Your Invisibility Cloak Has Got Holes In It
It might come as a bit of a surprise to find not only have you got an invisibility cloak but that it’s got holes in it. This is a theory in Transactional Analysis called Discounting.
‘Discounting is an internal mechanism which involves people minimizing or ignoring some aspect of themselves, others, or the reality situation.’ [The Schiffs, Mellor, 1975].
Discounting, or what I’m calling your invisibility cloak, is when you discount or screen out certain things about yourself, others and life without knowing it. So how and why would you be making stuff about yourself, others and life invisible?
We make our own invisibility cloaks when we’re little by blanking out certain aspects of ourselves, others and life that didn’t fit in with the big people we grew up with.
When we showed those qualities we now blank out, we were communicated to in actions, tones or words, that these qualities were not welcome.
Say for example a little girl tells of an idea she has had and is told ‘never mind, you’re the pretty one’. This little girl might decide to make invisible her ability to think for herself. It’s less painful to deny a part of herself if she believes it isn’t there.
So she makes the invisibility cloak work around her own ability to think for herself. That way she can stay in contact with the big people which she needs for her survival and be approved of by them. She decides ‘I better not be clever round here, I’ll just be pretty. That way they’ll still love me. That way I’ll be looked after’.
These decisions aren’t made in awareness or even in words, they’re held in our bodies, in our gut feeling sense of ourselves.
She might tell herself ‘It’s no good, I just can’t think. I’m just not bright. That’s me. That’s who I am.’ Out of her awareness she will discount her ability to problem solve. She won’t see, value and grasp her own power to be able to think.
There will be a hole in the cloak so she can see she is pretty, so the cloak won’t work there.
She might let others do the thinking for her, never really connecting with her own power to know what her needs are and get her needs met directly by herself. Instead she might opt for the outdated strategy of getting others to do her thinking for her by being pretty.
The cloak is also compliment proof too so if someone does notice her thinking and compliments her for it she might not let it land with her, because discounting her thinking has kept her safe in the past.
How can we tell we’re discounting?
The Schiffs and Ken Mellor talk about four different types of passive behaviours which indicate discounting.
ACTIVE behaviour here means problem-solving behaviour and PASSIVE behaviour means any non-problem solving behaviour.
There are four passive behaviours.
If we ‘Do Nothing’ we’re keeping energy from solving a problem. We let the situation fester, we’ll be feeling bad, uncomfortable, we’ll be discounting that we have any power in the world to do anything to help ourselves.
If we ‘Overadapt’ we’re discounting. This is where we behave as we did when we were little. We try to fit in and please others by imagining how they need us to be.
‘Agitation’ is pointless repetitive action designed to distract and soothe us from the queasy feelings of not using our energy to solve a problem. Common agitation is comfort eating, smoking, drinking, compulsive shopping, hoarding, doodling, even nail-biting.
Agitation can often build up to incapacitation and violence.
‘Incapacitation and Violence’ are passive behaviours which discount our abilities to solve problems.
Incapacitation is when someone, out of awareness, disables themselves. This could be in the form of an imagined or perceived illness, alcohol or drugs. When we incapacitate ourselves it’s like we take ourselves off the playing field of our lives.
If someone agitates by compulsive eating they may also incapacitate themselves with obesity.
Incapacitation is seen as swallowed violence, of turning the violence in on ourselves.
Violence may seem far from passive but in this context, one of solving problems not causing them, it is a passive behaviour.
When someone is violent, like a toddler they want the environment to take care of them – police, ambulances, courts and prison cells. It’s as if they’re saying ‘I’ve got a problem – you sort it out!’
A has a problem with B. A hits B. A still has a problem with B because hitting B hasn’t solved the problem. B now has a problem with A. And A now has another problem with the police. No problem has been resolved and new problems have been generated. Now a huge lot of energy, time and money will be expended but not on the original problem.
What are your own favourite passive behaviours?
What problems are you keeping yourself from solving?
We all have our cloaks and knowing about them is a different way in to having a richer connection with our own abilities. Knowing about your abilities you’ve been keeping invisible from yourself, you can start to experience more of the greatest resource you have in the world. You can start to find more of you for you.
 The Schiffs and Mellor, K., ‘The Cathexis Reader’, New York: Harper and Row, 1975,
page 14 – 22.
Paul Murphy MA(Oxon) Dip.Couns. MBACP (Accred) MNCS (Acc.)