Witnessing ourselves in relationships
09 February 2015
By Karin Friedmann
''Everything happens for a reason.
Sometimes the reason is youíre stupid and make bad decisions,'' reads a joke
circulating on Facebook. But sometimes even smart people make stupid
decisions. Many times we donít actually make conscious decisions but repeat
similar mistakes again and again. Part of growing up and learning how to make
good decisions is by recognizing our own behavior patterns and stopping
ourselves. Becoming conscious requires learning to recognize subconscious
emotions. If you get a disturbing feeling that you have felt this emotion
before, this can serve as a warning that you are behaving unconsciously.
For example, when Gina became engaged
to Frederic, she was madly in love and tried to please him. This desire for
approval made her vulnerable when he would treat her in an accusing way.
''Why didnít you pick up the phone? What were you doing? Who were you talking
to? Why havenít you told me about this friend before?''
Ginaís first instinct was to reassure
him of her innocence, but as this pattern continued, she realized she was
experiencing a familiar emotion: the fearful childhood feeling of being ''in
trouble'' with her parents. Once she realized that she was engaging in a
subconscious reaction, she decided to bring her relationship into adulthood:
Making mutual respect her goal, she resolved to stop taking her fianceís
controlling behavior behavior so seriously. She could either stop allowing
him to talk to her this way, or she could walk away from the relationship.
Either way, she refused to allow herself to be bullied by him anymore.
Desperate housewife Amira found herself
in a situation where her husband grudgingly tolerated her. He decided he
didnít want her anymore and ''sent her back to her parents.'' However, 45
days later, her parents sent her back without explanation. But it sent the
message that the parents didnít want her either. Terrified of being
abandoned, she engaged in passive aggressive dependency behavior to make it
hard for her husband to divorce her Ė refusing to speak English, refusing to
learn how to drive a car, and refusing to leave the house by herself, not
even to buy food. How easy it is to resort to victimhood when oneís parentís
have impressed upon a person that love is conditional, and that the best one
can hope for in life is to be grudgingly tolerated.
In both of these situations, the women
are not only victims of their own patterns but also they are receiving the
''Other'' treatment.The man is treating them like a thing he owns, like
chattel, which he judges according to whether or not it is living up to his
hopes and expectations. When she does not please him, his instinct is either
to assert control over her or to throw her in the garbage. There is no
concept in his mind of a relationship with a human being of equal value. This
male chauvenist attitude comes from a combination of cultural conditioning
and emotional immaturity.
How can a woman react in order to make
a man regard her with the same respect as he requires for himself? The
solution is three-fold: she must be willing to end the relationship, love
herself enough not to take neurotic responsibility for his problems relating
to women, and she must recognize that he too is a victim of subconscious
Compare Amira the unwanted wife to
Maryem, who discovered her husband was secretly visiting other women. She
threatened him that she would take their children back to her country to live
with her parents if he did not immediately recommit to their marriage. Prior
to this ultimatum, her husband had been engaging in the mindset of blaming
his wife and children for his lack of accomplishments in life and taking
revenge on her relative financial success by cheating on her. But faced with
the threat of losing his family, he snapped out of this childish victim
mindset and took responsibility.
It is remarkable to observe how we
react in situations of uncertainty and how this corresponds to our childhood
patterning as well as how we have emerged from it.
Shanaís cell phone malfunctioned for 24
hours, so that she was not receiving texts and her husband was not receiving
her texts. Her first reaction was to assume he was angry with her. She went
over every text she had sent to try and figure out what she had done wrong.
But before resorting to abject apologizing without knowing her crime, as she
habitually did with her first husband, who had frequently engaged at giving
her the silent treatment, she realized that she was engaging in a past
pattern and stopped herself from begging for forgiveness. She then went to
the other extreme, thinking angrily that if her second husband was going to
engage in passive aggressive silence instead of telling her why heís angry,
she would not tolerate it. She started going through a mental list of other
men who might want her if this marriage didnít work out.
Just then, her husband called. ''I was
so worried about you! I thought something happened to you. Why didnít you
return my texts?''
Shana was so relieved that he was not
angry with her, and doubly relieved she had not apologized for nothing! She
recognized that she had made considerable progress in protecting her dignity
since her previous marriage in that regard. She also noted that she still had
serious trust issues. Her husbandís caring reaction made her realize that she
was so lucky to have him, and restored her faith in the relationship. His
caring nature was born of a decision to live more consciously and to engage
in healthier relationships. Ironically, Amira was Shanaís husbandís first
wife. How is that the same man would treat two women so very differently?
What is it about our attitudes that influence how others treat us?
Learning to be a witness of ourselves
with others is one of the most exciting and meaningful paths we can take in
life. Those who donít do it, never fully mature. Those who do, break the
chains of social conditioning taught by past generations, and empower
themselves and others with enlightened perception and self-management skills.