But let me talk about the negatives, because they are big.
First, the series engages in a gendered debate. Martin assumes a man who works outside of the home and a woman who …. well who knows what she does. He admits Moms can work outside the home, too. He’s not chaining anybody to the stovetops. He just shapes his discourse to help out stay-at-home Moms and working Dads. When he refers to a working parent coming home, that parent is Dad (except when he is rarely speaking of the single parents). When he refers to a parent staying home, that parent is Mom.
And when he talks about the issues preventing people from experiencing calm, he assumes men are the ones with hair-trigger tempers, while women are constantly sacrificing and putting themselves aside unfairly for their families. In this, he has no advice that matches my situation, where I am the one who gets angry (very very angry) and Scott is the patient one who sacrifices himself (again and again). Point blank, I’m not impressed.
The next issue comes back self-help gurus selling a mindset. Martin is less guilty than some, but it’s still there. He bounces in saying “Remember, the only thing you can control is yourself” and it is very clear that he can’t imagine someone like me, someone who has spent a lifetime making peace with the fact that my idea of self-control isn’t the same as his.
He falls prey to the common misconception that we choose our emotions. Or rather that everyone can choose their emotions. There are people who can. But I hate the assumption that everybody can choose what they feel. It’s perfect horseshit. My emotions are like the seasons. Although somewhat predictable in certain circumstances, not things under my control. Now I am responsible for my actions which is a very different thing. But as far as what I feel at any given moment? I do not own that, and I have spent a lifetime coming to the understanding that I never will.
So when Martin kept saying it’s OK to have a bad day and to allow others to have one because they have chosen to feel as they do, I felt angry. And believe me, it wasn’t a choice. The choice was whether or not to keep listening to him. See the difference? Emotion does not equal action. Nobody chooses to be angry or sad. Some people can just somehow choose not to be those things some of the time. (Nobody is ever always happy.)
Beyond that, Martin attributes a lot of defiant behavior to other emotions (he’s really fond of anxiety as a culprit). Some of his tactics for dealing with it are superb no matter what the reason behind the behavior, but I know there is such a thing as pure defiance.
Do you know why? Because for the whole fucking evening, every time he opened his mouth, I was back there disagreeing. Every. Single. Thing. He. Said. He pissed me off about gender within the first ten minutes, and after that it was very hard to give him a single point. He would say something, and I would have to sit there and parse it out, peeling away the useful and deciding from moment to moment whether I was just going to walk out on the whole thing. One of the reasons I bought the DVDs is because I want the time to consider his stuff at my leisure and test it out. (Kind of like when I’d walk into an RCB class thinking ‘fake bullshit’ and then come out all inspired.)
Finally, and here’s where I came closest to leaving, Martin is clearly Christian, arguing from a Christian standpoint. In that whole RCB series, in spite of its being held in a church and being led by a church member, I think we talked religion once. Five weeks, and it was barely discussed. Because it was just not relevant.
Yet, in the course of the evening, Martin made at least ten references to church, God, pastors, and the like. He seemed to think he was offsetting this by saying “synagogue” occasionally, as if to appeal to all faiths by reaching out to another one of the big three. Some of his advice to single parents involves calling on a church community. One whole track on one of the CDs is about how to get kids to church calmly. (To his credit – he warns you “if you don’t want to hear about religion, skip this track”.)
But what the hell is it doing there in the first place? How is it any different than a school morning? I am not offended by people who are Christians. Please don’t think I am. But to tell me anything about how to do church is both foolhardy and rude. Caroline’s’ school is private. Although not religious in any way, it is a good bet that (with the notable exception of the rabbi’s daughter, yes really) nearly every other family there is a Christian family. So Martin was in an element where religion was welcomed by most. But it infuriated all of my personalities, and the reason he came closest to losing me is that The Bitch agreed with all the rest of us who have to share my head that his references were irrelevant and inappropriate.
All that, and all my other bitching aside, the man is speaking Truth. He has given me tactics that have kept my temper in check with the kids. I’ve had something to do with my anger besides direct it inward or outward. (Emotion doesn’t equal action.) It was a worthwhile evening, and I’ve gained some valuable tools. It’s just that I’d be lying if I said they came without a fuckload of caveats.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.