The Pain Period

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Received an excellent question through email the other day. It reads as follows:

“Hey Mark,

First off – kudos on the new book. It’s the first and only “pickup” literature I’ve ever purchased and it was great read. The problem I’m having though is with the application of the core concept that you find most important in getting better with women and having rewarding relationships – vulnerability. I’m OK with women in terms of getting them into bed but find it impossible to find any deep emotional connection with them which is why i purchased your book.

What I’m finding impossible is towing that fine line between vulnerability and neediness. Like most people that seek out “pickup” information, I have a lot of deep seeded personal issues (such as super low self esteem). Unfortunately, these things are ingrained in my identity and are a big part of who I am. Is part of being vulnerable exposing some of the insecurities and shame that I have inside? I’ve tried expressing these things to women and for myself it’s lead to not getting laid. I think I come off as super needy and think I’m much more attractive to women when I act more jokey and sexual. Maybe I should just express the more confident aspects of myself but then I wouldn’t be totally honest with myself and therefore not “vulnerable.” It’s quite a paradox to me and I’m hoping you have some good advice. Basically, I’m trying hard to be vulnerable but when I do, women seem to flee.”

There are a few things going on here, and I’d like to address them one at a time:

1) There’s more to women than getting laid. Vulnerability isn’t just about getting laid. Vulnerability and the other deep emotional concepts I talk about in my book go way beyond sex. They’re about transforming yourself into a confident, vibrant and uninhibited version of yourself that naturally connects with others in a meaningful way that naturally draws them into you. These concepts aren’t about filling your bed for a weekend, but about permanently attracting women without effort. I’m talking about making identity-level shifts in your mindsets and beliefs. Sex is a side-effect of that. Sex isn’t the primary goal. It just happens if you get everything else right.

As you pointed out, it’s possible to get laid without getting the other stuff handled, the real stuff handled. And as you also pointed out, getting laid without handling the other stuff doesn’t seem to fix your self-esteem issues, your neediness or develop those emotional connections you’d ultimately like that would help to make you happy.

I just want to differentiate the two goals here. One goal is to get your dick wet. The other is to transform yourself into an admirable and desirable man. One goal requires chasing girls incessantly. The other goal involves girls chasing you incessantly. One is a short-term goal. The other is a long-term goal.

2) You’re self-aware enough to recognize your own neediness and your own lack of self-esteem. This is huge. Most guys don’t even get this far. Kudos. Seriously, it’s so easy for guys, especially guys who are already getting laid, to fall into the lame mindset of pretending to be a super-duper-pimp, macking hoes and high-fiving their nearest ePals. I applaud you for taking a difficult and honest look at yourself and recognizing your truth: that despite getting multiple women to bed, you’re still the needy guy with self-esteem issues you were before you started. And until you get that resolved your experiences with these women are not going to be as enriching as they could be. At some point, increasing your quantity of relationships becomes unsatisfying, and so one must increase the quality of them.

3) OK, on to your specific situation. You’ve got these girls. You’ve gotten them into you by being super “jokey and sexual.” Then you go to open yourself up, show the real you, and all of this needy, low self-esteem crap comes out, scaring them away. As you point out, this is a Catch-22. To overcome your neediness, you have to make yourself more vulnerable and share yourself more openly. But when you make yourself vulnerable, you begin acting super needy and the girls get turned off.

In my book I have a section titled “The Pain Period.” In it, I talk about how the transition from being a needy man to a non-needy and attractive man necessitates a period of time of highly uncomfortable vulnerability. Your only options are to continue hiding your emotional baggage and self-esteem issues, limiting the emotional connections you can develop with others, or you can begin letting this baggage out in front of others, dealing with the unpleasant and embarrassing repercussions in the process. It’s not fun. It sucks, in fact. But it’s a necessary evil.

As men, we like to pretend that getting laid is a breezy weekend sport. Like hunting or fishing. We come home and rib each other and tell each other and ourselves that it was awesome and that we’re the man.

