Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 212: Forward Motion

In processing my own behavioral patterns I've acknowledged culture, childhood, and worldview. All factors, and significant ones. But lately I've been looking more practically than philosophically at this issue.

For all my good intentions and attempts to respond thoughtfully, it seems the reactions just spill out before I get the chance to think and make a conscious choice about how I'm communicating, verbally and non-verbally.

And this is why. My neurons are firing down well-worn pathways and I can't stop them.

Of course bad habits are broken all the time, and though my neurological physiology plays a role, I'm not its victim. Those neural patterns don't define me. They don't have to anyway.

The problem is that in trying to move away from coercive communication and discipline strategies - the ones ingrained in me through culture, childhood experiences, and an absorbed worldview - I've forgotten to move toward something else.

I can't just shut down neural pathways. Attempting to move backward is as effective as remaining static. I have to re-route them in a positive direction.

I can't focus on restraining coercive communication, I must focus on injecting love and acceptance into my communication.

Avoiding or attacking the negative, only brings more negative energy to my life and my relationships. But welcoming and actively pursuing a positive alternative creates change in a positive way - through forward motion.

As I work toward peaceful and loving words, they will eventually crowd out their judgmental and confrontational counterparts.

So my goal for the upcoming week (and beyond, of course) is to move toward, not away. To let go of the things I want to extinguish and center my attention on what I want to establish. Because the only way I want to move is forward.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day 208: Refreshed

Ahhhhhh. I feel much better!

Looking at the full July calendar, acknowledging the stress I was feeling, and honoring the commitments I made in an attempt to remedy those things, I decided to take a spontaneous break from blogging last month.

I didn't write, didn't look at it, didn't think about it...just enjoyed sunny days at the park, spent lots of time with family, got caught up on a few major projects, and tried to get a little more organized to reduce the chances of getting behind and overwhelmed again. Only time will tell...

But now that I can look at my to-do list without panicking, I'm excited to get back to writing. And maybe with a little less stress and a little more "free" time, the lessons will sink in a little easier.

And speaking of lessons...

In doing a little more soul-searching on the whys surrounding my backslide into behavior modification and punitive discipline, I came to some difficult conclusions.

Despite how cognitively sure I am that non-punitive discipline "works" is "right" and in all ways superior to the mainstream parenting model, I haven't given myself over to it. I believe it in my head, but not my heart.

My heart is still telling me that I only have power if I have control, that there's always a winner and a loser when we come together with differing desires, that a "good" child always falls in line. I know beyond all doubt that these things are false. And while I've accepted the idea of non-punitive parenting, I haven't committed myself to the reality of it. The reality of surrender and trust.

Relating to my kids in a non-punitive, mutually respectful way is beyond counter-cultural; it's a philosophy that is vehemently opposed by everything I see, hear, read, watch and experience. So not only am I turning from the authoritarian ideals I grew up accepting as right and normal, but I'm trying to do so in the midst of a culture that outspokenly rejects my newly chosen values.

Some days the fight against the current, both internal and external, seems useless. Other days I worry that by the time I finally do get it, it will be too late.

But when I think of how God shattered my inaccurate punitive view of him as he met me continually with grace and forgiveness, I'm reminded that a change of heart is possible for me and that the resulting change in our relationship will ameliorate the pain we experienced along the way.

As I seek a deeper relationship with God, the grace that's missing from my parenting will appear, and the non-punitive approach God takes with me will influence the way I feel about discipline. Until one day I wake up and find that it's so much a part of me it comes naturally to respond with love and acceptance.

But until then, I'm confident I'll have lots to work through and plenty to write about! So back on the wagon we go...