Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Keeping my mouth shut--commitment vs. attachment (174.8)

Since my last therapy appointment, I've been working on keeping my mouth shut more often.

Sometimes I speak out on big things when I shouldn't--like telling my sister how she needs to be in marriage counseling and her 19 year old stepson needs to be in therapy (he won't keep a job and has major emotional issues from a drug-addict mother). Or giving my mother marriage advice. 

I also get too attached to the outcome of total strangers' lives, thinking that I know what would be best for them and if only they would do "x" then they would get better. 

I often dig myself into a hole of emotional upset when it's entirely unnecessary. The big things can really get to me. That's a huge reason why I stopped participating in Facebook as often. I got too involved in the good and the bad of people's lives, most of whom are only acquaintances.

I also have been working to keep my mouth shut with little things.  Because I "see" things faster or more clearly than other people, I often don't wait until they recognize it for themselves and instead speak up and tell them what needs to be done.

For example, this weekend when we were at our niece Kate's house for dinner, Mark was standing in front of a cabinet that nephew-in-law Michael needed to get into while cooking.  I saw that Michael was trying to get a bowl, but Mark was oblivious.  Usually I would have said, "Mark, can you move so Michael can get into that cabinet?"  But I kept my mouth shut.  Michael is a big boy; he can ask Mark to move.  I didn't need to get involved.

It's stuff like that.  And it happens to me all the time.  It is an effort to keep quiet. 

It happens with my kids a lot, too.  I jump to add in a detail in a conversation, or I'll tell them what to do next with their current task, when I haven't given them the time they need to process what I've asked them to do the first time.  Those things frustrate the kids, and make me look like a harpy.

When Julie and I talked about this in therapy, she pointed out there is a difference between attachment and commitment. 

I can be committed to being the best person I can be, and that is it.  I can influence other people by being a positive example. Commitment allows you to be who you are without imposing your opinions or judgments on other people.

Attachment is what we've talked about as being "invested" in the outcome of people's choices and their lives. Attachment means we think we have some control over their choices and the outcome of their situation.  Attachment leads to emotional upset in ourselves because we obviously have no control over other people, and it leads us to disappointment and (for me) even anger.

She said people don't want advice; they don't want to feel judged, either.  What people want more than anything is to BE HEARD.

People in your life can't be heard if you are the one doing all the talking.

This is especially important with kids.  My kids want to be heard more than they want solutions. As my daughter is getting older, I am learning this more and more.  The night after my therapy appointment, she was telling me about her day which had been a little rough, and I sat and listened for a good 20 minutes.  She hugged me afterwards and said how lucky she was to have a mom like me who listens and understands.


I was amazed at the immediate pay off of keeping my mouth shut.

It's not been easy, and I've not been perfect at it.  I have a lot of work to do, and have to keep reminding myself that People Want to Be Heard. 

I have always wanted to Be Heard because I feel like I have all the answers.  I know, not a great trait to have--it's very prideful.  Pride is another issue I've been working on this year. So this keeping quiet business is going against 40 years of who I am.

I like it, though.  I like being a listener.  If you think about the people who are most liked, most admired by others, are they the ones who spout off in never ending streams of know it all monologues?  No. The people who listen are those who are thought of fondly and kindly. 

People who listen are people who don't feel like they have anything to prove.

I can learn to listen, and reduce my prideful need to be heard. 


Jodie said...

Love it! (As always) great post!

I've been working on this...some days I'm just not successful. But I keep trying. Keeping my mouth shut is one of the hardest things for me to do. Funny (not really funny I guess) your post makes me realize I don't just need to keep my mouth shut about negative things - but pretty much anything. You're right - people don't want advice, they just want to be heard.
Really have me thinking now.

Laura N said...

To clarify: when I say "listen" I don't think that means "do nothing." I know with my kids especially, it is sometimes going to mean that I get involved and respond and tell them what I think. But I do them more good when I listen first, and ask questions, and do not assume I already know what is going on with them.

