Many people sabotage their relationships because they’re so nervous about getting it right, or saying the “wrong” thing.
And the reason for this?
Their parents subconsciously taught them the harmful concept of “Frustration Intolerance.”
And if you have it, you’re more likely to have fights with your spouse, be triggered by small indiscretions your wife makes, or noisy kids in the car.
Most guys have no idea whether they suffer from “Frustration Intolerance.” And if they do, it only bubbles to the surface after months and months of intense therapy.
So, if the concept of “Frustration Intolerance” intrigues you, then read on.
In today’s episode, you’ll discover why you fear saying the “wrong” thing when talking to your girlfriend, wife, or tinder date. I also reveal why your wife or girlfriend triggers you for seemingly no reason.
Show highlights include:
- Does your wife or girlfriend trigger you for seemingly no reason? It might be because of a common circumstance known as your “family of origin” (1:42)
- “A good therapeutic process helps you to ‘reparent’ yourself” (8:34)
- Struggle with rejection from dates on tinder? It might be because your parents didn’t know how to deal with “Frustration Intolerance” (11:54)
- How to hack your brain to tap into as much information in as little time as possible (essentially becoming a super computer) (15:59)
- Feel nervous when talking to your partner or spouse, out of fear you might say something “wrong?” I reveal the answer at (23:36)
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. In this episode, I’ll be sharing my analysis of what I believe is currently the best single overall book on parenting out there, out of the dozens that I’ve studied so far.
Now, if you’re not a parent yourself or you’re not interested in having children, you may think, What’s this got to do with me? and you may skip over this episode, and that would be a huge mistake, because what is covered in this book, ostensibly, on parenting, is actually about all of us as adults—because at some point, we all had parents—and to grow psychologically, one of the most important steps in the unburdening process and the healing process, and the growth process, psychologically and emotionally, is the step of reparenting. [01:07.5]
Now, part of the reason I’m doing a book analysis here, and I hope to do more book analyses, is because I’m preparing to revise my recommended reading list that I last revised in 2020. Looking at the current list, all of the books mentioned there are still really great books to read and I highly recommend all of them still, but I’m going to try to narrow it down to the top 50, and that means that some of these are going to be replaced.
Also, I’m going to be redoing the categories, and one of the new categories is going to be parenting, and the reason that is so important is because the best work in psychotherapy and clinical psychology trace back our adult issues and difficulties and problems, psychologically, and trace them back to the sources in our formative years and in our childhood, and are set within our what psychotherapist call our family of origin. [02:01.6]
You’ve heard me talk a lot about the three main coping styles that we all tried out and made one of those the primary and the other secondary, and maybe a tertiary, and those are the Pleaser, the Rebel, and the Recluse. On the reading list, I’ve got Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child and John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You, which focuses a lot on the inner child, and inner child work and grief work. Of course, in IFS therapy and pretty much all modern experiential types of therapy, there is a heavy emphasis on inner-child parts, not just one inner child in us, but we have many different parts developed in our childhood.
There’s also the excellent book called Toxic Parents, and I also recommend the work of Karen Horney from which I drew those three coping strategies of the Pleaser, the Recluse, and the Rebel, and I just use my own terms for what she called moving away, moving against, and moving toward. [03:03.7]
Then there’s all the work on attachment styles and this is one of the rare instances where there’s an almost near consensus of the explanatory power of the attachment styles research. In the attachment styles there, you have an anxious style, avoidant style, you have a mixed style. You might even have a fearful style and that’s in some of the literature, and then, of course, you have the secure style—and that comes out of developmental-psychology research on children six to 18 months. It’s the classic studies there.
All of this psychotherapy and clinical psychology is coming out of an examination of our childhoods and the effect that childhood events have on us as adults, and there’s a lot written on how challenges or trauma in childhood can adversely affect you as an adult. So, it’s quite common and increasingly popular now for people in their 20s and 30s, and single people or people who do not have children yet, to focus on and study this psychology work. [04:10.8]
I should also mention the hugely popular Brené Brown, the social work professor, in her research on shame and her excellent book, Daring Greatly, on the difference between shame and guilt, and that’s also on my recommended reading list as it is currently constituted.