But the truth is sex can be awkward. It can be embarrassing. There are strange moments when you or her are vulnerable, insecure, needy for attention or affection but desperately trying not to appear like you need attention or affection. Sex can be messy. Communication gets boggled. Emotions get involved. Sometimes hooking up with a girl isn’t a totally pleasant experience. But men don’t talk about the unpleasant, emotional or vulnerable aspects of sex. We don’t go there, even though it’s pretty normal to have them.

Especially if you’re a guy with low self esteem or a lot of neediness. A lot of unpleasant and awkward emotions are going to start popping up when you let the jokey guard down. And it’s uncomfortable at first. But if you’re ever going to develop an ability to connect with women on a deep level you need to get comfortable with it. When you feel the neediness, or the anger, or the shame, identify it, accept it, let it go. In your email you talk as if your low self esteem is a permanent part of your identity. It’s not. That self esteem can be built. There’s just all of this emotional garbage crammed into you, years of it, and it’s time to start airing it out. And the more of it your air out, the less it’ll hold you back in the future.

I’ll give you two examples from my own life. Two girls. Let’s call them Melina and Kate. Melina may have been the first girl I slept with after getting into pick up. I’m not entirely sure. She and I had great natural chemistry and would sit around and talk for hours. This was the first girl I had been with since my ex-girlfriend left me, and little did I realize at the time how angry and how much baggage I was carrying around. So one night, talking with Melina, I just went off… for like 15 minutes straight, about my stupid whore of an ex, and went into minute detail about all the fucked up shit she did, just on and on and on and on. So bitter and hurt. So unnecessary. I finished. I hadn’t even realized how long I had gone on rambling for so long. Melina looked at me as if scared by something and calmly said, “I probably didn’t need to know all of that.”

Ouch.

She and I quickly fell apart and stopped seeing each other. I was mortified. I ran into her a number of times after that for months and I would always feel nauseous with embarrassment.

Kate on the other hand was the third or fourth girl I dated when I got into this stuff. I’ve talked about my sexual anxiety a bit here and there on the site, but I really had it bad at first. Like really bad. To the point where I wasn’t even able to have sex half the time with the first handful of girls I slept with. Kate was slightly older and extremely horny. Our “first date” was her calling me on the phone and flat out saying, “I want you to come to my apartment and fuck me on my kitchen floor.” Uhh… OK, sounds good. I played it cool. I was terrified in my head though. Girls really do this stuff? What does this mean? She barely even knows me.

So of course I get over there. I’m freaking out, all up in my head, and I can’t even keep it up long enough to get it in her. Once again, fucking mortified. This had happened with other girls before, but I had always been drunk so I had an excuse. No excuse this time. So I owned up to it. I told her that I was inexperienced and was just coming out of a major dry spell and that I was really nervous. I could see her attraction for me spiral away. But she was cool about it. She said she understood, to relax, take my time, let her know or whatever. And then I did the super, lame beta thing that every pick up book told me not to do: I asked her if we could just hang out for a while, get to know each other. And… we did. And then we had sex later, when I had calmed down and was comfortable. She was supportive, although obviously frustrated. But she never held it against me. We still did it on her kitchen floor. And it was great. I dated her on and off for almost a year. And she was a great friend.

Obviously your issues and neediness is going to be different. My point in all of this though is that early on, when the neediness and vulnerability comes out, it fucking blows. It’s not sexy. In fact, it’s usually incredibly unattractive.

But that’s part of the process. The Pain Period. Slowly you become comfortable with it. You become unattached to it. And then you become OK with it. The things I just wrote above embarrassed me to the point I wanted to die when they happened. Now I can talk about them without shame or regret. And it’s the kind of stories above that I’ll often share with girls when I meet them, told in a similar fashion. “I was embarrassed. Yes, it sucked. Yes, I have issues. No, I’m not perfect.” The implication being the whole time that I’m fine with it. I’m not looking for sympathy or validation. I don’t need anything from her. It’s just who I am, rough edges and all.

We all have weaknesses, embarrassments and vulnerabilities. A needy man is terrified to show them because they care more about what others feel about him than what they feel about themselves. A non-needy man is comfortable showing his flaws because he’s comfortable with how he feels about himself more than how others feel about him.

