Monday, July 14, 2014

The triple package and the double winner

Reviews of the recent book by Tiger Mom Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld The Triple Package.  The authors argue that the success in America of certain immigrant groups (including the ones to which they conveniently belong) can be explained by 3 shared traits:

  1. A superiority complex
  2. Insecurity
  3. Impulse control
Without going into the merits of her argument -- which has been convincingly savaged elsewhere, it got me thinking a little bit about my own background, which is shared with a lot of other alcoholics and children of alcoholics, known fondly as "double winners."  From growing up in alcoholic households, we inherit a healthy dose of insecurity, because it is, after all, very difficult to compete for parental attention with an addiction.  So you start off feeling very small indeed.

But then, when you get your own bottle and/or other substance of choice, you quite often inherit (and seek to emulate) the grandiosity of your parent, and come to believe that laws of nature don't apply to you.  So smoking, drinking, junk food, not flossing, these things do not touch you.  You are too large.

But, because of your insecurity, you will try hard to charm.  And often you will.

But impulse control, one would think, is a problem for substance abusers, and in some sense it is.  However, impulse and compulsion are very different things.  A pothead does not seek out marijuana in an impulsive manner, but a compulsive one.  And because compulsion is such a strong driver, it crowds out other desires, so one learns to budget.  That $18 entree?  No thank you.  I'll have two $1 slices of pizza, so I'll have money left over for what I really need.

And so, perversely, a double winner can easily develop a surprising discipline which, when combined with the other traits, makes us pretty kick-ass.  The trick is to figure out which ass to kick. Or, rather, not.

1 comment:

Dana Hoey said...

I could not agree more. Especially with the ass-kicking, as you know. Toss in a little middle-age lady fits and you've created a monster! Love this Clark..