My last post outlined some thoughts I had about studying psychology to focus specifically on males as distinct form of being than females, and also to avoid the division of behavior into orthogonal traits that provide coordinates for clusters that suggest different personality types. This is not a serious attempt to build a new science of psychology, but instead it is an opportunity to organize my thoughts and personal observations.
The core of the last post was to define a particular behavior that I compared to planting of a seed. A man will plant a seed in the sense of taking one of his ideas and then offering at some optimal time to have that idea take place. I used the example of a coach providing feedback after the conclusion of some competition: advising either the victorious or the defeated in a way, often explicit, but sometimes cryptic, to guide the student in developing from the experience. This is planting the seed. That seed may be in the form of “maybe you should consider something different” a message I received multiple times (whether or not it was intended).
The analogy to planting a seed is different from initiating a plan, although the ideas overlap. A plan is something that is charted out with intermediate milestones that progressively approach a specific goal. A coach may plan on training his student to become top champion. A seed is different in that there is no expectation of any specific outcome, but instead a desire for incremental growth. For example, someone working out in a gym may get feedback to encourage growth in some direction over falling into a routine that never changes.
My statement is that this is behavior pattern of many males: offering some idea with the sole intent of giving the recipient something to consider when making future decisions. Many males may not have this behavior. Some females may also have this behavior but I’ll leave that for someone else to consider.
There are many ways this behavior may be expressed, and this may lead to different personality types. The discussion so far is that of a coach, mentor, or teacher of a student. Another example may be fully internal: the individual takes the initiative to act on his own ideas, and keeping the idea secret from others: an innovator. Another example may be someone who acts on the idea by changing the environment others will have to react to — setting in motion an idea they know nothing about: a dastard.
As mentioned earlier, there may be many other men who do neither of these. Some may be guided by traditional or cultural norms. Others may work cooperatively in teams or under hierarchical guidance. These are separate clusters of behaviors that can be examined separately.
My focus here is on the guy who makes a choice to release his private idea at some moment of peak receptivity. This peak receptivity occurs at some point of inflection such as an immediate crisis or recent revelation similar to responding to the loss or success of some competition. The men who exhibit this behavior will not only have a store of ideas to release but also will have a sense of when best to release it: he guesses the optimal planting season of that seed. In the coaching analogy, some messages are only useful to convey after a defined conclusion of a match: introducing the message at any other time would at best be a form of entertainment to be quickly forgotten.
Most men may exhibit this behavior with increasing frequency with age due to his lived experiences. Sometimes this occurs involuntarily out of frustration of some immediate disappointment. Once expressed, the idea has an opportunity to be absorbed by others and the immediate circumstances encourages them to take the idea seriously even if they don’t immediate recognize its value.
Even when the idea is expressed involuntarily, it is almost certain to that someone will recognize and acknowledge the source of the idea. There is an inherent incentive to pay attention to the source of an idea since this information will be useful later to assign blame. Most of the time, the speaker of the idea will know he owns the idea and owns the release of that idea at the time even if it were involuntarily offered out of frustration. In any event, once released (or once planted) there are stakeholders of the consequence of that idea. The originator’s stake is that he wants to see some benefit even if that is merely to advance the project to the point someone else offers some other idea to work on. In all cases, it is inevitable that this idea will influence other’s contemplation of the the current circumstances, informing their future plans.
There is a population of men who will take possession of the ideas of they allowed to influence others. This results in a distinct personality type with many unique psychological conditions.
Many such ideas take a long time to reach some conclusion as to whether it was beneficial or not. During this time, the person will occupy some of his attention on watching for any progress. Eventually, the idea will reach some conclusion. If beneficial, there is a type of elation that frequently no one else would appreciate. Often we see this when someone insists recognition that the idea was his to begin with — by the time the idea proved itself it probably became general knowledge. On the other hand, the idea may be detrimental and again the owner will likely be alone in knowing that the idea was his — often in this scenario everyone else has forgotten the idea that led them to the current place. In my experience, there is an ambiguous result with both beneficial and detrimental consequences and often occurring at different times in an up-and-down fashion.
The experience of watching the progress of some released idea is similar to that of tending a crop that one planted in the springtime. There is an continuous stress of watching progress, fending off antagonists, and waiting for the harvest. This can be a root psychological experience that will get diagnosed as some generic human condition such as depression, anxiety, narcissism, etc. To the extent we treat them, we are treating the symptoms and missing the underlying source: the fact that the man has some kind of commitment or responsibility for all the ideas he released each time he spoke up in some time of crisis or inflection point.
This psychological condition is very relevant to relationships. It is my impression that most of psychology treats relationships as a fundamental root cause or determinant of a psychological condition. The treatment of the condition involves revising the patient’s approaches to the those relationships. In this case, this is unhelpful.
The relationship is a symptom of a much more fundamental male experience of being responsible for creating that relationship in the first place, and the genesis of that relationship was some idea, often a unique innovative idea that traces solely to that man. First came the idea, then the condition that defines the relationship. The root condition is the inescapable stake the man has in the consequence of his original idea that he dared to release (or accidentally released).
This applies to male-female relationships. Using my own experience as an example, the desire for the relationship came after an idea of where the relationship would lead. One of the reasons I never pursued opportunities with very attractive opportunities is that I could not formulate a favorable idea about where it would lead, or I could only see unfavorable outcomes. This is looking far beyond the early romantic period or honeymoon. I needed a reason to pursue the relationship where that reason was like a seed that would later flourish in some way. The idea of enjoyable companionship, sex, being a husband, or even being a father was not a sufficient concept to encourage the pursuit. In most cases, I concluded that the best option was to let the opportunity go.
To do otherwise would have required a prerequisite to starting the relationship: the formulation of why the relationship would be wise in the same way as offering some professional recommendation to an employer. I realize this is a high barrier to impose on a romantic relationship, but it seems inescapable to me and perhaps to many other men.
For such men, they may enter into a committed relationship resulting in marriage. Eventually that marriage may falter and attempts to treat through counseling will fail, leading to divorce and loss of custody to children.
For men of the personality trait described here, this can be very devastating. The root of the pain is not merely the loss of intimacy with his wife, or of loss of custody to children, or of loss of wealth and income from the settlement. The pain is that there was an idea that started the relationship, that started the family.
A large part of his pain is his responsibility for the wisdom of starting that relationship, that decision to start gave him a stake in that not only would the relationship and offspring would flourish but that it would lead to something positive. There is nothing positive in divorce and loss of custody. More than that, the divorce and loss of custody forever removes him from any further influence on fostering the development of the original wisdom of starting the whole affair.
Returning the analogy of the farmer who plants a seed. The hope of a bountiful harvest motivated him to plant that seed. The harvest need not be wealth-building in nature, it may merely be the demonstration of a new technique or an improved crop that would benefit the community in the future. In the interim he lived for the opportunity to tend the crop he planted, taking enjoyment in watching the progress, taking satisfaction in solving the problems (removing pests, irrigating, fertilizing) up to the point of the harvest.
For this kind of personality type, a divorce and loss of custody is like removing a farmer from his field that he planted but would not be around to see the harvest. For example, he may conscripted into some infantry in some war where the inevitable idle time would leave him to think that what he has previously started was not such a wise choice after all, his crop would likely fail.
For some men who choose to avoid marriage or “go their own way”, the reason is not some disagreement with women or of family law. Instead, there is a lack of a vision of some outcome that will will transcend the relationship. For those who dwell on past failed relationships, they may be dwelling on their awareness of the motivating idea to start that relationship and that motivating idea is now outside his influence to guide to fruition.