Friday, April 1, 2011

Thoughts while vacuuming.....

Today I was thinking about self-control, self-worth, happiness, sense of accomplishment, and instant gratification, all while vacuuming. This was after a day with a complete lack of self-control, of which my children bore the brunt of. Plus, it was on my mind after Andrea's awesome lesson in Relief Society (I went to her ward last week for Harriet's baby blessing) from Elder Scott's talk on Faith and Character. And yes Andrea, I did go home and read it again. Here it is for anyone interested. So here's my thoughts for what it's worth--I actually wanted some feed back on what you all thought. But I'm going to try to make this short as I still have cookies to go make.

On Sunday, a lady in Andrea's ward made a comment pointing out that in the scripture

Ether 12:27

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

the word weakness is singular, and really that that weakness is the natural man. Like in this scripture.

Mosiah 3:19

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

I'm not going to go into discussing whether that's true or not at this point--I'm just going to make that assumption. So what's the natural man then? I think it's lack of self control. (Reading Elder Scott's talk will really help you follow my logic here.) Sorry, I'm not going to explain my logic entirely--I'm just going to make that assumption again. But here's a brief example of my thinking--what's the opposite of the natural man....Christ, right? And Christ was perfect, right? Well, he had to have complete and utter self-control to be perfect. He's actually a perfect example of self-control. Perfect self-control in resisting sin, perfect discipline in helping others and doing what Heavenly Father wanted rather than the easier route of doing something self-gratifying, like lazing around on a couch and eating chocolate bon-bons. Why? Love, right?

Anyway, that really wasn't my point...okay, I don't have a point to this at all, but moving on anyway. My thoughts today were more about this--I've been unhappy all day. Why? Well, I didn't get hardly anything done I wanted to. And then I was thinking about that, and the days I'm most happy are the days I am able complete the things I wanted to complete. Sometimes this mental list is enormously long and impossible, and sometimes all I want to accomplish is a simple thing and fun, like going a hike with my family. Either way, whether I feel good about the day or not is often dependent on that mental checklist. (This IS one point I wanted your thoughts on, is that how any of you are, and do you think that's right--morally, ethically, religiously or whatever?) Further, I once read a study on the happiest people (I believe it was some Scandinavian country who ranked the highest of happiest) and the research showed that the biggest factor to people happiness is their expectations. This backs up my feelings entirely. I expected to be able to clean up the breakfast dishes and wash off the table before noon and this didn't happen till 4:30 PM and so I wasn't very happy, etc. To tell you the truth, I couldn't think of one example where expectation didn't play into happiness (This is another point where I did want feedback. Can you think of an example where this isn't the case?). This also follows along with the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance and self-concept

(The psychologists who paved the way for this concept were Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Rogers had the idea that everyone is seeking out a positive self-concept. He said that everyone is trying to get from their real self to their ideal self, and the closer someone is to that ideal self the happier that person will be. Rogers also said that one factor in whether or not someone will be happy is the amount of unconditioned positive regard someone gets, or UPR. An example of UPR would possibly be a parent or guardian of a child taking care of them no matter what.[14]))
So clinically speaking, is that why God's love for us as his children so important?--because we need that UPR? And I guess I just answered my own question about happiness and expectation--happiness can be influenced by unconditional love, which is unrelated to expectation. Well, usually, a child does expect love from his parent, but only if he's received that before.

Also, I decided I really like the feeling of accomplishment that comes with my mental checklist--I was actually thinking about this because of wanting to go back to college and all the projects I have--I think I really like doing something well, and being able to (mentally, at least) say, "Oh, look what I accomplished! Yeah me!" But is that a form of self-gratification? I mean that in the context of my day of whining, messy children who don't obey, don't listen, and where I spend twenty minutes doing something like cleaning up the breakfast dishes only to spend another thirty minutes cleaning up the mess the kids made while cleaned up the breakfast dishes, or on the other hand, another sixty minutes if I try to make my children clean up said mess. So, what I'm trying to say, is that with parenting there is no sense of accomplishment. I may do my kids hair and dress them cute and take them and people say, "Oh what cute kids!" But that only lasts till my kids pull out their hair, start kicking and screaming and whining, and then people say (to themselves usually), "What an awful mother!" That was a superficial example, but even with more profound principles, I think my point still applies, because parenting is never FINISHED. (What do you all think?) So, I think it's obviously wrong to base my happiness on my sense of accomplishment, plus that's so short-lived an insubstantial.

