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Daily Inspiration

What is your first reaction when someone is harsh, critical, sarcastic, angry, judgmental, attacking? Do you attack back? Do you withdraw and get silent? Do you defend and explain? Today, honor the feeling in your body that says "This doesn't feel good" and either speak your truth without blame, defense or judgment and open to learning, or lovingly disengage and compassionately take care of your feelings.


How Not To Have A Wonderful Celebration

By Dr. Margaret Paul
September 15, 2014

The control-resist system guarantees you won't have a wonderful anything.

Adriann and Chandler are a sweet, successful couple in their early thirties. In spite of loving each other deeply, they often find themselves in conflict over seemingly minor issues, as most couples do. Recently, just one week before their 4th anniversary, they had a particularly hurtful argument. Adriann had expressed her unhappiness about Chandler's busy schedule and the limited time he finds to spend with her. As usual, Chandler promised to try harder and they got through it. But having not dealt with the real issues at hand, the problem was bound to resurface. Adriann unknowingly began planting the seeds for their next bout when she decided to bring up the subject of their anniversary.

"Chandler, I just wanted to remind you that next Friday is our anniversary and it's really important that we plan something special for us."

Chandler took a deep breath and responded, "Adriann, you know I don t really get into celebrations. I thought you understood that I'm not good at planning things like that."

"Oh come on Chandler. It's really important to me." Nearly pleading, Adriann continued. "When you really love someone, you try to do what is important to them, right? I made the plans last year and now it's your turn. Why don't you surprise me with something really romantic! Okay?"

Silent and distant, Chandler gave a slight nod, which was all the assurance Adriann needed that this anniversary would be exceptional. Finally, the day arrived. Chandler had agreed to be home by six o clock. By twenty past six, Adriann was anxious. With each glance at the clock, her pacing quickened. At last, Chandler walked through the door looking tense and clutching a bouquet of red roses and a box of chocolates. Adriann took the roses and the chocolates with a wary smile, anticipating what was coming next. Without even so much as a glance, Chandler sank into the couch, grabbing the remote control. Adriann watched intently, feeling her blood turn to ice.

"That's it?" she asked.

"That's what?"

"That's it? It's our anniversary! Adriann's tone grew sharp. "You said you would plan something special and romantic and this is it?"

"I never said I would do anything," Chandler retorted. "I told you it wasn't my thing to plan things like this."

"Don’t lie to me! You nodded yes!"

"No, I didn't. I didn't agree to anything. You always want me to prove that I love you. I hate that! Even if I did want to do something for our anniversary, I certainly wouldn't want to after you tell me you expect it!" Sullenly, Chandler turned back to the TV. "You take all the fun out of everything."

Adriann dissolved into tears. "Well, if you knew how to show me you loved me, I wouldn't have to say anything." Without a word, Chandler turned off the TV and left the house.

Once again, Adriann and Chandler were left feeling unheard and unappreciated. Their conditioned response was to blame each other for their hurt feelings and angry behavior.

In order to understand how things went so wrong, we need to look at the interaction in terms of their intention to learn or their intention to control.

Adriann starts out trying to control Chandler by making him feel guilty. Chandler, not wanting to be controlled and not able to communicate how being controlled makes him feel, moves into resistance, which is his form having control over not being controlled. Adriann thinks that laying on more guilt (control) will accomplish her objective to have a romantic anniversary. Since Chandler is frustrated with his inability to express his brewing feelings, he moves into silence (control). Finally, when Chandler comes home late and sits on the sofa, he demonstrates passivity (control) to which Adriann responds with anger (control). Chandler uses more resistance (control) and Adriann uses more anger and guilt (control). Chandler gets defensive (control) and disappears (control). Attack - resist, blame - defend, on and on and on. Sound familiar?

Neither Chandler nor Adriann want to hurt each other. Unfortunately, they are also not open to learning about their own feelings and behaviors, or each other's. Resorting to controlling behavior keeps them under the illusion of “safety” eliminating the need to effectively communicate their fear. Fear is what motivates their intention to control and in the face of fear, their love dissipates.

It would be easy to blame Adriann for their problems - if only she didn't get so needy and angry, everything would be fine. It's just as easy to blame Chandler - if only he was more attentive and caring. Yet until both of them are willing to take responsibility for their own feelings, and until loving themselves and each other is more important than controlling or not being controlled, their conflicts will continue.

Instead of each person taking full responsibility for his or her own happiness and unhappiness, they gave that job to each other.

The act of taking personal responsibility has nothing to do with blame or fault. Each person taking full responsibility eliminates the need to be right, which is an essential step toward a mature and reasonable outcome. What if Adriann had started with, "Chandler, I love celebrating our anniversary and I know you have a problem with celebrations. Can we talk about what would work for both of us?" And what if Chandler had responded to Adriann's initial controlling statements with caring and openness instead of resistance, such as, "Honey, you know I don't like celebrations, so please don't expect me to plan something. Let's talk about how we can make it work for both of us." Either one of them could have moved into an intent to learn and taken responsibility for creating what they wanted – and ended up with a wonderful anniversary!


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