Former SJU Professor Has the Secret

It all started with a walk down library lane, on the south wing of the third floor to be exact. Perusing through the shelves, my eyes slid past “Dyer” and reversed back abruptly.

I had seen this name before, on a post-it handed to me by Professor Diane Gallagher. It was a recommended reading list. Wayne Dyer, she said, was a St. John’s professor circa 1970. My first thoughts were of regret that I had not been conceived earlier and sent off to the university at that time. I’d eventually come to find out that worry and regret are the useless emotions.

Dyer’s best-selling book, Your Erroneous Zones, (not to be confused with your erogenous zones which are of a different nature and seldom expressed by Puritanical Catholic University students), highlights about a dozen areas of self-defeating behavior. Some include approval-seeking, being hung up in the past, feeling guilty, being afraid of the unknown, seeking justice, procrastinating, being dependent, and displaying anger.

Dyer believes guilt is a main issue for many people, in that they are using up their present moments by being “immobilized” because of past behavior, while fear of the future keeps them immobilized now. By feeling guilty about the past and worrying about the future, you don’t have to do anything constructive, effective, or “self-enhancing,” now. It is much easier to wallow in the net of guilt, get everyone to join in your pity parade because you feel “oh so terrible”, and avoid doing anything right now…other than feel terrible.

Worrying about the future is nonsensical, because all you’re really doing is working your mental muscles on a hamster wheel for excessive amounts of time and shielding yourself in never knowing what will actually happen.

As the rationale goes: “If you feel guilty enough, you will eventually be exonerated for having been naughty.”

In this way, “guilt” is the currency you use to pay for past debts. This is a truly senseless transaction. Something has already happened or has yet to happen. The past cannot be changed and the future cannot be known. Your “now moments” that can be used to work on yourself are being wasted with feeling guilty.

This is understandable in a culture that encourages us to seek approval on a daily basis. We are always encouraged to check with someone else. Our opinion isn’t enough. Everyone else knows better. Perhaps my dear friends adopt this logic when they repeatedly ask me if they are fat. Instead of replying “No, of course not,” I now tell them that they look highly elastic, flubber-esque, and shouldn’t eat for the next week. This sort of retort highlights the idiocy of their initial inquiry.
Dyer highlights this discrepancy in the seemingly harmless lyrics infesting our airwaves. My personal favorites are the sappy love songs. These songs “send out the signal that someone or something else is more important than you,” hence, without this person’s approval, you would collapse, or roll down a real steep hill and bang into a weeping willow on your way down. All of that wouldn’t matter because you can’t live if living is without him or her.

Obviously, this is absurd.

Reflective of the misleading, troubling, borderline disturbing lyrics we write are the words we speak. “YOU made me feel bad.” “YOU hurt my feelings.” “YOU made a fool of me in public.” We give others power of our feelings and take the passenger seat in this tea cup that won’t stop spinning until we learn better.

Presenting: Lessons in Speaking 101.

“YOU made me feel bad.” -> “I made myself feel bad.”
“YOU hurt my feelings.” -> ” I hurt my feelings because of the things I told myself about your reaction to me.”
“YOU embarrassed me in public.” -> “I made myself feel foolish by taking your opinions of me more seriously than my own, and believing that others would do the same.”
So, you see, it’s quite simple. Don’t regret the past. Don’t worry about the future. Do take responsibility for your own feelings. Do read Your Erroneous Zones. It really breaks it all down for you with sections entitled “Learning to be Unhappy: A Tough Assignment,” “The Dividends of Approval Seeking,” and “The Psychological Payoffs for Choosing Guilt.”

Dyer’s work is merely a first step in the direction of self-growth/improvement. Merely reading it will not change your life. Experiencing it will do wonders. We spend so much time in cyber space and neglect to cultivate our space, the mind, where we spend 98% of our time.

Some of you may think that you already know all of this and you don’t need to read a stupid book to find out. My friends, you are the ones who need and will benefit from this the most.