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From the Trade Paperback edition.
How You Give Your Power Away and What You Can Do
You Put People on a Pedestal
Former child movie star Shirley Temple Black discovered a flaw in the pedestal game at a young age. She recounts, "I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph." The savior she sought was also seeking a savior in her.
Idols always fall on those who worship them. The bigger the idol, the harder it crashes. If you think any person has the power, wealth, wisdom, beauty, talent, or strength to rescue you from your deficits, you set yourself up for trouble. Yes, there are people who can help, support, and teach you. No, there is no one out there who can save you. That is something you have to do yourself by recognizing you already own what you seek.
When you have a crush on someone, you will be crushed. That's why they call it a crush. You crush reality out of the other person by seeing them through the eyes of fantasy, while you crush your own self-worth. Face it: Crushes buy you a ticket to a wild emotional roller-coaster ride. For every giddy rush you experience, you will soon be plummeting. Mr. Right smiles at you and you are in heaven; the next day he looks the other way and you are in hell. And you call this a relationship? You wrap your soul in a little package, hand it to someone you don't even know, and instruct them, "Here, do with this as you wish."
Crushes stay in force only from a distance. It is easy to make a god out of a movie star, rock idol, sports hero, girl in the class above you, executive across the hall, someone else's spouse, or amorphous cyberspace fantasy lover. But if you spent time on a daily basis with your idol, you would discover they are a real person, just like you. You would find things you like about them and things you don't like. He compares you to his former lovers and picks his toenails at the kitchen table. She has morning breath and unresolved father issues. In a short time your fantasy lover crashes from Mount Olympus to Brooklyn. Ah, now you can have a real relationship, built from the earth up instead of heaven down. And along the way you will discover your own worth, intrinsic in you rather than bestowed by them.
If you indulge someone else putting you on a pedestal, be prepared for an insurrection. When they discover you are not who they thought you were or they cannot have you, out come the spears. It takes just a six-inch fall for a halo to become a noose. Rock star Selena was killed by the former president of her fan club. To avoid such an untimely demise, stand naked in your humanity and refuse to accept goo-goo-eyed adoration, which always comes with a price tag.
In the course of my work I have occasionally received letters from women who believe I am their soul mate. While I feel complimented, there is one problem in the equation: They don't really know me. They read my book or attended my seminar, and decided I am the one for them. (Yes, I have done the same kind of thing.) When this first happened, I didn't know how to handle their expression of affection and gave them ambiguous responses or none. But my nonplan backfired. Sooner or later I would receive an angry letter chastising me for letting them down and not being the person I claimed to be. But I never claimed to be that person. They claimed I was that person, and were upended by their lofty expectations. Then six months later I would receive another letter saying, "Please forgive me. I was insane." Now I am very careful not to put others on a pedestal or encourage anyone to do the same to me. I respond as one perfectly imperfect human being to another, which honors them along with me, and paves the way for true communication. Plato explained, "True friendship can occur only among equals."
Cults are an extreme example of giving power away to a spiritual leader. Rather than projecting romantic fantasies, followers project religious fantasies. But the dynamics are the same; self-effacement always leads to anger, depression, and self-strangling. Religious leaders with integrity do not accept such adoration, but deflect their followers' desire to idolize. They demonstrate by example there is just as much God in the student as the teacher. Buddhists teach, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." If you encounter someone who you believe embodies more divinity than you, get rid of the notion immediately. We are all equal expressions of the Great Spirit, and you only hurt yourself by elevating someone above you. Why become a Buddhist when you can become a Buddha? Carl Jung exclaimed, "Thank God I am not a Jungian." I wonder if Jesus might say something similar. The cult mentality leads to aberrant behavior like mass suicides at Jonestown and Heaven's Gate. Bottom line: If someone tells you what tennis shoes to wear, run like hell.
It's going to be tricky falling in love with yourself if you are fascinated with someone else. You can love someone, respect them, learn from them, have a fabulous time with them, and honor them as a role model. Just don't diminish yourself in the process. We are told that Jesus said, "Even greater things than I, shall you do," indicating he regarded his students as powerful in their own right. Recognize that power within you, and you won't have any pedestals crashing on you. Don't just love the one you're with--be the one you love.
You Imitate Instead of Create
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but self-suffocating if you do not grow beyond it. Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, "Imitation is suicide." To those who do not recognize their unique worth, imitation looms attractive; to those who know their strength, imitation represents an unacceptable compromise.
In the early stages of skill or character development, imitation is helpful if you choose a good role model. When I first learned to cook, I used recipes and turned out some tasty dishes. But after a while I grew bored. Why follow someone else's formula when I could create my own? After that, I never cooked the same dish twice. Cooking became a great adventure! Imitating role models is like using training wheels on a child's bicycle; they help you get going, but once you find your own rhythm and balance, you fly faster and farther without leaning on them.
