Emotional Bullshit: The Hidden Plague that Is Threatening to Destroy Your Relationships-and How to S top It

Emotional Bullshit: The Hidden Plague that Is Threatening to Destroy Your Relationships-and How to S top It

5.0 6
by Carl Alasko

View All Available Formats & Editions

An invisible disease is affecting every aspect of your life. Insidious and creeping, it shapes you everyday – from the bedroom to the boardroom, from your shopping splurge, to the extra helping at your holiday dinner, to the dangerous liaison at work. It’s called emotional bullshit, and it’s encroaching on your happiness.



An invisible disease is affecting every aspect of your life. Insidious and creeping, it shapes you everyday – from the bedroom to the boardroom, from your shopping splurge, to the extra helping at your holiday dinner, to the dangerous liaison at work. It’s called emotional bullshit, and it’s encroaching on your happiness.

In Emotional Bullshit: The Hidden Plague That Is Threatening to Destroy Your Relationships – AND HOW TO STOP IT , Carl Alasko, Ph.D. sheds light on the stealth disease of Emotional BS: that is, the Toxic Trio of denial, delusion and blame that we fall back on when faced with difficult situations. These three dynamics work together to distort and manipulate truth, create a delusional reality, and shift blame when things fall apart. With the toxic trio in action, it’s all but impossible to get at the heart of the problem. The result, however, is obvious – no one can achieve happiness and fulfillment. And when used in the world of business, Emotional BS can lead to financial ruin.

In his over twenty years working with individuals, couples and families as a psychotherapist, Dr. Alasko has come to recognize the same problem underlying all his patients’ unhappiness. When confronted with an unpleasant or inconvenient reality, they fall prey to the TOXIC TRIO:

  • DENIAL: “My girlfriend enjoys a ‘good time’ at parties, sure. But she doesn’t have a drinking problem.”

    Decoded: There is no problem. Everything is okay. You’re exaggerating

    See: the drinker, the overweight, the wallet full of maxed-out credit cards (pg 12)

  • DELUSION: “Working late isn’t a problem. My family will understand when I get that big promotion.”

    Decoded: I’ll tell you what’s true. Don’t believe what you see – believe me.

    See: the demanding boss, the neglected partner, the alienated friend (pgs 63, 138)

  • BLAME: “She knew I hated sloppiness when she married me. Why can’t she pick up after herself?”

    Decoded: You’re the problem. I was forced to do it; I had no choice.

    See: the clean freak, sub-prime mortgages, Napoleon Bonaparte (pgs 45, 84)

When the Toxic Trio works together, we become stuck in a cycle of emotional BS, preventing us from moving on or learning from our mistakes.

Emotional bullshit’s pervasiveness in society can be found everywhere, from rising divorce rates, weight gain, and debt, to angry outbursts at work, loss of control over our children, and a lack of fulfillment in our lives. The solution is deceptively simple: You focus on your Core Needs, which is any behavior that advances your long-term best interest, and ask yourself the Master Question—“What do I need from this situation?”. Honestly addressing the larger issue – not just in the short term – cuts the BS in every relationship: between friends, co-workers, couples, in parenting and especially in business.

Frank, concise and unapologetic, EMOTIONAL BULLSHIT sheds light on this hidden plague, and provides concrete advice to keep it from infiltrating your relationships.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

According to clinical psychologist Alasko, deception is everywhere. Whether it's a casual "I forgot" or political deception, it is corroding trust and breaking down community. Alasko details how people try to escape from the negative emotions of anxiety, anger, fear, and pain by using what he terms the "toxic trio" of denial, delusion, and blame. One first ignores or minimizes a fact or responsibility, then creates a more favorable reality. When things fall apart, one simply shifts the responsibility onto someone or something else, and the cycle repeats itself. The author provides numerous case studies of these principles in action and instructs how to satisfy core needs to eliminate the temptation to lie. Well done and applicable to all readers; recommended.
—Deborah Bigelow

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
204 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt



An undetected plague is destroying millions of human relationships. And it’s spreading.

I call this plague Emotional Bullshit. It’s a psychological and emotional disease that is wreaking havoc within all our relationships, from the most private to the most public. It operates without our knowledge or consent, and its toxic effects are expanding to an unprecedented degree. Look around at the casualties:

  • A couple has less than one chance in three of having their marriage reach its fortieth anniversary. One in three.
  • Half of all divorces are filed in the first seven years of marriage. And over 60% of couples report serious difficulties with emotional and sexual satisfaction.
  • In the past decade, seven times as many children require powerful medications just to stay in school. One third of all children don’t graduate high school, and their emotional disorders are multiplying by factors of ten.
  • In adults, rates of depression, insomnia, obesity and high-blood pressure are soaring. Stress from pressures at work are creating a new and serious range of health, family and parenting problems.

