It's so fun to write these posts and fling them out into the Universe. Even if hardly anyone sees them, they are like my questions to the Cosmic Intelligence. It's weird how if I pay attention, I subsequently get little clues dropped on my path, like breadcrumbs, that are responses to my questions.
Today I'm filled with energy. It's energy that I believe has been tied up by being in a bit of a fog. A family fog, to be precise. Like, for maybe my whole life. Anyone out there reading who is a clinical family psychologist might go, "Uh, yeah, duh" to what I'm about to write. But I guess mostly I'm writing to thank the Cosmic Intelligence for sending me clues — and to myself for being so smart (more or less) to put it all together.
Clue #1: Family and marriage issues could be called 'wicked problems.' Here 'wicked' does not refer to bad or evil. Rather, it refers to a problem that is 'highly resistant to resolution.' Wicked problems always involve those tricky things called humans, and the systems we create. Wicked problems are not easy to define, but here are some characteristics: the issues involved are all interrelated. Consequences of attempting to solve them are often unsuccessful because the dynamics are so complicated and deeply intertwined. It's hard to know where to start to 'fix' things, and one solution here can cause problems over there. Normal linear logic or traditional ways of solving the issues don't work. In fact, understanding a wicked problem "is the same thing as finding the solution; the problem can't be defined until the solution has been found." (Rittel & Webber, Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, 1973.) Examples of big wicked problems are poverty, terrorism, obesity, and the environmental crisis.
Beginning to address a wicked problem requires thinking WAY out of the box. Strategy to deal with a wicked problem requires having the capacity to see beyond the box, and being able to work with people and their expectations and differing worldviews. It calls for an evolution of consciousness of all people involved, or, said another way, of everyone growing into a wider and more mature perspective. The box creates the fog and getting out of the box may require the death of your current view of reality . . . and perhaps also that part of your self that may rely on that view of reality to exist. Ouch.
Clue #2: Last night I happened to be reading a book about marriage and sex (yes, I was) and came upon the idea of differentiation. We think about personal differentiation as growing up from childhood to become a distinct individual that can stand on its own. But it's much more than that. Clinical psychologist David Schnarch illuminated for me that a hallmark of differentiation is that you have the capacity to stay emotionally connected in the midst of conflict. You can participate in a group or interact with another person without capitulating (which is different from hearing a new perspective and changing your stance authentically) or withdrawing (which is walking away in loving calmness because you're clear the relationship(s) don't serve you). You can stand in your own space without being threatened by others' disagreement, disapproval, manipulation or ego stroking.
It's a painful process to truly differentiate. It is a kind of death. We don't choose to differentiate. It happens when staying emotionally fused, or codependent, (the opposite of differentiation) becomes too painful. You then somehow magically create for yourself an interpersonal wicked problem. Maybe you even keep creating that wicked problem if you don't grow through its.
So today, I am seeing the box of the family fog as wicked problem that requires the evolutionary leap of everyone's true differentiation. I feel a sense of liberation. I will probably still flip into unconscious reactivity — my big sister 'queen on the high horse' — but I will be more and more able to catch myself in subtler and subtler degrees. I also will have the courage to always stay honestly emotionally connected when I want to close up, leave, throw a temper tantrum, because I understand the freedom and forward movement that will result. I can stop. Listen very deeply. Notice where my 'feelings are hurt' and rejoice that my small ego has been revealed by that kind of hurt. All the fog and bluster is just fog and bluster because I have a sense of the landscape behind the fog..