The over 100 strategies that we’re mentioning in this book, most of them are always together and are only separate on a verbal level.
I want to mention very quickly 8 different traits or attitudes that are always present – always present – in a person who’s upset by anxiety or depression, which people almost always are when they’re in love and being rejected.
3. Self-pity (unhappiness)
4. Low self-esteem
6. Submission to feelings
7. Blaming and escaping responsibility
8. Believing that differences cause problems
We have self-talk almost continuously, constantly, and these become beliefs, which become attitudes. And these attitudes are reflected in outward actions.
In the strategies of always agree and instantly and happily do everything the mate’s way and always act happy, act as if everything in the status quo is practically perfect.
These strategies are extremely difficult to do when we are having these 8 different traits. So in order to be able to follow the strategies, we need to have insight into these things.
Dr. Albert Ellis has talked about that insights are not enough. We need to do work on top of insight, and that’s often true. But if we really have an insight, that almost automatically becomes an action.
For example, if somebody hollers “FIRE!” and we believe them, we don’t have to use a lot of will power to get out of that building.
We receive an official letter from an attorney that our uncle has died and left us a million dollars, and to please come in and sign some papers, we don’t need a lot of will power.
That insight by itself becomes automatic action. We’re on our way to the attorney’s office.
So, here's how the 8 traps work...
First of all, we are exaggerating, always without exception, when we are upset. We’re calling a desire a need, and it’s only a desire.
We’re also exaggerating the other person’s wrongness.
We’re exaggerating the degree of their wrongness and the number of things that they’re wrong about, and the importance of their wrongness.
In terms of extremes, we tend to think we make something all-important or it has no importance.
In rational thinking, we say it has some importance.
My mate is rejecting me. It has some importance.
We don’t say it has none. But it’s not all-important, either.
What I desire is only a preference.
That’s all that it is.
And, it’s my exaggerating the importance of it that makes me drive my mate away.
A woman almost never leaves a man who’s not exaggerating.
She never leaves a man who she perceives is happy.
She never leaves a man that is always agreeing with her.
So a man says, “Well, if my wife says she wants a divorce, I should agree with her?”
Because that immediately weakens her motivation for divorce and leaving you.
A woman never leaves a man who’s always cheerfully and sincerely agreeing with her.
“You’re right. We do need more space.”
Or, “You’re right, we should get a divorce. We’re just too different. You’re exactly correct,” or whatever.
Immediately, her desire for divorce or motivation for divorce is tremendously weakened. And it’s very funny to the husband how, all of a sudden, she becomes very slow about getting the attorney to send the papers and so forth, she stops talking about divorce and everything.
It’s fascinating to the husband.
We’re always exaggerating. So we’ll take the exaggeration out and have the insight that we are exaggerating. All we are ever dealing with are desires.
Many psychologists use the concept of needing, but that encourages upset.
When we don’t get what we think that we need, we’re going to be much more upset than if we say to ourselves, “Well, it’s only a desire. That’s all that it is.”
People are always feeling guilty. I remember a quote in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck Finn and his companion are watching a community of people tar and feather 2 guys and railroad them out of town.
Huck Finn and his companion are not taking part.They didn’t even know it was going to happen. I think the 2 guys that they were railroading out of town tarring them and feathering them and railroading them out of town had cheated the people.
And Huck says to his male companion, “There we were, feeling ornery and sort of guilty somehow. But we hadn’t done nothing. That’s always the way it is. It don’t make no difference if you do right or wrong. A man’s conscience just goes for him anyhow. If I had a yellow dog that had no more sense than a man’s conscience, I’d poison him. It (meaning the conscience) takes up more room than all of man’s insides, and ain’t got no sense no how. Tom Sawyer says the same.”
Now this is Sigmund Freud’s basic finding in the 1880’s that Mark Twain discovered in the 1860’s.
The main finding of Freud was not about sex. People tend to think that.
But it’s about a sick conscience that he called the “super ego” bringing down a person, beating them down.
My opinion is we tend to be very perfectionistic. So when we don’t have more power than God and make everybody do right, we hit ourselves over the head with, “Bad me! Stupid me!”
What are we going to do when we hit ourselves with,
“Bad me! Stupid me!”
Then we’re going to cry with, “Poor me!”
You never find guilt and self-pity separate.
If a person is feeling self-pity, they’re always feeling guilt. And if they’re feeling guilt, they’re always feeling self-pity.
It’s very simple, very clear, very convincing.
And both of these attitudes are expressed by a whining tone of voice. Meaning is in tone of voice, just as much as it is in words.
In my opinion, there’s no such thing as guilt. What there really is, is pseudo-guilt.
