Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Matrimonial Metacognition

I teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade at a public Montessori school, and I often talk to my children about metacognition (well, I don't use that word very often--I instead talk about "thinking about what your brain is thinking"). When we read, for example, it helps to realize when we're confused, so we can use "fix-it" strategies like rereading or reading ahead for clarification.

It seems to me that the concept of thinking about our thinking might also be a useful strategy during wedding planning. During our seven months of planning, for example, I found myself thinking less than level-headed thoughts: "We simply must get customized photo stamps. Our invitations won't be the same without them!" or "I have to wear a white dress. If I don't wear a white dress, people won't think it's a real wedding."

In those moments, it can help to step outside of ourselves--to examine our own thinking from a perspective outside of those thoughts. I imagine it would go a little something like this, "Oh, self, what is this really about? It's probably not about something as small as stamps or clothing. What are the underlying issues? What's really bothering you?"

When we step back from ourselves to ask those kinds of questions, we can uncover answers that can help us deal with the anxiety. The response might go a little like this: "I guess I'm feeling insecure about our wedding because we are only spending $2,000. I worry that we are taking out so many aspects of mainstream weddings that it won't feel like a 'real' wedding to our friends and family. I'm also insecure about meeting many of Matt's relatives for the first time. I want them to like me. I don't want them to judge me for being 'weird.'"

When the real answers come to the surface, we can then help ourselves deal with them. To continue with the personification of my inner dialogue, I suppose it could go something like this: "That makes sense. You and Matt are doing something very brave by planning a wedding according to your values, tastes, and preferences and not someone else's. It can be scary to be different. You have to trust that you are doing the right thing for yourselves. When you make authentic choices that align with your purest self, the outcomes are almost always better."

This type of self-therapy really helps me process my reactions and feelings. I can't control my immediate reactions and feelings, but I can unpack them and attempt to figure out what's going on. Once I'm self-aware about what the underlying issues are likely to be, then I can control my actions in response to the situations. Making space between my feelings and my actions for a little reflection usually helps me make more grounded choices (for example, we decided not to splurge on the stamps, although I did decide to go with a white dress).

I feel a little silly divulging my version of self-therapy for fear that one of you might actually be trained in psychology or psychiatry and diagnose me with some kind of official neurosis, but I couldn't resist. It might be helpful to one of you!

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Therese T. said...

This is a great and helpful post, Sara. Thank you!

Rachael Eisner said...

I find it to be quite helpful as well. It is a strategy that works outside of wedding planning, and works inside as well. However, I've found I was more successful at the outside of the wedding thing than inside of it. My Ma won a lot more battles than she should have. (I'm 29 days out now....and she has 80 guests to our 144?)

Boiling It Down said...

I find myself asking the exact same questions, trying to determine the real driving force behind my decisions. Making the decisions is easy, but trying to decide what it is that I really want seems to be the hard part. It's a fine line between doing what I really want and doing the opposite of what everyone else wants (just to spite them) which is just as bad as doing what everyone wants. Thanks for the great tips in how to think about this!

kahlia said...

I haven't really applied this technique to myself yet (though I probably should, of course!), but I have been very good about using it to get my partner to discuss why he feels what he does about certain things.
I haven't studied psychology either, it just seemed logical that a sudden, firm, foot-stomping decision about, say, the color of the flower pots on the tables wasn't really about the flower pots!

Shannon said...

This is advice, I think I can apply to other aspects of my life. Thanks for posting. Definitly something for me to think about. :)

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