Online Games

COD online wtfWith a title like that and the premise of this blog you’d think this will be about online dating shenanigans.   Sadly, I seem to be going a bit tangential this spring – I’ll blame the change in seasons for affecting my thinking!

In truth I’ve been playing some online combat games recently and noticed a disturbing trend in games; especially older ones with smaller online communities.  I’m not talking about abuse, in the conventional sense, or in the hacking (use of ‘illegal’ modifications); although both are prevalent in places.

My observation runs around some players need to be on “the winning team”.  This is about there need to maintain their superiority in their “stats”.  These people need to feel a sense of superiority at all times while they are playing.  The need to dominate all other players and will group together against less experienced (or less skilled) players to maintain their sense of self worth.

Let’s be clear, this is not about fun for them.  They will say that it is, but they cannot have fun losing.  Let me put some flesh on that statement.  On one game, which is a form of capture the flag I was on the losing team; the score was effectively 3-2; and I had a great time.  There was a challenge playing against others of a similar ability.  In contrast I have watched these skilled players quite mid-game when they have been on a weak team; which has allowed players like me to take some of the wind out of their sails.  In truth could you imagine how a “sports star” would be treated if they kept walking out of games because they were losing?

These people are the same ones that do in game “dances” to humiliate players that make mistakes.  This seems a perfect earmark of childish bullying.  These people do not play to “link” with other people, but to find a sense of “rank”.  I would presume these people feel demeaned in other areas of their life, where they sense they have a low rank.  There sense of fun comes from an elevation of self-worth through the subjugation of others in the game.

I do not doubt the skill of many of these players, rather that they need to hang around together on a team rather than attempt to challenge each other to demonstrate their skill.  For them the danger would be that one of the others could claim greater ‘rank’ over them and ultimately spoil their ‘fun’.

I’ll come back to the this issue in relationships some time soon.


See: The Undervalued Self


Starry, Starry Night

hearing loop

This headline might be a reference to some time spent with the stars of screen and stage or perhaps a night spent under a cloudless sky. No, I’m afraid I’m more obtuse than that! It is a reference to the closing lines of Don McLean’s song Starry Starry Night; “…there not listening now; perhaps they never will.”

The truth is that most of us are terrible at listening. In fact many people I know have used me as an ear to listen because somewhere along the line I developed an intense listening style. That is not just a case of having two ears and one mouth and using them in that ratio, but also a case of truly listening to what the person says.

There are many layers to good listening; the outermost is being there. It is the hardest first step. Stop thinking about what you have to say; stop problem solving and don’t think about your phone/Facebook/twitter/social media/etc. If you are not mentally and emotionally with the person you are listening to then there is little hope of any kind of emotional bond that can lead to empathy.

The next layer is actively listening. In its most basic you repeat back to the person what they have said. It is not about acting as a recording device, you need to capture the essence of what the person has said. If they are conveying something which has a high emotional content for them they may be less structured and your purpose is to summarise with clarity. Search on the web for “active listening” for exercises on the method.

The next layer is picking up the body language, tone and other non-verbal communication. Chances are you already do part of this, however, it blends with the active listening. What words are emphasised, or generate the greatest physical response? There is often more clues about what is important here than in the words the person is using. If your partner is talking about an emotionally relevant issue I am not talking about subtle personal space, but major actions; or even stillness. Although you could search on the web for body language you should have learnt the basics just growing up.

After their body language people’s choice of words can be very important. With couples the key is usually looking for fear; expressed either as a helplessness or lack of control; or anger, also often a sense of lack of control. This is difficult and often takes more than a single sentence. It is about a direction. This is a cornerstone to the next layer of listening and truly being able to offer help for the other person.

The final layer of listening is also the second level of active listening and is rooted in the Socratic method. This is the point where you help the person help themselves. You end your active listening response with a question that leads the person to an answer that they need to find. You do not tell the person what to do, rather you help them identify the problem and look for their own solutions.

An effective counsellor will be using all these layers and if we want to communicate clearly with a partner, or indeed any other person, when we have a difference or grievance then we need to work at listening. These skills can make our personal and professional relationships run more smoothly.

Be brave a try these skills when a friend is offloading a problem and see if they don’t end up thanking you for being a great listener.

When a Hug is Worth a Thousand Words

The internet is a visual medium, so it is a deliberate choice not to include a picture with this post.  Maybe it is a self-defeating choice, but maybe it will getting engaging the neo-cortex.

There is a wealth of web pages extolling the virtue of the oxytocin release that comes from a hug that lasts AT LEAST 20 seconds.  It’s related to that immediate sense of relief a child feels when it is frightened or hurt and as an adult/carer we rush to give them a hug.  Funnily we think we are calming the hurt child, when in fact we are getting feedback, too, that settles our fears over their hurt.

No matter what your language of love everyone gains from a good (long) hug; unless they are emotionally scarred.  If you are cutting of intimacy for any reason you are damaging, or least depriving, yourself and your partner a fundamental sense of well being.  If your partner’s primary love language is “physical touch” you are certainly devastating the emotional well-being.

