Sunday, June 12, 2011


I am a great fan of Anthony De Mello, leaving the religion out of it. I've read most of his books and admire his wisdom and humour and his great gift of insight into the human condition.

He was a Jesuit priest who was much influenced by Buddhism and incurred the wrath of the present pope, Benny, which adds an additional level to my admiration for him for daring to think so far outside of the Vatican box.

One of his many stated profundities was the fact that we hook our children early in life, as infants in fact, on a drug. That drug being "approval". And it distorts and diverts our journeys as we seek it throughout our lives whether in financial rewards or other material and personal benefits. We get lost in the diversion of it.

I was thinking about this today and remembering a time, not so long ago, when I stayed in Ireland in this rambling old farmhouse with a mish-mash of family and friends and we were commenting on how ridiculous the custom of applauding the pilot for a safe landing of a plane was. It was his/her job! Then we discussed how lovely it would be if we applauded others for a job well done.

So from then on in for the whole month anytime someone swept the floor or washed the dishes or hung out some laundry, they received lavish applause with supportive remarks.
"Beautiful job on those dishes there, sis," *clap* *clap*, "I don't think I've ever seen a floor so well swept there, bro, take a bow," *clap* *clap*. And so on, to much laughter and gracious curtseys from the recipients.

It is a great drug, approval. A terrific motivator. And it's free. And when one is in a depression, a goodly dose is needed.

Especially for the nearly insurmountable task of being vertical.


  1. I tend to mistrust most people who generously compliment me on something. I assume all sorts of ulterior motives - it's expected of them, they're trying to butter me up, they're trying to improve my mood etc. I only believe them if they're looking conspicuously and genuinely pleased.

  2. My last boss would never tell an employee they were doing a good job because he was afraid they would ask for a raise. The morale was so low and negative that it was a difficult place to work.
    Excellent post!

  3. Hadn't heard of de Mello, sounds like an interesting person.

    Are you up and vertical? Good show! *clap* *clap* Keep up the good work!! Excellent blog!

    I understand depression fails, thanks. Tough one. We have such good defenses against being pulled out of our negative states. Be kind to yourself, you're better than you think you are.

    My own Chatty Cathy friend had just enough empathy that I am pretty sure her perpetual good mood was for real. She made a conscious decision early in life to never allow depression in her life and then she worked hard to achieve that. I had to laugh the one time she told me that she actually experienced depression for a whole day and it was awful!!! If she wasn't such a nice person I could have strangled her.

  4. Gold star for remaining vertical and with functioning typing digits through it all, WWW!

    Regarding the applause for airplane pilots, yes, a bit silly, but I suppose it's a release valve for the many who are truly afraid of flying, yet dare not admit it.

    Another over-approval that irritates me (in the USA) is that old "Support Our Troops" mantra.
    As I see it firefighters, lifeboat operatives and nurses do a much finer job than those who would kill or main innocents in the name of empire.

  5. Yes, it is an addiction wanting that fix. All of us need it to some degree or the other. I tend to be on the giving side more than on the receiving end due to my current situation, but have learnt to accept that as unavoidable.

    AD is a much revered person in my part of India for some of the great things that he has done for ordinary people. He is respected by Hindus, Muslims and other non Catholic religious people as much as he is by the Catholics. I am a great admirer of his too.

    Many RC priests and nuns have been attending vipassana meditation retreats and claim that it enhances their religiosity.

  6. This should amuse you.
    This true story was actually published in one of the humor sections of Reader's Digest many years ago:

    At an interdenominational religious conference in Hawaii, a Japanese delegate approached a fundamentalist Baptist minister and said, "My humble superstition is Buddhism. What is yours?"

  7. Withheld approval is a lot worse than approval. When you can never get it right as a child, that damn feeling stays with you forever.

    Better is by far, to thank someone for a task well done without making a big thing of it.

  8. As a somewhat successful manic depressive, I would love to get lots of approval. I would love it if people were to clap for me and encourage me on. My own cheering section would be wonderful. I would like to get some kind of recognition.

    For you I clap for being vertical. That's quite an achievement. "clap" "clap"

  9. Then let me applaud your great writing talent and tell you how happy it makes me to read what you write.

  10. Good post.
    But seriously...
    Too much knee jerk praise debases the currency. However, creating a safe space where approval is given freely and undermining comments are banned can help people make great leaps in confidence. Sometimes that's important if, for instance, you're trying to boost someone's self esteem before a job interview.


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