Friday, October 28, 2011

The Happiness Myth

Happiness has got to be the buzzword of the last 10-20 years. There's a growing army of "positive" psychologists researching happiness in labs and via surveys (sounds childish to me); the self-help movement only recently exploded with happiness manuals; and magazines and talk shows have become saturated with tips, advice, cures, and whatnot to help you feel better and think better.

I don't believe in it. Any of it. Even worse, I think it's destructive.

I believe people can achieve contentment. In fact, I think they should do everything in their power to achieve it. But I think people enter the early stages of contentment when they stop searching for things. Part of this even means giving up the search for things like happiness, which can become an elusive obsession.

It all comes back to the thought that something is missing from us, or something is missing in our lives, that we need to achieve, whether it be spirituality, money, family, security. Let's call it existential inferiority. These things aren't bad; in fact, they're wonderful. It's wonderful to have the ability to experience life in a rich, deep way. But it won't connect to you if you're doing it for a reason: to fill the void in your life or self-concept. When you're being driven by inferiority, you're always miserable on some deep, subtle, significant way.

There's nothing you can do to help yourself, because anything you do is just another attempt to escape your perceived inferiority. The good news is, there's nothing you need to do. There's nothing you need to think or feel or control or change. Or not think, not feel, not control, not change. When the time is right, when circumstances align, you'll forget to think something's missing--the partner, the prestige, the happiness--and you'll just be there, quiet, watching, content.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How do I learn to trust again?

Dear Edahn,

I've been dating a man for a few months now and we've had a rough relationship. When I found out he was being dishonest with me, I ended it and distanced myself from him. We talked and got back together but I'm so afraid of getting hurt again. I feel like my fear of getting hurt is going to break us up again. I really think we could grow into love, marriage and kids! Any suggestions on what we can do to build trust and have a healthy relationship?

IN ANY RELATIONSHIP, YOU never get a 100% guarantee that your partner is going to be honest with you, or even faithful. Instead, you have to talk to them and learn about them, their body language, and their personality until you feel sure enough. It's not really an intellectual process, but more an intuitive process that just happens.

If that confidence in your partner has been shattered, then your perspective changes because your "raw data" changes. To rebuild your confidence, you need reasons to build your confidence rather than suppressing thoughts of betrayal (how other people tend to do it). In other words, if you want to rebuild trust, you need to see what's changed. Has anything changed? Has he grown? Does he truly understand what he did and why it was wrong? How will he respond if the situation presented itself again? Picture him in that situation and, as realistically and honestly as you can, try and picture how he'd react. As long as you, objectively, you picture him betraying your trust, then he's hasn't earned your trust--for good reason. Focus on trusting yourself, not on trusting him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Self-Acceptance or Self-Improvement?

Someone on a site I post at recently asked what people would choose between self-acceptance and self-improvement. It's a bad question because real self-acceptance is self-improvement. They are not separate things. The problem is when people don't really understand what self-acceptance is all about.

Some people take self-acceptance to mean "if I have an urge to say asshole things, I should let myself be an asshole and embrace my assholery in full." That's a very shallow understanding of self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is a psychological shift that happens when you forgive yourself for all the way you fail to measure up to your own--and others'--expectations.

Most of our expectations are held in secret. They're so subtle that you don't even realize how pervasive they are. It's like air: it's everywhere, so you don't notice it unless someone points it out. Expectations drive all of our self-improvement efforts, and all our self-management efforts. When you meditate because you don't like some aspect of your current experience or think there's something missing, you're dealing with self-acceptance. You're rejecting the part of your experience (and the part of you) you can't look at. It's what Jung meant when he was talking about the Shadow as a personality construct.

When you accept the way you feel and the chaos and confusion in your life and all the ways this moment might be missing something, you lose the urge to fight. You lose the urge to be an asshole. You see how it is and you figure out, very immediately, what's valuable in life and what you need to do--your mission. In other words, you take a big leap towards self-improvement.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is it wrong to hang out with your ex?

Got a question? Email me at

Dear Edahn,

I've been in a long-distance relationship for 7 months. I recently got a text from a guy I hooked up with a few times. We were intimate when we first met, but it was extremely casual and ended quickly because I wasn't interested. The text said that he'd been dumped by his girl and wanted to grab a beer and catch up. I told my boyfriend about it, explaining that it was just a drink but he asked me not to hang with this friend. I texted my friend back and explained the situation and he was really understanding. We decided not to see each other. When I told my boyfriend about my decision, and he was pissed that I confided in my friend although he was satisfied that I agreed not to see him. I feel really uneasy about the whole thing. Was I wrong? 

IT'S IMPORTANT IN RELATIONSHIPS that you gauge threats accurately. If Ryan Gosling asked my girlfriend to come over to have some wine and watch some porno while they fed each other mussels, I'd be legitimately incensed, and not just because I think mussels are gross. On the other hand, if I felt threatened when my girlfriend's dad asked her to come over and make him toast, I'd be overreacting. If you're reading threats where none exist, your partner will feel oppressed and confused, kind of like how you might feel right now.

I don't know if your guy is gauging this threat--the invitation to the bar--accurately or not. When I first read your story, it definitely sounded suspicious. This guy's vulnerable, he has a brief history with you, wants to drink, and purposefully mentioned his ex. On its face, it sounds like he wants to connect with you...emotionally, penisly, everythingly. But I can also see the other side of this: that your boyfriend is being possessive, and maybe his insecurity (which could likely be connected to the long distance) is making him afraid of losing you to anyone, especially this guy. He might have no idea what he's feeling or might be too ashamed to admit it. Talk to each other and try and figure out if this poses a real threat or not. Don't be afraid to speak up if you really feel you're being mistreated.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The Logo I Did for OWS
So the Occupy Wall Street movement is gaining traction. A few weeks ago I sent them a logo I made for their website and they took part of it. Awesome, right? Right.

