Malcolm is a Pleasing Child. He has been pleasing since he was 4. He is now 42 going on 5. He has a lifestyle which appears to be dedicated to the pleasing of others. Beneath this facade there lies a darker reality. As a Pleaser, Malcolm doubts his worth as a person. He deems himself unworthy of being pleased. He sacrifices self-pleasing in favor of pleasing others who are worthier than himself. The Pleaser’s Lifestyle is one long good intention for others. He means well, but he doesn’t do well. He does not do what reality requires, he does what he requires in order to overcompensate for his self-contempt.
We say to ourselves, “He’s just doing that to get approval.” We content ourselves with this surface explanation, and we fail to ask the next obvious question: “Why does he need so much approval in the first place? Why isn’t he cured of this need when he gets it?” The answer is that the Pleaser is trying to solve a problem within himself that he doesn’t know how to solve. His solution cannot work. It does not relieve the pain of his self-contempt. Pleasing is the only trick he knows. He has to keep doing it.
As with most good intentions, pleasing behavior seems positive, but it is not. The Pleaser’s true goal is not to make people happy, it is to keep from displeasing them so that they will not beat him up after school. His sense of himself is so thin that a mere look of disdain is enough to unravel his fragile composure. A “dissatisfied customer” constitutes a threat to his existence. To displease is to court annihilation and that is unacceptable. His true purpose, then, is not positive, it is negative; it is the prevention of the bad things that happen to those who fail to be sufficiently pleasing. He doesn’t care about you, he cares about himself!
The Pleaser deceives himself into thinking that he is only being considerate of his fellow human beings by bringing a ray of sunshine into their lives. He has good intentions for others, without realizing that his good intentions are self-indulgent, counter-productive and ultimately self-destructive.
The Pleaser lacks the adult judgment that it takes to discriminate between appropriate pleasing and over-compensatory, inappropriate pleasing. He solves the problem by being pleasing all the time. It is hard work, but for him it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The Pleasing Lifestyle is a carryover of a childhood role into adulthood where it is inappropriate and counter-productive. Pleasers are afraid to give up this role because they do not know what will take its place. To them, this negative, paper thin role is better than no role at all. They do not realize that there is a more gratifying way to go through life than living to please others.
As a consequence of this ungratifying lifestyle, Pleasers are susceptible to feeling impotent, out of control, alienated, insecure, naive, trapped, immature, anxious, and depressed. These are all facets of self-contempt. The harder they try to relieve their distress in counter-productive ways, the worse they feel.
The Pleaser often plays the role of the Clown, the Entertainer. He makes himself the butt of his own jokes to show he “can take it.” People may wonder why he is “on” all the time. They think he’s having a swell time. He doesn’t really have any choice. He feels compelled to behave in accordance with his definition of himself as the Pleaser and his attitudes towards himself, other people and life. He is acting out a role in a script that nobody wrote.
As we have seen, Pleasers are not motivated by a genuine concern for the happiness of others. They have an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda of which they are only dimly aware. Their negative purpose in pleasing is to avoid being hurt by others. They prophesy victimization and disaster, and they feel that they can avert these disasters by placating those who have the power to hurt them. It’s the only hope they have. Unfortunately, these counter-productive attempts at pleasing often result in the fulfillment of their prophesies of abuse, rejection, abandonment and other forms of disaster. In the end, they stop trying. They “melt down,” they “burn out.” They have become discouraged.
Some Pleasers think that they can regain their vitality by going to the other extreme. Their motto becomes, “No More Mister Nice Guy.” The irony is that they weren’t a nice guy to begin with. The second wrong is that this phony role won’t work either.
Pleasing as Self-Indulgent Mischief: The Pleaser is convinced that his activities are other-directed and self-less. He is completely unaware of the self-indulgent, over-compensatory nature of his “pleasing” behavior.
The self-serving nature of the Pleaser’s activities becomes apparent when he is prevented from pleasing people his way. When the intended Pleased expresses a preference of his own, the would-be Pleaser experiences unpleasant, sometimes incapacitating conflicts On the one hand, he wants to please in order to avoid the unacceptable consequences of displeasing. On the other hand, he has his own notions as to how the Pleaser should be pleased; and his way is the right way! Thirdly, he dares not express his reservations openly for fear of displeasing his customer, and ruining the whole effect.
He must suppress his anger for fear of rejection or abandonment, which would invalidate his own worth as a person still further. He “solves” his dilemma by complying with the Pleasee’s request, but under silent protest. He does not perceive himself as “giving,” or as cooperating with his fellow human being. To the self-centered Pleaser, this accommodation is perceived as “submission’ to the “unreasonable” whims of his partner.
Mike is a Pleaser, too. He feels that he “knows” how people should be pleased; in fact, he knows how to please them even better than they know themselves! He knows what’s best for them. Since he does not experience himself as valid in his own right, he cannot appreciate the validity of his wife’s legitimate preferences. He discounts Marge’s preferences as “wrongheaded.” His preferences are right, and they are worthy to prevail.
Mike cannot stand to be wrong. He has to be right, even perfectly right. His agenda has nothing to do with his wife’s preferences in the real world. His agenda is to be right and not wrong. In his experience, wrongness is punished, and he has been avoiding wrongness all his life. When he says, “It’s the principle of the thing” to justify his nonsensical insistence, we say that he is just being stubborn. But why is he stubborn? What difference does it make whether they go to his movie pick or hers? The difference is that her pick is the “wrong” one because it isn’t his. His worth as a person is now at stake. If he is wrong, he will take it very personally, as if it were a reflection on his taste in movies. He would lose his shaky self-respect. His stubbornness is his way of maintaining his hidden agenda, which is preventing the invalidation of his worth as a person.
Antidotes To Pleasingness
A. His wife can try saying to him in a firm tone, “Mike, it would make me so happy to go see a movie. Won’t you do it for me?” This ploy distracts him from the phony issue of comparative film judgment. He may see an advantage to himself in making his wife happy for one evening.
B. Or, Mike’s wife might say, “It makes me angry when we always have to do things your way, whether it makes any sense or not. Now, you can go to your movie and I’ll go to mine and I’ll meet you at Barneys for a hot dog afterward.” This approach uses the wife’s legitimate anger to shock Mike out of his childish striving for superiority at her expense. It dispenses with the issue of which movie is “righter” than the other. Often, when Mike comes out of his shock, he goes to the movie with his wife because that wasn’t the issue anyway.
Gilda is a professional Pleaser. She wants to win both ways. She wants to relieve her own distress, and she wants a pat on the back from us for doing it. But because her misguided efforts are usually inappropriate and unrealistic, she very often fails to receive the recognition and approval that she requires to validate her shaky personhood. Instead, she often finds herself excluded from get-togethers, scorned by the very people she tries so hard to please.
She spends much of her life despising the ungrateful wretches upon whom she has had the misfortune to expend her energies and efforts. She finds her relationships to be a succession of such ungrateful wretches, one after the other. She has contempt for them and for the whole human race. But this contempt does not deter her from starting all over again when a new Pleasee moves into the building.
Not only is Gilda angry at the failure of her beneficiaries to recognize and appreciate her “goodness,” she is angry at herself. She is the “stupid” one for doing it over and over. She should “know better” by now. But she doesn’t. Since everything is her responsibility, her unhappiness must be “her fault” in the end. Since her goodness was unappreciated, she feels that it was all for nothing too. She feels worthless, angry at herself, and this anger turns into depression. Instead of relieving the pain of her self-contempt, her counter-productive, self-indulgent pleasing has only made it worse.
Some have noted a pattern of suspicion followed by silence among those who knew something about Sandusky’s behavior with young boys. Those who work with survivors of child sexual abuse know this pattern all too well and are often angered by it. How do we explain the reluctance of people to talk about their suspicions openly so that something might be done to stop these atrocities?
