And I’m not talking just about romantic relationships. I’m talking about all our interactions with other humans. Work relationships, friendships, lovers, family…
I’ve been observing intensely recently how we interact with each other. And I must admit I often feel quite baffled – and a little sad – at the level of misunderstanding, tensions and hurt that goes on in those encounters.
Probably because of my TA approach (transactional analysis), I see relational patterns perhaps more acutely than I should – or I certainly did in the past.
Let me pause here for a moment – I’m hearing all my fellow coaches and therapist cringe at the word “should” I’ve just written. Let me clarify what I mean before you throw at me a clarity or meta-model violation question! (If all that sounded jargon to you, don’t worry, it’s normal, it is commonly used jargon in the coaching and NLP world!)
I said “should” because I must confess it is sometimes quite difficult to have increased awareness. “Ignorance is bliss” really does resonate with me sometimes, as having some knowledge of psychological patterns, consciousness of relational dynamics, an understanding of coping and defence mechanisms does have an impact.
I struggle now to engage in “normal” interactions, or live my life blindly by getting along with how things are supposed to be done. Nor can I stay in the role that society tries to fit us in or collect instant relationships that are mainly about projection rather than authentic connection.
I question everything. Consistently.
And it’s tiring, and it’s also significantly altering my life.
I love it however, don’t get me wrong. When I say “I struggle” it doesn’t come from a victim place of disempowerment. It’s a total choice that I am making on a daily basis. But like everything else, it’s got a price.
So coming back to relationships, I am currently wondering if there is a way to change those struggles. So many people I’ve observed in my latest research have got to some degree some relationship issues. In the workplace or at home, with their family members or their friends. And that makes us all be quite lonely in the end, because my current conclusion is that we are rarely able to deeply understand and relate with each other.
You may not agree with me, you may feel you are indeed relating successfully with your entourage. But I’m curious if you really are? Are you totally sure you are being seen at your most vulnerable core? are you sure you are being understood and appreciated exactly the way you are? Are you even sure you actually know and share openly who you truly are?
How many of the issues you have in your life are actually caused by one or a few relationships in your life? How much of your current stress is linked to a “problematic” person in your life?
Most people I know, most of my clients, most of my friends, including myself – struggle with someone in their life. For one, it’s the team she manages ; the other one, her father ; and of course, the other one, his mother. Let alone our significant others, our partner, our children, our friends.
I often joke when I deliver TA training, that the only way I’ve found so far to avoid being caught into the drama triangle and other unhealthy interactions, is to live in a cave. But would that solve the issue? It would, at a certain level. But I’m not sure I’d be fully happy to be isolated, and even less satisfied with myself for having run away from the problem.
So instead (for now!), I’m looking for solutions. Not a quick fix, but a lasting cure for relationship drama.
In one of my closest relationship at the moment, we’ve adopted a “radical honesty” policy. We are always sharing with each other how we feel, when we trigger each other, when we are hurt for example ; we also are very careful in expressing appreciation and gratitude at least as much as the negative stuff. Yes, I’m talking about my cat 😀 just joking, this is a real human being 🙂
We also have an agreement to point out to our blindspots when we see them. What I mean by that, is that when we notice in each other old patterns of behaviours that we are unaware of ourselves, or when we’re lying to ourselves or reverting to old defence mechanisms, we gently and kindly mention it. (I admit, we are both therapists, that helps…) And we’ve also agreed to not allow ourselves to get defensive, but simply listen, welcome what’s being said and explore it, no matter how difficult it is. Because the minute you defend yourself, you’ve severed the connection with the other person and closed yourself to an opportunity to grow. Byron Katie actually says “feeling the slightest urge to defend yourself, means that there’s something you don’t accept and love about yourself.” as well as “If you say one single thing that I have the urge to defend, that thing is the very pearl waiting inside me to be discovered.”
This is sometimes hard work, but how magical it is when you break through your own limits, when you allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to be gently challenged by someone who really cares, who unconditionally loves you and who wants your best!
This is actually, exactly what I thrive for in my person-centred therapeutic approach. To be that non-judgmental person who can shed light on my clients blindspots and patterns, so they can free themselves in the safest possible environment.
It takes massive trust, however. Trust that the other person will not take advantage, will not hurt or leave you, will not judge or attack you. But when you get there, it is indeed magical.
It also requires an incredible level of self-awareness. Knowing yourself at such a deep level, that you are able to recognise – and therefore own – your own patterns ; instead of projecting them on the other person. As the projection often will turn into blame, resentment and ultimately separation.
But this is the path to freedom. Someone said to me recently that I’m taking too much responsibility for my own “stuff” instead of just going along with others and thus interacting standardly, full of story making and assumptions about other people, immature unconscious emotional games and ultimately resentment, hurt and anger.
It is true, I dedicate my life to self-development and self-improvement. It marginalises me a lot, as I refuse to get dragged into a “normal” life (which I often see as a blind life). It is sometimes isolating and difficult. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because I’m finding inner peace, I’m finding contentment and happiness. I’m able to just enjoy my life and love people just as they are (most of the time!) even when I feel hurt. And in the end, the anger, the resentment and all those emotions that come with misunderstandings, assumptions etc. damage me more than they serve me. So why would I want it any other way?