Saturday, January 05, 2002

Zenpriest #5 - Addicted to Attention

At some point, previously purposeful behavior which gained a reward simply becomes habit. Take for example the phenomenon of obesity. Eating is purposeful behavior. Because we have to do it in order to survive, there are both physical and psychological rewards. Even in the case where there is no real physical need, the purely sensual and psychological rewards are still there, thus people continue to engage in that behavior even there is no physical need.

It appears to me that there is assumption embedded in your question that once "empty attention got old" that women would cease seeking it. But the realities and mechanics of human behavior in a host of other examples don't work that way. People continue to engage in all sorts of behaviors long after the reward which initially resulted from that behavior ceases to exist.

Probably the simplest example of this is addiction. At first, drugs like heroin and cocaine produce an intense rush of euphoria. But very quickly the body begins to habituate and requires increasing dosages to produce decreasing effects. Over time, the baseline physical/emotional condition changes so that instead of beginning from a state of "normal" and being moved to a state of euphoria, the lack of the drug produces withdrawal symptoms which are uncomfortable and fit perfectly within the operational definition of "pain". Thus, the drug becomes necessary to avoid that "pain."

I really should draw a diagram to illustrate this (I think much more visually than verbally) but let me try to describe it in graphical terms. Imagine an ordinary XY graph with the Y axis representing emotional state. And, let's simply define zero on the Y axis as the normal emotional state of most human beings most of the time - neither euphoric nor painful. (this point will become very significant in a moment).

Starting at zero, a person takes a euphoriant and is moved to a +5. When the drug wears off, the state returns to 0. They do it again, and the process of habituation starts. There is no way to objectively quantify or measure emotional states, so every person judges their own emotional status by comparison to their other emotional experiences. They don't measure their emotional state against an objective yardstick, but compare it to how they felt before. At the pre-conscious level, the mind is saying "Wow, a little while ago I felt GREAT, but I don't feel nearly so good now." Thus, even though an outside observer would say that they are back at zero, their subjective experience puts them at -.1. Each iteration of that cycle moves their perception of their state further below their previous baseline: -.2, -.3, -.4, and so on.

Eventually they reach the condition where the non-drug state instead of being zero on the scale has reached -5. A jolt of the drug still produces the same movement of +5 on the emotional scale, but due to their progressively depressing baseline the subjective result is that they now take the drug to reach the state of zero.

So, it might be more accurate to replace the term "attention whores" that is used here with "attention addicts." Women literally are attention addicts, because without it they cannot feel normal and feel a state of emotional deficit. Thus, like any addict as soon as they get their last fix they go start looking for their next one.

The differences between men and women are due to their different baselines. From the male baseline, the state that women live in looks like a +5, so we can't understand what the hell they are bitching about. From the female baseline, the state that males live in feels like a -5 and is painful as hell to them.

The creation of this difference in baselines begins at birth. There are numerous studies out there which show that baby girls get picked up and comforted when they are crying much more quickly than boy babies. The toughening of males begins the moment they leave the womb.

If you can for a moment imagine and crawl into the consciousness of a neonate, they are learning about the world and that learning shapes their developing nervous systems. It literally occurs at the level of developing neural connections and powerfully shapes the neural structures which develop.

The moment babies start to cry they are developing internal benchmarks for "crying work I have to do in order to get my needs met." Picking arbitrary numbers simply to illustrate the principle, let's say that the girl infant gets picked up and comforted after one minute of crying work while the boy infant has to cry for a full five minutes in order to get his needs attended to.

Thus, if a baby of each sex starts to cry at the same time, after one minute the girl will get her reward while the boy still has 4 more minutes of crying work to do until he gets his needs met.

You are sharp enough that I probably don't need to use a cluebat to point out the obvious parallels between this scenario and what happens in the adult workplace.

Now, let's look very closely at the infants at the one minute mark. The girl baby is thinking "HEY! I've done my my work, WHERE'S MY REWARD?!?!?" while the boy baby knows he is just getting warmed up and has 4 more minutes of crying work to do before he gets HIS needs met. At the 2 minute mark, the infantile female is starting to get seriously pissed, while the little boy is just hitting his stride. She has already had to do twice as much crying work to get her reward as she is used to having to do, while he has only done 40%. By the 3 minute mark, the infantile female is approaching a state of rage - "HEY! THERE'S A GODDAMNED 'GLASS CRYING CEILING' IN HERE SOMEWHERE!", while the boy baby now has his eyes on the prize and knows he is in the home stretch. At 4 minutes, the infantile female is beginning to lose hope - "$#$%, I'm never going to get what I want!" - and actually begins to give up and develop a sense of helplessness. Many of them simply quit before they reach the male benchmark, and thus never end up with the reward that a male who is used to that benchmark achieves.

Again, do I even need to point out the parallels between this and "wimmins's STILL only make 75 cents for every $1 a man makes"?

Males are conditioned from birth on wards to expect fewer rewards, and to expect to have to work harder for the ones they do get, than females. The lives of most males are so far outside of the female experience that most females cannot even imagine it.

Now, the reason's for biomech's observation that younger and older women get it, while women in between do not, is that neural development continues up until about age 21. There are reasons why this particular age shows up throughout history as the point at which people have been allowed to take on adult responsibilities and privileges.

Prior to that, neural structures - which literally determine the way we think - are still flexible and new information can lead to new perspectives. Once these are fixed, however, it takes years of failure of one's developed paradigm in order to force the person to acknowledge its failure.

When this whole eek-wallet-ee nonsense started, a lot of guys signed on because it sounded great to them that they would be able to share in the easier rewards that women were accustomed to. But, we were young and $#%@ and naive and totally underestimated the impact of both biology and thousands of years of social tradition. Life is inherently a challenge because it is through surviving and overcoming challenges that living things remain strong, resilient, and viable. Culture is simply not prepared to make the reward system for males any easier.

It was also a mistake for boomer males to assume that women would ever be held to the same standards as males. We just assumed that it was obvious to everyone how much work was required to gain the rewards we got, and expected women to work as hard as we did if they wanted those same level of rewards.

Culture is at a fork in the road. Having completely destroyed the old merit/earning/reward connection for males, it either has to face the fact that males are going to quit doing the $#$% work which keeps the culture going - like initiating relationships - or force women to take on their share of that $#$%-work.

Individual males who are not in positions of power can do nothing to affect what happens at the policy level, but we can go on strike against the $#$%-work and force women to do it if they want it done, because we now refuse to do it without any reward for doing it.


"Only 14 percent of female middle managers aspire to be CEO; the figure is 45 percent for middle managers who are male." -- Newsletter of the Women's Freedom Network, Spring 1997

Related: Pook #45 - Attention Whores


Previous Zenpriest Index Next