Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 28th - March 7th, 2010

Interpersonal Effectiveness can quite possibly be THE key to effective living. Mindfulness is the catalyst to effective living whereas our relationships to the world is how we live, so they need to be effective. These relationships will make or break whether we are living a life worth living. When we have totally lost it, and we reflect on the entire mess that surrounded the problem, if we were to boil it all down into a neat little pile, no doubt that pile would be labeled "the way I responded to persons in my environment".

Of course this isn't always the case, but take a moment and think about the last time you engaged in Target behavior. If you are a seasoned DBT student, then you will no doubt have chained the event, look back and see if at some point along the chain you were interacting with another individual. Chances are you were. For those of you who are not entirely familiar with chaining an event or target behavior for that matter, just simply in your minds eye, recall whether or not another person was involved in the last time you had a 'melt down' - 'lost it' or any other term you may use for what happens to you when you realize you are not being effective. When I say involved I am not automatically saying it was their fault, and I am not saying it was not their fault. Attributing fault to a conflict clouds the reality of what is going on.

Since we know that we cannot make people respond or act in a particular way, then the obvious solution is to change the way we respond or act. I know for me I still struggle with that reality. This is where Radical Acceptance comes into play. I wished I could tell you that there is a magic key to get those in your environment to respond in a way that is helpful. As much as your loved ones love you, and they do, they will at one point or another make choices and behave in a way that makes things worse.

Things to remember is they are imperfect. They aren't making things worse on purpose. Now please understand I am not referring to persons who are part of your circle of "loved ones" and they claim to love and cherish you, but in all of their actions they prove over and over that they do in fact think only of themselves and how the current moment can benefit them. These people are called "toxic" relationships. They poison your efforts and you end up spinning yourself in circles, crazy making. It is your responsibility to terminate such relationships. But don't feel overwhelmed, that will come as your skills begin to take hold of your life and starts to mold the way you see your world. When that happens, little by little, you will begin to lose those toxic relationships. What I am talking about here today, are the persons who honestly and genuinely love you. They are trying their best, and yet at times their best is not good enough. They are limited in what they know. We also have a responsibility to understand that their minds do not work as ours do. (For the most part anyway) We need to recall that they are struggling equally as hard as you are. They are scared and unfortunately there isn't much support out there for them. They are giving what they can to you, and for them to go and get their cup refilled they find it scarce. It can be very difficult for you to determine the difference between the false support and the genuine supporter. because honestly, that false supporter can be your mate. As devastating as that will be for you to come to grips with that, do take courage, you will get to a point that you will be able to make some sound decisions regarding that relationship. Cross that bridge when you come to it, just be cautioned to not blind yourself to who is your support and who is not.

You may not be able to make someone do what you want them to, however you can train them. It will lessen the frustration. This again comes back to Radical Acceptance. Let's be clear on Radical Acceptance. To illustrate:

You live on a dead end road at the top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill is a two-way stop. If you drive down your road and get to this intersection you would be the driver that is expected to stop. The traffic passes freely going the other direction, they do not need to stop. Further down the road there is a school, so the speed limit is set for 35, unless the school zone is in effect. Your child is learning how to ride his bicycle. He knows not to approach the crest of the hill while riding. However this day, he doesn't pay much attention. He starts to accelerate down the hill and is unable to stop, he passes through the intersection only to be hit by a car that did not have a stop sign. He doesn't make it. This incident will no doubt be the most painful thing you will ever endure. Do you accept this as reality or do you not?

Not accepting this reality would either literally kill you, or you would shrink into yourself and be no good to anyone, ever. You would end up being a bitter, angry and desolate person. No doubt all of your other relationships would fail overtime, and if you have more children they would no longer have a parent. There in form, but not there in soul and mind. In the end you are not able to bring your child back no matter how much you do not accept it.  

OR you accept it. You grieve, you learn how to cope with the enormous pain and you do something about it.  Perhaps you lobby for a stop sign for the whole intersection, after-all if that other car would have had to stop, he would have had a better chance at seeing your child before he was hit. You also could lobby for the speed limit to be reduced all the time, instead of just during school zone hours. These practical steps could help to prevent another accident. In the end, you cannot bring your child back. But what you have done is pro-actively taken control of your life and your envirnoment and endured the grief and did something about it.

What did we learn? Radical Acceptance does not mean you agree with what happened. Radical Acceptance helps to heal. Radical Acceptance clears your mind and opens up options.

If we are able to accept (not agree necessarily) what we cannot change, and change what we have the power to do, then we are in control of our own lives. Taking back that control will help us to live effective lives. Living an effective life will motivate us to use our skills, to practice mindfulness. As we do this, our imperfect, overstressed, honest hearted loved one will begin to see improvements in certain conflict and those improvements will slowly, bit by bit build a strong confidence in our loved one that all disagreements or conflict do not have to end up badly and over time, they will be trained to respond in like.

TRY THIS:  you and your loved one take a few moments to write down what each person would like to see change in your interactions. Then validate your loved one. Tell them what you are grateful about as it concerns them. And when you next get a chance address what they would like to see differently and validate them in the moment. See how far that goes. Using a gentle reminder as to how you would like them to respond, will encourage them to do it. Even if they do not fully understand. See how it feels. Make note of it, share your successes or failures with us - and remember your loved one is trying too. They just don't have the resources like we do to learn skills, help to teach them in a mild way. Have patience with them.

MJ