Letters For My Sons

Month: September 2014

Father and Son

The Dos And Don’ts Of Being A Dad – Part 1

Father and Son

 

Being a dad is arguably the most important role in a child’s life after the age of five or six.  This is particularly true if you have boys.  Both boys and girls look to their dads for insight into what it means to be a man and what to look for in a man.  In a psychological sense the father becomes the internal policeman.  If you are a kind, sensitive, yet self-disciplined father, this will reflect in their eventual behaviour.  If you are a cruel, selfish and stupid fuckwit you are sure to see self-destructive behaviour not too far down the track.

What follows is a personal reflection on what a good father should strive for.  Notice I said “strive”.  None of us are perfect, especially not me.  I am prone to breaking almost all these guidelines, particularly when I am tired or hungry.  However I am getting much better as I strive harder, and it reflects in my boys’ behaviour.  When I try harder to be more consistent, more patient and more aware, they too behave better.

 

Opportunity

I want my kids to have awesome opportunities available to them.  But my boys need the skill to see and take advantage of them.  Everyone gets opportunies.  But some of us are too fearful to jump at these chances. Some of us become our own worst enemy, and self-criticise into paralysis.  I’ve been offered many amazing things that I have turned down through fear.  I wouldn’t now, of course.  And I find it hard not to regret it, though I know I was somewhat a victim of my own programs.

It took me at least 10 years of work to get out of my own way, to nullify and replace almost two decades of childhood and adolescent programming.  There was the christian program, the beta-male program, the sexual program.  All were faulty or incomplete for functioning as a happy and satisfied adult male.  All restricted my desire to take opportunity.

As a father I want to show my sons the skills to take life by the throat, rather than live in the shadows.

 

Growth

It’s our job to create an environment for our children’s growth.  A growth environment is varied in its stimulus, and stable in its foundation. Timothy Leary’s Info-Psychology influenced me greatly here.  To grow beyond simple attack/retreat programs, an organism must first feel safe and secure.  A child must be able to go out and explore the world, and then come home to its nest without fear.  I believe this is why we have so many paranoid teenage psychedelic users.  They don’t feel safe after psychonautic exploration; they are scared of parental judgement.

Stability at home means:

  • Consistency – You, as a parent, act in a similar way in similar circumstances. There are not many surprises in terms of discipline, punishment or rewards.
  • Non-judgemental  Regardless of what your child does, you show that you still love them.  You teach that it is their behaviour that is the issue, and that behaviour can be changed.
  • A sense of structure –  The child knows where they belong in the family unit, and have clearly defined responsibilities.
  • Clear boundaries – the child knows what is permitted and what is not, and the boudaries are consistently policed.

 …..

 

My personal guidelines are based on one question: What do I want my kids to be like when they grow up?  In other words, what character traits do I want them to have?  From these end results I have worked backwards to decide on the principles I use.

I know I want them to be

Independent in nature: I don’t want my kids living with me in their twenties.  I want my boys to be paying their own rent, paying their dues, paying their way.  I want them to have a job, no matter how menial, and earn cash for themselves, or to be starting their own business.  I know too many boys in their late twenties living at home, rent-free, not cooking for themselves, not paying their bills. The use of the word “boy” is deliberate.  They are not men, despite their age.  Sure, they might save for a house earlier.  But they are not learning the fundamental skills of being a man.  This home environment stunts development.  Everything is so easy at home. We want to make things more difficult, so we can better handle the REALLY difficult stuff that will arrive soon enough.

Am I the only one that doesn't have mommy and daddy pay for everything?

 

Independent in thought: Being able to go against the crowd is an important trait. It enables one to find what is really important to them, and explore different areas of thought and action.  It allows one to discern when a group is wrong and move to work against them.  GroupThink is insidious, and is becoming more prevalent through FaceBook.  Think you have diverse information coming through that channel?  Think again.  Facebook is a mirror of yourself.  It shows you only what you want to see, again and again, through your use of the “Like” function.  True uniqueness is now incredibly difficult to cultivate.

Non- conformist

 

Considerate of others, but not at the expense of their own well-being. Compassion, sympathy and empathy are all important emotions.  However, some people transform them through personal experience into guilt, and experience them to their own detriment.

I know one girl who was brainwashed at university and felt guilty constantly because of what white people had done to other races.  She loathed the fact she was white, female, and human.  Her consideration for other races and species eventually outbid her means after she gave away all she had, and worked for charities for no money.  Her family is still suffering.

