Kevin Hogan

International Speaker

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         Why They Do Incredibly Stupid Things…

…and Rarely is it Your Fault

Telling someone they are wrong is generally a bad idea, whether they are wrong or not. When you tell someone they are wrong, you are really telling them that they mis-perceive the world, and that YOU see the real world.  There are always exceptions to most rules but no one I know enjoys being told that what THEY are seeing is not real.

The last couple of years the coined word “gaslighting” has come back to the zeitgeist. And that’s what the word means. Telling people their reality is wrong.

Sadly, every conversation of any length has this notion of gaslighting in it. It’s almost impossible for the 90% to disagree without one accusing the other of “gaslighting.” The funny thing is that obviously the two people in the conversation are both gaslighters. You can’t talk with other people without often disagreeing strongly with another person’s thoughts, beliefs. To do so is well… let’s move along to whose fault it all is…

You can have an intelligent conversation about this at dinner tonight. They can only see what they see. You can only see what you see. Most people see only what they are looking for. In the last year, if you have this discussion at the highest level, there will never be an accusation of “you’re gaslighting me.”

It’s impossible not to tell people their reality is wrong without you disagreeing with them and logically showing your point of view.

[I wrote a series of articles about gaslighting in politics about 15 years ago. It was part of a propaganda series. The word has nothing to do with mental illness, but it definitely is something that can be perceived as harmful whether it is or not in “real life.”]

In one of the final star wars movies, Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Mark Hamil says to his combatant, “Amazing, every word of what you just said was wrong.” One of my favorite movie lines in history. It really helps if you are a Jedi when you say something like this, even to the guy who is trying to kill you. You and I will rarely ever get this opportunity.

Not a week goes by when you DON’T find yourself unconsciously doing something that is really not in your best long term interest. Worse? Every week you do something that you KNOW you shouldn’t do for whatever reason, but you do it. It would require someone nearby to say, “What the heck were you thinking?!”

So today we aren’t going to look at why THEY are screwing up so badly. Today it’s all about you. What’s nice about what you learn today is that “you” aren’t always at fault for the stupid things you do.

Let me explain…

It’s Not Exactly “Your Fault”

Your Identity Defender (ID) is one of what I call, “The Forty.”

What is an ID and what does an identity defender do? Do you really have one?

Sometimes it protects your current identity and sometimes…

It destroys relationships, creates overnight bankruptcies, even kills people. It’s probably a good thing to get what’s going on in the three pound universe above your neck.

Imagine you utter a sentence like, “hey your hair looks nice today!”

(or even more fascinating…you text this conversation)

And by complete accident the other person lights into you with something like, “Well if you made more money, I could afford to go to the stylist more often you jerk.”


“Huh? No, no, no. You misunder-“

Kevin Hogan Identity Defender


You are immediately cut off by waves of words at a high volume and intensity.

This is not where you were going! You really were paying a true and simple compliment, and frankly, barely thinking about it when you said it. You had five other things on your mind and were simply stating a true and nice fact.

And then the explosion occurred.

What happens NEXT is that inside of YOU, a SIMILAR SELF to Jane’s Identity Defender breaks out for a boxing match. Jack‘s Identity Defender had been sleeping all day but no more. It’s a match that neither person (Jack or Jane) will win. You can only both lose or stop before disaster strikes.

“Fine if you feel that way then screw you and don’t expect me to say anything nice to you again. You are a jerk.”  Jack and Jane are both pretty darned good people, but that IS part of THE POINT.

The notion that there are a bunch of different “little Jane’s” inside of Jane’s brain has always been disturbing. They used to lock people up for having MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) but today we know the evidence is clear that everyone has different Aspects in their brain waiting to come to the forefront of the mind and take over for awhile.

To be clear, these Aspects are not complete thinking beings in and of them…selves.

Jane #8 does NOT exist in reality or in her brain. These aren’t people, they are clusters of thoughts, feelings, ideas and/or behaviors and reactions; that when triggered, direct the personality, attitudes and actions you experience.  Humans have multiple personalities, but not multiple persons.

Imagine that there are for example, 40 Aspects that have collected your thoughts, unconscious reactions and feelings. Imagine everyone else had the SAME TYPES of the 40 Aspects. (act to survive, act to eat, act to have sex, avoid disgust, avoid disease, desire to belong, think about the known or unknown.) For those seven Aspects there is abundant scientific evidence.

