Take Your Life Back, Own It

Uploaded 12/26/2021, approx. 15 minute read

Good morning or evening, Shoshanim.

This is a how-to video. If you follow the instructions to the letter, you will win the lottery twice this year. You will get the hottest girls or guys depending on your sexual orientation and the job of your dreams.

I am beginning to sound like a bad combination of Tony Robbins and Jordan Peterson. If I am not seriously careful, I may end up being exceedingly popular and will have no one left to hide.

Okay, nonsense aside, today we are going to discuss how to take back your life, how to own your life, how to feel comfortable in your life, and how to become identified with your life. In other words, how to develop a core identity.

This is a very down-to-earth video. There are very little academics, high-falutin language, which I adore, and I will try to keep it as simple as possible.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Melignan Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, and I am by far the most handsome professor of psychology on Earth.

Well, at least I am a professor of psychology. Forget the handsome part.

Okay, let's get to business.

First I would like to discuss relationships.

Relationships are something quite important in life. They define you in many ways.

Some psychologists suggest that there is no such thing as the individual, that it is all relational, the intersection between you and other people.

There are three types of relationships, and the first thing you should do is review your relationships.

Now, everyone has relationships. Even if you are not in an intimate relationship, even if you are not married, or you are not going steady, so to speak, you have numerous relationships with family, with friends, with neighbors, with colleagues, with bosses, with your authorities, etc., and you should analyze these relationships. You should distinguish between micro-relationships, real-relationships, and pseudo-relationships.

I will use the romantic example, the example of intimate relationships, but it applies to all the other realms and spheres of life.

In the intimate sphere, micro-relationships are casual or stranger sex, and they include what we call today dating, modern dates. Modern dates are actually glorified hookups in today's world, in today's sad world. Micro-relationships rarely lead anywhere, and they usually end in bed sex. Some of them develop into meaningful relationships or longer-term relationships, but it's a tiny minority.

You would do well to allocate your scarce resources in a way which will maximize your goals. If your goal is physical gratification and nothing else besides, then micro-relationships are for you.

But if you're looking for a bit more, and about 80% according to studies are looking for a bit more, starting at age 18, so if you're looking for a bit more, avoid micro-relationships. They're not helpful.

Don't believe the propaganda. They're not helpful. They distract you, they divert you from the important task of developing intimacy and relationship skills. A task whose accomplishment will serve you later.

You should focus, therefore, on real relationships.

Now, there are three tests to real relationships.

Number one, vulnerability, the willingness to be vulnerable, the willingness to accept inevitable hurt and pain, because most relationships regrettably cause hurt and pain. Hurt and pain is an integral part of interacting with other people.

Be it in intimate relationships, be it in other settings, so the ability and willingness to embrace, accept, learn from, and build upon pain and hurt. In other words, the willingness to be vulnerable and open.

They're critical in real relationships.

The second test of a real relationship, having dreams, having goals, planning, not living in fantasy. If you and your partner have common aspirations, common dreams, common goals, and you're planning and you're implementing practical steps on the way to attaining or obtaining these goals, then you're likely in an intimate real relationship.

And the final test of a real relationship, a realistic perception of the other. Not idealization, not devaluation, not love bombing, not grooming, but a realistic perception of your partner, limitations, strengths, sort, SWOT, strengths, weaknesses, what is he capable of, what you can rely on him for, to what extent you can trust him, and in which fields. If you have this realistic perception of your partner, you're probably in a real relationship.

Now, the opposite of a real relationship is a pseudo-relationship, also known as a shared fantasy. It doesn't have any of these things.

The parties usually signal invulnerability. They don't have common dreams or goals, and if they do, they're totally fantastic, and they don't translate into any type of planning or program.

And there's an unrealistic perception of the partner, but there is idealized or devalued. So that's the first thing. Make sure to minimize micro-relationships and pseudo-relationships, shared fantasies, in your life.

Focus on real relationship. Even if it means a period of celibacy, a period of being alone, it's well worth the waiting.

Micro-relationships lead nowhere. They lead nowhere except, according to studies, to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and occasionally heartbreak and traumatic injury. 27% of micro-relationships, for example, datesend in sexual assault.

Is this what you're looking for?

Pseudo-relationships, and even much more disastrously, in total heartbreak, and in loss of autonomy and agency and self-efficacy.

Shared fantasies is the worst thing that can happen to you. Be vigilant. Make sure you are in a real relationship.

But relationships are one way of looking at your life, one aspect of your life.

There's also you. You should be separate from your relationships. You should never merge with your partner. You should never fuse with your partner. You should never become one with your partner. You should always keep and maintain a boundary or boundaries. You should always keep your separateness. Being separate, being boundary, having autonomy and agency and self-efficacy, maintaining a separate life with separate interests, separate set of friends, separate pursuits, separate plans. This is critical to a happy couple.

