Online Counselling or Face to Face Consultations in Sydney, Australia

Photograph of Ash RehnI’m Ash Rehn, counsellor, coach and Medicare Provider. Take a look around to find out more about my in-person and online services.

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How to Treat ‘Sex Addiction’: The Role of the Therapist

Naked aroused man wearing towelIs sex addiction really a legitimate mental health problem or just an excuse for sleeping around?

That was the question Tom Tilley used to open the Hack Live Sex Addicts programme shown on Australia’s public tv broadcaster the ABC this week. I’m sure a lot of viewers were hoping to get a handle on their sexual activity so they could start to feel more in control. But this important topic was again derailed by the usual polarising debate: is sex addiction a real disorder?

Mental Health Problem or Myth?

A few weeks ago a producer-researcher from the Triple J Hack Live programme contacted me. So is sex addiction real? Her question was familiar. Journalists ask this a lot. It also comes up socially at parties when someone mentions I’m an online therapist for ‘sex addiction’ concerns. The obsession about whether a diagnosis of sex addiction actually exists can chew up a lot of time, like it did on the Hack Live show.

My job as a therapist isn’t to decide categories of diagnoses. I’m here to listen, ask questions, help you make meaning and feel more comfortable about your sexuality or assist you to make changes to your sexual activities (if that is what you want to do). It’s not my role to sit in judgement of people or police their behaviour. Most of my clients have been giving themselves a hard time about sex or wasting time looking at porn even before they start seeing me. They don’t need me to do that.

Man with a bottle of wine sitting in front of a laptop

As usually happens when there is a debate asking ‘is sex addiction real‘, the meaning of addiction is similarly contested. Is sex addiction about brain chemistry or a behavioural issue or just something a person can’t stop? I don’t find these debates particularly helpful for people trying to gain more influence over their lives.

Is Sex Addiction on the Rise?

That’s another question loved by journalists and tv producers. It assumes sex addiction is one ‘thing’ when, if you ask enough questions and are genuinely curious, you’ll discover the concept of ‘sex addiction’ means many different things to many people. A one-size-fits-all approach might be a convenient way to market a tv show or sell a book but it can’t assist with such a diversity of experiences. In any case, I’m also not a statistician, so journalists are asking the wrong person here. They should be asking a researcher or epidemiologist. My speciality is counselling and online therapy for sex and pornography addiction concerns. It’s not collecting statistics or making claims about the prevalence of particular conditions.

There’s no doubt that people can experience some relief when their condition is given a label or recognised by those in authority. But recovering a sense of control goes beyond just putting your situation into the same tick-box as other people. If you’re concerned about what you’re doing sexually or how much you’re using pornography, it makes more sense to discuss specifically what is going on for you rather than generalise about other people.

Upset woman sitting on a bed while her boyfriend is sleeping with the camera focus on her

Enjoying Sex: Is Neuroscience Making Us Sick?

By the time Hack Live finally got into questions about causes of sex addiction, about a quarter of the episode was over. One of the men on the panel mentioned childhood trauma and sexual assault as possibly influencing his behaviour. Someone else indicated that not talking about sexual activities – keeping them a secret – made it harder to feel in control. It was hinted at that depression or personal troubles might ‘trigger’ someone into losing control of their sexual behaviour. Then the show was derailed again, this time by (pseudo) neuroscience.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we can potentially benefit from understanding how hormones and the chemistry of the human body affects behaviour. But neurochemistry is a highly complex subject. Those posts about hormones and neurochemistry you see on Facebook or Twitter or Buzzfeed are generally dumbed down versions of research findings. Scientists still have a long way to go before they have a clear understanding of the role and interaction of oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. One panelist on Hack Live made persistent references to a ‘hit of dopamine’, ‘dopamine rush’ and how sex ‘releases chemicals into the brain… like alcohol or gambling’. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it gave some viewers the impression that sex itself was pathological. Is having an orgasm bad for you? Of course it isn’t!

