Friday, April 29, 2005

Incentives, Incentives, Incentives
Opinion © 2005, by Guy L. Evans

April 29, 2005

It’s so simple.

You can control how well or how badly people treat you. Pay attention.

It’s all about incentives, positive or negative.

If you give people rewards for being good to you, they will be good to you. Rewards include a pleasant smile, a sincere “Thank you”, gentle encouragement, showing that you are glad to see them, and so forth.

If you give people disincentives to avoid being mean to you, then they will not feel bad about being mean to you. This includes divorcing you, firing you, arresting you, punching you, shooting you, banishing you--well, you get the point.

If you bring out the worst in people, it is because you give them no rewards for being good to you, and no disincentives to stop being mean to you.

Follow along. Here’s how it works:

If someone says “Hello” to you and all give them back is aloofness, arrogance, anger, complaining, blaming, bitching, pouting, negative grumbling, trying to give commands and be domineering, then they have nothing to gain by being friendly to you, and they have nothing to lose by being mean to you. They don’t feel guilty punishing you, hurting you, or taking advantage of you. In their eyes, you’re such a miserable crud that they actually feel good beating you up.

If you want them to stop beating you up, you’re going to have to modify your behavior slightly. As painful as it may be, you’re going to have to learn to smile, tell jokes, say frightening things like “Thank you”, (HORRORS!) “I’m sorry”, and (*gasp* Call 911!) “I understand”. Trust me, you won’t die.

The beauty of it is that when you are nice to people, it actually forces them to be nice to you. They don’t want to look like the bad guys, so they are nice back to you. If you pout, cry, complain, are sarcastic, etc., then they don’t feel like the bad guys. They feel that you’re just being nasty to them, so they kick you around.

When you learn to give people incentives to be good to you and disincentives to be mean to you, you will be amazed at the good things that people will give you for free (that’s right, FREE).

It’s so simple. Figure it out.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Crying Babies
Opinion © 2005, by Guy L. Evans

April 28, 2005

It is natural for babies to cry. Babies do not demand and they do not request; they simply emote.

Babies are entirely dependent on other people for their needs. Other people interpret a baby’s crying to mean certain things. Some people interpret a baby’s crying to mean that the baby has a problem--that the baby is hungry, sleepy, wet, etc. Some people interpret the baby’s crying to mean that the baby is a problem--that the baby is being obnoxious, demanding, needy, etc.

The baby learns about rewards and punishment from the behavior of caregivers (or care deniers). If the crying results in rewards, then the baby associates crying with rewards, and learns to cry to elicit rewards. If the crying results in punishment, then the baby learns that he has no effective method of communicating.

If he is rewarded for crying, he will learn to demand rewards by crying. If he is punished for crying, he will learn to withdraw and evade. In both cases, the baby is simply emoting.

Until children learn how to speak, and until adults acknowledge that they understand what the children are saying, children will only be able to emote. They may emote with behavior, or they emote verbally, but either way, they are simply emoting.

Children who learn to get rewards by emoting tend to be demanding, and feel a sense of entitlement. They don’t know how they achieve rewards; only that acting a certain way gets them what they want.

Children who learn that emoting results in punishment or in being ignored tend to be passive-aggressive. They learn that the world is hostile or indifferent. They learn that they can’t get what they want no matter what they do, so they learn to deprive others of their expectations and satisfaction. They learn to sabotage themselves, and they learn to sabotage others. The worst ones become a social cancer.

Babies emote because they have no choice. Adults have a choice. Adults who emote are like babies. I believe you will encounter endless aggravation if you try to treat them like adults. I believe you will do much better if you treat them like babies. Your communication should be clear, honest, calm, simple, and dependable. You should also teach yourself the benefits of restraining from slapping them across the room. If you emote in response to their emoting, then even if they don’t win, you lose.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Assigning Guilt
Opinion © 2005, by Guy L. Evans

April 23, 2005

Assigning guilt where there is no evidence of guilt is a form of blaming. Assigning guilt where guilt is evident is appropriate. However, assigning guilt where guilt is not evident, where guilt is merely suspected, is an error in judgment.

