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A Self-Defeating Trap
by Matt Moody Ph.D.

Dear Dr Matt:
i guess i should introduce myself. i am 34 years old, married with two kids. i don't really know where to begin. i feel very frustrated and angry and i don't know why my life is a mess. i know or i think i know what i need to do, but i just can't do it. i get anrgy at my kids and my husband. i just get overwhelmed by everything. why do i get all tied up in knots inside. can you please help me get my life in order or point me in the right directions. please help. i feel lost. I hope to hear from you. Karina, Auburn, AL

Dear Karina: Something you said is KEY to understanding the trap you are in:

"i know or i think i know what i need to do but i just can't do it ."

Here's the paradox that you face: You can logically know that certain choices are beneficial for you; yet, when it comes to "choosing" these productive choices . . . you can't, . . . won't . . . or for some reason . . . don't.

In my book, I call this self-defeating trap: Einstein's Mind Bind. In short, you can't change your mind, using the same mind that needs changing. Einstein's actual words were thus:

"We cannot solve our problems
at the same level of thinking which existed
when the problem was created."

Karina, you are in an ironic Self-Defeating Bind: You can't choose what is best for you, because the desire to choose these most beneficial choices is NOT IN YOU. As legendary trumpet player Louis Armstrong put it:

"If you ain't got it in you . . . you can't blow it out!"

"Who you are" and "who you become" is determined by
the history of choices you've been making for many months and years.

This idea is the opposite to the common assumption taught by secular psychology:

"Who you are" is the product of your environmental influences.

The truth is . . . it's really not so much your history of INFLUENCE as it is your history of HOW YOU HAVE RESPONDED to that influence--this is the premise of free-will. There are numerous examples of people who have become "Victors" in the face of terrible circumstances, instead of "Victims" of the these same circumstances. Viktor Frankl is one of the more prominent examples. (Read more about Viktor Frankl).

Each choice--and especially the cumulative momentum of a pattern of choices--sets in motion the consequences you are feeling today, . . . the bondage or freedom you feel today.

In other words, it's like shooting arrows into the air; every arrow you launch--once it has left your bow--is now beyond your control, and each and every arrow is going to land (whether you like the way they are landing, or not).

These arrows are like the choices you've been making for many months and years--choices that create the cumulative emotional momentum that causes you to feel and desire as you do, presently.

The way you are choosing TODAY reflects the condition and character of your heart. This is the way I say it in my book:

Whether you acknowledge it or not, who you are IS most fundamentally manifest by the good or evil intents of your heart. Recalling the words of Jesus, "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh." Just as the mouth speaks according to the conditions of one's heart, it also follows that from the abundance of the heart, the mind thinketh and the eyes seeth.

Your intent of heart determines your way of being with others, and thus your way of seeing the world as well. As Stephen Covey states, "You don't see the world as it is, you see it according to who you are." (Changing Your Stripes, page 89).

Karina, even though you have an inkling of what you ought to do, you still don't have the desire IN YOU to do it. To get this desire requires more than shear will power, you will need a Change of Heart.

Exactly how one experience this Change of Heart is one of the topics specifically addressed in my book, "Changing Your Stripes," but it also alluded to at my website. Visit these pages for more info:

** Will Power and Self-Affirmations are not enough.
** Returning to Childlike Innocence.
** The Trap you are in: Einstein's Mind Bind

Karina, since you can't find the "desire" to do what you know you ought to do . . . the chances are you will ALSO not find the desire to "choose" to learn from the ideas at my website or in my book (this is the strangle-hold that the self-defeating trap can have on you).

The good news is that you are crying out for help, so you do have some motivation to change!

As Mother Teresa taught: "Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not come, we have only today, . . . let us begin." If you can apply your yearning to change--your motivation to change--by making at least one good choice; this small beginning can lead to more good choices, and in turn, can lead to a growing momentum of many good choices!

Emotions flow from us, like running water that pours from a fountain. When our fountain becomes pure, the emotions that flow therefrom, will also be positive and pure. Which means, Inner Peace will be yours as you experience a Change of Heart and purify the fountain of "who you are."

