Likely you have been exposed to the concept of willpower through medical discourse. Unlikely is that you have been engaged in a child custody strategy that invokes a basis in willpower. Child custody matters are generally directed based upon legal precepts or concepts of parental fitness. However, that limited focus may greatly inhibit, prospectively possible or rightfully due, positive outcomes. The antecedent to those I contend is willpower. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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In explaining this proposition I will begin by examining closely the concept of willpower. Willpower simply defined is "control exerted to do something or restrain impulses." In common usage willpower is assigned to the mental exercise of accomplishing a goal through tenancy - pushing on even when one doesn't feel up to it or resisting the temptation of an immediate desire.
The assignment of blame or causes to obesity provides a model that embodies the application of willpower. Geneticists have now demonstrated to us that contrary to common perceptions that genetics -- heredity -- is to blame for obesity that body weight is actually controlled by willpower.
Numerous studies have clearly demonstrated a link between weight and genetics. This includes mono-zygotic twins separated by adoption who, although raised by different non-genetically linked parents, exhibit similar body fat measures. This is not causal though. People who may have resistance to Leptin -- a satiety hormone -- may perpetually feel a sense of nutritional hunger. This hunger does not reflect an actual nutritional or caloric deficiency. Their bodies will still react in the same to the weight maintenance equation of calories processed less calories expended equals calorie balance. Thus, they have a predisposition to obesity. Some people will insist that obese persons who have Leptin deficiency do not lack willpower but are instead the victims of genetics. This clearly violates the definition of willpower. Willpower includes the tenacity to suppress an urge. For those who have Leptin deficiency the urge to eat does not shut off thus the willpower to overcome that must be greater than it is for those without that genetic error.
The necessary willpower for these people to overcome the incessant urge to eat could seem daunting and an exercise in futility. If attention was refocused to awareness of nutritional sufficiency and willpower was directed to understanding biofeedback, such as the relationship between confusion or aggression and nutrient deficiencies, then weight could more successfully be modulated.
This is the manner in which parents can improve their child custody positions. An essential strategy using willpower is to modulate impulses. It is the impulses which usually undermine a child custody case. None moreso than when the impulse acted upon leads to violence or threatening actions.
Traditional methods of coping using willpower come from the admonitions to "count to ten" or "bite your tongue" of which both are often ineffectual. A better approach using that methodology is to do some mathematical calculations or ask yourself "what next? if the impulse is expressed. These actions take brain activity from the amygdala - the emotional center - to the cortex - the control center where rational thought prevails.
Through cognitive behavioural therapy it is the emotional response which can be modulated thereby undermining potential emotionally triggered outburst. This is where willpower takes on a significant role.
In If this offends you then your child custody case may have a problem I have previously written about the lack of objectivity in what is offensive. There I said, "Similar to the aphorism that beauty is in the eye of the beholder the same holds true for offensiveness. The infelicity of an expression lies entirely with the listener." That is to say that an act or expression can only be perceived as such if the observer has chosen to find it offensive. The bases for the perception may be ones culture, station, or experiences which colour the lens of perception.
Whether one chooses to analyze these factors and account for their contribution to an emotional inducement is taking an action. The decision to not act is an action just as its positive counterpart. This is why the excuse "my emotions got the best of me" is invalid. Emotional responses are based upon the decision to have that response. If emotions controlled us then we would nearly all be dead save those of us who effectively thwart an attempt or are set upon by an incompetent attacker. One study on homicide revealed that 98% of the randomly selected participants recalled at least one specific incident of wanting to kill someone of which many included planning thoughts. I think 2% had a memory dysfunction or couldn't recognize the impulse.
Imagine that you are being told, "You suck at parenting!". Examine your feelings or emotions in response to this. Now imagine it is the other parent of your child saying that in response to your decision concerning medical treatment of the child. Rate your emotional response. Likely you experienced a change in your response.
Now imagine that you are reading a magazine article about education in which the author quotes an advocate who says, "to those parents who don't insist upon their children that homework is completed I say this to them; 'You suck at parenting!'." Rate your emotional response to that. Again, you likely experienced a change in your response. I suspect that this time it was modulated downward.
This is because context was applied to the statement. Within the context is a value component. That is, we generally apply a value to the statement based upon the complete source of the utterance. The greater the value assigned to that source the higher the degree of our emotional response.
When one high conflict parent allows the other parent to elicit an adverse reaction through an emotionally charged utterance this is generally a paradox. By and large high conflict parents are embattled in conflict because they have devalued the need for or contributions of the others parent. Yet, high value is often attributed to their utterances which then elicit a charged reaction. If that person is not valued then why are the opinions of that person given greater weight?
Primarily it is because one has not elected to change his or her internalized reactions to or scale of emotional triggers. With a former spouse or similar partner this is compounded through the emotional baggage or the residual emotional effects of the relationship. An example of an internalized trigger can be found in some low or common cultures where males are expected to defend their honour. If one male challenges another as not exhibiting the traits of manhood the challenged male may puff up high chest and engage the other in hostile banter which may escalate to a physical altercation. Conversely, a high culture challenged male may simply dismiss the remark as coming from a low culture imbecile and go about his business. However, that response may be internalized from a high culture upbringing although it can be learned.