Happy couples are not about merging or fusing into a single organism with two heads. Happy couples are about bringing the idiosyncrasies, bringing the differences, bringing the separateness into the common area so that you can enjoy diversity and the differences between you.

So maintaining individuality, maintaining yourself as separate entities, not dependent upon your partner, not outsourcing your the regulation of your moods and your emotions and your ego functions, but keeping this territory, this inner territory as a sacred ground where processes are taking place which are not subjected to public scrutiny or to the intrusion, invasion and involvement of your partner. This is very critical.

But you can't do this if you continue to perceive yourself as a victim. This is the age of victimhood. Everyone is someone's victim. No one takes personal responsibility. No one agrees to be held accountable. Bad things mysteriously just happen.

The passive voice is all the rage.

Well here are some breaking news for you. You are nothing but the sum of your informed choices and decisions. Your informed choices and decisions define you. They define you for good and they define you for life. There is no going back in time. There is never a second chance. Don't believe the online nonsense. Your present shapes your future inexorably.

Do the right thing because you're going to get only one chance. You bear full responsibility for the foreseeable outcomes of your informed choices and decisions, whatever they may be.

If you end up in a bad spot, if you end up being somehow abused and mistreated and this was the expected outcome of your choices and behaviors, then ask yourself what had been my contribution to this and how should I make sure that this never happens again.

Past behavior is the only infallible prognosticator of future conduct. Past behavior is the best predictor of what you're going to do in the future. You will relapse into old behavior patterns and old habits.

It is only a question of time and the right circumstances before you do.

So don't trust people to change. They will not and you will not.

Be realistic. Eyes wide open, not wide shut. Eyes wide open. Be clear-eyed about who you are, what are your needs, what are your priorities and preferences, what are your limitations, what are your weaknesses and red hot buttons and soft spots and vulnerabilities and chinks in the armor.

Know yourself. Know yourself well unflinchingly. Do not beautify yourself. Do not idealize yourself and then apply the same to your partner. Apply the same to people around you because you're not going to change. They're not going to change.

There may be long periods. There may be periods even long where you're not going to act the same way you had acted when you were an adolescent, but core features of your identity, core behaviors, core moods, effects, cognition, they're going to recur. They're going to happen time and again.

Look at your past and you will clearly see your future. Can you not change?

In some ways, yes. You can modify your behavior to some extent. You can develop boundaries fundamentally. No, never.

And don't believe any of the hype and the self-help books because all they're trying to do is take your money. The world couldn't care less about you. You're on your own. You're on your own. You're in charge. You're alone forever.

So get a grip. Wake up. Think before you act. Strangers are not kind. Ask Blanche Du Bois. Strangers are not kind. Strangers are predators. Do not become their prey.

Are all strangers predators? Better assume so and be surprised for the better.

But normally, if you make yourself vulnerable in a bad way, if you make yourself prey, there will be a predator around to take advantage of this.

So here are some resolutions for the new year.

Now, new year resolutions are notoriously brittle and fragile and ephemeral, but you cannot afford this cavalier attitude.

Your mental, your physical health depend on strictly observing the following promises. Print them out. Tape them on your fridge. Print a magnet, a t-shirt. I don't know what, but follow these seven rules.

Number one, I will treat myself with dignity and I will demand respect from other people. I will not allow anyone to disrespect me.

Rule number two, I will set clear boundaries and make known to others what I regard as permissible and acceptable behavior and what is out of bounds.

Number three, I will not tolerate abuse and aggression in any form or guise. I will seek to terminate such misconduct instantly and unequivocally.

Number four, I will be assertive and I will be unambiguous about my needs, my wishes and my expectations from others. I will not be arrogant, but I will be confident and firm. I will not be selfish and narcissistic, but I will love myself and I will take care of myself and I will not compromise myself.

Number five, I will get to know myself a lot better and all the time.

Number six, I will treat other people as I want them to treat me. I will try to lead by way of safe self-example, but I will not be naive and I will be vigilant and I will maintain my well-being.

Number seven, if I'm habitually disrespected, abused, or if my boundaries are ignored and breached, I will terminate the relationship with the abuser forthwith. Zero tolerance and no second chance would be my maximums of self-preservation.

Follow these seven rules and you will serve yourself a lot of grief and a lot of misfortune.

I'm not a young man anymore. It may have escaped your notice, but I'm not a young man anymore and so I have something to tell you about life.

Now, this is my personal point of view. There may be others who will disagree with me, but I think it's worth listening to.

Happiness comes naturally from the inside. Never seek happiness outside. The only thing you can get outside is gratification.

