What if we stopped engaging in conflict with our ideas about people and started actually relating with the humans in front of us?
It’s so seductive… having the argument, proving our point, making them see things our way, shutting them down, changing their mind, making them know. Ben calls them fantasy knife fights—those well-choreographed, imaginary conversations we have with other people when we’re alone in the shower.
Jenn McCabe calls it ogre-building. Terry Real talks about our core negative image. It’s the made-up monster we’re arguing with. The person we’re upset with stops being a unique and precious human and we’re suddenly having a conversation (or not) with every damning story we hold about them when they’re at their worst and we’re at our most vulnerable… and our sack of shitty stories is wearing their face.
We make people into monsters so that we don’t have to let ourselves be vulnerable enough to listen to their accusations for us (because omg what if some of it’s true?). We make people into monsters when we want to avoid responsibility for our own decisions—they “make us” feel, think, and do what we feel, think, and do. We make monsters of the people closest to our hearts—our partners, our lovers, our families, our healers, our leaders—so that we can trust the worst in them when we can’t (or refuse to) trust ourselves.
There’s a safety and clarity in trusting the monsters we know to behave like monsters. Our choices narrow: attack, defend, avoid, control… or fight, flee, fawn, fix. We punish each other and ourselves—a cheap and easy (at least in the short term) substitute for real transformation.
We come by our relational fuckery honestly through trauma, family dynamics, and cultures of contempt. We learned what we lived. -And- we can choose something else if the strategies we’ve been using aren’t getting us the joy and connection we really want.
Are you fighting with the person in front of you, or with your worst idea of them? What do you get if you win?