Just 40 “things.” Example: Not all cars have the same type of tires but all cars have tires.

Now imagine that those 40 things (tires, doors, windshields, wipers, headlights) existed in essentially all humans but that the Aspects are strewn about in the brain in a sort of random order. How many different people would that amount to, even if all tires were identical?

Over 1 TRILLION people, waaaaay more than have ever walked the planet.

And that’s just if there are 40 pieces to the puzzle that makes up a Self.

But there are far more than 40 puzzle pieces that make up a Self. I’ll spare you the numbers for today.

Each of these 40 “things” or parts, is something we are going to call an Aspect.

All 40 ASPECTS (Remember there are WAAAAAY MORE) combine with another aspect or two or three to give you a fairly consistent (predictable) sub-personality.

When I travel, people know that I am my warm, cuddly, intellectual, edgy personality. This guy doesn’t make a lot of mistakes or errors in judgment. It’s a damn reliable entity that Kevin Hogan, but he even can bother me and… I’m him.

Yep. The more I hear myself talk the more  I think “man I would have paid for those words to return to my mouth before they reached their ears.”

And of course this is a universal experience for humans.

Now imagine that the three strongest parts of Kevin Hogan’s personality (or yours are Aspect 17, 2 and 9) This is the Kevin Hogan most people see and talk to. It’s the me that is typing this today in 2023 to you.

I lean to the scientific side of thinking and that can be irritating, even to me, so I try to make that side more fun. That’s one of the Aspects (That would be the 9)

“Give Kev a glass of wine and he is FUN.”

Now this guy (I’ve seen him on video, he is pretty funny) is waaaay more relaxed than Kevin 17-2-9 “normal Kevin.”

Glass of wine?

If that #2 piece runs low on gas and slows down, the intellectual processing slows enough to continue being an influence on Kevin but is replaced in position by the less guarded, less concerned, more easy going, far simpler #25 Aspect. So now Kevin is 17-25-9. The #2 drops out of the top five, for example, ASPECTS and the aspect of Kevin Hogan that is more relaxed is activated and comes to the front of the room BECAUSE the wine (for example) slows down #25. #25 is not gone. It’s still an influence, just much less of an influence.

But what about three glasses of wine?

Well that’s essentially the same as five glasses in my personality after comparing notes with friends. The last time I did that in business, was 15 years ago in Bologna, Italy where my sponsor and I were walking back from a dinner. He watched helplessly as my new Euro-shoe got caught in the unfamiliar cobblestone and I landed on a curb…in traffic…and broke two ribs. Pain. Severe pain. Lesson learned, sort of.

That #9 part (for example) is interesting because it protects Kevin Hogan from insults, judgments, and even fears of the rolodex. It’s a critical piece… Unfortunately it is replaced at the three glass of wine point by #33 which is the “I’m a free spirit and the conservative seat belts are removed. #33 replaces #9 in the third position so now Kevin looks like this: 17-25-33. This is still the same Kevin Hogan, the same Aspects just shuffled up a bit and that shuffling changes your behaviors quite a bit.

“You’re different when you drink.”

You BETTER BE. If you aren’t then you have a personality of …well… another day.

So what would that #17 be?

It’s The Boss of The Self. Some older scientists call it the Executive Ego. The leader of the pack in my brain is a good human being with tight behavioral boundaries when strangers are around and looser behavioral boundaries which still make for a good person in general with 3 glasses of wine triggering the shifts in feelings, thought and behavior.

#17 generally stays in charge all day and night. But that’s GENERALLY SPEAKING. If #17 is weakened, triggered by what the Self perceives as an attack or a threat or maybe a strong fear, #17 gets pulled for a relief pitcher.

So… imagine that someone texts Kevin Hogan at 3 glasses of wine and he sees (not necessarily reads correctly) “Hey Kev, I don’t like what you said about…”

The generally good Aspect #17 can get pushed out of the self leadership position and be replaced by (for example) #6 which is the very defensive, ready to debate, argue, fight which normally sits way down at the bottom in the 40.

