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5. Affirm Relationships
Instinctive Survival Desires exert powerful forces on your life. According to the Survival
Syndrome, those forces can both Increase and Decrease your Happiness. So how do Survival
Desires affect your Relationships?
Like many species, humans evolved as social animals who live in groups to improve chances for
Survival. Group BELONGING is a Survival Desire. Part of the instinct to Belong is a desire to
help others in your group, but not outsiders.
Your sense of Belonging exists on many levels. You might identify with people who:
- Are members of your family, or go to your church.
- Live in your neighborhood, city, state, or country.
- Share your hobbies, politics, or favorite sports.
- Have similar possessions including clothes and cars.
- Belong to your club, association, or profession.
- Are your same age, race, sex, or nationality.
- Have other features similar to yours.
When your sense of Belonging is strong enough, you make efforts to help others in your group.
Brain studies confirm that you receive Pleasure (dopamine) for helping group members.
Belonging can also Increase Happiness when those in your group decide to help you.
The downside to Belonging is BIGOTRY. Studies also show that not only do people fail to help
outsiders, but they actively shun them. Consider sports fans who root not only for their team to
win, but also for rivals to fail, even when their own team is out of the competition.
Bigotry is a form of human cruelty that can start on a child’s playground, and grow far worse.
Bigotry Decreases Happiness because, when you shun outsiders, you lose the opportunity for
productive interaction. Similar opportunities are lost when others shun you.
The solution for Bigotry is to put your Survival Desires to work for you. Almost anyone you
meet can be part of your “group” when you find even a single common interest. One common
interest that has brought strangers together centuries is the desire for commerce and trade.
You should Affirm to look for common interests with others.
A Desire related to Belonging is CONFORMING. To reinforce your position within a group, you
instinctively Conform to group norms. Conforming can exist on many levels:
- Speech, including language, dialect, word choice, expressions, and inflection.
- Appearance, including dress, hair and makeup.
- Movement, including how you carry yourself, and dance.
- Culture, including music, food, movies, and leisure activities.
- Other mannerisms, particularly those which are readily visible.
- Values, including Desires, and Excuses.
The masters of Conforming are adolescents, who are forming adult relationships for the first
time, and making every effort to fit in. Their heightened sense of Belonging also intensifies
Bigotry toward those who fail to Conform.
It is possible for Conforming to Increase Happiness in groups that promote Strong Choices. On
the other hand, many groups promote Weak Choices, and Conforming ensures their propagation.
Conforming also stifles creativity and limits exceptional behavior.
Conforming leads to HERDING – Choices made by looking at how others choose, more than
looking at the Choice itself. A classic example of Herding occurs during political elections.
Rather than focus on the issues and the candidates themselves, many people only focus on how
others are voting, as reflected by polls.
Again, put your Survival Desires to work for you. Since you instinctively Conform to those
around you, you should Affirm to surround yourself with people who will bring out the best in
you. Choose carefully your friends, your associates, and even the culture you enjoy such as
music and television.
Conformity demonstrates a larger process called TESTING. There are three elements to Testing:
Desires, Tests, and Results. The Results can cause new Desires.
In the case of Conformity, you might try this Test: The Desire is to wear a new kind of shirt. The
Test is to see of others like it. If the Result is that your new shirt is not accepted, your new Desire
might be to wear something else.
Testing is the fundamental process of life. Everything you do, every Choice you make, includes
the elements of Testing: driven by a Desire, with Results that can create new Desires.
- As an infant, your Desire is to speak like the adults around you. You Test with baby
sounds, and the Results cause you to try new sounds until eventually you speak words.
- While relaxing, your Desire is to be entertained. You Test a new TV show, and the Result
is that you like it. Your new Desire is to watch it every week.
- In school, you might Desire to make good grades without working hard. You Test by
goofing off. When your grades decline, your new Desire is to work harder.
Some Tests might not feel like Tests. Routine activities like walking across a room appear to
Test nothing. However, if you suddenly had a new Result, and were unable to walk, you would
certainly develop new Desires.
The concept of Testing helps us understand why we act the way we do. If we are doing
something, there must be a Desire. If it is an instinctive Desire, it might not be obvious.
With relationships, your overall instinctive Desire is to determine if people are suitable for a
relationship. Relationships are important -- choosing the wrong friend, boss, employee, or mate
could Decrease Happiness. Strong Choices will help you Increase Happiness.
We use a variety of Tests to determine if another person is worthy, starting with Belonging. The
Desire is to determine if someone belongs to your group. The Test is to look for Conformity. If
the Result is successful, the new Desire will be to further the relationship.
