Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Garbage Detection and Brilliance Spotting
2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
can't talk your way out of problems you behaved yourself into."
Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner in their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity recall this anecdote: "In the early 1960's, an interviewer was trying to get Ernest Hemingway to identify the characteristics required for a person to be a "great writer." As the interviewer offered various possibilities, Hemingway disparaged each in sequence. At last, frustrated, the interviewer asked, "Isn't there any one essential ingredient that you can identify?" Hemingway replied, "Yes, there is. In order to be a great writer a person must have a built-in, shockproof crap detector."
The ability to differentiate the beef from the baloney, the bull from the bull-pucky, the real from the apparent, is crucial for honest living in the present. Hemingway was not only bluntly astute about what makes a great writer, but also what makes a great human being engaged in this present moment. Developing the ability to recognize garbage can open up a new perception of being as we train our sensibilities to accurately interpret this moment.
Recognizing five levels of garbage, all of which qualify to be called manipulation, provide a key set of perceptual tools for garbage detection. Each shines light upon the misuse of influence on another's behavior through coercion, half-truths and whole lies. A tactic revealed is a tactic defused. Equally valuable, as we'll see, are the five levels of brilliance spotting.
The following five levels of garbage detection are proposed:
All five levels of garbage involve undetected manipulationit isn't detected until after its arrow has found its mark on you, and you don't even know what hit you! Manipulation is defined by purposeful, disguised behavior aimed to gain a specific advantage or result and no intention in actions to stay true and honest. The manipulator maximizes personal gain using the illegitimate influence of mind-control, image-management and strategic behavior. Manipulation appears to succeed for a time until we have become sensitized or trained to recognize it.
A good way to become aware of manipulation is to notice when you're doing what someone else wants instead of what you want. Feeling vaguely uncomfortable, unsettled, disconnected and imbalanced maybe signs you're being manipulated. Likewise for growing irritation, frustration and anger. Perceiving your life as out of order, unfitting or amiss are warnings. Also nervous, jumpy behavior of your own or someone else's are worth noticing, putting you on manipulation alert. These are all important signals that you are probably being manipulated. But the critical factor is that you are allowing yourself to behave in a manner different than how you would normally and naturally perform in your life. Call this your inner meter on manipulation.
People are victimized, yet the role of being a victim of other people and outer circumstances is largely optional. No one "did it to me", "came at me" or "made me" anything, barring criminal actions or catastrophic natural circumstances. The handle on this is the dreaded "to me's, on me's, at me's, upon me's and made me's." Once you are beyond the age of reason, approximately nine years old, and the above exceptions, life simply doesn't work this way. There are set-up's or "lead on's" in life, that is, you are lead to say and act in the way the other party wants. Examples include someone using guilt, obnoxiousness or anger to be right or get their way. How you behave in the face of set-ups remains your choice.
The way out of manipulative stratagems is straight-forward, tough and rewarding: continually practice awakening to recognize manipulation. While lightly not acting on the impulse to react emotionally or behave in a destructive way, sometimes called acting out, consciously behave as you would have if you had not been unexposed to this attempted misuse of your free will or apparent choice.
Illustrations abound showing manipulative set-ups and how to steer clear of them. Rescripting, or re-perceiving and rewriting old ideas, images and decisions in a new, healthier way that is workable today, is crucial. You can rescript each manipulative scenario and visualize how you would behave in each situation without becoming ensnared in the set-up. A phone solicitor aims to convince you to switch your long-distance telephone services or health insurance, when you are perfectly pleased with your present ones. Rescript this by briefly stating you don't conduct such business over the phone, you're not interested or to send you further information.
Other examples: an advertiser wanting you to buy some product, such as cologne or toothpaste, with the message that you will attract a beautiful or handsome mate; or your children demand you buy them specific clothes, toys or games you don't approve of buying. You can rewrite each of these by plainly translating the truth about ads or demands and by making your choice concerning products or services that meet your or your children's needs.
One last illustration: a relative uses guilt to twist your arm so you visit more regularly. Consider briefly informing this individual of your preference and, if you wish, your rationale. The truth is that you and I have choices, no matter what and it's important to know and honor them. The non-manipulated life belongs to you and can bear your unique mark.
The everyday give-and-take of social relationships provides trade-offs, that is, each alternative considered will benefit you and others in ways that produce different gains and losses. For example, to attend a business function may be good business, yet socially intimidating. To date a new person can be exciting, yet scary. Our choices reflect these trade-offs and the complexity of life. Sometimes we bend in other people's directions and sometimes we hold true to our own direction. This is social balancing. Manipulation, on the contrary, infers little respect for choice or well-being.
Equally important as detecting garbage is to develop the mirror skill set of "brilliance spotting" that recognizes excellence and genius in any area of life. How do you do this? Whether in ideas, expression of feelings, relationship or actions, I propose that brilliance shines forth and can be detected using two criteria: experiencing exceptional insight, quality, excellence or admiration; as well as outcomes that contribute to effectiveness and productivity.
I know each is tremendously subjective and imbued with values, yet, when actively understood, these factors have been useful in spotting brilliance. Meeting solely the first factor yields wonderful ideas and experiences, but lacks follow through and making a difference in the world. Producing successful outcomes is impressive but not always admirable, especially if illegitimate, illegal or unethical means were used and the experiential process lacked excellence.
Who hasn't come across the exceptional teacher, professor or seminar leader that embodies what they teach by practically injecting their ideas into productive work? Each educator empowers their students with tools for learning how to learn and produce wonderful results in the form of contributing individuals, effective consultation to business boosting productivity, and enhances our knowledge base through meaningful research. Possibility the greatest number of people inhabiting brilliance on one or more levels is the unsung heroes and heroines found operating as parents and marriage partners.
Similar to the levels of garbage, I propose the following five levels of brilliance spotting for you to identify and ever more fully embody. Seeing each level inspires one to rise to meet it.
© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel
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