Being Stubborn

An Article for the Never Wrong

I never thought it would be such a relief to be wrong but I’m starting to love it. Ahhhh!

Does that statement surprise you when there are so many success texts on how to be, or do things, ‘right’?

Good!

Do you know the pressure of feeling you have to be right? Do you know what it’s like to not be able to stand being wrong? It’s not pleasant!

Maybe YOU don’t but I bet you know someone like that. Someone who has to have the last word!

It might be funny for a few minutes but ultimately it’s annoying. And destructive.

Being unable to admit you are wrong is what I call a ‘psychological knot’. Creating greater openness and being welcome to ‘get it wrong’ can untie you for greater success!

A pastor I know said: “I’m scared of a man who can’t admit he’s wrong.”  Hitler, for example, was that man at one point. Even when everything was going wrong at the end of the Second World War, the films portray his lieutenants saying: “He hasn’t led us wrong before. We should trust him.” Yeah, that worked out. Confidence does not equal correctness!

King Solomon said in his Biblical Proverbs: “Every man is right in his own eyes” and indeed, our brains are designed to reinforce our existing perceptions. If you don’t know that, you’re at a disadvantage and possibly so are the people around you!

Professor Michael Hall (creator of Neurosemantics) says that fundamentalism is: “believing in our beliefs”. He theorises that if every school in the world taught that our thoughts do not exactly or accurately map ‘reality’, terrorism would be impossible.

Because when you know your beliefs are about reality, subject to error – and not reality itself – you open up a chink of awareness that allows for the possibility of then being wrong. Even if just a little…!

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in God and I believe that my beliefs refer to a real Almighty Creator. And I also know that these thoughts exist as beliefs. I believe they are true but unlike some of the fundamentalists I know they are beliefs and may or may not refer accurately to ‘reality’. That is the difference.

So back to admitting that you can get things wrong – why is this such a problem for so many people?

First, there is the issue of linking performance with your worth. I believe our worth is unconditional but if you link ‘worth’ to your work (for instance) when someone criticizes your work they criticise – your ‘worth’.  That makes ‘failure’ psychologically painful, perhaps intolerable and you can take any criticisms of your efforts personally.

Or if, “I think, therefore I am”, then someone disagreeing with your thoughts is making YOU wrong. It’s seems like its just semantics… but few people like having their core sense of self questioned!

That’s why the word ‘failure’ is such a problem for some people.  It’s more than just a word to them.

For others, being ‘right’ has become a pre-condition to be achieved before happiness can be allowed. It’s become like one of those bloodthirsty ancient gods people used to think they had to appease. Some of these ‘gods’ wanted a terrible price to stop them being ‘angry’.

Psychologically, is the absolute need to be proved right any less dangerous? It demands the sacrifice of other peoples’ opinions on the altar of you ego.

In the end it can turn away friends, success and all the things that people want.

Even good friendships are built partly on the ability to influence each other. That mean’s admitting that your view could be different. Once that isn’t present, it’s hard to be around that person.

This is why I have started to stubbornly defend my right to be wrong! I am fallible! Yes, you could be right…. I actually don’t know…

It makes life so much easier. No-one can hold me over a barrel about my beliefs because my self-worth is not dependent on them. And my opinions, whilst I will defend them are (usually) open to question.

So how did I come to this conclusion?

Just getting the big picture on how many mistakes our perceptions CAN make is enough to humble even the most arrogant of thinkers!

It’s horrendously humbling to realise just how fault-prone our thinking is. Since the 1960’s cognitive-behavioural therapists have been identifying cognitive ‘distortions’ which are thinking styles/patterns of behaviour that make us filter our perceptions in a certain way. Here is one such list below:

  1. Over-generalizing
  2. ‘All-or-nothing’ thinking
  3. Labelling – Name Calling
  4. Blaming
  5. Mind-reading
  6. Prophesying – that the future will be awful.
  7. Emotionalising-wishful thinking
  8. Personalising
  9. Awfulizing – Making things pervasive
  10. Should-ing – Demandingness
  11. Filtering
  12. Can’t-ing – Taboo-ing: Prohibiting
  13. Discounting – Perfectionism, Pessimistic Thinking
  14. Identifying – Identifications of the self with other concepts

Along with this there have been identified at least 60 filtering patterns (called Meta-Programs). Any of these when overused can cause people to get ‘stuck’ in their thinking and behaving.

Does this mean we should doubt every single perception we have? I would understand if you thought it did!

No, but it does mean we could be a little more open to checking out how we’re making our conclusions! The more we learn about how our incredible brains process information, the more we might want to come to ‘tentatively definite’ conclusions. That is, conclusions we are as sure about as we can be – for now!

All of the above (he said ‘over-generalising!) might be a lot to take in. So here’s a thought. When you’re making a decision and you think you’ve made it just step back and ask yourself:

  • “What else could be going on here?”
  • “What am I assuming?”
  • “Do those assumptions have any basis in fact?”
  • “Are they useful?”

It’s a good start. Sometimes being wrong (even if just for a moment) is exactly what you need.

If you’re feeling ‘stuck’, and interested in checking out a free ‘explore your breakthrough session’ to get moving, please go to : http://www.livingwords.net/freeintro.html

If you want to learn more about what meta-coaching can do for you AND get a free copy of the PDF Mastering Cognitive Distortions – please sign up on the front page at www.livingwords.net

Douglas Cartwright is a guest blogger for PickTheBrain. His is a breakthrough and personal effectiveness Meta-coach.  And a dad.

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