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Toxic Masculinity is a Useful Concept

As is the problem with all politically charged language, Toxic Masculinity, is a concept that can be used in subtly different ways. Some seem to use Toxic Masculinity as a broad criticism of masculinity in general. They label all conceptions of manhood as toxic. A lot of people see this usage and totally write off the concept of Toxic Masculinity altogether. A reasonable position to take, if that was the only way to use the ideas. However, a more useful conception serves as a criticism of a specific corrupted type of masculinity. Let’s start by understanding where exactly this concept comes from. Back in the 80s, there was a group of male Jungians called the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement. Jungian psychology has an emphasis on mental archetypes. Particularly notable, are the archetypes that relate to gender. The MMM was concerned that masculinity was heading in a destructive direction, away from the ideal masculine archetypes. They coined this idea of Toxic Masculinity, in order to identify conceptions of masculinity that were… well… toxic. Some examples are masculinity that emphasizes violence in inappropriate situations. A tyrannical masculinity that abandons self-responsibility and seeks power and abuse for an irrational selfish gain. Michael Messner, a significant figure in this movement, once gave a lecture about how putting too much emphasis on the Warrior Archetype contributes to an epidemic of rape. This usage of Toxic Masculinity certainly has its merits. It helps us identify things that healthy masculinity should seek to criticize. It also prompts us to ponder the value in some of the Feminist criticism of male power in society. This isn’t the article to argue about the exact level of male dominance that is healthy. However, one can easily see where some institutions are incentivizing men to gain power through sociopathic means. Governments are the perfect example of this. A man who wants to gain political power over his community taps into dangerous tendencies. He learns to be dishonest and manipulative, wielding his masculine power of leadership in an unhealthy way.
For those worried that some people are completely abandoning masculinity, that’s a fine worry. The MMM was also concerned with men who lost touch with their masculinity and have became possessed by feminine archetypes. However, the language around Toxic Masculinity may just be the very thing that saves men from these negative behaviors. It is valuable to ponder on its use and ask what ways our own masculinity may be toxic.

For further exploration check out King, Warrior, Magicain, Lover, a book that dives deeper into masculine arehcetypes and healthy manhood.

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A Lazy Man’s Guide To Self-Improvment

Hate yourself? Wanna be less shitty? Good for you! Like most going on this journey, there’s a good chance you’re not sure where to start. Maybe all the normal self-help advice just seem too hard. If you’re starting from zero, a lot of self-improvement tactics can feel inaccessible. They come with high costs in time, money and energy. Fortunately, there are easier, low-cost things you can do. Little tools to increase your confidence, be more productive and just be a better person. Here’s a list of 11 simple ways to improve your life. A lazy man’s guide to self-improvement. I’ve personally done a lot of these and can, at least anecdotally, vouch for their value. Some of them are inspired by advice by friends like Isaac Morehouse or books like Six PIllars of Self Esteem

1) Look in the mirror while naked for 10 minutes straight every day

I don’t think there’s a better way to deal with negative body image than just diving into it head first. Force yourself to look in the mirror, really look at yourself. The goal here isn’t necessarily to make yourself love your body. Instead, you want to just acknowledge the reality of it. Neither changing your body or learning to love it can begin without first accepting what your body really is.

2) Read a chapter of a book once a week

When was the last time you actually read a book?  42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college. Even if you just read one book a year, maybe just a chapter a week, you would be better off than an absurdly large amount of people. You want to be more interesting you gotta have interesting things to talk about. If you wanna be smarter you need to engage your brain in ways like reading. Consume as much content as you can. If you just don’t enjoy reading, consider picking up some graphic novels or diving into audio books.

3) Write one blog post once a week

Writing has similar positive effects as reading. It challenges your mind in a way that doesn’t always happen during the day to day grind. Keeping a blog can be a great way to collect your thoughts. It can be written like a diary or used as a medium for exploring ideas. One blog post a week is super accessible. It doesn’t have to be a huge essay. You could write one or two paragraphs about an idea you had. Or maybe write a review of your favorite album. You may find yourself with the feeling along the lines of, “No one cares what I have to say. Who I am to publish a blog? Who would even read that?”. Ignore that. The writing is about you, not the audience. Besides, you will be surprised how many people actually find your content enjoyable

4) Work out twice a week

I know this is one of the harder tasks on this list. However, if you can manage to did it, just twice a week, you WILL feel better about yourself. You will sleep better, you will look better, your posture will improve. This is hard as hell for some, but it is probably the most valuable habit you can develop. Set up a simple routine. Maybe start with a small set number of pushups and pull ups and adjust as you go. If you can track down some cheap weights, start lifting.

