It’s an odd concept. And it’s also true.
Initially, the thought of connecting to ‘pity’ being ‘powerful’ seems counter intuitive. “Pity is bad, Jed. Power is good!” Or, “No, no – Pity is something you DON’T want while it’s great to have POWER.” The 2 words just don’t seem to jive well…but they’re actually easily connected. And here’s how.
Power is – at the beginning, middle and end of the day, the ability to get what you want by getting others do what you want. Pity does the same thing just in a sneakier way. Think about it. As humans, the VERY large majority of us have a little thing that we’re born with; compassion. We innately want to help. We actually feel discomfort when we see someone in need which is why commercials show starving children in Africa when asking for money. The thought of children being neglected is uncomfortable so we give money. Your desire to make yourself more comfortable is reflexive; like when you hit the bottom of your knee and kick automatically...and this is where the power (or the ability to manipulate) comes to play.
Here’s something fun. I’m going to bring up someone who you really pity. Who do you think I'm talking about??? Right away, your mind goes to someone in DIRE circumstances. Someone who’s been oppressed. Someone who's been dealt a bad hand. Someone who needs help…would you be surprised that it's the United States of Americas President Trump?
President Trump is a master of using pity. A real artisan, if you ask me. Oh wait, let me preface this by saying that I’m not that political. The topic just doesn’t interest me and this is actually great for us both. Great for me because I get to view things in a non-bias way and great for you because you know that I don’t really care so this info will be more accurate. Now, where were we….Oh yes. We were just about to discuss how Pres. Trump has gained and kept so much POWER by way of PITY. Let me explain because this is actually pretty fun to talk about. I just love awareness.
Right off the bat, I think about the way he plays (manipulates) his audience via saying things to portray that he’s the underdog. Let me google this real quick and -- presto! Way back in 1999, he’s in an interview with Larry King and says, “I’ve often said, the rich people hate me, and the workers love me”. Now let’s jump to 2016 and he still is using the line, saying “You wanna know why they hate me – why they really hate me? I let all of you in on the game. That’s why they hate me!”
Do you feel the compassion? People HATE him…and he’s trying to help us! We need to help him because the poor guy needs us! He’s alone in this. What a brave person, to expose them for us.
Pity = manipulation = power.
It’s really the ultimate power if you think about it. Anyone can be turned with pity because of the innate sense of compassion we possess. One of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE pity/manipulation/power plays I’ve heard Pres. Trump verbalize was around the time of the “me too” movement. Remember that? You should, it’s still going on but just in case you’ve been in a man-cave for the last year. The “Me Too” movement is all about women being honest, brave and vulnerable about being sexually assaulted and harassed. I love it because it’s led to many men being held accountable for their deplorable/predatory and demeaning behaviors towards women. But wait, that’s not how everyone feels.
Ok, here’s just the best pity play that I may have ever heard in my life. It happened back in Oct. of 2018 and I actually heard the speech and for a split second I actually FELT the pity…for men. Right? Crazy, huh. Even with the decades of harassment going on against women, I felt pity for men as I heard this phrase come out of the Presidents mouth. “It’s a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of.”
These poor men. They have been dealt a bad hand. It’s unfair. We need to help them.
Do you feel it? Do you feel the pull of compassion with this sentence? Do you see how powerful pity can be?
This is victim thinking and manipulation at it’s best. It’s powerful. It’s used to control you…even more impressive, the pity/victim tactic is sparking part of your core being in order to get what they want. Ugh, compassion! Why must you be there?! Well played, those of you who know this and do it anyway. Well played.
Wanna try this 'poor me' power play out for yourself? Don’t actually do this, but think about it. Next time you need something from someone, give them a good ole’ fashion sob (poor me) story…one where they HAVE to feel that reflex of compassion and see - what – you - can - get.
And now that you know, I wonder what you’ll do.
Hope you enjoyed the read. Maybe I’ll do a youtube on this. https://www.youtube.com/meaningtolive
Till next time, live well!
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Don't do anything for someone that they can do for themselves.
