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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 01-Oct-08


Wednesday 01-October-08

Voices of failure

As a species, we humans seem to sometimes be enamoured with the principle of failure. Whereas in the animal kingdom failure is often synonymous with death, our human failure can be comforting and provide us with strange nourishment.

The effect of this in practice is that many revel in negativity. We tell ourselves and our friends tales of woe that excuse past and future failures. Much of this talk blames others or a more general environment. It is easier to feel good when it is not your fault. Sometimes, however, we blame our own limitations -- 'I just can't cope', 'It's not what I'm good at'

What we say to others is a pale comparison of what we say to ourselves. External recreational moaning is limited by what others will put up with. Internally, we are often depressively deafened by endless self-talk about failure. Around 40% of self talk is negative on average (and with some us it is twice that). We bemoan past problems and endlessly fret about the future, literally talking ourselves into failing.

After so much defeatist talk, it is perhaps not surprising we end up failing, for to succeed would be to prove ourselves wrong, which in turn would call into doubt many other decisions and so make our future choices doubly difficult. Success also brings greater expectation of future success, and makes failure an uncomfortable thought, whereas failure brings expectation of failure, which is much easier to achieve.

The need to be right is a terrible trap that makes us wrong more often. As we seek a sense of control, we risk losing control.

This is not something that happens just to others. You and I do it too. Maybe not in a big way, but think of all the times you've made excuses to yourself and taken the easy option. Uncomfortable, isn't it? I even find myself excusing my excuses. But at least, knowing our limitations, we can start to act. .

your comments

Yes, this is all true. But what about those of us who have "clinical depression" or anxiety and the input of others of anything, for that matter, gets distorted on its way to our brain receptors and therefore, we get a scrambled image of what the world is like, or what others think of us?

-- Crazybear

Dave replies:
Yes, of course. I guess there's a case of 'garbage in, garbage out'. If you can't make sense of what you experience then you can't respond in what others might call a 'normal' way. In many of these things there is not a black and white, dysfunctional and functional. It's more of a spectrum. None of us is perfect and we all do our best with what we've got.

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