One of the explanations suggested is that the abuser is a person of power or status who could use that power to punish anyone who dared talk about what they suspected or knew. Though there is some truth to this, especially in the minds of the young person who has been manipulated and sometimes threatened into silence, I think there is a more basic explanation that comes clear in an understanding of the nature of shame and our responses to behavior that evokes shame.
Shame is one of the powerful survival emotions with which we are all hardwired. It is the emotion that compels us to surrender and try to hide when we are faced with an overwhelming threat or defeated in competition. It can save our lives in a primitive battle over status, and it has a complex function in forming our consciences and guiding our moral awareness. But although we use the word in a way that has many complex connotations, it is a fundamental and powerful basic emotion, and shares some characteristics with other survival emotions.
1. Shame compels an immediate behavioral response. Fear compels us to freeze first, then run. Anger compels us to attack. And shame compels us to surrender and withdraw, averting our gaze and trying to hide. We want to become invisible, and anything that draws attention to us makes the shame stronger. So when someone tells an inappropriate joke at a party, everyone wants to crawl under the table. And when someone in your group is behaving badly, no one wants to be the first to call attention to the problem. “For some people, the subject is literally unspeakable.”
2. Shame is contagious. Like the panic triggered in a crowded theater when someone shouts fire, or the rage evoked in a mob when it is focused on a target, shame over someone’s exposure evokes an emotional response in all of us. Depending on our relationship to the person shamed, the emotional response can be one of shame or anger, but if the person is a member of your family, tribe, or a group with which you identify, the shame will come first. When Dad is drunk and making a fool of himself, everyone in the family wants to leave the scene. A secondary
reaction of anger may set in soon, but the initial response is shared shame. If our political leader makes a gaffe, we all groan inside before we go into defensive action.
3. Shame is followed by anger. But the anger may be expressed toward almost anyone. After feeling the sting of shame, we may be angry at ourselves, we may be angry at the world, we may be angry at the easiest person to be angry at – which maybe the victim of the abuse – or we may fear the anger of others that we know is likely to emerge if we make a lot of noise about the shameful situation. So family members enable the alcoholic rather than confront, institutions shield and hide the abusers in their midst rather than share the shame of exposure, and people with suspicions of others, particularly leading members of the group with which they identify, keep their mouths shut and their heads down (the classic posture of shame). The fear of angry reprisals can extend to fear of legal action against the institution involved. But underlying this fear is the naive wish that it will all just go away if we can cover it up or keep quiet about it.
Understanding the nature of our powerful survival emotions, how they compel us to freeze, run, attack, or hide, can help us resist the self defeating behavioral responses that can arise in response to emotionally loaded situations and help us solve problems sooner. Wishing the problems and the feelings would just go away only prolongs the damaging situation.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Here is an example of how unconscious negative cooperation can drive a couple over the edge. Tom and Maria both had negative childhoods. Both were victimized, both were made to feel guilty and worthless. Both were angry at the world and everyone in it, especially themselves and each other. In this context of mutual contempt and mutual anger, positive cooperation was not attainable.
By the time they came in for anger counseling, the process had gone too far. In their welter of mutual recrimination and accusation, it became clear that their agenda was not to achieve happiness, it was to be right and not wrong. Each had learned in childhood that wrongness was unacceptable, that it would be painfully punished. Neither partner wanted to be the one suffering the punishment. Their good intention for themselves was to control in order to avoid being punished. As a consequence of their counter-productive good intentions, both suffered unending punishment. They cooperated negatively in inflicting the punishment that bad people deserved.
Tom hated wrongness in Maria. To him, wrongness was anything that wasn’t right. He reserved to himself the privilege of determining what was right and what was not. He criticized her every wrongness. She was his mirror image. She did the same thing back to him. They consumed each other and themselves with guilt, fault and blame. They were recreating their parents’ unhappy marriages
It was Maria’s adulterous affair that brought them into counseling. It was as though she were saying, “You want wrongness? I’ll show you wrongness.” And she did. She did the wrongest thing she could think of. These may have been some of her attitudes:
Since she couldn’t hope to be First Best in her husband’s life, she went for and achieved First Worst!
She confirmed her childhood feelings that she was wrong, worthless and unlovable.
She couldn’t win at succeeding, so she won at losing.
She also confirmed Tom’s expectation of her as a worthless failure, and that he was right about her all along.
These were not her conscious intentions. It just turned out that way. Neither partner had any experience in cooperating positively in the middle ground between perfect rightness and total wrongness. They had no concept that a middle ground even existed. They could only hold the concept of mediocrity, which was totally (perfectly) unacceptable. The concept of two partners cooperating in an atmosphere of mutual respect was almost comical to them. Since they had never seen their parents behaving in such a fashion, it wouldn’t be right for them to consider such a way of moving through life. Their overdriven attitudes did not permit them to consider the possibility of venting their anger constructively on a piece of paper. It was wrong to be angry, too, let alone expose ones anger to the cold light of day. This couple left the way they came in, suffering at the wrongness, the unfairness, the unreasonableness, the immaturity of the other. It was a dialogue of the deaf. They had not heard a word that was said to them. Their attitudes had affected their hearing.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Jill was sixteen years old and having conflicts with her parents, as all teens do. Her conflicts revolved around the issue of time. Jill explained it to herself as, “I just don’t have any sense of time!” That cannot be the explanation. She shows up on time when she wants to. The problem arises when she doesn’t want to do what she has to do. Her time problem is “selective.” Her attitudes do the selecting for her.
Counselor: “What is the worst thing about your time problem?”
Jill: “There’s so much to do and I just get involved doing it, I forget about what else I have to do!”
Counselor: “So it’s a memory problem.”
Jill: “No. That’s not it.”
Counselor: “You have no trouble remembering to do what you want to do. How do you feel about doing the things you have to do?”
Jill: “I feel controlled.”
Counselor: “When these tasks control you, you feel out of control. That’s a problem. When else have you felt like this?”
Jill: “I remember when I was little, my father insisted on taking me outside to go sledding. I really didn’t want to go outside. I was all zipped up in my snowsuit. I had to go to the bathroom. He said, ‘We didn’t have time, you can go later. You can wait.’ I couldn’t wait. I wet my snowsuit. We didn’t go out. My dad was angry at me.”
Counselor: “How did it end?”
Jill: “I got punished.”
Counselor: “So, you won the battle but you lost the war. Do you have the feeling, ‘I can’t win for losing.’”
Jill: “Yes. I feel that way a lot.”
Counselor: “That is an attitude you acquired on that occasion, and many more like it, I’m sure. This was your covert rebellion against being controlled against your will. Your father’s controlling behavior set you up to confuse cooperation with submission. You still rebel secretly by accidentally losing track of time.”
Jill: “It doesn’t work. I still get punished for not doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Counselor: “I didn’t say it worked. You wind up submitting in the end. This is how you maintain the continuity of your personhood from early childhood to the present.”
Jill: “I can’t snap out of it.”
Counselor: “It’s not your fault that you can’t. You haven’t learned how to replace your old attitudes with new ones. The issue is not time management. There are underlying purposes being served, roles being played, all below your conscious awareness. You are playing the covert rebel role in order to keep from being put in the victim role.”
Jill: “Why don’t I just blow up in their faces?”
Counselor: “That’s a different role. Is your older sister an open rebel?”
Jill: “Yes. How did you know?”
Counselor: “Because you took the role that she left open to you and you’re still playing it.”
Jill: “How can I stop?”
Counselor: “By replacing these negative roles with an independent identity as a person in your own right. You can stop operating out of old attitudes and roles and begin using your mature judgment to tell you what to do.”
Jill: “I know what to do. I just don’t want to do it!”
