45 Responses to How “Inner Game” Can Make You Worse

  1. Damn, you’re on fire lately.

  2. AT says:

    I completely agree with you. I think some of the coaches out there should emphasize during training that what they are teaching their clients is like an antibiotic injection into the body to fight an illness that’s been lingering around. It is a not a long term solution. It is just a kick up ones rear to get people stuck in rut out of it.
    Emphasis should lie on taking tunnel visioned lazy guys and telling them to man the fuck up.
    The long term solutions will still be maintaining a healthy body, developing a strong mind and keeping in touch with ones spiritual side.If people just read david deida,
    eckhart tolle ,watch a couple of tony robbins seminars and follow a paleo-diet or a primal diet(based on Mark Sisson’s work) that alone can help them make significant changes to their life.
    As a prototype – the fat 38 year old software programmer, will eventually have to lose weight, he will have to stop going to clubs , create awareness for himself about his sense of purpose and try and meet and keep a woman he can spend the rest of his life with. Add to that if he does man-up he should quit his job and spend his energy on pursuing a career or an avenue of work that turns him on and doesn’t just foot his pizza and cable bills.
    With regards to the pua stuff there are some diamonds in the rough out there as far as material goes. Sexual escalation and demonstration of sexual desire, theories on eye contact do make a big difference. I have found them to make a bigger difference with girls that I already know or have been seeing for a short while. It really gets things going and creates amazing bonds with them.

  3. Zac says:

    I don’t know what else to say besides I read this advice and wish I could force every guy that’s ever thought about becoming a “pick up artist” to read it before they did.

  4. Jon Tyler DiPrince says:

    Mark, again you’ve proven me right in believing you’re one of the most insightful thinkers in this business. There are a few others, but you’re the most articulate, and reach deeper into the intrinsic values of everything “game” teaches.

    Yes, what you list as the “real solution” should be foundations of inner game in a pickup context. Yes, a swath of pick up teachings utilize concepts you’ve labeled here as “false promises.” And yes, the effect of those promises for the lot of individuals with SAnD who study P/U is grandiose delusion.

    But with possible exception to RSD, I’d say that I’ve rarely come across pickup theory that brands emotional state and social value as the subtext of inner game. Also, again with possible exception to RSD, I’d say the generally accepted concept of emotional state in pickup is rarely branded as more than a short-term inner game tool.

    Emotional state and social value are often misrepresented as entities you can master to the benefit and permanence of your self esteem, and the intrinsic values that obviate their need are often overlooked or underrepresented.

    You’ve managed, again, to boil a oft-taught concept down to an essence heretofore unrealized, but the whole of inner game taught throughout pickup, in my experience, is still generally beneficial and effective. So, I think the title of your article should better reflect this and not insinuate that it is misguided.

  5. Jack says:

    Great article. If I may add one piece of constructive criticism…..

    It seemed to me that your whole article was pretty much saying all the inner game stuff in the community is a bunch of shit. Which is fair enough, much of the advice given is a bunch of shit.

    For me, when you write a whole article which pretty much attacks the way inner game is taught in the community and then turn around and say:

    “I’m not claiming that pick up’s version of inner game makes everyone worse or doesn’t work for anyone.”

    It pretty much contradicts the entire tone of the article. You may as well commit to what your saying rather than try and have it both ways.

    • Mark says:

      Notice the article is titled “How Inner Game CAN Make You Worse” and not “Inner Game Makes You Worse”

      That’s intentional… but yes, maybe I should have stated something up front rather than at the end.

  6. Matt T says:


    I agree with the point about making friends for the right reasons, but here’s the way I see it.

    Most people get laid through social circle. I bet that’s true for you and most of your readers too. So their friends are fine.

    But what if you have a social circle, but it’s not helping you get laid at all? What’s the point in your friends besides quid-pro-quo exchanges of help here and there? That’s the case I think the PUAs are talking about.

    • Mark says:

      What’s the point of friends besides quid-pro-quo exchanges of help? Oi vey… I think you missed the point entirely.

      • I think when people miss the point like this (it frustrates me, but it happens with readers at my blog all the time), I think it comes from reading too much evolutionary psychology and thinking it as a prescription for how to live rather than a possible description for why things are. That’s what I’m guessing is going on here, though maybe not.

        Like, a guy will read an evo psych book that says we evolved to have friendships because friendships often lead to quid pro quo relationships that helped our ancestors survive better than people who didn’t form friendships. That guy will think “Ok, so according to evo psych I should form my friendships with quid pro quo exchanges in mind,” not keeping in mind that evo psych is just describing something, not prescribing it as a way to act, and that what it’s describing is something that was useful in our ancestors’ environment but not necessarily applicable to our modern environment, and lastly, evo psych is just about pure primitive survival and reproduction for people in past environments, not about deeper modern issues like happiness or emotional fulfillment in current environments.

