Henry Bowman, in his book, Marriage for Moderns,
gives a few suggestions that can be helpful
in developing an understanding of ourselves.
The suggestions are constructive to use in evaluating
many of the conditioned factors which affect our responses to others.
He has a section entitled, "When does an adult need to change,"
and presents some of the signals we should watch for in our own lives.
All signals are types of previous conditioning or habits over a long period of time.
Obviously, if a person identifies any of the signals as his or her special problem,
rapid and immediate change cannot be expected.
Rather, they should be viewed as a continuous developmental task
with a future orientation as reconditioning takes place.
Here is a summary of the most significant points.
If a person resists change and resist it strongly,
and if he resents suggestions,
and is defensive in holding to his present ways,
and clings to the status quo even when outdated,
and becomes very rigid,
he needs to ask himself, why?
Does he or she fear flexibility, humility and self searching?
Cannot a balance between self-determination
and the good of all be struck?
A person may need to change if he or she discovers
that he/she gets the most emotional satisfaction out of minor virtues,
such as orderliness, cleanliness,
and systemizes everything and all people.
If he discovers that the extreme, in fact, does exist,
he needs to ask himself, why?
Does he fear making mistakes?
Does he fear granting freedom and the initiative to others?
Does he make a fetish of perfectionism,
and a goal of domination,
and a wish to over-supervise those around him?
The other extreme or polar type would be
the one who is under-organized.
The under-organized is one who is in a usual state of confusion.
The same question needs to be asked, why?
Does he resent discipline?
Does he have clearly defined goals?
Are his work habits or behavior patterns unconsciously defective?
Many people resent evaluation of themselves by others
and cling to the present.
They're often engulfed in busywork,
rather than looking forward to plan for the future.
Or the other extreme of only dreaming and more dreaming,
and never touching reality
can also be very limiting and destructive
because one soon loses a sense of proportion and of reality.
One might also find that he needs to change
if he is caught in the habit of condemning things and people.
A great deal of time and the emotional energy can be consumed in this habit.
Realizing that all is not perfect,
one must be alert to the fact that excessive criticism
does bring a negative outlook on life.
A negative outlook, suspicion and fear
may become very destructive habits
if the progression cannot be halted.
It has been suggested by several authors
that the "habit of happiness" is one of the most important factors
related to happy marriages.
Likewise, a negative outlook on life
can be one of the factors related to unhappy marriages.
Consequently, if one finds in himself
the habit of condemning things and people,
he should ask himself, why?
A person may need to change
if he/she is a perpetual worrier.
A vicious cycle can become evident
when worrying is carried to the extreme.
One who develops the habit feels lonesome without it,
and then worries about his habit of worrying.
Worrying, of course, cannot be talked out of existence,
but a consciousness of the habit pattern can reduce worry
after the original problem has been solved, removed or outlived.
Again the question which needs to be asked is, why?
Why does one worry so much?
Sarcasm is another symptom.
The sting of sarcasm indicates some need for change
on the part of the individual.
Often, after one has developed the habit and practiced it for years,
he may not be aware of the destructive impact which sarcasm has.
There are basically two kinds of sarcastic "digs."
One is made in the presence of the other and said with a smile.
The other "dig" is made behind the other person's back.
The very real problem is that unless one is consciously aware of his sarcasm,
he may mistake it for humor.
One must be aware that our culture
conditions one very subtly in the use of sarcasm,
and it is sometimes used as a method
of self-defense and/or preservation of self-righteousness.
Why then are we sarcastic?
Procrastination is another signal
that change is in order.
Too often this can become a sign of indecision,
an unwillingness to assume responsibility,
and an unconscious desire to be dominated by someone else.
One needs to be more than a reflection
of another's wishes, needs, fears, and hopes.
The polar characteristic of procrastination --
making a fetish out of quick decisions,
may be even more difficult to live with and change.
This type of habit often results in many mistakes,
insensitivity to others, and authoritarianism.
A definite conflict with authority is likely to develop.
How can one develop empathy when compulsion is practiced?
What will be the consequences?
What will happen when one is unconcerned
about agreement among persons
whose cooperation may ultimately be needed
to accomplish the task considered important?
One of the dilemmas faced by some persons who need to change
is found in a subconscious desire
to avoid becoming entangled in another person's situation.
Running for shelter contains many defenses,
such as being too busy, holding others off by various methods,
and leaving the problem unheeded.
Persons who run away from problems need to ask themselves, why?
No problems in marriage and the family solve themselves.
Therefore, good adjustment requires facing the problems squarely
and then resolving them mutually.
Still another signal for a need to change
involves a common behavior
of making a ritual of being frank.
There is honestly which makes possible personal reconciliation,
and there is a kind of honestly which hurts others.
If one finds satisfaction from being frank
and watching the hurt response of others,
and if he uses frankness to preserve his own self-righteousness
at the expense of others, change is necessary.
At the extreme, frankness may indeed be an aggressive tendency
in the form of psychological sadism.
Change in a person may be necessary
if he is overly suspicious and overly sensitive.
And overly suspicious person quickly thwarts communication
because the person tends to "fly off the handle"
as he reads malice into the words and actions of others.
He is also quick to respond in self-defense
as he views all responses as attacks on himself.
The person who wears his feelings on the proverbial sleeve needs consciously
to attempt to view life more objectively and less personally.
He needs to act toward others as though they were friendly.
This could lead to some significant change
in proving that others can be cooperative.
And finally, the person who clings to well-earned status
may need to recognize a need to change.
Both outside and inside the family,
this may be one of the most common of all human relations problems.
The sense of being replaced is very real.
However, one needs to be aware that sometimes
a change in status can bring about a great deal more meaning and satisfaction
if one prepares to accept it and concentrates
more on the the new services and the new forms of satisfaction
rather than on what has been lost by the change in status.
The entire issue surrounding the changes
in masculine and feminine roles
centers around the fact that many are not prepared
to meet the new obligations
because the tendency has been for most to cling
to the safe, secure, traditional roles.
We have presented only a few of the factors
necessary for one to get a better understanding
if what makes us click as individuals.
We humans are highly complex and complicated entities.
Potentially, each of us can learn
to understand himself best if he consciously tries.
Unfortunately, marriage is not always the place
where we sit down and think logically.
It may take each of us a long time
before we take a look at ourselves and say:
"Look! This is silly.
It's time to sit down and talk this thing out
and decide where we are going."
So we must ask ourselves:
"What are we going to do without it?
Why do I feel this way?
Is it just one of my many conditioned factors?
Or is it something that has a basis in good honest reason?"
We should also ask ourselves,
"Is there a better way of doing things
than we are now doing them?
Is this way of mine really reasonable?"
By honestly asking these questions and raising these issues
it is possible for us to better understand ourselves,
and to handle our feelings and emotions,
and get a better understanding of the complicated person that we are.
Back To Marriage
Prepared by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright (c) 1996-2002 Dr. Harold L. White All rights reserved.