Look after yourself and your own tribe first.  Spend energy on yourself to get where you need to be emotionally and physically.  Only then will you have the power to help others.

 

Respectful to those who deserve respect. Respect is defined as:

1. a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements; and,

2. due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.

Respect in the first definition is for those who earn it through their actions.  Those who inspire us earn our respect.

In the second definition we treat everyone nicely unless our feelings, wishes or rights are impinged upon, or aggression is warranted.  Due regard for feelings and wishes is not for those who are assholes, special snowflakes, or those who have done nothing in their lives and still feel entitled to special treatment.

 

Self-honesty at all times, and honesty to others when required.  Self-honesty is the only appropriate way through this mess we call life.  Looking at our own lives without vaseline-fogged lenses tells us where we are fucking up, and where we are really succeeding.  True insight is a Castanedian Death-on-our-shoulder, ready to show us reality, the real, horrifying, but honest reality.

Too many people blame others for their position in life.  True men take responsibility for where they are, and take steps to learn and create the life they really want.

In my case I was a true fuck-up.  I did blame my parents for a long time, but in the end I had to be honest and see the one who had to change.  Taking a blazingly hard look at myself, I saw that almost everything had to be remade.  If I wanted to be happy and satisfied I would have to start from the bottom on every scale: charisma, strength, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, confidence, and all the rest of those awesome words.  Self-honesty showed me this.

Honesty toward others is a tricky one.  We all tell white (and cream, tan and downright shit-brown) lies from time to time.  True honesty at all times is the most energy efficient method, because keeping track of lies is difficult.  But if you want to make it in the world, you HAVE to lie.

Perhaps a better way of putting it is: be discreet.  Put everybody on a need to know basis.  Discretion is one of my core principles.  I would prefer to omit than to lie.

…..

Next week is The Dos and Don’ts of being a Dad – Part 2.  I’ll cover the principles I strive to abide by while raising my kids.

 

 

 

Scary prisoner says, PICK UP THE SOAP

Modern Man’s Intro To Principles

Are you living by your own rules, or by those pre-defined by others?

Principles: they make life easier.  In a set of principles I have a decision-making matrix. My principles are general enough that they cover a wide swathe of situations.

Principles govern my behaviour in a consistent manner.  When the world is going to shit around you, knowing how you will handle the fan-splatter effect creates a rock-solid foundation of confidence in your actions.

The prime reason I have principles is for energy.  Consistent action in certain areas cuts down on the energy overhead usually reserved for decisions.  Making decisions takes a bajillion joules of energy from your life every day.  I only have a limited amount of energy.  The more energy I conserve, the more I have to use elsewhere.  It’s the effect on your energy bill of having three minute showers instead of skin-blistering hour long marathons. Although saving personal energy is far more satisfying.  I hate three minute showers.

It’s the same reason corporations systematise their regular actions.  If they find something happening frequently, they create a system that fast-tracks the simple stuff:

  1. Been in this situation before?  Check.
  2. What did we do last time?  A, B and C.
  3. Did A, B, and C get us what we wanted?  Check.
  4. Do A, B and C.

Number three is key.  We need to decide what we want, and create our principles based on that.

 

…..

example time!

 

In the past, I have been overpaid by my employers.  I used to fret about whether to tell my employer and give the cash back.  I was torn between money and morals.

What did I want?  I wanted the cash, but I also wanted to not stress about 1) whether my employer was testing me, and 2) whether I was doing the “right” thing (more on the “right” thing in a moment).

Action One was giving the cash back.  I would be relieved of anxiety and stress, but I would be poorer.  Perhaps my employer would think of me as an honest person, but this would give me no benefit in real terms.

Action Two was keeping the cash.  I would stress about it, but I would have more money, a very real benefit.

My current over-riding principle in this situation is: keep the cash, AND don’t stress.  Why?  Telling my employer about paying me too much gives me no benefit at all.  In the past, perhaps, an employer would then regard you as an upstanding and honest employee who could be trusted, which may have given you an advantage at some point.  Nowadays, your boss could not give a shit about you or your apparent do-goodiness.

As for not stressing, if my boss found out and asked for it, I could simply play dumb and pay it back.  If he didn’t find out, then I have the money.  It’s a win/win.

