Being Right
December 8, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments (0)

The Curse and Seduction of Being Right

by Lisa Merlo Booth

 

Many people struggle with the curse of being right.  When people struggle with being right it feels as if you’re constantly in an argument about the “facts.”  Sometimes it can feel as if you’re talking with a lawyer instead of a friend or partner.  For example, you might ask your partner to lower their voice and they respond with, “My voice isn’t loud.  I was just being passionate.”  Or perhaps you start to tell a story about work and say, “When I left home at 8 a.m.…” and your partner quickly butts in and corrects you with, “Well, actually you left after 8 a.m.”  Whatever the circumstances are, you feel as if you’re in an endless battle.  All you want to do is share your thoughts or make a request, yet the other person is busy checking your facts instead of listening to your message.

Needless to say, if you’ve ever been on the other side of this dynamic, it can be incredibly frustrating.  If you’re the one constantly “correcting” or arguing the facts, then you can be incredibly frustrating.

Stop correcting and start listening.

Being around someone who is constantly telling others how they’re wrong blocks intimacy and connection.  Ironically though, many people get caught in the being right trap…because being right is seductive.  After all, people think, isn’t it important to have the right facts?  If my partner says he’s angry that I was late for our dinner on Saturday and I know we went out on Friday—shouldn’t I correct him and tell him I was late on Friday, not Saturday?  After all, I’m right—I happen to know for a fact that we went out on Friday because Saturday was our son’s soccer game and we ate dinner on the road while driving to his game.  Shouldn’t I correct him when I know I’m right?

No.

The seduction of being right is that often our information…is right.  We’re not making it up, we’re not giving false information and we’re honestly correcting wrong information.  What’s wrong with that, we wonder?  Several things are wrong with that.  To start with, when we’re so ultra-focused on arguing the facts, we miss the bigger point.  In the dinner example, my husband was upset that I was late.  My focusing on the “accurate” day is irrelevant—even though my information may be correct.  Second, if I’m busy critiquing what he says, then I’m shutting down the conversation.  If I shut down the conversation then I’m blocking repair.  It’s often only a matter of time before people give up trying to talk with someone who seldom listens and instead corrects the minute details.  At some point we just say forget it.When it comes to healthy relationships, remember to not get lost in the details and instead hear the main message.  If you’re stuck on critiquing the messenger, s/he is likely to stop relaying messages.  When that happens, your relationship is in trouble.  The other person gets tired of being blocked repeatedly and in the end they often just turn away.  It’s in your best interest to have the courage to stop getting lost in the details and instead hear the message…and fix your part in the situation.  Insisting on being right is damaging.  Don’t give in to the seduction.

 

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“Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire”: Punishment and Children’s Honesty
December 1, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (0)

A recent article in Child-Psych gives important data about children and discipline and lying. In a nutshell, the harsher the punishments, the more kids lie. Yet another piece of date to support the goal of  approaching punishment from a calm, centered place instead of reacting in anger.

A study conducted by Talwar and Lee looks at two separate West African schools, one with punitive disciplinary practices, the other non-punitive. Children at both schools participated in a ‘temptation resistance program’. While almost all children  failed the resistance portion of the program, the response afterwards varied greatly. Only half of the children at the non-punitive school lied about their actions, compared to the punitive school where nearly all of the children lied. Additionally, the children at the school with harsher punishments made up more elaborate lies as compared to the other.

Harsh and severe punishments will actually increase the likelihood of a child developing a habit of lying. Consequences to bad behavior is crucial, but it is also just as important to keep a level head when communicating it to your kids.

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Intensity and Relationships: Why People Get So BIG in Times of Upset
February 24, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Marriage · Permalink · Comments (0)

Lisa Merlo Booth

Time and again I find myself working with clients on their intensity.  Countless men rage, bully or intimidate when things don’t go their way.  Many women yell, scream and threaten when they don’t get what they want.  Bosses are going off on their employees and parents are going off on their children.  The intensity can be off the charts.

Our athletes, politicians, parents, teachers, leaders and followers are all getting BIG when things don’t go their way.  Almost everywhere I turn, I see someone bullying, intimidating, threatening or raging in times of disagreement or upset.  Countless marriages are being impacted—and destroyed–by this intensity.  Numerous businesses are losing employees due to intense bosses and co-workers.  And too many friendships are breaking because of words said in the heat of the moment.