The news is not getting better. From the bedroom to the boardroom, more people are complaining about difficulty in their relationships. It’s harder to begin one, and a lot more difficult to maintain one.

Yes, there are islands of sanity and many people do say that they are satisfied. But why are some relationships loving and fulfilling while so many others are not? How do you know when your relationship is successful?

Here’s the most important question: How can you tell if your life is permeated with the hidden disease of Emotional BS? This book will decisively answer this question.

In his best-selling Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman refers to a “spreading emotional malaise.” He contends that our ignorance about how emotions work is leading to the erosion of our happiness and life-satisfaction. Goleman proposes that truly understanding our feelings is a way to improve our relationships, both individual and collective.

And so do I. But I’m presenting an entirely new approach that goes beyond only understanding emotions. This method shows you how to stop being dominated by fear, anger, pain and anxiety—the basic feelings that run Emotional Bullshit.

I provide a workable, absolutely practical solution so you will be able to effectively slay this dragon once and forever. All your relationships—especially the one with yourself—can become profoundly happier and more fulfilling.

But more on this later. First, let’s tackle some frequently asked questions that surround Emotional BS.

But hasn’t bullshit always been with us? Is it really that harmful? As we all know, bullshit refers to deception, a distortion of truth, and manipulation of reality for a self-serving purpose—and it’s absolutely always been with us. Ever since the serpent convinced Eve to add apples to her menu, trickery has been an effective way to line things up in ones favor.

It’s an intrinsic part of human nature to exaggerate virtues and minimize defects in order to make ourselves look better. And it’s so easy to justify! We tell ourselves: what’s the harm in using a little deception to move things along?

What’s the harm? Bluntly, it doesn’t work. It’s a short-term solution that usually backfires. As a long-term strategy it always falls apart. And it certainly does not build trust.

BS can be an outright lie to hide a dangerous mistake, or a dangerous liaison. Its territory ranges from the phony compliment to gain favor, to cooking the books to gain riches. Think Enron and sub-prime mortgages.

The problem, therefore, is a matter of degree. As well as context.

However, Emotional Bullshit is so incredibly dangerous because it directly affects our relationships. The casual fib has mutated into a pervasive way of life. It’s undermining the social contract that equates well-being, security and love with the most fundamental qualities we all need: trust, honesty and responsibility. Unacknowledged until now, it’s the “stealth disease” that is at the root of what Goleman calls our emotional malaise.

How can Bullshit be Emotional? Bullshit becomes emotional when deceit and manipulation generate the powerful negative feelings of anxiety, anger, fear and pain.

When your most precious relationships are manipulated or distorted, and reality becomes twisted by deception, how do you feel? Angry? Anxious? Confused? Fearful? Inevitably your life becomes contaminated with uncertainty, you feel cheated and deceived and the natural reaction is a long list of negative emotions.

So instead of waking up to an ordinary day confident and secure about your connections to your spouse, partner, children, boss and friends, you actually begin the day confused, dispirited, and assailed by doubt. When the emotions of BS run your life, your happiness is seriously diminished, and the way ahead appears muddled and desperate.

How does Emotional BS actually work? Here’s a quick definition of how Emotional BS fills a relationship with toxic energy and negative emotions.

The three components of Emotional BS are denial, delusion and blame. I refer to them as the Toxic Trio because they always work together, always keeping us from seeing and understanding what we’re doing. Whenever they’re in action, our relationships cannot be satisfying, happy and fulfilling.

The three components express themselves in the following ways:

  • denial: ignores or minimizes an essential fact—or a responsibility
  • delusion: creates an alternate (more favorable) reality. When things fall apart,
  • blame shifts the responsibility onto someone or something else

Result: feelings of love, respect and trust diminish, and eventually disappear altogether.

As things fall apart, our desperation intensifies. We can’t tell from which direction the denial, delusion and blame are coming from. Who’s the perpetrator? Is it she, him, them? Am I using Emotional BS on others? Worse, am I doing it to myself?

We don’t know what’s happening because the first dynamic, denial, refuses to acknowledge an essential fact. Then delusion throws up a smoke screen of distorted reality. And, of course, someone else is to blame. Personal responsibility is avoided.

At the very least, in the most benign examples of Emotional BS, something just doesn’t feel right. At worst, we’re hopelessly entangled in an impenetrable maze of denial, delusion and blame. We feel threatened and undermined, rather than supported and loved.

The negative results accumulate. The process is incremental and self-perpetuating because once we start to use the Toxic Trio, the inevitable result is a surge of the four negative emotions—anxiety, anger, pain and fear—which keep us stuck in the same seamlessly replicating process.

