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The Angst of Contradiction: How We Sabotage Our Own Happiness

Updated on August 16, 2011

The not so fun dance ~

There isn't a day that goes by when someone doesn't call or come by to ask about their ongoing struggles with their personal interactions. The roommate who is driving them crazy. The coworker who's driving them up a wall. The lover who just doesn't seem to "get it". The child who is in their rebellion stage. The dog that keeps peeing in the house. The relative who's trying to "convert" them to some religion or other. Political stand-offs. Etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Doesn't really matter what the topic is, it all boils down to one thing: each person is trying to be "right". Each person is trying to "prove" how right they are. Neither is willing to even listen, for one minute, or to simply ask questions to gain some semblance of understanding. Instead they are each pushing "against" the other. Each person has their point of view, their beliefs, their stance, and they're in your face arguing about why they're right and you're not. It is the most common source of angst we face in our society today. We're not fighting over food anymore. Now we're fighting over beliefs.

So how do we alter this ongoing (and often painful) dance? How do we stop the arguing and move to higher ground? How can we end the madness and live with each other, happily and harmoniously?

What most folks seem to miss about all this is the one simple commonality they each have. That is: I have my beliefs and there's no way you or anyone else is going to change those beliefs. So let's just sit here and push back and forth, back and forth, until we're both so knotted up that something horrible happens. 'Cuz there's no way in the world I'm going to back down. So there!

But what if we were to shift our focus just a little bit? What if we made a decision to do things a bit differently? What if...we stopped focusing on being "right" and took a step back...just for a minute?

The Revelation

I was a Class A, Top Notch, Award Winning "Arguer". For most of my life, I was the one standing on the table, swinging my 2 x 4, forcing everyone present to hear me out. Because, of course, I was right. I was always right. And I was very good at "proving" it. Used to drive my dad insane. Even though his mentality was, "Because I'm your father and I SAID SO!", I wasn't backing down. Didn't matter if he swung the backhand across my face. Didn't matter if he grounded me til the end of time. I was not backing down and that was that.

It wasn't until after I married (and, subsequently divorced) that I realized that being "right" wasn't the prize I was looking for after all. He was the cheater. The liar. The one who could not (or would not) face his own truths. The more I pushed him to see and accept these things, the more he pushed back. Until finally, no amount of counseling or prayer or even submission was going to save that marriage. He may have been guilty of sleeping around, but I was just as guilty of trying to change him. Just can't be done. It's not about love. It's about allowing. Allowing people to be who they are. Allowing them to grow in their own way, in their own time. Being right didn't make my marriage work. It destroyed it. I was simply too naive to understand that back then. But on the bright side, I learned volumes for the experience. It was the beginning of my own evolution. That it cost me my marriage might have been a pretty high price to pay. But then...maybe not.

A few years after we divorced he came round and asked me to dinner. Said he just wanted to talk. Said there were some things he'd realized (in hindsight). He wanted to atone. So did I. It was a wonderful way to have our closure...and move on without regret or bitterness. Probably one of the best "dates" we ever had. In the end, he told me that he simply could not stand the pressure of my need to be right. "Especially because you were. Almost all the time. It made me feel so inadequate. That is why I cheated. I needed to feel like a man."

It was a shocking revelation. But I knew he was being honest...and that he was, this time, right. I had chipped away at his own self-worth to the point of emasculation. What a horrible thing to do to the person you love. What a sad state of affairs to put righteousness before kindness. In my heart, I think his willingness to share those truths was about the best gift he ever gave me. That, and his friendship (thereafter).

It was after that meeting with my ex-husband that i began to see very clearly just how much my righteousness was eroding my own happiness. I was so bent on being right, I didn't give a rip about how miserable I was. Just so long as I was right. His courage helped me to see this character 'flaw'...and sent me on the most important mission of my life: To just BE...and allow everyone else to be too.

Let's move on, shall we?

And so the shift had occurred. All at once something clicked. Subtle as it was, it was equally powerful. Maybe that's why we call them "shifts".

The largest part of our daily angst is our determination to be right. We are so sure that ours is the best way, we wish to influence all those we meet. We may have the very best of intentions. We may wish only to have them be as happy and fulfilled as we are. Especially with regard to religious beliefs. But regardless of intent, there will always be the underlying motivation: I am right. You are wrong.

