Dr. Paul Dobransky is a Chicago-based psychiatrist, author, and CEO of www.doctorpaul.net, specializing in the areas of trauma, men’s psychology, dating, relationships, and their missions in life. He is an innovator and inventor of unification theories of psychology, as well as a frequent teacher alongside David DeAngelo, Neil Strauss, Mystery, and most “men’s community gurus,” adding science and professionalism to the men’s community training programs at every opportunity.
He was a first-responder to the Columbine Tragedy and has been a contributing expert to CNN, Fox News, NBC, CBS, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men’s Fitness, Blender, Maxim, and many other national media outlets.
Dr. Paul, I want to begin by asking you how you describe your role in this culture of professional pick-up artists and dating coaches.
The “men’s community,” as it is called on the dating and seduction-oriented websites, is a tiny subculture when you look at all of mainstream society. I’m more of a translator between the men’s community and mainstream society than I am a guru, marketer, or “mack daddy” who has a lot of tactics and tricks to show you.
I think there is a much bigger movement going on, than just learning to date. There are major cultural changes going on in Western society these days that has a lot to do with the pendulum swinging from empowering men for many centuries, to feminism, and now it has gone back to men who are asking, “What about us?” I think the men’s community is a symptom of something much bigger going on in our culture. And the only “perfect” method a man can use, regardless of his age or what type of woman he wants to be with, really has to be his own method.
Are you speaking about how to help someone with self esteem issues? Or do you specifically help men to become more attractive to women?
Well first, let’s look at some of the lingo that is used in “the community.” In my opinion, things like inner game and outer game…these are not real. These are artificial terminologies that don’t apply scientifically to what’s really going on. They are just a means to develop types of product lines, so that there can be an “inner game” line of products and an “outer game” line of products.
In truth, it all works in sync with each other. When people talk about inner game, it’s just an artificial term that refers to a guy’s internal state of psychology, emotion, decision-making processes, and thoughts. Outer game is more what one does with his body language, and is more tactical. I think it is more useful to describe strategy versus tactics, in terms of accomplishing a goal. When I say “strategy, I’m talking about the bigger-picture view: the psychological processes that go on with men and women, and what gets them together.
Generally speaking, tactics can be numerous and as unique as every individual man. Tactics are what I actually physically and verbally do and say to implement strategies. I think that’s a better way to describe what is happening, and it’s more constructive than looking at it as inner and outer game. Because your inner game influences your outer game, and your outer game influences your inner game, and they are all mish-mashed together, in reality. Men often come to me about having learned some other guy’s “method” and they’ve found that while the method may work for the guru who created it, it doesn’t work for him.
There is also a lot of talk in the men’s community about what people call, “being authentic.” Or “character-driven game.” This simply means that we need to be authentic and our real selves, while simultaneously working on having better skills with the tools we naturally bring to bear. So I‘ll work with those guys to set them straight, and help them to become more authentic as individual men.
Ultimately, every guy who comes to work with me walks away with his own method, which only works for him and can’t be successfully imitated by someone else.
The second kind of guy who works with me tends to be older. This is because I’m not a guy who teaches how to only have a one-night stand or just get laid. I’m more about teaching men to be sophisticated and mature, and enjoy a rich dating life.
With these older guys, do you see a common pattern of mistakes that they make with younger women?
Yes, and I believe it’s something that only science can fix. When I use the word “science” I mean what I’m teaching is based on formal education and training at mental health fields or behavioral health fields, and philosophy as well.
There are too many variables to account for, so I don’t believe in hard and fast “rules,” such as that a man needs to wait three days before returning a call to a younger woman. Again, there are just too many variables to account for. It depends on what kind of woman she is, her personality, and what her maturity level is. Then you’ve got to ask, what is the 40 year old man’s personality and maturity level, and what culture do they live in? With men who are age 40 and above, are many personal factors combined with cultural forces that are in play—and in our society, this tends to stigmatize him in a way that didn’t happen in the past.
These ways of cultural stigmatization may have happened to older women in the past, and don’t today. Take the cultural phenomenon, for instance, of “Sex in the City.” The popularity of that TV show and movie empower women. In some ways its popularity can be interpreted as disempowering men, especially men who are in their 40s and above. It disempowers men in that it reinforces the belief that men should date women their own age. The unwritten cultural protocol, or rule, is that there is an acceptable age difference for marrying, dating, or having sex with women. If the age difference is larger than that limit (even though the woman is of legal age), it’s then considered strange or wrong or unethical.
So the number one problem I think men 40 and above have is that they buy into local, recent, cultural rules or trends about what is okay versus, what is not okay in dating. Men feel a sense of shame or guilt if they go against these “rules,” even if they’re just doing what is natural to them.
One of the principles I teach in my live seminars is that we tend to attract those to us who are of a similar maturity level, regardless of age. We as human beings have a different psychological age on the inside than our chronological age on the outside. Everyone, for example, has had a boss who might be 50, but behaves like he’s 18. Or we have had an uncle or aunt who are 40 and act like they are 17. It doesn’t matter what a person’s chronological age is. What matters is their psychological age.
