Recently I included the article below, If You Believe There’s No Way for Everyone to Win, in my newsletter. In response, someone who reads my newsletters sent me an email about this article. With her permission, in this post I share with you the heart of the interchanges she and I had. They expand and deepen the understandings in the article. You can find the update right below the article.
IF YOU BELIEVE “THERE’S NO WAY FOR EVERYONE TO WIN” … READ THIS!
AND IF YOU BELIEVE “THERE IS A WAY FOR EVERYONE TO WIN” … READ THIS!
Recently, a well-known news commentator* – remarking on a comment by Bill Clinton that the only way for us to go is to make sure everyone wins – emphatically stated, “THERE IS NO WAY FOR EVERYONE TO WIN!”
Would you, or do you, follow someone who made a decision that in life there’s no way for everyone to win?
And, whether or not you follow a commentator who believes this…do you wonder where a belief like this comes from…and how it can affect our lives and our world?
When I heard this comment from Glenn Beck,* it struck me so . . . as something so familiar. It sounded just like things I’ve heard from my clients so many times over the years. This statement – There is no way for everyone to win – is a classic example of what I call an “early decision.”
I’ll explain . . .
When we are children, and we suffer pain or trauma that’s too much for a child to bear, we bury the pain and defend against it by making unconscious decisions about ourselves, others, our world, and life in general. Now when we are children, an “early decision” may be a life-saver . . . it saves us from agonizing pain, perhaps emotionally, perhaps also physically. But as we grow, if we are unaware of this unconscious decision, and if we haven’t healed it, it can haunt us from our own underground, affecting our feelings, thoughts, attitudes, behavior, and choices. The important thing to remember is that this is unconscious. We are unaware this is happening inside us, and unaware that early decisions like this are driving our lives.
Here’s an example. . .
Let’s say you’re a child. Your father files for divorce because of your mother’s alcoholism. However it unfolds, you and your sister end up living with your mother. When you are 15, your mother commits suicide by drowning. Then your step brother commits suicide. You and your sister move to live with your father . . . the same father who divorced your mother and moved away. Without even realizing it, out of each of your traumas or out of the accumulation of your multiple traumatic experiences comes an early decision: There is no way for everyone to win!
Without even realizing it, you make that decision again and again at each painful incident. You also come to use that decision to defend against your pain. And you use everything you can . . . not only to defend against your pain, but also to hold onto that early decision for dear life!
You believe you are proving that decision every time you have a painful incident in your life. Your first daughter is born with cerebral palsy . . . and you prove it again. You struggle with substance abuse and ADHD . . . and you prove it again. As an adult you use your power to prove to yourself over and over that there is no way for everyone to win.**
And then you draw people to you who also decided as children in their families that there is no way for everyone to win. You use your power and your following to make choices and take actions based on that early decision. If you have decided there is no way for everyone to win . . . what kinds of choices will you make and what kinds of actions will you take? Likely those that will make you and your following win . . . and everyone else lose. And if your following is filled with people who also made that early decision, how much chance is there that anyone you would listen to can pierce that decision?
Can you see how this would affect all of us? And our world? If our leaders, politicians, celebrities, and media don’t become aware of and heal their early decisions? And if each of us doesn’t become aware of and heal our early decisions . . . we could end up following the cause of someone who decided as a little boy, just like we did, that there is no way for everyone to win.
Remember, you are fighting for dear life to hold onto that early decision, and so are all those around you . . . Because when you let go of that early decision, you will be right back at the scene of the very first trauma out of which you decided There is no way for everyone to win. And back at that first scene, you will be feeling all the feelings you have been defending against ever since . . . which is exactly what we all need to do purposefully, safely, for healing. For once we have gone through and felt the pain we were so relentlessly trying to avoid, we will never have to hold it at bay again, and we can free up our precious life energy for constructive, creative, life sustaining changes for ourselves and everybody else.
Can you see how this would affect all of us? And our world? If our leaders, politicians, celebrities, and media do become aware of and heal their early decisions? And if each of us does the same?
*The well known news commentator was Glenn Beck. My intention for choosing to talk with you about his comment is not a way to comment on his politics, per se, but rather to utilize a perfect example to help us really comprehend the relationship of a child’s painful experiences to not only his adult life, but also his politics, the politics of our nation, the politics of our world and the well being of all involved. And how many times do we get to hear such a public figure, who is a leader in his arena, say one of his/her early decisions aloud and so publicly?
**This example has been created from some of the events in Glenn Beck’s life, beginning with his childhood.
“Thank you, Judith. That was another enlightening essay. It made me think of my grandchildren, two of whom are boys who really like to “win” in games and who are learning, little by little, that it doesn’t have to mean something is wrong with them if they lose a game. But generally, that is what happens, there is some serious loss of self-esteem when there is a loss of a game, yes? . . . One time my grandson went into a huge crying fit when playing chess with his Dad, my son, and lost. He was mad at my son for playing too hard; he expected him to somehow let him win or at least have a better chance at winning.”
When someone loses a game, yes, there may be loss of self esteem. But I think it depends upon the person what the loss is.
And how young the experience.
It could feel like loss of self. There is no me.
It could feel like loss of sanity. Nothing makes sense . I feel crazy. Everthing’s getting bigger, I’m
It could even feel like loss of life. I’m not going to survive this. I’m dying. I’m disappearing. I’m falling through the cracks into nowhere.
This is why people’s reactions can be so extreme when they lose.
When they lose a game. When they lose an argument. When they lose a job. When they lose a friend.
When they lose someone they love.
When they lose an early decision . . .
This is why people will fight tooth and nail to hold onto their early decisions . . .
both the leaders who have the early decision
and the followers who have the same early decision.
This is why the followers are so easily enlisted in the cause and kept enlisted.
When children respond this way . . . they have little choice.
The loss is too much for a little child to bear.
But when adults respond this way,
in effect, they are using their power to defend against the loss.
In the case of the people in this month’s article, the people who have an early decision
There is no way for everyone to win . . .
they are using their power en masse
to defend, each of them, against the losses they experienced in their respective childhoods –
the losses that led them to decide
There is no way for everyone to win.
How crucial it is for each of us adults to do the inner work
to discover, heal, dissolve, and transform our early decisions
and feel the pain of the losses from long, long ago.
That way we will no longer need to use our power to defend against those losses.
Instead, we can use our power creatively and fruitfully for living fully today and tomorrow.
© Judith Barr, 2010