It is a maturity “work out” to manage moments of thoughtlessness in social interactions -Being left feeling somewhat stupid! In such moments I pull myself up firstly by grounding myself in my principle to not define myself through needing other’s approval.
Recently I responded to an email without giving it much thought. I was asked if I wanted to sign up for a place at a conference lunch with the key note speakers. I responded saying that, because my husband was traveling with me to this international conference, I wondered if there was a place at the lunch for him as well. This might all sound pretty reasonable but if I’d stopped and thought through the context of the invitation I would have appreciated it was only for those who were presenting papers at the meeting. After realising this later, and reminding myself that my husband is perfectly capable of looking after himself in the lunch break, I wrote back to correct my response. It was however too late as my earlier request had already gone before the conference organising committee and I received an email response declining my husband a lunch spot and laying out the logic of this decision. My immediate reaction was embarrassment! And with that comes the niggling intrusive thought about what the others would think of my foolish request. I fleetingly allowed my immature thinking to imagine other’s judging me as having an overly dependent relationship with my spouse.
It is a maturity “work out” to manage moments of thoughtlessness in social interactions -Being left feeling somewhat stupid! In such moments I pull myself up firstly by grounding myself in my principle to not define myself through needing other’s approval. This isn’t easy for me as growing up in my family I functioned as a compliant, high achieving child, who was steadied by my parent’s approval. My next strategy to manage my potential escalation of anxious imaginings about what others thought of me, was to get proportion about the slip up. It was minor and not to be exaggerated. I could choose to let it go after taking a lesson from it. I could pray- acknowledging my self-interest driven elevation of other’s approval. I remind myself of my gaps in maturity and how they’ve been shaped in my family of origin. I also reflect on my tendency to fuse into my marriage and forget that when we travel together we can operate as individuals as well as “buddies”.
Wasting energy in ruminating about our social errors is not productive. In fact it’s counterproductive, in that the more we mull over things, the more we ‘blow up’ the imagined impact of our mistakes. At its worst, this kind of negative mind reading can become debilitating and interfere with getting on with every day functioning. My own silly lapse of thoughtful judgement is just that; not a big deal. However these small awkward life moments are excellent opportunities for practicing a bit more principle driven maturity.
Questions for reflection:
- How do I react to making mistakes socially?
- Do I minimise or exaggerate them?
- How did I deal with my mistakes in my family growing up?
- Can I choose to learn from mistakes and also choose to let them go?
Bowen Quotes from Family Therapy in Clinical Practice
With lower levels of differentiation (emotional maturity) people are “sensitised to emotional disharmony, to the opinions of others, and to creating a good impression.” P 201-2.
The mature self “is not negotiable in the relationship system in that it is not changed…to gain approval, or enhance one’s stand with others.” P 473
Basic relationship patterns developed for adapting to the parental family in childhood are used in all other relationships throughout life. The basic patterns in social and work relationships are identical to relationships patterns in family except in intensity.” P 462.
Dr M Kerr, One family’s Story 2003 p 7:
“A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality.”
‘Managing my social stuff ups’ – Jenny Brown