Those are all great and lots of people are reading those. Those are bestsellers now. Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, if you haven’t read that, that’s my number one recommendation, the first place to go that everyone should read. If you haven’t even heard of it, I don’t know where you live because this has been the number one New York Times bestseller, or, at least, in the top 10 for years, and this book is over a decade old now. There was a revised version, so I recommend you get that one. [04:54.0]
In all of this bestselling work of all of these books that are now circulating in popular consciousness more and more, we learn a lot about negative parenting or bad parenting, or harmful or destructive parenting, or how some parenting decisions led to these neurotic results or disorders psychologically later on in adulthood. Or attachment disorders or something like that, right? We read a lot about toxic parenting, so that’s already a huge eye-opener.
But most young people have no clue what good parenting actually looks like or what it can be. I discovered, as a therapist, that when I get to that part of the process, the clients are often stymied. They have the right intentions, their emotions are in the right place, but then it’s hard for them to imagine how it could have gone otherwise in their childhood. That’s because they haven’t had or seen a model of good parenting, and they’re not sure or they haven’t really thought through, they have never had a class on or had the opportunity to discuss what good parenting would look like and the choices that a good parent would make. [06:07.1]
Before I became a parent, just out of psychological interest, after having read lots about bad parenting or negative parenting, toxic parenting, I wanted to look for the positive or what should have been done, and I went through a lot of bad, poorly-written parenting books. They’re all very well-intentioned. There were some other good ones that I can recommend and I will add those into the parenting section in the reading lists when it gets revised.
But it was hard for me to get excited about that category because nothing really blew me away, until I discovered somehow, can’t remember how, Dr. Becky Kennedy’s Instagram account, and I think that’s how she got her book deal and became popular. She has an Instagram account with over a million followers and does some really great short-snippet type of [content]—I mean, it’s Instagram—short pieces of content that get right to the point and, I found, immediately effective with my own child. [07:03.8]
When she finally came out with her book sometime last year, I was really excited to get into it—I think I ordered it on preorder—and that is the book that we will be looking at in this episode, Dr. Becky Kennedy’s book entitled, Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be.
If you like psychology, if any of my episodes on psychology have spoken to you have made any difference in your life, pay attention to this episode as I share from her book. Even if you’re not a parent or have no interest in becoming a parent, you once had a parent—I mean, you still do—and the way that you are, the parts that are you have arisen in the way they have largely as a result of your early childhood experiences with your parent or parent figures, and a necessary step of psychological healing is to have corrective emotional experiences, and that’s part of the job of your therapist. [08:07.1]
If you have a good therapist, he’s going to kind of, in a way, be a stand-in for your improper or traumatic or imperfect parenting, and now, you, as an adult now going to therapist, are supposed to experience what it’s like to have the kind of loving, connected, compassionate response or presence that we, as children, all craved from our parents.
But that’s just the beginning, because a good therapeutic-process experience would be one in which the therapist helps you to be your own parent of your own inner-child parts and reparent them, in order to provide them and you with the corrective experiences. You will need to know what a better or correct, so to speak, parenting would have been. So, this is relevant to everyone, whether you have children right now or not, so listen up. [09:04.0]
I’m going to start by sharing a chapter towards the end of the book that I found incredibly relevant, not only to my own life, and I’ll elaborate on that, but also to the majority of students and clients that I have met over my two decades as an educator and it has to do with not being able to learn as well as you could, being able to embrace truly and sincerely, authentically embrace the struggle of life of learning, of failure of learning from mistakes and welcoming them. Because, after all, if you don’t understand it, learning is a process of figuring out what you don’t know or suck at, and then over time, through learning all the mistakes that you currently make, getting better at them.
But if you get triggered by making mistakes or by failure, or by what a lot of guys call rejection or by imperfection, then you’re never going to learn. You’re never going to progress. You’re never going to grow beyond wherever you are at now. [10:03.8]
Okay, so I’m starting here on Chapter 21 called Frustration Intolerance, and this is, in my edition, Page 219.
“Braden is a 4-year-old, working on a 12-piece puzzle. His dad, Ethan, is nearby. Braden has three pieces connected and is maneuvering another piece, unable to place it. Watching his son, Ethan gets frustrated and says, ‘Braden, that one won’t work yet. Don’t you see? It doesn’t fit. They’re not even the same color.’ Braden looks to his dad, throws a puzzle piece and says, ‘I’m so bad at puzzles. I hate them.’
