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Author Topic: How Our Feelings Betray Us
docmagik
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A while ago, someone recommended a book to me called Leadership and Self Deception by a group called The Arbinger Institute. I sort of started to read it, was bothered a little bit by the way it was written, so I never finished it. (It's written in that way that's so popular amoung business books right now, where you tell it like a story, and the main character is learning everything you want the reader to learn.)

About a year ago, I did read it, along with a good chunk of the other stuff published by Arbinger.

What I found was a philosophy that had become one of the most impactful of any that I have ever read. It's changed my life, and it's changed the way I post on Hatrack.

I've always despaired at being able to write succinct summaries of their philosophies that would inspire those who ought to read the books to read them. Like the phrase "Self-Deception" in the title of the book would indicate, the people who most need to read the book would probably be the least likely to read it, were I to give an explanation.

Arbinger has published their own summary of their philophies in an online paper titled, "What We Are." written by philosopher C. Terry Warner.

I realize that not everyone is going to be willing to click over and read a 26 page scholarly paper (although I'd strongly encourage everyone to--Warner explains all of this better than I ever could), so I'll do my best to sum up what's being explained.

Often times, the conflicts we have in our lives--whether they're with the people in our families or the people in our work or the people we deal with on places like Hatrack--these conflicts arise out of mutual mishandling of a situation.

Generally, it is really, really obvious to us the way the other person is mishandling the situation. We can see their lact of tact, their meanness, their rudeness, their inconsideration--these are so obvious to us, it's like a mack truck parked behind them.

However, the problem comes because of an innate ability people have to be blind to their own mishandling of situations. This happens because as soon as anyone does something--in fact, it is probably more accurate to say that as someone is doing something, they'll give themselves reasons for doing it.

They'll give themselves intellectual reasons for doing it--it's smart, it makes sense, etc--but they'll also give themselves emotional reasons for doing it. They're angry, or they're frustrated, or they're deeply, deeply hurt.

And these are trickier, because in our society, we've become accustomed to thinking about emotions as being something that other people create in us--you make me mad. You make me sad.

And this gives me an even stronger justification for whatever I'm about to do than the intellectual reasons do. Because the emotions give me an excuse for blaming you for my actions.

Here's the classic example, that's in almost all the Arbinger books.

A new father hears his baby start fussing a little in the other room. It occurs to him that if he got up and rubbed the baby's back a little, the baby would probably fall right back asleep and neither he nor his wife would have to get up with the baby.

But he doesn't get up. And so he starts talking to himself about why he's not getting up. Maybe he has a meeting the next day, early. Maybe his wife had a nap when he got home, and it's "her turn."

But he doesn't stop there. He gets a little annoyed with his wife. Why doesn't she hear the baby? Why isn't she thinking about letting him get some sleep?

He starts getting angry with her, and thinking about what a bad mom she is, and what a bad wife she is.

See what's happening here?

He starts off feeling some sense of what he should do. I don't mean this in a religous sense, or under any specific moral or ethical code. There was just something he felt he should do.

But then he didn't do it. And since he didn't want to start telling himself a story about what a bad person he was, he started telling himself a story about why what he did was the right thing to do.

But it didn't stop there. Because there was still a little bit of doubt in his mind, his mind needed to shift blame elsewhere, and his wife was the natural target. Not only did it create intellectual means to blame her, but emotional ones as well.

Had he simply got up before he'd started feeling the need to justify his actions, the emotions would never have arisen. They weren't caused by any real action of the wife--they were created to justify his own failure to be who he thought he should be.

Even worse, he starts feeling the need to see her as a bad person, as if by raising or lowering her degree of "badness," his own virtue can be raised or lowered accordingly.

Now if you've followed me that far, then come this last step with me, because this was the part that was the biggest eye-opener for me:

At this point in the game, it wouldn't matter if he did get up and help with the baby.

That didn't make sense to me, at first. It seemed to me like the problem was that he didn't do the right thing. If he did do the right thing, how can he possibly be wrong?

Well, like this:

We all know how it would play out if this guy made his wife get up. He'd say something like, "Honey, you know you got that nap when I came home. And I have my big meeting tommorrow. Can't you just go get her?"

His phrasing, which he thinks will clearly show her how much sense it makes for her to get up, while just hinting at how thoughtless he thinks she's being (in other words, which he thinks is defensive) comes across to her as an accusation that she's lazy or uncaring (in other words, it comes across as an attack).

This prompts her to go into a similar self-justifying cycle of why his attack is unjustified as he went into when he didn't think he wanted to get up.

But now, imagine that instead, he decided that, despite all his reasons for thinking she should do it instead of him, that he was the good dad and she was the bad mom, despite all of that he was going to do the "noble" thing and get up with the baby anyway.

He's still got all these feelings. So he's still going to say something like, "No, honey, you just keep sleeping. I'm sure my meeting tommorow won't be a problem." Something designed to seem thoughtful, but still hint at what she's putting him through so she'll appreciate his sacrifice. Of course, rather than seeing his comments as being about him, she'll see what he's saying about her, and still take it as an accusation.

It still invites her to go into her own self-justifying cycle. And it still adds to the conflict.

Even if he doesn't make a comment, he's going to sigh a certain way, so she'll notice. And even if he doesn't sigh, he'll still just remember, let it fester somewhere in the back of his mind, to add fuel to the next fire that flares up between them.

Does it make sense now? The problem isn't which thing he did. It isn't about whether he did right or wrong. The problem was his attitude towards her. The problem was his need to find blame.

Had his attitude towards her been different, there are ways he could have asked her to get up and help with the baby as well as gotten up himself that would have done nothing to add to the conflict, but could even have made their relationship stronger.

In other words, in many, many cases, seeing other people as the problem is the problem.

Often, in making ourselves a victim, we're also victimizing someone else.

Now the obvious rebuttal a person might have is that there are some cases of clear-cut victimhood. Cases of abuse, for instance.

This is talked about at some length in the book Bonds That Make Us Free. And what it explains is how even in those cases, it is often self-deception that traps us in to those problems. It is self-deception that either obligates us to stay in the abuse relationship or that keeps us from being able to let go of it once the relationship is over, to release its power over us.

