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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Better Off Alone


Do you think you’re better off alone?


In 2000, while stationed in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil as a Marine Security Guard, I frequented nightclubs and danced the night away to various musical genres. I miss those days.


One particular electronic dance music track which stands out from that period is Dutch Eurodance-pop project Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone,” with the vocals of Judith Anna Pronk. As was the case with many dance tracks of the time, the repetitive lyrics weren’t particularly complex.


Over and over again, throughout the track, Pronk sang, “Talk to me, ooh-ooh, talk to me. Do you think you’re better off alone?” The question related to contemplating one’s solitude was a reasonable investigation about which I would think when dancing with many people during those humid nights in Rio.


Since then, the question has been revisited many times over as I’ve traversed the proverbial terrain of romantic relationships, particularly when hopeful connections eventually dissolved. Rather than enduring discomfort, an affectionate alliance would fail and I’d ask myself from an emotional perspective, “Do you think you’re better off alone?”


REBT


Before proceeding any further, I think it’s worth stating that the views expressed herein aren’t intended to function as prescriptive guidance for anyone. Because I’m uninterested in telling others what they should, must, or ought to do, I’m not proclaiming that anyone is—or should be—better off alone.


I practice Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), originated by Albert Ellis, and unlike some forms of mental health treatment this psychotherapeutic technique doesn’t moralistically impose upon others what must be done in various situations.


Similar to philosopher David Hume’s is-ought problem, REBT examines what is and not what ought to be. Therefore, if one chooses not to engage in romantic relationships, this self-determined option is one by which the individual assumes personal ownership.


Unfortunately, and regarding more times than I can actually recall, I’ve witnessed people opting to disturb themselves with irrational beliefs about how love, romance, intimacy, and pair-bonding should, must, or ought to be. As such, I’ve encountered many Luv(sic) people over the years.


There’s no shame in this, because I—as a fallible human being—have also upset myself over unhelpful demands about how others should treat me, must love me, or ought not to give up on a relationship. Did you catch that? I said I “upset myself.”


The core function of an REBT ABC Model operates by acknowledging that we disturb ourselves with unhelpful beliefs. This is known as the Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection.


However, it isn’t uncommon for people to think in terms of an Action-Consequence (A-C) connection. My guess is that you’re likely familiar with how a person experiences an Action and concludes that the event creates a Consequence.


As an example, person X’s romantic partner ends the relationship (Action) and this situation is thought of as causing sorrow (Consequence). Using simple cause and effect reasoning, the A-C connection makes sense.


However, I invite you to consider the B-C connection in person X’s example. Person X’s romantic partner ends the relationship (Action), person X concludes, “She shouldn’t abandon all we’ve worked towards” (Belief), and because of this unproductive belief person X becomes sad (Consequence).


It isn’t uncommon for consequences of self-disturbing beliefs to spawn layers of more unfavorable beliefs. Experiencing sorrow, person X may ask himself, “Do you think you’re better off alone, given that no one is reciprocating the love you ought to have?”


Here, person X’s question about remaining alone is rational though his conclusion about a demand for love is irrational. To tease out the difference between person X’s reasonable versus unreasonable framework, consider the following:


Rational consideration –


Premise 1: If person X loves, he may get hurt.

Premise 2: If person X may get hurt, he can tolerate the pain of a breakup.

Conclusion: Therefore, if person X loves, he can tolerate the pain of a breakup.


This logical conclusion is based on an accurate major premise (Premise 1) and minor premise (Premise 2). Furthermore, it addresses the concept of low frustration tolerance—what we tell ourselves when irrationally concluding that we can’t tolerate distress.


Irrational demand –


Premise 1: All people deserve a loving and committed relationship.

Premise 2: Person X is a person.

Conclusion: Consequently, person X deserves a loving and committed relationship.


This logical conclusion is based on a faulty major premise (Premise 1). Though we may appreciate, wish or hope for, or truly desire a loving and committed relationship, it is irrational to command that we must receive what we believe we deserve from others.


Suppose person X uses his unreasonable demand, though time and time again he ends up alone. It would make sense how he may then disturb himself with further unsound demands and arrive at an irrationally-influenced conclusion:


Premise 1: No human should ever be alone.

Premise 2: Person X is a human.

Conclusion: Thus, person X shouldn’t be alone.


Rather than accepting what is, even if he doesn’t like or love the truth about his situation—that he’s not entitled to the affection of others, person X will suffer as a result of what he believes ought to be. This is the B-C connection and it’s altogether unnecessary.


