People stuck at compulsion need to first learn to think of things in transactional terms. Alcoholism isn’t bad because your body is a temple and self-harm is intrinsically wrong — those are adult values. No, alcoholism is bad because it’s a bad trade-off. It hurts people. People who don’t deserve it. People you love and want to help. It fucks up other life plans. It destroys families, finances, and fidelity. It’s essentially giving up a mountain for a molehill.1!
Before you can move on and learn from these flawed value systems, you must experience the pain of them failing. That means not denying that they are failing. That means not avoiding the pain of that failure. That means facing that failure head on and admitting what is plain to see: that you fucked up, and there’s gotta be a better way.1!
It requires good parents and teachers to not allow themselves to succumb to the adolescent’s bargains. It is their responsibility to point out to the adolescent that this sort of behavior is a never-ending treadmill, that you can only get so much from the world by bargaining with it, that the only things in life of real value and meaning are achieved without conditions, without transactions. The best way to do this is through example. The best way to teach an adolescent to trust is to trust them. The best way to teach an adolescent respect is to respect them. The best way to teach someone to love is by loving them.1!
This is essentially what good early parenting boils down to: implementing the correct consequences for a child’s pleasure/pain-driven behavior. Punish them for stealing ice cream. Reward them for sitting quietly in a restaurant. You are, quite literally, helping them to understand that life is far more complicated than simply pursuing one’s pleasure and avoiding one’s pain.3 Parents who fail to do this fail their children in an incredibly fundamental way because, as children grow up, they will experience the shocking realization that the world does not cater to their whims.1!
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