“Practical Psychology for Extraordinary Living” is a special seminar series continuing the themes explored in the “Modern Mating Explained” video series, exploring the practical implications of deeper reflection on psychology for the art of living.
For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfillment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behavior, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him in this special seminar series as he explores deep questions of the psychological bases for mating in the modern world. Subscribe now.
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Toxic Shame & The Courage of Vulnerability
David Tian Ph.D. talks about the concept of shame and how it affects our lives.
David Tian Ph.D. shares the seven toxic parenting rules we must avoid doing.
There are long term effects of being shamed as a child, David Tian Ph.D. describes what these are.
David Tian Ph.D. lays out why some high achievers are driven by deep-seated chronic depression.
In this talk, David Tian Ph.D. gives advice on what we need to develop to free ourselves from toxic shame.
David Tian: The third section in this one is looking at the concept of shame. Why is shame important? Shame is a shaming concept. If you were to just tell them point blank, “The truth is, you’re dealing with shame”, they’d be like, “No, I’m not! I have no shame. I have no shame.” That’s why I’m very careful about the use of this special term, though if you were to speak to a specialist or a researcher, this would be the most accurate term to use.
The reason guys have approach anxiety that is more than, let’s say, 2 out of 10 in intensity is because of shame. The reason you have blockages in your conversation with a woman where your mind goes blank, or you start to stutter because you’re not sure what to say next, is because of shame. This is assuming that you have the intelligence to speak to somebody else already.
If you are an incredibly low-IQ or you’re not functioning as a verbal adult, maybe that’s the reason why you can’t speak. Assuming you can speak to me or to other males, or other human beings, the reason why you have approach anxiety, or social anxiety, or that you go blank in conversation, or that you can’t escalate at whatever levels, physically, verbally, whatever, with a woman that you like is because of shame. It’s all because of shame.
I don’t know if that’s controversial to say. It’s not in psychology, but maybe it is for the average person, especially the ‘manly man’. Because the manly man thinks — he chops wood, hunts his own food, he has no place in his life for shame and that’s exactly why he’s full of shame because he’s not actually confronted it. In addition, more interestingly from a clinical perspective, toxic shame —
By the way, there’s healthy shame, just to put this out there as a caveat. There’s healthy shame. You should feel shame when you go against your own values. When, for instance, you lie, or you betray your friend, or you do something evil, or you kill somebody, murder somebody. I hope that you have shame because there’s a purpose for that shame.
But toxic shame is shame that’s unhealthy; it’s there for bad reasons, and that’s the kind of shame I mean. So from this point forward, when I say ‘shame’, I mean toxic shame, so I don’t have to keep saying toxic shame over and over, but that’s what it is. So toxic shame, or shame, is the underlying source of depression, alienation, self-doubt, isolating loneliness, paranoid and schizoid phenomena or dissociative identity phenomena, compulsive disorders, addictions, splitting; any kind of multiple personality like dissociative, perfectionism, low self-esteem, deep unworthiness, borderline personality, narcissistic personalities. Shame is at the root of all of that.
How does it work? In this section, I’m going to go through how toxic shame works, how it came about, and what it creates. We have toxic shame. What are some of the ways that it plays out in our lives? I’ll begin pointing at the way out, so that’s what’s coming up. I don’t think I’ll do all of these slides. We’ll see how much time we have.
How does it work? So to counteract shame, so sort of the opposite of shame, the antidote to shame is unconditional love and acceptance of yourself. Shame will always be some part of you you do not want and disapprove of and you shove it down, so the antidote to that is unconditional love and acceptance. However, that seems to be psychologically the hardest task for all mankind. And the refusal to accept our true self creates powerful false selves. And if you can’t create the false self to deal with the situation of life, you just die. Well, you commit suicide or you just give up and wither away.
And the living of your false selves results in a lifetime of cover-up just by nature of living as a false self, a lifetime of secrecy and a lifetime of hiding, and always worrying that people will see that you’re not the self that you hope that you are, that you’re trying to present, that you’re trying to be, that you’re trying to live up to. The reason is all of this self-help, success, grind, and hustle talk, is because it’s actually triggering people’s shame reactions.
They go, “Yes! I’m not that horrible person who’s lazy and all this other stuff,” which is good in a healthy way, but they’re not accepting the fact that they are, in fact, perhaps lazy in those contexts, and trying to understand why are they lazy. That’s the way out. But instead of trying to understand the self that you shoved down below the consciousness, instead of accepting that self, the lazy self, and lift it up, and hug it, and say, “It’s okay, let’s figure out why you’re not motivated,” because there’s another part of you that’s very motivated to do other things. You’re very motivated to watch 9GAG. There’s always some things that you’re very motivated to do.
You’re very motivated to watch more porn or whatever it is. So, it’s not that you’re not motivated at all. You’re motivated on the wrong things, and let’s figure out why. Instead of doing that, you just say, “Shame, shame, shame. Shove it down!” And hope that that never arises again. By the way, this is how society deals with its unwanted elements. And we do that to ourselves. This is the root cause of psychological suffering, toxic shame.
So, the solution is total self-love and self-acceptance. In fact, those are the only foundations of real love. You can’t truly love somebody if you’re loving from your false self. And this is also — as we go through this, you’ll understand, at a deeper level, why psychopaths can never actually experience love. Psychopaths, in so far as we understand them, and people who have personality disorders that approach psychopathy. The more they approach psychopathy, the less they can actually experience real love.
So if you were burned by a psychopath, you can rest assure in that at least you’ll never experience real love. We’ll leave it at that. It was a story that I was going to tell, but here’s another story to illustrate this point, and I’ll put it out here. I heard it from a Christian preacher, actually, Ravi Zacharias of all people. And I can’t remember where he got it, maybe G.K. Chesterton, and it’s the story of a little boy and a little girl playing on the playground. This is when they were innocent, and young, and little kids.
She had a lot of marbles. She had all these beautiful marbles and he had all these beautiful jacks. And they had been playing with their own things, their own marbles and their own jacks for a long time. Now, they were kind of bored and they wanted to try something new. So, the little boy said to the little girl, “I’ll trade you all my jacks, if you give me all your marbles.” And she looked at her marbles and said, “You know, I’ve been playing with these for a long time, so yeah, let’s do that. I’ll trade you all my marbles for all your jacks” and they did a switch.
And that night, the little girl went home — she was sleeping, getting into bed, and dreaming about all the wonderful games she’s going to now be able to play with her new jacks. She slept very soundly. The little boy that night couldn’t sleep a wink because he was wondering the whole night — oh, I forgot to say, it’s not in the thing, so I didn’t line this up properly.
