Interview with Jenny Moix
In our interview with Jenny Moix, we’ll discover a dimension that’ll help us to be a little happier: flexibility. Being flexible means questioning many of the things we do and say to ourselves. For example, it means becoming aware of how our self-demands erode our capacity for growth and well-being.
The psychotherapist Albert Ellis said that our thoughts and self-destructive schemes are installed in our minds by habit and practice. In addition, sometimes we even inherit them from our parents and from our own education.
With them, with those inflexible mandates loaded with guilt and fear, we cut our creativity. We also cut that vital impulse where we can be freer and more secure to create the reality we want.
Bio, facts, and work
Jenny Moix was born in Sabadell, Barcelona. She’s been very passionate about psychology from an early age. She’s a Professor of Psychology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and a member of the Research Group on Stress and Health. She specializes in chronic pain, awareness, and mindfulness.
She’s also well known for its publications and books such as Pain Manual (2006), Face to Face with Your Pain , (2011), Flexible Happiness (2011), and My Mind Without Me (2018). She wrote various scientific articles. She also collaborated with the newspaper El País Semanal for years, and in different media such as Catalunya Ràdio.
Jenny Moix is also a great communicator. She gives talks and conferences on different areas of psychology and personal growth. Talking with her is a pleasure for her human qualities, enthusiasm, and remarkable ability to make us think. She also inspires us to discover who we are and what we could do to be happier.
The first part of the interview with Jenny Moix
Q: What’s self-demand?
It’s a command or an order that we give ourselves. It usually has a more or less unconscious thought-form that begins with an “I have to…”.
Q: When do we tend to be more self-demanding?
We tend to be more self-demanding in situations in which deeply embedded values and beliefs come into play.
For example, the thought “Only people with excellent grades succeed” pushes you to be self-demanding with grades or “Only thin people can attract others” leads you to be self-demanding with your weight.
Q: Does self-demand have any benefit? Can we get something out of it to our advantage?
Self-enforcement in itself isn’t bad. What makes it dangerous is its rigidity. To put it simply, if we classify the self-demands into rigid and flexible, the rigid would be bad and the flexible, good.
Flexible self-demands let you do a class bell, skip the regimen, leave the day’s schedule, leave the dishes unwashed. They even let you abandon them when you see that they don’t make sense. The rigid ones make you feel tremendous guilt for the slightest deviation and they also tie you up.
In life we need to have a meaning, a “Where am I going”, without it we would be disoriented, we wouldn’t know what to do. Our values and beliefs give us that meaning, that orientation. From them, certain objectives and demands are derived that push us to achieve them. It’s the game of life. We make the rules and we follow them.
We’re playing. However, sometimes, those goals, those rules of the game, are too rigid and instead of serving to guide us, they only cause us pain. If we follow them because they’re so hard, we suffer. If we don’t follow them, we feel guilt.
This happens when we forget that, in reality, those beliefs, values, goals, or rules of the game are relative. When we firmly believe that they’re almost sacred. Self-demand is guiding and motivating, provided that, deep down, we’re aware that we’re the ones who created it.
In other words, they’re beneficial as long as they don’t make us lose our freedom. When we say “I can’t say no” or “I can’t stop” it’s because we’ve forgotten that’ve put these self-demands there.
The second part of the interview with Jenny Moix
Q: How does a person become self-demanding? What factors are involved?
Our parents, family, teachers, friends, and society, in general, are in charge of programming us. Programming doesn’t always yield the same results. Some people, which we usually classify as “well-adapted”, have more self-demands than others.
Our society rewards money, thinness, youthfulness, climbing at a professional level, and being in a relationship. A well-programmed person, adapted to this crazy society, is loaded with self-demands .
D eep down, it even looks good! Their self-demands are rewarded by society, which is why some people boast that they’re very self-demanding . Society programs us in such an efficient way that self-demands have a built-in maintenance system.
Then there are other more atavistic and primitive factors that are written in our genes. The evolution has been recorded in our chromosomes. Homo sapiens hasn’t survived alone, it’s a group hominid. Thanks to the tribe, it remains safe. Thousands of years of evolution marking this fact in all our cells.
For this reason, we like others to share our point of view, not judge us. Instead, accept us and love us. Besides, most of our self-demands come from there. No wonder we feel enormous pressure for our body to adapt to the beauty canons of the time.