On the opposite side of things, what makes me really sad and depressed and angry? Simple. When I (and others) don't live up to my expectations--which always is a result of lack of self-control (I was mostly thinking in context of myself, not others). And then I feel GUILTY. Okay, true confession here--my family goes to family therapy every week because of my daughter's adoption and the issues that raises in our family. And one big issue I have is guilt. So guilt is generally considered something negative and necessary to move past (like in the repentance process--a certain amount is necessary but then you're supposed to forgive yourself and move on.) Here's a tidbit from wikipedia on guilt:

Guilt is founded on our empathy system and mirror neurons. When we see another carrying out an action, we carry out the action ourselves in neuronal activity, though not in overt action. The neurons that mirror others are called mirror neurons. When we see another person suffering, we can feel their suffering as if it is our own. This constitutes our powerful system of empathy, which leads to our thinking that we should do something to relieve the suffering of others. If we cannot help another, or fail in our efforts, we experience feelings of guilt. From the perspective of group selection, groups that are made up of a high percent of co-operators outdo groups with a low percent of co-operators in between-group competition. People who are more prone to high levels of empathy-based guilt may be likely to suffer from anxiety and depression; however, they are also more likely to cooperate and behave altruistically. This suggests that guilt-proneness may not always be beneficial at the level of the individual, or within-group competition, but highly beneficial in between-group competition.[citation needed]T

To sum up,

Ummm....never mind the sum up. What do you all think? How do you balance necessary guilt (necessary for change and betterment) and unnecessary guilt that holds you back? How do you manage to eat the carrot stick and not the chocolate truffle? And how do base your self-worth on your knowledge of yourself as a child of God rather than your sense of accomplishment? How do you keep yourself from going crazy with your children when there's no feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day and exercising when the thought makes you cringe? (Exercising and parenting have a lot in common.) And where does that leave my mental checklist and my expectations for a tidy house? I'm not sure any of this made sense, I was just ruminating while vacuuming.

1 comment:

Belle said...

1. Guilt: I used to feel guilty about everything, but no longer. Satan sends guilt, but God sends conviction. I tell God and whoever else that I am sorry and then strive to do better with God's grace. Then I forget about it, if it comes back to mind I say, "I am already forgiven. I don't have to think about that any more."

2. Expectations can get us into trouble. As things come up in life we need to deal with it as it comes. If something interfers with our plans, I always believe God has allowed that to happen. Many times it is a good thing. If our car breaks down, perhaps if we would have kept driving we would have been in a terrible accident etc. We can become discouraged and feel hopeless if our expectations of life are not met. I guess we should just trust God for what the day brings.

3. Housekeeping: This is a hard thing for women whether you have children or not, but harder when you do. My daughter gets very discouraged because like your children, hers just go make another mess to clean after she has cleaned somewhere else in the house.
Even me, I have two dogs who trail in dirt from the back yard every day. There are dishes and there is cooking every day. It is frustrating and not so fulfilling. I guess all we can do is pray for God to give us the right attitude about it.

3.Parenting- I think you will feel a sense of accomplishment about raising your children when they are older. I know I made some big mistakes with my kids, but they have turned out well and I do feel I did a pretty good job. They don't live the lifestyle I would have chosen for them, but I must let them live their own lives and ask God to be with them and help them know him.

Life was a big disappointment to me years ago, but I realized I had unreal expectations of life so now I am content.