(Hetero)sexual Sex Addiction

When sex addiction is defined simply as a compulsion, it loses cultural context and becomes limited to an internal psychological disorder. The articulate psychologist Nikki Goldstein pointed out that rehabilitation centres are cashing in on the concept of sex addiction by treating it alongside, and in similar ways to, substance addiction. Again, by labelling particular sexual behaviour and situations as one ‘thing’ we risk failing with treatment that is specific enough to the circumstances of the person seeking help.

The most revealing aspect of the Hack Live Sex Addiction episode was what was not discussed. ‘Sex addicts’ were depicted as cheaters who betrayed their partners by picking up in bars and clubs or sneaking around looking at online porn (even on Instagram apparently). There was no discussion about the role or use of dating apps like Tinder. The difference between pornography as an enhancement to masturbation and actual sexual contact with another human being in real time was not explored. The impact of monogamy was mentioned only once and barely anything was said about cultural expectations around sexual fidelity apart from Tom Tilley’s ‘shocking’ (his words) visit to a swingers club. In what sounded like a vacation itinerary for some of my gay counselling clients, one man admitted to having sex up to three times a day with three different women. Why wasn’t anyone talking about sex addiction and masculinity or different sexual or gender expectations for men and women? Or transpeople? I wondered whether the ABC thought it might be too shocking for the audience to hear from some gay men on holiday. Sex positive activist Nev Spirovska did attempt to draw attention to the gender binary but the conversation kept returning to heterosexual sex addiction. Forget about claims of heteronormativity, I think at the very least Hack Live played it safe by not even considering gay men’s sexuality, let alone bisexuality or how to respond to a straight-identified man who goes in search of penis images on Instagram.

Homosexual couple at a romantic date outdoors - Multi-ethnic gay couple in love flirting and having fun

Treatment for ‘Sex Addiction’: Communication versus Shame

It was only really in the last 3 minutes of this hour-long programme that treatment directions for sex addiction concerns were finally raised. Cassie, the partner of self-described sex-addict Jason, had already pointed out that shame shut down conversations about sexual addiction. Then right at the end of the show she vowed that she and Jason would continue to look at the underlying issues and causes as to why he experiences these problems because generally it does stem from depression, anxiety, boredom or stress.

Thank you Cassie!

As an online ‘sex addiction’ therapist, this one of the most significant understandings that my clients can gain. All behaviour is a response. Anxiety, stress, boredom, depression, mid-life crises, suppressed gay (or hetero) identity, curiosity, love… all of these can factor into why we choose to act in particular ways. If we treat concerns about sex addiction – however you choose to define it – in isolation from their origins, we risk not only a relapse of the activities that are most concerning for the client, but the double-shaming that comes from a sense of failure. It also usually means no change in the sense of influence or self-agency the person has over their life.

Cassie also made the point that communication was the key to addressing sex related matters in relationship. I absolutely agree. Shame shuts down important conversations. Shame has people living double lives. In focussing on the truth claims about sex addiction, Hack Live barely touched on the diversity of stories of why we choose the sex we choose and how we can feel more in control or make choices about sex that work better for us.

If you would like to talk more about what sex means to you or have some conversation about the shame you feel about sex, contact me for an appointment.

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Private Skype Counselling in English for Expats: Tips and Support for Your Journey

Man in hammock with a laptopCounselling expats, I’m privileged to be invited to hear stories from the private lives of those who trade comfort and familiarity for the unknown. While the expat experience is more often portrayed as glamorous and exciting, many find the reality of living in a different culture to be lonely and challenging, particularly in the first year or so. When what promised to be adventure sours, how can you recover a sense of satisfaction or happiness?

Over the past 7 years, I’ve worked with many clients isolated by geographical distance and culture. Some have been living in mining towns in remote parts of Australia, like Kalgoorlie or Roxby Downs. Others have moved to take jobs in global financial hubs like Hong Kong, Shanghai or Taipei or cities such as Abu Dhabi, Doha or Riyadh in the oil rich Middle-East countries. Online counselling is different to ‘face-to-face’ sessions but comes with particular benefits.

