“I don’t understand what I’m always doing wrong”, Jack told his psychiatrist as he made himself comfortable on the couch. “Well, let’s analyse it together then”. “You see, that’s what she always wants too. To analyse everything”. “So why don’t you? What do you have to lose anyway? Isn’t that what you come here for? What difference does it make that you talk to me instead of her? Your partner in life? That I tell you I’m a professional and you pay me to talk to me? She can do it for free”. “Yes, but I’m not obliged to tell her everything and she demands all her questions to be answered all the time”. “You’re looking at it wrong. ‘Obliged’ is not a word to be used in a healthy relationship. You’re supposed to want to tell her everything, to share things with her. That’s the point of having someone to walk with you in life. That you know all about each other no matter how insignificant that thing is. To the other, that ‘insignificant’ thing may be of great value. Think about this: when you ask a question – to anyone – don’t you expect that question to be answered? Don’t you want an answer? It is the same with every person in your life no matter the relationship you have with them”.
“But these bursts of explosion, they’re unnerving. I can’t stand them anymore”, Jack puffed. The shrink smiled and doodled something on his notepad.
“Instead of angering yourself so much over these ‘explosions’ as you describe them, wouldn’t it be better if you consider what it is that causes them?”
Jack prepared to say something beginning with a “but..”, but his psychiatrist quickly interrupted to continue: “Like Newton’s Third Law of Physics states: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If these explosions are someone’s reaction, have you ever properly considered what your actions are?”
Jack sunk deeper into the couch. Silent.
“Think about all the things you do that you consider so normal. Think about the things that she – or anyone else really – do and that annoy you or have caused your eruption. How would you react if it was the other way round? If it was you who acted the way she or another person acted? Would you accept such a behaviour? You can’t simply expect to play the game only by your rules and customise everything else to suit your own needs. In life, we need to pay attention to everyone else too. To put ourselves in the other’s shoes and try to imagine how we would feel if we were on that other side”.
Jack seemed perplexed. The psychiatrist was not sure he was following his trail of thought. “I’ll give you an example: we live in times when unemployment is so high, youth in their 30s still live at home. How are they supposed to make a future for themselves, a family of their own in this situation? Would you be OK if you were with someone who was still living with their parents, or was living with you for a few days/weeks/ however long and still had all their things at their parents’ house? How would that seem to you? Would you accept it?”
Jack’s face became pale. He seemed to be understanding. “And what about the things you blow off, or cancel because of jealousy or rage? How can you then demand that the other acts in a different way, simply because you think you deserve a lighter treatment for the same ‘crime’? You want all your questions to be answered instantly but also want to decide on which questions you will provide answers to, even tailoring them to your own vision of what should be the truth”.
“But that’s because I want to avoid problems and don’t want to hurt anybody”. Jack’s response caused an ironic smirk to form on the shrink’s face. “Lying to avoid pain – these ‘white lies’ that don’t mean anything as everyone thinks, are the ones that often hurt the most. Because to be honest: a lie is still a lie. In whatever form. And a white lie simply demonstrates that you are undermining the other’s intelligence and capacity to comprehend the truth. Try being honest for a change and see how different and calmer everything will be”.
Jack was beginning to understand. The psychiatrist seemed serene, determined to make him see that it is not always one side that is right. Every coin has two sides, but it is only until you turn and see the other that you truly understand the value of both sides. “You receive from the world what you give to the world. Just because you are used to things being done in a certain way doesn’t mean that this is the correct one. You’re supposed to leave your mind open to change to assimilating new things, constantly. That’s how we grow, how we mature, how we improve”.