        The goal of evolution is to just stay alive as long as possible and produce as much children as you can before you die. Evo psych is helpful and all for knowing why we do things the way we do but using it as a lifestyle manual just reduces you to primitive thinking

        • Zac says:

          I’m not sure which article exactly but I remember reading Mark breaking down how you can’t look at life through a strictly evolutionary psychology lens or through the lens of “we are just like monkeys” because humans have a complex range of emotions and social situations have so many factors that can’t simply be explained by those schools of thought. I know I’ve already said this but I’m really glad you are here commenting.

          • Mark says:

            I’ve had an article in the pipeline for a while now about how evolutionary psychology is rarely understood or interpreted correctly at all and how misusing it has led to some dangerous beliefs.

            And BTW, it’s good to see you commenting here T. I’ve always respected your writing a lot (even the times when I disagree with you).

        • Alberto says:

          This is a widespread and big misunderstanding of evo psychology, concerning levels of explanation.
          When a behavior is selected because it generates more genetic success, that does not mean at all that, at the level of personal motivation, it is done in order to generate more genetic success.
          Actually it is the opposite. Example: mum loving children is selected because is good for genetic fitness does not mean that mum loves children only to maximize genetic fitness. On the contrary, mum loves children intrinsically, for no external motivation. Same thing for friendship, it is genetically useful, and that’s why we have an intrinsic motivation for it.
          The reason something is selected has nothing to do with motivation felt at the level of personally psychology. Actually, the more important is for evolution, the more intrinsic the motivation is for us! So we do have friend for intrinsic reasons: evo psy just explains why we are intrinsically motivated to do certain things and not others.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, it’s often referred to as the “is/should be” fallacy. Just because we’re genetically inclined to be a certain way does not mean we should be that way!

          • T. AKA Ricky Raw says:

            Great points Alberto.

            Also Mark, if you ever disagree with anything I write, feel free to share it with me. I think you have great insights and experiences so i’d really appreciate your feedback.

            Zac, thanks.

      • Matt T says:

        Eh, I think I phrased myself poorly.

        Right now, the only thing I’m getting from my friends is stuff “Yo, can I use your printer for my term paper? It will save me a trip to the library bro.” Which is cool, but not exactly revolutionary for my social life.

        • Mark says:

          Ahh… I see. Then yeah, I agree with that you need to change the nature of the friendships or perhaps find new friends.

          I just think the metric of social value that PUA teaches is a poor metric for friendship.

  7. raphael says:

    One of your best posts… deep down impressed!

  8. Alec says:

    It’s articles like this which is the reason why I don’t really bother with
    other sites or blogs within the same, or similar field.

  9. AhuraMazda says:

    My personal opinion based on my own insecurities.
    Even if all the ways you propose for raising self-esteem the “real-heatlhy” way are absolutely good advices, they cannot work well in somebody who still needs to go through the basic steps to meeting more women.

    I mean that all the “being responsable for oneself”, the going after one’s passion and so, for sure help, but, first, they bipass the point. The people like me who got in all this thing to meet more women. Surely you can call this a symptom of something that’s deep below. Still, it is a natural, instinctual pulsion, and many of the dating advice, even being by its very nature entirely based on chasing women, pretends that chasing women is almost a sign of neediness born out of some unresolved issue. In part the need for validation is, but can we call all the men who like to be liked by women “needy”?.

    The risk is that the person says “yes, I need to do what I want in life etc…” and put the issue of women aside, never solving it, because it’s much easier to concentrate on other things that this dreaded part of life, confronting anxiety and women. I did.

    Second, because all this methods for becoming a better person would have the risk to be undertaken with the implicit desire to impress. It would be the paradox: “I will concentrate on myself more” so I can be socially more accepted.

    Last, all of these have the risk to drive away from the active effort required to pursue women.

    Maybe I am generalizing and this is only my personal experience.

    My goal is not to become good with women. It is to make what should be a normal and pleasurable part of life normal and pleasurable, indeed. And expanding the possibilities.

    All the other desires are tainting , but illusive.

    Thanks for your work as always

  10. Will Smithh says:

    I actually have to disagree. Literally everything can harm you when taken with a counter-productive mindset, or interpreting or steering the principles in an unhealthy way.