Attributing negative qualities to others such as malevolent intent (evil), responsibility for actions when they are not responsible (guilt), substandard judgment (stupidity), or gross ignorance when such qualities are not evident but only suspected can be called bigotry or superstition. Bigotry and superstition distort judgment.

The method of attributing negative qualities to others, especially guilt, is to blame them. Blamers are guilt givers.

Assigning guilt has the effect of excusing the person who assigns the guilt from any responsibility for his own responsibilities. The person who assigns guilt is attributing all guilt to some other party, and expunging all guilt from himself. The person who assigns guilt either sees himself as pure and blameless, or wishes to be so. Blamers want to believe that they are blameless.

Blaming is a form of deception and manipulation. Blamers are trying to rid themselves of feelings of inadequacy and weakness. Blamers worship power and loath weakness. They believe that all of their problems would be over if only they had enough power.

Such people are drawn to drugs, religions, ideologies, or superstitions that give them a feeling of power. Their religions, superstitions, and ideologies of choice elevate them to positions of supremacy and often involve violent domination of others.

However, power is not wisdom, and dominance is not knowledge. By analogy, a pilot of a large airplane possesses no extraordinary power. He cannot take control of the airplane until he learns how to control the airplane. He must know the airplane intimately, and he must accept the airplane precisely for what it is. Attributing unsubstantiated defects to the airplane’s designers or ground crew can result in errors in the pilot’s judgment that could be fatal.

Blaming demonstrates distorted judgment. To paraphrase Marc Steyn, blamers try to pound the square pegs of their prejudices into the round holes of reality. Blamers cannot learn from their mistakes, nor can they learn from their successes.

Blamers are governed by anger and have difficulty accepting verifiable evidence. They believe that their anger gives them special insight into other people’s motives. Suspicion combined with anger results in distorted judgment, and distorted judgment results in mistakes. Blamers make mistakes.

Blamers make mistakes and then blame their mistakes on others. They descend into an endless cycle of messing things up, blaming others, failing to learn from the own mistakes, and then messing other things up in the same manner.

A lifetime of self-sabotage and blaming can cause blamers to become paranoid. They repeatedly encounter the same problems no matter where they go or with whom they are dealing. It begins to haunt them.

Assigning guilt where there is no evidence of guilt is also a form of self-defense. It vindicates the blamer. It is a quick fix to a complex problem. It excuses the blamer from any responsibility for his own feelings and behavior.

Blaming is intended to give shame to others. Blamers are shamers.

Blamers also feel shame. They go on the offensive to preempt feelings of shame. As the saying goes, “Better to be pissed off than pissed on.”

Blamers are easily angered, have difficulty learning, and demonstrate poor judgment in personal relationships. They also tend to be emotionally immature. All this makes it virtually impossible for them correct themselves, and extremely difficult for others to teach them effective relationship skills.

If you are a blamer and you want to get better, try this:
1. You don’t have to always be on the defensive. You don’t have to be continuously vigilant.
2. Calm down. You don’t need to control your anger; you just need to take a break and relax.
3. Rely on facts, not on your anger. When the evidence supports you, you will be much stronger.
4. Accept feelings of guilt, shame, and sadness. You will feel miserable, but you won’t die.

Finally, assigning guilt without evidence assures failure. Blamers are losers.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Inside the Paranoid Mind
Opinion © 2005, by Guy L. Evans

April 19, 2005

I am not a mental health provider. I am just an opinion writer. Nothing in this article is designed or intended to diagnose or treat any illness, mental or physical. If you need help with health problems, consult a professional health care provider as soon as possible.

I post this disclaimer because paranoid people have been known to be dangerous. If you are dealing with any person you think might be paranoid, avoid confronting that person, and seek professional help as soon as possible.
End of disclaimer.