So when they switched and gave each other the jacks and the marbles, the little boy held back some of his jacks, so he gave her 5/6th of what he had and he held back a little store of jacks and he’s like, “Yes, I can play both now!” And the little girl slept soundly, dreaming of her new jacks. The little boy didn’t sleep a wink because the whole night he was wondering, “Did she give me all the marbles?” That is the reason why, as a false self, when you give love, you can’t actually experience true love because you haven’t let go. You’re still holding on tight to this false persona, and holding back with secrecy, and hiding, and cover-up, that this isn’t the real self who is loving.
That’s just an example. I don’t know if that’ll sink in, but I didn’t tell the story very well, sorry. Okay, so how did it all begin? Somewhere around 6 months to 36 months, a child begins to test — A child’s self-concept, when it’s first born, is unitary. It’s basically, everything in the world is experienced as part of itself, so as far as we can tell. It doesn’t distinguish between itself and others, especially when it’s in the womb. So technically speaking, when it’s in the womb, the child is the mother because it’s part of the mother’s body. The mother actually contains the child. They’re actually unitary.
When it pops out of the womb, now they’re two separate objects. But even then, if I were to cut out your liver and hold it out, it’s still your liver. But anyway, the baby’s out there. Now, the baby’s starting to realize over time, over the many months, that it’s separate from this thing that provides it with food, and touch, and all of this, right? So as a little baby, you don’t know that that boob that comes to you whenever you cry when you’re hungry isn’t in your control. Like, it just feels like an extension of your body and it just takes a while for it to get shoved into your mouth, right?
So you’re just like crying, and then later on in life you try to recreate that experience. Anyways, which is partly true for very anxious people. Anyway, so then at some point, you realize you don’t have control over that thing. That thing has a fucking mind of its own, and you start to be introduced to the idea of other minds. This is very frustrating for you because you can’t control everything now. This is where we get terrible twos.
At the terrible twos, the kids are testing boundaries: What can I control and what can’t I control? What is actually within myself? And they found out, to their horror, that most things in the world are not in their control. In fact, they find out they’re very powerless in this world, and that these giants have all of the power. They can withhold food, they can withhold love, they can withhold comfort — actually, they can withhold everything and you would die, so this is very frightening for the child but that’s something that we all grew up figuring out somewhere around 6 months, and then we’re testing the boundaries all the way up, in some cases, to 36 months. If you continue to test the boundaries past that, you’re definitely going to be some kind of anti-social personality.
But most people, somewhere, will settle at somewhere between 18 to 36 months in testing boundaries and trying to figure out where you end and the rest of the world with its own minds and own autonomy begin. And this is where you start to develop shame, because then you find out that there are things that are bad or wrong. And guilt is the belief that that thing that I’ve done, the behavior, that was bad. But I am not bad. Shame is the belief that I am bad and I am wrong.
And the reason why it’s so easy for children to feel shame and not guilt, as a default, is because everything is ‘I’. The self-concept is still developing, and you’d have to be an enlightened parent, when you’re scolding your child, to take out the longer explanation to say, “We love you, but this thing that you keep doing of hitting Tommy is not going to make Tommy like you, and that is going to be bad for you later on, so please stop doing that.” Versus, “Stop doing that!” or “That’s bad! Don’t do that. Don’t do that, Tommy.” And they think, “Oh, I’m bad.”
So what happens is, as we get scolded, we crush the toddler’s autonomy and purposeful will and that is the most damaging form of shaming that can be done. When autonomy is crushed, toxic shame is manifested either as over conformity, so this is the moving towards option, or rebellion against authority, moving away from. And it can also then result in a hermetic, a recluse option as well of drawing in.
And now, the child’s drive for autonomy, for separateness, for independence, is now bound by shame. I’ll unpack that a bit more, a lot more. So we’re getting to understand shame, and now we have to understand how the false selves are created. Neurotic shame is triggered by exposure of the self to the self, so that escape from the self becomes necessary.
We escape from our original self by creating a false self, and then the original self goes in hiding psychologically. In other words, you’re led to believe that some part of you is unacceptable, is bad, is wrong. Because we’re not very good as little children, at two years old, of distinguishing between various parts because you’re just learning it fucking now, you think that you are bad. It’s not just some psychological part of you is bad. So, you think you’re bad. In fact, there are very few psychological parts when you’re just a kid. It’s basically just you.
And then you believe that you are bad so you split, and the first split will always be just from the original self, and that’s the creation of the first false self. And you hope that that false self, who is now the guai haizi (good child), the nice, obedient kid is now the real you because you want to be good. You hear little boys read to themselves, “Good boy, good boy, good boy,” when they did something bad. Because, “I’m a good boy. I’m a good boy.” That’s a very obvious creation of a false self.
Neurotic shame becomes the core motivator of the super achiever, and it also becomes the core motivator of the under-achiever, both the moving against and the moving towards strategies. Also, the star, and the scapegoat, the righteous, and the rebel, and the powerful, and the pitiful. No matter how successful and how much money you make, that says nothing about whether you escape shame. In fact, shame could be a very strong driver to beat yourself into staying up very late and creating money so that you can say fuck you to those people who fucked you over when you were a kid, because it’s all driven by shame. And that’s a very common thing you’ll see.
In fact, those people who are the most successful, the most driven, the most accomplished are those who need to go to therapy the most. Some both ends, of course, and also the people who are complete alcoholics and have destroyed their whole lives also need therapy. That’s more obvious. For rhetorical purposes, I’d hammer the other one home, which is that accomplishment — to be in the top 1%, you probably had to beat yourself harder than the 99%, and you need help. You need recovery and you need to understand why you’re so driven if you want to lead a fulfilled life.
Because otherwise, one thing that we do regularly is we treat ourselves as if we don’t have emotions or that we’re very simplistic with our feelings: fucking, eating, pleasure, like a massage , whatever right? Like a dog, actually. We treat ourselves like dogs, like simple robots.
What do we want in life? What do we pay people for? We pay people if they can directly deliver those emotions, or we pay people to learn how we can get those things. So how can we get money? Well, the way to do that is the result. The result is output, work, production. In the mean time, our psychological, emotional life is dead and all shriveled up and desiccated.
Anyway, it’s easy to use shame to create behavior. But if you continue to just focus on behavior, don’t be wondering why or curious why you aren’t fulfilled or happy in life. Neurotic shame is the essence of co-dependency. Also, because shame is the rupture of the original self into a false self, every time you get shamed in a traumatic way, you split off into an adaptive self. And if the adaptive self from the previous times were useful, you’ll use that again and eventually you’ll just fully inhabit that full, false self.
With false selves, no true intimacy is possible. It’s just one false self related to another false self, and then therefore there’s actually no love, which is why most marriages actually fall apart, because in the first place, there was no real love there; it was just chemistry, and passion, and it’s like when a dog is in heat and wants to fuck, and then they get into trouble so they stay together. It’s like 21st-century marriage.
