Do We See Each Other's Tears?

It is the morning after their argument and they are still very angry at each other. He gazes at her grimly from under furrowed brows while she stares back defiantly from her stance at the door. Each of these individuals has a very subjective recollection of the conflict of the night before. If both were to sit in front of an objective ear and retell what happened, the versions would be quite different from each other. (Very often, these versions are unwisely reported separately and usually to relatives or friends of the confidant).

From the husband one may hear: "Can you imagine, I come home every night and find this cow sitting in front of the television. She doesn't even turn to look at me". Or, "She was all in tears the other day while on the phone complaining about me to her mommy, as if I wasn't even in the room".

From the wife one may hear: "I expected him to come home at six. Instead, he arrives at nine, and without a word goes to the bedroom. We have a television there, as you know. This morning, off he went to work, giving me such a look -- like a...." How did these two end up being so beastly towards each other? Gradually.

"Karl" and "Cynthia" started off with the mutual need to find a partner so that they could escape the hellish atmosphere of their respective families of origin, where rebukes and attempts to control were matters of fact. They did not care about their parents who had bestowed upon their growing 'treasures' their best intentions. These young individuals were not aware that as they were leaving home, their parents were watching their biggest emotional, genetic and yes, material investment, disappear in front of their eyes. This treasure, though, was tired of hearing, "I sacrificed my life for you" ... "We always think of you first" ... "Get yourself some education, find a trade, and then" ... and so on. So, by jumping into this marriage, they ran away, separating from their families. (Sometimes, one may be blessed by having parents who more or less accept the situation of loss.)

When Cynthia and Karl found each other, the atmosphere between them was blissful. They were excited, sexual, romantic, infatuated and even delirious with each other. At first. There were forces however, which began eroding their relationship bit by bit until they were unrecognizable to each other. The dynamics were those of projection, the reproductive process, need for control, and triangulation.

To 'project' means to attribute feelings that you have about a certain issue or about yourself to another similar creature - usually a person. The more similar this person is, the easier it is to project these feelings on to him. Projections are usually negative, but when in the process of finding a partner, they are mostly positive. This newly formed couple projected their fantasies of the future on to each other from the very beginning. Cynthia imagined that Karl was mature, rich, hardworking. "He's so active, talented, hardworking, strong ... my defender, protector" ... or "he's so gentle, kind, patient ... and so on. His fantasies included: "she's so beautiful, soft, warm, gentle, caring, bright, loving" ... "my head spins when she touches me ... she leaves me breathless", etc. (The realization as to whether or not he reminds her specifically of her father and she of his mother is still at an unconscious level and is not going to be explored at this time). She has a natural inbuilt program for reproduction. It is she who is the one that bears the children. She requires a partner, so she tries to arrange and realize real control over him. He, (because of his psychology of inseminator aka gene spreader) surrenders to or accepts her dictate. He may even try to control her, forcing her to fulfill his needs and demands. The degree of their loyalty to this union depends on the balance between their inner processes (more often called the 'conscience'), and outside stimuli and temptations. Very much is dependent on their mutual ability to negotiate the realization and fulfilment of each other's needs and demands.

In the majority of cases, this process is complicated by so-called triangles, which can be composed of her, him, and his or her mother (parents, sisters, brothers and so on). The more people involved, the more triangles are formed. Triangles are always dangerous and may be formed by a partner, for example, who says to the other, "Did you see how your mother looked at me? How could she?" "Your sister apparently counts us as beggars ... behaving as if she was the boss ... her tone is totally unacceptable" ... and so on and so forth.

Or, they could be on behalf of a third person, as when a father says to his children, "Your mother is upset now and it is all because of your behaviour". Or, by a mother to her children, "just wait until your father comes home". At work one might hear, "I would have given you your raise, but my boss...", and so on. The danger of the triangle is in the fact that the third party does not participate in the conversation, and so is stripped of the possibility to state his/her position.

The one, who is the target of this verbal attack, finds herself in a position of bearing the responsibility and feeling guilty for the behaviour of the third party. In other words, she will become a scapegoat or will agree with the accusation to make the one who is absent the scapegoat.