    “The Real Solutions” proposed in this article like raising your self-esteem, lower social anxiety, except emotions have been for a long time on the PU Inner Game Table. Social value is not a false promise. I know a lot of people a scared of the word status, but is simply how cool you are with people. In order to attract women and to be a more social person you actually need a change. Change into how you interact with people, what beliefs one has towards women, towards the world in general, mindset and all the social programming preventing guys opening and connecting with people with their real personality to which the women are attracted, not with the false social mask. Sorry but such an article can be realy counter-productive for guys starting the uphill change towards being people enjoying their lives and who finally found a light in the tunnel.

    • Mark says:

      It’s not that social value is untrue, it’s just that when it’s taught as the sole basis of social interactions, it becomes pretty toxic.

      I’d love to hear how “raise your self esteem” can be framed in a negative way.

      And yeah, the PUA community does mention the three solutions. I don’t think it offers very good answers for them though. Typically their answers for lowering anxiety is simply to get in state. The answer for raising your self esteem is to increase your social value. And there’s absolutely no talk of accepting and expressing your emotions.

      • Poulpy37 says:

        It is the first article I read from you, Mark, and I’m glad to read someone who have obviously serious knowledge in CBT. I’m wondering if you ever read “Reinventing your life” from Jeffrey Young about his powerful schema therapy.
        I post here because “raise your self-esteem” can sometimes also have a negative effect. If you take a look at Russ Harris’ book “the happiness trap” on ACT, he suggests to forget about “self-esteem” concept completely. Because when one has low self-esteem, one needs to increase it to become happy. If one has high self-esteem, one needs to keep working on it to maintain its level which means staying in an insecure state (self-esteem can decrease). Moreover what is behind is self-judgement. So R. Harris suggests to consider the negative thinking for what they really are -words- (defusion concept of ACT) and just do the thing.

        • @Poulpy37 I’m familiar with both Schema Therapy and ACT (and have read “Happiness Trap”). Schema seems like it could be very powerful but I’d like to learn more about it. Huge fan of ACT and actually a couple posts here on the site are kind of based on it. One example is: http://postmasculine.com/your-two-minds

        • Poulpy37 says:

          @postmasculine Great! I will read your posts. I’m huge fan of ACT and Schema Therapy. I attended MBSR program too.
          My shrink did a mix of all those to reduce an Avoidant Personality Disorder and I read the various textbooks dedicated to professionals. I definetely think that they are powerful tools for inner game. I have my own ideas about how we could use schema therapy.
          Maybe we could discussed this privately?

        • Sure, just shoot me an email.

  11. Chris says:

    That was a great and for me, novel explanation of emotions. I was asking myself questions lately that are almost exactly like the PUA board examples you gave.

    Knowing that the emotions are not the problem, but the way I am responding to the emotions will be a huge assist.

    I have a bad habit of getting emotional and sending idiotic text messages (or less often, behaving in wuss-like ways) that I regret almost instantly. I wind up amplifying problems and creating great emotional pain over things I could have just felt, accepted and moved on from much more smoothly and probably with much better results.

    Sucks for now, but the pain period is a bitch like that. No pain no gain though, right?

    • Leo says:

      That insight – focusing on the behavior and not the emotion itself – is gold. And sometimes accepting the emotions is tough, especially when they’re bad, like frustration, anger or sadness.

      I think that sometimes one tries to “destroy the emotion” by doing anything (ANYTHING) to solve the problem. For example calling a girl like 20 times in a row because you feel frustrated that she hasn’t returned your call. By trying to destroy the emotion – frustration caused by emotional distance or insecurities or whatever – and taking ‘action’, you actually make the situation worse.

      It’s really something, learning to accept and manage your emotions and not trying to fight them all the time. I’m looking forward for Mark’s “inner-game” writings on this kind of situations… =)

  12. olivherbst says:

    Awesome article. To be honest, exactly this stuff is what I always loved about practical pickup and missed a little in postmasculine. Great that you´re back on track.

    And, by the way, I don´t know of anyone else who writes in such a great clarity about such difficult and deeply personal matters.

  13. Aaron says:

    Echoing olivherbst’s comments that these are the kind of articles we all love to read. Awesome one!

  14. Nicholas says:

    It seems to me that a number of your writings aim to differentiate a personal philosophy from the “pick up artists.” From my perspective the pua stuff could be conceived of as a series of shortcuts in substitute of the hard work of (borowing from Jung) healthy maturation and “individuation.” But that brings up something I would be interested to hear you comment on. This article does a good job establishing the potential unhealthy effects of the shortcuts and the benefits of a healthy development. But what about the notion that we 1) all go through stages of development, and 2) are wounded in varying degrees and still have to function in the world?

