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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Changing yourself: Day 15 of National PTSD Awareness Month

Learning to listen instead of talk was probably the hardest step I ever took. I only did it after I picked up a book, Parent Effectiveness Training, because I thought it would teach me how to effectively train my son, then 14, to quit arguing with me... Hahaha! It suggested learning to listen and let him find his own solutions, which was good. It also had a section on listening to pre-verbal babies, which I used with Bob because by this time he would not talk to me. I realize, today, that it wasn't safe to talk to me, because I corrected him all the time, "You shouldn't feel/think/act that way."
I had to let Bob have feelings I didn't like and that scared me. I had to work on myself which took up all the time I'd spent obsessing about him and Jack. This gave Bob space to find things that helped him recover. It was a really painful time for me. Change is scary. Bob hated it when I started going to recovery meetings. I developed a broken record in response to the unspoken question, "Will you still love me if you change?" which guys never actually say. It comes out more often as "Why the F. are you going to that meeting/therapist/group, etc?" I translated that and said, "I am going to the meeting because it helps me feel good about myself and I love you and I'll be back at 9." After 6 months of that, said in a loving manner, he stopped asking.
One of the things I hated about the program I went to was that they suggested acceptance as a good strategy for dealing with people you love (or anyone else). I thought this was so wimpy. You're supposed to try to improve people. NOT.
So I learned acceptance. Bob is who he is and I can't change that. I also learned to ask for changes and let go of the result. I don't have to hang around and be yelled at. I also can't expect to ask for a change and have it instantly happen. When I try to change, it isn't instant and I recycle old behaviors a lot! So will he. Now in the times of year that are difficult for Bob, I try to listen and let him be where he's at. Compassion and kindness are more effective than nagging and getting huffy and self-righteous. The bad times pass sooner. I remind myself "Would you rather be right or happy?" At one time I would rather have been right (no kidding!! I never admitted I was wrong in the first 25 years of our now 50 year marriage). Now I would rather be happy.
Many family members have been through hell and are extremely angry at the veteran. They don't see how what they may be doing can be keeping him or her stuck. I have a lot more suggestions at my web page More tomorrow.

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