Once I watched a hypnotist convince a man he was a chicken.

The man clucked, turned his head in jerky birdlike motions, scratched at the stage with his big toe.  It was hilarious.

Nowadays I realize how much we’re all like that man.

Hypnotized, I mean.

Victims of the socialization trance.

Carriers of beliefs, assumptions and prejudices imposed on us by the groups – family, school, community, culture  – to which we belong.

Absorbing such beliefs is the price of belonging.  So, often, is convincing ourselves that those beliefs are actually true, despite evidence to the contrary.

Therapy is meant to help people awaken from the trance, to revisit their assumptions and decide which ones they need to revise or replace.

I call this process outgrowing Plan A

But some people don’t want to. They cling to Plan A, even when it’s clearly stopped working or explaining things.  Even when it’s made a mess of their lives, or hurts them or people they love.

Several ways to explain this.  Ego.  Stubbornness.  Intolerance of ambiguity.  Fear of change.  Stupidity, sometimes.

But the main reason is a sort of emotional immaturity — a refusal to grow up, face harsh reality, accept the world as it is, and stand on their own in that world.

We all struggle with this.  Growing up is hard work.  It’s scary, and painful, and often lonely, and when we do it at all it’s usually because we’re either forced to or have realized that not growing up feels even worse.

Which is a long way of saying, we’re all chickens on this bus.

But we have a choice between between being sleepy chickens and chickens trying their damnedest to wake up.


2 responses to “Chickens

  • NextInLine

    The only response I can have to this is cluck cluck. Because I am that chicken.This is why I have been in therapy for four years. And this is also why I never will give up. Because, I can kick this chicken’s ass.

    • Steve Hauptman

      Good for you. But please don’t kick his ass. He didn’t ask to be a chicken; none of us does. So wake him up, don’t beat him up. 🙂

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