True to Self While Not Alienating Others: Possible, Or Not?

Dear Dr. Hurd:

First off, I just want to say I am a big fan of your writing and I look forward to the Daily Dose of Reason every day.

My question for you is: How are you able to not alienate people professionally supporting what most people still consider to be extremist views?

Have you ever lost a potential client because of your political views?

I was reading Obama’s inauguration speech today and it was extremely difficult to not comment on the collectivist drivel that he is espousing. I almost feel like staying silent is a form of consent. I really wanted to stand up for myself and defend my values but I held off. I worry about losing customers in my business, if they see my views on Facebook or elsewhere. It’s been bothering me all day. I was hoping to gain a little insight from your past experiences.

Thanks again for all you do.

Dr. Hurd’s reply:

If anyone asks why I hold the philosophical and political views I do, my reply is always, ‘What other views could I possibly hold, if I really mean what I say in psychology?’

In the realm of psychology, like many therapists, I encourage people to pursue happiness and place their own interests first. I help them solve moral dilemmas from the following point-of-view: While they’re not entitled to sacrifice others to themselves, they’re under no obligation to sacrifice themselves to others, either.

In therapy, the operating premise is: rational self-interest and personal happiness.

If I really believe all this, then why would I encourage the growth of a government that impedes personal progress? Why would I want—for myself, or my clients—a government that ends up killing jobs, ruining health care, outlawing self-defense and punishing success through ‘progressive’ taxation? Evidence is available to support the case for limited government. People will not hear it from the mainstream of our government or media, and it’s important to let them know alternate views exist, especially as our existing economic and social problems—which concern everyone—continue not to improve, and actually worsen.

Change in a society—for better or worse—always starts with an ‘extreme’ intellectual minority. The crucial question is: Which minority wins, the right one or the wrong one? The Communists, fascists or religious totalitarians? Or the Thomas Jeffersons and Tom Paines? You shouldn’t fear being in a minority, because it’s the people with consistency of positions who ultimately drive a culture—politically, and in other ways—in a particular direction overall.

What kind of a therapist would I be if I told clients, individually, ‘You’re entitled to pursue your happiness and you’re not everyone’s keeper,’ and then turn around and vote for candidates—Obama, most of all—who openly state, ‘You are your brother’s keeper and government is here to enforce it’?

The unwritten rule is that therapists are not supposed to comment on social or political issues. However, therapists do so all the time. When it’s from the ‘leftist’ perspective, it’s never challenged or questioned. It’s only when you take a consistently pro-freedom, pro-individual rights perspective that you’re questioned or even attacked. It’s the same with celebrities, particularly in Hollywood. The leftist ones are celebrated as courageous and insightful, while anyone with a different point-of-view is virtually blacklisted forever.

I am sure that I have lost clients due to my views. Most of my clients find me through my writings. However, you have to take into account the clients you gain—that you otherwise never would have had—if you didn’t express your views openly. Money is a value, but it’s not the only value. It’s also a value to live every hour authentically. My calendar has never been empty, but much more importantly: The kinds of clients I attract are the ones who really want to improve and are not looking for empty ideas or excuses. I never have to fake anything with anyone, and that’s as much of a reward as financial compensation.

It’s important not to impose your views on people. For example, don’t introduce topics which people are not interested in, and with which they may or may not agree. At the same time, don’t lie or evade any topics of relevance.

As a therapist and life coach, I find that matters of ethics and philosophy are inescapable. Two of the most common issues people discuss in therapy boil down to either, ‘What should I do?’ (an ethical question) or, ‘How do I know this?’ (an epistemological question, involving philosophy). Abstract philosophical discussions are not always necessary, although sometimes they are. When necessary, you ought to have them—in or out of therapy.

There’s a widespread fear that being honest alienates people, and will leave you alone and starving. What this irrational fear overlooks is that integrity is practical. While being a crusader or imposing unwanted lectures on disinterested people is not part of integrity, being true to who you are—and refusing to live a lie—is actually more practical than you may think. You send away the wrong kind of people and you attract the right kind.

Being true to yourself will generate one of two emotions in others: Respect, or fear. If a person is dominated by fear in the first place, then the fear will usually convert into hostility if you don’t share a view or perspective (political, or otherwise) they consider important. Fear-laden people usually don’t have much to offer, either professionally or personally, particularly the kind of person whose fear manifests as hatred or hostility (I find this true with some Obama supporters, but not all.)

It’s important not to go through life being afraid of other people’s fears. And try to remember that in just as many people, you’ll foster respect. I hear that a lot. ‘Wow, you have some strong views on your website. And they’re actually pretty interesting. I’m impressed you take the time to do that.’ This actually is something I hear much more often than, ‘I hate you for your views and will have nothing to do with you.’ In such cases, I consider the loss to be the other person’s, not my own.

I have always put integrity first, and although it sometimes generates conflict, in the bigger picture it has led to support and confidence with people that runs very deep. You’ve heard the phrase, ‘Quality over quantity.’ That’s something of a false alternative, but it rings true in a lot of ways. Honesty, rationality and sticking to one’s principles (in whatever context) are a sign of strength. Most people know or sense this. Whatever your career happens to be, strength is generally what people are seeking. Most importantly, you have to be able to live with yourself.


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