Move In To Move Out

Human nature is human nature.  We are no different from anyone else with whom we interact.  I was talking with someone the other day and he noted that he knows what he is doing is wrong, but he can’t stop doing it.  On top of that after he does the “not-desired” behavior, he hates himself all the more.  I told him as much as he didn’t like his behaviors and saw himself with shame, he was not unique in the “do-hate-shame” pattern, and that acknowledging/exposing the pattern was a first step.

I so appreciate that much understanding of human behavior is being seen, more and more, through an attachment lens.  I worked for some years with children who did not experience healthy attachments, and who learned to “survive” with their own means to manage life.  Briefly, let me explain.  If mice don’t experience nurture or care, they die.  Humans have greater self care.  Instead of “dying physically” our psyches are brilliant, and learn to adapt rather quickly with much resiliency.  Simply said, the psyche takes on ownership/responsibility of the lack of care/neglect so that there is some sense of control.  It (the psyche) becomes self-reliant as best as possible, and needs to do so in order to manage the reality that “love” is absent or chaotically confusing.   Control becomes a survival – their “gift” to themselves.  However, the truth/belief behind the “gift” is this:  “It has to be my fault/responsibility that I am not loved because if it is the responsibility of those who were supposed to love me, and they didn’t, then I don’t think I could survive.”

The concept in parenting or creating attachment, then, is not to move in and “shower love and gifts”, and “makeup” for the absences of trust and love, because that is threatening to their trust in their own (brilliant) system they instinctively created.  If you understand the upstream/downstream concept, then trying to force your agenda and love will send the person upstream becoming more protective of his system, less trusting, and more defensive.  It does the opposite of our “good intentions”.  Instead, we need to: move towards slowly with validation, acknowledge his “brilliancy”, support/come alongside in his “doing life”‘, and wait for him to “grow” or expand his trust circle.  We teach parents to have time-ins instead of time-outs, in order to demonstrate that they are going to be there, they are not going anywhere, and that they are able to be trusted when the child is ready.  (Time-out reinforces the über-protective self-reliance and increases a chasm in trust because it justifies the “fault” and consequences.  The child knows fault/responsibility and “safely” stays in that control of “it is my fault,” “see I’m bad” way of managing life.)

So, how does all of this discussion relate to the original issue of our “do-hate-shame” pattern?  Our behaviors are “protective” of our homeostasis.  We learn patterns, habits, behaviors because they meet some need in us.  Our being is always seeking homeostasis and balance, so when we “meet a need” with a behavior and it unbalances the system, then we counteract with another behavior, a belief, an emotion, to regain some sense of balance in the system.  If we move into the system and judge the behavior as “bad/wrong/not good”, then like the child above, our system is going to respond defensively, paddle harder upstream, become secretive in both the action and the shame.  In a sense the same needs with attachment with others, is what we experience internally with our own ego states or management styles.  Homeostasis is best when the different management styles in us (reactionary behaviors) know, trust, and feel safe in the system called self, and trust our heart/soul/true self.

Like the parenting style suggested, we need to “move into the behavior, validate the “why’s”, normalize, eliminate the judgment, and minimize the flip-flop reactions in the system we brilliantly created.  When we do so, there is greater homeostasis and less reactionary behaviors, which in turn, in a way, dis-empowers the negative behavior and therefore, then also, minimizes the “do-hate-shame” cycle.  Hope that makes sense.

Integrative thought:  We need to move in to the behavior in order to move it out.



Kindness Overflowing, Right?

As I mentioned the other day, in the previous blog post, I read Ransom by David Malouf.  I found the book fascinating and sought to read some of his other books.  I just finished reading An Imaginary Life.  As a writer of both poetry and contemplative thought, I was very much inspired by Malouf’s keen sense of communication through a poetic and contemplative voice.  I literally wrote pages of quotes in my journal, not so much for the content, but more for the style.

An Imaginary Life is a fictitious interpretation of Publius Ovidius Naso, a first century A.D. Roman poet who was banished to a small village away from his “kind” and allowed to exist in a barbarian community who showed him kindness.  Let me quote the description: But then he becomes the guardian of a still more savage creature, a feral child who has grown up among deer.  What ensues is a luminous encounter between civilization and nature, as enacted by a poet who once cataloged the treacheries of love and a boy who slowly learns how to give it.

I have been pondering this quote from Malouf: Kindness, I know, is the way – and time [speaking in regards to civilizing The Child].  To reveal to him first what our kindness is, what our kind is; and then to convince him that we belong to the same
kind.  It is out of this that he must discover what he is.

The latter part of that quote, “it is out of this that he must discover what he is” has been really challenging me.  I think how often I do something for others out of kindness – give a hug, buy something, carry a burden for, or intercede in some way.  Is it really kindness?  Or is it easement of my own feelings?  Is it enabling?  Is it allowing her to discover for herself who or what she is?

Integrative thought:  I do not wanting to negate kindness.  I know it is one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  I know we are to be clothed in kindness.  I have to at times, though, do a self-check as to my motivation regarding my kindness.  My desire is that my kindness is without strings and not for my feel-goods.  Nor is it to stand in the way of someone discovering who/what she is.

Kindness is not so much about how I feel as it is as Maya Angelou says: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Go, be kind today, but let it overflow out of the kindness you honor you with in your own self care…and periodically check to see if your kindness is standing in the way of someone discovering who she is.

Kindness and Sorrow

Green Shadows

I have been studying poetry and found this poem to be not only enriching, but challenging.  One does not normally connect sorrow and kindness, but when I read this poem it made total sense…I hope you find the beauty and truth in this poem as well.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only
kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

—Naomi Shihab Nye from Words Under Words: Selected Poems