Now, let’s link this to the first section on narcissism. How are they related? Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by grandiosity, extreme self-involvement, a lack of empathy for others, the pursuit of others to obtain admiration and approval. And underneath this external facade is an emptiness filled with envy and rage, envy and rage, jealousy and hatred. At its core, it’s internalized shame, the splitting off into a narcissistic personality disorder.
What’ll happen is, like repetition-compulsion, you will re-enact the situation that created this. So, the offender was once victimized similarly to how he now criminalizes, because he wants to feel powerful now. So, he passes down more shame to other people. And so, parents who were shamed, as almost all of them were, as all human beings were, will then shame their kids and then the cycle continues. Those kids shame their kids and so on.
The most common source of shame is the family system. Toxic shame is multi-generational. It gets passed down from one generation to the next, and this creates the actual impossibility of intimacy. All the good parents desire good things for the child, but the way that they think to create that good thing, the desired behavior, will often lead to shame because it’s really hard to parent perfectly anyway. Actually, I don’t think you should try to do that.
But instead, you should explain to your child that you’re a human being, too. That’s an important thing. And what this results in when two false selves are in relationship is manipulation, and every guy who learns game, every guy who gets a book on tricks or tips with the wife or the girlfriend, or how to get a girl, is engaging in manipulation.
Manipulation in the simplest sense. Not manipulation with bad intentions, I just mean manipulation. I mean, thinking, “I actually am thinking this, but if I say that out loud, I’m not going to get that from this person, so I’m going to say this other thing.” And sometimes, if it’s sort of like a white lie, it’s okay, and for limited times, and I’m willing to even throw that away. But I don’t know, it would be really interesting to see how just brutal truth would work, but okay, I can understand definitely white lies, things like that.
But to have a relationship from a false self to another false self is straight-up, by definition, manipulation. You’re putting out a false self because you hope that it will get a certain result or reaction from the other people, and they’re putting out a false self to get the reaction from you.
This is also going to result in withdrawing, in blaming, in denial, in idealization, in repression, in dissociation, in what psychologists call confluence, which is the agreement never to disagree. So, this actually happens a lot in Asian households, that it’s even shameful to have an argument. Anyway, and this leads to pseudo-intimacy, pseudo-connection. I remember my first month at the university here as a professor of philosophy, and philosophy is an argumentative profession. We get paid to argue with each other. If we don’t argue with each other, we’re out of a job. We’re professional arguers.
It’s really fun, actually, to watch a philosophy conference versus watching a history conference. Historians just throw facts at each other and interpretation, and they’ll argue over interpretations but their bread and butter isn’t the actual argument, it’s the presentation of evidence and the research. But for philosophers, it’s just pure argument. They’re always going at each other, and then they go out for beers afterwards, as if it meant nothing. Very little of it is personal because it’s actually professional.
But then in Asia, it’s different because there’s so much shame, and it was really interesting to see the department that I was in, they just hired five professors, five new professors. This is the largest big one-time hire in the department history as far as I know, and we were all from overseas. We’re all Western-trained and we’re all Western born and raised as well. Well, I was born in Taiwan, but whatever.
That meant that more than half of the department, then, which was I think a department of about 17 people, more than half of the department were Westerners trained in Western universities. And most of the other faculty were also trained in Western universities. And then we would invite on a brown bag talk once a week, or maybe twice a week, even, guest speakers from all over the world, and they’d come, and they’d present a paper, and we’d try to rip them to shreds. That’s our job. That’s our gift to them: to rip them to shreds, because that’s why they’re here, to improve their argument.
So we have grad students now, and undergrads, or everybody’s welcome to attend the talks. So there’s students sitting in there, and as always, the students have priority when the question period comes, so students first. And when the students have nothing else, then the professors go at each other. And in that first month, it was funny because there were some new grad students. There were some senior undergrads in the room, and they answer questions very politely and they were almost like non-questions.
And then when it came, time to ask, one of the early talks was a guy in Chinese philosophy, that’s my field, so it’s my job along with the other two Chinese philosophers to rip this guy to shreds, to do him the honor of that analysis. So, I went first and I started going at him. I was thinking this is wrong because of this, and this, and this. You always want to exaggerate your position a little bit so that he pays more attention to that and he takes it seriously.
And then he comes back, and then this other person doesn’t agree with me, and then I’d defend and I’d come up with — saying that what he’s saying is tantamount to some whatever, you know? And then that triggers everyone else, and this is great, and we’re philosophers, we love this shit. We’re going at it. And sometimes, your heart races a little bit, this is really nice. And then at the end of it, I remember there was some food afterwards. This is like lunch time, so you go out, now you get the buffet and put some food on, and everyone just sort of chats after that as well.
And the students were so shocked. I was like, “Hey, what did you think of the talk?” They’re like, “I’m not used to professors arguing with each other.” I’m like, welcome to philosophy! But I realize over time that it was almost shameful to disagree. You’re supposed to disagree with the professor, and then I had to do so many counterarguments for myself just to get discussion going in philosophy class. I would put out a really stupid argument, and I’d say, this is what the thing says, what do you think? And they would be like, yeah.
Like, no, wrong, it’s stupid. Give me a counterargument. This is clearly false. Why is it false? And then they’re like, oh, okay, yeah, it’s false. My god, where’s the original thinking here? Think for your goddamn self, and I’m trying to train them to disagree with me, but it was like pulling teeth. I realized just how much shame there is in this society to not talk back to your parents, to your teachers, to your authority figures, and then you can’t be a philosopher. How many original philosophers actually have come out of Asia?
I do this for a living. It was all traditional. It was like the really rich dudes who had the leisure to write, most people couldn’t write in the 1800’s. So the last real original thinkers were maybe — maybe you could point at the Zen school, the Kyoto Zen school in the early 1900’s, late 1800’s, Nishitani and that group. But before that, it was like 1700’s, because this confluence, the agreement to not disagree happens in your family, in your households, doesn’t it?
You can’t hash out an argument with your dad or with your mom and then have dinner peacefully afterwards, and agree that you disagree. But the agreement never to disagree is already creating shame in you. Dysfunctional family rules would create this, and you’ll see either complete control or complete chaos in shame-based families, toxic shame. You’ll see perfectionism or chaos, always be right in everything you do or at least in the image that you present, or have no rules at all and it’s just a big mess.
Blaming is common thing here. Also, when I work with staff that are from Asia, I realized that blame is a big deal for them. When I ask them, “What happened here?” They just start assigning blame. I didn’t ask whose fault is it, I just want to know how it happened that it became like this. I don’t care whose fault it is. And so, I had to fight with these guys. “Stop defending yourself. Stop saying this and this. Stop explaining. This is all useless. Tell me which code is wrong so we can fix it now and how long it will take to fix.”