A hug serves as the perfect primer before any further communication in any love language.  And guess what!  It can be totally selfish, too.  You get the oxytocin boost and a sense of calmness even though you are giving the hug.  How can you lose?  Remember we are a social animal and that sense of belonging is crucial to our mental well-being.

Go hug someone you love; and that includes friends and family.

Getting a Chemical Hug

bed of roses cynthia omorodionLife is not always a bed of roses; or maybe it is because there are always a prick or two in your life. Weak puns aside that’s not what this post is about.

I am not short on rant about the 5 languages of love. I fit very much in the physical touch category. That means I am great believer in the value of hugs. There is much to advocate hugs (this is a random web page about it) and I will be make a similar post about it myself at some juncture. If hugging is so good for us what can we do if we are lonely or those around us just don’t put any value on the whole hugging thing? Well, I suppose the clue is on the title; I’ve never found subtly to be a great strength on the interweb.

Before you read on take note that this is not medical advice but based on hearsay and empirical evidence and in no way constitutes an endorsement or otherwise. In short – on your head be it.

Whilst not being able to replace the chemical rebalance that you get from a good 20+ second hug St John’s Wort can ease the depressive chemicals/hormones that build up from lack of hugs. It is not a replacement for a real hug, it just makes the lack of hugs more bearable. It might just give an edge on the mood to allow a constructive discussion rather than a wrought argument.

I’m not a great fan of any form of drug induced alteration of reality, but in this case it is a slow steady burn that can take the edge of a situation. Mostly it will help you sleep, which is a great thing for making you feel “better”; although that comes with the warning that when you start taking it you are going to realise how tired you are. You’ll have to fight bad sleeping habits and that may be no bad thing, if you know its coming.

This isn’t a call to rush out and buy the stuff, more a call to stop and think. If you feel a little blue about there being no hugs in your bed of roses, then maybe a gentle chemical hug is what you need.

Pump up the Volume

man-on-loudspeakerA series of discussions with friends has lead to a minor epiphany. The conclusion was simple; those that have had a major emotional trauma in their childhood were more intense in their demand for affection as adults. This may seem like psychology 101, but this is not conjecture, but based on our empirical evidence.

When we looked at traumatic events it wasn’t just the obvious ones, such as divorce, although they were included. They included things like being sent to boarding school, when the parents really didn’t know what to do with them, although plenty survive with little scarring. Other things were emigrating, parents working overseas, parents in high powered jobs and a few others where the child may have gleaned a feeling that they were second to whatever events were taking place. Often these things can be found when developing your genogram.

The effect of this trauma is that men (and probably women in similar circumstances) feel a greater need for input from the “right point” in their Love Triangle. They feel the need for their language of love to be shouted, not whispered. Within some social norms this may not be possible, and even frowned upon; especially if it involves sex, one of the great post-feminist taboos.

This need for increased emotional volume impacts their adult relationships. What if the other half won’t “shout”? Oh, they often can in the heady early days of a relationship, but can they keep it up? Largely that will depend on whether or not they speak the receiver’s love language fluently, or at least competently. Troubles arise when the shouting is reduced to silence, even if it is only for periods during the relationship.

One consequence of this need for increased emotional volume is the development of coping mechanisms for the periods of “silence”. Pornography, drugs (especially alcohol), affairs and sometimes apparently positive ones; including those that involve driven success in business or sport; become the common outlets or crutches. The difficulty is that these have generally become “bad things” in society; think of the 7 deadly sins. I am not advocating them as “good things”, but they can be managed if counseling is sought out, which can be especially powerful if done within a supportive relationship and not one of accusation and recrimination.

A word of caution in defining the “bad things”. Women can read this as making the culturally biased assumption of the bad aspects of pornography, violent competition, infidelity, drugs, gambling, etc. being the preserve of the male. Although they may concede that some women fall foul of these things they miss the point that women often have “socially acceptable” vices they can exercise without fear of being ostracized. What am I talking about? Think along the lines of compulsive consumerism; when retail therapy is a permanent state of mind. Wanton consumption of food; why is the diet industry so big for women? The “glass of wine” mummies. These little “vices” are no different to the others, but we think of them as “less dirty” and “not harming anyone else”. Funnily, those are often the phrases used by addicts of the more recognisable variety.

On the flip side we can get the reverse of more volume, the withdrawal into emotional silence. The strong silent type, the totally work driven spouse, passive aggressive, the emotionally unavailable, the commitment issues, etc. These are just a reflection of the need for more volume. They look to avoid the pain by avoiding the emotion. I’ll return to some of this in a later posts about the Opposite of Love and The Seven Deadly (un)Sins.

Oddly, in the early days these two can be strongly attracted to each other. One brings quiet to the clamour of the other and one brings purpose to the noise. However, when there is a major emotional upset; for example a death in the family or the loss of a job; people revert to their norm. One goes quiet just as the other needs the volume turning up. Even trying to resolve this pushes the people further into their default behaviour.

Simple methods, such as “you can only speak when you’re holding the object” or the use of pre-structured sentences; “I feel this, when you do that, because I think it means…” These methods are great at getting the dialogue started.

In short, not only have you got to find the language of love the other person speaks you also need to find what volume they want to hear it. Loving someone is about accepting their difference on the outside and knowing they still feel the same on the inside.