Sharing yourself openly with others forces that transition between the two: from needy and afraid of what others think to non-needy and comfortable in how one feels about himself. The reason is because sharing these truths about yourself forces you to own them and accept them, and also demonstrates that feeling embarrassed or ashamed is just that, just another feeling, another part of your humanity, not the end of the world.

The real question is, do you have to deal with this emotional baggage and neediness with the women you’re dating? Not always. You can work through them by sharing them with friends, family members, or a therapist. But there are some issues that can only be dealt with by women you’re seeing: particularly intimacy and sexual issues.

Welcome to the pain period. I know it sucks. But it’s the first step toward being an emotionally secure, sexually healthy, and genuinely attractive man. Sharing yourself on this level is not about getting laid in the short-term. In fact, as you’ve found out, it’s fairly detrimental to that. But it’s training yourself for the capacity for intimacy and meaningful connections with women. It’s building your confidence muscles. And yeah, there’s going to be shame and embarrassment along the way. But there will be some great connections and relationships with awesome women along the way as well. All in all, this is the real path that you’re here to take, that we’re all here to take. I’ve said since day one that this stuff is self help in disguise. Getting laid was the entrance exam. This is your first real lesson. Welcome aboard.

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20 Comments

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  • Reply

    Gully

    5 months ago

    Good post as always Mark.

    I found this particularly rang true with me;

    “You’ve gotten them into you by being super “jokey and sexual.” Then you go to open yourself up, show the real you, and all of this needy, low self-esteem crap comes out, scaring them away.”

    One of the last girls I hooked up with, it really followed this pattern. I was the ice cool player when I met her, drunk and out. But after we had sex a few times, it was like you cant help show who you are. And all of a sudden, all the clumsiness, the awkardness, the low self esteem, the embarresment, it all clumbered out.

    And I have to say, in hindsight, it was only difficult because I didn’t want her to see me other then the cool cat. So when the real me came out, I couldn’t accept it. There I was, with this hot girl, and I blew it in some respects. I couldn’t deal with her seeing the real me. The me with emotions and baggage. The me that doesnt always know what to say or how to act.

    Looking back, – in a nutshell sort of way – I guess if I had just kind of been cool with letting her see the ‘real’ me then it would have flowed a lot better.

    Sometimes I wonder why I dont have a girlfriend. And in some respects, the idea that I dont like to show my venurable, crappy side to girls perhaps plays a part. I tend to have a few ‘flings’, ONS, and then I move on.

    I can’t seem to build a proper connection with girls, and for ages I felt like wtf is going on, but there must be at least some issue within myself, and I guess not wanting to open up and be cool with a girl I like knowing every nook and cranny of me may create a kind of barrier to having a connection.

    I haven’t felt proper chemistry with a girl (at least in terms of a relationship as opposed to a friend) in like..over 3 years now..

  • Reply

    Dr. Jeremy

    5 months ago

    Mark,

    What I particularly like about this approach is that you are giving men permission to have emotional needs. I think part of the problem with the PUA concept of “neediness” was that it seemed to throw out all emotional needs with it. Men who needed to take some time before sex, or requiring a bit of comfort themselves, was seen as “needy”, “supplicating”, “beta” or any other derogatory term. The positive, intimacy-building emotions were thrown out with the unattractive and unhealthy ones.

    In fact, I think this “permission to feel” is particularly pertinent for guys who seek out this advice. In my experience (myself included), guys who gravitate towards this advice enjoy emotions as part of their relationship. I would even say they are “sensitive” or “emotional”, but unfortunately those words also have negative social connotations that I don’t mean. However, sometimes women have been socialized to think men don’t have these needs (e.g. real men don’t cry, feel, etc.). As a result, some women are initially uncomfortable with men’s emotional needs (much like women say some men overlook their sexual needs). Therefore, the guys who have legitimate emotional needs get hurt, frustrated…and come looking for answers. Unfortunately, most of those answers just tell them to “man up”, “stop being needy”, and conform to the “alpha stereotype”.