If you give the cash back, you boss says “thanks!”, and you walk home $100 poorer.  What’s the point?  You’ll feel better about yourself?  Why?  Because you’ve “done the right thing?”  You’ve done the WRONG thing.  You have exchanged value for fluff i.e. moral virtue.

 

…..

Let’s talk morals for a moment.  I would hope that most of you reading this would know that morals are the rules imposed on your behaviour by an external force.  That force is cultural, and its main proponents are the parents and teachers who educated you.

Morals can be loosely defined as a code that defines appropriate behaviour.  Literally, a code of conduct.  That code is divided into a series of principles for each behaviour.

I reject externally imposed morality because in general those morals benefit society more than myself.  Society in this case being most people in my country who are not me, and primarily those people with lots of money and power who are also not me.  I don’t reject all of society’s morals, I merely reserve the right to choose the ones that work for me and reject the ones that belong in a bucket of shit.

Morals should be personally defined according to principle and the cultural matrix in which you live.  For example, I might want to slaughter my neighbour for stealing some mayonnaise when I went out for a kebab.  Goddamn delicious-mayonaisse-stealing asshole.  If I did so, because of our culture the police would kidnap me and remove my ability to live freely for a number of years.  Butt-rape in prison is not an outcome that I desire, therefore I reject murder as a behavioural outcome of principle.  Not because it is inherently “bad” in all situations, but because the culturally-imposed repercussions of murder are extremely bad for me.

 

Scary prisoner says, PICK UP THE SOAP

 

We should also talk about “good/right” and “bad/wrong”.  What is good and bad is also culturally defined.  I would hope that you also know this as an educated man.  I define “good/right” as that which energises and benefits me and my family over the short to long term.  I define “bad/wrong” as the opposite of that.  Simple.

Not everything good and right is possible.  Not everything bad and wrong is avoidable.  This is cultural impact on personal morals, and it’s just the way things are.

 

…..

So let’s talk specifics.  I want to talk about one of the most important of my principles.  This one has saved me so much energy over the years, and so much stress and heartache.

Do what you say.

 

This one guiding principle has helped me in so many ways. Back when I was a loser I would make plans with friends that I never intended to keep.  Or I would be in two minds about whether to go out with them.  I now know that if I am going to say I will do something, I’d better move heaven and hell to do it.  If that is to be the case, I have to be careful with my words, and not promise anything I cannot deliver.  That means I have to maintain awareness during conversation and also be discreet.

 

This principle not only cuts down on stress, it also makes me into a better, more aware person. 

 

This one principle cuts down an incredible energy overhead.  I no longer have to think about whether I going to do something or not.  Have I told someone I would?  Yes?  Then I am doing it.  The social benefits of such an attitude should be obvious.

This one principle is so internally satisfying that it should be elevated to a religious precept.

The correlate to this principle is: Watch your mouth.  Don’t say anything you don’t plan to follow through with.

I got this off a good friend.  Once I asked him if he wanted to hang out.  He said he’d like to, but for whatever reason, no.

I was taken aback.  Who the hell could be so honest?  What sort of person didn’t mitigate at all?  I was so impressed with his behaviour that I adopted it on the spot.  Nowadays I can’t believe I was ever that soft…

 

…..

The moral of this story is:  Begin to create your own morality.  Decide on the principles that both enhance the energy in your life and cut out the crap.

Begin NOW.

 

 

 

Wild pig

Anxiety As Fertilizer

The boar stands, sniffing the wind.

 

Wild pig

 

His blood will soon fertilise the ground in sad, sodden spurts.

For now he stiffens, hair on end, alert. Piggy ears have heard me, but porcine brain has not processed bow-hunting humans in the past.

Seventy pounds of force sit between my two hands as I aim the bow.  My heart races, keenly feeling the abyss of taking a life before me.  The boar and I stand frozen, in a state of incredible tension.

This terrible anxiety yearns for release.  My guts want it to be over.  I don’t even care if I get the boar.  All I want is a result. I shoot and I hit, or I shoot and I miss.  Either way, a result.

This, my friends, is weakness.

 

This is the way most people live their lives.  The moment tension arrives they want it over.  They’ll do their best to end the twisting, grabbing fingers gnarling their way into their guts.  They can’t handle the gnawing sensations of uneasiness, and the yawning, sometimes snarling, abyss that threatens to upset their balance.

