GOTTA CUT THESE BONDS –
or I’ll explode!
PREVIOUS: Price to pay for Over S-C
SEE: ACRONYM page for abbrev.
HEALTHY age-appropriate self-control 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 the constant effort to stop ourselves from ‘undesirable’ actions can backfire:
— 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’).
— people who try to suppress feelings and behaviors in a variety of ways most often end up with emotional discomfort or distress & cognitive disruption – loss of focus & 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.
Observations re. the ‘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 in no way means 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. Over-taxing self-control
From U of Minnesota: Professor Kathleen Vohs’s study showed that suppression of emotions (NOT lack of sleep) generates aggression. Half of the subjects were required to stayed awake for 24 hours & half were well-rested. Then all were shown disgusting scenes from 2 movies – Monty Python’s ‘The Meaning of Life’ (1983) and ‘Trainspotting’ (1996). Some were allowed to express reactions to the gross images & others were told to show no emotion.
• Later everyone played an aggressive game which they won or lost by chance, & winners were allowed to blast opponent with a loud noise. Those who had -suppressed- their emotions blasted their competitor at a 33% higher noise level than those -allowed- to show emotion, regardless of how much sleep they’d had.
–“The ability to engage in self-control is determined by prior use of over-self-control, not by how much sleep one had the night before.”
— (Your) “aggressive behavior involves an action by someone else that causes you to want to retaliate”
— “Being taxed by doing one task can have spillover effects on another.” (Even if we try to compartmentalize different tasks we do during the day, it turns out they are all connected – emotionally)
The study suggests that because overtaxing self-control drains us, leaving less in reserve for later tasks, doing that makes it easier to fail at achieving all our personal or social aims. “People have a diminishable supply of physical & mental energy for self-control. When they use this energy toward achieving one goal, they have less of it available for others. When you want to succeed, the best thing is to set up your day so you focus your self-control resources on the specific task you most want to accomplish.”
• Spillover: when we have to sit on our frustrations & anger from one or more sources (work, family, shopping…) we may take it out on someone else – unrelated, or turn to an addiction to keep ourselves numb
• Energy drain: This is especially obvious when we waste so much effort worrying, projecting failure, obsessing about some abandonment….. that we have little left over for actual accomplishments that would make our life better!
3. Self-Control & Regret
Positive use of self-control is the capacity to resist unproductive temptations, such as overbuying, splurging on tasty but unhealthy food or indulging in luxuries we can’t afford, especially impulsive purchases & expenditures that are likely to be regretted later on
Negative use of self-control –
— Hyperopia: the compulsion to always have to ‘do the right thing’ & act responsibly
— Excessive Farsightedness: always choosing virtue over vice
➼ These two related control-distortions can lead to regret & sadness about missing out on the joys & pleasures of life (not smelling the roses along the way) because of a lifetime of making ‘righteous’ choices
ACoAs: Regret is a basic state of mind for many of us. However, in our case,
‘being righteous’ has mostly to do with obeying the Toxic Family Rules, even when we consciously try to be spiritual & generally good people. We complain that we’ve done everything we’re supposed to & but are still alone, have bad relationships & can’t get our life going the way we want. But it’s like dusting the surface off of our damage. It doesn’t get to the deeper issues. Our EOC (emotional over-control) keeps us stuck.
NEXT: Backlash, Part 2