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The need to be right

When he formulated his hierarchy of needs, psychologist Abraham Maslow left one out.

He argued that people fulfil needs in an order of survival, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization.

But he never mentioned anything about our need to be right.

On the other hand, Alfred Adler, who founded the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, theorized that we spend most of our energies and lives trying to prove we’re right, usually out of a deep sense of inferiority.

We’d rather be right than just about anything. That need definitely belongs to the lower part of Maslow’s need pyramid right down with the need to defecate, as basic as our need to scratch when we itch.

 “For most of us, the ego will strive to decide the right answer anyway, because to make the ‘wrong choice’ leaves one feeling inferior; to make the ‘correct choice’ leaves one feeling superior,” it says in a Wikipedia article about Adler’s theories.

“Ego flees from the unbearable feeling of inferiority or the unbearable tension of ambiguity.”

If we can overcome that need, if we can respond to life and the people around us from the top half of the needs pyramid, we can operate from a new perspective.

When we stay mired in a particular mindset and defend it at every opportunity, we aren’t receptive to ideas that challenge our basic mindset, the beliefs, whether examined or not, that make us behave the way we do.

We feel the need to be consistent, that because we championed a particular point of view we must maintain it, ignoring Emerson’s point that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

When we are proselytizing and parroting what we know, we aren’t learning, merely regurgitating. Just as we can’t get our car in the garage if the door is closed, we can’t ingest new ideas if we aren’t open.

If the great discoverers of continents and concepts had stayed within the safety of the known, we’d still be wearing skins and living in caves.

There would be no Columbus, no Cabot, no Newton, no Einstein.

Just before Einstein published his paper on special relatively, a  prominent scientist declared that, other than a few details, everything was known about physics.

If he had been right, there would be no TV, no TV remote, no computers and no trips to the moon or Mars.

When we declare, by our actions if not our words, that we are right about everything, we make our world smaller.

We have to decide whether we want a worldview that’s constricting or expansive, resistant or receptive.

Is Dec. 21 the first day of winter or the start of the downhill slide toward summer?

Where we place our emphasis determines the quality of our lives. When we need to prove someone wrong and us right, when we can only see what we believe, we condemn ourselves to a perpetual Groundhog Day.

But unlike the Bill Murray character, we never learn. We’re enslaved by compulsion; we can’t help ourselves, no matter what the cost or consequence.

Yet, we learn the most when we’re wrong. Depending on how much we’ve invested in being right, it can be a painful, which might explain why we defend our position and beliefs so ardently.

Since we don’t like to be proven wrong, logic would suggest that we would understand that other people don’t either.

It doesn’t engender any feelings of warmth or intimacy when we constantly attempt to prove friends and family wrong. But it’s as if we’re enmeshed in some berserker rage, a compulsion that compels us to smash, metaphorically, the other person.

The next time we feel the anger rise, the chest tighten when we are challenged, we can step back and ask ourselves why we’re responding that way.

Author Paul Ferrini has some suggestions how to overcome our need to blame others for how we feel.

 “When you are alone, remind yourself that what you are feeling belongs to you only,” he writes in Love Without Conditions: Reflection of the Christ Mind, a book Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said was the most important she had read.

“The other person has nothing to do with what you are feeling. Disengage from all thoughts that would make the other person responsible for what you are feeling.

"Now be with your feeling and say to yourself: ‘what I am feeling shows me some aspect of myself which I am judging. I want to learn to accept all aspects of myself. I want to learn to bring love to all he wounded parts of me.”

There are endless things we can disagree about. Some people are adamant their belief about an afterlife is right, while others are equally determined the opposite view is correct,  but here, Einstein, an atheist, as always had a different point of view.

“He has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me,” he wrote about a friend. “That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

We think what we see is real, what we can touch, feel, but that, too, is an illusion, one that is equally persistent. But we, and everything else, are made of atoms, which is a close approximation of nothing, an illusion.

“An atom is smeared out in space, a wave until it is observed, which forces it out of its weirdness and into what we (think) an atom should look like,” Marcus Chown writes in The Never Ending Days of Being Dead.

Mystic Neville Goddard has some wonderful advice that has been said by many other but bears repeating:

“Whoever changes his limited self concept changes the world in which he lives.”

He is, of course, absolutely right.



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About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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