    In other words, when I bought that (still mighty spendy) used Porsche 911, I was compensating for some developental flaws and seeking acceptance and love more than fine German engineering. I was 24 and I got what I wanted out of that “shortcut.” I had a blast and for whatever reason I did get more girls, admiration from other guys, etc. By the time I reached 30 I would not make the same kind of choice, but I would still make other (over) compensatory kinds of choices. I guess I am saying that I wish I had a better developmental foundation (home life growing up) but I am glad I did not live my youth as though I was a wise older person.

    This is not meant as criticism. I am asking your opinion on the role the “motion” of time and developmental stages play in your philosophy.

    • Mark says:

      I’d say there are healthy forms of compensation and unhealthy forms of compensation. We’ve all got our ticks and we all have areas in which we need a little more than others and that’s fine. That’s never going to go away.

      I’m the first to admit my weakness is women and the love of the chase. For others they may have a deeper need for acceptance and friendships. Others may feel a stronger need for money and prestige. As you said, we’ve all got our weak points and need to compensate for them. But there’s a good way to do that and a bad way to do that. An extreme example of an unhealthy form of compensation is raping a woman, or robbing a bank.

      I’d say buying a Porsche to make yourself feel more important is an example of a health form of compensation (assuming you could actually afford it and that you didn’t steal it or something). Or at least a fairly harmless form of it.

      Womanizing can be a healthy form of compensation if done correctly. But it needs to be done consciously and in a positive way. I would argue that PUA does not always promote a conscious or positive form of compensation. And some of its methods can be deleterious, hence this article.

  15. Kyle Hoopes says:

    Mark first of all great article. Second, I would love it if you could write up an article on people who excel in social interactions, but use them for their own personal gains. Both in a male and female perspective. This article would be something like “spotting fake people early.” Keep up the good work!

  16. Tyler says:

    Fantastic Article Mark. Deep and resonating…I find that a lot of the time I blame myself for PUA stuff not working after I basically brainwash myself with it. The hard part about “recovering” (I don’t like that work but I think the drug connotations are not so far fetched) though is that it’s like taking the red pill in the Matrix- there’s no going back afterwards.

    My question is: how do you stop thinking and measuring your life like this? I agree with the solution oriented points in the end, yet the actual accomplishment of these in the face of toxic PUA thinking seems rather nebulous and daunting. Perhaps I lack creativity, but I can’t help but be honest.

    And as a corollary to this article, will you be releasing your version of “inner game” product any time soon?

    Thanks for the great content and community!

    • Mark says:

      I recommend a “detox” period of a few months where you try to forget everything you learned and make a point to not give a flying fuck about anything but having a good time with your friends. That should go a long way. Once you feel better and feel like you’ve removed a lot of the negative thought patterns, then slowly come back and focus on learning healthy behaviors.

      Inner game product some time this year. Late summer maybe? It’s going to be a big one.

  17. J. says:

    Mark, kind of off-topic but could you share your thoughts on this problem – I love women and won’t mind connecting with them but.. only for short-term but short-term means that going into relationship I already know how it’s gonna end and that most likely I will be either 1)breaking her heart after 3-6 months or 2)staying with her longer than I should, wasting her time and mine (which is what I usually do, socialist in me 🙂 So neither of these 2 options are very appealing to me, so these days I prefer to stay single and just keep looking for that 1 in a billion.. So the questions is, do I have some kind of psychological problem here which I should go to therapist for? Or do I just overanalyzing it and just let it go “give it her my all, give her the best time of her life, leave her in better state when I found her, etc” and then don’t think about how it’s gonna end? It’s complete mind-fuck for me, I LOVE women and I don’t want to stay single all my life but at the same time don’t want to start a relationship, knowing in advance that it’s gonna end for sure. What to do?

  18. Gordon says:

    Oh wow! You described EXACTLY what happened to me over the course of about 9 years. I didn’t make it out unscathed and was partly destroyed – no! I WAS destroyed. So while I was looking for more truth I came across your article from another website.
    I have come to peace with where I am and I am gradually rebuilding my self esteem after destroying the shreds that were left with alcohol.
    Your article is a must read for those that are younger and not fully destroyed!

  19. Gordon says:

    And thank you!

  20. George says:

    Thanks for the info man, really appreciate this!

    I’ve been reading about inner game for over 3 years now and I’ve noticed that I’m being analytical as hell. I get anxiety on simple social interactions. When I was new, all this stuff didn’t happen. I’m sure a lot of the inner game stuff I learned helped me, but sure had secondary effects. I’m going to stop reading about it.

  21. bra says:

    1. Getting in the state means not thinking that you need to get in the state
    2. Don’t try to be someone you’re not
    3. Stop worrying about everything

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