“In an appointment shortly after this interaction, the dad, Ethan, tells me”—this is Becky, Dr. Becky—“this is one of many examples of Braden’s working well until something becomes challenging, at which point he tends to walk away or insist that a parent has to complete that part for him.”
When I first read this book six months ago, this passage really spoke to me, because I was going through the same issues with my own son. So, going back to Dr. Becky. [11:04.0]
“Here’s a deep paradox about learning. The more we embrace not knowing and mistakes and struggles, the more we set the stage for growth, success and achievement.”
Just let that great first sentence sink in. A lot of guys are triggered by uncertainty, taking risks, being in that state of potentially not being good enough, and perhaps this is why.
“This is true for adults and kids alike, and it’s a critical reminder about the importance of normalizing difficulties, embracing mistakes as an opportunity to learn and building frustration tolerance. After all, the more a child can tolerate frustration, the longer they can stick with a hard puzzle, work on a tough math problem, or stay engaged while writing an essay. And, of course, these skills translate outside of academics as well, because tolerating frustration is key to managing disappointments, communicating effectively with people with different opinions, and sticking with personal goals.”
And, obviously, will also include not yet finding the perfect mate or a girlfriend, or getting rejected on Tinder. Continuing to the next page. [12:12.2]
“If we want our kids to develop a frustration tolerance, we have to develop tolerance for their frustration. It’s an inconvenient truth, I know. Sometimes when my child is really struggling with something, I remind myself that she’s looking at me and absorbing my relationship with her frustration, and this forms the foundation for her own relationship with her frustration.
“In other words, the more I’m okay with her struggling with a challenge, meaning, I let her work it out rather than offering the solution, the more she will be okay with it. If she can tell, ‘I think it’s fine to struggle with math,’ she will be okay with struggling with math. If I exude patience for learning to tie one’s shoes, she will have patience when practicing this new skill.
“Beyond any strategy or script I offer in this chapter, the most impactful thing we can do with our kids is to show up in a calm, regulated, non-rushed, non-blaming, non-outcome-focused way, both when they’re performing difficult tasks and when they’re witnessing us perform difficult tasks. [13:13.7]
“Frustration is, well, frustratingly difficult to manage. It often unravels us, sending both kids and adults into spirals of ‘I can’t do it’ and ‘I just don’t want to try anymore,’ and ‘You do it for me.’ What makes tolerating frustration so hard is that it requires us to let go of our need to finish, and be quick and be right, and have things done. Frustration tolerance requires us to ground ourselves in what is happening in the moment to feel okay even when we don’t know how to do something, and to focus on effort instead of outcome.” [13:50.4]
No matter their physical strength, for many men, emotions are too much for them to handle. It’s why they can’t give women the deeper levels of emotional intimacy and connection that they crave. It’s why they fail to be the man that modern women desire most: a man with inner strength, a man who has mastered his emotions.
Find out how to master your emotions through David Tian’s “Emotional Mastery” program. The Emotional Mastery program is a step-by-step system that integrates the best of empirically-verified psychotherapy methods and reveals how to master your internal state and develop the inner strength that makes you naturally attractive, happy, and fulfilled.
Learn more about this transformational program by going to DavidTianPhD.com/EmotionalMastery.
That’s D-A-V-I-D-T-I-A-N-P-H-D [dot] com [slash] emotional mastery.
Now, here’s your references. I’m sure you know the work of Carol Dweck on the growth mindset, and I’m going to skip down to the next page. [14:52.6]
“To help our kids become good learners, which I’d argue is more important than being smart or getting things right”—and I totally agree—“we have to help them sit in the not-knowing and yet still-working-at-it space, and this comes from how we respond to our children’s frustration. I often remind myself that my job as a parent is not to help my kids get out of the learning space and into knowing, but rather to help my kids learn to stay in that learning space and tolerate not being in knowing.
“So, rather than solving children’s problems for them, belittling their struggles or losing patience with their efforts to understand that which might seem simple to an adult, we have to allow our kids to do the work on their own. The longer children can stay in that in-between space, the more they can be curious and creative, tolerate hard work, and pursue a wide variety of ideas. And I would also add, be resilient in the face of setbacks or challenges, or difficult things.”
