What we talk about, when we talk about Dread
(all quotes taken from "What We Talk About When We Talk about Love," by Raymond Carver)
/u/BluepillProfessor requested I share my thoughts on Dread to MRP. So, here they are. These thoughts ended up spanning nearly 7000 words, so my writing extends into comments below this post, and I added links to each one accordingly. If you don't like read what is essentially a huge wall of text, this is probably not going to turn out well for you.
We talk a lot about Dread on MRP.
And while we have a lot of MRP Redditors with some great advice on Dread, I've found a lot of the conventional advice on Dread outside of MRP is limited at best, and misleading at worst. We tell everyone "sidebar reading, bro," yet Athol Kay (author of MMSLP) explicitly advises against Dread. Meanwhile, blogs like CH have posts like this. To call those suggestions "emotional abuse" is overblown, silly, and false. To call it "effective MRP advice" is also false. We are not going to be fixing fundamental problems in our marriage based on how often we do or do not turn off our cell phone. I hope this is not a controversial opinion here.
Despite my proclivity to cite a lot of armchair psychology in my comments, my professional background is actually in marketing. This is really the basis of my psychology knowledge - as you might imagine, it helps to understand how people think when you're trying to sell them shit. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized Dread Game was really just packaging a lot of very simple marketing concepts that I think pretty much anyone will be very familiar with.
This post will be a deconstruction of Dread from that perspective. I will then offer some opinions on those deconstructions, and why I think Dread is is incredibly powerful force, but why it's more useful in some situations than others, and why I think Dread has some limitations. With that said, let's get into it:
What do we talk about when we talk about Dread?
"There was a time when I thought I loved my first wife more than life itself. But now I hate her guts. I do. How do you explain that? What happened to that love? What happened to it, is what I'd like to know. I wish someone could tell me."
My favorite definition for Dread is this: Dread is the opposite of being taken for granted.
For any of you guys still struggling to unplug, I would encourage you to view Dread in this context. You are frustrated in your marriage because you feel you are being taken for granted. Being taken for granted is not a pleasant feeling. Generally in your life, when you've felt taken for granted, you just leave. At one point you probably had a girlfriend, a friend, or an employer who just seemed to be investing a lot less into their association with you than you were. Eventually, you'd get pissed off, and you'd leave. You'd break up with your girlfriend, you'd stop trying to make an effort to hang out with your friend, you'd quit your job and get another one.
There is very little need for Dread in a relationship when you can terminate it. You can simply conclude, "I'm not getting what I'm putting into this, so I'm going to stop doing it." It's that simple. The mere fact that you have this option usually inspires enough Dread for a functional relationship. People won't treat you shitty because they know you have the option to stop dealing with shtity people.
So why the hell is so much of MRP advice founded on Dread? Because we don't want to leave. Because leaving means divorcing, which will impose a lot of external costs that we'd hate to pay. While "divorce rape" can largely be avoided with a good lawyer and thorough preparation, divorce still sucks. We don't want to get divorced, we want things to just... be better. While I've commented that I think the financial toll and child custody outcomes are tremendously exaggerated on TRP, those costs do exist, and they are still very significant and painful to pay.
So we don't want to leave our wife and find a new one. We just want our current wife to stop sucking. And this is why Dread is critical. Like some of us on MRP, I had the pleasure of being called out by MRP's very own /u/whinemoreplease, who once responded to one of my comments with:
"For most of you guys, you've already decided that you're going to stick around through whatever bullshit she throws at you. pretty much dread is your only option, you know, unless you want to be hard core red and have divorce on the table at all times."
And, well, he's right. The thought of divorce kills us. We can't leave. So what can we do?
Imagine there was only a single employer in your area. You had a job there, and it sucked. The paycheck was meager, the hours were shitty, your boss was an asshole. You want to quit, but you... can't. There is no other employer nearby. The price of respect seems to be quitting and being completely broke. That's going to make you feel kind of "stuck," isn't it? It's impossible to have a lose-lose perspective on this situation. No wonder it's easy to start harboring resentment for our wives. It's easy to resent everthing when you feel you're in a lose-lose situation.
But what can you do? You can't quit. You can't go to your boss and say, "if you don't give me a raise, I'll get a job elsewhere." He knows that's not an option. Are you just kind of fucked? Is there really nothing you can do? They just get to take you for granted forever, since they know they're the only employer that can offer you a job?
The answer to all those questions is "no." You can and should use Dread. I'll explain how it works in the above example, and I will explain how it can work in your marriage, and I will explain why it works.
Four Luxury Brand Marketing Concepts that Also Apply to Dread:
"It ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we're talking about when we talk about love."
As I said in the introduction, I realized there is a lot of overlap between Dread and some fundamental marketing concepts. Particularly, marketing concepts as applied to luxury brands. So let me introduce the four core concepts that I think apply in this overlap. You have likely heard of these concepts before. If not, I will include links to their Wikipedia pages, which should be understood easily enough. All usages of the pronoun "we" below refer to basically the entire human race's general psychology, and not just specifically MRP.
