(THE BOOK) Chapter 22: Lessons and rules

So the first thing to remember about Plan A is that we learn it and follow it unconsciously.

And the second thing is that every Plan A has the very same goal:

Control over emotional life.

Do this, it tells you, to be safe and avoid pain.  Do this to win love and acceptance.

This becomes clearer when you examine the lessons and rules which are Plan A’s component parts.

I, for example, grew up in an alcoholic family.  Alcoholics are addicts, and as noted earlier, addicts are people who can’t handle feelings.  So I spend my childhood with people who reacted to my feelings with hurt and guilt, anxiety and anger.  And the Plan I evolved (essentially the same Plan evolved by every kid in that situation) reflected all that.

One important lesson was, “Feelings are uncomfortable at best, dangerous at worst.”  This lesson grew into a rule: Feel as little as possible.  Think your way through life instead.

Another lesson was “You’re responsible for other people’s feelings.”  This grew into a second rule: Never be yourself around other people.

These two lessons were the foundation stones of my Plan A.

They also called my inner monkey into being.

Bert was born to take control of my chaotic emotional life.  He set out to accomplish that by doing things like burying his feelings, developing an acceptable image, and becoming painfully oversensitive to the emotions, perceptions and opinions of others.

Interestingly, it was Bert who convinced me to become a therapist.  Attending to others’ feelings while disguising my own seemed a natural fit to my original Plan.

Little did either of us suspect that becoming a healthy therapist would mean I’d have to outgrow Bert and develop a Plan B.

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3 responses to “(THE BOOK) Chapter 22: Lessons and rules

  • alexis

    If there is a ‘God’ I have one argument with ‘Him/Her’: that the human psyche [‘He/She’ created] is so easily stomped on/distorted/crushed in early, defenseless childhood! I wish we were made out of sturdier, psychological stuff: once impacted, we spend more than half [if not all] our adult lives re-claiming our Self, then living a much-improved remainder of our lives, still managing the distortions that want to perennially resurface and re-control us. Aaaargh!

    • Steve Hauptman

      You remind me of the video wherein the President mocks those critics who blame him for everything.
      He does it by trying to dip a large cookie into a small glass of milk, and when the cookie won’t fit, he scowls and mutters “Thanks, Obama.”
      That’s kind of how I see this issue.
      You’re right, of course. Human nature is undoubtedly flawed, fragile and terminally fucked up.
      But it is what it is, and we are what we are, and my arms are way too short to box with God.

  • The conversation: God, skew, and instincts | Monkey House

    […] In response to “Chapter 22: Lessons and rules“: […]

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