People either process things slowly or quickly. Fast processors seem to sort through details quickly on the basis of instinct or intuition. They gather just enough information to get to a feeling that allows them to act. Slow processors collect lots of data, more than fast processors, and reason their way to a conclusion, using more mental energy to weigh the pros and cons. They satisfy their minds more than their instincts. One style isn’t necessarily better than the other; we all use a combination of the mind and the instinct. One style just requires more time and data, and the other requires more instinct. It’s as though we are wired predominantly one way than another; we can’t really take credit (or blame) for being how we are. It’s important for us to know how we navigate life so that we can give ourselves the necessary tools to traverse it. Rushing a “slow processor” through a decision process makes no more sense than overloading a “fast processor” with far more details than he or she needs.
“If only he loved me the way I needed him to.” “She didn’t give me what I needed.” We say these things to describe why we decided to leave, why we’re angry with another person or why our lives are the way they are. We suffer a gap between our expectations and the reality of our lives. Still, we have no idea what those gaps even are. A relationship just doesn’t measure up, so we blame and suffer. That suffering creates momentum. We try to change the other person. We try to change ourselves. We leave a situation and create a new one. At the root of all of this is just distress arising from the way things are versus how we think they ought to be.
I recall my teen years being filled of this kind of pain. I blamed my parents for my suffering. They somehow fell short; and I didn’t fit in. Imagine my dismay, and strange relaxation, when I realized years later that the “perfect” parents I was convinced I needed were not even human. Someone once suggested that I write down on a piece of paper all of the details of what “the perfect woman” would be. After filling the front and back of two legal pages, I paused and read what I wrote… and started laughing to myself. The person I had described was a robot woman, not a human. The man I was in each of these dynamic, with the “robot woman” and the “perfect parent”, was someone who needed from others, and had nothing to bring to another person. The most significant relationships in my life were, in my own mind, all about me and my own needs!
The trouble with perfection, or even an unreasonably specific or long list, is that it not only has us turning away the gift of another person as they truly are, but it imprisons us in a lengthy and unreasonable list of what wethink we should be. My journey from unreasonable expectation to acceptance and appreciation of others has, always been intertwined with the same kind of journey with myself. The more I learned to value and accept others as they are, the more I’ve valued and accepted myself.