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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vulnerability (Part Four)

As Janet drives, she is struck by the transformation of the foliage as she ascends the mountainside. The desolate terrain give way to a forest that stretches out like a multicolored carpet. When Janet turns the corner into downtown, she notices the yellow and crimson leaves dancing across the street, reminding her of Midwestern autumns. She is lost in her sweet memories and emotions when she is jolted out of her reverie by a sharp cry and the abrupt curling of her husband's body in the passenger seat, as if he is blocking the right hook of a prizefighter.

Shocked and upset, she yells at him: "What's wrong with you?"

His body is now poised like an animal ready to pounce. She is both surprised and curious about his erratic behavior.

"What is the matter?" she says impatiently.
"There was a car pulling out, and you didn't see it," he says with agitation, his finger pointing in the direction of the parking space.
"I saw it," she snaps back, feeling attacked and defensive.
"Well, you didn't act like you saw it," he says in an accusatory tone.

Janet feels insulted and dismissed. "Does he think I am incapable of driving?" she wonders from her victim stance.

Janet takes a deep breath. She wants to unleash her anger and shame on him, but instead she takes another breath, attempting to calm herself. This is where the challenge lies in mature emotional connection. Despite how her partner has acted or know she makes herself into a victim, Janet must choose to move beyond her primal response by interrupting her knee-jerk reaction.

Janet takes another breath, securing her containment boundary with the intention of creating emotional safety within the relationship. If she released her unbridled rage, she would experience boundary failure. She would be living in the reaction to her wounding. Instead, she choose to collect her feelings, reactions, and thoughts.

Janet chooses to respond from a mature and emotionally centered place. She will become curious about her response, as well as her partner's. She will become clear about her own history as it relates to the present moment and will invite her partner to do the same. This where intimacy and vulnerability begin.

Each of us is a collection of experiences that, when explained, will weave a clear path to understanding, compassion, and connection in our relationships. This conscious thought and action takes a lot of energy, awareness, and willingness. It is a practiced behavior that, with continued reinforcement, becomes more and more automatic.

"What's going on? You seem really reactive in the car," Janet says in a calmer manner.

Her husband just stares back at her, seemingly lost in thought.

"Have you been hurt in a car accident?" she asks with more tenderness.

Pausing and seemingly surprised by the question, he says, "Yeah, I have. I took out three windshields with my head."

When Janet's husband shares his history, his body relaxes and his eyes soften. Her sense of irritation is replaced by a sense of compassion, warmth, and love.

Through our trauma, we are conditioned to personalize another's response. In reality, it is always about the other person's wounding, experiences, beliefs, and filters. To avoid the victim stance, it is vital that we learn to ask, to be curious about the other's reality. When we do, we allow for connection, and that is where intimacy exists. We need to notice the response of the other but lose our own boundary by reacting from our wounding.

Where so many relationships land, however, is in the blame game: "You made me feel frightened, sad, angry, shamed, guilty," and so on.

These unrealistic accusations are basis for the resentments they harbor, and the walls from which they attack, defend, or retreat. Because the only "self" with whom sex addicts are in contact is the wounded self, they fear their inadequacies will be discovered if the truth is known. Because they cannot believe in themselves, they cannot trust anyone else to believe in them; if their partners knew the truth about them, they would leave them. Dysfunctional reasoning tells them to take what they want before it can be denied them.

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