What Shape Are You In? The Exercise, Date Smart! Chapter 2.2Friday, May 15, 2009 12:00
Post written by Rick Doyle and Dave Coleman (See Relationships page for author information)
What Shape Are You In? The Exercise
Date Smart! Chapter 2.2
Just a note that this post Date Smart! Chapter 2.2 has our first exercise from the book Date Smart! Chapter 2.1. If you are reading The Exercise and feel like you are picking up a book in the middle, you are. To ensure that the exercise make sense, please go read Chapter 2.1 then come back to this post and do the exercise.
The Legacy of Parental Picking
We’d like you to examine the motives behind who you choose to date and why. Rockelle Lerner, a noted author and therapist with over 20 years of experience, has devised a simple test called “The Selection Process,” to evaluate how you subconsciously select your relationship partners. We’ve adapted it for this book. This test is a powerful and insightful tool as well as being easy to use and understand.
Upon completion of the exercise, we’ll provide you with a thorough understanding of what influences the motives behind your picks. The interpretation of your specific results will be unique to you. Please complete the exercise before reading our analysis so the results are accurate. This is just one simple test to look into how you may have picked your relationships in the past. There are four sections to this exercise, which are labeled A, B, C and D. Please read each one carefully and follow the instructions provided.
Your Parent’s Negative Characteristics
Instructions: Write down one negative characteristic about your mother and your father on each line. Every line must be completed. Even if one or both of your parents were “a saint” in your eyes, they still had something less than positive in their character or behavior. It may be easy for you to identify the negatives (e.g., mom was controlling, dad was alcoholic, dad was emotionally unavailable, mom was lazy, etc.), or it may be quite difficult as you view your childhood experiences from an adult perspective.
List your mother’s negatives List your father’s negatives
Your Parent’s Positive Characteristics
Instructions: Write down one positive characteristic about your mother and your father on each line. Every line must be completed. Even if one or both of your parents were less than positive influences on you, they still had positive aspects of their character or behavior. It may be hard for you to identify these positives (e.g., mom was a good listener, dad was a good provider, mom had a great sense of values, dad was home often, one of them had a great sense of humor, etc.), or they may surface quite easily.
List your mother’s positives List your father’s positives
Positive Childhood Memories or Desired Positive Feelings
Instructions: When you think of positive memories under the age of 15, how did they make you feel? Please list the positive feelings you experienced from those memories. If you can’t recall any positive childhood memories, list feelings that you would like to experience today (e.g., happiness, love, feeling special, feeling important, cared for, etc.). Make sure that you put one description on each line provided.
C. List positive childhood memories or feelings you desire
Painful Childhood Memories: Survival Skills, Defenses or Strategies
Instructions: When thinking of painful childhood memories, list survival skills, defenses or strategies (e.g., running away, anger, temper tantrums, hiding in books or music, lying, fantasizing, drugs, alcohol, food, humor, crying, sex, etc.) that you used to cope with your painful experiences. It’s very important to put an answer on each line provided.
D. List Survival Skills, Defenses or Strategies Used to Cope with Painful Childhood Memories
How to Interpret Your Answers
The following section-by-section analysis is based upon the answers you provided. It will help you understand the motives behind the relationship choices you make.
Interpreting Section A: Take the sentence “I am looking for someone who is ____________” and fill in the blank with the negative characteristics about your mom and dad that you listed in Section A. How often have you ended up dating (or even married to) someone who embodied your father and/or mother’s negative characteristics? “You’re so like my mother.” “You’re just like my father.”
Examples for Section A:
1. I am looking for someone who is: (Mom’s negative) Controlling
2. I am looking for someone who is: (Mom’s negative) Lazy.
3. I am looking for someone who is: (Dad’s negative) Unfaithful
4. I am looking for someone who is: (Dad’s negative) Emotionally Unavailable
When adding a negative characteristic to the phrase, “I am looking for someone who is” you’ll discover that many of your answers will coincide with negative characteristics that are present in individuals with whom you’ve experienced failed relationships. This doesn’t mean that you consciously went out and sought these characteristics in others. You probably just found a subconscious familiarity that mirrored your parent’s negatives. In Section B, we’ll explain why this occurs.
Interpreting Section B: Take the sentence “So that I can get them to be _________” and fill in the blank with the positive characteristics about mom and dad you listed in Section B. How often have you wished that your unhealthy pick would exhibit the positive characteristics of mom and dad? “Your remind me so much of my father. There are moments when you make me feel special like he used to. You listen to a lot of what I have to say.” “When times were tough, my mom used to treat me just like you sometimes do. She made me feel wonderful, in spite of it all. I could tell there were times when she really loved and needed me.”
Examples for Section B:
1. So that I can get them to be: (Mom’s positives) Humorous
2. So that I can get them to be: (Mom’s positives) Emotionally available
3. So that I can get them to be: (Dad’s positives) Financially stable
4. So that I can get them to be: (Dad’s positives) Attractive
When adding a positive characteristic to the phrase, “So I can get them to be ________” you’ll discover that many of your answers coincide with positive characteristics you desired, but were infrequently present in the individuals with whom you have experienced failed relationships. This doesn’t mean that you consciously went out and sought people lacking these qualities. But you tried finding them where they were absent. You stayed in relationships too long hoping these positives would appear, while the individual was unable, incapable, or unwilling to make a change. Fantasizing that the qualities you desired would materialize and become permanent kept you in an unhealthy relationship longer than you should have stayed. Living off of false hope and potential outcomes allowed you to chase the carrot of hope dangled in your face.