And because that’s all we know how to do. It’s a psychological Ponzi scheme that always requires more capital to keep from collapsing under the weight of its own deception. This cycle is deeply embedded in our lives. Ignorant of its dynamics, we’re at the mercy of repeating the same behaviors that haven’t worked it the past and will not work in the future.

That’s the hidden plague of Emotional BS at work.

For over twenty years I’ve worked with individual patients and couples as they try to understand why their relationships are filled with negative emotions. They all need the same thing: happiness and fulfillment. But all too often they’re caught in a sticky mass of frustration and blame and they don’t know how to get unstuck.

There’s Miranda, a smartly attractive professional woman who’s feeling depressed, anxious and angry. Her boyfriend just dumped her. “I’m so pissed at men who are intimidated by my success,” she says. She wonders why the men she meets aren’t as interested in personal achievement as she is. I ask how many hours she works a week. “Maybe sixty. And I travel a lot.” When I suggest this might not allow much time for a sweetheart, she bristles. “I admit my job’s very demanding, but cutting back is not an option. There’s got to be another way.” Miranda is denying the essential fact about overworking. Then she deludes herself that it’s important.

For Ted and Nanette, married over two decades, every year increases the distance between them. “We argue about everything,” Nanette says angrily. Ted replies, “So you want me to leave?” Nanette’s face shows fear. They live in an emotional desert, in which the only thing they have in common is their conviction that if only the other one would change, the parched spring of their marriage would spontaneously bubble and flow. They are both denying their personal responsibility to make meaningful changes, blaming each other for every problem.

Then there are the parents, like the over-worked attorney who brought his troubled sixteen year-old son Max into therapy because his grades were heading south. When I asked the dad what activities he liked to do with his son, he responded aggressively. “How is that relevant? The issue is Max being more responsible. Responsibility! Is that too much to ask?” He was clear about who was to blame—and it wasn’t him.

No one is intrinsically wrong. Neither Miranda nor Ted and Nanette nor Max’s father are bad or stupid people. They’re just being human and fallible, trapped in the cycle of Emotional BS. They don’t have a clue about what they truly need to build a happy, fulfilling life. Their ineffective attempts are geared to getting their short-term needs met, to getting through the day, avoiding one more argument, or repeating the same one over again. In the long run, these behaviors end up creating more misery and disconnection.

We use deception and manipulation to get what we need in the moment because, bluntly, it’s easier. Our focus on short-term gain encourages us to use denial and delusion to ignore both our emotions and long-term consequences. Then blame helps us to avoid the results. It’s expressed this way:

I want what I want when I want it—now!
And don’t bother me with the facts, or the consequences.

To this end, using deception or creating a delusional reality can be useful in countless situations. These tactics take on a number of disguises. The ability of Emotional BS to shift shape and take on disguises is boundless. Some common examples:

“You really need to loosen up. It’s not that expensive and you only live once.”

Bullshit. Your partner just got another credit card and is borrowing to keep up.

“You’ve been so careful about your diet, you deserve a treat.”

Bullshit. She’s concerned about having her own treat, not your health.

“Honey, there’s nothing going on between Sandra and me. We’re just friends.”

Bullshit. You’re already having sex with her and you hope your wife won’t find out.

“That teacher had it in for me from the first day of class. There’s no way to satisfy him.”

Bullshit. Your homework’s always late and you don’t study for exams.

“With this new policy we’ll be able to provide better service.”

Bullshit. He’s laying off essential personnel to boost profits.

When we’re in hot pursuit of the immediate goal, we’re not consciously aware that we’re distorting reality, eroding trust and destroying our happiness!

What would it be like living without Emotional BS?

Imagine waking up to an ordinary day. If you’re living with another person, (spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, or roommate) you awake with a feeling of solid contentment and confidence. Your first thoughts aren’t angry or anxious because what’s happening between you and this other person is clearly defined, out in the open, and understood. No one’s denying any essential facts, and you’re not using up lots of precious energy creating a delusional reality. You’re not blaming someone else for your problems, or being blamed for theirs.

Sure, you may have a concern about an unresolved problem, but because you have an honest, direct way of dealing with the problem, you’re pretty confident it will work out okay. You don’t worry about being ambushed, or about anyone’s hidden agenda.

Or, if you’re living alone, you have a definite idea of what you need to do for yourself, what has to happen in your life for you to feel happy and fulfilled.

Or, if you’re a parent, you feel confident about your parenting skills. Your connection to your child or children is loving and authentic, not based on mutual manipulation, fear of reprisal and acting out, or the pain of being ineffective.

In other words, you’re not caught up in Emotional Bullshit. Just as important, no one’s else in your home or family is either.

Living this way might sound idealistic. It’s not. Living an authentic life free of Emotional BS is absolutely do-able.

