Friday, June 5, 2015

                                                                                       Coming this summer

One of the many things I love about my goldendoodle Aidan? He does not live life at cross purposes. He doesn’t bark friendly and then attack. He doesn’t rush up to greet me and then growl. He doesn’t beg for food and then walk away from the bowl. His intentions are clear. His behavior and intentions match. In fact when he’s hungry and I don’t understand he finds some Kleenex and than pantomimes eating it to get my attention. Did I mention he’s smarter than the average bear?

His loyalty is undivided. I really appreciate he does not barter reality in service to his ego. He doesn’t say one thing and mean another. He is not a historical revisionist. He listens better than any child or man I’ve known. And he even follows directions.

When I get up in the morning he is so happy to see me awake he actually levitates. And he is easy to please. Preparing to take a walk is cause of great celebration and racing around the house. A little extra cheese on his food makes his meal a pleasure. The promise of a treat reaps good behavior.

There are many times when he is busy sniffing a tree, chasing a squirrel, running after the occasional white tail deer or investigating the toads the come out in monsoon season and I ask him to stop what he is doing and come with me.

And he does. He sets aside what is important to him and comes with me. He is congruent. He lets me know I’m the most important person in the world and his behavior matches.

In psychology we call intentions that match feelings which than reflect in matching actions, congruency. There are benefits to congruency. We feel safe with the person or animal whose behavior, feelings and intentions match. Congruency builds trust. It is like making a deposit in the bank of well-being for your relationship.

If congruency is important to the well-being of relationships what’s the significance of incongruence? There is nothing that will make you crazier than interacting, living, with a human being who says one thing and than does another. You know the businessman who proclaims his integrity while cheating consumers. The husband or wife who kisses their spouse goodbye then engages in the extramarital affair at the office is betraying the morning kiss to their spouse. Incongruence can be as simple as the promise to be home at 5PM and arriving home at 9PM.

We all have unavoidable delays, distractions that keep us one place when we’ve promised to be another. I’m talking about lifestyle choices. Another form of incongruence is talking out of both sides of the mouth. As the Native Americans used to say, “White man speaks with forked tongue.”

My husband gets really cross when I confront him on incongruence. Can you imagine? He does something incongruent. I point it out. He gets angry at me! It turns out I was naive to believe pointing out incongruence will resolve the issue.

Once I gave Aidan a toy, not well made. After handing it to him I realized he would tear it up into a million pieces for me to sweep up. To avoid the clean-up I took the toy away from him. He gave me a look that told me in that moment I was the lowest of the low. I had earned his complete and utter disrespect by giving and then taking away.

I knew a man who made giving and then taking away into an art form. For example, he promised his wife a house as a wedding present. They moved into a house he owned. He regularly required accolades for providing such a generous gift. When she pointed out the house was in his name alone and therefore not a gift to her he got angry.

Eventually, a couple of years later, he put her name on title. Now the gift that was to be hers was theirs. It was closer to a gift and she didn’t confront the issue. Within six weeks of being on title to their home her husband refinanced the house and took the equity out to finance a business deal. It turns out there are many ways of giving a gift and then taking it away.

It begs the question how far are you willing to go to confront the incongruence in your relationships? My rule of thumb is if my dog Aidan would be offended by the incongruence than so will I.

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