There’s so much shame because they’re always like, “No, it’s not me. I’m a good boy.” The little boy comes out again when he’s being told that he did something wrong. The no talk rule. The [INAUDIBLE], the shut up, the “No one speaks of your true feelings.” And I see that here for years. This is the last day of the last weekend of Total Transformation that I’ve taught for seven years now, a full seven years here in Singapore. The same program, and in a way, you can see —
If you can access the old archive of videos, my frustration with all of these dysfunctional family rules that I’m fighting here in these rooms with you, because again, you expect blame to happen, so you think that when I’m criticizing you, I’m blaming you for something.
The no talk rule, no one speaks of their true feelings, they never talk about loneliness, or depression, or what’s really going on, as if I give a fuck about anything else. If you don’t tell me what’s really going on in your life, I don’t want to hear anything else. It’s like one of those jarring moments when after 20 minutes discussion, you go, “Oh, okay, we’re going there. Oh, okay. I got to talk about my relationship now, okay.” Yeah, what the fuck you think we’ve been doing here? It took you 20-fucking-minutes.
It’s just like in philosophy class when they don’t disagree with me and I purposely give them a shit argument, and then they nod their heads like a fucking robot, unthinking, just accepting authority. Fucking tell the authority off. Tell me off. Think for yourselves. No talk rule.
The no listen rule. By the way, in order for you to not like this, I assume those students in that philosophy class weren’t that dumb. There were some smart students in there, but they had been conditioned and shamed into the no talk rule, and therefore they were actually engaged in the no listen rule. The parents will do this.
You’ll say something sexual and they just don’t want to deal with that, right? So, they’ll pretend like it didn’t happen. And by the way, pick-up artists do this all the time. When you ignore things that don’t help you. There are some amok coming here, you just ignore him, right? The no listen rule. It’s very helpful if you want to condition behavior. If you want to treat your kids like dogs or AI — actually, you’re treating them worse than AI. Or like robots, right? You just ignore it. It’s not there. “I’m not going to listen to your problems.” That’s sort of the family situation. You put it all into the rug, let’s all eat now. Let’s not hash out a disagreement. It’s the dinner table now, and all that.
And that’s not just Asian families, of course. This research — this is a really great book. I’m going to quote from it in a little bit. None of this is from Asian context, it’s just way worse. I believe, having lived here for so many years and having started my PhD in the area of Asian Studies — So I gave you seven dysfunctional family rules. The sixth one is: Don’t make mistakes.
Of course, your whole school system is based on this rule, so… Actually, every lazy school system is, so I’m going to create a new school system which is like, “Make great mistakes. Make them big.” The seventh one is the distrust cycle. Don’t trust anyone because then that way you won’t be disappointed. The distrust cycle. Don’t trust so you’ll never be disappointed. Just protect yourself. In other words, just hide, withdraw again. Don’t be vulnerable. Don’t put it out there. And of course, there are reasons for all of these rules.
If you had to hash out your disagreements with your dad, dinner might fucking take two hours instead of a half-hour that they’re trying to rush the food so that they can get accomplished all of these other things because they have to be perfect. They have to achieve to be significant, and all of this other stuff. It’s not okay just to be okay.
There are some things that — Mark Manson puts out some really great, really well-written articles, and I find myself disagreeing with one or two things in every single article. But what I love overall as a theme is he’s speaking to millennials who have all been raised on Instagram, thinking they could all have a million followers and lead a life of luxury with no work and just get paid $100,000 a month to just travel the world, and do nothing, and never have to actually do any work.
And then they’re so disappointed when their lives don’t match that. And his message is, it’s okay to be average. That’s a very important message, because if you don’t believe it’s okay to be normal or average, that’s because of your shame. Most of Asia is shamed. We don’t think it’s okay to be — well, we as in Asian-Americans who must get the A+, don’t believe it’s okay to get a B. It’s not acceptable in my family to ever get a B, and that created us.
My sister went to Warden, my other sister when to Columbia, we all did these graduate programs, and grad schools, and we created our own companies, and we did these things. That’s just my little family, all of our extended families are like Harvard, Stanford, whatever, all of this stuff that we drove and drove and drove ourselves to achieve because it wasn’t okay to be a B.
Now, it’s a really refreshing message, and this is good and well-intentional. Our parents had the best in mind for us, but it was the belief that it wasn’t okay — We internalize the belief that it would not be okay for us to get a B, even though our parents would’ve probably still loved us, and just dealt with it, and loved us if we had a B. But the message that we little kids internalize, just as how easy it is for a little child to get the wrong message.
I gave an example earlier, in an earlier video on the little boy playing hide and seek and thinking that his dad didn’t reward him for the hard work of hiding so well, that instead, he was unacceptable, that he was annoying, that he was the cause of his dad’s frustration, that he was being punished for working hard. And this confusion would create toxic shame. This would also create approach anxiety later on, by the way.
This would also create, when he’s with a girl, having a blank expression, not knowing what to say. This is all going back to countless years — well, you can count them — years of childhood shame. And not just in your childhood. You can get shamed in high school — actually, that happens a lot. You can get shamed right now. They are always linked to the original types of shame, original instances of shame. The older you get, the more used to carrying shame you are, the easier it is to shame you.
Which is why it’s so easy for a guy like me who can speak with authority, and looking you in the eyes, and do this kind of thing, to trigger your shame and you go [SHOCK]. Well, here in Singapore, anyway.
There’s a great book that I believe is the best first book on the development of toxic shame in you, as a human being, which is Alice Miller’s book, The Drama of the Gifted Child. I’m going to be recommending a bunch of books. I think that’s the best one because it’s the shortest, and because it’s so — I believe it’s very clearly written without much jargon and with stories.
Unfortunately, it’s really deep. And because it’s so concise and compact, you don’t get any bullshit. So, we’re used to reading bullshit. So, like, we read five pages and we get one point. But instead, where I’ve discovered with Alice Miller, because this is German-style also to be very direct, and this is a translation from German, is that every sentence in that paragraph is making a specific point.
And if you happen to miss one or two sentences, you kind of missed the point and that builds on. The later points build on the earlier points and then you get lost. So, it’s a dense book in that sense, but I found it very enjoyable. I read it in the night, so that’s the one I’d recommend first. And if you don’t understand that one, or if it’s too dense for you, then I would recommend The Body Keeps the Score as a neuroscience explanation for shame.
So, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk. Maybe I’ll put show notes in here somehow. So going back to Alice Miller. Alice Miller has charted seven toxic parenting rules which are very important to understand. The first one is: Adults are the masters of the dependent child. That rule would create a toxic child, toxic shame in a child. Adults are the master of the dependent child.
