I've also been having an interesting conversation with Jimmy, who has some very cool (although sometimes hard to follow) insights into Ericksonian Hypnosis. He also links to some very good articles on lesswrong, which I never would have been able to dig up myself. I've also been re-reading Erickson's collected works, and I've edited the second Erickson article to include some clarifications and insights. If you can't tell, I've had a lot on my mind lately.
Today I want to talk about something that I kind of hate, but is also kind of cool. If you've never heard of the "pick up arts", you might want to google it quickly to understand just wtf I'm talking about. Before I even start on what I thought was cool, I think I should preface it with everything that is garbage about the whole industry and the concept in general.
The Lame StuffWhen I first learned about 'game', all I heard about was all the techniques, how to dress, how to make them jealous and how to tell stories about yourself. I got the stupid idea into my head that I could use hypnosis to enhance this, but could never figure out how. That sort of seemed to work the way they said it would, but none of it led to actually getting laid, nor to anything resembling a meaningful relationship. At the same time, they were saying that it doesn't matter what you say, but rather how you feel about what you're saying. I observed this directly myself; sometimes I would say virtually nothing and yet the result was far better than when I tried doing all that stupid acting crap. I decided then that hypnosis would be better used as a therapy rather than a means of control.
So then I got into 'natural game', which focused around dealing with your inner state and being more 'authentic' as opposed to using techniques and acting. They had a lot more interesting things to say, but they were still incongruent in many ways. They still used a lot of cheap "techniques", in spite of the fact that they admitted that they were useless. They advocated forcing your way through your resistances, and that you should go out 7 days a week so that you don't "slip backwards" into your old ways. They also said that men and women are equal, which I agree with, but then they go on to say that if a woman is physically attractive, that is all the value she needs to 'bring to the table', whereas the man should be cool and open and level headed and provide the good time. Utter nonsense. Their focus on actual self-improvement was superficial at best, and as much as they might claim 'radical honesty' or whatever, they were all very artificial in their social interactions.
Aside from that, both 'schools' spoke about eliciting jealousy and making yourself seem "higher value". Jealousy, I found, is a miserable and hateful thing to use, and you invite them to throw it right back at you when you invoke it. As for being "higher value", that's all about living through your own values congruently. That's a topic for another time, however. Flirting is really very, very stupidly simple. All you're doing is demonstrating confidence, playfulness (and general positivity) and interest. Once you understand that, all the other crap they say is superfluous and often backwards. Two out of three works well, too.
The Cool StuffThe cool stuff I learned was more about social dynamics, and that probably made the whole thing worthwhile. There's a lot more going on in social interactions than most people are consciously aware of, but to which they respond in profound ways unconsciously.
Probably the most ubiquitous example of this is the Reticular Activation System or RAS for short. The RAS is like a visual 'cache' for important reality-objects to pay attention to. This includes both threats (like if you saw a gun out of the corner of your eye, you'd probably freak) as well as desired things (hey, there's a hot girl/guy, or hey, there's a bag of money). When something in our RAS radar comes within our peripheral vision, we automatically look at it without thinking about it, and this happens all the time.
One thing which is naturally almost always in our RAS is to look out for alphas. There's much talk in the PUA community about "being alpha", but they seem to have very little understanding of what this really means. An alpha is simply someone who acts primarily through their values (as opposed to acting through anxiety). A person who acts through their values will tend to produce their own good time, rather than needing to follow along with a group, although there are certainly degrees of 'alpha'. If you go to a club, you can easily observe the phenomena where one person in a group will be the most active leader, and everyone around them will be looking to that person to try to figure out what they should do. This has been called a "chode crystal".
Most of what determines an 'alpha' from a 'beta' depends on non-verbal signals like body language, facial expressions, glances, and voice timbre. What your body projects is interpreted as being strictly more true than what you say. If you say something and your body language or voice projects that you don't believe it, people will think you're trying to trick them or are hiding something. Alphas generally project values which result in a distinct confidence, fluency and grace of movement, whereas betas project uncertainty and a level of disbelief in what they are doing.
In addition to non-verbal signals, people will also use what is known as a "congruence test" to ascertain the social 'pecking order'. Even if a person moves or talks like an alpha, when challenged they may break down and react in a negative or beta fashion. So, people will tease you, insult you, try to manipulate you or get you to be subservient, anything to see if they can put you under them. Essentially, if you violate your own values in your response to them (or sometimes if you respond at all) then you may find your status automatically lowered. It is the strength of your reality or frame which determines your social status and not what you look like, how much money you make or what activities you participate in.
As might be guessed, since displaying "alpha" non-verbal behavior congruently causes people to tend to follow what you are doing, it has a great potential for hypnosis. Instead of trying to copy what they are doing and use that to lead them, you get them to want to follow you (which they may do automatically on an unconscious level) so that you are giving them something when you display similarity to them. Then leading them is nearly effortless.
There are also untold legions of difference social signals that mean "I want to fuck you", which also occur in degrees. One thing I was shocked by is just how quickly a person's attitude can change in that respect, sometimes flip-flopping back and forth in almost comedic fashion. The other thing that surprised me is just how sexually charged almost all casual conversations in all situations are. It seems it doesn't matter what gender you are, or whether they're in a relationship or not, sex is the number one concern for most people. I've also seen that most people are bi to at least some degree under appropriate circumstances. Weird shit, let me tell you.
My general conclusion has been, aside from the three main aspects of flirting, the majority of social action should be directed to people as... well.. people. Surprise? Through a complete lack of understanding of this, PUAs fail to manage meaningful relationships, and usually end up with mentally immature people, and then complain that they don't understand. To those folks, here's a cluebat for you.