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30.07.2015

Switch off empathy

Look at the breast! Look at the breast! No, I don’t give a fuck if you think it’s funny! Do you think I’m joking, you fucking idiot?

My Muay Thai trainer never fails to remind everybody to never look into your opponent’s eyes. His reason is simple: You don’t want to know who your enemy is, how his day went, whether he’s happy, what his name is. You want to hurt him.

When I started training, I didn’t understand it. Back then, I was angry at the world and everybody seemed to be my enemy, especially other men. I wanted to beat people, I wanted to be hurt and I went there full of anger.

A part of the reason for training martial arts was to be among masculine men and learn to be like them. I wanted to be part of the group and was convinced that the only way was to be the best – in my current physical condition, that’s as far from the truth as can be. Always angry, I loved my first sparring and craved more. I had enemies and I was fighting them. I did want to look in their eyes and frighten them.

Think like shit, be shit

As time passed, though, I rediscovered a truth. I noticed that most of the good-looking fit guys and good fighters were actually very warm-hearted outside the gym. Something I wasn’t and still mostly am not, but that realization was enough to start a process in me.

Most of the arrogant, cold and mean people I know, including me, don’t achieve much with that attitude. They look like shit – unfit, unhealthy, unstyled or plain fat. Just look at Paul Elam or Sage Gerard. It has a rebel-kind of appeal, but where is it really going?

I started to become more kind myself and I started to actually like the men in the gym, after having almost forgotten how that feels in the past one and a half years.

That energy also came back and I started to rediscover my basic social skills, but inside the gym, something else went lost, as I noticed during a recent training session: The ferocity of my irrational anger.

Sometimes you need to be a beast

However unhelpful my anger was in almost any other part of my life, it was a god-given gift during a fight. People hit my nose or my ribcage and I almost felt like fainting. Yet when they asked whether I was okay, I just wondered what was wrong with them and told them to go on. That’s what I was there for – pain and inflicting pain.

As I become more kind and liking of the people, I noticed that my brain was in a state of joy and playfulness – it was focusing on how to have a great time instead of how to hurt. And this was immensely counter-productive during sparring. It’s not that my brain is unable to think in terms of how to eliminate a threat – it simply wasn’t in that mode.

In this state, I was taking beatings.

Then I decided to change the way I look at my sparring partners. I looked at them like I look at filth, as if they were worthless pieces of shit. I looked at them as weaklings who must be eradicated for the sake of whatever purpose that is holy to me.

This reframing completely changed my energy. I no longer cared for the other person’s feelings. I didn’t care if it was a beautiful girl I was fighting, a fit guy or some schlob. I cared about creating damage. I no longer cared about getting hurt or the other person being stronger, as this was now a fight or flight situation. I felt arrogant and confident, even when I got hit a lot.

Every emotion has it’s place

Most of my life, I have searched for a way to be consistent. To be congruent with myself. I failed to realize that there are, for the human body, different states suited for different situations. One may be suited for game, the other may be suited for work, the other for fighting.

Switching off empathy, for the period of fighting, greatly helped me. It comes relatively easy to me and maybe that’s a trait that not everybody shares. Yet even though I can switch it off, I can’t go long without it without somewhat feeling empty and dead inside, as had been the case for a long while. I’m not a psychopath. Not that I care if you think I am, I would actually be somewhat proud to be one. I just am not – I am too sensitive for that.

There was something inside my head telling me that I should always be the same – to everybody. Because I wanted a general formula, perhaps, to treat everybody the same. A kind of smug egalitarian sentiment, in a way.

Everybody needs a tribe. And if you have a tribe, you are kind to those you love. Of course depending on the situation. But you are ferocious with your enemies. You are harsh towards your trainees. Rites of passage can be brutal.

Don’t be everybody’s pushover

Empathy is a good thing, but not always. It’s a tool. It’s great for small talk, making friends et cetera. But it is not something that is always appropriate, as some leftists would surely want you to believe. As violence is not always appropriate – but sometimes very much so.

It is not useful for ardent debates. It’s not suited for fighting. It’s not suited for making business decisions.

It is not suited for politics.

Not everybody is your mama.

Mark Munoz knows how to switch from beast to kind man and the other way around. This makes him complete in more than one way.

Do not choose between kind or aggressive person. Be the kind of person that each situation demands. Anger and aggression can be joyful, but so can be compassion and kindness.

It will take time and training to learn to change my state at will, but it’s a goal worth achieving.

Disclaimer: Being in the right state doesn’t mean to let emotions take over and lose control.

Out.

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  • Mr. Bond

    Great article! Reminds me of Nietzsche somehow and also of the Pressure Project podcast, I bet you’ve heard a few episodes.

    • Thanks, also for the recommendation. Not yet heard of it.

  • Mikey Mike

    hehe..

    Reminds me of these pub-psycho-wannabees (the true narcs, unlike you).. They wanna harass because what they see, is a nice guy, or as they think a “pussy with no friends around”… Then one gets pissed off, and off goes the empathy Not scared, as they thought and expected, just hatred.. Due to fucked up laws, one must wait till they hit first, but after that. And the look of the face of the “opponent”. It is actually entertaining to remember…

    .. Age mellows.. even left-over hatred from traumas (or maybe it is just the court and the blank hell hole of cells that does it) ..

    MArt is a good way to teach oneself to use what one may call the empathy switch. Weightlifting can also be. Max lifts.

    Society demands consistency. A consistent person, is to me either more towards a really dumb person, who needs predetermined truths, or more of a machine, non emotional robot. They say that is supposed to be a good trait… Yeah.. Kind of explains the western worlds steady rate of production, and also it’s level of depression

  • BlueEyedDevil

    This article really speaks to me. I have an angry/aggressive side, and also a kind/empathetic side. I’ll admit to sometimes overdoing the latter, but overall I *think* I exercise the appropriate mode at the appropriate time.
    It is a worthy goal for you to work on changing your state at will. I agree that both states can bring joy. They are definitely not mutually exclusive. Good luck in your evolution into becoming a better man.

    • These days, I think the best way to go about it is to let your body intuitively learn when to go in which mode. Here is why: How can you know which mode is the right one until your organism actually finds it?

      Thanks, same to you.