si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Category: relationships

Punching Above Your Weight

Yesterday a friend joked that I was punching above my weight always dating models (his description not mine – and a little ironic given that I’ve been single – by choice – for the last 1.5-2 years).

I couldn’t figure out if it was a compliment or an insult, so I asked a few friends about it on Twitter. @snarkattack mentioned she’d had a similar conversation with a friend of hers, and here’s what HE said about it:

There’s no such thing as punching above your weight. That implies that people are inherently better than others based on our own purely subjective and subjectively objective determinations and constructs of what makes someone better or more “worthy” of whatever it is that we see as valuable… Value yourself and let attraction and connection just be. Conceptions of superiority and inferiority are so flawed as to be complete fallacy… Word to the wise. Stop underselling yourself.

Which I thought was brilliant, and needed to be immortalised.


    How To Spot A Sociopath

    It’s estimated that sociopaths (or psychopaths as they used to be called) make up anywhere from 1-4% of the population.

    They can be INCREDIBLY destructive to your life, and it can take years or decades to recover (in my experience). So, knowing how to spot and avoid them is a damn useful skill.

    If you have the misfortune to find a sociopath in your life, they will

    • Happily lie to you to about anything and everything
    • Take everything of value that they want (you time, money, effort, self-esteem)
    • Manipulate you in any way they can
    • Completely destroy your life without a second thought
    • Promise you the world (in the future), in exchange for giving them everything they want now

    … all while believing that their behaviour is completely reasonable, and not worrying in the slightest about what they are doing. Once they’ve got everything they possibly can from you, they will drop you by the wayside with no hesitation at all.

    I recently read an excellent book on this subject (The Sociopath Next Door), and have since realised that I’ve known several sociopaths very well indeed, both in my professional and personal life.

    First, a quick explanation. Put very simply: a sociopath has no conscience.

    This means they can do or say ANYTHING, with no regret, no shame and not a care in the world. They’ll lie as easily as breathe. If they get caught in the lie, they’ll double down and lie even further. They’ll take every cent you own and sleep soundly at night. They’ll happily have you working thousands of hours for them, and when it comes time to pay you, they’ll beg off claiming “poverty” or “hardship” (all lies and part-truths, of course). Somehow their needs and wants become the focal point of your time together. Their desires are always the thing you’re working towards – them first, you after. Maybe. (Which of course never quite happens).

    I cannot state this strongly enough:


    Generally speaking, they’re incredibly charming people (at first) – after all, it’s a key way to get people to do things for them. Once they’ve got what they want, they will just as quickly disappear… until the next time they want something.

    Where this all gets tricky is, sociopaths are very good at hiding what they are, at least initially. When you first meet them, they may seem “perfect”, charming, witty, and most commonly of all, nice. They have to be good at this. How can they manipulate you if you see right through them?

    The reason they’re good at charming people is, while they have minimal emotional depth themselves, they are highly skilled at understanding other people – their strengths, weaknesses, needs and wants. They succeed in being charming because they know exactly what to say to flatter you or make you feel great about yourself. This is all part of their game. Once they have you convinced that they’re “nice” or “wonderful”, then they can start to manipulate you to their own benefit.

    Of course, once you believe they’re “nice”, it’s a natural tendency to try and “explain away” their aberrant behaviour (violence, manipulation, lies). It’s also normal to try and help them improve their situation (after all, this is what they’re manipulating you to do – pour your energy into helping them). However, notice that they only listen to you when it suits them, and otherwise are perfectly happy to ignore (while placating) you completely. That’s because underneath it all they have zero interest in listening to anyone other than themselves.

    To a sociopath, you only exist as a way to get them what they want.

    So, what are the key characteristics of a sociopath?

    • Very charming
    • Take much more than they ever give
    • Promise the world to get what they want, then somehow fail to follow through later
    • Lack of shame
    • Things are never their fault; blame is always on other people
    • No remorse
    • Minimal emotional depth
    • Near zero empathy
    • Have a very inflated sense of self worth (they’re “obviously” better than everyone else)
    • Strong sense of entitlement
    • Often quite narcissistic
    • Often very intelligent
    • Will hurt anyone in order to achieve their goals
    • Would run over you in a bus if it made them look better
    • Can be needy, wanting you to be there for them whenever they want
    • Know how to make others think they’re the victim while actually being the aggressor
    • Can be very violent
    • Extremely manipulative

    These characteristics do differ from sociopath to sociopath. The more boxes that are ticked the more likely someone is to be one.

