Book notes: The Truth

The Truth by Neil Strauss book summary.

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The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss

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Synopsis: “Neil Strauss became famous to millions around the world as the author of The Game, a funny and slyly instructive account of how he transformed himself from a scrawny, insecure nerd into the ultraconfident, ultrasuccessful “pickup artist” known as Style. The book jump-started the international “seduction community” and made Strauss a household name – revered or notorious – among single men and women alike.

But the experience of writing The Game also transformed Strauss into a man who could have what every man wants: the ability to date – and/or have casual sex with – almost every woman he met. The results were heady, to be sure. But they also conditioned him to view the world as a kind of constant parade of women, sex, and opportunity – with intimacy and long-term commitment taking a backseat.

That is until he met the woman who forced him to choose between herself and the parade. The choice was not only difficult, it was wrenching. It forced him deep into his past, to confront not only the moral dimensions of his pickup lifestyle but also a wrenching mystery in his childhood that shaped the man he became. It sent him into extremes of behavior that exposed just how conflicted his life had become. And it made him question everything he knew about himself,and about the way men and women live with and without each other.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

I picked up this book because I thought Neil Strauss did a fantastic job with the classic The Game and I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter in his life. I didn’t know much about this book other than that it was “the truth about relationships” and that he did a guest post on Tim Ferriss’s blog regarding going to an “anything goes” sex club, which was essentially an excerpt from this book.

Key notes:

