How To Simplify Your Life Via Radical Honesty with Dr. Brad Blanton
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Jonathan Bailor: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Today’s show is one of those unique shows where I am as eager to listen to this show as I am to record it because today’s guest is a man who’s book I read many, many moons ago and had a dramatic impact on my life at that time. I feel fortunate to have the ability to talk to him today. I’m so excited to share his message with you. It’s radical, and it’s honest. That’s the name of his first book. Radical Honesty. We’re joined by none other than Dr. Brad Blanton who is a psychotherapist, author, seminar leader, and describes himself as “white trash with a PHD.” Dr. Blanton, welcome to the show.
Brad Blanton: Thanks, nice to be here.
Jonathan Bailor: Brad, just to get us started, I want-if you don’t mind-to focus on your first book because you have many-Radical Honesty, and one, what you mean by radical honestly, and two, how you came to that school of thought.
Brad Blanton: Well I was a psychotherapist in Washington D.C. for over thirty years and so it was only natural that I became an expert on lying. That is the best place in the world to become an expert on lying. I saw a lot of people who worked for the government, industry related to the government, I saw more lawyers than any other single profession over the years of my private practice. Basically, I learned from my clients that fundamental cause of most anxiety and most conflict and trouble at work, most depression is being trapped in the jail of your own mind. What keeps you trapped in the jail of your own mind is lying, and we all lie like hell all the time.
Jonathan Bailor: It’s true, it’s true. So how to we become radically honest?
Brad Blanton: You start by saying whatever it is that you notice. You can notice what’s going on outside of you, you can notice what’s going on in your own mind, you can notice what’s going on in your own body. That’s all there is. There isn’t anymore. Just report what you notice. That is radical simply because it doesn’t fit in with the usual conspiracy you’re supposed to be engaged in (unintelligable) something is different than it is.
Jonathan Bailor: And Brad, one thing I want to call out in violent support of what you just said because it may seem a bit radical, intentionally. But I remember a section in your book Radical Honesty that just really hit home with me and that was-I’m going to paraphrase and probably butcher it so please correct me here. When you’re in a relationship with someone, we act the way the way we think that person wants us to act, but if you do that you will never actually know love. Even if your lies make that person love you, they don’t actually love you. They love your lies. That blew my mind.
Brad Blanton: You got it pretty good.
Jonathan Bailor: Could you elucidate for us please?
The thing is, we’re all imagining what other people are imagining by us. We are taught to do this systematically by the way we were raised and parented. The cultural context would come up and what you’re supposed to do is play to and imagine the audience and to try to maintain your identity and your identity is your performance. We’re taught from early childhood that we’re the grades we make and what the teacher thinks of us. Then we get to be adolescents and we are what our peers think of us. We live in an adolescent culture which constantly reinforces that your identity is your reputation. So we’re all suffering from a case of mistaken identity. Who you are is actually the person sitting in the studio talking to me right now and who I am as a person is sitting in a chair talking to you on Skype, making a recording to be broadcast. Who I am is a present tense noticing being, and who you are is this present tense noticing being. If you simply report what you notice; you report what’s going through your mind, you report whatever you think about, whatever is being said. You report whatever is going on right now. When you do that, you end up violating a lot of ongoing cultural taboos that have to do with staying in the game of “playing right”. No one is pretending anything. But in fact, we’re almost all pretending most of what we’re saying most of the time.
Jonathan Bailor: Brad, it seems like the thing that is so freeing and profound about what you’re teaching here is-and we all know this on some level-we know that one of the reasons that we don’t want to lie in the traditional sense is because it’s very difficult to maintain. You have to remember “Oh, I lied to this person about this so the next time the person asks me, I have to remember that I had lied. You have to create n number of alternate realities, where n is the number of people you’re interacting with. How much of our stress or need for SSRIs just comes from trying to live a schizophrenic life from maintaining a set of lies?
