In one of my lectures I used the following story to make the point that we should not be disturbed by the conflicts that ensue from disagreements. We should seek what we can learn from a person who disagrees with us. The story is called: “Look for the Pony”:

Here is the story: A father had two sons. One was an absolute pessimist. Everything was terrible. Nothing was good enough.

The other was an absolute optimist. Everything was great. Nothing was a problem, etc.

The father decided to do some experiential style enrichment, to see if he could change his sons’ outlooks.

He took the pessimistic kid and put him in a room filled with all the toys a kid his age might desire, just to show him that life is not so bad.

He put the optimistic kid in a room full of horse manure, just to show him that life is not so perfect.

After a while, he went back to see how they were doing.

The pessimist son was sitting in the middle of the room crying his heart out: “Too many toys. I can’t decide with which one to play with. I am so miserable. Life is terrible.”

The optimist son was whistling and singing, and shoving horse manure around. When the father asked him why he was so happy, he replied, “With so much horse s–t there must be a pony around.”

When someone disagrees with you, ignore the s–t. Ask yourself, where is the pony? Why is the person disagreeing with you? What does he or she know, or think, or judge which you do not? What can you learn from the disagreement? (Obviously, if after listening intently you find there is nothing to learn, that it is all s–t and no pony, ignore this person from there on. He or she is just wasting your time.)

But as I lectured this story I realized that there is another moral to the story. Both kids CHOSE how to feel.

Someone (I forgot who) said it already: “You are as unhappy as you want to be.” We choose to be happy or unhappy. How we feel is not caused by something “out there” that causes us to feel one way or another. Happiness has nothing to do with external factors. It is our choosing that matters.

But why, then, would someone choose to feel miserable, unhappy, a victim, and thus age prematurely, and even develop a disease as a result of the depression they feel?

It could be that their unhappiness serves them in one way or another that they are not conscious of. That it is how they draw attention to themselves, perhaps.

But it could be something else: I suggest it might be an addiction. They are used to the feeling. If they do not feel that way they usually find some illogical reason to feel bad. It may be that they are addicted to a certain chemistry that these feelings generate in the body.

The more I think about this, the more I realize how surrounded we are by sources of addiction: food, work, alcohol, tobacco, and even, for some, exercise. Now I realize that we are addicted to feelings, too. The cues we pick up from our environment are those that enable us to feed our addiction, and we ignore those cues that do not support our addiction.

The problem is not that we lack the freedom to choose how we feel, but that we are addicted to feeling bad.

How does one free himself or herself from a “feeling addiction”.

It is not psychotherapy, I think . Einstein said that the variables that cause a problem are not the variables that will solve the problem. So if the problem is of the head , the solution is in the heart.

But how?

We need to change what the cues mean. We need to make the cue that feeds our addiction not feel good but bad.

That is what I try to do with my food addiction. I decided that I am sensitive to glutton. Eating bread which is my addiction will make me sick. Honestly, it is not working because deep inside I know it is a lie. Another strategy is not to be around food that I am addicted to . Far from my eyes , far from my lips. But how does one do that with feelings.? Take a person that is depressed. He feels normal when depressed and abnormal when not depressed. So they find a reason to be depressed and thus feed the addiction. What now?

Anyone?

Sincerely,
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes