By Dr. Steve
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Make Up to Break Up
is letting go of fear.
Love, patience, and kindness soothe the fear that sabotages your relationships.
shes my very best friend in the whole wide world. But it didnt just happen--no
indeed, we both have the emotional scars to prove that. Anyway, we were getting together
for the first time in a couple of years. The funny thing was, it seemed as if it had only
been a couple of weeks rather than years.
the way it had always been for Carly and me. Carly was part of the gang in high school,
but to me, she was more than just a friend. Weve always made it a point to do more
than just check in from time to time. We make time to be with each other, to reconnect,
most importantly to celebrate what our lives have become.
today we care very deeply about each other, it wasnt always easy for Carly and me.
That took time, patience, and an awful lot of understanding. As we were talking on the
ride home from the airport, I couldnt help but think back to the old days when our
friendship was more like pulling teeth than anything else.
didnt just fall into place all at once for us. We didnt always get it, get
what came between us, get what made it hard for her to let me be her friend. No, that
understanding came with a lot of tears, a lot of anger, and sadly a lot of time spent
after awhile, the pieces did begin to fit. But initially, I had no understanding of her,
her fears, no understanding of how my wanting to be her friend activated those fears.
Looking back, its easy to see how so much of what went on between us in those early
years was her testing me every way she could think of. But back then, all I could
understand was there was always drama, conflict; there was always us coming together and
those days it was open season, everything was
of my feelings, the loyalty I felt towards her. She tested me by seeing just how unlovable
she could make herself, waiting and watching, checking out my reaction. Would I stay
or would I go?
dont get me wrong. In the beginning, I flunked more of those tests than I passed.
But once I caught on, I was better able to understand her fears rather than react to her
behavior. I began to see how fragile she could become. This enabled me to stop judging how
she behaved. Finally, I began to understand how her expressed feelings and actions were
tools of self-protection rather than weapons of mass destruction. Gratefully, I began to
see the choices I could exercise--react or respond, personalize her actions and expressed
feelings or put them in their appropriate context.
disengaging from Carlys behavior became a little easier for me to do. I began to
play this game in my mind--was the conflict we were having me-based or fear-based. If the
argument was me-based, I knew there was some action I could take to shift my behavior. If
the argument was fear-based, I knew I needed to be patient and accepting of where Carly
was at emotionally.
more I was able to disengage from the swirl of chaos, the better able I could see what her
fears were. One thing was very clear to me--Carly was absolutely unwilling to build
a friendship with me based upon me meeting her emotional needs.
may sound odd. Why wouldnt someone want another person to be there for them, to care
about them? Why would it be so painful for Carly to let me in? Why would she turn the
offer of my unconditional love into a raging battlefield?
by little I learned that she had good reasons for doing so. The details of her life
arent as important as the impact those details had on her willingness to create a
close relationship with me.
her, it just made more sense to put her efforts into pushing me away, discouraging my
efforts at trying to get close, pulling the plug on our connection when it became too
intense. I came to accept that she wasnt rejecting me, she was protecting herself.
She was protecting herself from being vulnerable. She was protecting herself from being
hurt one more time. Carly was only making her world a safe place for her to be.
see, my efforts at wanting to befriend her merely activated many of the fears she had
about human friendship. And at the core of those fears, were her fears about needing
another human being. To make a long story short, the early lessons she learned about how
safe it was to need another person would move any of us to protect ourselves rather than
invite someone into our world.
shame she felt when she would look to her parents for love and acceptance only to receive
ridicule or anger or even worse than that--indifference.
confusion she would feel everytime she asked for help, only to be made to feel like she
was a burden.
fear she would feel everytime she saw her mother ridiculed by her father for being human.
terror that would fill her body every time she saw her father explode at her mother for
being too demanding.
trepidation she would feel at not knowing whether her mother was in her gentle persona or
if she had arisen in her terminator persona on any particular day.
self-doubt and inadequacy that would fill her when she couldnt come up with an
explanation other than she just wasnt worth taking the time to be parented, to be
guided, to be directed in her life.
these were not the lessons that would make anybody conclude that needing another person
was a rewarding experience. There was no basis for her to feel safe entrusting anybody
with the vulnerable parts of who she was.
so she did what any of us would do. She controlled. She fought. She pushed away. She
tested. She stomped. She kicked. She screamed. She tried to run the show all by herself.
Carly would do battle with anybody who dared to get close. She would come and go, but
mostly just go.
the time we initially crossed paths, we did battle more often than not. But as time moved
on, we were able to find a different emotional space other than her fear, mistrust, and
emotional unavailability to build a relationship that we will both value till the day we
the surface, it looks familiar. Two people trapped in a dance of chaos. The cause is
seemingly noble--wanting to connect, to be close. But invariably, all efforts fall short.
