We all love a discount don’t we? I mean I bought a top for a fiver the other day, which was a huge discount and I was extremely happy to bag my bargain.
But here we aren’t talking about those types of discounts, we are talking about something in transactional analysis called discounting. Discounting in transactional analysis is defined as ‘unawarely ignoring information relevant to the solution of a problem’. It’s using phrases to deny that a problem exists for example ‘what problem?’, or ‘it’s no big deal’ to minimise a problem, or ‘Ah, it’s always been that way’ to avoid changing the problem. There is one common outcome to all of these phrases – the problem remains!
Even positive comments about our appearances can be discounted. There’s a meme on Facebook I saw which said ‘I love your dress’ and the response was ‘it has pockets’. So why wouldn’t we accept a compliment about our appearance? Why is it so hard to take a compliment? Maybe we have been subjected to painful comments about our appearance in our lives and we don’t actually believe the person giving them, or we believe that we aren’t worthy to receive these. And how does that person giving the compliment feel? Not heard? What do you think?
In these examples we have ignored some information available to us about the here and now reality. We have discounted our adult options available to us and in fact gone back to the only available options we had as children. We have therefore opted for being passive.
So take this general example – as women, the tradition in society has always been that we are the providers of food. Say we assume this role in our lives. Our husbands don’t really get involved, or maybe they do want to be involved but are afraid of taking this away from us in the belief we will get a little stroppy at losing our role. The man may not be comfortable with the possibility of anger from the woman, so assumes passivity. At some point he may be left to do the cooking, but probably won’t know how to even put the oven on. This is a general example but I’m hoping you get my drift?
So now what?
Accompanying the discount is another ‘friend’ called grandiosity. This is an exaggeration of a feature of reality and it can be either minimising or maximising so that when we are discounting we will blow up some feature of the situation out of all proportion and at the same time minimise other features out of all proportion. The discounting part is done entirely unconsciously but the grandiosity is conscious. When we use grandiosity we don’t take any responsibility for the situation and actually the situation becomes responsible for the behaviour eg. ‘I hit him because I was so angry’.
When we discount we keep the same patterns of thinking and behaviour going that we have used all our lives, even if it hasn’t been beneficial to us, because it is all we know. It is safe. We keep doing it. Sometimes it stops us from changing things in our lives, sometimes it keeps the comfortable feelings going, you know those feelings that were permitted when we were growing up. It really holds us back.
How do we stop this?
It’s always good to listen to ourselves and so if you notice that you are using words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ it’s probably a good sign that this going on. Another tip is to look back at our own history. Are we used to thinking that we can’t do things or can’t change? Have we been told that in our past by our parents or other people? Do we feel just stuck? We have probably learnt this as a child and carried it with us our whole lives. But now as an adult you do have the power to change things as you would like them to be.
If this seems too tricky to do, or you are currently struggling to work things out, a counsellor can help. They can help you notice your patterns, your feelings around those patterns, even uncover the reasons for the feelings that were never permitted way back when and just really work with you while you figure all this out.