It gives the example of a woman who kept going back to an abusive husband. She knew he was in trouble, and felt guilt whenever she'd leave him because she was afraid of what might happen to him. She justified leaving him because of what he was doing--his "bad" actions justified the act she sort of felt was "wrong"--leaving him, even though she knew he was in trouble.

The problem was, whenever he'd come back to her apologetic, she'd feel obligated to go back to him.

It wasn't until she was finally able to separate the morality of her own actions from the immorality of his that she felt free to leave him for good without feeling like a bad person.

They're a wonderful set of books.

If you're only going to read one, I suggest The Anatomy of Peace. You can read the first few pages of it online here. It's the one geared towards families and individuals.

Leadership and Self Deception is more of a business book, so I'd reccomend it if you're a manager or work with a lot of other people, although it's a great book for everyone. Anatomy of Peace is actually a "Prequel" to this book in terms of storyline, and a "Sequel" in terms of content, but they can be read completely individually.

There's also an 8 page article on parenting that can be read here.

So, has anyone else read these books? What are your thoughts on them?

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Shan
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I just skimmed the parenting article. The pyramid looks very spot-on. I'm printing it for later in-depth reading, but gotta run off to jazzercize . . .
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TomDavidson
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I haven't read them, I'm afraid, but the idea that you alone are responsible for your self-assessed motivations is one that's always appealed to me.
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Eaquae Legit
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I've skimmed the first part of the one on parenting, and I'm interested to read more when I get home. Thanks.
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steven
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I had a feeling there'd be a post from you, Tom.

"...but the idea that you alone are responsible for your self-assessed motivations is one that's always appealed to me."

I think I heard a Buddhist say once, "you don't have to believe your own thoughts."

Based on that, I don't think it's always necessary to take action before you start self-justifying, so long as you are at least willing to question any given self-justifications that come into your brain. Maybe.

I'd also like to bring up something you mentioned a while back, Tom. I believe you referenced a study on intuition that said the accuracy of intuition was directly related to someone's experience with the situation. This, I think, somewhat plays in with what I was just saying.

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Uprooted
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I've skimmed Bonds That Make Us Free, and read The Peacegiver, which I guess is the blatantly Christian version of the same ideas.

It makes total sense to me. I think a lot of misery in the world would be avoided by eliminating the automatic blame response.

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steven
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I just read the Wiki on Terry Warner. He appears to be a Mormon.

"In writings and seminars, Warner argues that individuals are responsible for their own actions, including their own feelings, and therefore have the power to free their relationships with others from negativity."


I would like to add the caveat that, when someone appears to violated the "social contract" in their behavior toward you, it may not be totally realistic to expect you to immediately let go of your emotions around the situation.

I think all this sort of thing is fine in moderation, but I am most certainly not responsible for some of the things that have been done to me in my life, nor is it realistic to call my responses to those things into question.

Given that, this stuff has its uses, but they are limited. IMHO.

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steven
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quote from Terry Warner--"Societies in general have substituted moral codes for the moral and spiritual sensitivity of uncorrupted conscience."

ahem. I, being me, must also add that societies also tend to form big religious organizations that claim to have the power to solve all people's problems, if they'll just join the organization. Ahem. [ROFL]

I mean, really. Some skepticism and self-awareness (of such irony) may be in order here.

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Uprooted
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As a Mormon, I can assure you that our "sales pitch" is not that our church has the power to solve all your problems. Sure didn't work for Joseph Smith.

Like adherents to any religion, we believe that applying the principles taught and striving to uphold our covenants will make us and, by extension, our society, better.

One of those ideals is that each individual should be personally in tune with the promptings of the Holy Ghost in making his/her choices, which is in no way contradictory to Warner's quote. So, sorry, no irony apparent to me.

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steven
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On a related note, I wonder if Warner is a supporter of military action. According to his principles, it sounds like he thinks that we should never engage in war, and that things like September 11 are our fault. Not that he really believes that, I'm just saying that "speak softly, and carry a big stick" is approximately a 50/50 proposition, depending on the circumstance. I believe in that fact on an individual level, as well, to a certain degree. If I am approached by a hungry shark, should I let him take a bite of me, or should I shoot him with my speargun (assuming I carry one)? How about if I am attacked by a serial killer? There are limits to the uses of his philosophy. His philosophy is all well and good if killing violence never comes to your door, but if it does, it's nice to be ready. IMHO.


I believe I read that Utah has a very large percentage of people currently serving in the military. I'm wondering how his exaggerated version of "turn the other cheek" fits in with that, assuming that other Mormons buy into his philosophy. If they don't, never mind.


Edit--to add a missing verb, is.

[ February 23, 2008, 04:14 PM: Message edited by: steven ]

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Boothby171
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DM,

I just read the "Leadership and Self-Deception" book--I must agree, it seems like it has a lot of good ideas on there. And, I must say, it helped keep me from calling my boss an a$$hole yesterday...so it must work!


Steven,

Many people claim that the US is not blameless in 9/11. Understood, we didn't fly those planes (well MOST people believe we didnt' fly those planes...), and I am no great fan of "victim as instigator," but part of what angers the people that would stoop to such an act is the US' attitude towards the Middle East. Of course, the othe part of what angers them is poverty, general anger at a wealthy, prosperous, free nation (gee...I sound like George W Bush!), training in madrassas since childhood, etc. It doesn't forgive those people who attacked us, or the countries that support them (like Saudi Arabia and the US, but not Iraq), but it does point a way towards improved relations between the US and other countries throughout the world.

I'm not saying we should stop being a/the superpower--we SHOULD be a superpower, and I'm damned glad we ARE a superpower. But I feel we have to acknowledge that things are far from perfect with our foreign relations, and I doubt that more power (or more cowbells) are going to make it all better.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I've skimmed Bonds That Make Us Free, and read The Peacegiver, which I guess is the blatantly Christian version of the same ideas.
How is it possible to take this same idea and make it Christian? As I understand it, the idea is actually fundamentally non-Christian.
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Kwea
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Depends on your version of Christianity. Free Will is a powerful concept.
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steven
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What about Free Willy? [ROFL]
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Boothby171
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What happens if you suddenly find that you're incredibly, physically, uncomfortable being in the presence of killer whales?

