Tuesday, July 12, 2016

On Swimming Against the Current

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I attended our local homeschool conference this past weekend, run by the Rocky Mountain Catholic Home Educators Conference (RMCHEC) and held at my parish. It was amazing on so many levels, and exactly what I needed.

The keynote speaker was Larraine Bennet, author of The Temperament God Gave You, who spoke at length on the temperament and how it relates to learning style and your child's homeschool needs. Two things really stood out for me: 1. My melancholic personality is contributing GREATLY to my struggles as a parent and home educator and 2. I don't know what to do about it.

Melancholic characteristics line up very well with the INFJ personality type from Myers-Briggs, unsurprisingly, since I believe that personality types are grounded in truth and therefore each of us will manifest a "type" regardless of which metric we use to assess ourselves. Some of my challenges include:

Tendency towards perfectionism
Strong need for solitude to decompress
High standards for self and others
Extreme sensitivity to others feelings and needs
Inability to take criticism
Insatiable desire for knowledge
Overly analytic and anxious

There are, of course, many great benefits to my personality. I am a rare bird (1% of the population by some estimates) and my intuition and genuine interest in others means I am a loyal and wise friend, and (hopefully) a force for good in the world. But I really agree with this point here:
Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.
So while listening to the speaker on Saturday, I was reminded forcefully of these truths about myself. I was also able to identify my eldest son's personality (unsurprisingly, the opposite of my own!) and my eldest daughter (the same as mine, which explains A LOT.)

The thing is, I knew all this before. It's not that I forgot it, necessarily, it's just that I can KNOW I have this tendency towards perfectionism but that intellectual truth doesn't outweigh the actual FEELING of failure. Or, I may know that I need to be alone with my thoughts in order to find the strength to continue being the person I strive to be, yet finding time to be alone means allowing things to go undone (or done imperfectly) and my core need for order and control supersedes the other need.

I have been reflecting on what I need to do/change so that I am less likely to find myself overwhelmed and unable to cope, particularly while I am in the throes of the homeschool year. One thing that I know will help is that I am undergoing a particular kind of therapy called EMDR. At its core, this therapy helps speed up and solidify the process of Emotional Regulation, so that my known truths will resonate more deeply in my heart than my feelings. I am also trusting in God that my best is not only good enough, but His will and pleasing to Him. So I plan to actually write down truth statements and post them in areas where they will remind me on a daily basis that it's really ok if things are not going EXACTLY according to plan, and that I am doing a good job, and that my kids will be fine.

The thing is, I know and accept that it's not going to fix anything. I am always going to struggle in this way. And that's all right. I am offering it up for all those who have struggles but don't have knowledge or therapy. And I am moving forward on the path God has called me to walk.

The best thing I got out of the conference is a renewed sense of confidence and purpose. My struggles are normal, not an indication that I'm doing something wrong or that I myself am the problem. It's simply a combination of contrary personalities and deep-seated tendencies that find themselves at odds with each other. My plan, as it always should be, is to be open about what I'm facing, seek understanding and peace, and keep working towards what I've decided is best for my family.

Just keep swimming. (*grin*)

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