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Becoming a Proactor
But to become a winner, either at sports or at life, you must be proactive. You need to force the play in the other team's end of the ice so you get more scoring opportunities. You must take chances. You must take charge.
—Stephen M. Pollan
When all is said and done, it boils down to four choices. We can choose to be Proactors, Reactors, Victims or Predators.
Being a Proactor is choosing to be an open system and at cause with oneself and the world, while being a Reactor or Victim is choosing to be a closed system that is at effect of almost everything. Not consciously choosing is actually choosing by default.
Being a Proactor is finding and operating from our center by claiming our autonomy and power, and taking command of our life. It is knowing who we are and what we want. It is designing a viable plan for reaching our goals and implementing them through something comparable to the prioritized daily "To Do/Reward List" described in Chapter 8, "Organized and in Control."
Becoming a Proactor is a process for creating a meaningful, fulfilling and enjoyable lifestyle. It's the opposite of filling life up with escapist, media-generated entertainment, while being enmeshed in burdensome, obligatory activities that one may detest. Those can be anything, from a job one dislikes to the endless chores and activities that make up our harried, commuter treadmill lifestyles.
Our entertainment-dominated, materialistic, winner-take-all society has seduced and relegated us to the roles of spectators, consumers and Reactors. As director Michael Bennett said, "Unfortunately in America today, either you're a star or a nobody."
The process to undermine our budding autonomy starts almost at the cradle, with our parents, teachers, siblings and playmates telling us that we "make them worried, anxious and angry," when we don't do what they want. The father says: "You make me so worried when you're not back by ten," or "You make me so angry when you don't clean up your room," says mother. Well known songs tell us: "You made me love you; I didn't want to do it," "You're nobody until someone loves you." And finally there is the classic question that is often asked after some significant event: "How did that make you feel?" The pervading, underlying message is: other people, outside events and circumstances determine how we feel.
The actual truth is just the opposite: each one of us is responsible for our own feelings. We are at choice rather than at effect, whether we are willing to acknowledge that or not.
Some argue that depending on the situation, we all can find ourselves acting from any of the three positions -- Proactor, Reactor or Victim. They cite this example: you come home and you find your place burglarized. Arenít you a Victim?
The answer is, yes, if thatís what you choose to be. And then you can feel sorry for yourself and angry with the burglar for unfairly singling you out.
Or you can choose to be a Reactor, shrug it off, consider yourself having participated in a minor redistribution of wealth experiment, and call the police and insurance company. And consider it all a learning experience, making sure not to depart your house again leaving the back window open and the burglar alarm off. And when the cops show up, ask them how you can make your house more burglar-proof.
Now if you choose to be a Proactor, after reading this, you will take some of the above preventative measures, if you havenít done so already, to minimize your chances of being burglarized.
Likewise if you feel unhappy, dissatisfied or bored, and your life lacks meaning, joy, purpose or a sense of fulfillment, you are responsible for it. You can choose to do something constructive about it, which of course is the whole theme of this book. Or you can choose to stay unhappy and play the Reactor or Victim games.
The same applies if you are playing the depression game, which really comes out of a victim script. You can use this chapter and Chapter 20, "Conquering Depression" to deal with your depression. Or you can choose to stay depressed and feel helpless. It is up to you.
Or are you playing out other games or scripts that have gotten you fat, smoking, in debt, flirting with alcoholism, staying in an unhealthy relationship, doing hard drugs, being doped up by Prozac, or indulging in some other, self-defeating, destructive activities?
At this point some will object: "Now just wait one darn minute! Why in the world would I choose to make myself miserable if I could possibly do something about it?"
Therapist Claude Steiner responds to this statement so well that I can't resist quoting him at length.
"...every completed game gives the player a payoff: It confirms a certain view of the world that the player has chosen to adopt. This enables the game player to see his life as coherent and intelligible, even though his worldview is negative.
"Some typically negative worldviews are 'Nice guys always get the shaft,' or 'Never trust a woman (man),' or 'Mess with me and you'll regret it.' Such a view, though negative, gives the player a sense that he understands the world, rotten though it is.
"Early in life, people decide on their life expectations. These decisions become blueprints for living, or scripts, similar to the scripts of movies or plays. Many people read their lines from these scripts for the rest of their lives.
"Every time a person plays a game to its conclusion, he or she gets a feeling of bittersweet satisfaction called the 'script (or existential) payoff.' This feeling tells her that even though she is all messed up, at least she knows who she is and what the meaning of her life really is.
"Some very bad existential statements that nevertheless give meaning to life are 'Born to lose,' 'Everybody hates me,' 'Nothing ever works out.' At the end of a terrible day, we can at least say to ourselves, 'I knew it. Life is hell and then you die.' At the end of a terrible life we can say, 'Yep. Just as I thought. Life was hell and now I'm dying.'
"Games are part of these total life patterns or scripts. The 'Why don't you?' 'Yes, but...' player has a depressive script; the 'Kick Me' player has a victim script; the angry player has a persecutor script; the Alcoholic has a tragic, self-destructive script, and so on."
Eric Berne elaborates further: "In script analysis, winners are called 'princes' or 'princesses' and losers are called 'frogs.' The object of script analysis is to turn frogs into princes and princesses. ... The patient fights being a winner because he is not in treatment for that purpose, but only to be made into a braver loser. This is natural enough, since if he becomes a braver loser, he can follow his script more comfotably, whereas if he becomes a winner he has to throw away all or most of his script and start over, which most people are reluctant to do."
So if you recognize yourself as playing any unfulfilling, negative game or script, you can, through the Cortical Integration Process (Chapter 7), determine first what is its ultimate payoff. Then consciously choose to either free yourself from that script/game or continue playing it. But take full responsibility for your choice in the matter.
This then is the bottom line: If you continue to play the self-destructive games Ė whether through overeating, smoking, alcohol/drug abuse, inactivity or other ways, instead of living the vital, healthy, vibrant life Ė accept that that is your conscious choice. Donít cop-out by playing the helpless game and deluding yourself that you canít help yourself. Have the guts to admit that you have made a conscious choice to cut short your life and cripple yourself and not live to your potential.
One final point. Remembering that our brains are modular, one can be a Proactor and yet at the same time have "islands" of behavior where on acts as a Victim or Proactor. And of course the way to fix that is through the Cortical Integration Process demonstrated in chapter 7.
Eighteen years of lifestyle research and counseling reveal this common, defining characteristic among those who live active, engaging, fulfilling, vibrant lives: they are autonomous Proactors; they are not Victims, Reactors or rationalizers. They have gotten themselves relatively free of life games and scripts.
That was particularly true among the people I profiled in Cutting Loose - From Rat Race to Dream Lifestyles. They are Proactors with a strong sense of personal meaning and purpose. They chose to take charge of their lives and didn't let the fear of failure discourage them from going after even the long-shot goals. If they didn't succeed the first couple of times, they treated the failures as learning experiences and doggedly pursued their goals until they reached them.