Frustration or AtrophyKeeping with the theme of the last few days let’s talk about what happens to a man who doesn’t have an adequate outlet for his — for lack of a better term — virility. In the context of this post virility will be a term for manly energy, which takes many forms. It may be creativity, sexual energy, a burning desire to get up and go do something constructive. Women have a similar energy but alas, I know nothing about living life as a woman and am not about to start talking about topics I’m ignorant on. We will focus on men, using both my experience as a man and my observations of other men. Whatever the type of virility a man is unable to express and exercise he will go down two paths: either he will become frustrated, or he will become atrophied.
Frustration is a word we all know and use often. We use it to describe trivial annoyances or great let downs and it is a very versatile and fitting word for either of those. But in this context it is the devil on your shoulder, the voice telling you to do something you shouldn’t. Frustrated men lose patience and have short tempers. A chronically frustrated man is more prone to depression and seeking out other outlets, bad outlets, for his untapped energies.
Atrophy is also a word most will know, commonly in the context of an unused muscle atrophying. The mirror side to frustration, if a man doesn’t get an outlet his manly energy may just atrophy. You see this all the time, to use an easy example, in men that suffer in a sexless marriage (or cause the sexless marriage). They become soft and their testosterone drops. They begin to take on bad feminine qualities and lose good masculine ones.
It isn’t just a lack of sex that will lead to frustration or atrophy, though. That’s just a pretty easy example to make because men are programmed to appreciate feminine beauty and want to express that appreciation in a physical manner. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is quite healthy. Healthy adult women will have similar reactions to positive masculine qualities. That’s how we’re all built. (This, of course, changes with homosexuality. Leaving aside nature or nurture, the brain is wired somewhat differently — but I would imagine the same frustrations and atrophies can apply.) To stick with sex, if a man isn’t getting it, or it isn’t satisfying, he will become… moody, at first. But then one of those two sides kicks in.
Either he gets frustrated and becomes an impatient person that complains a lot, or his normal sexual response atrophies. Both cases put a man at risk for a pornography addiction — which is poison — but a pornography addiction also puts a man at risk for sexual frustration and atrophy, or furthering them if he’s already hitting the edge. This is one of those vicious cycles that men fall into when they don’t keep themselves in balance.
The most apt area to discuss atrophy, however, is actually when it comes to physical activity. An object at rest stays at rest, and so does a lazy man. An object in motion stays in motion, and so does an active man. If a man isn’t active, if his body is wasting away, then there are the two outcomes: he gets frustrated, which leads to depression, or he becomes apathetic, accepts it, and becomes weak and unmanly. That can also lead to depression. Physical activity, coincidentally enough, is good for your testosterone levels. Testosterone helps fight depression, and depression leads to inactivity. It’s all connected and a balance; this isn’t some hippy magic root I’m selling here, it’s observable truth.
But a man is more than a body and a boner, he is also a brain. We are gifted minds that no other animal possesses, an ability to understand and question the universe around us. In the west, we are gifted with the blessing of Western Civilization and all the great minds that have poured their souls into our history and our literature. There is a great deal of brain candy out there for us.
If we don’t stoke those fires, though… you see this more than you realize. A man that never thinks, never uses his mind to create. It’s not as easy to spot as, say, a fat guy, or a skinny-fat low testosterone lump. But when they start talking… the lack of imagination is the first sign. They just can’t imagine or strive for anything above where they are. That’s atrophy. They can’t see past their own biases, they have an unnatural focus on details and an inability to see the forest for that one stubborn tree. That’s a frustration. Something isn’t right in their wiring and they can’t get past this one tree that really pisses them off.
Creative Creations, Artistic SelfEvery man should pursue some sort of artistic endeavor. For me, that’s writing fiction. But I also used to play the piano. I can’t draw for crap but I doddle. The more of this I do, the more I want to do. Accomplishment works that way in all realms. If motivation is a garden, progress is the fertilizer for that garden. The more progress you make, the more success you have… and the more rewarding that is. There is nothing more motivating than accomplishing something, and there is nothing more personally gratifying than some sort of endeavor that means something to you on a personal level.