These people will happily let life stomp all over them if it means they don’t have to feel anxiety.  They are the ones who cannot meet their bosses eye, who rush through confrontation, who “just get it over with” in everything, with everyone, every single time.

The inability to withstand the force of bodily chemicals is weakness.  The body-mind dialogue goes something like this:

Body: “I don’t know whats gonna happen here, and this appears to be similar to another situation which ended badly.  I’m gonna prepare you for the worst!”

Brain: “Oh My.  Body has just released the Holy-Shit-Bad-Stuff-Is-Gonna-Go-Down-Chem-Combo. I’d better ignore all the evidence in front of me that says everything is cool, and follow body’s lead.”

Body: “THIS ADRENALINE RUSH IS MAKING ME SUPER-RESTLESS HOMIES… so I’m gonna force something to happen through my actions to release the tension I’m feeling.”

Brain:”Oh Fuck.  Willpower: Down.  Self-Control: Down.  Logical thought: Down.  Shit gonna hit the fan.  Sooner we get a Result, the sooner we can get this ship back to homeostasis-thingy.”

Body is losing his shit because somewhere along the way he has noticed a trigger.  A trigger might be social or psychological, a product of a long forgotten negative memory, or an actual dangerous sign. Except for real danger, it’s useful to hold the tension until brain can make sense of it and force the body to act in a useful manner.

 

In other words, hold the tension until you get what you want.

 

Tension is a growth medium.  It’s fertiliser.  He who can hold tension the longest grows the most, but only if it is eventually allowed to enter it’s sister state, relaxation.  One cannot exist without the other, but people certainly enter one state then refuse to leave, rather like a refugee.  Some examples:

  • The Entrepreneur – He works hard, plays hard, and endures endless tension and anxiety.  He quickly builds a high tolerance to tension, but his inability to truly relax eventually leads to burnout.
  • The Iron Lady – She loves domination, confrontation, and watching people squirm under her gaze.  Often these women (and their male counterparts) carry this tension in their bodies.  Watch for tight facial muscles, strong jaws from clenching, and high shoulders from inadequate breathing and stress.
  • The Marshmallow – These people fold like yoga chicks when under pressure.  Their tension tolerance is too low.  They rarely relax either, because they operate in emergency mode.  People often take advantage of them because they cannot say “no”.
Yoga chick leg up pose

Just say no.

 

How do you increase tension tolerance?

  • Practice saying No.  When you don’t want to *insert unwanted horrible thing* stand up for yourself.  Don’t suck metaphorical cock like a TV presenter, do what you want.  I sure as fuck appreciate it when people tell me NO, rather then a tentative yes, and leave me out in the rain like Nicholas Cage in the godawful Weatherman while they eat corn-chips on a polar bear rug in front of re-runs of A Simple Life.  This is hands-down the easiest way to quickly improve your tolerance.  It will be difficult.  A lifetime of saying yes to everyone for everything has reduced your backbone to spray cheese, and you need to Pecorino Romano that shit up.  When you say no, the unknown will rise like Cthulu from the deep, with the wash of anxiety breaking against your pathetically small form.  But you will grow, and will eventually stare down upon that slack-jawed, tentacly motherfucker like the baby clam he is.  Fuck you Cthulu.

 

  • Stop being a Psychic.   You start feeling anxious about something.  “It doesn’t feeeeel right”, you whine, like a four year old girl to her uncle Kevin.  You are giving absolute credence to a chemical reaction.  Your body is feeling habitual discomfort in this specific situation which makes you want to avoid it.  You then call this feeling ‘intuition’ and tell yourself you’re psychic, that you *Just Know* that something bad will happen. Skip all that, admit that your body feels anxious, then continue anyway.

 

  • Deliberately put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable.  I put off breaking my gym-going virginity for years.  I didn’t know how to use the machines, I didn’t understand the social structure, I didn’t know the process for working out.  It was all too much, and it created incredible tension when I though about going.  Facing this tension transmuted the anxiety around gym-going into a lesson about trying new things.

 …

Back to that pig.

I hold my breath as the boar relaxes.  This bastard son of pork will soon be garnishing my plate, I think.

I release.  The arrow flies.

 

Big scary death

I Wish I’d Had A Fight

Douglas Stoodley was fuming.

Foam was coming from the corners of his mouth.  That wasn’t just because he was angry though.  It was because of his speech impediment. He sounded very much like an arabic-australian Donald Duck.