In relationships, imitation can hurt us if we subconsciously hold poor role models. If, as a child, you observed people whose lives sucked, you may have accepted their fear and pain as normal and gone on to settle for what they did. Then you espouse your culture's prejudices, re-create your parents' marriage, and become the parent your parents were to you. If you were empowered by the models you observed, you are good to go. But if what you saw delivered heartache, you cannot afford to perpetuate it. If you do not make strong choices for yourself, you will reap the results of the weak choices of others.
In the field of entertainment, our culture glorifies celebrities who are talented in one domain but have not come to terms with the deeper issues of their lives. They look great on-screen, run like lightning on the football field, or boast impressive bottom lines on their financial statements--but when they step offscreen or off the playing field, their personal lives are disastrous. Then you read about them ODing, shooting someone, or mucking through a colossal divorce battle. They are great role models for talent, but terrible models for character. If you are going to emulate someone, focus on their talent, not their aberration. Or just pick someone who is happy.
Imitation also backfires on us in education. As sophisticated as our school system is, it still rewards conformity far more than originality. If you learn how to play the school game, you can regurgitate your way through your doctorate and still live a million miles from joy. Many of my college psychology professors were neurotic, confused, and caught up in a gnarly rat race of performance, competition, and mind games. Meanwhile, the custodian who cleaned their offices whistled, smiled, and had a kind word for everyone he met. Who was closer to winning the game of life?
In many industries you can maintain a livelihood by executing the formula. Mass-market movies have a formula, as do novels and marketing plans. They work, and they work for a reason. But such creations are typically nonmemorable and do not make any significant contribution except to put money in the pockets of the producers. Blessed is the person who is willing to follow their gut impulse to create something unique, beyond the known. Think of the movies, books, teachers, and friends who have affected you most deeply, and you will realize that they did not fit the mold. They touched you because their creations were motivated by inspiration, not desperation. The world is changed not by those who do what has been done before them, but by those who do what has been done inside them.
Creativity is as much a muscle as the heart,
and no less vital.
The more creative you are, the more creative you become; deny your visions, and they atrophy. Creative people are tapped into an endless resource of ideas. A creator's dilemma is not running out of material; it is what to do with all the material knocking at the door of imagination. (Bumper sticker: Reality is for people who can't deal with imagination.) You will not connect with your muse by following the herd; most of them are rambling over a cliff. A smaller flock will take off when they reach the edge. If you have been hypnotized to believe you are a lemming, you will plunge with the crowd. If you remember you have wings, you will soar.
Fortune is not something that happens to you.
It is something you create.
You can make anything work in your favor. Study your role models, accept the gifts they have bestowed, and leave behind what does not serve you. Then you can say, like Gary de Rodriguez, "I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors' tragedies and declare triumph, and know that they are cheering me on."
You Don't Listen to Your Intuition
Goethe proclaimed, "When you finally trust yourself, you will know how to live." If you look back on mistakes you have made, you can usually identify a little voice inside your head that was nudging you otherwise. "I can't believe I overlooked all the red flags," you may note. We get into trouble not because we do not know what to do, but because we do not pay attention to what we know.
While you might regret not heeding your inner voice, the experience leaves you with an important lesson:
You have access to impeccable wisdom all the time.
Imagine a radio station that we'll call KNOW broadcasting sound advice from somewhere deep inside you 24 hours a day. Then imagine you have a tuner capable of receiving its signal. If you set your tuner to the right frequency, you hear the broadcast and pick up vital information. If your dial is set elsewhere, you miss the message.
You were born with your tuner set to KNOW. Children and animals have their tuners well set; they know who they are and can sense people and situations that match their well-being or threaten it. As you became socialized, you were seduced away from KNOW. You were taught that you are selfish if you do what you really want to do; wrong if you disobey your parents' wish for the kind of mate they would choose for you; or foolish if you pursued a career in the arts that did not net an income as lucrative as computer programming. Eventually externally-generated signals drowned out the voice of KNOW, and you felt lost and confused. But you are not stupid; you just disregarded what you knew in deference to the outer voices shrieking at you.