Do not confuse gratification with happiness. They have nothing to do with each other.

You could be the most gratified person on earth and not happy and you can be the happiest person on earth living in a barrel, Diogenes.

Happiness is a slow, steady, and safe unfolding, a becoming, not the ephemeral pyrotechnics of fireworks. It doesn't just happen. It never depends on anything external. It cannot be bought. It cannot be sold.

Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of affairs, so there's nothing you can do to your external environment that would affect your happiness.

Happiness is self-love and self-acceptance without grandiosity and narcissism, without selfishness. Happiness flowers in the least expected moments, brings to life the more abundant and refreshes the stale.

Happiness is being in nothingness at once. Nothing is more sad and lonely than having casual sex in order to feel less sad and lonely. Nothing is more sad and lonely than gratifying yourself in a variety of opposite ways.

So don't. Nothing is more deceitful than brutal honesty. It pretends to offer empathy and succor, but it is mere camouflaged sadism and nothing is more vinglorious than false modesty and pseudo-humility.

Nothing is more hateful than the inlactable expiry of love. Nothing is more wrong than being right all the time. Nothing is faster than life. Nothing is slower than dying. Nothing is more attractive than the self-sufficient. Nothing more repellent than the clinging and the needing. Nothing is more corrupt than conformity and nothing more noble than being oneself. Nothing is more dignified than honoring other people and nothing is more hopeful than what we already have. Nothing is more blind than merely observing and nothing is more deaf than merely hearing but not listening. Nothing is more present than the past. Nothing less certain than the future.

No gift is greater than a smile and no harm is more deleterious than rejection. No risk is grander and no reward more substantial than to live life to its fullest.

Only the craven and the foolish extol death or suffering or asceticism has some form of bravery or wisdom or growth or development. It is not.

Life is about shunning and suppressing and fighting and eliminating and eradicating suffering. Reality is in our mind alone and what is out there is solely what we make of it.

I want to read to you before I continue with my unsolicited advice. I want to read to you a poem. It's a poem written by the inimitable Derek Walcott. It's titled, Love After Love. Listen to it. It's heart-rending and it's beautiful and it's sublime.

The time will come when with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door in your own mirror and each will smile at the others will come and say sit here, eat. You will love again the stranger who was yourself.

Give wine, give bread, give back your heart to itself to the stranger who has loved you all your life whom you ignored for another who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes. Peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit, feast on your life. Magnificent, absolutely magnificent.

So go forth to this new year and make this new year love you. Make all your gifts come true. The way out is your only entrance. The way through is your only exit.

Why did life teach me? I'm 60 years old although I don't look a day older than 16. I'm 60 years old.

I have led the combined lives of 10 people at least and I've learned a lot. I've learned that life doesn't always accommodate our plans and wishes but it always turns out to be far better than our fears.

If you just let life happen, if you let the path choose you, life takes care of you and the path becomes clear.

We have only limited information. Life has a lot more information than we do always.

Events that look like disasters are usually agents of positive change in your life.

Trust life. Trust life.

Do not fight life. Plan flexibly, execute wisely, retreat smartly, advance proclay and invariably celebrate all these steps on the path that is you.

This path, this journey that is your being and your becoming.

Assume the worst. Don't be naive. Don't be polyanish.

Do assume the worst.

But keep hoping for the best. Keep settling for the real.

Even when you're stuck, you're carried forward at blinding speed in this vast space.

Love the innumerable gifts that you have been given and you had been given.

Learn to identify them. Learn to accept them as gifts and not as entitlements. They are endowments.

Leverage them.

Clichés are golden truths forged by experience. Setbacks are opportunities.

Raw gold never glitters. The grass is ease-green and every cloud has silver in it.

Tunnels always end in light. I can tell you from personal experience.

Be positive. Be positive but not gullible. Be assured but not grandiose. Be happy but never euphoric.

Some emotions of bad advisors. Others are indispensable counselors. Know which is which.

And yes, change what you can but only what you can.

Do not aim for the stars. Let the stars aim for you. You are, after all, nothing but stardust and dreams.

Remember, the dream ends one day.

The only things we take with us are sepia memories and they're the only thing we live behind as well.

Work on having a life worth remembering. Worth remembering by both yourself and by others because you are nothing but a memory when you're gone and a dream when you're alive and a unity. A unity with that which is bigger than you.

I wish you a happier New Year and a new life. A new life owned by you. A new life taken back. A new life repossessed with a sense of identity and accomplishment and comfort. Comfort in your own skin. Comfort in your own life. Comfort in your own relationships.

Be wise. Be astute. Be clever. But be open. Be open. Be adventurous. Be well. Be happy.

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