Do you have a case of the Free Willies?

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Uprooted
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
How is it possible to take this same idea and make it Christian? As I understand it, the idea is actually fundamentally non-Christian.

Hmm, I wonder if we're even talking about the same idea? The essence of what dogmagik described above seems to me to be about taking responsibility for our own actions and forgiving others, which to me pose no contradiction with Christianity -- do they to you?

The Peacegiver goes further in talking about the role of Christ and his atonement in helping us to change our hearts. (Maybe that's where you'd say that the taking responsibility for ourselves part seems non-Christian?) It was written by someone at Arbinger, but published by LDS publisher Deseret Book. More about the author and his motivations in writing the book here.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
The essence of what dogmagik described above seems to me to be about taking responsibility for our own actions...
Then perhaps I'm misunderstanding his description of these books. There's nothing remotely interesting in the old observation that we should take responsibility for our own actions; the idea that we are responsible for our own thoughts, however, is one that's considerably less common, and one that I'd think is almost antithetical to certain elements of religious belief.
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Uprooted
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First of all, it's been a while since I've looked at the books so my description of the ideas discussed is suspect.

I think you are right, though, that thoughts more than actions are the focus. I guess I don't necssarily make the distinction because I don't see how responsibility for our thoughts is very different from responsibility for our actions; one begets the other. But it is a deeper look at the same concept. And it's certainly a very Christian idea in the sense of (paraphrasing) "the law says do not commit adultery but I say do not lust in your heart."

What are the certain elements of religious belief that you think are opposed to being responsible for our own thoughts? My own belief is that God can influence my thinking if I let him, but that I alone am responsible for the choices that I make -- not only about what I DO but also about what I choose to think and feel. Life has become a more interesting and powerful journey once I really started cluing in to fact that I do have the power to change not only thoughts, but feelings, and to be responsible for both.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
The essence of what dogmagik described above seems to me to be about taking responsibility for our own actions...
Then perhaps I'm misunderstanding his description of these books. There's nothing remotely interesting in the old observation that we should take responsibility for our own actions; the idea that we are responsible for our own thoughts, however, is one that's considerably less common, and one that I'd think is almost antithetical to certain elements of religious belief.
Could you elaborate on why you think this is so Tom?

For my part, though some thoughts come from God some are random synapses or reactions to stimulus. We ARE responsible for how we manage our thoughts as well as how we train our brain to act on a general basis.

So in essence we are responsible for what tends to show up in our minds as well as all of what our mind dabbles/toys with.

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lem
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*pokes head in, clears throat for deep voice, breaths a mechanical breath*

Sister! So...you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her too.

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BandoCommando
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quote:
Originally posted by lem:
*pokes head in, clears throat for deep voice, breaths a mechanical breath*

Sister! So...you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her too.

I was wondering when someone would bring this up. The joke was just hanging right there in plain sight like the proverbial bantha in the proverbial room and no one said anything about it until Iem...
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docmagik
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Sorry for taking so long to reply to this. I knew it was going to take a while, so I had to carve out time for it. Thanks for your patience.

quote:
I think I heard a Buddhist say once, "you don't have to believe your own thoughts."

Based on that, I don't think it's always necessary to take action before you start self-justifying, so long as you are at least willing to question any given self-justifications that come into your brain. Maybe.

The Arbinger books talk about this at some length. The idea is this: Once we've started telling ourselves stories about why we're doing the things we're doing, and why we're up to what we're up to, we start carrying those self-deceiving attitudes with us. They become the window through which we see the world. They call this "Being in the box."

Take the father in the example I gave above. The next night, once he's "in the box," he's probably not even going to get the feeling he should get up with the baby. His mind is going to go straight to getting angry with his wife as soon as the baby starts crying.

In fact, he will probably get to the point where he'll start going through his day actively looking for things his wife is doing to prove she's a bad wife or bad mother. He will think he's just discovering "evidence" of what a bad wife and mother she is, but instead, he's just looking for the way everything she does can be twisted and made to look bad.

Consequently, he becomes what Warner once labeled a "missle seeking target," placing himself squarely in the path of any action she might take, ready to take offense to it.

So say the next day, she's tired and she snaps at the kid, it will never occur to him that she's just a normal person who's tired and it would do her and the kid some good if Dad took over for a minute. All he'll see is more proof that she's a bad Mom, and if he does anything he'll do it in a way that makes her feel as guilty as possible.

That's basically what being in the box is--carrying the self-deceptive attitude with you so that you don't need to do a specific action to trigger it.

Arbinger calls the process of letting go of our need for self-deception "getting out of the box."

quote:
I would like to add the caveat that, when someone appears to violated the "social contract" in their behavior toward you, it may not be totally realistic to expect you to immediately let go of your emotions around the situation.
You're absolutely right.

The only thing Arbinger would expect someone else to think about relative to your emotions is whether or not they were doing anything--wittingly or unwittingly--that was causing you unneccessary hardship or adding to your struggle.

As far as condemning you for your emotions--well, that's pretty worthless.

Knowing about self-deception is a valuable tool when you use it with yourself. Knowing about self-deception is just a fancy new way to blame people when you use it on others.

quote:
quote from Terry Warner--"Societies in general have substituted moral codes for the moral and spiritual sensitivity of uncorrupted conscience."

ahem. I, being me, must also add that societies also tend to form big religious organizations that claim to have the power to solve all people's problems, if they'll just join the organization. Ahem

I'd say you're not really adding anything.

In fact, you've offered a step back from what he's said.

Think about it this way.

Imagine a golf instructor says, "If you just keep your head down, hit the ball flat, and follow through on your swing, you'll be a good golfer."

So someone who does all that thinks of himself as a good golfer, even while his score isn't changing.

This is the equivalent of a religion that says, "If you do X, Y, and Z," you'll make it into heaven." Or, "You'll have a good life."

Warner is suggesting a person who does X, Y, and Z, thinks "Oh, I'm a good person, because I've done the checklist," can still have no idea how to be a genuinely good person.

