Idea Deflection Is A Symptom Of Under-Earning

One of the 12 symptoms of under-earning according to Underearners Anonymous is: “Idea Deflection – We compulsively reject ideas that could expand our lives or careers, and increase our profitability.”

I’ve been thinking about my character trait of dismissiveness. It’s a reflex with me and it is part of my idea deflection in particular and under-earning in general.

I tend to present a hard cynical exterior to the world and dismissiveness is just part of the package. My cold front keeps others at bay and it keeps me isolated.

One of the tools I’ve learned in 12-step work to work with an unwanted trait is to figure out how the trait serves me, how it hurts, and how I would benefit from the opposite of the trait.

Here’s what I wrote in answer to these questions:

ADVANTAGES: Reduces my options and choices in life and this saves me time and energy. Accurate dismissiveness is a form of clarity. Accurately dismissing things and people reduces my exposure to dangers and wasting time and traveling down unproductive paths. Accurate dismissiveness reduces danger, bad choices, time sucks, unhealthy ways of living and thinking, and reduces my chances of relapsing into my addictions. Accurate dismissiveness is a powerful way of saying yes to top-level choices. Accurate dismissiveness opens me up to what is good and powerful and beautiful and true. It keeps my side of the street clean. It keeps me from getting enmeshed and entangled in people and things I’m better off without.

On the other hand,, I can use ambivalent to maladaptive levels of dismissiveness to keep myself isolated, unattached, uninvolved, at arm’s length from people, it can be a wall that I build to not only keep bad things at bay, but to keep beauty and truth and good people and good possibilities at bay. I can use dismissiveness to keep myself feeling safe by dismissing deeper and more human levels of involvement with other people and with new ideas and new practices. To the extent that I use dismissiveness to shore up my false beliefs about my own greatness and wisdom, I’m living in delusion, not in reality. Once you dismiss somebody once or twice, they’ll likely never offer anything to you again. They’ll dismiss you. So my dismissiveness has cost me potential connection and prosperity. As an employee, I’ve often dismissed or minimized my employer’s concerns, and that has led to disaster. As an employee, I have often felt that I knew better than my superiors and employers, and that has not usually served me. My dismissive attitude has caused other people to dismiss me. I tend to present a cold hard dismissive cynical exterior to the world and that does not endear me to others. That has kept me lonely and isolated and poor. Even people in my life know not to share vast parts of themselves with me because they’ve too often felt the sting of my dismissal.

To the extent that my dismissiveness comes out of my insecurity, it is maladaptive. To the extent it comes out of my security and clarity, it is adaptive.

My maladaptive use of dismissal keeps me isolated, keeps me in delusion, keeps me the skunk at the garden party. It limits my thinking and my choices and my options for interacting with people. It limits my opportunities for prosperity. It keeps my life small. I hurt people with my instinctive dismissiveness, and hurting people hurts me
and lowers my self-respect.

My life would benefit with less maladaptive dismissiveness, with less dismissiveness coming from a place of insecurity, because it would allow me to be more appropriately open to the world, to others, to new ways of thinking and living and connecting. I would be able to see my own errors and shortcomings and inadequacies and so I’d have a more appropriate and accurate appraisal of myself and where I can contribute to the stream of life. Other people would like me more. Dismissiveness is a form of idea deflection, which is a symptom of under-earning. Less of this symptom would likely mean less under-earning. by letting go of this false dismissive self, I could become more of my better self, a more honest self, a less artificial self, a less defended self.

I remember one Shabbos lunch for Orthodox singles where we were all invited to share one thing about ourselves. I shared, “I love sarcasm and irony.”

My therapist responded, “That will really make women want to get close to you.”

One therapist said to me, “You might only heal once you’ve put down your [psychological] weapons [such as dismissiveness and cynicism].”

Another therapist said to me, “I’d hate to see you waste your life in delusion.”

Another therapist said to me, “I’d hate to see you become one of those guys at the bar bending people’s ear about what you could have been.”

When I was once vulnerable with a therapist, she said to me, “This side of you will attract people, not repel them [like you normally do].”

A friend said to me: “You just want to be a celebrity. That’s all you dream of. It’s a dream life, you want, baby. You can’t settle for the prosaic tasks of building up a good life.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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