This blog only touches on the Pandemic.  Some will be relieved to hear this.  We have all read interesting and well researched material on the last 5-6 months depending on where, geographically, people were cited.  I think, however, that we need to retain the bits we read, saw and heard about and move to a place where we use that knowledge to proceed with caution into whatever follows.  An overload of opinion can be nullifying therefore editing the bits which fit our mindset is helpful.

John Lennon’s quote, ‘life happens while you are busy making other plans,’ (I always thought this quote came from Oscar Wilde) has been proven and is useful to keep in mind whenever the future becomes overwhelming.  The more we try to control a place in time which could bring anything good or bad which we had not factored into our plans, the more anxious we become.

I have noticed that the ‘hated familiar’ has been occurring quite frequently during the lock down which is understandable when people are together 24/7. Habits become the norm. Couples seem to get stuck in a pattern and wonder why difficult things keep recurring.  This exchange seems to cause blame placing rather than the more helpful solution which is to think about self contribution. 

At Coupleworks, we find this strange situation is one of the hardest to alter.  It can take a long time and gentle work to find out how this phenomena manifests in each couple.

Working psychodynamically with this familiar situation helps me to look at the whole of each person rather than each of them in the here and now.  So we look together at their early family stories to get some clues about why they manage things in the same way despite knowing through repeated experience that it will end with no resolution. They know that the next time a trigger point arises, they will both step back onto the malignant roundabout and go round and round until they get tired of the process.  The usual result of that is to store up resentment through lack of resolution which causes repressed anger which in turn gets stored in the mind bank for the next time.

Hurtful things get said and before long a slanging match starts.  Shouting is likely from one side or the other and it is worth pointing out that when someone shouts, the other cannot hear the words as anything but familiar blame.  The opportunity to hear the partner’s pain in the words is impossible and point scoring becomes the currency.

Looking at early family stories is not about trying to place blame or highlight mistakes, rather it is about discovering patterns of behaviour which may need new management tools.  This is not about criticism and more about finding different ways of responding to remarks from your loved one who has, yet again, gone for where they know it causes negative response. The hated familiar of the title of this blog.

Sometimes early experience with parents and siblings, school friends and close relations is where the pain starts.  If the client was never able to express their real feelings to adults around them, they may go to the safest way they found as a child to deal with emotional loneliness and pain.  The way to be, if it seemed to work, becomes the normal for them and perhaps their real self gets buried under the defences.  The real self may have surfaced in the courtship of the couple in the early seduction but, if buried again in the later busy and stressed life of the couple, it becomes lost and hard to retain.  Both sides of the couple become disappointed once again feeling no one understands their pain.

It takes courage to break through the barrier and find the key to the gate which opens onto a safe ground where each side can listen, hear and communicate again like they did at the beginning.  The hated familiar, once understood, becomes something to avoid and not repeat.

Clare Ireland