Writing as a relationship counselor
Fighting with our loved ones is an integral element of our life. Conflicts are inevitable and that is just the reality. We are too different to entirely avoid collisions, and we are too stubborn and short-sighted to easily overcome our differences.
The illusion of the ego is too strong. We struggle to abandon habitual ways of thinking and behavioral patterns that are often unproductive, and it is even harder to inhibit them when the hormones in your body make your blood boil in rage.
I often think about a perfect couple — a couple in which both partners have a perfect personality match, MBTI-wise.
Two “thinkers” would definitely operate on the same plane. Their conversation would be logical and constructive. They would provide feedback to one another, and come up with a plan to prevent the occurrence of the conflict situations of such nature in the future.
Two “feelers” would be focused on communicating their emotions, they would share how they feel and most likely their overdeveloped ability to empathize with one another would result in a prompt resolution of the conflict.
However, when a “thinker” and a “feeler” face each other, that is when the real “clash of the titans” occurs. And that is when I believe the strategy I strive to implement comes in handy.
My strategy includes 3 simple steps.
Step 1. Minimize Feedback a.k.a. Shut Up and Write
The more you talk, the more you fight. Arguing about who is right and who is wrong leads nowhere. I always think of an analogy with the magic trick in which a magician pulls a chain of handkerchiefs tied together from his hat.
The same is in the fight. You pull, but the handkerchief is tied to another one, and that one to the other, and so on, and so forth. One argument provokes a counter-argument. Accusations fall like dominos. It is a nuclear chain reaction and there is no end to it.
As the conflict snowballs, you absolutely know it — you know that nothing inside your body promises you peace. All you feel can be described with one word. Escalation.
And that is when you need to act.
At any moment of time during the fight when you have a flash of mindfulness — stop yourself right there and isolate yourself from your partner.
It doesn’t matter if both of you are still pissed. At least you making an attempt to stop trying to “extinguish the fire with the gasoline”.
Stay away. Stay angry. But stay in silence.
Now is the time to take your laptop and start writing.
Write a letter to your partner.
Why does it work?
- First and the most important — when you write, there is no one who interrupts you. You are free to express yourself, and the awareness of that freedom itself is removing a lot of tension out of the equation.
- Second, have you noticed how when you read a book the voice that is “reading for you” inside your head is so nice and comforting? Of course, because that voice is yours. Similarly, when your partner will read your letter she will hear her own comforting voice, and the “volume” of that voice will be set to the most comfortable setting. It removes the yelling component from the conversation.
- Writing is therapy. When you write you actually feel like you are talking to someone and you feel like someone is actually listening.
- Lastly. Writing is meditation. Writing is a very static, quiet, and calming activity. It requires patience, and it requires stillness. As you continue writing your letter the biochemistry of your body returns back to normal. You keep writing, you are observing your thoughts, and with every second your power to disassociate your true self from your thoughts grows.
Step 2. Write (and think) about yourself in third person.
Now, this is a trick that I really love. Sadly old habits die hard and it is truly challenging to continuously remind yourself to think of yourself in third person. But this practice is amazing in growing your mindfulness.
So how does it work? Easy. In the letter to your partner, instead of: “I think you made me feel bad by doing ______ ” you write something like: “[your name] thinks that [the name of your partner] and he feels bad because [the name of your partner] did ______”.
CG feels bad because HJ made plans for him without first discussing it with him.
(it happens all the time, eh :))
Why does it work?
Writing about yourself in third person summons the inner observer. You start to see that it is not the true authentic immovable you that participates in the conflict, but the conglomerate of ideas of what you think of yourself and another person. It is the ego that wants to fight, and it is the ego that thinks there is something to fight for, and someone to fight against. It is always the ego that thinks in terms of opposition.
Contrarily, not only the inner observer does not participate in the conflict, but he has no desire to participate in anything. He has no desire. Period.
He is free from directional and wishful thinking. He is detached from whatever the mess is happening around the physical body that hosts him. He remains unchanged when the world flows around.
Write and speak about yourself in third person. Use thought to detect thought. Trick your mind to drive itself into a corner and it will have no other choice but to surrender and reveal the illusion of ego.
Step 3. Focus on the positives.
You may still try to communicate in a written form what was the behavior that made you sad or angry to your partner. However, my practice shows that such writing is dangerously short of being misinterpreted and being labeled as a “blame-game” again.
So here is an alternative proposition.
Write about the things you appreciate in your partner.
Recall all the reasons why you are with this person and why you have been all this time and write about them. Elaborate on them. Meditate on them. Again, write it in third person. One example is better than a long explanation, so here we go:
CG appreciates that HJ is doing what he thinks is the hardest chore at home — cooking and doing dishes. He appreciates the time she spends to prepare his delicious meals and the love she puts in her food. CG hates doing dishes and that makes HJ’s work even more precious in his eyes.
Why does it work?
- Thinking about positives in another person is like a fine-tuning your inner radio to the “Good Vibes” station. It is refocusing your attention to things that are still workable and worth staying and steering away from your negative thoughts about a breakup (yes, I know these thoughts are there).
- Appreciation is a practice of gratitude. And you have nothing to lose and everything to win when it comes to practicing gratitude. Create a grateful mind, and you will become blind to all the negativity others see in the world.
You can use writing to manage other relationships.
I use writing in situations when some a̵s̵s̵h̵o̵l̵e̵s̵ negative people make my wife feel bad. If someone crosses her path, she has to share the stress with someone, and who can serve this purpose better than a hubby who was sitting quietly in the corner, minding his own business?
So to be proactive, and address such situations accordingly, I came up with a method to deal with her stress in a way so that her negativity is not directly targeted at me.
We sit down and she starts dictating. She pretends as if she is saying everything she has to say in the person’s face. I am sitting, I am typing everything she says down, making sure I have the face of the best active listener in the world.
As a result, all parties are happy. My wife is in a good mood satisfied with the feeling that she fulfilled her revenge. My ears are spared. And the a̵s̵s̵h̵o̵l̵e̵ bad guy who disappointed my wife continues to walk through life without even knowing that a huge blast of dark negative energy was launched into space barely missing his head. (Don’t be too happy about it though, buddy, karma will f**k you up).
Mission accomplished. I helped my wife, and I saved myself so this is pretty dope in my opinion :)
Lastly, I use writing to deal with my own issues.
I write letters to God. I pray on the paper. It is not like I do it often. As all fallen beings I usually feel that the time to write another letter has come when I am going through some adversity (forgive me, Father).
I never return to my written prayers but every time I finish another letter I feel that something is different. Something is changing in the air, the invisible gears of reality start to move, and the tension that was somewhere there — in the depth of me, starts to dissipate. I guess I am also launching them into space, only in this case I know. Someone is listening.
So here it is. Some Sunday thoughts on fights and writing. I wish you the less of the former and more of the latter. Have a mindful life.
Thank you for reading this essay.
If you would like to learn more about my work, here is my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.