“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
– Marcel Proust, Writer
She said my personality is destroying our relationship…
Tom was a big man, Scandinavian by heritage, a full head of red hair and a quiet way about him…reflective and rather serious. He was a lawyer by day but at night he was a devoted father to Hans, his two year old and spouse to Joann.
When I asked him how I might help him he responded, “I have the wrong personality!”
“How do you mean that?” I asked.
“Well, my personality is all screwed up…Joann said my personality is destroying our relationship.”
“An interesting perspective Tom…but not true! You don’t really have a personality…in point of fact,…no one does!” I said challenging him to get out of his thinking box.
He looked shocked and surprised by this comment so I offered him some more information.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. – Henry David Thoreau, Philosopher
Our intent is to use these labels to help the person.
“Tom, over 4,628 human behaviours have been identified which we have used in the past to help us survive. The list is growing as we add new behaviours like ‘blogging’, ‘twittering’ and others. Well intentioned professionals, like me, take a cluster of them and give them a label such as passive or aggressive or depressive or elated or bipolar and so on. Our intent is to use these labels to help the person.”
“So, I don’t have a personality…I just have a bunch of behaviours…is that what you are telling me Ken?”
“Yes, but Tom, it is more profound and important than that…you have the ability to use any one of these behaviours in any situation…and you will, based on your values…you do it every day.”
“So I am always picking from this list of 4,628 to deal with my life…is that correct?” he asked.
“People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth.”
– Roberto Bolano, Author
You pick, either consciously or unconsciously, which behaviour…
“That’s it Tom, and you pick, either consciously or unconsciously, which behaviour… based on your values at that moment. For example, have you ever behaved aggressively by swearing or using profanity at work?” I asked him.
“Sure…some days more than others…but yes I have!” he said.
“Tom, have you ever swore or used profanity aggressively in front of Hans, or your Grandmother or in a crowded restaurant?” I asked next.
“I wouldn’t want my son to hear me doing that or my Nanny…she would be shocked and as for in public… I have a professional reputation to uphold…so no, I don’t believe I have!” he replied.
“So these are just examples of you adjusting your behaviors to accommodate your values and the situation you are in at that moment…We all do this, both unconsciously and consciously, on a regular basis.”
“So if someone saw you at work swearing they could say you use profanity and was aggressive, but if they saw you at home they could not say you use profanity or was aggressive. They might perceive you the opposite, as polite or passive or respectful. And it would also be their definition of aggressiveness not yours…does this make sense to you Tom?” I asked him.
“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Poet
it really depends more on the value system of the person…
“Whether I have a behaviour or trait, like aggressiveness, will depend on what someone sees and how their value system defines aggressiveness…does this mean Ken I could have any trait or behaviour…it really depends more on the value system of the person watching me than it does of what I am doing.”
“That is true Tom…which is why we have justice systems to determine who is responsible for what behaviours when we interact with each other.”
Then I added, “But this also means we see in others those behaviors we need to see. And different people can observe the same behavior and perceive it differently. This is why in our justice system, ‘eyewitnesses’ are often considered unreliable because we see our surroundings through the filter of our value system.”
“So, are you suggesting Joann is seeing in me only the behaviours she needs to see…why does she do that Ken?”
“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at, change.” – Wayne W. Dyer, Author
We are together to increase our own self love using each other…
“Yes…exactly! She is unconsciously noticing in you the behaviors she has, but denies she has, so she can learn to appreciate herself in new ways.”
“You are putting me on…right?” Tom asked.
“ And Tom, you are doing the same thing in return!” I added.
“You’re telling me I am using my relationship to Joann to build more self appreciation…more love of myself…you’re telling me the reason we are together is to increase our own self love using each other as some sort of tool box?”
“Tom, that is a great metaphor for what is happening in every relationship…each person is using the other’s behaviours as tools for their own growth in self esteem.”
“We are always paid for our suspicions, by finding what we suspect.” – Henry David Thoreau
My personality is really just the traits she notices in me…
“So what Joann calls my personality is really just the traits she notices in me that she thinks she doesn’t have or want…is that the idea?” he asked.
“Very astute Tom…yes! And your relationship is a journey of identifying those behaviours, learning to find them and own them in yourself and then to appreciate their value!”
“Wow!” Tom said, “That must mean we are both doing that to each other…so we will probably never have a peaceful relationship with no pain in it, eh?”
“Tom, a successful relationship has equal amounts of pleasure and pain, support and challenge to make our learning efficient and effective.”
“There is more of good nature than good sense at the bottom of most marriages.”
– Henry David Thoreau
So, marital bliss is a fantasy…
“So marital bliss is a fantasy, eh?” He asked.
“Marital bliss…only pleasure with no equilibrating pain to optimize your learning… requires the ingestion of drugs or telling lies Tom!”
Tom smiled and then said,”It is kind of a relief to know that since it suggests maybe Joann and I are not doing too bad after all.”
“If both of you are committed, you can rebuild your relationship regardless of what has happened in the past…but it does require each person’s commitment to start.”
“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” – Robertson Davies, Author
The direction we need to go to preserve our relationship…
“Well, Joann did seem pleased when I told her I was going to see you! So maybe we could both sit down with you and both learn how to make our relationship work?”
“I would love the opportunity Tom to show you both how to get the most out of your relationship…it is a learning process and therapy is just focused accelerated learning.”
“I am going to talk to her this evening and I will get back to you as soon as I can…I think this will take us in the direction we need to go to preserve our relationship.”
“I look forward to it Tom!” I responded.
“It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.” – Henry David Thoreau, Writer
March is on relationships. This is the first one! Watch for the others to get insights into your relationships. Send us your feedback, we love to hear from you!
If you have any specific questions about your relationships or any mental heath issue, feel free to contact me.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- You don’t have a personality, you have a collection of behaviours.
- You select your behaviours both unconsciously and consciously.
- Your selection of useful ones reflect your values.
- Your selection of useless ones ignore your values.
- You and your partner notice the ones about each other you deny having.
- Your denial motivates you to learn to appreciate new parts of you.
- Your new loved parts raise your self esteem.
- Your partner is the tool box to help you achieve this increased self worth.
- Your successful relationship will be half pleasure and half pain.
- Your relationship is a tool to grow your self confidence.