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Facing Ourselves

1960 image of 5 member family after church.

Crashing into Myself

I crashed into myself recently while talking with my wife, Sandy. I thought I had all the answers. I was telling her exactly what I thought she needed to do to take care of herself. I can be so self-righteous that I sometimes act like I’m superior, I have it all together, and let me tell you a thing or two!

OMG! Who am I? What just happened?
Sandy helped me understand some things about myself that I didn’t know. This is the reality of Cultural Patterns. Our Cultural Patterns are those beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors passed down to us. They come from people who have modeled to us how we should behave. They come from our ancestors, family, community, and experiences growing up—most often unconsciously. Cultural Patterns can be incredibly harmful, limiting our connection with others, and producing the worst in human behavior like prejudice and discrimination.  They frame our view of the world and what we see as appropriate. 

Though I didn’t like to see myself as someone who had a “superior attitude,” I had to face a different reality.  As a white privileged male, I thought I not only knew the right answer, but I had every right to name and claim my reality as “the” truth for her. Fortunately, Sandy is intelligent, strong, and wise. There have been a number of times in our marriage where she helped me set myself straight and this was one of them.

In the photo above, taken after Sunday church with my family, I am in fourth grade. I’m on the right, next to my dad. He was always right. No questioning it, EVER! What he said was how things were. He told my mom when she needed to take a nap. I had just told Sandy what she needed to do to take care of herself emotionally. I had no curiosity about what was going on for her. No questioning my validity or right to say so! I was acting just like my dad, even though I’d spent my entire life trying to not be like him.

Cultural Patterns create Mind Gaps in all of us—blocked areas of awareness that we can’t see in ourselves. Sandy helped uncover an important mind gap for me. What a difficult and precious thing it is to face ourselves squarely. 

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”  

~ Carl Jung

Today I learned that clearly seeing myself—my Mind Gap—and owning responsibility for my behavior was key to maintaining Sandy’s trust. Dropping my attitude of superiority is both humbling and liberating.

Cultural Patterns also give us the good stuff of life: our values, like kindness, caring, and love; our belonging and ways of celebrating; and, our connections to things that matter most.

Which of your Cultural Patterns help you? Which inherited behaviors might be getting in your way?

With Resilience, 
Chuck and the Dovetail Learning team