The second one is: Adults determine what is right and wrong. The third is: The child is responsible for the parent’s feelings. This is what I’ve been referring to as boundary violations. The fourth is: Parents should always be shielded. So, you might hear this a lot, like, “Don’t upset your mother!” That kind of thing. “Don’t do that! You’re going to make your mom mad.” Well, that’s two rules, one is making the child responsible for mom’s feelings, the other is shielding the mom from the child.
So, the fifth rule is: The child’s autonomy poses the threat to the adult. So, the speaking back thing is a threat to the adult. Number six: The child’s will must be broken as soon as possible. We can’t have this behavior. We have to break this child. In other words, spanking, scoldings, because it’s good for the child, that sort of thing. This is behavioral conditioning. When you’re a little kid, it’s hard for you to understand the philosophy of behavioral conditioning.
I think kids are a lot smarter than most adults think they are. I think they could explain it a lot better, but parenting is really tough. This is all understandable. I profess no expertise around parenting, but I can talk to you about the view of it and the toxic shame that results in adulthood.
The final rule is: All of this must happen at a very early age so the child won’t notice and will thus not be able to expose the adult.
There’s this review that irked me. In fact, it was so wonderfully irking — is that a word, irking? That I made a podcast on it. So, thank you very much for writing that irksome review, and the reviewer was a very positive review of this course I made, but there was one little thing. So, as a perfectionist, full of shame, I’m used to looking for the negative first. I get the A but I’m like, “Why couldn’t it be an A+?” So I’m used to this.
So I looked for that one line. He said something like, “There’s a lot of coverage of shame and why, but I don’t understand what the difference is between shame and just growing up.” And I was like, “Oh man, your kids are fucked.” Because you’re just basically saying to them, “Hey, grow up. This is just the process of growing up.” So you hope that the child won’t remember. That’s what adults do all the time. They fuck over the kid and then they think, “I don’t remember anything when I was 3. He’s not going to remember anything. That’s alright.”
You didn’t make it to the big recital that he must’ve been working so hard for and couldn’t wait to show off to daddy all of this work that he’s done for him, and you couldn’t make it because of work, and you’re like, “Ah, it’s okay. He’ll forgive me without asking for his forgiveness” or without asking, telling him that you love him and that you really wish you could be there; without telling me other reasons why you could be there and how much you missed it, and to show the emotion of how it hurt you not to be there to the child. I’m falling asleep already.
So, one of the things that Gestalt will tell you is — maybe this has happened to you as a child, and so you don’t want to deal with this, or maybe you’re just hung over. I don’t know. We had a big club night last night. And to say, “This kid won’t remember it! I don’t remember anything from when I was 5.” And to tell you the truth, I don’t fucking remember anything from before I was 6. Apparently, when we went from Taiwan to Kansas City, Missouri, the first spot we immigrated to as Taiwanese kids in 1980, I didn’t speak a single word in all of kindergarten.
I was from Taiwan. I didn’t understand any English, and so the teachers thought that maybe I was a mute or autistic or something, so they pulled my parents out and called them into a meeting and told them. And luckily, the next year, I couldn’t stop talking to my friends. I still wouldn’t talk in class, and I don’t remember anything from that year or any year before. The obvious reason is because, obviously, the reasons why you have a break in memory is because of trauma, is because of shame.
So this is why it’s so important to do the 3D process in Rock Solid Relationship, why we did it at Date with Destiny, why you’re going to be doing it, because that is the beginning of the first breakage in the false self that you can remember. There might have been earlier ones, but that one was probably the most traumatic. Throwing a five-year-old kid from Taiwan in 1980 into an all-White and Black school with no guidance whatsoever was probably pretty traumatic. I don’t remember, so that’s a good one.
And you go through that process in your unconscious to uncover these. And as you go through it, you’ll uncover things that 11-years-old, 7-years-old, 9-years-old, or whatever. But go back far enough, and there I’ve met adults who remember things at two-years-old. So, it’s not that you can’t fucking remember because you’re stupid and you won’t remember, because it’s in there. You just got to shove it down. You repress it.
In fact, there’s some research that shows that people can recall their birth. I don’t know about that one, but that’s a little harder to… Oh, you haven’t seen this research? Well, anyway, I don’t want to go there because I’m not sure how strong that is, but there’s a lot of literature on that. But you know, not remembering anything before five-years-old — maybe some of you can remember four or three-years-old because you were in the same place, Singapore, the whole fucking time, right?
So it’s easy for you to have a continuity. When you have a big breakage, like you had to move from Taiwan to America, it’s hard to remember life in Taiwan. It’s a big break. It’s easy to shove that under your unconscious. Anyway, I get too sucked into — when I look at the audience here, it very much becomes too Singapore-focused.
Adults do all kinds of things to children that they shouldn’t. And if they had more patience and if they were in a better mood that they wouldn’t do to the child. But they excuse themselves out of it because they think the child won’t notice and will forget. There’s abandonment trauma. This is not just physical absence but especially emotional, stroke deprivation, narcissistic deprivation, fantasy bonding, and neglective developmental dependency needs. Family enmeshment, and I believe — again, I’m getting psyched into Singapore issues again, but I believe most of your families are meshed pretty badly.
Many high achievers are driven by deep-seated chronic depression because their true selves were shamed through abandonment in childhood. I’m just going to leave it there because there’s so much to cover. There’s also caretaker shame with the shame-based parent was unable to find in her own parent, she forces in her own children. And then the child, by supplying his shame-based parents’ narcissistic gratification, secures the love and the sense of being needed and not abandoned. This starts the cycle of the fixer.
The child ends up taking care of the parents’ needs instead and then he feels abandoned emotionally, because there’s no one to parent the child’s feelings, or the child’s drives, or to nurture the child’s needs. And then he loses his sense of self because the self is not important. The mommy’s self is more important and it shoves its own sense of self down below the surface. There’s also fantasy bonds, a lot of toxic parenting here I was going to cover, but in the interest of time I’ll move forward.
So, how do you get out of this mess? So as a general strategy, self-awareness is the thing you need to develop, and specifically self-awareness of your emotions first, and then of your body, and so on. Your emotions are your core power. Your emotions always tell you something important. Shame warns you to not try to be more or less than you are, more or less than human. The way that you are right now is okay. You need to understand why you’re this way.
Not to say, “No, I don’t want to be this way so I’ll pretend I’m not this way.” Shame signals are essential limitations. For example, anger is energy that gives us strength. In Lifestyle Mastery, we’ll be exploring how to use that energy, the Hulk energy. Sadness is energy we discharge in order to heal. It’s really important to stay with your sadness, not to pretend like you’re not sad or run from sadness.
