We have all seen the Wizard of Oz and remember the scene when Toto pulled back the curtain revealing instead of The Great Oz, a man who was pulling levers. This short scene from this classic film is to a greater or lesser extent all of us. We live our lives behind our curtain. It is so often the case with people whom I work with that they do not know who is behind their own curtain either. Marriages, friendships, and relationships, in general, are filled with casual conversation, hidden agendas and the longing to be known and accepted, warts and all.
So often when working with couples I experience the terror of being seen. They will employ all manner of defenses and resistance to the process that I am trying to use to help them feel better about themselves and each other. Suddenly, anger, defensiveness, contempt, and criticism come my way as a means of keeping the knowledge that they feel deeply inadequate, powerless, helpless and unlovable out of the room. The righteous indignation is a cover for the fear of intimacy, dependency, and loss. These folks truly believe that they are right and righteously defend what they are sure is the truth. Meanwhile, they are devaluing my years of experience and methods painstakingly learned from the masters. Yet they know more. I truly feel sad and helpless in these situations because I know that if we could work together we would be able to come up with a way of working all these issues through.
I am continually surprised at what little married people know about each other and how many conversations about vulnerable personal struggles and about what is happening deeply and importantly never happen. Instead, the walls go up and the safety of conflict and anger comes flowing out. We all know that anger and conflict are dysfunctional, so why do we allow it? We don’t know what else to do and we are too afraid to be truly seen and heard from within our heart of hearts. So, we use entitlement, correctness, indignation, rage, and anger to be our protectors. All in service of our safety from humiliation and abandonment, never realizing that being safe is a myth.
So, what is the answer to our essential loneliness? It is courage. The courage to let down our armor, lay down needing to be right, our feelings of betrayal and of our dearest hurt feelings. Allowing ourselves to be revolutionaries of the soul, to give what we need the most. To embrace compassion, understanding, respect, and empathy as the essential tools of our self-discovery and of knowing one another. A tall order for sure. But if we want to throw off the chains of our personal psychological prison that was fashioned in our own family struggles, we must decide to have the courage to be hurt, to take that risk to open our hearts knowing that we could be.
There are no easy answers on the road into our inner life and our hearts. We must be willing to be seen, to see ourselves, to learn about our own hype, our self-deception. As we are defending, criticizing others, being righteous, shutting down and throwing up walls remember that this is just another way to be utterly alone. As Bob Dylan once said, “every form of refuge has its price.” We really can’t have a safe relationship, we need to allow our mate to see us if we want to be truly intimate. Intimacy is what feeds our soul, nurtures our heart and allows our spirit to fly.