“I Don’t Understand”

By Greg Baer M.D.

September 26, 2016

Why People Don't Understand the Solution to Unhappiness. 

People are unhappy primarily for two reasons: 
They never received enough unconditional love, from childhood to the present. 
They were taught lies that distort their choices and feelings, making happiness very difficult. 

The solution to unhappiness then becomes obvious: loving and teaching. As I teach people the principles that can change their perspectives and their abilities to feel loved and loving, often—very often—they respond with, “I don’t understand.”

Intellectually, these are not stupid people, so exactly what do they mean when they say “I don’t understand”? There are a great many factors at play here, but two of the most common meanings of this expression are as follows:

1. “I don’t understand why I can’t get what I want.”

Without sufficient Real Love in our lives, we learn to trade Imitation Love with others, and we hope that in the process we will find happiness. Most of us have proven—by our own experience—that this trading might give us some pleasure or relief from pain in the short term, but it NEVER produces genuine or lasting happiness.

When I tell people how their lives would need to change in order to experience true happiness, they’re usually unhappy that they would have to give up the trading and the rewards of Imitation Love. They don’t want to give up the alcohol, drugs, sex, lying, anger, victimhood, and more that they are accustomed to using, and from which they get a brief and superficial benefit. When I explain that real happiness requires giving up these lies, they say, “I don’t understand.” What they really mean, however, is that they don’t WANT to understand.

They don’t want to give up their pain relief. They want to continue living as they have but then receive both the pain relief of Imitation Love and the happiness of Real Love. They are like children having a tantrum that they can’t play at the park and also have to conform to the rules of safety and decorum that govern the use of the park.

2. “I don’t understand how to fit this information into my old beliefs.”

Whatever we are taught first—in childhood, most prominently—we tend to accept as true for the rest of our lives. Unconsciously, the people around us taught us that anger is acceptable, that lying will protect us, that whining is productive, and so on.

When I teach people principles that contradict these closely held beliefs—among others—the resultant shock can be quite unsettling, even earth shaking. They almost have no place in their minds and hearts for these new beliefs, which are so familiar to them that they can’t separate them from who they really are. Their natural response is to claim, “I don’t understand,” but only because they are driven by a powerful need to integrate everything they encounter into the body of what they already know.

Change requires an abandonment of some old beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. Change requires stretching, which is almost unavoidably uncomfortable. In order to avoid the discomfort, we often close our eyes to the light and simply claim that we cannot comprehend it: “I don’t understand.”

Our claims not to understand new ideas are understandable. When we hear something new, two choices are most obvious:

1. To adopt the new principles and change our lives to be congruent with them. But this requires humility, willingness, and often work.
2. To discount in some way the new principles.
We can do this by discounting the messenger, ignoring the messenger, or claiming that we don’t understand the message.

Great courage is required to learn and to grow. Increasing our understanding can be difficult, even painful, but the alternative—staying the same—is unthinkable when we are capable of so much more.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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