  • He checks himself into rehab for sex addiction. But he can tell the workers don’t like his questions because they expose the flaws in their system
  • The nurse attendant said if you’re look at porn or masturbating, you’re a sex addict. He new that he had a healthy relationship with a healthy person, but admitted that he was the thing wrong with the relationship
  •  Lying is about controlling by someone else’s reality hoping that what they don’t know won’t hurt you
  • People are what matter, not thingsHe wanted to get ahead of his addiction so that it doesn’t destroy his family down the line
  • Guilt is about breaking the rules. Shame is about being broken
  • Weeks earlier, they went to couples therapy and Neil admitted that he doesn’t know for sure if he can resist temptations yet. This is why he wants to go to rehab so he can get rid of this problem. They embrace and cry tears of sadness, relief, and hope
  • If you work hard enough at almost any behavior, it can be changed in 3 to 5 years. Another term for recovery is behavior modification
  • To survive painful beliefs and feelings, we often mask them with angerThat way we don’t have to feel the shame behind it
    • The payoff of anger in response to when you feel ashamed is mastery, control, or power. So the anger makes you feel better or “one-up”
    • When you use sex to restore power or feel better about yourself in a similar way, this is what’s known as eroticized rage
  • Some studies show that testosterone might have something to do with sex urges. Why gay men tend to have more casual sex, and women with testosterone treatment have more sex drive
  • He remembers his mom complaining to him in the middle of the night about his father and how he makes her so miserable
  • His mother was very strict and controlling growing up. It made him hate arbitrary rules he had to put up with
  • The big secret was that his father had a weird fetish for amputees and cripples, and his mom hated his dad because she felt like a prize for his fetish
    • She told Neil not to tell anyone nor his dad that they knew about it
  • The therapist Joan came to the conclusion that in addiction this fathers sex addiction, his mom wanted to be in a relationship with him. Which was why she was more strict and harsh with him than his brother
    • That’s why he was never able to have a healthy relationship with women, and why there was a double standard between him and his brother
    • It wasn’t on purpose, but her actions proved she wanted him for herself
    • Joan calls this relationship dynamic “emotional incest
  • Ingrid’s father cheated on her mother with several women and was still with his supposed ex wife having more children and leading a double life. He then almost killed her mom during an argument
  • A lot of times, people think it’s just one person in a family that causes all the trouble
    • In reality, a family is a system, and a sick person is a product of a sick system
  • He thought that for his mom, sex and affairs were okay for Neil, but a real girlfriend would be competition
  • If you felt feeling sorry for or smothered by a parent, this is a sign enmeshment likely occurred. They lose their sense of self, and avoid letting anyone get too close or let the lift get sucked out of them again
    • The abandoned can’t contain their feelings, while the enmeshed can be perfectionistic and controlling of themselves and others
    • In a relationship, they put up walls and use distancing techniques to avoid intimacy
    • Aka avoidant attachment or love avoidance
  • Most sex addicts are love avoidants
  • Ingrid admits that she was in rehab for 2 years in the past
  • He remembers during the end of high school that 2 girls from his school asked him to come over and have a threesome, but he was grounded and didn’t want to rebel and leave home
  • In this case, a pattern occurs: The avoidant gives and gives, sacrificing his own needs. But it is never enough for the love addict
    • So the avoidant grows resentful and seeks an outlet outside of the relationship, but at the same time feels too guilty to stop taking care of the needy person
    • This outlet can take the form of an affair, but it can also be excessive exercising, or work, or drugs, or living on the edge, or anything high-risk
    • He will also compartmentalize it because the secrecy helps kick that intensity up a notch
    • In the meantime, as the avoidant wall keeps getting higher, the love addict uses denial to hold onto the fantasy and start accepting unacceptable behavior
  • A healthy relationship is went two individuated adults decide to have a relationship and that becomes a third entityThey nurture the relationship, and the relationship nurtures them
    • But they are not overly dependent or independent, they are interdependent, which means they take care of the majority of their needs and wants on their own, but when they can’t, they’re not afraid to ask their partner for help
  • Key idea: only when our love for someone exceeds our need for them, do we have a shot at a genuine relationship together
  • Neil questions this paradigm that intimacy is the ideal and holy Grail for someone, especially in a relationship. He questions whether the intensity and highs are more worth it then this prized thing called intimacy
  • As he does the exercise with Lorraine regarding giving the shame back to his parents, he hears his group of sex addicts cry in support of him
  • He realized that his mom feels on the outside what his dad feels on the inside
    • He recognized that his parents do you belong with each other
  • He felt a release of lightness after discovering the truth that his blackness was not him, but his parents
    • All his anxiety and guilt and fear peeled away as if they were layers of clothing he didn’t know he was wearing
    • He thought it was a part of his skin the whole time, but turns out it was someone else’s
  • Real intelligence is when your mind and heart connect. That’s when you see the truth so clearly and unmistakably that you don’t have to think about it
  • Pets are the gateway drug to children
    • As a general rule, when a woman over 25 gets a dog it means she’s ready to start a family
  • The brain scan doctor tells him he has a bunch more diseases and things wrong with him
    • He says you are as faithful as you decide to be if your brain is healthy
    • If your brain is not healthy, then you are as faithful as your options
  • He realized that his self-destructive impulses he’s had lately is not actually about wanting to hurt himself. It’s about freedom.It’s about not wanting to live under constant scrutiny, to be responsible for her feelings, to feel guilty if he happens to have a sexual thought that’s not about her. To feel like his every word or expression is a red hot brand that may scare her
  • Perhaps relationships are like heart surgery, even the smallest mistake can be fatal
  • There are three primary brain systems for meaning:
    1. Sex
    2. Romantic love
    3. Deep attachment
  • After the initial intensity of a new relationship, our romance and sex drives often swing towards other people, while our attachment drive remains connected to our primary partner
  • This natural ebbing of romance can be prevented, she says
    • The solution is for couples to do novel and exciting things together to release dopamine and get the romance rush
    • Make love regularly to release oxytocin and sexually bond
    • Cut themselves off from cheating opportunities, and in general make sure their partners are continually thrilling enough to keep all three drives humming
  • A lot of research is telling him that monogamy for humans is not normal
    • A historian on marriage tells him that the tradition of marriage was never even supposed to be about intimacy
    • For the majority of its history, marriage was an economic and political institution, mostly about merging resources, formingalliances, or creating a bloodline for inheritance
    • Not until the late 18th century did people marry for love, and not until the late 20th century for it to start becoming an intimate partnership rather than a patriarchal institution
  • Today, love and relationships has become a build-your-own model
  • He was “free” when he and Ingrid broke up
  • He feels fine with the fatherhood and the responsibility, it’s the exclusivity of a monogamous relationship he has issues with
  • Loneliness is holding in a joke because you have no one to share with
  • For most men, what’s tougher than breaking up is the moment when their ex finally falls out of love with him and let’s go
  • Neil makes the argument to a couple he knows over dinner that a woman’s emotional needs get met not only from her husband but from other sources like friends and family
    • However, a man’s sexual needs can only be met through his wife which isn’t fair and it doesn’t make sense
  • Most women think there is a quantity of time you have to wait before putting out. This is not the case
    • It is more about the quality of the connection
  • In life, whoever has the strongest reality winsLose your moral certainty and lose the ground you stand on
  • He was able to begin to form his polygamy family with Veronica and Anne
  • Lesson: The quickest route to poly-harmony and life among the rest of the walking wounded is truth and understanding
  • Perhaps the secret of fidelity is knowing the grass is crazier on the other sideSexual experimentation is fun until you’re with someone you have feelings for
  • Caring, understanding, and trust need to be established first
    • Impatienceis the enemy of intimacy
  • In the dance of infatuation, we see others not as they are but as a projection of who we want them to beAnd we impose on them all the imaginary criteria we think will fill the void in our hearts
    • But in the end, this strategy leads only to suffering. It’s not a relationship when the other person is left completely out of it
  • In father Yode’s polygamy, each woman was already bonded communally
    • They were all “primary” in their respective roles
  • The problem that many people have is that the exact quality that originally attracted them to their partner becomes a threat once a serious relationships begins
  • But freedom doesn’t taste quite as sweet without securityHe’s second guessing whether a truly open relationship like he has with Sage is really what he wants
  • Mating in Captivity book says the way to keep romance and sex hot in a relationship is through separation, unpredictability, and fear of loss
  • After he found out Sage had cheated on him in their open relationship, he realized he had gotten what he deserved: someone just like him
    • She wanted the security if the relationship without the responsibility
  • If the male game is getting sex, the female game is withholding it
  • The only relationship he hasn’t tried was the one with himself
  • It takes humility to change
  • Good parenting will promote better oxytocin and vasopressin systems in the long run
    • These are linked with more closely bonding individuals when it comes to romantic relationships
  • Lorraine told him he had to cut off all communication with any sexual or potentially sexual relationships by changing his contact info
  • Love is something about a person, some connection with them that makes you willing to change
  • He realized that he needed to treat monogamy as a choice, not something he’s forced to do
  • The inner child isn’t just a metaphor, it’s real. It is our past
    • The only way to escape the past is to embrace it
  • There are plans, and then there is Life
    • Life trumps plans every time
  • They say that love is blind, but it’s traumathat is blind. Lovesees what is
  • Love is not an accident. It is a delicate union of two complex, complementary puzzle pieces that have inadvertently been created by different manufacturers
  • Loveisn’t something we’ve learned, it is something we have and we must unlearn in order to access it
  • Recoveryis not about perpetually living in joy and harmony, but about shortening the time it takes to return there when you inevitably fuck it up
  • Love is not about finding the right person, it is about becoming the right person
  • It turns out that relationships don’t require sacrifices. They just require growing up and the ability to stop clinging to immature and needs that are so tenacious they keep the mature needs from getting met
    • Before his recovery, he always wanted more of everything. Now, he feels like he has enough with just her
    • He developed a relationship he been looking for the whole time: a relationship without fear
  • The opposite of fearis not joy, but acceptance
  • The best thing we can do for our relationship with others is to render our relationship to ourselves more conscious
    • The greatest gift to others is our own best selves