5) Clean your room

This is extremely useful if you’re trying to add more structure to your life. It’s great if you want to develop more conscientiousness, meaning the ability to be more organized and responsible overall. Your room can be understood as a reflection of your inner world. If you wanna stop being so messy in your relationships, job, etc. Learn to stop being messy in your immediate surroundings. If you can at least make your bed every day, you’ll find yourself coming home to knowing you’ve accomplished at least one thing.

6) Learn an instrument

Study after study has shown that learning an instrument is one of the best things you can do to exercise your brain. It can help you become more creative and more in tune with your emotions. Music can also help you understand the world in a more analytical way. As you dive into music theory you may discover an interest in mathematics and logic. Sound hard and unlazy? Trying picking up simple instruments like the ukulele. They’re cheap and don’t have too many strings.

7) Take regular showers

If you have gone through any serious depressions, I’m sure you know that taking a shower can be difficult at times. Self-care becomes an afterthought to the dominant desire to stay alive. If you can muster the energy, force yourself to shower every day. A clean feelings body can make a clean feeling mind. Especially cold showers. To quote this article about why cold showers are beneficial, “This is because wet and cold causes our surface vessels to vasoconstrict (tighten up) making blood move from the surface of your body to the core, as a means to conserve heat. Not only does it conserve heat,  it also reflexively bathes the brain and vital organs in fresh blood. This movement will bring nutrition, oxygen and also help gently detoxify the area.”

8) Go to bed one hour earlier

Everyone needs more sleep. You probably spend that last hour on your phone anyway.  Some people think if they aren’t pushing themselves to stay up an extra hour to work, then they are missing out on productivity. There’s often an error in this thinking. It’s very likely the quality of your work per minute will go down. Often getting that extra hour is the difference when being semi-productive and fully productive. If you have troubling falling asleep, consider using some sort of red tint on your phone screen. The blue lights in computers and phones can cause our brains to stay awake.

9) Use an alarm clock on your days off

If you understand that getting more sleep is important, you should also try to understand how important consistent sleeping schedules can be. If you use an alarm on the weekdays, it can be very beneficial to continue that use over the weekend. This will help keep your sleeping schedule consistent. You’ll probably stop hating Mondays too, as you won’t be so jarred awake by the alarm.

10) Hug your friends more

Particularly men can benefit from this advice. There is evidence that the lack of physical touch for men is literally killing them. Increasing chances of heart problems and mental issues. There was once a time where men touching each other in platonic intimate ways was not so rare. I hope to see a return to that. Hug your bros and tell them you love them.

11) Add educational content to your meme consumption

Pretty much everyone wastes time scrolling their Facebook feed for memes or watching random youtube videos. It can be a good idea to cut back on social media. Alternatively, you can just make your social media usage more productive. If every other meme or video is educational, then you’re on the path to learning new things. Maybe like a philosophy meme page and google all the new phrases that come up. Sub to a youtube channel that does an in-depth analysis of your favorite films. You can literally learn through shitposting.

 

Alright, you lazy fuck. You can tackle at least one of these this month. Shoot me an email if this was helpful at all. gabrieljmitchell@gmail.com

5 Tips for Good Conversation

I recently got home from an adventure at Praxis Weekend. It was a gathering of many great minds and hearts all sharing a desire for creating value in the world. Amazing people means amazing conversations and chances to connect on a deep emotional level. It was especially interesting to see the development of my own social skills. I used to be such an awkward kid. It took a lot of willpower and good parenting to get me to even look people in the eyes. Yet, over this weekend I seemed to have left a very meaning impact on everyone I spoke with. I found it easy to dive straight into an intimate connection. It’s undeniable that part of this is just the amazingness of the praxis community. However, even given the quality of my conversation partners, there was certainly a collection of conscious actions I took to get the most out of my one on ones. Here is a list of 5 tips anyone can use to have good conversations.

Prepare Bold Questions

Small talk is fucking stupid. Just don’t do it. Start strong. Find a question that will rip past their social barriers to look deep into their soul. Questions like “what sort of things make you feel alive?” “What’s the hardest part about pursuing your personal passion?”. You want to ask questions that lead to an insight on their essence. Get a greater understanding of who they are and what they value at a deep level. Remain fluid and prepared for any conversation, but it can be helpful to prepare a handful of big questions that are broad enough to ask anyone.

