How Does the Strategy to Make Worse Work?
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“The only failure is the failure to learn from failure.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice
Make Worse As a Strategy
- There is a philosophy, strategy, and way of responding to negative events that is best characterized as attempting to “make worse” to make better.
The roots of this strategy can be found in babies. Babies will make their discomfort worse by crying and thrashing about. This helps the babies to get attention, comforting, and relief. And babies will continue to make things worse by crying louder and flailing and thrashing their bodies about ever more until the strategy works.
- Unfortunately for babies and their parents, the strategy of making things worse to get them made better is the best and main strategy of babies.
Does Making Worse Ever Work for Adults?
- Yes, sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the oil. Yes, sometimes complaining, protesting, and whining can help bring about social changes.
So does self-inflicted pain get an adult rescued? Sometimes it gets them hospitalized. Sometimes it gets them noticed. Sometimes it makes them seem macho or strong. It can win friends and prove worth is some group settings. But oftentimes it is just self-defeating. Moreover, at other times people see whinners as weak and manipulative.
- The question is not, “Should we eliminate the strategy of making things worse in the hopes of making them better?” The question is have we explored all our positive options and problem-solving options before resorting to this often unproductive and harmful strategy of making things worse. And to that, we can add the question of, “Is it time to accept and cope with this?”
- A troubled child in school might purposely do worse in school in order to try to make the system see how flawed and phony it is. Such a child believes that the world and school are aware of their internal world and intentions. This delusion can take time to overcome.
- Procrastination can be used as a strategy to make things worse by not working on them now.
- Arguing and fighting can be used as a strategy to make relationships worse to make them better.
- Sabotage happens a lot in the corporate world as a strategy of trying to make things worse to force a change of leadership or attitude towards employees.
- Revolution often starts with making society worse in order to make people want a revolutionary change. Of course, history teaches us that revolutions often create worse societies and governments once they have gained power.
- Terrorists are intent on making everything worse in order to justify changing everything.
- Self-defeating personality disorders have the habit of almost exclusively using the strategy of making things worse in order to make them better.
- An addict might make their addiction worse by engaging in it more until it breaks their life and or themselves.
- Waiting for an addict to “hit bottom” before offering help as if “hitting bottom” was a magical form of recovery or motivation to recover because some have used it that way.
- Prisons make prisoners worse, not better.
A person can destroy the pleasure they take in an addiction or a compulsive habit in order to try to make themselves or others make them stop it. However, making a compulsion rely on a variable reinforcement system (only providing some pleasure or only providing pleasure sometimes) will actually increase it. This much we should have learned from Behaviorism and its repeated experiments to prove its theories.
Trying, The Law, & Fixing
- While not proposing to “make worse to make better,” psychologically trying to change or control things has the same effect as the strategy of “making worse to make better.”
- While not proposing to “make worse to make better,” psychologically trying to follow the law (trying to adhere to morals or to be good) has the same effect as the strategy of “making worse to make better.”
- While not proposing to “make worse to make better,” psychologically trying to fix or improve things has the same effect as the strategy of “making worse to make better.”
Punishment As “Make Worse to Make Better”
- Punishment is often used as a way to make someone feel worse or identify themselves as something worse in order to make them do better. This strategy fails more than it succeeds and is problematic even when it works.
- Addictions treatment programs will kick addicts out of the treatment if they have a slip or use their drug of choice during treatment. This is a punishment strategy that rarely works and is problematic even if it does work.
- Negative motivation works the same way believing that if you put people down that then they will rise up against the putdown and become stronger. This strategy rarely works and is problematic even when it does work.
Covering As “Make Worse to Make Better”
- People will suppress (cover in darkness) to get rid of problems, but this gives problems free rein.
- People will call the evil or wrong that they do by some good ideal or name, but this keeps it bad.
- People will reframe stupid as smart, but this keeps it stupid.
Motivation & Payoff for the “Make Worse to Make Better” Strategy
- Trying to make something better by making it worse provides an excuse to claim knowing, doing, or being something.
- Trying to make something better by making it worse can be used to claim you are doing something despite the fact that humans cannot perform psychological actions. (See No Psychological Actions for more information.)
Make Better to Make Better: Opposite Strategy
1. The opposite approach to “make worse to make better” is exemplified in the Christian approach.
- Do good for evil.
- Love your enemies.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Pray for those who despitefully misuse you.
- Pray for your enemies.
- Turn the other cheek.
2. An opposite approach to “make worse to make better” can be seen in modern medicine.
- Some previous medical procedures, like bleeding patients, were of the “make worse to make better” ilk.
- Generally, today if a patient has a relapse or gets worse in a hospital, then the response is to treat the patient better, not worse, to make them better.
- The worse a patient is, the more care they get, not less.
3. An opposite approach to “make worse to make better” can be seen in some interventions and life stories.
- recovery instead of imprisonment or punishment
- rehabilitation instead of imprisonment or punishment
- redemption instead of imprisonment or punishment
- second-chance instead of imprisonment or punishment
4. Simple strategies also help.
- positive responses
- building up
- For an entire book on self-defeating thoughts, reactions, and rules, see Garbage Rules.