The "I Need To Be Right"
Way of Thinking”
Way of Thinking”
Lynne Namka, Ed. D. © 2002
In 2016, This article could be renamed “The Donald Trump Way of Thinking”
One of life's biggest set-ups for being lonely is living with the erroneous belief that your way is the best way of doing things and insisting others agree with you. Some people seem to have taken a life course called, How To Be Absolutely Sure of Everything! It's like their reality testing mechanism is stuck on "It so because I think it is so." People who feel constantly threatened and angry when others question their actions substitute being right for living a happy life. Living daily always on the defense, being in charge of the rights and wrongs of the Universe, is no fun!
Wanting and insisting on getting your own way is a set up for unhappiness. Rigidity in thinking leads to power struggles or submission from others and distancing. As Andre' Maurois said, "Everything that is in agreement with our personal desires seems true. Everything that is not puts us in a rage." People who are prone to anger have a set pattern of beliefs, attitudes, expectations and behaviors that insist on getting their own way. They have a strong case of the "shoulds" and "musts" for others. They believe that there is a certain way that others should act and become angry when their expectations are not met. They need to be seen as good, innocent and superior in their knowledge and how things should be done. They may use charm or anger and intimidation to get their way.
A system is two or more individuals who interact. A couple, a family, a neighborhood and our planet are all examples of systems. Systems can be put on a continuum from open to closed. In open systems, people talk and exchange ideas and feedback so the people stretch and grow. A closed system is one which keeps new information out to protect the status quo. Closed systems do not stretch because no new ideas are allowed in. The feedback loop continues the same way of thinking, precluding change and growth. The person who needs to be right all of the time is a closed system big time! He cannot allow his ideas to be challenged shuts down input from others. People in closed systems are rarely happy. Unfortunately, the need to be right is accompanied with a rigid stance and anger. Others distance from them and they cannot experience intimacy and connection. They cannot understand why their partner is so angry with them--their rationale is that the partner should just change! They do not want to be confused with facts when their mind is made up!
The ego always acts to preserve the sense of well-being and sets up defenses to avoid feeling fragmented. Turning the problem around and blaming the other person is a defense that reduces inner tension. Putting the problem outside of one's self brings up more feelings of self righteousness. The unwanted parts of the self are projected outward on others as an ego defense against internal feeling of anxiety that conflict brings up. In severe cases, reality is distorted, aspects of memory forgotten and fantasy created. The person assumes that others are out to do them in. Defenses protect the person's sense of well being. Defenses keep the pseudo self-worth that has been built on self-righteous beliefs from plummeting.
People who must defend their rightness are often preoccupied with imagined shortcomings of others and perceived attacks form them. They often feel betrayed by others. They justify their criticizing and blaming others to avoid the insight that they themselves might be in error. They fear losing power and will use anger to keep others from asserting themselves. Life becomes miserable for the family because it is fear and control based.
It's part of being human to want to have our way. We all have a touch of the need to be right and control others. We all have areas of self-righteousness where we believe that we know better than others. To the extent that this need to be right and resulting defensiveness permeates one's life, the less connected you will be with others. It's sad, but true, the more of you have of the following characteristics of rigidity of thought, the more anger and disapproval you will get from others:
§ An insatiable need to be right which masks a deep fear of being wrong
§ A high need to expect others to see it your way
§ An inability to say, "I don't know." and "I was wrong."
§ Feeling threatened when new ideas come from other people
§ Fear of hearing new information that threatens your beliefs
§ Fear of letting go; need to be in control of self at all times
§ Preoccupation with winning approval from others
§ The need to always be seen as tough, powerful and strong
§ Pride at always being rational and logical
§ Uncomfortable with expressing sensitive feelings
§ Shame and fear of being vulnerable and insecure
§ Fear and severe discomfort about having bad feelings
§ Believe that others who disagree with you are wrong and should "just get over it"
§ Use charm, anger, withdrawal or blaming to settle arguments
The Archie Bunker Style--The Fear of Feelings
Fear is the major dynamic operating in this condition. People who have the need to be right usually are very strong physically. They are not usually afraid of the most common fears of physical pain, heights, snakes, public speaking, etc. Their hidden fear is feeling vulnerable, emotional and out of control. They have a low tolerance for emotional pain and cannot tolerate feelings of shame. They use the sense of being right as a narcotic for uncomfortable feelings. They feel threatened when other people bring up a differing point of view--this is the fear of being wrong. Freud called this dynamic "omnipotence of thought." He considered it a psychological defense to avoid inner anxiety and a sense of becoming fragmented when there is disagreement.
