The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz episode 088 is all to do with how and why assumptions take us out of the present and simplify how we perceive our relationships in a way that precludes the other person’s truth.
Listen to discover why it’s so important to free ourselves from the simplicity of assumption and accept complexity with a curious, vulnerable, open mind.
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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #088
Hello, everybody and welcome to The Possibility Podcast. I’m your host Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy and marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book The Possibility Principle, the inspiration and the companion to this podcast. I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking, a new philosophy and a new game plan for life and all of the infinite possibilities that await you.
Hello, everybody, today should you hear the sound of church bells ringing in the background or the hooves of horses clomping on the cobblestone streets, I’m coming to you this morning from Charleston, South Carolina in the old historic district. And on Sundays, you hear carriages and horses, tourists in the streets and lots of church bells.
So let’s get to today’s convergence of different topics. In a future episode, I may talk about how our assumptions get in the way of our own authenticity, but assumptions from my observation as a therapist and in personal life, derail our relationships. When we operate from assumption we aren’t present, we aren’t seeking curiosity or uncertainty we aren’t knowing and often were falsely knowing. As well, relationships are incredibly complex. Now by complex I’m speaking of different than complicated. I’m going to get back to that in a moment.
The other theme today is that one person’s truth doesn’t preclude the other person’s truth. I know this is a theme you’ve heard me speak on often.
But coming back to complexity of relationship. I believe that we live in a worldview and particularly a culture that avoids and shuns and disregards complexity. It’s not the quick soundbite. We don’t have immediate gratification, we don’t get to choose sides too quickly. The avoidance of complexity leads to a horrific dumbing down of our world, our culture, our selves, and our relationships.
But I’ll tell you this: relationships are incredibly complex, they become entangled. Like in a quantum entanglement, where two photons become as one even though they’re separate. Same thing happens in a relationship.
Now, don’t fear the notion of complexity. When we engage complexity, it means we let go of our assumptions. We inquire, we have curiosity. And this is all incredibly intimate. By intimate here, I mean, emotionally intimate, and verbally intimate, which are the bedrock of a relationship.
So relationships should be an evolving dance of intimacy, but too often they become a de evolving dance of intimacy, we’re going to try to correct that, that tendency toward de-evolving, and we do it by engaging complexity, and opening to curiosity.
Sometimes, I’m listening to two friends or two people speak and it’s occurring to me that they’re actually not having the same conversation. There’s a word or phrase that one person’s interpreted one way and the other one another way. And they’re really not understanding what’s going on. The conversation derails because we don’t ask the right questions we don’t take time out to ask I think this is what you’re saying, is it? Another piece of complexity is in our avoiding of complexity in an argument or a conflict between the couple or between friends or family members? We might say, it’s not my issue. It’s their issue. How absolutely silly and ridiculous that is, their issue spills out into my life, it becomes my issue, but assumptions are based upon past experiences. And so the past becomes the present.
Now, it’s necessary to operate this way to a point but when our assumptions become predictable, and certainty become set, it sabotages us it blinds us and that’s why our relationships devolve.
I’d love to show you my appreciation for your subscribing to and rating this podcast by offering you a gift to one of the following: The Power of Mind, a live talk that I gave, or one of my digital ebooks, Creating Authentic Self Esteem, Overcoming Anxiety, or Raising Resilient Children. And lastly, Cultivating Resilient Relationships. Once you have subscribed, please send an email to Mel at Mel Schwartz dot come. And just let me know which gift you’d prefer. Thanks.
Let me provide you with an example. I’m going to share a story about a couple I had been working with many years ago, I will call them Andrea and Ted. They came to me around what appeared to be their primary issue, which was a loss of sexual intimacy. But that was merely the symptom. There were deeper things going on.
Ted had enjoyed a really successful business career, but there had been a downturn and his business recently failed, and so he assumed many of the household and parenting obligations for their young children. His wife, Andrea, however, continued to thrive in her career, and she supported the family financially, thankfully, which she was able to do. They each defaulted to their specific roles. Not surprisingly, conflict ensued, and as it did their emotional and sexual intimacy with it.
