08 April 2009

What are we in control of Really?

The book, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, changed my life. It taught me so much about myself and how I interact with the people in my life. It taught me to see the patterns of behavior that I did. It gave me permission, tools, and encouragement to change what I didn't like in my relationships.. And it told me that if I didn't hate something enough to change what I could, that I should stop complaining about it. It helped me to OWN my problems.

One of the powerful things I came away with was the idea of a dance done with partners. If I don't like our dance, then I could complain about it. I could say witty or convincing or demanding things to try to make my dance partner change our dance. Or, I could just keep dancing in step with my partner and complain and cry about hating our dance moves. Alternatively, it was a possibility that I could -- wonder of wonders-- just stop dancing the way I disliked. I could dance the way I wanted. Then there are a few things that could happen: my partner could start dancing like me. We could do an abridged kind of new compromise-dance. Or, my partner could still dance one way and I could dance another way, each of us doing our own dance. No one could force me to dance a way I didn't want to!! I didn't have to try to find a clever way to trick my partner into dancing the way I wanted!!

The only change you can make is changing your own moves. If you don't like something --anything-- you can change the things that YOU YOURSELF are in control of. Sometimes, the only thing you are in control of is your reaction. You should weigh the options, try to figure out the possible reactions to your new moves, and decide if you can deal with them. If you can, then go ahead and change. But if you don't like the possible outcomes, stop complaining!

This smoothed out so many areas of my life.
I can't control my income-- I choose what to do with what I have.
I can't control if my husband calls or not. I could turn off the phone so I don't listen for it.
I can't control if my child throws a tantrum. I can put her out of earshot.
I can't change my body shape. I can wear flattering clothes and colors.
I can't make my children obey. I can make it uncomfortable to disobey.
I can't force my husband to give me gifts. I can buy flowers for my table.

I can't do so many things. But I can learn to control my reactions to things in my life.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Lifeis a great book about what a boundary is and how you relate. I learned later that there was also Boundaries ...with Kids; ...with Teens; ...in Marriage; ...in Dating; ...with your Adult Children. My first thought was, well they sure milked that one! Then I read Boundaries with Kids and Boundaries in Marriage and I was completely shocked that each of the three books I were completely different. They all used the same words and definitions and theory, but they were not simply repackaged for a different focus group... they were independently excellent books. I would very highly recommend them. One thing I haven't mentioned that is very important, is that they are written by evangelical Christians and that they utilize the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit-- they are not pop-psychology how-to books.