Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Last Word.

We all know those who have to have it. Nothing else matters, but being the last voice speaking. Get two of these individuals together, and the conversation can spiral into a ridiculous battle of wills, in which each combatant is determined to have the last word.

I've heard some jaw-droppingly silly encounters along these lines, and in my first marriage, used to lie in bed at night,and hear my ex and his very best friend out in the kitchen, bellowing at each other - both alcoholic, both just had to be right - so their conversations would, especially when they were both looped, devolve into the adult equivalent of "Did not!" "Did so!" endlessly repeated, in a struggle to ... have the last word.

I used to pride myself on the fact that I wasn't anywhere near that ridiculous. Until I joined Al-Anon, and discovered that I was equally as controlling, although my encounters may not have sounded quite so foolish on the surface. (Or maybe they did, and I'm just remembering through the proverbial pink eyewear.)

I too, was determined to win any conflict in which I was engaged.

I recall a member speaking about a term she'd learned in marital counselling: "right-fighting." This was defined by the counsellor, as an iron determination to be "right" at the expense of all else. No matter if the relationship suffered, and communication was stifled or cut off, being right was all that mattered to the combatants.

In Al-Anon, I learned that when I feel that irritation rising in my chest, it is time to sit back: close my mouth: let go, and let God. I am entitled to my opinions, but I am assuredly not entitled to force-feed them to anyone else on this planet: not family members, not the poor "deluded" alcoholic.

I learned that when I assign a label such as "deluded" to another human being, that's the first step down a path which leads to controlling behavior. I've had to detach from my emotions somewhat, before I could get sufficient perspective to recognise how this pattern of behavior runs for me. It doesn't begin with the first remark I make, it has its origins further back than that - back to when I assign a label to the other. It's the label which gives me justification to control - no label, no justification.

This may be as simple as thinking, "Oh you're so stubborn!" If I can view you under that label of "intractable," I can then feel quite justified in yammering on at you about how wrong you are, because I'm only trying to help you to be more reasonable.

If you weren't so _________,  I wouldn't need to be so ________.

In this way did I make the other responsible for my conduct. If I was a hounding shrew, it was because the alcoholic made me into one. I needed to think that way in order to maintain my victimhood.

In Al-Anon, I have learned that I may not pick and choose which parts of my life I will be responsible for - my life is my problem only. This may feel frightening, or  overwhelming, but if I am not willing to take on the responsibility for my own life, I will go to my grave a frustrated and unhappy woman.

I spent too many years being a victim. I want to live fully, and joyfully. I need a steady intake of program wisdom to keep me balanced on the rails. I haven't the right to tell anyone else that they need this, but I know I do.

1 comment:

  1. I think it helps as we learn that we don't need others to affirm how we feel or that we're entitled to disagree. That's been a big step for me and makes disagreeing a whole lot easier. Thanks for the reminder.