When I have trouble communicating with or understanding another human being, I often say (or think)
We have different styles.
That’s a more helpful way for me to deal with different personality styles than thinking (or saying):
One of us is crazy.
One of us is wrong.
Lately, I’ve also been trying to leave room for myself to show different styles, in my behaviors and in how I think.
For example, I had an overly scheduled day yesterday, when I needed to
- meet with somebody for individual therapy where I work (at a Boston teaching hospital) at 9 AM,
- conduct group therapy, at the same location, at 10 AM,
- drive to parent-teacher conferences held at my son’s high school scheduled at 12:10:00 PM, 12:25:00 PM, 12:40:00 PM, 12:55:00 PM, 1:15:00 PM and 1:25:00 PM (give or take a couple of seconds),
- go home and write the notes I didn’t get to write at work, and
- attend a board meeting of a group psychotherapy professional organization, last night.
My typical style — when I’m rushed and I’m realizing that I cannot get somewhere on time — is to
- get stressed,
- catastrophize the consequences, and
- blame myself for not doing something differently to prevent the current situation, even if it’s too late to change all that.
And, lo and behold, despite much advanced planning, I found myself stuck in traffic on my way to the parent-teacher conferences, realizing that I was going to miss the first conference at 10 minutes and 00 seconds after the noon hour (but who was counting?).
As I realized there was NO WAY I was going to make that first meeting, I started down my familiar mental pathways to
- imagining terrible consequences, and
However, I realized I could adjust that style in the moment, and I tried some different “I’m Late” stylings. That is, I let go of unhelpful thoughts and called my son’s father (whom I was meeting at the parent-teacher conferences) and told him
- I would miss the first conference with our son Aaron’s English teacher,
- I would join him for the second conference with Aaron’s Economics teacher, and
- Could he please tell the English teacher the only thing that Aaron wanted me to tell any of his teachers — that I am writing this daily blog?
That definitely helped me let go of stress, of catastrophizing the consequences of my being late, and of self-blame for not doing a better job juggling these parent-teacher conferences with my work schedule.
Then, on the drive to the parent-teacher conferences, I tried yet another new style. That is, I allowed myself to get REALLY ANGRY at the other drivers who were in my way, on my trip to my son’s high school.
Now, believe me, that is NOT an unusual style of driving, here in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. As I mentioned in this recent post, Boston drivers are well-known for being impatient jerks, a-holes, and c-suckers.
Wow! I just used a totally different style of writing, in this post. I have NEVER before, in all previous 688 posts in these year(s) of living non-judgmentally, EVER used such language.
And I hope I have not offended any of my loyal readers or new ones, either (say, perhaps, my son’s English teacher!).
Why did I change my style of writing today?
Because, yesterday, on my drive to my son’s high school, in the safety of my own car, out of earshot of any other human being, I used language like that, as I got mad at the drivers who, through no fault of their own, were also stuck in traffic, and trying their best to get somewhere.
Why would I do something so judgmental and so unfair?
Because it was fun, people! And it caused absolutely no harm, to anybody else.
Also, it helped remind me of some things I often tell people in therapy:
- Anger is the human reaction to (1) not getting your needs met and (2) feeling disrespected and
- It is healthier to feel anger and express it in a non-damaging way than to squelch it or direct it towards yourself.
And, believe it or not, I arrived at my son’s high school feeling great, and earlier than I thought I would. However, I was still five minutes late, for a parent-teacher conference scheduled to last only five minutes.
Much to my delighted surprise, when I got to the English teacher’s class room, my ex-husband was still in there, meeting with our son’s teacher. So, I got to join them and tell her about this blog, in person! As we were wrapping up our discussion of how wonderful Aaron is (which would be my personal style of describing that conversation), there was a knock on the door and a frazzled parent suddenly entered the room, saying to the English teacher:
I’m sorry to interrupt, but aren’t you all done yet? There is some place I HAVE TO BE very soon and another parent is here before me, waiting to see you!
As I was thinking “that person has a very different style than me,” the English teacher showed her different style, too: calmly and politely asking the other parent to wait outside for a few more moments and then saying to us, “This is why I do not teach adults.”
It’s important for us all to know and respect our personal styles, don’t you think?
My personal style, in these posts, is to show you photos I’ve taken recently. But honestly, people, do you really think I had any friggin’ time yesterday to take pictures ??!!??!!?
Actually, I did:
My style of blogging also includes posting a YouTube video of some music I like — often something I heard the day before I write my daily post. I didn’t have much time for music, yesterday, but I heard this in my car while stuck in traffic (and, coincidentally, I might see this live, on stage, with my ex’s sister, this weekend!)
If your different style includes leaving comments of any kind, my style is to welcome them.
Thanks to everybody reading, no matter what your styles are!