Brad Blanton: I’d say most of it comes from the distraction of having to try to desperately remember what game you were playing with who last time? And whether or not you actually told them something and you need to keep telling them something else to maintain or not. You’re constantly distracted. Your mind is not your best friend. I call it the “distracter tractor”. Simply, you’re constantly worried about remaining nurtured in a particular kind of image. Actually, I don’t teach people to get smarter. I teach them to get dumber. After almost 20 years of running this workshop called the course in honesty, we came up with a chant that leads to enlightenment without fail within two and a half minutes. I usually charge people $2400 for this, but I’m gonna give it away right here on your show for free. The chant that leads to enlightenment without fail is this: “DUHHHHHHHHHH”. You just get dumb. You just become completely inviscid like a child. You just say whatever the hell comes out. It’s a whole lot funnier, and you end up being happier. You get paid more. You get more responsibility. You get laid more often. All these things come out of that. Just as dumb as a box of rocks. It’s like when you get dumb, you lose the cultural sophistication and you start being honest and lovable like children are.
Jonathan Bailor: Another word for “dumb”, Brad, is simple. It seems like that is another way to think of this. It’s literally the old KISS “keep it simple stupid”. Just really applying that to every aspect of your life.
Brad Blanton: Yeah.
Jonathan Bailor: Brad, I’m going to share a little bit about myself here. I was very much reading books like yours. I just went on a binge for about three years when I was in college. I have this giant document-about 40 pages long-of my favorite quotes that I’ve captured. A bunch are from you. Two that are short enough to share on this podcast. These are from your book Radical Honesty. Honestly, go to Amazon and buy it right now. You can probably buy it used for $.99, but buy a new version. The first quote is from page 120. I’m just hoping you can talk to it a bit. “Neurosis is essentially a refusal to accept what is happening in the present. A neurotic is a person who incessantly demands that life be other than it is”.
Brad Blanton: That is from people that preceded me. That was from (Bridds Pro’s) talk reading about Freud. Basically, Freud said something very similar that the incessant demand that life be other than it is is the the essential nature of neurosis. The way you make yourself constantly unfitting into the world. You have certain expectations that the world is supposed to live up to. That guarantees your un-success in relationships, business, friends, your mate. Basically, this incessant demand that they be other than they are also gets incorporated into your own mind and you’re incessantly demand that you be other than you are. You’re out there demanding that everyone including yourself be other than they are. It’s a lot simpler to be whoever you are.
Jonathan Bailor: Not only to be that way, Brad. I feel like we’re having our own psychotherapy session right now. Don’t send me a bill! This is a more colloquial way of phrasing some of what we just talked about. It’s the old phrase of “claim the hand you’re dealt”. The more I’ve done that, the more I’ve said “this is the situation. It is. How can I actually use that to my advantage? It’s two levels. One is being neurotic and saying “why is it this way?”. The next level is “it is”. I believe there is a level beyond that, which is “how do I use that to make the best life possible? How do I play the hand that I’m dealt?”. What do you think about that?
Brad Blanton: You say to me, “well this is what I’m thinking and I can make the most of this.” We share that honestly, and they say “well, that’s not a bad idea. I’d like to make the most of myself”. This is not new. (Unintelligible) wrote the Yoga Sutras about five thousand years ago. Yoga had been around for about five thousand years. The second Sutra, which is the one that comprehensively covers what all of yoga has. All different kinds of Yoga. Everyday life and sexuality. All of yoga was defined in the second Sutra. The second Sutra is “the objective of all yoga is to bring about an inhibition of the modifications of the mind.” It doesn’t say to obliterate or overcome them. Just stutter step the suckers every now and then. Your own mind is not your best friend. We’re taught in our culture that your mind is everything, but your mind is not that great. Basically, your mind is a distracter tractor that’s constantly removing you from noticing what’s actually going on with you or with the world.
Jonathan Bailor: Really quickly, Brad, for listeners who may not be familiar, what is “neurosis”? What is a neurotic person as distinct from a schizophrenic person or someone who is just crazy?
Brad Blanton: It’s just someone who is distracted, upset, anxious, or depressed all the time because they are constantly speaking to themselves in their own mind about what ought to be other than it is. That’s most of us. Basically, the scattered operating in this neurotic culture we came up in is being neurotic. It’s reinforced. It’s part of the Judeo-Christian tradition to worry about what you should be doing right now.
Jonathan Bailor: It’s like that constant self judgment, it seems.
Brad Blanton: Yea.
Jonathan Bailor: Brad, just one definition of neurosis that I wanted to share with the listeners while we’re on the subject. I think this actually came from Dr. Wayne Dyer. I was listening to one of his talks on an audio cassette. He said “if you have a fully functioning person and you say to them ‘what does 1+1 equal?’, that fully functioning person will say ‘two’. If you ask a crazy person what 1+1 equals, they will say ‘elephant’ or something ridiculous. If you ask a neurotic person what 1+1 equals, they will say ‘two, but I can’t stand that it equals two’.