There is a stereotype out there that artists of all sorts tend toward depression and substance abuse. I totally believe it. Sure, it is possible that it stands out more in artists than the general populace because we see them more. But I think the risk of frustration is greater for someone who takes their personal art more to heart — the failure, the coming up short, the inability to produce the art your soul burns for. As a species we love to self medicate for our problems: artists with our ridiculous standards, frustrations, and depression… but others, too: self medication for childhood trauma is behind a great deal of alcoholism and drug abuse. What do people say when something bad happens, even as a joke? “I need a drink.” I’m guilty of saying it.
This isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy alcohol — in moderation — but that you should not be doing anything because you are upset or unfulfilled. Be it alcohol, a drug, or pornography — don’t turn to a bad habit, a substance, or any addiction because you are having problems.
Back on topic, we’ve covered the top level stuff men face frustration or atrophy over and the importance creativity. There are more, to be sure: we’re a complicated lot, humans, and we all have our own issues. These three will serve as the backbone of the rest of what I’m going to say, though: Body, Boner, Brain. I picked those words for the alliteration, so bear with me. Creativity falls under brain but because I create I separated it into this section. Onward:
Your body strives to be balanced, but it has a few faults. Because of our evolution we are built to store excess calories in times of plenty, to be used in times of famine. Right now we’ve got a few years worth of famine around our bellies. My greatest struggles have been in this area, and I am even still in the process of getting to an ideal weight. I say bad things about fat people not to be cruel to them, but to motivate myself as a fat guy.
Without getting into too much of a weight loss clinic here, the basics are: we have a resting number of calories we consume a day. This varies by age, weight, and activity level, but you need at least a certain amount of calories and fat for proper brain function, and protein for muscle production. Activity raises the number of calories burned. If you are overweight then either you have accepted it, you’re in progress, or you’re frustrated and don’t know where to start. There isn’t another option.
Accepting it is the atrophy. You no longer care. You may even be depressed about it. That’s not good — I was here briefly, at one point, but then I got frustrated and decided to do something about it. There are many things that can change your state between those two, but for me it was seeing myself in the mirror without a shirt and realizing just how pathetic I was. The first place to start, by the way, the easiest: Drink water instead of sugar drinks.I love me some sugar drinks. Growing up in the South, sweet tea is taken as a given as a menu item at any restaurant (except some bizarre Asian places I’ve been to). Many households keep a fresh pitcher of the stuff, it’s at all sorts of get-togethers — they don’t call it “southern house wine” for nothing. When it comes to the cola wars, I have no champion and drink ’em all. See, that’s dangerous. The amount of sugar in sweet tea and soda varies from too much to way too fucking much depending on the formulation. Soda is not an accompaniment for a meal: it is a desert all its own. Switching to water will save a surprising number of calories and the bonus is: water is far cheaper. My “bottled” water is either in a stainless steel container or giant BPA free plastic thing I got at the supermarket. Drink more water.
But the body thing isn’t just about weight, it’s also about general activity. Everyone except a human sloth has had the moment where they have sat down doing something for a while — be it video games, movies, television, or just mindless surfing of the internet — and they have the desire to get up and go move around. If you’re getting to that point with regularity you are having a problem. Sometimes a feeling of boredom, even if you are doing something like watching a movie or surfing the internet, is actually your body telling you to maybe move around a bit you sloth. Our bodies need to move around outside of exercise. Even if you work out an hour a day every day you will need to still do some moving during the other 23 hours a day.
This is also a great sin of mine. Usually I try and move around at work every hour. Just, get up, walk around. When I walk around to move around I try to move quickly and force my body to jump start itself a bit. If you are walking anywhere you should walk like you are in a hurry (if just so I don’t want to stab you when you’re in front of me). But at home… sometimes I just get into a funk, or a groove writing, and I lose track of time.
