Seasonal bleatings Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Thursday, 07 December 2017 08:14
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For better or for worse . . . the festive season is upon us and the Ghost of Christmas Past has already started lurking in the wings for most of the women I know. If you dread the approaching jingle bells, then be of good cheer – you’re not alone.

Life coach Martha Beck says that if you want to become enlightened, having malfunctional loved ones is practically mandatory. Who else is going to point out your lack of cooking skills while simultaneously putting humongous slices of gammon onto your vegetarian child’s plate?

That’s why Martha recently launched a game to get you through the holidays – Dysfunctional Family Bingo. You’re supposed to compete with your friends to see who has the craziest family.

Talking about games, it is scary how many people grew up believing that communicating in an open and honest way will not get them what they want. Instead, they’ve learned to play mind games.

Most of us have a dominant control drama which we play automatically, without even realizing what we’re doing. In ‘Protect yourself from control dramas’, Jodi Janati says that your need to use defensive responses with someone means that you are caught in a control drama.

When you understand how others use control dramas to make you react, you can step out of the cycle. Jodi says that most people will fall back on the same control drama when feeling tested. They’re completely unaware of doing it and of how others experience them during these episodes.

In his book, ‘The Celestine Prophecy’, James Redfield explains that control dramas are unconscious strategies all people use to get their way with others. He says that almost all humans manipulate either aggressively, by forcing people to pay attention to them, or passively, by playing on people’s sympathy or curiosity to gain attention.

According to James there are four main control dramas: Intimidators take energy from others by threat, either verbally or physically. Interrogators take it by judging and questioning. Aloof people attract attention to themselves by playing coy. Poor me’s make us feel guilty and responsible for them.

Psychiatrist dr Eric Berne looked at these same patterns in his book, ‘Games People Play’. Since the book’s publication in 1964 to the updated 40th anniversary edition in 2004, over five million copies have been sold in nearly 20 languages.

Eric defines a game as a series of interactions, such as facial expressions, words and body language. These interactions follow a predictable pattern and move towards an outcome in which one person gets a ‘payoff’.  In most cases, the participants are unaware that they are playing.

In his book, Eric lists numerous games under different sections, such as life games, marital games, consulting room games and even a section called good games. Brace yourself for the names of these games, girlfriend. They range from look-what-you-made-me-do and they’ll-be-glad-they-knew-me to I’m-only-trying-to-help-you and look-how-hard-I’ve-tried.

The first game Eric introduces is if-it-weren’t-for-you. Mrs White complained that her husband severely restricted her social activities, so that she had never learned to dance. Later, due to changes in her attitude brought about by psychiatric treatment, her husband became less sure of himself and more indulgent. 

Mrs White promptly signed up for dancing classes. To her despair she discovered that she had a morbid fear of dance floors and had to abandon this project.

Eric explains that mrs White married her husband precisely because she knew he would perform this service for her: Saving her from the embarrassment of having to expose her deficiencies herself. Her parents accommodated her the same way when she was little.

Of course mrs White wasn’t conscious of this. Family games are so well entrenched, mainly because we don’t know that we’re playing them. But, this Christmas, when you feel yourself being reeled in, you’ll know that a game is in progress here.

Lissa Rankin recommends repeating (silently, of course, girlfriend): “Thank you for this gift of love.” The mind might scream “Nonsense!” when you do this. “This is not a gift of love. This is a disaster!”

Still, some deeper part of you knows that life lessons ride shotgun with disaster. And, bingo! Before you can say Christmas cracker, this insight will take the focus off the unsettling situation and put it back on yourself, giving you the chance to change things from the inside out.

Then you can truly say: “Thank you for this gift of love.”

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