Presuming the reader understands that demandingness in relation to being alone stems from an irrational belief that causes an unpleasant feeling (i.e., emotion or bodily sensation), I now turn towards the question posed by Pronk. “Do you think you’re better off alone?”


In this regard, I examine if one thinks being alone is preferable to being with someone or experiencing the loss of a romantic relationship. This isn’t the same as “feeling” (believing) that solitude is awful and intolerable.


Thinking through this matter requires a rational approach to Pronk’s question. As such, let us explore a well-reasoned argument for person X—in this example, a man—choosing to remain alone instead of opting to partake in a romantic relationship.


MGTOW


Suppose person X decides he wants to subscribe to behavior associated with a movement of men going their own way (MGTOW). Though he’s a straight male, he reasons that it is a rational—not emotional (irrational)—decision to forego all romantic relationships with women.


A number of criticisms from others arise regarding person X’s position. For instance, according to one source, MGTOW “is an anti-feminist, misogynistic, mostly-online community advocating for men to separate themselves from women and from a society which they believe has been corrupted by feminism.”


The framing of this definition commits the fallacy of a category error, because the moralistic claim relating to MGTOW as a “misogynistic” movement presupposes that it is therefore a bad practice. After all, what rational person desires to maintain contempt for or prejudice towards women—based solely on their genetic composition or identity?


Per a separate source, “Although some MGTOW maintain platonic relationships with women and others have one-night stands or visit sex workers, many prefer to abstain from sex, a process referred to as ‘going monk’. This is too much for some members of the wider manosphere,” as the author describes this measure as a “toxic male separatist movement.”


Again, this is a categorical error, because an uniformed person is led to believe that MGTOW is a harmful practice. Imagine looking at person X and saying to yourself, “He’s toxic, because he chooses abstinence.”


I simply don’t care enough about another person’s choice regarding abstinence as to label the individual so carelessly. As well, the aforementioned source references the “manosphere,” a concept from which one can find ample categorical errors within sources attempting to define this phenomenon.


Instead of using faulty sources to provide anything other than misinformation, disinformation, or malinformation, I instead turn to a resource loosely aligned with the manosphere for a reasonable understanding about it. Per one source:


The Manosphere is a broad term applied to a variety of movements involving men or focused on men’s issues. In general participants in the various movements agree on the problems facing men and boys but disagree on how, or even if, they should be addressed. The manosphere does not include all groups that recognise the issues facing men and boys since even a small minority of feminists recognise the issues.


Who would you rather rely on to describe you, someone who is associated with you or a bad faith actor? Given the vague, though non-moralistic description above, it doesn’t appear as though the manosphere is particularly bad, wrong, evil, or otherwise.


Regarding the aforementioned source, though as it regards a different topic:


“[T]he ongoing friction between the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM) and the amalgam of other online communities—Game, Men Going Their Own Way, Pickup Artists, etc.—and notes quite rightly that there is a stark difference in standards of expression and sensibilities between the MHRM and the others.


Because there is no central group prescribing what either the manosphere or MGTOW is, descriptions of these entities are open to interpretation. One may simply cast aspersions, lump as many people into a category as necessary to prove a point, and rely on an ad hominem attack to represent MGTOW.


For instance, a separate government source states, “Current literature on the manosphere separates its subgroups into four major ideological domains: the men’s rights movement, pick up artists, men going their own way, and incels [involuntary celibates],” recklessly linking this cohort to “terrorism.”


I suppose it all depends on what ideological lens through which a person stares as to what one may see in regards to MGTOW. Assessing another source loosely aligned with the manosphere, MGTOW is described as:


In some ways the mythopoetic men and gays were pioneers in the MGTOW movement. We can see the same shaming being dished out to the MGTOW men of today. All these groups have the common bond of not catering to provide and protect for women. When men meet on their own, in male only groups they become a target of the culture.


If I am correct it will help explain why men’s human rights activists are getting such an automatic shaming and hatred for standing up for men and boys. These men and women are focusing on an aspect of being male that has nothing to do with his primary sex role of provide and protect and has everything to do with his own needs, wants, and well being. This is seen as a threat just as the mythopoetic men, the gays and the MGTOW’s were likely seen as a threat since they were ignoring the provide and protect side of things and focusing instead on themselves.


If a man foregoes a perceived social obligation to provide and protect women, and instead chooses to go his own way—focusing on himself, do you consider this to be a terrible, horrible, or awful conclusion? Moreover, do you consider it an irrational decision?


A separate source vaguely aligned with the manosphere addresses a rational question regarding this matter by opining, “Aren’t feminists always saying that they want men to stop dominating them, subjugating them, pestering them, harassing them, controlling them, and making them uncomfortable? That’s what MGTOW are all about.”


