Imagine you and your spouse are in a boat on the sea. If you have children, they are sitting between you. Staying on course, (paying bills, childcare, cooking, house cleaning, washing, etc) means that you have to coordinate rowing with your spouse because one person on their own will not succeed in making progress. If your spouse becomes provocative and causes your boat to be unsettled, or stands up and rocks the boat in anger, your job is to stay calm and keep the boat steady. While your instinct is to respond in kind, you know that the consequence of joining in and rocking the boat in reciprocal anger is that you could all end up in the water. Knowing this also keeps you from becoming reactive and challenging to your spouse, because you will be the one threatening the safety of everyone in the boat. Responding in a neutral, or sometimes positive manner aims to keep everyone secure. Remind yourself that managing difficulties in this way empowers you. Tell yourself that this level of patience is temporary and is time-limited.
Practicing composure and patience needs cultivation. This means that you are engaging in a process of trial and error. You will not always behave as you mean to and will most likely make mistakes. What is important is that you learn from your missteps. Talk to yourself kindly and aim to make changes to whatever patterns of behaviour need to change, so that you do not repeat any actions that took you off course. You know that everything changes and how you behave now will have far-reaching consequences. Holding onto the goal of keeping the boat steady with endurance and perseverance, guides you towards your goal, reaching land.
Delma Sweeney: PhD., DASS (Distinction), CQSW, Dip. Supervision. Delma retired as Director of Mediation & Conflict Intervention at the National University of Ireland Maynooth in 2015, having delivered mediation programmes in many specialist mediation fields to masters level for 16 years. With over 24 years’ experience as a mediator, she has worked with many conflict situations, such as family mediation and large-scale multiparty mediation. Delma is an accredited psychotherapist with the Irish Council of Psychotherapy and currently works as a psychotherapist.
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