Shalom! Welcome to this week's digest. This week is a very special "Risqué" edition, as we explore topics involving jerks, sex, emotional security, basterds (sic), Nazis, and (*gasp*) cute dogs. Enjoy!

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"The best recipe for a great sex life, throughout your life, is safe emotional connection." ~ Dr. Sue Johnson
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  • Sensible Living: Reflecting on the Fine Essentials of a Beautiful Life
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ARTICLE - Aeon: A Theory of Jerks by Eric Schwitzgebel - A delightful essay on jerkitude, including what it is, how one can slip into it, and how one can resolve it. Reading this piece led me to reflect on my own jerkitude, identifying areas of my life where I can be a jerk. Per the article, introspection only gets us so far, second-hand feedback is superior. That said, I unearthed a few opportunities to be less of a jerk; for example, walking around my NYC neighborhood, perhaps I don't need to hip-check phone zombies who are 'clogging' my lane ;D

One-Sentence Takeaway: "...the jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers."

Answering The Drucker Question: After understanding the nature of a jerk, identify any areas of your life where you may exhibit these characteristics. If introspection doesn't lead to any jerkitude detection, perhaps ask close friends and family for their feedback.

Complement with Spoiled Rich Kids and The Human Connection (to Patient Care).

My highlights:
  • I submit that the unifying core, the essence of jerkitude in the moral sense, is this: the jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers. This failure has both an intellectual dimension and an emotional dimension, and it has these two dimensions on both sides of the relationship.
  • The opposite of the jerk is the sweetheart. The sweetheart sees others around him, even strangers, as individually distinctive people with valuable perspectives, whose desires and opinions, interests and goals are worthy of attention and respect... In a debate, the sweetheart sees how he might be wrong and the other person right.
  • ...[I] conjecture a correlation of approximately zero between how one would rate oneself in relative jerkitude and one’s actual true jerkitude. The term is morally loaded, and rationalisation is so tempting and easy! Why did you just treat that cashier so harshly? Well, she deserved it – and anyway, I’ve been having a rough day... [T]he jerk faces special obstacles on the road to self-knowledge... By definition, he fails to respect the perspectives of others around him. He’s much more likely to dismiss critics as fools – or as jerks themselves – than to take the criticism to heart.
  • Embarrassment requires us to imagine being viewed negatively by people whose perspectives we care about. As the circle of people whom the jerk is willing to regard as true peers and superiors shrinks, so does his capacity for shame – and with it a crucial entry point for moral self-knowledge.
  • As one climbs the social hierarchy it is also easier to become a jerk... Thinking yourself important is a pleasantly self-gratifying excuse for disregarding the interests and desires of others. Thinking that the people around you are idiots seems like a good reason to disregard their intellectual perspectives. As you ascend the hierarchy, you will find it easier to discover evidence of your relative importance (your big salary, your first-class seat) and of the relative idiocy of others (who have failed to ascend as high as you).
  • The moralistic jerk’s rationalisations justify his disregard of others, and his disregard of others prevents him from accepting an outside corrective on his rationalisations, in a self-insulating cycle... In failing to appreciate others’ perspectives, the jerk almost inevitably fails to appreciate the full range of human goods – the value of dancing, say, or of sports, nature, pets, local cultural rituals, and indeed anything that he doesn’t care for himself... Whatever he’s into, the moralising jerk exudes a continuous aura of disdain for everything else.
  • ...[I]n social battles, the sweetheart will always have some disadvantages: the sweetheart’s talent for seeing things from his opponent’s perspective deprives him of bold self-certainty, and he is less willing to trample others for his ends.
  • ...[S]hift from first-person reflection (what am I like?) to second-person description (tell me, what am I like?). Instead of introspection, try listening. Ideally, you will have a few people in your life who know you intimately, have integrity, and are concerned about your character. They can frankly and lovingly hold your flaws up to the light and insist that you look at them. Give them the space to do this, and prepare to be disappointed in yourself.