Sometimes the circumstances under which a person commences expat life may compound, rather than ease, the move to a different country. For example, I have worked with both straight and gay men who have started working in conservative Arab cultures following the the break-down of an intimate relationship or while trying to recover from separation. Both have experienced difficulties in meeting new partners, either because of the prohibitions against intimacy between unmarried couples or the laws against homosexuality (gay men’s depression can be significant in countries where homosexuality is illegal). The triple change of new job, new home and new relationship status presents opportunities but can also contribute to loneliness and isolation when there is no realistic forward plan. Sometimes isolation or boredom manifests in the formation of unwanted habits, like those reported by men concerned about porn addiction.

While the pay and salary packages of professional life in these places can be alluring, when the reality of day to day existence kicks in, it’s usually your mood that suffers. If this is your experience, if you are struggling with expat life somewhere and experiencing depression or anxiety, you are not alone. The stories I’ve heard reveal that encountering cultural differences, language-barriers, adjusting to climate and managing new relationships can all affect how someone copes with living in unfamiliar surroundings. Add to that a few unexpected but normal aspects of life – for example, ageing parents, financial stresses and health difficulties – and being an expat can easily feel overwhelming, even if the salary is relatively good.

Tips and Therapy for Expats

From working as an English speaking therapist and counsellor, here are a few take-away tips for those who have made, or are just about to make the move, as well as for those who are struggling right now.

Get out regularly if you can.
Particularly in the early stages, regular trips to more a liberal or familiar culture can help sustain your motivation and improve your endurance. Clients in China and Saudi Arabia for example have told me that, if it is manageable, taking a flight to another city for the weekend every 3-4 weeks has often helped them left off steam.

Build your network.
It might be hard to make friends where you are but having some social contact might be important, even if you are not such a social person. If you are in a capital city and can get to know someone who works at an embassy, you may be able to get into the best of expat life. And if you don’t think there is anyone to connect with nearby, try making some contacts in a nearby city or on one of those weekend trips away.

5 tips for making friends if you are gay or bisexual

Try to get into the local life.
As strange or awkward as their customs might seem there will be some sense in following the local ways. Whether it is sport or night-life or cultural events, the locals get something out of their customs and you may too, if you give them a chance. Particularly in Saudi Arabia those who have relied on using alcohol to help relax from work will have to find new ways to deal with stress.

Cut yourself some slack.
Be patient. Adjustment can take time. If you need to spend a bit more cash, particularly in the early stages, to make life comfortable where you are living, think of it as an investment that will pay off in the months years to come. Your mental health is important so don’t risk it for the sake of saving money.

Find yourself a confidante.
If you don’t have anyone in your city right now who understands, look abroad. These days the Internet makes it possible for us to stay in touch over video at little or no cost from anywhere in the world. If you don’t have a friend to confide in, you might want to consider an online counsellor or therapist.

Getting an outside perspective can be important if your mood is starting to spiral down. You can access confidential support online regardless of whether you are in Japan or Singapore or Qatar. Contact me today for information on fees and consultation times.

More information on Availability and Fees

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Sex and Performance Anxiety: Listening to the Body to Quieten the Brain

Muscled man in tiny briefsErectile dysfunction. Body Dysmorphia. Sex and Porn Addiction. The common factor is they all involve a man’s relationship with his body. Sensations in our bodies can tell us not only what we are experiencing but what we need to do to feel comfortable. The trouble comes when we forget to listen to them, or don’t know how to respond to them.

By the time a man has made an appointment with me to discuss erectile dysfunction, he’s often already convinced he has a testosterone deficiency or some other organic problem. Yet while low hormone levels certainly can affect erections, it’s usually a question of confidence or performance anxiety that is the cause of penile problems with these men, particularly those in their 20s, 30s and 40s. If in doubt, I will refer them to a sympathetic GP where they can have their testosterone levels checked. Sometimes a drug like Viagra or Cialis or Levitra is prescribed and can assist with confidence. Then they can get back in touch with me and return for an honest and non-judgemental conversation about sex.

