Over a span of many conversations, Beth communicated to me that all her life she’d been confused, hurt, and angry. She was angry at her husband, her daughter, her parents, her employers—everyone—and she was constantly telling me how she was RIGHT in the way she thought, felt, and communicated.
Repeatedly I attempted to show her that if all her beliefs, feelings, and behaviors resulted in profound unhappiness, she couldn’t POSSIBLY be right, because genuine happiness is the ultimate “right.” Only loving beliefs and behaviors always result in happiness, at least for ourselves. Oh, how she hated being told that she wasn’t right as she raged at everyone and manipulated them.
“All you do is tell me I’m wrong,” she spat.
“My dear,” I began, “I only tell you when your thoughts or feelings or behaviors DON’T WORK. That’s all. When you tell me two plus two equals five—which you do every time you tell me that you’re RIGHT but also angry and miserable—you do it with sincerity, conviction, even ferocity. You are so certain of yourself, and then you use that equation in all your future calculations, which guarantees that you’ll get EVERYTHING wrong. Why? Because your initial premise is wrong.”
“I point out what you’re doing,” I continued, “because I care about you. Two plus two does NOT equal five [mathematically expressed as 2 + 2 ≠ 5]. “Five” is “wrong” only because it’s not true, because it doesn’t work. But that’s not what you hear me say. Instead you hear me saying:
‘YOU are wrong.’
‘YOU are stupid.’
‘I don’t believe you.’
‘I don’t trust you.’
‘You’re a terrible person.’
‘I don’t care about you.’
‘I don’t value you.’”
“You hear all that when I’m only saying that two plus two does NOT equal five. I’m trying to help you stop the unproductive, even destructive, patterns of a lifetime. I’m telling you that if you continue believing that two plus two equals five, nothing will ever work out for you. If you could believe that, you could begin learning instead of defending, blaming, and running.”
Most of us are stuck in lifelong unproductive patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We need someone outside our distorted world to help us see what we’re doing wrong before we can begin to make different choices. When we’re wrong, we’re not bad—just wrong.