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Self-knowledge improves self care, family care


Everybody knows the expression, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” That may or may not be accurate. More accurately:“What you don’t know can’t help you.”  Self-knowledge improves self care, family care.

In my training as a psychologist, they beat two things into my head: first assessment, then intervention. The more clear my understanding of what goes on in the present (the more comprehensive the assessment), what to do about it becomes clearer (intervention). That requires a minimum of editing of information about how things are and honesty with regard to accepting this information. Compared to looking at myself, this is a piece of cake.

When the data do not apply to me, when I do not have to identify with all the problems, questions, uncertainties that make up this assessment, I have little difficulty accepting and not judging the individual and the experiences, decisions, and fruits of these decisions this individual brings with her/him. However, when I choose (or rather, attempt) to look at and to assess myself and my actions and the fruits of these actions, I quickly judge (blame/credit) and ignore and deny the stuff (please excuse clinical terminology) I do not want to identify with.

Sometimes I think of myself as a large file cabinet and the contents of the innumerable files it’s filled with. These files contain the myriad different ways I do (and don’t do) things; the different ways I feel and react; the conclusions I’ve made and the judgments I have based upon those conclusions. Many of them I have easy access to (no negative judgments of the content).   I remain fairly familiar with them and, as a result, have no trouble reviewing them and updating them as needed. That is, maintaining their capacity to help me have things the way I want (the alleged purpose of each file). There exist some files, however, that have an electrical charge connected to them so that if I ever attempt to open them in order to review them and/or update them, I experience great pain.

That pain has its source in the negative judgment I have of the contents of these files [the myriad different ways I do (and don’t do) things; the different ways I feel and react; the conclusions I’ve made and the judgments I have based upon those conclusions].   So, I ignore them or even deny that they exist. After a few times of attempting to open those files and being zapped, I no longer even attempt to open them. Unfortunately for me, they remain active files, in that they affect my life (though in sometimes subtle ways) in ways that do not serve me (that is, they don’t help me have things the way I wants).

No matter how much effort I put forth toward keeping those other files current, my refusal/inability to enter these charged files keeps me from staying current. And like I mentioned above, without a complete and honest assessment, I cannot determine an appropriate and helpful (hopefully) intervention. Therefore, unless I can accept me for who/how I am, there is little I can do about me.

There’s the way I am and the way I would like to be. Personally, the gap between those two “ways” is huge. Now, I’m proud to report this gap is smaller than it was when I was 20 years old, but it remains in the “huge” category. I cannot become who/how I wish to be until I accept who/how I am. Simple. Really demanding, but simple (few moving parts).

The best map-reader cannot find a route to a destination if this map-reader doesn’t know where she/he is on the map. Acceptance of who/how we are gives us access to that “file.” Access to that “file” helps us find ourselves on that “map” I just referred to. We don’t have to like everything about ourselves (a good thing, eh?!). That we don’t like a particular quality of our “selfness” provides us with a reason to do something about it (that particular quality we don’t like).

What does the above have to do with parenting?

Two powerful means of influencing another’s behavior:

  • Modeling the behavior you wish to see in the other;
  • Praising the behavior you wish to see in the other.

I know you wish for your children to have things the way they want.  And to love themselves and become who/how they wish to be. You must model the acceptance of self (the “file cabinet” and “files” I’ve referred to) and the efforts at becoming who/how you wish to be.  Self-knowledge improves self care, family care.

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