They might do X, Y, and Z with gritted teeth, but because they want an eternal reward. They might do X, Y, and Z happily but mindlessly, not caring whether or not any good really comes from X, Y, and Z.

What you're saying is that some religions say "Join us and you'll be happy." This is the equivalent of a golf instructor who says that simply by signing up for his class you'll be a better golfer.

I think if Warner was criticizing the former, he would certainly criticize the latter even more severly.

quote:
On a related note, I wonder if Warner is a supporter of military action. According to his principles, it sounds like he thinks that we should never engage in war, and that things like September 11 are our fault. Not that he really believes that, I'm just saying that "speak softly, and carry a big stick" is approximately a 50/50 proposition, depending on the circumstance. I believe in that fact on an individual level, as well, to a certain degree. If I am approached by a hungry shark, should I let him take a bite of me, or should I shoot him with my speargun (assuming I carry one)? How about if I am attacked by a serial killer? There are limits to the uses of his philosophy. His philosophy is all well and good if killing violence never comes to your door, but if it does, it's nice to be ready. IMHO.
The book "The Anatomy of Peace" takes place at a camp for troubled teens. But the story doesn't center around the teens, it takes place around the parents.

The camp is run by two men, one a Jew and one a Muslim, and the conflicts in the middle east serve as a backdrop and comparison for the conflicts arising in the families who have brought their children to the camp.

The story is told of the bitter and bloody conflicts between the crusaders and the muslims over the holy land.

Naturally, the two sides in this conflict saw themselves as being in the right. Each saw the other as an invader.

Both likely saw themselves as being forced into war by the actions of another.

However, what can be different, and what has been different, is the way each side of the conflict views the people of the other side.

The Muslims commited crimes in their fights for the holy hand, including the massacre of the Banu Qurayza, the last Jewish tribe in Medina.

In 1099, when Christians invaded Jerusalem, they slaughtered most of both the Muslims and the Jews in the city within two days, and forced preists to reveal the location of holy sites and artifacts so they could be destroyed.

Contrast both of these examples with Saladin, who, when he took Jerusalem in 1187, put his men under orders not to kill Christians, not to plunder their possesions, and even put guards at Christian holy sites. While many historians make much of the ransoms he demanded for the freedom of the city's inhabitants, his own men felt the amounts were absurdly low.

Saldin's status as a man of virtue can be (and is) contested, but even among Christians he was respected enought that Dante included him among the virtuous pagan souls in Limbo.

The lesson Arbinger wants to teach from that is this: Sometimes war is neccessary. But it is both more ethical and more effective to fight those wars with a heart at peace than with heart at war.

"Heart at Peace" is another way of saying "Out of the Box." It means you're not expecting anyone else to live their lives in a way that meets your needs, or wanting them to be who you'd like them to be. You're letting them have value as they are, and who they are.

"Heart at War," is another way of saying "In the Box." It means you're seeing other people as means to an end, and your relationship with them is purely in terms of whether they're helping you or stopping you from getting what you want.

The shark and the serial killer obviously have hearts at war. They're seeing me simply as a means to an end.

When someone else has a heart at war, it often becomes neccessary to wage war against them. It's not the first resort, and it's not exciting, but sometimes it's neccessary.

But before it comes to war, and even after it has, we can still see the humanity of those we struggle with, and see them for who they really are.

There is no need to either demonize them in order to justify the war I have chosen to wage, nor to make them out as victims or martyrs in order to justify wanting to avoid the conflict. Instead I try to see them for who they truly are, good and bad, independent of who it would be convienent for them to be.

quote:
I believe I read that Utah has a very large percentage of people currently serving in the military. I'm wondering how his exaggerated version of "turn the other cheek" fits in with that, assuming that other Mormons buy into his philosophy. If they don't, never mind.
Two points.

First, most Mormons have never heard of this guy. Also, his philosophy isn't inherently Mormon. The camp described in Anatomy of Peace is based on a real camp in Arizona that really is run by a Muslim and a Jew and uses Arbinger philosophy in working with youth and their parents.

Second, I'm sorry if what I'm describing seems like an exagerated version "Turn the other cheek." I was hoping that the example I used about the abused woman would show that.

Rather, it stops giving us a reason for being victims, or for allowing others to be victimized.

Let's go back to the example of the mother snapping at her child. Let's say the father sees it, sees her getting sharp and snapping at the child. "Wow," he thinks. "She is such a bad mom. I can't watch this."

And he leaves the room.

See what he did? He allowed her to continue to be sharp with the child. In other words, he allowed her to continue to mistreat the child, because he needed that mistreatment to justify his own thinking. In other words, he needed his child to be a victim in order to support his self-justifying picture of his wife.

It is only out of the box that his child's suffering truly has no value to him, and he is able to step in and try to help both the wife, who is really just tired and human, not evil, and the child, who is altogether innocent.

However, I will not go as far as to say that the Arbinger teachings are contrary to the turn-the-other cheek philosophy.

Because what he does do is take away the idea that the morality of my actions is always directly related to morality of yours. That it is okay for me to be rude to you as long as I think you are rude to me. That it is okay for me to lie to you as long as I think you're telling bigger lies to me.

In other words, I'd say an Arbinger definition of "Turn the other cheek" might be, "The fact that other people are doing things they know are wrong does not give us an excuse for betraying our own sense of morality."

quote:
quote:

Originally posted by TomDavidson:
How is it possible to take this same idea and make it Christian? As I understand it, the idea is actually fundamentally non-Christian.

Hmm, I wonder if we're even talking about the same idea? The essence of what dogmagik described above seems to me to be about taking responsibility for our own actions and forgiving others, which to me pose no contradiction with Christianity -- do they to you?
I think what Tom is talking about is the Christian tendency to believe that thoughts and feelings either come from God or from the devil, and that God specifically answers prayers through feelings in our hearts and minds.

That would imply that we should trust those feelings, where this philosophy seems to imply that those feelings could just be our own yearnings manifest.

In religion's defense, I will say that even basic Sunday School Christianity teaches that some thoughts come from God and others from the devil, and that any given religious experience could be Alvin's vision with Tenskwa-Tawa, or it could be Reverend Thrower and the Unmaker.

