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In this breakthrough book Dr. Carl Alasko takes apart the emotional stealth disease that destroys trust and happiness in every area of life: dating, marriage, parenting, friendship and work. Nothing is exempt from this hidden plague, including your financial security.
This stealth disease is actually made up of three common psychological dynamics: the Toxic Trio of Denial, Delusion and Blame. Emotional Bullshit emerges when we use these three dynamics together to:
* deny, manipulate and distort essential facts
* substitute a delusional and false reality, and then
* blame someone or something when things fall apart.
Dr. Alasko provides a revolutionary way to eliminate Emotional BS from your life, markedly improving all of your relationships.
Based on twenty five years of clinical experience, Dr. Alasko leads you through a simple-to-understand and proven way to ban Emotional BS and significantly increase your happiness and fulfillment.
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Carl Alasko, Ph.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist specializing in couples and families for twenty-five years. He writes a weekly article about healthy relationships for the Expert's blogs at Psychology Today and for the past fifteen years has written a weekly advice column "On Relationships" for the Monterey County Herald. He lives in Monterey, California with his wife and son.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
THE HIDDEN PLAGUE THAT DESTROYS RELATIONSHIPS
An undetected plague is destroying millions of human relationships. And it’s spreading.
I call this plague Emotional Bullshit. It’s a psychological and emotional disease that is wreaking havoc within all our relationships, from the most private to the most public. It operates without our knowledge or consent, and its toxic effects are expanding to an unprecedented degree. Look around at the casualties:
A couple has less than one chance in three of having their marriage reach its fortieth anniversary. One in three.
Half of all divorces are filed in the first seven years of marriage. And over 60% of couples report serious difficulties with emotional and sexual satisfaction.
In the past decade, seven times as many children require powerful medications just to stay in school. One third of all children don’t graduate high school, and their emotional disorders are multiplying by factors of ten.
In adults, rates of depression, insomnia, obesity and high-blood pressure are soaring. Stress from pressures at work are creating a new and serious range of health, family and parenting problems.
The news is not getting better. From the bedroom to the boardroom, more people are complaining about difficulty in their relationships. It’s harder to begin one, and a lot more difficult to maintain one.
Yes, there are islands of sanity and many people do say that they are satisfied. But why are some relationships loving and fulfilling while so many others are not? How do you know when your relationship is successful?
Here’s the most important question: How can you tell if your life is permeated with the hidden disease of Emotional BS? This book will decisively answer this question.
In his best-selling Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman refers to a “spreading emotional malaise.” He contends that our ignorance about how emotions work is leading to the erosion of our happiness and life-satisfaction. Goleman proposes that truly understanding our feelings is a way to improve our relationships, both individual and collective.
And so do I. But I’m presenting an entirely new approach that goes beyond only understanding emotions. This method shows you how to stop being dominated by fear, anger, pain and anxiety—the basic feelings that run Emotional Bullshit.
I provide a workable, absolutely practical solution so you will be able to effectively slay this dragon once and forever. All your relationships—especially the one with yourself—can become profoundly happier and more fulfilling.
But more on this later. First, let’s tackle some frequently asked questions that surround Emotional BS.
But hasn’t bullshit always been with us? Is it really that harmful? As we all know, bullshit refers to deception, a distortion of truth, and manipulation of reality for a self-serving purpose—and it’s absolutely always been with us. Ever since the serpent convinced Eve to add apples to her menu, trickery has been an effective way to line things up in ones favor.
It’s an intrinsic part of human nature to exaggerate virtues and minimize defects in order to make ourselves look better. And it’s so easy to justify! We tell ourselves: what’s the harm in using a little deception to move things along?
What’s the harm? Bluntly, it doesn’t work. It’s a short-term solution that usually backfires. As a long-term strategy it always falls apart. And it certainly does not build trust.
BS can be an outright lie to hide a dangerous mistake, or a dangerous liaison. Its territory ranges from the phony compliment to gain favor, to cooking the books to gain riches. Think Enron and sub-prime mortgages.
The problem, therefore, is a matter of degree. As well as context.
However, Emotional Bullshit is so incredibly dangerous because it directly affects our relationships. The casual fib has mutated into a pervasive way of life. It’s undermining the social contract that equates well-being, security and love with the most fundamental qualities we all need: trust, honesty and responsibility. Unacknowledged until now, it’s the “stealth disease” that is at the root of what Goleman calls our emotional malaise.
