One of the more common shit-tests my wife gives me is, “Say something nice about me.”
This usually happens when we have been around each other for a while but nothing of significance has been said. I will have come home from work, we’ve eaten dinner, shared our daily war stories, put the kid to bed and be in the middle of a movie. Suddenly, she gets in my line of vision and demands compliments when my brain is practically inert.
For years, my reaction to this type of thing was to give her what she was asking for. My efforts would be unsatisfactory because the compliments always sounded forced - which of course they were. My resentment of this built over time, and eventually I had a script ready-at-hand for responding to the question. It was a resigned, here-we-go-again routine where I sounded like I was in a call center. A few times I tried confronting the situation head-on, telling her she couldn’t just push a button to have me dispense heartfelt compliments at a moment’s notice. Logical and accurate? You bet. Did it work? Nope.
It was only after TRP that I considered refusing to engage in her demand at all.
Nowadays, this scenario rarely comes up. When it does, as it did yesterday, I sarcastically reply: “Something nice about me.”
Not the response she wants! She gets a sour look. I give her a shit-eating grin. Then I grab her face and kiss her in a way that says ‘you are so silly, but I love you anyway.’ She resists – how dare I not take this seriously! A playful struggle ensues. She doesn’t resist the second kiss. Then she’s off and away, acting like she’s pissed but unable to contain her smile.
For years, I tried to accept and process her emotional insecurities, make them my own, and try to address them. That’s the playbook we were given. And yet, only when I started disregarding these scenarios as the childish games they are did we become happy with the results.
There is a fairly well known internet tale about Buddha refusing to accept a man’s “gift” of anger. The tl;dr of it is that Buddha refutes an angry man’s frame, displaying his own emotional independence. This parable applies not just to anger but to a wider range of human interaction.
In our daily lives we are surrounded by people who try to manipulate us by activating our anxiety. The kid that throws a tantrum, the car salesman that sits the customer in the ‘negotiation’ room, the wife pestering her husband for compliments - they are all attempting to influence behavior through emotional discomfort. I don’t want to hear the kid cry. I don’t want to sit in the tiny room. I don’t want her to be upset with me.
In TRP parlance, a shit-test is emotionally manipulative behavior, and we are shit-tested constantly - not only by the romantically interesting women in our lives, but by almost everyone we meet. Most people don’t realize what they are doing; they are simply using learned behavior that has often yielded results. So why is this learned behavior so effective?
As Chuck Palahniuk put it, we are a generation of men raised by women, and as Dr. Glover points out in No More Mr. Nice Guy, many of us (and I would argue a majority of us) grew up in a situation where we were abandoned or abused. Developed in childhood, our coping strategies tend to be about appeasing others to the detriment of our self-interest. The indoctrination continues as we grow into adults. Our educational system compels us to artificially enforce self-esteem and confidence in others, regardless of merit. Our media deludes us with the chivalry-is-rewarded, true-love-conquers-all, happily-ever-after myth. Our legal system and corporate policies place our lives and our livelihoods in the hands of those who may punish us simply for upsetting their sensibilities. Failure to make one’s life partner adequately happy will result in the loss of the life you worked so hard to build.
In short, we are being taught cradle to grave to take ownership of the anxieties of others because that will give us validation and preserve us from harm. The corollary is that if there is a lack of validation or harm befalls us, it is because we did not adequately address those anxieties.
Dealing with this shit crushes a man’s spirit, so he will spend a lot of time trying to predict how his own behavior might generate anxiety in others so that he may avoid, deflect or manage it. He pushes his own needs to the back while he attends to others, and isolates himself to reduce the sickening workload.
This is the primary ingredient of the Blue Pill.
Therefore, I propose that the axiom of the Red Pill is to refuse the “gift” of negative emotion from others, expressed or implied. The guy who tells you your shirt looks stupid. The girl who asks you to buy her a drink. A clingy mother. A verbally abusive father. All trying to move you via negative emotion. All different, yet all the same.
It’s not about fighting back – it’s about refusing to engage at all.
Easier said than done, of course. I am certainly nowhere near perfecting my Inner Julie Andrews. But the first step is awareness. Here is how I started down this path:
The first sign you are being given a “gift” is when your interaction with someone is making you feel compelled to do something you don’t want to. When you find yourself in that situation, take a moment and ask yourself, “Is this what I want to do/say?” If not, refuse to comply. Just say no. It is almost certain that other person will increase the pressure. How dare you not do that thing!
It is there, right at that moment, when you feel that increased sense of guilt, the need to appease and not rock the boat and make that person happy, that you are feeling the withdrawal symptoms of the Blue Pill. Note it. File it. Embrace it. Make it your companion. Then double down on your refusal to do something contrary to your own desires and self-interest.
People around you may not like it. Some of the more demanding people in my life have become extremely put out by my new lack of compliance. "What happened to Brandor77?" they ask. The worst offenders - siblings who believe 'blood' is a valid reason for me to repeatedly provide them money and shelter after their bad decisions leave them destitute - now won't talk to me, angry at the audacity that I should refuse them. They lay on the guilt and talk poorly about me to others.
I am working hard to refuse the "gifts" that are offered to me every single day. If people go away because I don't take their gifts? Good riddance. Because you know who is happier for the change? I am. And that's refreshing.
Good luck, brothers.
EDIT: Wow, thanks for all the encouraging remarks, folks. And thank you for the "Gift" of gold, kind sir! Also, cleaned up some grammar.