Sadness is one of the most powerful healing emotions that you can ever have. Sadness. And it’s a common reaction in Singapore to not want to feel sad and to pretend like you’re not sad, when in fact, you’re still deeply sad but you just shove it into the unconscious so you pretend like you’re not sad. But everyone who is mature can see that you’re sad, but because you don’t even let yourself be sad, you’re incredibly sad. Sadness just eats away at you. It rots from the inside.
Fear releases an energy that warns us of potential danger. Pay attention to why you’re afraid. Why, not just, “I don’t want to be afraid, so teach me the how-tos to stop the fear.” Well, the how-to, the best how-to, is to pay attention to it. Why are you afraid? It’s very important that you understand that, because there’s a part of you that’s warning other parts of you of potential danger.
Guilt is our moral shame and guards our conscience. There’s a really great book, Shame and Guilt. Again, really great title for experts.
Joy is the exhilarating energy that comes from all of our needs being met. And on and on, I’m going to have to skip some things here, but just so you’re aware. The self-awareness is first and foremost about your emotion, the emotions you’re feeling in the present moment, and attending to those, not running from them, not trying to avoid them, but staying with them and trying to understand what is leading to this, what are the causes for it, and feeling through those.
And if you’re feeling those, try to feel them even more intensely, see what that’s like, and sit with it, not run from it, and try to understand it. In internalizing shame, what happens is vital parts of ourselves are disowned. I’m going to actually get into the parts therapy hopefully later today so we get into that in more detail. So, I’ll give you an example.
And this is an example where you might think that the average Joe Blow, the Jock Joe, Joe Blow would say, “This is just growing up.” So he doesn’t understand the child, and therefore he does not understand himself, and therefore he will pass more shame to his children, and I feel bad for them even more than for him. Though, I do feel bad for him because he hasn’t dealt with it in himself.
But here’s an example. It’s about ice cream, and this is in one I take from Alice Miller. “A child is furious that mom promised ice cream, but now she’s backing out. The child’s anger triggers the mom’s own anger towards her own parents.” Oh, wait, actually, this is from Bradshaw, John Bradshaw. It’s another great book, Healing the Shame that Binds You. It is, in my opinion, the best book on shame. It’s pretty heavy in terms of the kind of examples of case studies, get into some more extreme cases. So this might be an easier entrée into that.
And then another one that is even more accessible is the work of Brené Brown. She’s a shame researcher. You might’ve heard of Brené Brown from her TED talks that have been viewed 20 million times, 15 million times, different videos being viewed that many times. She’s a great speaker and her book, Daring Greatly, is a really great one. I highly recommend that. And maybe for the average person, they should start with Daring Greatly then move into the more clinical research, so the clinical books like Bradshaw. Maybe that trajectory would be better, starting with Brené Brown.
Anyway, this is an example from Bradshaw. “The child is furious that the mother promised ice cream but now she’s backing out. The child’s anger triggers the mom’s own anger toward her own parents. So now, mom’s getting triggered. Mom is terrified of her anger and terrified of anyone else’s anger. Since the anger is bound in shame, she stops herself from feeling the shame by shaming her own child.” You see this a lot with your parents.
“After she’s angry, she tells him how hurt she is when he’s angry at her.” So, let me repeat that. “After she’s angry, she tells him how hurt she is when he gets angry at her.” You probably have been told this a lot as an Asian child. “She begins to cry to convert her anger into sadness, when she learned as a little girl that that was an effective way to convert feeling.” And the feeling conversion is a Bradshaw term.
Feeling conversion is when we convert what is forbidden and shameful, such as anger, into an acceptable feeling. So for her, for this mom, it was okay to feel sad much more than to feel angry. So, she converts her anger into sadness. In Singapore, it’s not appropriate to feel any of those generally. You can’t show anger. “You get really triggered when I get angry!” And they go, “Oh, David, don’t. You didn’t even ask me, is it okay to show that?” Why would it not be?
Or to show sadness, and I’m not going to bother because then I’ll have to wipe my eyes. So what happens? You can’t feel anything, actually, here in Singapore, so you feel nothing. That sucks. Shame and rejection. “You handle your own shame by attributing it to others through the process of projection. If my own anger is disowned, I may project it onto you and I might ask you why you were so angry.”
This is an interesting thing, when you really trigger a client. He starts to tell you how he feels by telling you that you shouldn’t be so angry and things like this.
Secondary ego defenses, I’m going to skip that. Inhibition, reactive formation, undoing, turning against self. I will mention turning against self here. If you have any questions about those, I’ll deal with them, but I go into much more detail on all of this in Rock Solid Relationships. Because if you don’t figure out your own shame, not only will you mess up your children, but you will destroy your relationship. The romantic relationship and any feelings around love are the most vulnerable that you will ever be in life, and that is obviously the hotspot for triggering all of the trauma, and shame, and all your regression out of anywhere else in your life, besides your relationship with your parents.
But as an adult, you’re supposed to not see your parents as often as you did as a kid, so I know for many of you guys, you still live with mom and dad, see them every day, but generally, it’s going to be your marriage or romantic relationship where all of that will occur.
So as a result of shame, the final slide here is the creation of the false self. And because we experience ourselves as flawed and defective, somehow unacceptable, we then cannot look at ourselves without pain. So, to avoid all of this, we create a false self. Jung called this the persona, other theorists call it the mask. There’s a book I haven’t read yet, but it’s sitting on my desk called Masks of Masculinity by Lewis Howes, who was sexually abused as a boy. That’s all I know about the story, but I like the title. The Mask.
And the other is the adapted child. There are plenty of others, and getting to understand what it’s like, the breakage and how it happens is incredibly important. Now, just to think head off, you thinking you’ve never been shamed, you have no toxic shame, you’re not a false self, you’re your true self all the time… I’m going to read just a little bit here some examples of shaming as a child, and there’s a book called Shaming Guilt: Masters of Disguise by Jane Middelton-Moz.
Anyways, how are we shamed as children? And by the way, this is a very short book. This is also a good introduction to the topic, but I think this is a very — it starts with an allegory, so I think it’s really good for people who like to read. Anyways, I would recommend Bradshaw first and then this, but I’m sure it wouldn’t matter too much which order you read them. So, there are 15 examples of how a child can be shamed. Can be, not always, right? It really depends on the child’s interpretation of what happened that results in the shame.
So just like now in self-help, we tell you that events happen to you but how you feel is a result of your interpretation of those events. So, it’s up to you how you feel. Don’t blame other things for how you feel. It’s all within your control based on perception or where your emotions are. Maybe not your raw feeling, per se, but the emotion.
