Blind spots – a portal to paradigm shifts

June 25th, 2012

Sitting in one of those hard plastic, butt numbing chairs at the local police station (a room I had passed by on numerous occasions over the years on my way to City Council meetings, as part of my duties as a School Board member), I was suddenly taken by the irony of it all. Waiting for the police to bring my 15 year-old son in after he ran away from home it hit me like a Mac truck. How in the world could I have been so judgmental for so many years, thinking that other parents just didn’t have it together enough to know how to be good parents? Thinking that we were so much better, so much more together in our parenting approach, which (somehow) would translate into a free pass, a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, when it came to truly difficult parenting problems.

Boy I didn’t see that one coming! Not only did I not see it, I thought after twenty years into the whole parenting gig, we were out of the woods. Though when I looked back to my early parenting complaining years, there were certainly many assurances by our older friends, who had older kids (aka teenagers) that dealing with dirty diapers was a piece of cake compared to parenting teens. Once I realized how blind I had been I felt incredibly humbled by my hubris. And, I felt in awe of all of those tortured parents I had judged so harshly for so many years.

Going from Blind Spot to Paradigm Shift is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes we need to get hit over the head with an oversized 2×4. For some of us (myself included) a 2×4, even applied multiple times isn’t sufficient. Sometimes we need a Mac truck.

So how can we improve our odds of moving from a blind spot to a paradigm shift, before we hurt ourselves or others?

• Expand our view, and perspective, so we might better see our judgments and biases (i.e. talking/listening to my friends who also had teenagers while keeping an open mind that their experience might be more similar to my own than I might expect.)

• Seek and be open to receiving regular feedback, from as many different people as possible.

• Recognize that there may be some old family systems that we habitually keep repeating, blindly, even though they don’t serve us anymore. This can be a wealth of information for many of us as we look to be the kind of parent that takes the best of our parents parenting while leaving the ‘not so best’ behind. Please check out our resource section on Bowen Family Systems for some great additional reading.

Back to the uncomfortable Police Station chair. While it wasn’t painless, or seamless, or easy in any stretch of the imagination, we (and by “we” I mean the whole family, my wife and I and all three of our kids) made changes to our family systems, including a change in schools for our 15 year-old. We practiced limits with love, getting better at understanding the tipping point between compassion and co-dependence. We learned, and continue to learn, that life is lifey. It’s imperfect. It’s messy. But boy, it’s never dull or boring!

My shift occurred the way most significant change occurs… very gradually and then suddenly all at once. I suppose that there were years and years of learning that certain things just weren’t working. But I kept my guard up, often blamed others and remained confident in my unknowingness. And then, slam, bam, thank you ma’am. It was all so obvious. I had been judging others harshly, to a standard that is impossible to attain. Perfection.

We all do the best we can. And sometimes it’s just not enough. But it’s the best we can do. No judgments. No blame.

My son is 32 now and a successful sustainable food systems consultant. We love each other very much, and tell each other that on a regular basis, and, at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.