“Blessed are the Flexible for they will not get bent out of shape.”

I thought today, for Therapeutic Thursday, we could examine our understanding of rules (personal, family, societal.) I have a funny feeling that I’ll be singing to the choir with the information and ideas that I present. I get the sense that most of you live by the “spirit of the law” which is likely why I enjoy all of you so much. No matter what your personality style and philosophy is, the topic of Rules is worth a look, as it has deep psychological implications.image

THE DOWN SIDE OF RULES – (Rules that are rigid, oppressive, excessive, covert, fear based, power-driven, unreasonable, arbitrary, or have outlived the original purpose for which they were made…)

  • Rules can inhibit the development of an internal compass.
  • Rules can inhibit independent thinking. “Why am I doing this?”
  • Rules are black and white and promote a good boy, bad boy, take on life. There’s right and wrong and nothing in-between.
  • Rules can stifle creativity.
  • Rules can destroy individuality. Rules create conformity.
  • When we allow our ability to follow rules to define us.  (Good boy)
  • Dependency on rules can create fear and anxiety in situations where there are no rules.
  • When we live our lives following a set of rules, we may resent and judge people who don’t. We may feel uncomfortable or angry around people who don’t follow our rules.
  • Failure to follow rules or achieve the desired outcome can produce fear and shame.
  • Hiding behind rules can create a false sense of safety and false sense of self-worth.
  • Rule behavior is motivated by reward and punishment(external) and inhibits an internal sense of self-love, charity, compassion, mercy, etc. (The letter of the law is COMPULSION, whereas the spirit of the law is COMPASSION.)
  • Rules can prevent us from learning to trust our instincts. We get lazy and rely on rules to guide us through life.
  • We can lose the meaning (SPIRIT) of why the rule was created if there isn’t any dialogue or discussion about the rule.
  • Too many rules can produce people who are so bound to structure that they cannot adapt and change, even in emergencies. These individuals are prone to panic and anxiety.**

**Too much contextual behavior can also cause duress and yield unstable and undependable people. There must be a marriage of the two: enough structure to give focus and enough flexibility to change situations required. 

“The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3 : 6)

THE UPSIDE OF RULES (Rules are flexible, promote comfort, safety, and allow for individuality.)

  • For some people, rules can feel safe. They are predictable and give comfort. (Young children respond well to order, routine and stability.)
  • Rules can be effective for people who haven’t yet learned to trust their own feelings or who lack an internal compass.
  • Rules are helpful in maintaining order.
  • Laws protect our rights and our freedom.images


  • Does this rule make sense in my life? Who developed it? Why? When?
  • What’s motivating my allegiance to this rule?
  • Is this rule destroying independent reasoning? Does it take my feelings into consideration? Do my children know why they follow this rule?
  • What would happen if I didn’t follow this rule?
  • Am I worried what people will think?
  • Would I become anxious or fearful if I didn’t follow this rule?
  • Do I pride myself in following this rule? Does it make me feel superior?
  • Does following this rule make me feel right and therefore, emotionally safe?
  • Am I judging others who don’t follow this rule? Do I get uneasy of angry with rule breakers?
  • Does following this rule give me a sense of authority, power or control?

I never had a policy that I could always apply, I’ve simply attempted to do what made the greatest amount of sense at the moment.”

Abraham Lincoln

In conclusion, “If you’re a rule breaker you’re cool, but could end up with a lobotomy.” Lily in Canada (my daughter)