Mature Christianity, though, delves even greater into thoughts--what is The Screwtape Letters, after all, but a treatise on how our thoughts can lead us astray?

But I think that the point Tom's making is valid--that relgion can be as powerful as anything could be when we're looking for tools to call to our own defense as we self-justify.

And I agree with Tom about the deep distinction between thoughts and actions I think these books make. Like I said in the opening post--the epiphany came for me when I realized that, in the story of the father and the fussy baby, he could even get up and help with the baby and hurt the relationship and hurt his wife just as much as if he'd stayed in bed and made her get up. I think before that, I'd always thought that if he got up, that was that. He did the right thing, so he was in the right.

Atually, in my case, personally, it wasn't so much about doing the right thing as it was about being right.

I felt like if I was right (and I'm always right, right?) then on some level, things changed. It was okay if I was less than civil in the way I debated, or that it made the person I was arguing with not only wrong, but stupid, and that everything else was secondary to getting them to see my point.

Especially because I didn't just want them to see my point was right, I wanted them to see me as right. Or, if not right, then at the very least, smart.

And there is nothing more frustrating than having your peace of mind depend on what others are doing.

That ultimately, as long as my relationship with someone is based on who I want them to be instead of who they are, my relationship with them will always be strained, and my influence on them will always be, on some level, an effort to push their needs under my needs.

As long as I am attempting to make them change for my sake, I am pushing their needs a little bit below my needs. I am denying their humanity and forcing my will on theirs, to however small a degree.

That is not to say we should not protect ourselves or get out of bad situations. Again--it is the effort to try to change others that causes the problems, not our efforts to find solutions independent of them changing.

It is also not to say that we cannot help them, as long as our motives are rooted in what is good for them, not what would make us happy or make our lives better.

I hope this helps clarify, and I'd be interested in any reactions.

[ March 15, 2008, 06:21 PM: Message edited by: docmagik ]

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steven
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Disclaimer: the following may be total nonsense. [Smile]

This is all well and good, but I still think, on some level, there MAY be (read the disclaimer) still the whole "playing the victim" thing going on, simply on a more subtle level. Dunno. Perhaps that's usually only something an individual knows about him or herself.

Also, I'd say that a dose of common sense is also useful with these techniques. There are some negative reviews of his books over on Amazon, among the mostly positive ones. The complaints seem pretty much in line with the questions I've raised here.

It also appears to me that it is much easier to use these techniques on people who you already trust/care about. I'm not sure what that means, except that there MAY (disclaimer again) be a risk, if common sense is not sufficiently applied, of thinking you've somehow accomplished something if you've managed to apply these methods on your friends, family, and co-workers. If you have, great. However, billions of Muslims (if you're a conservative Christian) are still there, living their lives. It might be a bigger challenge to apply these techniques on them.

The disclaimer again.

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katharina
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This is a great thread that has stirred much thought in me.
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pooka
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I've worked with these materials for about 9 years now, and discussed some of the ideas on Hatrack from time to time, like in discussions about "what are varelse" and a lot of the interior monologues in the Women of Genesis series.

I will say that despite an enthusiasm for these concepts, I was still really crazy for about half of the last decade.

I also had some problems with The Peacegiver but I've decided these had to do with individual takes on what is meaningful. I mean, I've heard Jim Ferrell talk and he's a great guy.

Something I've been thinking about a lot lately is the significance of the "Mormon" belief in spirit life before birth. It was something that President Hinckley stated, in the last year of his life, was key to the understanding of the atonement. As I was thinking about this yesterday, it seemed important to me that what the pre-existence implies is that we all chose to come to earth, and that in nothing are we truly victims.

"In nothing are we victims" is a motto that comes out of the "Mormon" 12 step movement. It's probably not something I should throw out there without someone reading the first 75 pages of the book it occurs in, but since steven was saying Arbinger is just a deeper level of self-victimization, I thought I'd better mention that it's been considered.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I will say that despite an enthusiasm for these concepts, I was still really crazy for about half of the last decade.
I think that if you attempt to seek self-understanding through these concepts while being more than slightly mentally imbalanced, you will only become more imbalanced. Accepting responsibility for your actions is one thing -- but understanding that you are also responsible for your motivations is very, very difficult to do if you're also battling mental illness. I think it can produce a certain level of detachment that probably wouldn't be at all healthy.
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pooka
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But the trouble was I didn't believe I was mentally ill. [Smile]

But a lot of my recovery did wind up involving detachment of my symptoms from my cognition - something I recognized in "A Beautiful Mind."

What Arbinger is saying is that you don't have to be a schizophrenic, you can be a garden variety jerk and still look at yourself and say "this isn't real/working."

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Dan_raven
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A lot of this comes down to something I discovered through discussions here on Hatrack:

"Casting blame is only good for one thing, freeing you up from having to solve the problem."

Once you have someone to blame the problem on, you can demand punishment for them and then go on as if there were no problem.

Blame is a simple solution, and a lazy solution, to almost all problems. The Drug Problem, blame and punish the Pushers. Sports problems, fire the coach. Problems in the Mid-East? Blame it on Saddam Hussein and invade Iraq.

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Amanecer
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This thread interested me, so I bought and read "The Anatomy of Peace." I really enjoyed it. It isn't spectacular writing but the concepts are very logical and thoughtfully explored. I certainly know that there are people and situations in my life in which I'm often tempted to get "in the box". There is one person in particular in which I know that I'm more likely to find flaws, take offense from, and then seek to make their mistreatment of me clear to everybody else. I know this doesn't help anything and often makes the situation worse, but years after I realized that I still find myself doing it at times. I think that this book does a very good job explaining the seduction of blame and self-justification. It goes on to explain how much it ends up hurting us and it provides solutions as to how to escape that cycle. I know that when I remind myself of somebody's humanity it becomes so much harder to stay angry or bitter. I appreciated the book's exploration of this.

It's rare that I read a book of this type and agree with essentially every idea they present, but that's what happened. Docmagik, thank you for the recommendation and I echo it.

