When dating, how do I show my affection for someone?

Not like this.
Dearest Edahn,

When dating, how do I show my affection for someone?

HOW DO YOU KNOW someone feels affectionately about you? When someone really feels something for you, you can tell by their body language. Their eyes look a little softer. Their posture looks relaxed. Their movements are slow, but not annoyingly slow, and their voice is soft and relax. What's happening is that their mind is calm, and their body is mirroring their mind. The content of their speech (as opposed to just tone) also shifts: they become accepting and peace-seeking, rather than conflict-seeking. They're also much more open to connect to you--intellectually and emotionally--without being clingy or fake. That's the profile of someone who feels genuine care.

That description is universal because our biology and basic psychological architecture is universal. Meaning, that's how you show your affection too.

If that's confusing to you or seems like it's not resonating with you, then I'm going to take a guess that you're struggling with a lot of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness in relationships is like the guy who invites himself over to sleep on your couch and ends up staying for 3 months. He's a frequent, uninvited guest. If you're feeling a little tense or stuck in your mind or frozen, you're dealing with that uninvited guest.

The best antidote to self-consciousness is catastrophe. Before you go joining a bereavement group, let me explain. When I was in law school, I had an interview with a semi-high profile law firm in Los Angeles. I was worried as hell that I was going to fuck it up because I get extremely self-conscious in interviews. (Just to give you an example, in one interview I asked the law firm partners if they had any moral objections to working in a firm. Yes, this is while I was trying to get the job. The silence that ensued was so intense I could hear the ants gasping in horror.) Anyhow, I ended up running late for the interview and on top of that forgot my resume at home. I walk into the waiting room saying SHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHIT to myself. And then something weird happens. I start laughing because...well, because everything was so utterly fucked already, I had no control anymore. There was nothing I could really do. The need to control was gone. I couldn't control what they thought of me, how I appeared, and whether I was going to get this job, because I knew I wasn't. And that relief turned into joy.

That was the best interview of my life. I was funny, engaging, intelligent, and charming. (Which, coincidentally, are psychopathic traits, but that's another story.) And they actually offered me the job. 

Most people approach self-consciousness and anxiety by trying to control it, which is a big mistake because that's self-consciousness's best weapon. It's like a ninja challenging an NRA member to a gunfight. The gun person is going to win because guns are his domain.* People function much better when they aren't over-thinking, over-analyzing, and trying to control everything. That's our domain, and catastrophe is the fastest route to it.

So, if you find yourself over-thinking, think about how badly you want things to change, and then think about how wanting things to change will never help you, because that's the same thing that's making you self-conscious in the first place--the need to control everything. Then, when you realize that you're absolutely fucked and that you really have no available moves left, like me in my interview, you'll have to choice but to give up, laugh and be your natural self, with your natural affection pouring through.

Got a question? Email AskEdahn@Gmail.com. If you liked this, please share it with your friends, if you have any. ;)

*FALSE. Ninjas always win. /Dwight Shrute voice