How can Bullshit be Emotional? Bullshit becomes emotional when deceit and manipulation generate the powerful negative feelings of anxiety, anger, fear and pain.
When your most precious relationships are manipulated or distorted, and reality becomes twisted by deception, how do you feel? Angry? Anxious? Confused? Fearful? Inevitably your life becomes contaminated with uncertainty, you feel cheated and deceived and the natural reaction is a long list of negative emotions.
So instead of waking up to an ordinary day confident and secure about your connections to your spouse, partner, children, boss and friends, you actually begin the day confused, dispirited, and assailed by doubt. When the emotions of BS run your life, your happiness is seriously diminished, and the way ahead appears muddled and desperate.
How does Emotional BS actually work? Here’s a quick definition of how Emotional BS fills a relationship with toxic energy and negative emotions.
The three components of Emotional BS are denial, delusion and blame. I refer to them as the Toxic Trio because they always work together, always keeping us from seeing and understanding what we’re doing. Whenever they’re in action, our relationships cannot be satisfying, happy and fulfilling.
The three components express themselves in the following ways:
denial: ignores or minimizes an essential fact—or a responsibility
delusion: creates an alternate (more favorable) reality. When things fall apart,
blame shifts the responsibility onto someone or something else
Result: feelings of love, respect and trust diminish, and eventually disappear altogether.
As things fall apart, our desperation intensifies. We can’t tell from which direction the denial, delusion and blame are coming from. Who’s the perpetrator? Is it she, him, them? Am I using Emotional BS on others? Worse, am I doing it to myself?
We don’t know what’s happening because the first dynamic, denial, refuses to acknowledge an essential fact. Then delusion throws up a smoke screen of distorted reality. And, of course, someone else is to blame. Personal responsibility is avoided.
At the very least, in the most benign examples of Emotional BS, something just doesn’t feel right. At worst, we’re hopelessly entangled in an impenetrable maze of denial, delusion and blame. We feel threatened and undermined, rather than supported and loved.
The negative results accumulate. The process is incremental and self-perpetuating because once we start to use the Toxic Trio, the inevitable result is a surge of the four negative emotions—anxiety, anger, pain and fear—which keep us stuck in the same seamlessly replicating process.
And because that’s all we know how to do. It’s a psychological Ponzi scheme that always requires more capital to keep from collapsing under the weight of its own deception. This cycle is deeply embedded in our lives. Ignorant of its dynamics, we’re at the mercy of repeating the same behaviors that haven’t worked it the past and will not work in the future.
That’s the hidden plague of Emotional BS at work.
For over twenty years I’ve worked with individual patients and couples as they try to understand why their relationships are filled with negative emotions. They all need the same thing: happiness and fulfillment. But all too often they’re caught in a sticky mass of frustration and blame and they don’t know how to get unstuck.
There’s Miranda, a smartly attractive professional woman who’s feeling depressed, anxious and angry. Her boyfriend just dumped her. “I’m so pissed at men who are intimidated by my success,” she says. She wonders why the men she meets aren’t as interested in personal achievement as she is. I ask how many hours she works a week. “Maybe sixty. And I travel a lot.” When I suggest this might not allow much time for a sweetheart, she bristles. “I admit my job’s very demanding, but cutting back is not an option. There’s got to be another way.” Miranda is denying the essential fact about overworking. Then she deludes herself that it’s important.
For Ted and Nanette, married over two decades, every year increases the distance between them. “We argue about everything,” Nanette says angrily. Ted replies, “So you want me to leave?” Nanette’s face shows fear. They live in an emotional desert, in which the only thing they have in common is their conviction that if only the other one would change, the parched spring of their marriage would spontaneously bubble and flow. They are both denying their personal responsibility to make meaningful changes, blaming each other for every problem.
Then there are the parents, like the over-worked attorney who brought his troubled sixteen year-old son Max into therapy because his grades were heading south. When I asked the dad what activities he liked to do with his son, he responded aggressively. “How is that relevant? The issue is Max being more responsible. Responsibility! Is that too much to ask?” He was clear about who was to blame—and it wasn’t him.
