By Lynn Seiser, Ph.D.
The room was filling quickly. Soon it would be standing room only. There were people of all ages, of different cultures and life styles, and of both sexes. Everyone shyly looked at each other, almost ashamed to be here. They were here to learn something they all thought they should just know, even if no one had ever taught them. They all thought they were the only one who did not know. They all wanted to learn one of the most important lessons in life. With this lesson they all hoped their life would magically change. They all had signed up for Relationships 101.
As the leader entered the room, everyone went quiet. As he looked around, he smiled. He explained that he was not going to teach anything that was not already known. Many people just do not know they know it. Mostly because they were talked out of what they knew of themselves or others. Because we all know, he explained, in this class we will teach each other. As he laughed, he asked, what do you want to re-learn or re-know?
Why are relationships so much work, was the first question asked. He rephrased it, how to get yourself to choose relationships that are a lot of work. Some people honestly thought that all relationships had to be a lot of work, so they picked ones that were. One of the biggest problems in relationships has always been selection error. The leader demonstrated using his hands. He asked the students to put what they really wanted in a mate or relationship into one hand. He then asked them to put what they chose into the other hand.
Next, he had them separate their hands representing the differences between what they wanted and what they chose. The difference becomes the amount of work in the relationship. He asked the students to bring their hands together while the chosen hand resisted. Everyone laughed. A sure sign of a lesson learned. What would happen if you chose someone who naturally did what you wanted because it is who they are too, the leader asked. The two hands would fit together naturally, without work. The quiet nodding suggested another lesson re-learned.
Why do we choose what we do not really want, was the next question. Many students offered the correct intellectual answer they had read in the popular self-help books. They all laughed at how many different theories there were. So, what was the right answer, they asked as they looked at the leader. The one that works to allow you to let love in and let love out, he suggested. Love would just naturally come in, unless you get in the way. Love would also naturally go out, unless you get in the way. So either way, you do not really know what you want or you do not feel worth it. They all began to laugh and share times that they had what they wanted but felt uncomfortable accepting it. The laughing got louder as they realized they had simply picked people who agreed with their own perceptions of their self-worth. Another lesson re-learned.
Someone rephrased the question into how do you stop yourself from choosing what you want. As usual, the answer was in the question, stop choosing what you do not truly want. The laughter continued as students shared that they had known it was not what they wanted when they chose it. The leader smiled and repeated that these were all lessons we all already knew. By knowing what you want and feeling worthy of it, you choose to let it naturally come into your life. It is a world of abundance, not scarcity.
Love and relationships are two different things. This statement by the leader got everyone’s attention. Everyone laughed again as they shared stories of people they had loved but could never get the relationship to work and people they had an easy relationship with but did not love. They began to relearn that love just is, unconditionally. They also laughed as they realized that while love can heal, it also brought up all the wounds that need healing. Based on their own self-worth they decided if they would accept healing. Skills are needed to make a relationship work. Laughter broke out again when someone suggested that while it takes two to make a relationship work, it only took one to make it fail. Everyone admitted to having been that person a few times in their life.
They began to believe that relationships were like a living plant. After neglect, some plants can be nursed back to health. Other plants, after a period of neglect or abuse, cannot be revived because it is dead. One student extended the plant metaphor, saying that the wise gardener always picked their choice of plant knowing that they knew how to take care of it and truly wanted to. They accept the plant for what it was and for what it wanted from them. The quiet room suggested another lesson re-learned.
The leader left the room while it was still quiet. He knew that all the questions were not answered or even asked. A tear of compassion appeared along with his smile, at least the re-learning had started.
Thank you for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing this classroom along the journey.
Lynn Seiser, Ph.D., is an internationally respected psychotherapist in Seal Beach, CA with more than twenty years of direct clinical experience in recovery counseling for offenders and victims of violence, trauma and abuse. He is known for his work in “holistic” recovery from addictions with an emphasis on “healthy relationships. Lynn is a consultant, speaker and writer and may be contacted at (562) 799-1371. Check out his website at www.members.aol.com/SeiserL/index.html .
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