When the Body Hasn’t Caught Up with the Brain during Sex

Technology is driving both improvements in health care and the way we communicate with others. Sure, it’s changing the world in positive ways, but I’d question whether these changes are always for the better. So called geosocial networking apps like Grindr and Blendr now make it possible to organise sex with someone without ever having met them in person. But how does the body catch up with what the brain is thinking? Short answer, it doesn’t always catch up!

In a world where we are simultaneously told ‘sex is dirty’ and ‘save it for the one you love’, organising sex-dates on a smartphone is developing into a cultural norm. Young men are encouraged to be alpha-males whose social standing derives in part from sexual performance and in part from relative youth. Is it any wonder that both sexually inexperienced and mature guys get performance anxiety when it comes to sex? The body just isn’t always ready or comfortable with what the brain is telling it to do. And why is that so shameful? Are we not also our bodies, our sensations and emotions, as well as the thoughts that drive us to use an app like Blendr or Grindr?

For some men, the difficult relationship to the body extends beyond an antagonistic approach to his penis (it’s not doing what I want it to do!) but also to his general appearance or size. This can be a kind of anger with the body (body, you aren’t what you should be!). For some, ‘not enough’ becomes a kind of private mantra. This isn’t just appreciating the results of working out regularly at the gym, being active or playing sports but the preoccupation with something that seems like a defect even though others don’t really notice it. It could be size, weight or proportions. For men it often appears as enduring dissatisfaction with muscle mass to the point they stop participating in social activities or intimate relationships because they don’t feel ‘big enough’. Others bulk up as a form of protection from anxious thoughts.

Anxiety and Disconnection from the Body

What guys term porn addiction, as well as the compulsive use of sex venues or erotic massage despite wanting to stop, can derive from an uncomfortable relationship to the body however these circumstances are diverse and vary a lot between men. Usually guys contact me because they want to stop looking at porn or for some reason, often what they describe as wasting time with porn. But what I’ve noticed for most is that, once a guy starts getting back in touch with how his body actually feels – the sensations he is experiencing – often the behaviour that concerns him ceases itself.

Disconnection from the body is often also present for those who have experienced sexual abuse. Some guys will keep persisting in sex that feels uncomfortable which in turn shapes their relationship with their partner. They can end up depressed or suffering other mental health problems.

All of these issues – sexual compulsion, unwanted porn use, body dysmorphia and psychologically based erectile dysfunction – are both expressions of and responses to anxiety. The treatment is fairly simple but benefits from regular therapeutic conversation to keep on track. Talk therapy for men can offer a breakthrough. Many guys suffer from comparing themselves to others. But every time you have sex, with yourself or someone else, how are you relating to your own body? Are you comfortable with what you are doing? Can you speak up, verbally or non-verbally, about what you would prefer? Can you practice this speaking up?

Do you really need Viagra or steroids or porn for your body to feel good during sex? Knowing what is actually happening in the body, what the body is telling you, takes some effort as well. It involves quieting of the brain and being receptive to the sensations you are experiencing. A partner who is committed to healing can help as well. When you’re completely absorbed in the present, that’s when you really feel what is happening.

If you would like to chat about your relationship with your body, contact me. It can be worth a conversation. Problems dissolve in dialogue and solutions present themselves when there is space made for honesty.

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How do I Know if I have Depression, Anxiety or Mental Illness?

man holding two masks with different moodsIf you are asking this question, it’s a sign that you could benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. October is Mental Health Month with 10 October being World Mental Health day. Here are some tips on how to take care of your mental health and where to get help.

Warning Signs of Depression or Anxiety

Difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, loss of libido, pessimistic outlook, restlessness and agitation, feelings of panic, unusually suspicious, muscle tension without a cause, catastrophising…

It’s not necessarily that you are in the grips of a severe mental illness, but you’re probably getting the warning signs that your mental health is deteriorating. And just as you should pay attention to physical well-being, maintaining your psychological health is wiser than letting it go. As the proverb goes, prevention is better than cure.

