Latest entries

Selfish? ‘I love you’ frequently says ‘I’m desperate for you to love me’

by David McElroy

Please love me

Why do so many people murder those they claim to love? Why do we call these murders “crimes of passion”?

Could it be that much of what we call romantic love is really the need to control someone else? And could it be that when most people profess love, they’re really saying, “I’m desperate for someone to love me. Will you be the one to love and accept me?”

Here’s the real question that’s been bothering me lately. Is love always ultimately selfish?

At heart, I’m a romantic, in both the narrow sense and the broad sense. I identify with the line in the Postal Service song called “Clark Gable” which says, “I want so badly to believe that there is truth, that love is real.” I’ve believed in love — and continued to believe in love — at times in my life when it didn’t make sense. I need love to be real. I need for someone who says “I love you” to mean that she loves and accepts me — as a person, the way I am, for better or worse — rather than it simply meaning, “I like the attention you’re giving me.”

I’ve always ignored evidence to the contrary and made the conscious decision to believe in people who’ve said they love me, even when the evidence suggested otherwise. Am I idealistic in the good sense and just waiting for real love to triumph? Or am I in denial and setting myself up to be disappointed in people who are merely serving their own selfish purposes — for however long I meet their needs?

I don’t know, but the question has been haunting me.

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Facebook leads to marriage for couple whose love never died

by David McElroy

Reunited couple

When James got a Facebook message from Wendy in 2013, he didn’t know what to think. More than 20 years after a nasty high school breakup, he was afraid she was still angry with him.

James and Wendy were high school sweethearts in Forest Lake, Minn., a small town about half an hour north of Minneapolis. They fell in love and seemed to have a strong relationship. Then Wendy got pregnant but lost the baby.

While she was in the hospital, a friend told her lies about James — that he was cheating on her and that he had told people she had had a coat-hanger abortion. By the time she got out, the angry young teen wanted nothing to do with James. She wouldn’t listen to his denials.

They graduated from high school together in 1991 and then went their separate ways. They both married other people. James spent years in the military. Wendy had three daughters and ended up in Alabama. By 2013, though, each was alone. That’s when Wendy sent James that Facebook message.

Wendy told him that she would be in Minnesota for a visit and she wanted to see him while she was there. James said he didn’t know what she might want — “Maybe she still wanted to tell me off,” he said — and he turned her down without much of an explanation.

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Missing someone creates incredibly intense physical sensations in heart

by David McElroy

Lonely night walker

It starts out as a vague discomfort. Your brain knows something is wrong in your body and there’s an immediate running monologue in your head.

What’s wrong? I can’t tell what’s wrong.

Maybe your heart beats a little faster. There’s a gnawing in your chest. There’s discomfort in your gut. It’s almost as though there’s something inside you with an urgent voice of its own.

What’s going on? Someone tell me what’s going on.

But you have no answer for the voice. You’re confused. You don’t know what you need. You don’t know what’s wrong. You just feel a growing sense of dread and panic. The sensations in your body are growing more urgent.

What do I need? Am I hungry? I must be hungry. I need something. What do I need?

The feeling of missing someone can create incredibly intense physical sensations in your heart and in your gut. The discomfort usually starts in the gut, but sometimes it starts higher — in the chest around the heart. It all works together, but you’re not even sure what’s going on. You end up guessing.

This is about her, isn’t it? Why am I thinking about her? Was I thinking about her or something else?

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Kind words can make big difference for stressed parents at Christmas

by David McElroy

Stressed mother

As I pulled into a parking place at Walmart Monday evening, I could hear crying and screaming. A woman and her two children were at the van next to me. The youngest child was crying at the top of her lungs. The other child was yelling. The mom was screaming back.

I immediately didn’t like her.

“Get in the car and stop screaming,” she screamed at one child. “No, you’re not getting that. Just get in there and shut up, both of you.”

