Thursday, September 17th, 2009Dance of the Pursuer/Distancer
Greg moves in, Lill moves out. Then Greg moves out and Lill moves in. Turn up the volume, do it in rthythm and experience the relationship dance. Some call it the Murray Bowen two step. "You move in and I move out. I move in and you move out." Bowen introduced this concept in his work with couples and families.
"I can't wait for your call but don't call too soon." Give me enough time to rev up excitement about you or I may cool it and distance a bit. You'll find less enthusiasm in my response. During that waiting time, insecurities about myself and other people's response to me bubble up and I feel a twinge of fear .
"Will he call?"
If Greg waits a while to call Lill, things happen. Lill gets more and more excited about his call and responds overenthusiastically . In turn, Greg feels a bit overwhelmed and cools down his response.
Another possibility. Lill may conjur up meanings about herself and Greg, explaining the delay in Greg's phone call. "He isn't interested, won't call, I 'm a loser, too smart, not smart enough, too fat, too thin; no one likes me." Or Lill may turn the tables, 'He was a jerk, didn't like him anyway."
Is there a way out of the dance? Like the sixties movie about dance contests, They Shoot Horses Don't They?, are you programmed to dance until you drop to the floor in exhaustion or frustration, hunger or thrist, occasionally dying in the process, still yearning for that elusive connection to feed your soul and body?
Instinctively we are drawn to pleasure and avoid pain, attracted to others of our species, our pack. What happens? Why does such an instinctive process go awry? Conditioning is a culprit. Like the song in South Pacific, "You have to be taught to love and hate."
Development is another factor. As babies we expect others to meet our needs. As we get older we assume increasing responsibility for getting our needs met. . Greg may be preoccupied, feeling ill or more interested in work at that moment. Lil may be rejected and angry at her mother and not available to support Greg in the moment. Life is like that . No one is there for you 100% of the time. Research tells us that the best mothers in the world get out of synchrony with their babies every thirty seconds.
Still a third and very important factor is the residual from trauma and overwelming distress experienced intergenerationally and personally. Wars, poverty, racism and addictions, sexism, rankism, violence and abuse, surgeries; illnesses and accidents, disasters, abandonment and neglect. Each of these can leave imprints in our bodies that are triggered when someone pursues or distances from us.
Unless, we take a moment, a pause that allows change to occur, we respond in old conditioned ways. For something different to happen, we stop, perhaps scan the room and let our eyes rest on something. This orients us to the here and now and "creates space in our togetherness." as the writer, Kahil Gibran urges. Instead of responding in ways conditioned over eons or even this lifetime, respond to Present Moment , the only true reality. Past and future are creations of our mind fed by memories stored in the amygdala and hyppocampus of our brains. Truth is our current experience, what we sense, feel and think at this moment.
The more we do this the more resilient we become and the more loving our behaviors. Love is accepting the other person in his or her fullness, warts and all. Essential to love is accepting ones self, warts and all.
When the pursuer/distancer dance begins, Lill can be truly intimate by pausing and allowing a Stop step. Pause, scan the room, focus, go inside and respond with a creative new step. Instead of distancing when Greg calls, Stop. Go inside, feel the discomfort in your chest. Hang out with it. It will eventually dissipate since it is really about old pain when Dad hid behind his newspaper not seeing you, Mom ignored you to care for your new brother or a previous date dissed you.
Maybe it is something larger. Deeply imbedded flight or fight responses so overwelming that you freeze or dissociate and flee to outer space rather than staying in this room. Perhaps, you angrily lash out in rage at the slightest hint of rejection.
In that case, some additional coaching is indicated. A counselor, coach, friend or family member can stay present with you and contain you, as slowly and mindfully, you experience those sensations and emotions stored in your body.
Don't forget to scan the room when it feels intense. Come back to the present. Know when enough is enough. At that point, change the channel, hug a tree or a dog, look at a sunset, read a book. Smile. Recall a pleasant experience. If it feels too big, call in a professional. It is a great investment. Who better to invest in than you. I promise a great return on that investment.
I call it Dancing School for the Soul. Enjoy the dance! Support the sixth grader in you who sits on the sidelines, yearning to ask someone to dance but fears rejection; afraid someone may step on her pretty new shoes or horrified of making a mistake. As Ram Dass wrote in his sixties book, Be here Now. Dance as if your life depended on it. Do enjoy it! The pleasure is in the dance.
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