Lesley Gore It’s My Party (1965)
We have been having an lively discussion about and adult who behaves with emotional immaturity such as avoiding attending a party for fear of seeing a rival there as a teenager might.
Thanks for yours. Good question. I have been meaning to reply to this sooner but have had a lot on my plate this week.
First of all, I don’t want to give the impression that I am slamming teenagers. Some teens are more emotionally mature than others, and some are more emotionally mature than some adults. But generally, not. We expect teens to think, emote and behave immaturely because they are indeed still immature, and we recognize that emotional maturity is a growth and learning process on many levels–including hormonal and others–that takes time to complete–so we tend to give them some slack while providing adult guidance. However, when we see adults emoting and behaving in the manner that we expect teens to, we conclude that “something” is wrong or has gone wrong. How wrong? It depends on whether the behavior is unusual or part of a larger and chronic pattern.
So, let’s continue with our working example, which I think is a pretty good one, of the teen who avoids social occasions when she knows her rival will be there. What must happen for her to “outgrow” this self-sabotaging pattern? Consciously or unconsciously, when will probably come to several rational conclusions, such as:
1. It is not in her best interests to “cut off her nose to spite her face” to avoid her rival. In terms of cost-benefits, she probably loses more by missing out on desired social activities than she gains by not having to be in the presence of her rival.
2. In modern society it is virtually impossible to entirely avoid being around all the people we might like to avoid, so much better instead to learn how to get along.
3. In modern society, a certain amount of hypocrisy and dealing with people we do not care for may be healthy and necessary to achieve professional and social goals and derive social benefits. For example, it is probably not a good idea to avoid and snub our boss at the party even if we do not care for him or her,
4. It is entirely possible to participate in and enjoy activities even though some people we do not like may be there. More than “possible,” it is probably damned near “necessary” as we can be assured that we will often have to be in the presence of people we don’t care to.
5. It is unnecessary to “like” someone in order to be around them, interact successfully with them, do business with them, even socialize with them in a limited way.
6. Rex’s “Mother in Law Visit Principle.” Interacting successfully with your mother in law for Mother’s Day dinner is quite a different thing than dealing with her if old bat moves into your house to live with you! Nothing says that interacting with a trivial briefly, politely, diplomatically for a short time means that you have to hang out with them or become “buddies.”
So, how do we deal with an adult who brings these childish patterns into his or her behavior? Well, maybe we don’t. Unless the person sees that this avoidance behavior conflicts with other important goals, and if they are willing to accept the consequences of this behavior, then perhaps it is merely their preference, and that’s the end of it. If on the other hand, they sense or perceive this avoidance behavior as a problem, then an honest and probing cost-benefit analysis can she light on in what ways this avoidance behavior is self-sabotaging, and provide the motivation for a commitment to change.
As Gunars pointed out, there may be a general problem with low frustration tolerance, so deliberate exposure to uncomfortable situations can be enormously helpful in learning that being at a party where one’s rival attends is a hassle-not-a-horror, is uncomfortable-but-not-lethal, is a perfectly normal part of life.
The ABC process is important, of course, in ferreting out, disputing and replacing the nutty thinking that may be driving the LFT. Most probably a toxic cocktail of musty thinking and awfulizing: “I can’t stand being at the party when Sally attends! I must not be expected to do things that I don’t want to do, go places I don’t want to go, attend functions I don’t want to attend and be around people I don’t want to be around!!” There may be related distortions, possibly held since childhood such as “I must like and respect people before I can be around them and deal with them . . . and they must like and respect me, treat me the way I prefer, before I can can be around them and deal with them.” This last one, as simple and simple-minded as it seems, can be extremely powerful and tenacious, and can greatly sabotage one’s social and professional life and generally ability to get along in society. Lots of these nutty premises seem so innocuous on paper and glide so glibly off the tongue can be powerfully negative forces–mostly unconscious ones–directing the course of one’s life like some evil, unseen marionette. This is why so called “positive thinking” has such limited benefits: Until you unearth, uproot, identify, disrupt, dispute and then replace nutty thing with healthy rational thinking, so called “positive thinking” is just laying a microscopic patina of gold over a foundation of shit which will sooner or later (probably sooner) break through and reassert itself. Even with proper ABC, nutty thinking tends to come back and may have to be disputed and replaced a number of times before it gives up the ghost.
Khon Kaen, Thailand
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