Albert Einstein said, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result, but expecting a different one. The reality is that humans are not rational beings, but rationalizing ones. We get into the same arguments over and over. We have the same conversations, sometimes with the same people, sometimes with different ones, but somehow still the same. Some of these conversations and situations can have a game-like quality, and give participants a degree of comfort and familiarity, these are not the problem and not the ones we’ll focus on here. Then we have conversations and situations that can make us feel helpless and even get us into a state of despair.. “I can’t believe I/we did this again!” sort of thing.. These can rake real havoc in our lives..
The truth is we all have situations and relationships patterns we keep on repeating. Why do we do that?
A couple of factors might be at play here.
According to relationship expert and researcher John Gottman, 69% of problems in good relationships are not solvable by definition. Take that in for a moment. Here we are obsessed with finding a solution, erroneously believing there is a solution (I mean, there must be a solution, right??) while in fact there just isn’t one. An example of such situation could be a spender and a saver coupled together. What feels good to one, is a killer to another. What to do? If compromise comes to mind, wait just a minute.. John Gottman warns against trying to arrive at compromise prematurely, and suggests instead to use the conflict as a means of exploring the deeper meaning behind it and getting to know and understand another person. When we seek to genuinely see and understand another, without needing to win clouding our vision, then truly trying to put ourselves in their shoes, we experience empathy and a new level of closeness in the relationship. Hint: if you finding yourself evaluating whether what you are hearing is valid, right or wrong, you are not getting the point! You really need to put your point of view aside while you are listening to the other person. Only once they feel completely heard and understood, you may take a turn speaking and expressing. The benefit of the process is instead of being torn apart by conflict that has no solution, you feel closer as a result of the conflict that has no solution, and the conflict itself looses it’s importance. Does that make any sense?
Another thing that could be happening is you could be reacting not to the present situation, but to what you are making it mean. Often, some unresolved past situations and unconscious beliefs might be at play here. For instance, if you have an unconscious belief that you are unlovable, and someone doesn’t respond to your text message in a timely manner, you might make it mean in your mind, that here we go again, why doesn’t anybody love me.. Without even realizing we are having this thought, we might feel hurt, sad, ashamed, angry. We might shut down or lash out at the culprit, or find a reason to be mad at someone else. We might reach for a cookie, coffee or alcohol (you name it) to medicate the resulting emotional state. Obviously, this could potentially bring fair amount of suffering. This isn’t a rare occurrence. Some relationship experts estimate that up to 80% of all human interactions are unconscious reactions to the past wounding and internalized unconscious beliefs, rather than actual present moment and reality. 80%!!! This one is a real problem for most of us.
One of ways to work through an unconscious pattern is in a challenging situation to ask yourself a question “What am I making this mean?” It’s also really helpful to bring attention to your body and breath. When we move, stretch, breathe and get outside and bring attention to our senses, it helps us get out of our head and disrupt the story our mind is creating and possibly running in a loop. Checking in on a regular basis with what emotions we are feeling and focusing on, paying attention to sensations in our body takes practice, but it is so worth it. Peter Levin, world renown trauma expert and creator of Somatic Experiencing, calls body a royal highway into unconscious. The truth is our body holds the key when words fail.
There is lots of benefits to talking and cognitive processing and learning communication and conflict resolution skills. However, if you have been at it for a while and starting to hit a wall, chances are you are at a point when talking doesn’t and can’t help anymore. This is an exciting time ripe with opportunity! If you are ready to take a leap into your unconscious, on your own or with a trusted guide, like integrative coach or a therapist, trained in modalities that are focused on the body, your life just might be about to change. You could be at the very threshold of major breakthroughs and possibly are about to discover freedom and power you never imagined you had!
One thing that took me years to learn is that this journey does not have to be uncomfortable or painful. In fact, therapy has a terrible rep and shame laden stigma, and coaching is still relatively new in the mainstream, and it being unregulated industry, not every coach uses similar approaches or created equal to another. However, my point here is that transformation can and does happen through pleasure, in very gentle ways and while feeling supported along each step of the way. Whether you choose to work with someone, or research and commit to self-practices, creating inner climate of safety, self-love and belonging is very key in any case. Pleasure (which similar to therapy also has a pretty bad rep and very wrongfully so) resets our brain, nourishes and creates new baseline for our nervous system. If this sounds too good to be true, I’ll say that simple doesn’t always mean easy. If we have it coded in our unconscious mind that getting what we want has to be hard, last thing we’ll intuitively do is reach for pleasure. If personal growth through pleasure is entirely new concept to you, like it was for me, let me dispel it for you, it truly takes real discipline to develop practices to increase amount of pleasure in our lives. We will run into resistance, old conditioning, worthiness issues, grief, you name it – pleasure is so powerful it brings all sort of muck to the surface. The answer is to keep going. Everything we want is on the other side.