Nothing is more fun than playing games with old feelings that haunt you. Kids play games with mingled feelings all the time, and it is a great way to get over them. One of those spooks is the opposite sex, the elusive feeling for women. Here is a game which helps to get to the bottom of your feelings: the Opposite Sex Attractions Game, number 1.
It is a slide show that we have created, consisting of more than one hundred images of a man and a woman engaged in exchanging kisses in a romantic way. Each image is shown for 5 seconds, then the next image comes along. The background music is put in an endless loop. No nudity, no porn; just a very close-up view of the exchange of intimate kisses.
Click here: OSA-videogame#1.exe.zip to download the slide show for Windows. Unpack or unzip the program, double-click on the exe-file, and use the Esc button to end the tiny program. It is a stand-alone slide show, which will not harm your computer.
If you are using any other operating system, then download the zip-file here: osa-game-#1.zip , and unpack the 103 images and the music file into a directory on your computer. Put the sound file in an endless loop with an audio program on your computer, and watch the images in an image viewer. Go to the next image every five seconds. Do not go faster; let it sink in. It is not a race; to the contrary, it is contemplation.
The game consists of playing the slide show once a day and then writing down the feelings that emerge, together with the date. I need you to do this for two months. It is a sort of archaeological excavation to old but genuine feelings.
Some results with OSA Game #1
I asked Ramses from Egypt to play OSA Game #1, and to send me his emotional response. Below I have commented on his initial reactions. After a few days he started showing less resistance, but his initial response is still very worthwhile analyzing.
(Perhaps it is wise to play the game once yourself before reading on).
On the first day, Ramses played the game and sent me his emotional reaction:
“I have now played this game watching the slide show. Started bawling deeply about 6 minutes into it, then decided to keep going to the end and I watched another 6 minutes or so. I am not sure what happened - at some point I started being afraid for him (the guy in the various pictures), that he would get hurt. She would hurt him. She wouldn’t mean it, maybe she would, but she would hurt him anyhow. He ventures bravely into the unknown, propelled by his desire for her, and she unknowingly kills him.
Here I grieve again as I write. Poor guy. He didn’t know what was in store for him. When he’s dying, she is alternately pleased (drinking his delicious semen/lifeblood) or saddened and shocked at what has happened, not realizing that she caused it. She is grieving along with me. SERVES HER RIGHT!
And in round 2 of watching the video I started getting judgmental. To the guy, I thought you’re stupid. You’re foolish for following your desire. You should have known better. Serves you right. The two of you can go make your love, you’ve got nothing to do with me. And I’m left feeling angry and somber and getting depressed. I see my mother in this drama - she hurts the guy - me, my father. I see my father getting hurt.”
On day 3 of playing the game, Ramses sent me this reaction:
“With the women, I found myself angry, wanting to push them out of the way. I don’t trust them. Once I acknowledged that, I didn’t feel it much anymore. At times, I found myself paying more attention to them.
But I was fixated on the guys more, though I didn’t feel very strong feelings this time. Maybe I’m tired, maybe I’ve done this too many times already. What do you think? Should I keep going? I found myself most fixated on the guy here. Full view of graceful, vulnerable chest muscle and nipple, strong arms.
I go limp. He can be strong instead of me. He can have the girl instead of me. I can just sit on the side and watch. Like my life, as far as love is concerned.”
This first OSA-game has clearly provoked strong emotions in Ramses, and he is very articulate in expressing them. That is exactly the intention of the game: to get to the heart of matters immediately without beating about the bush. There are three things worth pointing out about his emotions and that I would like to elaborate on:
1. his profound sadness after a mere six minutes of viewing romantic male-female couples with soothing background music
2. his deep mistrust in the women in the slides and his fear that they will hurt the guy
3. his ultimate switching off, disengaging from the feelings that he has himself and from the heterosexuality out there that he is viewing. He says he chooses to retreat to the sidelines in order to leave the couples to it. Regrettably he says: “I can just sit on the side and watch, like my life.”
These three phenomena are found very often in men with SSA in relation to heterosexuality and to women: grief, mistrust and switching off. Not in all men of course, but nevertheless, Ramses is so kind as to let us peek into his inner world.
The feelings must be very ancient. They stem from within, because they clearly have nothing to do with the slide show itself. The woman is not killing the man, and nowhere is the man showing signs of impending doom or awareness of an oncoming death.
