Imaginary Solutions Require Imaginary Problems

If psychologists have a superpower, it’s a heightened ability to notice what’s missing from a conversation. (That, and we can read minds.) Sometimes what people don’t say is more important than the words they use.

The Washington Post recently published this article on intergenerational trauma. The author said many things about the topic, but she omitted something important: a definition. Nowhere in 460 words did she tell us what intergenerational trauma is.

I Gambled Today

Gatekeeper: The Tactical Guide to Commitment

Maybe you have heard the news: men are dropping out. Word on the street is that men across the globe are unemployed, uneducated, out of shape, and above all, lonely.

I’ve learned to be skeptical of catastrophic headlines. It’s true that many boys and men are struggling for reasons too complex to discuss here, but I doubt being male is uniquely difficult at the moment. The world has always had sharp edges. Men have always faced challenges.

Still, it’s indisputable that many men are falling short of their potential for reasons too complex to discuss here. Meanwhile, women are increasingly choosing the single life. At a glance, it all seems pretty dire for relations between the sexes… but I’m optimistic. Men and women have always valued each other, and we always will.

Do Psychopaths Know They’re Psychopaths?

Have you ever read the official definition of antisocial personality disorder? It describes someone who acts like Tony Soprano: remorseless, deceitful, impulsive, and violent.

Pretty dramatic.

The psychopath next door is different. He’s more like George “it’s not a lie if you believe it” Costanza. He’s manipulative, uncaring, and neither a genius nor industrious.

Psychopathy isn’t a binary trait. It exists on a spectrum like any other aspect of personality. (Psychopathy is variously referred to as sociopathy and antisocial personality. The trifling distinctions bore me. The behavior matters more than the label.)

Over at Twitter, my friend Paul asked if people with psychopathic leanings understand their own nature. Are Tony and George aware of their personalities? Do they possess insight? …

If You Can’t Understand Why Someone Did Something…

Have you ever squared off against someone pushing food you don’t want, and they won’t take no for an answer? They tend to badger people with less-than-compelling arguments like this:

But you haven’t tried MY zucchini!

The more tenacious ones will argue well past the point of incivility. If you ask them why it’s so damned important to eat their hellspawn food, they’ll say something like, “you’ll like it!”

That’s not an answer. It doesn’t offer a lick of insight as to their motivation. They’re just repeating themselves. Why?

We all wrestle with this question once in a while: how do you make sense of a person’s motive when their motive is elusive? …

Nothing Says “I Love You” Like a Prenup

I once heard a rabbi say the possibility of divorce is a positive force in a marriage because it’s an incentive to be well-mannered.

I agree. The urge to be courteous is reduced if your spouse has no escape. At least that’s what Anne Boleyne told me.

However, I would add an important qualifier: the possibility of divorce is a positive incentive for spouses who have something to lose. Not everyone has something to lose. The pain of divorce, and the incentive to protect the marriage, are not necessarily distributed evenly. I think that’s evident in a few statistics. …

The Hidden Workings of “When It’s Good, It’s Great”

Have you ever mistaken a label for an explanation? I have.

I once asked a physician about the annoying little tremor in my hands. I told her I’d had it all my life, as did my father.

“Don’t worry,” she said in a confident tone. “Those are just benign familial tremors.”

“Oh,” I said as if she had shared meaningful information.

It wasn’t until I left the building that I realized she had told me precisely nothing about why my hands shake. She merely gave me a label. …

How to Search for Male-Friendly Therapists

At least once a week someone asks me how to find a therapist who is friendly to men. The question usually goes something like this:

“I live in [North American city, often coastal]. Every therapist here seems to be woke AF. I don’t want to work with someone who thinks masculinity is a disease. Can you recommend someone?”

Finding a therapist is not difficult. In most places you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one. That’s because “therapist” is not a protected title in most jurisdictions, so literally anyone can call him or herself a therapist. …

New Video: Clever Theories About Women

I posted this video nearly a month ago. A more responsible professional would have written an announcement at the time.

The thing is, videos like this one are colossally time-consuming. By the time I hit the “publish” button, my mind has moved on to other things.

That leaves me wondering how to write this type of announcement. …

The White Horse

This might be the most important horse story you read all day, or at least one of the top three.

I know a man who frequently visited Scotland as a child. His extended family there owned a business delivering milk in horse-drawn carriages.

Among the horses in the stable, one was particularly prized by the family: the white horse whose name the man couldn’t recall.

This clever horse had learned his route so well that he could walk it with minimal guidance. He even knew which houses to visit. (I don’t know if he could recite each customer’s order. The man didn’t say.) …

The Most Powerful Swimmer in the Kiddie Pool

A stranger once glanced at the cover of The Tactical Guide to Women and concluded I must be some sort of pickup artist. I understand the misapprehension, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

I’m the anti-PUA. The matchbreaker. The intimacy Grinch. I’m trying to persuade people to disobey their glands and rethink their relationship strategies — especially those strategies that squander potential and impede a values-driven life.

For example, there’s the strategy of choosing chaotic relationships, in which a capable adult chooses a partner who struggles to manage the minor challenges of daily life. …