One of our favorite truths over the years has been: When the student is ready the teacher appears. This past week it was reaffirmed yet again as I was reading the book The High cost of High Control: How to Deal with Powerful Personalities by Dr. Tim Kimmel.
Turns out Dr. Kimmel is the same author of Little House on the Freeway which Mr. Smith gave me to read a while ago.
I’d bought the book years ago but didn’t get around to reading it until last week when I was doing research for story characters – which was the original intent of purchasing the book. I haven’t finished it yet, but already I am blown away. The second part explains aggressive controllers, passive controllers, and passive-aggressive controllers which I haven’t read yet. I jumped to the third part about the five deep deep reasons we become high controllers: toxic fear, toxic anger, toxic shame, toxic bondage, and lastly toxic strength. The last one being the only one that doesn’t necessarily come from our woundedness but from our not recognizing our own strength and that the way we do things is not the ONLY right way, others are unique individuals with their own ideas and preferences that can be equally valid. The forth part offers advice and help through God’s grace. Thus far I’ve only read part three but definitely need to read the rest.
To my great surprise, even though my reading was for research, I found it extremely helpful in dealing with myself!!! Not to say that I recognized that I’m a controlling person to a high degree like the book is talking about, I think we all try to control everything around us to a certain extent and definitely more so or less so at different times in our lives. What I learned was that I could easily turn into a high controller if I’m not careful and aware or that I could be turning into one right now without realizing it. (Or am one and haven’t recognized it yet.)
So far the gold nugget that caught my attention was Dr. Kimmel talking about toxic fear coming from letting an unfortunate event (or series of events) rule our lives and that the epicenter of our fear can come from things like: an auto accident, a divorce, a financial betrayal, a house fire, or the death of a loved one. He says that all these events are the ‘bigger-than-life” events that make or break us.
When he gave examples of some of these events in the lives of people he knew personally or people he was helping, the one word he used that struck me was ‘process’ – how these people didn’t ‘process’ the event(s) properly. Either there was nobody to help them process it, they were too young and the adults in their lives didn’t realize they needed to process it, or if they were older they just shoved it down inside and it came bubbling back up years later as toxic fear, toxic anger, etc. and being overly controlling.
The word ‘process’ struck me because I realized that it was synonymous with the term ‘grief work’ which I confess I absolutely hated hearing, especially in the first year after Bernadette’s death. What work? It just hurt like hell, what work was there in that? I was lucky if I could just put one foot in front of the other and remember to breath. I suppose that was work in and of itself. But since then, now that the pain is not necessarily on the surface all the time, it has receded deeper down, maybe an inch or so below the surface with tentacles going much deeper , I can much better appreciate the term ‘grief work’ because that’s what it is now, working through the grief. Noticing the questions, emotions, and responses that come surging up when I hear a phrase, comment, or idea that I once took for granted that now irks me to no end. Noticing how before it was unmistakeable when I had an hour or two of rest from the grief because it was so new and heavy and how now I don’t even realize when I’m carrying it or not because it seems to have become part of me, so much so that there are times when I have to really stop and pray and question myself to realize that I’ve let the grief take over again because I just don’t see it as clearly as I use to. Recognizing how much fear I struggle with every day and acknowledging where it comes from and giving myself permission to let it go.
I can understand now how our responses to ‘bigger-than-life’ events, whether they be toxic fear, toxic anger, etc. can rule our lives if we let them. It’s not even that we want them to, it just happens. At first the pain was so unmanageable that we noticed it like a neon light flashing in our faces 24/7 and we saw clearly how it affected how we acted and what we were thinking. When it becomes more subtle, like a blinking light on the dashboard of our car that we can ignore if we need/want to because the car is still running, we don’t always notice that it’s still very much there, that it is affecting us and how not only do we still need to work through it but accept that it could take many years!
While I appreciate very much the phrase when the student is ready the teacher appears because it gives me permission to not be ready at all times and I don’t have to worry about missing opportunities to grow, the one that grabs me every day, also reaffirmed by Kimmel’s book, is when Jesus says we must forgive 70×7 times because the more I read and reflect the more I understand and appreciate just how complex we all are and what I see in others is only the tip of a vast mysterious iceberg of who they are and what they’re living through and I don’t have to always take it personally when they do or say things that hurt. Forgiving 70×7 covers all the complexities of who we are and why we do what we do, for like Jesus also said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. And that includes myself. I certainly don’t have myself figured out either, not even close. So I need to learn to forgive, forgive, forgive myself!!!
Wendy Mass says it in such a neat way: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” oy!