    Good job helping guys find the middle path here – between truly unhealthy expression of need (i.e. “neediness”) and bottling up their feelings. It is important that they learn to be assertive and positive about them. Also, thanks for your frank personal disclosure. It is a nice way of modeling and practicing what you preach :)

  • Reply

    fireform.

    5 months ago

    Yowza, good post man. Nothing else to say. Props, feel it, more of the same please.

  • Reply

    Tim

    5 months ago

    Wow. Those two personal examples were amazing for improving what was already a fantastic part of the book.

    It’s also interesting how turned off girls are when you have hatred towards/issues with your exes.

  • Reply

    dave

    5 months ago

    ” And it’s the kind of stories above that I’ll often share with girls when I meet them, told in a similar fashion. “I was embarrassed. Yes, it sucked. Yes, I have issues. No, I’m not perfect.” The implication being the whole time that I’m fine with it. I’m not looking for sympathy or validation. I don’t need anything from her. It’s just who I am, rough edges and all.”

    Just wondered how it actually comes up in a conversation… I feel that I’m actually starting to feel more OK sharing myself more… but I still feel that… I don’t know, if someone doesn’t ask, then why should I bother… or well in my exact case, like, the fact that I’m a virgin (I’m 25).. I think that I’m somewhat OK sharing that (or well, way more than I used to be).. but I think it would be weird saying that out of the blue…

    • Reply

      Mark

      5 months ago

      Being relevant and calibrated still takes precedence. Think of it this way, you don’t HAVE to share stuff like this, but you shouldn’t ever be HIDING stuff like this. If it comes up, you should be comfortable talking about it. If it doesn’t come up, then don’t talk about it.

  • Reply

    Pushit

    5 months ago

    Do you have any things in your life (right now) that you do not feel comfortable talking about with strangers/acquaintances/family members?

  • Reply

    Hauke

    5 months ago

    Great post, nothing more to add.
    Can’t wait to get your book in Germany!

  • Reply

    mike

    5 months ago

    “I’ve said since day one that this stuff is self help in disguise.”

    Do you mean… picking up girls is like self help? If you’re too shy you will have to overcome that fear. If you’re needy you will have to overcome that. Afraid of failure/success…. etc?

    • Reply

      Mark

      5 months ago

      Yes. The process of improving with women basically comes down to a form of self-improvement.

  • Reply

    hilanoga

    5 months ago

    *thumbs up*

  • Reply

    Breeeeeeeeettttttttttttt

    5 months ago

    no pain, no gain baby

  • Reply

    Zanshin

    3 months ago

    Thanks for this Mark. I recently spent a few months in Europe travelling and I was slightly disappointed because I wasn’t very successful with girls while on the road. Reading this article makes me realize that I’m in the pain period right now. I was trying to be sincere and vulnerable with everyone I met and it has worked – I am a lot more at peace with that person now than I was some time ago. Please keep up the great work.

  • Reply

    Darren

    2 months ago

    Isn’t it dangerous to recommend upping your self esteem? Too high self esteem and you become a delusional egoist. Scrapping self esteem altogether, and raising your self-respect seems like a more choice.

    • Reply

      Nebula

      2 months ago

      I think you missed the point. He isn’t saying overcompensate for low self esteem with arrogance (which most people can ascertain is a by-product of low self esteem). He also isn’t saying to build yourself up above your actual dating value or true character.

      He is saying to heal yourself by becoming truly ok with the hardships and insecurities in your life and sharing the real substance about it when presented with the opportunity.

      Self respect is not the issue. A man may have strong boundaries and expectations and hold firmly to them (self respect) while still holding people at arms reach, never revealing anything deeper. In order to have deeper relationships, a man must be able to express his own depth with a sense of honesty and ownership, regardless of how it will be received. This is self esteem.

      To thine own self be true. But not only be true, be genuinely accepting of the truth.

      As a woman, I get as much out of these articles as I do the comments.

    • Reply

      Nebula

      2 months ago

      I think you missed the point. He isn’t saying overcompensate for low self esteem with arrogance (which most people can ascertain is a by-product of low self esteem). He also isn’t saying to build yourself up above your actual dating value or true character.

