Finding Understanding: Managing Disappointment
There are people who have given up trying to understand. Laura is newly married and wants to understand her husband and herself. At the same time, she is aware of a deep down feeling of discouragement. “What’s the use of understanding. I’ll only be disappointed by what i find out in the end.”
She remembers feeling this way throughout her school years and also in her adult relationships. She felt trapped in a conflict between wanting to understand what was going on and not wanting to be disappointed by finding out too much. There was no way that she could resolve this conflict, of which she was barely aware.
One day Laura found her husband, Hank looking at pornography. She went into a rage. She realized at the time that she was overreacting. She just did not know why. The issue wasn’t one of morality or faithfulness, but something else. It was Laura’s doubt as to her attractiveness.
She had always been attractive, but her last boyfriend made a point of comparing her constantly to other women who he said were prettier than she was. After three years of these constant comparisons she left him, but the damage was done. Her confidence in her appearance was shattered.
Hank had trouble believing that his pretty wife felt unattractive and threatened by these digital images. Hank defended his right to do what he wanted and felt Laura’s insecurity was her problem. After a moment, Laura calmed herself down. She did something that was very hard for her to do. She took the risk of telling the truth and told Hank what she preferred him to do.
Laura dropped the power struggle over who could prevent whom from what. Instead, she talked about her need for reassurance. She just wanted to know that she was attractive to him. All she was asking for was a kind word of reassurance now and then. Hank agreed to make a consistent effort to praise and compliment her. He did not betray her trust in him, nor did he ridicule her as she had expected him to do. Laura saw in him what she saw in herself, they were both imperfect human beings, not inferior weaklings.
Laura felt relieved after confessing her needs to Hank. She felt liberated from a lifetime of cynicism and distrust. She felt that she had used good judgment in deciding to trust Hank with her need for his help. She felt confident that she could reach out to Hank again and secure his cooperation in the future.
Furthermore, the issue of attractiveness had become irrelevant. As a self‑respecting human being, she was no more and no less attractive than anyone else. She was attractive enough.
This “homework” opened Laura’s eyes. She understood Hank as an imperfect human being, not as a tower of strength to depend on forever. She also understood her own human imperfections. She was able to replace her old, negative attitude toward understanding with a more encouraging one. Understanding was no longer a liability, it had become an asset.
Tags: Anger Management, Archive