A Packet of Peas
My Packet of Peas I came up with for my clients who are having partnership difficulties to help them bring about change. However, I recommend using them in all of your interactions, when possible. The Packet of Peas are these: Preparation, Patience, Persistence, Politeness, Practice, Playfulness and Positivity. Let’s look at these one at a time.
We start with preparation. We had a saying in the army: prior preparation prevents piss poor performance.
If you were in the boy scouts, then you know the motto: Be Prepared. Preparation means studying the material, doing your best to master it, and rehearsing it as best you can. That way, when the opportunity is present, you can pursue your purpose because you’ve prepared in advance.
When you have to discuss something difficult with your partner, prepare your comments in advance. Write it out using the ‘I feel … when … because …’ model for expressing feelings.
As you do this, put your ‘because’ to the REBT test. Ask yourself, is the ‘because’ – the part where you examine what you are telling yourself about the event – a belief that will help you to deal with the situation? Is it based on known facts and reality? Is it logical – that is, does it make sense given the circumstances? If yes on all three, you are good to go. If not, if it fails just one of them, then it is an irrational belief, and so you need to work on changing your belief before going any further.
Once you have prepared what you want to say, then practice saying it.. This could be a mental rehearsal, or maybe you can try it out on someone else first. If you have children, leave them out of it. A trusted friend would be a good choice. A therapist is even better. Get some kind of objective feedback on the position you have taken. And of course, be prepared to be wrong. The thing about having a relationship is that it is something that two people create together, whether those people are parent and child or adults forming a partnership. For that to take place, there has to be give and take, and both parties need to be willing to change and make concessions.
And of course, the ideal person to practice with is your partner. If the two of you can work on issues and these techniques for solving them together, even better.
I know when people are contemplating discussing issues with their partner, they often think, ‘Things are going smooth right now, so I don’t want to rock the boat by bringing up difficult issues.’ I understand the temptation to put it off until ‘tomorrow,’ which never comes. The old, ‘It’s raining, so I can’t mend the roof in the rain, and when it’s not raining, I don’t need to mend the roof because the roof isn’t leaking then.’ I know that might be a non-sensical statement, of course, and that is the point. It doesn’t make any sense to put off discussing something when things are calm, but rather wait till it comes up again during a disagreement. If you wait till then to try to do it, you will be triggered into your triple F (the Freeze, Fight, Flight response of the autonomic nervous system) and you will not be able to discuss things calmly and rationally while including your emotions in a controlled way.
Patience is required anytime we want to change a system, and especially systems that have been in place for decades and are deeply imbedded in the mind. How much patience? Infinite patience. It requires accepting that you and the others close to you are doing the best they can. I know: you can see how they can do better. They of course can see how you can do better as well. But the only person whose behaviour you can control is your own.
Change is not going to come quickly, usually. I am tempted to add ‘if at all’ because not everyone is going to be ready, able, or willing to change. However, if you are reading this, then I believe we can take as a given that you want to change, otherwise you wouldn’t be here now.
I am, of course, reminded of the humorous prayer for patience, ‘God, grant me patience – AND I WANT IT RIGHT NOW!’ We can become impatient with ourselves for not being more patient! But be patient with your impatient self, too.
Upgrade to preferences instead of expectations.  When we have expectations, then we can expect to be disappointed. Even when those expectations are met, we are likely to be unsatisfied, and the one meeting the expectations will also feel dissatisfied because implicit in the performance to meet expectations is that you will be judged to be not good enough if you fail to meet them. Any acceptance will be conditional.
It is easy for us to take things personally and become frustrated. Your partner is doing the best they can with what they have to do with in their circumstances. Even the ones who are intentionally deceptive. It’s what they know. So, just because we would prefer to have something a different way, it is best not to expect it to be that way.
If you expect something to happen, then when it does, it merely returns you to base line, or can even induce a ‘what took you so long’ response. When it doesn’t happen, you are ‘dis-appointed’ because you had an imaginary ‘appointment’ that you had projected into the future that didn’t come to pass.
On the other hand, if you have a preference, then if it doesn’t come about, no harm done. If it does come about, whoopee do! You’ve received a gift, something you weren’t ‘expecting.’
Persistence means keeping at it. Change comes hard, and you can’t change anyone but yourself. The changes that you make in yourself may inspire others to change as well. But it is hard to break out of old patterns. I use the analogy of pathways through the forest. The longer you have been using them, and the more frequently, then the deeper and more defined they have become. It’s like being caught in a rut: it’s really hard to get out and stay out. And plus, even if you can get out, you still don’t know which new way to go.
It means keeping a steady invitation for change. It means keeping your goal in mind, your desired outcome. This doesn’t mean a conditional or controlling outcome: the outcome can be that you engage in a process.
In their book, We Can Work It Out, the authors recommend treating your partner as you would a guest. Be polite.
I know that being polite is hard to do when you perceive the other as being attacking, or arrogant, or rude, or whatever. It doesn’t mean having to agree or be obsequious. You can be politely mad as hell. That’s okay. Politeness means that when you say what you mean, you aren’t being mean. I use polite in the sense of ‘having or showing behaviour that is respectful and considerate of other people.’
Politeness is needed when setting boundaries. If you have not set proper boundaries, or if you have been inconsistent in enforcing them, then expecting others to observe them or even to remember that you have set them is setting yourself up for disappointment. It is your responsibility to politely set the boundaries and to persistently and politely enforce them.
When possible, be playful. But be careful. Your partner may misinterpret your playfulness as a putdown or as discounting their feelings or concerns. Playfulness means not taking yourself too seriously.
Playfulness and humour are effective parts of repair attempts, and repair attempts aim to heal any rupture in the relationship. Remember that the playfulness needs to be coming from a place of love.
And finally, stay positive. I don’t mean being a Pollyanna. It isn’t about pretending there are no problems and that everything is just hunky-dory. It does mean having a belief in your ability to deal with negative emotions successfully and getting your needs met. It also includes the other person, and doing the same for them.
This is where beliefs become vitally important. Early on in working with addictive disorders, I learned that many people did not believe that they would be able to recover. I knew that they could, if they would just do the things that are necessary to promote recovery. That still holds true today, whatever the problem. We can deal with it.
What I found was, even if people lacked the belief in their own ability to recover, if they could believe that I believed they could recover, then that was the next step toward recovery.
Together, we can do it.
 The Handbook to Higher Consciousness, Ken Keyes. This book, while no longer in print, is available as a free pdf download: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxhbHRlcm5hdGhhbjYyfGd4OjMzNzU2NThiYWMwYTg4Yzc. I recommend it highly to anyone seeking ‘higher consciousness.’ While at some times it takes a different approach to this book, what it says is, I think, entirely consistent with my approach. Indeed, it was instrumental in my own evolution. Having a second viewpoint allows us to ‘triangulate’ in a good way and find a position more accurately.
 We Can Work It Out: How to Solve Conflicts, Save Your Marriage, and Strengthen Your Love for Each Other. Clifford Notarius and Howard Markman.