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TEN MISCONCEPTIONS THAT CAN DEFEAT A RELATIONSHIP TEN WAYS TO PROMOTE SUCCESS PART SET Dr MargiAnne Isaia, MD MPH PCC DrAnneenthusiasticLife 9
MURRAY BOWEN 1988 “I do not agree with the numerous misinterpretations of theory about the human family, but I am also never in favor of telling others what they should believe.”
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 1 “The other person will make me happy.” Happiness (and the pursuit of it) is an individual matter. Another person may enhance or detract from one’s happiness, but the primary responsibility for happiness or lack of it remains with the self.
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 2 “I can change the other,” (or an attempt to do it may sound like “If you cared about me you’d ….”). Both are serious boundary intrusions that set one up for disappointment. Most relationships cannot bear that kind of load. Those can be hard beliefs to give up, but the sooner it is done, the better the relationship will fare. As with happiness, change is accomplished only by and for each individual.
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 3 “A differentiated person must be cold and unfeeling.” When people have spent years believing that spontaneous expression and processing of all feeling states in relationships represents a high. Level of functioning, they may hear choosing between thinking and feeling systems as intellectually defending against feelings. However, even at the highest levels of differentiation, the choice can be made to go with the feeling system. A logical intellectual process, one relatively free of anxiety, it is quite different from the logical, inconsistent, intellectualized verbalizations of a person whose thinking system, fused to the emotional system, is awash with anxiety.
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 4 “It is my right to respond from my emotions to my partner’s anxiety.” The excuse given usually is, “It is too hard not to,” followed by “Why should I do all the work?” Responding to anxiety states and whatever he or she does or says during them as the other person’s “trash” may be more useful. Most useful is doing mentally what one does with trash-throw it out!
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 5 “This relationship will never get any better.” If one believes that, it probably won’t. But how can one tell? Since any relationship can function at a better level if even one person in it changes, either one has the power to change things unilaterally at any time
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 6 “I’ve changed myself all I can and things aren’t any better.” To be alive is to change, so it probably is not true that one has changed all one can-unless one is dead. Even so, two people never change at the same time. If one partner has truly raised the level of differentiation, that one will have more patience. Giving the relationship time to adjust to the changes in the level of maturity, and giving the partner time to come up to a new level of functioning, can make a big difference.
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 7 “Whatever one “needs” talk it out; the other must agree to listen.” The belief that talking about feelings is the only way to feel better or believing that relationships exist for the purpose of processing feelings is a common misconception. Although communicating must be a high priority for any well-functioning relationship, this attitude belies a lack of respect for boundaries. The other has q right not to communicate at any given time, just as one has the right to ask. There are too many ways to change feeling states. The nature of feelings is that they come and go. Talking it out is only of many ways to affect these states, and probably one that, if used exclusively, no relationship can tolerate. If one can take primary responsibility for processing feelings to be selective about which feelings to bring into the relationship, the relationship will do better.
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 8 “Excessive worry about the past-your own or the other person’s-is often defeating to relationships.” The belief that expressions of blame towards one’s family of origin somehow help one advance is expecially prevalent. However, if the past can be relegated to the past, most relationships (especially those in the original family) will do better.
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 9 “If you don’t love me like my mother did, you don’t love me.” Only one person will ever love one like one’s mother.
10 MISCONCEPTIONS IN RELATIONSHIPS 10 “I can cut off from my extended family and still have good relationships.” It may be possible for some people, but a family of origin cutoff would, theoretically, stack the odds heavily against good nuclear family or other present relationships.
MURRAY BOWEN 1972 The “I think Position” defines principle and action in terms of “this is what I think or believe” and “this is what I will or will not do,” without impinging one’s own values or beliefs on others.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 1 “Working toward my own calm and intellectual objectivity enables me to think more clearly and thus speak and act more constructively as well as providing a tangible contribution to the emotional climate of relationships.” It is not necessary to be a victim of the emotional climate of others. Playing one’s full fifty percent in the relationship can make the climate what one would like it to be.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 2 “I am at my best in relationships when I can observe myself in a relationship pattern and change my part in it without expectations of the other.” Taking responsibility for the self is a full-time job for most people. It is probably the biggest part of the work that must be done in relationships.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 3 “Staying in contact, maintaining one-to-one relationships with the individuals in my systems is important for me - it provides a sense of groundedness. I have no other way.” People caught in the cutoff pattern of their system try to carry it on one more generation. Invariably they find that this style of relationship functioning works no better for them than it did for the previous generations. A cutoff system is an intense system. Intensity over time will translate into relationship difficulties.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 4 “It doesn’t matter who makes the contact (is the initiator) or if one person makes more than his or her share of contacts. What matters is that they are made.” To be present and accounted for, especially in a relatively cutoff system, may mean that one sometimes gets the feeling that one is doing more than one share of the work. However, people who function at higher levels, while they are calmer, are also active systems forces. So, if one is doing more than others in a system, it should be seen as a tribute to the level one has reached.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 5 “If I can remember to look for the anxiety behind the boundary intrusion of the others, I can be less reactive.” Any communications made out of anxiety call for better-than-usual attempts to manage the emotional self. If one person is seen as an anxious person, rather than a pompous, overbearing, arrogant, or malicious, he or she can be dealt with differently.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 6 “It is not necessary for me to take the emotions of the people I am around. I have a choice.” As one pushes up to higher levels of differentiation not only is there more choice between thinking and automatic reactions, but self-boundaries are also more intact. The emotional reactions of others can thus remain theirs. They don’t have to become the other’s.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 7 “I do not need to be loved, liked, approved of, accepted, or nurtured by the environment.” At lower levels of differentiation, approval of others can be an orienting factor, but as one moves up in level of functioning, it becomes more important to be clear about one’s own inner guidance. Approval and acceptance are taken into consideration, but they are not the primary motivators.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 8 “Keeping my focus primarily on the self (thinking of myself and my own life course at least 51 percent of the time), I can usually find a way to manage my emotional self in and out of relationships just a little better without being critical of myself or blaming anyone else.” Focusing that amazing brain on the functioning of self, especially the emotional self, is itself a high-level function that usually successful people are very good at. Everyone can get better at it with practice.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 9 “Important relationship decisions, if made calmly and thoughtfully, usually stand the test of time better than those that I impulsively give over entirely to feeling.” Clinical evidence shows that those who run their lives mostly on the world of feeling, make decisions by how they feel, rather than by a careful, objective, thought process, live in a world of chaotic relationships.
10 WAYS TO PROMOTE RELATIONSHIP SUCCESS 10 “I work toward needing less togetherness. Acting on principle, I can choose companionship and cooperative group effort when it is the best use of my life energy.” At high levels of differentiation, people can be happy in or out of relationships. They are complete and do not need others to complete them. Perhaps partly because of the lack of need for them, their relationships function better. They have more energy to do what makes the best use of their talents and abilities as they contribute to the world.
FROM CLASSICAL AUTHOR “This is necessary for the formation of right principles in the character: Man is to make earnest efforts to overcome that which hinders him from attaining to perfection. But he is wholly dependent upon God for success. Human effort of itself is not sufficient. Without the aid of divine power it avails nothing. God works and man works. “ EGW AA 482.2}
FAMILY REFLECTION What kind of family did you grow up in? How did it function? How was similar to other families you knew? How did it differ? What kind of family do you live in now? How is that played out in regard to your closeness or distance from members of your family? Does your culture dictate a special norm? What adaptability and cohesiveness do you see within your family at present?
REFERENCES Gilbert, Roberta M., MD, Extraordinary Relationships (1992) White, E.G., The Act of the Apostles