How We Learn to Punish and Box Our Selves In
I’m ruminating on the process by which we create rules based on our experience. It is a product of our systems of rewards and punishments, the old school of behavior, parenting, and law abidingness.
Positive Discipline seeks to provide an alternative for this system of punishment and reward, praise and blame, at least in how it applies to parenting. But I suspect that we will discover down the road that it also applies to many other things, not the least of which, the way we (in the Western/Globalized world) think.
I’m noticing that it comes up in how we generate rules based on experience. This is the case, because negative emotions are seen as punishment that we are trained to avoid. Rather than allow ourselves to act in the moment, we must have rules governing the correct ways to behave, so that we can avoid feeling sad, angry, lonely, or bored.
This is a double edged sword, explicitly visible in teen life today. While there are dangers that we want to protect our children from, demanding that they live by our rules suffocates the flame that would grow to allow them to create their own ability to decide what is true and what is wrong.
When we are swimming in multiple rules about how to be a good parent, we are too overwhelmed to see our child’s subtle requests for nurturance and support in their unwanted behaviors. When stuck in old patterns of relationship, we can’t recognize our partner asking us to come out and play.
There is a tinge of sadness in the realization that we have largely stifled ourselves in an effort to fit into, and be successful in this world.
But don’t box me in as an anarchist yet. I understand and value the balance that comes from learning a framework in order to play music, speak and read language, or dance with a partner. What is important though, is that we are conscious of the rules we choose to live by, rather than subconsciously creating or adopting rules based on avoidance or ignorance.