Inner Awareness Can Improve Family Relations
Byline: From Heart to Heart By Barry Nobel For The Register-Guard
"You're just like Mom," my brother said in frustration after I expressed reservations about his latest plan for our parents' living arrangements. I knew his remark was not intended as a compliment.
My mother and older brother, Jeff, hadn't gotten along well for decades. Two years ago, when Mom and Dad moved to Denver near Jeff, the family feuding ignited in earnest.
As I took in my brother's words, I felt a rush of fight-flight chemicals surge through me. My thoughts passed in slow motion: If you let him get away with this, there's no telling what other insults will follow. Should I hang up on him again?
Six months earlier, during another conversation about our folks, I hung up on Jeff without saying a word. I can't allow him to talk to me this way, I thought. When he called me right back, saying we must have been disconnected, I admitted to hanging up on him. He then hung up on me, and we didn't speak for three months.
But I had learned something from that earlier exchange, and this time, as I contemplated his troubling remark, I realized I didn't have to react defensively. Actually, my body had already reacted, but my mouth was still on pause. I took a deep breath while he continued talking.
Family members are really a gift. We may pick our friends, but our family gets to pick on us! There are buttons in our psyches that only family members get the chance to push repeatedly. And the beauty of having the same buttons pushed time and time again is that even a slow learner like me can eventually identify a painful, reactive pattern. …