They are projections, meaning that they are the feelings that Ramses owns and that he is casting into the pictures he sees. It says nothing about the pictures, but all about Ramses.
Ramses says he bawled his eyes out after six minutes. What does this mean? Paradise lost? The man in the slide show who he could have been, but did not become? Why so upset? After all, it is merely a slide show. What the heck?
The sadness stems from early childhood and is still dormant under the surface. It is as if you are poking a stick in a pond covered with green algae and muck, and as you do that, a big monster thrusts himself upward towards you. You had merely brushed over the water surface, causing ripples, and before you knew it, out he comes, the monster from the depths.
Why so sad? Was he hurt as a child? Was he neglected as a child? Is the topic of love and intimate affection a tricky subject to deal with? Did he receive sufficient male affirmation way back then in order to feel comfortable as an adult in viewing another guy kissing a beautiful woman? Many men with SSA’s complain of experiencing envy towards other men. It drives them crazy, becoming an obsession even, a compulsive drive, a compulsive disorder. Always on the mind, under the surface. It takes just one corny slide show, and boom!
Okay, I admit the music is rather New Age and romantic, a tear jerker even. But it is not THAT good. It is something else.
Sadness is often not sadness, but a twisted expression of anger or aggression turned inwards. You probably know the kind of parent who is extremely angry about a child, and then says: “I am so sad about your behavior. No, mommy is not angry, I am just very disappointed”.
To make matters worse, a hint of a tear does miracles to add to the dramatic effect. We call them dry tears. It is a form of emotional manipulation. Spouses can do it too: “Your behavior makes me so sad”. Then the spouse turns away, feigns to search for a handkerchief in order to dry the tears which are about to flow abundantly down the face. Of course, those tears don’t come, but the drama of it all! The greatest show on earth, and it works like a charm.
This so-called sadness hides the core problem: he or she is angry as hell!
So, I would like to consider the possibility that Ramses is not sad, but that he is angry. He has aggressive feelings.
Now the problem with displaying signs of aggression means you can be, and probably will be, held accountable for what you are conveying. Showing anger means you have to explain yourself. But if you play the victim card, then you are not held accountable. The alleged victimizer must be held accountable, and it is up to you to frame someone.
So, in therapy situations, feelings of sadness may also prove to be feelings of aggression and anger, but parceled in a neutral packaging. We therefore need to consider this verdict before we start to “support” someone in a supposed victim stance.
What is Ramses so angry about?
2. Fear of women.
Ramses lived, like most men with SSA, in Squaw Camp. He never managed to let go of his primary identification with the mother, which exists from birth. He keeps holding on to this identification, and fails to connect to his father adequately enough. His mother is dominant. I know from other emails that the mother of Ramses is a strong and assertive person, setting her mark, married to a sweet and kind, complacent husband. She can have quite a tongue. Especially in the marriage. His dad is clumsy, socially awkward, but a hard working dedicated husband leaving her to run the family in the way she insists. After all, she can nag, disrespect boundaries and barge into the lives of others in her assertive way. She feels others are clumsy and, highly intelligent as she is, gives advice and counsel, and even takes over when she sees others are fumbling and procrastinating. (Especially her husband).
Ramses hates this predicament. He feels sorry for Dad, and starts slowly and surely to build up a grudge against this all important figure in the family life: Mom. She means well, of course, and is misunderstood.
But Ramses has grown to despise her just the same. Of course behind her back.
And now in this corny slide show, these ancient and neglected feelings emerge and burst into the open. See how he writes:
“…but she would hurt him anyhow. He ventures bravely into the unknown, propelled by his desire for her, and she unknowingly kills him.”
This is how the small child Ramses saw his parents’ marriage. Did it really go that way? (It does not matter actually; he FELT it that way and that is all that counts). Was Dad really so hopeless and helpless? Did she really kill him? The kid was far too small to make sense of it all, but he did so in his own way. And in OSA game #1, the deeply ingrained feelings bubble up.
He is blaming his mother for his father’s lousy predicament, for dad’s perceived lousiness. He is angry with this father who was too weak to come and save him from Squaw Camp and take him into the world of braves. And little Ramses has figured it all out: it is HER! Had it not been for her, life would have been great, Dad would have been great, and Ramses would be riding the horses with the braves, instead of playing with the girls, almost being one of the girls.
It is HER, so he feels. Watch out, Dad! Watch out, everyone! Watch out for the squaws!
