you point your finger in blame or extend the hand
is only a matter of perception." -- Virginia
One of life's biggest set-ups for being lonely is
living with the erroneous belief that your way is
the best way of doing things and insisting others
agree with you. Some people seem to have taken a
life course called, How To Be Absolutely Sure of
Everything! It's like their reality testing mechanism
is stuck on "It so because I think it is so." People
who feel constantly threatened and angry when others
question their actions substitute being right for
living a happy life. Living daily always on the
defense, being in charge of the rights and wrongs
of the Universe, is no fun!
Wanting and insisting on getting your own way is
a set up for unhappiness. Rigidity in thinking leads
to power struggles or submission from others and
distancing. As Andre' Maurois said, "Everything
that is in agreement with our personal desires seems
true. Everything that is not puts us in a rage."
People who are prone to anger have a set pattern
of beliefs, attitudes, expectations and behaviors
that insist on getting their own way. They have
a strong case of the "shoulds" and "musts" for others.
They believe that there is a certain way that others
should act and become angry when their expectations
are not met. They need to be seen as good, innocent
and superior in their knowledge and how things should
be done. They may use charm or anger and intimidation
to get their way.
A system is two or more individuals who interact.
A couple, a family, a neighborhood and our planet
are all examples of systems. Systems can be put
on a continuum from open to closed. In open systems,
people talk and exchange ideas and feedback so the
people stretch and grow. A closed system is one
which keeps new information out to protect the status
quo. Closed systems do not stretch because no new
ideas are allowed in. The feedback loop continues
the same way of thinking, precluding change and
growth. The person who needs to be right all of
the time is a closed system big time! He cannot
allow his ideas to be challenged shuts down input
from others. People in closed systems are rarely
happy. Unfortunately, the need to be right is accompanied
with a rigid stance and anger. Others distance from
them and they cannot experience intimacy and connection.
They cannot understand why their partner is so angry
with them--their rationale is that the partner should
just change! They do not want to be confused with
facts when their mind is made up!
The ego always acts to preserve the sense of well-being
and sets up defenses to avoid feeling fragmented.
Turning the problem around and blaming the other
person is a defense that reduces inner tension.
Putting the problem outside of one's self brings
up more feelings of self righteousness. The unwanted
parts of the self are projected outward on others
as an ego defense against internal feeling of anxiety
that conflict brings up. In severe cases, reality
is distorted, aspects of memory forgotten and fantasy
created. The person assumes that others are out
to do them in. Defenses protect the person's sense
of well being. Defenses keep the pseudo self-worth
that has been built on self-righteous beliefs from
People who must defend their rightness are often
preoccupied with imagined shortcomings of others
and perceived attacks form them. They often feel
betrayed by others. They justify their criticizing
and blaming others to avoid the insight that they
themselves might be in error. They fear losing power
and will use anger to keep others from asserting
themselves. Life becomes miserable for the family
because it is fear and control based.
It's part of being human to want to have our way.
We all have a touch of the need to be right and
control others. We all have areas of self-righteousness
where we believe that we know better than others.
To the extent that this need to be right and resulting
defensiveness permeates one's life, the less connected
you will be with others. It's sad, but true, the
more of you have of the following characteristics
of rigidity of thought, the more anger and disapproval
you will get from others:
_____ An insatiable need to be right which masks
a deep fear of being wrong
_____ A high need to expect others to see it your
_____ An inability to say, "I don't know." and "I
_____ Feeling threatened when new ideas come from
_____ Fear of hearing new information that threatens
_____ Fear of letting go; need to be in control
of self at all times
_____ Preoccupation with winning approval from others
_____ The need to always be seen as tough, powerful
_____ Pride at always being rational and logical
_____ Uncomfortable with expressing sensitive feelings
_____ Shame and fear of being vulnerable and insecure
_____ Fear and severe discomfort about having bad
_____ Believe that others who disagree with you
are wrong and should "just get over it"
_____ Use charm, anger, withdrawal or blaming to
The Archie Bunker Style--The Fear of Feelings
Fear is the major dynamic operating in this condition.
