Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Hamburger Moment: A Reading

An article that's making the rounds on Facebook caught my eye the other day:

The Hamburger Moment: I wasn't treating my husband fairly and it wasn't nice

I recognized a lot of my own patterns of behaviour in that article, and not for the first time. I know from experience that I am not the only woman who tends to come down very hard on her partner for small things. I've listened to women complain to each other vigorously about such sins as leaving wet towels in the floor, not opening the hamper but leaving clothes on top, and putting toilet paper the wrong way round. I have certainly seen a lot of this sort of behaviour on TV shows like 'Everybody Loves Raymond' and 'Home Improvement,' etc (forgive my ancient TV references, I don't watch a lot of sitcoms anymore). I guess we've been doing this crap for a long time; it's even mentioned in the Bible: 'A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand' (Proverbs 27:15-16). Ha ha!

I don't have a clue about the bigger picture of why there seems to be a pattern of women nitpicking. Maybe it has something to do with some underlying pressure to be perfect ourselves, imposed on us by cultural and societal expectations, maybe it's learned behaviour from watching our mothers, don't know, but what I do know is I can try to recognize and address this sort of thing in myself. Better late than never. So here is what I asked:

1. Why do I slip into the habit of constant fault-finding in my husband? 
2. What is the best course of action to address this? 
3. What is the biggest challenge in this course of action?
4. What is the biggest support?
5. What is the outcome? 

I then pulled 5 cards and examined them:  7 of Cups - 2 of Pents - 10 of Swords - 10 of Wands - 6 of Cups. I was getting an impression of the reading, but decided to pull clarifiers for each card in the spread (not something I usually do) and laid them in a second row beneath: Sun - Ace of Wands - High Priestess - King of Swords - Queen of Wands. Each card I laid down felt like 'Boom! There it is!' They just solidified the original draw so well. Let's take them in pairs. 

 I do this because of deceptive, destructive fantasies of perfection. It's not just him I hold to these unconscious rules, it's the entire world! I've been reading a lot about irrational beliefs that underlie our unhelpful responses to life, and I've identified several from a list produced by Albert Ellis (12 Self-Defeating Beliefs). The ones at work here seem to be:

*People should always do the right thing and when they don't, they must be punished.
*Things must be the way I want them or life will be intolerable.
*My unhappiness is caused by things outside my control, so there is little I can do to feel better.
*Every problem must have an ideal solution, and it is intolerable when one cannot be found.
*To be a worthy person, one must succeed at what they do and make no mistakes.

I have no idea how these irrational rules and beliefs become embedded in us, but I have found that when I feel upset about something, if I have a look at these lists, I can usually quickly identify the irrational belief or demand that is causing the discomfort. It is rather uncanny. So what's the best course of action?

To create 'a partnership working with proper energy flow and support', I must remember that 'mood swings may threaten stability' and that 'anger and not fully understanding the consequences of actions' will break down the balance. (The quotations come directly from the LWB of the Sacred Rose Tarot deck. It's useful to keep and to check the LWB! Sometimes what you find there is spot on!)

The key here is to learn to catch myself between the irrational belief and the consequences (that's the exact term used by Ellis -- fits, doesn't it!) of that belief. It's almost impossible to do that, so the only way you can change a habitual response is by doing what Ellis called ABC analysis (see previous blogs here and here). Over time, with reflection and by disputing irrational beliefs after the fact, the behaviour begins to change. That's the theory, and it's certainly helped with my tinnitus, so why not try it here.

The biggest challenge is of course rooting out and recognizing the self-defeating actions. That's reflected in the pairing of 10 of Wands and High Priestess. The LWB says there are 'excessive pressures and problems to be resolved' and that good judgement is based on 'logic and knowledge removed from the confusion of emotion.' That is precisely the process of REBT. It's not easy, it's hard work. So it's the biggest challenge.

The biggest support comes from the cerebral nature of the whole thing. This is the death of irrational beliefs and the meticulous re-training of the thinking needed to challenge and change them. If the King of Swords were to identify something as entirely self-defeating, he would be merciless in rooting it out. This is a good thing. When my King of Swords nature recognizes how illogical and pointless certain beliefs are, he simply won't allow me to believe them anymore. And when I don't hold a certain belief anymore (like 'people must be perfect and they if they make a mistake they deserve to be punished') then I won't react to events based on that belief anymore (like if my husband or I drop the cafetiere and break it, it is cause for a flash of anger and sharp words). -- If my underlying belief can be changed to 'People make mistakes and though it's inconvenient it is not intolerable and we remain worthy human beings regardless of our mistakes', then dropping the cafetiere would result in 'Oh crap, oh well.'

The outcome of attacking this behaviour using these techniques? I will become responsible (or accept responsibility for) my own emotions. This will allow me to access the better qualities of my Queen of Wands nature: warmth and affection coupled with authority and determination.

I then asked, 'What is the overall message to me about this issue?' and drew three cards:

It's up to me to recall the source of love and emotion and to exercise my free will in deciding how I will react, what path I will choose in response to the cycles of the day-to-day. There is always a choice in response to the Wheel of Fortune. May its genesis be love, and not flawed beliefs and unconscious rules. 

All images in this post are from Sacred Rose Tarot (US Games 1982). 


  1. Beautiful post, Carla. I've done a lot of letting go of perfectionism over the last fifteen years, and think I'm far mellower for it. Good luck with rooting out all those unhelpful beliefs :)


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