Part 1: The Bedroom
“Between us and freedom is a 10 minute sweaty palm conversation.”
Every couple that walks into my office for a session has varying degrees of willingness to have that sweaty palm conversation. However they arrive, sometimes dragged by their partner, sometimes at their wits end or not knowing where else to turn. Often they are harboring old grievances that never got resolved, or they feel something between them has been lost and they either don’t know how to get it back or how to create something even better.
When I ask, “Why are you here?”, they often have theories of what their issues are. More often than not, those theories are usually ‘pro-self’ and ‘con-partner’. Rarely does anyone come in saying, ” I am sabotaging my relationship. Can you help me with that?” My challenge is to show them how to create an atmosphere that is ‘pro-relationship’.
If you talk to a neuroscientist, they’ll explain how the brain by it’s very nature organizes and sorts information based on what it has experienced in the past. If you speak to a Jungian, they can tell you how memories are stored in our collective unconscious. If you consult a Somatic practitioner, they can show you how the body remembers what the mind forgets, and if you meet with me, someone who specializes in the psyche, you will hear me explain how ninety percent of our behavior is run by the subconscious instead of our rational preferences. I will show you how your subconscious always gravitates to what is known, what is familiar, what is home rather than what is logical. In other words, we have systems in place that keep us going back to the well of what is known from before, what feels like home. Even if it is uncomfortable, as illogical as it seems, there is comfort in the discomfort.
From what we have experienced we’ve learned how to navigate for our survival. In my 30 years of working with the psyche, I have noticed different styles of navigation. There are three that stand out. See if you can relate to any of them. I call them, the Bedroom, the Match and the Furnace. We may lean strongly towards one style or use a combination of all three.
“There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to,
In my room, in my room.
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room.
Do my dreaming and my scheming,
Lie awake and pray.
Do my crying and my sighing,
Laugh at yesterday.
Now it’s dark and I’m alone
But I won’t be afraid
In my room, in my room”
These are the lyrics of Brian Wilson’s heart wrenching song about the teenage angst we felt back then and it still accurately describes a place many of us return to as adults.
The Bedroom Style is formed from a childhood where the unspoken demand from your caretakers was: “Look, no one here is really equipped to handle your problems, your pain, your emotions, so if you’ve got anything like that going on, it’s best that you go to your room and figure it out all by yourself. You can come back out when you’ve figured it out and the pain is gone, but I really don’t want to see your pain. Got it?”
So you learn to go to your room and figure out a way to shore up yourself before coming back out and proving how resilient you are, and hopefully get a little love. If you do this often enough, it becomes what is familiar, safe, home. This is winning for your subconscious. The downside is that it closes you off. You are unable to trust anyone with your needs. You don’t learn how to ask for help when you need it. This is a high price for resiliency. Today, for many, electronic devices and/or addictions have replaced our bedrooms.
Bedroom types can be generous with their time and energy for others, but miserly in sharing what is going on with them. This is not because they are truly miserly, but because needs were never safe in the hands of their caretakers, they don’t know how to share. They perpetuate the familiar feeling that what is going on with them does not matter. They’ll insist that they are OK when really they’re not.
When a couple comes in for a session, and I begin to describe the nuances of each style, The Bedroom style is the one I see couples resonate with the most. They will often say things to me like, “Oh you’ve been to our home eh?” or, “You are describing us to a T.”
A couple will often ask, “ We seem to trigger each other. Can you help us not escalate into a fight?” When I ask them “Do you know what things you do or say to your partner that sends them to their room?” They always nod knowingly. When a partner feels like they have to go to their room, they are simultaneously retreating into their childhood again.
After explaining this to a couple, I may then ask, “Do you know how to get your partner back into the living room; in other words get the adult back in the room?”
This is often met with varying degrees of confusion. I always find it interesting that couples can be experts in sending each other to their bedrooms, but lack the skills to bring them back into the living room. But when I ask, “What melts you?” or “Do you know what melts your partner?” they seem to know.
In my counseling practice, I support clients in developing their own practice of inquiry to make conscious that which is unconscious. By answering the following questions you have an opportunity to shine a light on behaviors that may have helped you survive in the past, but are no longer serving you and are in fact blocking the flow of life. I invite you into the inquiry.
Make a list of what sends you to your bedroom. This could take a while since going to your retreat where you, ” tell your secrets to” is so automatic, it may take some time to reflect.
Now what words or actions from your partner or friends help bring you out of your bedroom and back into the living room?
What melts you?
How do you shore yourself up and become resilient to leave your bedroom?
Where do you go? Where is your bedroom? Is it your devices, food, porn?
Look for Part 2: The Match coming soon!
If you are needing some assistance, it has been my passion to assist clients out of their “Bedrooms”, making “Living Rooms” safe for the past 30 years.