Do you remember Yoda, the syntaxically challenged little Jedi master from the Star Wars series? (I always thought that anyone/thing that advanced should know how to speak correctly, but maybe he was way beyond that. He was still green, wrinkled, and had a funny voice. Within that context, I prefer Kermit the Frog.) Anyway, he was full of wise little sayings designed to confuse, hack off and ultimately lead his protégé, Luke, to a Zen state of Jedi consciousness wherein he could move objects with his mind. Surely this would be useful when he wanted to find the remote and there weren’t any children around to find it for him. Just think about it and it will zoom out from under the couch cushions and into your hand! Same with beer from the fridge! But I digress….
Yoda’s foundational words of wisdom that skewered Luke’s ego (and hopefully taught that lesson that After School Specials and Very Special Episodes of Blossom had been trying to teach to pre-teens) was the adage “There is no try, only do.”
Yoda’s voice got stuck in my mind (or maybe it’s Kermit’s) but his words got tweaked a little to fit my worldview: “There is no try, only fail.”
Well, shit. There, I said it. What have I got to lose if you don’t allow cursing in a paper? It’s all over anyway.
With my best B-MOD attitude, I employed systematic naturalistic observation and discovered that
I am a train wreck.
MAINTAINING CONDITION/ANTECEDENT: LIFE
BEHAVIOR (MINDSET): THERE IS NO TRY ONLY FAIL
CONSEQUENCES: FRUSTRATION, LONELINESS, ANGER, BITTERNESS, BOREDOM, DEPENDENCE, PROCRASTINATION, , MAKING EXCUSES, FAULT-FINDING, AVOIDING PEOPLE AND PLACES, NEVER TAKING A RISK, SECOND –GUESSING--
There’s a song by the Arc Angels that addresses this mindset perfectly:
Too Many Ways to Fall:
Overt Behavior: Conflict with Daughter Abby
Cognition: She is SO resistant and negative
Emotion: I am so angry and judgmental (I have failed as a mother)
And another one:
Overt Behavior: Disagreement with Spouse
Cognition: Why are you ignoring me?!!
Emotion: Angry, irrational, fearful, worthless
Physiological Response: Adrenaline rush, angry expression, raised voice, insomnia
Loss of respect Anger in spouse/daughter
Loss of emotional intimacy Focus on problem vs. solution
Distance in relationship Rejection of advice
Loss of bonds/trust Isolation/loneliness
Pay Offs include:
Get them before they get me
Blame them for, well, just about everything
Being prepared for the inevitable failure/rejection/abandonment
Now I’m getting somewhere. I now have a deceleration target behavior (negative self-talk) and an acceleration behavior-- positive self-talk, an honest view of myself that mirrors the truth—that no one is perfect, shit happens, and that is OKAY!
Just look at him.
Is there an uglier twerp than this? And I’m supposed to like this boogy-looking thing that that can’t even speak syntaxically correctly and does so in a hormonally charged teen-boy voice? And he lives in my head?!!
So, Yody-Dody-Doo, here’s the thing. I don’t like you. I don’t like your voice, your message, or your delivery. You probably smell. So I am officially booting you out of my head. If it helps to blow my nose in order to great rid or your green ass, I’ll be happy to accommodate. We are done; we’re breaking up, yada, yada, yada—oops, yoda, yoda, yoda…
In order to adhere to the dead person rule, here is my new tape to play in an endless loop:
"There is no fail, only do."
Since Boogy-Boy has had free reign in my head for so long, it’s going to take some intense focus to kick him out and keep him out. I had to find the perfect replacement phrase/motto/picture to replace his creepy voice and face in my head.
One of my favorite hobbies is to create themed compilation CDs, stories in music. So I listened to many, many different tracks and gave myself permission to just react to the music, to not define it as right or wrong, just observe and let the journey unfold.
And then there it was, on my middle daughter’s fave CD: I Want It All by Queen. We have been listening to Queen for years; as a matter of fact, when my oldest was 14 and discovered she had the family butt, it was time for some intervention. Queen to the rescue! Fat-Bottomed Girls reframed her view of her butt and gave all of us girls a theme song. And we still sing it loud and proud!
I put a few more songs on this same CD, songs that reminded me of just who I am and who I want to be—songs that keep me in the NOW.
