ON THE SURFACE
Michele is freaking out.
She’s in rough patch with her boyfriend and they’re angry with each other. This is how they started their day. This is how they end up at some point almost every day. Angry. Resentful. Hurt. Misunderstood. Frustrated. Stuck.
On the surface, this is what they’re in coaching for. To resolve these conflicts. To see growth, change and progress in her relationship.
Under the surface she is doing everything she can to avoid this conflict.
When asked to describe her feelings without blame, suddenly her phone dies. When asked what she wants in the relationship, she becomes too busy to respond. Despite saying the “right” thing to look good and sound compassionate, she doesn’t know how to say the real thing.
One part of her absolutely wants change.
Another part of her doesn’t. In fact, it’s going to do everything it can to keep her stuck.
ME vs MYSELF
Imagine two parts of yourself:
Part A wants to a healthy relationship
Part B ruminates on past hurts, blames your partner, picks apart their behavior and avoids sharing how you feel
Part A wants to feel safe, connected and loving
Part B sees tenderness as “fake,” so you “get real” by seeking whats not working and comparing your partner to possible replacements
Part A wants to have a relationship of truth, intimacy and honesty
Part B fears your partners emotions, so you lie. You get angry about little things and distract them from getting too close to you.
Get the idea?
Part A wants something
Part B uses any means to sabotage, block and avoid it
This “Part B” has many names . It’s the archetype of The Saboteur. It’s what Gay Hendricks calls “Upper Limiting.” Jung called it the shadow. In the book Coming Alive it’s called “Part X.” Your grandma called it “taking two steps forward and one step back.”
THE MACHETE AND THE RAINFOREST
Imagine a machete in your hand. Imagine a rainforest in front of you. Pick a direction. Now go.
It doesn’t matter which direction you go. Whatever direction you choose is the right one. Why? Because you chose it.
Towards appreciation or towards criticism
Towards commitment or towards comparison
Towards vulnerability or towards defensiveness
These examples are black and white, but life isn’t. It’s not always easy to tell which way you’re going. Especially if you’re moving too fast to feel it. You may have taken several steps forward and now need to take a step back and course correct. That is just as important a part of the process as the rest of it.
How many times has your life changed direction? 10 years ago did you expect to be where you are today? Did you want to be somewhere else? What if you started going in that direction now?
As someone who has battled depression in the past, I have found the research of positive psychology to be true: appreciate what you have now, choose a direction to go towards, make progress, and you will feel happier. When you get stuck, slow down. Trust how you feel and you will know which direction to go next.
Michele asked to be “called on her bullshit.”
Naming her partners faults, she could write a short novel. Yet, when called on said bullshit, all manner of excuses arose. “Her phone died.” “She’s too busy.” “She’ll get back to me.”
Which direction is she choosing? Inaction is a choice too. LIke Arjuna on the battlefield, It appears she’s not choosing a direction, but digging her heels in.
What if this is progress?
In the past she would have avoided conflict by seeking the attention of other men. Instead of inaction, she would become aggressive and provoke her partner.
She’s tried to go this direction before. She’s felt the fear of trusting a man to be with her at her most vulnerable. She’s felt the overwhelm of resolving life-long intimacy issues. She’s felt the pull to choose an easier direction.
This time she has help.
Unsure of how to articulate her feelings without blaming her partner
Afraid that her vulnerability will be seen as weakness
Unsure of how to ask for what she wants
Yeah, this is probably a good direction to go.