Probably one of the biggest "kickers"; religion in all its convoluted rewrites, has been (and continues to be) the largest catalyst for war and murder than any other topic known to man. Each sect claims to know "The One God", while all others are worshiping false idols. It matters not what sect it is. Few are the religious factions that will welcome newcomers from other sects with open arms, unless they think for a minute that there is a chance of conversion. We argue til we're blue in the face (or dead) over whose god is the true god. Even in the smallest circles, religion is a surefire way to get the feathers ruffled.

It is my strong belief that when we, as a species, have finally eliminated all manner of religion, then all manner of murder and other heinous acts will cease. But we're not there just yet. We still feel this intense urge to sway those who do not hold the same beliefs (as our own). It is a war that seems to have no end in sight. A war that will continue to rage until we have all, each and every one of us, come to understand our own part in the Big Picture. Only then will the killings stop. Only then will we be able to sit round the table and share food and laughter, with open hearts and love flowing through us. Until we reach that evolved and allowing place, the best thing we can do is begin to allow. Allow everyone their beliefs and just leave them BE.

Just the other day, someone wrote, "My rants about organized religions probably sound like i am trying to change the beliefs of others, but i have to continue to explain that i have no intent or desire to change one's religious beliefs, just to get them to stop judging others by their personal (or religious) standards." I had a little giggle over that one. To be fair, she was simply attempting to "agree" with what I had written. But the first thing that drew my attention was the part about "I have to continue to explain....just to get them to stop judging others..."

Is this not a judgement too? Is the need to "explain" not a means to an end? Is the desire to help people "see" what they are doing not also a means of bringing them over to "our side"? In our justifications, are we not still pushing against? I know her intentions are true. And that she wants very much to have others reach a place of peace. But it seems that she is also struggling to reach that place. It seems that there is a huge contradiction between her talk and her walk. I do not say this for any reason other than that I have soooooo been there too. I understand. I know how that feels. I most certainly empathize with this stance. But here's the thing: (back to the beginning?)....

If, in the midst of any such conversation, we were to stop for one second and ask this question, the whole matter would dissolve in a nano-second:

"Is there any thing I could say that would change your mind or the beliefs you now hold?"

This, my friends, is a surefire conversation killer. Because we all know what that answer is. So why bother having the conversation at all? As I said previously, "no way you're going to change my mind". So then...let's move on to something else, shall we?

In the end...

There is an old saying that goes: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." No truer words have ever been uttered. No matter how much I wish to "educate" or otherwise clarify what those "others" are doing, if they're not ready to hear it, they're not going to budge. They will, in fact, dig in even deeper. Whether their tenets perpetuate hate and destruction is of no bearing to them. They believe what they believe...and after all, it says so right here in the bible. Your arguments could be as righteous and provable as the stars are clear on a moonless night. It won't matter. Your words and intended guidance will fall on deaf ears. Every time. Besides all that, who are you (or I) to tell someone how and when they should evolve? As my daddy used to say, "Who died and left you in charge?" (ya gotta love that one)

But in the end, it all comes down to this: whatever we choose to focus our attention on, is precisely what we will get more of. Focus on the differences...more differences. Focus on the joy and beauty and the many great gifts we have been bestowed...we'll get more of that. When we finally realize that the most important thing we can do for ourselves and all the world is to make our own Joy our number one priority...then we will see the change we wish to live. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."'s all yours. (Go on. Click on the link...)


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    • camsolivia profile image

      Camille Olivia Strate 6 years ago from Planet Earth

      Amen, Kryptowrite (love that!) Yes, I read it too. Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill both wrote books that have withstood the test of time...if people are open to their messages. They came long before Rhonda Byrne (and her "Secret"). And then...there's Ralph Waldo Emerson. THE BEST!

      Thanks for the comment...and your reads.

    • kryptowrite profile image

      Rodney C Lawley 6 years ago from Southeastern United States

      Deep stuff for a HubArticle. It reminds me of similar times in my own life. I discovered the now antique book by Dale Carnegie entitled, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Most people blow it off because of the title, but it is the best book I have ever read, and it changed my life. The book is like a how-to-understand-and-control-people manual, and it still works today, as good as anytime in history. All people are hard-wired, be it with religion or other philosophy, learning to have a win-win interaction with these individuals is the elusive skill of gaining emotional happiness.