No surprise we repress our feelings to avoid conflict. They’re there to make sure we stay in the tribe. That’s why they’re so rigid, sometimes, because deep down we think that these self-demands are necessary to survive.
Q: Is it possible to manage the high levels of demand? How?
The word “manage” is another result of our squared society. The word “manage” our emotions, beliefs, and feelings are in fashion, as if it were about managing the affairs of an office as if we could put our subjectivity in an Excel and fix all the boxes.
Just today a boy explained to me that he wants to end his self-demands in two months, as if you could put timing to self-demand. We put a self-demand on top of another, humans have no choice.
Behind the self-demands, as we’ve seen, lie our goals and values hand in hand with the fear of guilt. The objective-value tells you, “Take care of your sick mother always, even if you have to give up everything”. Here, the fear of guilt comes over you. “If you don’t, you’ll suffer because of the guilt until the end of your days”.
Even further behind is the fear of emptiness. If there were someone who, with a magic eraser, erased all the values, so we didn’t have self-demands, what would guide us? Who would we be, what would we do?
Imagine a person whose entire existence orbits around the self-demand to care for his mother, does nothing else, and that causes him great suffering, their physical and mental health is very deteriorated. Why did you get there? Why have you held on to that value so intensely?
Perhaps there’s the fear of emptiness , perhaps fear of what to do with your own life, perhaps fear of being free. The issue of self-demands can reach these depths.
The third part of the interview with Jenny Moix
Q: Is being a perfectionist the same as being self-demanding?
They’re two concepts that are closely linked. We can demand that the house be perfectly clean, your shirt perfectly ironed, and your hair perfectly cut. As we said before, self-demand can have degrees, some are more flexible, and therefore healthy. However, others are more rigid and make us suffer.
Desperately seeking perfection in something is talking about rigidity. It speaks of longing for reality to conform to a mental ideal about something. In this case, suffering is served because reality and ideals are never usually adjusted.
Q: Self-esteem and self-demand, are they related in any way?
Yes, they’re related. Many self-demands arise from the need to demonstrate something to the world so that others accept us. Therefore, the less self-esteem , the more needs of this type.
Likewise, people want to be better to love each other, but love for ourselves must be unconditional, like the one that mothers feel for their children. Authentic love is loving ourselves as we are and accepting ourselves.
A loved and accepted child is happier and turns his life into something much more beautiful . The same happened to us. Accepting our uniqueness would be easier without that constant presence of social ideals. Being aware of the pressure of these ideals is the only way to be less influenced by them.
Q: Are happiness and self-demand compatible?
The word “self-demand” sounds ugly to me. “Demanding” is something very hard and blunt. “My boss demands that I…” Sounds like if you don’t, he fires you, lowers your salary, or has some kind of repercussion. If we had to choose our boss, would we choose the demanding one or the motivator?
I think most of us would prefer the motivator. In other words, the one who knows what our qualities are and enhances them, the one who applauds us when we do it well, and the one who forgives us when we’re wrong, the one who teaches us.
We’d be happier with this type of “outside” boss because the same thing happens with the “inside” boss. The motivator is better than the demanding one.
Q: Finally, could you tell us some guidelines or keys to take into account in relation to self-demand?
I think that, from the outset, we must accept ourselves with our self-demands. “I am me and my self-demands.” It’d be the starting motto. It’s normal to have them, who else, who has less. We’re programmed. Fighting them would be like demanding that we eliminate them. This is yet another requirement.
How about just observing them? Observe them as the mother watching her child or as when we observe our beloved dog doing mischief. Observe them without judging them. To observe them, we have to recognize them and many times they come very disguisedly.
Many of them come in the guise of external demand. We feel compelled by our family, by our partners, and by our partner to do something. We live it as a demand that comes from them, externally. But it’s actually internal! No one is pointing a gun at us.
We have to remove the disguise of that presumed demand that comes from others until we see our self-demand there naked. If we ask a group of people how they ended up with some of their self-demands, we would probably find an answer like:
“I came up with the demands after realizing that life didn’t make sense. So, what made you click? A song, a movie, a book, a friend, a pencil that fell, a bird?”
As we can see, there’s much to reflect around the universe of self-demands. Undoubtedly, thanks to Jenny Moix, we have to think about how they influence us every day and what we can do to eliminate the weight they have in our life. Do you dare?