It Takes Two to Tangle
Tangling may offer unconscious gratification.
Of course, the original phrase was, “It takes two to tango.” But I‘m familiar with a Jewish grandmother corrupting English rather than using her native Yiddish while trying to solve family disputes. Yes, a person can’t dance the tango alone or argue.
There are disputes in every relationship from time to time, mother and child, husband and wife, siblings with each other, and any different combination of people you can think of or have personally experienced. When the arguments repeatedly have the same outcome, something hidden may be the cause.
These disputes often seem one-sided, where one person is the aggressor and the other the victim. Occasionally the participants trade places; the victim becomes the aggressor and visa-versa.
The late Eric Berne and his Transactional Analysis Theory tried to address this problem. In his 1964 book, Games People Play, Berne introduces three ego states, the parent, the child, and the adult. The child and parent states often switch places while arguing, but the winner of these situations is the one who assumes the adult state first. Adults are rational. They solve disputes rather than create them. During the Games People Play, Berne points out you might hear phrases like, “See What You Made Me Do,” “Why Don’t You —” or “Yes, But.”
A few times in my life, I have been in such relationships. I suffered their result, feeling powerless, trapped, and endangered. Trying to extricate myself seemed hopeless. After many years, therapy was my only hope to change.
The first few visits to the therapist went along peacefully, but then came the zinger question. The therapist asked me what my contribution to my current situation had been. I was astounded that nothing I had told him registered. He hadn’t heard anything I said. “I am the innocent victim,” was my position, and I was insulted that he thought otherwise.
Just as hearing “I’m only trying to help you” might mean “I’m looking to control you” (the hidden agenda), my state of “being the victim” might have other roots as well.
Were there rewards I had been unconsciously receiving by being a victim? Accepting that possibility led to a breakthrough, even though it felt horrible. I had to ask myself if my immature ego state was the deep cause of my desperate situation. It was true; examining my true self, I acknowledged I played the other half. ”It takes two to tangle.” In relationships, both parties are contributors.
What I learned embarrassed me. I questioned its truth.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can ask yourself the same question, “What must I acknowledge about my misery? Is it lasting so long because I am prolonging it? Is my unconscious need dictating my negative behavior?
A couple of things to remember are:
- “The contents of the unconscious remain unchanged and timeless. It is only as these contents become conscious that change can begin.”
The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self, — Alice Miller
2. “The reason you might not be creating the life you want is that you are making most of your decisions unconsciously, and most of your subconscious policies (programs and rules) are fear-based and inaccurate. These inaccurate policies are sabotaging your success because they don’t want the very things you think you consciously want.”
Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness, — Kimberly Giles
Courage is required to face up to inner controllers. A person can do it with patience and fortitude. Explore the reasons behind your ongoing feuds.