It's an interesting concept - this term "enabling". I see it over and over in my field of work which is addiction. And because of this continuous observation, it becomes all the more evident that this 'enabling' happens all over the place. I've done it with my own kids so know first-hand how easy it is. As my kiddos are below the ages of 12, my enabling looks kind of like this - "Kids, clean your rooms."...and after waiting an hour it's still not done and I do it myself. My actions of cleaning their rooms has done a few things besides save myself some time - some of which, you may not have thought of (ever).
Let's see how this whole cleaning up my kids room has benefited me.
My actions have first and foremost relieved my being uncomfortable with their rooms being unclean. I can't stand a messy room and am quite fond of organization (although you wouldn't believe that if you saw my house). Second, my actions have had the consequences of me feeling like quite the helper and I think to myself, "wow, what a good Dad you are." Third, I get to feel like I'm doing service; doing something nice for my offspring. "What a good PERSON I am - unselfishly serving my children. FOURTH, I get to hold this over their heads if need be. "Ok kids, I have cleaned your room so now you OWE ME a solid so quit fighting with each other and go to sleep." This benefit comes in quite handy if I'm a fan of the ever so effective GUILT TRIP. Fifth, I get to feel superior and look impressive to my wife and she'll think quite highly of me. It's great when people think highly of you, isn't it? I could go on but you get the point.
Now, let's talk about how this affects my children.
First and foremost, I have robbed them of feeling good about themselves. Yea, I stole it from them. It makes sense when you think about it - I asked them to do something and they didn't 'get' to do it so they never enjoyed to feel the sweet pleasure of accomplishment...a pleasure that I actually felt after cleaning the room. Second, they don't learn how to do uncomfortable things. Third, they learn that they don't 'get' to do uncomfortable things when they procrastinate long enough. Fourth, they don't 'get' to NOT accomplish the task and then be directed on how to do it right. Ok, that's a double negative so let me explain; when they say "Dad, I'm finished!" and I come down and find that there is still a lot of crap on the floor, they don't 'get' to feel that disappointment and frustration. Yes...they're supposed to feel those things. If they don't - or if they're handed things too easily in life - they never grow their own resilience and that will end up being a huge dilemma for them when (and if) they move out or start 'adulting'. Fifth, my enabling sends them the message that they're special. That the normal rules for society don't apply to them. They could very easily pick up behaviors of entitlement...or acting like brats (talking back, being sassy, being bully's, etc.) because they have learned FROM ME that the rules of society don't apply to them.
This - Is - Enabling. Don't do anything for someone that they can do for themselves - even when we think it's easier or takes less energy. If you do enable, you are robbing them of their independence which not only creates a human that isn't equipped for life - it also creates a human who will resent you in the end.
These are my thoughts on a Friday. Probably will do a Meaning To Live Life Hack on this. What do you think about this? Can you insert this into your own life?
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
First and foremost - any lack of honesty is a lie - a deceit. I believe that nothing bad can come from telling the truth/being honest. I need to preface that because when I discuss the types of liars, the last one to reference sounds like a monster but in reality, they're still humans. Just humans lacking conscious.
I'm going to create a glaze sentence and say that there may be 4 types of liars...yea, I did it. I'm adding another type on the fly (and I didn't even mention this in my youtube video!) and we'll call it the 'casual liar'. This is the guy that doesn't go about with the repeated habitual pattern of lying. I liken this one to my kids, who - ages 7 and 11 are realizing that if they spin the truth a bit, they get out of doing stuff they may not want to do. Is your room clean? "Why yes, it is. I'm going to my friends house now!". This type of liar seems like they're just trying to get out of menial truths - and they're likely attached to their favorite KIND of lie; the "white lie." I didn't name it - it's a horrible name but that topics for another discussion.
#1. Compulsive Liars – These people typically are NOT convincing and easy to spot.
*they ramble, confuse their stories, avoid eye contact, look nervous, etc.
