Identity Crisis

Below is a response I gave to a guy I was counseling and I thought it sufficiently insightful to quote here in regards to a pretty common topic that comes up.

Rollo, is it possible to identify with women without compromising yourself?

If it is a conscious effort on the guy’s part, no.

You bring up a good topic though, obviously when I refer to ‘identifying’ with women, this could use some explanation. What exactly is ‘identifying’ with a woman? The root of this word is ‘identity’, meaning who you are and what characteristics, traits and interests constitute your individual personality.

‘Identity’, in a way, is a pretty subjective and esoteric term — kind of like trying to define what art is — it can be argued that ‘identity’ is what you make of it. While at university, my field of specialization in behavioral psychology was personality studies, and I can tell you there are a lot of theories and interpretations of what constitutes identity. However, one article that is agreed upon almost universally is that identity and personality are never static and are malleable and changeable by influencing variables and conditions. A very pronounced illustration of this would be soldiers retuning from combat with post traumatic stress disorder, a very identifiable and verifiable form of psychosis. These men are changed individuals and their identities are altered from the time they were subject to the psychological rigors of warfare to returning back to a normalized life. Some have the resilience to adjust their personalities back to a somewhat normalized state, others sadly do not. Yet, in each case the change was influenced by conditions and environment.

Likewise, most young men are subject to their own set of personal conditions and environments, and their personalities and identities reflect this accordingly. The guy who’s naturally “lucky with the ladies” is going to reflect this in his identity. The young man who doesn’t receive regular female attention for whatever reasons is going to manifest this condition in his identity. The guy who is focused on his own ambitions is going to reflect this in his own personality as well, but for all, when conditions are such that they feel deprived of certain experiences in their own life, this creates a conflict between a former identity and the altering of, or forming of, a new one to meet the need for this experience. Couple this with men’s natural chemical/hormonal desire for sexual experience and you can see how powerful an influence deprivation becomes.

Far too many young men maintain the notion that for them to receive the female intimacy they desire they should necessarily become more like the target of their affection in their own personality. In essence, to mold their own identify to better match the prerequisite conditions of the girl they think will best satisfy this need. Thus, we see examples of men compromising their self-interests to better accommodate the interests of the woman they desire to facilitate this need for intimacy (i.e. sex).

We all know the old adage women are all too aware of, “Guys will do anything to get laid” and this is certainly not limited to altering their individual identities and even conditions to better facilitate this. It’s all too common an example to see men select a college based on the available women at that college rather than academic merit to fit their own ambitions or even to choose a college to better maintain a pre-existing relationship that a girlfriend has chosen and the young man follows. In the wake of that decision, and in order to justify these choices, he will alter his identity and personality by creating rationales and new mental schema to validate this ‘decision’ for himself — he needs to validate a change in himself that he knows on some level of consciousness was not of his own doing. It becomes an ego protection for a decision he, on some level, knows was made for him.

This is just one glaring example of this identification, but thousands more subtle examples exist that men (and women) pass off as social norms and contrivances. The guy stuck in the ‘Friend Zone’ who got the LJBF (“lets just be friends”) line when he attempted to become intimate with a girl, will happily listen to her drone on for hours on the phone in order to find out how better to alter himself to fit her conditions for intimate acceptability. He will readily “change his mind” about even his own personal beliefs if it will better fit what he perceives as her criteria for compatibility with her.

This is the compromise of identity — to fundamentally and voluntarily alter one’s own personality to achieve the acceptability of another.

When we are directly and overtly faced with this sort of challenge to our beliefs we naturally recoil — you are your own person and would resist were your employer or parents were to tell you how you should vote (political belief), but when it comes to personality and sexual/intimacy interests, and done voluntarily it’s surprising to see the thresholds of what men (and to an extent women) will do. Men will entertain the idea that a long distance relationship (LDR) is a desirable arrangement even if intimacy has never occurred because the potential of that intimacy is perceived. These same guys will espouse every reasoning they can conceive as to why their “relationship is different” and that they ‘believe’ that “love conquers all” only to come full circle when he or she ‘cheats’ or breaks off the relationship and the man comes back to his prior (though he thinks new) understanding that LDRs are in fact a bad prospect. His identity changed and then changed again to accommodate his conditions.

However, it’s not that he never truly changed or had the belief in the first place. Were these guys to take a polygraph test at the time they would indeed pass when asked if this was what they actually accepted as truth. Men will do what most deductively solves a problem and in this he is only following the tenants of pragmatism.

“I need sex + women have the sex I want + I must discover what women want to give me sex + ask women + women want X = I will do X to get sex and alter my own identity in order to better facilitate X.”

This subroutine is part of men’s deductive, evolved, mental firmware. It should be this easy, but that’s rarely the case since more often than not women are unaware themselves of what X really is, or X is subject to constant change depending on her own conditions and her own sexual strategies.

Now, after all of this, is it possible that a man and a woman may in fact share genuine common interests?

Of course. You may indeed find a perfectly beautiful woman that enjoys Nascar or Hockey as much as you. You may find a woman you’re attracted to who genuinely shares your passion for deep sea fishing. It’s not uncommon to share common interests; it’s when you alter your interest to better facilitate a connection that you force it. Making this determination of genuine interests and created interests is the hair that needs splitting. I’ve personally counseled guys who have literally changed careers to be in a better place just to proposition a girl they fancied. I know men who’ve moved thousands of miles to live closer to women who’ve never reciprocated their interest in them, yet they continued to attempt to identify themselves with her. I know 65 year old men in 40 year marriages, who even after intimacy was resolved years ago with the woman, are still attempting to identify with their wives because they’ve internalized this identity compromise as a standard means to getting sex from her. Her expectations of him have become his identity, and at 65 these mental schema have become so ego-invested that no amount of shedding light on his conditions will ever convince him anything to the opposite.

The most ironic thing about this ‘Identity Crisis’ is that the least attractive thing to most women is a man who is willing to compromise any part of his identity to placate to her, much less a wholesale sellout of it. Women are naturally attracted to that masculine independence and dominant confidence as it represents a very strong cue of security and the potential to provide that security to her (and any children she may have). Women don’t want a man who’ll “do everything she says” because this sends the message that this man can be compromised with even the prospect of a sexual encounter. Why would that indicate anything more than insecurity and a lack of confidence?

Women want to be told “No”, and constantly test a man’s resolve to say this to her (i.e. shit-testing) in order to affirm that she’s made the right choice (even in marriage) of a guy who’ll put his sexual impulse (knowing full-well how powerful it is with men) on hold to hold fast to his own self-interest, beliefs and ambitions. It covertly communicates to a woman that his goals and determination trump her one agency over him — her sexuality. That is the man who is the PRIZE, the ‘great catch’, the male to be competed for with other women.