I haven’t read this anywhere, I made it up. I’m 76 years old this month, been in private practice over 45 years, so I’m entitled to an idea or two, particularly since I’ve been studying it so hard.
Sincere guilt would commit suicide.
I don’t mean the person would commit suicide; the feeling would commit suicide. Because if I’m sincerely guilty about some wrongdoing, I immediately decide and quit.
So then the guilt is gone.
Because I don’t feel guilty about something I’m not doing wrong anymore. So anybody’s feeling guilty, it’s pseudo-guilt.
It’s very self-destructive.
It doesn’t help you become a better person, it makes you a worse person.
4. Low Self-Esteem
That goes with the guilt and the self-pity, as I explained. And helplessness that goes with the self-pity also goes with the guilt.
So when we are full of self-pity, we are focusing on what I can’t do, not on what I can do. So by switching over from what I can’t do, then immediately I begin to feel better.
Some of the strategies we'll be talking about have to do with focusing on what I CAN do.
When people are upset, they’re always feeling morally superior to the other person. “I wouldn’t do this to you!”
In my opinion, overly high and overly low self-esteem always go together.
I remember when I was about 22 years old and joined the navy during World War II, and boot camp, and the first inspection.
We were rolling our clothes and stenciling our name on it, and here comes the inspecting officer. He was standing in front of our bunks, and he sees my clothes rolled up and stenciled on there “McDonald.”
He says, “Who’s McDonald?”
I said, “I am, sir.”
He said, “McDonald, can’t you roll clothes any better than that?”
I said, “Good as the rest of them, sir.”
Today, if I was in the same situation and he said, “McDonald, can’t you roll clothes any better than that?”
I would say, “You’re right, sir. I’ll do better.” Because my ego is a little more secure.
In doing my own psychoanalytic training, we seemed to discover that I had a superiority complex hiding an inferiority complex. So the 2 always go together.
6. Submission To Feelings
Now, something else that people are always doing when they’re upset is they are submitting to feelings. They’re doing whatever their feelings tell them to do. People tend to do that.
The feelings say, “I’m in love,” so I must be.
The feelings say, “Let’s get married,” so we do it.
Our feelings say, “Let’s get a separation,” “let’s get a divorce,” so I do.
I tell women in my office, “You think it’s wrong to be submissive towards your husband, don’t you?”
I said, “But you’re being submissive to your neurotic guilt, your neurotic hurt feelings and angry feelings. Your hurt feelings, your angry feelings order you not to touch your husband.
Let’s say I want to become an auto mechanic, because my father liked to work on cars or whatever, and it’s an important part of our society.
So I go to an auto shop and I say, “I’m a good auto mechanic.”
He says, “Well, some cars are stacked up here. We’ll give you a chance.”
So at the end of the day, he’s angry with me and firing me, because I’ve damaged all of the cars that I’ve worked on.
He says, “McDonald, where did you get your training?”
Comparing this to marriage. “Training? There’s nothing wrong with me! I don’t need any training!”
You say, “Well, why did you cut the wires that go to the sparkplugs, and why did you throw sand into the oil and into the gasoline?”
I said, “Well, I felt like it. Aren’t you supposed to do what you feel like?”
That’s the philosophy, the deep seated beliefs people take into marriage.
We’ve been brought up on compulsive honesty, too, which means always be honest about what you feel. That’s one of the worst things that we could be advised if having a happy, romantic, in-love relationship is our goal, because it attacks the other person’s pride. And when you attack each other’s pride, everything goes to hell.
I dreamed of a metaphor many years ago. I am on top of 2 horses. I’ve got my left foot on top of one horse and my right foot on top of another horse.
Now, the horse that my left foot is on is called “Kind.” The horse under my right foot is called “Honest.” As long as both of these horses are going in the same direction, I don’t have a big problem because I’m okay. I’m balanced.
But, when these horses go in different directions, I’ve been brought up to believe that I can be kind and honest.
So I try to stay on both horses, and of course I fall off of both horses.
So what I teach is to put three-fourths and keep three-fourths of my weight on the horse called “Kind,” one-fourth of my weight on a horse called “Honest.”
And when they separate, and I know that they will go in different directions, then I put all my weight on the horse called Kind. Then later on, the horse called Honest rejoins, and I put the right foot back on the horse.
Let me give you a more everyday example.
That’s a metaphor in trying to explain my philosophy. This is not typical. My wife does not wear hats, and she has better taste (like most wives do), in clothes than I do.
But let’s say she comes in in the evening with a new hat on. As soon as I look at it, I think it looks terrible. With a big smile she says, “Mac? How do you like my new hat?”