This is what happened with Sophie the night I had therapy that day. She was very upset and crying in her room; I thought it was because she didn't like what I'd had to say. Turns out she was very upset because she had taken out her feelings on her brother, and been angry and short with him, and that had upset her--much more than what I'd said to her (which did not include me yelling at her--she just didn't like my line in the sand on a certain issue).

I normally would have gone into her room and gone on and on about how I was right and she just needed to understand my position. Instead I asked what was wrong, and let her tell me. It turned out to be much more than I assumed--and wasn't even about ME--and she got back to feeling OK within a short time frame by simply sharing her feelings.

Instead of me making it worse by talking myself into a hole and dragging her with me, I listened to her and made it better.

Cindy...154 said...

This is great. For many years now I have been aware that I have a listening problem and that I interupt people. It has gotten a little better but is still there with family members. Listening is the best thing to do. Keeping my mouth shut is a wonderful blessing when I can accomplish it. It doesn't mean I don't have anything to say, it just means I am patient and value what the other person is saying. And not giving advice means I trust that other people can figur out their own solutions. Keeps things more peaceful. Thank you for the reminder and validation!

Julie said...

I needed to hear this too - I think I can see a solution, anticipate someone's need and just have to butt in. I join, uninvited, in conversations that were going on when I arrived in the room and just have to share my opinion on any and all subjects. My parents arrive today to stay with us for the rest of the month. I will work on keeping quiet, not interfering with each and every conversation and will not join in gossip, criticising or running down other people just because that is what my mother does. If I do not engage then the conversation is going to be short and one-sided. I am really working on staying calm and balanced for the next few weeks and planning for the `afters' next month. The upside is I have been able to talk about how anxious I have been feeling about this visit with my daughters and they understand how I feel and can articulate honestly about our relationships. Thankfully we seem to have broken the cycle. I just need to step back, be committed to being the best person I can be and not being attached to the girls, my husband or my parents. Thank you for the timely post, it was gold for me today.

Vickie said...

First this was an excellent post. Well written and very applicable to most of us (I would guess).

I would like to add a chapter to it.

I totally see the listening part. Especially with kids. Being quiet and letting them vocalize or cry. (It is super important that they end on a positive note, have them think of what not to do next time, so we are not reinforcing it to the point that they feel the only way to get attention is to have a crisis).

I think we also have to add a walking away part to this concept of listening.

What Julie wrote made me think of it. She said ". . .and will not join in gossip, criticising or running down other people just because that is what my mother does. If I do not engage then the conversation is going to be short and one-sided."

In that type of environment, we have to walk away. Just being quiet is not enough (in my opinion).

We will reinforce the behavior simply by standing within ear shot.

Not saying we have to make a stink.

Yes, saying, moving out of earshot/room.

And then quietly participating/reinforcing when it is pleasant/positive conversation.

Julie said...

Thank you for your addition Vickie. On reflection I agree that staying present could seem to condone the conversation when moving away would show, non-verbally, no interest in that conversation. I have no interest in pointing out someone else's flaws (after all that is just my opinion and I do tend towards being judgemental) but need to set my boundaries and protect myself. I have discussed this with my resident family prior to my parents' visit and asked for their assistance in both helping me be protective and letting me know when they think I need to be protective, in case I don't see the signals.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny that it takes so long to figure out what being a good listener is. I always thought it is about comprehension so I could solve the problem. What it actually is - keeping it zipped and providing a comfortable and safe place to fall. Which turns out to be a hard thing for someone trained to solve.

I have to consciously restrain myself and STILL I cannot shut my yap sometimes. Or will not. Or both. So glad I am finally mostly over attachment issues. Now I can at least solve and whether they follow it is their concern... usually. LOL We are works in progress. Heck I do not even want to take my own advice sometimes! Great Post Laura.

Jorgo said...

liked the post a lot.
Got real value from the comments.