By David Joel Miller.
Things we know, that aren’t so, keep life from being happy.
Can you imagine someone building a house with faulty blueprints? Leave out a couple of braces, a support or two and cut some boards a little short and – Wallah – a house that leans precipitously, ready to fall over. There have been a couple of notable cases of this in buildings built by government agencies but that is another topic.
Imagine building your life using a faulty set of blueprints.
This is precisely what a great many clients who come for therapy are trying to do. They keep doing the same thing over and over using a life plan, a set of mental blueprints for living, that the copied down in childhood but there are some mistakes in those plans.
One clinician observed that those life problems that cause us the most difficulty are the things that we learned between five and fifteen that turn out to not be true. The age range may vary but the principle is the same.
Some examples of defective life blueprints may help.
You grew up in a home where alcohol or drugs were readily abused. You grew up thinking that everyone drinks and drugs a lot and this is normal. You may also think that the cops are out to get you because they show up on a regular basis every time you and your family members fight.
This is not normal behavior. Did you know that half of the adults in the United States who are old enough to drink have not had a drink in the last thirty days? Turns out that the twenty percent heaviest drinkers, they drink eighty percent of the alcohol consumed in America. Not everyone who drinks at home gets violent either, but the people who do get violent seem to drink and drug a lot more than the people who don’t.
So if you formed a plan for life that includes getting drunk and fighting with people who don’t do what you want them to do, this plan may not work well for anything but sending you to jails and institutions or worse.
Other errors you may have made in transcribing your life blueprints besides drugs and alcohol.
You may have been taught and therefore learned that people with emotional problems, they are crazy and so you need to try really hard to pretend you don’t have any emotional problems because if you admit you have them you will fall apart and go crazy.
This turns out to be very untrue. In the course of their lifetime, half of all Americans will have an emotional problem that becomes so severe they need to get help. My suspicion is that this is true in other places on earth also. Those who recognize they have a life problem and get help early; they have a better chance of getting over this problem quickly.
Everyone who sees a counselor is not crazy. Crazy people pretend they don’t have any problems even when those problems have overwhelmed them. Much of what we do in counseling is help people find the solutions to normal life problems that are right for them.
We may have “learned” that to be wealthy you need to have been born into money, have a stroke of luck like winning the lottery or come up with some new technological innovation like invent the next e-pet. Turns out that there are people in America who are wealthy and do not realize it. There are also a lot of other paths to wealth that people don’t know exist.
Later in the year, I plan to post a series of pieces about financial issues and how a large amount of what we may have learned and are trying to do may be the result of really defective blueprints.
Some people have a blueprint in their head that tells them they are defective, worthless or stupid. If you were told a lot of negative things about yourself as a child you may have internalized thoughts about how you are less than others. Turns out there are a whole lot of very bright people out there who never knew they were that smart. Since others put them down, they have never tried to do the things that they were meant to do.
There are plenty of other examples of this faulty blueprint phenomenon. These may have to do with religion, politics or other values. Anytime we swallow someone else’s beliefs whole without digesting them and getting a full understanding we are at risk to have gotten them wrong.
This year may be as a good a time as any to take another look at the blueprints in your head, the ones you learned as a child and see if they are working or is your life house leaning over and about to collapse. If you find beliefs that are holding you back this may be a time to examine them and see if you may have learned things that are not true.
Some of the structures you have added on to your life house, they may be rooms from someone else’s structure that were never intended to fit into your life.
You can’t create a happy life with a set of blueprints that create misery.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
- Would you want to go on a trip with you? (counselorssoapbox.com)