Once upon a time there was a woodsman who had an axe with a dull blade and a rough, black head. After a hard day of chopping he looked at the axe and swore to himself he would make it the sharpest blade with a head polished to a mirror of silver. The woodsman then promptly went to the blacksmith in the village and explained to him his plan. The smith then said, “Surely this axe can be as bright and sharp as you wish, if only you’ll turn the grindstone for me while I hone and polish it?” The woodsman agreed and for the next week he turned the stone for the smith.
Though it was harsh labor and the woodsman sweat enough to wet the very stone with which the smith ground the blade, he turned on. By the end of the first week the blade was a bit sharper and it’s shine still dull. “See me next week and we’ll have your beautiful axe glimmering.” said the smith.
And so the woodsman turned the stone for another week while the smith ground the axe. By this time the woodsman had grown weary, his back in stitches and his muscles aching, yet still the axe was sharper and it’s surface began to shine by the end of the second week. “I think I shall take my axe now” said the woodsman. The smith protested, “The blade is unfinished and it’s head only a bright silver, not mirror perfect as you wished. Turn the stone but a bit longer and we will have your axe bye and bye.” To which the woodsman replied “No, I am weary and besides, I think I prefer a silver axe to a polished one now.”
My apologies for going the fortune cookie route in this post, but I’d just read this story recently which was originally told by Benjamin Franklin. I began to think, how many men I know (myself included at one time) who’ve played, and yet still play, the role of the woodsman in this story. We become so fed up, weary, impatient or critical of our own failed attempts that we begin to prefer things that are inferior. In other words, we settle for less and convince ourselves that it’s what we really want.
When we do this it seems to us like success. It was still hard work, it was still character building, but not what we’d originally planned. A psychological experiment (about memory actually) once put a series of C and D student into a tutorial program to raise their grades, only the program was intentionally designed not to help them in any way over the course of 12 weeks. By the end of the 12th week all had completed the once a week tutorials and as expected none had grades any better than when they started (some even lower), but when asked if the class had helped them every one replied “Yes, it helped a lot.” The idea here is of course that we don’t like to think of our past efforts as being fruitless or a waste of time. Our own psyches will prevent us from accepting work for nothing so we’ll selectively forget the actual result against the perceived effort.
Now, to apply this to a Game mentality, how does this affect us? The easy comparison is the AFC who’s too afraid of rejection in the ‘outside’ world and withdraws into his own ‘inside’ world and “prefers” it. This is the guy who’ll readily supplicate to his GF because “that’s just how he is” or he “prefers strong willed women” while she psychologically and emotionally deconstructs him as a willing participant. The serial monogamist ‘prefers’ the safety of a relationship, any relationship, to having to confront this same rejection in the outside world. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve heard men in their 40’s and 50’s tell me that they got into a career to appease a woman or how they’d changed their majors in college to better facilitate a relationship. Their explanations are invariably, “I thought it’s what I wanted at the time”, but hindsight and the fallout from 10-15 years of ‘preferring’ one thing over another put them into the position of needing counseling.
Human beings have an amazing ability to normalize their own conditions. Anything can become normal. It’s how we normalize a condition that separates the reality of a situation from our perception of it. Now think for a bit of how this dynamic applies to yourself? What have you convinced yourself of for the wrong reasons? Are you in a situation now that began from your having settled for less that what you wanted? Do you struggle with an AFC who’s convinced himself that he prefers what he’s become?
It’s not enough to unplug from the Matrix. You have to unlearn what it’s taught you to master the new reality you find yourself in.