Counselor: “You do it when you are forced to. You lose in the end. You can do homework in the real world. The next time your mom says, ‘It’s time to get out of bed. You’ll be late for school,’ you can catch these old attitudes rising up in your system:”
• ‘I won’t let you control me.’
• ‘I won’t submit to your tyranny.’
• ‘I am not a victim, I’m a rebel, but undercover.’
• ‘I want my way and I’m going to get it one way or another.’
Jill: “What can I do instead?”
Counselor: “You can remind yourself that you are not a copeless four year old anymore. You’re an individual in your own right. Specifically, you can use your judgment to tell you what reality requires you to do. Your mother isn’t just making something up. It really needs to be done. You can choose to assume appropriate responsibility in the present instead of sabotaging yourself to get your way. You can make a conscious choice to stop cooperating negatively in this tug of war over who can make who do what and when. This is your Homework, not your mother’s. This is between you and you. Do you want to stop acting like a child and be a grown up someday?”
Jill: “Sure I do.”
Counselor: “Then it’s your responsibility to catch yourself confusing cooperation with submission. You don’t have to submit anymore. You can cooperate with your mom as an equal member of the human race, doing what you have to do, taking the ups and downs as they come. Children only want the ups. Self respecting grownups know that life doesn’t work that way.”
Jill: “But I like to win, to get my way.”
Counselor: “You don’t know what your way is. These are only attitudes kicking in and controlling your behavior for you. Do you want to be a success when you grow up? You can’t achieve that goal if you continue to play games with reality. Reality doesn’t care what games you play. It just is what it is. If you try to outsmart it, you will find that you have outsmarted yourself. You will confirm your expectation that you can’t win for losing. You have not gotten what you want at all. You will carry these same immature attitudes into your relationships and your career. You will not succeed at succeeding, you will succeed at failing.”
Jill: “I’ll try it tomorrow morning.”
Counselor: “Don’t try, just do it. You have a power called the power of choice. It’s not your mother’s choice, it’s your choice. Do you want to be independent? Tomorrow is your chance to Declare Your Independence from the little girl you used to be.”
Jill came to our next appointment and declares,”Well, I did my Homework.”
Counselor: “What did you do?”
Jill: “When mom came to wake me up, I got up!”
Counselor: “How did you feel?”
Jill: “Like I was my own person. I was making it happen on my own terms.”
Counselor: “You felt identity, in control, you were living in the present. Were you being obedient, submissive?”
Counselor: “Were you disobedient, rebellious?”
Counselor: “What were you?”
Jill: “I don’t know what you’d call it.”
Counselor: “That’s right. They don’t teach you these things in character education, or values clarification. You were not obedient or disobedient. You felt like an independent human being. You were making a choice using your independent judgment. You were cooperating as an equal member of the human race. You were choosing to do what reality required. What happened to the power struggle over getting up?”
Jill: “There wasn’t any.”
Counselor: “Did you miss it?”
Counselor: “It used to be exciting.”
Jill: “I don’t need that kind of excitement. This is better.”
Counselor: “What is this absence of negative excitement called, boredom?”
Jill: “No. It felt good.”
Counselor: “Would you say its called peace of mind.”
Jill: “Yes. It was nice for a change.”
Counselor: “Maybe you are ready to outgrow the exciting mischief of your childhood. This cooperation didn’t cost you anything, it paid dividends. Can you do it again?”
Counselor: “What’s that called?”
Jill: “Confidence. That’s how I feel. The old way never gave me that feeling.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Communication takes place in a context. If the context is one of mutual contempt, then the communication style will be consistently negative. That’s why Bill and Joan sought out counseling.
Joan: “I could have yelled at Bill Tuesday, but I caught myself and I chose not to.”
Counselor: “The warfare has subsided considerably, but it still isn’t perfect yet.”
Bill: “That’s right. She has stopped calling me ‘lazy’ and that’s a big help.”
Counselor: “Have you told her that it’s a big help?”
Bill: “I don’t have to. She knows.”
Counselor “I never said she didn’t. This communication is not for the purpose of education or reporting. She can get that on the nightly news.”
Bill: “Then what’s it for?”
Counselor: “It’s for encouragement. We want to encourage her to continue behaving constructively and not destructively.”
Bill: “We both need all the encouragement we can get, that’s for sure.”
Counselor: “It is also for the purpose of validation. The antidote to twenty years of disrespect is validation. When she deserves to be validated, it is your right and your responsibility to validate her.”
Bill: “That’s fair.”
Counselor: “Of course, it’s a lot easier to commend Joan for doing something positive…”
Bill: “Like taking my favorite shirt to the cleaner instead of throwing it out!”
Counselor: “It is a lot harder to recognize when she has stopped doing something negative.”
Bill: “It’s kind of invisible.”
Counselor: “But it is an accomplishment just the same. Even an invisible accomplishment is worthy of recognition.”
Bill “She doesn’t commend me for not calling her ‘foolish’ any more.”
Counselor “Then it wouldn’t be fair for you to commend her, would it?”
Bill “It does sound stupid when you put it that way.”
Counselor: “It really isn’t a matter of intellectual competence at all. It is a function of childhood logic that has never been updated. We have to update it now.”
Bill: “How do we do that?”
Counselor: “Let me answer your question with a question. For whose benefit am I encouraging you to recognize your wife for something she has stopped doing?”
Bill: “I’d say ‘hers,’ but I know it couldn’t be that simple.”
Counselor: “You’re right. It is for your benefit primarily and only secondarily for hers.”
Bill: “How is it for my benefit to compliment her for not doing something?”
Counselor: “Isn’t it logical to tell someone who pleases you that she pleases you? It is illogical not to. This is an ancient technique called telling the truth. We can replace our childhood logic by acting logically as adults in the real world. Thinking about it or intending to do it someday does not help us make the transition from the old logic to the new.”
Bill: “How should I say it?”
Counselor: “You see, you have had precious little practice in communicating positively. It was inconsistent with your old, negative lifestyle. As you practice communicating positively, your lifestyle will change for the better. You will be happier and more self-respecting. For example, you can say, ‘Joan, I’ve noticed that you have stopped calling me ‘lazy’ and I appreciate it.’”
Bill: “That’s the truth. I can say that.”
Counselor: “Good. Then why don’t you say it?”
Counselor: “Why not? Do you want to wait for a more convenient time?”
Bill: “No. I just feel silly.”
Counselor: “That’s your old lifestyle talking. You are operating out of attitudes from the past. You have been the prisoner of ‘silly’ for 40 years. It’s time you made a change.”
Bill: “Okay, here goes. Joan, it means a lot to me that you have stopped calling me those hurtful names…..Why am I all choked up?”
Counselor: “That’s your new, independent lifestyle being born. What did it cost you to tell Joan the truth?”
Counselor: “Did it cost you your masculine pride, your superiority? Your self-righteousness?”
Bill: “No. That never made me happy.”
Counselor: “And it never prevented bad things from happening as you might have hoped they would.”
Bill: “They only made things worse.”
Joan: “Bill, all these years, I thought you didn’t want me in your life. You were so critical, like I wasn’t good enough for you, and like you couldn’t respect me until I lived up to your expectations.”
Counselor: “Your wife just communicated something to you. What mistake has she been making for all these years?”
Bill: “I don’t know. Say it again.”
Counselor: “She said that you didn’t want her in your life.”
Bill: “Well that’s stupid. I keep telling her she’s wrong. I do want her in my life.”
Counselor: “Is that your idea of communicating positively?”
Bill: “I was wrong, wasn’t I?”
Counselor: “You’re catching on. It is not positive when you imply that your wife is stupid, wrong or a liar. You are standing in judgment on her which you have no license to do. You can’t improve the tone of your marriage that way.”