Scarcity Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarcity_%28social_psychology%29) - We value things more that we perceive as scarce. We value things less that we perceive as abundant.
Loss Aversion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion) - Losing $100 feels a lot worse than winning $100. Or really: we hate losing the things we have more than we like getting things we don't have.
Operant Conditioning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning) - Generating desired behavior in someone through a system of rewards and/or punishments.
The Socratic Method (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method) - Perhaps the least familiar of the concepts here and not quite a marketing concept, so I'll elaborate a little bit. Essentially the Socratic Method is framing your argument as a set of statements or questions to someone to inspire critical thinking. If you tell someone "your wife's an emasculating bitch for calling you out in public," you will almost definitely get some sort of defensive response. Their mind shuts down and will irrationally reject any further evidence you try to present. But if you say to that person, "hey, when your wife called you out in public, it looked like you didn't enjoy it that much" he will probably respond, "No, I didn't. She does that shit all the time." Then you can say, "I see. Why do you think it bothers you so much?" And they may respond, "I don't know, it just does. I guess it just makes me feel she's an emasculating bitch."
All four concepts feature heavily in marketing, for luxury brands especially, which you want to present as being scarce. Not everyone drives that Audi, not everyone has that iGadget, not everyone at the bar is drinking that Grey Goose. Yet despite being scarce, you also need to be accessible. You need to make the person feel they could be one of the lucky ones that will be in possession of your product. Either directly (free trials or rebates) or indirectly (e.g. Apple's continuous upgrade cycle, where you feel you're 'losing out' if you don't own the latest and greatest).
The combination and scarcity and loss aversion are not pleasant feelings. The idea of not being wealthy enough to afford that Audi, or not being cool enough to drink that Grey Goose, or simply not possessing that iPhone 9XG, with the special Siri app that gives you blowjobs on command... these thoughts cause anxiety. Waiting in line all night at the Apple Store and buying the iPhone 9XG eliminates that anxiety. When you walk out of the store with that iPhone 9XG, you may think you're feeling happy, but you're really feeling relief. Relief from anxiety. The operant conditioning becomes clear: buy shit, remove anxiety.
Yet an effective marketing campaign has to do all of this covertly. You probably think infomercials are stupid and unconvincing. Why? Because they are just Billy Mays (RIP, buddy) yelling some variant of BUY THIS SHIT NOW IT'S AWESOME!!! Did you think that product was awesome? Did you buy that shit? And even if you did, did you really think you were buying a luxury good? Probably not.
Marketing campaigns for luxury goods don't say BUY THIS SHIT! They use a form of the Socratic Method to say: Hey, this guy looks like he's having a good time and he has an iGadget. Did you know what the iGadget does? Some of this stuff it does might let you have a good time too. Especially since those people over there don't have iGadgets, and they look pretty depressed and bored. Just sayin'.
At this point you may be wondering while this was an interesting marketing lesson, what the fuck does this have to do with Dread and MRP?
An Explanation For What the Fuck This Has to Do With Dread and MRP:
"A man can go along obeying all the rules and then it don't matter a damn anymore."
You're here because, for now, you've ruled out divorce as a solution to being taken for granted in your marriage. This means you need your wife to give a shit about you. Her not giving a shit about you, and you just walking out, is not an option.
Little secret about companies like Audi, Apple, and Grey Goose: they need you to buy their shit just as badly as Billy Mays does! They may seem scarce and seem like they don't really care if you buy them or not, since they're not giving you a direct "call to action" to purchase the product. But you know this is obviously false. These companies are trying to make money. They need you to give a shit about them. They just can't tell you that directly, because saying "hey, I'm so cool and unique, buy me!" is a self-defeating message. It begs the marketing audience to ask, "If you're so cool and unique, why are you so overtly obvious in how badly you need me to buy you? And if you're telling everyone this and everyone does go buy you, are you really cool and unique?"
Hence the indirect messaging. Otherwise you won't think they're scarce, otherwise you won't get anxiety about the idea of not having them, otherwise you won't care to do buy that product and reduce that anxiety, otherwise you don't draw all of the above conclusions subconsciously without them overly telling you.
So let's put what I've discussed so far together.
Someone feeling Dread is the opposite of someone feeling like they can take you for granted.
Luxury brand marketing is all about not letting people feel they can take their products for granted, even though those companies do desperately need people to buy those products.
Dread is marketing yourself as a luxury brand.
Got you nodding, right? OK, OK, I think I get it... but how do I actually do that?
EDIT: Despite the fact that the "(1/3)" in this post title implfying it's Part 1 of 3 posts, all the rest of this is contained as comments below. There are no other posts, everything is here. Hopefully, you can just scroll down and keep reading.
But in the event the comment ordering gets fucked up by voting, or whatever, here are links to each comment, in the correct order.