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Magnets Racer

Posted by fallsfall on October 20, 2005, at 7:26:42

In reply to Today's installment..., posted by Racer on October 19, 2005, at 23:18:33

My therapist made a comment like the "magnet" comment. I think his went something like "You keep making this happen..." Like it was all my fault, like I wanted these things to keep happening. The comment made me furious, just like you. But, over time, I started to see what he meant.

Relationships and people are so complex and we interact with people on so, so many levels. There is the obvious verbal level (what we say), and the physical level (what we do), and the less obvious facial expressions, and tone of voice, and body language. And I believe that there are also levels that are more subtle than that, even. We use all of these levels to communicate what we want, need and demand (even when we don't consciously know what we want, etc.). I guess it was important for me to recognize that much (most?) of my motivation was unconscious - it wasn't that I *wanted* bad things to happen. It was more like expected other people to behave in a certain way (after all, my parents had showed me again and again that this is "how people behave"). It is like dancing (think ballroom dancing...) - things work best if one person leads and the other person follows. You have to work as a team with your dance partner or someone gets their feet crushed. So you learn to sense subtle movements and you learn how to match your movements to theirs. If you dance with the same partner a lot, you get to know their way of dancing and the two of you can dance as one.

Every day life is a lot like dancing. We make subtle, unconscious, choices so that things go smoothly. And it is a good thing that we are able to do this. If we couldn't learn from what we have observed in the past, our lives and the lives of those around us would be chaos.

I had a new boss start on Monday (and I like him very much - yeah!!). He doesn't know how things go, how to do things, how to keep from bumping into us. He is learning how we do things (and we are learning how he does things), and over time things will settle down into a routine. All because we will learn each other's subtle cues and what they mean.

Think about passing someone in a narrow hallway. Since I live in the US, I would "naturally" move towards my right so that the other person would pass me on the left. They would "naturally" move towards their right and we would be on opposite sides of the hallway, we would pass each other and everything would work well. Until I went to France. Because then I would move to my right, and they would move to their left and we would collide. Oops! Did I do something "wrong" (bad)? No, I just did what I had learned, what had always worked well for me in the past. Did I intentionally collide with the other person? Of course not. Yet, it *was* MY "fault" that we collided - or was it theirs? Since we are on their turf, it was probably more my "fault", but it certainly wasn't malicious on my part, nor even purposeful.

I've come to believe that when my therapist says that I "make" stuff happen, that he is referring to subtle cues like this. If we expect (again, probably unconsciously) a particular reaction out of someone else, we will anticipate that reaction and do what we have learned will fit with that reaction. If we start to anticipate the reaction before it starts to happen we might start our counterreaction before the reaction has really started. So the other person might then start cueing off of our counterreaction and start doing the "reaction" thing even if that wasn't their intention to begin with. Like in a dance - I expect you to move left, so I start to move left so we'll be going the same way - you then notice than I'm moving left so you move left with me - even though you really didn't want to move left at all in the first place. The leader becomes the follower without anyone realizing it.

This is one way that therapists work. They watch what they are doing/feeling and ask if that is "normal" for them. If they find that they are behaving in a way that is not "normal" (like cutting a session short, for instance), then they look more carefully at the behaviors of the patient. Did the patient do something that nudged them in that direction?

It helped me a lot to understand that most of these behaviors are completely unconscious behaviors. We haven't a clue that we are dancing in an unhelpful way. We certainly are not TRYING to dance in an unhelpful way. But one of the techniques of therapy is to make these unconscious behaviors conscious - because then we can have some control over them.

So, are you a magnet for bad things? You might be doing very subtle, unconscious things that tend to encourage other people to behave in a particular way. But it is also possible to understand these subtle cues and change the way that we act.

Once I got past the "It's all my fault" phase, I found this all to be a pretty incredible, interesting and powerful process.

 

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Psycho-Babble Psychology | Framed

poster:fallsfall thread:568567
URL: http://www.dr-bob.org/babble/psycho/20051018/msgs/569211.html