Bill: “What should I have said?”
Counselor: “Now that is a good question. Not long too long ago, you wouldn’t have even thought of asking that question.”
Bill: “You’re right. I thought I knew it all.”
Counselor: “You might have said, ‘I don’t blame you for feeling that way. It’s not that I don’t want you in my life, it’s that I don’t deserve you in my life. All that happiness was giving me fits. I didn’t know how to solve the problem of having happiness that I didn’t feel I deserved, so I was trying to squelch it.”
Counselor: “That would solve the problem, wouldn’t it?”
Joan: “Bill, is that really how you felt?”
Bill: “Not consciously, but I recognize it now that he’s put it that way. I didn’t deserve it. I felt inferior, unworthy.”
Joan: “You were trying to solve the problem by driving me away from you.”
Bill: “I didn’t mean to drive you away, it was just turning out that way.”
Joan: “We are communicating now, aren’t we?”
Bill: “This is heavy. Do we have to talk like this all the time?”
Counselor: “‘All’ means ‘perfectly,’ and perfection is not required. Let’s not have too much of a good thing, let’s not ‘force it’ with the best of intentions. Why don’t we just take it as it comes. Now that you know the way, it should come a lot easier.”
As I have said, communication takes place in an emotional context. If that context is negative to begin with, the communication will come out negative. It is ironic that even a course in “Communication Skills” can be used in the service of a negative Lifestyle. In the hands of someone like Bill, who is recovering from a lifetime of self-contempt, any asset can be turned into a liability. He can say, “I love you” with a snort. The music will be all wrong. It will ruin any positive effect he may have been trying to create. None of this is conscious. The tone and the music are controlled by attitudes acquired in childhood.
Two weeks later, Joan came in alone.
Joan: “I’ve got a problem.”
Counselor: “What is it, Joan?”
Joan: “Bill is getting worse. Ever since we came in for our last appointment, he’s been horrible.”
Counselor: “Can you be more specific?”
Joan: “For instance, he knows all my little tricks now, and he won’t let me use them. It’s infuriating. I hate him.”
Counselor: “You are angry at him. Could you give me an example?”
Joan: “Oh yes. When I say, ‘You must be very angry,’ he says, ‘I know where you picked that up, don’t I?’”
Counselor: “Very cruel. What else?”
Joan: “When I say, ‘I’m sorry you’re so angry,’ he says, ‘No, you’re not. You’re just saying that because you learned it somewhere.’”
Counselor: “Anything else?”
Joan: “When I get angry, he says. ‘I’m sorry you’re so angry’ in that third-grader sing-song voice of his. I could scream!”
Counselor: “He is setting you up. If you scream on his terms, you lose and he wins. This type of winning at your expense is negative, which is consistent with his self-contempt.”
Joan: “What can I do?”
Counselor: “You can disengage from his mischief. You are an independent human being, not a victim. Instead of defending yourself against his false accusations, you can say, ‘You’re making it worse, Bill. I’m more angry now than I was before!’ Your anger at his mischief is entirely legitimate and valid. You can choose to use your words, not yelling, but stating how his behavior makes you feel.”
Joan: “Why does he do it?”
Counselor: “To perpetuate his unhappiness. Happiness is foreign to him. He prefers the devil he knows to the one he does not. If you become happy and self-respecting, he is in big trouble. He feels inadequately prepared to cope with that. His third-grade antagnonism is something he can handle.”
Joan: “Here I am, trying so hard to make things nice for us, and he hits me over the head with this stuff.”
Counselor: “When you give him ammunition, he uses it against you. He can’t see why he shouldn’t. You are so vulnerable and so easy. I suspect that he senses your underlying good intentions for him, and he resents them.”
Joan: “Shouldn’t I want to make things nicer between us?”
Counselor: “Not yet. You have got your hands full with you. Before you can start to address his behavior, you must find out what pleases yourself. You can do that by doing your homework and living on your own terms. You can choose to set some limits and accept that your behavior shapes his responses.”
Counselor: “In a sense, he is hitting you over the head with what he learned at our last session. He is killing two birds with one stone. I, too, am a threat to his shaky status quo. I am causing him to rethink many of the lessons he learned about himself, about others and about life. That’s scary for him, and he takes it out on you. When you forget to disengage from these mind games of his, he wins. He feels superior to you, and he holds you in contempt. For the moment, he feels relief from the pain of his own self-contempt. He doesn’t have to grow up. That is risky. He is off the hook and is able to stay in the negative role that is familiar to him.”
Joan: “I’d better stop. What should I do?”
Counselor: “To find out what to do, we need to learn the purpose behind his behavior. How does Bill make you feel when he uses your words against you?”
Joan: “Angry. I figured out that I’m angry at the unfairness of it. I don’t deserve this abuse. I’m working at the relationship and he isn’t.”
Counselor: “You’re right. That’s not fair. Do you feel that your ‘efforts in his behalf’ are all in vain?”
Joan: “Yes, I feel ‘Good For Nothing’ again.”
Counselor: “How else do you feel?”
Joan: “He makes me feel guilty when he throws these words back in my face.”
Counselor: “Guilty of what crime?”
Joan: “I don’t know exactly.”
Counselor: “Guilty perhaps of the crime of ‘weakness,’ of having to use a crutch because you are too weak to stand by yourself.”
Joan: “Yes, guilty.”
Counselor: “It’s ironic. First he breaks your legs, then he blames you for needing a crutch. That’s tough. You can’t win for losing. No matter how you respond, its never good enough to fix the problem. How else does he make you feel guilty?”
Joan: “Like I am being insincere, as if I am merely mouthing someone else’s words.”
Counselor: “It may be that you need to practice putting the right words to the right music. You are still new at this.”
Joan: “But I’m not insincere, I really am concerned about his anger.”
Counselor: “He is new at this, too. He isn’t sure that he can trust you just yet, so he tests your sincerity by cutting you off at the knees.”
Joan: “So what is he trying to achieve?”
Counselor: “We’re getting close at finding out. What are you able to do about these insinuations of his that you are merely reciting lines in a play?”
Counselor: “Then you feel powerless and out of control. His purpose is to control you, to prevent something ‘bad’ from happening….”
Joan: “Like growing up and acting as an independent person.”
Counselor: “Perhaps, Bill feels powerless and out of control. He may feel that your progress means you are growing away from him, so he ‘controls’ you with guilt, in these useless, childish ways. He is trying to prevent the disaster of being abandoned by you, which he fears will happen if you outgrow him.”
Joan: “No wonder I feel so frustrated. I can’t do anything about it.”
Counselor: “Oh yes, you can. It’s only mischief, and you can still disengage from it.”
Joan: “Won’t it ever stop?”
Counselor: “Not as long as you keep falling for it and paying it off. You say it makes you angry when he uses this information against you.”
Joan: “Yes, I get furious.”
Counselor: “Can you tell the truth? Can you resist the temptation to debate issues and techniques? These are not valid considerations at all. He is just baiting you and you are falling for it. You can choose to catch yourself next time.”
Joan: “I feel as if I have to defend what I learned in counseling.”
Counselor: “He is counting on you to defend. He knows you very well, and he lays a trap for you. You can choose to push your comfort zone and tell the truth about your anger. Not destructively with your behavior, but constructively with your words. You are not responding against him, but for you!”
Joan: “I can take a deep breath and I can say, ‘It makes me angry when you do that.’”
Counselor: “Sure you can. You are telling the truth about how his behavior makes you feel, which you have every right to do. This is communication.”
Joan: “Maybe he’ll start using something else!”
Counselor: “Relationships are like machines, if you change one part the whole machine runs differently. So if you catch yourself taking his words personally, you will stop becoming discouraged. Remind yourself, his words are not for you. They are for him. He is communicating his discouragement to you, too. You are independent now. You can choose to disengage from his behavior and acknowledge your own efforts, according to your own standards of good enough, on your own valid terms.”
