This book, Psychopedia: !81 Life PrinciplesBecoming Happier and More Successful,, is based on Dr. Shaw's work with his patients over the past twenty-one years. It can be used by patients, lay people, and other practitioners as well.
Dr. Shaw received a PhD in Psychology from the City University Graduate Center in 1985, a Master's in psychology from the New School in 1977, and a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Queens College, where he was graduated Magna cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He was recently named Manhattan's top Life Coach and Dynamic Psychologist for the second year in a row.
Dr. Shaw's website is www.drjeffreyshaw.com. He is also an avid photographer, and a website of some of his photographs is www.jeffshawphotos.com.
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181 LIFE PRINCIPLES TO HELP YOU TO BE HAPPIER AND MORE SUCCESSFUL
By JEFFREY S. SHAW
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Dr. Jeffrey S. Shaw, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
I consider the first set of seventeen principles "general" because their truth and usage apply to many important, general areas of our lives, such as work, health, relationships, and other factors affecting our overall happiness and progress. So let's begin.
1. Unconsciousness needs are never satisfied.
I often say to people I work with that, although I am not a Freudian therapist, Freud was a wonderful theoretician, and this principle is probably his most important. I demonstrate this principle to people by saying the following: "Suppose at 4:30 in the afternoon, you realize something has been bothering you all day. Then you realize that at around 10:15 that morning, Tina (or someone else) said something to you that set you off. As soon as you realize this, the feeling gnawing at you dissipates and sometimes even goes away entirely."
The applicability of this principle is quite pervasive. If you are dating someone who has a particular problem (relationship commitment, for example) and you believe that by acting "better" or in a "more desirable way," things will improve, this is rarely the case. Unfortunately the other person is unlikely to change, as the source of the problem is usually not at his or her conscious level. Unless he or she works through the problem in therapy, or by some other means of probing more deeply, the problem will probably persist, and little meaningful change is likely to occur.
So if a person I am working with has a relationship problem (with a significant other, family member, friend, or colleague), I strongly encourage the person to urge that other person to go into therapy. Otherwise, the prognosis for the relationship's working out well is quite poor.
Now, it should be pointed out that in these days, much progress can be made in therapy in a relatively short time period, in months or even weeks. This can be attributed to two factors. First, there is a more extensive use of cognitive therapy by which thinking differently can change the way one feels far more quickly than traditional psychoanalytic therapy during which feelings are changed as a result of examining feelings and their root causes quite extensively and exhaustively. Second, in recent therapy work, the therapist can be far more than the "blank slate" of traditional psychoanalytic therapy, providing advice, interpretations, and support more readily than in more traditional therapies.
Here is an example of how a new conscious understanding of something can propel someone one who was "stuck" to move ahead: A man I was working with was in the process of divorcing his wife, in part because she had been very promiscuous during the past year or two of their marriage. He seemed to be accumulating more and more evidence against her, to a point where I felt, if he had about one quarter of the evidence that he had, that he would have had an excellent case toward proceeding with divorce actions. Finally, one day in therapy I said to him that, compared to many other people, he seemed to need to accumulate a great deal of evidence before proceeding to a next step, and I asked him if there was anything in his background that could be related to this hesitancy.
He replied, "Yes, when I was young, people in my family often hid the truth from me." To this I said, "Your investigating very thoroughly may have been a good strategy in the past, but it appears to be an antiquated strategy now." He replied, "Thank you, Dr. Shaw, for releasing me from this pattern."
I wasn't sure that discussing this topic only once would "release" this man from his pattern, but apparently it did, as he swiftly went about attending to and completing the steps necessary to get a divorce.
The reason "unconscious needs are never satisfied" is the number-one principle I discuss is its extremely wide applicability, not only in relationships with significant or potential significant others but with many other people as well. This principle applies to parents, children, siblings, friends, coworkers, building supers, and so on.
Another common applicability of this principle is in work environments, where people often believe that they can win over difficult to please bosses by working much harder. In reality, these substantial extra efforts rarely win over the boss. Why? Because the cause of the boss' behavior is at the boss' unconscious level, and change is unlikely to occur unless that cause is addressed.
Perhaps "unconscious needs are never satisfied" is the reason that many therapists and other advisors often say, "You can't change other people; you can only change your reaction to them." What I believe is that important changes to other people are only likely to occur if the other person is in therapy or goes into therapy.
2. A man is a person of the male gender with all of his feelings, and a woman is a person of the female gender with all of her feelings.
This principle was first presented to me by my former therapist, Dr. Gerald Lucas, when I was in therapy with him in the 1970s. Dr. Lucas subsequently became a supervisor of mine and has since run an institute teaching Modern Psychoanalysis for many years in New York City.