The "need to be right" defense was probably learned early in life when you did not have power and someone else was critical, angry or abusive with you or others in your household. Refusing to yield to the needs of others is learned by the young child as he observes that mean adults or bullies, who were the loudest and angries, often got their way. The child learns that putting power trips on others is rewarded. He then rationalizes that this is okay, and it becomes a habit whenever he feels threatened inside. Defending against taking in new information becomes a generalized way of thinking and acting that comes up whenever there is a threatening situation. Others yield to avoid your anger and you inadvertently shut down avenues of growth for yourself. New information is squelched. Refusing to hear new data closes down your mind and your consciousness.
People who cannot feel and express emotions are called repressors in the psychological literature. Uncomfortable emotions are repressed so that they do not have to be known and experienced. Repressing of the negative emotions is more likely to be found in men and may be related to high levels of testosterone, the male hormone. A new study of 1704 men aged 40 to 70 suggests that men who have high levels of testosterone in their blood are less happy in life. High testosterone levels often results in aggressive behavior and alienation of other people. Men high in this male hormone have double the divorce rates of men low in the hormone. Men who have an inability to connect on a deep level with others often cover this up with a sense of bravado and aloofness. The higher testosterone powered men in the study reported finding less pleasure in life and did not look forward to the future. Most often, this stance softens as the person grows older and learns to express feelings.
Defensive Coping Strategies of
People Who Need to be Right
People Who Need to be Right
§ Braced yourself and constricted your energies to avoid invasion from another person's words or actions
§ Thought "You can't tell me what to do and I don't have to listen" when a parent or teacher corrected you
§ Felt overly proud at being rational and logical at the expense of being intuitive and experiencing feelings
§ Needed be seen as tough, powerful and strong
§ Decided that your ideas were better than others so shut their opinions off
§ Became angry when you expected others to see things your way and agree with you and they didn't
§ Felt embarrassed about admitting and saying"I don't know." and "I was wrong."to yourself and others
§ Felt threatened when you feared you were wrong
§ Judged others harshly when they disagreed with you
§ Became overwhelmed when information presented was too much to process
§ Felt threatened when new ideas came from someone else
§ Feared hearing about new information that threatened your beliefs
§ Feared letting go of control of a task to someone else
§ Devalued the sensitivity and feelings of others
§ Felt uncomfortable with your expressing sensitive feelings
§ Felt discomfort about having bad feelings
§ Felt entitled in doing what you had to do to get others to go along with you
§ Decided that someone who disagreed with you should "just get over it"
§ Used smiling and charm insincerely to get win another person to your point of view
§ Started blaming and putting the other person down to settle the argument
§ Feared the anxiety and feeling fragmented when there was disagreement
§ Felt satisfied and pleased because you manipulated someone to get your way
§ Overrode the boundaries that someone else was trying to set
§ Refused to see the problem from the other person's perspective
§ Responded with sarcasm instead of trying to solve the problem
§ Decided that the issue didn't affect you and assumed it did not affect others
§ Argued your point of view in thoughts or words and refused to hear the alternate argument
§ Badgered and intimidated someone to shut him down
§ Became agitated and stubbornly attached when your ideas were attacked
§ Became irritated at an assumption of the other person and stopped listening
§ Minimized the importance of a personal problem you were being confronted with
§ Refuse to deal with a problem because you thought it was temporary
§ Refused to ask for help on a hard problem and decided you needed to do it all yourself
§ Refused to ask for help on a task because you were embarrassed
§ Lied and falsified data to convince people you were right