Joan is learning why her anger-management techniques were so unsuccessful in the past. She had made the mistake of imagining or assuming that Bill heard her words as she intended him to hear them. She has learned that Bill hears what he wants to hear. His implies meanings that are consistent with his self-contempt and with the role he has been playing all his life. And he hates it.
Joan’s efforts have been more effective since she has learned to take into consideration Bruno’s frame of reference and his perspective. In other words, she considers the ear of the beholder. She is not submitting to his terms, nor is she manipulating him with hers. She is mindful of the fact that he is an imperfect human being with attitudes and predispositions of his own. It is foolish and counter productive to pretend that he is hearing her words as she intends them.
For example, here are some examples of how Joan’s message would be received by Bill:
Joan: “Why are you angry at me?”
Bill’s translation: “I demand that you defend your unjustified anger at me. If your explanation is unsatisfactory, you will forfeit your right to have, let alone express, this emotion.”
Joan: “Don’t be angry at me.”
Bill’s translation: “Do not feel the way you feel. That’s an order. Your feeling is wrong and so are you.”
Joan: “Don’t yell me.”
Bill’s translation: “I am right and you are wrong. I am superior and you are inferior. As an all knowing, superior person, I demand that you stop yelling. As your superior, you must submit to me. If you do not do as I say, then you are guilty and indebted to me.”
Joan: “I didn’t do it.”
Bill: “You are a stupid liar. You are inferior, invalid and worthless.”
Joan: “I didn’t mean it.”
Bill’s translation: “Since I never intended to hurt you, you have no right to harbor negative feelings toward me.”
Joan: “After all I’ve done for you.”
Bill’s translation: “I’ve kept score and you owe me. My efforts to please you in the past, entitles me to a get a free pass at mistreating you in the present. Since you are guilty of not appreciating my efforts to please you, you have forfeited your right to criticize my shortcomings now.”
Joan: “You’re just like your father.”
Bill’s translation: “Your father was an out-of-control, abusive SOB and so are you. There is nothing you can do about it. You are the helpless, damned prisoner of your genetics.”
Joan: “Your mother put up with this abuse, but I’m not going to.”
Bill’s translation: “Your mother was a weak, spineless victim. I am smarter and superior to anyone who has ever loved you. If you don’t want to be a loser, then you better treat me right.”
Joan: “The neighbors will hear you.”
Bill’s translation: “The neighbors’ opinion of us is more important to me than how you feel. Suck it up.”
Joan: “Why can’t you be like Sam next door? He brings his wife flowers every Saturday night.”
Bill’s translation: “Your cheap and selfish. You a useless failure and unless you change, I gonna look elsewhere.”
Joan: “Why don’t you listen to me!”
Bill’s translation: “I know what’s best for you. I am smart and you are stupid.”
Joan had no idea that Bill was hearing her words in this intensely negative perspective. She meant well. Now she knows the difference between these anger provoking good intentions, which are counter-productive, and real intentions, which might solve the problem. Instead of imposing her self-serving comments upon her husband, she is now free to do what the reality situation requires her to do in the moment. Reality requires that she refrain from defending her injured innocence, and instead, focus her energies on restoring her husband’s shaky self-respect. She cannot do that by telling him that he is unacceptable to her as he is.
Joan has learned to distinguish between Bill as an imperfect human being and his negative, destructive behavior. This what we call separating the act from the actor, the sin from the sinner. She is making a distinction between the deed and the doer. Bill’s behavior is unpleasant and regrettable, but he is worthwhile in spite of it. Joan has also learned that when she does he homework in the right way, she feels relief from the pent up pressure, tension and stress. She feels in control of her end of the conversation. This control feels positive and constructive, rather then negative and destructive.
She has an identity of her own. She’s not just a role opposite her husband. She is living in the present, not the past or the future. She feels independent, no longer depending for her worth on making her husband understand her needs. She has stopped trying to please her husband. She has started to please herself in appropriate ways, such as by disengaging from his mischief. She has begun to understand her own needs on a mature basis. She has let go of the need for trying to build herself up by improving her husband according to her standards. She is having success at building up her own self-respect on an effective basis. She is using her marriage as opportunities to replace her childhood self-doubt with self-respect in the present. Now when she speaks to Bill, her music is different and Bill is hearing the difference:
Joan: “I’m sorry that you are so angry.”
Bill’s translation: “Your anger must be very painful to you, and I regret that you are so unhappy.”
Joan: “I am angry at you.”
Bill’s translation: “I am telling you the truth. You are not a child. I do not have to protect you from my unpleasant emotions. You are a grown-up and you can take it.”
Joan: “It’s awful when that happens, isn’t it.”
Bill’s translation: “Your feelings are understandable under the circumstances, and I empathize with you as one equal member of the human race to another.”
Joan: “I’d be angry if that happened to me.”
Bill’s translation: “Your angry feelings are unpleasant but valid, and you are a worthwhile human being in spite of them.”
Joan: “Your teasing makes me angry.”
Bill’s translation: “I am telling you how your behavior is making me feel. I am not telling you what to do. I am not controlling you. I am controlling me. You have a choice. If you continue to make mischief, there will be a logical consequence – but the choice is entirely up to you.”
Joan: “Your snappy comeback has just made things worse. I am angrier now than I was before.”
Bill’s translation: “You cannot provoke me to overreact. You cannot deflect me or my anger. I am angry at you and I will not be moved. I have made my point. The ball is in your court. In the meantime, I’m going to the grocery store.”
Bill is learning how to express his anger appropriately. He respects Joan’s new example and he works at following it when he can. He no longer expects Joan to abandon him and accepts that he is an equally lovable member of the human race. He has learned that self-respect means feeling worthwhile in spite of his faults and imperfections, not on some specific day, but right now, while he improves his communication in the meantime.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Amid the aftershocks of the senseless shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., our ever-more-complex society goes on to publicly discuss what happened and how to avoid such tragedy in the future.
But there are also private considerations and quieter questions of how to respond — on a personal level — to suffering parents.
What can you say to parents who have lost a child? What can you do?
No one is an expert when it comes to this most horrific, most out-of-the-natural-order-of-things disaster. The grief a bereaved parent feels resides deep within and is individually expressed. Different people respond in different ways.
Tragically, my wife, Jan, and I have experience. Our two beautiful, brilliant and ebullient sons, Stone, 24, and Holt, 20, were killed when an out-of-control tractor-trailer crashed into their car — while the boys were stopped in traffic — on a Virginia interstate in the summer of 2009. In one cruelest instant, we lost all of our children.
And so we speak only from our own experience.
As bereaved parents ourselves, we feel deep empathy and compassion for any parent who loses a child of any age — and especially now for the parents of Newtown.
We have an intense knowledge of the personal horror, the chaos, the confusion, the total shock and disbelief the mothers and fathers are feeling. We share their all-consuming pain and that deepest of human longings for it simply to … not … be … true.
We cry for the lost children of Newtown, and we cry for their parents.
But what can you say to someone who has lost a child? “I am so sorry,” is a start. And, we have discovered, it is also possibly all there is to say. There is just not much else to speak of. At least, that’s the way we feel.
And what can you do? There are many things that people have done since Holt and Stone were killed that have been helpful and meaningful. The gestures are simple — and yet profound because of the courage and restraint and, yes, love, it takes to do them.
On hearing the reality-wracking news, dear friends of the boys and of ours came to us to cry with us.
A large group set up a food calendar, a dinner-delivery system that fed Jan and me for months and months — on many days that we did not want to get out of bed, much less shop and cook and take care of ourselves. Friends took turns, preparing one meal a day, bringing it by around sunset, speaking to us a little if we felt like it or leaving it at the front door if we didn’t. We are forever grateful to those who participated.