If #6 is activated it’s like a relief pitcher or a pinch hitter in baseball. This Aspect still plays for the same team. The basic goals are the same BUT this piece has now had his best and most predictable traits set aside.   #6 is a warrior. Warriors don’t make good speakers or even leaders. They attack and they protect with a much broader spectrum of behavioral flare . They don’t make good partners in a relationship. They protect the Self in a very evolutionary way. Survival from threat.

Now here’s the funny thing.

After #6 has protected the Self and is certain the Self is safe from a war or extinction, #17 comes back into the game.  And #17 generally can’t believe that #6 said what he said. #6’s job is to protect and attack. We all have a #6 somewhere on the totem pole of Aspects.

After this experience, it doesn’t take but minutes to realize what has happened.

And this is how and why PEOPLE DO INCREDIBLY STUPID THINGS.The Brain and Indecision

Is it your fault?

Not really.


Oh boy… of course it is.

So is this all about 3 glasses of wine?

Possibly. It’s about triggers that knock your typical Aspects from one starting lineup to another ordering. If you know 3 glasses of wine will bring out one of your least favorite aspects, then I’ll leave you to draw the conclusions….

When I see someone picking on a little kid, I have Aspects shift very, very quickly. THAT concoction of Aspects could get into serious trouble after doing something bad to a seriously bad person, in order to save someone else’s life.

I had an experience in Las Vegas, where I’ve had to step in between a screwed up guy and a girl and the guy was hurting the girl. I’ve been lucky with results, but probably only lucky.

And in case you’re wondering the obvious… yes… your BEST ASPECT is not necessarily the current (default) starting lineup. Sometimes you have to shake things up a bit to have a winning team.

Instead each of these Apects would be a part of Jane that has fairly easy access to all of the other Aspects in Jane’s brain. Which Aspect is “in charge” in any given moment is a long subject. Today let’s just go with the fact that there is a logic to how people are triggered into instantly unpredictable behavior and it is caused by WHICH ASPECT is at the forefront of Jane’s actions.

And yes, if you know how to do so, you can push the buttons on purpose to get one of John’s Aspects to run his show. The PROBLEM is that often enough you push the WRONG buttons and bring out a very, very big problem in another person. The problem is exhibited as Identity Defensiveness.

It’s simple.

Identity Defenders are always on the alert for attacks against The Self. In your case, that is YOU.

And try and tell someone in the middle of this …creative discussion that one of their Aspects is the cause of this mess… and you will be sleeping on the couch in a different city.

The crazy thing is that you need an Identity Defender. So do I. You and I both believe we are pretty good people and that we are worthy of appreciation.

Someone poops on your kindness and an ID comes forward and immediately attacks the other person’s identity.

Then the next day comes.

Both people feel really stupid because they have to re-justify to the other person why they said what they said. Typically there is an internal struggle between the Compassionate Aspect and another Identity Defender.

Sadly, the Identity Defender will “win” the day if the Compassionate Aspect is not one very strong Aspect of Jane’s personality.

1. So today, let’s look at how these seemingly unpredictable and often life and relationship altering moments happen.

2. Second, we want to know how to avoid these disasters.

3. Third, you and I want to make sure that we can create reconciliation because in reality nothing happened.

Out of the thousands of seconds in a day, hundreds of days in a year… these Identity Defenders typically don’t show up but for a few minutes each week.

Identity Defender SubroutineIt is in those minutes or seconds that disaster strikes.

If everyone understood themselves they would wonder just how it is they live with themselves, and really feel the pain of knowing that a tiny but dramatic part of their personality can cause another person to feel horrible.

Even when I was engaged in therapy full time I found working with Aspects as being a bit unusual. Yet, ultimately the results were incredible.

Few therapies, if any, help make another person’s world better than careful ego state/parts therapy to deal with those Aspects.

Ready to fix this problem in your life?

Here you go!

You wake up in the morning and the first thought you need to have is, Wow she was pretty out of line but then I got crazy, like contagion. Awareness.

Then you have to give her this article so she gets angry with me and not you.

What do you think Babe?

If you think you do NOT have this Aspect in your brain you are in self-denial.

People experience both sides of this situation with great regularity.

They are well aware of it.

Of course your defects and faux pas are much worse in their minds than their own. But that aside, awareness by both people means that people will know that there is a part of them that is protecting them.