#2. Pathological Liars – These people are actually semi-good liars because they
lie so much that they’re very skilled at it. They can look RIGHT at you while fibbing because they believe their intensity will convince you of the story. This type has been studied for a while and the textbooks tell us that they develop this behavior as a defense to cover up some trauma or avoid something severe in their lives. This type seems more reflexive in their lies (imagine kicking your leg after the doctor smacks the bottom of your knee with that hammer thing - reflex) and with the behavior/deceit stemming from something more than just wanting to deceive, it’s more innocent to me.
Next and the most dangerous
#3. Sociopath Liars – 4% of the population (4 out of 100)
These are the best liars…These are the ones that actually ‘feel’ like they’re
telling the truth. And they fool professionals regularly. Even me. Here’s the thing - They lack empathy so don’t feel shame or guilt or bad for their behaviors. Their actions are based on life being a game that they get to manipulate. "Jed, we ALL manipulate!" Yes, but our manipulations are done with rules in place. The sociopath has no guilt, no shame and no remorse so they're playing by a completely different set of rules. And even after they get caught, they'll just start the whole process of gaining your trust over again and the crazy thing is that people actually let them back in to their lives. Of course, they get burned again, too but that's all part of the game. If you've watched "The Walking Dead", there's a good example of a sociopath story being towards the end...the cheese maker had one locked up in a home-made cell.
I think of sociopaths as rattlesnakes. They are what they are and we can learn a lot from them. But I'm going to stay away from their circle of life as much as I can. Hmm, how cool would it be if the sociopath actually had a warning system in place like the rattlesnake? Maybe I should change my analogy to them being more like black-widows. I once had one of those crawling over my headboard of the bed with my whole family just inches below! I noticed it as I got up to get a drink - talk about crapping my pants...I didn't let on but while my heart was racing out of my chest, I grabbed a shoe and smashed the family killer before they knew what happened. Ok, that was a tangent....back to the subject.
“Martha Stout” Wrote - The Sociopath Next Door - and refers to a rule of 3's.
"One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility
may be a misunderstanding instead. Two may involve a serious mistake.
But three lies says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of
One doesn't have to be a sociopath to lie a lot - with enough practice, people can numb out their conscience and I wish I knew all of this when I was younger because DAAANG, with hindight being 20/20, the rule of 3's info definitely would have come in handy.
As always, comments are welcome and if you want to see more, check out my youtube.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
What others think and how you feel
A link that should not be
That care of needing to belong
Is often vanity
"Who's watching now and what might they say?"
Why entertain this thought?
To live your life for anothers view
Is to live a life of not
"Don't talk to him, he's not our type"
Is the phrase of a snake, a hiss
And if you heed this lowly cry
A friend you'll likely miss
"Look at her, can you believe?"
Are words of judgment; fire
And by and by sometime one might
Be thinking - you're the liar
My friends friend had a friend that said
A story has more than one side
And when a book is read all the way through
The pages have nothing to hide
So live your life, be fair and kind
Watch what you think and do
Focus your energy to better yourself
Live this life for you
Originally written April 16th, 1996
How about, "Gotta FEEL Good!" Why do we put more energy into our physical appearance than our emotional wellness?
Ever notice how much advertisements focus on physical wellness? Diets, gyms, protein bars, healthy drinks of all shapes and forms, groceries, muscle milk and the list goes on and on. Why? Because they’re “the only body we have!” That’s one of my favorite phrases that comes out of the mouth of a client who is struggling with addiction. They come to a rehabilitation program and all of a sudden, focus all of their energies into building up their physical wellness when 2 weeks prior they had been almost dead from Heroin and Meth use (fill in the blank on whatever drug/alcohol it happens to be). There are a lot of therapy/external validation tangents I could go on but instead let me ask a question -
Do you think they stayed clean after leaving? You know the answer.
I wonder how much different this world would be if we put more importance/energy/time into our emotional health? How would life be different had we been taught at a young age the reasons why we felt sad, stressed and anxious. If you think about it, we understand at a YOUNG age that when we see blood, we tell someone and get help (clean it and cover it with a band aid). But what about when we get hurt emotionally? Yea, there’s really no teachings or emotional procedures taught to caregivers. Instead, we rely on what we learned from our own caregivers who – frankly, didn’t know anything. “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Sound familiar? I’m sure you can think of your own familiar phrases used by caregivers who were just clueless as to how to help or comfort emotional pain as our culture.
