Everything We Do, We Do for a Reason

Everything we do, we do for a reason. All behavior, no matter how self-destructive it may seem, serves an emotional purpose. It’s not that somebody “shouldn’t” be acting in a certain way; it’s that they ARE acting that way to satisfy some personal need.

Even the worst drug or alcohol addict has some objective, however illogical it may be. Often it’s as straightforward as “escape from reality.” The question to ask about puzzling behavior isn’t, “Why are they doing it?” It’s “What are they getting out of it?”

Think of something you did recently that made no sense to you. “Why did I do that?” you ask. Then change the question to, “What did I get out of it?” (Or, perhaps, “What did I think I was going to get out of it?”) The answer might not be obvious, but there’s a purpose or goal in there somewhere.

Some mental health professionals use the term “secondary gain” to describe the hidden reason we do something that on the surface doesn’t make sense. Secondary gain refers to motivation, so it’s quite personal, and could be just about anything. Common examples include getting attention from others, financial gain, feeling a greater sense of personal connection with somebody, or escaping from work, chores or whatever.

Children or young adults with behavioral or emotional problems are no exception. Like everybody else, they do things for a reason. I like to ask, “How does the symptom serve the system?” Or, more directly, “What is this person trying to cover up (or achieve) with these outrageous behaviors?”

It’s just as true with adults. For example, when a spouse has an affair, it makes sense to ask, “What did the affair accomplish?” Maybe he’s not satisfied with some aspects of the marriage, so he has an affair rather than looking for a new partner. When viewed critically, what he’s doing has serious flaws, but on a subconscious level, it’s easy to see how the symptom of having the affair served the secondary gain of getting more satisfaction out of life and love.

Don’t confuse secondary gain with a hidden agenda. For example, if you have a second home at the beach, someone might casually ask, “So, when are you going to the beach this summer?” On the surface, the question implies an interest in what you’re doing, but the underlying purpose might be to arrange for an invitation. A hidden agenda is not subconscious; the person who holds it is fully aware of it.

A reason for doing something is not always an excuse for doing something. Having an affair because you’re not getting what you want from your marriage is not a justification for lying; it’s just an explanation of why lying seemed like a good idea. Trying to escape painful memories or stressful situations is not an excuse for alcohol or drug abuse; it’s just an explanation of why self-medication can be a compelling motivation. Explanations are simply that: Not justifications, not condemnations — just explanations.

Figuring out your secondary gain can be of practical use. When you know what’s going on in your mind, you’re better equipped to manage your life. Imagine driving your car without being able to see clearly through the windshield. The same is true with your mind. If you’re on a self-destructive path, you can stop and change course if you’re able to figure out why you’re on that path to begin with.

Personal insight and perception are great alternatives to self-condemnation. Knowing what you’re getting out of your seemingly irrational behavior helps you to take responsibility in a way that’s supportive and understanding. Armed with that knowledge, you can confront, and perhaps even correct, the real reasons why you do what you do. It’s an excellent course of action for getting and keeping control of your life.

Michael J. Hurd, Life’s a Beach

You CAN Control Your Own Emotions

How many times have we heard the expression that somebody “takes things personally”? Is it always a mistake to feel that way?

It can be a basic error to assume that everything is always about you, when in fact it’s not. From your own point-of-view, your life is, and should be, your central concern, but the same is also true for others.  So when you interpret something someone else does (or doesn’t do) as an attack on you, chances are pretty good that you’re mistaken. The FEELING that another has you in mind when they do something you dislike has to be based on evidence, and often that evidence isn’t there.

It’s liberating and psychologically healthy to remember that what others think of you really isn’t your problem. You have no control over what others think. So why clutter your mind with stuff you cannot change?  Just worry about your reputation with yourself, rather than your reputation with others. If you respect yourself, then the right people will come to you. That’s the basic fact that chronically insecure people fail to see.