Give Your Full Attention

People can tell when you’re not truly interested in what they have to say. Your body language communicates so much. If you are distracted or not totally invested it will be obvious. Eye contact is probably the most important part of this. You may also want to face your body directly at your conversation partner. Avoid looking at your phone or getting caught in several different conversations at one.

Thread The Conversation

Threading is the concept of maintaining free-flow in a conversation by being aware of the many possible directions it can go. When they say something like “I started working at this company so I could get a better grasp of marketing in the health industry”, you’re given many different avenues to go down. You could ask them about how they landed the job. You could ask them their favorite parts of working the health industry. You could also ask them why they want to get into marketing. This insight empowers you to direct the conversation to some degree, focusing on things that you also find interesting. Being aware of conversational threading also means making sure your statements have many possible threads. Keep your statements complex enough to lead to several possible questions. When done right you can literally keep the talk going all night.

Go From Cold to Warm Conversation

Cold conversation is about getting basic facts, such as learning where they work and where they live. Warm conversation is more focused on intimacy and emotions. A good conversation has both but will usually weigh towards the warm side. Everyone at the party already asked them where they work, you should be the one to ask them what part of that job makes them feel most alive.

End on a High Note

The last moments of a conversation can set the emotional tone for their memory. Even if you’ve realized you hate this person or you’ve been disagreeing all night, it will be valuable to end on something positive. Tell this person how much you’ve enjoyed the conversation. Tell them you appreciate who they are and value your friendship with them. Touch can also be extremely useful here. A tasteful hug or a hand placed on their shoulder will reassure them that you were genuinely interested. My favorite thing is to give a nice long hug, look them in the eyes as I pull back and say “I love you and I appreciate this conversation”. As I am genuine when I say it, it certainly seems to leave an impact.

Nathaniel Branden and Psychedelics

The other night I had an overwhelming psychedelic experience. My total sense of self was ripped apart and the trip took over. I’ll admit it got dark at parts. A sense of panic kicked in. Fortunately a friend was able to help guide me back into sanity. For someone like myself, who takes a lot of pride in being mentally capable, it was deeply humbling. I eventually regained the reins of my trip. As my mind begun to put itself back together a lot of important introspective thoughts came up. I knew I had to seize this opportunity to get to know myself as best as possible. But introspection within itself is not enough. I need tools for determining what thoughts should be explored, what actions to take from these conclusions.
Fortunately I’ve been reading Nathaniel Branden’s Six Pillars of Self-esteem. The ideas I found in this book were essential for helping me process my experience. Each one of these six pillars were applicable. Each equipping me with the psychological tools to understand and deal with my thoughts.

The Practice of Living Consciously

Branden’s first pillar is the practice of living consciously. This is the act of embracing reality. The choice to be active in our existence instead of being passive. To live unconsciously is to sedate our minds.

Psychs have a way of waking the user up. For me this may mean bringing out thoughts that I might not want to hear. There is no way to suppress inner feelings when the chemicals drag them out. I do however, have a choice in what I do with those thoughts. I can, and did choose to be an active participant in my experience. This pillar showed me I needed to dive in and maintain a healthy and consistent relationship with reality. It didn’t matter how dark or uncomfortable a thought was. To live consciously I had to actively engage it.

Conscious living implies a commitment to reason. It can be tempting during a trip to hide away in mysticism. To think my feeling are beyond the ability of my mind to resolve. This can be a grave mistake. Without a conscious use of reason I can not accurately evaluate my self discoveries. Without reason I can not find the correct course of action to work with them. There is no demon tricking me or old eastern God trying to connect. There is only me, my mind and reality.

The Practice of Self-acceptance

Self-acceptance means refusing to ignore or reject who we are, how we feel, and what we’ve done. It does not mean we must like these things about ourselves. It means that we are willing to experience ourselves as we are. Without a willingness to accept ourselves where we’re at, we cannot work on moving past it.

Practicing Self-acceptance gave me the strength to recognize my thoughts for being an accurate reflection of how I felt. I did not like many of the feeling that arouse during my trip. Some of them bothered me deeply.  If had I entered into this experience with a sense of self rejection, I would have had trouble acknowledging the truth of my wants and needs. How can I work on my anger and sadness if I can’t even admit I have them?

This practice helped me be more compassionate to myself. I am only human and make plenty of mistakes. I should not hate myself for my mistakes. Without a sense of compassion, I could have gotten stuck on the negative discoveries. I could have taken a dive into another bad trip. But if I hate myself for the thoughts that came about, I can never learn from them. I can forgive a friend for their transgressions against me. With kindness and grace help them learn from their mistake. To get the most out of my trip I have to treat myself like a friend.