Ignorance and errors are easily rectified by respecting your inner genius. Several years ago I was planning to meet my musician friend, Charley Thweatt, in Los Angeles for a seminar we were to co-present. Charley's flight was scheduled to arrive at 10 a.m., but in order for me to arrive around that time, I would have had to fly out of Portland around 6 a.m. Although I could have done this, something inside me told me to book a later flight. I judged myself as being lazy and felt guilty for asking Charley to wait hours for me, but I decided to go with my gut and I booked a flight to land around 2 p.m. When I arrived, Charley was not there. I phoned his airline and learned that his connecting flight through Denver had been delayed by snow. He finally arrived at 3 p.m. Listening to my inner voice paid off big time.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Posted June 30, 2009
I Also Recommend:
I found this book to be extremely humorous, highly entertaining and invaluably insightful. The title of the book made me laugh right away, and is the reason I bought it in the first place. I was just in THAT kind of mood! I spend a great deal of time in a hair salon, being a hairdresser, and almost every person that sat in my chair and noticed the book asked about it and said they'd like to read it. I felt like buying several copies of it to hand out as gifts, since most human beings feel as though our lives suck at some point. This book jumped off the shelf and into my hands and gave me a much needed boost of inspiration and comfort during a terrible time in my life. I highly recommend it.
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Posted January 29, 2013
Posted January 30, 2007
I bought this book around X-mas time as a spare gift because the title tickled me. I ended up reading it from cover to cover, in my spare time, over the course of a few days. As a reader of hundreds of books of this genre (always looking to 'improve' myself as is in vogue) I can honestly say that, despite his benign 'real life' examples and platitudes, there was not a sentence contained within that did not pack a 'punch'. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nothing NEW here, but Cohen has a way of writing that makes one want to continue onward. Practical, common-sense wisdom here...a great book, I think, for teen-agers and young adults so as to help them AVOID some of the pitfalls that make life suck.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 11, 2006
I used this book as a Book of the Month for our Sunday Service. It is an easy read with great, life changing information. I loved the humor, profound yet simple Truth and the opportunity to see myself and others in a brand new way. Read the book. Blessings, Rev. Carrie Lauer COSA Chatsworth, CAWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 4, 2005
Frankly, there are so many contradictions and ludicrous assertions in this book that I am going to have to limit myself to examining only a handful for the sake of space. These were taken from chapter 1 alone and they represent only the tip of the iceberg. One of the authors assertions is that we all have access to an impeccable source of wisdom deep within ourselves that we simply don't listen to because it's voice has been drowned out over time by the erroneous things we have been taught. If we would only listen to the voice, we are told it would guide us to our 'right place'. 'Children and animals have their tuners well set they know who they are and can sense people and situations that match their well-being or threaten it.' Really, Mr. Cohen? Is that why children are easily lured into the lair of sexual predators until they are TAUGHT how to avoid them? Or why children may wander out into a busy street to play until they are TAUGHT not to? Or why they want to drink that furniture polish because it's such a pretty blue color until they are TAUGHT not to? To further demonstrate the virtues of our internal wisdom vs. the evils of learned behavior, he cites the example of a childhood classmate who was rebuked by his teacher for being the class clown. 'Fortunately, (he) paid no attention to his teacher and went on to become the most successful humor writer in America.' Mr. Cohen, although it may be true that some children assume the role of class clown because they truly see humor in everything, are you so ignorant as to be unaware the vast majority of them do so to gain attention they are desperately craving due to a poor self image? Your encouragement of their behavior, therefore, flatly contradicts one of your more accurate assertions that 'you give your power away when you make someone or something outside of you more important that what is inside of you.' Here's another good one....don't you find it amazing how some 'self-help' authors will try to get away with using one or two sentences from the teachings of Jesus (or any other religious leader) out of context because they APPEAR to support their views, while ignoring many other teachings that flatly contradict them? Mr. Cohen tells us Jesus said to his students, 'Even greater things than I, shall you do.' He then takes the liberty of interpreting the verse for us: 'indicating he (Jesus) regarded his students as powerful in their own right.' Mr. Cohen, before arriving at such an interpretation, you might consider that Jesus also said 'I am the vine, you are the branches.....for apart from me you can do nothing', and again, 'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be MY witnesses...' Notice Jesus did not say 'you were born with this great power within, now go forth and tell everyone they have no need of me because of the great power that already dwells within them.' This book is full of such 'evidence' that is insulting to the intelligence of any thinking person. As further 'proof' of the infallibility of our internal wisdom he states 'Studies indicate a higher rate of last-minute cancellations for airline flights that crash.' I would most certainly like to know the sources for these ambiguous 'studies' since none of them are given credit in the bibliography. It's like the old sales pitch for 'subliminal' teaching tapes which can supposedly change your life just by listening to them. As evidence, they always site one movie that was shown in 1957 which had an imbedded subliminal message that basically said 'eat popcorn and drink coke.' Well, sales for popcorn and coke were higher than normal that evening so, presto, they have their 'irrefutable' evidence that subliminal works. What they don't tell you is that competent authorities in psychology have tried to recreate the same results countless times since and have NEVER been able to! My point is simply this: you can prove almost anything to be 'true' if you are allowed to select
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Posted January 13, 2010
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Posted August 21, 2011
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Posted February 10, 2009
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Posted April 19, 2011
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