February 24, 2012

in Reactivity, Two of us

We have the bloodiest rows. Fortunately not ever actually bloody but too near for comfort.

I think he starts it; he thinks it’s me. But truly it is a mutual process, because if I am critical of Charles (in a particular – but just what? – way) he goes demented. Though it usually starts with a miserable slow burn.

And the truth is – a row is always two. Therapists have a mad notion that they can relate to their clients in a kind of objective, instrumental way. But the fact is that if someone a) raises your anxiety then b) presses the right buttons (they’ll find them!) then you will, choose what, join in the nasty. It may not be a row; maybe an unpleasant argument, vicious exchange or simply a tight encounter which leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

But rows can be special. You may, like we do, explode about the place, yelling and screaming and being generally shameful and embarrassing. Or one of you may go all calm, helpful and reasonable: without any recognition that this is lethally provocative.  One of you may go all helpless and pathetic, blaming and victimy. Or try to be really ‘helpful’ and understanding. Result? Mayhem.

Many of these are versions of ordinary, sane behaviours – but with a kind of inauthenticity and hookiness that can be very hard to put a finger on. Nasty. It’s a very nasty business, wherever and whenever it happens. And no-one can escape joining in. I’ve tried. I’ve tried everything I can think of.

You have to somehow BOTH make a superhuman effort to stop. And stay stopped. Or someone has to leave until you have both calmed down – this has its own problems: wandering the lanes in the dark, whimpering and wondering how you’ll ever be able to face going home again but not fancying sleeping in a field.

I don’t know any other answers. And I would deeply distrust most advice, since very few people recognise that you are both in there, inevitably stocking the flames and pretty helpless in it.


“In a novel by Margaret Drabble, one character asks tentatively, ‘Do you think I’ve gone too far?’ and another replies, ‘Can you go too far in the right direction?’” Sara Maitland ‘Gardens of Illusion’

some apposite books..?


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