(THE BOOK) Chapter 21: Plan A

You have completed Chapters 1 – 20, comprising

Part 1 - Addiction

which is archived here.


This chapter begins

Part 2 Dysfuncftion


In the end there’s only one reason anyone goes to therapy:

Plan A has broken down.

Plan A is my label for everything we learn as children about life and how to live it.

We each have a Plan A.  And we all pretty much learn it in the same place and in the same way.

The place is our family, and the way is unconsciously.

Nobody sits us down at the kitchen table and says, “Listen up.  Here’s how you do Life.”   No, they just do Life themselves, and we watch and listen and soak it all up like little sponges.  Which explains why our Plan A tends to look so much like that of our family members.

And it works okay for a while.  Especially while we’re still living in the family.  We’re all following the same unwritten, unspoken rule book.

But Plan A always breaks down.

Eventually we move beyond the family into the larger world, filled with new people and new challenges.  And we discover that what worked at home doesn’t always work out there.

At which point we have, in theory at least, a choice.

We can tell ourselves, “Oh, I see.  I guess I need a Plan B.”

Or we can tell ourselves, “I must be doing it wrong.  I better try harder at implementing Plan A.”

Guess which we choose?

Right.  Plan A.

Always Plan A.

Two reasons for this.  First, we may not even know there’s such a thing as Plan B.  Childhood trained us to see Plan A as normal.  (Why would anyone do Life in any other way?)

Second, even when we suspect there are other options, we cling to Plan A because it’s familiar.  We already know how to do it.  We can do it in our sleep.  

And change is scary.

So we keep following Plan A even despite mounting evidence that it no longer works.

And that’s when we begin to develop symptoms — anxiety, depression, addictions, communication problems, bad relationships.

Those symptoms are what drive us into therapy.

Seeking, whether we know it not, a Plan B.




6 responses to “(THE BOOK) Chapter 21: Plan A

  • Lisa Marie

    One of the reasons I like your blog/book so much is because of the “aha” factor. I remember when I first started having “aha” moments. They came from reading things written by M.Scott Peck and Melody Beattie, at least thirty years ago, and many others who broke down phycho-babble in terms that made sense to me. I don’t mean to overly criticize the “helping” professions, but so much of the information is bogged down in academia that it doesn’t help anyone. I forward your blog/book to my staff all the time because it helps me, them and the people who are our customers. I also print stuff out that you write all the time and put it up on my bulletin board in my cube, for things I need to remind myself about. Keep up the awesome work! You truly inspire me!!!

    • Steve Hauptman

      Thanks so much for telling me that.
      One of the reasons it took me a decade to start writing the book was that I wanted to give readers the “aha” experience without sounding like other self-help books, many of which I can’t stand to read myself.
      So it’s enormously rewarding to hear that, at least for you, I’ve found a way to do that. 🙂

      • Al

        I could not agree more with you Lisa Marie.
        I too have found usual self help books too complicated, and thus boring.
        Not Monkeytraps.
        To me the sign of a true teacher/guide is someone who really knows their stuff, has had real experience, real interest, and do is capable of making a complicated subject easy for others to understand.
        In my experience, ‘professionals’ can get lost in their own language and lose touch with ‘real’people, or maybe it was lose interest!

  • Al

    From my experience this is true.
    I didn’t know a Plan B existed.
    I was stuck in Plan A, and only kept going in circles!
    Until I got fed up…
    Now I’m working on Plan B which im not totally sure how to do but i can always go back to my Plan A!😣

    • Steve Hauptman

      “I can always go back to my Plan A.”

      You’re kidding, I know.

      But I’m not sure about that.

      We can, of course, always revert to Plan A. It takes most of my energy not to. I’m always fighting off relapse.

      But something’s changed. Once you enter recovery, you can’t really go back to the way it was. Your denial has broken, and the addiction is now clearly a problem, not a solution.

      So even when I can forgive myself for relapsing (and I think self-forgiveness is good), it still feels like a mistake, a failure, a self-betrayal.

      It’s like when you’re dieting. You set out to eat salad, then meet a bagel you can’t resist. So you eat the bagel.

      But you can’t quite enjoy it as you once did, because of what it means to you now.

  • Al

    Yep, there’s another aha moment…
    On reflection I feel I needed a get out clause when I said I could return to plan A.
    Course not…
    When you know, you can’t unknow, and I now have to forgive myself too. I’ve HAD to learn how to do that…progress for me indeed.
    Thanks Steve

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