Cutting off versus staying connected
After reading a letter today in Dear Abby, it occurred to me how quickly we jump to cutting off from others as a way to “solve” relational issues. The letter was written by a woman who had a problem with her aunt and her knee-jerk reaction was to stop inviting to her home. Thankfully Dear Abby advised against this.
In my work with clients and the students I teach, I am struck by how tenaciously we hold onto the idea that emotional cutoffs solve problems. In the short run, this might be true. After all, when you stop connecting to someone you no longer have to be challenged by them. But in the long run those very same issues come around again in another relationship.
For example, let’s say your sister has a tendency to say things that hurt your feelings. You have told her that she does this and she persists. Finally, you decide you would be better off without her in your life and you stop talking to her. But this issue doesn’t just go away. It still leaves you with the challenge of relating to someone who doesn’t necessarily agree with you about their behavior, or for some reason decides not to change, despite your upset. What do you do when this same issue arise with friends? Children? Your spouse?
The truth is that cutoffs don’t solve relational challenges — they just defer them to another time in another relationship. Learning to calm yourself in a frustrating relationship -which can only be achieved by practice – will eventually give you the emotional freedom you deserve. Learning to self-soothe, to slow down and allow your values to determine your behavior and be willing to seek out help from a trained counselor, will pay off in tremendous dividends not only for you but for your children and all those who follows.
Some great resources for exploring this idea of staying connected to grow yourself check out the following books:
The Codes of Love by Mark Bryan
You Can Go Home Again by Monica McGoldrick
Family Ties that Bind by Ronald Richardson