What We Want:
We all long for fulfilling, stable, and safe connections to others. We want to be understood and hope for people to experience us as we experience ourselves. We long for someone who will take care of us and reassure us that everything will be ok. We want to feel held and contained. We want our rage and defiance to be tolerated. We want to feel that someone understands our experiences of the world and we want those our feelings about those experiences to either be validated or soothed.
Why That’s Challenging:
We will often be misunderstood by and misunderstand others.
We don’t always know how to tolerate someone else’s rage and defiance. Some of us were taught that rage and defiance are intolerable and unacceptable. We were taught that in order to be lovable we had to be “good” which meant being pleasing and accommodating.
We all have some degree of self-idealization, over-inflation of certain qualities and that is often in conflict with a) others’ self-idealization and b) others’ self-concepts. It gets in the way. I might think of myself as a smart, fantastic listener and you might consider yourself a smart, effective communicator. If we come across a misunderstanding or a fair amount of tension during an encounter in our relationship, depending on how psychologically flexible we are, both of us might jump to the conclusion that the other is not as smart as they think they are or not a great listener/communicator.
We are a complex constellation of inner experiences and reduced to words as a means of communication.
Some of us have been deeply hurt by intimacy. Some of us respond to this wound by avoiding intimacy. Others respond by developing a preoccupation with it. Depending on the experiences endured in childhood, we might view safety as either boring, untrustworthy, or elusive. (And plenty of people would say that safety is downright illusory.)
A lot of us don’t know how to manage our own difficult emotions, let alone tolerate high emotionality in others.
What We Can Do:
We can begin by learning to accept that we are never going to be completely understood by nor completely understand others. Having some understanding can be enough.
At any moment, we can slow down and label what is happening to give us space from the immediate interpretations calculated by our brains.
We can look at our expectations.
We can start to be more curious about which narratives we’re living by that aren’t serving us.
We can remind ourselves that, at the core, what we want from others is often what they want from us and that we might define this differently.
We can learn to balance between our attunement to others’ needs and our own.
Listening is an ineffably effective tool. When we’re willing to listen to ourselves and others we create an open, stable environment. Listening allows us to contact an experience on a deeper level and then make choices that are more in alignment with what is needed.
As always, none of this exhaustive but it’s off to a good start. Happy relating!
Love and Be Loved,