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 past couple of episodes, I’ve been diving deep into understanding how pain itself is not an emotion. Instead, it's the emotions you're experiencing that feel painful. This is a crucial distinction, if you want to ever transform that emotion into something that is no longer painful—and the first steps are to first identify the emotion that's painful or emotions that are painful, and then to arrive at a place of acceptance of them. [00:53.7]
It's at the second step that most achievers fail, because what they rely on is resisting the pain. They try to cover over the pain or shove it down, or repress it, and they try to stave off their fears that they find painful with action, which, in itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, in this episode, I’ll show you what place it can have, taking action to address the painful emotion and the facts around it. There's a place for action, of course, but not if the action is a way of distracting yourself from facing the pain or coping with the pain, instead of facing the thing that is painful and, thereby, starting the process of acceptance of it.
Then, after acceptance, you can move into the next stage of understanding it, only from the place of radically fully accepting it and not needing it to be different, needing the emotion to go away in order for you to be okay, but accepting that it's there. Only from that place can you then move on to actually understanding it, because if you want the emotion to go away, then you're not actually going to be able to understand fully the part that is holding that painful emotion. [02:12.4]
In the last couple of episodes, I looked at the examples of inner conflict as something that achievers especially find painful. In the last episode I went into depth looking at the emotions of fear and anger that a lot of people consider to be painful emotions, and in this episode, we're looking at sadness, perhaps the most common emotion that people find painful, and especially men can't handle sadness, so they repress it. They wish it away. They will it away. They push it out. They exile it. They disown the parts of them that are sad because they're so afraid of sadness, or they believe that there's no point to feeling sad, so why indulge in it? [02:55.4]
Beneath almost all fear and anger is sadness. Beneath the anger, beneath the fear is sadness. If you can't be with the fullness of these emotions, you'll not be able to be with those parts of you that are holding them. You'll instead have exiled parts of you, disowned parts of you. You'll never get to experience what it's like to be fully integrated, the fullness of you, all of you being you, experiencing all parts of you.
Instead, you'll be disintegrated, and that is what will prevent your happiness and fulfillment in the long run. It will also prevent you from holding on to anything that resembles real love and it will block you from actually experiencing love flowing from you.
Imagine instead that there is a force inside you, which IFS therapy posits that there is in everyone. This force inside you is able to hold any emotions that any of your parts have, no matter how extreme. You're going to be getting into that today. [03:59.6]
No matter how scary those emotions or those parts might seem at first, that there is a force within you that is not afraid of any of those emotions or of any of your parts, and can hold the space for them to be however they are and can fully accept them just as they are, not needing them to change, in order to accept them or love them. A force that can meet all of the emotional needs of all of your parts.
By the way, for the guys, as an aside for the guys who found me through dating-related searches, this is the key, the one key to opening up your natural attractiveness, because what's getting in the way of your natural attractiveness is your neediness, and your neediness is, by definition, you being unable to meet your own emotional needs yourself, and this force within you is the only thing in the universe that can meet your needs fully. That is you. Only you can meet your needs fully. [04:53.8]
Unfortunately, many men who are immature are looking to women to meet their needs. They're looking, trying to get a woman, a girlfriend, a wife, whatever, a woman to meet his needs, and he falsely believes that if he can just get that relationship, get that girlfriend, get that woman, then his life will be wonderful, and before he gets that woman, his life is blah, or, in many cases, miserable. He is looking to a woman to rescue him, to make his life worth living, to fill his life full of color, because without her, his life is just sort of bleak and without color.
If you are smart or if you've been following my podcast for any length of time, you know that the key to actually being attractive is the opposite of that, because when you need a woman to meet your emotional needs for you, you're going to be, unfortunately, turning them off, just by your very sub-communications, but definitely by the things that you say.
Eventually, it'll leak through that you need her to meet your needs, and people, in general, especially a feminine woman, wants a man who can meet his own needs who is complete in himself. She doesn't want a big baby that she'll have to mother. In other words, what the mother will do for a baby is to meet its needs emotionally, because the baby's brain literally is still forming and so forth, and women aren't going to be sexually turned on by a man who is needy. [06:17.7]
Okay, so that was a tangent for any men who have found me through dating-related searches who are wondering how this relates. Okay, in this episode, I'm going to be getting into how sadness can be an emotion that is beautiful and not painful, if you take the higher perspective.