People who have the need to be right usually are
very strong physically. They are not usually afraid
of the most common fears of physical pain, heights,
snakes, public speaking, etc. Their hidden fear
is feeling vulnerable, emotional and out of control.
They have a low tolerance for emotional pain and
cannot tolerate feelings of shame. They use the
sense of being right as a narcotic for uncomfortable
feelings. They feel threatened when other people
bring up a differing point of view--this is the
fear of being wrong. Freud called this dynamic "omnipotence
of thought." He considered it a psychological defense
to avoid inner anxiety and a sense of becoming fragmented
when there is disagreement.
The "need to be right" defense was probably learned
early in life when you did not have power and someone
else was critical, angry or abusive with you or
others in your household. Refusing to yield to the
needs of others is learned by the young child as
he observes that mean adults or bullies, who were
the loudest and angries, often got their way. The
child learns that putting power trips on others
is rewarded. He then rationalizes that this is okay,
and it becomes a habit whenever he feels threatened
inside. Defending against taking in new information
becomes a generalized way of thinking and acting
that comes up whenever there is a threatening situation.
Others yield to avoid your anger and you inadvertently
shut down avenues of growth for yourself. New information
is squelched. Refusing to hear new data closes down
your mind and your consciousness.
People who cannot feel and express emotions are
called repressors in the psychological literature.
Uncomfortable emotions are repressed so that they
do not have to be known and experienced. Repressing
of the negative emotions is more likely to be found
in men and may be related to high levels of testosterone,
the male hormone. A new study of 1704 men aged 40
to 70 suggests that men who have high levels of
testosterone in their blood are less happy in life.
High testosterone levels often results in aggressive
behavior and alienation of other people. Men high
in this male hormone have double the divorce rates
of men low in the hormone. Men who have an inability
to connect on a deep level with others often cover
this up with a sense of bravado and aloofness. The
higher testosterone powered men in the study reported
finding less pleasure in life and did not look forward
to the future. Most often, this stance softens as
the person grows older and learns to express feelings.
Tool Time: The
Antidote--Learn to Feel Your Feelings
As you get more in touch with your feelings, you
can learn to deal appropriately with things that
upset you. You don' have to be afraid of feelings.
Feelings are only feelings. They are meant to be
felt. They come and go. Face the fear of feeling
bad. Uncomfortable feelings need not be feared.
The best thing to do with uncomfortable feelings
is to just watch them and then learn from them.
As you develop your intuitive, creative side, you
complement your logical, rational side making you
a full- functioning human being. You stop using
charm, anger and intimidation with those you care
about. You open the way so that others feel comfortable
in approaching you to talk.
As you learn to deal with anxious feelings that
challenges by others brings up, you become more
self sufficient. You can learn to self-soothe that
uncomfortableness instead of reacting to others
with defensiveness and anger. You can learn to substitute
feeling good about finding an area of yourself where
you can grow instead of becoming anxious and resorting
to old needs to prove that you are right.
Ask yourself, "Do I want to be right or do I want
to be happy?" As you relinquish self centeredness
and look to the needs of those around you, you develop
intimacy and connectedness.
As you dismiss the belief of "I have to be need
to be safe through having it my way," you have more
self understanding. Life becomes an exercise in
taking responsibility for your part in conflict.
Conflict is seen as an opportunity for growth. Self-esteem
increases when you face a deep fear that you might
be wrong and work it through.
As you release your need to only see things in the
way that you have seen them before, you open up
new possibilities. Rigidity of thought fosters predictability
which does help keep anxiety at bay. With new stress
management tools to deal with anxiety and uncertainty,
life becomes more exciting. Choices and alternatives
increase--there will be more adventures in your
As you let go of your need to control others, you
have more energy to spend on things that are really
important. It is a heavy, consuming job to be in
charge of everything! You actually become more powerful
when you learn to share the power! Life is more
fun when you no longer are in charge of making things
right in the world!
As you learn skills of safely expressing anger and
ways resolve frustration, anger and grudges, your
self esteem soars. Anger skills can be studied and
learned just as any other task or subject. Take
an anger management or conflict resolution course
to learn constructive ways to deal with anger.
