In part 1, we looked at the first reason why you two may fight, your protective self vs. your authentic self.
Now I want to talk about the great Terry Real, best selling author and founder of the Relational Life Institute, who coined the term "core negative image (CNI)” as it relates to the core negative image you may possess about your partner. This thought provoking nugget has really helped me on my journey and it may help you too.
Your partner's CNI of you isn't really you, but an exaggerated version of you at your worst. It's your evil twin that often shows up in a disagreement or conflict.
"She is so cold, controlling, and manipulative!"
"He is nasty, withdrawn, and passive aggressive!"
CNI awareness is great, but learning how to work with each other's CNIs, according to Real, can be the single most transformative aspect of relationship empowerment work.
In his book, "The New Rules of Marriage", Real has an entire chapter/exercise in working with CNIs. Essentially it comes down to this reality. In a fight, when you are presented with your partner's CNI of you, I guarantee you will react combatively, citing the obvious distortion of their image, "You are crazy, I am NOT like that at all." We defend, deflect, and diffuse.
But remember, the CNI is the you, when the most immature wounded parts of you are driving the ship. So instead of battling or refuting it, the true power comes when you stop denying the truthful aspects and instead accept that a few grains of truth might exist and accept that. Being defensive will not help.
When couples enter into this classic Texas gunslinger standoff of "I'm right. No, I'm right!" the only winning answer, according to Real, is "Who cares?!"
Do you want to be right or happy? You can’t have both.
Your relationship needs some heroic leadership sometimes. You can be the one to lay down your armour and sword, disarming your protective self, thus taking the high road to happiness, not the well worn trail to righteousness. Stop slamming doors, withdrawing, or trying to control your partner. You can only control yourself.
Feeling brave? Here is the takeaway this week.
When you and your partner are in a good place, be vulnerable and try asking about their core negative image of you. Again, don’t refute or build a defense, just listen and learn from the grains of truth.
What is your core negative image of your partner? How does that affect your day to day living?
Moving forward, how will this new CNI awareness change the rules of engagement??
Please be brave and share….
I know exactly why you and your partner fight with each other. Sure, your fights might masquerade and manifest as arguments about money, the kids, the lack of sex, or who took out the garbage last, but that is not really what they are about.
At the absolute root, it's about your protective self and your core negative image (CNI) of your partner. I will discuss CNI in my next article, for now, I want to focus on your protective and authentic self.
You have an authentic self; the true, real you, often referred to as your inner child. The good guy that lives his values inside you. We like this guy, but he is vulnerable and easily hurt.
He has been hurt before. Past conflicts and hurts from parents, siblings, and early relationships, have necessitated the need for constant protection from a body guard. This bodyguard is your protective self.
Your protective self lives the motto "Nothing is going to hurt you, not on my watch!" Like anti-virus spyware, your protective self is constantly vigilant, on the lookout for anything that might hurt, disrespect, or threaten the authentic self.
Your partner has a protective self too. And when those two meet in the narrow alleyway of conflict, look out! You engage, argue, and fight, but it's your protective selves that are battling, not the authentic selves.
Like two proud gladiators, these protective selves battle for honour, ego, and the pursuit of righteousness. As the battle escalates, the authentic selves try to stay safely nestled behind, holed up in a little cave, waiting for the battle to subside before they, like frightened turtles, can surface again.
My partner is a match and I am a torch. She is fiery and can run red hot but quickly cools. I am the opposite. I take a long time to heat up, but explode and simmer for way too long. When I finally lash out at my partner, I often feel sheepish, shocked, or embarrassed at the extremes of my protective self. For example, do I really think she is an animal hater and wants to kill my dog, or is she just sick of cleaning up dog hair and feces?
Once you gain the awareness that your argument is simply two protective selves battling, you gain the power to disengage, step back from your 'flooded' state, and breathe. Go make a sandwich, take the dog for a walk, or sit on the throne. No argument has ever changed a feeling anyway.
Even if you disagree with 85% of the exaggerated, emotionally charged 'crap' your partner is saying, in the remaining 15%, there are some nuggets of cold hard truth.
Self awareness is the key to transforming your relationship. Becoming more aware of your default patterns, triggers, old scripts, and reactions can improve your relationships in challenging times.
This has NOTHING to do with your partner or changing his or her behaviour.
Be aware of what triggers your protective self. Let's spend the week in a heightened state of self! Be ready to ask your protective self to step back to play well in the sandbox!
Next time I will share insights into Terry Real's relationship changing notion of Core Negative Image... you will be amazed and uneasy!
Until next time!
Dads do it differently. Not better. Not Worse. Just different.
