Creating the Rules and Breaking Them

October 1st, 2017

As I said many times, Robert never explains himself.  He doesn’t tell us, for instance,  what rules govern his world.  Nonetheless, those rules exist and they are firmly established. We usually become aware of them only when we try to break them, unaware  they existed.  In those instances, we have to  confront powerful resistance from Robert who tries to maintain the established pattern with all his might. In those moments we also gain the understanding of how our own actions allowed Robert to intertwine another artificial rule into his  system of rigid convictions.

The rule we discovered this afternoon stated, that in our house only Robert has a right to eat eggplant and only when it is prepared with cheese and tomato sauce. I became aware of that imperative when I attempted to grill one of two eggplants for dinner.  Robert grabbed it from me and put back in the refrigerator.  I tried to get another one.  The same thing happened.  “Potato, potato” he kept saying letting me know that I had other options.  He tried to give me zucchini, a bag of mushrooms, and red pepper. Just not the eggplant. He defended the eggplant with his whole body letting us know that we had a problem.

I really didn’t need that eggplant for dinner.  There were other vegetables on the grill already.  What I needed, however, was for Robert to understand that he was not the only one allowed to eat  aubergine and that it could be prepared differently. Unfortunately, no amount of words would convince Robert of that possibility. Only fait accompli could force Robert to accept that fact. So we did play a trick on Robert.  Jan grabbed the box with three bottles of coke and ran with it. . Since having an  access to one 11 ounce bottle of coke was more important than eggplant, Robert followed Jan  leaving the fridge defenseless.  I picked the eggplant and before Robert returned with coke, I managed to peel, slice, and season it with soy sauce and sesame oil. Robert didn’t  mind.He looked calmly, turned over and left.

I couldn’t blame Robert for his strong conviction about eggplant. Years ago, he was extremely picky eater and when he began eating eggplants which I prepared for all of us, I was extremely happy.  So happy in fact, that once a week I prepared eggplant just for him.  During the years that followed, he became certain that he has exclusive right to eggplants and he tried to defend that right with all his might.

We, the parents already noticed that from the  actions we repeat from time to time,  Robert deduces pattern and  wants  us to maintain it forever. Usually, we find a way to deal with particular beliefs one at a time.  We didn’t however find a way to make Robert understand the general concept of changing the rules and expanding his world with a mental tool of flexibility.

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