INEVITABLY, OUR natural spontaneity is interrupted by our parents. Sometimes this is necessary for our safety and sometimes the reasons are merely pragmatic. In any case, as our range of spontaneous behaviors gets narrower and narrower, our sense of self-worth suffers. Acceptance encourages a feeling of being worthwhile. Punishment and threat induce the opposite.
In the interest of self-protection, we learn early how to preempt punishment by developing a sense of guilt. However, when guilt causes sufficient anxiety, we have to repress even the thought of having unacceptable impulses, so we end up acting like wind-up toys, caricatures of self-control.
While we insist that we are simply being “reasonable,” it is very obvious to other people just how dogmatic and stubbornly opinionated we really are.
The illusion of power over our own or another’s feelings is not a paper tiger; it is a deadly dragon.