Often we don’t want to know more about that which might make us uncomfortable. Behaviors we find unsightly and make us want to reject people outright are actually cries for help. If we could be willing to metabolize discomfort better we can decide to take more thoughtful and connective action or at least thoughtful and connective inaction rather than aggressive abandoning rejection. - Traci Ruble
by Traci Ruble, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
I was having lunch today with a friend and we were talking
about relationships: the complexity of
them, the hope and longing that gets symbolically wrapped up in our relating style often
outside of our conscious awareness– with friends, partners, family, co-workers and kids.
It can be hard to tolerate another human’s self-hood with all their longings,
infantile wishes, hurts, depressions, insatiable needs, aggression, expansiveness,
joy, entitlement and love especially when we are not in the same space or their self-hood stirs in us things we don’t want to feel. Being available, really available to another
human, is something we are getting poorer and poorer at. Even the personal growth movement is shifting
towards ways of being and working that is about valuing some feelings over
others – often the happy, loving ones and values working with them in quick fix fashion - a kind of rejection in and of itself of discomfort.
We wondered aloud together “why is it so hard to tell the
truth in relationships?” We recounted relationships we have had where
if we or the other person could have just said “I need some space” or “This
scares me” or “I can’t right now” then the connection could have survived and
even thrived in the midst of the potentially stinging truth but instead the
there was avoidance, pulling away and abandonment that left scars instead of a
sting. In this culture we have lost the
art of telling the uncomfortable but incredibly connective truth. I have
been overwhelmed by friends and they have been overwhelmed by me and in less skillful
moments we have pulled away and judged the other person as “crazy” or “too
needy” but with greater capacities to stay longer in the discomfort there is so
much more opportunity to be connected fallible silly humans.
I am now in an unusual life’s work. I have chosen to be deeply in relationship with
others and inside with myself getting intimate with existential longings and the
impact they have on life. Together we
learn to stay longer in discomfort, get curious, stretch and grow and there
together the brain gets a chance to unhinge from its old wiring of pulling away
from relatedness (judgment, depression, aggression, alcoholism, busyness,
phoniness). It is a life’s work and no
it is not always intense. It can be quite
playful but it does require “right relationship” with people whom you are in
community with who tell the truth of their experience, the truth of their needs
and the truth of their vulnerabilities with compassion and heart.
"The only pain that
can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid unavoidable
pain". –R.D. Laing
My friend and I each sighed and looked out the window, both
of us mothers and I think, both of us knowing where the conversation would turn
next. I wondered aloud, what is our part
in Sandy Hook? We talked about people we
know who are ostracized in our sweet little coastal community they are
struggling publicly and in ways that do not appear so “cute”. Our response is to avoid the discomfort of
their struggle by putting them in the “reject” category so we do not have to
deal with them. Often we don’t
want to know more about that which might make us uncomfortable. Behaviors we find unsightly and make us want to reject people outright are
actually cries for help. If we could be willing to metabolize discomfort better we can decide to take more thoughtful and connective action or
at least thoughtful and connective inaction rather than aggressive abandoning rejection.
We live in a culture that
judges fear as despicable, and depression as an unpatriotic violation of the
"pursuit of happiness".
We sat there and told
story after story of other people we know who are not seeing their part in
their own lives blaming their spouse, their kid, their mother and talked about times
we have not seen our part in ours. We
told times when we were depressed and struggling and how we behaved and how
others related to us. We acknowledged
that judging was easier than staying with the discomfort of the nuanced truth
of the hurts on each side in the relationship.
I was reminded of my neighbor who died alone in his home six months ago
after 20+ years of hoarding and alcoholism.
He was ostracized as a nut who should be left alone by me and my
community and now I am judged by some in my community because I am bothered by
it. I still wish I had done more. When our communities and relationships are
breaking down, it is useful to mine our own inner worlds for how we have a part
and how we might abandon those who express their suffering in unsightly
ways. One of my resolutions for 2013 is
to grow my capacity to be with discomfort so I can be conscious in how I am relating because I believe this impacts my community.
Traci Ruble is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice near the San Francisco MoMA. She works with adults individually and as couples working on their relationships. She also leads online mothers' groups, consults with therapists about marketing and is founder of Psyched in San Francisco. You can learn more about Traci on her website: www.traciruble.com.
Labels: Abandonment, Feelings, Rejection, Sandy Hook, Traci Ruble