It all boils down to interpretation. Using our moment-to-moment perceptions as input, our emotions make quick, lightning-like interpretations for us. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but the down side is when you fail to stand back to examine some of those interpretations. Some might be correct – but many can be wrong. You might call it fact-checking. Though rampant dishonesty in government and media has given that term a cynical veneer, it’s actually the most effective technique for weighing our feelings against the cold facts of reality. We would all do well to make honest fact-checking a part of our daily lives to check and balance against random, often inaccurate feelings. In fact, we’re MORE vulnerable to anti-factual people in the media and elsewhere if we’re NOT in the habit of fact checking ourselves and our immediate feelings.

When tempted to automatically believe another person or to take something personally, ask yourself, “What’s the factual evidence that he or she had me in mind when he or she did – or failed to do – such-and-such? Based on the known facts, what other explanations are available?” Really think about it, and be honest. Try to see from the other person’s point-of-view what might have lead them to act a certain way, even in a way you didn’t like. Ask yourself if you’ve ever done the same thing. If so, did you intend to harm others, or was there some other motivation?

At first glance, it might seem cumbersome to do this. But if you strive to make it a habit, this sort of moment-to-moment fact-checking is absolutely necessary to make sure you’re not letting your emotions run away with you and lead you to assume things are personal when they’re probably not.

When people tell me, “I don’t want to fact-check and/or keep a journal because it’s too time consuming,” it’s like telling your dentist, “I don’t want to brush and floss because it’s just too time consuming.” Seriously? Maintenance and examination of your emotions is just as important for your sanity as the maintenance and examination of your teeth is for your health.

Of course, none of this means you’re still not going to be annoyed, disappointed or even angry if someone does — or fails to do — something that hurts you or that you disagree with. In those cases, it’s time for a discussion with yourself: “What am I legitimately entitled to, and what am I not entitled to?” And remember that even when someone is negligent or disappointing in some way, it doesn’t automatically follow that it’s an attack on you. Whenever someone else does something questionable or wrong, it’s almost always because of their own issues and problems, not yours. You don’t have to tolerate it, but you do have the freedom to choose how to respond to it. Life is too short to simply hand over your mental health and serenity to what some other person might think or do.

Michael J. Hurd, Daily Dose of Reason

The Freedom to Pursue Happiness

The governors of all 50 states, and the mayors of many large cities, have assumed unto themselves the powers to restrict private personal choices and lawful public behavior in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

They have done so not by enforcing previously existing legislation but by crafting their own executive orders, styling those orders as if they were laws, using state and local police to enforce those so-called laws and — presumably when life returns to normal and the courts reopen — prosecuting the alleged offenders in court.

It is hard to believe that any judge in America would permit a criminal trial of any person for violating a standard of behavior that has not been enacted into law by a legislature. We know this because under our system of representative government, separated powers and guaranteed liberties, only the legislative branch can craft laws and assign punishments for noncompliance. This is Constitutional Law 101. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has written that the executive branch cannot enforce a law that it has written. If it does, we will have approached tyranny.

Have we approached tyranny already?

During the past eight weeks, governors and mayors have closed most businesses, public venues and houses of worship, prohibited public assembly and restricted travel — all of which they have unilaterally decreed to be nonessential.

In his terrifying novel “1984” — which posits a future of total control of all persons by the government and total control of the government by one political party — George Orwell argued that he who controls the meaning of words controls the laws as well.

That Orwellian truism has been manifested like never before here in America, where executive branch officeholders have used state and local police to restrain people from engaging in private and public behavior which they concede was lawful two months ago because today it is not deemed “essential.”

Frankly, I am surprised at the ferocity of police enforcement and the lameness of police compliance. The police have taken the same oaths to uphold the same Bill of Rights — it’s not the Bill of Safety; it’s the Bill of Rights — as have all other officeholders. The police also know that it is unlawful for them to obey an unlawful order, particularly when they use force.

The lockdown orders are all unlawful because none of them — none — has been enacted by a legislature, and all of them — all — interfere with fundamental liberties, each of which is guaranteed — guaranteed — by the Constitution.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I recognize the scientific value of personal efforts to control contagion. But under the Constitution, these social-distancing, wear-your-mask, shut-your-business, stay-at-home edicts constitute mere recommendations that should induce rational voluntary compliance, because the government in America is without lawful power to compel compliance.

The governors complain about resistance. They need to know that Americans will resist efforts to interfere in behavior that remains as moral, natural, lawful and constitutional as it was 60 days ago.