Then she goes on to give some really good techniques. Then I’m going to skip, because I’m more interested in principles than techniques, to Page 224 in the same chapter, the section called Growth Mindset: Family Values, and she’s got four sample values for her own family here. I’ll just read that out. [16:07.5]
“Here are four of the values I love, which I often write down in work areas or the kitchen for my entire family to see. 1) In our family we love to be challenged. 2) In our family, how hard we work is more important than coming up with the right answer. 3) In our family, we know that not knowing sits next to learning something new. We love learning new things, so we embrace ‘I don’t know’ moments. 4) In our family, we try to remember that sticking with something hard makes our brains grow, and we’re big into brain growth.”
All four of these, by the way, are covered in a book that I recommend everyone who ever has to go to school or have a career, which is, I guess, all of us, and it’s the book by Adam Robinson called What Smart Students Know, and he’s got 12 principles that are perfectly consistent with what Dr. Becky’s got here. So, not only is this child psychology and psychotherapy for adults, but also how to crack and hack learning. [17:06.8]
This section was especially relevant to me when I first read it six months ago, because, at that time, my son was also, I found, getting frustrated with more challenging toys. We were getting him toys that required more fine muscle control with his hands and fingers, as well as just more thinking required.
One of the toys at, I guess, 18 months or maybe 14 months, he was playing with were these shapes, like a star or hearts, or the simple ones were a box or a diamond or something like that, and you’d have to take these objects and put them through the right shape, and they were also color-coded.
He would take them and try to put them in the wrong thing and I’d just pick it up and show him, like, No, no, look, this is the yellow one, it goes in the yellow hole, and this is the heart and it goes in the heart-shaped hole, and I’d just slip it in. I didn’t realize that I needed to model the struggle, the process, for him to normalize, to make it seem normal, to normalize the struggle, to normalize learning. [18:01.8]
It would be like if Steph Curry came up to you on your first day of basketball class when you’re in, I don’t know, middle school, and he just starts shooting threes like nothing and he’s looking at you like, Here, just do it like this, and he just shoots threes and he’s looking at you like, You’re not doing it. Then when you fail or the ball doesn’t even get anywhere near the net, he just takes the ball you shot and comes back to the 3-point line and just shoots it in and just says, “Here, just like that,” and this is not going to help that child learn because he could just watch that on TV.
Imagine you’re a 1-year-old and you haven’t developed the context for learning anything, really, because just everything in life, you’re just starting to learn, so the easier conclusion is actually that you just can’t do it. You suck at it. You can’t do it and there isn’t yet a baseline for learning things. I mean, you could get to learn how to walk and that was pretty much you know, at that point, the only thing. A few months later, he was starting to say lots of words and now he can recite the alphabet, which is pretty amazing. [18:56.1]
But when I read that vignette that opened to that chapter, I felt so, I guess to use a Christian term, convicted that, oh my God, I was doing that not knowing that I was doing this unconsciously to my child and getting disappointed by his frustration and how he just wouldn’t give up. And then I understood it after reading this chapter that what I had to show him was that I too had to go through a process like he is now of learning to do it, and now I make it look easy.
But far more important than the final result is the process, embracing the process of it, because if you love the process and learn to enjoy it for its intrinsic value, then you’ll be able to replicate that over and over. But if you’re only aiming for the end results, like so many students do, “Just tell me what I need to do to get the A, and I don’t really care about the learning, what I’m actually going to learn. Just give me the A on the exam or the grade on the report card,” then they’re actually not going to retain most of what they learn, if they learned anything, and they very likely won’t get that A. Worst of all, they will not have learned how to learn, because once you learn how to learn, you can learn anything. But if you only learn the subject ABC, and you didn’t really learn how to learn in the process, then you’re stuck. [20:12.6]
Now I’m on Page 226. How does this play out for Braden and Ethan? One really cool thing that Dr. Becky does in each chapter, she starts with this vignette in a little box. Actually, kind of annoyed that it’s in a little box because I tend to skip those types of things, because it’s in smaller font and all that. But she starts with a little story and then ends with that story, wraps it up, so it’s pretty cool. At the end of this chapter, she wraps it up.
