Reading The Total Perspective Vortex by Christopher S. Putnam at Damn Interesting produced some insights into life and the personal development industry as a whole.
The basic premise of the article is that people who are “Mentally Disordered” may actually be more grounded than those that are “Normal.”
Psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown state that the average “Normal” person is quite self-deluded in three areas.
a) viewing themselves in unrealistically positive terms; b) believing they have more control over their environment than they actually do; and c) holding views about the future that are more positive than the evidence can justify
As many of you know, I’ve been working a self improvement/personal development program for several years.
So as I look back at life, I see three distinct mindsets which produced negative consequences, and they are the polar opposites of psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown’s “Normal” delusions.
- Negative self-image: A basic belief that you are bad, unquilified, and incompetent.
- Belief that life happens to you, instead of believing you actively influence it: This is a basic victim mindset, which says, since you have no control over your environment, you are a victim of fate. I believed most wealthy people became wealthy by luck or exploitation. This negative belief is directly countered in personal-development circles by teaching the Law of Attraction.
- Pessimism: I was raised in a highly restrictive religion – Seventh Day Adventism, which based it’s teachings on the end times. Just to give you a clue – the Branch Davidians were an offshoot. As a child during the cold war, I believed the world would end in a nuclear holocaust. I also spent half my adult life believing the economy would collapse and we’d enter second great deperession. You get the picture, right?
So imagine, you are a young man going through life believing you are a worthless incompetent, have no control over your life, and everything’s going to collapse anyway. Don’t misunderstand; these mindsets aren’t conscious but subconscious, so you aren’t aware of them.
Can you see why you might have a problem with the “normal” people who view themselves in positive terms, believe they have control over their environment, and are optimistic about the future? Optimistic people used to really piss me off. I thought they were completely unrealistic.
Experience tells me that many people in the personal development niche went through some degree of what I just described. Many of the gurus were homeless, drug addicted, criminal, or destitute.
So let’s say psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown are right – that high self-image, in control, optimists are self-deluded.
So the personal development work I’ve done is delusional? What about my net worth, my career, my health, my relationships, and my weight. Are they delusions as well? Unless I’m dreaming, my delusions are creating positive results in reality.
Someone once told my brother, “They’re just brainwashing you with all that self-help crap.” To which he replied, “Maybe I needed to be brainwashed.”
I pray “Normal” society never becomes grounded in Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown’s reality. I’ve been there and it sucks. I’ll take self-deluded any day.