Unconsciously, that is without being aware, we play what Eric Berne calls a “Game”. This means; I act in ways to make you behave in order to justify how I already feel about you: or … even me! This unconscious strategy keeps us from being responsible for our actions and thus inhibits our ability to change. A pay off is we get to blame someone or something for our experience. This keeps us from being aware of the role that we play in our less than optimal relationships or work lives. (It is in our nature to avoid pain – even the pain that fosters growth.)
If I can blame you for how I feel, I don’t have to feel bad or responsible for the role I am playing in a difficult or dysfunctional relationship. Or for that matter not achieving what I want or figuring out what is truly meaningful or worth moving towards.. The games we play allow us to judge others. This makes us feel superior and it feels good to better than someone else.
When we are mean, abusive, passive aggressive and hurtful to to others we can justify it because: he or she or they deserve it! That is how we can treat others with disrespect, contempt or take advantage of them.. because we have judged them as unworthy of our regard or understanding.
It is is also true that if we feel badly about ourselves or have judged ourselves in less than charitable ways we may also train others to treat us to reinforce the way we feel about ourselves. And then make up an assumption that: You can’t trust people, people take advantage of you, it’s hopeless….
To further insulate ourselves against the pain or discomfort of taking responsibility for our role in the conflict, pain or dysfunction in our lives ; we have an elaborate set of psychological defenses designed to keep us from being aware of how we may be sabotaging what we are striving for. Defenses protect us from the pain of an unpleasant or painful reality we either can’t or won’t face. We all have defenses and they do serve a role – however, it is the over use of them that gets us into trouble and makes it difficult to respond appropriately to the needs of a situation or persons we are in having difficulties with. My experience has been the more emotionally secure a person is the less a need to be defended. The more insecure the greater the defensiveness. I have also noticed, the more educated or successful a person is : the more elaborate their defenses often are. If someone is not very secure; a PhD, JD or MD while giving a powerful external validation will not by itself help someone find inner security if they do not already have it. James Hollis an internationally known Jungian analyst says “we all have issues and those with particularly disturbing issues become psychologists!” The wounding and healing can allow one to be a “wounded healer” . When one does not do his or her work; one often becomes a wounded wounder who wounds others by his or her wounds. The wounded wounder identifies with the wounding and also sees the world through the lenses of the emotional wounds that often happened early in life. This template, pain or view is usually unconscious. When we are not aware and remain unconscious, the unconscious beliefs, attitudes and expectations can and often sabotage the things we most deeply desire on a conscious level.
When we are secure enough to be open to the awareness of our issues and responsible for our growth , healing, self limiting beliefs and nonproductive behaviors; we grow and can exert a powerful force for healing. Self acceptance, forgiveness and self love is the key. As Paul Tillich stated ” the state of “Grace” comes from accepting ourselves even if we feel we are unacceptable”. Thus the compassion that comes from the healing of our wounding helps us in being very effective as a therapist, coach, teacher trainer, friend, manager, parent or writer.
I believe if anyone says that they are self aware they are not. Just as in India anyone who claims to be enlightened is considered not to be. We are all works in progress. A danger in thinking we have done our work is that if we have a conflict with someone – than naturally it will be their fault or their issues that caused it.
“To be psychologically free is to be confident in our own inner world, responsible for our own strengths and weaknesses, consciously loving ourselves, and therefore, able to love others”. Marion Woodman
In the next posting we will look at our security operations – lets call it our own homeland defense strategies.