Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Should-ing on Myself Diminishes My Peace

Instead of habitually berating myself and buying make-up presents for the boys, I decided to objectively and constructively analyze yesterday's breakdown.

In the Army, we did assessments after training events called After Action Reviews (AARs) to help us appreciate the great, find the bad, and decide a better course of action for the future.

In the past, I would probably have spent yesterday and today buying stuff for the boys to make up for my temper tantrum. Possibly to the chagrin of my children, I did not do that this time! And hey, that’s another good thing.

Instead, I filled yesterday doing an informal AAR post the temper tantrum I threw in front of my sons. It so happened that I visited my therapist yesterday, and she offered invaluable feedback, pointing out some information I had overlooked. Instead of feeling like a complete failure and just plain wrong, I left her office determined to find one little thing that I did right during that episode, but I discovered that much more went right than wrong when looking through the lens of PROGRESS.

AAR’s start with “What was the goal?” My goal is to positively overcome the abusive tendencies exhibited by others and to end the verbal abuse tactics I use that increase or perpetuate abuse in my family. Whew! That’s wordy, but I think it sums up what I’m trying to do.

Now, it’s time to evaluate the event, my temper tantrum. As with all things, final outcomes don’t happen in a vacuum. There’s a lead-up. My lead-up began with frustration.

I awoke frustrated that I had overslept, but I became more frustrated as I realized the boys had turned off my alarm clock without giving me the courtesy of making sure I was awake. They pulled a fast one so they could continue doing whatever instead of the homework I had told them we would complete after I awoke.

I was angry with them, but before I even processed that anger, I was also thinking, “I shouldn’t have taken a nap…most people get through every day without a nap. I should have known the boys would want me to oversleep. I should have been aware of the alarm clock’s sound or been able to wake up automatically without the stupid clock. I shouldn’t have taken that cold medicine – I know when DayQuil wears off that I just want to crash. I shouldn’t have gotten sick in the first place.”

You get the picture. I directed my frustration at oversleeping into should-ing on myself until frustration and anger at myself overwhelmed me. I think my anger at my own perceived weakness and lack of judgment replaced my good sense and my ability to deal with the boys in a more constructive way.

POINT of IMPROVEMENT: Be aware of my habit to judge myself harshly; be aware that I internalize anger and blame myself unjustly and often, even to the point of taking responsibility for another person’s unpredictable actions. Should-ing on myself is habitual, and the ensuing frustration and anger is predictable.

IN THE FUTURE, I will do my best to recognize the internal blaming dialogue, shut down the irrational should-ing, and calm down. I will do nothing until I am able to take responsibility for my own actions, but allow the responsibility for someone else’s actions rest with them.

It was not my fault that the boys turned off my alarm clock without making sure I got out of bed; they did that, not me. My responsibility is to deal with my frustration resulting from oversleeping. After I realize that (in this case) oversleeping does not mean that I am a horribly negligent person, THEN I can contemplate how to handle the exterior events that occurred (in this case, decide how to discipline my sons).

If I had acted from this point of empowerment instead of the weakened state of frustration and anger, I feel the event would have unfolded quite differently.

I read the phrase should-ing on yourself from How To Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons by Albert Ellis, Ph.D and Arthur Lange, Ed.D. This book was eye-opening and very beneficial to me.