Their words say that they want to connect. But their behavior reveals a much more
fundamental truth about whats bubbling beneath the surface. Fear. Trepidation.
so it is that the diversionary tactics begin. The arguments. The times spent apart. The
coming together. The pledges that well never be this stupid again. But a day later,
a week later, a month later, its back in your face again. The same patterns, the
same methods of avoidance, the same hurt and sorrow.
how many of you is this true? How many of you feel like you get swallowed up in a cycle of
non-specific fears, undeniable dread, explanations of why you should go your separate
ways, explanations you barely believe yourself? For how many of you is the appearance of
this dread and discomfort the precursor to arguments, chaos, separating and coming back
together again? For how many of you does the uncomfortable feelings, the resultant chaos
to distract you from those feelings send you into survival mode?
you know what I mean by survival mode? The behaviors may vary but the goal is always the
same--to be in control. It may be as obvious as breaking up with your partner or taking a
hiatus from the relationship. It could be more subtle such as giving your partner the
silent treatment. Whatever the means, whatever the style, the goal is undeniably the
same--to control access, to limit ones ability to reach you, to lessen the demands
for emotional intimacy that you fear are being placed upon you.
be clear. The need to protect yourself is your highest calling. No person, no thing will
ever be placed above that need. Lets also be clear that many battles are needlessly
waged in the name of self-protection.
are these battles needlessly waged? I hope the answer to that question is obvious to you
by now. Because you stay focused on the circumstances without talking about the underlying
you see how many of the fears you have about needing another person get transformed into
the conflicts you create to keep that very person away? Can you see how the inevitable
fears we all have about emotional intimacy get masked by the chaos and conflicts that
divert our attention from expressing those underlying fears.
its much safer to moralize about our partners controlling behavior than it is
to have an honest discussion about the fears that get activated when two people get close
to one another. Its much safer to invest our emotional and intellectual energy into
creating solutions to the diversionary conflict we create, than building bridges that are
based upon our emotional needs and vulnerabilities.
chaos we create on the surface masks the struggle waged beneath the surface. We can call
our partner names. We can label them as controlling or power hungry. The choice is always
there to get sucked into the struggle. You can always escalate the battle with your own
assertion of control and power.
thats not a solution, its a reaction. We all kid ourselves that a reaction
will get us what we want. You know the truth by now. In order to get what you want, you
have to hitch your wagon to a horse other than the one we call control.
horse Im referring to has been talked about throughout this book in various forms.
Acceptance. Understanding. Patience. Kindness. Secure connections. Emotional safety. You
have to dive beneath the chaos. Dig underneath the power struggles. Look within your
partner for what they are so afraid of. Examine within yourself how well your demanding
takes two people to create a power struggle. It takes only one person to act in a kind,
understanding fashion towards somebody else. You see, it really is as simple as what you
choose to do with what appears in your life.
get practical for a moment. Ive tried to illuminate for you throughout this book the
necessary shifts that would be helpful for you to make. Any shift you make is always
predicated upon one thing--being able to identify the options you have.
no different here. You have the option of seeing much of your conflict as based upon power
and control or based on somebodys fears that are provoked when they get close to
first examine some of the vulnerabilities you may feel as you get close to another person.
Perhaps its discomfort with needing somebody, or fear that youll be abandoned
if you let someone into your life. Maybe you feel uncomfortable having to be accountable
to another person. Whatever your fears are, take some time and write down what they are.
next step is becoming more aware of how these fears appear in your relationship. They may
be as obvious as breaking off the relationship. You may provoke arguments with your
partner to shift the focus away from what youre feeling. You may experience yourself
not being as connected to your partner. You may call less frequently. You may limit how
long you talk on the phone. You may start screening your calls. Whatever it is you do,
lets see if theres a connection between how you begin to control the
relationship and the fears you have about getting close to your partner.
last step should be obvious by now. You need to begin talking to your partner about your
fears and how your fears appear in your relationship. The reason is simple. Talking about
these issues lessens the power they hold on you. When you take ownership of your fears and
the way those fears appear in your relationship, youll be able to work with your
partner rather than against your partner.
the same time, take things slow. My ol prescription of one part patience and one
part kindness applies here more so than anywhere else. This is big stuff that doesnt
go away with one exercise in a book. It goes away over time when love and kindness replace
fear and the many different ways we mask our fears.
keep in mind that wherever theres behavior that you experience as controlling,
theres fear right below the surface. You have a choice to respond to the controlling
behavior or the array of emotions beneath the surface. I hope you learn to respond to
whats going on beneath the surface. Ill settle for the time when you do a
little of each rather than merely reacting to the behavior on the surface.
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.