    [Obviously only a trained professional can provide a definitive diagnosis – I’m only telling you this to try and help you to protect yourself.]

    That said, there is one key characteristic that every sociopath has: they want you to pity them.

    The reason for this is, pity is the strongest emotional state that instinctively compels us to provide assistance. In other words, it gives them the most power over us.

    Often this pity will be emphasised in the same breath as bragging about some great achievement of theirs (no shame or empathy, remember?)

    Eg, “Oh, this work we’ve (you’ve) done is amazing, but I can’t pay you just yet, because…”

    Of course, they won’t want you to pity them all the time. You will see pity come out if you ever want anything from them (as a defence to not give it to you), or if they want something from you (to manipulate you into giving it to them).

    Another thing to watch for is lying. Remember the rule of threes.

    1. One lie may be a misunderstanding
    2. Two lies may be a serious mistake
    3. Threes lies, get the hell out of there

    Oh, and in this context? Broken or endlessly delayed promises are lies.

    Do not give your time, affection, money or work to a three time liar. Ever.

    What should we do when we spot a sociopath?

    • Get the hell away as quickly and peacefully as you can
    • Do NOT tell them they’re a sociopath. You do NOT want them angry (no conscience, remember? Which means they can and will do ANYTHING in retaliation)
    • Do NOT believe anything they tell you about changing, needing you etc
    • KNOW that they will lie, or try to make you feel sorry for them in order to keep control over you
    • KNOW that they will turn the charm up to 11 if they think it will work
    • Quietly warn others (one reason I’m writing this post)
    • Think for yourself. Sociopaths prey on people who struggle to think for themselves
    • Not all sociopaths are violent but it’s still safest to keep as much distance as possible

    Sociopaths are incredibly destructive to everyone around them. Fortunately, very commonly their lives do eventually implode.

    In the mean time, all we can do is stay aware, stay safe, and stay the hell away.


      You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

      I’ve been on a dating site recently. Not with any significant expectations (I trust the universe to look after me), more just about “keeping the door open” and passing the time.

      However, I noticed myself slipping into compulsive behaviour. Checking the site way more times than strictly necessary. And really, how often is “necessary” anyway? Once a year? Once a week? Once a day? Once an hour?

      But I digress.

      As with most forms of escapism, once I spotted it, I wanted to get to the root of it, and clear it out.

      After I got quiet and focused in on what I was feeling and what my motivations were for constantly checking the site, I realised Dean Martin summed it up perfectly decades ago.


      See, the real problem is, this concept is insidious. It’s everywhere.

      How many films are there where a couple start out together, then breaks up and are happier being single at the end of the movie?

      How many adverts involve someone being perfectly happy being by themselves?

      Versus, of course, the exact opposite.

      The media tells us, constantly, that we can only be happy if we’re in a relationship. That really, we only have value, that we’re only lovable if we’re in a relationship.

      None of this is news to you, I’m sure. But holy crap, how twisted is that?

      And of course, I realised this was exactly the rabbit hole I’d fallen into.

      I had a whole raft of beliefs along these lines:

      • I need the love of a good, beautiful woman
      • I’m happiest when I’m loved – I feel I can kick ass and achieve anything
      • I have no value unless someone else values me
      • I’m not lovable unless someone else shows this by loving me
      • I’m somehow failing unless I’m in a relationship
      • I’m not important/don’t have value unless someone better than me loves me (whoa!)
      • I’m not attractive unless someone attractive/amazing wants me

      … and so on.

      You can immediately see how these beliefs both set me up for instant failure (default mode: unhappy, unattractive, unloved), but also are self-defeating. Why would someone else want to love me if I don’t love myself?

      Of course, the good news is – as always – the hardest bit is seeing these beliefs.

      Once you see them, you can very easily drop them.

      So, just to be thorough, how can we get all of these beliefs to the surface?

      What worked for me was asking myself questions like:

      • How would I feel if I never had another partner?
      • How do I feel about being alone?
      • How do I feel about being alone for the entire rest of my life?
      • What if no-one attractive ever wanted me again? (ie, I had to compromise or settle not to be alone)
      • What if I was never loved again?
      • What if I never experienced love again? (slightly different phrasing often helps)
      • What feeling will I have when I have this partner?

      (then imagine, and feel these feelings as strongly as you can – to really dig everything up. Tapping 2″ down and across from the beginning of your collar bone (point 7) can also help you “tune in” to these feelings more strongly)

      As well as these, there will always be the ever present feelings of “wanting or lacking love/approval.”

