Well. You spend a lot of time hiking in the wilderness, thinking about life’s ups and downs, and relationships are going to come up—a lot. Here’s some of my thinking.
To start, a few maybe hard to hear truths.
In the area of relationships, we are immature.
Well, at least less mature than in other areas–and for understandable reasons.
First, we spend less time on relationships. Work comes day after day, week after week, more or less throughout our lives, and like it or not, we learn at the very least to cope with it. Handling rent, balancing the food budget, keeping the check book straight–these are things we do continually. But for many people, relationships come, end, come, go, as periods at times during our lives, punctuated by periods of singledom. We just get more practice at everything else than we do at relationships. Or if in a long term relationship for years…it’s a relationship with that person, and a change in partners later presents new challenges.
Second, when stressed or threatened, people tend to regress. It’s a natural response…we retreat to what’s more comfortable, to what we know better, and that’s to what we used to be, not to what we’ve evolved. Imagine…first you’re diplomatic. Then you get shorter and more pointed in your responses. Then you’re a trifle brusque. Then…well, you get the idea. The emotional pressure increases, and the maturity of the responses goes down.
Seriously, think about some of the arguments you’ve had in the context of romantic relationships. These are at levels you would never use for any other adults. This is us at our worst, because it’s the most immature/underdeveloped aspect of our experience. Here are a couple of reasons–Expectations and the Onion Effect.
We expect–no, even demand–things from lovers we would never reasonably expect from even our closest friends. And quite unfairly at that. Remember that person you met who was just the most amazing angel who ever walked the earth? How you walked around floating and glowing? And then how a few months later that same person was the most despicable, devious, horrific spawn of Satan in all the annals of evil? What happened? What’s the truth? Neither. Both are your own projections, and both are completely your own invention, having little to nothing to do with reality. More about expectations in a moment.
When we get emotionally close to someone, we open up, and in so doing, unveil emotional layers we don’t usually expose. While this is important to building trust, and while sharing deeply is an emotional need, these are also feelings we typically keep buried. They are raw, and we’re still quite defensive about them, being so new at showing them the light of day. Consequently, we don’t handle this process well, and when we feel hurt, we blame the only available person–our lover. The truth, though, is just that we’ve pealed into deeper layers of the onion. Reaction clouds logic, and the tears fall.
Anger is denial. True anger is a flash of a danger signal–something’s wrong. Anything after a few seconds of that is all about ego–how could this happen to me! The real emotion is fear. Nothing true needs to be said in anger, because truth can always be said calmly and peacefully, standing on its own–or it’s not really the truth. We raise our voices when we’re feeling threatened, and in relationships (baring an abusive situation, of course), that threat is internal. False Expectations Appearing Real. As the Course in Miracles says, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.” But that takes emotional courage.
Expectations are resentments under construction. We each have a notion of how things are supposed to be, built from upbringing, culture, past experiences, and our own fantasies. But no one else shares this precise notion, and thus, everyone falls short! Losers. And we can never please them, no matter what we try. Ingrates. The one thing that can help–openly and honestly discussing these–never happens, or happens only partially, because we actually don’t get that these notions are our own independent creations, not the ancient wisdom of all humankind.
So we rebury our feelings, only to repeat the process with the next partner. And when we bury our feelings, we bury them alive.
Nothing is particularly wrong with any of this. It is what it is. The important point is to become aware of it, and at that point, we can deal with it and grow, both individually and in relationships.
The problem is that we believe we are above all this. We are being perfectly reasonable, and all the others are being unreasonable. This is really the top place where we need to recognize that one finger pointing is three pointing back at us, but no, all that goes out the window. We are just right. But we aren’t. We attract who we are.
And that’s something most of us don’t want to hear. So we pass the blame.
That, then, is the first step in getting unstuck in relationships. Recognize your part in all this, and start to understand the difficulties the others are having–similar ones to yours.
Next, recognize these relationships will be with human beings. They will not be perfect. They will make mistakes. I chuckle every time someone claims to seek a partner with no baggage. Good luck with that. Guess what? You are not perfect. You will make mistakes. And you have baggage. Don’t look for someone without baggage; look for someone who likes you enough to help you unpack.
If you could do the above, you’d be far happier and far more balanced right from the start. But remember…right now you’re reading this with your rational self. The trick is to learn to do this with your hurt, afraid, defensive, suspicious, cautious, uncertain, reactive immature self. The one with the baggage. It won’t come at once…but progress, not perfection.
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October 2012 is a series of daily posts about “A Wilderness Hike,” taking readers through the healing of wilderness experience and glimpses of my work at Kwan Yin Healing and of my book, “Getting Unstuck.”
You can read the series from the start via the links here:
Oct. 1: A Wilderness Hike
Oct. 2: The Sixth Hour
Oct. 3: Snowy Mountain
Oct. 4: Letting Go of Baggage–the Wilderness Way
Oct. 5: “Bear” the Thought
Oct. 6: Mountain. Buddha. Impermanence.
Oct. 7: The Rewards of Rain
Oct. 8: Finding the Keys
Oct. 9: “I’d love to, but times are bad.”
Oct. 10: Attracting the Law of Attraction
Oct. 11: We are not our thoughts
Oct. 12: Honesty, Forgiveness, Healing
Oct. 13: Getting Unstuck: Feeling Overwhelmed
Oct. 14: Money is remarkably easy to come by, if that’s all you want.
Oct. 15: To be Time Rich, Learn to Be
Oct. 16: Changing Thoughts for Changing Work
Oct. 17: Finding and Sharing your Gifts
Oct. 18: Do you want to be the boss? Be sure you want to run the show.
Oct. 19: Finding jobs within jobs
Oct. 20: Bright Mountain Dream
Oct. 21: Escape the Wilderness of Addictions
Oct. 22: The Importance of Spiritual Direction
Oct. 23: In Search of Enlightenment
Oct. 24: Relationship Thoughts from the Wilderness
Oct. 25: We learn in realtionships
Oct. 26: Chrysalis
Oct. 27: Self-Healing, part 1
Oct. 28: Self-Healing, part 2: Time for a new perspective
Oct. 29: Dix Mountain
Oct. 30: The Mist-Filled Path
Oct. 31: From Wilderness to Wondrousness