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Neuroticism

In the world of psychology, they have what they call the “Big 5” personality traits. They use these terms to help categorize and understand an individual’s personality, temperament, and psyche. These five traits are:

Openness

Conscientiousness

Extraversion

Agreeableness

Neuroticism

From my perspective, I believe that out of all the personality traits, the most toxic for men is neuroticism. In short, the higher the level of neuroticism you possess, the more difficult life as a man will be for you.

So, what exactly is neuroticism?

Psychology Today defines neuroticism as being “typically defined as a tendency towards anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and other negative feelings”. A more succinct definition would be “the propensity for negative thought”. I often give the following example to illustrate:

Let’s say I win a billion dollars in the lottery. I go up to my friend or relative that is low in neuroticism, and I tell them about my winnings and that I want to give them ten million dollars as a thank you for all they have done for me. This friend will probably hug the life out of me, thank me, cry tears of joy, and just start rattling off ways in which the money will change their life forever. This, in turn, is the kind of person you want to help out more and more.

If I make that same offer to a high-neuroticism friend or relative, their reaction will go something like this:

“Are you sure this money isn’t stolen? Is this even legal? How do I manage the taxes? How will I get the money to the bank? Can I even put this all in one bank account? Will I be flagged by my bank and everyone will try to sell me stuff? What if my family finds out? How can I hide this money from them? I’m not even sure what I should do with the money. I don’t feel like I deserve this. Are you sure you can do this? Why me?”

After such an encounter, this will probably be the last time you want to help them.

Neurotic people, especially neurotic men, are an insanely huge turnoff. I don’t mean in just a sexual sense, I mean in all facets of life. In the workplace, for example, I’ve noticed that there are certain personality types in certain fields. In creative fields, such as graphic design and photography, the people involved tend to be more neurotic than the people in less-creative fields… like sales. If for some reason a person that is high in neuroticism ends up in sales… they don’t last long. It never works. You have to be very stoic and positive… a “just go for the deal kind” of guy if you want to make it in sales.

I remember when I worked for a giant company that would send me all over the country to install hardware and software for our company’s dealerships. At the end of the install, I would sit with their salespeople to assist in the training of the new software. You could always tell who were the top sales guys. They were usually very confident, charming, simple… they just got the job done. They had very little time for bullshit. They had sales to make, after all. Then, there was the new young sales guy that you know was not going to make it long. He was picking apart the software. He didn’t like the new laptop. He would rattle off question after question about features that weren’t part of the software yet. He would get angrier and angrier about how the software wouldn’t allow him to sell machines in what he deemed was the proper way. While he’s busy rambling on about how he can’t possibly sit in front of the prospective customer with this software, his way-more-experienced and way-more-successful peer is walking out of the door on the way to land his next $10,000 commission. The successful guy loves the new tool. It gives him an even better edge than he already had before. During training, you could just see his eyes light up as he realized he will probably sell a few more machines that year and be able to pay off his house.

Mr. Successful sales guy is invited to all the outings and all the meetings. He’s positive. He gets stuff done. He’s fun to be around. Mr. Neurotic… well, it’s not uncommon to “forget” to ask him to go to lunch or to that meeting with the big prospective customer. Why? Because he’s just a real drag. He’s negative. He’s too spazzy, nervous, and he sees the world as glass half empty. His counterpart is cool, stoic, and positive. Of course, the boss is going to show favoritism to Mr. Successful.

One good thing about our work at Dad Starting Over is that it provides many men with a true “Ah-ha!” moment, or series of moments, in their life. They start putting pieces together. Things start making more sense. They have a better sense of direction. For a guy who is naturally low in neuroticism, this extra piece of the puzzle is exactly what they need to springboard them into an unforeseen level of success in many facets of their life, not just their marriage or sex life. For your more neurotic types, the world of DSO has just added more fuel to an already angry firestorm of neuroticism. In short, we gave the guy A LOT more stuff to worry about.

The neurotic guy will dissect every action that they and their wife do. “My wife sighed heavily the other day at lunch and said that she just wanted some peace and quiet and didn’t feel like talking a lot. I wonder if that means she is disgusted by me and hates eating lunch with me. I wonder if she’s cheating. I wonder if I’m not enough of a lover for her. I wonder if she secretly lusts after the neighbor. She would probably listen to HIM talk for hours. I only get to see her one lunch per week, and she can’t stand to hear me talk for 30 minutes? Does this mean our marriage is over? What about the kids? What will we do?” The neurotic man’s stress is palpable. His body language and everything about him screams, “This guy is a negative, nervous, over-thinking bag of stress. Yuck. I need to get away from him quickly.” The wife will continue her quiet time and pull away in an effort to relieve herself from the stress of being around such a high-neuroticism guy. After the kids, work, and everything else in life, spending quality time with such a guy doesn’t sound so appealing.

Put the low-neuroticism guy in that scenario and it will go something like this:

Wife: “Sigh… I’m just so tired. Let’s just sit in peace and enjoy our meal, can we?”