The Practice of Self-responsibility

Self-responsibility is the practice of taking ownership over our existence. This is the acknowledgement that we are responsible for the achievement of our desires. We are responsible for the level of consciousness and effort we put into our actions.

Of course I admit my friend was extremely helpful in bringing me down from the toughest part. I am grateful for their guidance. However, I still had to embrace the fact that I was ultimately in control of my experience. No one was coming to save me. No one was going to hold my hand and tell me which thoughts to dive deep into. Through the practice of Self-responsibility I could take ownership for my mental health and how the trip affects it.

Self-responsibility also implies I must be willing to act upon these thoughts. I know that it’s not enough to think and process but I must put together plans for action. I must own the fact that I can not waste this experience. I must accept that growing from this adventure is my responsibility and mine alone.

The Practice of Self-assertiveness

The assertion that we have a right to exist, this is Self-assertiveness. To stand up for ourselves. It means honoring our values and acting upon them. This is a context based practice that builds off of responsibility. Once we’ve taken responsibility we need to have the virtue of courage to act.

Assertiveness reminds me I must act upon my desires and stand up for myself to not let the lessons from my trip go unused. When we discover things about ourselves we need to act upon them. Sometimes sharing my feelings can be an uphill battle. But in order to live a more full life I need to have the assertiveness to live authentically. This means being honest with my loved ones about my needs and wants. This means asserting myself in the battle against my own insecurities and mental blocks.

The Practice of Living Purposefully

Living a life without purpose is the choice to live life in an unconscious manner. It is the act of letting chance and randomness decide our fate. To take responsibility for our lives we have to develop purpose. With purpose we have goals that direct our actions. Purposeful living is the difference between hoping things work and making them them a conscious goal to work.

I know that without clear purpose there can be no self improvement. I have to first want to be happy before I can use my trip as tool for achieving it. So much of a psychedelic expressed is framed by our starting mindset. If I go into a trip with a conscious want for self improvement and enjoyment, I will likely get there. If I go into an experience with no purpose, or with a sense of laziness I risk an even worse trip.

The Practice of Personal Integrity

Integrity is about maintaining a healthy integration of our convictions and behavior. If must walk the walk if we talk the talk.

In this context integrity becomes the ability to maintain the truthfulness of my experience with my actions. It means I shouldn’t slant the uncomfortable truths I discovered and find an excuse to ignore them or create a fake problem to replace them.

Integrity does not imply I will always make the best choices but it implies I make an honest effort to make choices that align with my authentic desires. By sitting here and writing this I’ve made a public declaration of my intent to act upon the lessons from my trip. I can not and will not betray my standards by letting these things pass me by without action.

In fact, in order to emphasize this virtue here is a list of some things I am working on as result of my trip.

  1. Accepting that even though I don’t love my parents they aren’t the worse people in the world. I take responsibility for amplifying the damage they caused by letting my mind be obsessed with them. To heal I will move on and think less about them.
  2. I have been deeply dishonest with myself and my romantic partners about my wants and needs. Prolonging relationships that I knew wouldn’t work out and avoiding relationships that might have been worth trying. I will be coming up with a list of what I want out of romance and using that list to determine who I want to spend my time with in the future.
  3. I am reconsidering the projects I’m working on and making economic choices that better reflect my desires. At the time of writing this I’ve already dropped one job, or at least put it on hold, so I can focus on things more directly appealing to me.

The Six Pillars is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Every day I’m encountering opportunities to apply these pillars. The use of Psychedelics can be intensely transformative but I believe without internalizing Nathaniel Branden’s practices I might not have had such a therapeutic experience. I want to grow as a person, build self esteem, have healthier relationships, work harder and embrace life. With a little help from good books and good drugs, I will accomplish these things.

Doing What I Want

“like if freedom means doing what I want, well, don’t I gotta want something?”

Relistening to the album Die The Nightmare and this line stood out to me. It highlights where my latest struggles are. I’m at a really awesome spot in life. Cool house, awesome friends, self employed. I have an unprecedented amount of freedom and stability. My needs have been met. I no longer have to work out of desperation. But how do I work when I’m not motivated by starvation? How do I fill my time when I have almost unlimited options? What do I do with my new freedom?

I have what I need, but what do I want?

Fortunately, I am starting to figure it out. I’vee been slowing down my decision making process. I’m taking the time to ask myself if I really WANT the thing I’m about to choose. 

I will learn from this anxiety of freedom and I will grow.