“Ethan starts by calming his own body. He places his hand on his heart, takes a few breaths, and tells himself he is safe and can start again with his son. He repairs by saying, ‘Hey, buddy, I had a big feeling right then and that was my thing, not yours. I’m sorry I reacted like that.’”
First of all, this is further into the book, so I just want to point out this beautiful repair. How often did any of us get repairs from our parents when we were young? [21:05.6]
“After a few minutes, when he senses an opening, Ethan shares with Braden. ‘You know something I’ve never really told you? Puzzles are hard, and they’re supposed to feel hard. I don’t think I tell you that enough. Sometimes we think if something feels hard, it means we’re doing something wrong. But it means we’re actually doing something right.’
“‘I don’t care,’ Braden says. ‘I’m not doing it.’ Ethan doesn’t take the bait and, instead, remembers to teach coping, not success. Ethan tries something new. He quietly grabs a few puzzle pieces and starts putting them together himself off to the side. He models struggling, not getting them together right away, sighing a bit and saying aloud, ‘Ah, this is hard.’ Ethan expects Braden to call his bluff and say, ‘Dad, I know you’re pretending.’ But he doesn’t. Instead, he peaks over with interest. Ethan knows he still can’t be too direct, so he continues, he sings a softer mantra song to himself. If it doesn’t fit, put it to the side and try another piece.”
Actually, I have no idea how the song goes, but those are the words. [22:09.1]
“He models flexibility in placing down one piece and trying another. Braden eventually moves closer to Ethan and asks to put the last piece of the puzzle in. Ethan considers this a major win.”
After I read this, I went with the first opportunity with my son and he’s trying the puzzle piece game or toy again and we’ve got a bunch of these, and he’s not getting it into the slot correctly or whatever. Instead of just correcting him and just throwing it in there, I am then more like I take another piece and I try to–
I show how “Ah, this isn’t working. Gee, how is this going to match? Like, what am I looking for? Hmm. This color with this color? Hmm, or maybe this shape with that shape?” and I model not getting it right, figuring it out, trying another hole, and try another hole and “Oh, this one finally works.” [23:00.2]
And then, “It’s kind of stuck,” because these toys were kind of new so they were a little tight, so I kind of wedge it in there and then I get him to hook it in, and, boom, it goes in and I go, “Hey, there we go. And let’s try the next piece,” and we do it together.
I’ve continued to model that consciously and I’m pleased to report that he has learned a ton since then, and I would like to continue reinforcing this mental approach, this attitude towards learning, because this is how learning works, normalizing the learning process rather than just getting it right.
So many guys are stuck in their heads when they’re around women that they’re attracted to or in their relationships, because they’re so nervous about getting it right, and part of what they didn’t discover when they were younger and had it conditioned into them was the struggle of learning that that is part of the fun of learning, actually. [23:58.3]
But you’d have to cross over to the other side, like what you would do with working out. At first, it feels painful and you just want the result, like the big muscles or the six pack, but if that continues to be your motivation, you’re not going to persist. And you might cheat with steroids or add on the liposuction and get the results, but if you didn’t embrace the process of the training of the working out of the exercise, if you didn’t enjoy exercising, you’re not going to keep it up and very likely you won’t even get that result because it requires a lot of hard work to get there.
Okay, so now I’m at a choice point as a podcast host and I realized that we’re about 20-some-odd minutes in and I’ve only shared one out of two dozen points that I have on my notes to share, because this is such a great book. I am not going to rush through it all and still take a whole hour, so I think the better thing to do is to cut this up into two parts.
Let me know in the comments if you think this is a bad idea and I should have just trudged forward and made an hour-plus-long podcast episode, but I’m making an executive decision here to have a Part 2 for this so I can do it justice. [25:04.0]
And maybe in the intervening week, you can go and get that book, so the next time I hop on with Part 2, you will have more context for it because you will also be working through the book and we can share our feedback to each other on how the book was for you. I will be sharing dozens of transformational insights from this excellent book on anxiety, on shame, on how to develop resilience, how to develop natural willpower and discipline, how to learn about your own needs, how to become internally validated, and so much more. So, tune in to Part 2 next week, and thank you so much for listening.
If you have any feedback so far on this book analysis, I’d love to hear it. If this helped you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think could benefit from it. Thank you so much for listening. I look forward to welcoming you to Part 2 of the Good Inside book analysis. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [26:01.0]
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