So why are so many people reacting to things with such intensity?  There are a number of reasons people get so intense, including: it feels good, yelling takes no discipline or thought, it’s a learned behavior from childhood (and our culture) and — the main reason people react by getting “BIG” — is because IT WORKS.

The bottom line is when people rage, yell, bully and/or threaten, it gets people off their backs.  People grow quiet in response to intensity.  They do what they need to in order to get the intensity to stop.  If, every time you bully, others shut up and do what you want, then why not bully?  It works, right?  Wrong.  The truth is, getting BIG often leads to short-term gains and long-term losses.  People do quiet when threatened…and they also stew, get resentful and begin to pull away.  This is true at work, at home and in friendships.  Nobody likes to be bullied; it’s just not fun.  And, while you may like the way it gets you what you want in this moment, you had better be prepared for the backlash.

The reality is that bullying almost always comes with a price.  You may not pay that price today, but almost certainly you will pay for it in one of the tomorrows.  I’ve seen the meekest of wives leave raging men and the meekest of men leave raging women.  I’ve seen complacent employees reach their limit and leave well-paying jobs.  And, I’ve seen lifetime friendships end when the intense friend didn’t settle down over the years.   Intensity may work in the short run; however, the cost in the long run is often more than people want to bear.

If you find yourself often yelling, intimidating, snapping at others, etc., then know the timer is ticking.  The more you act BIG, the faster that timer ticks.  The only way to slow down the timer leading to the end of relationships is to slow your intensity down.  Seek help for your reactivity before it truly wreaks havoc in your life—if it hasn’t already.

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For the Mommy Dearest In Us All
February 15, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments (1)

Annie Lamott, author and mother, wrote a hilarious, honest and upsetting essay about motherhood in 1998. It re-surfaced last month and was sent, via email, to members of an ongoing group at Soho Parenting.

It was so appropriate because in that particular group we speak the unspeakable – the dark feelings that accompany the delight and intense love for our children. We talk about the rage and the out-of-control feelings that children of all ages evoke. It feels a little like a secret society where woman can drop the plastic smile and assurances to other mothers that everything is “Awesome!” and get down and dirty. What a relief. So Lamott’s essay is a window into the that secret place where the underbelly of the maternal belly lies. Read, laugh, and breathe a sigh of relief that you are not alone in the real world of raising children.

Mother Rage: Theory and Practice All mothers Have it. No one talks about it. That only makes it worse. By Annie Lamott

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A Yin Yang Childhood
January 12, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Discipline, Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments (1)

A self-proclaimed “Asian mom-in-recovery”, in one of my groups, sent me the link to the Wall Street Journal article, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, by Amy Chua, with the note, “Something you might enjoy. Amusing and also illuminating.” Of course, she was 100% correct. It was amusing and illuminating. The article is a no-holds-barred peek at the intensity of the beliefs and practices that characterize  ’the Chinese mother’. The author quips, “I’m using the term ‘Chinese mother’ loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too.”

If you look beyond the provocative nature of  Chua’s strict, demanding and insulting behavior with her children you will read an essay that takes a poke at the differences between Chinese and Western styles of parenting. And the extremes in approach and behavior are hilarious.

“If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child “stupid,” “worthless” or “a disgrace.” Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child’s grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher’s credentials.

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.”

The Soho Parenting staff, huddled around the Mac, got a kick out of reading Chua’s characterization of Western precious parenting. One psychologist, a young mother herself, laughingly relayed a story about her playgroup in which her toddler grabbed something from another child. “A hush and gasp fell over the room. I felt the weight of the question, ‘OH MY GOD, SHE’S GRABBING!! WHAT DO I DO?”  Thankfully, I snapped myself back to reality, and into my role as mother. Despite the fear of being kicked out of the group, I did what any self respecting ‘Chinese mother’ would do–I took the toy out of my child’s hand, gave it back to the marauded child, and told my little one, “No grabbing!” with all the sternness I could manage.’

