“My boss scares me !, my husband annoys me ! my wife is getting on my nerves ! My teenager son doesn’t even listen to me ! My mother, can’t take it any more, she drives me crazy ! “
Relationships to others are not exactly a long, quiet river, paved with mutual satisfactions !
To think that the other is the cause of the difficulty is often the first thought and it might sometimes be true (to some extent) however as we are most of the time at least 2 in any relationship, each party involved has its share in what’s exchanged.
Eric BERNE was a Canadian-born American psychiatrist and inventor of transactional Analysis. He had the idea in the 1960’s that we are spending (structuring) a great amount of our time in exchanges with others leading to predictable outcomes. As an important source of stimulations, they help us confirm our views and beliefs about ourselves or others, about life and the world.
He also sais that this process occurs outside of our Adult consciousness.
For example, when I was calling my mother, she was invariably taking that opportunity to list her difficulties and somehow was expecting other people to solve her problems without asking:
Her: I have to go to the dentist, it’s far. Me : why don’t you take a cab? Her : yes, but they are expensive. Me : Why don’t you ask my brother (who lives in the same city)? Her : yes, but he is fed up with it. Me : why don’t you ask Mary to drive you ? Her : yes, but … Me : then, don’t ask me !
Then I was hanging up, annoyed, saying to myself : That’s her problem, she’s got to sort it out, I was just trying to help ! On her side, she was reinforcing her belief around “this is hard to be old, nobody can help me !”. In fact, she was not asking anything clearly.
Eric BERNE called this type of exchange a Psychological Game, not as a happy pastime but as an Unconscious Strategy to confirm our beliefs. The one I have described is called “Yes, but …”. In any of these psychological games, both players play !
My mother talks from a Victim stand (“I am not able to solve my problem”) and, in order to confirm that belief, frustrate others (Persecutor). I was trying to save her by finding solutions for her (Rescuer), just to end up also powerless to help (Victim).
Are we bound to repeat these games with their negative feelings ? No !
With the help of a competent professional :
- by becoming aware of (1) what’s going on step by step and (2) the feelings and associated emotions;
- by mobilising our Adult which is the part of us in relation with the reality of here and now;
- by retrieving and healing today wounds from the past which triggered decisions (forgotten since but still in force) such as “if it is like this, never again will I …”;
- by detaching confused stakes (eg : my boss makes a negative comment on my work and i suffer just as if it was my father rejecting me).
This path can be long but there are gifts along the way:
- by responding to clear and explicit requests (if I can and wish to) rather than to unformulated, unclear calls. Of course, I can be tricky and too risky to oppose a “I don’t wish to” to my boss but asking for specifics rather than guessing is a legitimate request;
- decrease one’s relational suffering level;
- be in contact with others in a more and more authentic way;
- be consistent with oneself.