Mindreader - by David J. Lieberman
I appreciate how the author was able to articulate the differences between some concepts: self-esteem versus confidence; lust versus love. The way the author described sociopaths reminded me of my sister-in-law.
Here are some text that I highlighted in the book:
A woman who believes what she’s saying is more likely to use a personal pronoun—for instance, “I really liked your presentation,” or “I loved what you said in the meeting.” However, a person offering insincere flattery might choose to say “Nice presentation” or “Looks like you did a lot of research.” In the second case, she has removed herself from the equation entirely.
When you take yourself out of the proverbial action, you send a concealed message (possibly even from yourself).
Euphemisms can help blunt the emotional impact. It is for this reason that good salespeople won’t tell you to “sign the contract” but will rather suggest that you “okay the paperwork.” Even though both phrases point to the same action, it has been ingrained in us that we should be wary of signing a contract without first having a lawyer review it. But okaying paperwork, that’s something you can do without worrying, right?
A skilled interrogator knows to avoid harsh words or phrases—such as embezzlement, murder, lying, confession—and to stay away from language that pits him against his subject. For instance, rather than insisting, “Stop lying and tell me the truth,” they’d say, “Let’s hear the whole story” or “Let’s clear the air for everyone’s sake.”
The more layered the details are—in that they include more of one’s senses, not just how something looked but also how it smelled, sounded, and felt—the more reliable they are.
As long as we’re talking about a nontraumatic event, a person who is telling the truth is recalling a memory, which is like a movie that’s playing in his head. A person who is fabricating a story is forced to construct what happened, scene by scene, so it comes off more like a series of images or photographs strung together to create the impression of genuine movement.
Akin to this law is the principle of “comrades in arms.” People who go through life-changing situations together tend to create a significant bond. For instance, soldiers who fight battles or fraternity pledges who get hazed together usually develop strong friendships. This is also a powerful bonding method even if the experience was not shared but similarly experienced. As a result, two people who have never met but who have shared a similar previous experience—whether it’s an illness or winning the lottery—can become instant friends. It is the “she understands me” mentality that generates these warm feelings for each other.
We constantly make micro adjustments to our narrative via a fundamental attribution error, also known as correspondence bias or attribution effect. Thus, we are primed to excuse our mistakes or moral lapses by laying blame on the situation or on circumstances beyond our control while ascribing intent or a personality-based explanation for the same behavior in others. A line from the late comedian George Carlin comes to mind: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
Carl Jung writes, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” Many of us are aware that when we are bothered by a fault in others, it is because we share this weakness—at least in some small measure—even if it has never manifested in action.
when human beings become fearful, most will regress to soothing, even infantile, behaviors and animalistic drives to distract themselves from, and channel, their anxiety. This is the psychology behind the typically high-sugar, fat-saturated, or salt-laden go-to “comfort foods.” They provide a feeling of fullness instead of emptiness and tend to elevate our mood (albeit briefly). They create a short-lived feeling of well-being by stimulating the brain’s reward system, which temporarily dampens emotional distress.
The anger and anxiety loop continues to reinforce itself. Among the most important triggers of self-regulation failure—what makes us lose self-control and give in to our impulses—is anger. Predictably, anger gives way to a range of self-destructive behavior and habits, such as alcoholism, gambling, and drug addiction. Have you ever noticed that when you are angry with yourself, you are more prone to bang into things or knock them over? That’s emotional discombobulation—being angry with yourself—manifesting physically.
Guilt is a negative force that weighs us down, causing us to engage in unconsciously motivated self-destructive behavior.
Each circumstance we encounter is like a blank book until we write the script with our thoughts. For instance, when someone acts rudely toward us, it doesn’t mean anything. This person’s words or deeds cause us to feel bad about ourselves (or not) because of our self-image. What does their opinion really have to do with our self-worth? Nothing. But that’s just what the ego does—it makes everything about us.
The greater our self-esteem, the slower we are to take offense. When we love ourselves, (a) we don’t assume that someone’s actions mean they don’t respect us, and (b) even if we do come to that conclusion, we aren’t emotionally unsettled because we don’t need their love or respect in order to feel worthy. We are not in pain, because we do not fear disconnection. We are unharmed and then free to recognize the basis for the other person’s behavior—that is, their own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.
Self-esteem is often confused with confidence, but the two are quite different, and making the distinction is important. Confidence is how effective we feel within a specific area or situation, while self-esteem is the recognition that we are loved and lovable and feel worthy of receiving good in our lives. An emotionally healthy person may feel good about herself (have self-esteem) yet not feel certain that she will succeed in certain situations (be unconfident about her skill set).
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that a person with an inflated ego likes himself; ego and self-esteem are inversely related. No matter how much a person appears to be happy with himself, if he is egocentric, that person suffers from feelings of inferiority.
the sociopath goes overboard. They cannot calibrate their impression management.
As Mark Twain once quipped, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” Because of their need to feel omnipotent (which contrasts with the inherent nature of dependence), a sociopath will rarely speak about their emotional or social needs. They will, however, talk freely about a desire for money, power, and control, as well as biological necessities, such as food and clothing.
A sociopath’s worst tendencies quickly surface when they feel that they are losing control over you. When they find that you are not “obedient,” they will move predictably into full-out attack mode. Say goodbye to the veneer of civility. They’ll hurl every accusation at you and about you to anyone who will listen—friends, neighbors, coworkers. They’ll use their gift of the gab to weave fanciful tales about you and your wrongs. They will lie. They’ll fabricate stories to destroy your reputation. They’ll win the court of public opinion, turn people against you, and attack you by proxy. They are all too eager to take you to court because, to them, the name of the game is power. The more they can keep you on edge, the more control they feel. In court, they file endless motions and make baseless claims to sap your strength. They are energized by conflict. Mediation or arbitration is always a waste of time because they have no interest in being even remotely reasonable. They won’t give ground. Any indication that they are doing so is likely a tactic to buy more time—and to drain you emotionally, physically, and financially.
The people we know who are emotionally healthy enjoy generally positive relationships. Conversely, those who don’t seem to get along with anyone likely have a host of emotional issues.
all unhappy people have the same problem: they are unable to get along with the people they want to get along well with.
When we lust after someone or something, we think in terms of what they (or it) can do for us. When we love, however, our thoughts are immersed in what we can give to someone else. Giving makes us feel good, so we do it happily. But when we lust, we want only to take. When someone we love is in pain, we feel pain. When someone whom we lust for is in pain, we think only in terms of what that loss or inconvenience means to us.
“Intelligence is the ability to learn from your mistakes,” the saying goes. “Wisdom is the ability to learn from the mistakes of others.”
Healthy boundaries are not created to keep people out but rather to define our space and our sense of personal responsibility.
the ego corrupts our mindset in five ways: (a) It chooses what we focus on, (b) it makes what we see all about us, (c) it concludes that all negative experiences are due to a deficiency within ourselves, (d) it magnifies the relevance of our focus, and (e) it causes us to believe that we can think our way out of a situation that is beyond our control or understand something that is unknowable.
The act itself does not cause the emotion; rather, the emotion is a response generated from a model in which the person takes no responsibility for experiences which he could control.
When we assign responsibility for our emotions to people or forces outside of our control, we become an object or an effect of the experience rather than the cause. The themes of agency (a sense of control over one’s life) and communion (a feeling of connectedness with others) continue to play out over and again.