I’ve been questioned about my position that our emotions and perceptual filters influence our behaviors. Well, Duh. That’s been my belief since childhood, and I see no reason to change it. And by looking at our three most basic arenas, relationship, career, and fitness/health, it seems that you have the complete foundation of our existence about as handled as it can be. Given that…who out there can deny that all three of these arenas are influenced by our behaviors? Now, if you take the position that balancing our checkbooks or our metabolic input/output or our urge to cheat on our spouse cannot be controlled because in some people emotions just get totally berserk, I can agree that we all lose our way from time to time.
But nothing good has ever come in my life because people excused my bad or non-optimal behavior. On the contrary, I was blessed to have mentors who expected more of me than I expected of myself, and constantly guided me toward a purer and more powerful expression of self. Anyone who knows me (or has common sense) knows that I am far, far from perfect. That ain’t what I’m selling. What I offer here is very simple: a point of view from someone committed to balance as a human being. If you want to hear someone who agrees that our emotions cannot be healed, our behaviors cannot be controlled, our perceptual filters cannot be cleansed, you will need to go somewhere else. Anyone who comes to this page will find support for the idea that we can love ourselves and share love. Have a strong, healthy body within our genetic limits. Support ourselves gracefully doing something honorable and contributive and expressive of self.
The world is filled with pity parties that say relationships are impossible, our bodies are alien life forms, and success with integrity is beyond our reach. My position is very clear: that is all self-pitying bullshit. Ego-protective lowest common denominator nonsense. It is whining at the world from the position of a sleeping child, rather than the powerful adult self that slumbers within you. Fitness, love, and success are all mightily influenced by behaviors. Control your behaviors, and you control your present and future. The only question then is: how do we control our behaviors?
Go back to your childhood experience, or experience raising children, or training animals. In many ways, not much difference. Children have a vast array of behaviors they must change or adapt, and in most cases, they don’t want to change. They complain that they can’t, they are too tired, it isn’t fair, other people don’t have to do it, they’ve never done it, they’re too busy to do it, it’s too hard, etc. etc.
Puppies want to pee and poop on the floor, chew the slippers, bark in the middle of the night, and jump all over the furniture. Unless both puppies and children are given loving discipline, pushed beyond their limits, they will remain or become shitty little brats. I often suspect that deep inside, we make a commitment: “When I’m an adult, I’ll do what I want.” I’ll eat what I want, spend what I want, tell the lies that I want…and there will be no one to stop me.
Every coach knows that his players will complain like children: I don’t want to do it today. It isn’t fair. You’re asking for too much. The ego is exactly like that. Ask for too much, ask for it to change (die) and it will shriek.
For almost 50 years I’ve watched people who fail in these three arenas, and those who succeed. And frankly, sorry, but I see dishonesty clustered there. I think it is reasonable to assume that 99% of people would like love, health/fitness, and enough money to pay all their bills and help their friends and family. And among those who don’t have those things, better than 80% take the position that their results are not affected by voluntary behaviors.
I MIGHT BE WRONG, BUT MY POSITION IS THAT THESE THINGS ARE INDEED INFLUENCED, OR CONTROLLED, BY VOLUNTARY BEHAVIORS. Given that, how can I help but assume that people are lying to themselves? They watch twenty hours of television a week, and then say they don’t have time to exercise. They claim not to want relationships, and then complain about loneliness. They say they don’t want money, and then complain about bills, lack of travel, or inability to help their loved ones. They lie, in other words.
This is why I say, “Do Not Think Dishonestly.” Because if you lie to yourself, you will distort your reality map, and become lost. Worse, you will surround yourself with people who agree with your distorted view of life, and feel that life is just out of control, there is nothing you or anyone can do, and anyone who believes it can change is just selling something.
99% of people have more capacity than they’ve ever expressed, and what stops them is fear and lies. But a wealthy and powerful public figure who has a string of failed marriages, or is morbidly obese, raises questions instantly. If a wealthy person can’t find the time to take care of himself (as little as an hour a week!) then none of us have any hope. Which is, of course, quite a comforting concept to our egos, which don’t want to change anyway. No. If a billionaire says “I have to work 80 hours a week, even if it destroys my body, even if I lose my relationships” then they are saying that making money and accruing power is more important than anything else in the world.
But that’s not what they say on their death-beds. That’s not what they say when they take their wedding vows. They want love and health, but are pulled in other directions by drives they don’t know how to control, childhood vows to never be hungry again, never be manipulated again, never be abandoned again, never let anyone close enough to hurt us, ever again. Without being able to admit the conflicted goals, one cannot sort it out. And if you know that there are twisted, frayed wires in the head, one can either begin the process of un-twisting them, or you can avoid that pain and blame the problems on genetics, statistics, economics, or anything except your own behaviors.
Frankly, most parents hear childish versions of these excuses from their children, every day. If the kids are lucky, the parents cut right through that bullshit and demand a higher level of excellence than the kids believe they can achieve. And time and again the kids actually learn to walk, or ride a bicycle, or do algebra, or read, or learn their lines, or hit the ball, or dance, or learn to lose with grace. Because there was someone who believed in him or her more than he or she believed in himself or herself.
Maybe that’s what’s going on here: I believe in you, all of you, more than you believe in yourselves. I believe in the human potential for love, health, and happiness. Want to never be lied to again? Believe in human potential, and see anything less than excellence in these three arenas to be a warning sign. One sign…o.k. Two signs…a red alert. Three signs…absolute disaster, don’t believe a word they say until you have a chance to observe their behaviors to see if they match their words. Yes, you will sometimes be too suspicious of people who really do have limited capacity and are doing their best. But far, far more often you will avoid the horrible feeling that “Damn! Why didn’t I see that coming? Why didn’t I know he/she was a thief, abusive, a liar? Why didn’t I see it?”
You didn’t see it because you are lying to yourself, and seek out relationships with others who are lying to themselves, so that they can’t afford to call you on your bullshit. And unless their lies and distortions are a perfect match for your own, they’ll throw you curves, and you’ll squawk, and form a pity-party with friends who’ll agree with you that the problem isn’t your behaviors, it’s the world “out there.” Men, or women, or whites, or blacks, or Christians, or Muslims, or bodies, or Liberals, or Conservatives are the problem. Can’t be you. Oh, no. Can’t be that. The answers to all your problems can’t be inscribed on your own soul. Oh, no. That would be just too cruel. That to fix the world, all you have to do is fix yourself? No, anything but that.
If that’s what you’re looking for, look elsewhere. Period. Here, you will find a consistent point of view: you are more powerful, more wonderful, and more capable of love and creation than you have ever dreamed. All you have to do is wake up, and take responsibility. And love yourself enough to soothe your wounds when, inevitably, you scrape your spiritual shins.
Dr. Carey Pabouet-Sigafoose