Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Family Patterns of Behavior Means More Awareness

Who Would You Be Without Your Story? Dialogues with Byron Katie, Edited by Carol Williams, 2008: "If there's someone who makes your blood boil, thank him. He's showing you what you need to know to become a kinder person. He's doing the best he can, and so are you."

Those are the words that Byron Katie opens her new book with. It is the perfect way to start my story of the recent two day trip that my husband Daniel and I went on last week. I am not writing about the trip. I am writing to share with you what I learned about myself.

Daniel is an adventurer. He swears he has Daniel Boone somewhere in his ancestry. He doesn't. He just wishes he did. He just shares the adventurous spirit and the same first name. When you go on any trip with Daniel expect to be tired when you get home. When I was younger, I recuperated much quicker than I do today. He puts as many activities and miles as he can possibly squeeze into each day.

On our recent trip, we went to Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Van Buren, and Bentonville in northwestern Arkansas and from Bentonville headed northeast to Springfield, Missouri. We spent the night in Springfield so we could tour the Wilson Creek Battlefield and National Park to do research on the Civil War battle that took place there on August 10, 1861. It was the second major battle of the Civil War. Daniel had some ancestors that fought there. Because of his hobbies of genealogy and Civil War reenacting, Daniel has become a little bit of a Civil War historian. This was research for a book that Daniel is writing about one of his great-grandfathers who fought in the Civil War as a Confederate soldier from Arkansas.

When Daniel asked if I wanted to go with him on this two day trip, I told him that I would go only on the condition that I could be home to watch the TV show Ghost Whisperer at 7:00 p.m. on Friday night. He said we would be. We were home at 6:00 p.m. Friday evening but only because I threw a tantrum and held him to his word.

Here is what I learned about myself: I still want what I want when I want it. I can be unbending and unforgiving when I don't get what I want. I can still rant and rave to get my way. I can feel guilty about my behavior afterwards. I do know how to apologize even when Daniel and I both know it probably won't be the last time that I will go off on him.

When I saw and heard what I was saying, that is when the ability to change came about. I can only change what I am aware of.

I still don't like that part of myself that can throw a temper tantrum when she doesn't get her way. I also no longer beat myself up for the behaviour. I need to be able to bend more and at the same time not be a doormat to others. I also don't need to treat others as my doormat. I don't have the right to treat others that way. I do have the right to stand up for myself. I can also do that standing up for myself with patience and kindness for myself and for the other person. I don't have to beat the other person up with my anger and words. It is ok to be angry without acting on that anger.

I can acknowledge that, yes, I lost my temper again. I can look at the reasons for losing my temper. How can I change that part of me or at least change how that part of me reacts to stress and anger?

Why did I lost my temper this time? I felt disappointed at the possibility of missing Ghost Whisperer. I felt disappointed that Daniel wasn't going to keep his word. I felt that he thought his time was worth more than mine. I felt devalued as a person and partner in our marriage.

What childhood pattern did this come from? My parents would say they were going to do something and then they wouldn't do it. I never had a say so of any kind in decisions made about me during my childhood. Younger children don't need this as much as an older child does. Decision making is how we learn to make decisions while having the safety net of parents to tell us that those decisions are appropriate or not. If you aren't taught decision making, you don't learn that decisions have responsibility and consequences. Chaos reigned in our household. Nobody was dependable. Nobody's word meant anything. They never did what they said they would. They yelled and screamed when they got angry, which was often. As a child, I felt that I had no value as an individual. Everybody else had more value than I did.

What did I find out about myself on this trip? I still sometimes react like the child living that childhood. Do I have to continue doing it? No. Will this behavior of mine stop immediately since I am now aware? Probably not. Why? Because I am not the perfectionist that I once was. Each time I become aware of it quicker until finally I will stop this particular behavior. Writing about it helps to reenforce the awareness. Do you still have some behaviors from childhood that you struggle with? How can you become more aware?


Diane said...


I am so in awe of your level of awareness and your ability to cut thru all the fog to get to the clear picture!

Thank you for writing this and posting. I am shocked when I see myself in your writings. The emotions and reactions are so telling and your analysis of the underlying patterns and the sources is amazing - and true for me!

Your post is so timely, too. I have difficulty putting words to my emotions and reading your words has opened a clarity for me that will help with the problems I currently experience with my partner.

It is so true that you can only change what you are aware of and acknowlege and accept. You have helped me steady myself on this slippery stepstone on my path.

Again, thank you, and please keep writing! I could go on and on, but I will continue in my journal. This is supposed to be a comment, not a disertation!

In awe and with respect,


Mystique Earth said...

All of us have some ghosts of the past. We are reminded of this, each time when we are put to the test. Only then, do we realise that we are still a long way for making the progress that we desire.

For pursuit in making progress indeed requires a lot of painstaking effort and results normally shows up very slowly. No amount of affirmations, yogic meditation, japas or prayers can help us when we are faced with situations that provokes us.

It is a constant and conscious effort that is required to forego each bad qualities that we have. And this needs monitoring from time to time.

Patricia Singleton said...

Mystique Earth, you are so right in what you said. Until we have awareness, nothing changes. Sometimes change comes very slowly and may take years to finish. Other times, change occurs rapidly from one thought to the next. Sometimes we just need to have the courage to show up to see the changes that we are creating in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Because when we change, the world changes too.

Patricia Singleton said...

Diane, I am not always so clear about my thoughts or actions. I am glad that I could be of service to you in understanding your own process. That is the starting place for all of us---awareness.

My husband Daniel and I laughed over the whole episode when I read him this article after I finished writing it. He actually acknowledged his part in the whole thing. He has never done that before. It felt good to be able to laugh with him about our disagreements and to be able for both of us to see our parts. A relationship always has two stories with the truth somewhere in the middle of the two view points.

Jannie Funster said...

Patricia, Bravo on being so honest and willing to change and learn.

Good you and your hubby can now laugh about this post.

I am a good apologizer in general but somehow with my mate it is harder than in other relationships. I guess 'cause he is not as pliable as I wish he were?

Me... gotten pretty good about handling a lot of stuff differently than my parents would've. Not perfect - far from it, but pretty darn respectable by modern day parenting standards!


Patricia Singleton said...

Jannie, Thanks, perfectionism is just a way to beat yourself up for not being good enough. It is nice to have mostly mastered that pattern.

It would be nice to be able to catch my behavior before it reaches the point of having to apologize. My husband and I have argued and loved our way through 36years of marriage. It is about time that we can laugh at ourselves.

What was neat was that my husband actually acknowledged his part in the situation. A few years ago he would have been too macho to do that. We both have changed over the years. Growing together is always good.