It seems to me that, although we often don’t have a choice about whether pain comes into our lives and relationships, we do have a choice about whether that pain becomes “stuck pain” or “growing pain.” We can choose to just endure the pain that comes our way and try to ignore it and/or numb it as best we can. We can blame others or the world and wait for them to change. This path keeps us stuck and stagnant. On the other hand, we can get the support we need in a painful situation and put forth the effort of understanding what in us may be causing us to experience the situation as painful. We can then look at how we might grow through this experience into being stronger, more fully alive and more deeply connected.
Mary Simon, PsyD
A recent article in Psychology Today titled ‘the American nightmare’ (March/April, 2011) caught my attention. I realized ‘oh wow, the American Dream that most of us aspire to is actually the cultural fit that Mary and I are addressing in our upcoming book, Happy Misfits!’ Our thesis is that to fit or aspire to fit into any cultural track indeed can become a nightmare! We need to become conscious misfits with respect to the cultural dreams and aspirations that we tend to swallow whole. This doesn’t mean that we throw out the baby with the bath water. There is much about the American Dream that is deserving of our discriminative attention. The dream marriage that fulfills each partner body and soul until reality sets in, the two point two children and parents that comprise the nuclear family that may be stressed to the breaking point, the McMansion in the suburbs that is elaborate and elegant and contributes to suburban sprawl and isolation. These are all part of the cultural fit that many Americans (and others around the world) often aspire to and may be part of what inspires others to become happy misfits who challenge or at least modify the American Dream in their lives.
As a friend recently opined, “Everybody’s blogging. Nobody’s reading!” It strikes us that this may be true in our case. So, our next step in blogging is going to be reaching out via email to friends, colleagues, clients and other possibly interested parties to let them know about our blog and invite y’all to join us. If you have been reading, give us a shout (make a comment) and let us know what you think about what we’ve been saying.
The Adapted Child, or survival, ego state is driven primarily by fear. There are different levels at which this fear operates. There can be fear of physical survival, not usually an issue in most of our lives. There can be fear of the unknown or the “different”. We can be afraid of not “fitting in,” being socially unacceptable. We can be afraid of losing support from, or connection with, others. We can be afraid of being seen as “less than” others, or of being shamed.
The Adapted Child state also tends to be able to see only two options – either you OR me, either us OR them, either right OR wrong, good OR bad – you get the point. For this reason, all conflicts are viewed as “win/lose.” It is very difficult to value and respect both myself AND others when I see everything in these terms. Others’ wants, needs and ideas appear to be in competition with mine. Fear can easily kick in – fear that, if they get what they want (win), I will, of course, lose; fear that, if they are “right”, I will be wrong. And on it goes!