Taming Our Terrible Twin Within
Bill Cottringer

“I have noticed that even people who claim that everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” ~Stephen Hawking.

We are all on a mission to become our best selves and to help others do that too. The personal growth and development required to accomplish this important mission, involves focusing simultaneously on two exclusive activities in this process. These activities are developing the positive, adaptive behaviors that help us grow forward and managing the negative, maladaptive ones that cause the detours and backward movement.

The terrible twin we all have within is made up by the ghosts of past that may have been adaptive for a prior age of humanity, but today in the Information Age, they have become maladaptive and impede our self-growth efforts to become our best selves. There are no shortages of these ghosts of past that make up our terrible twin within and just like positive behaviors that work together to lead to more success, they can work together to lead to more failure.

Here are our main ghosts we need to manage in our journey to become our best selves, and at the same time develop their positive counterparts:

• Unlikeability. This ghost includes a cluster of maladaptive behaviors such as dishonesty, egocentricity, insensitivity, negativity, hostility, impoliteness, lack of humor and poor listening.

• Defensiveness. The defensive ghost becomes stronger when these qualities are conveyed behaviorally or verbally in communication: Superiority, control, neutrality, manipulation, judgement, and certainty.

• Competitiveness. A competitive strategy usually leads to a win-lose outcome for the “players.” What is emerging as a more adaptive behavior in today’s Information Age is a cooperative mentality, which can lead to win-win outcomes, when compromises are made to give everyone something valuable without losing anything too important. For this transition to be complete, the idea of compromise has to shed its negative connotations of being a weakness and shame of giving in.

• Scarcity. Being cynical and fearful that there aren’t enough pieces of pie to go around, leads to other negative, maladaptive behaviors including the above ghosts, wrapped in more destructive behaviors of jealousy, anxiety, fear, worry and anger. These behaviors can join forces to the point of fearing fear itself or being depressed about being depressed. Such vicious circles go nowhere but getting out of them requires a realization of the utter futility of even trying and then suddenly you have a way out.

Fortunately, managing our terrible twin within, doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may seem. Consider these attitudes for better management of your own ghosts:

1. The harder we try to avoid something, the harder it becomes to avoid and we end up becoming the hostage instead of the master. Sometimes it is better to embrace something we would prefer to avoid and learn the intended lesson to become more successful in getting where we want to be. Conflicts are painful and we usually want to run from them, but they are inevitable and always offer great growth opportunities.

2. The underlying rule of yin and yang in life has always been here and always will be. The many polar opposites that exist in life—pain and pleasure, success and failure, adaptive and maladaptive, joy and sadness, free will and determinism—are each necessary to know and appreciate the difference between the two and have the feeling of being alive. Forward progress may actually be getting to the middle of extremes, or what earlier philosophers dubbed the “golden mean.” This does not mean pervasive neutrality, because there are some issues in life that require fighting for with your life and it is a good idea to know which these are.

3. In anything, timing is everything. It is a shame that this saying has become a cliché and lost some of its meaning and power. However, most great successes are a matter of good timing. The best timing to become sensitive to is tipping points and crossroads between opportunity and danger. The skill needed for self-growth and development is becoming more aware of the point of no return before an opportunity has already come and gone, or when danger becomes unavoidable and all you can do is mitigate the damage.

4. Ancient wisdom suggests that life takes care of itself without our puny, futile attempts at personal intervention to battle Karma. Sometimes it takes a long time to understand this reality, but it is always better late than never, to do so. When you learn to manage the judgment ghost, you finally realize that no matter how dark or deep of a whole you are in, you will eventually get to a better place, when you stop digging, take ownership of how you got there, and do something to get where you want to be.

In conclusion, our efforts to develop positive behaviors and manage the negative ghosts, is driven mainly by our understanding of time. When we make a transition from the conventional mechanical concept of time with a past, present and future towards a notion of an eternal now moment, the path ahead becomes wide-open.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ~Henry Haskins.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D., Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security Patrol, Inc., in Bellevue, Washington, sport psychologist, and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, ‘P’ Point Management, Reality Repair, Reality Repair RX, Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Smart Dog’s Tale. He can be reached at 425-652-8067 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net