I’ve been brought up to be honest and kind, both. So I say, “That looks interesting.”
I think I’m giving her a compliment.
She starts crying.
“Well, just tell me you don’t like it. I know you don’t like it. Why don’t you say you don’t?”
So I haven’t gotten credit for kindness nor honesty.
See, if I’m honest, I start laughing, I say, “Your hat looks terrible! What clerk put that over on you?” And we have a terrible evening.
So what I would do now when she comes with the hat on that I think looks terrible, I say, “Honey, that hat looks great! It really goes with the dress you’ve got on,” or whatever. I sound sincere, and I compliment and we have a wonderful evening.
But we’ve been brought up on compulsive honesty, which is a part of being totally submissive to feelings.
7. Blaming And Escaping Responsibility
What we’re always doing when we’re upset is blaming and dodging responsibility.
It’s the other person’s fault that I feel terrible. She hurt my feelings.
Totally impossible. Totally impossible.
I hurt my own feelings by exaggerating the importance of my desires. And when I stop exaggerating, I’m not in pain anymore.
It makes me think of Marcus Arelius, Roman emperor, a typical parent. He wanted to give the best he could to his grown son, so over and over again, he’s writing letters to his grown son and he says this idea over and over again.
He says, “It’s not the events in the world that disturb men’s minds, but their opinions about these events. Son, if you find something grievous to be born, change your opinion.”
8. Believing That Differences Cause Problems
My wife and I have lots of differences, no problems.
We believe that these differences cause a clash of wills. But the truth is that it’s not the fact that she wants to stay home and I want to go to a movie that causes the problem.
See, as long as I see it as a difference between what she wants and what I want, I will keep my emotional problems.
For example, if I give in to what she wants and I stay home with her, I’m browbeating myself for being so weak as to be submissive to what she wants. Or, if I go ahead and go to the movie, then I stay out much later than I want to because I’m dreading coming home, getting her coldness or hostility.
And I’m feeling guilty about going to the movie, so I’m not really enjoying it as much as I could.
Now, if I see it more truthfully, more honestly, then I see that my problem is because of a conflict between 2 of my desires.
They’re my desires.I desire to please her and I desire her to be happy. One of my desires.
Another desire that apparently goes in conflict with that one is that I desire to go to the movie.
Now, if I take responsibility for both of those desires as something within me, then I make a decision and I say, “My desire to please her and be with her is more important to me than my desire to go to a movie.”
So I stay home and I’m not moping around and feeling sorry for myself, beating myself over the head. I’m praising myself for doing what I prefer to do.
And then of course, next week she says, “Mac, what movie was it that you wanted to see?” So then we go to the movie.
Or, I say to myself, “Hey, I’m going to this movie. It’s not going to come back. It’s going to be only on tonight, and it’s a movie I really do want to see. So it’s more important to me than it is to please her.”And that’s okay.
Then I go.
I don’t feel guilty and I don’t dread coming home, because I cheerfully pay the price of getting my preference.
A guy carrying his brother says, “He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.” This is no sacrifice. I’m doing and getting to do what I prefer to do, which is to stay home or to go to the movie.
So I emphasize the pleasure I’m getting from my choice.
And it’s my choice, not her choice. We have a difference here, but no big problem.
Agreeing and always agreeing and always doing it your mate’s way sounds like a conquered position. So it seems in conflict with the idea of remaining unconquered. But that’s not so.
The conquered person is always rebellious, argumentative, feels that agreeing or doing it the mate’s way is a sign of weakness. This is the emotional position of the conquered individual.
It takes strength and smartness and a secure ego to see that the other person is always right. Maybe not 100%, but at least 10% or 20%.
And if you talk about where they are wrong, they become more wrong. And if you talk about where they are right, they become immediately less wrong. And if you always instantly and happily do everything your mate’s way, this gives you more time, more energy for doing your other hobbies.
Pleasing my mate is not essential.
It’s not my salvation.
It’s only a pleasure. That’s all that it is. It’s only a hobby that gives me a lot of pleasure.
And if I put that hobby first, use my head in taking care of that hobby, then she says, “Mac, do you want to fly by yourself to see your kids in Dallas?” She feels so secure, so that I have more time and more energy for any other hobbies that I’ve got.
So that conflict that I caught myself in is only an apparent conflict. The secure person, the self-confident person is eager to please, happy to please, happy to do it the mate’s way, and has the brain power to see, “Hey, you are right.”
Like if you’re a salesperson, “You are right. It does look like my product is more expensive than the other one.You’re right. It is at the start. It takes less upkeep and does a better job. So in the longer run, it’s less expensive. But you’re right, it does look more expensive.”
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