Tips for Fishing and Living # 88

Tip #87:                                                                                                                                                                  

“All fishermen are liars; it’s an occupational disease with them like housemaid’s knee or editor’s ulcers.”                                          Beatrice Cook, Till Fish Do Us Part, 1949

In their book, Mistakes Were Made, (But Not By Me), Elliot Aronson and Carol Tavris explain how when we make a mistake, we become compelled to calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right—a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.

Their research identifies what goes on when we have the problem of trying to hold onto two conflicting thoughts: “I am an intelligent person” AND “I did a dumb thing.” What we do is we adjust one of these two thoughts. Most often we adjust the second thought by concluding what we did was not really dumb. We find or invent a way to turn our “dumbness” around and even reframe it into possible brilliance – like letting the fish go, or talking rudely to our mate, or crashing the car.

A few Tips ago I presented that dogmatic people find it difficult to change their opinions once they’ve locked into their perspective. This has nothing to do with being conservative or liberal. Dogmatism dovetails nicely with our difficulty in admitting we are wrong, or that we’ve made a mistake, or initially drew a poor conclusion.

Of all the lies, false information, fake news, and otherwise terrible things we are inundated with, however, there is one that tops them all; it is what we tell ourselves. We say (or think) negative and nasty things about ourselves, that if we said such things about others we could be sued for liable. Too often we have a double standard in which we will readily cut others slack whereas we’re much tougher on ourselves.  

It’s not that we deliberately lie to ourselves. It’s that all feelings, however, aren’t caused by events but by our belief about or our interpretation of the events. Albert Ellis had some insight into this and taught:

  1. Represents an action that occurs (open to any interpretation).
  2. Is our belief we interpret from that action in a specific way.
  3. Is then a consequence occurring with the feelings based on the belief that was triggered by the action.

Another way of saying all this:

  1. Is what happened
  2. Is what I believe
  3. Is what I feel.

It can seem that A led to C, but B, the disappeared middle, requires action. A can only get to C through B. A does not cause B or C. B does not cause C. A triggers B, and B triggers C. This is why I so often claim we all suffer from having a thought disorder. All of our maladies and psychological problems stem from this one notion: a thought disorder. I am upset not by the actual incident that has happened. What I am upset by is the particular meaning or interpretation I have made up about the incident that happened.

I say this because we go about thinking all sorts of thoughts without ever questioning these thoughts and beliefs (B) of ours as to their reality. If we think it, we assume it therefore has to be true. And we assign meanings/interpretations to everything. We make up a meaning and, based upon the meaning we create, this determines how we will feel.  

As an example: I might believe I am: entitled to be treated fairly; or expect you to be honest; or believe I was insulted by a betrayal. Undermining our thoughts are at least one or more of these kinds of four beliefs we hold and judge to be broken: 1. entitlement, 2. expectation, 3. betrayal, and 4. insult.

When we’re hooked by an event or a person (reactive), this reactivity falls into one or more of these four beliefs. It is largely due to having had a childhood incident(s) where we initially felt this type of hurt in some similar way(s), and it is this earlier hurt that gets reactivated by some triggering/ present moment or situation. So, you could say the incident at hand triggers us into a highly charged reactive state. We are not usually privy to seeing it as such. Instead, we’re caught up in this present incident and we’re taking it all very personally. Hence, recall one of my favorite slogans:

Don’t believe everything you think.

Right now so many of us are overly stressed. People are showing signs of fatigue. And also there are people experiencing PTSD. All stress is cumulative and compounding. Throw on top of our everyday stresses this prolonged pandemic with its economic results, health and emotional suffering, and for some, death of loved ones, and then add on holiday seasonal factors that cannot be celebrated in old familiar ways, and you have a heap of stressors to contend with – way too many!

To cope better let us proceed more intentionally into this season. We can use some of Laurie Santos, Yale Happiness Professor’s Ideas from her widely popular happiness course. I recommend you read more of her work. Briefly she recommends that we:

  1. Get Social – do not isolate but engage via social distancing and electronically
  2. Give Thanks – practice daily gratitude and thanks for what we do have.
  3. Be in the Moment – use the time to be present and avoid dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Breathe.
  4. Rest and Move – get some rest, sleep, and go for a walk or do some exercises.
  5. Be Kind – the old “practice random acts of kindness” is still powerful. We feel so much better when we give to others and share what we have.

Finally, I encourage you to alter or quit things that do not serve you. I suggest a slogan for anyone whose life isn’t working well right now. It’s from Ted Williams, a famous baseball slugger:

“When you’re in a slump, don’t swing harder, change, your stance.”

Finally, because we are at the Christmas/holiday season, with the New Year arriving soon, I offer this prayer By Howard Thurman:

I Will Light Candles This Christmas

“I will light Candles this Christmas;

Candles of joy despite all sadness,

Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,

Candles of courage for fears ever present.

Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,

Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,

Candles of love to inspire all my living,

Candles that will burn all the year long.”