When a couple is just forming, triangles usually will include their families of origin and to a lesser degree, their friends. This type of relationship can be described with several metaphors. One could be the fact that the relationship between the mother and child starts nine months earlier than the one between the child and the father.

The culmination of this process is the mutually painful delivery. My own mother would rebuke me about the fact that when I was born, my head was like a cucumber. This statement signified how difficult it was for her to deliver me. Many years later, when I was already doing family therapy, I was struck by the revelation that it was my head, which was like a cucumber. It was most likely very painful for me as well. But, out of the two of us, I was the unwilling participant of a process, which I did not create. I was not asked whether I wanted to participate or not. By the way, this is precisely the fundamental relational problem between parents and their children. Imagine a contract which is struck between the two parties but one party is not present.

Another metaphor to describe the relationships of the nuclear family is two people (the parents) sitting at opposite ends of a teeter-totter. The children are sitting in the middle. At first, they sit near mother's side, so father is lifted up in the air. If father manages to pull, entice them, or in some way get them to his side, they will increase the weight at his end. The one who sits with his/her legs are on the ground, controls the process. The other one is helplessly left dangling his/her legs in the air. This image could represent what happens to be in some situations a permanent configuration of the process. In others, the image is intermittent. The children are participants and many learn in the process to benefit or to obtain advantage from it by becoming power brokers, helping one of the parents to overcome the other.

In the majority of the cases, the father who does not want to participate in this torturous process of raising the infant distances himself from his wife and child.

When a child enters their life, parents need to remind themselves that this baby will grow up and eventually need to leave the nest one day. The natural tendency to concentrate all of one's energy, attention and whatever else on the child has to be counter balanced to some degree with opposing forces, because one has to remember that it will not be forever that this "investment" will be in our control. With the help of different techniques and 'devices', we can help ourselves alleviate or lighten the burden of this knowledge.

We can use the forces of nature to illustrate our point further.

Gravity is important and necessary for us and we certainly cannot and do not want to be rid of it. At the same time, it is also necessary that we have another force, which will counter balance and at the same time co-operate. These two forces are seemingly opposite, but are powers, which are connected. On the one hand, we have gravity, the centripetal force and on the other, the repelling, centrifugal "force".

All of life is full of contradictions and dialectical tendencies. If only gravity was in play, we would all be flattened against the surface of the Earth. If only the repelling centrifugal force were in action, we would be as in a centrifuge -- thrown out in to the cosmos.

Roughly speaking, the mathematical difference between the centripetal and centrifugal forces is equal to about 1 G. It is important to mention, that in Russian, 'G' is written as the first letter of a word, which in a crude way refers to feces. So, if we were to continue with this analogy even further, we could say that when this "G" is equal t less than 1, life is easier for us; but if it is more than 1, life is more difficult. In other words, the more shit we have to deal with, the worse we are and the less we have, the better off.

However, we cannot get away in this life without some amount of 'G'. In other words, whatever we do, we can find the balance in the dialectic of the opposites if we know the rules of the process. If we are counselled, made more aware and learn, then the easier it will be for us to deal with our issues and processes in our lives.

Speaking of the forces which act upon us throughout our life, let us now pay some attention to the first tools the family uses in educating the child: the feelings of shame and guilt. Proofs that we are not born with these feelings are some examples of two completely opposite criteria for arousing the sense of shame. Europeans, up to not so long ago, considered nakedness to be shameful.

The majority still thinks so to some degree.

The Japanese, however, would enjoy traditional communal baths, which were co-ed. The men and women bathed in the nude and none of them felt ashamed or shy of one another. Physiological needs were also thought of in a similar manner. In the back yard, in the villages at least, there would be a basin for everyone and the physiological needs of elimination were taken as natural. At the same time, for the Japanese, to "lose face" in other words, to spontaneously express feelings was the equivalent to the European losing his pants.

Feelings of shame and guilt are necessary so that the individual will subordinate himself to rules worked out by family and society, for social control. When these feelings are over expressed, very often people will experience neurotic symptoms such as insomnia, phobias, obsessive thoughts and behaviours, low self-esteem, etc. As a rule, this is a result of strict parents or educators overusing their control. This leads to the development of a clammed up, rigid, very shy, awkward, withdrawn character, or the other way around, one exhibiting very explosive and rebellious behaviour in teenagers.

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