I sat in my car for a moment, silently judging her for being out of control and screaming at her kids.

As I got out of the car and looked over at the woman, I saw someone who looked exhausted, angry and stressed. She didn’t seem like a bad person. She just seemed like someone who was overwhelmed and snapped at her children because she had reached the end of her rope.

There’s a part of me that has a whole bundle of pre-made judgments for someone in such a situation. Her children are out of control because she hasn’t taught them how to behave. She should know better than to yell at them like that. She should act like the adult. She should be in control.

The list goes on and on.

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Yes, Trump is scary and crazy, but fear the immoral system, not him

by David McElroy

Trump pointing

I’m terrified of what Donald Trump might do as president, but I’m even more terrified of the system that has the power to set him — or anyone else — up as a ruler over me.

As Trump makes statements that are increasingly insane and scary, I see people all over social media posting those words and pointing out how scary they are. Their outrage makes it clear that they’re saying to Trump supporters, “See? Don’t you get it? The man is crazy. Quit supporting him!”

I’m starting to realize that a lot of people can’t accept that a substantial portion of the voting public — a vast majority, I’d argue — are delusional in very serious ways. They believe that if Trump supporters just understand how monstrous his beliefs are — and how insane he is — his support would evaporate.

They’re wrong.

Trump is exactly what a huge percentage of people in this country want. Think about that for a moment.

Millions and millions of people want a “strong man” who will promise to fix all their problems. They want someone who will “stand up” to other governments, threatening those nations, bullying them and bombing other people who don’t bend to his will. They want someone who will protect them from foreigners who scare them. They want someone who will pander to their darkest, ugliest prejudices — because they are too ignorant to know how evil their beliefs are.

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Understanding Trump phenomenon requires empathy for his supporters

by David McElroy

Trump supporters

Donald Trump scares me. As long as he’s a private citizen, he’s just a narcissistic buffoon with money, but he could be uniquely deadly to the world if you hand him the power of the U.S. presidency. So how did we get to the point that this dysfunctional clown leads current presidential polls?

As this is written, 28 percent of likely Republican primary voters say they support Trump. For those of us who listen to the man and immediately realize that he’s at least borderline insane, this seems preposterous. When people first mentioned him as a candidate four years ago, I said it was an indication we had reached “Idiocracy.” As it became clear that he was being taken more and more seriously this year, I compared the situation to Germany’s 1932 election.

For many of us, it’s easy to see why he’s dangerous. It’s easy to see that he’s crazy. What’s not so easy to explain is why so many Americans passionately support this man.

Trump’s supporters are angry and they’re part of an ugly movement. Pretty much every ugly movement in history is an overreaction to something bad that’s happened in the lives of the people involved. Such groups tend to feel angry and marginalized. If you don’t understand their underlying grievance — whether they’re right or wrong — you won’t understand what’s going on — and you’ll have no hope of solving the problem without massive bloodshed.

The fact that Germans in the 1920s and early ’30s were angry, desperate and humiliated led them to turn to Adolph Hitler, a minor demagogue who promised he could fix their problems. How much grief could the world have been spared if the needs and fears of desperate Germans had been taken seriously by the world after the “war to end all wars”?

You don’t have to agree with people to understand their motivations. You don’t have to take their side. You just have to understand what the world looks like from their point of view.

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‘Pretense of knowledge’ is leading the world down a dangerous path

by David McElroy

Paris attacks-woman views bodies

I don’t know how to make angry jihadis suddenly quit hating westerners and wanting to kill us. I don’t know how to stop everyone from doing evil things. I don’t know the perfect response to the attacks in Paris Friday.

But I have a pretty good idea that “bomb them back to the Stone Age” isn’t going to work.

After a bloody attack such as the one in Paris, the first instinct is retaliation. That seems to be human nature. The French have already sent tons and tons of bombs to blow up rocks and sand in the desert city which is considered to be the capital of the Islamic State. (Some western politicians say we should call the group Daesh instead, but I’m not going to get into that naming controversy.)