“Say it don’t spray it!” I taunted.

That was the last straw.  His stained, yellow teeth grimaced through tight lips.  “Bike racks after school dickhead!” he spat, storming away in a foamy wash of invective.

 

Oh shit

 

Ask any man alive to tell you of his first fight.  It’s up there with virginity loss and getting your bumgina waxed in memory burn, and he’s sure to regale you to murderous boredom.

Not me though.  I’ve never been in a fight.

Back in the schoolyard I thought of myself as a pacifist.  Of course that was never true. I merely never used violence to ascend the hierarchy. Like everyone else, I tried to get one up on everyone in the playground, but I used my words.  Shitty, primary-school, asshole teasing.  I teased the fat kid.  I annoyed the braces off the braces kid.  I insulted the country boy cos he only had a shower once a week.  Plus, he had a speech impediment.  An easy target was poor Douglas Stoodley.

I was never willing to fight.  I was, for all intents and purposes a coward.  I ran away. I got pushed around, shoved, slapped, punched and kicked.  In the balls too.  But I never struck back.  I was too scared.

Every ten year old who pushed me around seemed bigger, stronger, smarter.  They seemed indefatigable.  Willing to do whatever it took to beat me, stopping at nothing.  I rarely felt real pain.  Instead there was the perceived pain, intense, unending, leading to death.  And second only to death was humiliation.  Losing a fight seemed to be so humiliating as to be a death in itself.

 

Big scary death

My death didn’t look quite so cool

 

A psychologist would say that my father was the violent and undefeatable monster that I projected onto every bully I faced.  But that does’t change the fact that I was a pussy.  And the fact that I have never had a fight haunts me still.

See, without being in a fight itself, every mundane act of non-physical violence was perceived as going to one place.  Verbal, emotional, eye contact… it all led to physical violence, with humiliation and death at the end.  I could not bring myself to risk that loss, even with my ongoing descent down the pecking order.  There was no future past a fight, not one with me in it.

I had no idea of my own strength, my own power.  I did not know the damage I could do with a strike to the nose or a front kick in the plexus. I always thought that a fight would be akin to those in a dream, muddy, slow, quicksand blows that the enemy would not only endure, but would gain strength from.

It took me years to learn to endure men, to discover that insults are often signs of affection.  Stand-offs rarely ended in violence, and instead were used as gauge for your bluff tolerance.  I could learn to enjoy hard hitting barbs and verbal violence without fear.  And I started learning the art of physical violence myself through martial arts and combatives.

My schoolyard self never realised the respect that came from standing up for yourself.  I never realised that everyone in the surrounding group took close note of the way in which a boy held himself in the pressure tank.  It didn’t matter whether I won or lost.  It was only that I held myself against another.

I never discovered the friendships that arrive out of fighting.  Two boys who enter the arena with the fear of extermination in their blood are brothers on the other side.  I only discovered that years afterward, when my first few confrontations ended to my surprise with man-hugs, beers and ongoing acquaintanceships.

Preventing boys from fighting is an atrocious side-effect of our risk-mitigating society.  It is one thing for a bully to pick on someone weaker.  It is another for two boys to decide their hierarchy on their own terms.  To prevent this is to lessen the experience of being a boy, and later, that of being a man.  I only wish I had been given better advice than “Hit first and hit hard.”  I mean good advice and all, but not when it’s the ONLY advice.

When I advise my boys I will say:

 

  • Don’t start fights, but if one gets started on you, fuck the kid up.
  • Pain hurts, but only for a little while.  Being the bottom of the pack hurts less, but for a lot, lot longer.
  • Your peers will respect you when you stand up for yourself.
  • Try to talk your way out of a fight.  But when that doesn’t work, go hard.
  • No matter how big they are, stand up.  Bluff works wonders.
  • While you are small, you will be hurt, but not much.  Learn to fight now, while it doesn’t hurt so much, and when you are a man, you will not have to fight.

I wish I’d fought as a boy.  To face an equal at that age didn’t mean permanent injury, disfigurement, lawsuits and possible death.  Now, I doubt if I will ever be in a fight.  But if it comes my way… I’m ready.

 

After taunting Douglas I went to class.  The beautiful brunette next to me, Rebecca Morgan, asked if I was going to fight.  I said hell no.  Then she said the words I’ve remembered ever since.

“Are you a coward?”

I’d like to think… no.  Not any more.

 

 

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