Other friends have stepped in to do other simple things. One swept our driveway. Others raked leaves and cleaned up the yard. Many have come to the house, one at a time, to spend a couple of hours helping Jan address hundreds of thank-you notes. Others dropped off fresh flowers once a week, offered to go shopping for us, left thoughtful gifts at our doorstep, such as a homemade moss garden and heart-shaped rocks. People donated to various charities in honor of our sons. A neighboring family appeared one morning to shovel heavy snow from our driveway.
Another bereaved parent told us about The Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents and family members who have lost children.
Some friends simply gave us long, deeply felt hugs and held us as we sobbed inconsolably.
And above all, the most important thing people have done — and still do for Jan and me — is to remember Holt and Stone. In little ways, such as posting Facebook messages, texting us on their birthdays or holidays, sharing sweet memories with us. And in big ways, such as establishing memorials at their high schools in Maryland and their colleges in Delaware, Florida and Texas.
Many people helped us establish a foundation to honor the beautiful lives that our sons lived — and many continue to support it.
Simple yet profound gestures.
During the past 3 1/2 years, people have said to us: “I just can’t imagine …” We never, ever imagined this either. But now that this horror has happened to Stone and Holt, and to Jan and me, we ask our friends to try to imagine. The tender ones who have imagination and compassion sit with us quietly and listen — and try to help us feel less alone.
As retired Presbyterian minister and author Eugene Peterson told NPR following the Newtown shootings: “Silence is sometimes the best thing to do, holding a hand, hugging somebody. There are no adages that explain or would make any difference to the suffering. Sometimes people say, ‘I don’t know what to say to these people.’ You know, I say don’t say anything. Just hold their hand. Hold them, hug them and just stay around for an hour or so in silence and just be there. That’s what we need at times like this …”
Actually, it’s what Jan and I, as bereaved parents, will need for the rest of our lives. The world may recover from the deaths of our children. We will never fully recover from such life wounds. How could we?
We imagine that, like us, the parents of Newtown will need love and support and room to grieve — in their own ways and at their own pace. For a long, long, very long time.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Self-doubt is painful. We are all in pain to a greater or lesser degree, but most of us find our own overcompensatory way of working around it so that we can get on with our lives. Our lives would be much richer and fuller if we could identify the pain of our self-doubt and relieve it by replacing it with self-respect. Then we wouldn’t have to overcompensate any more. But that takes know how. It also takes time, effort and courage. In the meantime, we are in pain. We have had this pain so long that we cannot even feel it any more, but it is down there just the same.
Many people have overcompensatory attitudes of superiority. They cannot see why they should come down from their fictitious mountain top to dwell in mediocrity with the likes of us. They have found a way to relieve the pain of their negative attitudes, such as, “I am worthless” with pseudo positive attitudes such as “I am worth more than anybody!”
Here again, it is too simple to say that he is merely overcompensating for his feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. It is more serious than that. Most of us feel inadequate to a degree, but we do not go to these extremes. Marvin’s overcompensation is different from ours in its intensity. It is quantitatively and qualitatively different. We are mature enough to know that our little overcompensation really didn’t solve anything, that nothing has changed. We will be the same way tomorrow. Marvin cannot have this insight into his own foibles. His attitude is that he has achieved the ultimate overcompensation: Perfection. In his view, he doesn’t have any foibles. He wouldn’t want insight into them if he did. It would only slow him down. Self-contempt has many component attitudes. One such attitude is, “I am not worthless like you. I am superior. I am perfect!”
Marvin protects his self-created veneer of perfection by denying any evidence to the contrary. He isn’t stupid, he knows everything. He isn’t weak, be is strong. He is never wrong, he is always right. His denial is air tight. He is like a Black Hole. Nothing gets in or out, not even light.
Marvin is not lying to us when he denies his human imperfections. This is not a moral issue, it is a defense against pain that he doesn’t know he has, pain that he would not be able to stand if it erupted into consciousness. His attitudes predispose him to think and talk the way he does. He really believes it. He has to. He has his own reality, not ours. His strong attitudes give him the ability to validate his private truth, his skewed reality and to maintain his status quo.
The absence of self-respect is called self-contempt. Marvin is drowning in self-contempt but he doesn’t know it. He does not want any such knowledge interfering with his plans and spoiling his fun. Fun is very important to Marvin. He is self-indulgent and forces others to indulge him if he can get away with it. He wants gratification and he wants it instantly. He is special. He doesn’t see why he should have to wait for his indulgence like ordinary people. Pseudo happiness can take the form of
• painful pleasure
• negative excitement
• power and control over others
• withdrawal into addiction.
This is not happiness, it is super self-indulgence, but this is the closest that unself-respecting people can come. It is the closest that they “deserve” to come.
We may describe Marvin as irresponsible, lazy, rebellious or stubborn. He won’t cooperate with us in accomplishing the routine tasks of everyday life. To him, everything is “boring,” and he must escape from this “boredom” into “exciting” activity or useless time wasting. We call this attitude, “I am exempt from the burdens and responsibilities of life because I am special, unique.”
Marvin has done nothing to earn this special status. It was given to him early in life by imperfect parents who had problems of their own, who had never gone to parenting school. They may have been operating out of such attitudes as “I don’t want my child to suffer as I have suffered so I’ll give him everything he wants,” or “I don’t want to be like my parent, so I’ll go to the opposite extreme.” These are negative ambitions, they cannot have a positive outcome. They are good intentions. They can only be counter productive. One or both parents may have been egosyntonic themselves. They set the example, he followed it, they patted him on his head when he did: “That’s my boy.”
Marvin is also exempt from guilt, fault and blame. Nothing is ever his fault. He is never wrong. These are not realities, these are his attitudes toward reality. These exempt attitudes are his powerful defense against pain. They enable him to maintain his facade of superiority. He also feels exempt from the consequences of his behavior. He says, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about” and he means it. Asking him to accept the reality of what he has done is an imposition upon him. He really does not understand our logic that just because he did something wrong, he has to be inconvenienced. He doesn’t like to be inconvenienced. He prefers convenience.
Instead of trying to make him understand, which is a waste of our time and effort, we can drop the rope and live on our terms. “Marvin, why is it my problem that you don’t understand. It’s your problem and I do not have to solve it. There are going to be consequences whether you understand or not. Understanding is not a requirement, it is optional.”
Marvin does not play the victim role, he is almost always the Victimizer. He seeks out people who are vulnerable to being victimized. He holds them in contempt for being weak and he treats them accordingly. He can’t see what’s wrong with treating people as they ‘deserve” to be treated. “It’s their own fault for being so stupid.” He only plays the victim role when he doesn’t get what he wants, or when he is threatened with punishment: “Wait a minute! I’m the victim here! He took away my gun and hit me over the head with it!”
Marvin is not capable of loving a fellow human being. He does not love himself on a sane basis. What is his “love” worth? Nothing. It is not love at all. He doesn’t care if people really love him. What he wants is to use them to solve his problems. He can keep his pain at bay by scapegoating and abusing them. If they dare to protest, they deserve to be punished for inconveniencing him with their complaints. Their “Love for him” will not protect them from his wrath.
Marvin, as we have seen, is feeling no pain. On some level, he thinks he’s got it licked. He feels free to do as he pleases when he pleases. But he really isn’t free. He is the slave of his attitudes, but they are his attitudes, and he is convinced that they are valid. He even convinces us that they are valid. We have no way to check out the validity of his position. We assume that he knows what he is talking about. He uses our assumptions against us to accomplish his life goal of getting what he wants when he wants it.
