A Patchwork Quilt
The whole quilt
Imagine inheriting a homemade patchwork quilt, passed down through generations within your family. Inspecting the handcrafted item, you see a loose string protruding along its edge.
Do you pull it in hopes of resistive tension severing the strand? Do you retrieve a pair of scissors in order to cut the protrusion, as not to cause a snag? Do you simply do nothing at all and leave the layered blanket as is? What do you do?
I think of a patchwork quilt in comparison to a socially constructed norm—a belief in support of a usual, typical, or standard method of behaving. For example, thanking people for receipt of a quilt is a traditional social norm for some cultures.
One thing I learned when practicing as a member of a traditionally conservative and ultra-religious faith during my middle and high school years was that there were many social norms which represented individual patches on a quilt. These norms weren’t absolute, as non-congregational members didn’t observe them.
However, within the congregation, members were commanded to obey the pronounced standards. Collectively, and in an Aristotelian fashion, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
Nonetheless, understanding the significance of every patch was the thread than held each piece together. Without this applied knowledge, one may carelessly pull at a string and unravel a significant portion of the quilt.
A monogamous quilt
Thinking of your inherited quilt, imagine it represents monogamy—the practice or state of committing to only one romantic or sexual partner at a time. You spot a loose string though you don’t have a firm understanding about what meddling with it may do.
What do you do? Suppose you pull the thread and it keeps traveling in the direction in which it’s pulled, not severing from the quilt. The more you pull, the further it goes.
You could introduce a sharp instrument to cut the sting, leaving the integrity of the quilt somewhat compromised due to removal of the lengthy fiber. Maybe you’ll pull a bit more and then retrieve the scissors in a moment.
The more you draw with force, the string continues it move until you notice the middle of your quilt has begun to separate. In fact, several patches have already loosened to the degree by which they are now tumbling from the quilt and onto the floor.
Did you know that simply leaving the string as it was would likely have resulted in less damage than the result of your pulling behavior? Do you know how to repair the quilt once it’s damaged?
Perhaps more relevantly, do you care to salvage the damaged covering? Maybe you despise quilts and because you didn’t purchase or make the layered blanket, you are content with destroying it slowly and then all at once.
I can’t speak to your understanding of each individual patch comprising the quilt. As well, I’m not a quilter and I can’t opine in any meaningful way about how to make or repair a quilt.
That said, my limited and subjective understanding about the importance of a quilt—to some people—is informed by descriptions of why some patches were used when making the quilt. Who knows if my ignorance-informed perspective is valid or reliable?
In my youth, I was taught that one patch of the quilt represents an issue related to misattributed paternity. When two people formally agree to the norm of monogamy, there presumably is less potential for paternity fraud—misidentification of the child’s biological father.
As well, the patch constituting religious or spiritual belief is a significant contribution to the quilt. Even those who are agnostic or irreligious often practice similar shamming ceremonies whereby the government, friends, family members, and others gather to witness the promise of monogamy between two people.
Also, the patch representing the restriction of influence for sexually transmitted infections is important for many people. The fewer sexual partners one has, and by way of consensual monogamy, there is reduced probability of infectious illness.
Additionally, the patch relating to abuse or infanticide was introduced to me as a reason for inclusion in the quilt. The idea, whether factual or not, was that a biological parent is less likely to harm a child than a non-biological partner who is introduced to the kid.
Another patch details the proposed reduction of jealously. I was taught that placing aside one’s motivation for maximal pleasure and uncompromised hedonism by way of monogamy could result in curtailed jealousy, because there is less competition for committed couples when refusing to stray from the relationship.
Still, a separate patch depicts various forms of stability. Though some argue that diversity represents strength, others propose that stable bonds over time are comprised of homogenous goals, thus rejecting the notion of multiple partners with varying objectives.
Though there are many other pieces which may comprise the quilt, the last is perhaps the least scientific though most meaningful explanation I’ve heard offered by many people. A person may say, “I’m just wired for monogamy,” referencing an unexplainable genetic component.
I can’t state with any certainty that the patches highlighted herein apply to everyone. In fact, they don’t. All the same, the thread of my understanding related to patches which comprise a monogamous quilt was woven from a young age and I know that many people seem to support these individual parts which comprise the whole.
The pull of ENM
Maybe you live in a subtropical climate and have no use for a patchwork quilt. When receiving your inheritance, you vigorously unravel it by pulling at the thread with ethical non-monogamy (ENM).
Do your individual actions have any unintended consequences for others? Keep in mind that your inherited quilt comes from generations which preceded you and about which you may have little knowledge or understanding in relation to why a quilt was constructed in the first place.
Destroying a quilt today may impact you in a number of decades, if climate prediction models are correct and the earth drastically begins to cool. Suppose the circumstances of today change tomorrow, though you’ve unwound the quilt handed down to you.
How might your disregard for a patchwork quilt impact your future? Does it even matter? Or, are you living your “best life” in the moment with little interest for future endeavors?
Sincerely, I have no interest in making a case regarding what is good, bad, right, wrong, or otherwise for you, dear reader. It isn’t my responsibility to tell you what you should, must, or ought to do.
Rather, what I’m curious about is whether or not those who have inherited social norms of monogamy—and whom may know very little about what effects ENM may have—understand about their actions.
Observing social discourse related to this matter, it appears as though many people simply pull the string with little concern for the result of their behavior. In my practice, I’ve worked with those who have unraveled the quilt and sought mental health treatment for their outcomes.
There’s an old saying, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” Pardon me, dear reader, as I convey a boorish translation I heard as a Marine. “You’ve made your bed, now get fucked in it!”
For those who tug at threads with adequate consideration of how it may impact an individual life, it’s your bed to do with as you may. The quilt of inheritance addressed herein is a collective tradition and you are well within your right to use it, destroy it, and otherwise.
Still, pulling at the string with ENM is a choice that may have unintended consequences. Then again, what do I know? I’m not a quilter and I don’t share in your sleeping arrangements. You’ve made your bed…
Imagine inheriting a homemade patchwork quilt, passed down through generations within the human race. Inspecting the handcrafted item, you see a loose string protruding along its edge.
What do you do? Whether you decide to snip it, pull at it, or do nothing at all, there may be unintended consequences associated with your actions.
Are you prepared to take personal ownership for your behavior? Perhaps with the momentum of ENM, you’ve unraveled the quilt without understanding of the thread that held patches in place.
Are you now seeking help from someone who has less interest in judging you for your actions and approaches this matter with curiosity and a desire not to help you feel better about your circumstances, though to get better? I may be able to help.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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