That was one of my main points in my keynote speech “What Dads Really Want…” which I delivered last week in beautiful Penticton, BC.
My room was full of childcare service providers, moms, and actually, a great number of dads! I wanted to challenge them, and now I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to carefully consider and examine your core idea of what a dad is, what a dad does, and what a dad wants.
Dads are not dummies as we are often portrayed in popular culture.
Dads do not babysit their children and neither does a mom.
Dads just want to be treated as a parenting equal – an achievable role to be earned, not just granted.
Dads want just as strong a relationship with their children as mom does, but he may have a different approach to getting there. Mom may need to turn judgment into curiosity and recognize his different style and method will end up at the same destination; a loving bond with his child.
When I started speaking on parenting in the early 2000s, I was still talking about the ‘changing’ role of the father. But now, that role is not changing anymore; it is finished ‘changing’! The 100th monkey/tipping point has arrived and involved fathering is the societal norm now. Just like littering in the 1970s vs. today, an involved father is what we see.
I know not EVERY dad is on board yet (that is part of our collective mission), but how dads behave, in the day to day lives of their children, has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Fifty years ago, to receive a trophy for “world’s greatest dad”, you were a protector and a provider; your children had food in the bellies, shoes on their feet, and a roof overhead. That is absolute bare minimum today.
Back then, dads tended to be more remote and authoritarian, dad was tougher to get to know -- sure he would play with you from time to time, but his main role was to keep order in the house and everyone IN LINE. Mom, if faced with too many shenanigans, could always drop the greatest threat known to a child, “Wait till your father gets home!” Then dad would walk in, home from a tough day, and be thrust into the role of disciplining a terrified child. Today, when kids hear ‘Wait till your father gets home’, they are excited and can’t wait!
Dads today have more passion, patience, and presence than ever before. Their KIDS don’t know anything different, and would shake their heads in disbelief if told that years ago dads were not that involved. You only need to look at a school playground at 8:15, a school field trip, or a soccer field on a Saturday morning - at least half of the parents present are dads; would you have seen that 30 years ago?
At the end of the day, like the feminist women’s movement of the 60s and 70s, we, as dads, want equality, freedom from stereotypes and gender bias. I am thrilled to be a voice and part of the movement. I am a DADvocate, not a zealot or crusader. What we are after is recognition as equal parents, not put on pedestal or having parades thrown for us.
In the same way women are after equal pay in the workplace, we are asking for fathers to not be treated like second-class parents or mom’s helper.
With no disrespect to the late great Martin Luther King, who was also fighter for equality on a larger scale, I too have a dream. A dream deeply rooted in today’s families.
I have a dream that one day, all parents will be treated equal. Both in the home and at work. No more “Mr. Moms” or “Mrs. Dad”.
We will no longer need “father friendly” programs as all programming will always consider BOTH parents needs.
I have a dream that one day, moms and dads can sit down together at the table of parenthood and we will live in a society where parents will not be judged by their gender, but rather by the content of their character.
I have a dream today, that although dads do it differently, their contribution to the family will one day be seen as just as valuable as mom's.
Are dads equal? How do you see the role of dad today? Is dad an equal in your house?
Until next time…
There is nothing better than Daddy-daughter night at the mall. It’s a night of nothing but holding hands, shopping, ice cream and “sometimes treats”, and laughing all the way.
It was pure magic, until we hit the big department store. While we were looking at shiny new toys, I wandered into the next aisle of electronics. She was now engrossed in a TV show on one of the thousand TVs.
I returned to show Jack what I found.
“Hey Jack, should we buy one of these?”
Silence. Nothing but chatter from the TVs.
“Jack?” I called out. Nothing.
“Jack?”, a little more panicked now.
I had my back turned for literally 10 seconds.
Where did she go?
I moved like a trained navy seal “Call of Duty” special-ops agent. I searched aisle by aisle. I walked fast, didn’t run, but walked crazy like those Olympic walkers.
Nothing. How could she have gotten far? She is fast, but only when motivated by Hello Kitty or candy.
Candy? Dammit. Strangers have candy. Creepy men with white vans and no windows have candy.
My panic becomes very real. It had been maybe 45 seconds now. My pulse quickened. I felt hot and flushed and suddenly very sweaty.
I saw every person in that store as a possible suspect (I didn’t see them as possible help).
I need to find my daughter.
I hate to admit that, in reflecting back to that awful 3 minutes, I was hesitant to ask for help because I didn’t want to be judged by strangers as a neglectful, bumbling dad, possibly perpetuating the stereo-type of absent-minded dad, a stereotype good dads fight daily.
I’m a great involved dad!
I write a parenting column!
I have a parenting book coming out!
I am the Dad vibe guy!
