Going From ‘No’ to ‘Yes, if…’

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben

My son has really thick, beautiful hair (it is also full of cowlicks, but that’s less to the point here, though they do reflect aspects of his character…) He likes to wear it long, but he also hates getting it combed, and due to the cowlicks, he often gets knots in his hair when it gets too long.

The obvious next step is going to the hairdressers, but that has been a bit of an issue ever since he was little. He hates going, it hurts, they’re not always very gentle and he doesn’t really sit still.

In the last retreat I went to, the facilitator often mentioned that for each exercise where we felt ‘I can’t do this, this is too much’, we could look for ways to adapt the exercise so it would work for us. If there was skin-to-skin touch, perhaps you could put a cloth in between. Or if you didn’t want to pair up with someone, there was an adaptation to do the exercise alone.

With my son, I’ve found ways over the years to get his hair cut that work for both of us. At first, there was a hairdresser who came to the house and I sat with him while she cut his hair. When she stopped doing house calls, I decided to buy a set of scissors myself and learned how to cut his hair with a youtube video. At first, the results left much to be desired, but it was better than no haircut at all. Now I still don’t cut as neatly as a hairdresser does, but it doesn’t decent enough. While I cut his hair, he’s allowed to watch video’s on Youtube (he’s really into Sonic the Hedgehog lately) so he will stay put and sit still.

Doing it myself, doing it at home, with a Youtube video of his choice… these are all adaptations to make it possible for him to get a haircut. By now, I’ve also started cutting my daughter’s hair (bangs are still tricky…). You just can’t beat those prices.

There are many more areas in life where this technique for looking for adaptations to make something possible applies. When I’m feeling a surge in my attachment fear coming up, it can help to tell myself that it’s okay to just watch a movie together instead of thinking ‘I can’t possibly have a deep, intimate conversation tonight!’ When I feel like I can’t possibly clean up my kitchen, I can see what I can adapt to make it possible: do I just clear the dishes? Do I put on a TV show while doing it?

I try to turn my ‘No’ into a ‘Yes, if…’ Sometimes, there are no ‘ifs’ that make it possible to change your ‘no’ to a ‘yes.’ Then you’ve found a hard limit and it is important to respect those within yourself so you stay true and remain reliable to yourself. You might be able to change your ‘no’ into a ‘yes, when…’ in that case, but you also might not. Either way, give yourself time to evaluate what makes a ‘yes’ important in the first place to decide whether to try to transform the ‘no’. Never cutting my son’s hair is not really an option, but never going to a festival because I have a hard time dealing with the smells, noise and chaos of so many people is perfectly fine. No need to look for earplugs and scented handkerchiefs to make it an option.

I’ve made many of these adaptive changes over the last few months: I’ve bought ear plugs to go to concerts that I want to hear but are otherwise too loud. I’ve bought a coffee machine with decaf cups (in biodegradable material) so I could enjoy coffee without having too much caffeine. And I’ve installed a skin-care routine by buying some products that I really like, even if I use a bodylotion for my face instead of a €40 face cream.

Are there ‘nos’ in your life that you could turn into a ‘yes, if…’? Maybe it’s a trip with another person (yes, if we keep it short) , or a job you’re hesitant about (yes, if I get to choose my hours), or something you would like to do but find too expensive (yes, if I can do it in a group and share the costs).

I’d love to hear what your ‘yes, if…’ sounds like, so feel free to share in the comments below!

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