We found the article so refreshing, in contrast to the scores of “Western parents” who ask, “Is it Ok to tell a two year-old not to hit me in the face?” Chua is not paralyzed by the idea that one false move will be psychologically traumatizing. Her focus is on the strength, not the vulnerability of the child and on her  role of parent; leader and teacher, not friend.  Obviously, we do not agree with punishment that humiliates, or undue expectations of perfection, but like with sleep training, children need their parents to provide structure and tighter parameters even in the face of a child’s protest. Holding a higher bar for our children, whether in relationship to manners and socialization or in helping them persevere in the face of frustration, boredom or insecurity will build resiliency and pride.

And let us not kid ourselves. In the privacy of our ‘western’ homes there’s a whole lot of  pressuring, shaming and  demanding going on. We just keep it a dirty little secret. So how about trying to balance east and west, embrace both your Chinese and American mother and give your children the benefit of a yin yang childhood.

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Get To Know Your Inner Critic
January 11, 2011 · Posted in Adult Children, Anger, Mental Health, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (0)

You know that voice inside? The one with the viscous tongue that criticizes your weight, the kind of mother you think you are, how lazy, spoiled or stupid you are? Yes, that one. These voices are called Inner Critics and we all have them. They keep us in line in a funny kind of way. Getting to know, and yes, love your Inner Critics settles them down. Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), a compassionate, healing modality created by Dick Schwartz, Ph.D. teaches you how to connect to your inner parts that seem to be sabotaging you but in fact are just trying to help in their own funny way. Jay Early and Bonnie Weiss, IFS therapists and writers have translated IFS to user-friendly, common sense ideas and exercises that are extremely helpful. Here is an article by Bonnie Weiss that teaches how to befriend your Inner Critic. Hope you find it useful!

Taming Your Inner Critic

Bonnie Weiss, LCSW

Marlene is overdue for a promotion. She knows that she should talk to her boss, but can’t get up the courage. A voice inside her head keeps reminding her of her failings and limitations; it tells her that the discussion will end with her being chided and shamed.

Jamie is obsessed with men who reject her. She spends her evenings waiting by the phone for George to call even though she knows he isn’t a good match for her. She hopes that he will accept her and this will quiet her self-hatred.

We are all aware of that nattering little voice inside that tells us we are deficient and reminds us of our failures. Sometimes we hear a voice that warns us not to think too big, reach too high, or be too confident. The Inner Critic subpersonality is a result of our experience and conditioning. It holds the remnants of our parent’s hopes and fears for us and for themselves, our school history, our religious upbringing, and the competitive culture that we live in.

When you get to know your Inner Critic from an open, curious place, you will be amazed to find out that its underlying motivation is actually to protect you. It feels so awful to hear those negative words and those constraining warnings that this may be hard to believe. Yet it is trying to protect fragile parts of your personality that have been injured in the past. At the core of this yammering is a wish for you to be safe and free of disappointment and humiliation.

The Critic has old ideas about you, and carries antiquated images of who you are and the capacities you have. Like an adult going to work in a toddler’s jumper, its view of you is outdated and doesn’t fit your current life situation, skills, or experience. So its efforts to protect you cause you to doubt yourself and feel deflated and deficient.

Here is a three step process for handling your Inner Critic:

Step 1: Separate. It’s just a part.
It’s a big step to realize that this voice is just a part of you that has its own motivations and world view. That means that you can separate from that part and get some distance from it. You can choose to listen or not listen. You can take control by telling it to “back off” or by deciding to be interested in its underlying intent, rather than being intimidated by its negative prattling. Separation means being grounded in your higher Self. This process is supported by meditative and spiritual practices and good self care.

Step 2: Update. Bring the part into this century.
Once you make contact with this critical part and begin a dialogue with it, you can ask it how old it thinks you are. Most often you will discover that this part still thinks you are a small child in a challenging situation. Its vehement efforts to protect you from re-injury and repeated humiliation are bound by beliefs that were developed at that time. By showing this part who you actually are today, the capacities you have developed, the experience you have gained, and the freedom you enjoy, it is more able to let go of its outmoded  fears and concerns.