You already know how to overcome the limitations of Belonging and Conformity. Now consider
some other relationship Tests and their limitations.
Studies show even infants can identify BEAUTY. It is a hard-wired Test we apply to others
constantly. So what is the Desire that the Beauty Test is testing?
The Beauty Test is applied by observing physical characteristics:
- Size and proportion of the body.
- Symmetry and proportion of the face.
- Quality of the skin, hair, teeth, and eyes.
We deem people to be beautiful when they have symmetrical and pleasing proportions with
vigorous skin, hair, teeth, and eyes. Interestingly, those are the same visual characteristics which
might be affected by illness or genetic flaws. That helps us realize that the ultimate Desire for the
Beauty Test is to determine if a person is healthy.
Looking for Beauty is a Survival Desire. In mating relationships, where Beauty is most
emphasized, a healthy partner is more likely to produce healthy offspring. However, once you
understand the purpose of the Beauty Test, you also understand its limitations.
The Beauty Test is a primitive tool for selecting a mate. Many physical flaws, such as those
caused by accidents, are not passed on to the next generation and have no bearing on Species
Survival. Further, there are many forms of illness that are not visible at all.
You should Affirm to consider the limited value of Beauty as a relationship Test. At the same
time, realize that others will use the Beauty Test to judge you. The best way to enhance your true
Beauty is to Increase Health.
Historically, PHYSICAL ABILITY is a crucial element for Survival. Finding food, fending off
predators, and even defending against other people is physically demanding. Your prospects for
Survival improve with friends and associates who can take care of themselves, and, when
needed, take of you.
For those reasons, we have an Instinctive Survival Desire to Test Physical Ability. Physical
Ability is tested in many ways, beginning with simple observations of how others carry
themselves. Do they walk with purpose? Are they coordinated? Are they clumsy?
More rigorous Tests of Physical Ability include sports and other forms of play which require
high levels of strength and agility. Did you ever wonder why people all around the world watch
sports? Part of the reason is your Instinctive Survival Desire to test Physical Ability.
Some cultures require that males survive a "rite of passage" into manhood that includes a
physical test. In the animal world, tests for Physical Ability include nest building and displays of
With respect to mating, Physical Ability is nearly universally Tested by DANCING. By
watching others Dance, you can quickly determine: Are they balanced and coordinated? Do they
have a sense of timing? Can they learn and remember?
As our world becomes more modern, the Survival significance of Physical Ability has decreased.
But there are still situations and places where Physical Ability makes the difference between
living and dying. You should Affirm to develop your Physical Ability throughout your life.
The modern world places less emphasis on Physical Ability and more emphasis on MENTAL
ABILITY. The primary Test for Mental Ability is communication.
- Do you have a good command of the language?
- Can you express well-formed ideas?
- Can you listen and engage in give-and-take with others?
A form of communication which is both a Test, and a demonstration of the Testing process, is
STORYTELLING. Even though we think of Stories as entertainment, they are an important
Survival Mechanism. By telling and hearing Stories, dangerous lessons can be communicated
without dangerous consequences.
Interestingly, the Test for good Storytelling is how well it portrays Testing. The best stories
depict strong Desires, Tests, and Results. Stories that miss any of those elements are typically
You should affirm to develop your Storytelling ability. Do your stories depict Desires, Testing
and Results? Are you putting on a worthwhile show?
Perhaps the ultimate Test of communication is a sense of HUMOR. Humor is an unexpected, yet
acceptable departure from social norms.
The departure from social norms frequently involves an over-reaction or under-reaction as
compared to normal behavior. For example, an over-reaction would be to treat a paper-cut like a
serious wound. An under-reaction would be to hear you won the lottery, and yawn. When
looking for opportunities to be funny, think about the opposite of what you might normally say
The "acceptable" part of the definition relates to your audience. Some of the most effective
Humor deals with the clash of cultures between different groups of people: male and female, old
and young, black and white, et cetera. However, you need to know the difference between
insight and insult if you want your Humor to be accepted.
Finally, your Humor needs to be unexpected. Humor that is slow or obvious produces more
groans than giggles -- good to remember when you are tempted by a pun. And remember, the
punch line belongs at the end.
A person with a finely-tuned sense of humor is demonstrating mastery of complicated social
skills. You should Affirm to develop your sense of humor.
Affirm Shared Desires
When Testing reveals people you think are worthy, you might Choose to enter into relationships.
Relationships might or might not fulfill your expectations. The key to successful Relationships is
When you share the same Desires with others in your Relationships, you increase the probability
that their Choices will be consistent with your Mental Survival. Lack of Shared Desires can
destroy Relationships, resulting in: lost friendships, divorce, failed businesses, or even civil war.
