The column “Too Zen, Mom” (Ask Joey, SN&R, June 9, 2016) reminded me of a friend who always communicates from a space of greater superiority, especially in spiritual matters. Recently, after her husband died unexpectedly, I sent her a sympathy card. She wrote back to tell me that she was in a “different place.” Then she shared the Bible passage she read at her husband’s memorial. I emailed to say that the selected passage was one of my favorites. She responded immediately: “I read the entire verse with the real meanings!” When I asked her to share her insights about the real meaning, she was vague. What do you make of this?
Conversation is not a competitive sport, but that spirit of dominance is driving the two of you apart. When communication fails we feel misunderstood, inadequate or frustrated. What should we do with those feelings? Use them to understand ourselves, preferably.
I’ve had convos in which the other person was intent on teaching me something they felt was important. Years ago, an acquaintance asked how I was feeling, and I launched excitedly into good news. “Yes,” she said loudly, “but how do you feel?” I paused, surprised. It seemed obvious to me that I was excited. She then suggested that I had done something wrong by not first verbally identifying the specific emotion I was feeling. I thanked her and moved on to speak to someone else. Weeks later, I learned that my acquaintance had been seeing a psychologist. Through therapy she realized that she had lived most of her life in denial of her feelings. This new insight inspired her into hyperawareness about whether others used words to describe their feelings. She believed that by naming each of her feelings during a conversation she was signaling her spiritual growth. Months passed before she had another realization: She had blocked her ability to experience other people’s feelings (like my excitement) unless those feelings were identified verbally. In the meantime, I just thought she was odd. Not true—she was just in process, as we all are. I’m sure some people have considered me odd as I have traversed my own path of awakening and growth.
You obviously want open and intimate chats with your friend. Have you considered telling her? An experiment in being vulnerable might also reveal what fears these convos activate in you. And, the next time a conversation turns competitive, direct your attention inside yourself. Notice if the words hurt or align or have no effect. Then, say “thank you” to your friend for the gift of a new awareness.
I saw you on the FOX40 morning news and thought of when I dated a relationship expert (not you, obviously). It was tense. I was trying to avoid basic mistakes. Have you had that experience?
Have I been on dates that felt tense? Of course! That’s why I’m a fan of ending dates that don’t feel right. If my date is racist, sexist, homophobic, a zealot or uninterested in spiritual development, I end the convo and go home to my dog. That said, research reveals that a couple needs five dates before they can accurately discern if a legit connection exists. The initial nervousness that causes people to make “basic mistakes” takes that long to dissipate.