      To some of these, you may feel a general, non-specific energy coming up. To some you may get specific phrases or beliefs bubbling to the surface.

      To the non-specific energy, I’d recommend just letting the energy go – you don’t need to know what it is to get rid of it.

      Specific beliefs or thoughts are pretty straightforward to dump too. Use whatever tools work for you. These days I tend to simply choose to let the belief/energy go, or let the picture go. You could also tap them out, etc etc.

      Either way, once you can see/feel these things coming up you can easily drop them all.

      Then, just go back to the questions, and keep going over them until you feel completely at peace. Completely at ease. Completely loving about being alone.

      Take that, Dean Martin. You can be somebody, even if nobody loves you. Hello? Who should love us the most? US OF COURSE!

      The paradox here is that when you’re in this state, you immediately become more attractive. Why? Because you’re dropping any sense of neediness or desperation. You become more loving. You become more centred and connected with yourself. Less pulled around by the vagaries of other people.

      Which of course, makes you more attractive.

      Hilariously ironic really, this life of ours.

      Oh, and the dating site? Yeah. I’m now checking it 10x less, but more importantly, with a definite feel of “Well, this is very nice, but really, whatever.” Win.


        What Is Love?

        It’s a big question. What is love?

        For a start, the word “love” can mean a lot of different things. The ancient Greeks had five main types:

        • Philia – loyalty. Motivated by practical reasons; one or both the parties benefit from the relationship
        • Xenia – hospitality. The almost ritualised friendship between a host and their guest.
        • Storge – natural affection, like parents have for their child
        • Eros – passionate, romantic love, with sensual desire and longing
        • Agape – pure love. Soul love. For lack of a better description, God’s unconditional love.

        Mostly on this blog I’ve been talking about unconditional love, what the Greeks called agape. Why? Simply because this is a superset of all the other forms of love.

        If you have unconditional love for someone, it doesn’t matter if they are guest, child, an intimate or business partner – you’ll treat them as lovingly as (or more than) if you had only the first four types of love.

        Agape, unconditional love, is the deep root beneath all other forms of love.

        Ok. Well, that’s nice. Now what?

        I’ve always struggled to find a good synonym for the word love. How do we identify if we’re being truly loving or not? How can we look at it from slightly to one side, just to be sure?

        Up until recently I’d often described love as “unconditional positive regard.” However, this lacked something. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew it wasn’t the whole picture.

        I could feel myself feeling unconditional positive regard towards people I knew that I still thought were complete shitbags.

        Then, recently, I was (finally, it’s amazing) reading Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse. In there, I found the missing pieces of the puzzle.

        These pieces are: admiration and great respect.

        So now in total I understand that unconditional love means unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect.

        (obviously this may not be the entire thing, but it feels damn close. If it’s not complete, I don’t feel there’s very much to go.)

        Of course, as soon as we think about anyone like this, part of our brain will scream “Why the hell should I respect them? I refuse to admire them! They’re…” (etc).

        Well guess what? That’s us being judgemental. No matter how “right” we (think we) are, it’s not unconditional love.

        This is a tricky area.

        This is where Christians with their cries of “love the sinner hate the sin” start to slide – it’s still being judgemental.

        As soon as we say “this is wrong”, we’re sliding into judgement. It’s what makes it so insidious, and unconditional love so tricky.

        Think of the worst people you can imagine – typically something along the lines of a serial murderer, rapist, paedophile or Hitler. Or, closer to home, those that have harmed us in the past.

        Obviously these people have done some atrocious things. This is why they’re good examples. Because it’s so hard for us to unconditionally love them.

        If we put aside the rule of law (what should society do with people that commit atrocities), we can simplify this situation enormously.

        In terms of being (or not) unconditionally loving, what are we really talking about?

        We’re talking about how we feel.

        So, pick one of the cases above. What we’re doing by not choosing to be unconditionally loving is this: we are letting someone else’s behaviour decide for us how we are going to feel.

        In other words, we decide they’ve been awful, therefore we are going to hold negative (non loving) feelings towards them.

        We are giving our power away.

        Well, how silly is that?

        Surely we are the boss of us? Surely we decide how we should feel?

        Of course, there are people out there doing simply awful things. But why should we let them make us feel bad? Who gave them that power over us?

        Well, by choosing to be judgemental, by choosing to hold back from loving them (particularly when we feel they “don’t deserve it”), we did. We gave them power over us.

