In another blog about myth-busting, I dealt with the breaking up of popular myths and the psychology “tips” you see in tabloids about how to improve your life. But now let’s focus on one huge misleading belief that seems to delude people. It involves how to conceptualize life on a global scale.
I give ALL my clients, who after all come because they are experiencing life problems they cannot resolve using their own resources, this universal piece of advice. I tell them to keep this in mind, apply it to every life situation, and repeat it every day of their lives. I say this to all the adults only because they come in somehow believing they are not thinking positively enough, or that their life has gone awry because they are making the wrong “choices” or decisions, and that their life is so hard to bear but could be so much better, if only they could be more upbeat or learn to decide correctly. Without saying so, deep down inside they believe, as this line of thinking implies, that the lives of others must be so much better because others know how to take the right decisions and the right “choices” at the right times, and therefore are able to conduct their lives far more “happily”. These are the thoughts fixed in people’s heads by happiness psychology, positive psychology, as well as the psychologies that try to get you to relax through your weighty problems by means of meditation, mindfulness, listening to relaxation tapes or soothing music, doing more physical exercise, yoga, etc. These are all wonderful measures to add to your daily routine and can enhance your life in many ways. But they fail to address your problem. They essentially target Anxiety by offering Anxiety-reducing techniques, but it ends there. I will deal with Anxiety in a different context as part of a group of three basic negative emotions, with which every person is naturally endowed, must experience and must deal with. These three essential feelings are: Anxiety, Depression and Anger.
So this is the advice I give to all my clients who have their hopes built up about the beauty of life and their failure to attain it all:
Yes, life is good, BUT IT’S ONLY HALF GOOD! 50% is all you get!
If we think realistically, much of life is NOT GOOD. Besides the potential for accidents, illness and certain death, there are negative events we all may face such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, drought and famine. Then there is the nerve-racking potential for conflict among humans, such as the influence of opposing political or religious allegiances, that may lead to even more general disagreement or discord among entire societies or countries, which at its highest level of intensity can result in homeland strife or war. Then, on a one-to-one level there are interpersonal conflicts, hatreds among neighbors, friends, family members as well as divorce among spouses. Add to this that there are an abundance of people with bad intentions, perhaps “evil” people. Our jails are filled with them. There are those who would try to cheat us, dupe, steal from us or hurt us, either for their own gain, or at random just for thrills. There are even those petty people who phone us daily to take away our time and money, make phony offers, or assault us over the internet by filling our computers with viruses to steal information or corrupt our systems. And there are the more serious criminals: armed robbers, murderers, serial killers, rapists, etc. whose specific intent it is to do harm to others and whom we have no choice but to deal with by extricating them from society and locking them away.
Have I said enough? Actually there is more. There is a standard human discomfort that has, until now, never been discussed to my knowledge in psychological circles. Perhaps it qualifies as the most noxious ingredient in life. I refer to normal competition among normal people, to each person’s struggle to achieve higher and more prestigious status for themselves than those around them. DOLF psychology is built on the observation that every person, from the first day of birth, is born with the natural urge to compete, and seek to upstage their competitors – to get to the front of the line. This drive is universal, and as an integral part of DOLF psychology, fundamentally dominates the behavior of every human being regardless of race, color, ability/disability, age, sex or any other differentiating factor. Everybody, bar none, participates in this type of conflict. It is true whether a person recognizes or admits it or not to her/himself or others. But as theorists, we must affirm not only the presence of our competitive urges, but the profound effect that this most basic drive has on human behavior. So prevalent and powerful is this drive to compete that it is nearly impossible for any person to stop or prevent it, or for any scientific approach to ignore it.
Competition is everywhere we look, not just in business and school, but also in war, politics and religion. But there is more. This bitterly competitive underpinning is to be found in abundance inside every family – like the enemy from within. Compete, you ask? Me? With my own family? Yes, yes indeed! Parent vs. parent, sibling vs. sibling, parent vs. child. It is by far the most destructive conflict of all, affecting us to our core. Nothing like your own family! But like it or not, this is the true nature of our human condition. It seems we were meant to live in conflict by virtue of the competitive nature that is built into the psyche of every human being.
And the reason behind the bitterness? It is due to the drive, the competition to possess all of the most precious commodity in our lives – LOVE, which we are all programmed to seek out, cherish and procure for ourselves alone! And of course there are “winners” and “losers” in this competition for basic love, which is something I will discuss later as part of DOLF theory. In its most primitive form, the compelling nature of competition is most vividly demonstrated by children in their daily behavior, namely sibling fighting or rivalry. The rivalry occurs because of their competition for the love of their Prime Love Proving parent. It colors – in fact, determines – their personalities and their lives forever. But I’ll stop there for now.
So to return to our initial discussion about Anxiety, how much “happiness”, or reduction of Anxiety can you, or should you, expect in your lifetime? Imagine a scale of Anxiety from 1 to 10. Nobody, not even a baby, has no Anxiety. We function because we probably have at least a 3 or 4 level of basic Anxiety. At 1, 2 or 3 a person would be virtually lifeless. A person at level 3 or 4 would be extremely placid. One might aim for 5 or 6, but this would probably be rare if one is living in any city. It is fair to say that an alert, mentally healthy person probably functions at around 6 or 7. But an Anxiety level that approaches 8 is high, and 9 is very high and difficult to tolerate, while over 9 or 10 indicates a person who is under a great deal of pressure, and a condition that can lead to any manner of mental or physical breakdown!