No one is intrinsically wrong. Neither Miranda nor Ted and Nanette nor Max’s father are bad or stupid people. They’re just being human and fallible, trapped in the cycle of Emotional BS. They don’t have a clue about what they truly need to build a happy, fulfilling life. Their ineffective attempts are geared to getting their short-term needs met, to getting through the day, avoiding one more argument, or repeating the same one over again. In the long run, these behaviors end up creating more misery and disconnection.
We use deception and manipulation to get what we need in the moment because, bluntly, it’s easier. Our focus on short-term gain encourages us to use denial and delusion to ignore both our emotions and long-term consequences. Then blame helps us to avoid the results. It’s expressed this way:
I want what I want when I want it—now!
And don’t bother me with the facts, or the consequences.
To this end, using deception or creating a delusional reality can be useful in countless situations. These tactics take on a number of disguises. The ability of Emotional BS to shift shape and take on disguises is boundless. Some common examples:
“You really need to loosen up. It’s not that expensive and you only live once.”
Bullshit. Your partner just got another credit card and is borrowing to keep up.
“You’ve been so careful about your diet, you deserve a treat.”
Bullshit. She’s concerned about having her own treat, not your health.
“Honey, there’s nothing going on between Sandra and me. We’re just friends.”
Bullshit. You’re already having sex with her and you hope your wife won’t find out.
“That teacher had it in for me from the first day of class. There’s no way to satisfy him.”
Bullshit. Your homework’s always late and you don’t study for exams.
“With this new policy we’ll be able to provide better service.”
Bullshit. He’s laying off essential personnel to boost profits.
When we’re in hot pursuit of the immediate goal, we’re not consciously aware that we’re distorting reality, eroding trust and destroying our happiness!
What would it be like living without Emotional BS?
Imagine waking up to an ordinary day. If you’re living with another person, (spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, or roommate) you awake with a feeling of solid contentment and confidence. Your first thoughts aren’t angry or anxious because what’s happening between you and this other person is clearly defined, out in the open, and understood. No one’s denying any essential facts, and you’re not using up lots of precious energy creating a delusional reality. You’re not blaming someone else for your problems, or being blamed for theirs.
Sure, you may have a concern about an unresolved problem, but because you have an honest, direct way of dealing with the problem, you’re pretty confident it will work out okay. You don’t worry about being ambushed, or about anyone’s hidden agenda.
Or, if you’re living alone, you have a definite idea of what you need to do for yourself, what has to happen in your life for you to feel happy and fulfilled.
Or, if you’re a parent, you feel confident about your parenting skills. Your connection to your child or children is loving and authentic, not based on mutual manipulation, fear of reprisal and acting out, or the pain of being ineffective.
In other words, you’re not caught up in Emotional Bullshit. Just as important, no one’s else in your home or family is either.
Living this way might sound idealistic. It’s not. Living an authentic life free of Emotional BS is absolutely do-able.
Emotional BS is flourishing now because of the “perfect storm” of cultural influences that constantly tempts us to abandon truth, honesty, fidelity and integrity. Our pace of life is not just hectic, it’s sometimes insane. Everything moves so fast that we hardly absorb one change before we’re hit with another. Multi-tasking is a national virtue.
In this hyper-speed environment, the focus on ethics is often seen as quaint. Again, think sub-prime mortgages and the housing bubble.
Manipulation has become a science that advertisers use to sell us more product. Politicians are not only free to repackage the truth, they depend on the manipulation of facts to maintain their power.
It’s harder and harder to tell what’s true. Is yesterday’s diet still valid? What’s the difference between a new scientific report and industrial spin? Will the job I just spent four years training for still be here next year?
All this uncertainty means that levels of anxiety are increasing exponentially. We live in a world that’s a fertile breeding ground for Emotional BS. And none of us are immune.
Many books address the problem of eroding relationships, disconnection and alienation. Some self-help books focus on teaching the important skill of communicating more effectively. Other books describe how to create an aura of positive energy, making yourself into a spiritual vacuum cleaner that sucks in benevolent forces. While these are worthwhile goals, they tend to not produce long-term positive results. There’s an initial flurry of excitement and success, followed by relapse and disappointment.
One reason is cited in John Gottman’s bestseller, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, an excellent research-based book about couples. In it Gottman decisively debunks the myth that active listening creates happier couples. It doesn’t work because it’s too difficult to use when people are involved in an argument.
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