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July 08, 2008



Thanks for posting this - your honesty is refreshing! Good work for remembering to implement the lesson the next day. As you say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but where I struggle is not in noticing the lesson (any excuse to beat myself up is always leapt upon!), but in remaining positive enough to change the behaviour. As it happens, normally I observe what I'm doing and carry on doing it anyway, since 'changing takes too much time, I don't have time/inclination to make it easier on myself/my son/my partner cos clearly I'm not worth it, blah blah blah'... Lots to work on here! Aarrgh!


@Ashramama, SELF-empathy is hard hard work to learn, but there's a tipping point where it starts to flow more smoothly. Things I noticed when I started allowing myself to be empathetic to my own unmet needs were that a) I wanted to cry ALL the time, not because I was bad bad bad, but because I was HURTING so much and didn't allow myself to say so! plenty to mourn there ... and b) I found that I actually had very much the same needs as ep that he and I were the most in conflict over - but the real conflict wasn't that HE needed X, Y, or Z, but that I needed them and wouldn't allow myself to need them, so him needing them set up conflict in me, which then came out as resistance to meeting them for him, and around we go. Now, we're dealing with aftermath of me suddenly caring about the same things that have been mainly his territory to manage, and him kind of standing there wondering if he should be taking direction, or offering it... and meanwhile I don't feel like I've changed much, but he clearly sees a lot of sudden changes especially to ownership of processes.

I also discovered that opening myself up to being self-empathetic destabilized a lot of my functions for a while (still ongoing, but improving) - there was a huge gush (emotionally) of distress, and all my foundations kind of wobbled. BUT, at the same time, I found I had way way way more energy for listening to everyone else, meeting their needs, etc.

I still tend to go strongly toward the 'what are your needs' side, and kind of blank on what my needs are. But even when the issue is a sibling spat, I have needs here! I have feelings that are valuable, true, honest, and worthy. The more I'm empathetic to my own needs, the more I choose to be kind to myself and not berate myself for my failings, and even to just be gentle in acknowledging that I am not going to get my needs met right this minute/hour/month/stage/year (as I'd try to do for my kids, duh), then the more I can attend to them calmly, the less I lock up, cycle up, and escalate.

It's EXHAUSTING to hold my own needs in abayance, hence me having no energy for changing mid-stream sometimes (or having that resistance or slow transition). I'm already tired before I say the first thing!

My best for working on meeting your own need for empathy and kindness - from yourself.


Best intentions, and all that - And still habit can catch us unaware. But you've also got a habit of catching yourself. I catch myself at getting caught by habit, too. Would that my wife were similarly self-aware. Her parenting tools are limited, to say the least, and she's disinclined to use tools from other people's tool boxes. I frankly blame her mother, but that's not fixing the problem. Not sure if there's anything, really, I can do to alter her mindset.


@tranq, I know what you mean! My partner (and my mother) is the same, and it's hard work keeping my mouth shut at times.

@hedra, I know what you are saying intellectually, but I'm still not *feeling* it! Whenever I'm faced with the choice - acceptance or judgement - it's like the naughty contrary 8 year old in me sniggers and runs away triumphantly having scored another anti-truth point, if you see what I mean...!


@Ashramama, I definitely know what you mean - but I think it's probably more like 3 years old when that behavior starts. It's the grin on M's face when she exerts her powerfulness over her siblings by making them unhappy. POWER, man, the ability to force misery on others (or self, even)... it is power and choice and power and choice, and it feels GOOD.

The hard work part of it for me is telling myself that I choose to find my power elsewhere. It is an easy power to create pain and unhappiness. Water takes the path already wet, emotions take the path already felt. If power is through causing pain or unhappiness, then power will flow through that course over and over. Choosing to block the flow and force it down a new path is effortful. It can feel insurmountable - but ... well, going from the ancient Chinese water control methods actually works for this analogy - keep the levies low, and break them early and often. To prevent the huge flood of energy/water/emotions going in dangerous directions downstream, one must allow flooding of energy sideways upstream, midstream, all the way through.

Taking that to the emotional level, before an incident occurs AT ALL, a) keep the levies low - that is, plan ahead for how to respond. Both Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids and Parenting from the Heart have worksheets for filling out what your new knee-jerk reaction to a situation will be. Levie lowered and new channels dug by preparative work (the Chinese had to re-do this work a few decades ago because they went from low levies to high ones thinking somehow the high ones would be better, and found out that WHOOPS, the old way actually was better, and had to un-do the new levies)... BEFORE the flood. and b) Break them often, and as far upstream as possible. That is, find as many places for you to accept and exercise your power to CHOOSE to be kind to yourself and recognize your own needs, more so when the situations are small and relatively non-threatening. Take the easiest opportunities first, to develop the habit and reduce the internal pressure to find power through causing pain.

I found both alternative therapy (energy work) and traditional therapy helped release a lot of the 'power to hurt myself' issues (as do the books on Codependency by Melody Beattie - codependency is all about punishing oneself, at the core!). So I'm really working with a much lightened load compared to where I started.


@tranq, I'm not sure what if anything can be done for her, either. Dealing with that level of resistance requires a lot of care - but, that said, the Non-Violent Communication methods (as used in the two books I just mentioned, though there are other sources) REALLY help with emotionally burdened rigid functions/responses. The hard part is using them effectively, because the slightest wrong phrasing reads as pressure or demands, which goes right back into the resistance again. It has to be entirely and only under their command to choose a different path... the edges are so painful that even getting close to an expectation of compliance is enough to snap every door closed. Thy wife chooses autonomy powerfully, in reaction to having had so little. Might be worth a look at the puddledancer press offerings, there may be a method in there that works to open up the space for her.


Oh, and this also ties back into the 'I believe' issue - what do I believe about my ability to choose another option?

Man, is it all interwoven, or what? Sigh.


Oh, yes... It's all interwoven. Or tangled. Choose your metaphor as you wish.

Thank you for the book recommendations. AS you say, she's chosen autonomy - With a vengance. She's the prototypical 'by self' girl. I love that in her... And regret it deeply at the same time. Her "Can Choose" muscles are atrophied, and she's a creature of very strong habit. There are days I must guard my tongue very carefully.

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