On the long running sitcom Seinfeld, there’s an episode where Jerry’s friend George Costanza comes to the sudden conclusion that everything he thinks and does invariably turns out to be wrong and if that’s true then the opposite must be right. He immediately applies that convoluted logic to a beautiful woman sitting at the lunch counter: “Hi. I’m George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” For comedic purposes she kicks a chair in his direction and alluringly invites him to join her.
Laughs or logic? Well, a little bit of both because I often practice a variation on the same theme when I catch myself relying on some tired old knee jerk reaction that has, much as George Costanza observed, failed time after time. The difficulty is in recognizing the knee jerk reaction as failed behavior and then consciously making a decision not to go there again.
This is, especially at first, ridiculously hard. You’ve got to step outside yourself and clearly listen to that nonsense you’re spewing and then, making it even harder, make a judgment call on your own nonsense. Most of the time people just say and do the crap they’ve learned since their escape from the womb and have no sense of the resultant impact on themselves and others.
To a degree, and I’m in no position to grade myself but, I’ve been doing well with this tact and while George’s approach was broad and random (again, for comedic purposes), mine is applied with careful consideration to the fact that my knee jerk reaction might actually be appropriate from time to time.
You see where this gets tricky? Most people go to psychologists because they don’t know what’s wrong in the first place so those people are temporarily exempt from this application until they’ve identified in what ways they’re screwed up. You can’t start the car until you’ve found the keys.
However, if you’ve dragged yourself over the emotional coals long enough and you’ve pretty much got a handle on your own foibles then you’re probably ready to give it a go.
Impress your friends and family with your new social gymnastics. Watch their jaws drop as you make completely different choices! Used to watching people recoil at your castrating humor because you were a miserable, depressed child? How about not doing that and instead using that wit to join in the fun with others! Take the self-deprecating route. Drop the Don Rickles and try out a little Rodney Dangerfield (he had better material anyway). How about the next time your wife/husband asks you to help with something, you turn all expectation on its ear and say (gulp) yes!
The situations are endless and I swear this thing works and if you act now you can transform what’s left of your half-ass existence into something slightly meaningful. I’m not saying this is a 100% success rate deal but it’s better than being a nay-saying, self-serving, control freak nutbag, so self-absorbed as to be sucked into your own spongy self.
As the master himself testified: “Every decision I have ever made in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I wanted to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, is it something to wear, something to eat, it’s all been wrong.”
Pure Costanzian logic.