Dropping bombs on remote desert cities is popular with scared and angry voters — whether they’re French or American — but even if you kill the right people, you’re playing whack-a-mole. As you kill certain leaders and fighters, new ones emerge to take their place. (It’s a lot like the War on Drugs in that respect.)

When terrorists attacked this country on Sept. 11, 2001, there was a cry for blood, too. Soon afterward, George W. Bush sent U.S. troops to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the government there, because it had given sanctuary to the training camps used by terrorist groups. Shortly after that, he also invaded Iraq, even though Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks on the United States.

How has all that worked for us?

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Honest art builds bridges for aliens who crave connection with humans

by David McElroy

Connection-art at Burning Man

The Artist vs. Lizard Brain-2If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, “Playing it safe isn’t good enough; I have to try things that might fail,” you might want to read that first.

I don’t belong on this earth.

All my life, I’ve felt as though I was dropped off on the wrong planet, because I feel like an alien here. I feel as though I don’t belong. In fact, I feel most alone when I’m in groups of people, because it reminds me how different I feel.

In the most basic of ways, I lack connection with the vast majority of people. That leaves me feeling isolated, alone and frustrated.

As I go through life, I sometimes feel like questioning my sanity, because I see things in the world and in people and in relationships that other people seem not to notice — almost as though there’s an unspoken agreement to ignore certain things.

I feel like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” I feel as though almost everybody is pretending not to notice things which seem painfully obvious to me. But then I start wondering whether I really see what I think I see. Am I the one who’s imagining things?

When I try to tell others what I see, there’s mostly a shrug of indifference or else they look away as though I’ve mentioned something that’s impolite to mention. And that lack of interest from almost everyone else makes me certain that I’m an alien.

There’s something about this place — and these people — that I don’t understand.

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As nightmares plague my friends, I’m grateful mine have subsided

by David McElroy


Nightmares always end, but when you’re in the middle of one, it seems as though it might last forever.

Last year was terrible for me. For several years, I’d been letting myself slide into a very deep hole. I was depressed. I was broke. I was alone. I was confused.

It was a nightmare that felt as though it would never end. In fact, I didn’t just slide into that deep hole. I fell into the hole and kept digging it deeper and deeper. It seemed as though nothing I could do was right. For the first time in my life, everything felt bleak and hopeless.

But I’ve finally dug my way out of the hole, even though I’ve not really recovered entirely. I’m not where I want to be in life. I don’t have the love or family I need. I haven’t achieved the things I want to achieve. I haven’t become the person I feel driven to become.

I sometimes complain about the things in my life that I’m still unhappy about, but then I see things in the lives of people I care about — and my troubles don’t seem as big as they had seemed before.

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Trying to force others to be like us is arrogant and destroys relationships

by David McElroy

Romantic cards

It was about eight years ago. I was dating a woman who lived in North Carolina at the time. One day, I got a sweet and loving card from her in my mailbox, which I appreciated.

The next day, I got another one. For many days, the post office delivered another card from her. I don’t remember how many there were, but it was something like eight or nine. Great, right? It was a sweet and loving gesture from a thoughtful woman.

But I didn’t see it that way. I was a fool, because I chose to interpret something through the lens of my own thoughts and practices. I was an idiot.

Let me explain.

At some point early in the procession of daily cards, I noticed that each envelope had a tiny number written in a corner of the back. They were in order, so I quickly surmised that she had bought all the cards at once and written them all at once. She had done the whole project and numbered each envelope so she would know which to send when.

Great, right?

Now this is where I have to ask you not to judge me too harshly, because I’m embarrassed — humiliated, actually — to admit the way I reacted.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I don’t always have the time to respond. Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”
I’m currently taking a break from Facebook, but I periodically use Twitter, although I have very little to say that takes 140 characters of fewer.
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