Okay, so here’s some examples of how children can be shamed. A child may experience shame when the parents and other adult caretakers indicate through their words or their behaviors that a child is not wanted. This message may be delivered as early as infancy by the way the infant is held or interacted with by the adult caretaker. So, little excursions. There’s a brilliant research that is now would never be approved by ethics boards, which was early-1900’s. I can’t remember the exact source of this, but early-1900’s, researchers took children that were offered up. So, maybe the parent needed the money in exchange for the study.
So anyway, they got these babies and they had condition groups. So, one group would never get smiled at, but they’d get fed and all of these other needs would be met. They would do this for whatever period of time, one to three years. And then another set of babies were never held, but everything else, all of their other needs were met. And then other babies, other set of babies, were never talked to but all of their other needs were met. And then maybe there were some other conditions.
But then these kids grew up, and then they tracked these children as they aged, they tracked them on all of these statistical tests. So, they’d test them on their IQ and all of these other things. They found that, by the time they were in grade six, they were so far delayed, the average delay was something like three years behind its peers. So, by the time these kids got to the end of middle school, the researchers really freaked out because they were so underperforming, that I think maybe even the beginning of middle school, they already discovered that they were so underperforming, that they guaranteed these kids therapy, and coaching, and extra tuition for life.
So, they just worked really extra hard with these kids to bring them back up to speed with their peers and they never did. They tracked into their 20’s. They never recovered back to the norm, I suppose you could say. They don’t do studies like that anymore.
Number two, when a child is humiliated in public, the shame response in the child increases. So, I’ve seen this happen here in Singapore at the McDonald’s, whatever, like parents telling the kids, “Don’t do that! What will people think? Don’t do that! Others are looking at you. Look! Others are looking at you.” It’s so easy to pick examples of shame here in Singapore.
But obviously, you see this in the West as well. Number three, when disapproval is shown towards a child that is aimed at the child’s entire being rather than at a particular behavior. For example, “You are a very bad boy. Bad boy.” That’s what we say to the dogs, by the way. “Bad dog.” Rather than “Tommy, I don’t like it when you hit your sister. I can understand your frustration with her, but I don’t want you to hit her again.” Actually, that statement, “I don’t want you to hit her again” is very powerful and very mature.
It’s not saying, “Hitting her is wrong” because now he can do a philosophical argument about autonomy, and free will, and so on. It’s saying, “I don’t want you to hit her.” This is assertiveness training, actually. So, this person had assertiveness training. She knows how to state her wants. So, if the kid wants to, it’s up to the kid. “I’ve now voiced what I want.” And then it’s also, “If you don’t want what I want, I don’t want you here in this room right now and you need to sit out in the hall, take some time out to fit in with the rest of society, and we’re going to explain to you also why this would be good for you in the future.” And you talk to the kid like an adult, not like a dog.
“Bad dog!” That’s how we talk to dogs because we don’t expect them to understand the rest of our words. But for all we know, dogs can. I don’t know. Number four, fourth example, when a child must hide a part of her or his being in order to be accepted, shame is created in the child. For example, any mistakes, needs, joys, sorrows, illness, successes or tears, any time a child must hide some part of herself or himself.
The fifth example, when a child’s emotional or physical boundaries are violated, as occurs in physical or sexual abuse of an overt or covert nature, shame is created in the child. A child cannot develop his or her identity unless clear boundaries exist between parent and child. Physical and sexual abuse from others in the child’s environment lead to a sense that the child believes, “I am not lovable or accepted. I am only lovable and accepted when I am this way, when I am guai, when I am obedient, when I am whatever.
So, obviously, in the sexual abuse environment, it’s going to be when I am sexual. The child also grows up in a world of secrets, feeling that I must hide myself constantly from the eyes of others. That’s from sexual shame, from the abuse.
Sixth case. When children feel that they have no privacy or no place to hide, the child grows up with a pervasive sense of inadequacy and thinks, “I must really be a bad person.” Examples of this include parents who go through their children’s things, or parents who listen in on phone calls of their children, or parents who read their mail, or make such statements as, “I know what you’re thinking. If you loved me, you’d tell me everything.”
Seventh example. When adults ignore or treat indifferently events or gifts that are important to the child, the child then feels intense shame. Here’s an example. A child works all day on a drawing for mother. The mother doesn’t take the time to look at it, instead hides it away on top of a pile of things or says, “What am I supposed to do with this?” When parents consistently do not attend functions that are important to the child, like ball games, like parent-child dinners, or plays, the child develops a sense that he or she is just not important enough.
Eighth case, when a child feels by comparison that his parents are somehow different from other powerful figures in the child’s world outside the home. The child then may begin to feel shame regarding the family, and thus shame of self. This feeling of difference sometimes leads to split loyalties in the child between home and the world outside. This causes the child to hide one part of his world and thus himself from the other.
Some examples of this. Children of immigrant parents whose language, or speech, or customs differ from the world outside his home. That would cause shame, and this is obviously no fault of the immigrant parents. In fact, that might’ve been what happened to me when I was five years old.
Children of racial minorities, where color has come to mean badness, laziness, powerlessness or helplessness in the world outside the home. Children of poverty, where having a lack of money or things is judged to mean non-acceptance.
Number nine, when a child feels that parents or members of the family are somehow flawed when compared to other adult figures in his or her world, shame develops in the child. For example, children where a family member is alcoholic or a drug abuser, and their behavior is embarrassing. Children where a family member has a physical or mental disability, and that difference is never discussed, or the child can’t express feelings of embarrassment.
Whenever you don’t allow a child to express his feelings, he’s going to develop toxic shame. And I see that happening a lot here because there are a lot of feelings that you feel that you feel like they’re not acceptable so you don’t let them out. Actually, the work that we need to do doesn’t get done.
Case ten. When trust — and by the way, I know all of this, well, examples that I use when I accuse you of things, because I also have been a result of that. So, I took two years to go through method acting, go through therapy, and continuing to do this. I hope these are lifelong skills that I can take on that help me access and free up emotional blockages so I can express the feelings that I actually feel. And of course, the first step is to know what you’re feeling, self-awareness.
Number ten. When trust in important adult figures is damaged or destroyed through inconsistency or neglect, the child experiences confusion about where I belong or what can I expect from the world. This feeling of disconnectedness or lack of attachment leads to increased internal shame and isolation.
11th example, so we’re almost done. When a child grows up with adults who are shamed and feel powerless in the world, the child also develops a sense of shame. Shame is contagious, which is why — I’m getting distracted by Singapore, but I can’t spend extended periods of time here anymore.
Number 12. When a child is made to feel unwanted, or unlovable, or flawed, or worthless in the broader world of school or community, debilitating shame develops in the child. So, here’s some examples: Children who have difficulty learning to read because of undetected learning disabilities and through words or behaviors are made to feel lazy or stupid. This is very common. Through neglect at home, children who come to school inappropriately dressed or with poor hygiene are isolated, made fun of, or looked at with disgust by those in the world of school and community.
