DECEPTIONS We deceive ourselves BY : Troy Murphy | April 2016
Stock Adobe Royalty Free Images
Words convey a meaning; but the meaning conveyed may not be the meaning intended. Misunderstandings destroy relationship harmony. When a partner says, “I am working late tonight,” but the feeling received is, “you don’t care about me,” then there is a communication issue either on the part of the projector or the receiver. Intimacy requires a different kind of listening, extending beyond the words and creating a connection of the hearts.
When we project or receive distorted messages communication fails to create an intimate connection. Words leave doubts, and doubts create insecurity. When words resonate, striking an emotional chord, we bond with the emotion—good or bad. The strong emotion demands explanation which our minds quickly create; often unnecessarily magnifying the emotion. Relying heavily on the past, our memories bias the interpretations; implicit memories charging emotions and explicit memories creating explanations.
We adapt to life through learning. Our memories create an evolutionary advantage, allowing for creative avoidance of danger and clever seizing of opportunities. Projecting lessons from the past, onto the present is the foundation of wisdom—or foolishness. We must interpret new experiences to survive, differentiating between friendly opportunities and dangerous liaisons. But accurate interpretations require more than reactionary interpretations based on emotions. The present seldom is exactly the same. We must consider current context, differences, and personal biases. In relationships, there is more than one past involved. Intimacy demands understanding of a partner’s past—their individual joys, hurts, neglects, rewards, punishments, abandonments, and fears. All these are significant forces behind words and behaviors.
Basing our biased interpretation of a partner’s motives on our past while ignoring their past often constructs faulty assessments. Identifying the influence of both partner’s pasts is foundational for healthy relating.
Each connection, where the hearts merge, each partner feeling felt, builds a bond. Every misunderstanding adds and compounds, further distorting reality. Negative assessments of intention accumulate transforming the once handsome prince into the enemy. Once seen as the enemy, our partner naturally elicits negative emotions, coloring our interpretations; eventually even the positive behaviors are regarded as a cover for sinister motives. No relationship can survive these unforgiving views.
We need connection. We need compassion. Our intimate relationships are essential resources for human well-being. When needs are threatened, we react with strong emotions. These drives for connection, essential for well-being, add to the emotions of communication. When we fear loss, we react with forcefulness. A common reaction to fear of loss is manipulation—or at least attempts to manipulate. The flowers of love never grow here. The more we try to forcefully change a partner, the larger the divide becomes.
When self-knowledge is lacking, thoughts distorted through defensive protections, we will fail to see the impact of our behaviors. To improve, we must recognize our emotionally driven reactions that create a wedge when we desire closeness.
We possess finite relationship skills. They are limited. Like other resource they can be depleted or insufficient. Partners—and ourselves will act within our limitations. Expecting more than this will disappoint. Because universal resource limitations, occasionally we will feel lack; our partners will fail to fulfill all our desires. Overtime, we can improve, gathering more resources, sharpening skills and strengthening bonds. But improvements develop over months, years and decades—not days or weeks. Relationships strengthen from hundreds of small steps during routine interactions, showing we care.
Engrained patterns of interaction aren’t easily dismantled. Words, events, expressions are tightly wound with emotions. We must constantly appraise our emotions, responses and triggers, stepping back, finding space and consider alternate explanations. By asking clarifying questions, we gain insight uncovering more damaging motives.
We are loved when we learn to love. A deeper understanding of ourselves and our partners begins to unfold mysterious corners, displaying missed errors, and nasty biases. Intimacy can now begin. In the light, our interpretations become more insightful. The malicious labels pinned on our partner begin to soften. We now see their behaviors through the lens of their own fears—relics from their painful past.
Mindfully move forward. Look a little deeper! Take time to understand.