Now, by the way, if you are not a single man who is trying to get women and didn't find me through a dating-related search, I would love to hear from you. I would like to make more podcast episodes for you, more content for you. Let me know why you found this podcast and are still listening to it, and what you would like to hear more of and learn more about.
But, again, I will start with the situation that I find very commonly among those who come to seek out my help and find this podcast, men who went online and, in fact, looked up something related to dating, especially, but also relationships, and they are often lonely, so I'll start there in our exploration of sadness. [07:12.7]
Sadness is different from loneliness, so they're in a lonely state and you might be lonely, and that it could be a good thing because that's an alert. It's like a notification in your unconscious saying, “Hey, go out there and start connecting with people. You've been cooped up at home too much or you've been focused on your work remotely in your study room too long. Go call up your friends,” right? This feeling of loneliness doesn't have to be something that's sad. It could just be like, Huh, I haven't contacted my friends in a long time. I've been in quarantine or whatever, right?
But a lot of guys feel that this loneliness is something to be sad about, so not only are they feeling lonely; they're sad about feeling lonely, and then they heap on all kinds of other emotions, like self-pity and regret, and despair because they think that this will never change, and so on. But notice that the facts, the fact that they are currently alone doesn't necessarily lead to loneliness and that loneliness does not necessarily lead to sadness. [08:10.8]
So, first let's pause and let's use our thinking here. Let's use our intellect, our rationality. This is a strength among many of my listeners, so I will be recruiting this part of you or parts of you that are rational and like to think and think clearly. As I pointed out, you might feel some loneliness and that would be an alert or a red flag for you, a notification that you should reach out and talk to someone, so to speak.
Go and contact some friends. If you don't have any friends, that's a great action step. Formulate a plan to build up your social life and to make connections with people. There are tons of books that you can see in the airport bookstore stalls and all that about how to make friends and influence people, how to connect with anyone, how to talk to anyone, that kind of thing. [08:57.8]
I have a series of masterclasses that are free in which I’d show you how to make friends with anyone and how to talk to anyone, and you can get those or access to those at my website, DavidTianPhD.com, under the masterclass. You can just go to the website, hover over the top menu navigation, and one of the top things on the dropdown will be the free masterclass. Just opt in for that and you'll get access to it. You can unsubscribe at any time, so there's no risk whatsoever.
Okay, so this feeling of loneliness doesn't have to be sad. It can just be an alert to go out and build your social life, something you're neglecting, just like if you're feeling hungry, it's telling you that you should go and get something to eat. That's the first point. You can actually use cognitive therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, because then you can devise some behavior, some action steps to do to change this emotion.
But let's take it one step further. Let's assume that you feel or you mistakenly think that you have done everything you possibly can to change this situation, and for most guys, they're not really that concerned about having more guy friends, at least the ones who find me on the internet. Correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm happy to talk about how to build a social circle of good friends. [10:12.2]
But what really hits guys harder is the loneliness of not having intimate partners, especially for those who have never had an intimate partner, because they idealize what that is, and I’ve just read statistics that show, especially since that pandemic, that a lot of men under 30 have never had a girlfriend and that a third of people under 30 didn't have sex for the whole year. If that describes your situation, you're not alone at all.
The sadness about your loneliness comes from this further belief and , right? So, it's really important to keep that thinking cap on and—now I'm going to mix the metaphor—have it on in the background to help you get clarity, so that when you're in that space of the higher perspective, you already have this sort of intuitive clarity about what's going on. [11:03.2]
If you're confused or frustrated because you can't figure out what to do about it, how to fix it, then that's not your true self. That's not your higher self. That's another part that's trying to fix things, and in the IFS process, we ask, invite that part or those parts to step back or to go to an observation room, or to go to a safe distance or to just go to a whole other part of your mental universe and do whatever they enjoy doing instead. They don't really need to be here with the parts that are feeling painful emotions.