When you get the urge to move around or you feel bored while you’re on the internet and you just refresh a site for new content… that’s when you’ve hit atrophy. When, instead, you feel bored and start cycling through sites and digging into old bookmarks: frustration. That sort of thing is dangerous, it’s when you start to look for something else to occupy you and aren’t really interested in what that something else is going to do TO you.
Move around. Get in better shape. Always be improving.
Sexual and Romantic Fulfillment
We are more than our dicks but it seems like, if you view the world through the perception of the popular culture, there are two schools when it comes to male sexuality: either it’s a gag, or it’s something to be shunned and hidden away. Both of these are foolish but I’ll leave aside society’s stupid handling of our members for now. Without a doubt, I believe that human sexuality — centered around sexual pleasure and release — is extremely important to our general well-being. Maybe people don’t get stop having sex due to age, maybe they get old because they stop having sex.In my opinion, a monogamous sexual relationship is advantageous but you must be careful who you pick. In that term, the word sexual comes right after monogamous, though. To quote my friend Tony, “if she’s not getting your dick wet she’s your roommate.” This isn’t just about male sexual pleasure, though: women, despite what situational comedies like to pretend, actually enjoy sex as well. Assuming you’re doing it right.
The easy image to draw on for a sexually frustrated man is that of a teenage boy who is very moody and grumpy all the time and he masturbates a lot. This is pretty much the truth, though part of it is because teenage boys have more sexual energy than they can possibly use up. The well might dry up but the guy’ll still be there, raising and lowering that bucket because it’s not about the water: it’s about the bucket. But there are other examples that apply to men outside of puberty.
While I put cartoon pinups and other suggestive art up on the blog, there is a limit to what I’ll post. I wouldn’t put up photo-realistic nudity. For my book covers I tend to play up the female legs — Cigars and Legs is the name of the place, after all. But the men who constantly seek out things like Maxim and pornography tend to actually be frustrated. The guys that leer all the time (looking and leering are different), the guys that make stupid, clown-masculinity style comments tend to be frustrated.
An example of this that stands out in my mind is Chevy Chase’s character in the Vacation movies. In most every movie he spends at least some time fantasizing about some other woman — in the Christmas vacation there is that awkward scene where the sales woman shows him her underwear (because women will routinely risk losing their jobs for Chevy Chase), and then the imaginary pool scene. In the most famous he drives past a model in a sports car — and wants both. If Chevy wasn’t sexually frustrated at most he would give both women a look.
This isn’t to say his lizard brain wouldn’t have a few comments. The lizard brain is at the lowest level of our process and we will never be able to control what it thinks, we can just control how we act on that impulse. Chasing fantasies and neglecting reality is not healthy — and is also not what the lizard brain will want anyway.
Men who have atrophied sex drives, however, have their own suite of problems. Even if you don’t know it you spot these men all the time, something in the back of your mind judges them. They just seem like the kind of guy who is weak even if they’re in good physical condition. Low testosterone is the likely culprit, but low testosterone may also by a symptom. Every man is different.
A lack of a sex drive is a bad sign for any adult. If there is no trauma — be it physical or psychological — then adults should be interested in sexual activity. Even if a guy can’t get hard he should still have the urge to — which is frustrating, but that’s a better sign than no drive at all. These men aren’t having sex with anyone (though they may masturbate), and their wives are unhappy. Their wives are reading books about men who can do it, or they’re out there behind his back taking it from behind from a guy who appreciates them. Everyone wants to be appreciated.