Linked here is a quick mental health checklist you can do. If the results page recommends you see a GP or mental health professional (mental health social worker or psychologist), you can get help through Beyond Blue or contact me to make an appointment. If you are in Sydney Australia, I can provide you with the details of doctors who can assist you with a mental health care plan and you can receive a Medicare rebate if you choose to consult me or find another Medicare provider of focussed psychological strategies. If you are elsewhere, find out about online therapy.

The Power of Dialogue for Mental Health

Mental health apps and self-help books might be useful but they are not the same as having a conversation with a real person or being in the presence of someone who cares. At the same time, I know it can be hard to find a therapist, to make contact and turn up for an appointment the first time. It’s quite common that people leave it up to 6 months between reading my website and contacting me. And then it’s often another 6 months or more before they manage to book a session. So if you are putting off doing something about persistent worries or low mood, make a promise to yourself to do something during Mental Health Month.

Psychological problems can be quite debilitating if left untreated. A therapist I admire, Harlene Anderson, talks about the power of conversations to dissolve problems. That’s one reason I started offering online counselling. Appointments over webcam or through email exchange can feel easier to attend and I also offer phone sessions for those who prefer to be heard but not seen. Many who have met me online have made an in-person consultation in Sydney or elsewhere once they have felt more at ease. For others, those who live in remote places or are expats in non-English speaking countries, Internet based sessions mean they can still talk about what might be affecting their mental health when there are no professionals close at hand.

The foundations of good mental health are:

1. Getting enough sleep
2. Eating nutritious food regularly
3. Sufficient exercise
4. A balance of work, rest and play
5. Talking about your problems

Mental health counselling is an example of the fifth point and often assists in recovering the fourth. What might be helpful for you, right now?

Skills and Strategies for Recovering Mental Health

As an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, I’m qualified to assess and provide focussed psychological strategies for anxiety, depression, relationship problems, adjustment issues, suicidal thoughts, life crises and trauma as well as a range of other presentations. A course of treatment can involve mindfulness practices, cognitive behaviour therapy, relaxation techniques, problem solving, developing skills for managing feelings and increasing capacity to interact with others. Previous experiences of therapy or counselling must be taken into account as well. So if you’ve had a bad experience with a psychologist or psychotherapist we can try to ensure that doesn’t happen again by looking at what went wrong or using a different therapeutic approach.

It’s worth keeping in mind that prevalent attitudes to mental ill health start from the perspective that the person is deficient, defective or disordered in some way or comparisons with what is ‘normal’. I question that. It is important that we also consider how ‘healthy’ behaviour has been constructed by our culture and upbringing. For example, many of the ideas we have about sex or masculinity have been passed down by religious traditions or parental conditioning. Feeling ashamed of your body or mannerisms or guilty about your sexual desires doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything ‘wrong’ with you. It might just reflect conditioning by family, schooling or unpleasant experiences.

Contact me now to find out more about my services or make an appointment.

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I wish you good mental health for October and beyond!

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Alpha Males, Pick Up Artists, Red Pill, Game: Reflections on Masculinity and Sexual Relations Between Men and Women

Pick Up Artist PUARecently I visited Devils at Cradle, a sanctuary for Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harisii). These Tassie devils are carnivorous scavengers of the food-chain, feeding on dead and injured wildlife including the carcasses of their own. They’ll even eat smaller devils when hungry enough. To watch them snarling, screaming and fighting over food and sex is both fascinating and disturbing. Like many species that relate through pecking orders, dominance is displayed by fighting and physical size. Males fight other males over access to females. Females fight off males and males forcibly subdue females during sex. As devils age, their bodies amass the wounds and scars of these battles. They appear damaged quite quickly in their short 5-6 year lives.

‘Damaged’ is a word some men use when they are speak to me about their relationships with women. They tell me they have struggled to meet, and even to talk to, women and say they feel disappointed, sometimes ashamed, even confused about their identity or sexuality. Men who want to be ‘more masculine’ are not a minority either. By most accounts, masculinity is a sought after quality despite it being subject to vastly different interpretations. With current fashion, appearing masculine can have men sculpting their abs or grooming a beard. Others indicate it is a performance: acting and talking tough, aggression or violence, the epitome of not caring. Still other men relate it to the capacity to ‘get a woman’, as if women are objects of sexual gratification, status symbols of masculinity, rather than other human beings.

