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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: September 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

We Won! - How We Think About our Relationships

Last night, late, my husband came back from watching the Jets game.

"How was it?" I asked.

"Good," he said. "We won."

And so I am thinking about this now. What does that mean? "We" won? He did not win, really. I mean, okay, so he's a fan. But, he does not own the Jets (too bad); he does not coach the Jets, or play for the Jets, or even actually go to games in person. So how exactly did "we" win? "We" did not do anything but watch. Did we?

So of course, I understand the longstanding, loyal attachments that "we" have to sports and to teams, and to team spirit, and to rooting and cheering and praying and even to sending spiritual or psychic waves of inspiration and support to our teams. I understand how much being a part of something bigger than ourselves and throwing our attention and team spirit and support that way can mean to us.

I am not at the moment offering an analysis of what sports mean to men, or to any of us. I am just thinking about whether or not we think the same way when it comes to our relationships.

There is a famous story of spiritual leader who's wife broke her ankle. He accompanied her to the doctor and when the doctor asked what the problem was, the Rabbi said, "Doctor, our foot hurts us."

In my work with couples in emotional pain, feelings can seem so factual, so hurtful, so overwhelming and big, that it gets harder and harder to think of the "we." Sometimes we stop thinking about whats good for the relationship and we dig deep into thinking about what's good for ourselves. Which is, of course, always an important part of the equation, but not at the expense of the "us."

Not if we want to save or nurture the relationship. I see couples get into "me vs. him" or "me vs. her," especially when there is choppy communication, or little, no or not enjoyable sex, or some kind of betrayal. When we are hurt we don't want to think of individual sacrifice for the good of the team. We often feel we have sacrificed enough already. Sometimes we have. Its hard to know for sure until we unpack all the ideas behind our attitudes and our feelings.

Its not hopeless. Even when it hurts a lot. And sometimes, you can save a relationship and have more for yourself too. This is often the case. Couples don't always come in together for help. Sometimes coming in alone can help the "team" just as much as coming in together.

Its the right kind of talking that counts. You'd be surprised at how much of a difference it can make. I think we are afraid, much of the time. Afraid that we will not get what we need, or that we will be hurt again, or taken advantage of, or will have to suffer more than we can bear. Or that we will be left alone. Its not often the case, though, when we are able to study things a bit. Team spirit can return, and then everyone wins.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

You Might Be Angry If You are Telling Someone What to Do....

Sometimes its so hard to be in the moment. Especially if the moment brings up anger. For many people, anger is just so painful and so frightening. For the person feeling it, mostly, not just the object of the anger. Whether we feel entitled, right, justified or wounded, anger hurts.

We associate anger with feeling out of control, afraid, disprespected, devalued, threatened.

Usually, we think anger is obvious, but sometimes, its very quiet, very subtle, and that's when it may be the most dangerous. That's when we are likely to be acting on it, without even knowing it.

Most of us do not get good anger training. We yell or hit or stuff anger, or run from it.

Sometimes, if we find ourselves giving advice, instructions, suggestions, its a signal from our psyche that we are angry. Especially for those of us who are very frightened of confrontation or intense feelings, or who don't want to be angry, or angry with the person with whom we are talking.

The urge to give is also sometimes a cover up for how we really feel.

In a group I run, one member presented a certain problem, and almost immediately, another member began to make suggestions. She offered some good books to be read, places to go, and things to do. Very generous, on the one hand, but there was something nagging me about it.

We unpacked it a bit in the group and we came up with this: while all the ideas were good ones, useful ones, really, and the group appreciated hearing them, the offering of them took us out of the moment, away from the feeling. It wasn't conscious, but it was true, we thought.

Maybe the feeling was too intense, or scary, or big. The unconscious mind protects us by distracting us. But these distractions, if we study them, can give us great information about ourselves, and we can use that to heal, to grow and to be more present.

It seems crazy sometimes, when you are in the thick of it, but it's good practice, I think, to be open to what goes on behind the scenes within ourselves. We can make good use of the information, take better care of ourselves and our relationships, and feel better. That's the best part.