Interpreting Section C: Take the sentence “So that I can feel ______________ ” and fill in the blank with the positive feelings derived from memories or desired feelings for today that you wrote in Section C (such as loved, supported, happy, healthy, etc.). These are the feelings you’re trying to recapture from childhood or attain in adulthood from a lost cause, dead-end, revolving-door relationship.
Examples for Section C:
1. So that I can feel: (positive memories or desired feelings) Loved
2. So that I can feel: (positive memories or desired feelings) Needed
3. So that I can feel: (positive memories or desired feelings) Special
4. So that I can feel: (positive memories or desired feelings) Secure
When adding a positive memory or desired feeling to the phrase, “So that I can feel” you’ll discover that many of these memories or feelings were absent in your failed relationships. You over-invested in the relationship hoping to experience these positive feelings, when in fact you chose someone who couldn’t provide them for you. No matter how much water you poured into the glass, you always came up thirsty and half-empty.
Once again, this doesn’t mean that you consciously went out and sought people lacking these characteristics. But you tried finding them where they were absent. You stayed in relationships far too long trying to instill these positives when the individual was unable or unwilling to make the change.
When you combine the answers from Sections A, B and C, you’ll find that you’re “looking for someone who is _____,” “so that you can get them to be ______,” “so that you can feel ______.” When experiencing revolving-door relationships, it becomes apparent that many of these characteristics clearly reflect your unhealthy picking past. When you practice the selection process used in A, B and C, it indicates an attempt to resolve incomplete issues from your childhood or from learned behavior that you mastered during revolving-door type relationships. Your parents clearly modeled your future for you and history is repeating itself in your choice of dates or unhealthy mates. In short, whatever you’re familiar with, you’ll continue seeking out. In a desperate attempt to close, complete, resolve, and conquer what did not work out in your previous relationships, you’ll continue to pick or maintain unhealthy ones.
Look at Section D, you’ll see that the primary motives behind these picks are based upon your self-sabotage of healthy relationships. Because healthy relationships are uncomfortable for you because they’re familiar, you have a tendency to become bored, nervous, and frustrated. Thus, sabotage becomes inevitable, as you look back and wonder “How did I let such a prime catch elude me?”
Interpreting Section D: Take the sentence “I keep myself from getting this by _______” and fill in the blank with the survival skills or strategies you used to cope with the painful childhood memories you listed in Section D. This section is describing a person who is intentionally avoiding A, B and C in a desperate attempt to attain and maintain a normal relationship with a healthy person. However, by performing the behaviors in D with a healthy person, you are sabotaging your relationships by subjecting healthy people to the unhealthy, unnecessary survival skills and behavior that you employed in your painful past.
Examples for Section D:
1. “I sabotage the relationship by running away or being unavailable.”
2. “I sabotage the relationship by not calling back and being excessively late for dates.”
3. “I sabotage the relationship by making inappropriate comments, lying, and maintaining contact with ex-lovers.”
4. “I avoid communication by hiding in the television, the Internet, books, music, etc.”
5. “Out of fear, I have fits and tantrums to control situations.”
In Sections A, B and C, unhealthy motives and characteristics influence your poor selections. In Section D, it’s probable that you’ve picked a healthier person, but you sabotage the relationship by acting out your own survival strategies. One way to improve your overall selection process is to be highly aware of the characteristics that you’re subconsciously seeking in others (from A, B and C). Learning to recognize when they’re unhealthy will enable you to practice the opposite behavior of what you relied upon in Section D.
This exercise demonstrates that to some degree you may have an abnormal response or reaction to a healthy relationship that a person with a healthier picker may not tolerate. By using the only programming you’re familiar with – the defective one – you sabotage your own happiness.
Your discomfort in a healthy relationship may be due to a lack of experience or practice. Therefore, when you date a healthy person, you have a tendency to treat them as if you were still in an unhealthy relationship. When reviewing the behavior you listed in D, you may notice that “the fish that got away,” or the “nice guy or gal that slipped through your fingers” was probably run off by one of these characteristics, or you mistakenly assumed that your serenity was boredom. A healthy relationship can feel boring to you when you’re used to chaos. So you create your own crisis which not only sabotages the relationship but also reinforces failure. Your ultimate solution for alleviating poor picking may be as simple as total avoidance – you avoid picking whatsoever. You can’t be wrong if you choose not to select someone at all. If this exercise really opened you up, stick with it as we will give you solutions to turn it around. This is just one simple test to evaluate how you picked relationship partners in the past, use this knew knowledge to improve your picking in the days ahead. The awareness that comes with looking inside and discovering these truths IS the beginning of no longer practicing the bad or unhealthy choices of your past.
*Special thanks for co-writing this article goes to Dave Coleman AKA The Dating Doctor. Dave and I wrote Date Smart! back in Jan. 2000. The publication rights have now reverted over to us equally and, with Dave’s permission, I have edited the book and modernized some of the ideas we originally wrote. The book, Date Smart! is still available through some stores and you can contact Random House to request the book be reprinted. With enough demand they might just contact Dave and I to republish and possibly write another one. We are basically giving you the book to read in posts and encourage you to visit both Dave’s website www.datingdoctor.com and of course all parts of our website www.topicisland.com. Neither the posts nor the book are in any way to be republished or sold or used without our express specific written permission and all posts are copyrighted and protected (ISBN-10: 0761521739,ISBN-13: 978-0761521730). Dave and I have written a number of articles together as well and so this serves as the byline. A huge thank you to Dave for sharing both our efforts and time to write what we hope are insightful, intriguing and informative articles that we share the creative collaboration and credit for working on over a number of years.
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