Last time I told you about my new bath mat. It reminded me of another bath mat story about seventeen years ago. That's when I married my second husband Cliff and moved into his home with his three children, 14, 16 and 18. I know, crazy right? Yes I was crazy, crazy in love with this dear man. So since the two of us had both come from failed marriages I was afraid that maybe we needed some help this time. Even though there were no serious issues, Cliff humoured me and off to marriage counselling we went.
The session began. "Now what sort of issues would you like to talk about today?" they asked.
"Well, there are no issues right now" I said. "It's just that we've both been divorced and we sure don't want that to happen again. I thought that maybe we don't have good conflict resolution techniques. Maybe you could teach us?"
One of them said "we need some sort of example in order for us to walk you through a conflict resolution. Is there some token situation you could give us?" said the woman.
"Well yes, here's a minor problem. It's a bath mat problem. There is only one bath mat and no one in this family wants to stand on a wet one, and of course the last person to shower gets a soaked mat. Personally I think it's kind of petty but Cliff here agrees with his kids (naturally) and considers this a problem."
"Okay, so the wet bath mat is important to him but not to you, right?"
"Right" I said.
"And you Cliff, is this a fairly accurate report?"
"Yes" said Cliff smiling. By now we were all smiling. We were probably the first couple to ever grace their offices for preventative marriage counselling.
"Okay" said the woman as she took a small stuffed toy off of her desk. "This represents the bath mat which to Wendy is a petty problem."
The man took a big heavy bible off of his desk and said "this represents the bath mat which to Cliff is a significant problem."
At that moment they both dropped their item. Of course the book made a loud thud. The stuff toy fell softly.
"Whether or not Wendy thinks the wet bathmat is worth the worry, it means something to Cliff. It's like this big heavy book to him. We can't judge one another's concerns. Everyone has a right to their own personal opinions and concerns. As couples we waste too much time trying to convince the other guy that we are right and too little time listening to one another and accepting their ideas as real and true to them."
Wow, this was revelating to us both!
"So instead of arguing about it, accept it for what it is and find a solution. By accepting each other's point of view you can avoid conflict."
Simple but great advice.
What does this have to do with depression?
When you are depressed everything is a big problem. There is no discriminating. All problems loom equally large in your anxious mind. No one should tell you they are stupid petty thoughts and you shouldn't scold yourself for dwelling on them. To you each of those thoughts is a like the big heavy book.
When the depression passes, those same thoughts become more like that little stuffed toy, light, fluffy, easy to handle with one hand or to just toss over your shoulder and forget about.
My good husband uses that book/stuffed toy principal to support me during depression. When I'm sick I'll say 'I can't even get my bed made or do the dishes'. He doesn't say 'who cares about the bed or the dishes'. He never says 'well that is stupid, those things aren't important anyways.'
Who knew that our important lessons about conflict resolution, using a book and a stuffed toy, would help us way down the road with depression? Accepting those negative thoughts as real and valid instead of saying 'you shouldn't feel that way' is a gentle way to treat those conflicting ideas.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? What are you conflicted about these days?
I'm so glad you dropped by Depression Getaway today. There is hope for depression. Don't give up, I'm praying for you!