What is the implication of critics to MGTOW; that men should, must, or ought to engage with women—against the will of these men? Is this a standard women are also prepared to entertain if the roles are reversed?


If person X chooses to merely forego intimate relationships with women, reasoning that he’s better off alone, is he allowed to do so in a civil society? Likewise, if his determination is based on rational thinking and not irrational emotion, is there any inherent danger to his subjective wellness when choosing this option?


Ellis and MGTOW


Though it is difficult to imagine what the late Ellis may or may not have said about a social movement that likely didn’t exist when he was alive, there is some evidence that the originator of REBT may have supported person X’s decision to go his own way.


In a 1960 interview, Ellis stated:


An outstanding creative artist or inventor may well go through his entire life never caring much for other human beings and may still be reasonably sane and emotionally healthy—as long as he is sufficiently devoted to whatever major field or project he enjoys. (p. 13)


In this way, person X doesn’t have to subscribe to dogmatic standards or practice rigid behavior proposed by critics of the MGTOW movement. Rather than disturbing himself with what others demand he must do, person X can simply live his self-interested life without causing direct harm to others.


In the same interview, Ellis opined:


People who are truly self-interested, who live their lives on the supposition that the 70-odd years that they have on this earth is it, and they then are going to be dead as a duck for all eternity, and who therefore try to get as much of the things they want and as little of the things they don’t want during this relatively brief existence—these people are rational and sane. (p. 13)


It is in fact an irrational and wacky position to maintain that because person Y doesn’t want person X to go his own way, person X should do as person Y commands. Instead of shoulding on people who have a relatively short time left on this earth, person Y can acknowledge that it is permissible for men to rationally go their own way if they so desire.


In the aforementioned interview, Ellis added:


[Through use of REBT], the patient learns that there is nothing to be afraid of in being rejected or spurned by another—that his “hurt” or “depression” at being rejected is merely an irrational idea in his own head, an unvalidatable premise that he unthinkingly keeps telling himself. (p. 18)


If I were to see person X in a clinical setting, I would assist him with assessing whether or not his MGTOW decision was based on rationality or emotionality. Of course, if he chose to irrationally conclude that intimacy is scary and therefore he must not pair bond that emotional decision would be his to make and not mine to control.


In the 1960 interview, Ellis continued:


Reason, when truly worthy of its name, does not – as is so often unreasonably assumed by its opponents – do away with human emotion. It merely enables the individual to keep his natural, legitimate feelings within sensible limits and to use them for his own maximum enjoyment. (p. 24)


I don’t eliminate the emotional processes in people. Alternatively, I assist clients with disputing unhelpful beliefs by evaluating the utility of such attitudes, as this reasoned approach is aimed at improving the quality of life for the people with whom I work.


In the interview addressed herein, Ellis suggested:


I believe, along with Hans Reichenbach, that we live in a highly probabilistic world, where nothing ever is, nor need be, absolutely certain. And [REBT] tries to get people to accept this kind of world and to be able to live happily in it. (p. 25)


If person X opts for a MGTOW lifestyle, even in the absence of affiliation with the social movement, who is to say with perfect assurance that he cannot or will not achieve subjective happiness by doing so? It truly isn’t up to me, you, or anyone else to impress upon person X inflexible rules we’ve created for him.


In his 1960 interview, Ellis opined:


In [REBT] we teach that you do not hurt others by refusing to put their interests above your own; rather, they hurt themselves by taking your “selfishness” too seriously and by falsely believing –again, at point B – that you should sacrifice yourself for them […] If, over and above this, the individual wants to devote himself to some person, thing, or idea outside himself, that is fine; and, in fact, will normally lead to maximum self-efficiency and happiness. But he doesn’t have to be devoted to others. (p. 25)


If person Y concludes that person X is “selfish,” that he ought not to be, and then uses the B-C connection to self-disturb, that is an issue of person Y and it isn’t person X’s problem. As mentioned when describing MGTOW, one of the main criticisms of this practice—aside from hyperbole regarding toxicity or terrorism—involves men rejecting male disposability.


In essence, this notion regards that the lives of men have less value (i.e., women do not have to register for the Selective Service, men are socialized to save women before themselves, etc.). Regarding this practice of nonessentialism, one source suggests:


Be it the self-proclaimed traditionalist woman that “wants men to be men again” and do sacrificial things, or the feminist that not only has stopped appreciating men for their disposability but are at the same time thankful of their disposal, the woman you are appealing to intends to use and discard men. By design or by accident, the intent to see an end to male disposability is nowhere to be seen.


