Running away and reframing

by Steven on April 17, 2012

Two recent readings have me thinking:

Venkat discusses the desire to run away from home and how that home is more about the psychological elements (including social relationships) than the minimal physical elements (such as a favorite chair.)  He is mostly interested in the individualism required for this to occur.

My take: the desire to run away is firmly focused on the psychological home, and its less about individualism and more about malleability and escaping the “beta traps”.

When we stay in one place for too long, our psychological home grows: we develop more friends, acquaintances, coworkers, etc.  This is a great thing, but for the beta traps.

As Klaff explains, beta traps are environmental elements designed to put you in a beta position, below someone else.  In his example, large intimidating waiting rooms are common.  In dating, a standard beta trap occurs when a woman gets a man to buy her a drink at a bar by batting her eyelashes.

But there are more common, everyday beta traps that become part of our psychological home:

  • That car you failed to negotiate on reminds you weekly of your beta traps at the dealership
  • Those weekly donuts at work place you in a beta trap with your coworkers, beneath the executives
  • Your long daily commute reminds you of the beta home you live in
  • Your HOA takes every opportunity to control your actions
  • Your high school / college reunions remind you of the beta you were then

Over time, these moments collect to become your station in life, and they serve as constant reminders (“beta trappings”)

When we travel, we can temporarily forget these beta trappings.  Visiting a new place, where no one knows of your past beta traps, you can indulge in the fantasy that you are an alpha.  You’ll get homesick right around the time you fall for another beta trap.

But what if, instead of escaping your beta life, you change your beta life?  Is it possible?

In his book, Oren offers a method to reframe your interactions to maintain the alpha position.  He offers different frames, such as the power frame, the prize frame, and the time frame.  But underlying this is his worldview about the alpha position.  It isn’t something you naturally have at birth, but rather the contextual local temporary status you achieve with the proper frame.  In this model, Klaff has fallen into beta positions dozens of times; rather than accept it unwittingly, he acknowledges his defeats and learns for the next social spar.

Its especially telling when, at one point in the book, he relates the story of when he responded to the economic crisis by running away from civilization for an indefinite duration, returning only when someone gave him the opportunity to be an alpha.  For him, the possibility of a long term beta trap was too great, and he escaped to avoid it.

When you want to run away, ask yourself “did I just fall into a beta trap?”  If you can learn from these traps and avoid them, your desire to run away may diminish.

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