      He is saying to heal yourself by becoming truly ok with the hardships and insecurities in your life and sharing the real substance about it when presented with the opportunity.

      Self respect is not the issue. A man may have strong boundaries and expectations and hold firmly to them (self respect) while still holding people at arms reach, never revealing anything deeper. In order to have deeper relationships, a man must be able to express his own depth with a sense of honesty and ownership, regardless of how it will be received. This is self esteem.

      To thine own self be true. But not only be true, be genuinely accepting of the truth.

  • Reply

    Cameron

    2 months ago

    I never really agreed with or resonated with the values in this post, but maybe I’m just afraid of intimacy/ vulnerability and am rationalising. I still don’t think it’s well-reasoned though.

    “Your only options are to continue hiding your emotional baggage and self-esteem issues, limiting the emotional connections you can develop with others, or you can begin letting this baggage out in front of others, dealing with the unpleasant and embarrassing repercussions in the process. It’s not fun. It sucks, in fact. But it’s a necessary evil.”

    Actually its been proven that writing about your emotions can be quite therapeutic. Or you could talk to a therapist, friend about it. So you don’t need to tell the girls your dating.

    OK, so we have story 1 and 2) and story 2) was awesome, it all worked out for you, transformed a (seemingly) horrendous situation into a source of strength and connection. But does that mean that the first example was necessary? Surely it would have been better to “vent” your frustrations about your ex to someone else than your girlfriend? Did you really not get realise how angry you were until you told her?

    • Reply

      Mark

      2 months ago

      I mention in Models that one can use a therapist or family member to start opening up about this stuff. It doesn’t have to be a girl you’re dating necessarily.

  • Reply

    Jaynee

    26 weeks ago

    It’s funny to be reading this now, as at the moment, I feel like I’m going through a pain period of sorts, both within and outside of myself. I’ve become more and more aware of what beliefs I have internalized, and the actions they tend to spur- the biggest being that I am worth less than others and that I am deserving of bad things. Re-writing and learning new beliefs has been so very difficult, yet I’m glad to be aware of these things, as for so long, I had no idea. I’m glad to be at the point where I see these things and I can say, “Get rid of them. Those beliefs hold no comfort for me anymore.” Yes, comfort- seeing the world in this way was so integral to me that I fought instances that showed otherwise. I got so used to, say, negativity and criticism by my father over my love of acting that when he praised me for it one day, I gave it up- I didn’t know a world where praise for this existed.

    But this “pain period” has also made me oddly happy. Happy to know that a love for life, and even for myself, managed to survive through the cutting down. I’m more resilient, flexible, and deep than I allowed myself to believe before. Perhaps pain has to be the starting point, but looking inside I see a giant diving pool, and I want to learn more. I’m ready to get more than just my feet wet.

  • Reply

    Nathan

    11 weeks ago

    Mark,

    “Melina may have been the first girl I slept with after getting into pick up.”

    OK – this one I can relate too. I had a hookup new year’s eve then a date with a very high quality woman. She was the first woman I had been with in about 3 months, so of course I was very needy and “emotionally vomited” on her the second time we got together. At least I wrote her a Haiku about it. She became a muse for good art.

    “Kate on the other hand was the third or fourth girl I dated when I got into this stuff.”

    This I can’t relate to this. I am either rejecting women I’m not attracted to or those who I am attracted to are rejecting me. Early. Like within the same day or the same week for the last four months. I am, apparently, not one of the guys who can “get her home” easily. I’m to the point where the current “improve yourself” approach is not working, and I need out of this “rut” I’m in. If that means I need to do the “1000 approaches” for practice or “perform” to get some temporary “superficial” results and “graduate” to working on my independence and “true confidence”, so be it. Don’t tell me I don’t get to be a man and accept that I have sexual needs. I actually want to start those getting met before the end of this summer. I’m not gonna spend the next 5 years in a goddamn “pain period”. My version of it is too freaking painful.

    Just relating my experience for what its worth,

    Nathan

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