We Thank You For Your Response!

We appreciate all of the emails, comments, and calls. One result is that all of the available weeks before we go on our end of the year reorganization have been filled except October 29 – November 2. So if you are still considering, that’s where things stand.

What’s Your Normal?

We hear a lot of questions about what’s “normal.” Whether it’s “normal drinking,” “normal sex,” normal habits, behaviors, family relationships, marital divisions of responsibilities, all the way down to what’s the “normal way to load the dishwasher,” or “fold the laundry.”

Yes, we have all been seduced into believing that there is a “normal” way to be, to do, to want, and/or anything else.

Guess what? There isn’t any such thing as “normal.”

The important question is “what is your normal?” And the answer is, it’s what you absorbed by osmosis when you were growing up. The feeder streams are family, peers, the culture of the times, and the events which occurred to and around you. And there is also a bit of your personal “hard-wiring” tossed in just to make things even more difficult.

Let’s start with the hard-wired parts: are you more fear based or anger based? As the old saying goes, when crisis strikes is it fight or flight? If you were born lucky it’s fear/flight. Anger based people tend to develop aggression as their only coping skill and stay mired in infantile stages of immaturity. If you’re lucky enough – though it won’t feel like it as a child – you are more fear-based, a condition that promotes maturation and the development of complex coping skills and worldviews.

This complexity also makes you a bit less apt to become trapped in the black and white world and rigidity of cults like AA.

Given the work we do, we do a lot of deprogramming from the culture’s pervasive fixation with AA, Steps, lifelong “in recovery,” powerlessness, life-long progressive disease, and other traits associated with immaturity, but which we have inadvertently come to believe as we absorbed them from the culture.

A big part of recovering has to do with rooting out the myths. After that has begun to take hold we can begin to move of to “preferences” as opposed to “musts” and “shoulds.”

And Your Preference Would Be?

Nothing provokes more marital, or other relationship, discord than confusing “preferences” with “rules.”

It’s funny, but not a joke, to consider the following: the wife complains that her husband doesn’t help out around the house enough at dinner time. He agrees he should do more so since she usually cooks he will take over after dinner kitchen clean-up. He starts do so, but she follows him around complaining that he’s doing it “wrong” – especially in how he loads the dishwasher. He soon tires of the harping and goes back to leaving it to her, and she to complaining.

This is a case of confusing a preference with a rule.

We all have dozens of preferences which become rules to us and which we can then attempt to inflict on others. Others have their own set of preferences, their rules, with which they react. A thousand conflicts then ensue until everyone needs a drink.”

Reducing conflict means understanding that your preferences are just that, your preferences, not rules or “normal.”

A simple way to begin to adjust to differing preferences is this “rule”: “The person who has the responsibility has the authority to decide how something is done.”

Some preferences are, of course, not as simple as how to load the dishwasher or fold the laundry. Sex is a good example. Some people’s preference is twice a year and some twice a day. Neither is “abnormal,” but it’s also not an area where a happy compromise is possible. Nor, I hasten to add, is this a gender difference. We hear the “too much, too often,” “too little, too late,” argument with women and men about equally divided on both side of the argument.

But if you reduce tensions, and drinking, by adhering to the “preference” concept, you can reduce hostilities to the point where even serious discord can be handled in a way that makes for rational outcomes even if that turns out to be “irreconcilable differences” and a civil parting of the ways without too much blame attached or needed or deserved.

Again, solving rather than medicating is the preferred outcome. Let’s start figuring out how to stay on that track. Please.