There is a Dr. Suess short story called The Zax. If you click the link, you can enjoy a 3-minute rendition of this story via YouTube. The essence of the story is that there are two Zaxes, equally stubborn, who will not give in to the other, steadfastly refusing to yield “an inch to the left or an inch to the right” so the other can go by. The seasons pass and they do not move. In fact, even a freeway is built over them as they stand in their tracks refusing to yield to the wishes of each other.
I for one, am guilty of Zax thinking from time to time. Sometimes I am not interested in a best outcome solution, I am focused on protecting my territory. For example, my mother can give me a perfectly good suggestion that I will swat back at her with a vengeance. I remember one time when she was visiting, she kept moving a toss pillow from where I had placed it to another location. This went on for several days until finally, I stuffed it into her suitcase and said, “Take it home!! Geez!” I have since learned that apparently there are certain decorating principles that are inherently soothing such as keeping more items to the left than to the right. I may have learned something about visual balance. However, deep down, my Zax-think may have told me that if I yield this point, I may wake up and find my entire house rearranged! For her part, she needs to learn the your house-my house dichotomy. Together we can create quite a stand-off when we lock horns like that.
The point is this: even simple issues like where to place a toss pillow can bring about Zax-think. Conflicts that appear quite ammenable to an outside observer are often stand-offs when the two parties clench their fists, thrust their chins forward, and refuse to compromise. I know what it feels like to be dug in like that! What does that say about the potential of resolving conflicts say in the Middle East or among Democrats and Republicans? Now there you have some quintessential Zaxes!
Well, of course, I can’t solve the problems in the Middle East or in the United States government but I can try to understand my own blindspots and work hard to identify someone else’s perspective. Oftentimes, this is a problem of perception and in the case of Mother and me, our personalities as described by the Meyers-Briggs Type Inventory bear this out. She is an ESFJ so she tries to be of practical service to people. One of the drawbacks to this fine quality is assuming that you know best what others need. On the other hand, I am an ENFP which makes me a bit of an innovative free-spirit but who also resists controlling others or being controlled. So it’s the “I’m just trying to be helpful” versus the “You’re trying to control my house!” battle.
So how can I deal with this ultimately? Well, Mother’s default mode will always be to be of service and I am grateful for that. However, she cannot assume she knows what’s best for me. I am pretty old actually and I do know what’s what! If I give her a project though that I don’t feel very territorial about and let her go to it, the Zaxes can get along quite well. One time I had her clean out all of the kids lockers while I enjoyed a good book and had a nice warm bath. That way I didn’t have to hear, “How did these lockers ever get this way! Tsssssk!”
* Currently, I offer the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as part of my life coaching practice. I have a 24 year background in psychometrics and delivering therapy services. I will be fully certified in the use of the MBTI as of May 2009.