Dr. Spielvogel, the first time and only time I’ve lived with a woman was in Orlando, Florida, in 1993.
About a month or two in (we only lasted four months), she said to me, “You love luxury a lot more than I thought.”
She had this great chair and I always chose to sit in it.
I love luxury. The reason I don’t have much material luxury in my life is that I prefer the luxury of my spare time and my freedom to write what I want. I look around and see that all my friends have bosses and many of them are afraid to write what they truly think because they can’t afford to rock the boat. I can write what I want. That to me is primo luxury.
If you give me the choice between freedom austerity on the one hand versus material luxury and servitude on the other, I’ll choose freedom.
I love nice chairs and sweet beds and fast cars and massages and dinners out, but I love my freedom more.
How often do I treat myself to material luxury? Whenever it is given to me. I rarely purchase it for myself. Instead, I treat myself with an abundantly free schedule and an independent life.
If I had more money, I wouldn’t buy a couch or a bed. I’m happy sleeping on the floor. There are a lot of other things I’d purchase first.
I have two immediate possibilities for a better life. They could be huge.
I have these delusions of grandeur. I could be a great man if things just fell my way. I live in a hovel without a bed but I walk around with delusions of grandeur. I could be so great if…
“How does that serve you?”
I remember as a kid I would sit in a chair and tell myself stories for hours on end. Great adventures. I was always the protagonist.
How does it serve me? It inspires me. They feel good. They make me think I am better than other people.
About three therapists ago, she said to me, “I’d hate to see you waste your life in delusions of grandeur.”
Dr. “That’s what they tend to be — fantasies. It’s avoidant behavior typically. We put off doing what we need to do to create the reality we want. Instead, we just dream. It takes you out of reality and the steps you need to take to achieve what you think you want.
“It’s the guy who sits on a barstool and regales you with all the great things he’s doing to do with his life.
“Delusions of grandeur can make us think we’re above certain things. I’m not going to take that staff job and work my way up the ladder. I’m above that.
“Delusions of grandeur can convince us that we don’t need to do the work.”
I’ve always worked hard, but not always worked smart.
I remember working 60 hours a week in construction for just $4 an hour and seeing these peers of mine make $20 an hour doing work less difficult than what I was doing.
So what was the difference? They were at ease with themselves and with other people, so life seemed to be smoother for them. They related to other people naturally.
I didn’t learn that ease with myself and with others in my childhood. I was outside the popular crowd. I was a nasty piece of work. Big mouth. Ill at ease with myself and with others. At war with the world.
I was struck by how the popular kids so often had so much love and joy and happiness in their homes. They weren’t cold places dedicated to austere causes.
I never learned to connect naturally with others (aside from the 5% of humanity who get me and it is effortless for me to relate to them).
When I look back on my dating, I realize that women from broken homes have a much more fractured approach to relationships than those from stable homes. When people grow up with a graceful approach to themselves and to others, they’re more smooth and their journey through life is easier because they’re more likely to enjoy other people.
I grew up believing that the outside world was something to be debunked.
I was miserable like those around me and I grew up believing that I too would need to find a world-changing project to lose myself in.
I always think I’ve turned the corner on my misery but then I keep screwing up in seemingly new ways. I’m often expected to be great but I inevitably bollix things up because of the awkward way I have around people.
Five percent of people get me. Like Joey Kurtzman. He came over yesterday to do Torah Talk and I just went off about suicidal gay teens and how Joey used to be one at Beverly Hills High and Joey just rolled with it. Most people would take offense but Joey never takes offense at things I say.
With 95% of humanity, I have to regulate myself. I can’t be my playful sarcastic self. So I don’t expend much effort relating to the great unwashed.
Doc: “I’m wondering if there aren’t other parts of you that can flourish in an authentic way when dealing with the masses? And you can keep your playful side for the tiny percentage who are like-minded.”
I get tired of explaining myself. If I have to explain when I am being sarcastic, it’s just not worth interacting with that person more than pro forma.
I get the sense that 95% of my readers don’t particularly get what I am doing on my blog.
When I have to choose between my relationship and my integrity, that’s wrenching. Say, having to choose between blogging and my marriage. That would be a killer.
Dr. “What would be the benefits of no longer being somebody who blogs?”
I could have more normal relationships with other people. I could free up my mind and my life and my time to pursue other projects.
After about a year or so of not blogging on the porn industry any more, people stopped relating to me as “the porn guy.”
After finishing my Orthodox conversion, I changed from the angry outsider to the satisfied insider. The tone on my blog changed dramatically. I was now in the club and I would say to people struggling with their conversions, “Orthodoxy has high standards. Maybe it is not for you?”
Now that I am in, I have greater peace with those high standards. Now that they include me.
Dr. “You derive a lot of pleasure out of that.”
Yes. There’s something smug and insufferable about me when I have any success.
Narcissism is really hard to cure, doc.
Dr. “Perhaps a little grandiose?”
Whenever I overcome an obstacle, I say to others, yeah, it takes a lot of effort. You have to step up to be like me.
Dr. “What are you feeling right now?”
I’m just laughing. My smugness amuses me. My lack of empathy. My grandiosity.
Dr. “I’m wondering if there is another tactic you could use with others to make your narcissism smaller. What is a way you could communicate with people going through their struggles that would diminish your grandiosity?”
I could remember my own despair in similar situations.
Dr. “I wonder if there is a way to empathize? You seem to have black-and-white thinking. Things are either ha ha ha, I’m great, or you are connecting with that deep dark despair. I wonder if there is a way for you to empathize with others?”
“I’d like for you to engage more with people. Including that other 95%. Think about ways you can authentically show up and be you.”