Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

How We Become

Originally posted on March 8, 2013

This is a contemplation that deals with the need for repeated self-creation, and builds on the system of Individual Psychology that was developed in the 1920s by Alfred Adler. Adler noted that children by the time they’re five tend to have implicitly answered—made up a story—about (1) who they are; (2) who others are; (3) what life is about: (4) and given the previous 3 answers, (4) what’s the best way to cope with it? This is their “style of life,” and here’s the kicker: The coping style is inevitably inadequate because the stories that implicitly answer the first three questions are always inadequate. They were created unconsciously, for goodness sakes! And by very immature minds! And they’re based on the peculiarities of each individual family—who daddy and mommy and other sibs and aunt Suzie and Grandma and others are taken to be—and all these perceptions affect the answer to the first three questions.

As we grow we need to re-do this internal story of who we are, who others are, what the world’s about, and how best should we cope with it. Indeed, we do re-do the story as new experiences impact us, but it’s generally done unconsciously and thus it’s due to all the error that unconscious impressions and illusions bring. Trauma gets double billing: Okay, Life is really like this. Other events get weighted in proportion to their emotional loading, which relates to the relationship in which the experience happens—how important is it? Or sometimes it relates to the age, the other questions being asked implicitly. So a look from a playmate may be taken one way in the midst of a game when one is full of self-confidence and months or years later, when one is in a socially awkward and vulnerable mood, a similar glance may be experienced quite differently.

All these reinforcing lessons are frequently mistaken! What? Yes! Frequently mistaken! So you lay down in your subconscious both foolishly prideful illusions about yourself and also foolishly negative illusions, all of which need to be corrected in time. Along with the illusions, you draw impressions of how to behave, and your models are often superficial, phony, and/or otherwise distorted. So it’s not easy to figure out how to become in this world. “Through many toils, troubles and snares…” as the verse from Amazing Grace goes.

The good news is that we can become more conscious as we mature—and some even do! We can weave what’s known as therapy into our everyday lives without having to enter into a lengthy and expensive course of psychotherapy. It helps if we know this is part of what continuing growth is about. It’s not humiliating that we are forced to do this, it’s just what people do: They become more conscious; they revise their inner programs. That’s mainly what “therapy” is about: Revise your inner program. Update your input. Get the non-helpful illusions out—they’re bugs in the system. It’s a matter of normal mental hygiene, like flossing your teeth is a matter of dental hygiene or exercising or eating well is a matter of physical hygiene.

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