The importance of being realistic in a stepfamily

Being able to maintain hold of a healthy grasp of reality is a really important skill stepfamilies need to develop in order to build resilience and strength. Sometimes when we are going through a hard time --it might be an issue with a non-resident ex-partner, financial strains from paying child-support or conflict between the kids, we can lose our perspective and see everything as ALL bad. This leads to feeling bad and anticipating that things will go from bad to worse and before you know it, you are fully stuck mentally and emotionally in the whole catastrophe. 
One stream of psychology known as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT for short) calls this type of thinking a cognitive error or thought error where we catastrophize a whole situation based on one aspect of it. Our thinking becomes 'all or nothing,' (the whole thing is terrible or the whole thing is terrific) which if repeated over time leads to thoughts and feelings that are despairing, rigid and down-right depressing and drains a family of energy, creativity and vitality.
To counter this downward spiral it’s really important that as members of a stepfamily we guide ourselves towards ways of viewing the world that keep us in touch with a workable way of thinking and maintaining a big perspective. Sometimes, if we have a big cry when we are sad or flip our lid we can feel like we are not coping. But actually what we are doing is being human, and being realistic is all about recognizing and validating our humanity.
Maintaining a reality focus involves validating our feelings that yes this is a tough time and I feel really stressed, sad, overwhelmed by what I’m dealing with. However, at the same time I can recognize this issue is occurring in one area of our family life and there are other areas that are working really well or at the very least OK. Also, to even get to the point of becoming a stepfamily we need to remind ourselves that we have already survived and overcome a great deal and have learned many lessons, the most important being: all situations do eventually change and that this too shall pass. As a family we have proven beyond a doubt we can do hard things and we can do this too.
Getting clear on our priorities

Another way to regain our perspective is to get clear on our priorities. When we feel provoked and in the midst of an emotional storm we often find ourselves looking for ways to control people, circumstances and issues that are outside our control. This leads us into a place of powerlessness and despair. It's important to recognize when we've entered a controlling space and shift gears as quickly as possible. This is firstly done by focusing on grounding our feelings, defusing our thoughts and weighing our course of action. Just this simple reflection is a step towards feeling more empowered and taking actions based on what is truly important. This process is the essence of resilience. 

Resilience isn’t about always having the perfect response or always being on top of things. Rather, resilience is about recognizing, through the lens of carefully identified priorities, where we have been recruited into dealing with things outside our control and then redirecting ourselves back into what is truly ours as quickly as possible. In essence, resilience is about recovery and regaining our perspective after we’ve been knocked off our perch. The more we practice resilience, the better we get at it. We are able to keep our grip firmly grasped on reality, take action on the things that really matter and just let the rest go.

Posted at 04:46 pm 29 March 2017 in - Library - Family and Parenting - Relationships

Marcia Watts

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