I have spent many years trying to understand how to deal with hostile, argumentative, irrational people. I kept thinking that I was doing something wrong. I couldn’t understand their hostility. It was irrational and excessive. It bothered me. I thought there must be something I can do.

I found the answer at Dual Diagnosis, specifically this section on Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD).

The aforementioned site contains a great deal of information. What I present here is a summary of only one part.

For the sake of brevity, let’s call our paranoid person Gak, and the non-paranoid person Meelak. This encounter explains how the paranoid system actually works for the paranoid person.

In his childhood home environment, Gak experienced criticism, loss, abuse, hostility, and a parent who could not be pleased.

Gak carried that experience into adulthood.

In his interactions with Meelak, Gak feels suspicious of Meelak. Gak fears that Meelak will take away the things that Gak loves.

Gak’s feeling of suspicion convinces him that Meelak is up to something, and he has to discover what it is.

Gak’s feelings of suspicion constitute proof in his own mind.

Gak acts on his unfounded suspicions.

Gak takes preemptive action that in his mind is not only justified but necessary. He attacks Meelak in order to make Meelak understand that Gak is not to be trifled with, that Gak is formidable and fierce, and that if Meelak has any ambitions against Gak, he had better forget it.

In fact, Gak’s attack on Meelak is completely irrational. Meelak has never had any ambitions against Gak, and up until now has never felt hostile toward him.

Meelak is surprised and confused by Gak’s unprovoked and irrational attack. He feels betrayed and hurt.

Meelak responds with hostility and fear. This is natural and reflexive.

The hostility that Meelak shows Gak only confirms Gak’s suspicions the Meelak is hostile after all. The fear that Meelak shows convinces Gak that he can dominate Meelak. Domination is very important to Gak because he can’t feel safe until he feels he has dominated Meelak.

Gak provokes hostility in Meelak and uses that hostility to vindicate himself for his provocative actions. In Gak’s mind, winning equals vindication and losing equals guilt. Gak must either find a way to win, including cheating, or he must face feeling guilty. Gak will never let go of the fight until he feels he has won, until he feels he has achieved vindication.

Gak cannot comprehend that his feelings of suspicion are utterly irrational and do not constitute evidence. He cannot allow himself to feel guilty for having destroyed a good relationship. He blames Meelak, and pursues him with unremitting vengence.

Paranoids provoke hostility in other people without cause or justification. Paranoids are unable to understand that their unsuspecting victims are perfectly justified in defending themselves against what they feel are irrational and unwarranted attacks. Paranoids feel vindicated when the victims show hostility or fear. That’s all they really want. They will sacrifice their friendships, their jobs, their marriages, their families, as well as their reputations in order to feel vindicated. Paranoids disregard all evidence that is contrary to their suspicions.

Their feelings of suspicion, their feelings that they are being threatened dominate their lives. Paranoids are obsessed with fear of loss, abandonment, and humiliation. They fear that other people will come and take away the things they love. They long to be left alone, but when they realize that they really are alone, they panic.

Paranoids automatically presume that other people are always guilty. They experience chronic feelings of being threatened, and they scan their environment for the source of that feeling. To them, it’s always external.

They do not understand that their childhood experiences of harsh criticism, humiliation, shame, grief, and parental aloofness have left them with an abiding sense of fear. They think they have to relate their fears to a person, thing, or event. In fact, the persons, things, and events that caused them to feel overwhelmed are in their past, not their present.

The difficulty of trying to deal with paranoids is that they have already convicted you in their own minds of unforgivable sins against them in spite of all evidence to the contrary, and nothing you say in your defense will dissuade them. They know everything. They can sense your secret motives, and they know that you are evil. They feel threatened, and that is all the evidence they need to conclude that you are scheming to hurt them.

Everything you try--confronting them, offering them help, and trying to reason with them--just makes them feel more threatened. All the things you learned about communicating with normal people simply backfire when you try to communicate with paranoids.