I had discussed the issue of masculinity and "being a man" with a previous therapist on and off over a two-year period but felt we had gotten nowhere. After Dr. Lucas presented this principle to me just one time, I felt completely settled with this issue and no longer needed to discuss it.
As I have thought about this principle over the years, I have realized that we can see it expressed in our lives in many different forms, especially music. For example, the songs "I've Got to Be Me" and "I Did It My Way" certainly express this idea. Another example comes from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express, when the steam train overcomes strong odds to win a race against mightier competition and proclaims, "I am the Starlight." Again, being "oneself" is the best way to live and usually leads to success and happiness.
On this topic, with people I work with, I often relate a conversation I had with a very bright philosophy student I knew when I was in my early twenties, shortly after I graduated from college.
I told this person that I was experiencing an "identity crisis." I told him that I liked some things that were quite silly like "bubble gum" music (yes, the "bubble gum" music of the 1970s). However, I also appreciated "intelligent" foreign films as opposed to most American movies, which I found to be quite shallow. In addition, I was concerned about what others thought of me. The graduate student responded as follows: "First of all, you're just you. You're Jeff. Second of all, it is better to like something than to not like something, because liking something gives you a more pleasurable feeling than not liking something." That made sense.
To his statement, I add that anyone who knows something you don't know and communicates this in an arrogant or condescending manner is not someone you should be concerned about impressing anyway.
Not surprisingly, people's concerns about their identities and their being appropriate is quite pervasive in this world. For example, there is the line in "Strawberry Fields Forever," by the Beatles, that goes, "No one I think is in my tree. I think it must be high or low." In citing this line, I say to people that it appears even the Beatles had concerns about being on track with others.
3. For every yes, there is a no, or very few decisions in life are 100 percent to zero.
An example of this principle is the following. Harvard Business School came up with a list of eighteen possible factors to consider if one were evaluating a job opportunity, for example, remuneration, contributions to society, work environment, time to spend with family, etc. I believed eighteen were far too many factors to evaluate, so I asked people to choose six of these factors that they found most important. In evaluating a job opportunity, or comparing two job offers, I then asked people to use these six factors.
One woman I was working with was trying to choose between a job as a lawyer in a large corporate firm or opening her own office as an attorney. In using the six important criteria, she said four were more in line with opening her own office, and the other two were basically ties. So I said, "I guess the choice is obvious" to which she replied, "But I want it all." After some thought of the principle that very few decisions are 100 percent to zero, she chose to open her own firm and has becomes very successful.
4. Sometimes, in decision making, one or a few factors "carry the day."
Perhaps when faced with a certain decision, all of us at one time or another have been told to make a list of the pros and cons. While this can be important and helpful, it also should be pointed out that at times it is not the number of pros versus cons that matter, as sometimes only a few of the factors are most important and "carry the day."
I first realized this when I was working with a couple who was trying to decide in which of two areas to live. In comparing the two areas on ten criteria, they preferred area one as opposed to area two on nine of the ten criteria. In response, I said, "I suppose the decision is easy; it's area one." They replied, "No, the most important factor is overall environment, and area two provides that best."
5. The way one thinks often causes one to feel a certain way.
This is the basic idea of cognitive therapy, which has become so much more widely used in the past thirty years or so. In describing this principle, I often use an example from a book called Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman, a recent president of the American Psychological Association and author of many books. The example is as follows: If your boss says to you that you made a mistake, and you say to yourself, "I never do anything right," you will probably feel pretty bad. In fact, almost every time I say this to people I work with, I feel a little pit in my stomach. However, if instead you say something like "Oh, my boss is in a bad mood today" or "This job is rough today, but most days are not this bad," you are likely to feel different.
This is the basis of cognitive therapy, that the way one thinks (that is, one's cognitions) can often determine the way one feels. Cognitive restructuring involves thinking differently so that one may feel differently.
Another example I like to use is of a woman who took a one-night course and was extremely upset that she did not like it. She felt particularly upset because she was a teacher, and she believed she took her teaching responsibilities more seriously than the teacher of the one-night course. Also she thought she had wasted her money, and her father had always communicated to her about the importance of spending money wisely.
After some discussion of this situation, I asked this woman, "Is there any way you can think about this so you may not feel so bad?" She replied, "I suppose all courses are not so bad." I asked, "So what do you plan to do next?" She quickly replied, "I suppose I'll take another course," and she appeared to feel much better.
One of the important things about the cognitive reconstructing process, discussed in some detail in the works of Albert Ellis, is that it leads someone to replace one way of thinking with an alternative way, as opposed to just saying that person should not feel or think a certain way. Of course, it is important in cognitive reconstructing that the alternative way of thinking is in line with reality, not just a way of thinking to make one feel better, regardless of reality.