Last week, President Donald Trump, sounding fed up with gubernatorial lockdown orders, declared that religious worship is essential — meaning, in his opinion, all houses of worship should be opened — and he offered that he was prepared to “override” any governors who disagreed with him.

When he realized that he lacked any authority to override even unlawful gubernatorial decrees, he dispatched the Department of Justice to begin filing challenges to governors in federal courts and to argue that constitutional freedoms are being impaired by the states.

I applaud this, but it is too little, too late. Where was the DOJ when Catholic priests were threatened with arrest for saying Mass or distributing palms and when Jewish rabbis were put in COVID-19-infested jails for holding funerals? At all these religious events, folks freely chose to exercise their freedom to worship; and to take their chances.

These DOJ interventions provoked the question: Who should decide what goods, services or venues are essential — the states or the federal government? The question is Orwellian, as the answer is: neither of them. The government in America — state or federal — has no power and no right to determine what goods, services and venues are essential.

Those determinations have been for individuals to make since 1776, and those individual choices have been constitutionally protected from the feds since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 and from the states since the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868.

What is essential to the laborer or student or housewife may not be essential to the former Goldman Sachs partner who was elected governor of New Jersey, and who decreed last week, “It shall be the duty of every person or entity in this State… to cooperate fully” with his orders, or essential to the ideologue who is mayor of the Big Apple and who, for all his professed liberality, threatened to close permanently — permanently — businesses and houses of worship that flaunt his guidelines

A duty is undertaken voluntarily or by nature, not by executive command, Governor Murphy. And the government cannot take property away from its owners except for a legitimate public use and only for just compensation, Mayor de Blasio.

Governors and mayors can make all the dictatorial pronouncements and threats that they wish. But they cannot use public assets to enforce them. And when they seek to use force, those from whom they seek it should decline the offer.

In America, we decide for ourselves what produces happiness. We have never delegated to the government — ever — the power to make personal choices for us.

And some of us are willing to take chances and even do “nonessential” things. The essence of the freedoms for which we have fought since 1776 is the liberty to be ourselves.

Andrew Napolitano

Words of Wisdom by Ayn Rand

Productiveness is your acceptance of morality, your recognition of the fact that you choose to live–that productive work is the process by which man’s consciousness controls his existence, a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values–that all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others–that your work is yours to choose, and the choice is as wide as your mind, that nothing more is possible to you and nothing less is human–that to cheat your way into a job bigger than your mind can handle is to become a fear-corroded ape on borrowed motions and borrowed time, and to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind’s full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion: decay–that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live–that your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver, and you must drive as far as your mind will take you, with achievement as the goal of your road–that the man who has no purpose is a machine that coasts downhill at the mercy of any boulder to crash in the first chance ditch, that the man who stifles his mind is a stalled machine slowly going to rust, that the man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap, and the man who makes another man his goal is a hitchhiker no driver should ever pick up–that your work is the purpose of your life, and you must speed past any killer who assumes the right to stop you, that any value you might find outside your work, any other loyalty or love, can be only travelers you choose to share your journey and must be travelers going on their own power in the same direction.”
― Ayn Rand

The Wisdom of Ayn Rand: On Psychology

The task of evaluating the processes of man’s subconscious is the province of psychology. Psychology does not regard its subject morally, but medically—i.e., from the aspect of health or malfunction (with cognitive competence as the proper standard of health).

As a science, psychology is barely making its first steps. It is still in the anteroom of science, in the stage of observing and gathering material from which a future science will come. This stage may be compared to the pre-Socratic period in philosophy; psychology has not yet found a Plato, let alone an Aristotle, to organize its material, systematize its problems and define its fundamental principles.

In psychology, one school holds that man, by nature, is a helpless, guilt-ridden, instinct-driven automaton—while another school objects that this is not true, because there is no scientific evidence to prove that man is conscious.

Psychology departments have a sprinkling of Freudians, but are dominated by Behaviorism, whose leader is B. F. Skinner. (Here the controversy is between the claim that man is moved by innate ideas, and the claim that he has no ideas at all.)