23:17.6]
In all of this, there was a growth of my parts that can get better and better at the jobs that they have taken on, and so you can educate them and that's what happens in skill acquisition. If you successfully acquire skills and get better at them, your parts are acquiring these skills and getting better at them, and it's an amazing thing.
In fact, I was able to do that without even accessing my true self and just because the parts running the show for me were bigtime achiever parts that cracked the whip and worked really hard at it, and didn't take no for an answer and just blew past rejection. There are a minority of guys who were like that, and a minority as in less than 10 percent of the guys who started the journey of trying to get better with women purely through skills acquisition were able to persist long enough to actually get good at it. [24:08.8]
But back then, we as pickup-artist guys were optimizing or maximizing for pick-artist metrics, which was like, how many women did we hook up with? And how hot were they? That sort of very superficial immature type of metrics, which came to bite us in the ass, so to speak, when it came to developing long-term relationships.
There's a very high correlation between the more advanced pickup-artist coaches and how difficult it is for them to hold down and succeed in a long-term relationship. I've seen it from the inside being right in the middle of that and I’ve done a lot of videos on this. That's what caused me to look into psychotherapy and take it seriously several years ago and then diving full on into it. [24:54.2]
What I can tell you is, to the question, “What if my true self isn't attractive?” first of all, that question would only make sense if you're talking about a true self that is not the true self of IFS therapy, so right off the bat, I would say like I did, you don't know who your true self is yet. As you get to know your true self, you'll also necessarily, along the way, get to know the parts of you that have been trying to stand in for your true self and get things done.
It turns out, for the person asking that question, that those parts either have been so burdened that it has been too difficult for them to adjust or adapt themselves, or learn the skills involved in becoming more attractive, or you have not yet discovered those parts in yourself that are naturally inclined to these skills, to socializing, to dating, that are already embodying some of these attractive traits and that just need to cultivate, encourage them to grow in that direction. [25:53.4]
I believe that we all have a part in us, an archetype, in fact, that is the archetype of the lover that, if properly nurtured and given the freedom to grow, and trained and honed through experience, can become incredibly sexually attractive, but that maybe you haven't found that part of you yet that I firmly believe exists in you. That's part of the definition of an archetype. It's kind of preloaded in our systems and we just need to access it.
But there are many other parts that aren't just the lover archetype. For instance, I talked about earlier my parts that I refer to or were referred to as the Rake, the Charismatic, and these are very powerful parts that come to the fore in specific contexts like socializing, dating, and so forth, that really enjoy that process and have become quite good at it by practice and learning, and education and experience.
There's a huge difference between a burdened part and a burdened system versus an unburdened part and unburdened system, and I hope you see that now. The process is through this unburdening process that's a central part of IFS therapy. [26:59.3]
Obviously, the takeaway is either but my courses because they will prepare you for the IFIS therapy process and are great complements to any IFS therapy, and then, of course, get IFS therapy with a good therapist, but those are the three points:
The first point being kind of the posing of the question, “What if my true self isn't attractive?”
The second being pointing out what the concept of the true self actually is, especially in IFS therapy, and just going over the eight Cs as a kind of easy way of remembering what these qualities are.
And then explaining to you what parts are and the two major categories of protectors and exiles, and then going through the distinction between burdened versus unburdened parts and systems.
Those are the three main points.
I just want to end with a story of a client whose name is Paul, and when Paul first came to us, he was mostly interested in getting better at casual dating and he came to us as a 40-something-year-old virgin and from a very conservative, strict upbringing in an Asian country. He was a really smart guy and very successful professional, but just the distilled version, sucked at dating, I mean, just sucked to socializing. [28:08.0]
As a result of a lot of hard work and just a credit to how sharp this guy is, he was able to take on and develop various personas, and, unfortunately, they became false selves because he didn't quite understand what it meant to embrace the parts of you that you might be ashamed of or wish would go away, the shy, awkward parts.
The problem was he ended up kind of losing himself in that, because if you were to ask him, “Who are you in the middle of this journey? Who are you, Paul?” he wouldn't have a straight answer, but he'd have the clever Paul. He'd have the more suave Paul who shows up in a three-piece suit or to a black-tie event or something along those lines.
What he had to do was to go through the therapeutic process to have his parts relax back enough to access his true self so that he could then go to the parts that were holding the pain that gets cashed out as manifestations of that pain, being the insecurity and so forth. [29:10.5]
As a result of the therapeutic process that took him years because of how much toxic parenting he was subjected to, and just the sort of toxic upbringing and childhood and societal background, it's still an ongoing process. It is really for all of us, really, which is good news because there are all kinds of amazing experiences that we have to look forward to and just experiencing even just parts of us, getting to know parts of ourselves we weren't well-acquainted with before, and that was Paul's experience as well.
Now having a much more settled personal life and not just being kind of a chameleon of learning all of the social skills and social intelligence in order to win the attention, approval and favor of women, and just becoming whoever he needed to be to do that, a real social chameleon—the social chameleon is not happy and is not fulfilled at the core of it—and going through the therapeutic process, finally finding this calm and peace inside, and an inner joy. [30:11.8]
Noticing that there are still these wonderful parts that he was able to train and develop over the years as he was getting better and better with women, but that now they're unburdened from their neurotic roles, and now they can rest and settle into the roles that they enjoy in his life, which are very specific contexts that they would come out. Instead, he has this kind of leadership of his higher self that leads with a calm and peace, and joy and happiness, and now being in a relationship that seems to be very rewarding for him.
That's the story of Paul. What's your story? I’ve covered quite a lot of ground in the past couple episodes and I just want to bring up that I totally understand if this is really jarring to suddenly now be recommended to dive into IFS therapy. I get it. [31:01.3]
That's why I was recommending The New York Times best-selling book that's been on that list for 171 weeks. It’s still No. 1 as of this recording. Go check that out and check out Richard Schwartz's books, and I’ve made courses that will help the process and prepare you for the process.
Then, of course, I recommend actually getting with a good IFS therapist and giving it a shot, starting with a working assumption that there is a true self in you that has those qualities.
Okay, in the next episode, I'm going to be addressing this objection that I have around the concept of the best self, why being your best self is toxic, and this is related to what we're talking about here. Come back to the next episode to learn more about that, and if you like this one, please share it with anyone that you think would benefit from it. Leave me a comment. Let me know what you thought. I'd love to get your feedback on this and any episodes.
Thanks so much for listening and I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [31:52.3]
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