What Do You Really
What we all want down deep when we strip away the
defenses of control is to be loved. We want to feel
safe. We want to be heard and understood. The fear
of losing control and resulting hostility is always
a sign of needing the experience of deeply being
loved but not knowing how to get it. Alas, anger
to get what you want is a cry for love being armed
with tools for war.
A whole set of tools are needed to help deal with
feelings in building a whole, healthy human being.
You become more secure and are less upset as you
understand that things don't always have go the
way you want. Life becomes less threatening as you
understand that feelings are only feelings and uncomfortable
states of emotions can be endured and regulated.
Learning to deal with vulnerable feelings will help
you become a more well-rounded individual, going
from "I need to be right" to "I choose to be a real
person, uncomfortable feelings and all." As a wise
woman said, "We are as happy as we are able to be
responsible for our own feelings and behavior."
The superior man or woman is always open to consider
that there may be another reality other than the
one that they see through the lens of their life.
Putting down the tools of war and picking up the
tools of communication, conflict resolution, connection
and commitment can create a life that produces long
Ways to Break
into Rigid Thinking
and Get a Happier Life!
The need to be right, as a defense in life, can
be broken into IF you are willing to observe yourself
and catch yourself in the act of being adamant and
inflexible. Being willing to own the behavior and
then forgive yourself for doing it WILL boost you
to a higher level of consciousness. Breaking into
rigidity will give you an increase in personal power.
Instead of having power over others, you develop
a power over yourself. This is real self-esteem!
Being inflexible can continue because you have not
known how to break the pattern or you do not want
to give up being in control. Ask yourself, "Do I
want to be right or do I want to be happy? Do I
want to get my way or do I want to feel closeness
with others? Am I willing to balance my logical,
left brain with my intuitive, feeling right brain
to make me a well-rounded person?" Check each unhealthy
coping behavior from the list below that contributes
to your closed mindedness and rigidity of thinking.
People Who Need to be Right
_____ Braced yourself and constricted your energies
to avoid invasion from another person's words or
_____ Thought "You can't tell me what to do and
I don't have to listen" when a parent or teacher
_____ Felt overly proud at being rational and logical
at the expense of being intuitive and experiencing
_____ Needed be seen as tough, powerful and strong
_____ Decided that your ideas were better than others
so shut their opinions off
_____ Became angry when you expected others to see
things your way and agree with you and they didn't
_____ Felt embarrassed about admitting and saying"I
don't know." and "I was wrong."to yourself and others
_____ Felt threatened when you feared you were wrong
_____ Judged others harshly when they disagreed
_____ Became overwhelmed when information presented
was too much to process
_____ Felt threatened when new ideas came from someone
_____ Feared hearing about new information that
threatened your beliefs
_____ Feared letting go of control of a task to
_____ Devalued the sensitivity and feelings of others
_____ Felt uncomfortable with your expressing sensitive
_____ Felt discomfort about having bad feelings
_____ Felt entitled in doing what you had to do
to get others to go along with you
_____ Decided that someone who disagreed with you
should "just get over it"
_____ Used smiling and charm insincerely to get
win another person to your point of view
_____ Started blaming and putting the other person
down to settle the argument
_____ Feared the anxiety and feeling fragmented
when there was disagreement
_____ Felt satisfied and pleased because you manipulated
someone to get your way
_____ Overrode the boundaries that someone else
was trying to set
_____ Refused to see the problem from the other
_____ Responded with sarcasm instead of trying to
solve the problem
_____ Decided that the issue didn't affect you and
assumed it did not affect others
_____ Argued your point of view in thoughts or words
and refused to hear the alternate argument
_____ Badgered and intimidated someone to shut him
_____ Became agitated and stubbornly attached when
your ideas were attacked
_____ Became irritated at an assumption of the other
person and stopped listening
_____ Minimized the importance of a personal problem
you were being confronted with
_____ Refuse to deal with a problem because you
thought it was temporary
_____ Refused to ask for help on a hard problem
and decided you needed to do it all yourself
_____ Refused to ask for help on a task because
you were embarrassed
_____ Lied and falsified data to convince people
you were right