But there is another down-side to an atrophied sex drive: whether it is caused by or is causing low testosterone, you will note that these men do not seem very motivated at all. Where a sexually frustrated man might channel that into motivation out of the hopes of somehow impressing a woman into sex, an apathetic man just grinds to a halt. They become a special kind of impotent and, contradictory to expectations, turn into shockingly perverse old men. They can’t, or don’t want to, be sexual but their lizard brain wants it in a most violent way. This manifests in a dangerous way and people get exposed to things like flappy old flasher dick. There are other examples of this where a person does something sexual that disturbs us, but is not actually for their sexual gratification in a working-to-orgasm sense.
But the dick isn’t the only part of the sexual response that can cause frustration or atrophy. There is also the romance portion and men do secretly tend toward the romantic even if they hide it. We want to be accepted, we want to be loved and desired. It isn’t just about sex, it’s also about companionship with someone of our preferred sex (which is why I put it here). We need that validation somewhere in the back of our lizard brain.
If we don’t have any sort of romantic love we can get frustrated. This is a path I put myself on and it turned me into a beta orbiter. That is why it is so dangerous. Here is my story, in a nutshell: I failed to get the romantic validation my brain craved, so I moved from woman to woman, orbiting her like the beta I was, mining her for any bit of validation I could get. With each subsequent failure I re-defined my “type” to be the next woman I latched on to. Though, girls is really the best way to put it because we were all a lot younger.
This romantic frustration led to more romantic frustration because the women could smell that a mile away and wanted nothing to do with it at all. They enjoyed the beta orbit I swooped into but did not want me. Each failure made it worse. By the end of it I wasn’t even trying to gain the attention of women I felt attracted to — I convinced myself I did not deserve someone attractive and therefore I would just accept what I could get. The insidious, evil part that made this worse was the ability to build a fantasy around the undesirable harpy whereupon she is perfect and we get married eventually and she accepts and admires me and it all works out. Yikes, that was a dark time.
There was no one woman that broke me of this, but I can think of a few examples of times where something happened and I just thought, “you know what? Fuck this.” Toward the end of it I was coming to my senses and even bounced early, ditching the girl in question without any warning. This happened a few times where I just said “enough” and walked away. Then my wife and I got together — and I hadn’t settled! She was what I would have described as my type before I fell for all this stuff! Legs, big tits, nice ass, pretty face, the works! Also, she checked off the big one I’d penciled in at the top of the list: “Not a bitch.”
That’s a pretty important check mark and needs to be at the top.When my wife and I got together it was a solid year after I reached the point where I decided “fuck it, I’m not settling anymore and none of these bitches meet my standards.” Harsh language, but every time I settled I still got dirt kicked in my face. When my wife made herself available I had finally found someone worth pursuing a relationship with. That frustration has never returned. This isn’t the place for a diatribe about whether or not marriage is right for anyone but if you are going to go through with it you had better be sure. I was sure, and I never look back.
It is difficult to separate romantic desire atrophy and men that are frustrated or not trying on the surface. There is no clear example of a behavior of a man that just lost that sense versus one that has suppressed it. It’s the sort of thing a man has to know about himself, though I must imagine it has some negative impact. Any atrophy is a negative result.
Mental Self: The Mind, the Man
Mentally, there are a myriad of ways we can become atrophied or frustrated. A common frustration is writer’s block. I do not believe in writer’s block in the traditional sense; burnt out, perhaps. You may not be feeling it, but there’s not some imaginary thing stopping you from writing. That’s all you, and you need to examine what it is.
Sometimes, our frustrating blocks are caused by external issues. But typically it is similar to the statement about an object at rest staying at rest. It’s hard to push-start creativity that has been allowed to wither on the vine — to combine sayings. The hardest times I have with writing are when I go some time without it and I imagine this is true of any artistic endeavor. Another frustration is typically that you aren’t enjoying the art. Maybe you’re writing a scene you don’t enjoy writing, or learning a song you don’t enjoy playing, or trying to create a picture you aren’t inspired by.
Maybe stop doing that.