We all want our way. Marvin’s attitudes are different from ours in that he feels little or no responsibility for making it happen. It is his companion’s responsibility to make it happen. Another attitude is, “I have the right to take without giving.” This is our definition of selfishness. “I also have the right to complain about the service when I don’t get it fast enough.” This “getting” is not happiness, either. It is childish self-indulgence. He will want something else in five minutes. He is a bottomless pit.
Marvin wants what he wants, not because it will make him healthy or happy, but to relieve the pain of not getting, the pain of failing to get, the pain of feeling powerless to get. To relieve his pain, he will use any manipulation that he thinks he can get away with, such as,
• “After all I’ve done for you.” (A guilt trip. He isn’t aware that he has done nothing for you.)
• “There’s a higher principle involved here!” (He doesn’t know which principle it is.)
• “You’re being unfair!” (Another guilt trip. He defines “fair” as if it meant, “I always get what I want and you don’t.”)
• “You’ll be sorry.” This is called intimidation. He is using fear to control others. He may even carry out the threat if he becomes angry enough. He will feel entitled to punish you for displeasing him. Also, these scare tactics have the purpose of ensuring that you will give him what he wants next time.
It is hard to believe that Marvin can be in pain without knowing it, but it is there if we know where to look. For example,
• If we prevent him from getting what he wants instantly, the pain of his anger and self-contempt will come roaring out, temporarily displacing the facade of superiority. When the rage passes, the pieces of the facade will come back together and nothing will have changed.
• He will marry a woman whom he will hold in contempt for being so stupid as to marry someone like him. He will hold his children in contempt because they are his. He will abuse and abandon them in direct proportion to the degree of his contempt for himself. These behaviors are the diagnostic indicators of his self-contempt, his underlying pain.
• He cannot be content with his accomplishments, his relationships. They do not bring him true happiness or joy. He has to keep doing it. The pain will come back if he stops.
• He cannot let go of control. Underneath his facade of smug self-satisfaction, there is the ever present attitude that “Bad things happen when I lose control.” Happiness might result in letting his guard down. That’s when the “bad thing” can happen. He cannot let go and be happy. He is allergic to happiness.
• He cannot make others happy except as a temporary means of controlling them into giving him what he wants. As soon as he has had his fill, he throws away the empty shell of his victim and moves on to the next kill.
Robbing old folks of their life savings and driving one’s wife crazy with irrational demands both come under the heading of negative behavior. Calling this behavior “wrong,” “criminal” or “immoral” does not shed any light on what is going on below the surface. We call such behavior “mischief,” which we define as anything that doesn’t need to be done. We use this word to avoid moralizing or claiming superiority over these marauders. Instead, we are using this word to help us find a rational perspective on their non-rational, “senseless behavior.”
Another advantage of using “mischief” is that we are getting out of our own way. It helps us to avoid taking their negative behaviors as a reflection on our worth as a person. We are not seeing it as a victimization nor are we seeking revenge for what they did. That would be counter-mischief. That doesn’t need to be done, either.
Third, this concept enables us to let go of our well-intentioned efforts to make them understand the effects of their negative behavior. For them, there is nothing to understand rationally. Their mischief arises out of attitudes which have no brains. This concept enables us to understand Marvin’s negative behavior so that we can replace our good intentions for him with real intentions for ourselves. This understanding frees us to replace our old attitudes with new, more appropriate ones, such as, “I am not an inferior victim of his mischief, I am still an equal member of the human race in spite of it.” On this new basis, we are free to do what reality requires. We can trust our own judgment to tell us what our appropriate responsibilities are.
Fourth, as soon as we put their behavior in the perspective of mischief, we are free to approach this riddle and understand it in terms of its underlying purpose! These people have purposes – not reasons. They are not consciously aware of their purposes. They are solving life problems using their attitudes instead of their adult judgment. They are trying to achieve overcompensatory goals without even knowing what those goals are.
If we are getting the brunt of their mischief, we can find out what is going on below the surface by identifying and understanding the underlying purposes of his behavior. Once we know his underlying purpose, we will be able to make appropriate judgments and take effective actions in our own behalf. These are the four main goals or purposes of mischief:
First Goal: Attention – Getting your attention serves the purpose of proving that they exist! Even negative attention confirms that they are alive! Not being sure of their own existence is scary. It is a painful problem. They are not consciously aware that this problem from their childhood is still down there. It has been down there for years and this is how they are still trying to “solve it.” Since the attention that they get doesn’t work for long, they have to repeat the process over and over. In the meantime, they are learning nothing from the experience. As usual, nothing changes. The underlying pain of their self-contempt doesn’t go away.
Second Goal: To gain power and control over others in order to relieve their painful feeling that they are powerless and out of control. Something bad will happen if they are not in control. They want to prevent bad things from happening in the future, which they really do not know how to do. They do not know how to use this control constructively. They will use it destructively.
Third Goal: To get revenge on those who have made them angry. Their anger is painful. Their attitude is that they are entitled to cause pain in return in the name of fair play! This is how they hope to relieve the pain of their anger. Since it never works, they have to keep doing it.
Fourth Goal: Withdrawal from the tasks and responsibilities of life with which they feel inadequately prepared to cope. To many people, withdrawal means crawling into a shell, getting away from other people. Some people withdraw into drugs or alcohol. Some withdraw from life into mental illness. These people are egodystonics. They haven’t “solved” the painful problem of their self-contempt. It has risen up and pulled them down. Egosyntonics like Marvin, on the other hand, often withdraw by driving others away from them. When Marvin’s loved ones make demands that he grow up, cooperate with them and be a competent parent and spouse, Marvin perceives these normal expectations of everyday life as assaults on his supremacy. He is above these mundane matters. He is exempt. He elevates himself even higher than he was before. He withdraws into a regal silence, or a royal firestorm, what ever it takes to keep from exposing his secret inferiority to cope with the requirements of adult life.
If that withdrawal doesn’t solve his problem, he will drive them away with verbal or psychic abuse. They withdraw from him in discouragement. His problem will be solved one way or the other. He can only predict painful humiliating failure if he tries to act like a grownup. Now he is exempt from having to try. He will be able to avoid failure.
If he can abuse people into leaving them, his coping problem is solved. Ironically, he will accuse them of “abandonment” without realizing that he drove them to it. It is never his fault. He is never wrong.
All of Marvin’s negative, non-rational purposes arise out of a larger context, which is his self-contempt. These goals are consistent with his self-contempt. They implement the negative attitudes which serve to maintain the continuity of his self-contempt from childhood into adulthood. As far as Marvin is concerned, his way is working. He is accomplishing the negative goals that he intended to achieve. In his view, we are the ones with the problem, not him.
When we call this negative behavior mischief, we are not condoning or minimizing it. If a law is broken, a legal sanction will be imposed. But we will not be as caught up in our hurt feelings as we were before. Mischief gives us the freedom to make new choices:
• We can choose not to take mischief personally as if it were a reflection on our worth as a person.
• We can choose to stop arguing with his mischief as if it made sense in the real world.
• We can choose to put ourselves first in our own lives instead of him.
• We can choose replace our good intentions for him, with real intentions for our own sanity.
• We can choose to stop trying to control him and begin controlling ourselves.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Most of us, with the best of intentions, persist in trying to make others understand the error of their ways. We repeat the procedure a hundred times, as if we believed that this time it will do the trick. Well, it won’t. The truth is that we are the one who does not understand, and that is another of our vulnerabilities that they take advantage of. They hope it will last forever. The last thing they want you to do is to understand what is going on below the surface.
The truth is that we are surrounded by people at work, at home and at play who suffer from this same problem. Their attitudes and behaviors are incompatible with our own. We cannot secure their cooperation, they cannot be reasoned with. We feel frustrated, which means angry plus powerless to do anything about it. In time, we give up on them. We feel helpless and discouraged. We even feel guilty. “Where have I failed,” as if the fault were all ours. Once again, he has won and we have lost.
