Taken from the Harnessing Human Potential presentation notes given at the AFP Ottawa Fundraising Day on May 6, 2009.
The Four Premises of External Psychology
These four premises or conditions are embedded deep in our personal psychology and are the root cause of conflict and misery within all our relationships.
Most people think that when we feel something the source of that feeling is outside ourselves. In our belief system, we have been conditioned to think that a stimulus from outside forces us to think, feel or do something. In our language we use phrases like: “You make me so mad!”, “You hurt my feelings!”, “You pushed my buttons!” or “You make me angry!”. This first premise gets practiced the most when we take information personally. We seem to do this more when we are under pressure.
This premise is practiced when we don’t feel good and we blame that feeling on someone or something outside of ourselves. So people will say something like this: “I don’t feel good and it’s your fault”. These people are blamers.
In the third premise, people often use language like, “Not only do I not feel good but I know how you should change”. This behaviour is about taking one’s unhappiness and trying to change other people or other situations rather than change.
Premise four is practiced when, as we mature in our lives, we gather a sense of what we know is best for us. Then we get this tremendous insight, which we begin to practice in our relationships: “Not only do I know what’s best for me, I also know what’s best for you”. Or, simply put, “I know what’s best for everyone else.” This is one of the greatest sources of human misery within a relationship. Knowing what one is best for people immediately creates disconnection. especially with teenagers.
These four premises are practiced in many sophisticated ways in our behaviours and inevitably these premises have a negative impact on our relationships:
The most damaging habit of all is the habit of criticism. If you want to make your relationship better with anyone, stop criticizing.
The next habit that destroys relationship is humiliating people to control them. I think this speaks for itself.
The third habit is blaming other people for one’s mood. Often people that practice this habit are faultfinders.
The fourth habit is complaining. People love to complain to avoid self-evaluation.
The fifth habit is nagging. No one ever likes to be nagged about anything. Do it and it destroys connection.
The sixth habit is the silent treatment, which is not to be mistaken for planned ignoring. The silent treatment is the behaviour that someone does in order to gain control of the situation and punish.
Habit number seven is a combination of punishing and rewarding behaviour. People often like the rewards but hate the rewarder. If punishments worked in deterring people’s behaviours our criminal institutions would be empty.
The eighth habit is the habit of guilting people. Guilting people into doing what you want them to do is manipulation. No one likes to be manipulated.
We practice many more of these external control habits in our relationships. You only have to examine what you do when you’re under pressure in order to reveal other ineffective behavioural choices you make. Good luck with that!