Wayne C. Allen's "Works in Progress"
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Universal Rules: Most Wounds are Self Inflicted


My analogy of choice these days is this: once you get past the age of 16, 'the cosmos' hands you a rubber mallet, which is normally used to knock furniture together without marring the wood. The cosmos then offers you this strange deal. You can accept complete responsibility for your self - for your choices, for your thinking, for your actions – or you can blame others. If you pick the former, you get to drop the mallet. If you choose the latter, you begin, with rhythm and verve, to smack yourself in the forehead with the mallet. On and on. For the rest of your life.

Often, having described this to clients, I invite them to drop the mallet and stop hurting themselves. This usually elicits a smile, a rueful nod of the head, and then some story or explanation or request that shows the hammer is still swinging.

Last week I had a guy explain his wife leaving in terms of the Women's Movement, too many choices, where he lived, what he did and the lack of family values. I opined that perhaps he sucked at relationships. He didn't disagree, but immediately went back to his list. I then pointed out that his list contained no items he could do anything about, (or was willing to change), so he was really setting up a system to be alone. He spent the rest of the session sighing and indicating that I'd missed the point.

Another client listed the illnesses she'd contracted since her husband hurt his back.

In each case, the hammer is swinging and the holder is doing the swinging.

You see, there is only one time when this is not the case, and that's in terms of physical violence. If someone else is literally wielding the hammer, then the other person causes the wound. In every other situation, in every other relationship, in every other case, the hammer is being swung by the same person that is being hit.

Thus, "Most Wounds are Self-Inflicted."

A lot of this goes back to childhood, when we had an expectation that our happiness and well-being was in the hands of others – we were "right" to the extent that we were kept alive by others. The jury is out as to the happiness and well-being part.

And it's out because even the most beneficent, kind, loving parents do not have the best interests of anyone other than themselves at heart. What they do may be couched in "what's best for little Susie," but we all know that this isn't particularly so. A parent's primary job is to socialize little Susie, not to make her happy. If the parent tries the latter, the parent is never going to be off the hook, and always to blame when little Susie isn't happy.

None-the-less, we want to be looked after, amused, made happy. People tell me that's why they are in relationship. It's funny, though, how once the novelty wears off, "He makes me so happy," becomes, "He makes me so angry. He's changed!"

A friend was bemoaning her fate the other day, describing her husband thusly: "He hates his job, is good with the kids, but fights with my son, and never wants to do anything. He's really quite boring." The interesting piece, to me, was that I'd asked her how she was doing. I asked her again, and she reluctantly described her boring life.

Now, this is not to say that her husband is not boring. It's to say that her boredom is not caused by or about him. She's boring herself and blaming him for not making it "more fun." Which, when you think about it, is perfect. When she's happy, she can say "I had a great time!" When life sucks, its, "You're so boring!"

Often, the power struggles that appear to be about who is right are actually about who is responsible. And in this case, in this struggle, the language is much like we just looked at. Each person is blaming the other for the problem. "If only you'd get it!" (Like my first client story: he wants me to "get" how powerless he is, and also how powerless "everyone" is. But it begs the question: why would I want to be powerless in regard to my own life?) "Why can't you see?" "You're not doing it (fill in the blank as to what "it" is) right."

As I play this game, I let myself completely off the hook for the pain I am feeling. I'm not doing this to me, you are. A guy the other day said, "So, I'm practicing that communication stuff. I try really hard, and then my wife says, "You weren't trying like this with my therapist!" and I get mad and we have a big fight. Boy, I wish she'd get this!" I just grinned at him. He smiled and said, "I suppose you're going to say that I don't have to choose to anger myself that she's not doing exactly what I want her to. I suppose I could do that…" We both had a laugh. He's getting it.

Time to really let go of the blaming. No one is doing stuff to you. No one is making you miserable. (Caveat: if you have selected a**holes for friends, they might be a pain. What you could do is change friends.) No one is trying to hurt you. All that stuff you're stuffing, all those emotions, are yours. They're yours to deal with, let go of and move past.

No one owes you different behaviour. You owe you the ability to claim and own your behaviour.

In short, you could choose to put down the mallet.

Otherwise, you're the helpless victim of your self-inflicted wounds. Sounds like a screwy way to live your life, if you ask me.

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