Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bonds That Make Us Free: Part One

This is Part One because I haven't read the whole thing yet. So far, here are my favorite quotes:

Pg. 54: "Thus life's being hard does not force us to adopt a resentful attitude. Life becomes hard to bear only when we, as self-betrayers, cast ourselves in a victim's role by regarding others as our victimizers and nurse our misfortunes as if they were badges of honor. I think of self-betrayal as a form of subtle self-destruction because it obliterates the open and generous individuals we can and ought to be--and all for this paltry mess of pottage, the unsteady and impermanent feeling of justification in wrongdoing."

What I gather from that is when I blame my children for my being a stressed-out basket-case all the time, I am hugging my "victimhood" close and not accepting responsibility for my response to the demands of small children. So I shouldn't mutter "You make my life so hard!" in my head anymore, but change that statement to, "This too shall pass" or something. Also, I shouldn't say, "Lindsay Ann is the best mother I know--she should raise my children so they turn out decent," and instead I should think, "Lindsay Ann is the best mother I know--I should take responsibility for myself and try to do the things she does that I admire."

Here's another favorite passage on page 94: "We have seen that our accusations give those we accuse good reason to do the very thing we are blaming them for. This fact has a most astounding implication: Generally speaking, we share responsibility for the way we are treated. If we want to know what impact we are having on others, we need only to examine their responses to us. . .. I am talking about the treatment we get from people we live or work with day to day. In general, the more closely we are involved with someone, the more the principle applies. To see ourselves, we need only to look at others' reactions to us.

So it is our attitude and feeling toward others that gives them provocation and excuse for doing what we are blaming them for. This principle can be expressed in this brief maxim: Seeing other people as the problem is the problem."

I've been thinking a lot about the above statement. I see how it applies very well to a marital relationship. When I am flirty and fun, Timothy responds positively--when I am willing to be vulnerable, we have better discussions about issues. When I am grouchy and try to "protect myself," invariably Timothy gets grumpier.

An example of this. I've been struggling with hormones this post-partum period, so I've been grumpy A LOT lately. A day or so ago, Timothy put the kids to bed and very gently patted my shoulder and suggested I take Mr. Wilson on a walk so I could be out in the sunshine. A day or so after that he reminded me, when I was on the computer, that I had asked him to help me make better decisions about going to bed at a reasonable hour (my rational decision making ability is pretty much nil right now). He was so kind. I immediately WANTED to be happier, just for him. I was reflecting the way he was treating me.

So, I really do believe the author has a point. I've really started to think about my relationship with my in-laws through this lens. I love my in-laws, they are great and try super hard to show us how much they love us. However, we communicate in very different ways and I have often been guilty of thinking "Why don't they just communicate!!!" Maybe I'm not communicating with them--or maybe I am responding negatively when they do communicate and so now they feel they have to protect themselves. I have to think about this more because, as the author stated, when you are acting in a self-betraying manner, you don't have a good perception of reality.

However, I am not sure how this applies to the parent-child relationship. I see the obvious connections--like how my yelling makes it okay for them to yell and my treating them in certain ways causes them to have to protect themselves, thereby shutting down our relationship in some aspects.

But some things are just kid things--like Emeline sticking out her tongue at me when I sent her to the corner. Every single interaction doesn't have to be evaluated through this lens, does it? Or does it? If I have to scrutinize every interaction I have with my children to see if I acted according to my conscience, I'll give up inside a day because the REASON I am reading this book is because I stink at motherhood and I do the wrong thing 98% of the time. How do you change so radically in your interactions with your kids that you become the generous, kind person that the author describes?

Okay--sorry. I haven't read the rest of the book and the author says he gives some ideas on how to become more true to yourself. I'm off to read the next chapter. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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