Brad Blanton: Good, I like that.
Jonathan Bailor: And why does it always have to be two? Just once, couldn’t 1+1 equal three?
Brad Blanton: It all depends on your context. 1+1 equals 11 if you look at it literally.
Jonathan Bailor: Well, Brad, I hope people will start to understand these quotes just based on what we’re talking about so far here, because there’s definitely a common thread. This one’s really short; I just wanted you to comment on it here. This was on page 5. “Stress is not a characteristic of life or times, but of people”.
Brad Blanton: Yea, you are the source of your stress. You don’t have a stressful job, you just have a stressful way of making yourself live up to expectations you generate by thinking about what must be required of you for that job.
Jonathan Bailor: Does anyone ever say “Well, Brad, do you suppose I should just stop caring? Should I just not care about my job performance?”
Brad Blanton: You just need to care less about what your ideals are; your idea of how you should perform your job. Basically, the way of working through things comes to children naturally between six months and nine years of age. We love playing pretend games as little kids. We would play anything. We would play Little Lone Ranger or Star Wars or whatever happens to be crossing our mind. We can pretend to be anything, and pretend games are a lot of fun. The problem is that at ten or eleven years of age we learn another level at which we’re pretending, but we’re pretending that we’re not pretending when we are. It’s that pretending that you’re not pretending when you are that I call “lying”. Radical honesty is the antidote to that lying. You say “lets pretend together that such and such. Fine, it’s an open book. Everyone realizes we’re pretending. When you say “I made a certain score on my SAT. I could have done better except such and such”, it’s all a whole bunch of pretense that has nothing to do with telling the truth about the score. It has to do with the impression you’re trying to make in the mind of the other person that you’re pretty smart but probably even smarter than it look like you are. When you’re pretending that you’re not pretending when you are, this is the entanglement that gets you all wrapped up in your mind’s distractable behavior.
Jonathan Bailor: Very well stated Brad. I can imagine that some of the listeners are thinking to themselves-and I want to warn our listeners, I am going to bring up the subject of religion so if you want to turn off the podcast, I would advise doing that. I certainly will be respectful here, but I’m curious to get the good Dr. Blanton’s opinion. Often times there’s a little bit of a paradox here, Brad. I’m going to use Judeo-Christian thought; specifically the New Testament of the Bible. Most people would say, for example, “I was raised Catholic but I am no longer a practicing Catholic”. Most people would say that religion was a major source-or seems that it would be a major source-for this internal monologue, but at the same time, if we look at Matthew 18:3, it says “truly I tell you that unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven”, which actually sounds shockingly similar to what you are saying here.
Brad Blanton: Yeah, by accident there is some pretty good stuff in the New Testament. (laughing) No, actually there is a lot of similarity. The processes that I recommend have to do with people getting over things by paying attention to their experience and sticking with it. I believe, personally, that forgiveness is the most important thing an individual can learn. You don’t learn that much in the established church. You sure as hell don’t learn it in the Catholic Church. You learn the idealism behind forgiveness, but authentic forgiveness is something that happens in your body. When you stay present to the experience of anger-you tell the truth about it by getting angry-it increases and then decreases and then goes away and you say “oh, that’s okay I don’t care about that anymore” because you’ve gone through the visceral experience of getting over it. You feel the hurt. You have an increased heart rate, you feel certain sensations in your body, you tell them the truth about it, they talk to you, everybody shares it, and eventually it’s not so important to you anymore. You say “that’s okay, I’m over it”. That’s authentic forgiveness. It’s not forgiveness because you should. You can’t forgive anyone because you should. You can forgive someone by going through an honest interaction, telling the truth about it and experiencing it. When you experience an experience it comes and goes, whereas if you resist the experience it persists. One of the ways of resisting an experience is by telling yourself that you should be doing something else rather than what you’re doing. That’s a way of blocking getting over it. The ideal of forgiveness prevents forgiveness, whereas the process of forgiveness is the most valuable thing because it leaves you open to a new interaction with the person without past grudges shading what is going on.