        So really, by choosing to be unconditionally loving, by choosing to give them unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect what we’re really doing is choosing to let go of their power over us.

        We’re choosing to feel as positively as humanly possible, no matter what they do.

        This is the ultimate power we have. As Viktor Frankl (who survived Auschwitz) said

        “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

        This is why unconditional love is so important.

        This is why understanding what love is is so important.

        Of course, if love as “unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect” doesn’t resonate completely for you – please do keep looking. I’d be most curious to hear your thoughts. I’m always eager to learn more.

        At this stage, this is the best I’ve found. It feels complete to me. Most importantly, when I think about applying that definition to people (or organisations) in my life I’m least likely to feel this way about, I feel challenged and uncomfortable. Which is probably a very good sign I’m stumbling in the right direction.

        Now obviously, the next practical question (and I do like to keep things practical, as much as possible) is what do we do with this information?

        Well, here’s what’s been working for me, it’s super simple.

        Basically, just imagine someone (or something) horrible in front of you. Then think the phrase “unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect” towards them.

        If there’s any part of you that disagrees with giving them these things, those are the parts of you that are holding you back from loving them completely and unconditionally.

        From there, you can simply let those feelings or thoughts go. Or tap them out. Or breathe them out. Whatever works for you.

        The key is to keep letting go of all the objections, arguments and generally non-loving reactions that come up in response to trying to feel unconditional positive regard, admiration and great respect for that person (or organisation).

        Once you let go of all of these reactions, you’ll feel yourself naturally slip into genuinely feeling those feelings towards that person.

        In other words, regardless of that person’s behaviour, you are now feeling genuine unconditional love, agape (the highest possible way of feeling).

        You’ve stopped yourself (your emotions and energetic state at the very least) from being a victim of their behaviour. You’ve regained mastery over yourself.

        Now, I’m definitely not saying you should put yourself in harm’s way here.

        For example, you can cross the road safely (a very dangerous thing to do, statistically), but you can do that happily and at peace, or you can freak out and be full of fear. It’s completely your choice.

        For me, I choose unconditional love. I choose happiness. I choose peace. Oh, and I choose not to stand in oncoming traffic, human or otherwise.


          Surviving a Break-Up

          Relationship break-ups suck. There’s no two ways about it.

          They hurt.

          However, we have to get through them. We don’t (usually) have the freedom to hide in bed for six months (or three years) until all the pain goes away.

          So, what to do?

          Well. I’ve had a lot of breakups in my life. So I’ve learned a bit. I’d like to share what I’ve picked up along the way.

          There are two places all this pain we’re feeling comes from:

          1. OUR SHIT
          Things we’ve done (or didn’t do). Horrible things we’ve said. Things we should have done differently. Regrets and self-blame, in short.

          2. THEIR SHIT
          Horrible things they’ve said. Horrible things they’ve done.

          Once you are in a relationship for any length of time these things pile up. Breakups can take years to get over, if you wait for time to slowly heal everything.

          (This is also why I recommend healing everything like crazy while you’re in the relationship).

          You can understand why people so often just jump into something new (the so called “rebound relationship”). To distract themselves, avoid dealing with the pain, and so on. See also booze, work and all the other usual forms of escapism.

          Of course, this is kinda silly – you just take the same junk and pain with you into your new relationship. Which rarely helps.


          In terms of cleaning up efficiently, aka, getting over them and getting yourself back together, it’s easiest to start with our own shit.

          It’s much easier to forgive ourselves for past mistakes than to let go of perceived hurts by another. So, begin there.

          For a start, everything is in the past (as long as we’re not continuing to be horrible to our now ex). We can’t change it. So, the least we can do is let go of feeling bad about the mistakes we’ve made.

          Once we’re done with our own mistakes, and we feel peaceful and loving towards ourselves (regardless of how we feel about them), then we can get started on the harder side of things. Them.

          See, the trouble with breakups is, unless one person is a sociopath (or otherwise broken), both people generally come out of it feeling like they got the worse deal. The most pain. The most inconvenience. The shitty end of the stick.

          So, while we may think of four or five awful things we did wrong, we can easily think of dozens of things they did.

          But that’s ok. It just means their side will take a little longer to work through.

          HOW TO DO THIS

          Oh, I almost forgot.

          How to do all this?

          Well, as always, forgiveness is key. In brief: imagine them in front of you, and say I forgive you to them. Then, say “I’m sorry, please forgive me for all the things you did to hurt them (even if you have no idea what they were). Repeat until you don’t feel any emotional charge doing each of these things.

