Why do people struggle in certain situations? - The 'Book Case' analogy.

When we are younger we are slowly but surely instilled with the qualities and values that we take forward into adulthood. Good or bad we absorb this information and translate it into the person we become.


Significant people in our lives such as parents, grandparents, siblings and teachers are constantly providing us information on the most effective way to deal with life and everything it will throw at us as we grow and develop.

How we view things as simple as personal hygiene or manners are learnt from various parts of this cohort of important individuals, as well as more complex skills such as conflict resolution, treatment of others or effective communication.


Imagine that each piece of information is represented by a book that is then placed in a book case.


Parents explain why you should wash your hands before each meal and brush your teeth in the morning and before bed. This information goes in a book and gets placed in the book case.


A grandparent asks you to hold a door open for somebody behind you and then helps you realise how not only are you displaying good manners, but this also reflects well on your parents whom this stranger now assumes did a very good job in raising you. This information gets a book and appears on your book case.


At school you are naughty in class and get a detention. Detention is extremely unpleasant and you then get into trouble at home for not not showing respect to your teacher. Another book placed on your book case.


You can see how the important information is gradually building and filling your book case. However, not all of the books will contain good or useful information for everyone.


You're riding your bike along the road with no lights when it's dark. Somebody stops you and tells you that you shouldn't be doing it. You ignore them and carry on home, where you tell your parents. They say "don't worry about it, that person was just a busy body and you just need to ignore them in future" - There's a book on your book case.


You bring home a school report that shows 7 A's but it's pointed out how bad it is that there is also a C in there for one subject and you're clearly not trying hard enough. - There's another book.


All of these lessons, events and messages are being turned into books that are gradually filling your book case. Fast forward a few years and you're now an adult, out in the big wide world, having to fend for yourself. Any time you find yourself in a situation or with a decision to make, you go to the book case, pull out the relevant book and carry out the instructions.


You're at work and somebody is really annoying you. They keep interfering and stopping you doing your job. You go to your book case, find the 'how to deal with annoying people' volume and react according to the contents. If you've had a balanced childhood there will be a lot of information in there where you reacted in ways that went better than others and you will pick the most effective response. Perhaps you use, as a base, something you did in a playground with a classmate that worked. Maybe employ a tactic a family member suggested years ago that seems effective.


However, what if your book is very sparse? What if the important people in your life didn't give you any information on this and you've only ever been in this situation once before. When you were 7 years old. And you pushed the other boy over and made him cry but didn't get into trouble for it? Now what do you do? You can't push this work colleague over can you? Well, you're grown up enough to realise that's wrong but you don't actually have any strategy to employ.


This now becomes a very difficult situation indeed. The only course of action your book suggests is one that you know you cannot use, so what do you do?


Ok, let's try going to our 'conflict resolution' book and see if there is anything there to help....

But as you were growing up you were sheltered from the real world by over protective parents. They loved you so much that you were kept away from any situation that might be difficult for you. Very nice as you were growing up but now you find that particular book is missing.


This generation of children, more than ever, have the potential to grow up with books missing from their book case. When they are staring at their phone, wondering why nobody has 'liked' their latest photo or post, where is their book on 'the importance of self esteem' going to come from?

While they are spending hour after hour glued to a video game, how will a book appear on their book case entitled 'the basic art of conversation and how to interact with other human beings'?

If nobody cares about them and what they do as they grow up, what information is going to be in their 'how to treat other people' book?


For many client that sit in the counselling room, it is possible to liken their problem to one where they have books missing or containing bad information. When you're younger your books are essentially given to you and the contents already completed. You just add to them as you grow up. But when you're older you have already learned certain behaviours and got into habits. To fill gaps in your book case or change some of the book contents can sometimes mean starting all over again, which is harder to do as an adult.


Effective therapy can examine the books you have, look at the suitability of their contents, which may lead you to make amendments to your information or even help you make new books to fill the gaps


"Why do I let people walk all over me?" - Let's take a look in your books. Maybe there is an account in one where you used to argue about not wanting to do certain things when you were younger but you always got punished for answering back. But you then noticed that if you just did as you were told then you never got punished. This is in the book about 'respecting authority'. Unfortunately there wasn't a book on the subject of 'how to stand up for yourself' that explained how to discuss things in an adult way and not necessarily have to do whatever anyone says. You just kept going back to the same book which told you to do as you were told. This leads to the habit when you're older of not being able to say no, which allows people to take advantage of you. You need a book that explains why you are worthy of respect and how to believe that you are a good person that deserves to be treated better.


The more diverse the information in your books and the fewer volumes you have missing from your book case, the more effective human being you can expect to become.








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