You can use simple cues (triggers, foods, environments) to almost instantly bring any of a number of different Aspects to the forefront of the person. It takes some time to see what triggers bring out which behaviors and feelings.  It may take going to a baseball game to get people to jump up and down and shout at others nearby.

Might as well start doing it on purpose.

Scenario 2: Inspire Your Self to Success or Kick Your Self in the Butt?

You want to find a way to succeed.

Self-help affirmations did not help. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The reason they actually do not wires into our next discussion.

Imagine that you want to inspire yourself to achieve something important.

What should you do?

You could look to other people who have achieved. It is often possible to gain inspiration from others. But we know that sometimes these images of successful people actually bring individuals down. You can also become discouraged by the upward comparison of where one is now to where another is. The gap feels way too big, and if it doesn’t fit with your identity, you will not do it. PERIOD.

You could look to your own past where you succeeded at something important. Research tells us that if you do this, however, gaining inspiration or motivation from other achievers is unlikely! Surprise?

Where is the magic?

If you believe you can achieve the same success the other person has, then by all means focus on this image.

Here is the formula: If what they have done is something you are sure you can do, given time and effort, then you should use this form of motivation. When what they have accomplished seems out of reach do NOT make this comparison. You cannot be inspired by stuff you cannot see yourself as doing. It just does not work that way in real life. It must feel as though an ASPECT of yourself is capable (or desiring) of achieving that.

To be clear, Penelope Lockwood and Ziva Kunda from the University of Waterloo have discovered if you can see yourself as achieving something someone else has, then you almost MUST make these comparisons because anything to the contrary will be detrimental.

And where does the magic end?

This one is easy. It ends badly in two different ways.

If the vision, the image one sees is so far and above your talents, opportunities and skills, you will be in big trouble. Please do not see yourself as a billionaire. You can not wrap your mind around it. I can not wrap my mind around it. To use this image as motivation fails because you cannot make it real to yourself.

The second mess you can get yourself into is to look to your past and see your past victories. This is really counter-intuitive. After all, I know how well Psychology of Persuasion or Science of Influence did. Should not I put my attention there to inspire me?

The danger of using yourself as the motivating factor is that if you do not see yourself as being able to replicate those successes, you almost certainly will not.

Success Kevin Hogan

The research shows that people who are reminded of their past behaviors often experience iffy levels of success and often outright failure. It’s easy to rationalize that you were younger and better looking, circumstances were different, there’s no hope of repeating that…

And magic stops in another important place.

We all have a current or actual Self, a sort of, me of today.

We also have a basic Ideal Self, a sort of, me of tomorrow.

This can be REALLY helpful or completely destructive.

What determines whether this comparison in your mind will help you achieve?

When you think of the very best you have ever done at something, you tend to put a cap on your future results. So do not fall for this illusion.

So where does the magic BEGIN?

You may have guessed it.

If only I had studied harder for a few extra days I might have gotten that job I wanted.

Now that does NOT sound motivational.

But the research says it IS. Because it allows for UNTAPPED FUTURE POTENTIAL by DOING something within your capability DIFFERENTLY to influence the outcome.

It also says that if you do participate in upward comparisons (he got a promotion, if I work harder I can do the same thing) that motivation to succeed can pay off in real life results.

Magic with Kevin HoganIn summary: Upward comparisons do NOT work for most people most of the time, so let it go now.

Think about this: If you think about your absolute best success and then you think of someone who has done 10 times better in your field, how are you feeling? Crummy. If you want to be inspired by a role model allow your internal cuing to be about your everyday little successes.

Think of it this way.

Look at the very BEST photo of you that you have ever had taken. Now go google the best looking men/women in the world. Put the two images side by side on your computer. How do you feel? Terrible.

Remember this lesson in all future cues for which Selves you want to get messages of inspiration. Want to be inspired by a great story?

Great! Go without thinking about your own best work. Just go. Think about how you cut the lawn and did the dishes today.

This oddly counter-intuitive research is crystal. This is what really works at inspiring to your best self.

When you do something special for someone or a group, do not try to make a super human picture if you want others to pay it forward.

What is so compelling about those photos on my Facebook page is that YOU could EASILY do the very same thing.

This is how you inspire.

Give people something they can wrap their mind around and get to themselves.

Self-triggering images of the achieving self vs. the everyday self can BOTH have big positive and negative results. Now you have a few insights into how they play out.

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