If you're noting that some of these fantasies are superstitions, you're right.
Superstition is just fantasy with attitude; it's a way of erroneously trying to control
events. You don't have that control; none of us do, but you can adopt a clearer belief
system that doesn't depend on superstition to get you in touch with who you are and what
you want. This new system will allow you to fine-tune your behavior by dealing with what
is, not with what you want. In a word: reality.
As wrongheaded as fantasies are, scores of them guide our lives and shape not only our perceptions but also our behavior. The examples mentioned above are purposely dramatic and fairly irrelevant.
Unfortunately not all dearly held beliefs are so harmless or silly. Certain more relevant assumptions constitute the value system by which we live and run our lives, form our associations, set our goals, raise our children, interact with strangers, and find comfort. These assumptions shape our existence.
The Real Story about Reality
We've become so used to the idea that the real world is dangerous that reality has gotten a really bad reputation. I'm going to show you that reality is a lot less scary than you've been led to believe and that it is actually potentially helpful, healthy, life-affirming, and the most useful game in town.
The question is how do you separate reality from fantasy? The first test of an idea in action is functional: is it working? Most of us aren't even aware of our belief system until something breaks down.
Every day on my nationally syndicated call-in psychology program, I bump up against callers from all over the Northern Hemisphere who are looking for sympathy when their favorite way of behaving--their applied value system--runs into trouble with somebody else's way of doing something. Approximately 95 percent of those who call want me to agree that they are right and that the person who is making them unhappy is wrong and should die a quick and possibly excruciating death. Instead of offering sympathy, which just makes people feel good about feeling bad, I gently but firmly guide them to a less painful way of dealing with spouses, bosses, kids, parents, employees, and even themselves.
As we believe, so we behave. In helping people find different ways of acting, I help them look at the source of their ineffective interactions to see that what they believe is causing their behavior to bomb. It's not easy. Our belief system is basic, dearly beloved, and largely unexamined by most of us. So before we even begin together, I want to warn you that there are several characteristic ways of responding when we are challenged. And I intend to challenge you.
The first response to a challenge is either to run or to fight. Running is moving away from the offending and offensive object (in this case, me), and fighting can take the form of either defending yourself or attacking me. It would be really cool if you could resist both of these impulses, at least temporarily. Just open your mind and your heart, and let's see if we can do this together.
Use of this excerpt from The Nine Fantasies That Will Ruin Your Life and the Eight Realities That Will Save You by Dr. Joy Browne may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: Copyright© 1998 by Dr. Joy Browne. All rights reserved.
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