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The Problem that you don't "think" you have a Problem

Dr Matt.

My father had a saying:

If you fool yourself, you cause more harm to yourself,
than your worst enemy could ever cause.

Have you ever heard this saying? If yes, do you know who said it?
According to my dad, who has passed away, this saying comes from an old Greek philosopher.

Thank you,
Nick, 33 years old, from Nevada.

Hello Nick:

No, I haven't heard this specific saying, and I couldn't locate it through a Google or Yahoo Search.

If the source of this idea came from a Greek Philosopher, then it would have been worded differently.
The words you have given me sound like a paraphrase in contemporary language.

Of course Greek Philosophers speak Greek, not English, and when their words are translated, they bear the linguistic style of the era from which they were translated. Old English sounds very different compared to the contemporary English we speak today. Here are some sayings that reflect what your father used to say.

Buddha authored these two sayings:

"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own mind, unguarded."

"No enemy can harm one so much as one's own thoughts of craving,
thoughts of hate, thoughts of jealousy, and so on."

From "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens:

"That I should innocently take a bad half-crown
of somebody else's manufacture is reasonable enough;
but that I should knowingly reckon the spurious coin
of my own make as good money. . . . All other
swindlers upon earth are nothing
to the self-swindler."

In the 17th century, Blaise Pascal wrote:

"It is no doubt an evil to be full of faults, but it is a still greater evil
to be full of them and unwilling to recognize them, since
this entails the further evil of . . . self-delusion."

Another word for "self-delusion" is "denial." Here's what Dr Matt has said about denial:

"The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves.
Denial is a way of lying to yourself.
Denial is not a cocoon, but a cage:
Denial is not a budding step to something beautiful,
but a self-imposed prison that blocks transformation.
De Nile is not just a river in Egypt, it's an ocean that thousands drown in
whenever they fail to own their contribution to a problem."
Facing the Truth is the key to metamorphosis.

~ Matt Moody.

Something that I detail in my book, Changing Your Stripes, is how to discern those moments when you are self-deceived, and in denial. This is an extremely tough trap from which to escape, for how can you come to know that you have a problem, when you don't "think" you have a problem — yet you do, and you are oblivious and blind to it.

Tolstoi revealed one tell-tale sign of this oblivious condition of self-deception:

"For the justifications of sins, there exist false arguments,
according to which there would appear to be exceptional circumstances,
rendering the sins not only excusable, but even necessary."

When people concoct "false arguments" (yet they do not realize that this is what they are doing, they are self-deceived), they reveal their own inner turmoil. Truth be told, those who "tell the truth" have no need to contrive a rationalizing "story" in the first place. Because there is no inner conflict to resolve, there is no need for the Freudian defense mechanism of "rationalization."

In my book, I summarize the preceding principle with this pithy phrase:

"If you have to try to convince yourself . . . this means, you are not convinced."
(Changing Your Stripes, page 183).

Self-deception is a vitally important occurrence of which to become acutely aware. If you are familiar with what is called "the Secret," this wildly popular movement largely ignores the pervasive problem of "self-deception"—so, those who try to apply "the Secret" will inevitably be deceived because the plethora of ploys proffered by the unseen enemy are NOT actively acknowledged (see Ephesians 6: 12).

I have much more to say on the topic of self-deception. Here's one of over 600 sayings that I cite in my "CYS Manual" that captures a basic characteristic of self-deception, and helps us realize why a major theme in the Old Testament is "turn" and "return."

"Stupidity, outrage, vanity, cruelty, iniquity, bad faith, falsehood
We fail to see the whole array when it is facing
in the same direction as we."
.- Jean Rostand.

Nice to hear from you, Nick!


Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

* * * * * * *

The Greatest Prize
for Life's labors isn't
in material possessions
or impressive accomplishments,
but in the progress of personal character.
You labor for your own becoming, this is your richest reward.
Who You Become is your greatest possession,
make it your Masterpiece!

(Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 274)

The book, "Changing Your Stripes" presents principles for getting out of
the ditch in which you've been dumped (the difficulties of which you are a victim), and
the ditch in which you've jumped (the difficulties for which you volunteer).

"Mastering a challenging situation
is ultimately a matter of
mastering yourself!"

- Matt Moody 

"Changing Your Stripes," teaches you the principles that lead to lasting change,
making you a new kind of creature capable of communicating
with calm, even as storms of contention swirl.

If these principles resonate and ring true,
then . . . this book is for you!

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Changing Your Stripes is a
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Changing Your Stripes

Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

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