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Welcome to a practical pastoral counseling site of Dr. Harold L. White

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You Can Be OK IF

Transactional analysts Robert and Mary Goulding write: "We believe that many injunctions
were never even given!
The child fantasizes, invents, misinterprets, thereby giving himself his own injunctions

When a brother dies, a child may believe his own jealousy of his brother magically caused the death, because the child does not understand pneumonia.
Then, in guilt, he may give himself a Don't Be injunction.

If a beloved father died, the child may decide never to be close to anyone again.
He gives himself a “Don't Be Close” injunction in an effort to avoid re-experiencing
the pain he experienced at his father's death.
In effect he says, "I'll never love again, and then I won’t ever have to be hurt again."

A child doesn’t develop in a day, and neither are his life decisions formed in a day.
Also one-time, traumas, such as mentioned above, can produce certain sudden decisions.

Most decisions follow an accumulation of signals or experiences.
It takes more than one mistake by a parent to produce a conclusion in the child.
His early assumptions are tentative and do not become firm without repeated reinforcement.

Example: A little girl runs up the sidewalk every day to meet her daddy when he returns home from work.
Every day their greeting ritual is repeated.
He picks her up, kisses her, and tells her that she is his little princess.
Then, one day he doesn't arrive.
She is disappointed, but still believes in her daddy.

The greeting ritual is restored the next day, and continues as usual for many weeks.
Then, one day he arrives home angry, for reasons of his own, and he brushes past her,
refusing to pick her up.
She is disappointed again, but still believes in her daddy.
The ritual is restored the following day. and continues as before.

Then, one day that he arrives home intoxicated.
When she rushes to him, he tells her to go away, and grow up! 
And to stop bothering him.
Even this behavior may not produce a decision, but her trust begins to erode and is edged with anxiety.

The bad scene is repeated on another day, and on another day.
So, on a certain hour of a certain day of a certain year, the little girl's trust topples under
the accumulated disappointments, and she decides: "I will never trust daddy again."

Or "I will never trust daddies again."
Or "I will never trust men."

The child's trust is tenacious because his need is great.
Therefore a child can survive many "bad" incidences before he makes a "get away from" decision.
Though it takes one strawl to break a camel's back, there must be a fairly large stack there already.

In the best of conditions and with the best-meaning parents the child's first assumptions
are conditional.
Later in childhood, the parent's actions and words may communicate an unconditional love,
but the recordings of early preverbal events are not erased.

“If” remains a fulcrum in a person's life, and even though it produces troublesome feelings,
it also provides stability, predictability, and safety, providing it does not shift about,
as in the case of conflicting double messages.

Don't Messages

Don't messages are more powerful than do messages, even though positive action is often attempted
to overcome the negatives.
The child internalizes don't messages as injunctions.
They are the result either of wrong assumptions, or of correct interpretations of what mother and father
actually said or did.
Implicit or explicit, the message is "I will love you if you don't….

Injunctions are messages from the Child Ego State of the parents, given out of circumstances
of the parent's own pains: unhappiness, anxiety, disappointment, anger, frustration, secret desires.
Few parents are free from painful feelings and the perplexing (to the child) behavior
that accompanies them.
Therefore, on the bases of repeated "charged" behavior, children make decisions of the don't variety
such as listed below.

1. Don't, period.
This message is given by fearful, overprotective parents, who are unable to get
positive affirmation to any of the child's wants, dangerous or not.
"Run out and tell Johnny that whatever he's doing, don't."

Life is one big NO, paralyzing curiosity and creativity.
Both parents and children are care-ful, that is, full of care.

2. Don't be.
This is the most lethal message, according to the Gouldings, stating in one way or another,
" I wish you had never been born."
" What would we ever do without children," heard literally, raises a real possibility of life
"without the children

Some years ago, a mother asked me to meet with her 10 year old son who had torn doors off the hinges, put a gun in the mouth of his younger brother, and threaten to kill him.
He was already in trouble with the police, and both parents were afraid to go to sleep most every night.

The mother had been battered and abused by her first husband, and she hated him.
The older boy was his son and looked just like his father.
She told me of the time when she was taking this older son, who was then 4 years old,
on a shopping trip.
As they were traveling, he did something to annoy her.
She looked at him, and said, “I wish that you had never been born.”
He got the message that was repeated in different ways at different times.
He received the most lethal “Don’t be” message that a parent could give.

This message was reinforced many times following and in many different ways
but he got the message.

The message can be communicated by consistent non-attention to the child, speaking as if
he weren't there, for saying, "Remember all the fun we had before the kids came?"
What is the child to do was such a statement?

3. Don't be close.
This decision may grow from loss, the death of a parent or sibling, or cruelty at the hands of parents.

4. Don't be important.
Belittling a child's accomplishments, shh-ing him every time he speaks before grownups,
" Who do you think you are?" may lead a child to make this decision.

5. Don't be a child.
"Daddy's gone; now you must be a mother's little man."
"Grow up!"
And there goes childhood.

6. Don't grow.
Parents often hate to see their youngest child leave babyhood/childhood/home or enter into
the threatening (to the parents) age of adolescence.
"Stay as sweet as you are."
"You'll always be Daddy's little girl."

Baby talk may persist into adulthood with grown women retaining the name, " Baby" or "Tootsie"
and grown men being called by the diminutive of their names, such as " Junior, "Chucky".
This is a clue, and not conclusive for some men break loose from this.
Little-boy and little-girl names are also used to express endearment.

7. Don't succeed.
Father plays chess with his son, and one day the son beats him.
Father doesn't play chess with him anymore.
Perfectionism also frustrates success.
"If you can't do it right, don't do it at all."

8. Don't be you.
This is most frequently given to the child who is the "wrong" sex -- a boy when a girl was wanted,
and vice versa.

9. Don't be sane and don't be well.
Children who get strokes for being sick, attention for being "emotionally upset,"
decide the way to get love is to stay the way they are, sick or upset.

10. Don't belong.
Parents who who felt that they did not belong could pass this message on to their children.

11. Other don't messages are: don't trust, don't think, don't show your feelings,
don't have your feelings (you're not hungry, you're sleepy), and don't enjoy.
Also, you don't deserve it, you'll never get it, you'll lose it if you do, you'll regret it,
you'll pay for it, and you have more than you deserve."

Do Messages

People are generally not aware of the negative "secret" injunctions.
Do messages are in awareness.
The child heard them "in so many words" or inferred them from what the parents said or did.
The child believes he can be OK, if he can do one or more of the following:

1. Be perfect.
"What's the B for?" asks the father of the son who's report card shows 5 A's and one B.

2. Be best.
"Winning isn't everything, but losing isn't anything."

3. Try hard.
"The boy simply isn't performing up to his potential."

4. Please me.
"Unless you do the things that please me, I'm not going to like you."

5. Hurry up.
"The early bird catches the worn."

6. Be strong (and don't show your feelings).

When a person cannot succeed in these positive attempts, the earlier don't decisions are confirmed.

I can't be perfect; therefore, I won't make it.
I can't be the best; therefore, I won't be important.
I can't try any harder; therefore I won't be well.
I can't please you; therefore, I won't be me, or I won't be, period.
I can't hurry any faster; therefore, I won't grow up.
I can't be strong and not show my feelings; therefore, I won't have any feelings.

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