>It’s not about what you think it’s about…

He CAN learn new tricks!

If something bothers you, like it really reeeeeally grates on your nerves, more than twice, there is a law of nature that applies. It’s called the 90/10 rule, and I learned it from the relationship masterminds Hedy and Yumi.

Yes, about 10% of what pisses you off is actually what’s in front of you. Yes, it is rude and inconsiderate when your partner leaves her wet teabag and grains of sugar scattered about the kitchen counter you just finished cleaning… but is it worth a screamfest and two days of not talking to each other?! Hardly…

…Unless you have a history of feeling underappreciated or left out. When you were a kid – did your parents praise your efforts, or did you only get in trouble when something went wrong? Did your friends support you more than they teased? How often did you feel like others really knew you, or saw you for who you were? How much do you feel that now? Somewhere in there is the other 90%.

Arguably, much of that 90% comes from childhood, particularly before age 10, when our brains are busy laying down superhighways, side roads and detours of ideas and beliefs that we’ll use to decide how to behave in any given situation. The problem is that we believe these childhood-born ideas from the perspective of ourselves as children. As a child, you were bound to your caregivers, and did not have the tools or the power to respond to your environment effectively. So if you’re stuck there, you still throw tantrums, although in an adult body it usually looks like screaming, silence, sarcasm, or something else equally unproductive. All that over a teabag?! Seriously?! I doubt it.

Fortunately, what we know about neurobiology (other than that it sounds rather intimidating,) is that we can restructure those pathways, and build new ones, as long as we live. In other words, you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks, if he’s willing to learn them. You’ll still be the same person, but behave in a way that reflects the powerful, capable adult you’ve become, rather than the kid inside who insists that you will get hurt if you try.

Exercise: Grab a pen and paper – use it if you wish, just have it ready.

Ask yourself:

What’s a small thing that someone else does that totally grates on my nerves? (keep it “small”)

What bothers me about that?

How does it make me feel? (Go deep – “pissed off” is just the beginning)

What does that feeling remind me of? (Remember that you may need to think back to childhood for this one)

Share your conclusions with your partner at a quiet time. Start by saying, “There’s something I’d like to share, but please don’t take it personally – it’s really about me and why I _____________” (enter previously misunderstood/crazymaking  behavior here.) Trust me. They’ll want to listen.

I’d love to hear what you come up with. Remember, your screen name doesn’t have to be your real name.


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