Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Personality

Not to go all high school psych class on you, but how much of your personality is you and how much is your learned normal?  You know, the ol' Nature v. Nurture thing.  Could you give me a quick summary and a cup of coffee?  No?

The E man and Mrs. PDawg are dealing with some relationship issues (blah, blah, when are we not) and I'm giving this some thought.  If there's been a golden strand running through our years of marriage counseling, individual counseling, Retrouvaille and various Kaiser health classes, it has been that normal is just about the most subjective thing a person could believe in.  Your normal is just that--only your own and nobody else's.  So maybe your parents raised you to bang fists on the table and shout "Ma, the MEATLOAF!" before you eat and so you think that it's a crime with a capital C if people sit down and tamely tuck napkins into laps.  And maybe your partner thinks you are a pig because you don't know how to start a meal, what with all the yellin'.

Of course we're not arguing over table manners.  But we might as well be.

Some things:

1) Tonight I re-read my post on my Strengths Finder results.  Vetty eenteresteeng.

2) Imma go ahead and say this is a good show.  I don't watch it religiously and sometimes it's downright weird, but there are little popcorn kernels of wisdom to be had within.  I find myself liking the relationship piece.  I said relationship, not relations.

3) I'm thinking about reading this, cheesiness be damned.

Anyway, back to normal.

The fields where I developed my little seedling of a personality included much more than just my childhood home.  I can think of events at church, school, with friends and at dance that "trained" me in one direction or another.  I get critical of E and his sense of normal.  But it can't even really be pinned on one source or another.  There is no "_____ was like this, so you are."  We're all giant paste-sticky magazine collages of bits from all over.

What's weird is that between the two of us there are many, many areas of overlap, even in our darkest hour.  I can say with complete honesty that we have exactly the same instincts about how to parent our children.  We like to be around the same kind of people.  We enjoy a similar type of decorating, humor, food.  So our normal, when it comes to preferences, is pretty much the same.  This is probably due to the fact that we've basically grown up together.  Some things are so easy.


But several things are downright difficult and even a small thing that occurs over and over will form a deep bruise.  While preferences are learned, there are traits and behaviors that are so deeply ingrained that they are inseparable as dye from the very fiber of you.  Also learned?  Definitely influenced, I'd say.  Maybe some of both.

Our differences in the world of normal are more along the lines of these behaviors and instincts.  We could not be more different when it comes to the how and the what of our behavior.  This week E's been doing some soul searching and I've been doing some serious listening to understand. 

Think about it.

How do you react to anger (your own or others')?
What about fear?
Frustration?
Embarrassment?
Shame?

It's these reactions that form conflict for us.  It's not understanding how the other will perceive your actions, not knowing why you act the way you do.

Retrouvaille gave us the tools to communicate.  I feel like now we've moved on to something else.  We have to both do some serious examination of our own behavior.  E's been hearing a lot lately that the only person you can change is yourself.  It's good for me to hear, too.  There was a time when I felt like working on myself was antithetical to fixing our relationship (and I would argue that at the time, it actually needed to be about us both) but the time has come now for us to look at what we both want out of life and work toward being healthy and responsible for ourselves.



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