The Third Option
Taking care of herself
The other day I was at an event with my friend Tanya.
It was 3 hour silent dance experience.
It’s a pretty intense way to spend an afternoon.
She was telling me later that at first
she really felt like leaving.
She just didn’t want to be there,
it felt too much for her.
Leaving doesn’t work
Then she imagined what it would be like if she left.
She pictured that she would be going home
and collapsing on her couch.
There she would lay curled up
feeling kind of sorry for herself.
Staying doesn’t work
That didn’t seem so appealing to her
so instead she thought that she should
push through her insecurities and resistance.
Force herself to stay and join in with the group.
This felt inauthentic and equally unpleasant
as collapsing on her couch.
She felt trapped between these two choices,
neither one seeming very nourishing or enjoyable
and this was supposed to be a
nourishing and enjoyable dance event!
The third option inspiration
Suddenly it occurred to her that there was a third option.
She could stay in the event and also
honour what she was feeling.
So she stayed in the room with the rest of us,
but also spent a lot of time by herself observing.
By giving this permission to herself
she was able to relax and enjoy herself.
In fact by the end of the three hours
she had had a really good time.
I learn from my friends
This was such a good reminder for me.
Personally I love the concept of the third option.
Tanya demonstrated great skill in
thinking and feeling in a nonlinear way.
The trap of the false dichotomy
I also often find myself trapped between
two unpleasant choices.
This is known as a false dichotomy.
When I feel the tension or stress of
being locked in this way
I try and remember that there is
always a third option.
The third option is creative and non-linear
It can require some creative and
out of the box thinking in order to see it,
but I do believe it is always there.
When I put the effort into finding it
I am always greatly relieved.
It is like finding an alternative way out of the maze.
The third option in parenting
False dichotomies often appear in parenting.
This is one of the most useful places for us
to be aware of the third option.
A great example of where often
we can see only two options is
around the idea of authority.
My way or the highway
There is the traditional idea that
parents have to be an authority figure with their kids
or the kids will end up ruling the home
and the parent will lose all their power.
The problem with this is the whole idea of power rests on a hierarchical mindset and relationship. When parents
assume a position of authority, kids feel it and the relationship will suffer.
They end up losing a sense of their own power and autonomy.
They do not develop the most powerful connection
to their own independence and decision making abilities.
They also end up learning that their own ideas, feelings and intuitions are less valid and important than those of the authority figures in their lives.
I’m sure you can imagine the long term effects of this kind of self-concept.
This is also damaging for the parents because they set themselves apart from their children and this limits the closeness they can create.
Kids ruling the home
The other option is not any more pleasant.
Having kids that are out of control and
not cooperating in any way with the family unit
will make everyone’s lives miserable.
The parents will feel disempowered and learn to resent their children. I see this all the time in the stressed out parent. It feels like their children are obstacles to their freedom and happiness.
The kids themselves will not learn healthy ways to relate to others in this environment. Whether we have strict or uninvolved parents children and their family systems are going to have a hard time. Fortunately we’re not limited to those two options.
Seeking out the third option
There is a third option available here,
but it is not immediately obvious to see.
It can be even more difficult to implement.
Horizontal Power Sharing
Imagine a family community where
the authority and power was shared equally by all members.
This may seem like a wild and radical idea
when viewed from the traditional parenting mindset.
Changing your perspective
In order to implement this kind of relational dynamic with your children you would have to significantly alter
how you view them and
how you view yourself.
You would end up trusting them in a whole new way.
You would end up not always knowing what to do.
You would also end up not feeling in control much of the time.
We avoid the unknown
The unknown and the unfamiliar can feel quite scary.
In fact they can feel so scary that
the fear can make us run from a new idea.
This is one of the ways we miss the third option.
Unexpected and pleasant results
When you put the effort into creating a home
where power is shared equally
between parents and children
an amazing thing happens.
Power struggles decrease because
we all honour the power in each other.
If a young person feels their power is honoured
they do not have the same desire to fight for it.
Cooperation increases because we all feel the natural desire to
make the other feel good. When your children sense that
you trust and respect them as equals they are much more likely to keep their hearts open to you.
Other parenting false dichotomies
Here are a few other areas where it can seem like there are only two choices. Maybe give a few moments thought to each one and see if you can find the third option.
Engaging in this kind of mental exercise when nothing dramatic is happening can increase your ability to see the third option
when the chaos erupts.
(As it always does!)
1. My child is either obedient or disobedient
2. My child is either polite or talking back to me
3. My child says please and thank you or they have bad manners
4. My child has temper tantrums or they can control their emotions
5. If my child tells the truth I trust them more. If they lie to me I trust them less.
There are likely 100 more examples of this. You will probably notice one the moment you stop reading this blog!
The third option equals greater freedom
In all of our relationships, especially in parenting
and probably in just about everything we do,
if we can be aware of the third option it will help us to see different paths than the obvious ones set before us. We can be more open, creative and responsive.