Psychological Self-Help

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Misunderstandings—checking out your hunches
It is obvious that how we respond to others depends on how we
perceive the situation. An old adage says everyone has three
that which he/she has, 
that which he/she thinks he/she has, and 
that which others think he/she has. 
Similarly, R. D. Laing (1968), a creatively different psychiatrist,
suggests there are three powerful determinants of how we behave in a
what we think of the other person and our relationship with
our assumptions about what the other person thinks of us and
our relationship, and 
what we think he/she thinks we think of him/her and our
Laing believes that relationships and even psychotic or neurotic
responses are understandable if one realizes how the person is viewing
the situation. For example, I once had a client who was arrested for
cutting down trees in a park. He cut the trees to let the super-
intelligent beings watching him from flying saucers know that he was
in trouble (with the law, with his wife, and within his own mind). All of
us act just as crazy: "Oh, I won't ask her/him out, she/he wouldn't
look twice at me" or "No, no, I wouldn't think of trying out (for sports
or a part in a play), they'd think I was a complete dud." 
We constantly operate on hunches about what others think or feel,
without checking out the hunches. Did you ever wonder why? Perhaps
we are afraid to face the truth (or what we fear is the truth). Perhaps
we don't think the other person will tell us the truth. Perhaps we'd
rather just suspect the worst, rather than ask and have it confirmed
for sure. In any case, it is interesting how an indecisive, self-doubting
person can nevertheless know for certain "they won't like me." Laing's
solution is simple: ask people how they feel: "How do you feel about
_____?" or "How do you think I feel about______?" And, then you
disclose these things to each other. We must know what is real in
order to act rationally. We have a right to know where the other
person stands; we don't have to make most decisions on the basis of
guesses or gossip about others. Chapter 13 gives detailed instructions
for clearer communication with others and for confirming our
impressions of others, as recommended by R. D. Laing.
There is no easy system for formulating questions. Your questions follow the pattern of
your thinking. You might remember that the seven interrogative pronouns are who? when?
which? what? how? where? and why? They do not cover all the questions you can frame
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