And so in his mind, Ramses unites with his dad after all. Although Dad does not hear him, see him, acknowledge him. How can Dad not see him, not realize that little Ramses too is a victim of the squaws at Squaw Camp with their all encompassing power, with their sharp tongue, with their smothering love?
Dad, you deserted me. You did not see me. I cried out to you, but you told me to behave. To dance to the tune of the Supreme Squaw: “Ramses, do what your mother tells you! Give me a break!” Dad, how could you desert me this way?
And so sensitive little Ramses came to hate the pair of them. Yet another building block of late-onset sadness and depression, seen so often in men with SSA.
I asked: what is Ramses so angry about? This is what Ramses was so angry about.
3. Switching off
Men with SSA are renowned for their habit of switching off. Being frustrated, Ramses switches off, so he tells us. Can you blame him? He loves the squaws, he hates the squaws; he loves the braves, he hates the braves (they become a paradise lost); he loves his peers and he longs for them, but he hates his peers (who scorn as they see him playing with the girls instead of with them).
Ramses switches on, Ramses switches off. On/off, on/off. We call this ambivalence in the attachment to others. It starts as a defensive move to help distance oneself from the pain of frustration or despair, but in doing so, it also triggers a cycle of events which only make matters worse. It destroys the feelings of self-esteem.
Here is the cycle which can occur after switching on and off.
When a man with SSA switches off, he is emotionally not available, does not reach out any more, and can even be passive towards the attempts that others display to connect to him. Here is the cycle, expressed as lines in a computer program:
1. I switch on
2. I switch off
3. I switch on
4. I switch off
5. I am not perceived as a trustworthy person, because I frequently switch off and people cannot reach me
6. I see that others see me as an untrustworthy person, they are retreating from me too
7. I know I am not a trustworthy person for social interaction
8. I know I cannot be trusted
9. I can’t trust myself either, to be honest
10. I cannot be proud of myself in social interaction
11. I cannot be trusted; therefore, I am not confident
12. My self-confidence diminishes
13. My self-esteem becomes low.
14. I have no self-esteem, so I do not reach out to others enough
15. go to line 5
Now, a man who is sometimes referred to as ever-straight, does not have the predicament of having had to say no to an overdose of squaws in Squaw Camp, because he does not live there. He does not say no to Dad, because he was able to identify sufficiently with him not to get frustrated about it. So he is positive, and rarely switches off.
His computer lines go like this:
1. I reach out to others
2. They reach out to me
3. I can handle a negative reaction, because I feel good about myself
4. I handle and manage negative interactions, but I do not switch off. My connection to others is not conditional.
5. I am glad I can handle strife and disagreement.
6. I remain positive about myself during negative interactions, and I become good at it, all the time remaining in contact
7. My self-confidence is a learned trait, and by trial and error it gets better all the time
8. go to line 1
So we see a totally different outcome. The man who does not make it a habit to switch off, goes into a positive spiral; a man who keeps on switching off during interactions and who does not keep up faith in the good outcome of interaction, goes into a negative spiral. His self-esteem goes down the drain.
This is a sad predicament, because the incessant switching off from others is very understandable, and it has become a defensive reaction, which is soothing and protective in the short term. But it is a damaging habit in the long term.
4. What can Ramses do to become a happier person?
He needs to substitute his computer line #2 (I switch off) with the ever-straight’s computer line #1 (I reach out to others). He needs to end his isolation because it is damaging his ability to handle social interactions. His isolation is a self-inflicted circumstance; he created it himself and he needs to end it himself. It was his doing; therefore, it needs his undoing.
Many therapists will feel he needs to be supported by other people, the poor guy. I disagree. I refuse to see and treat him as a weak or vulnerable person, and I insist that he gets to see what is no longer beneficial in his dealing with other people. He needs to change it himself.
I feel he must not be made dependent on others, who entice him to lean on them. I feel you need to say to Ramses right from the start: Ramses you can do this. You are a great person, you are willing to learn, willing to be vulnerable and you can do it. Why? Because you can, that’s why. You are not an invalid, and I feel it is not wise to treat you as such. Ramses is great, and you are learning to live in a social world of mutual acceptance. You had a bad start, I will grant you that. But I need you to see that the way that you came out of your youth (for example with SSA’s) does not define you forever more, no matter which behavioral trait that we are discussing.
You need to stop switching off. You need to recognize it when you do it, learn to forgive yourself, and step back into the boxing ring of life. When this is said confidently and genuinely, it is bound to work.
To be continued.
Job Berendsen, MD.