At the devil sanctuary, I felt somewhat jarred when I heard the guide referring to dominant animals as the ‘alpha-males’. That’s because I’ve read lots of stuff on the Internet that extends the ‘alpha-male’ concept to human behaviour. According to particular web commentators, all men can be divided into either ‘alphas’ and ‘betas’. Alphas are described as the dominant variation, men who achieve their choice of partner by behaving in certain ways including competing with other men. It’s evolutionary biology they say. The underlying theory behind their argument is the oft quoted but vastly misunderstood ‘survival of the fittest’.

Many of these bloggers – if you are interested, you can find their articles by Googling ‘Manosphere’ – claim it’s men’s genetic programming to find a female mate and attempt to procreate. They preach a creed of biological fundamentalism that positions human beings on par with, or at least not barely different to, other animals when it comes to sexuality and relationships. And they use this to justify antagonistic attitudes towards women and their ways of relating to women and other men. But how therapeutic is it for men who think of themselves as damaged or deficient to be striving to be ‘alpha-males’?

The Alpha-Male ‘Helpfulness Test’ For Unhappy Men

The ‘alpha-male’ model might provide some useful explanations for devil behaviour but I reckon it gets clunky when applied to relations between men and women. Let’s start with the question of how helpful it is. I’m very used to undertaking therapy over webcam and in-person with unhappy and disturbed men as they confide in me about their anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. And in my professional experience I’d say that splitting guys into these two categories and then instructing them they must choose between ‘the red pill’ or ‘the blue pill’ tends to do a lot more harm than good. This is despite claims of manosphere bloggers who often hide behind pen-names (that doesn’t seem so alpha does it?). Some insist men will not be happy unless they participate in their supposed ‘natural role’ or they promise happiness to men who do. So making a conquest of one’s relationship with a woman becomes the entire point of associating with her. I’ve seen men who start following these ideas set themselves completely in opposition to women. And then, like the Tassie devils, we have a battle going on. Someone is going to get injured.

Self-Reflection and Cognitive Capacity: The Difference Between Humans and Devils

Watching devil behaviour it might be easy to imagine their existence parallels that of humans albeit at a very primitive level. They forage, they fight, they fornicate. Then they fall asleep. But, according to the guide at the sanctuary, female devils are actually the dominant creatures in mixed-sex groupings. This shakes up the assumption that dominance is a male trait. The complexity of nature is not such that it is possible to explain either animal or human behaviour in terms that are limited to dominance and submission. Try Googling ‘dominance in female animals’ if you want some evidence.

And the Manosphere authors tend to be skip over a few important differences between humans and animals. Take human ethics for instance. Some might say it’s the human capacity to self-reflect that sets us apart from other animals. And the extension of that capacity for self-reflection is that we create values and make moral choices. We are driven, or not driven, by ethics as well as whatever descends through us down genetic lines. Our cognitive capacity might be said to be a product of our evolution but whether or not we choose to use it, or to consider and be guided by particular ethics, is up to us. It’s what separates a rational male from an instinctive one. By the way, when I refer to ethics or morality I’m not referring to the passed down, unquestioned dogma of a church, government or even one’s parents. Most people are in a bit of a mess about what they really believe and it doesn’t work so well to blindly follow what someone else says is right. I’d say testing it out with your own experience and checking in with your gut-feeling are important too.

Pseudo-Science: Finding Evidence for What you Want to Believe

Simply explaining heterosexual relations through a frame of competitive evolutionary biology doesn’t make for a scientific argument. There are plenty of instances of animal behaviour that demonstrates co-operation, collective care, harmony, equality and egalitarianism between males and females as well as between same sex mates. But you won’t discover these examples if you start out Googling ‘alpha-males’ or ‘biological reasons for sexual behaviour’, you will only find what you are looking for! Science happens when we look for evidence to try to prove an idea false. Simply going after evidence to confirm an idea is known as pseudoscience.

