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The Error Of Your Ways
Book Review: Your Erroneous Zones by Dr Wayne W. Dyer
There are many paths to personal freedom and during our journey we will encounter many opportunities. Some will resonate and some will not make sense to us until the right time approaches.
In the early eighties I came across one of those opportunities. It was in the form of a book by Dr Wayne W. Dyer titled “Your Erroneous Zones.” Clever title, I thought. It was originally published in 1977 and I read somewhere that it spent around 64 weeks on the best seller list so I was not the only one that resounded with it.
Some have called this book radical which makes me smile because it contains the simplest and most sensible messages of all. Dr Dyer’s aim is to teach us to take charge of ourselves and that we can indeed choose how we feel. He quotes Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilych as he awaits his own death, "What if my whole life has really been wrong?”.
Those impulses Ivan Ilych had ignored; could they have been real and the rest false? What a sad fate to come to the realization just days before your death that you have been living the wrong life professionally and socially and all the material possessions along with the social status you coveted are nothing but a lie.
The first thing Dr Dyer teaches us that you can choose how you feel because of the simple fact that every feeling is preceded buy a thought therefore changing your thoughts will change your feelings. That is to say that if you are feeling sad your “self talk” has a lot to do with the intensity of your despondency and Dr Dyer goes as far as to say that there are times when you can even choose health over illness.
There is a section in the book designated to putting to rest some common myths. One I like is the myth that the higher your IQ the smarter you are. Dr Dyer challenges this myth,” …mental hospitals are clogged with patients who have all the properly lettered credentials – as well as many who don’t. A truer barometer of intelligence is an effective, happy life lived each day and each present moment of every day”.
Present moment living is a thread right through the book, “The present moment that elusive time which is always with you, can be most beautifully experienced if you allow yourself to get lost in it. Drink in all of every moment and tune out the past which is over and the future which will arrive in time.”
What could be more freeing than living in the now and savouring those special moments? I have a tendency to regret the past and worry about the future and I know I would be shocked to know just how much time I wasted regretting things that can’t be changed and worrying about situations that have not occurred.
Guilt and worry are noted as useless emotions. Experiencing guilt over a past event that cannot be changed and worrying about a future one that has not yet happened is wasting your precious present moments. Both these emotions are immobilizing and futile. The difference between guilt and learning from past mistakes is vital as guilt alone will only result in stressing over what cannot be undone.
Dr Dyer claims that the first time you fall in love should be with yourself. Self hate is the most debilitating habit of all. He talks about self acceptance without complaint and developing a positive self image which begins with showing yourself a little kindness and nurturing your body with good health. He states, “Stop equating your performance in anything with your self worth. You may lose your job, or fail a given project. You may not like the way you performed this or that task, But that doesn’t mean you are without worth.”
The important thing to remember is that the essential “you” is not your big house, your fancy car or glamorous job. Sometimes too much emphasis is placed on these things which can cause loss of present moment fulfilment.
Dr Dyer denotes the significance of loving yourself in order to be able to freely love others. Along with treating yourself with love it is paramount to put a stop to the constant need of approval. It is vital to see how futile it can be to make another’s view more important than your own. If you care for and love yourself why allow someone else’s opinion to be more important than your own? We all enjoy endorsements from other people but if desiring approval has become a need then you may have work to do.
Along with letting go of outside opinions Dr Dyer devotes a chapter to breaking free from the past. He explains that too often we live with tags placed on us in the past and cannot fathom the fact that we may not need those labels today. If you are questioned as to why you regularly do the same thing over and over and your reply is, “Because I have always done it that way” it may be time to challenge the behaviour. When life is not all that we would want it to be, it is interesting to recall American advisor Anthony Robbins, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you always gotten.” Time and things change and what was appropriate at one time of your life may not necessarily be the ideal for you now. I believe that each of us is reborn each and every day; so let go of the shackles of the past and live fully for today.
Another erroneous habit is what Dr Dyer calls “The justice trap.” A big cause for stress, anxiety and anger is the belief that the world should be fair. Dr Dyer goes as far as to say that justice does not exist. Life isn’t fair. Living with the expectation of fairness at all times is the biggest cause of angst among us. Too many people run their relationships with a tally sheet. There are a few examples of this in the book, “It’s not fair you get to do this or that, I never get to do anything…” It all comes down to the need to control which is a misleading notion. It is not possible to stay on top of everything at all times and if that is a need for you consider the fact that it not humanly possible and that, with letting go comes true freedom.
“In any relationship in which two people become one the end result is two half people.” This is the quote that introduces the chapter titled “Declaring Your Independence” which focuses on the dynamics of a relationship that allows each individual to be his or her self without any expectations or demands. There is a reference from Louis Anspacher about marriage in America, “Marriage is that relation between man and woman in which the independence is equal, the dependence mutual, and the obligation reciprocal.”
Dr Dyer talks about the importance for parents to balance attending to children’s needs while allowing them to grow independently. Mum and dad can always be there for their children to lean on while they are learning not to need the support. The premise that “you are treated the way you teach others to treat you” is prevalent in this section.
If you succumb to manipulation or put downs you are also responsible for the fact that you are allowing your partner to treat you that way. I remember years ago I was in the midst of crying after yet another break up while asking myself, “Why are men treating me this way?” The answer came to me; because you let them do it! Their bad behaviour was not my fault but the fact that I had been letting them treat me badly was my responsibility and the negative experiences would have continued had I not acknowledged that fact.
Putting an end to procrastination is another tool for fulfilment. Inertia and wishful thinking are not useful contributors to a happy life. Wishful thinking alone is not going to do it. Appropriate goals and action is what is required. When setting a goal it is important to strive for something that is achievable. To quote Dr Dyer, “It takes not one drop of sweat to put off anything.”
One section I particularly like in the book is the chapter titled “Breaking the barrier of convention” and the blind compliance to the “shoulds” of society, etiquette and rules and law. Clearly we all need law and order in society and I am not advocating breaking such rules but there are times and places where the so called regulations make no sense. Dr Dyer quotes the words of Herman Hesse in Damian. “Those who are too lazy and comfortable to think for themselves and be their own judges obey the laws. Others sense their own laws within them; things are forbidden to them that every honourable man will do any day in the year and other things are allowed to them that are generally despised. Each person must stand on their own feet.” He says “If you must comply with all the rules all the time, you are destined to a life of emotional servitude.” Radical as it sounds the message here is to teach us to think for ourselves while balancing that with the guidelines that keep order in society.
Throughout the book the word choice shows itself regularly because it is all about choosing how we perceive and feel. The second last chapter is about saying farewell to anger. Dr Dyer proposes postponing angry reactions is a good first step in eliminating them. The preceding advice about releasing expectations is summed up with this introduction,” The only antidote to anger is to eliminate the internal sentence, ‘If only you were more like me’.”
Present moment living will assist in eliminating fear of the unknown in our quest for fulfilment and Dr Dyer reminds us of Albert Einstein’s words from ” What I believe” (1930), “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious . It is the true source of all art and science.”
The book ends with a portrayal of an individual who has eliminated all erroneous zones from life. It contains a piece from the Reader’s Digest which starts with the
quotation, “Nothing on earth renders happiness less approachable than trying to find it.”
This book is radical, direct and life changing. It will show you that your existence is your own and if you desire to be the best that you can be, you need to let go of those debilitating habits that keep you trapped. It is time to break free and live the life you deserve.
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Spirituality and Self Development