May 26, 2013
My default setting is blame. Or more precisely, when I’m triggered or on emotional overload, my go to response is: ‘Let’s find someone to blame for how bad I feel’. It feels so familiar it probably started in the womb—not blaming anyone for that !:)
When I’m on default I’m hard pressed not to believe me. There’s an “I think I’m Mother Teresa, aren’t I wonderful” tone to my words, a sort of wise crone positioning that probably makes it hard to challenge me. When my son was pretty young I gave him a heads up that as a therapist I could be pretty ‘slick’ and warned that he’d need to be on his toes to challenge me when I took on the Mother Teresa persona. He got reeeeally good at that.
I think we all have default positions—‘poor me/woe is me’, ‘they’re all out to get me’, ‘I don’t deserve to be treated that way’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m too old’, ‘I’m too good/too nice’, ‘that’s just who/how I am’, ‘I’ve always been this way’, ‘I would never behave that way so I can’t understand how they would’…and on and on and on. The net net is that they all revolve around me, me, me with a capital M.
My son’s wonderful father, after years of freaked out phone calls from me blaming him for whatever problem I was having at the time with our son, learned my pattern. A few minutes after lambasting him about how he ruined our son, he knew I’d call back as soon as I was again in my right mind and slobber all over him with profuse and embarrassed apologies, acknowledging that our son was just fine and I was nuts.
The good news is that there’s an alternative. The moment we notice we’re in our familiar default position is the moment we get back the power of choice. Default is automatic pilot, and on automatic pilot there’s no choice. We move into ‘same old, same old’ in a heartbeat. Noticing brings my ability to reason and discern and choose back into play.
I’m not suggesting it’s okay to stay in that repetitive habitual behavior as long as I did with my ex. I learned that there was a very, very simple solution. I set an intention to notice when my body tensed up (fight or flight response in gear), and I simply gave myself a few minutes, even a few seconds, before picking up the phone or opening my mouth. Time became my friend. Default was no longer the only setting. It became one of several choices.
I still have a default setting. It just doesn’t get in my way nearly as often as it used to. And when it does, I do what I used to do–slobber all over the person I’ve blamed with profuse and embarrassed apologies.
What’s your default setting?