Closing thoughts:

Such a great book, a real “page-turner” so to speak. Although I was listening to it, I couldn’t help but keep going. Unlike personal development books where I need to take breaks to digest the information, this was such a compelling and unbelievable narrative that I was constantly hooked each time I picked it back up. Despite it being a long book, I finished it relatively quickly.

Memorable moments:

  • I love the part during his second psychotherapy journey where he completely empties himself, and he finally starts to take care of his inner child. He fills himself up with all the things he needed as a child.
  • I really enjoyed the journal entries and injections of the other women, like Ingrid’s entry near the end. It is so cute and romantic how Ingrid recounted her last year or so without Neil and her recovery. It’s such a touching and sweet “true love”-type story between the two of them.

I love this story because it’s about this guy who tries to overcome his demons, his skeletons in the closet, in order to get to the root of his relationship problems. At one point, he was one of the world’s greatest pickup artists, but eventually discovers that all of his relationships ultimately fail.

He embarks on a quest to explore different relationship styles to find one that fits him and all of his criteria. In the end, he realizes that he is the common denominator of all his failed relationships. He needs to fix the relationship with himself before he can build the foundation for a deep, intimate relationship with the one woman he knows is the right one for him.

Neil transparently shows us through his incredible journey and complete vulnerability that we need to face our inner demons in order to reveal our authentic, healthy selves.

Like The Game, it had many elements of great storytelling. There were so many unbelievable and entertaining moments, which makes it extremely hard to put down. I love how he finds, through a lot of help, the true values of a lasting relationship.

Overall, Neil is a masterful storyteller. He knows how to keep the reader wanting more, tie in deep themes and lessons, and bring the story full circle.

Nutshell: World-renowned author and former pickup artist discovers that facing our demons and becoming our best selves is the true path to developing happy, healthy, and long-lasting relationships.

Rating: 5/5

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