Controlling Others is Insulting

Telling others what to do is an insult. It implies that the person you’re ordering to do something has no rational faculty of his or her own.

If you went up to somebody and said, ‘You’re mindless. You can’t do anything,’ this would be considered an insult. It’s no different if you go to somebody and say, ‘This is what you must do. Do what I say.’ The implication is: ‘You can’t think for yourself. You’re mindless. I’m going to think and decide for you.’

What if someone asks you to tell them what to do? The only proper answer is:

‘I won’t insult you. You have a mind of your own.’

What if this is taken as indifference by somebody you like or love? Doesn’t it mean you don’t care?

No. Refusing to tell someone what to do is not the same as indifference. Indifference would be walking away, or not responding at all. If you care about the person, then you’re interested in helping him or figure out what to do. But ‘helping’ means being a sounding board, asking questions, pointing out facts. Helping does not mean taking responsibility for thinking away from the person.

What if someone has a repeated track record of not doing things right, of using bad judgment and acting in repeatedly self-defeating ways? Shouldn’t you tell them what to do then?

Let’s think about this. The person exercises consistently poor judgment. But now he’s going to listen to your sound advice or commands. Seriously? Why would he use bad judgment in all other areas, while suddenly using good judgment when it comes to listening to you? Anyone who would assume this has no understanding of the psychology of a self-defeating, irrational person. Irrational people, by definition, don’t sit around waiting for your good advice. If they won’t use their own reasoning, they’re not going to listen to yours. It’s something other than reason and objective truth they’re after; this is what defines their irrationality.

All of this has implications for psychotherapy. People mistakenly think that therapists have the power to change others. No such thing is true. Nobody has the power to change a person except for the person him- or herself. People who want to change something about themselves can benefit from all kinds of help, knowledge, or input from others. But they initiate the process themselves, and nobody can do this for them.

‘I want to fix my car.’ Then I can benefit from the knowledge in a car repair manual. I can benefit from the skills of a good car mechanic. ‘I don’t want to fix my car. There’s nothing wrong with my car! Your car is the one with the problem!’ No car repair manual, nor even the best mechanic in the world, will fix my car if I refuse help on principle.

It’s the same with human relationships. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me. You’re the one who’s crazy. I’m fine.’ Response: ‘Well, go get fixed anyway.’

Seriously? What fantasy world do you live in if you think someone you love or care about is going to change just because someone else tells them they must?

This all has implications for government, too. Governments are all about changing, fixing or forcing people into things they don’t choose, want or need to be.

The War on Drugs is supposed to make people stop using drugs. Instead, the more government spends billions fighting drug abuse — the more people abuse them.

The War on Poverty was supposed to eliminate poverty and despair. Since the welfare state was introduced, a permanent ‘underclass’ was developed and has been maintained ever since. Worse, the welfare state has now extended to much of the middle class and even wealthy bankers, as well as bankrupt automobile makers.

The government is bankrupt because the small number of rich and the decreasing number of middle class people who still choose to work are expected to pay for never-ending, entitled screams for more and more entitlement checks. The whole thing is imploding, fiscally, right before our eyes. You can scream blame at Democrats or Republicans, but the system of tax/transfer/entitle we have created is responsible. Neither party will challenge the system itself; they only challenge the other party’s entitlement to run that system.

The people are mostly to blame for the sins of their elected leaders. The politicians may have started the fire; but the voters told them to start it, and likewise tell them to both expand it and put it out at the same time.

It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This isn’t precisely true. Rationally good intentions are not how human beings destroy themselves. Human beings destroy themselves through deception — first and foremost, through self-deception.

Self-deception sometimes arises from a malicious intent to see reality other than as it plainly is. Probably just as often, self-deception is due to honest errors in reasoning and logic. People fail to separate feelings from logic and in their minds objectively unsound premises are mistakenly considered truth, simply because they feel them.

Insanity, correctly identified as doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results, is the means by which the self-deception is sustained. Case in point: Much of the world today, which has by any objective standard gone insane.

Are you an idealist and romantic at heart? If so, good. But if you want to save the world, stop trying to fix, change or control others. Instead: Show them, convince them, do whatever you have it in you to demonstrate to them: They have the power — and the responsibility — to do this for themselves.