Husband reaches over and gives her hand a squeeze: “Sounds like a great idea.” He’ll then spend the next 30 minutes thinking about his hobby or that thing at work that’s been nagging at him. His wife will enjoy the peace… but start to feel a little anxious about ignoring her husband and his obvious pleasure with sitting in complete silence. She will, perhaps unconsciously, be put at ease by a man who is not so pliable and anxious. He doesn’t NEED her? Well then, better text him a sneaky photo of her boobs with a note about how she loves him and can’t wait to spend some alone time with him tonight. The low-neuroticism guy replies with a, “How do you keep getting sexier every day? See you tonight, dirty girl.”

Let’s say the high-neuroticism guy gets “lucky” one night. His wife, like many wives,  has a fit of guilt over how she has been treating him the past few weeks. He’s a great guy, after all. A great husband. He’s just a bit stressed out and anxious… but still he’s her husband. So, she does what many women in her position do: She offers him sex. “You know, we can go have sex in the bedroom if you want?” she says with all the passion of a person reading furniture assembly instructions. Anxious husband’s energy, in that split second, gets redirected and put into “horndog mode”. He literally jumps off the couch and starts unbuttoning his pants. “No”, the wife says, “Go to the bedroom. The kids are still up.” As he’s hopping down the hallway trying to pull his jeans off with one hand and his shirt off with the other, he falls and starts laughing to himself. The wife doesn’t seem to find it too funny. She’s busy trying to find batteries for the vibrator. She finally gives up, lies on the bed, and tells him to hurry up… her friend is supposed to call her in ten minutes to talk. Horndog anxious husband jumps on the wife, mounts her, and plows away like a jackrabbit. It takes all of 45 seconds. Wife does a horrible job of containing her disdain at that moment as she rolls off the bed and goes to the bathroom. Husband feels bad… but he’s still somewhat elated and that one session didn’t do enough to completely squash horndog mode. He notices that his wife’s vibrator is looking a little worn, so he goes onto Amazon on his phone and orders not one, not two, but four new sex toys… and some lingerie for her to try on next time. His nervous energy has caused him to overlook the complete lack of connection and intimacy at that moment. His wife feels used… and she’ll feel even more used when the newly purchased sex supplies show up two days later. Her lack of enthusiasm and outright anger will send Mr. Neurotic further into a tailspin of ruminating negativity. “But… we just did it the other day. She asked for it! Why does she suddenly not want it anymore?!”

To break things down into their simplest form… Neurotic guys just aren’t “cool”. Funny how we use the term “cool” to describe a guy who is stoic, fun, and charming. The opposite of cool is warm or hot. When things are heated up, their molecules and atoms vibrate faster and faster. The object expands and takes up more space. What a perfect illustration of a neurotic guy. Too much vibration. Nervous energy takes up too much space.

So, if you’re a guy who identifies with having an exaggerated neurotic personality trait, is it hopeless for you? Absolutely not. BUT, it’s going to take work. There are a few different ways of looking at this.

1. You’re neurotic because of things that have happened to you in the past. You probably have neurotic or overbearing parents that had you walking on eggshells most of your life. With therapy and relearning how to walk by yourself again, you’re able to remove much of that nervous energy and come to peace with yourself and go through life with a much healthier and more stoic outlook.

2. You’re naturally more stoic in nature, but recent events have made you depressed, anxious, nervous, on edge… just not in a good place. Going through a divorce, being cheated on, losing your job… these kinds of things can wreak havoc on a person and send them into a neurotic tailspin.

In both cases, the cure for such an anxious state is ironically, at first, an even more heightened sense of anxiety. You have to face your fears, put yourself out there. You have to fail, fail, win, fail, fail, win again… and eventually you stop failing so often. You grow stronger. Braver.

That low-neuroticism successful salesman that walks into the room with confidence has been rejected COUNTLESS times. When you see his stoic “cool” state, what you’re seeing is the end result of much learning. He has learned, either consciously or subconsciously, that his current “cool” state of being gets stuff done. Being worried, nervous, spazzy, and tentative in life gets him nowhere, especially as far as his paycheck is concerned.

I think this “experience” theme carries over perfectly to the world of romantic relationships. If a man who has very little if any experience with girls gets married and has kids, he’s probably going to have very neurotic energy. Everything about the relationship is new. It’s nerve-racking. He’s learning as he’s going. He’s a brand new car salesman that is told to go out in the lot and don’t come back unless you’ve sold three cars today. That’s some pressure! If he’s like most men in his relationship shoes, he’s probably NOT going to have a solid mentor or role model to run to with questions. Dad was probably the same as him. When he goes to his friends with tales of woe, they just sip their beers and respond with, “Hey… happy wife, happy life.” So, he’ll just have to learn on his own. Much like the nervous sweaty salesman… there is something OFF about him. Something that says to the “target” (his wife), “Yeah… I’m not sure I trust this guy. Something ain’t right here.”

If there is ONE thing that most men can do to conquer their heightened neuroticism, it’s to have more meaningful contact with other men. Join a “tribe”. Get together with like-minded men. Talk. Share war stories. Learn from each other. The internet and groups like the DSO Fraternity make this easier than ever. As most men in the Fraternity will report, just having that daily interaction and the ability to share without risk of shame is a HUGE benefit to their mental well-being.

Your neuroticism doesn’t have to define you. Recognize it, take hold of it, and shape it into something more positive and productive.

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