| Ask Dr Matt | Call Dr Matt | Meet Dr Matt | Quotable Quotes | The Book | Archive |


Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

Archive of Dr Matt's Answers
to Burning Questions

Come visit Dr Matt at Facebook!

"Perfect honesty and simplicity consists not in devoting attention to oneself,
even when one's aims are lofty, but in forgetting oneself and responding to others
in love, according to their needs. We are not oysters existing in shells — even though
that is how we may feel when we become self-involved. Instead, we are connected to each other, and especially to God, by spiritual sensitivities and obligations
profound as eternity. And just for that reason, we become most
ourselves when we are most true to God and to one another.
We become most right with ourselves
when we are most right with them."
~ C. Terry Warner 


The Meaning of Being in the Moment and Living in the Now:
Living Life from the Heart . . . or "by the Numbers" 


Dear Dr. Matt,

My name is Candi. I live in California. I'm 50 and single. I've read varying viewpoints about "living in the now" and "being in the moment." I'm interested in your ideas on this topic.



Dear Candi:

First, both people who live "selfishly" versus people who live "empathically," can claim the descriptions of "being in the moment," and "living in the now" — but the two experiences will be diametrically different! People who live for themselves, ineviatably live "in their head." Living life selfishly is centered upon "figuring out" how to get others to play the roles we egocentrically assign them, so they can better accomodate our selfish agendas.

There are pre-packaged paintings you can create "by the numbers." Each number corresponds to a particular color. When the so-called "art" is completed, even though all the right colors are in the right place, the painting as a whole looks stiff and unnatural.

Here's an article by one of my mentors, C. Terry Warner. He explains why living life by the numbers (or by self-serving steps and rules) keeps our head clogged with an ego-centric agenda, and thus, we fail to see and feel and care for the people that stand before our eyes.

We fail to do that which is most important: Love!

Another way of getting into your "Head" and thus fail to feel and sense the realties that "NOW" presents in terms of the realities within your sphere of perception and influence. For example visualizing positive affirmations, a Head activity, can be done in two different ways: 1) As a means to Plan & Prepare during Private Times and actually engagin one's heart in meditation or prayer; versus, getting into one's Head as way of allegedly harnessing the Powers of the Universe.

Visualizing good goals can be a good thing, depending upon how and when a person does this. For example, taking personal time to plan for appointments, events, and things to do — visualizing how one might accomplish certain goals — this can be beneficial when done during private times. Here, the intention of visualizing is to plan and prepare, and it is NOT done in social moments when you are with another person.

So, once you have prepared yourself, and you begin moving forward to accomplish your goals, it is vital to be in the moment with those you come in contact. Your focus is on hearing others and loving them, and not upon the achievement of goals. With the wrong mindset, you may be tempted to view each person in your immediate presence as merely a means to attaining your ends.

Here's a further explanation from one of my main mentors:

Visualizing with My Head

The Problem with Self-Improvement Goals
by C. Terry Warner 

Let us examine a little more closely the reasons why changing our heart cannot be a matter of goal-setting and rule-following.

When we begin by setting a goal, we project an image into the future of the kind of person we want to be. Then we guide our conduct by the image we have visualized, rather than hearkening to the summons of conscience that may come to us. We pay minimal attention to the hopes and needs of the people around us and concentrate on our project. We tend to see others as helping or hurting the project — we use others for our purposes and ignore their needs and desires. Thus we maintain an alienated "I-It" relationship with them, rather than "I-Thou" relationship.

There is a danger of this selfish blindness even if our stated goal is to help others — even if in our goal we visualize an image of them, and not just an image of ourselves. Our pursuit of the goal is still selfish and insensitive because it is our goal we are pursuing, even if we believe it is "for their own good." Having projected this goal, we help them in the way we envision rather than in the way they need. And inevitably they will sense this self-centeredness and feel misused. Here are some examples of how our goals of self-improvement actually block genuine improvement, specifically, a change of heart:

Couple Infatuated with Each Other

** A bride or groom infatuated with the idea of falling in love -- rather than loving each other genuinely.

** Parents who imagine themselves presiding over an orderly home with obedient, cheerful children -- rather than simply being devoted to those children.

** Administrators enthralled with the idea of dynamic and successful leadership -- rather than concerned and delighted to help others succeed.

** Teachers, doctors, or attorneys embarking on a career in which they hope to be impressive, respected, or adored -- rather than setting out to serve.

All of these "self-improvement" goals are more preoccupied with the image of an ideal or impressive life-project than with hearkening to the hopes and needs of others; hence they are bound to fail in terms of meaningful improvement. Their goals are not to help the real people they will live and work with from day to day and hour by hour, but to make sure they become the heroes or heroines of their own stories. Inevitably, others will not play the roles these stories assign them, and they will be resented by the selfish-story-maker for their lack of cooperation.

Only a life-project committed to the happiness and success of other people will not turn bitter on the vine. There is, then, a vast difference between trying to change oneself, self-improvement, according to one's self-serving idea of what it is to be good, and actually being good.

Many self-betrayers rigidly, desperately, even fanatically pursue goals to ensure that their story will end in their favor, for them; they live with the stratagem of self-promotion and self-protection. Inevitably, they belong among those who live for themselves. But being good requires living for others, because only this way can we be authentic. This requires openness to others in the moment, and openness to the natural world around us; it requires listening and doing what love dictates — such leads to a change in self that matters, an authentic and lasting improvement.