When paranoids feel threatened, they respond by trying to take control and trying to dominate the situation. Paranoids interpret normal human kindness and understanding as threats. They feel that you are trying to take control away from them. Any challenge to their sense of control causes them extreme difficulty, and may precipitate panic. When paranoids become panicked, they can be unpredictable and dangerous. The kinder you are to them, the more panicked they may become.

How to cope? All the things you learned about getting along with normal people--being understanding, patient, and empathetic--cause paranoids to respond with reflexive, irrational hostility, and often with rage. If you encounter such a person, you must resist your natural impulse to either beat them to a bloody pulp or to try to intervene. Think of a paranoid as a junkyard dog. They are frightened, hostile, and easily provoked to aggression if you get too close. Keep a safe distance. Move slowly. Be predictable and trustworthy. Take control of your own reflexive hostility.

Seek professional help for them and for yourself if the situation is disrupting your happiness and your life. If they are provoking you to lose control, then get away from them quickly and quietly. Save yourself first. In the mean time, set strict limits, don’t tolerate abuse, don’t be submissive, don’t show kindness, compassion, or understanding, and try to do all this without appearing threatening to them. Keep in mind that each individual paranoid is afraid of different things; therefore, you will have to do considerable research to find out what they think is threatening behavior. I wish you all the best.

After you’ve done all that, go have a cold beer and hang out with normal people.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Feeling of Power
Opinion © 2005, by Guy L. Evans

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Anger gives some people the feeling of power even when they in fact have none. This helps explain the anger that so many people embrace. It makes them feel like they have control when they actually have none.

Without the feeling of anger, these people feel despair. They feel powerless and vulnerable. They feel that they have lost what little control they had during that fleeting moment of anger.

When people do not learn genuine methods of taking control of their lives, and when they learn that anger makes them feel like they are in control as long as they are angry, they learn to get angry easily, and to stay angry. They choose to feel like they are in control without knowing that they are in control.

The problem arises when they can no longer get their anger fix, when their anger only accentuates their sense of helplessness. At that point, panic sets in and anger becomes hysteria.

This helps explain what Hugh Hewitt calls “the fever swamp” left wing of the Democratic Party. They need their anger fix. They are anger Jonesing. Getting angry isn’t giving them their familiar sense of feeling in control. Their anger degenerates into a tantrum, pointless, ineffectual, and self-destructive.

To these people, the fact that they don’t have control doesn’t matter as long as they can maintain their feeling of control by being angry. Feelings trump facts. They’re getting high on anger. Rage gives them a buzz. (I’ve had some leftists tell me that it’s not about policy; it’s just about hating Bush. It gives them a rush.)

Feeling powerful does not make you powerful. Feeling like you’re in control doesn’t mean that you are in control.

Feeling vulnerable is very uncomfortable. However, feeling vulnerable when you really are vulnerable is important information that could mean the difference between life and death.

Defining reality in terms of feelings while ignoring the facts guarantees failure. Ignoring the facts always guarantees failure.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Illusion of Power
Opinion © 2005, by Guy L. Evans

April 12, 2005

The Angry Child
Tim Murphy, Ph.D. and Lariann Hoff Oberlin
© 2001
Three Rivers Press

Denver got snowed in Sunday and Monday, so I had some time to think. In the aforementioned book, the idea of power keeps coming up. The angry child struggles with power, his parents’ and his own.

For the undeveloped mind of a child, power makes sense. They can understand ideas like weak and strong. Children fantasize about being strong. They want to be strong. However, not being strong, they don’t know what power is. The best they can do is fantasize about what it must feel like to be powerful.

Children dream of usurping the power they think their parents have. They try to steal it in bits and pieces by manipulating the parents into handing over their power. They children who succeed in this manipulation become angry children.

They become fixed on their fantasies of power, and many children spend their lives trying to achieve their fantasy. Not being able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, they envy and resent the power they think that other people have, and seem oblivious to the power that they possess themselves.

They dream of being totally in control, invincible, and irresistible. They want the power that their parents had over them when they were tiny. Consider what such a person must be like. They feel entitled to dominate other people. They are offended when anyone disagrees with them. They become overbearing when anyone challenges them in any way. They are little despots.

