Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘conditioned response’

Child, Parent or Adult – That is the Question

Years ago there was a book by Eric Berne entitled the ‘Games People Play.’ It was a popular read that was steeped in a deeper analysis of human motivation somewhat based on Freud. Berne explained the deeper concepts using three different approaches that we could relate to in our lives. His premise was that people typically use one of these approaches to avoid real intimacy or at least to get what they want out of life. Being honest with ourselves we all use methods of manipulation in our lives. Like everything else in life it is to the degree that we use them that either helps or impedes our growth. Berne labeled these three different approaches as the Child, Parent, and Adult perspectives. It is worth examining our typical responses as well as those around us to understand how these perspectives apply. We choose one of these perspectives to seek attention, recognition and ‘strokes’ from others. Early in life we discovered that one of them seemed to work better for us and over time it may have become a behavioral mode of interacting with others to help us control our circumstances. With everything in life the more we do something the better we become at it.

To begin, let’s look at the Child orientation. Think of a young child and frequently a smile will come to your face as they entertain us, and make us laugh at their behavior. We watch them as they are naturally spontaneous, curious and display a confidence to try new things. They just want to have fun right? But they can also be difficult if they don’t get their own way, or receive an immediate response to their demands. They can throw tantrums and exhibit a stubbornness and catastrophic view of events that are out of their control. Rather than ‘go with the flow’ they expect to control the flow because they just know people want to make them happy. After all, who doesn’t just love a child?

The next perspective, labeled the Parent approach, can involve problem solving, wise counsel and a feeling of safety and security. However, it can also result in telling, directing, demanding and judging. This can be the person who seems to think they have all the right answers – not just for themselves but for us as well. After all, many of us looked to one or both of our parents to give us an answer or an okay about something we wanted to do in our life. We looked for their approval. What type of message did you receive from your parent(s) about work, relationships, achievement and security. Are you modeling the same behavior you watched as a child?

The last approach, labeled the ADULT is one which uses a rational objectivity, acceptance of truth – without judgment or demands. An example would be that when listening to you explain a challenge or roadblock in your life asks you how you feel about it. They want you to process your feelings and grow from your inner discovery. They are cautious about giving advice because they realize that we are all on our own unique path and that the answer for one person may not be the right answer for another when dealing with human interactions. In spiritualism this approach would be compared to functioning in our higher self. Realizing that events happen for a purpose, a lesson and that we are basically actors on the stage of life living the parts of the script that we have written.

The beauty in examining our own behavior is that it can help us to determine areas or edges that we might choose to smooth out or areas in which we would like to expand our repertoire of responses. The more we examine ourselves the more confident and at peace we can become

Have a great few days!

Developing Serenity

We have all read the Serenity Prayer at some point in our lives. ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change. And the wisdom to know the difference.’ If you are like me it seems I have read this a million times and yet actually applying its deeper meaning seems to work better when issues are less critical or important in life. When the ‘big dogs’ of problems surface oftentimes, the real meaning of this prayer is lost and we find ourselves simply reacting as we have done in the past and feeling more and more frustrated with the results. We typically take the path we have chosen so often in our lives because it has become a conditioned response.

As with so many significant sayings in life we can mouth the words, even memorize them and yet never completely internalize them which will cause a change in our attitude, beliefs and behavior. I have chosen to use the Serenity Prayer over the next few blogs to delve more deeply into what it can do for us. The few words contained in the prayer have tremendous potential to help us arrive at a greater sense of confidence, peace and wisdom in our lives. It is worth taking the time to think about in greater depth over the next week. It can help us harness the power of these words and then apply them when we face the next truly big challenge in our lives.

The Serenity Prayer basically boils down to two issues: learning how to accept with grace and humility the things in life that cannot be changed or learning how to dig deep to surface the needed courage to change the things that are possible for us to change. Seems straight forward enough doesn’t it? Ah, but as with everything else in life simplicity is an art that only results after wrestling with the true complexity of the elements behind it. Determining which path to take is, of course, the ultimate challenge but it is not a mere choice arrived at easily but rather the result of understanding and examining the complex web of emotions and beliefs established from our early conditioning, cultural mores and personal life experiences.

To begin our more in depth look at the deeper meaning of the prayer I would ask you to consider the following questions.

Which approach is usually HARDER for you … accepting the things you truly cannot change (without anger or resentment) or finding the courage to actually change the things (with grace and tenacity) that you can change?

Your answer to the above question is important. As individuals we have a preference for one approach over the other. It doesn’t mean that we can’t use the other approach but it is not something we typically do or prefer to do especially when dealing with the ‘biggies’ in life.

Your answer is very important as we continue to dive deeper into the well of understanding about human emotions in our goal to develop greater wisdom and Serenity. In essence, in one response we are dealing with learning to trust more fully and with the other response learning how to better control our fears. Both are difficult but achievable behavioral changes. One answer is not better than the other it is simply different and will help us decide on the next pathway to follow. In the meantime after you decide which approach is harder for you the logical step is to ask yourself the question – why? Really think about why that particular approach is harder for you – just a hint – it is usually the result of early conditioning.

Stay tuned and we will follow up on the possible ‘why’ in the next blog.

Have a great few days!