Dr. John Gottman on How to Build Trust

Dr. John Gottman on How to Build Trust

Dr. John Gottman is the foremost expert in the world on relationships and how they work (and don’t work). When Dr. Gottman speaks, every person in a relationship should listen. He’s the real deal. Here we learn that building trust happens in small moments, moments that are insanely easy to overlook, moments we actually may have to learn to even be aware of. It happens around the edges of a relationship and between the lines.


The Past

If you don’t go back to find out what effect your past is having on your present you will forever live out your present as if it is still your past. That is why therapists often need to have their clients talk about the past.

For example, if a little girl grows up without feeling that her daddy loves her, and going into adulthood she never realizes that a past wound is affecting her current choices, she will continue to make bad choices from those past wounds. She will find herself, in fact, forever trying to find what she could not find as a child, and she will likely be willing to compromise herself in tragic ways in order to find it. Of course each mistake will leave her more empty and desperate, leading to bigger and bigger mistakes.

Many times people complain “I don’t want to talk about the past, what does the past have to do with right now!” Of course that is exactly right. The past does not need to have any impact on the choices we make today. The problem is that many people have not resolved their past and they are making choices in the present moment that come out of emotional spaces created many years earlier.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana

On a personal level, it is not enough to just remember facts and details. One has to see the connection between past circumstances and present choices. Only when a person becomes aware of that connection will they be able to see the repetitive and toxic pattern they are locked in. The good news is, once awareness comes, freedom is very near. The tricks our minds play on us only work under cover of darkness. They cannot stand up to truth and once the light of truth is shown on them, they immediately begin losing their power.

Words Give You Away

Words give you away. A week or so ago I posted something on Facebook to encourage people who fear that God has been removed from our schools. That post got more likes and shares and “thank you’s” than anything else I’ve ever put on Facebook. When one of my friends shared it to his Facebook wall, he got a reaction I could never have anticipated.

A guy started quibbling with the theology, “Is David saying that all of these people worried about God not being in schools do not believe in God’s omnipresence?” Stupidly, I took the bait, and quite the lively and completely pointless back-and-forth ensued, though we both remained very courteous. His point was that I’m missing what people truly intend when they complain that God has been taken out of schools. What people actually mean, he said, is not that God has been removed, but that God is no longer openly acknowledged. My friendly opponent argued that I was quibbling over a “Freudian slip,” that people don’t actually mean it like it sounds. But it’s not a Freudian slip. Freudian slips are accidental. They do not keep “slipping” out of people’s mouths the same way over and over and over again.

My response was, and is, that people nearly always say pretty much what they believe. In fact, your words actually belie what you really believe. Words give you away. If you say, “God is no longer in our schools,” you don’t mean only that “while God is certainly present in a theological sense, he is no longer openly acknowledged.” You in fact mean that the lack of acknowledgement of God’s presence in schools makes you feel that God is no longer there at all.

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Why Educated People in Leadership Tend to Not Be Conspiracy Theorists

This is reprehensible.

Ever notice that well-educated leaders tend to not be conspiracy theorists? Why do you think that is? I share five reasons below.

Reason #1 — Acceptance of the reality of moral ambiguity

When you are well educated and have spent substantial time in leadership, you discover the inherent imperfections in all human systems and organizations. You realize that you will never be able to make your organization perfect. Though this will probably always bother you, you discover that the best you can do is use your knowledge and talent to help the organization to be better than it would otherwise be without you. You learn to work within the system to improve the system. You know that if you angrily rebel and leave the system, you’ll simply create a new system that will soon be as flawed as the one you left. Organizations filled with human beings can be nothing other than flawed. No leader achieves any degree of success without having wrestled with this. Usually it goes like this: idealism->frustration->discouragement->disillusionment->acceptance->and then finally back into passionate ideals informed by human realities.

No human being is all good or all bad. And flawed as they are, many organizations are also doing substantial good. In my church I have occasionally had people get mad at me because I told them our church didn’t have enough money to help an unfortunate person they thought we should help. Some have even said, “This is not the Wildwind Way,” as if I have perhaps lost touch with the heart of the church I founded ten years ago, and can no longer serve as its moral voice. It is so easy for a person to feel that, simply by being angry with my decision to not help, they are morally superior to me. They are now the ones who care, contrasted with me — the callous leader who has become jaded. Once a person makes this leap, it isn’t very far to coming up with more nefarious motives behind a leader’s decisions or actions.

Reason #2 — Acceptance of inherent limitations

We can’t help everybody. We would love to, we just can’t. In my context, the part followers sometimes don’t see is the great good that Wildwind Church is already doing — opening our doors, inviting in all who wish to come, teaching and inspiring people, guiding them emotionally and spiritually, connecting them into friendships they’ll have the rest of their lives, baptizing them and their children, doing their weddings, burying their parents and grandparents, serving them communion, and yes — doing all we can to alleviate their physical suffering as well. It is ultimately not good to help any one person to the point where we can no longer continue to do the great good we do for many people day in and day out.

Reason #3 — Awareness of imperfection, even in true things

Shifting into critic mode is always easy to do.

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Conspiracy Theorists

And now a word from a mental health expert (me!) about conspiracy theorists.

If you’ve ever met a paranoid schizophrenic, what stands out most about them is how sickly rational they are. They can tell you exactly why they believe someone is poisoning their food, listening to their phone calls, following them around, trying to have them sterilized, recruiting them into the CIA, or whatever they believe. They can give you times and dates, lists of names, locations, every detail you could ever imagine. They can and do provide contradictory evidence to everything you suggest that might refute their beliefs.

The problem with their story is not lack of detail and information. It is that their thought processes are in the service of their delusions. They interpret everything as evidence that they are uncovering something dark and sinister. If you disagree or give counter-evidence, they will merely assume you are part of the conspiracy, or that you are the one deluded, and summarily dismiss you. They are indefatigable in their assertions and beliefs. It just so happens that what they believe is happening, what they can actually prove is happening, is in fact not happening.

People with schizophrenia often have what we call delusions of “reference.” Delusions or ideas of reference are when one assumes ordinary events in the world are related directly to one’s self and one’s destiny. Such as, for example, “Sandy Hook was a government conspiracy with the ultimate aim of taking away my guns.” I am certainly not claiming that conspiracy theorists are paranoid schizophrenics. I am saying that there is less difference between them and schizophrenics than most Americans, or they themselves, realize. Many conspiracy theorists are pretty bright people. Then again, many paranoid schizophrenics are bright people as well. Both conspiracy theorists and schizophrenics are people whose thought processes are in the service of their delusions.

“They want to take away my guns.”
“They want to take away my rights and freedoms.”
“They want to make my religion illegal.”
“They want to make me a slave.”
“They want to raise my taxes and take all my money.”

Though they exist, you will find very few highly educated conspiracy theorists, especially highly educated conspiracy theorists who have spent substantial time in leadership. In my next post, I will explain why that is. And no, it is not because education and leadership are part of the conspiracy.

Conspiracy theorists of all kinds, we hear your “evidence,” and the comparisons to Hitler and the Third Reich. We see the memes you post on Facebook, the seemingly irrefutable “logic” you weave together, Glenn Beck’s charts. We see one of your spokespeople, Wayne LaPierre, spouting his zany ideas. But it just so happens that what you believe is happening, what you think you can actually prove is happening, is in fact not happening.