But this unwillingness to do it or the difficulty getting started is much different than the atrophy of a creative muscle. When you have gone so long without indulging your creativity that it’s just gone — you’ve forgotten how to ride a bike, so to speak. You can’t come up with an idea — the greatest of all pains for a creator, because usually we have scores of ideas and we simply don’t have the time to write them up…
When young writers start writing, they imitate. Write what you know, and all, and what they know is usually some other fiction that has inspired them. As we mature we put our own spin on it, develop our voice. Then we manage to pull together enough ideas to produce something that is wholly original — well, as original as it can be. No art develops in a vacuum.
Losing all of that and starting over is a daunting task.
But it’s not just our artistic side that needs a stretching every now and then. Sometimes we need to think. We need to learn something new. This is an important stage. Your brain craves information, but often times we ignore that craving and try to feed it with frivolities. That is brain cruelty.
Someone with a frustrated developmental process will have trouble focusing on any one detail of what they’re trying to take in. They go a million miles an hour, surfing from topic to topic trying to find the information that will sate their need. It’s an addiction, almost, but not really. It’s just that the bucket has a hole in it and the water runs right out.
Once your brain gets atrophied, however, they elect you to Congress.
When your brain slows down, when you stop feeding it, those skills and the ability to develop new ones… it all goes away. An atrophied mind is easier for things like dementia to take hold in and that’s why you see people trying to do crossword puzzles and sudoku. Once your body goes there is a lot of science out there for bringing it back or replacing it if you have the funds. But as your mind weakens and goes you lose yourself, and that is truly a nightmare and the worst of the scenarios I’ve outlined here.
They aren’t in any real order except this is last because this is scary. It’s the one you can’t recover from, it’s the one that actually devours you. Don’t make losing your mind in this way any easier on age. Time gets us all may be the saying but we don’t have to help Time. Your mind is who you are, so stretch it a bit and keep it limber. Learn something new every day or study up on areas you are getting rusty. Ignorance is both frustration and atrophy bundled together. A man should strive to avoid being ignorant.
Ignorance is different from stupidity: Ignorant means you aren’t aware of a topic, whereas a stupid man can’t grasp it even if he tried. Stupidity is forgivable because at least there’s a chance the idiot has tried to learn. The ignorant fool has not and has wasted his mind. Harsh? Maybe, but I’m personally tired of dealing with ignorant people, people who have let their minds atrophy and find being uneducated to be somehow desirable or cool. In this way, mental frustration is more admirable than simple apathy.
Above, I talked about a few examples of how not having an outlet, not stretching yourself, can cause you either frustration or apathy. In a lot of these cases either side of that coin will lead you down a dark path that often leads toward addictions, be they substance or habitual. When it comes to body you will begin to make poor choices regarding your diet and overall physical health. With your sexual energy you may become addicted to pornography or some sort of disturbing behavior. It also would not surprise me if many of the men into cuckold porn were either sexually frustrated or sexually atrophied — as I mentioned in that section, atrophied sex drives tend toward behaviors that don’t result in an orgasm, and if another man is screwing your wife he’s the one getting off, at least in the traditional way.These outcomes are also steps into the vicious cycle, where one negative outcome feeds on another and you spiral downward. Depression looms, bad habits, addictions — they’re all just out there, waiting for your frustration or apathy. It is very hard to break out of this sort of spiral, it takes a lot of willpower and that can be hard to develop when you are depressed. It isn’t easy to overcome, but it can be done.
I didn’t offer up many solutions because for the most part they’re self evident: be active, seek out and find a high quality partner, use your brain. In some areas I may offer suggestions but that’s really for another post, or covered elsewhere. I’m not fitness guru so I certainly won’t be writing a post on that — it would be hypocritical at this stage of my progress.
But all of these things, for all of the danger they pose, are just setbacks. The only thing you can’t overcome is death and until you are dead you can fight. Frustration can be worked out, atrophied muscles can be brought back to life. It just takes the willpower and patience to do it and the good sense to recognize the problem.