Unenforceable Rules

An excerpt from
12 More Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery

by Allen Berger, PhD., Hazelden Publishing

Optimal Recovery and Emotional Sobriety | Unenforceable Rules (Part Three)

Part three of a four part series on Optimal Recovery and Emotional Sobriety

If we accept this notion,

It is a spiritual axiom that whenever we are disturbed, no matter the cause, there is something wrong with us,

then it means that whenever we are upset we have a chance to discover one of our demands or unenforceable rules. This type of an attitude towards our problems will help us become more aware of our fatal and crippling expectations. You see our expectations are not that obvious, most of them operate outside of our awareness and most of them have their origin in our childhood.

Dr. Alexander Lowen, the founder of Bioenergetics, made a brilliant clinical observation. He concluded that,

When we suffer a loss or trauma in our  childhood that threatens or undermines our sense of security and self-acceptance, we will demand that our future reverses the experiences of our past.

We generate this expectation to create hope which in turn ensures our existence. We adopt this attitude to remain as whole as possible. Because without the hope that our future could be different, there would be no reason to go on living. We’d give up. There’s be no reason to live.

This decision however is unconscious. We are not aware that we have created an unenforceable rule (requiring our future to reverse the experiences of the past) until we experience some event that does not conform to our expectations. Then we react.

Here are some of the expectations we impose on our future depending on the type of wound suffered in our childhood:

  • If we weren’t listened to as a child, we will expect everyone to listen to us.
  • If we weren’t respected, we will demand respect.
  • If we weren’t seen, we will demand to be seen.
  • If my feelings weren’t considered, we will expect to be considered.
  • If we weren’t loved, we will expect to be loved.
  • If we weren’t listened to, we will expect undivided attention when we are speaking.
  • If we weren’t loved, we will demand to be loved.
  • If we weren’t comforted, we will demand to be comforted when we are hurt or upset.

We seek that which we did not get in our childhood but needed for our development. We generate unenforceable rules as a way of trying to control our future to ensure that we get what we need. The problem is that we can’t control others and eventually they fail to meet our needs or rebel against our control. This is when sober suffering strikes.

READ PART ONE                    READ PART TWO                    READ PART FOUR