Some children are treated with sympathy by well-meaning adults who then increase their sense of insecurity and lack of self-respect and powerlessness in the outside world. So, this is even trickier. If you pull this kid out for special attention and you feel really sorry for them, they feel condescended to and they feel somehow they’re different in a bad way. So, it’s tough to parent well. It’s tough to teach well. Children are very vulnerable and they soak everything in like a sponge, and in a way, that’s like with no filter. They don’t know how to interpret anything because they’re not taught it.
The best thing, I think, the parents and teachers can do is to explain everything to the child, as much of it as understood as possible.
The 13th example. When a child is consistently blamed for the actions or emotional states of their adult caretakers, and there’s no way that the child can understand what is expected, let alone fulfill the expectations, then both debilitating shame and toxic shame — she’s using the word debilitating — both toxic shame and toxic guilt develop. The child feels, “If only I was smarter, stronger, more lovable, then my parents would drink less, or be happier, or less depressed.” And this happens a lot here as well.
Number 14. When a child cannot live up to the expectations of the adult caretakers because their expectations are inconsistent or unrealistic. Given the child’s developmental capabilities or humanness, the child feels worthless, not lovable, a failure, a mistake, and toxic shame is thus created and perpetuated.
Finally, when parents or adult caretakers use silent disgust as a way of disciplining a child’s behavior, the child feels that their entire being is bad. When silent rejection is used as punishment, there’s little opportunity for the child to repair the relationship. The child is left with both irreparable guilt for the behavior and toxic shame.
Here’s an example: Tommy brings home a note from school saying he was in a fight at school. Later that evening, Tommy shows the note to his parents. They read the note, look at Tommy with disgust. Sighing, they put the note face down on the table. Tommy’s parents then walk off, leaving him alone in the room. The infraction at school is never discussed. There is no closure.
So, you might think, “That’s growing up!” Well, then you grow up with toxic shame, and that’s why you suck with women. That’s why you suck with people. Am I making it clear to the PUA guys who are coming to me for this, like, “How do I meet women?” stuff. All of that stuff that you’re trying to fix with learning game is actually just attending to the symptoms. The underlying problem is toxic shame and a splitting off of your original self into false selves. That’s the problem.
What you’re attempting to do, the solution you’re attempting, is to create a new false self using game that you hope will finally give you all of the love that you were hoping for when you were a child. That’s why you become very grafted onto, you redo, you either become too attached or too detached from the women that you encounter as a result of the false persona that you developed from game.
And the way out of this is actually to see the original problem. The original problem, that, by the way, all of clinical psychology addresses. Here’s a humility note, I’ll just try to put more of these in there. A humility note: I’m 41. I only discovered this field seriously in the past four years. So I thought I knew everything about psychology, but really, all I read was social psychology which is really popular, positive psychology, the psychology of happiness, and evolutionary psychology.
And in fact, a lot of the psychology that’s still taught in universities isn’t, except for the clinical departments, isn’t very useful for you. So, if you were a psychology major in university, you learned a lot of useless stuff that doesn’t apply to you very well, unless you want to manipulate people. You probably learned a lot of manipulative things, like how to sell, marketing. The psychology that happens in a lot of research departments in university, it’s much more applicable to marketing and sales than it is to your personal life.
You don’t learn any clinical psychology — you know how hard it is to get into a clinical psychology graduate program? Their acceptance rates, at the good programs, are like 5%. This is unusual for a graduate program because most people who apply to a graduate program is already self-selected. So, everyone applies to Harvard, and so you expect the 10% acceptance rate or whatever the fuck it is.
But for a graduate program, you’d only apply if you were very serious on embarking on a six-year journey to getting this thing that won’t even get you much money. But even then, it’s like this special science. Like, the wizards — what do they do like the Harry Potter thing? It’s like this protected magic that they don’t want to teach others.
Well, guys, now you can talk with the psychotherapist. Well, fuck you. It’s your fucking fault. Just kidding. I’m not going to blame anybody. But you got to make it more obvious. You got to make it down-to-earth. You got to explain it. And so, I’m struggling to do that here and I will hopefully get better over time, to explain to why all of you need to get therapy and why the sources of your problems and all of your inner conflicts are not where you think they are.
They’re not in learning tips and tricks. They’re not in learning behavior or how-tos. They’re not in treating yourself like a dog. Because it’s easy to get a dog to behave in a certain way. You shock it. You beat it. You say “bad dog” and there’s all of these different — You can make dogs do really cool tricks. And if you do it well, it will be happy, because dogs are relatively simple-minded things.
But you’re not a dog, unless you are, but I assume that you have much more complex emotions and complex cognitive life. The reason why there’s so much inner turmoil — or the reason why there are conflicts, why you want to do one thing but you can’t. You’ve decided in your prefrontal cortex that you ought to do things this way but you don’t and you sleep in, or you don’t make it to the gym, or you overeat, or you over drink, or you don’t scale your business, or you don’t do what you need to do. You don’t fucking read the book you’re supposed to read or you fall asleep while you’re reading.
That’s not because of some behavioral how-to, it’s because you haven’t attended to the underlying problem. All of these inner conflicts are happening starting as early as when you were born. And the treatment that you had as a result, and the interpretations that you made as a little child, and maybe as a teenager, and maybe even in your 20’s, of what life means, of what your place is in the world as a result of your interpretation of the events that you perceive to be happening to you.
And unless you reinterpret those conclusions and come up with new conclusions, you will be powerless to create the success that you so desperately hope that you will have so that you could finally feel like you’re good enough. Because we’ve all been there, where we think if we get the A on the grade, we get this degree, or we get this accolade, or we make this amount of money, or we finally build the business to this level, or we get this job, or we get this girl, or we get this number of girls, or we get consistently 5/5, then finally we’re enough and we can rest and go on to the next thing, because then, we’ll be happy. When we get these goals then, we’ll be happy.
Well, that’s the big trap. You’re not happy now, that means. Pay attention to that. The reason you’re not happy now isn’t because you haven’t obtained the goal. I know that you probably heard this message from that thing about ‘the goal won’t bring you happiness.’ You’ve probably heard it from a lot of people but then you’re like, “Yeah, that’s easy to say because you’ve attained that goal.” Well then, you’ll never listen to wisdom.
So, you can believe it or not or we’ll just wait until you get to the end of the rainbow and you discover that the fucking pot of gold is empty. And that if you didn’t attend to the fact that gold was in your fucking pocket the whole time, well then, there will never be any happiness for you. So, we’ll end there, take a longer break, and we’ll pick up on your inner child after the break. Thank you very much.