When we do not know how to solve a problem because we have failed to identify it properly, we make up solutions that ought to work but do not. We pass laws with the good intention to make things better only to find that we have made them worse. We put warnings on labels and we pass laws against robbing widows of their investments over the telephone. Healthy people had no intention of robbery in the first place. Unhealthy persons had no intention of stopping, laws or no laws. Our laws have only enhanced the kick they get from their negative excitement.
We cannot understand their “senseless,” “stupid,” “irrational” behaviors. “Maybe if we showed these laws on cable television, they would get the message!” We do not comprehend that they have contempt for us and our stupid rules and regulations.
1. They are not rational, and their behavior does not arise out of rational thought processes. It arises out of attitudes that they have toward themselves and towards life. They even have attitudes toward their attitudes: “My attitudes are the right attitudes. Why should I listen to someone who has the wrong attitudes?”
2. They have a superior attitude toward themselves as people in the world. In their view, they are special, unique, smart, immune, and exempt from the consequences of their own misguided behavior.
3. They have contempt for anyone who isn’t them.
4. They feel entitled to infinite exemption from the responsibilities of everyday life.
We cannot reason such people out of these attitudes because they are not reasonable. They were not reasoned into them. It is a useless, counter productive good intention to try. It tends to make them worse. They defend their attitudes when under attack. After all, they are the right ones. It is your fault that you can’t see it. They are not going to take moral instruction from people who not as “enlightened” and “liberated” as they are.
It feels good to their ego, their selfhood as they have defined it. This handle is empowering if we know how to use it. It tells us
1. Why they do not want to change – it feels good. To change themselves would feel bad. They will resist to the death.
2. Why our good intentions do not scratch where they itch
3. Why we feel so out of control, angry and discouraged
It also gives us permission to stop, not because we have failed, but because we are no longer required to succeed. Our self-imposed task of changing them for their own good turns out to be a fictitious one. We are not required to succeed at this self-imposed task, and we are not a failure if we do not. We are worthwhile independent human beings in our own right win, lose or draw. We can take away from them the power to rob us of our self-respect. It is a power we shouldn’t have given them.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
What is hypnosis? Have you ever been totally absorbed while reading a book, cooking or watching a movie? Did you zone out to the point you didn’t notice what else was going on around you? If so, you’ve experienced a trance-like state that’s similar to what happens to you during hypnosis.
Hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion, is a trance-like state of mind. It is usually achieved with the help of a hypnotherapist and is different from your everyday awareness. When you’re under hypnosis: -Your attention is more focused -You’re deeply relaxed and calm -You’re more open to suggestions, and less critical or disbelieving
The purpose of hypnosis is to help you gain more control over your behavior, emotions or physical well-being. Hypnotherapists say that hypnosis creates a state of deep relaxation and quiets the mind. When you’re hypnotized, you can concentrate intensely on a specific thought, memory, feeling or sensation while blocking out distractions. You’re more open than usual to suggestions, and this can be used to change your behavior and thereby improve your health and well-being.
Who is hypnosis for? Hypnotherapy has the potential to help relieve the symptoms of a wide variety of diseases and conditions. It can be used independently or along with other treatments. According to scientific studies, hypnotherapy may be used to: · Change negative behaviors, such as smoking and overeating · Reduce or eliminate fears, stress and anxiety · Lower blood pressure · Control nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy · Reduce the intensity or frequency of pain · Treat and ease the symptoms of asthma Although hypnosis may have the potential to help with a wide variety of conditions, it’s typically used as one part of a broader treatment plan rather than as a stand-alone therapy. Like any other therapy, hypnosis can be helpful to some people but not to others. It seems to work best when you’re highly motivated and your therapist is well trained.
Types of hypnosis
There are a variety of hypnotic techniques. The approach you choose depends on what you want to accomplish as well as your personal preferences. For example, in one method a hypnotherapist leads you into hypnosis by talking in a gentle, soothing tone and describing images that create a sense of relaxation, security and well-being. While you’re under hypnosis, the hypnotherapist suggests ways for you to achieve specific goals, such as reducing pain or stress or helping to eliminate the cravings associated with smoking cessation. In another technique, once you’re under hypnosis, the hypnotherapist helps stimulate your imagination by suggesting specific mental images for you to visualize. This conscious creation of vivid, meaningful pictures in your mind is called mental imagery, and it’s a way to help bring about what you want to achieve. Self-hypnosis is a third technique. A certified hypnotherapist teaches you how to induce a state of hypnosis in yourself. You then use this skill on your own to help yourself. For instance, hypnotherapists can help executives visualize what they want to accomplish before they perform it, such as giving a presentation or making a sale.
Although hypnotherapists, like other health care practitioners, each have their own style, expect some common elements:
A typical session lasts from 30 to 60 minutes.
The number of sessions can range from one to several.
You generally bring yourself out of hypnosis at the end of a session.
You can usually resume your daily activities immediately after a session.
Although hypnosis may have the potential to help with a wide variety of conditions, it’s typically used as one part of a broader treatment plan rather than as a stand-alone therapy. Like any other therapy, hypnosis can be helpful to some people but not to others. It seems to work best when you’re highly motivated and your engaged in the process.
Myths about hypnosis If you’ve ever seen hypnotism used as entertainment in a stage act, you’ve probably witnessed several of the myths about hypnosis in action. Legitimate clinical hypnotherapy practiced by a qualified professional is not the same process as that performed on stage.
Myth: When you’re under hypnosis, you surrender your free will.
Reality: Hypnosis is a heightened state of concentration and focused attention. When you’re under hypnosis, you don’t lose your personality, your free will or your personal strength.
Myth: When you’re under hypnosis, the hypnotherapist controls you.
Reality: You do hypnosis voluntarily for yourself. A hypnotherapist only serves as a knowledgeable guide or facilitator.
Myth: Under hypnosis, you lose consciousness and have amnesia.
Reality: A small number of people who go into a very deep hypnotic state experience amnesia. However, most people remember everything that occurred under hypnosis.
Myth: You can be put under hypnosis without your consent.
Reality: Successful hypnosis depends on your willingness to experience it. Even with voluntary participation, not everyone can be led into a hypnotic state.
What is the situation? How does that situation make you feel? What’s the worst part about the feeling in that situation? When else have you had this feeling? Who does this situation remind you of? These questions promote self reflection and personal insight into why this circumstance is dominating our thoughts. We need to understand ourselves since we have to live in our own skin. There will always be times when insecurities arise but they will pass from our attention. We can use distraction but still our thoughts continue to dwell on these feelings. We try to move on but our head is stuck in trying to solve an emotional problem. We need to let go of these feelings, which is easy to say but hard to do. There is an emotional reflex that occurs that takes us back to a time when we had the same feeling and we try to avoid that same outcome from reoccurring. We may have not gotten over that feeling when it first arose. We took it personally and now fear exposure of our inadequacies. There is a need to overcompensate for this short-coming and we try to prove to others that we are not how we feel. We want to protect ourselves from being hurt so we remain guarded but end up getting our heart broken since our partner is not getting the affection they need. We try and stop people from think negatively about us so we portray a facade and wear a mask of composure that offers an appearance of composure, when we are feeling weak inside. We look to others and wonder why we cannot tolerate the events in a similar fashion. Perhaps they too are playing a role, wearing a mask and putting up a front. We are not in their head and no two people come from the exact same background. We all have different perceptions of the situation and react differently. We look to others, social proof to see what is the best way to handle a situation, but consider the source, their map is good for them, their recipe suits their taste but is not preferable to our palate. We end up with a bitter taste in our mouth or get lost along the way.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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