PODCAST - The Knowledge Project #62: Cracking the Code of Love: My Interview with Psychologist and EFT Pioneer, Dr. Sue Johnson by Shane Parrish - A really powerful podcast about relationships, diving deep into subjects like enabling secure attachment and cultivating an amazing sex life. Dr. Sue is a wonderful communicator for the research-backed principles of building strong intimate relationships. She can seem conservative in her views at face value, but her positions are backed by research, data, and first principles. This was a refreshing listen that served as a strong counterpoint to much of the anecdotal 'progressive' wisdom in today's mass media.

One-Sentence Takeaway: You can shape your love relationships with known psychological and biological principles.

Answering The Drucker Question: Think back to your most intimate relationships growing up, like your parents and siblings. Try to identify the attachment-related characteristics of these relationships. Were you able to turn to these people when you were upset? Did you have to earn their love and attention? Have you at least attempted to heal any emotional wounds? How have these experiences shaped your current relationships and attachment style?

Complement with Attachment Theory and  Where Should We Begin?.

My highlights:
  • We bring our histories within us... When you grew up in your family, when you got upset, could you turn to someone in your family and they would reliably come and hold you?
  • It's emotional responsiveness that's the basis of a secure bond... It's the ability or the willingness that someone has to tune into you emotionally and to allow themselves to tune into your nonverbals or your words, and to allow themselves to feel what you are feeling, and who respond to that in a way that you feel that you matter.
  • We are craving that connection, and we don't know how to talk about it in a way that pulls our partner close. And when we push and criticize and complain and demand, we look more and more dangerous to our partner, and their favorite strategy, that they probably learned when they grew up, that was the only one that kept them safe, is to shut down... What [we] don't understand is that in an intimate relationship, if I cut off emotionally and I shut down, I shut you out. And if I shut you out, and you are a bonding mammal and not a lizard and you care about me, I trigger danger cues and fear in your brain, because that's the way you're wired.
  • Bottom line is, just like there's a structure for your body and your body has limits, there's a structure to our emotional life. There's a structure to your nervous system. There's a structure to your intimate relationships.
  • The people who report having the best sex, having it most often, are the most satisfied with it, and find it most thrilling, are people in long-term, stable, connected, exclusive relationships...  Serial monogamy seems to be the most natural way that it works because it's not just about sex, it's about attachment. And attachment tends to be hierarchical. We can love more than one person, but in terms of who you turn to when you really need, in terms of where you take your vulnerability, it's usually hierarchical, we have our special one. And most people want to be the special one for somebody else.
  • Securely attached people know the power of emotional presence... Husbands always think they're going to problem-solve and solve all of their wife's problems. They don't understand that usually, their wife is looking for just them, they're the answer to her problem, she just wants their emotional presence... This emotional responsiveness is what grows relationships... We just don't know how to tune in.
  • Sex can be many things at different times. Sex can be purely about the release of tension, sex can be erotic play. It can change in a relationship, there's flexibility. It can mean different things at different times. In general, if you listen to people in happy healthy relationships, they'll talk more about sex as a bonding activity. It's not just about release. It's not just about orgasm. It's not just about eroticism.
  • What is passion? Passion is the longing for connection, the longing to be with this person, this person is desired. There is an emotional component. And then it's put together with the ability to play, to play erotically, to be unpredictable, to have a safe adventure in bed together.
  • The best recipe for a great sex life, throughout your life, is safe emotional connection. Practice makes perfect.
  • John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory, said that sex is not the most important motivation in human beings, and neither is aggression, Freud was wrong. The most important motivation in human beings, and the one that carries the huge clout, is the need for connection with another human being.
  • Accessibility, Responsiveness, and Engagement, ARE, are the variables in research that predict the safety of a bond, any bond, between any two people of any age.
  • Go find a [couples] therapist and say to the therapist: What model do you use? What is the research behind it? What are the outcomes? Give me something I can read about it... 70% of mental health professionals in North America say they see couples now, because the demand is huge, and most of those people haven't been trained in couples therapy.
  • One common theme that emerges is that it's too good to leave, but not good enough to stay. If it's too good to leave, then turn around and walk into it, and talk to your partner, and go do something about it. You can shape it, you can heal it. Go do something about it. Find out what's blocking it, find out what's getting wrong... The research said it doesn't matter how distressed you are when you come in [to couples therapy], if you are still invested, if you are still willing to work. It matters how engaged you get in working on your relationship.
  • People need to know, you can shape your love relationships, relationships make sense. This is about biology. There is a deep logic behind our emotions. There is a deep logic behind our needs.

- Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino (Thank you Shayan for the recommendation!) - I saw this movie in theaters when it was first released in 2009, and absolutely loved it on a raw enjoyment basis. Re-watching it this week, the movie can actually serve as a tremendous lesson in empathy and our human tendency to otherize our enemies, disregarding them as inhuman. For example, Colonel Hans Landa, as despicable as he is in his morality and serving in his military role, has incredible powers to appreciate others' perspectives, whether tracking them down or negotiating with them. Part of what makes Lieutenant Aldo Raine so effective is his ability to see the world through his enemies' eyes, too. There are a variety of moments in the film where Tarantino goes out of his way to humanize the rank-and-file Nazi soldiers, like seeing Corporal Wilhelm celebrate the birth of his son with his unit.

On this point, I will re-hash my one of my takeaways from my Israel trip earlier this year (TD Digest #66): "The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts." ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:  At Yad Vashem, our tour guide paused in front of an exhibit showing the Nazi leadership. He asked our group, rhetorically, "Are these men monsters?" His answer, "No. These men are humans." It is so ego gratifying to believe that I am good, and they are bad. I am right, and they are wrong. And yet, the truth is, as the Roman playwright Terence once said, "Nothing human is alien to me." Given the right (wrong) circumstances, I too could be a Nazi prison guard, or a Jew in the concentration camp, or a leader of the Waffen-SS. When we start to appreciate how fortunate we are to be who we are / where we are / when we are, we can start to see the innocence in *everyone*, as well as stand firmer guard in defiance of circumstances that could give rise to these extreme negative outcomes, contexts that transform the innocent into the "evil".

Oh, and most importantly, never fight in a basement :D

One-Sentence Takeaway: Even in the worst of situations with the worst of people, we have the opportunity to empathize with them to better understand the world, and to be more effective in the service of our goals.

Answering The Drucker Question: Identify one group of people that you tend to 'otherize' (e.g., politically, competitively). Are there opportunities to empathize with any of them, to understand their perspective and what led them to their current way of being? Can you begin to see the world through their eyes? Can you identify with their humanity? If they are acting in 'evil' ways, can you begin to understand their pain?

Complement with Black Mirror: Men Against Fire.

My favorite quotes:
  • Now, I don't know about y'all, but I sure as hell didn't come down from the goddamn Smoky Mountains, cross five thousand miles of water, fight my way through half of Sicily and jump out of a fuckin' air-o-plane to teach the Nazis lessons in humanity. Nazi ain't got no humanity. They're the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin', mass murderin' maniac and they need to be dee-stroyed. That's why any and every son of a bitch we find wearin' a Nazi uniform, they're gonna die.
  • You know, fightin' in a basement offers a lot of difficulties. Number one being, you're fightin' in a basement!
  • I know this is a silly question before I ask it, but can you Americans speak any other language besides English?
  • Teddy fuckin' Williams knocks it out of the park! Fenway Park on its feet for Teddy fuckin' Ballgame! He went yardo on that one, out to fuckin' Lansdowne Street!
  • I've done my share of bootlegging. Up 'ere, if you engage in what the federal government calls 'illegal activity,' but what we call 'just a man tryin' to make a livin' for his family sellin' moonshine liquor,' it behooves oneself to keep his wits. Long story short, we hear a story too good to be true... it ain't.
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