For example, if you are consistently late for a job you do not like, rather than thinking you are a "bad person" for being late you might consider that you are late because you dislike the job. Inappropriate cognitive reconstructing in this case might be "My boss is too picky" or "Why is being on time for many jobs so important?"
6. Situational attributions or external interpretations of events are usually more appropriate than personal attributions or internal interpretations.
Very often we interpret things that happen to us as personal as opposed to situational. For example, if a woman is dating a man who has "commitment phobia," and the relationship does not work out she may say, "What did I do wrong to cause this?" The answer is "Nothing! The problem was the man's, not yours." The problem is external to the woman.
This tendency of people to interpret negative things that happen to them as personal is quite prevalent. Even women who are abused often ask themselves if they did something to bring on the abusive behavior. This is usually not the case. Similarly, both men and women, even in a very poor job market, may ask themselves what is wrong with them that they are unable to find a good job. In actuality, the poor job market is making it so difficult for them, as well as many others, to find a job.
Inappropriately using personal attributions over more appropriate situational ones is probably the result of parenting. Many parents tend to overly blame children for offenses the children didn't really cause. Also, the tendency for children to blame themselves or overuse of personal attributions may to some extent be a natural tendency. For example, when a couple divorces, children often need to be reassured that they are not the cause of the separation.
7. Awareness is the first step in the process of change; monitoring is the next step.
Awareness certainly is the first step toward change, which is in line with my first principle that "unconsciousness needs are never satisfied." So, if you is not aware of the problem consciously, it will continue to grate on you, and then you can rarely, if ever, make much progress.
However, once you are "aware" of the problem, you usually have to "monitor" the new, desired behavior. By "monitor" I mean to be on top of yourself to carry out the revised behavior. For example, if someone decides it is important to exercise more, he still must "push" himself at first. Usually, within a reasonably short time frame, however, the new desired behavior usually becomes habitual, and this "pushing" or "monitoring" is no longer necessary.
8. The Yorker-Dodson Law: The relationship between arousal or anxiety and performance is represented by an upside down U curve.
I have often fantasized about this diagram being right behind me as I sat at my desk so it could be strongly associated with me. What this diagram says is, if we have very little or no anxiety, we will likely perform poorly; however, if our anxiety level is too high, we very well might also perform poorly.
Some middle-level of anxiety usually maximizes performance, enough that we are well motivated but not so much that it interferes with the performance.
The optimal level of arousal or anxiety differs for different tasks. For a "boring" task, like balancing one's checkbook, one may need to "increase" one's level of arousal by, for example, drinking a cup of coffee, as the task itself provides such a low level of arousal that without more stimulation, productivity is very difficult.
For other acts or behaviors that can be very anxiety-provoking, for example, going on a first date or going on a job interview, one may need to calm oneself down in order for things to work out better. Often, in working with people, I must assess whether they need to increase their arousal to carry out something (e.g., "Why don't you drink a cup of coffee before doing that boring task?") or if they need to lower their arousal my commenting, e.g., "If you're nervous about the job interview, just remember, you only need one job and there could be many jobs out there that might be suitable for you."
9. Uncertainty breeds anxiety.
This principle applies to many areas of life, especially when we have periods of change or transition. For example if you start a new job, undergraduate program, or graduate program, you do not necessarily know how things are going to work out. You don't know who the people you must interact with are, where certain resources are, or what your exact responsibilities might be.
I have found that sometimes people, myself included, don't perform as well as they hoped the first semester in a new program, because they are not sure about things mentioned above and also how to organize their studying. Once you have one semester under your belt in a new academic program you can often feel better about yourself, and the anxiety is reduced. You then feel more confident and are very likely to perform better.
Excerpted from PSYCHOPEDIA by JEFFREY S. SHAW. Copyright © 2014 Dr. Jeffrey S. Shaw, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One: General Principles, 1,
Chapter Two: Making Progress: Cognitive Approaches, 17,
Chapter Three: Making Progress: Strategic Approaches based on Cognitive Reasoning, 23,
Chapter Four: Understanding People, 39,
Chapter Five: Relationships—General Facts, 47,
Chapter Six: Relationships—Communication Techniques, 55,
Chapter Seven: Getting Into, Being In, and Getting Out of Relationships, 63,
Chapter Eight: Some Relationship Issues with Family, 71,
Chapter Nine: Work Issues, 73,
Chapter Ten: Therapy and Medication Issues, 83,
Chapter Eleven: Other Important Topics: Addiction, Nutrition, Exercises Issues, and One Concluding Comment, 97,