Jonathan Bailor: Well Brad, I think there is so much goodness here and I want to caution our listeners because I think someone who might be multitasking while they’re listening to this podcast and not paying as much attention as they should be might be hearing a message of “just stop caring”. Actually, the two words that stuck in my mind after reviewing your work, Dr. Blanon, are “authentic” and “cool”. Let me explain why I say this really quickly. We try to (understand) what makes a person cool? Trying to be cool is the least cool thing you can do. When you try to be cool, you are lying. We often think that people who are cool are actually people who just embody what you’re saying. Radical honesty. They say what they think, they live what they do. They just do their thing. I believe that radical honesty is what we as a culture define as being truly cool and being authentic. What do you think?
Brad Blanton: Yeah, I think so. I think probably what happens is when you don’t worry so much about what’s going on in other people’s minds and you don’t worry so much about what is going on in your mind, and you figure “well, we’ll work it out. If we misunderstand, we’ll clarify because we’ll keep telling the truth until we figure it out together. It’s a certain trust of the human being rather than a trust of their minds. Once you see that the mind is an unreliable instrument for you, you see that it is an unreliable instrument for other people. You develop this kind of compassion that I call “screw ’em if they can’t take a joke”. At face value it sound uncaring, but it is actually much more caring for the being over there. You’re not going to conspire with them on what their mind says you should do either. You’re helping them deliver themselves from their own mind while you’re helping yourself deliver yourself from yours.
Jonathan Bailor: I think there’s a meta level here that you’re talking about, Brad, and there you described it as well. When you look at it on the surface it looks one way, but when you actually look deeply at it it looks a much different way. In fact, one last quote that I want to share. Again, people who are not really listening here may think what we’re talking about here is “not caring”. In fact, that is the opposite. This is a deep, fundamental form of caring. In fact, you mention in your book the primary, fundamental, essential, baseline, critical, lowest level minimum requirement for happiness is the willingness to take care of oneself. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Brad Blanton: Most relationships don’t work. People fall in love pretty quick because they idealize how wonderful it was when they first got together and then they start holding each other accountable for continuing to do that that way. I suggest that people get over appreciation as well as resentment. You need to get over the last time you fell completely in love in order to be open to loving again. Otherwise, you are holding that remembered love as a standard that the person is supposed to live up to at all times and you end up getting angry at them. You end up in an old hillbilly song. “Why don’t you love me like you used to?” What happens is, the mind is a tricky thing. It builds up the illusion about how things ought to be. Even when you say to people “if you’re multitasking and not listening, you should listen.” No, they don’t need to listen. Keep on multitasking. Listen at a halfway level, don’t worry about if you get it or not. Don’t concentrate too hard. It’ll seep through and ruin your life anyway. What we’re after is a kind of loving casualness. There’s a lot of humor in the way minds work. There’s nothing like a mind. I say that everyday. Show me a mind and I’ll show you someone that’s about to screw up. For years and years in the history of existentialism there is an ongoing argument talking about the difference between being and doing. Doing is something you organize with your mind and being has to do with noticing. Finally (Sarks) said after 300 years “you cannot separate your being and your doing”. They argued about it and realized you need both. Nobody knew exactly what to do about it until finally the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century, Frank Sinatra, said you have to alternate being and doing. Dobedobedo. They’re both okay, you just don’t want to be totally wrapped up in being. If you’re all in the present you’re pretty much unable to function. If you’re all wrapped up in doing so that you’re constantly working on whatever your next agenda is, you don’t get to notice anything. Like Frank Sinatra said, you just alternate being and doing. Dobeobedobe is the happiest way to live. You get to do both. You engage other people as one being to another. You get to talk about ideas and work on things together. That is the way that truly co-hearted co-intelligent rich lives come from. It comes from people doing dobedobedo together.
Jonathan Bailor: Ladies and gentleman, his name is Dr. Brad Blanton. I have some other questions, but that is so money we just have to end on that because that’s wonderful. Hopefully folks, as you heard here, I actually feel lighter. I literally feel lighter just from talking with Dr. Blanton. His work is enlightening both literally and figuratively, both getting us out of the way of ourselves and our own minds. Like he said, dobedobedo. Dr. Blanton, thank you so much for joining us today, I very much appreciate it.
Brad Blanton: Thank you, I enjoyed it a lot.
Jonathan Bailor: Listeners, I know Dr. Blanton told me not to tell you what to do, but I’m going to tell you what to do. Go visit radicalhonesty.com and pick up a copy of the book. It is fabulous. Remember, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.