Step 3:  Mentor. Develop an Inner Champion.
You can create a positive, supportive aspect of yourself which I call the Inner Champion. It will guide you in your work with your Inner Critic and develop your positive capacities in your life. Itcan be drawn from positive experiences and reflections you have had in the past or inspiration from mythology, literature or modern culture. Mine has qualities of Katharine Hepburn, Margaret Mead, Jean Houston and Quan Yin. The role of the Inner Champion is to bolster your strength. It is there to love and support as you move toward your personal goals.

The Inner Champion:

  1. Sounds like the voice of a good mom that reminds you of your value and capabilities. It encourages you to take reasonable risks to gain what you desire and deserve.
  2. Has the courage to take a stand when necessary with the Inner Critic and tell it to leave you alone. When my Critic bugs me, my Inner Mentor can look it in the eye and say. “That is NOT helpful!.” or “This is not a good time!”.
  3. Helps you develop a step-by-step plan for achieving what you want.
  • Provides nurturance and care for the fragile parts of us that are ultimately being protected by the Inner Critic.
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    Letting Go Of The Rage
    December 14, 2010 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Parenting, Teens, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (4)

    By Kim C. Flodin

    Kim Flodin has been part of the Soho Parenting community 20 years, is a writer and mother of two daughters. Her work has been featured in Newsweek and New York Times, among other publications, and you can read more from her on her blog – http://blogsgotnotitle.blogspot.com/.

    After a lifetime of even-temperedness, becoming a parent struck a chord that released both a passionate, besides-myself love, as well as an intense anger when things got tough.  My rage kicked off in my first-born’s toddler years; it intensified during my daughters’ teen years, especially my second child’s adolescence, which has been stormy.  If she yelled, I yelled louder.  If she got snarky, I replied in kind.  If she threw something, I threw two things.  It wasn’t pretty.

    With my elder girl wrapping up her teen years and my “baby” half-way through them, I can report that things have been better, a lot better.  For months now.  And not by magic.  To help turn the tide, I had to learn that:

    * I needed help.  Last year, my husband and I enrolled in a six-week, one-on-one immersion in counseling specifically to learn new skills and new ways of doing things, all the while going to half a year of monthly parenting coaching sessions.  I kept (and keep) up my individual therapy.  I mean, really, I can be taught.

    * My home is refuge for my children from a sometimes-scary world, and if I infect this refuge with more scariness, where can they turn to?

    * This is not about me and my hurts and my pain.  I have other places to bring that to and other people to whom I turn for help.  I have to be bigger than that for my girls.

    * My hurts and pain, and even my rage, are real and deserve honor and attention in appropriate settings.

    * It’s important to sometimes shut up and stop teaching, guiding, critiquing, limiting, punishing, expressing disappointment and dismay, and instead paint our nails or play ping-pong.

    * I can still be mad, piping mad, but there is a line between anger and rage that I wish to respect always.

    * I don’t have to make my kids admit that they understand my every opinion or decision and that they have become so won over by my exquisite reasoning and persuasiveness that they express, “Aha, mama, I see the light,” and willingly accept my every limit, conclusion or judgment gladly and with grateful hearts.  Sometimes, it’s enough to just say, “It is so.  I’ve explained why.  You don’t have to like it; it is still so.”

    * It’s ok for my kids to be angry with me.  Their anger can work itself out without my responding every single time in kind.

    * It’s overwhelming to them and to me to vent all my collected frustration at their every mishap in any given moment.  “What!  You didn’t clean your room again?  You never clean your room, and you don’t go to bed on time, and you are always behind in your assignments, and you need a haircut, and you were late coming home from that party, and and and.”  As one wise counselor advised, “Don’t kitchen-sink it.

    * Taking breaks really helps in the moment of anger (walk away, mama), and in the bigger picture (a date night out, a few days away).

    * “We are all doing the best we can.  We can all do better.”  More wise words from the wise counselor.

    * We are all destined to follow our own paths and sometimes those paths are mysterious and winding and all the amount of guidance and “whoah, Betsy’s” that I extend can’t always change a child’s individual journey.  Or at least not now in the moment and maybe never, as hard as that it is to accept.

    * I do love my children unconditionally.  If they take a million years to figure things out, make terrible mistakes, and maybe never get their act together—these things won’t matter more to me than that I love them above and beyond anything in this world.  Period.  End.  Stop.

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