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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Why Being an Expert Can Make You Unhappy

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 25th 2011

light bulbA couple walks into my office complaining of just feeling stuck. They get in constant bickering arguments that cause tension and resentment in the relationship. It’s affected their underlying happiness in their home and puts a wall up in their intimate life. As they sit there and the woman, we’ll call her Jen is talking about the problems they’re having, the husband, we’ll call him Joe, constantly interrupts to correct her story. She replies each time, “No, I’m right and you’re wrong.” After a short while I ask, “Is this pretty much how it goes at home?” They both answer, “Yes.” I gave them one simple suggestion that seemed to make a significant difference.

I asked them, “Would you rather be right or would you rather have harmony?”

The question seemed confusing at first as it took a short while for an answer to come out, but reluctantly each said, “Well, I’d rather have harmony I guess.”

Here is where we found a common mind trap that seems to sneak its way into relationships like an insidious parasite eating away at connection.

Being the Eternal Expert

Being the Eternal Expert is a recipe for heightened stress, keeping you uptight and constantly on guard. This is where you always have to be right and therefore are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is not in the cards. 

Many of do this to our own detriment. What we don’t realize is that before we even open our mouths we have set up a trap for ourselves where it’s going to ignite irritation in the other person which often leads to some backlash and kills harmony. 

It’s a very important question, “Would you rather be happy or right?” 

We all have to pick our battles and sometimes we’re just trying to pick battles because of some underlying irritation we have with another person or ourselves. 

Try asking yourself this question in the middle of your next interaction with your partner, friend, and colleague. 

Ask, “Am I trying to be an eternal expert and how is this working for me?”

The answer will light the path to your next move. 

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Fire Your Persona - David Wilson LMFT - Oct 26th 2011

Hi Elisha,

I love your article about making intentional choices in life and chosing harmony over the self perception of always being right. I recently wrote an article which warns us againist getting lost behind our personas and forgetting to show up in life as our authentic selves.  So often, as you pointed out, one of our personas is" The one who knows everything in life".  That is a common persona which serves as a suit of armor to protect a vulnerable side. It is a persona which pushes others away to avoid intimacy, vulnerability and the need to connect with others. I ask my clients to let go of their self annoted personas and make an intentional choice to show up in life authentic, real, approachable and to take a risk. The rewards can be wonderful.  It is clear you have many clients who come to your office hiding behind many personas, wearing suits of armor, fearful to let them go. I have found when mom or dad can model their authentic self, it gives others permission to do the same. I sure you know it is not just reflected in dysfunctional families, but many folks in everyday life.. We often define ourselves by what we do instead of who were are or what we stand for in life. I know many men and women who stand behind rank or title and expect everyone to show respect and reverence to their status and never venture out from behind that safe and predictable place. I encourage everyone to show up everyday, be authentic, drop the  facades of life and just be real, emotionally available and in the present moment with self and others. 

Thank you for your excellent article..

Best wishes...David Wilson









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