But right now, this superdad had lost his daughter.
Should I alert the store staff? We always tell the kids to look for someone with a name tag. Maybe she was at customer service. There might be more judgement from staff, but surely I can’t be the first parent to lose a child in their giant confusing store.
No. She can't be that far.
My steps had become clumsy as the fear was driving the ship now. With every second that ticked, the worst case scenarios kept getting more and more nefarious.
Fight or flight adrenalin was pumping through me and I was getting bloody frantic. I thought about the exits out of the store. There were 3. I do this exit search ever since my wife and I started watching “The Walking Dead”. If there is a massive zombie attack, I need to know where my exits are. This data was useful now during this massive panic attack!
Think Jeff Think.
I should initiate a nation wide AMBER alert? They could lock down the entire mall! How would that look?
No, the creepy child collector may already be outside, a lockdown would only slow down the pursuit.
I need help. I need to call in reinforcements.
I need to swallow my stupid pride and ego and find my daughter. I saw another family and asked if they had seen a little girl with a purple shirt. They had not, but thankfully became involved in the search.
I felt embarrassed but grateful for the extra eyes. Other strangers and staff joined the search party and we fanned out like lava through every aisle of that wretched store.
Time elapsed – 2 minutes now. 2 minutes without my daughter. Would I ever hug her again?
Suddenly, like a bolt of dumb lightning, I remembered the pillow aisle where we had played on a previous trip to this store. Surely she would not have gone all the way back there? I ran to the sleep section like I was escaping prison.
I saw the blanket racks. I hit the deck, and laid down on my belly and looked under all the racks.
Wait. I saw a shoe. Was it a shoe? Or am I hoping that is a shoe? Is my mind playing sick tricks? Was it a purple piece of paper?
Then I heard a giggle. I ran and pulled back the blankets to reveal my beautiful smiling daughter.
“Hiya daddy! You found me! Why are you so sweaty?”
In less than 3 minutes, I had experienced the entire range of human emotion; worry, confusion, terror, anger, embarrassment, sadness, grief, joy, relief, and then anger again!!
I hugged her tighter than every before. If I’m being truthful, I probably hugged her a little too tight as my anger, fear, and worry faded away.
I saved the long lecture and lesson for a calmer time later that night. I had my daughter back. My search party rejoiced in our sweet reunion. Through tears of joy and relief, I gave the nameless strangers (*that were briefly suspects), thumbs up and waves as I still clung to my little girl.
Today, I recognize the sheer panic and absolute fear in the faces of parents who have temporarily lost a child. I get involved immediately and offer to help. Perhaps its instant karma or paying it forward, but I am grateful for the help I received and for my good fortune and happy ending.
I also recognize the fear and worry in a child that has lost his/her parents. I step back from the child and tell them that I am going to find someone to help. Then I notify a store employee. I help indirectly because I am a stranger and I do not want to cause the child to panic and run.
Obviously we try to always keep an eye on our children. But if we do get separated at the mall or amusement park, we have 3 strict rules which we constantly remind the kids BEFORE we go (to try and set everyone up for success).
- If you get lost, STAY in a public place where you can be seen. Don’t hide or go anywhere with ANYONE. We have a meeting place, “If we get lost, come right here!”, a fountain, the Ferris wheel, customer service, etc.
- Call out to MOM or Dad. It’s ok to yell out ANYWHERE if you are lost and scared. Being silent makes you harder to find.
- If it’s a store and you get lost, look for someone with a uniform, or name tag, a cashier is perfect.
If they can’t find someone with a name tag, then search for a woman with children. I hate to admit this, but statistically she is least likely to harm them. She can help and maybe even call your cell phone if your kids know the number.
If you want to read more, this site, along with many other “Kid Safety” sites, have great tips for lost children; whether it’s at the mall, amusement park, or even out in nature.
I will never ever forget that awful day when I lost my daughter. I hope that you never have to endure the absolute panic I endured that day. Having a well rehearsed safety plan can really minimize the terror of losing a child.
Have you ever temporarily lost your child? Brave enough to share the details? Send me an email at [email protected]
Read more The Dad Vibe articles
- Talk to your kids for 7 Minutes? Aug 15
- A stranger touched my child... Jul 25
- Bottles, breasts and erections Jul 11
- What Dads really want on Father's Day... Jun 13
- Meet our baby boy Clarence... May 16
- Daddy on a Pedestal, for now May 2
- Your Mom is a lying witch! Apr 18
- R we teaching our children 2 B dumb? Apr 4
- You better than your Dad? Mar 14
- My kid needs to suffer... Jan 17
- To find out or not to find out? Jan 10
- You and your anus Dec 13
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