I’ve Been Resisting Unblending

There’s been a pattern going on in my own life recently that I’m going to try to articulate, mostly in hopes that doing so will help something shift.

There’s a sense in which I can always unblend from my current trigger, go into Self, get some more perspective, laugh at myself, and get into a good mood. But I don’t always want to. There’s something that feels newish about this way of being, and something that feels much older. I used to be much less emotionally aware, and I didn’t take the data from my emotions seriously. That changed in a big way a few years ago.

I am interested in the progression, even though I suspect it ultimately won’t inform my current situation that much. I think I used to be very practiced at stepping out of my emotions and saying something more aligned with my verbal loop goals and beliefs. Though it was also uneven. I was much more reactive and prone to emotional displays with my family than I ever was with my friends, and I remember knowing it was that way and wondering about it at least by the time I was 12 or 13. 

Then, I leveled up in things like NVC, IFS, and rationality, and I made a huge push to try to use those tools in difficult situations when I was feeling triggered.

I think I’m better than ever at those skills, since I still practice, but I’m also feeling a yearning, that I’m pretty sure has in fact been there all along to let my more triggered, vulnerable, reactive parts have more of a role in my life. But then, I have a decent amount of tension around this desire because intellectually I’m actually not all that convinced of the value of doing so, except in some more abstract sense that I’ve decided over the years to take my yearnings and intuitions more seriously.

I read an article a few years back about using IFS to heal a couple’s relationship with sex, and I found it fascinating, beautiful, and inspiring. Thanks to Evernote, I dug it up again because I thought it might help me put my current thoughts into words.

Mark and Stacey are caught in a classic struggle, and most couples therapists have responded with a now-classic technique: get him to back off by issuing a moratorium on sex and assigning exercises that allow them to show affection to each other without any sexual expectation. Trained as a problem-solving, strategic therapist, I used to give that directive to couples and often found that it had the desired effect. It probably would’ve worked with Mark and Stacey, too. As he contained himself so she felt less under seige and more cared for, eventually they could’ve found a frequency that felt okay to each, checked off this particular glitch on their list of relationship issues, and left therapy reasonably satisfied.

I once felt an outcome like that meant I’d done my job. Not anymore. Through the years, I’ve come to see that this kind of technical fix, however immediately useful, is unequal to the inner complexity of people and their potential to know each other intimately.

Yes, that! I have technical fixes that feel accessible, but I’m afraid that if I rely on them too much, some richness and complexity will be lost. Also this:

Once a couple has tasted Self-to-Self intimacy, they know that whatever tempests they find themselves in aren’t the essential reality of their connection. No matter what the parts are saying during these inevitably rough times, the couple knows that sooner or later they’ll again speak to each other in their true voices. And when that happens, each loses a sense of lonely separateness, and, at some level, experiences a state of union and oneness. They sense that both of them are part of the deep ocean, not the isolated waves. Both are home.

That too! Reading Richard Schwartz (founder of IFS) say this seems to validate what I want. What he wrote there does seem to imply that, with a strong enough connection, people can let even speak from their parts without it being truly damaging. I want that, and not just with Will. Will and I do experience Self-to-Self intimacy very often. It has been the foundation of our relationship from the beginning. I have it with other people as well to varying degrees, and I want a lot more of it than I currently have.

Writing this out was helpful. Insofar as I want more complex and rich connections with others wherein we can fully show each other the crazier parts of ourselves, it makes sense for me to really make a point of making Self-to-Self connection to build that container. While building that sort of intimacy isn’t straightforward for me, I do have tools. And thinking of pointing my tool use at that objective brings up no objections from my intuition.