Why did I say not surprisingly conflict and soon? Well, there was going to be a major shift and dynamic for both of them. Ted felt emasculated by his loss of income, his identity, his role in life. I’m not being sexist here, but he identified with being a breadwinner, sharing that obligation or responsibility with his wife.
Well, one evening, he decided to prepare a really well thought out if not romantic dinner for his wife. He arranged a babysitter for the children. He never told her about this. It was going to be a surprise. She had no idea of course that he was preparing this dinner, she picked up a quick bite on her way home.
Well, his disappointment turned into anger. He felt unappreciated, as he continued to lose more confidence due to the loss of his business. His career choice his meaning in his purpose. He began to stop complimenting her stop being affectionate stop desiring her, he stopped making any sexual advances.
His wife Andrea, in turn felt undesired, unappreciated, ugly, and she moved into a limited masculine energy, directing and controlling many of the couple’s decisions.
In their sessions together, each defended their hurt. As they lashed out at each other. They blocked each other’s feelings, they invalidated each other. I suggested the following: one simple sentence, one person’s truth shouldn’t preclude the other person’s truth. Couldn’t they validate each other? Couldn’t Andrea feel unattractive and rejected sexually? And couldn’t Ted still feel insecure and unappreciated?
You see, we need to move in this space of entanglement into the inseparability that brought us together to start with. When we do that, the distinction between you and me, her issue in my issue, slips away a deep awareness of the other person is at the heart of authentic discourse. And it’s the core of deeper relating. Rather than preparing to defend yourself, you need to quiet your voice and let this unfolding process welcome. Reaching deeper levels, you need to become curious, you need to let go of your assumptions. Truly listening to someone is a way of validating what that person is saying. Again, as I’ve said before, that doesn’t mean I agree, it means I care. I want to understand how you feel how you experience me, you just have to suspend your opinion temporarily. And when you do that, you’re really listening. The other person feels you tuning into them without judgment.
I suggested all of this to Ted and Andrea. At first, Ted was unsympathetic to Andrea’s reports of feeling ugly and undesirable. Ted rejected that suggestion until I asked them to look deeper. He asked her how can you feel unattractive when I desire you so much? Her response was she asked how he could claim desire for her when he wouldn’t even hold her hand or kiss her. They each cemented their own conclusions, but only through true listening, which invites a deeper shared inquiry, could they come to a deeper understanding? Ted and Andrew eventually turned the corner. It was initiated when Ted understood that he could feel unappreciated, yet also be open to his wife’s feeling of rejection. It’s not either or.
You see, that’s the simplification I was talking about. Complexity. And this isn’t really all that complex. Both of their feelings are accurate. Feelings aren’t right or wrong. Feelings can be reconsidered; we can reflect on feelings. We can let go of feelings that have seen the light of clarity or first we need to see each other’s feelings. To do this Ted had to witness his thought which was informing him that he was feeling unappreciated. Instead of saying she has no regard for me, he had to say to himself, I’m having a thought, which is telling me that I don’t feel appreciated. It was just a thought but a powerful one. He could notice this thought and feeling and not become them.
You see what happens when we operate from inference and assumption without checking in when we assume we become blinded. We get stuck too much assumption absolutely impedes us and assumptions again, get in the way of curiosity and growth both personally and in relationship isn’t my truth or your truth? Why can’t we open to the complexity of both our truths? Instead of assuming we need to check in ask how do you feel about this? You seem angry with me or upset. Please tell me what you’re feeling. Don’t assume that they’re feeling and don’t use language like you always or you never. Those are absolute deal breakers the end a real dialogue.
Dialogue means suspending your beliefs temporarily and operating from uncertainty from not knowing this untangles the complexity of relationship, there’s room for both our truths, but only when we start to release our assumptions. And we put our energy we put our thoughts and feelings where our initial commitment was. Commitment has to be an obligation to this process of emotional intimacy. That’s the direction we need to move forward in.
Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode, and please feel welcome to get in touch. Share with me some topics you’d like to hear about, or people you’d like to hear on the show. I look forward to speaking with you again soon. And until next time, be well, be curious, and try to let go of your assumptions.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Possibility Podcast and I welcome your feedback on this or any episode. Please send me an email at Mel at Mel Schwartz dot com or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at Mel at Mel Schwartz dot com.
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