For me (and in the context of pretty much any relationship: friend, partner, child), the perfect relationship is one where the imperfections are handled well. When I am presented with anything that feels “picture perfect” (like this window box in a Chelsea flower show show garden) I find myself thinking “in my LIfe this level of perfection would not be possible, would be manufactured, would be unsustainable without constant attention, primping, tweaking and curating when Life, and the people in it , are so messy, so unpredictable , so disordered.
I wonder “is everything as it seems? Is someone here keeping a very tight grip on themselves, a very tight lid on things, and presenting an idealised “false self” based on some “I should be…” or “I should do…” or some other (now massively outdated) rule, judgement or opinion absorbed growing up and taken as fact. Some core belief at odds with what they really think or feel in a given situation and what is that costing them in terms of mental energy and angst?
Are the forces of “to thine own self be true” building up and building up behind the dam wall of maintaining the perfect front and, if they are, what covert (because the user feels shame and guilt because in “Perfectland” they “shouldn’t” need to do it) coping mechanisms are shoring up the dam: alcohol, obsessive exercise, binge eating, gambling, porn, out of control on line shopping, drugs, cross dressing, self harm, an affair? What…..and when is that coping strategy’s grip going to slip and the whole thing blow wide open in some spectacular torrent of emotion (or apathy or breakdown or burnout) that comes coursing down the valley onto the unsuspecting, and ill prepared (because there were no warning signs, no little leaks which could have been managed) heads of the inhabitants below?
Is that what you WANT for yourself and / or loved ones? That the first they know you are in trouble is when the dam breaks and they are left wondering HOW could we not have known? WHY could they not trust us with their inner turmoil and allowed us to help? HOW could this person we love and adore be in SO much trouble right under our nose and yet we knew nothing of it because of their fear we’d think less of them, love them less, cast them out when, in fact, to know they are human and mortal and fallible endears them to us even more, tips them off that pedestal of improbable, impossible perfection and deeper into our hearts?
Please consider releasing the pressure. Do you give emotional support to your friends and family? Consider then, just consider, little by little (this is “toe in the water” stuff not jumping in at the deep end) sharing a little more of your inner emotional life with them and allow yourself to find out if they can dispense empathy as well as receive it and that they are not made of glass, they will not shatter if you, for once, draw on their support . Turn to friends, family or loved ones and if you deem that truly is impossible then please go to your GP, go to BACP website to find a counsellor or contact me and let’s work together to get the needle on your emotional pressure value out of the red and back in the green.
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