Never go to bed angry.
In Handel Group®, we refer to this kind of a statement as a Personal Law (and this example was certainly one of mine).
WHAT’S A PERSONAL LAW?
Personal Laws are rules that we live by which dictate how we feel we must behave and act in certain situations. We usually pick them up from our family and/or our culture and then take them on as The Truth.
Now, I am pretty sure that my parents went to bed angry, woke up angry, went to work angry and so on, so I am sure I did not get that from them. Nevertheless, I ended up believing that one of the measures of a happy, successful relationship was being able to have every conflict, disagreement or misunderstanding that came up during the day completely and beautifully resolved before my head hit the pillow.
The problem for me is that this law did not work. Even when my wife and I would work out our issues, I would often find myself going to bed angry. Part of the problem was the set up.
THE SET UP
Often times we would be going through our busy days and get our feelings hurt or worse, I would notice that the dishes weren’t loaded in the dishwasher properly, and because we were following another personal Law: Thou Shalt Not Fight In Front of the Kids, we would wait until we were in bed to discuss what was bothering us. The trouble now was that I would be tired (and irritated that we had to discuss an issue right before bed). So that would create more conflict in my mind – solve the problem and lose sleep (because the anger or fears around the issue would pump me full of adrenaline and keep my awake for another hour or so after we got it resolved) or go to sleep and try to rest peacefully as my inner dialogue tormented me about breaking my going to bed angry rule as my marriage fell apart. Either way I was screwed (and not in the good way like you ought to be when you are in bed at night with your spouse).
In any area of your life where you are not happy or if something is not working, there is a pretty good chance that you have a Personal Law that is in conflict with your goals. Often when we are dealing with these types of laws we forget that they are actually a choice. We have believed them for so long, or heard them repeated so often that we lose track of the fact that we don’t have to obey them and even better, we can repeal them and rewrite them. For my example of not going to bed angry, sure it is a good practice and makes a degree of sense but it was not working.
Get a feel for how The Handel Method® could benefit you.
ASK, WHAT’S YOUR DREAM?
The first step for me was to get clear on what my goal or dream was for my marriage. Well, since conflict is pretty much unavoidable, despite what my inner chicken would prefer, never disagreeing was not a realistic goal. So I went with having honest, effective and loving communication.
DOES YOUR PERSONAL LAW MATCH YOUR GOAL?
Step two was seeing that my Personal Law did not work with that goal. It may have been honest, but it was not always loving and rarely effective from my point of view. For me there were fears and wacky beliefs behind this law that also needed to be looked at.
Why did I have to have conflicts resolved before I fell asleep? Would the relationship boogeyman come and take my wife from me if we did not solve our problem? Well, I don’t really believe in the boogeyman or boogeymen and thankfully, I have flashlight right by my bed just in case I am wrong about that one.
The real issue for me was that I was afraid that if I did not deal with something immediately, it would fester and damage our relationship beyond repair. In other words, I was insecure. I could deal with my insecurity by simply telling myself the obvious – I love my wife and she loves me. Everyone has disagreements and I can go to sleep now because I know we will resolve it. This led me to writing the new Law that I wanted in my life: We will discuss our problems as soon as we have the time and the emotional facilities to do so.
This works much better for me and actually supports the kind of thoughts and beliefs that I really want in my relationship. That my wife and I trust one another to manage our conflicts in a way that works for both of us and the very fact that we want to resolve them proves that we truly love and are connected to each other. Re-writing this law even led to the revision of the Thou Shalt Not Fight In Front of the Kids law, since I now can see how modeling successful conflict resolution is actually a gift to them instead of a scary, trauma that needs to be hidden from them. Again, there are rules about how we do this and the better we follow them, the better off we all are.
Personal Laws are everywhere in our lives, whether we realize them or not. Some work and some simply do not. Once you allow yourself to see that following these laws is a choice, you can identify the ones that are getting in the way of your happiness and create new ones that are going to help you reach your goals. When you do this, it is helpful to write them down where you can keep track of them and to share them with others so that they can help support you. If you have trouble seeing the laws that you have in place for yourself or just want extra help re-writing and obeying your new laws, schedule a 30 min consultation.
P.S.- I will be leading a 12-week Design Your Life Tele-Course. Join us and learn to define your dreams and evolve the most important areas of your life!