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Fusiachi
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_raven:

Blame is a simple solution, and a lazy solution, to almost all problems. The Drug Problem, blame and punish the Pushers. Sports problems, fire the coach. Problems in the Mid-East? Blame it on Saddam Hussein and invade Iraq.

Likewise, lots of people jump to blame the American hegemony far too quickly, no?
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steven
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"I know that when I remind myself of somebody's humanity it becomes so much harder to stay angry or bitter."

Hmm. That's very interesting. It almost reminds me of some soft-style martial arts principles, or of some Zen Buddhist stuff, like this story.

--"A Zen Master was travelling home on a moonlit night. As he came to his house, he noticed a thief rushing out holding the master's belongings in his arms. The thief looked at the Zen Master, who then said, "It's all yours." The thief rushed past the Zen Master and ran down the road. The Master sighed, looked up in to the sky, and said, "I wish I could have given him the moon."--




Also, here's one of the reviews for "Bonds that Make Us Free" from amazon--

"I used to love this book, until I saw the long range fruits in my life of applying its principles. Warner is not to blame- I am, because I was the type of person who was afraid of being angry, who thought I was turning the other cheek in order be like Jesus, even though it really was because I didn't know how to stand up for myself effectively, or believe that I was really worth taking care of. A weekling who lies down and takes a beating from a bully he could never beat, is not turning the other cheek.

But this book gave my neuroses the stamp of *righteousness*, so I embraced it and lived it as fully as I could, when I read it 2 yrs ago. A year into this new way of life my husband commited adultery on me AGAIN, in part because I, the person he really wanted to emotionally connect with, would not act like a "real" person. I wouldn't say ouch when I got hurt, I wouldn't stand up and make demands, I would just do as Warner suggested and look for a way that *I* could take responsibility and be sorry.

If you tend to be a jerk, this book might help you, alot. But if you tend to be like me, run away.

And Warner should, at the beginning and on the back cover of his book, encourage readers to know which category they are in! That's a tall order, because it requires us to avail ourselves of the Spiritual help we need in order to see ourselves honestly. But inspite of the difficulty of that task and the fact that fewer ppl would end up reading his book, I think Warner is gravely irresponsible in marketing it as appropriate across the board.

I am becoming a really real person now. And if my husband (same guy) wants to leave me again because I have genuine contempt for him for what he's done, let him. But you know what, he doesn't want to, because we both see now that love and hate come from the same place- deep inside. I choose to live genuinely and in my heart now, and suffer the emotional ups and downs of life, rather than be the never-angry, ever-responsible free-from-desire shell of a woman that I turned myself into with the help of, among other things, this book.

Be wise!
"


What do you guys think? Is her criticism valid at all? I'm not saying it is, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

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TomDavidson
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Love and contempt come from the same place in the same way that infants and urine do.
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docmagik
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Amanacer, I'm glad you found the book helpful. Seriously, thanks for posting that.

Steven, I've read that review before, and that person deeply misunderstood these ideas.

Being out of the box doesn't mean you don't stand up for yourself, and not treating blame like it's a solution doesn't mean not being honest about when other people are harming you in your life.

In Anatomy of Peace, they describe that there are certain kinds of boxes. There are "must be seen as" boxes, "I deserve" boxes, "better than" boxes and "worse than" boxes.

This woman sounds like she had a "Must be seen as conciliatory" box. It shaped the way she viewed the world, and who she thought she had to be.

I can see how it would be very easy for someone in that place to misread "Bonds That Make Us Free" and see it as a book about being conciliatory. In fact, it was that specific review I had in mind when I posted the story in the first post about how the book doesn't just say to roll over and take it.

This woman thought she did have to take it, because of her "must be seen as conciliatory" box. She was seeing the world as being just as "Me vs. Everybody Else" as the people she categorized as "jerks," but she thought that being good meant Everybody Else had to win and being a jerk meant thinking "Me" had to win.

And though I hesitate to judge her, from the sound of her review, she's still in that mindset. She thinks that by realizing that "Me" needs to win sometimes, she's discovered that this book is wrong.

What she's missing is that life isn't "Me vs. Everybody Else." It's "Me and Everybody Else," all people and all in it together on this crazy rock as we whirl around the sun. Peace comes from giving all of those people the chance to win as often as possible.

Ourselves included, of course.

Anyway, the idea that these books teach not to stand up for yourself shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the books.

It's not just in cases of abuse, either--about halfway through Anatomy of Peace the viewpoint character's wife gives him an ulitmatum that if he leaves the class the troubled teen center is holding for the parents, she'll leave him. He hasn't abused her, and the book makes clear that he's a fairly sympathetic husband a lot of the time.

She's portrayed as being very much out of the box as she does this.

To say that these books require any specific action of us--staying or leaving, capitulating or competing--is missing the point of the books.

As I said way back in the first post, this book is about how our motives for taking the actions we take are generally more important than the actions themselves are. We can fight wars while our hearts are at peace.

And as the case of this reviewer demonstrates, we can make concessions of peace while our heart is deeply at war.

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orlox
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I am trying to envision a baby emerging from a woman's urethra but it is not going well...
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steven
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"As I said way back in the first post, this book is about how our motives for taking the actions we take are generally more important than the actions themselves are."

I don't know. It all sounds like a bunch of "I suck, I suck". The truth is, "sucking" describes me no better than "not sucking". I'm definitely ignorant about a lot of things, including other people's motivations, but I don't really think that giving other people the benefit of the doubt as a 100% automatic default is necessarily all that interesting to me.

Or, to put it another way, you step out of one box, you step into another. IMO. Maybe not, though.

I still don't see how this creates understanding between people with vastly different cultural assumptions. I think, or feel, or whatever, that it's best to be *really honest* about how you feel about other people, at least with yourself.