The most effective way to develop Shared Desires is to Affirm them.
One example of Affirming Shared Desires occurs when a company publishes a mission
statement – in many cases, they post reminders of the mission statement in prominent places, just
as you would Affirmations. Politicians try to Affirm Shared Desires among their citizens through
the use of Mottos, National Anthems, Pledges, and even by controlling the education system.
Churches commonly Affirm their Shared Desires during weekly services.
In a marriage, you should Affirm a wide variety of Shared Desires.
- Where will you live?
- How will you manage money?
- Will you raise Children? If so, how?
- What about cooking, chores, church, and pets?
- How will you handle change, disagreements?
There are many more topics, each of which can involve numerous Shared Desires. Some Desires
might be uncomfortable to discuss during courtship, but if you don’t Affirm Shared Desires, you
can only hope to be lucky.
The traditional method to improving your luck has been to marry someone with a background
similar to yours. The idea was that you would automatically share at least some Desires, and
wouldn’t need to discuss every issue. Now, people communicate more openly, and even those
things that go without saying, should probably be said.
An important element is Honesty. Once you are caught lying, your Partner will never know when
you are telling the truth. To Share Desires with someone, you must be confident you know their
A Shared Desire that should be part of every Relationship is that you gain Pleasure from your
partner’s prosperity. When things are going well for your Partner, that should make you Happy.
So what do you do when a relationship goes bad? You Increase Happiness by using the same
process as in every other area of your life. First, Admit Failure to yourself and your Partner.
Then look for Rationalizations, Develop Desires and Affirm Daily.
People use the word “emotion” to describe a variety of mental states including long-term
Choices such as Love, and clinical conditions such as depression. For this discussion, consider
EMOTIONS to mean those involuntary reactions such as fear, anger, and sadness which
temporarily disrupt your normal mental condition.
Emotions are valuable Survival Desires which serve to alert you when important things are
- Anger - Hatred – Disgust – Resentment. Alerts you to something you might want to fight.
- Fear – Anxiety – Caution – Worry. Alerts you to something you might want to escape.
- Sadness – Frustration – Shame - Loneliness. Alerts you to something you have lost.
- Lust. Alerts you to the need for Species Survival.
Emotions get your attention with chemical changes that can affect heartbeat, breathing, sweating,
and more. They provide an instant jolt, designed to shock you into awareness. Even though you
might lack control over those physiological reactions, you can control your response.
People respond to Emotions according to their Values. When the engine of an airplane quits
inflight, everyone on board feels fear. Many are overwhelmed by their emotions (some to the point
of hysteria), but the pilot’s response is to remain calm.
The reason is, the pilot has trained and Developed Desire to remain calm under pressure. The
pilot also knows a response to emotion can trigger additional emotions. Hysteria can lead to
panic, which can lead to paralysis.
You should Affirm to control your responses to Emotions. Affirmations you might want to
- I like to confront my fears.
- I enjoy remaining calm under pressure, and relaxing at will.
- I only concern myself with things I can change, and Choices I can make.
- I enjoy being a problem solver. I like a good challenge.
Also, be careful not to confuse Emotions with Happiness. Excitement, Infatuation, and Lust all
bring forth good feelings, but they could be followed by more Pain than Pleasure. It will be your
response to those feelings which determine your Happiness.
Emotions and Survival
You should also recognize that some of your strongest Emotions are produced by the instinct to
Survive, usually not Physically, but instead Mentally. Most people don’t often face life-or-death
situations related to Physical Survival, but they do for Mental Survival. Your ideas, judgments
and Values are subject to constant critique.
We all know people who are touchy, quick to take offense, defensive or even mean. In most
cases, those people lack confidence in their beliefs or Excuses. Remember, an Excuse is a
rationalization for making Weak Choices.
Excuses are points of weakness. If an Excuse fails to withstand an attack, you will be forced to
change your Mental state. Your Mental Survival is at stake, and your Emotions will make sure
you know that.
For example, say a co-worker is in the habit of leaving a mess in the break room. You can be
certain the co-worker has Excuses for why that is acceptable behavior. (e.g. Everyone else does
it. The mess is not that bad. I have more important things to do. I’ll clean it up later. That’s not
my job. Et cetera.)
If you point out the messy behavior to your co-worker, you are likely to receive an Emotional
response. The reason is, those Excuses are being questioned. A co-worker who is unable to
defend the Excuses will be forced to change. Mental Survival is at stake.
On the other hand, you might not get an Emotional response for one of two reasons. The first is
that the co-worker doesn’t care what you think. People like that will be of little use in your goal
to Increase Happiness.
