October 13 - Why Don't You Listen to Me?

The following story is a great example of a very important developmental principle. See if you can recognize the story within the story!

A loving wife heard that liquids and food were dangerous to computers. Her techno-wizard daughter told her, and she listened and heeded her words.

She shared her warning with her husband, John, but he was not quite so quick to buy into this. No matter how many times she reminded him, no matter how nicely (or not nicely) she asked him, he continued to bring full glasses, steaming coffee cups, and bowls of hot soup to his computer desk.

One day he decided he wanted a bowl of cereal and blueberries with milk on it while he checked his email. Within seconds, disaster struck. Skim milk and puffed grain cereal spread like lava over his desk, around the computer, onto the upholstered chair, and into the carpet. Feeling a bit like Mount St. Helens herself, the wife felt pure rage emerging from her deepest darkest places. Curiosity was out the window, and all of her hidden declarations about her unimportance that she made up when she was about two years old surged to the surface.

It was not one of her finest moments. She was enraged that no one (John specifically!) listened to her…that her requests were not even considered (now how did she know that?)…that what she knew was ignored (what did she actually know, anyway?)…blah, blah, blah.

Or at least, that is why she thought she was enraged!

As she mopped up spilled milk, soggy cereal, and mushy blueberries (And, why was she cleaning it up? She would say that she needed something to do with that rage so John would live to see another day…but more realistically it was probably her 0-13 training once again!), she let her mind do a little journaling for her.

Of what did this moment remind her? When were her wishes ignored and her home seemed to be ruined? When did others insist on doing it their way which meant ignoring what was important to her?When did something like this actually make a profound difference to her?

When she started asking herself these questions, she knew then that she could wash the chair, replace the computer if necessary, and steam clean the carpet. What she didn’t know how to do was erase the memories from her heart that said she didn’t matter, that her wishes didn’t matter. It wasn’t John’s cereal that was creating her rage…no, she was back in her childhood seeing her father spilling his drink when he was drunk, forgetting his solemn promise to come to her tennis match, doing it his way which meant pouring scotch into his milk so that he could drink even when he had an ulcer. She was transported back to those moments when she begged and begged her father not to drink…when she prayed for just one dinner that was not interrupted by some catastrophe.

She could feel the tears coming then and as they helped wash away the mess on the floor and in her unconscious mind, she could feel her heart soften. Did she like the circumstances at hand? Did she agree with John’s decision to eat his snack at the computer desk? Absolutely not. But instead of the surprising surge of rage, what was left was an appropriate, manageable, fairly normal amount of wifely irritation. Thankfully, the rage had disappeared…it had never belonged to this moment anyway. Rather than looking for someone to listen to her, she needed to listen to herself instead.

John had an opportunity for development and learning (how he has a propensity still to “rebel” against a “motherly” voice as an access to an artificial power), as did his wife. These are the experiences that create spiritual relationships if we are willing to own our reactions and take responsibility for understanding them with the intent to do better once we do. Fortunately, John and his wife both have that intent today and know more about themselves than they did before that cereal left its box.

What do you do when circumstances remind you of your worst nightmare as a child? Are you able to recognize those moments as legacies of the past, or do you ever emotionally collapse back into yesterday? How do you get yourself back into real time? Do you ever journal in your head? Are you willing to listen to yourself so you can learn that which you have stuffed down deep inside of you?

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