I'm so glad to see this movement. It restores my faith in humanity a little bit, and I'm glad it's being run peacefully. When the Arab Spring turned violent in Egypt, and Libya, I lost hope in all long-term reform. Violence begets violence, begets violence.

I'm also glad to see the OWS being creative and organized. When some people are pissed, you can ignore usually ignore them. When a lot of people are pissed, you can still ignore them. But when a lot of people are pissed and organized? Watch the fuck out.

The OWS movement is about fairness and justice. On the fairness side, people want money to be distributed more evenly across classes. On the justice side, they want rich people to play by the same rules as others and not rig the system through bribery, lies, and thievery. Makes a lot of sense.

There a moral dimension to the OWS movement that's hidden in their economic demands. We've lost touch, as a nation, with our conscience. We're become so obsessed with our own lives, our notions of success, our group identities, and imaginary threats that we've forgotten some very fundamental lessons about being a good person and living with honor. Dishonesty and exploitation are some of the first lessons you learn as a kid and also some of the most important ones. These aren't principles we should ever open to debate or rationalization. They're principles we need to hold sacred with unshakable confidence.

30,000 hits for Ask Edahn

So this is kinda interesting. We're nearing 30,000 hits on AskEdahn. I'm probably responsible for 28,000 of those, but that means that we've got some dedicated readers, and that's pretty awesome. Site stats are all up despite the fact that I haven't posted here in a while.

Well, folks, THAT CHANGES RIGHT NOW. Soon. 

This weekend I got some very kind feedback from a family friend who found my blog through She gave me some encouragement and motivation to reignite this project.

You'll notice a few changes right off the bat. I changed the layout of the site to feature some of the content better. If you don't like it you can go fuck yourself toggle views with the button in the corner. I've written a lot in the past 3ish years here, posted endless pictures of cats and other annoying creatures, and composed a plethora of simple, easy-to-read flowcharts. Now you can find all the junk easier. It's like a metal detector for blogs. Also, I'm going to make an effort to keep my answers concise, since I imagine most of you have had your attention span reduced to less than 2 seconds thanks to Facebook. When goldfish can outperform you in a cognitive task, you're in trouble.

Good luck, see you soon, and feel free to write me at or leave a comment anywhere on this blog anonymously. Cheers, big ears. You'll probably be seeing a lot of activity here in the coming months.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A few thoughts on anxiety and dating

I think the reason people have trouble dating isn't because of their skills or who they are. That should be a relief for most people wondering if they'll ever learn to date well and have the intimacy they wish for deep down. Instead, I think people have trouble because anxiety makes them flip out and think they have to get rid of the anxiety to be themselves. The "flipping out" causes them to detach from who they are in that moment and when that happens, they forget why they're valuable. That's when people get sad and hurt and then turn the hurt into something else like blame or irritability or avoidance. But the key is that they forget why they're valuable and why they're entitled to relax, make mistakes, and still retain their value. It's all about value.

The typical person goes on a date and feels anxious. They think their anxiety says something awful about them or is going to cause something awful to happen (like rejection) so they start thinking how they can change who they are. They reject themselves, often taking on a more comfortable--but ultimately fake--role. They focus on what they lack instead of what they possess, and forget all the things that makes them pretty fucking great. By the time they're on their date, they think they need to hide who they are by pretending to be someone more capable, more interesting, more confident, more assured, even though they naturally possess those qualities (usually) to begin with. Deep down, they don't feel like they deserve the person. They feel smaller and lower, submissive. If you really study relationships, you'll see that lots of times the other person feels the same way. Isn't it ironic, don'tcha think?

When they find a way to remind themselves of their value, perhaps by talking to a friend or by reconnecting with their feelings or reviewing why they're not awful losers, they start to feel hole again and forgive themselves for any shortcomings they may have or errors they might make. They have a sense of natural hope that isn't forced. It's what you'd call security, as opposed to insecurity. Good therapists, good friends, good techniques help you cultivate that.

Question? Write me. Anything. As long as it's not stupid. (I'm not really sure why I do this anymore. ;)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Don't Trust Psychotherapists

I DON'T TRUST PSYCHOTHERAPISTS. Well, most psychotherapists, at least. It takes a lot for me to trust anyone's opinion about anything and when it comes to matters about life and well being, the threshold is even higher. And it should be. I'm skeptical until someone convinces me that they have better insight and accuracy into my life or life in general than I have myself. And I'm not easily convinced about anything.

A lot of therapists out there, especially older therapists, come from a school of thought that was embedded in classical Freudian psychology. Freud, as you know, believed that your problems now are a result of unconscious conflicts you failed to resolve. This creates a big problem because no one knows for sure what this unconscious mind is saying, precisely because it's unconscious. The therapist has to take a guess, and the client, not knowing what's real and what's not, has to take a guess too. No one's sure, and that leads to a lot of speculation and confusion. What's worse is that problems that can be solved directly are analyzed on a symbolic level at which point the solution is less obvious.

Not all therapists practice this way, and some therapists can use some of the Freudian concepts correctly and efficiently. One of the things I ask myself when I evaluate a therapist is "has the therapist adopted a style uncritically, or have they merged certain ideas into their own natural style?" If you've got any question about anything, write me.