In fact, I should stop using that phrase “painful emotions”, because that makes it sound like there are emotions that are necessarily painful, but just instead, the more accurate term is emotions that these parts are feeling as painful, and it's these beliefs that are added on to the loneliness that lead to sadness that then is felt as painful. [11:53.2]
It's the belief that you will never be able to change the situation and this situation will never change. It's this belief of never. “It will never change” or “It will stay this way forever,” and that belief about never or forever, this projection into the future, which you can never know for certain. But if you cling onto that, that concept there of “I'm lonely and I will always be lonely. I will forever be lonely. I will never not be lonely,” those beliefs, of course, would lead to this despair that you will forever feel the same way.
Of course, maybe you’ve picked up on it, I’ve got on in the background this clarity that we can't actually know what the future will hold as far as your loneliness goes. Whether you will ever find a woman, you won't know, and that if you just focus on that instead of focusing on this false belief or at least a belief that you can't know whether it's true or false or not until you're about to die, whether you will forever be lonely. So, you might as well instead focus on the belief that you don't know whether your situation will change, and given the fact that you don't know and you can't know until you experience all of life and then look back on it, you might as well make the most of it and go out and try to change it. [13:07.4]
Let's take another instance of sadness. I've already disposed of that, the loneliness-to-sadness move that a lot of guys who just are lost in self-pity and despair and giving up, even though they're not even 30 years old yet. I’ve already logically disposed of that, so you should just focus, change and switch your focus, if you're smart, right?
Let's take a situation that's on more sure footing. Let's say that you have lost something that you won't be able to get back or that you have less of something that you can't retrieve. Let's say that you have lost your arm, and let's say that medical technology has not evolved or developed to the point where the prosthetic and the connection to your brain is going to be able to replace that in your life. I think we're at that stage now. The technology is not that evolved yet, but maybe, who knows, 20, 40 years down the road, things will change. We might be cyborgs. But right now, that's the case. [14:00.0]
Let's say in an accident, you've lost parts of your body and you can't get those parts back, and rah-rah, self-help and life coaching will tell you, “Look on the bright side. Reframe it.” Okay, so there's all that, but that's the path of resistance, right? That's what I’ve been pushing against in the past two episodes. That's what an achiever would do, but you're just disowning the parts of you that are still grieving and mourning.
Of course, you will have this phantom limb and so forth that your brain is not yet fully adjusted to it because it hasn't fully grieved and mourned, and there's a higher perspective in you that can be with the parts of you now that are grieving and mourning the loss of that potentiality in you or of just literally the loss and use of your limbs. And can we just stay with that? [14:42.8]
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There is a higher perspective in you that can be with that, that sees this loss, this less of what you had as sad. And it is sad, but it doesn't have to be painful. From this point on in the shift of perspective, now we're out of just thinking our way through things. Now we're actually shifting perspective and seeing things differently, and that shift in perspective happens in an instant. Once you make the shift, the hard part is shifting that perspective. [15:57.8]
It's like have you ever seen these Gestalt images, where if you look at it one way, you see a maiden, and if you look at it a different way, if you're noticing different details in the image, you see an old woman with a big nose. I'm sure you've seen images like that. Depending on what you're focusing on, it's the exact same image, but you see it differently. You perceive what's there differently, and that's what shifting into a higher perspective is like that is always available to you and that shift in perspective is what is required to shift out of the pain while still being sad.
Sadness itself is a beautiful thing, because once we are out of pain and still in sadness, what this sadness is pointing us to is something that was worth grieving for, mourning. Let's take this further than just less of that there's less of you or less of your potential now because of some accident. Let's go even further to there's a loss. There's an irretrievable loss. Someone you loved died and you can't, literally, go back in time and change things. [17:06.7]
But you can change your perspective now on it so that sadness that you're feeling, that longing, and maybe the regret that you didn't tell that person you loved them before they were in this tragic accident—maybe on the day that they had their fatal accident, you had a big argument and you said things that you regret, and then they died and you didn't get to take it back. You didn't get to tell them how much you actually loved them and now you have to live with that regret—and that regret can easily feel painful. For those that we have lost, there is also, I'm sure, a longing, a missing of them, and that is a kind of sadness, a bittersweet sadness.
I did recommend, in the last episode, the book by Susan Cain called Bittersweet as a beautiful description, despite her inaccurate view of psychotherapy. But the rest of it is just a beautifully-written description of the beauty of sadness. [17:58.5]
When we notice that we're sad about something or somebody or some people that we have lost, that is actually pointing us to the things that we love, and everything that we love, we will at some point lose. The loss might happen when we go first and the other person experiences, the one that we've loved experiences the loss, but also, of course, when our lives end, we also will, as we get closer to that end, experience the loss of the future for us, because now there is a terminal point and we won't be able to experience that love any further past that point, assuming, of course, that there is no afterlife. For those who are religious and believe in the afterlife, there's a whole different metaphysics.
It is possible that there is such an extreme sadness and longing that maybe in a car accident your entire family perished and everyone that you loved perished, and now that loss is so extreme that it is almost impossible to imagine, at your advanced age, building up to having all of that love again, and it seems like what's the point of continuing to live when all you're experiencing in this is this sadness? [19:09.8]
Many therapists are so terrified of suicide. If you threaten suicide to your therapist, the standard move is to make a pact, an agreement with you that unless you don't commit suicide, they're not going to see you anymore. Which is ridiculous, of course, just thinking about it literally, right? If you kill yourself, then I won't see you as a therapist anymore.
That's not the approach that IFS therapy takes, because if you make the part that's suicidal promise not to commit suicide, you have now cut off its one avenue for release of its pain that it's feeling, what IFS therapists call a firefighter part, the part that reacts and comes up in response to pain.
But if you allow it the permission to and also the possibility that it could take that route, then it will relax, because that's always available and you can just say, “Can you just put it off for another day? You can always kill yourself tomorrow,” and that higher perspective in you, that force within you, is not afraid of the part that could commit suicide. [20:13.7]
I can imagine, and, hopefully, you have thought about scenarios where suicide is a completely rational thing. Maybe in your school you've debated euthanasia. The first time I heard that term in high school, I thought it was referring to youth in Asia, like young people in Asia. But, hopefully, you've had the chance to debate in class the rights of someone to end his or her own life, and under what circumstances it would be reasonable irrational to do so. You can imagine easy examples where they're living in such extreme pain, and by the way, we do this for our pets. We don't allow them normally, our pets, to just live out their lives and die. Most people, at some point, the doctor, the veterinarian will recommend that they be put down, because the likelihood of them experiencing a comfortable life is now relatively low, and out of compassion, we kill them. [21:05.5]
Isn't that interesting how therapists who are supposed to be the most compassionate, so to speak, they're terrified of losing a client, because, of course, that makes them look bad, right? And on the other hand, you've got these people who love their pets, and then the doctor says, “Yeah, it's time to kill them.” But it makes sense, right, that when the pain overrides, overwhelms and takes over any kind of pleasure or satisfaction they can have in life, it can make sense to end it on a high note or as high of a note as you can manage now that you are in this situation of so much pain? And it's interesting that we treat our pets better than we do other human beings, even ourselves.
And is there that force within you? Have you accessed it that is not afraid of the parts that are contemplating suicide when the pain or if the pain becomes too extreme or overwhelming, as a result of losing something you can't get back that you loved and maybe many people, all of your loved ones that have tragically perished that you can't get back, and now you are literally alone and you're facing this prospect of building up a life worth living again? [22:14.2]
Of course, you could look on the bright side and institute this four-step plan, and so forth, right? But it can also be a rational thing that just as we put down our dogs at some point that pain is just so extreme that you want to end this pointless life—after all, life, as we know it, is simply this product of a big bang and then the process of evolution of the survival of the fittest, and we're just on this rock hurtling through the universe revolving around a minor star which moves around other stars and is still a minor star, and so on, right?