In terms of attraction and dating, what matters is how old women are on the inside. It could be just as ethically wrongful for a 28-year-old man to date a 28-year-old woman who on the inside is only as mature as a 13-year-old girl. It is legal, but kind of unethical in a way because she is so immature and mismatched to him. The younger and more immature a woman is, the more impressionable she is. So there is a stigma about chronological age which men 40 and above need to get over. Your chronological age doesn’t really matter; it’s about psychological age and maturity, yours and hers.
You must deal with quite a few men who have social phobias and feel awkward around women, which gets even worse if they’re trying to interact with a hot young babe. The younger and hotter she is, the more intense his anxiety gets…
Yes, definitely. That’s something that needs to be separated out from this cultural stigma that I am talking about. When a guy officially has a social phobia he will tend to get actual anxiety symptoms that are way above and beyond what the average man will experience in approaching an attractive woman. He might even get panic attacks, chest palpitations, heavy breathing, sweating, and shakiness in the fingers. I do get quite a few guys coming to me with these problems, and it’s an actual medical situation.
But underneath that, as you know well, men have for millions of years had an evolutionary reflex built into us. No matter how confident we are, or sophisticated, or mature or experienced, all men have at least a twinge of approach anxiety. That has evolved over millions of years because, if you were to look at ancient tribal living among men and women, or even in gorilla populations, there would be one Alpha Male who dominates the whole society and mates with 80% of the females, leaving the other 20% for the rest of the male populace to compete for. So what evolved in males, whether gorilla or human, is a survival or self-preserving instinct that makes them very careful, anxious, and tentative about approaching any female for the first time. What if she “belongs,” so to speak, to the Alpha Male? He could be killed just for making a move on her. There is a real survival mechanism that has evolved into this “approach anxiety” problem.
So when women look at men and say, “What’s their problem, aren’t they confident enough? Why are they afraid of approaching us? What’s the matter with that guy—is he an scared, low self-esteem guy?” Well, these women are wrong. There is nothing wrong with the man at all. He might be very confident, but also very masculine and tuned into his natural masculine reflexes, which often include approach anxiety. Therefore, approach anxiety is very different than social anxiety disorder. Those need to be separated. One is normal and one is not.
So for the men reading this, how can they tell if they have a normal fear of approaching women, or if it’s a deeper issue? When I coach guys, I ask them how they feel if they even think about approaching a woman and a lot of them say they feel fear.
Well, it comes down to physical symptoms. If a very confident guy gets a little twinge of anxiety when he’s looking at a beautiful woman and wanting to approach her, he can get over that with standard behavioral therapy techniques. When you’re comparing normal anxiety to an actual medical disorder like social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, the difference is the physical symptoms. Sweating and shaking, heart palpitations, and heavy breathing are all physical things. Those symptoms are what let you know it may be a medical-grade anxiety, as opposed to normal male instincts. Some degree of approach anxiety is normal, even among the most confident men.
Do you have any tips for overcoming this normal form of approach anxiety?
One thing that helps men get over approach anxiety is the 3-second rule, where as soon as you see a woman you’re interested in, you ignore the anxiety and give yourself only three seconds to just go and talk to her. What this really translates to, in terms of psychology and behavioral therapy, is courage. Behavioral therapy is about training people to do courageous acts. Courage is the key for men who do not have medical-grade anxiety. Courage is about doing it no matter how bad it feels, and no matter how uncertain you are. You then find that you don’t die. And if you can’t die from doing an action, then you win no matter what. You win a type of emotional energy called confidence.
I think inner game is rooted in self-esteem: your opinion of yourself. Do you have any tips on how to raise a guy’s self esteem?
I use a lot of mathematics and equations to explain things. So I have developed a definition for self-esteem in terms of a mathematical formula. Self-esteem happens to be two types of energy, and we need them in equal amounts. It is well-being, plus confidence. Well-being is a motherly, nurturing kind of emotion—a sense of having enough money, friends, creativity, free time, rest, health.
Confidence is an energy that is sort of fatherly. It is an emotional sense that you can handle whatever comes your way. You think, “I can tolerate any risk, change, or potential loss that comes my way.” If you lack one or both of these types of emotional energy then you do not have complete self-esteem, and you are not happy. Furthermore, you are not able to be a good friend to others.
Some methods out there talk about the steps of seduction and dating, and one of the popular phrases is the “comfort phase” (using methods to make a woman feel a sense of comfort with you). I think it’s an inaccurate term. I use the term “friendship” to describe this instead. Ultimately, if a woman does not sense friendship from you, then you are potentially a “seducer” or a “player.” You’re not a potential date, nor a potential man in her life. There must be a friendship aspect. The word “comfort” in this instance is kind of narrow and silly, because it implies that the interaction is just going to lead to a one-night stand or a seduction. I’m talking about something deeper and richer than that.
Friendship is shared positive emotion. It’s raising someone else’s self esteem, while raising your self-esteem in the process. That transaction, literally, is the scientific description of what love is. Love is different than desire or passion. Love is a feature of friendship.
You need to be friends with a woman in order to get all the rest of it. If a man is 40, wanting to date a 25-year old or if he’s 25, wanting to date a 25 year old he’s got to find ways to strike up that “friendship vibe.” If that’s not there, then the age difference under the influence of our cultural rules—is going to make the 40-year-old look like a dirty old man.