The second possibility is that your co-worker has developed the rare Value that selfimprovement is
more important than Mental Survival. People with that Value want to learn from
their mistakes, and take Pleasure from the opportunity to do so. That is the kind of person you
want to be, and be with.
You should Affirm to rise above your Emotional reactions. When you feel an Emotion, first ask
yourself why. Am I defending an Excuse? Then control your response and use the opportunity to
"Love" is also a confusing word because it means many different things. Romantic LOVE is
commonly mistaken with lust, or desire. Desire alone is not Love.
You are attracted to someone. Your thoughts are dominated by the relationship. You lose your
appetite and want to spend all your time together. Sounds like Love, right?
Maybe. It is certainly Desire, but Love requires more. Love requires HELPING.
Helping is an important Survival Desire. Infants must be nurtured to survive, and even adults
sometimes require assistance to live. By Helping each other, groups of people have greater
prospects for Survival.
For this discussion, HELPING means an attempt to Increase Pleasure or Decrease Pain for
- You stop to help a stranger change a flat tire on the side of the road.
- You feed the neighbors’ dog while they are out of town.
- You remain faithful to your spouse.
Even though you might Help both a stranger and your spouse, your Love for them is not the
same. The difference is your level of commitment. Love is a commitment to Help.
The stranger, to whom you have committed nothing, can only expect your Help when it is
convenient for you. Your spouse, to whom you have committed everything, should be able to
expect you will do everything possible to Help. Others in your life can expect various levels of
commitment and Help.
Loving Relationships Increase Happiness in two ways:
- GIVING. You gain Pleasure from fulfilling your instinctive Desire to nurture and Help others.
- GETTING. You gain Pleasure from whatever Help is returned to you.
In fact, two people in a Loving Relationship can produce more Happiness together than the sum
of what they can produce alone. When you do a chore for a loved one, you gain the Pain of the
chore, but also the Pleasure of Giving. When your loved one does the same chore for you, your
Pain is paid back, yet you still have the Pleasure of Giving. When you each do your own chores,
the Pleasure of Giving never exists.
Just as Strong Choices require you to focus more on Pain than Pleasure, Love works best when
you focus more on Giving than Getting. Unfortunately, some people gain so much Pleasure from
Giving, they make Weak Relationship Choices. In fact, their addiction to the Pleasure of Giving
is so strong, they claim to have no Choice but to Love someone.
Although you might have no Choice about your Emotions, Love requires commitment, and a
commitment is always a Choice. When you Choose romantic Love for someone who Chooses
not to Love you back, you might rob yourself of the Love you could otherwise Get, and you rob
your partner of the Pleasure of Giving. You should Affirm to Choose Relationships that benefit
Finally, you should Affirm to practice Responsible Love. Helping others does not mean
eliminating all of their Pain. Some Pain is instructive and therefore necessary.
A child who is spoiled is typically less Happy than a child who learns to make Strong Choices.
Yet parents who spoil their children feel they are “helping” by eliminating discomfort. Your
sense of Helping needs to encompass all needs, including the need for Pain.
One person you should always love is yourself. Commit to help yourself and to be responsible. A
good place to start is to INCREASE HEALTH
- You instinctively belong to groups, and should look for common interests with others.
- You instinctively conform to those around you, and should choose your friends carefully.
- Every Choice involves Desires, Tests, and Results to help you learn about the world.
- Beauty is a weak Test, but is maximized by Increasing Health.
- You should Affirm to develop your Physical Ability.
- Affirm to develop your Storytelling and Sense of Humor.
- Affirm Shared Desires in all of your Relationships.
- Affirm to enjoy being in control of your responses to Emotions.
- Love is a commitment to Help. Focus on what you will Give.
- Affirm to Love responsibly.
You say Relationships are a choice, but I didn’t Choose my family.
True. But unless you are
under-age, it is your Choice whether or not to remain in family Relationships. Many people
resent the feeling of being trapped in Relationships. Realizing you have the Choice to leave can
be liberating, even when you Choose to stay.
How can Love be a commitment to Help if I love people to whom I’ve never made
commitments or who don’t need my help?
The commitment might be kept to yourself, and the
Help might not be needed, but the real question is: What would you do if someone needed your
Help? If you would Help, it is because of your Love. If your Help would be limited, then so is
You mention looking for areas of common interest. Shouldn't we celebrate diversity?
Celebrating diversity is intended to reduce Bigotry, but it is a step in the wrong direction. To
really embrace fellow humans, we need to celebrate what we have in common. We can all
maintain diversity, even while emphasizing common interests.