I don't know. I still don't think I'm quite getting this. It sounds to me like the concept is to assume that your negative feelings about others don't matter. I gotta say, sometimes they do. Relationships pass away soon enough anyway, in my life. All kinds of different people come into and out of my life all the time, people of different races/nationalities/subcultures. Maybe in the Utah Mormon world, the roles are more defined, but my life is not that filled with people with a lot of common cultural assumptions. I do live in the rural South, but this is North Carolina. We have lots of black folks, and they are very culturally different. In the larger cities we have lots of people of all different religions, who grew up in different areas of the country. I very much do work in the city, in my case, Greensboro, with a very diverse group of folks. Under circumstances like that, you spend so much time trying to understand the perspectives of the other races and other subcultures you deal with all the time at work and elsewhere that you're not really concerning yourself with whether or not you're in the box. I do think along those lines with my parents and very close friends, but that's mostly it. I'm not sure these concepts are all that valid in situations where people's cultural assumptions are very, very different.

These are just my off-the-cuff thoughts. Forgive me if they are unformed.


I guess what I'm saying is, paying attention to your own personal boxes tends to make you blind to the larger cultural boxes that you are still ignoring. Or, to put it another way, I am pretty sure that the only person who could write this book, and the only people who would feel the need to try to live the concepts, would be people who are in a very culturally/racially/religiously homogenous environment, like Utah Mormons. I mean, maybe.

To say it another way, I think that you can either focus on your groundless personal assumptions, or the groundless assumptions of your culture/religion, but it's hard to do both simultaneously.

It's quite possible that I am full of it, and if I am, sorry. I'm only thinking as I go.

[ March 23, 2008, 12:19 PM: Message edited by: steven ]

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steven
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To put it another way, what use is this in dealing with other cultures? Not much, I'd say.
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docmagik
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Steven, please clarify your question for me.

Are you saying that me knowing about self deception won't help the broader conflicts between cultures? (For example, that just because I'm "Out of the box" and see people as people, it won't stop the conflict between my culture in general and the other culture in general?)

Or are you saying that me knowing about self deception won't help me when I, personally, am encountering someone from another culture?

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steven
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Well, there's self, and then there's self, and there's boxes, and then there's boxes. Don't bring a knife to a swordfight, and don't try to eat soup with a steamshovel. It's an issue of scale, the scale of your personal boxes versus your cultural/religious ones.

What I mean is, focusing on the reality, or lack thereof, of your own preconceptions/boxes, may leave you open to missing the reality, or lack thereof, of the larger boxes/preconceptions of your culture/religion. Maybe. I'm just thinking as I go.

It reminds me of a passage from "Rose Madder", by Stephen King. The main character has a husband who beats her. When she leaves him, he tracks her down some time later. King gives him an internal monologue (I am doing someMAJOR paraphrasing):

The whole liberal/pro-woman agenda just doesn't produce a working society. As long as women know their place, things work. Families work. Roles and rules are clear and simple, and people. including women, know their place and their role.

What it seems that Warner wants is a perfect little Utopia, and he thinks this is the way to build it. Mormons in Utah. Utopia. Utopia probably seems pretty reachable to Mormons in Utah. Everybody's white, everybody's Mormon, everybody listens to the same sermon together 4 times a year...everybody's on the same page, more or less. The kinds of problems and conflicts you have are not culture versus culture, or race versus race. They're Mom versus Dad, or sister versus brother, or sister versus sister. Warner's tools definitely have at least some value in that context. However...


"Or are you saying that me knowing about self deception won't help me when I, personally, am encountering someone from another culture?"

I think that we all have automatic assumptions pretty much as soon as we meet someone who seems different from us and/or outside our experience, whether by their clothes or accent or whatever. I'm pointing out that Warner's techniques don't equip you for these situations. The answer to your question is "yes", very much so. Warner's techniques don't prepare you for seeing the potential inaccuracies in your cultural/religious assumptions. Or that's my hypothesis.

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docmagik
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I don't know if I'm communicating this as clearly as I wish I could, because to me, it seems like the reverse would be the case.

If I was living in a homogenous society, all of our pre-conceptions and ideas would all be the same, so we could cling to them tenaciously and still get along, for the most part, because we would all agree that X was always bad and Y was always good, so as long as none of us did X and all of us did Y, we could all agree on who was good and who was bad.

None of this stuff would matter, and we'd be able to reach an agreement because all of our "rules" for the game would be the same.

A part of what Arbinger is saying, and why this applies across cultures, is that it's the game that's the problem. This idea that we have to decide who the good guy is in any situation and who the bad guy is so that we can decide who gets to have their way.

The husband in the story you describe is very much in the box. He's decided that what keeps him from getting what he wants is women behaving in ways he doesn't like. If women would act how he wanted, life would be happy.

That's the very defition of the box, of having a heart at war. The idea that if other people would conform to my rules, things would go well. If other people saw things my way, agreed with me, or did what I need them to do, my life would be happy.

As Dan_raven put well, the simplest way to think of this is as "Blame." When we're in the box, when we're self-deceiving, we're finding ways to blame the people around us.

And as we walk around emitting these "blame" rays at people, by how we talk to them and how we treat them, and how we, through both subtle and not-so-subtle means, try to get them to change to meet our needs, all they pick up on is blame.

And when they sense you blaming them, their automatic response is going to be self-justification. In other words, self-deception. They're going to start telling themselves all the reasons why what they're doing is okay, and that they're good people. And to further prove their case, they're going to tell themselves all the reasons why what you're doing is not okay, and why you're not a good person.

Of course, when you get that sense from them (which is basically just them blaming you back), you're also going to reply with defensiveness and blame. And the cycle goes on and on and on.

You're spot-on right when you say that "sucking" describes you no better than "not sucking." Another way to sum up this whole philosophy might be to say, "What sucks is trying to decide who sucks."

Or maybe: "If we all spent a lot less time trying to figure out who sucks the most and a lot more time trying to understand each other well enough to find solutions, we'd find a lot more solutions."

quote:
I think, or feel, or whatever, that it's best to be *really honest* about how you feel about other people, at least with yourself.
I'll say that this philosophy takes that a step further and says what you need to be *really honest* about is why you feel that.

What I mean by the title of this thread, is that sometimes we take our feelings as if they were an intuition, an insight into the world around us. More often than not, they're more an expression of who we are than they are an expression of who the people around us are.

What this does not mean, though, is that, upon realizing we're having a self-justifying feeling, that the scoreboard shifts and we fall back over to the "losing" side, and the other person is now the "good" guy, or the moral "winner."

It just means that we're still to attached to the scoreboard.