This is not a ‘blame’ blog. Rather, it’s intended to be an “explain” blog.
Here’s what I’d like to see.
In other words, it takes more strength and courage to talk about emotions than it does to act like you don’t have any.
As a culture, it'd be wise to start putting focus on emotional intelligence and health ABOVE our physical awesomeness (or lack thereof). Otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for a really shallow and unfulfilling life. Maybe I shouldn't be saying this because if you think about it - I'm potentially blogging/youtubing/therapatizing my way out of a job.
Wouldn't that be wonderful?
These are my thoughts on a Thursday.
Till Next time,
This is a great question! And, luckily for us, has a great answer from our psychological Grandfather - Freud. Freud of all people. Again, I'm forced to give credit to a model of therapy that I really don't give a lot of energy towards. STILL, I do believe we have blind spots and that correlates to our unconsciousness so there you have it - a connection between my CBT world and Freud.
Secondary gains are from Freud and they explain a lot about our behaviors. As humans, we are motivated to do certain behaviors. When we are sick, we're motivated to stay in bed. When we are angry, we're motivated to yell or scream or hit or whatever. Even 'addiction' has motivation underneath. Let's start there.
The behavior of doing drugs BEGINS with the need to cover up negative emotions (rejection, abandonment, trauma...) so in actuality, doing drugs gives the primary gain of covering up hurt. Now, the secondary gains are less obvious. Freud says they're in our unconscious but I like to think that it doesn't take much digging to figure them out. As I list a few off, pay attention to how you feel about them and whether they ring a bell or not. Here goes...
1. People expect less from someone doing drugs. This is largely because they've been trained to believe that stress or anxiety or some external force 'triggers' your use and they think they can actually help by lightening their life expectations of you.
2. People give you stuff. And by this, I mean they pay for your bills. Cell phone, insurance, food, housing...it all adds up to a pretty inexpensive way to exist.
3. You have a reason not to work full time...or part time if you play your cards right.
4. You get a LOT of attention. Good attention and bad attention - it's all attention. This comes to play especially when there are rejection issues going on. Sometimes, there's a jacked up belief system of 'contingent acceptance' going on and the pattern of drug use and seeing of the family still 'supports' them is acknowledged again and again.
Has your kid ever been sick at school. The behavior is to go home with the primary gain to become well again. Secondary gains may include:
1. kid learns they don't have to turn in homework that day...homework they may not have remembered.
2. They don't have to sit through classes and potentially do uncomfortable brain work.
3. Maybe when they went home, they were allowed to watch TV or play video games...or play with _________ (anything fun). If so, it's likely that they'll get 'sick' again and again - largely because they have a lot of secondary gains from the behavior.
Anger is another biggie. Let's go over this without the bullet points. The primary gain always involves manipulating control of some kind but the secondary gains are more subtle. Have you ever been around an 'angry person' and felt like you had to walk on eggshells? Having spoken to people with anger issues, when they're honest about it, this behavior from others gives them a sense of power and - they - like - it. Another secondary gain correlates to motivation - some people are actually MOTIVATED by being angry. They use the feeling to go out and exercise or even get out of bed and go to work. I once had a client who came to me for 'anger issues' but the more we peeled the anger onion, the more it became clear that he was quite fond of his angry feelings because in his own belief system, they assisted him in accomplishing a lot of life goals. After a few sessions I advised that if his goal wasn't to get rid of his anger, therapy was likely not going to help and we parted ways. The experience taught me something invaluable - and it goes a little something like this and you can quote me.
"If the secondary gain is too high, people won't change."
Back to Freud. And it's a question that I'm still batting around in my head - it looks something like this. If secondary gains are gains that are 'unconscious' - what happens when the awareness rises and the gains are understood? Do they become primary gains?
Thanks for reading and I hope you've checked out my 'meaning to live life hacks' youtube station!
Till next time,
Jed Thorpe, CMHC