Do you see these faces? Instead of focusing on every reason that I have failed them, I am searching for every success in their faces and their lives. Dang, they totally rock! And I had a little something to do with that! Take that Yody-DOO! Oh, the songs! So Happy Together, Love Will Keep Us Together, Don’t Bring Me Down, She Drives Me Crazy, Love’s Divine, Waiting for You, Crazy, and Abby’s personal favorite It’s Raining Men—I included a free CD for your listening pleasure. Practiced thinking with my heart—picturing and meditating on this picture of my daughters and me.
Of course the first few days my reactivity level skyrocketed—I was absolutely flying on all the positive energy! I employed the Premack principle: no backing out of the driveway until the music was playing. I couldn’t go to my first class until I listened to three songs and cried at least once. (Okay, the last one wasn’t a requirement, but it might as well have been.) Who is Yoda? I LOVE everybody and everything! Life is wonderful! Who needs reinforcers?
Yoda, it’s time you and me had a Come- to- Jesus talk
And then I hit a brick wall: This is Abby.
She is my clone. We both have Taurus in our charts. We bring out the bull in each other. She can push my buttons faster and more efficiently than anyone I know. Who needs reinforcers? Abby is my main reinforcer agent. If I listen to and act on the negative self talk, she is the first person to suffer. And the effect of my negativity on her is devastating. I can reduce her to a mere brick with just a look. Looking at that without rose-colored glasses made me sick, but it was necessary. How many ways can I fail her? How many ways can I come through for her?
Abby was having BAD DAY. She didn’t want to go to school and could NOT be-LIEVE that I was making her go! This situation was ripe for conflict (antecedent), but I was determined and started reinforcing myself with humor and using competing responses: brushing my teeth, using a blowdryer, saying “I love you, Abby,” every time I wanted to speak sharply and using a time out when I felt myself wavering.
On the way to school, I put my hand over my mouth, which is completely incompatible with talking. I did turn on the music and So Happy Together was playing.
Imagine me and you, I do
I think about you day and night,
it's only right
To think about the girl you love and hold her tight
So happy together
If I should call you up, invest a dime
And you say you belong to me and ease my mind
Imagine how the world could be so very fine
So happy together
I can't see me lovin' nobody but you
For all my life
When you're with me, baby the skies'll be blue
For all my life
Me and you and you and me
matter how they toss the dice, it has to be
The only one for me is you, and you for me
So happy together
After the song stopped, Abby started talking about how the band practice the night before has been so terrible. I kept my hand over my mouth to keep myself from instructing her, just let her talk it out. When she got out at school and walked away, her favorite song came on. I turned up the volume and rolled the windows down as I drove away. She did not turn around, but her cadence changed and her back straightened—a sure sign that she was determined to NOT LOOK at me. At the VERY LAST SECOND, as she opened the door, she glanced at me with that I-wish-I-could-just-keep-hating-but-I-know-you-love-me” kind of smile.
Now, how is that for a positive reinforcer? In this case, the antecedent (conflict) was replaced and the consequence was changed to a positive vs. a negative.
On another day, we went to the gym. Abby hates going to the gym. I thought it was because she is just stubborn, but being aware of my own negative self talk revealed something very different going on. I make her miserable, constantly looking over her shoulder, cranking up the treadmill, telling her she needs to challenge herself –and the drive home is just UGLY. Positive, positive, positive energy and thoughts—by the time I was on the elliptical machine and she was in front of me on the treadmill, I was using physically aversive consequences of sprinting every time I had a negative thought.
I also reframed every negative thought from lose mode to win mode.
On the drive home, Abby waited for the lecture about consistency and commitment, already tuning me out. Of course, if we are in the car, we have music!
Toni Tenille started singing “LOVE! Love will keep us together!” and I sang along, drowning out the remnants of any negative talk.
Gym membership: $400/year.
Singing an old song to your teen-age daughter in traffic (with made up hand signs): a little dignity
Look on her face when she starts singing with you:
Abby and I walk just about every day—and I knew that Yoda was finally gone for good the day I was getting my walking shoes on and I heard her voice in my head saying—“I like walking with you, spending this time with you.”
I want it all— I’ve GOT it all!
All the gifts that I had wished for my girls: self-confidence, unconditional love, hope, and joy have come back to me. They were there all the time, waiting behind the boogy man with the deadly message. Approaching this issue from a B-Mod approach vs a psychoanalytical point of view took the focus off of the why and put it on the how. I can still look at the why if I want to ( I really don’t), but in the meantime, I have some good living to do—one that includes a lot of laughing with my social reinforcement agents.