The Tinder Swindler on Netflix showed us how women worldwide are susceptible to being conned in life because they don’t realize how they can play an equally responsible role in the dynamic.
Unfortunately, this is not often discussed in documentaries such as the Tinder Swindler and it’s certainly not something we’re taught growing up so that is what we are going to tackle in today’s article.
Before we dive in, though, there are some crucial points to bear in mind:
1- The Tinder Swindler. aka Simon Leviev was consciously aware that he was conning these women. The women were NOT consciously aware they were conning themselves.
2-The women are NOT to blame, and they are responsible – I will show you how both are true.
3-If you notice anger surfacing over the prospect that the women conned themselves, that is a great opportunity to learn how you con yourself!
4-If you choose not to read the full article due to feeling anger at the content, you will rob yourself of the opportunity to learn how to protect yourself from a similar situation.
Don’t take the easy route and mistake this for victim-blaming. On the contrary, if you are open to a deeper understanding of human and relationship dynamics, what I am about to share empowers the victims of such crimes, sets them free, and raises people’s ability to create healthy relationships, find love, and defend themselves against predators.
For many, what I am about to share will challenge most of your current emotions and cultural beliefs. Therefore, it will feel like you are being waterboarded with spinach. At first, it will be quite a mouthful, but if you stick with it, you realize it was good for you, because it is healthy and based on truth.
The explanation for how the women conned themselves comes down to two advances in neuroscience and psychology. The first is by Lisa Feldman Barrett, who shared her discovery in 2017 with her book ‘How Emotions Are Made.’ Her work transformed previous theories on emotions and how our brain processes information. She is now in the top 1% of scientists most commonly cited for their work.
Secondly, my development of what I call the Worst Day Cycle, which is a self victimizing process we all live out until we heal the childhood trauma that created it. Coincidentally, our books came out around the same time, and both combine to create a scientific understanding as to why and how these women conned themselves.
We Create Our Emotions. Nobody makes us feel anything.
Lisa Feldman Barrett’s work shows that we create emotions in three ways. Our physiology, the cultural and societal beliefs we are exposed to, and our childhood experiences. Our brains learn to make assumptions based on previous life experiences and the definitions we created based on our culture and the messaging from our caregivers. Our brains then use those past experiences, our current physiology, and cataloged information to project and predict what will happen next. In this way, often, our very first experience of feeling a certain way will dictate our future reactions, as our brain assumes that any time we feel that same way, the same events will unfold. You may think you are an adult making decisions but in fact, it is the child inside you that is making the decision.
For example, suppose you grew up in a physically violent family. In that case, when you are exposed to violence in your relationships, you’ll associate this with family and love – you’ll believe, based on your earliest experiences, that violence=love.
Below is an excerpt from How Emotions are Made to explain how we are responsible for creating our own emotions. You may often hear people saying things such as ‘You made me feel like this,’ She made me feel this,’ but these are disproven in Barrett’s work, emotions – are not, and cannot be, forced upon us by other people.
“Emotions are not built-in. They are not universal but vary from culture to culture. They are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a brain that wires itself to adhere to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment. Emotions are not reactions to the world. You are not a passive receiver of sensory input but an active constructor of your emotions. From sensory input and past experience, your brain constructs meaning and prescribes action.”
This is so important when analyzing the Tinder Swindler case because it helps to set the scene of understanding as to why these women were able to be conned and unknowingly conned themselves. Their brains made predictive assumptions from their histories that created the illusion that they were innocently duped when in actuality, they played an active role in the duping.
How do emotions create the women’s conning of themselves?
From the very beginning, the first lady who was conned begins to tell us of her dreams of romance, how she felt physiologically upon meeting Leviev, and her first memories of love. Her opening statement below gives a lot of insight into her emotional thinking and how she planted the seeds for her own self-conning:
“The moment I get nervous, then I know there is something special here. I’m after that all-consuming, kind of what you’ve grown up with. The first memory I have of love is Disney. I had memorized the entire beauty and the beast cassette. I love how she’s just a small-town girl just like me, hoping for something bigger – she meets this person, then she saves him in a sense, and he saves her. They go into a different life together. It just sticks with you like the feeling of a prince coming to save you. I think that even though you know it’s not real, it’s still with you. I think everyone has that little bit of hope deep down inside it will be as magical as they are portraying it to be.”
The feeling of nervousness she mentions is a prime example of physiological learning. She formed a prediction in her mind that this was a feeling of love towards Leviev. Because this was a feeling she had experienced previously, her mind immediately associated this sensation of nervousness with love – even though, on this occasion, it could have been a different indicator of fear or worry. Again, this was an unconscious reaction that she cannot be blamed for, and it was a contributing factor to her conning herself.
