Sunday, 22 March 2009

You Say Love, I Say Manipulation

Controversial title, huh?

In my work, relationships often come up as a source of dissatisfaction. Part of the problem is that it is one of the areas of life which has the most unquestioned assumptions. Unlike other areas of life, where certain rules and habits are established in earlier life (for better or for worse) e.g. health, completely no attention is given to relationships in the average household.

Problem: It is easy to assign unrealistic assumptions to the idea of a relationship.

Most won't admit to it, but if you go right down to it, there is a knight on a white charger or guardian angel or damsel in distress in there somewhere. Adjust the imagery for culture and upbringing, but you'll usually find it. (The picture for this post is particularly compelling!)

On the other hand, there is the other type, who have become so disillusioned with relationships that for them it can be nothing more than a dull exchange, a routine. The suffering here is more subtle than the huge struggle the first set get into when they realise their relationships aren't going where they want it to. However, there is a sense of disappointment, of hopelessness. Bad? Not really, unless it is a satisfying relationship you want.

Problem: "Needing" a relationship.

This one is sometimes linked up to the first bit. It is really part of the whole gestalt. However, the basic point is that there is a story going on in a person's head that they "need" a relationship somehow. This is true for the single, the dating, the married, the divorced and the remarried. In short, all of them. If you need a relationship, you'll never be fully present in one, even if the perfect mate comes along. It will turn into a constant game of manipulating the other into reassuring you of your insecurities, or of holding him or her to standards that are arbitrarily and uniquely your own.

As Byron Katie would put it: Who would you be without that thought?

You would see them for the first time. You would see them for the wonderful people they really are, when you no longer need them to do this, or that, or the other. And you would be fully present in the relationship, which you would now be free or continue or leave. Either way, the pain would be over. So would all the manipulation that goes on, trying to make someone act in a certain way or behave differently. Why would you do that, when you could experience full happiness right here and now?

If you think you need a mate to somehow "complete" your life, guess what? It's the thought that it's incomplete which really causes the pain. Yet somehow people choose to hang on to the paradigms of suffering which they have always had, preferring it to the pain-free world of really present relationships. And then of course they blame the pain on the cheating partner, on God, on the family, on friends, on gossip, on anything but themselves. Never do they stop to realise that if they would just let the thought go, they would experience all the happiness of union, right now. The physical mate would be an added bonus, nothing more.

Problem: The mental checkmate

This is for those who are in relationships of abuse, or of philandering spouses, who bring a further story into the picture. "I can't leave him because I'll have no money." And now they have double the pain! The pain of fearing to leave, and the pain of cheating and abuse. And there is no answer to what to do physically in these situations. Only they can decide. However, uniformly, the first thing to do is to get the stories out of the way. The pain they are causing themselves is completely unnecessary. Life can be painful enough without you giving it a hand!

Pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional...

...What is your story?

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