Is Your Husband Your Only Strategy?
A student of mine wrote me, agitated, that she thinks she’s about to jump into the abyss.
Jumping into the abyss is a major part of what I’ve been living and teaching for many years now. It is an integral part of what I have come to call The Compass – my method for personal, familial, and social liberation.
Realizing how her transformational process was progressing, she was appalled by the idea that she might end up seeing her husband as a strategy for her needs – a paralyzing possibility for her. If indeed she’d come to the conclusion that he is her only strategy to attend to her needs for love, for being seen, for support, and for companionship, what would then happen if she stopped seeing him as that role? Would he stop being that important to her? Would she not love him as she does now?
Later in her letter she expressed a similar concern regarding her relationship with her kids and more so with her parents, specifically mentioning her life-long belief that she is supposed to be their savior, or else she cannot be seen or appreciated, and thus does not deserve to live.
And the mere uttering of these thoughts was for her the closest she ever felt to the possibility of jumping into the abyss of the unknown, which is so often essential for our ability to release what has been blocking us for years, so we can realize who we might be without that weight, and learn to gently make new choices, much more aligned with who we are learning to become.
After I was done reading this letter, I wrote her saying that I found her letter meaningful and full of substance. It seemed to me that she was starting to lift a veil and uncover some major patterns in her life. Yet knowing how challenging it had been for her to move from her perfectly-guarded “cave” into new ways of living her life, I mostly urged her to continue taking those very measured steps (as much as she could indeed measure them…) towards whatever may come, without expecting herself to be further along on her journey than her organism is able to sustain.
And since I believe that for many or us this particular fear (of discovering unfamiliar internal horizons) is a common side-effect when integrating a new consciousness into our lives (such as NVC, or the process of The Compass), I’m sharing with you some parts of what I wrote her.
First, two words of encouragement… (well, some more…).
Your getting so alarmed is based on thinking that the idea of needs-strategies would close your heart. It doesn’t, because this is only part of a bigger picture. Even if a person (in general) or your husband (in particular) is a strategy, that does not diminish him to merely that. It does add another dimension to his existence in your life, simply one which we are usually completely unaware of. On the larger scale, he is part of the mystery of our being human, which lives in us undeciphered, vast, beyond words. Like music.
In addition, despite the enormous fear you may experience, what awaits you on the other side is not as frightening as it may seem. In fact, it is the contrary… you will discover new expressions of “You”, which, like for many others before you, will enrich your presence, creativity, and sense of freedom (isn’t it what drew you to this process, to begin with…?).
Once you release yourself from the shock of linking the word strategy to a person, something new will open up inside you. And this absolutely does not mean that you will want him or love him any less. Quite the opposite, in most cases… (And don’t forget that this is only one way of explaining / formulating relationships between people).
So what can you expect?
There is an orientation and a connection to a person which doesn’t stem from what you project onto him or her. You can simply love them (or not), care for them, want to protect them, contribute to them, and so on. These are your needs, arising within you and directed towards them.
Naturally, it’s always very pleasing when they are there as a way for you to fulfill your needs. Sure, it’s not as nice when the opposite happens, and you are unable to fulfill these needs through them, but as long as you are conscious that these are your needs and this person is not obliged to fulfill them (in his behavior or his reactions to them), everything is fine (relatively speaking, of course …).
When we look at the need to protect or contribute to, for example, things are often more complicated. It all began with our parents, who, like generations before them, tended to attach these needs to one and only one strategy for fulfilling them (e.g., only when your child does her homework then you feel at peace about your need to protect her).
The paralyzing uncertainty is therefore created when you – unconsciously, of course, like all of us – attach the need to only one possible way of fulfilling it, and/or project some sort of expectation onto that person. This attachment is the opposite of the true spirit of a Need, which exists as a vast, breathing, ever-moving entity, without any specific figure, form, or time attached to it. Unfortunately, because of the innate dependence we were born with, and the mixture between needs and strategies in those times (i.e., the womb, the breast, or simply the parent him or herself being the sole strategy for so many needs), since early on almost all of us fall in this trap. And it becomes double evasive when the strategy is a belief.
As part of this confusion you might, for example, use your husband as a “proof” of something within you. Sadly, this can be strengthened by your unconscious internal conversation which will continue to revolve around how he “should” be, act, or perform in the world. Then, without noticing it, he ends up becoming the (sole) strategy for demonstrating this belief (namely, your own self-worth, or lack thereof), not for directly fulfilling a need (which gave birth to this belief).
This can then easily turn into an internal ecological disaster, manifesting as an unconscious demand within you that coexists with an external expectation directed at him. Without him even knowing that this is going on inside of you, it can easily show up in the form of criticism, expectations, disappointment, and/or anger. With that comes an increasing attachment to specific outcomes, fear that everything will collapse if he does not live up to your expectations, and guilt when you think you are “wrong” for running all this within you.
How has your husband become the only way for you to fulfill your needs? Let us assume that in your case (which is no different, sadly, from that of millions of people, spouses or parents alike), your belief that you are “Not enough”, was not created especially for him, but rather much earlier in your life. He happened to stumble into your web and got captured.
What’s the way out?
The good news is, that the first order of business here is not to remove him from your sight and/or release him from the burden of expectation. That would be playing the old game of “should” against yourself, basing it on the same idea, that there IS something wrong with you, which has to be “corrected” at once.
Instead, you start with an empathic encounter with your beliefs, decode them, and learn to embrace them by connecting on a deeper layer to your needs and your history that gave rise to them. Only then, very gradually, transition to another strategic choice. This is, of course, easier said than done, and usually requires having some tools and support to work on patterns such as the ones that are part of The Compass. Then you can find a way to connect with yourself more fully, and to live in peace with yourself, as you are. Only then can you practice releasing him from the static spot you have held him in and moving towards the larger “You” which is waiting for you on the other side of the abyss…
So the real big question is how to defuse these beliefs. I gave you a partial reply, and the other part – which is, of course, the tricky part – is that it all hinges on finding a way to give your consent to the very idea that you are “OK”. OK is not perfect; it’s simply human. Human, with exactly the needs you have, exactly the beliefs you have, and exactly all the things that you missed, or did not see, or did not know, or did not understand. Human in this way means that none of this makes you a horrible spouse (or mother, or daughter, when it comes to your concern about your children or your parents).
Oh, one more for dessert…
The role that you undertook, the beliefs you nurtured, and what you have forbidden yourself from doing by any means necessary – all of it has been etched into your cells. And all of it has had a crucial effect on the course of your life.
The great decoding includes a deep and courageous reflection on every aspect of you, including those parts that you have kept locked. Fortunately, I think you’re starting to agree to open a tiny window to them. And therein lies the key to it all…
Please take it slowly, as there is truly no rush. We all move as best we can, at exactly the pace that we can. There is no “right” path, and no expected results. Really.
Arnina Kashtan (sister of Miki and Inbal), a certified NVC trainer, lives and works mostly in Israel, and teaches in Europe and the US as well. After years of deep exploration into Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and The Work of Byron Katie, Arnina has created her own process, called “The Compass”, in which she has woven major elements from these modalities, with targeted processes for self-liberation. Her upcoming workshop in October will be based on The Compass process.