Nov 10, 2012

Change - So What!

Reactions to this statement vary;

"Yes, but I'm not the one causing all the problems"

"I hear what you're saying but why do I have to change if I'm not at fault?"

"Yes, but he/she won't even notice my effort, he/she never does!"

"If I try to do something different it gets thrown back in my face..."

One of my answers to some of these excuses?

"So what?"

As you may very well expect, this is greeted with pure disbelief, chins dropping to the floor and bewildered expressions...and usually goes together with a few seconds of absolute silence - which in itself is a welcome break from the tornado of chaos and cacophony that often accompanies couples into my office.

Total exasperation quickly follows with mouths opening and closing furiously as they try to come up with a verbal answer to my ridiculous question...all that most suffice to get is..."...what do you MEAN "so what!?"

And to their utmost frustration, I simply repeat my answer...: "so what?"

So what if he/she doesn't notice it/throws it back in your face/ is the actual one at fault...?

By this time, exasperation and confusion is quickly giving way to irritation and something bordering hostility...but I don't budge, I wait it out. I want them to really think about it.

You see, me asking SO WHAT does not imply that what they say is not relevant. I want them to get to a deeper level of realizing something about themselves...let me explain:

When asking "so what?" - and actually making an effort to get a true answer - you pry a little deeper, you open up the door to the actual emotion underlying the issue that is being discussed. Let's take the "he won't notice my effort" excuse given earlier, as an example.

"So what if he doesn't notice your effort?

Answer: I feel like I'm doing it for nothing.

"So what?

I don't want to feel that, I want to feel that my effort is noticed, if I feel that it's not noticed, I feel that he just doesn't care, it's not important to him..."

"So what?"

But I want to be important to my husband! I want him to love me enough to want to work at our differences! (Now sobbing)

Aha! - We have just discovered an emotion underlying some of their conflict issues.

She feels unimportant and un-loved and that emotion is confirmed when he doesn't take notice of the efforts she makes. Do you see - the action is not necessarily the cause of the argument it's the confirmation of the emotion...

At this stage, the husband/the other partner turns around totally dumbfounded - but you ARE important to me and I do want to make this work, that's why we are here, I'll do anything so that we can just sort this mess out!

When dealing with the underlying emotion, things start becoming very clear. Those same emotions can often be dragged through to a NUMBER of other fights that the couple has; on an altogether too regular basis.

It's the way that certain behaviours or actions make us FEEL and the message that those feelings portray that is the actual problem. If we can identify the emotion and the message, we can adjust the behaviour or actions to send a different message. And often times, couples can sort it out themselves from then on forwards, because they know - it's not about me not noticing the effort, it's about me not making her feel loved and cherished; her not knowing how much she means to me.

So when you get mad or frustrated in the future, about something your partner does or doesn't do, do you both a favour and ask yourself a series of "so what" questions. Identify your underlying emotion and go and address THAT with your partner.

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