For the only change that matters is a change of heart. Every other change alters us cosmetically but not fundamentally; modifies how we appear, what we do or what we say, but not who we are.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

by Matt Moody Ph.D. 

When Warner uses the term "rule-following," he is not talking about "commandment-following." Rules, in his view, are "How-to-do's" and Commandments are "What-to-do's." And the two notions exist worlds apart!

How-to-do's are technological recipes that supposedly guarantee a given result as specific step by step "rules" are followed. It is precisely these "rules" that clutter and cloud our minds, when we could be clearly tuned-in to the needs and concerns of people we might love and serve.

We choose to focus on the "rules" because we egocentrically hope to enlist others in the service of our SELFISH-improvement goals. But human beings are not machines that automatically deliver desired results according to manipulations and strategic stimuli — the technological recipes geared to guarantee results.

The book "Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus" by John Gray, provides a typical example of rule-driven self-improvement strategies. The following "rules" are given to facilitate (manipulate) the reaching of a stated "goal":

          1. Remember anger comes from not understanding her point of view. 
          2. Remember that feelings don't always make sense right away.
          3. Remember that anger may come from not knowing what to do to make things better.
          4. Remember you don't have to agree to understand her point of view.
          5. Remember you don't have to understand her point of view to succeed in being a good listener.

Following rules like this is a good example of the "rule-following" that, according to Warner, cannot lead to a "change of heart." This is because the rule-follower is failing to do the very thing that will open the way to a change of heart: Sincerely listening to the needs and concerns of another person.

Instead of being sensitive to others, instead of loving and serving others, and being in the moment for others, rule-followers get "in-their-heads" to busily remember rules 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 in order to attain a self-serving goal.

By selflessly being "in the moment" with others, and by loving them, we do not disappear ourselves; instead, we create who we are in its highest expression. This is precisely why we say "God is Love." Our "being" is literally created in each and every relationship we have with others:

Being Loving is the highest expression of the human self.

Candi, every expression of our be-ing is manifest through a be-with -- being with someone else or something else! The very presence of other things and beings is what makes our be-ing possible. Hence, the richest manifestation of "be-ing in the moment" means "being-with one's context completely"—having an awareness of all that surrounds you and loving all things and beings in your presence.

Thus, the very best way to "LISTEN WITHOUT GETTING ANGRY" is much more simply conceived, compared to investing mental concentration on rules 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 — ironically focusing IN on a set of rules in the very moment we are conversing with a potentially provoking person. So listening to this person, who we stand toe to toe with, might be a superior approach to NOT provoking this person by our inattention.

The True Principle is expressed in the Bible:

"We sing praises of our Lord and Father, and with the same tongue invoke
curses upon our fellow-beings, who are made in God's likeness.
Out of the same mouth come praises and curses.
My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Does a fountain send forth from the same place
sweet water and bitter? Can a fig-tree yield olive berries,
or a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
~ James 3: 9-11 

Pure Waters from Pure Fountain

So, how do we apply this Principle to the aim of "LISTENING WITHOUT GETTING ANGRY"?

We become a Pure Fountain from which Sweet Water flows! We become the kind of person who is patient and not prone to anger. I call the propensity to becoming provoked/angry the Provoke-Ability Quotient, or P.Q.

Exactly how do we Change ourselves to this new kind of creature who remains calm amid strife?

You and I cannot cause a profound Change from our Core through determined will power; rather, we are Changed through the exact opposite approach and attitude — we must yield our selfish wills, to His Will.

Further, we cannot cause such a profound Change to occur directly, but only indirectly. As we believe in Christ and choose to faithfully follow His Loving Ways, we are Changed — the Savior directly makes us Pure Fountains from which spontaneously flows Sweet Water.

John Gray's List of 5 Rules is a Head Strategy: It encourages you to invest mental attention upon the Rules instead of the Person. This kind of Head Strategy clouds and confuses empathic sensitivities; and as you are insensitive, the person in your presence will discern that you are In Your Head and not In the Moment — the person in your presence will sense that you are not hearing and responding to the realities of NOW.

Feeling ignored and unheard, ironically, Rule-Followers give the Ignored Person a reason to be provoked, which in turn invites the very emotion that the Rules were designed to avoid — Anger! Paradoxically, John Gray's 5-Rules on "HOW TO LISTEN WITHOUT GETTING ANGRY" are a recipe for Anger. Again, this is because Rule-Followers are busy visualizing the achievement of a Goal and the steps for attaining that Goal, instead of Hearing and Loving the Person.

Read More about becoming a Pure Fountain.

Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Social Psychologist

* * * * * * *

Dr. Matt offers telephone counseling that will fix your problems fast!

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!

Sold Exclusively

through this website

Changing Your Stripes is a
unique reference book that will help
you understand, . . .
and solve all of
Life's ever-appearing problems.
Here are more reasons to buy

Changing Your Stripes

Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor

Talk to Dr Matt!
 Complimentary Consultation
When you buy
 Changing Your Stripes 
| Ask Dr Matt | Call Dr Matt | Meet Dr Matt | Quotable Quotes | The Book | Archive |