While behaviourism postulates that behaviour is determine by one's culture I feel that it is clearly not absolute as Biological Determinists contend. In all aspects of life there is an element of free will. Free will is scaled across domains and from person to person. One common area in which I counsel people is the domain of diet which provides a good example of behaviourism's elements.
A person born into a family that consumes garbage masquerading as food will likely internalize dietary habits that favour unhealthy choices. This person would have a great degree of free will to choose between hot dogs or bologna. The free will to choose between a sandwich of a processed meat product on white bread made from bleached flour topped with a slice of cheese food or to choose a fresh garden salad topped by sliced almonds, blueberries, and chicken strips would be expressed to a lesser degree. Further down the line would be if this person descended from a society that had little opportunity to hunt animals and only recently adopted farming techniques may have a penchant for sweets. He would be more biologically determined to appreciate high calorie sugary foods than low calorie vegetables.
This person could be satisfied with and appreciate an optimal diet consisting only of food. However, it would take him or her a greater degree of willpower than it would for someone raised on a diet modeled after the FDA's food pyramid which was politically constructed to favour the meat and dairy industries.
While the basis of the will to consume an optimal diet is the goal of attaining wellness the basis of the will to get a better child custody arrangement is parcel to the goal of attaining a healthful outcome for your child.
There are numerous facets to the willpower exerted that will be necessary to achieve this outcome. I am not going to explore each of these in depth here but instead am going to provide a brief synopsis of each.
Acceptance of the circumstances - You may not have been the party who initiated delegating decision making authority regarding the upbringing of your child to the state but if a court is involved then that is the way it is. There are numerous ancillary players in this venue who may provide input to the state regarding you and the well-being of your child. Their opinions may carry greater weight than yours. Accept it.
Tenacity - The pursuit of a healthful outcome for your child is a lifelong commitment whether that be at the personal level or through the intermediaries of the state. You involvement does not end when you pass on your records and evidence to an attorney. Nor when a final decree is issued [modification is built into the law for a reason]. Nor when your child is emancipated. The commitment to achieving a healthful outcome for your child is lifelong.
Pride is a demon - Suck it up. What you may feel is just, your personal authority, or respectful to you carries little, if any, weight in a court. Here is an axiom of law; the person who goes into court to prove a point loses. A child custody conflict nearly always requires a change in attitude and shedding some of the internalized concepts of parental authority.
Cooperation - This is not, in simplistic terms, following the rules or orders. An operation involves the steps to attaining a result. While preparing a meal is an operation let me use the common reference to operation as a surgical procedure to exemplify this point. Surgery is a cooperative effort among an array of actors in the process. While each is assigned a particular domain and is practiced in his or her processes they do not perform their tasks in rigidly defined roles or sequences. They each ply their skills as the circumstances warrant in conjunction with the others in the operating room. They cooperate without contention over job description, compensation, or their personal feelings for each other in an effort to attain a positive outcome for the patient.
Mindfulness - Mindfulness is raising awareness. To be mindful is to be aware of one's environment, feelings, and actions. It is attributing cause to actions preemptively. A mindful eater does not walk past a candy dish and grab a few pieces and plunk them into his gullet. A mindful eater first asses whether his body has a particular nutrient deficiency, whether that deficiency would be relieved by the specific candy and in what amount, whether there is a better way to achieve the same result, and what psychological impetus drives the arm to reach for the candy. Actions pertaining to the child custody action involving your child should be viewed in the same manner. A mindful person does not pick up her child at 6:00pm for parenting time because the court order and guidelines say to do so. She does it for much deeper reasons.
Theodore Roosevelt articulated a bit more verbosely that nothing worth doing is easy. I contend that quite the opposite is true. Again I will exemplify a point using food. Nearly every client that I have coached regarding diet has quipped to me that it is difficult to eat well. That fallacious opinion changes when eating is given the appropriate context. Eating well is incredibly easy. It does not involve pausing while climbing stairs, being irritable, having memory and focus problems, making and going to medical appointments, financial burdens of drugs, medical providers, and prolonged absences from employment, lethargy, loss of use of primary organs, amputation of a foot, and what I feel is most important - continuing to be a loving, supportive parent after premature death.
It takes tremendous willpower to perpetuate a feud to no end, to focus on catching every peccadillo committed by the other parent, to document, marshal evidence, strategize, and continue to pump out money to attorneys for the next battle in an ongoing war, to analyze every act or utterance by the other parent to determine whether it can be viewed as an affront to one's dignity or rights, and to shove to the recesses of one's mind that the child is suffering the consequences of these selfish actions.
It's not that most people don't have the willpower. I think I have illuminated that here through the few examples of the exhaustive efforts and tenacity people have demonstrated to achieving their will be it eating garbage made to appear as food or trying to punish the other parent. What is often needed is for that will to be redirected toward more positive outcomes.
Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.
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