Men who are struggling to meet up with popular expectations of manhood and masculinity, not to mention the human desire for intimacy and companionship, are often won over by what seem to be convincing arguments supposedly based on science.

Pick Up Artists, Game and Sexual Manipulation

Some of the most convoluted pseudo-science around alpha-males’ and men’s relationships with women is coming out of the Pick Up Artist (PUA) movement. It produces books and runs courses advocating manipulation of women, aspects of which are known as ‘Game’: the techniques of picking up women. Those running PUA courses purport to be helping men to learn strategies and tactics, develop self-esteem and feel better about themselves as men. Others say PUA is basically  a scheme to profit from men who view themselves as somehow deficient when it comes to engaging with women. From what I have seen and heard, men who get involved in Game end up more confused, with a heightened sense of conflict around what is ethically right for them. They also seem to become dependent on the dogma of the movement to continue to feel good about themselves. One of the most extreme cases is Elliot Rodger who cites his frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend and his hatred of women to justify taking a murderous course of revenge.

Let me offer a question, particularly to anyone reading this who might be at least partly convinced by ramblings from the Manosphere and starting to try out Game on women. What would you think about your sister, or your niece, your daughter or even your mother being on the receiving end of the tricks and tactics of Pick Up Artists?

Such a question often has men in a double-take. Guys who start exploring Game and the PUA movement are often thinking only short-term about their ‘success’. They might be focussed on convincing a woman to accept a date, have sex with them or on ‘getting’ a girlfriend. But they aren’t necessarily considering how living this ideology might affect them in the longer term. What happens for the man who becomes a successful Pick-Up Artist? How does he proceed with his life if in the future, for instance, he becomes interested in living with someone or raising children? How does the PUA and Game dogma affect him when transitioning into new and different roles as a man: as an uncle, a partner or a father, for example? Or does he become trapped in Game, contained by the identity of ‘seducer’ he has tried so hard to construct?

I also wonder what happens to our relationships with other men when we judge masculinity primarily through the alpha male-beta male model of evolutionary biology in the animal world. For a start, it doesn’t leave much space for closeness or intimacy between men, including that which is fraternal rather than sexual. Do we really want our relations with other men to be limited to those that are competitive?

Red Pill or Blue Pill? Or Some Heart to Heart?

It strikes me that, if you want to meet women, it probably won’t happen reading books or absorbing ideas while on your computer in your bedroom. It’s more likely to happen if you physically put yourself in environments where there a relatively large number of women. In other words, not places where there are a few women and a relatively large number of men competitively ‘hunting’ for them (I’m aware that this is a chilling concept for many people but it is the language that is used by Game and the so-called Pick-up Artist Movement, not something I endorse in any way).

The fact that many men are convinced they must compete with other men for the attention of women has me wondering what is more important to them: their relationships with women or how they are perceived by other men. Or perhaps how their masculinity is perceived by other men. Do you think you are less masculine in a yoga or pilates class full of women, for example? If so, isn’t that ironic?

It’s said that Tasmanian devils differ hugely in personality. They aren’t all as much into fighting or motivated by food or sex as each other either. When we consider animals or humans simply as species without taking account of individual diversity or difference, it’s likely we will overlook aspects that might be quite important. Some devils make a lot of noise to bluff and intimidate their peers and some will sustain more damage than others. Like people, their personalities depend on whether they have been frightened or hurt in the past and how they have been raised. But, unlike people, devils don’t reflect on their experiences and rationally choose to become more manipulative towards their mates.

I’ve no doubt those from the PUA movement may dismiss my article as ‘Beta Game’. But whatever line the so called dating-coaches and ‘seduction artists’ are pushing, no man should have to compromise his integrity and exercise power over another human being just because he feels frustrated. It’s quite human to want to experience intimacy, companionship and a sense of well-being. Start by sharing what you want for your life and talking over your fears with a person you can trust. Learn to relax in unfamiliar environments. Practise being true to yourself and your own ideals rather than trying to live up to the man someone else says you should be. That’s a much better strategy for the long term.

© Ash Rehn, 2015.

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