I happened upon an article written by the developer of “The System” recently and it reminded me of how much similarity there is between the development of a new relationship and the experience of culture shock. From what I have been able to gather, both “The System” and “The Game” rely upon maintaining distance, which creates mystery, which creates a sense of challenge, which creates a greater sense of attraction; you want to know more about this person, but they’re not opening up, so it gives you an incentive to ‘chase’ them.
I got to thinking more about this in detail and the idea of lack of familiarity is something that is described, as I mentioned before, in culture shock. According to Wikipedia, there are four major stages: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, mastery. In the first stage, you’re excited about the newness, still stuck in holding onto many of the biases and stereotypes that you hold about this new culture, person, or job. The second stage is when these misconceptions are dispelled and your overall happiness drops considerably. You’re exposed to the ugly truths that were there all along, but you either were unable or unwilling to notice. It could be that you experience something that you at first brush off because you think it’s the exception to the rule, then you discover that it is actually the rule, not the exception, or it could be that things simply never quite match up with your expectations. All of the energy that you had during the first stage is exhausted. The third stage is the turn around, where you start to get into a routine and start to make lasting connections. Those things that might have bothered you before are now taken in stride, or seen as a source of pride as you’re able to overcome them. Finally there is the mastery phase, where while you may retain a certain level of distinctiveness from your old culture, you’ve figured out how to fit in and can easily navigate the various intricacies of your new culture.
As I see it, the methods laid out in “The System” and “The Game” rely upon trying to avoid the second stage of culture shock. Instead of facing those misconceptions or dashing those stereotypes, the goal is to draw things out long enough that new habits are formed. By doing so, the impact of anything negative is lessened, as you’re already ‘in’, and people have a natural tendency to ‘throw good money after bad’. Instead of your bad habits being adjusted to, they’re seen as part of the ‘cost’ of staying with you, and so long as the ‘cost’ of leaving you is higher than staying, they’re begrudgingly accepted.
To me this is a sad method of dealing with relationships. Imagine this being done on a cultural level to deal with culture shock. Instead of letting a newcomer discover how things really are, they are kept in a kind of tourist bubble, all smiles and good times, great food and dancing. This actually reminds me of a kind of cult indoctrination, known as a ‘love bomb’, where the new member of the cult is showered with attention and affection for a long time, to get them hooked on being with the people in the cult, before any changes in their behaviour are asked of. Once those requests are made, it’s seen as a reasonable exchange ‘after all you’ve done for me’.
The idea of linking a dating system to an effective method of cult indoctrination is a bit chilling for me. Along the same lines, it is said that liars have to work extra hard to keep both stories straight; the truth for their own purposes of navigating the world, and the lies they tell to maintain their social position in that world. By following a predefined structure in developing a new relationship, you’re not allowing for organic growth or development; everything has to happen on a kind of schedule. Certainly it may be effective, but the resultant relationship has the seeds of its undoing right near the surface. All of the things that you learned about the other person only after you got into a routine with them can be seen as willful deception, and while not necessarily an immediate bone of contention, form the nucleus of any future problems.