By Anna Chandy
A head load worker is an individual who engages in the profession of carrying heavy loads from one place to another, without examining the contents, the weight and possibilities of damage. He or she receives wages for carrying loads. These wages are essential for existential physical survival.
Our lives represent that of the head load worker. We carry and convey loads and loads of unrealistic psychological messages trans-generationally, irrespective of the burden or weight. The contents of the messages, or its implications, are not explored with regard to our current contextual realities. Recognition and gaining approval for being perfect, are the wages we receive from the family, community and other systems that we belong to. Recognition and approval are existential psychological survival needs.
Psychological head-load workers play an ongoing, continuous series of psychological games, from generation to generation. Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, a Theory of Personality, says that eighty percent of a person’s entire life is spent in playing mind games. Deepak Chopra says that by the time a child is three years old, he already has the template of mind games, which he’s learnt through the modeling of his parents’ games.
These games are played outside our awareness. The purpose of these mind games is to continuously build an inner core of feelings of self worth and adequacy. We engage with one another in various types of psychological games. Critical judgment, victimization, persecution, intellectualization, accusing, patronizing, and rescuing are all part of the gaming equation. The duration of any game varies from a few seconds and can be extended to many years. The intensity and the types of games depend on the social setting and the kind of relationship.
Although the purpose of games is to increase our core feeling of adequacy and self worth, which in turn enables us to seemingly appear perfect in multiple identities, it is not so. At the end of each game we end up feeling inadequate and unworthy, because the plan did not go in the manner that we had envisaged. Our partner, who we enrolled in the game, may confuse or surprise us with a new strategy that we are not prepared for. We experience the pain of unworthiness and our core is ashamed. To avoid the pain and feelings of shame and failure, day after day, we create new strategies, initiatives and plans to actively enroll and win! This is the reason why, very often, we hear of a seemingly close, intimate relationship ending after several years. It was a game that provided pseudo intimacy.
We are so deeply embedded in playing games, that brick by brick, after each game, we cover our authentic core with bricks of fear, anger, shame, jealousy, hatred and disgust. As time goes by, you don’t know who you are, what it means to be authentic and instead of engaging in relationships that are meaningful, we engage in those that are harmful and pseudo intimate.
I often wonder how much of energy I spent in the game of trying to please others, just so that I am accepted and recognized in society as a ‘good person’. One of the main roles I focused on, was being considered a good in-law and the game I played was “I am capable”. For over quarter century, I played the “capability game” since I wanted and needed the approval that I am smart and capable. In my birth family, I was the incapable one, in comparison to my sibling – who was a high achiever. Therefore, my inner unconscious core contained feelings of inadequacy. To avoid the painful feelings of inadequacy, I performed, irrespective of the task, not for a moment taking into consideration my health, my needs and wants, and my limitations. I multi-tasked and was on top of every identity. I was efficient in homemaking, good in cooking and well known in my profession. I became the primary caregiver to my brother-in-law who is schizophrenic. I even extended the caregiving service to my aged mother-in-law. I was rated AAA. I was so busy fixing everyone’s lives!
The amount of energy expended in building this falsified image, has cost me vast amounts of pain. Last year I fell ill and was advised by the doctor that I am not a super woman – I needed to slow down and needed to share responsibilities. I asked for family support. All hell broke loose. I was accused and humiliated, stories of me being a mercenary were publicized, my morals were questioned. I hung my head in pain and shame. I survived the surprise hit, because of my work and a few friends who conveyed unconditional support, empathy and non-judgmental acceptance. The onslaught of accusations continued, I hit rock bottom.
At rock bottom you are forced to face your demons. Once you face your demons, the liberated feeling of being authentic and compassionate to oneself, begins to capture your attention. I vowed to myself that I would endeavor to be authentic and compassionate to myself. ‘Compassionate’, to me, is defined as being mindful, having clarified boundaries and being accountable for my behaviours towards others and myself. If, the risk of being self-compassionate is acknowledgment of failure of my role, I willingly embrace my failure with courage, authenticity and openness..
Recently, when I addressed my community, I was told that an individual had made a comment “Oh how can she talk? She has a poor track record of being a good in-law.” I agree with her completely. Yes, I have failed. I acknowledge my imperfection.
Radha (name changed) lived a life filled with violence for many years. She lived with this ongoing violence so that she conveys and maintains an image of being a good wife, a good daughter and a good mother. Her rationalization of continuing this painful experience was that “No one other than me knows my misery and therefore my children will have a better life than me.” She continued in the game “Kick me “ for over two decades.
Lately, the violence has been extended to her children too. Her planned strategy has not worked. Her children continue to be unmarried and in fact, are disillusioned with relationships. She now lives with the guilt of not having taken courage and responsibility in the early years. If she had ended the marriage, it may have resulted in her being branded by society as having a failed marriage. Yet, the violence would not have been extended to the children.
Is it not important for each of us to endeavor to look inwards and face our own demons of imperfections and limitations, instead of looking outward into the imperfections, limitations and vulnerabilities of others? Is it not possible for us to pass the baton of imperfection and vulnerability, to promote compassion, courage and conviction? Or, do we become like the critical lady who is so limited, that all her psychic energy is consumed in blaming, judging and victimizing others, so that she sits on a false pedestal of belief that she is worthy and others are unworthy.
Do you want to examine and explore your head load?