I was waiting in line in the deli on an otherwise very ordinary night tonight when I suddenly had a bizarre flash of empathy toward a complete stranger. The man in front of me stood silently, holding his sandwich and a bag of chips in both hands, waiting to pay the clerk. Though I knew nothing about him I imagined he must be hungry, waiting patiently for the moment he got to sit and eat the sandwich he ordered. Then I imagined that perhaps he'd been working all day and that this meal might be his first moment of actual rest, that he'd have to be alone with his thoughts, and that in that moment things he pushed aside during the day, things like loneliness and unease, might creep up on him. I imagined the pain and loss he must have experienced during his lifetime, the disappointments of failed relationships, the loss of loved ones, and the nagging worry that he might end up alone feeling that most of his existence had had little meaning to those around him.
Of course for all I know this man may have been happily partnered, or newly in love, or single in a manner that fulfilled him. But the odds for the scenario I described above are just as great. Loneliness is a veritable epidemic.
As a seduction coach, I'm in the minority of the population when it comes to being good at accepting love into my life. One of the things I've come to realize is that the average human being, whether for fear of failure or lack of skill or any other of myriad reasons, often screws up the possibility of love or runs away from it entirely before it even gets a chance. I see it happen all the time. Most of us are not good at this shit.
In theory, we can easily regurgitate aphorisms like "The greater the love, the greater the risk" and "I have no more to lose from loving as completely as I can than I would by holding it in for fear of loss," but in practice so many of us have extremely visceral negative reactions to the possibility of failure when broaching a potential new relationship, to the point where all our happy affirmations during our more lucid moments seem like bad Hallmark greetings in the moment of truth. We catch a glimpse of the possibility of happiness with another human being, and we chicken out. Simplistically, we're scared of rejection. But more relevantly, we're scared of what rejection will mean. Somewhere along the line, we started to allow our desired person's rejection of us to define our own identities: if he or she doesn't love me, then I am clearly not good enough. I am not smart enough, not pretty enough, not successful enough; I am unattractive and no one else will ever love me.
This is, of course, bullshit. When did we let other people start telling us who we are simply because of how they feel about us?
The truth is that to love someone is to commit an act of courage. It is never not noble. What defines any of us as human beings is the actions we take, not the way that others respond to them. When I love someone, I am proud of myself no matter what the outcome. Sure, if I don't succeed in a seduction I will critique myself and try to pinpoint what I could have done better so that I can learn from my mistakes, but the point is that I am never regretful or ashamed of having taken the chance in the first place.
I spent some time with my mom today and she asked me about my finances, and asked me if I ever thought of how much money I spent on things, that if I could tally it all up and trade in my costly possessions as well as experiences, would I wish for the lump sum of money instead. "What I'm more afraid of," I told her, "is lying on my deathbed wondering why I have a huge lump sum of money and wishing I had done more exciting things during my life." In the same way, when I one day look back on my life, I would rather remember heartbreak after heartbreak than wonder why I held back my heart in favor of self-preservation. In both scenarios, I'd be safe and secure -- but to what benefit? Mere survival? As though it's any accomplishment in the end just to say that I'd stayed alive?
My mom then proceeded to ask me if I regretted the large sum of money I'd lent my then-boyfriend in the fall of 2008. When he was arrested and his business was shut down (and consequently the contents of all his business and personal accounts were confiscated), I loaned him the $25,000 he needed to pay for a decent lawyer in order to beat the charges. He is still working on being able to pay me back.
"What was most important to me about that loan," I replied, "was not so much about getting paid back right away, or even about ensuring my boyfriend's freedom. It was about being able to look at myself in the mirror. I needed to know that I had done everything I could for the person I loved, that when the chips were down I chose to give everything I had instead of choosing to be fearful and selfish. It's about the pride I feel knowing that I can sit across a table from any new person who gets to know me and look them in the eye and tell them that I did that. I spent $25,000, and I bought my own good opinion of myself."
It's the same when it comes to love. Acting purely out of self-preservation is essentially a selfish act, since it is necessarily concerned primarily with the self. When I love someone, it's not so much about whether I succeed or the odds of whether they're going to love me in return. It's about being able to look at myself in the mirror. It's about knowing that I did everything I could do, that I acted bravely, that I loved the way that I want to love and lived up to my own good opinion. If I were to die tomorrow, I would want my last actions to be executed in the attempt to make someone I love happier than they were before they met me. And yeah, if it doesn't work out, if the person I want doesn't love me back, it sucks -- but it sucks a lot less than feeling that I never really gave it a chance and always wondering what might have been. Because even then, at least I know that it was a dead end, and I allow myself the satisfaction of a definite answer and then move on. And I still get to be proud of what I did.
But I'm in the minority. Most of us are still victims of the Loneliness Epidemic, and we allow that discomfort, that fear of failure, to paralyze us. And it's so easy to theorize about making jumps and taking risks when we're not in the middle of feelings, in the moments right up until we start feeling sick to our stomachs waiting for the text message that is taking too long to come, until we start to fear that we have somehow allowed a bit of our wellness to rely on the presence of another person, until we start to realize how crazy we've become snarling at everyone who touches that person because we don't understand how the rest of the world could possibly not also be in love with them, until we start hating ourselves for allowing another person to make us feel so deeply uneasy. What we have to understand though is that most of these sensations are part of what it is to be human, and that the world where we don't experience fear is a magical unicorn world that doesn't exist. And also that the world where we don't need intimacy with other people is also a magical unicorn world that doesn't exist. And that all we can do is take a deep breath, design our own actions to give us the best possible chance of success, and then let the chips fall where they may.
This is also why seduction is an essentially generous action -- because when we seduce someone, we are essentially telling them that our desire for them is greater than our fear of failure. Most of our targets are also victims of the Loneliness Epidemic, and they're just as scared as we are, so when we take decisive action and allow them the safety of falling for someone who is already expressing desire for them and creating a safe space for it to flourish, we're relieving them of a great deal of that fear. We're helping them to help us. Instead of putting your target on some kind of intimidating pedestal, have some empathy for crying out loud!! They're feeling the exact same fear, and they probably don't even study seduction to learn how to cope with it.
What I wish most for the world is for people to better know how to be good to one another and how to give each other the greatest possible chance of success in love. This is why I do what I do. I don't want anyone to ever have to be lonely just because they're scared.
photo by Manzin