Despotism makes sense to children. It is simple. Take power, keep power, crush anyone who challenges you.

Children are despotic by nature, and it is the duty of parents to civilize their children. Uncivilized children have not learned the lesson of mutual cooperation for mutual benefit. They struggle for power. They become demanding and obstructive. They become jealous with other people’s successes. They don’t like other people to be happy. If they can’t dominate, they will do what they can to make other people unhappy. They become destructive for the sake of making sure that no one is happy.

This sounds a lot like the left wing of the Democratic Party, doesn’t it?

Such obdurate children would do well to learn Judo. In Judo, you learn that you don’t need to be in charge to be in control. Control does not mean dominating events. Control means being able to direct the course of events.

People who have power have self-control. People who have no self-control have no power.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Monday, April 04, 2005

Everyone is Suspect, Everyone is to Blame
Opinion © 2005, by Guy L. Evans

April 4, 2005

The Angry Child
Tim Murphy, Ph.D. and Lariann Hoff Oberlin
© 2001
Three Rivers Press

In taking notes on Chapter Three, Ten Characteristics of the Angry Child, I ran into this interesting insight:

Whether another person may truly share the blame for a child’s anger, the angry child will characteristically find a way to deflect the blame for the problems they [the angry children] generate. Everyone is suspect and no one is seen as the source of help unless they’re in agreement with the angry child’s blaming. With no one to turn to, the child’s feelings of rage bubble below the surface, and it takes very little to trigger them.
The emphasis is mine.

“Everyone is suspect and no one is seen as the source of help unless they’re in agreement with the angry child’s blaming.” Good Lord.

This explains the view that “no one understands me”. It also explains why it doesn’t matter what I say, I’m always the bad guy, I’m always wrong. Until I agree with their blaming, I’m a villain. Angry children demand that you see everything their way, and if you don’t, then you are a bad person. There is no compromise, no give and take, no effort to understand anyone else’s point of view, no attempt to keep an open mind, and above all, no acknowledgement that anyone else’s opinions matter at all.

In the mind of the angry child, if I agree with his outrageous assertions and slanders, then I can be trusted. But, if I disagree, that means I’m up to something, I’m “just like all the rest”, I’m “one of them”.

Two words come to mind: Narcissism and paranoia. Narcissism means believing that you alone determine reality. Paranoia means that you are afraid that people are trying to hurt you, even when there is no evidence to support that belief.

The angry child imposes completely irrational and unfair conditions on other people’s trust by demanding that they agree with assertions that no reasonable person can even understand. If you fail this absurd test, then you are rejected. This explains why people cannot understand how to get through to angry children. The conditions are absurd, arbitrary, and secret. The angry child never lets you in on his little test. You are expected to read his mind, to divine the truth, or simply empathize.

Placing such absurd expectations on people assures failure. The angry child seems incapable of understanding the trap he has set for himself, instead choosing to blame the victim of his little scheme.

This all circles back to the angry child’s belief that he has no control in his own life, and he chooses to use anger to gain control. The angry child has vastly more control than he realizes, and he can learn to feel more in control by learning better coping skills.

All of this unhappiness can be avoided if the angry child learns to take responsibility for his own feelings. If you feel angry, it is because you are angry, not because someone caused you to be angry, and not because someone else is controlling your life.

If you lose your leg in an accident, it is still your responsibility to learn to walk again. No matter how bad you feel, it is still your responsibility to cope with your feelings in a ways that do not cause you to sabotage yourself.

And, most important of all, the way to deal with your unhappiness, frustration, and anger is NOT to attack people, to blame others, or to find villains. It is to understand that your feelings are valid, that most people are not trying to make you feel bad, and that some people really do care that you feel bad.

You will cause yourself infinite self-inflicted torment by treating everyone in your life as though they are abusing you and trying to control you. And until you take responsibility for your own feelings, you can never gain control of your own life.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

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