Working in a learning environment I often use and teach a number of different psychology models. It’s always interesting to see how they work in practice and indeed if they work at all. I have seen people really succeed with them, change their careers and their lives. I’ve also seen them fall flat on their face with poor application and even with good application.
One of my favourites, that applies to us all, is transactional analysis. The notion that we all have the ability to respond in the parent, adult, child ego states. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this, but anyone who picks up a book on it can begin to develop a good understanding.
I was often told by my CBT therapist that I drove a lot of my life and emotions on the ‘you’re OK, I’m OK’ basis. (The child) my ability to be OK in myself rested solely on whether everyone else was OK with me. If they were not OK or were unhappy with something it would fill me with self doubt and total devaluation. Always wanting to make sure that people were and are happy with me.
‘Do not engage’ was something she would say often. You do not have to take someone else’s emotions on. Particularly when they are unnecessary and unhelpful.
If you buy someone a gift and they do not accept it then that gift still belongs to you. If someone directs their anger at you or hurtful behaviours then you do not have to take that on, it will remain with them.
So I’ve been learning how to respond as the ‘adult’, staying factual, not being personal and focusing on the issue at hand. It can be difficult and even harder when someone is being the ‘parent’ and you respond in the way that feels natural as the ‘child’. And sometimes you will slip.
A major hurdle is being able to remain the ‘adult’ when you are continually being pushed to be the ‘child’. I have experienced a lot of ‘parents’ in my life. Telling me which behaviours and beliefs of mine are wrong or right. Leaving me on the defensive and unable to actually assess whether what they say is right. It’s quite liberating when you step back into that ‘adult’ space. Realising that just because someone says X does not mean they are right.
If someone refuses to be an ‘adult’ with you to resolve conflict you may eventually be led to leave the situation as it is. With no real resolution. You can continue on as the ‘adult’ with the notion of ‘do not engage’ in your mind. But doesn’t that mean that the issue is never truly resolved? And if you have an emotional connection with that person then it’s torn and never really healed. Sure it would have affect in a work environment. ‘It’s not personal, it’s business’. Does it really work in personal relationships though? We are humans with emotional memories and it’s not possible to swipe that memory clean by simply not talking about it.
Taking the ‘I’m OK’ approach and the ‘do not engage’ approach may not actually solve anything. Instead you may be forced to continue your life as ‘normal’ knowing things won’t actually be the same. Your expectations of those relationships have dropped and so has your emotional attachment with them.
You can admit your own faults to find an amicable solution but if others are unwilling to move on their position and recognise their faults and hurtful behaviours, then we’re just playing the ‘parent’ blame game. And the ‘child’ ‘poor me’ card.
Just because that other person or people are now ‘OK’ to move on that doesn’t mean that you’re ‘OK’. You may be forced to pretend you are ‘OK’ and act as the ‘adult’. But in truth you will never be OK with that relationship again and things will never feel the same again. Because, as I said, we’re humans. And some hurtful things can’t be unsaid or forgotten.
Sometimes it’s OK to give the world and sometimes it’s OK to expect it.