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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Why do we repeat patterns? Certain kinds of relationships, certain lifestyle patterns we just keep up ending up in. In therapy we learn to recognise patterns and to see where they come from. This can put a negative light on the issue. It can be framed in terms of, such and such a bad thing happened and I continue to repeat that situation. But really its just a kind of learning. We do something because its important to us, because we find meaning there. Maybe we are attracted to certain people or situations because we are working out some issue from our family history. But we might also see it in the positive light that there is meaning and love and warmth (or at least the desire and potential in ourselves for) in that family dynamic and we are looking for such qualities in other people in order to continue the striving.

I guess the point of looking at these patterns is to identify the unwinnable ones. The ones where whatever it is we are trying to achieve can never be achieved. Then all we have left is the sadness inherent in impossible things. Most pattern following is less clear though. Its not obvious whether we can win or not.

When you are a kid the world can be overwhelming. If we try to learn something too advanced too early on, then we will hurt ourselves. But over a lifetime, we can take a gentler route to the goals.

I guess I'm venturing into self-help territory here, but why not?
I just rewatched the episode of Six Feet Under in which Ruth goes to the "Plan" in which she learns to "rebuild the foundations of her life." This house metaphor is taken pretty seriously, and they are told asked to consider the ways in which they don't live in their own house. The Indian woman who's father lit her on fire when he didn't approve of her boyfriend is told that he is the one living in her house and she should invite him over to her house... etc.
When I first saw this, I was in my anti-cult mode and given the course of events determined that Ruth got out only too soon. But watching the episode again and having seen some of what happens later, it does seem like that experience causes a change for the better. (I do give the writers a fair amount of credit for allowing the characters to evolve in realistic ways.)
Anyway, my point is that this self-help approach to self-understanding and development does have its place, though it shouldn't be taken overly seriously.
This guy I met in a coffee shop once told me that his complaint about most religions is that they don't encourage graduation. I like that as a perspective on what constitutes a cult and what doesn't. A cult is like an over-protective clingy parent that won't let you go develop in your own way beyond the bounds of what they have to teach you and nurture you with.

Wait, so I went from pattern following to cults... I guess I was trying to say that self-help like thinking doesn't have to be cultish, but it can if you're not careful to move on at some point.

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