Emotional BS is flourishing now because of the “perfect storm” of cultural influences that constantly tempts us to abandon truth, honesty, fidelity and integrity. Our pace of life is not just hectic, it’s sometimes insane. Everything moves so fast that we hardly absorb one change before we’re hit with another. Multi-tasking is a national virtue.

In this hyper-speed environment, the focus on ethics is often seen as quaint. Again, think sub-prime mortgages and the housing bubble.

Manipulation has become a science that advertisers use to sell us more product. Politicians are not only free to repackage the truth, they depend on the manipulation of facts to maintain their power.

It’s harder and harder to tell what’s true. Is yesterday’s diet still valid? What’s the difference between a new scientific report and industrial spin? Will the job I just spent four years training for still be here next year?

All this uncertainty means that levels of anxiety are increasing exponentially. We live in a world that’s a fertile breeding ground for Emotional BS. And none of us are immune.

Many books address the problem of eroding relationships, disconnection and alienation. Some self-help books focus on teaching the important skill of communicating more effectively. Other books describe how to create an aura of positive energy, making yourself into a spiritual vacuum cleaner that sucks in benevolent forces. While these are worthwhile goals, they tend to not produce long-term positive results. There’s an initial flurry of excitement and success, followed by relapse and disappointment.

One reason is cited in John Gottman’s bestseller, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, an excellent research-based book about couples. In it Gottman decisively debunks the myth that active listening creates happier couples. It doesn’t work because it’s too difficult to use when people are involved in an argument.

Likewise, it doesn’t help much to become more understanding of a spouse or partner’s feelings. Trying to repair a relationship with understanding is like sending a bunny rabbit against a fox. The deeply rooted and sometimes vicious tactics of Emotional BS make short work of that poor bunny.

What’s been missing is recognition of the fundamental causes, the actual dynamics at work, and a thorough, easy-to-follow method to actively stop the hidden plague of Emotional BS.

This book promises and delivers three things:

One: An in-depth exploration of Emotional BS, its various components, and how each of them works to avoid detection.

Two: A way to identify Emotional BS in all your relationships, from your most intimate connection to another person to your intimate ties with yourself.

Three: A proven method I’ve used for many years to help people find their way out of the swamp of deception and manipulation. The process shows you how to define your Core Needs, and how to use a unique program of Constructive Conflict to get those needs met, so you can permanently eradicate Emotional BS from your life.

As you learn the basics about how Emotional BS works and begin to apply even a portion of this information to your life, all your relationships will be closer, more authentic, and more fulfilling. That’s a 100% bullshit-free promise.

Meet the Author

Carl Alasko, Ph.D. has been a practicing psychotherapist specializing in couples and families for over twenty years. For the past thirteen years he has written a weekly advice column, "On Relationships", for the Monterey County Herald, which has consistently been one of the Herald's most popular columns. He has also given numerous lectures on the topic of healthy relationships and has hosted a popular advice radio show. Married and the father of four children, he lives in Monterey, California.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Emotional Bullshit: The Hidden Plague That Is Threatening to Destroy Your Relationships-And How to Stop It 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really changed the way I react to people and circumstances in my life. I am especially aware of what I am responsible for and what actions and words I am choosing (key work CHOICE)

The book is easy to read and the advice in it applies to every part of a person's life. I can use the easy techniques to calm myself and SEE ANY SITUATION CLEARLY. I can use them in my parenting, my marriage, and my business.

Throughout the book I found the concept of DENIAL of one's part in a problem...and I agree that we all can slip into denial easily to avoid pain, discomfort, etc.

I also related to the "I want what I want when I want it no matter what..." concept he explains. We can all be so childish sometimes!!

A great book to own and to refer back to. I am even suggesting that my teens use some of the pointers for stopping the negative cycles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title of this book caught my attention sitting on a Barns and Noble shelf. I had to get it because I have dealing with yet another failed relationship. I am very intrigued with self-help books, however, a lot of them do not "fit" me or my situation even though it can be somewhat valuable and a lot of books imply things can change overnight. In starting this book, I honestly can say that I was not able to put it down! It was almost if I got one slap after another across my face....REALITY! WOW! This book really opened my eyes in how I react to situations in relationships, family, friends, my work environment. The examples are dead on, realistic and do not promise overnight success. You get out of it what you put into it and I have a lot of work to do BUT I will get there! Thank you for such and eye-opening amazing book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy to read, real-life scenarios and interesting concepts.
exopdx More than 1 year ago
This book is a MUST READ for those who are experiencing difficulty in any relationship, personal or professional. Dr. Alasko's explanation of the "TOXIC TRIO" describes how these three items, Denial, Delusion & Blame, create the perfect recipe for disaster... I wish I had read this book BEFORE my divorce.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago