AVfM Classics: Your feelings and why they don’t matter

This post originally appeared on AVfM April 3, 2010.

Standard Dr. Paul disclaimer: This advice is not intend for all women. So if it does not apply to you do not be offended by it.  If you are offended on behalf of all women, then please stick around.  Grandiosity is treatable.

Dear ladies,

Let’s talk feelings. Actually, forget that. I’ll talk feelings, because if you talk feelings, I won’t get to talk at all.

I know, that sounded insensitive. It was insensitive, and quite intentionally so. But keep reading, there is a method to my malice, and a message that you really need to hear. I don’t want you to miss out on it because you’re in a huff over the fact that I regard your feelings at best as obstructive, and at worst the primary and overarching cause of failure in your love life. And worse yet, as a source of abusive control for anyone crazy enough to get close to you.

As ironic as it may sound to you, if you want a good love life the first step is to get your feelings out of the way, or at least quit using them as a weapon. So let’s get out of Oprah mode and just use our brains long enough to sort this thing out.

It starts, like most of your problems, in childhood. That’s the cute and annoyingly whiney phase of life that boys, unlike you, are forced to outgrow. You don’t get all the blame for that, but if you really want a meaningful relationship, you’d better start taking some responsibility for correcting it.

Babies, whether blue or pink, are pretty much alike. When a child gets hungry or dirty or tired or sick or lonely or scared, they tend to react by screeching until someone does something about it. It makes sense. Babies, after all, can’t take care of themselves.

But not too far along in life the paths of boys and girls, emotionally speaking, fork into two very different directions. By the time both have some measure of language and cognitive skills the reaction to all that caterwauling changes, and not so subtly.

Pretty early in a boy’s life, about the time he can speak in complete sentences, tolerance for remaining a baby wears thin. His wailing is met with everything from ridicule to threats. If “big boys don’t cry,” doesn’t work, then, “I’ll give you something to cry about,” usually does, especially after a few rounds of following through.

Psychologists will tell you that this is where we harm boys, that we dissociate them from their feelings and shut down their emotional selves. They even call it abuse.

But in most cases, unless taken too far, it doesn’t abuse boys feelings as much as it teaches them to start mastering them. That kind of self control is a pretty good skill that comes in handy for a lot of things, like, say, being an adult. You see, before the psychologists came along to tell us what rotten parents we were, we had a different name for the effect we had on boys, although not so catchy and marketable.

We called it growing up. It was all the rage.

We knew, even without a Ph.D. in conjecture, that not maturing was a bad thing. It resulted in all sorts of problems, like permanent childhood and self centeredness.

And a whole lotta women.

That’s because while we were insisting that boys learn real life skills, girls got a different message. Actually, they got the same message that they’d been getting since birth. Namely that squawking loud enough will get you what you want. That is why that while boys your age grew into manhood, you just got older, hairier and more irritating.

And more vulnerable to being exploited.

The self help gurus have zeroed in on that one like chicken hawks and turned your feelings about your feelings into a cash cow. For a fee, they tell you to express your feelings, write them down, trust them, affirm them, discuss them in groups, put them in a journal, confront people with them, list them, learn more words for them, read about them, mouth them through a sock puppet like a neurotic ventriloquist and above all, get them validated as something sacred by all in your life.

That have led you to attend the Church of Emotionalism, where your tears are holy and Kleenex are passed right along with the collection plate. Can I get an amen?

But they aren’t telling you anything really different than the same bullshit you have been told your whole life, and that you now tell yourself. When you have pain, or even a sense of slight annoyance, someone else is supposed to by God fix it.

And so you remain, born again baby that you are, stuck in self-delusion until you get some things straight.

Despite what your therapist told you, or what you saw on Oprah, your feelings don‘t have any inherent value compared to say, facts, logic or a good cheeseburger. Most of the feelings you think are so important are as transient as campaign promises and worth just about as much attention.

What you feel right now won’t be the same thing you feel in a few hours, or, if you are like a lot of women, in a few minutes. So expecting your man to stand constantly at the ready, as though his purpose in life is to validate and honor every fleeting emotion you have at each and every point of their temporary existence is a non starter. If that is what you expect, you don’t need a relationship, you just need a better therapist.

And the same for taking your relationship straight into turmoil because you use your feelings to undermine communications every time a logical solution undermines your agenda.

You know exactly what I am talking about. The more reason and logic point to your being wrong, the more unreasonable and illogical you become. It is calculated and intentional. It’s the tried and true plan of “If being reasonable doesn’t get me what I want, I will just be increasingly unreasonable till I get it anyway.” Nothing like bullying someone into compliance.

And in a really twisted, perverted way, it makes sense. Heck, you’re a slave to your feelings, why shouldn’t everyone else be?

For a while, in many cases, it even seems to work. But it ultimately blows up in your face because all this nonsense is just a recipe for him to eventually cook up a great big casserole dish full of fuck-this-crazy-bitch.

Are you feeling me?

Ladies, the only real purpose for your feelings is to tell you there is a problem you need to fix. After that, continuing to dwell on them, or childishly forcing your partner to obsess on them with you, only keeps you from finding solutions.

It may annoy him into fixing things for you, as surely as you were still laying in a crib, but at this point in your life that is only to shut you up. It leaves you less respected and less respectable every time it happens. When your man gives in to this he isn’t meeting your emotional needs, and you certainly aren’t meeting his. All you have accomplished is pressuring him into changing your emotional diaper.

If you think that is the path to a healthy relationship, think again. Jerking people around on an emotional leash is only good thing if you are a psychopath.

Hostility will always be the natural result for people who use emotions not to connect or to create intimacy, but as a weapon to control and manipulate. It is hostility well deserved.

Now, there has been a long running misconception about men and women that has been around about as long as igneous rock. That is that women are somehow more gifted in the emotional department than men.

Of course, that’s more bullshit. Training half the population to be childish, emotional puppeteers in ways that ultimately sabotage their own emotional fulfillment is hardly a gift. It is more like a cruel joke. And it may seem funny when you are 20 but it will be much different at 45 when you are rapidly graying, cooking for one, and wondering why so many men get tired of listening to you in about 5 minutes.

With that in mind, if you want to see evidence of real emotional acumen, consider the following names:

Shakespeare, Keats, Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Gibran, Kipling, Blake, Wordsworth, Byron and Shelly. Or even the great contemporary songwriters, Simon, King, Kristofferson, Dylan, Hiatt, Lovett and Henley. This list is a drop in the bucket, and if we added to it till we covered every genius in world history in the realm of the human heart, we would have to address 95% of them as mister.

In fact, truth be known, most of the men in your life who you have dismissed as emotional zeros more likely belong on that list than you do. You just never knew it because you are such an emotional mess.

Feminists would tell you that this is sexism, and perhaps they are right, though as usual for the wrong reasons.

It may well be sexist to the core to raise half the population, your half, to be emotional cripples while telling them they are emotional giants.

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