During nearly 40 years as a psychotherapist, I’ve tried to help people learn to love themselves and treat themselves well in the deepest sense. This can be very difficult work, but when people become comfortable with their feelings instead of fleeing into destructive habits and behaviors, they often find it easier to achieve success and happiness in all aspects of their lives.
So when I came across “Beyond the PIG and the APE: Realizing Success and True Happiness,” a new book by Krishna Pendyala, coach and COO of Waldron Wealth Management in Pittsburgh, I was delighted to find a simple, usable guide that demystified some of the concepts and processes I’ve been teaching for years. It seemed to me that advisors and their clients could enhance their professional and personal lives by learning to apply the simple and valuable teachings in this book.
I connected with Pendyala for a discussion of what happiness and success are really all about and why we so often have to struggle to attain them.
We’re all trying to achieve happiness and success in our lives. What gets in the way of these goals?
We are often told that happiness can be found by looking within ourselves. But here’s the problem: Since the secret is not likely to be lying in a box marked “Happiness,” what exactly should we be looking for? What we need is a simple, friendly and easy-to-adopt practical guide to this inner search. We need to know what to look for and what to look out for. I coined the terms PIG and APE to describe the hidden inner creatures that often lead us astray.
Both the PIG and the APE are innate human drives. These are acronyms, but they also mimic the behavior of the animals they represent. The PIG is our drive to Pursue Instant Gratification, and the APE is our drive to Avoid Painful Experiences.
Both of these drives evolved to help us feed and protect ourselves. Yet often they can sabotage our chances for happiness and success. They make us focus on instant but fleeting rewards. This behavior is simply our human instinct to move toward pleasure and away from pain—which we all do, all the time.
Can you give an example of PIG behavior?
The day after Thanksgiving—“Black Friday”—awakens the PIG in millions of Americans and sends them stampeding to the malls. On Black Friday of 2008, at a Wal-Mart in Long Island, the stampede turned lethal. Customers bursting through the doors at the 5 a.m. opening time trampled a store employee to death. Even if you think you would never have been part of this group, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
We can all relate to feeling driven to acquire or achieve something in a way that blocks out our awareness of other people, as if the pursuit of instant gratification was the only thing that mattered in life. How about an example of when the APE runs the show?
I can think of a very timely example. Now that Christmas is approaching, if you’re not sure how to satisfy your parents as well as your spouse’s family, you may be planning how to avoid both of them, maybe by scheduling a vacation out of the country.
Certainly the holiday season gives us ample reminders of painful experiences and other memories we want to avoid, not to mention present-day stresses. In your view of things, how can we choose to act and react differently?
The way through this maze is simply through awareness. By growing aware of how this inner mischief distorts and limits us, we naturally open up to a larger state of being: joyful, creative and fully present to life.
You don’t see the PIG and the APE as inherently bad, do you?
No, the PIG and the APE are helpful. In fact, they’re critical in keeping you alive. You get into trouble when they start to serve the Ego. That’s when they get confused about their purpose. They only know how to feed and protect; they cannot distinguish between your Ego (your mind-made self) and your natural self.
Can you describe a little more fully how the Ego affects our behavior?
Your thinking mind is very good at analyzing the pros and cons of a decision and evaluating the consequences over time, but the chances of your mind being hijacked by your Ego are also very high. In this situation, your thinking mind is not serving you, but an impostor pretending to be you. That impostor is what I call the Ego. It’s actually another animal in our zoo. The Ego is much like a monkey, very clever, always doing tricks, always chattering. If you’re not careful, it’ll trick you and make a monkey out of you.
How do you learn to tame the Ego?
The Ego is like a puppy: The more you watch it, the better it behaves. You don’t have to beat it up or punish it. With a puppy, if you leave shoes around, you know it will chew them. So you don’t leave shoes around. You become vigilant and alert to the presence of the puppy. That’s all you need to do.
Give me an example of how the Ego, the PIG and the APE can control us in negative ways and obstruct happiness and success. For instance, how does the Ego get in the way when an advisor is preparing to meet a new client?
Before you meet with a prospective new client, are you aware of the voice in your head about the upcoming meeting? “If they ask me this question, what should I say? If I don’t know the answer, what should I do? What will they think of me?” That voice is the Ego.
We are all too concerned with how we come across, rather than being fully present to listen and hear what the other person has to say. Because we tend to focus on what we want to say, we miss many nuances and details that might actually help us solve clients’ problems and build a stronger relationship.
The PIG and the APE also get in the way. For example, you may want to close the deal early, so you get desperate because you want the reward. That’s the PIG running the show. Or you may never ask for the business out of fear of the pain of rejection. Now the APE is in charge. Generally, client situations that fill you with inner turmoil are ones where the PIG, the APE, the Ego or some combination of them is in charge.
How do we avoid these traps?
Just watching the PIG, the APE and the Ego will make them behave differently. In fight or flight, we need the PIG and the APE. But in situations where we want to thrive in the best sense, we need to get beyond the three of them.
What do you think is the most important thing that will lead us to happiness and fulfillment?
Get to know your Ego and watch it very carefully. Look at the way you function in your business and in your life in general. What’s driving you? Is it your Ego or your natural self?
In your book, you also call the natural self “the larger self” or “the big you.” How can someone tell whether it’s their larger self or their Ego that’s driving their actions and motivations?
When a desire comes from the Ego, I’ve noticed that there’s usually anxiety, urgency and fear associated with it. With a desire that comes from the larger self, there is calmness and clarity.
An interesting idea you discuss in your book is what you call “the art of living two days at a time.”
There has to be a balance between the two extremes of living only for today and living only for the future. What I recommend is to “be here now” and attend fully to the issues and the people before you today, but at the same time, don’t do anything to jeopardize your tomorrow.
At the end of each day, you might ask yourself, “What did I learn today? What can I do differently tomorrow?” Life is a repeating series of todays and tomorrows.
How can people get better at keeping the PIG, the APE and the Ego in their proper places?
Always remember, you are not your Ego. Watch for the ways the PIG and the APE try to run the show. The more aware you are of this threesome, the more easily you can learn to free yourself from them.