When couples or individuals come to my Practice I sometimes get a sense that they feel life is controlling them and they have no alternative but to continue on in the same, possibly negative and damaging way. It feels as if there is no way out. Becoming stuck in a pattern of negative interaction may be the thing which is controlling them, not life, and so we set out on a journey together to try and make different choices.
In adulthood, the sense that you have no choice can be rooted in a childhood where choice belonged to the parents and never to the child. Once adult, taking unfamiliar risks with choice becomes a fear and influences their relationships with their partners and friends.
A couple might be struggling with becoming stuck in a cycle of rows, disagreements and disappointment in each other. They have either lost or never found their ability to make a choice. No one is saying they have to stay in a bad relationship, job or friendship but the choice to change is often hard and staying the same is thought to carry less risk. In fact resisting choice can be what causes the couple to feel trapped.
Each struggle to change the other. To somehow shape them into a mould more like themselves. Yet they tell me that when they first met, one of the attractions was the difference. They lose the memory that at the beginning they felt so attached to the person that the difficult bits were either ignored or put aside. In putting irritation aside they made a choice.
Any form of addiction that an individual or couple carry presents people with an idea that they have to control the other….stop the addiction…send them to a therapist or 12 step programme. Never at any point other than threats do they actually say, “What choice can I make to alter this familiar pattern…. what am I doing to keep this negative communication going?” The fear of loneliness, isolation, finding another partner or being ostracized is so huge that they stay in the cycle of rowing and placing blame.
Once they realise they can make different choices, however difficult, things become unstuck. They becomes kinder and more aware that they don’t have to stay stuck.
Being aware about what they are about to say or do and why.
Did it work last time there was a row?
Why revisit negative patterns which they know cause hurt and defensiveness.
Avoiding known triggers.
Taking time out in another room to think about how they could have spoken differently.
Apologising for the hurt they cause.
Coming at the difficulty from another, calmer place.
There are many ways to change ways of behaviour and communication and all of them require the knowledge that choices in adulthood are always there unless nature has thrown something at our planet which is beyond the choice of man to alter. Even in those cases, we are now told that we can choose to live differently. Courage, however, is needed to make choices and reap the reward.