We're just this sort of random thing, and in the little space of time that we have to live and 99.99 percent of us will be insignificant in 100 years, 200 years, so what is the point of life? So many young people want to make their mark and they find meaning in life by leaving their legacy of significance, when really none of it will ever be significant, if you're smart about it, turn that brain on and think about it deeply. [23:17.4]
So, meaning in life is what we make of it. You make meaning in your life, and it can also be reasonable and rational to notice that there are conditions of your life where you've lost everyone you've loved or you have so much less of your potentiality—maybe you've lost all of your bodily functions and you're just stuck in a body, and there's no way for you to communicate, let's say, an extreme case—it might make sense for you to end things.
So, I am leaving that avenue available for the parts, any parts of you that are contemplating suicide, and I just challenge them to wait one more day. Just put it off for tomorrow. You can always do it later. But if you do it, you can't get that back. You can't take it back, so really decide that that's something that you want to do, because it's a one-way door. [24:04.4]
There is a force within you that if you go through the therapeutic process, and you go through it and stay with it, you will be able to access it, and it might take years for some people, but along the way, as they get to that point of accessing this space of the higher perspective of your higher self, get to meet all kinds of beautiful parts within you—and all parts are beautiful—eventually, you will find this force within that can hold the space for all of these emotions that all of your parts are having and not experience those as painful for you from that place.
The parts might experience them as painful, but you can lend them your strength and part of your perspective, and help them to feel that you are okay with it, even the part that wants to end things that you can hold that space for it and it will be all right. [25:01.0]
Now let's take this to even further extremes. Imagine now that you are dying, and as you are dying, you are contemplating all of the things that you regret that you can't have back, the people that you can't tell that you love them one more time. Now, while you're dying, you know that, intellectually, there's no way for you to change the future, because you are dying. Maybe, let's just up the ante, you're dying alone. No one else is with you.
But there is a force within you that if you can access it, that state, that perspective, that Self, that higher perspective within, you'll realize that you are not alone, that there is an abundance, that there is an unlimited, infinite source of love and compassion within you that is calm and connected, and courageous to face whatever is coming, which, in this case, is death, and is able to be with you and all of your parts, and it will be all right. [26:02.1]
Now, describing this experience, the experience of this state, using words, it's a lot like trying to describe to someone who is deaf what jazz sounds like. We're using words in a written description. Or for someone who's blind, describing, using words, a beautiful painting or a beautiful scene, or someone who has lost his taste buds, describing what this delicious food is like and who let's assume has never had taste buds, right? You can't refer to any previous experiences, and I'm sure you can think of other examples.
But, hopefully, just by me doing that, I went ahead and did it anyway, hopefully that piqued your curiosity enough for you to give it a shot, because this is possible for you if you go through the therapeutic perspective that you can access the state within you that can meet all of your parts’ needs, and where everything is okay and nothing is painful—or at least from the perspective of the higher self, nothing is overwhelmingly painful—and it's possible to hold the space for any parts that are experiencing pain, any parts in you that are experiencing pain. From this place, you feel fully calm, compassionate, connected, fully courageous, fully confident, and fully loving. [27:23.5]
If this is something that intrigues you, take the therapeutic process seriously. I have a private practice that often only has one or two spots available at any given time, but I have a waiting list so you can find out more info from my website, DavidTianPhD.com, and I also have online courses that you can access through the Platinum Partnership and the online program called Emotional Mastery. Whether you do it with me or somewhere else or with someone else, take that seriously that there's this possibility of accessing this higher perspective where everything is all right and you can hold the space for even the most extreme emotions. [27:57.6]
One little tip at the end. If there are any parts that are overwhelming you with their pain or their emotion, just from that place of your higher self, try this. Just ask that part to not overwhelm you. If you're coming to this part with curiosity, wanting to understand it better, in almost every case, just inviting it to not overwhelm you will be enough that it will then titrate that back. Give it a shot, and give the therapeutic process a shot.
Thank you so much for listening. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. If this helped you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think would benefit from it. Hit a like on whatever platform you're watching or listening to this on. Thank you so much for listening. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. David Tian, signing out. [28:37.7]
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