I’m My Own Grandpa!



OK, maybe not but I’m a lot like him in many respects.  Yeah and the same goes for my Grandma and my Mom and Dad, too!  I’m a lot like all of ‘em.  Naturally, genetics does play a substantial role in all of this but I’m talking about all of the other stuff that goes deeper than that.  Like my outlook on life, whether I have a tendency to get mad easily, if I talk louder than most people, how I treat my family members, whether I’d rather veg out on the sofa or read or build something or work out in the yard or…  Well, you get the idea.


It’s funny how life works.  Sometimes we get really good, beneficial programming from our parents and grandparents and we point to them with pride and praise them for substantially contributing to our success.  But then it sometimes works the other way, doesn’t it?  You know what I mean?  Have you ever heard the words, “Wow, you sound just like your Mother!  Or, “I swear, that’s exactly what your Father would have done!”


Ding!  A major stab right in the center of our touchy button!  How could anyone even dare to say something like that? How cruel can these people be?  After all, these are the very things we absolutely, completely disliked about our parents.  These are the very things that we swore we’d never, never, never do or say.  No, no, no!  These people have it all wrong!  I’m ME!  Completely ME!  I’m not my Mother or my Father!  No, no, no…..


Ahem… maybe we should take a couple minutes for a reality check.  Sorry to have to tell you this, but there’s a real good chance that you are doing or saying those same exact things that you disliked so much in your parents.  I know, this seems like another one of life’s cruel little tricks and I guess in a way, it is.  Unfortunately, when we grow up exposed to repetitive behaviors – good or bad – our little brains get programmed to believe that this is the way life is.  This is how our families talk or act.  Our developing brains prompt us to mimic these behaviors and reinforce their validity.  Then by the time we’re old enough to recognize that we don’t want these behaviors to be a part of our adult life, they are already pretty well stuck in our memory bank.


So now what?  The normal tendency then, is to focus on this yucky stuff to try get rid of it.  “I’m not going to yell at my kids!”  “I’m not going to berate my spouse!”  “I’m not going to be a whiner!”  “I’m not going to be a compulsive shopper!”  “I’m not, I’m not, I’m not!”


And what happens?  Yep, here we are yelling, berating, whining and shopping our credit cards to the max!  .  Don’t you hate it when that happens?


Here’s the good news – and the good news.  The first good news is that we’ve done it to ourselves.  We’ve focused so hard on the “won’t do’s” that our poor little brain just keeps reinforcing those very behaviors we want to get rid of.  It’s one of those “don’t think of an elephant” things.  The instant you hear that phrase, what are you going to do?  Yep, think of an elephant.  It’s inevitable.


Here’s the other good news.  The “focus” problem is fixable.  Using the elephant as an example, the simple way not to think of an elephant is to…. think of a kangaroo – or a tiger – or an alligator – or any other type of animal you can quickly think of.  Easy, huh?  Since our brain can only focus on one thing at a time, the elephant’s history.


By applying that same technique to the traits or tendencies that were so aggravating – or downright detrimental – in our older family members, we can send them to the history file right along with the elephant.  Instead for example, of focusing on “not yelling”, we can concentrate on talking quietly – or at least at a reasonable volume.  Instead of thinking about not putting our spouse down, we can work to show kindness, consideration, thoughtfulness and of course, love.


By switching our focus to things we DO want to do, the way we would prefer to act and the person we want to become, we’ll be taking a giant step toward reinforcing those goals and our chances for success will increase considerably.  Worth a try, don’tcha think?


Note: For those of you who can’t remember life before microwaves or color TV’s, the title of this article is really the title of a song from the 40’s.  Of course, I’m much too young to actually remember hearing it coming from the little whitish Sylvania radio we had sitting on the living room table.  I’m sure my Mom must have told me about it… 



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