In particular, the reference to Disney, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, shows that she was taught that fear and attraction go hand-in-hand. She was looking for a beast – or a narcissist in today’s terms. Simon Leviev certainly has many narcissistic traits; however, due to this woman’s construction of what love looks like, she believes this is what she should be attracted to – the physiological reactions of nervousness have certainly proven this to her. She believes that Simon (The Beast) is the Prince that she can save, and the way to do this is by giving him money.
The belief that a person is powerful enough to save another is a God complex. It is also a narcissistic trait but from the disempowered victim position. Her idea that she can save Leviev and change who he is as a person is a crucial part of her swindling herself – it’s important, again, to remember that she is not to blame as this was an unconscious feeling, whereas Simon’s behavior was conscious. She unconsciously believes that she has enough power (a disempowered narcissistic trait) to change him. It is her Disney childhood dream to rescue a beastly man.
Furthermore, there is such a thing as ‘love addiction,’ which is the fantasy-like creation of a super love for someone in your mind. In her eyes, Simon became the Prince, and she believed they could both save each other. Here she’s creating a fantasy based on a construct of emotions that she has implanted in her mind due to memorizing the Disney story.
Remember, this is all unconscious to her, but she wants her Disney dream and will do anything she can to have it. Unfortunately, Disney trained her to look for a beast and skewed her view that love is based on intensity and trauma. She’s not to blame for this, and she is responsible on an unconscious level – she’s participating through the false belief that she can save a man by financially conning him to get what she wants. To be the beauty that loves and nurtures the beast into a prince.
So, to recap, her brain created the following emotional predictions and assumptions:
1- She equated danger/fear with love – the Beast
2- The Beast, or Simon, is a prince that she can save
3- A God complex to get her power back over her fear
4- She created a love-addicted fantasy of Simon.
5- She conned herself unknowingly based on her learned emotional experiences
6- She is not to blame because she was never taught this is how we create our emotions
How The Worst Day Cycle created the conning of themselves
Trauma in childhood is inevitable simply because we are all human and perfectly imperfect. Each parent will make mistakes that leave wounds in us. It’s important to remember that trauma does not have to be a huge event. Trauma is any experience in life that creates a negative response or feeling. Trauma is the first stage of the cycle. It generates feelings of fear, which is stage two. Her “nervousness” shows her cycle has been triggered.
The third stage of the cycle is shame which is a loss of our authentic power. A prominent way parents traumatize us and place this shame in us happens when we make a simple mistake. The message is sent that we as people are bad when it was simply the act or behavior that was bad. This perfectly imperfect parenting where the message is misappropriated creates our shame core, the belief that we are defective. To solve this dilemma, we create a false self to get our power back. Inherently since it is not authentic and it is derived to create a connection with our parents which we need to survive, it is self-victimizing. It becomes a learned emotional response. It is actually a survival instinct. I go into much more detail about this process in my book, ‘Your Journey To Success.’
In addition, we learn from our parents how relationships work. Therefore, the adult relationships we pursue reflect the relationships we experienced as children. We’re attracted to what we know – this explains why these women were drawn to the ‘Beast’!
Shame turns into false victim power.
In our culture, victims rightly need to be protected, and there is an unintended consequence to protecting them. Our culture now absolves the victim from any responsibility. This has created tremendous power from the disempowered victim position. Instead of the media and society teaching the public that we make our emotions, that we are all stuck in The Worst Day Cycle and reliving our unhealed pain from childhood, and seeking out the same perfectly imperfect hurtful relationships we experienced as children, they are celebrated. The women now hold power over Simon Leviev and society. Reliving our Worst Day Cycle is a tremendous payoff for us all. Being the victim gives us the power that we lost as children, and no one will hold us responsible for the part we played. It WORKS!
These women are not to blame. They can’t be blamed for how society, culture, and their childhood experiences trained them to play the victim, bypassing responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and actions onto others. They can’t be blamed that although the science is out there, the media, society, and culture, in this case, Netflix is still telling the same old story. They can only do what they know, and all they know is how to play an unconscious part in their being victimized. That is a societal failure and not theirs.
Therefore, if we genuinely want to protect victims and take away the predator’s power, we need to start teaching everyone that our upbringing, beliefs, and manufactured emotional projections that create our Worst Day Cycle play a part in our being responsible.
Unfortunately, for these women, the lack of information on how emotions are made and The Worst Day Cycle enabled Simon Leviev to consciously con them while unconsciously conning themselves.
For more on this, watch or listen to Lisa Feldman Barrett’s TedTalk – ‘You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions, your brain creates them,‘ Read her book ‘How Emotions Are Made.’
Then, check out the Worst Day Cycle playlist on my YouTube channel, pick up my book ‘Your Journey To Success,’ and dive in even further with my free masterclass, ‘Your Journey To Emotional Mastery’!
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