Seeing without Judgement — A Man’s Journey
In my experience, the difference between pain and love is marginal.
Imagine a little boy standing all alone in the schoolyard, with a self-made mobile made out of hearts still in the gift wrapper. The BFF of my back then-girlfriend had dumped me on Valentine’s day when I was eight years old.
Love hurts. I cried, walking home. I made myself a promise. Never again, this pain. In the following years, I would repress any form of sexual interest, always reminding myself of the pain.
At 16 years of age, I had a sexual awakening. The following adventures happened in a time span of a few months.
After the Netherlands lost the European Soccer finale against Spain in 2010, my friend and two girls ended up medicating our sorrows at my house. For some reason, the girls thought it was cute that I had shame for never having kissed before. We ended up in the ecstasy of lust and alcohol, kissing all night. When the sun rose, we noticed we forgot to sleep, which aligned with the night's craziness.
My funniest one-night-stand-story is waking someone’s older brother up in the middle of the night to ask for condoms ‘to make love’ to his little sister. That didn’t work out, by the way.
Having sexual experiences isn’t the same as being in a relationship. All the girls I liked seemed unavailable. And the ones who professed their love to me didn’t seem attractive to me. Lust is a terrible compass in life.
When I talked to my crushes, I could only talk about school-related matters, too afraid to say something wrong. Disgusted by my boring life, I vowed on my twenty birthday that at my funeral, people would say this:
Jasper didn’t have an easy life. But at least he tried, no matter the hardship or pain. His life was as remarkable and authentic as it can be.
When I confessed to a high school friend the desire to learn how to seduce girls, he gossiped, and I became the laughing stock. The popular kids thought I was desperate for love and should know my place in the pecking order. In their view, you first had to kiss before you could start thinking about relationships.
Even in my early twenties, I was still too afraid to talk with friends about relationships. Instead, I choose to read the book The Game of Neil Strauss. Through the lens of pick-up artists (PUA), did I, for the first time, become aware of the differences in psychology.
Never had I imagined how awkward dating could be for women. Sorry, ladies, for all this macho bravura, like nagging and peacocking. Most men have no idea whatsoever of how romance works. Nobody teaches this.
Boys grow up with male role models, like James Bond, Cristiano Ronaldo, and superman, who never have shown any public acts of vulnerability. They are portrayed as the stereotypical alpha man on steroids. Never accepting defeat, and always getting the girl.
When a girl rejects a boy, before he has reached emotional maturity, he feels emasculated. With spear piercing through his heart, he knows he has to return to his friends. They will perceive him as weak after telling about his failed attempt or will vilify the girl to protect their group’s ego. This normative cult of ‘manliness’ is called toxic masculinity.
To this day, I still believe teenagers could be less of a pain in the ass if we taught them basic seduction techniques. Both men and women suffer equally in the love department. Having no idea how to come across as attractive or how to communicate their most vulnerable needs. The fear of rejection creates all this miscommunication.
The sooner we teach all our children how to manage emotions and connect with strangers, the better they are off as adults. In my opinion, this socialization process of ‘finding love‘ doesn’t unfold naturally.
Reinterpreting the past
Using the knowledge of these P.U.A.’s, I understood how blind I had been to body language. Some girl in highschool constantly wanted me to hold her hand because hers were cold. Instead of seeing that as a flirtation sign, I told her to buy gloves.
Going out became an experiment on how to interact with women. Almost every seduction method felt alien. Eye gazing was awkward, and I had no idea how to strike a conversation with strangers. In hindsight, I never had learned to listen back then, so all my conversations were a one-way street.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. — Goethe
Time is the best teacher. Slowly I understood that my inability to connect to others was the problem.
So I decided to read books like How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Art of People, etc. Furthermore, I watched these TED talks 7 Ways to Make a Conversation With Anyone and Why you should talk to strangers. I researched MBTI, the Enneagram, and spiral dynamics to explore personalities' compatibility to dive deeper.
Learning about the differences in perceiving behavior led to more confidence and more meaningful conversations. Gradually, I learned to be passionate about my life. I transformed into a decent storyteller and added active listening to my repertoire. As a result, I got to go on dates.
The Expert Fallacy
After repeatedly complaining to roommates about my failure with women to take them the next level, my neighbor suggested reading the book Attached written by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.
Through the lens of psychology, I could identify my and other people’s attachment styles. Every time someone mentioned their relationship drama, I rushed to explain the book's theory to give them insight into their miscommunication.
Friends, family, and strangers used to thank me for referring to this book. By giving others seemingly helpful advice, backed by all this knowledge from reading, I convinced myself that I was some form of a relationship expert, even though my longest relationship lasted one month.
My ego played tricks with me by overestimating my ability to be objective with my self-image. The result was that I misidentified with a certain attachment style. Going through all this effort to remove my cowardliness, I couldn't see the facade I build up to mask my neediness. Memory can be very selective. In retrospect, this was borderline self-denial.
Reflective thinking is necessary to turn the experience into insight — John Maxwell
Escaping the mind
My older sister, who always serendipitously mentions the right book at the right time, sent me a link to the audiobook Freedom of Known by Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Although I had read a similar book, The Power of the Now before, Tolle’s words didn’t resonate with my life. Instead of adhering to the book's mission to unravel the tricks of my mind, I convinced myself I was close to enlightenment.
I don’t know if it was the years of meditation, self-reflection, yoga, or reading about psychology and eastern spirituality, but Krishnamurti opened my eyes to the intellect's mechanics. When my arrogance's guise disappeared, I rediscovered that everybody I knew was the product of a mental image.
When we see an individual, you only see your own projection made up of all of your memories. Most people have difficulties to see a person’s entirety because it goes beyond appearance, character, even life itself. In other words, we perceive the world through the mind's eye.
But the mind's eye isn’t objective. You can only see what you can recognize. The shape of your thought isn’t random either but pre-determined by the theories you believe in. Like an answering machine, your mental response to any situation is conditioned to be repeated.
Every philosophical or psychological framework: like MBTI, Enneagram, attachment theories, spiral dynamics, performative gender, seduction techniques, aren’t truths. But patterns pointing towards some form of co-created reality.
When you unravel your own delusions, you escape the clutches of you mind, unlocking life.
A good friend of mine asked on Reddit, what is a form of self-sabotage most people aren’t aware of? They answered, dualistic thinking.
Usually, when you desire order in life, you frequently perceive the world in black and white to eradicate the chaos. When you split the world in two, making the right decision becomes easier.
Like all practices, this has some benefits and cons. Using this dualistic lens on people has a high price. Someone who does things differently or has let you down in the past isn’t taken seriously anymore. So when such a person offers you insight or another opportunity, you negate the offer subconsciously.
To only way out is through. So to challenge my judgemental mind, I practice open-mindedness by sharpening my listening skills. Every day someone allows me to practice this patience with people.
Becoming more receptive allows me to play with perception. Henceforth,
I choose to no longer participate in sharing the drama of the world. Because every bad apple I meet allows me to cultivate spaciousness — to accept the moment for what it is.
Openmindedness isn’t cultivated in one day. Every day, I set one step in the right direction of seeing an individual's wholeness and not my mental projection. Hopefully, I will find love one day.