Family is where you learn all of your habits good and bad.
Ever find that you have the same behavior present itself over and over again? Probably something you wish you didn’t do. For me two of the many have been feeling like I need to deal with conflict immediately and associating my volume with how right I am – the louder I am the more likely I am to “win.” Yours might be something completely different like completely withdrawing in the face of conflict, lying about certain things because you think it’s for the best, or not saying sorry and taking accountability for your part in an argument.
All of these habits were things you learned from the people you spent the most time with from ages 0 to 10 – usually your family. Those are the people that taught you how to love, accept love, argue, make up, have fun, and be happy. I am sure if you really think about it you can spot the same habit in them too. None of it is bad or wrong because they also taught you all your amazing habits but eventually you leave your house and start to develop relationships with people that learned differently than you did.
As you grow up and you see how other people live you realize that there are other ways you can do things that might serve you better. Dealing with conflict immediately leads me to act out of emotion and leaves no space for me to think logically. Once I saw someone take a moment, breath, and simply ask for some space I realized I could do that too. Every time I have done that I reach a faster and more peaceful conclusion. Does that mean I do it every time conflict occurs? Absolutely not. In fact sometimes I will even go the other direction and go cold and withdraw. However, the awareness and learning of other strategies that can replace my own bad habits has begun to create new patterns of behaviour for me. Now maybe in 2 out of every 10 conflicts I will stay calm, breathe, and not speak until I can be sure it is coming from a kind and authentic place. That is progress for me.
The biggest challenge of them all is to use your new found skills with the people who taught you the bad ones in the first place or with the people you are most vulnerable with (usually a spouse or best friend). Around my family the strongest manifestation of my bad habit will occur. Maybe this is because I know they love me unconditionally and will forgive me either way, or because this is the source of the habit. The sound of their voice, their physical presence, and their mannerisms are triggers. This is where it is the easiest to slip back in to old habits. There has not been a single time I have yelled, or reacted out of emotion and not regretted it. Every time I am embarrassed and shameful wishing I could go back in time and try it all over again. Now, I might be able to stay calm with friends, or new people I meet, but when it comes to my family or someone I can be vulnerable with like my husband I am presented with the greatest challenge of all.
I truly believe that if you can change your habits with your family or whoever you spent those early years with, you can change them for good. It is never too late to learn, grow, change, and most importantly say sorry. Hopefully they can join you in that journey and if not, your example will be strong enough to show them what’s possible for them too.