What if we have to earn a "thank you"?
With such an attitude there is never enough to feel grateful. Don't wait for a spectacular event and a trip to Peru to find something to be grateful for. Think right now what you can be thankful for to your partner today. It is a wonderful feeling because we start to bring our attention to what we get and what we are satisfied with and not what we are missing or do not have. We experience fullness by realizing that our needs are met by our partners and they care about us to do so.
How to start?
Try to discover one thing every day that you can thank your partner for. You will see that it will turn into an art of discovering extraordinary things in an ordinary day. And the second step is to find genuine words to express it. Name them, be precise - tell exactly why and what you are grateful for. Does not have to be long or elaborate but has to be coming from the heart of your gratitude. I will thank for the cup of coffee that my husband brings to me in bed every morning. It happens so often that it became something obvious and expected and I have just realized how grateful I am for this wonderful expression of his love. Thank you.
And I am very curious what are you thankful for? Please share.
Often times being grateful and saying thank you are associated with a negative emotional baggage from our childhood. It brings us back to our parents' demanding nagging: "say thank you nicely", "I'm doing all this for you - you should be more grateful young lady!". Our caregivers press and solicit expressions of gratitude and we start to associate it with duty and mindless mechanical necessity. To start on the path to sincere gratitude we might have to part with our conviction that we have to show being grateful because it is socially expected, even though we do not feel it truly. Once we see how satisfying it is to find real thankfulness coming from our feelings and not obligation, we want to practice it and get better at expressing it.
We might be afraid of showing too much gratitude because some associate it with being weak. We might be afraid that our partner will use this weakness as a pretext to stop working and contributing to the relationship. We might be afraid to suggest that our partner gives more than we do and that we would have to try harder. It is a misleading way of thinking because when we show our gratitude we encourage others to share and give back.
Some people also think that it is silly to thank for the little things reasoning that everyone have their responsibilities and we should not thank for the things that have to be done. We forget that the "obvious" things like cooking a meal or picking up after yourself come from the place of caring and show that we continue to be important for each other. It is wonderful to try to have a fresh attitude and do not expect, not account for what others have done - just notice and sincerely appreciate because nobody has the responsibility to be nice to us. The more we focus on the things that are pleasant and positive between us - the closer we get and our hearts get more tender and understanding. Gratitude is a choice and couples who practice it in their everyday life get over fights, hurts and even old disappointments more easily.
Every sincere "thank you" strengthens relationships, gives incentive to do good, makes us avoid pondering on the hurts and disappointments we've experienced over the years of living together. Instead of focusing on the problems and being reproachful we can thank our partners - there is always plenty to be thankful for.
We might want to be careful in examining our feelings and motives first and try to remember that praising someone is different from thanking someone. When we say " you did it right" or "I'm really happy with what you have done with our garden" - it is not an expression of gratitude. It looks more like stating an approval and looking a little bit down on your beloved. One might ask if this is a respectful way to appreciate. Instead we need to find a genuine gratitude in our heart and try to express it best we can.
I’d like you all to renew your commitment for the next 7 days to (no matter what) speak and behave in ways to all other human beings that does not fall below the lines of respect.
Remember, you can stand up for yourself, you can be assertive, you can be firm, but there is no reason to do any of that in a tone or language that is disrespectful to the person you are speaking to.
On the other hand, Full Respect Living also means to renew your commitment not to put yourself in harms way, allowing yourself to be on the receiving end of disrespectful treatment and doing nothing about it
How do we change reactions?
By gradually replacing maladaptive behavior with constructive behavior. If you are doing something that isn't working for you, you slowly replace it with something that is, eh?
Whenever my wife mentions "shoe shopping" I had a knee-jerk reaction - usually it involves the words "um, no" and "maybe next week".
So we decided to just go shopping; it wasn't bad. Then it was just browsing at nice shoes in catalogs, and now I enjoy shopping for shoes (this process took about 3 months, btw).
I don't mean to post a definitive guide to psychological defenses. But I want to be clear that defenses are normal and healthy, and if they are getting in our way, we need to change them.
How do we effectively deal with fear?
The first thing to understand about fear is how normal it is.
"I'm never afraid". "REAL men aren't afraid!" "Fear is for cowards."
Everyone feels fear, it's what we DO when are afraid that defines us. When I was training to be a reserve police officer, we were told fear can do one of two things:
1) It can paralyze you
2) It can sharpen your reflexes and senses
The idea is fear is a normal thing, and can be good or bad, depending on how we handle it.
The second thing to understand about fear is how it can be a paper tiger.
In some cases, being afraid is a very healthy thing (swimming in shark-infested waters with a bad cut comes to mind) but in many cases, our fear is about change, safety, security, or a basic need (food, shelter, etc..). Our fear needn't paralyze us, we just need to understand what it is we are afraid about.
Sometimes, we need to take a deep breath, and courageously step forward...it's amazing what an ounce of courage brings forward.
How do we build strategies which let us react more sensibly?
Stop and think.
Really. It's often simply stopping and looking at our situation which yields productive information which allows us to make reasonable choices instead of irrational choices. Any by the way, it's important to talk with a trusted friend when you are thinking about any major decisions!
Next post: How do we change reactions? What are some common defense strategies?
The proclivity to protect ourselves in the face of danger is a Good Thing(tm). However, we need to be careful about a few things:
1) What is it we are protecting?
2) How are we defending ourselves?
Terry talks about healthy boundaries - they aren't rigid and fixed, but neither are they totally flexible. I'd like to explore the idea of defenses, some common traps, and some ideas for couples to help themselves maintain healthy boundaries.
Let's start with a story. I have a friend who goes into extreme thinking when they feel threatened. A classic response is "fine - we won't ever talk again, then!". Or, after a confrontation with a neighbor, "we are moving out of this town forever!".
Normally, after time, my friend calms down and regains their sense - however, during these intense times, they are, in a very real way, in extreme thinking! This is part, I think, of the classic fight or flight reaction we have in the face of fear.
How do we effectively deal with fear? How do we build strategies which let us react more sensibly? How do we change reactions?
Stay tuned !
Applause for your Sunday series on parenting. As a father, I agreed with Ms. Ellen Freeman Roth. As a family therapist, there are clinical reasons why she is right.
The parent-as-friend model is dysfunctional and potentially damaging to the child. Without adhering to a natural parent-child hierarchy, you weaken the family. The weaker the family, the stronger the peer influence. Without healthy boundaries, children can drift into substance abuse, promiscuity or worse.
This rule does not suggest that families be run with an iron hand requiring military compliance. Good parenting consists of equal parts nurture, guidance and limits. Empathize and show you understand the child's situation, but guide and set boundaries.
Parents generally have difficulty with this balance. They set limits without enough empathy, or they have too much empathy and fail to set clear limits.
There are three strategies for setting clear limits that preserve both the parent-child hierarchy and the child's self esteem. Speak to your child in a way that conveys trust and faith. Give your child a way to get back to your good graces if she crosses the line. And always remember to reward when you can and set limits when you must.
Your kids will thank you when they grow up.
Rule: Try and wish as we might, as adults, no one else can re-parent us. We must learn to re-parent ourselves.
Here we have it then. We are responsible for us.
"We think we will be healed when wrest from our partners the particular form of care we crave. That, we think, will complete the uncompleted conversation. But our ambition always fails; we have no better luck with our partners than we had in the past with our parents. "
A hallmark of maturity is the ability to clearly see ourselves for what we are; to admit our strengths and weaknesses, and to consistently engage our shadow. To expect our problems to be solved by another is simply immature - this is how a child might think.
So take a look in the mirror, and be responsible for meeting your own needs!