GOTTA CUT THESE BONDS – or I’ll explode!
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SEE: ACRONYM page for abbrev.
HEALTHY age-appropriate self-control (self-management) is an integral part of mental health, which comes from the ‘UNIT’ ego state. But constant self-restraint, from S-H & FoA, can backfire. Among other things it ties up a lot of our energy resources.
Eventually we break down or blow up.
1. Self-Restraint & Aggression
• Past studies in the Journal of Consumer Behavior showed that exerting too much self-control can increase irritability & anger
• New research also found that making a constant effort to stop ourselves from ‘undesirable’ actions can backfire:
a. Extreme self-discipline contains the seeds of its own undoing – an explosive failure-of-control called “dis-inhibition.” People who are trapped in this pattern can suddenly shift from one unhealthy extreme (being ‘perfect’) to the other – acting out a rebellion against too many self-imposed restrictions over too long a time (becoming a ‘failure’).
b. People who consistently suppress emotions & behaviors, in a variety of ways, most often end up in emotional distress & with cognitive disruption – loss of mental clarity while obsessing about the very things they’re not ‘allowed’ to do!
• Participants in one study were chosen by 2 criteria – those who did vs. did not restrain themselves emotionally – to see how each would react to neutral things presented to them labeled as ‘angry’ or ‘not angry’. Different categories of self-control were chosen & subjects’ behaviors noted. RESULTS :
Observations re. ‘restricters’ —
✼ they more often preferred the ‘angry’ options
✼ the active dieters preferred public service ads framed in threats
✼ those who carefully controlled their spending of a gift certificate were more interested in looking at angry faces than fearful ones
✼ those who picked an apple over chocolate were more irritated by ads with controlling phrases like “you ought to” or “need to,” & were more likely to choose movies with a theme of hostility over other genre
ACoAs: It makes sense that the more we deny our legitimate needs, the angrier – & more depressed – we get! But this does not mean that it’s OK to blow people off because we happen to be in a bad mood or feel overwhelmed (not letting them know we’re unavailable or have changed a plan), nor to harm anyone when we’re in a rage.
2. Self-Control & Prejudice
A study from Tufts University showed that deliberate, continual self-control can cause emotional unease & guarded behavior, which could be misinterpreted as racial prejudice in some circumstances
• Researchers ran 2 group of white volunteers through a series of computer-based mental exercises:
— one group’s set was so stressful that the participants were temporarily depleted of the mental reserves needed for discipline
— the other group was given a less stressful set of exercises
• Once the subjects were finished, they met with either a white or African-AM interviewer & discussed racial diversity, a social situation with the potential for racial tension.
Later, subjects rated the interaction with the interviewer for comfort, awkwardness & enjoyment.
• Those who were mentally depleted (lacked discipline & self-control) talked about race with a African-AM interviewer more enjoyably than those with their self-control intact, presumably because they weren’t working as hard to monitor or curb what they said
• Also, independent African-AM observers found that the exhausted / powerless & therefore less ‘uptight’ whites were much more direct, real & less prejudiced in conversations
✶ CONCLUSION: Relinquishing power over oneself (temporarily) seems to prevent over-thinking & so ‘liberate’ people to be more authentic, which could benefit both individuals & society
ACoAs: Of course this study does not imply it’s OK to be unruly or a doormat – as a result of lowered inhibitions.
It’s about “Letting Go” of anxiety, looking good, projecting failure, fear of disapproval, trying to be seen, heard, accepted …. but rather just being open-hearted & in the moment. Then we can enjoy ourselves, be respectful & put others at ease.
NEXT: Backlash, Part 2