Synopsis: If it doesn’t work, don’t do it! — Seems simple, eh? But repeating dumb behaviour is rampant. Let’s just get over ourselves!
First of all, a slightly belated 150th birthday, Canada! Darbella and I celebrated in Costa Rica with 9 friends, and ate hamburgers, poutine, and had Canada Day Cupcakes for dessert. Missed the fireworks in Waterloo, though!
Of Wayne’s many books, the one closest to today’s topic is: This Endless Moment 2nd. edition
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What’s This All About?
After I graduated in 1983 with my counselling Masters degree, I started sending out a paper (remember paper?) newsletter. One issue, I generated a list of 25 “Universal Rules” to live by.
I was fishing through a box, throwing stuff out, and came across the list. I read it and thought, “Hmm. Not bad. Maybe this could be the basis of some Pathless Path articles.”
I’m not committing to 25 articles, although you never know. There’s a lot of meat here, and that means having a “good look.”
One thing you’ll see in the “rules” is the most common re‐occurring theme in The Pathless Path — personal responsibility. I consider this to be a no‐brainer.
That said, I continually give my head a shake over how much resistance there is to this idea. Many people I know, for example, (even therapists!) drop into “If only my husband/wife was different, I could be happy” mode.
- Never mind that they’ve been seeking change in others since “forever.”
- Never mind that their contentment has been on hold “forever.”
- Never mind that the things they say they want and need are never what they have.
They cling to the task of “getting others to see the light,” as opposed to simply focusing on their walk, their path, their understandings.
It gets quite cute, as they sigh and look sad… and then tell Dar or me (at great length) how hard they are trying, but “those other people” just won’t co‐operate.
One woman we know has been battling with her husband for 13 years over “who is right.” We’ve suggested — and re‐suggested — that rather than one being right, one wrong, their views are simply “different.”
We’ve suggested dialogue, good communication, but they won’t talk things out. We’ve suggested therapy, but she’s “too smart” for that. We’ve mentioned that marriages are not about fixing, but she can’t let go of dominating.
So, we’ve switched to talking alternatives. We mention that there are only three:
- moan and complain,
- leave the relationship, or
- stay, but accept her husband as he is, while choosing to live her life as she wants to.
She thought she’d give the latter a try for a month. Then she stopped, even though things were better. Quoth she: “I can’t keep doing this! It means that my husband wins!” And around and around she goes.
The first Universal Rule — If it doesn’t work, don’t do it — addresses the “nothing (external) changes” dilemma.
Once again, this seems obvious. But hey, it’s not!
So, I like to use a business example; somehow people can “get it” when money is involved. I say,
“If you devised a policy at work, and every time you implemented it, you cost the company $50,000, how often would you do it?” And I get this quizzical, “What the hell is the matter with you??” look, and always, the same answer: “ONCE!!!”
Occasionally, if the person is a little thick, she or he will follow with, “What’s your point?”
My point is obvious. Many people treat people and situations at work with much more care and creativity than the way they operate at home.
People, as they relate to others they consider important, often lock into one mode of interaction, (some common ones: blame, the need to “fix,” martyrdom, being the “smart one,”) and that mode is best described as blatant manipulation.
I just coined a term for it:
Egoic “me‐ism” — a position that implies (or states directly!) “Me and my needs should come first for you!” Because we’re not all that creative, whatever manipulative game we’re playing is the only game we’re playing, despite the fact that it doesn’t work and we’re getting crappy results.
On the other hand, doing something different is a choice that’s always available.
I once counselled a mom and dad of an 18‐year‐old; their son had just screwed up the first semester of his last year in High School. They’d slapped on Draconian measures to force him to do better. The son went to full rebellion mode, and they were coming to me to find harsher penalties.
I said, “Hmm. He’s 7 months away from University.” (He’d already been accepted, but wouldn’t be going if he failed his last year in High School.) “What are you and your husband going to do in September — move into his dorm room and keep trying to control him?”
They were pretty smart, and realized what they were doing… wait for it… wasn’t working. They brought him in, and we devised a strategy which was basically, “Hands off, let him sink or swim.”
Amazingly, they actually implemented this new “hands off” plan. The son breathed a sigh or relief and got to work, as he really didn’t want them moving into his dorm room. 😉 All of the fighting and tension stopped.
The “kid” booked a session to thank me for my trust in his ability to be an adult. I basically replied, “Good. Don’t screw up!” and we had a laugh.
He didn’t. Screw up. Straight A marks for his last semester, all without threats, pressure. Just trust.
If it doesn’t work, don’t do it.