Suppose that person X maintains the aforementioned position. He reasons that disparity in the sentencing of crimes, child custody arrangements, access to domestic and intimate partner violence resources—despite females reportedly having a higher perpetration rate than males, and so on and so forth is cause enough to forego pair-bonding.


Person X’s logic is represented by the following:


Syllogism 1 –

Premise 1: Danger exists in romantic relationships.

Premise 2: I refrain from engaging in romantic relationships.

Conclusion: Therefore, I am not in danger.


While I generally oppose claims regarding safety, the inference of person X’s logic relates to avoiding danger by refraining to engage in romantic relationships. To test this assumption, substitute “swimming with sharks” with “romantic relationships.”


Would you disagree with the assertion? Person X’s logic in syllogism 1 is sound and is not based in fear. Therefore, his rational conclusion to avoid romance and intimacy by practicing MGTOW concepts is a reasonable presumption—even if otherwise unadvisable.


Often, I encounter the circular reasoning of people who commit the logical fallacy of appealing to emotion as a means of pair-bonding. They’ll say something like:


Premise 1: If I’m not in a romantic relationship, I’m afraid I will die alone.

Premise 2: I’m not in a romantic relationship.

Conclusion: Thus, I’m afraid I’ll die alone.


This is not a well-reasoned stance. Think about how many times in your life you’re heard similar rhetoric. Though a person may not agree with his stance, at least person X’s decision to practice a MGTOW lifestyle makes sense.


Syllogism 2 –

Premise 1: All unnecessary suffering is worth foregoing.

Premise 2: Some relationships result in unnecessary suffering.

Conclusion: As a result, some relationships are worth foregoing.


Here, person X has modified his perspective. Rather than unhelpfully assuming that relationships are altogether worth forsaking, from a MGTOW perspective, he merely opts not to pursue romantic relationships as a means of addressing unnecessary suffering.


This reasonable approach affords person X an opportunity to devote himself to other elements of life which provide him purpose and meaning. As Ellis concluded, a person “doesn’t have to be devoted to others,” so person X’s answer to being better off alone is rational.


In the Ellis interview, the originator of REBT concluded:


I don’t personally care whether you decide to be rational, and I have no intention of forcing you to be, even though I believe that you would in all probability be better off if you did favor rationality. (p. 27)


I imagine a significant number of people that criticize men who have decided to go their own way likely don’t consider that the significance of their anti-MGTOW arguments may involve forcing their will upon other people. Like Ellis, I have no desire to do such a thing.


Accordingly, even though I’ve presented a rational argument for person X’s decision to go his own way, I understand that some tyrannical people who operate on the basis of irrational emotions will disagree with my stance. I’m at peace with that.


After all, it could be worse. I could live my life by forcing upon others what I believe should, must, or ought to be done. Though as the Mad Hatter stated in Alice in Wonderland, “Don’t let’s be silly.”


Conclusion


It’s been over two decades since I first danced to Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone,” when I began to contemplate—in any meaningful manner—whether or not I thought it was better off to be alone. By that point in life, I had more failed romantic relationships than successes.


As the years passed, I reasoned that the overwhelming majority of people I’d ever known had a similar circumstance. Dates, girlfriends or boyfriends, or spouses—each person likely had a slew of failed relationships before finally settling on a suitable match.


Still, some people plainly chose not to continue the cycle of searching and failing. Was their decision based on reason, emotion, or something else?


Herein, I’ve examined a rational argument for a hypothetical man (person X) who chose to go his own way. Using REBT to frame my position, I’ve argued that while a MGTOW lifestyle may not be a favorable option for some men, for others this self-determined choice is rational and can even be productive.


Keeping in mind that I disclaimed early on that the message of this post isn’t intended to serve as prescriptive guidance, I suspect some people will disturb themselves with a B-C connection regarding my stance. Self-disturbance in this aspect is a choice.


For those people—men or women—who choose to go their own way, and who do so out of a well-reasoned approach to a lifestyle of solitude from intimacy, I applaud your ability to practice self-determination while seeking autonomy.


For those of you who have reached this conclusion based on irrational emotion, devoid of logic and reason, as Ellis stated, “I don’t personally care whether you decide to be rational, and I have no intention of forcing you to be.”


For people who are currently suffering as a result of the B-C connection in respect of romantic relationships, and who have perhaps not been able to decide in which direction you want to go, I may be able to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As the world’s original EDM-influenced REBT psychotherapist—promoting content related to EDM, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW



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