          Ok, that’s the fast bit.

          Now, start with all the things you did/said wrong. Take each item one at a time, focus on it, and just feel the pain rising. Usually, as this emotion comes up, there’ll be a physical component – we’ll feel it in our body, as well as the emotional/energetic component.

          Next, very simply say “I love you” to the pain, and let the energy/feeling/pain go. Say “I love you” and mean it. That’s really the key.

          You’re here to get rid of this pain, there’s no point being half-arsed about it.

          So, call up whatever’s happened, say “I love you” and let it go. Rinse and Repeat until done.

          You’ll know you’re done when there’s no more energy or emotion around the event. You’ll know you’re done when you feel peaceful or even loving about it.

          Yes, this is very similar to the simple meditation I told you about.

          Why should this be any surprise? We’re talking about being loving – the highest state of being – just in a very focused area, rather than your entire life.

          Once you can’t think of any other ways you’ve hurt them, you’re probably done.

          Next, work through the (usually larger) list of things that they’ve done to hurt you. Say “I love you” to each item and let the energy/feeling/emotion go. Keep saying “I love you” and letting it go until you’re peaceful and/or loving about it. Then move to the next thing, until you can’t think of any way they’ve hurt you that has any emotional charge left to it.

          Do the forgiveness thing again (both ways) and voila. All that crappy energy is gone.

          The last thing to watch for is any residual yet unidentifiable feelings. Often we’ll have just a general crappy aura towards them – without it being about any specific thing, or identifiable event. That’s ok – just focus on the feeling as before, say “I love you” and let it dissolve. You don’t have to vocalise the issue to clear it.

          WHAT ABOUT THEM?

          Not everyone heals their pain. Some people continue to act it out, in relationship after relationship. These are also the kinds of people that have the same relationship, over and over, with different people. The same angry controlling partners. The same fights. And so on.

          So, what do you do if, mid-breakup, your ex is continuing to act out their pain towards you?

          For a start, forgive them for being a dick. There’s a thousand reasons someone may not be healing things or moving on as quickly as you are. Everyone has stresses and difficulties in their lives that are difficult to understand from outside.

          Secondly, there’s a secret to how relationships work. As we get to know someone, we build up a connection to them. For any relationship of any intensity or length, that connection can be very strong.

          Imagine there’s a cord, running from your heart to theirs. We have these (effectively) with every person we interact with. For someone we pass in the street it’ll be thinner than a hair; for our parents it’s the kind of thing you’d anchor the Titanic with; intimate relationships are somewhere in between.

          The thing with these connections is this: what affects them affects us.

          How is this useful? It means that we can heal them. Not of everything (we’re not living their life, and we are not the boss of them), just of their attitudes and the energy they send towards us.

          Think of it this way. Imagine this cord between you is an actual rope. If they twist their end up, we can untwist it from our end. Unless they’re aggressively and consciously retwisting it, it will stay healthy. Stay normal. Stay untwisted.

          So, regarding the relationship (which remember, requires both of you) whatever you heal from your end heals their end too.

          Remember, you’re not doing this for them; you’re doing it for you.

          So, Extra for Experts:

          Think about them. Think about something that is upsetting them about you (they’ve probably told you. Several times). Focus in on that feeling in them. How it would feel for them. How upset they’d be. Say “I love you” and let the tension/energy/feeling go. Keep saying “I love you” until all that tension is gone.

          If you think through all the things they’ve said have upset them, you can quickly go through and lift all this tension off.

          What you’re doing here is removing negative energy that’s being aimed at you. Yes, it will help them feel better (and thus treat you nicer), but really, it’s you being the boss of your experience, being the boss of your life.

          Now, depending on the intensity of the relationship, there might be a half dozen things, or (as happened to me recently) there could be a few hundred. It’s ok, there’s no rush.

          Some relationships I’ve come out of and been fine within a couple of days. Some have taken weeks. Some months or even years (before I had these techniques).

          Trust me on one thing though. This way? Forgiving and loving? It’s exponentially faster than any other method I’ve found.

          Better yet? What you’re actually doing is healing these issues. Which means when you do finally feel you’re ready to jump back in the saddle, you won’t be attracting the same kind of yo-yos into your life. Sorry, did I say that? I meant, the universe won’t need to bring you those same lessons, because you will have learned (healed) them already.

          You’ll move up. To someone so much better, so much more perfect for you.

          And until they do turn up? You’ll be peaceful, loving and much, much happier.