insights coming thick and fast since my last post thanks in much part to some wonderful input from both sober buddies and a real life friend… plus of course the wonders of obsessive trawling on the internet 😉

my first dawning recognition was about my last post. that there would have been a sign on the lead-up to the roundabout but I did not see it because I wasn’t looking for it then. because I was distracted by my own anxiety and trying to rely on my memory and judgement rather than a more reliable external indicator.

this realisation hit me like being slapped round the head by John Cleese with a halibut. because this attitude towards roundabouts is one I have had for some time. to my own severe risk – some years ago in the same circumstance I decided to leave the roundabout and my car was hit by another vehicle which I had not seen to my left. one of the most terrifying moments of my life, particularly since my eldest child as a baby was in the back seat…

so – take away no. 1 – a reluctance to look for warning signs soon enough.

because be in no doubt, if there is a behaviour that is causing us a problem in life, and it is an escalating behaviour, whether it is drinking, or something else, the Universe will respond by delivering us increasingly significant warning signs until we pay attention and change the behaviour. if we get the chance, that is.

the next realisation is really the one that hit home – that this behaviour of mine – which happens to be procrastination on paperwork – is just as much a self-destructive behaviour as over-eating or unsuitable boys or smoking or drinking ever were. and I have kind of appreciated that, as you will have seen in my procession of UFYD posts.

but I hadn’t really heard that bell ring, until yesterday. and now it’s heard, it can’t be un-heard.

which is fine and dandy. but leads to two much larger questions.

why am I doing it, and how can I stop?

well, I think this all comes down to how I perceive myself, and what I do to maintain that perception, however uncomfortable it may be, because it is safe and familiar.

there’s a great deal of work out there on transactional analysis, with which you may well be familiar. the idea is that we are social creatures who change when we are in contact with another person in our world. I had come across this some years ago and recognise some aspects of myself and my relationships in it and found it really helpful.

what I hadn’t seen before was the concept of The OK Corral. there’s a really long article here on both transactional analysis and The OK Corral, and their implications.

here’s the OK Corral – which is how we perceive ourselves in relation to others.

my residency is firmly in the top-left hand quadrant: I am not OK. you are OK. which, again, I kind of already knew. here are some points that really struck home from me in the above article:

‘I am sure that every one of us must have been in the situation where we have said, “Why does this always keep happening to me?” When similar situations keep happening over and over again, then the term Transactional Analysis uses for this is a game. A game is a familiar pattern of behaviour with a predictable outcome. Games are played outside Adult awareness and they are our best attempt to get our needs met – although, of course, we don’t.

Games are learned patterns of behaviour, and most people play a small number of favourite games with a range of different people and in varying intensities.

First Degree games are played in social circles generally lead to mild upsets, not major traumas.

Second Degree games occur when the stakes may be higher. This usually occurs in more intimate circles, and ends up with an even greater negative payoff.

Third Degree games involve tissue damage and may end up in the jail, hospital or morgue.

Games vary in the length of time that passes while they are being played. Some can take seconds or minutes while others take weeks months or even years. People play games for these reasons:

  • to structure time
  • to acquire strokes
  • to maintain the substitute feeling and the system of thinking, beliefs and actions that go with it
  • to confirm parental injunctions and further the life script
  • to maintain the person’s life position by “proving” that self/others are not OK
  • to provide a high level of stroke exchange while blocking intimacy and maintaining distance
  • to make people predictable.

ways to deal with games

There are various ways to stop a game, including the use of different options than the one automatically used. We can:

  • cross the transaction by responding from a different ego state than the one the stimulus is designed to hook.
  • pick up the ulterior rather than the social message e.g. when a person says “I can’t do this, I’m useless”. Rather than saying, “Let me do this for you,” instead say, “It sounds like you have a problem. What do you want me to do about it?” (said from the Adult ego state) (NB this reflects the responding rather than reacting tactic I have referred to previously)
  • the opening message to the game always entails a discount. There are further discounts at each stage of the game. By detecting discounts we can identify game invitations and defuse them with options. (A discount is when we minimise, maximise or ignore some aspect of a problem which would assist us in resolving it. Such as saying in a whiny voice “This is too difficult for me to do”, so we automatically help them).
  • replace the game strokes. Loss of strokes to the Child ego state means a threat to survival. We get a great many strokes from games, even if they are negative. However, if we don’t obtain sufficient positive strokes, or give ourselves positive strokes, we will go for quantity rather than quality of strokes and play games to get them. This loss of strokes is also a loss of excitement that the game has generated.

Another way to think about this is to consider the game role we or the other person is likely to take. One way to discover this is to ask the following questions:

1. What keeps happening over and over again?

2. How does it start?

3. What happens next?

4. And then what happens?

5. How does it end?

6. How do we feel after it ends?

We can then consider the reason we might have taken up a particular role, where we might switch to, and then consider how to do things differently. We need to consider what our own responsibility is in this – if the situation is too violent for us to get involved what options do we have? We could call for help, get others to come with us to intervene and so on. We need to choose the appropriate assistance and take the action required.

I am pretty convinced right now that this behaviour has been an attempt to prove to myself my underlying perception that I am not OK. and that is immensely powerful for me, because unless I recognise that, I will always be able to come up with another behaviour to prove that to myself. if I can root out the motivation behind the self-destructive behaviour, is there hope that all such behaviours will wither away? I pray so, with all my heart. because I am so very tired of playing whack-a-mole with them….

I will be thinking about the following more, because my head is pretty much exploding at the moment:

what are the discounts in my behaviour? how am I minimising, maximising, or ignoring some aspects of the problem which would help me in resolving it?

this post is written mostly to get this whirling outside my own thoughts. if it’s been of any more general application to anyone else, about drinking or otherwise, that would be lovely as well.

so, are there any aspects of this that ring true for you, too? if so, have you found any ways to address them? thanks for listening, in any case!

many bells carolling joyously inside my head right now. it’s damn noisy in there, but I’m learning to live in it!