Tuesday, February 16, 2010
"At the top of the bridge, with the stars shining above the harbor, I look to the north and wish again that there were two lives apportioned to every man and woman. Behind me the city of Charleston simmers in the cold elixirs of its own incalculable beauty and before me my wife and children are waiting for me to arrive home. " ~ Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides
My friend Fran likes to tell me that there are only three stories in the world, but that they can be told over and over and over again, a million different ways. Her words ring true in my ears every day when I unlock my office door and sit down in my therapist's chair to hear the stories of the people who come to sit on the couch and talk. I hear the pain, the hope, the conflict, the frustration. I hear about excitement and desire and so much more. A million stories.
Over the years, I have heard many love stories. I have heard stories of loving more then one person, of loyalty, fear, infidelity. Of longing, of having to choose between two loves, or two lovers. I hear about extra marital sex, with all kinds of motives, as a message to one's spouse, an act of desperation, frustration, impulse. I hear about broken love, broken trust, marriages that somehow break down, or break apart.
I hear about the good stuff too. Raising children, building lives together, companionship, good sex, company, back rubs at dawn.
These days when we turn on the news someone, somewhere is cheating on their spouse, has fallen in love, then out again, or cannot say no their own natural desires, lusts or hungers. How it all plays out is what we study here in the therapy rooms. That, and why one's own unique version of the story unfolds as it does. How this effects selves, spouses, and children, integrity, mood and fulfillment.
There are as many answers as there are stories sometimes, I think. Though I know that damage that gets done when someone goes outside of a relationship often seems irreparable. I have seen healing. I have seen lots of interesting and creative solutions. The stats on infidelity are high and fascinating almost, if it were not so painful. We watch public figures over and over again get caught, repent, explain, or sometimes, stand up to their decisions. Often the commentary centers around the morality, religiosity, the measuring stick of black or white, right or wrong, or sometimes, now, the addictive nature of desire.
In here though, in my office, we take the deeper path. We look at emotional communication, currency and callings, not just behavior. We look at motivations, conscious and unconscious. We give a nod to normal physiology. There really isn't any other way. We study what the story is, and how it developed, what the end could be, might be, is desired to be. We tend to all the anger and hurt, of course, and all the fall out, but we study with grace rather than with punishment, even though frustration can run high. Nobody seems to want excuses, I hear that a lot too. Or shirking responsibility for actions taken or feelings felt. But we seem to expect love to be both a reason and ruler. I wonder if we are expecting too much from one feeling. Love seems to get employed for many uses, as does desire and frustration. All powerful emotions, and difficult to reign in at their most potent.
I have yet to hear a story that did not make sense. Not when I've heard it from beginning to end. I have yet to see punishment win out in the end, over rebuilding. It does take time, though. There is no way to put a rush order on emotional healing. But there are ways to live more peacefully with what is possible and what is not.