Free Email Advice from Dr Matt

Pretty IS as Pretty Does
by Matt Moody Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Matt: I am a 44 year old married woman. I've been having this problem for 8 years and it is driving me nuts.  Before we married my husband told me he thought his ex-girlfriend was prettier than me.  Now I admit I asked the question, but I was NOT prepared for such a blunt tactless answer.  Ever since he answered "yes" to my question (Is she prettier than me?) there has been a hole in my heart and our relationship.  Even though I went ahead with the marriage, I've been unhappy and unable to totally open myself to him.  Was this a dealbreaker?  Doesn't every woman deserve to be with a man who thinks she's the prettiest? I've tried to get past this but I can't please help! Ashley from Arizona.

Hello Ashley:

I encourage you to read this email with your husband, and then "let" him respond as he will. It may surprise you what he has to say.

Here's the ultimate answer to your dilemma:

Disappear the question that has been tormenting you for 8 years, the question that unwisely sets a standard of "comparison" between you and others. Disappear it! Throw it away, push it aside, forget about it, and then, in it's place . . . ask a superior question.

The better question for you to entertain and the real "dealbreaker" is this: Does your husband love you more than any other woman on earth? And is your husband completely committed to you?

When a husband "loves" his wife deeply, . . . in his eyes, his "beloved" becomes beautiful; a beauty that should NOT be compared to anyone else, for it is unique. The truth is, if all women applied the an unwise "comparison" standard of beauty, . . . they would ALL fall short to the likes of Brooke Burke, Charlize Theron, Heidi Klum, and Angelina Jolie.

If you ask a wrong question . . . and you will get a bad answer. So, let's turn the tables and apply the comparison standard of "pretty" to your husband. Let's ask the following wrong questions:

** Who is more attractive: Brad Pitt or your husband? OR
** Is your husband more handsome than Antonio Banderas?

There are probably a few men on this earth that from a "superficial" stand point, you may consider "prettier" than your husband. But such are bad questions to begin with. Here is the way I write about this issue of "starting wrong" in my book "Changing Your Stripes"

Beginning Right: Asking the Best Questions

To arrive at good answers, we must first ask good questions! When we start with bad questions, we begin wrong and thus we will most likely end wrong. Asking unsound questions leads to second-class solutions. When our premise is poor, it's hard to acquire the prize. But the truth is . . . we would not be asking a wrong question, if we knew it was wrong to begin with, . . . right?

Mark Twain’s sarcastic insight applies:

* * * * *
It's not what you don't know that makes you a fool,
but what you "think" you know . . . that ain't so!
 * * * * *
(Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 157)

Ashley, applying Twain's saying to situation: You may "think" that the question of "who is prettiest" is important . . . but it simply "ain't so."

* * * * *
Beginning with a bad assumption is like
climbing a ladder leaning against the wrong wall,
it leads to “progress” . . . that ain’t progress at all.
 * * * * *
(Changing Your Stripes, 2nd Edition, page 157)

Again, you may "assume" that the question of "who is prettiest" is important, and that it is a "ladder" that you think you need to climb.

Well, you've climbed it . . . and where did it get you?

Definitely NOT higher . . . if fact, it has brought you "lower." Such is to be expected when we THINK that bad questions need to be answered.

In like manner, it really doesn't matter if you consider Brad Pitt to be "prettier" than your husband. The shallow evaluation of who may be more "skin pretty" . . . is just a bad question to entertain in the first place. It is a ladder you really don't need to climb.

In pursuit of the best solutions to Life's constraining conundrums, it is of paramount importance to pose the best questions from the get go: If the issues you entertain are NOT right and relevant, then the connected answers are as chaff in the wind. In contrast, if you find the right starting point and ask the right questions, the issues framed therefrom will be important and purposeful. Asking the best questions will be like a beacon of light illuminating a productive pathway.

In the end, there is a beauty that is richer than the "skin deep" variety. Truth be told: Pretty IS . . . as Pretty does! And here is another important question for you to ask, and answer:

Do you treat your husband in a kind, patient, and loving way?
Does your husband consider "the way" you treat him to be "pretty"
or even "prettiest"?

This is the version of "pretty" that counts, . . . and one that is within your sphere of influence—within your control.

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