In reality, that's a scoreboard that counts for virually nothing.

Dan_raven said that "Blame" is a way to deal with problems that avoids having to actually solve the problem.

Let's see how many problems blame can solve:

Problem 1: Me and my friend are being attacked by a bear.

Proposed solution: Blame. I stand and argue about how we came to be in the same place as a bear.

Result: My friend and/or I are eaten.

Problem 2: My wife and I don't have the money to pay the rent this month.

Proposed solution: Blame. We either blame each other and fight, or get along and blame the landlord for charging too much rent, or blame the bank for how much overdraft fees they charge.

Result: We still don't have the rent money, and we get served with an eviction notice.

You get the picture. Even though we use blame in nearly every situation, it almost never solves the problem.

In fact, I would say there is only one problem blame tries to deal with: What people think.

The people can vary. It's always ourselves who we're trying to persuade with our blame, but it may also be friends or co-workers, or other people. It might be God, or whoever we imagine God to be.

But all blame does is try to affect what somebody thinks of us.

It comes down to this fundamental truth:

Most of the time, we're more concerned about how we think we should be seen than about what results we're getting.

What getting out of the box does is take away that safety net, the one that comes from thinking that just because you can think of reasons why what you're doing is good, that you're doing the right thing.

quote:
Warner's techniques don't prepare you for seeing the potential inaccuracies in your cultural/religious assumptions. Or that's my hypothesis.
The way I see it, Arbinger isn't really teaching techniques. If he was, then there would always be the problem of people saying, "I'm using the techniques, therefore, everything is going to be fine."

What he's saying, at it's core, is to let go of your ideas about what you think makes you good, and worry more about whether your attempts to do good are actually getting results.

And that means dealing with all of your religious and cultural assumptions in exactly the same way.

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docmagik
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Oh, and Steven, thanks for being willing to share your thoughts. I really enjoy talking about this stuff, and this is giving me a great chance to do it that I don't get very often.
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Earendil18
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So the scoreboard you mentioned is, in a way, some kind of "pig list" to borrow a term? [Smile]
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docmagik
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Sort of.

Because the part of Steven's post that I forgot to mention is the idea that being out of the box means acting naive and always assuming the best in people.

You can still have an honest assesment of "These are the people that are going to betray me when I deal with them" or "These are the people who I will never, ever let anywhere near my children."

What we're going to try to avoid doing is thinking that because they're on that list and I'm not, that I somehow deserve more than them, or that I don't have to use the same moral compass when I deal with them because they no longer deserve it.

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steven
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"A part of what Arbinger is saying, and why this applies across cultures, is that it's the game that's the problem. This idea that we have to decide who the good guy is in any situation and who the bad guy is so that we can decide who gets to have their way."

How might this apply in the area of the penal justice system? That was just the first thought that crossed my mind, when I read that passage.

EDIT--Also, how would it apply in the area of government, particularly governing different races/cultures that live alongside each other?


Also, I'd have to say you can pretty much assume that these ideas are going to spread *much* more slowly outside of Mormonism than inside. Out here, we're too busy competing with other cultures/religions to think about the other guy's humanity (except as a way to understand him better, so as to defeat him:)). Maybe. [Smile] The most ignorant bunch of fundamentalists here in NC is still more worldly, in some ways, that most Utah Mormons. We encounter a lot more people of other races here, in most areas of the state, and in most cases, more people of other religions.


I don't know. I kind of hope somebody else is going to jump in here.

I can't help but get the feeling, from the lack of participation right now on this thread, that most of the white folks on Hatrack just don't work with very many black people or people of other nationalities or religions. I know there are exceptions, but...why are we the only 2 people posting about this? It's quiet in here. TOO quiet. [Smile] Seriously though. I feel like I'm waiting for some other shoe to drop.


Edit: I started this before Earendil posted.

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Earendil18
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I can honestly say I haven't had much experience dealing with people of other religions/cultures. Wow, a bunch of self-justifying reasons for that just flooded my head...do I feel guilty that I don't have much experience because ultimately I'm the kind of person who people watches incessantly and I'm not living up to my innate love of being around all sorts of crazy different folks?

I think my cerebellum just fused.

"Sometimes how you see a problem IS the problem." I don't remember where that quote came from, but the idea seems along or around the area of this idea that's being discussed.

Right now, there's yet another thread on God, and the same issues are being brought up again, and the same differences in thinking are banging up against each other like a crowded Niihama train. Why am I mentioning this? Because I think threads like these also relate to this idea being discussed. I'm not sure how yet...but I figured I'd point and say "something can be garnered from this!".

We have seen these discussions before, where is the breakdown occurring? Is there a breakdown at all? Would you call it that?

EDIT: And why do my posts always stop a thread dead in it's tracks? [Big Grin]

[ March 23, 2008, 10:41 PM: Message edited by: Earendil18 ]

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orlox
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This study made me think of this thread:
Coping Strategies

quote:
And why do my posts always stop a thread dead in it's tracks?
Confirmation bias? [Big Grin]
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TomDavidson
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quote:
I am trying to envision a baby emerging from a woman's urethra but it is not going well...
That was actually part of my point. [Smile]
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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by steven:
"A part of what Arbinger is saying, and why this applies across cultures, is that it's the game that's the problem. This idea that we have to decide who the good guy is in any situation and who the bad guy is so that we can decide who gets to have their way."

How might this apply in the area of the penal justice system? That was just the first thought that crossed my mind, when I read that passage.

EDIT--Also, how would it apply in the area of government, particularly governing different races/cultures that live alongside each other?


I find this an interesting line of question. Does anyone want to comment?
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steven
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I still find it interesting.
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pooka
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Something I've heard front and center in every Arbinger presentation is that treating a person as real does not mean always treating them softly or kindly. Treating them as unreal does not always appear harsh or distant.

The person who treats everyone kindly and everyone harshly is playing an actor.

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The Flying Dracula Hair
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quote:
Originally posted by steven:
Well, there's self, and then there's self, and there's boxes, and then there's boxes. Don't bring a knife to a swordfight

I started screaming when I read this. It's a terrifying collection of words.

I don't know why.

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