Happiness Wisdom From A Plastic Surgeon


— By Sandip Roy

Fiction survives longer than nonfiction.

Books that people keep buying for over fifty years are mostly fiction. If we take each generation lasting 25 years, then it’s two generations. Just look around and you’ll find most of the favored nonfiction of the parents doesn’t cross over to their children. So it’s a small marvel when a nonfiction manages that, living and breathing through two generations of readers.

Some of the books that are still fresh from the 1960s are Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, The Fall of The House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt, The Rise And Fall of The Third Reich by William Shirer, Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. Of these seven, only the last two are nonfiction.

Who Do You See In The Mirror

Maxwell Maltz was an American cosmetic surgeon of another era. But rather than his surgical feats, he’s remembered for writing a bestseller that has survived nearly three decades.

Maltz wrote Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living out of Life. It’s a book that occasionally springs up among the 50 Best Self-Help classics. He wrote it in 1960, but it still keeps flying off the shelves of any respectable bookstore.

Psycho-Cybernetics talks about how we create our self-image, and how it affects our happiness and success. It also laid out a map on how we could improve our self-image.

  • What are you?
  • What type of a person are you, to yourself?
  • What stories do you narrate when you’re asked to answer who are you?

Those answers tell you who do you see in the mirror — your self-image. Your self-image is an picture of the person that you are to yourself. This self-image holds all your beliefs based on your experiences, successes and failures.

Your self-image holds all your beliefs based on your experiences, successes and failures. Click To Tweet

Now, that image might be generally positive, overtly negative, or anything in between. What’s important is that you act according to the image you create of yourself. So, as Maltz said, if you think of yourself as a hapless failure, you behave in ways you’ll likely fail. And if you see yourself as a success, you’ll find ways to succeed.

Maltz explains it with an example from his friend’s life. His friend, Dr Alfred Adler, a psychiatrist and neurologist, and founder of the School of Individual Psychology, was poor at maths in his school. His teacher believed he had no talent for the subject.

Adler accepted his teacher’s judgment of him as his self-image, and kept getting low grades. This filled his mind with a sense of inferiority complex. Until one day, when he suddenly understood how to solve a complex equation that his teacher put on the board. This increased his confidence towards maths, and finally led him to change his image about himself.

Adler later worked on his most famous concept — inferiority complex — and argued how it plays a key role in shaping one’s personality.

Change The One In The Mirror

If you have a negative self-image, it originates from the negative beliefs you hold about yourself.

But notice this: your negative beliefs are not a result of facts or experiences. They are rather the conclusions you draw from them. The events themselves are not negative or positive.

Therefore, if you exercise your mind to carry out some rational and logical thinking, you can change your beliefs, and your self-image.

Maltz writes, “You as a personality are simply not in competetion with any other personality because there is not another person on the face of earth like you.”

The truth about you is this:
You are not inferior.
You are not superior.
You are simply “You”.

By applying psycho-cybernetics, we can better understand why and how humans behave the way they do. Maltz calls Psycho-Cybernetics the concept of the brain and nervous system acting as an automatic response system that processes negative feedback to guide its course.

One such insight is that humans have a built-in mechanism for success. Maltz says, to activate this mechanism, you have to start with your imagination.

Your brain can’t tell the difference between imagined and real experience. As a result, it reacts according to what you believe or imagine to be true.

During the 1950s, research by Dr. Theodore Xenophon Barber at American University in Washington found that hypnotized patients could easily undergo surgery without anesthesia. This phenomenon of hypnosurgery takes a person to imagine they have received anesthesia and therefore will not feel any pain during the surgery. Once they believe it, their brains stop processing the pain signals from the nerves.

Humans may not be machines, but we can think of our mental processes as mechanized. By using cybernetic principles to understand this machine thinking, we can overcome negative ideas about ourselves, enhance our self-image and live a fulfilling, successful life.

So, once you train your brain to belive you can succeed, you start to see more successes coming your way.

Maltzing Into Happiness

Most of us think of happiness in terms of the future goals.

We think we’ll be happy once we get a new partner, or a better job. By doing that, we are tying our happiness to a future goal. But happiness is something that must be practiced in the present.

If we lose our happiness when a driver behind us honks like a maniac, it’s because we choose to react to that with annoyance and frustration. We can, instead, notice that his honking is just honking — and we may respond in a better way to it without losing our cool.

He can push the car horn buttons, but he can not push your buttons unless you allow him to.

Thomas Alva Edison provides a good example. He once lost his multi-million dollar laboratory in a fire on which he had no insurance. Nonetheless, he decided to avoid unhappiness and began rebuilding it the first thing next day.

Happiness is, after all, an internal feeling. It is a product of our thoughts and the attitudes we hold about our world and the people in it.

Maltz said a few things about happiness which will find the positive psychologists of our day nod in agreement. He wrote that we think, perform, feel, and fare better when we are happy.

  • He mentioned that the Russian psychologist Kekcheyev had found when thinking pleasant thoughts, people could see better, taste, smell and hear better, and detect finer differences in touch.
  • Maltz wrote about Dr William Bates who found that the eyesight improves as soon as the person is thinking pleasant thoughts, or watching pleasant scenes. And of Margaret Corbett who found that when the subjects were thinking pleasant thoughts, memory improves in significant amounts.
  • He writes about the Harvard psychologists who found that there is a correlation between unhappiness and criminality. A majority of criminals came from unhappy homes, and had a history of unhappy relationships.
  • A ten-year long Yale study on frustration found that, Maltz writes, much of our immorality and hostility towards others is caused by our own unhappiness.
  • Dr John A. Schindler said that unhappiness is the sole cause of all psychosomatic illnesses, and the only cure is happiness.
  • William James said, “The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, pulling, mumping mood, no matter what outward ills it may have been engendered?”
  • Blaise Pascal said, “We are never living, but only hoping to live; and, looking forward always to being happy, it is inevitable that we are never so.”

Final Words

Maxwell Maltz wrote:

One of the commonest causes of unhappiness among my patients is that they are attempting to live their lives on the deferred payment plan. They do not live, nor enjoy life now, but wait for some future event or occurrence. They will be happy when they get married, when they get a better job, when they get the children through college, when they have completed some task or won some victory.

Invariably, they are disappointed. Happiness is a mental habit, a mental attitude, and if it is not learned or practiced in the present, it is never experienced.

It cannot be made contingent upon solving some external problem. When one problem is solved, another appears to take its place. Life is a series of problems.

If you are to be happy at all, you must be happy – period! Not happy because of.

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