Emotional Bullshit

Emotional Bullshit: The Hidden Plague That is Threatening to Destroy Your Relationships—And How to Stop It, Carl Alasko, Ph.D. Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2008.

Pg 8:  The Toxic Trio always work together.  This fact is crucial to understanding these components.  No element is isolated from the other.  Whenever a person uses denial, immediately after comes delusion, the creation of a false or distorted reality.  And when things fall apart or a person’s held accountable, blame is used to shift responsibility.  It’s a circular, self-supporting process that bears repeating:

1)      First an essential fact is denied, then

2)      Delusion creates an alternate reality, then

3)      Blame shifts the responsibility for the problem.

Pg 10:  Denial is so difficult to deal with because it’s a fundamental psychological process.  It’s one of the twenty or so “ego defense mechanisms” that during childhood protect and defend the developing personality, the ego, from too much stress, from the harshness of too much reality.  The specific purpose of denial is to allow us to continue living by denying facts that might immobilize us with fear.  Or paralyze our efforts to fulfill our needs and desires, even as adults.

Pg 21:  Allowing delusion to focus your attention on short-term gain blocks the fulfillment of long-term Core Needs.  The result can be serious consequences to your overall emotional and physical health.  Once immersed in a delusional reality, you lose your ability to separate fact from fiction.  We create a fantasy reality to avoid the discomfort, pain and limits of our actual life because truth can be dull.  Truth can hold us down, just like gravity, and limits our ability to act.  Creating a delusional version of truth allows us to operate beyond ordinary, tedious restrictions.

Pg 23: Delusion Can Expand a Detail into the Whole Picture.  When you’re in the grip of delusion, it’s all too easy to take a small part of the picture and expand it to create a totally different reality, a version of the truth that allows yo to get what you want when you want it.

Pg 25: There’s a big difference between blame and accountability.  It’s essential to understand that the two words perform vastly different jobs.  Unfortunately, people typically confuse these two terms—to their own detriment. For instance, when I’m discussing a patient’s family history that included a great deal of neglect and abuse, the patient will often say, “I don’t want to blame my parents for my problems.  I love my mom and dad.”  I try to explain, “Yes, I understand you love your parents, and it’s possible to love your parents and also hold them accountable for their neglect and abuse.  It’s their behaviors that need to be discussed, not their value as people.  Holding a person accountable means to separate the behavior from the person’s value.  There’s no need to condemn your parents, or to devalue them as human beings.”  I often have to go over this idea several times.  Why?  Because we’re used to having the two processes fused into one, even thought the dictionary definitions are very different.  Blame is defined as: 1.To hold responsible; to accuse. 2. To find fault with; to censure; to condemn.  Blame, therefore, is seen as starkly negative.  The definition of accountable is far simpler than that: 1. Answerable. 2. Capable of being explained.  That’s it!  There’s no suggestion of condemnation or censure.

In other words:           Accountability says: This is what you did.  Period.  Stop.

Blame says: You made this mistake because there’s something wrong with you.

Pg 151:  Fulfilling a Core Need is Not Selfish or Narcissistic

To be narcissistic means you focus solely on your own pleasure, ignoring or discounting the needs of others.  But fulfilling a Core Need means fully understanding and fulfilling your responsibilities to both yourself and others.  It’s actually the opposite of being selfish—it means taking care of your personal business so that you have the emotional energy and awareness to be able to focus on others.  Keeping your word, doing what you say you’re going to do, completing the tasks you have taken on, are clearly in your long-term best interest.  It is a fact of life that many of the responsibilities we have to ourselves enable us to create a healthy environment for other people to live with us in community.  Our lives are so intricately entwined with the lives of those we love that as we conscientiously take care of ourselves, we must also take care of others.  An example would be your diet: maintaining a nourishing diet means that you don’t exist on soda and potato chips, nor would you routinely serve them to your family. Nor would you watch a violent video with a toddler.  Or drink alcohol when driving.  Or habitually spend beyond your means. If you’re in a relationship, taking care of your Core Needs means that you maintain a nurturing and balanced environment for yourself as well as for the other person. So be assured that taking care of your Core Needs is not at all narcissistic.  In fact, it is the height of responsibility and maturity. It’s a total win-win.

Pg 152: Maslow’s pyramid of needs…

First level: the physical need for air, water and food.  These are essential to sustain life.

Second level: shelter, safety and security.  Only when these needs are satisfied is a person ready to explore the next level:

Third level: connection to others, belonging to a community and a vocation.  Part of connecting to others is starting a relationship and continuing the species.

Fourth level: status, achievement, reputation and responsibility.  This includes achieving leadership and creating a legacy for your offspring.  For most people, this is enough and they stop here.  But some aspire to the:

Fifth level: to know and understand life.  These cognitive and emotional needs include self-awareness and meaning, religion and spirituality.

Sixth level: beauty, art and a pleasing environment.  Artists, musicians and writers embellish a culture with works that endure for millennia.

Seventh level: self-actualization and personal growth.  This is the highest plane in life and includes transcendence and spiritual evolution.

Pg 153:  Maslow’s next point is a description of life’s great struggle: “Even though (a need is) denied, it persists underground forever pressing for actualization.”  His statement that the needs of our “inner core” cannot be denied reinforces the thesis of this book.  As Maslow says, if we’re not true to ourselves, the consequences can be severe.

Core message of this book: If you do not adequately understand and fulfill your Core Needs, you will most likely resort to the Toxic Trio—denial, delusion and blame—as you try to get your needs met…dysfunctionally.

Pg 157: What behaviors can I change to satisfy my Core Needs?  Let’s assume you have recognized your Core Need is to enhance and strengthen your connection to the people you are involved with.  Some answers might be:

  • Express more affection voluntarily, including compliments and gratitude;
  • Ask about your partner’s activities and listen attentively to the answer;
  • Make a plan to spend specific time together and make sure it happens;
  • Directly ask for something you need but have been reluctant to ask for;
  • Back of from a rigid point of view and take a conciliatory position;
  • Make an effort to reconnect with someone you’ve avoided.

Pg 176: The concept of Self-Care, literally taking care of your self, is something of a radical concept in therapy.  So much attention is given to learning how to communicate effectively and dealing with conflict that this fundamental concept has been lost in the flurry of techniques and approaches. In fact, focusing on your Self-Care will enable you to act on what’s important in your life.

Self-Care is both a tool and an ongoing skill.  Using it as a tool will help you make a quick decision that might avert a problem even in the most difficult moments, or avoid outright disaster.  Developing Self-Care as an ongoing skill will enable you to promote your best interests in the numerous situations that make a colossal difference in the quality of your life and your relationships.

Self-Care is all about what’s best for you in the widest sense, the long view.  An easy way to develop this ability is to visualize a flashing red neon sign just above the person you’re interacting with. The sign flashes: SELF-CARE! A smaller sign says: Take care of your needs now! All too often the four negative feelings of anxiety, anger, pain and fear get in the way of Self-Care.  Rather than a rational, healthy response, the negative feelings take over.  Conflict explodes.  The argument escalates.  Or the opposite: total avoidance.

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