I was blown away by this brilliant book; it totally had me hooked. One of the things that I noticed when talking to Frank the natural was just how brutally honest he was, and that women found this trait very, very attractive. Even if they found him offensive at times, there was something about his disarming honesty that got under their skin. And this book explains what it is, and how to get it.
The author puts the boot straight into the curse of moralism as the cause of our obsessive self-critical thinking and resulting inability to be free to be ourselves, and act instinctively instead of regimentally. He cites two modern-day institutions as prime examples that perpetuate moralism: lawyers and the legal system, and the Catholic church; both of which are rich sources of clients in his psychotherapy practice. By pushing doctrines and sets of rules about what's right and wrong, and how people should behave, these institutions and others like them enslave people to black-and-white thinking that goes against the inherent contradictions of life as a human being.
The result is that we end up stuck in our head, beating ourselves up over natural behavior and trying to work out analytically what behavior we think is right, rather than actually living authentically. Along the way, we learn to lie when what we want to say and do differs from what other uptight people around us seem to want. We end up thinking this will gain us approval from other people and give us a problem-free life. In fact, we end up dissociated from ourselves, disconnected from other people, and stressed out... all in a vain attempt to avoid offending people whose opinion doesn't really matter anyway, and the resulting conflict which we imagine will be unbearable.
Liberation of our beings from the constraints of our mind turns out to be simple: start telling the truth, and deal with the consequences. Blanton breaks truth-telling down into 3 levels:
- Revealing the Facts
- Honesty About Current Thoughts and Feelings
- Admitting That You Are Not Who You Have Been Pretending To Be
Each succeeding level leads to greater openness, vulnerability, connection with others, and authenticity. Along with greater potential for conflict with defensive people operating out of fear on a lower level. Staying at level 3 all the time is hard work, and pretty much impossible. Level 2 is achievable, and gives you huge relationship breakthroughs. But most people don't even operate at level 1.
My family of origin didn't even do level 1 very well. Most of my parent's arguments were disagreements about facts revealed in previous arguments. That meant they never even got close to level 2. If you're attacked about your version of the facts, you're not about to reveal feelings which are even more intangible and open to ridicule, if that's what your opponent is into. So I grew up learning that being fundamentally honest wasn't really a good thing. I fooled myself into thinking that I was an honest, nice guy; when in fact I held back so much that I was deceptive and even manipulative. I didn't know that a man can get his needs met by being open and honest about them, so I learned to withhold and lie instead. I did it in a way that seemed nice enough, but really I was kidding myself and I didn't end up getting my needs met anyway.
The chapter on dealing with anger was particularly illuminating for me. If you find yourself never getting angry or holding back, it's possible that you've repressed your anger so much that you barely even feel it. This has definitely been the case for me, as my mother was verbally abusive and my father violent when they were angry; so I vowed never to follow them as role models. But men who are incapable of expressing anger appear as unattractive wimps to women. The antidote to this is to start expressing your resentment to people, and get over your fear of how they will respond. I recently told a woman that I resented her for keeping me waiting when I turned up for a lunch date; something I previously would not have done. Not only did she apologize, but even though it clearly made her feel bad, she became even more engaged in our conversation as a result.
A key point that Blanton makes is that emotions are transitory when they are freely expressed. They only hang around when we bottle them up. So if we express anger towards someone else in a constructive manner, it dissipates. We need to be aware of this when we're on the receiving end; just because they're angry today doesn't mean they will be tomorrow. Don't take other people's feelings personally. They can be hating us right now, and loving us tomorrow. This sharing of emotions, even of seemingly negative ones, builds intimacy, trust, and allows opportunities for forgiveness. Of course it needs to be done constructively, and the book gives a formula for doing this especially with anger, since it's the emotion we often struggle with expressing constructively.
Radical honesty is attractive, and boosts your confidence every time we're honest with people when we used to hold back. Other people have more respect for us when we are honest and even abrupt regardless of whether they disagree or question our values, than when we are hard to pin down or change our tune according to other people's views. I highly recommend this book to guys who find themselves holding back around the women they want to attract. It's absolute gold.