TopicWhat's Your New Year Survival Strategy?

  • Mon 29th Feb 2016 - 11:58am

    Happy New Year everyone!

    I hope your Christmas was filled with all that makes you happy and that you are looking forward, not back, to a life Surviving The Final Bubble Review that is always so precious and full of promise. 2010 is predicted to be a year of us being where we are meant to be and settling into our "groove" in life. Does it feel that way for you or are you still holding back what is meant for you?

    My reason for writing this article is because very tragically and suddenly I lost a dear friend this Christmas. His passing and what I can only assume must have been in very troubled internal circumstances, left me wondering about the walls of defense to love that we so ardently build around ourselves and carry through life with the perception that they will prevent us from pain and sorrow. But what of a defense if it only serves ultimately to isolate us and starve us from love and indeed life?

    I heard the phrase "survival strategy" on a relationship communication course run by an extraordinary human being in early December, called Hedy Schleifer. Our survival strategy, a better way to describe defences, she says, prevents us from truly engaging in life and can harm our relationships with our partners and loved ones as we try and protect our delicate hearts from pain.

    Survival strategies start building from birth crucially through our first key relationship with our caretakers or parents. The reactions from our caretakers to our natural behaviours as babies and children through each stage of growth can produce, what Imago Relationship Therapy calls, the "fragmented self" which comprises the lost, denied and disowned parts of our personality that we keep hidden because we have been told that it is not right to feel this or express that. So as we strive to become accepted and loved in our world, we fragment from our true nature.

    For example, if a child is told it is inappropriate to express anger in any way, that child will grow up disowning that part of him and among other symptoms can suffer with depression later in life because he can't express the full range of emotions necessary to lead a happy and healthy life. This "wounding" during childhood starts us on a path to constructing defenses or survival strategies as we try and prevent this wounding from occurring again. We can and will hide our true essence for fear of it not being appropriate to others and of certain "death" of who we are, should we not conform. As we grow older and form relationships with partners, our truest mirror of where we are at on all levels, survival strategies can build into hugely complicated behaviours that manifest in all sorts of ways.

    To explain all this, I will call on one of my past and best survival strategies which looks like this and people.. it's a common one! Current boyfriend would say or do something that triggered my fear of losing his love. I would react by saying words to push him away, usually by text and threatening to the health of the relationship. My tactic in this particular strategy was to get him to run after me and prove how much he loved me and would never leave. A temporary sticking plaster over the gaping wound of lack of love from my dear dad, as I grew up. A huge fear that was white in nature. Not having a man's love felt like crippling pain beyond comprehension.

    To man was just supposed to get it....derrr! What would follow, if he was reacting with his  survival plan and not giving me love, was for me to push and verbally kick even harder. Then if that didn't work I initiated the next part of the strategy... the wall of silence. Mobile and land line switched to my dulcet tones on answer phone. Let him wonder what I am up to...ha! Then the painful waiting game...he can damn well contact me first! He upset me and he's gonna pay by not having me around until he learns. Blah....!

    I often waited ages and my last serious boyfriend, until my relationship light bulb went on, was a true mirror. He just did the same thing right back and so the defenses grew higher and higher...who would be the first to give in?! I usually broke first because my fear was greater than his. In the end this constant parade wore away at the delicate nature of the truth of our love and it ended. You create what you fear is indeed one of the truest sayings I know. I have done it many times! This strategy was total agony and so lonely. Those around always tried to support me and were always amazing.

    The psychology of my defense, was healing waiting to happen and the only place for that was sitting down in truth and commitment with my man and working together to heal from the past. But that's not easy to do when you don't know what's happening and why.

    This scenario may sound way too familiar to you. My advice would be to educate yourself about what is happening and about the past but trying to understand it and your strategies may take a little time and effort. Survival strategies can inflict great pain on your partner. Arguments are the clashing of strategies, nothing more nothing less and are irrelevant and most of all...devoid of love.

    So how do you spot the survival strategies in yourself and others?

    Notice your patterns with your current partner or past relationships. Do you have a familiar way of behaving in negative situations that make you feel bad or lonely deep down but you can't help yourself but to react? That is your survival strategy. I have a friend who, when I sometimes ask probing questions about an issue with her boyfriend, more often than not will say things to make it look like she is fine but she clearly is fibbing to herself and me. It's often an just know...oops...survival strategy being deployed! I have also met people over the years who will not let a partner "back in" again if they dare to trigger their deep pain, even once. The survival strategy just cuts them off...period. Ouch!

    I have also witnessed friends and acquaintances whose survival strategy is to serial date, running from one person to another to avoid any depth in connection albeit that having a lot of sex is one of the goals. Maybe you are this person and if you are, although a certain amount of having lots of partners might win you short term satisfaction or street cred, are you honoring yourself by keeping yourself protected behind the defenses you have built?

    My advice is just to observe and know that even though you may be trying to protect yourself from perceived pain and loss, the final result is mostly isolation and unhappiness. Seems mad, because the intent is to prevent, but in reality it causes that which you seek to avoid. If you are single, practice observing your reactions to friends, family and even colleagues. If you go to put up a defense, explore why you feel compelled to engage your survival strategy. What's at the root honest? You may be surprised by the answers. Once you have observed and noted your strategies ask yourself where from your past did they start to appear? You may not find that one out in a day but knowing and being aware is the first step towards the willingness to change the future.

    Practice being brave enough to communicate how you feel to people. This is essential, otherwise how are they going to know what the heck is going on with you? People are not mind readers...sadly!.... we need it in plain language that makes sense. What would you like to be the outcome of that particular situation?

    If you are in a couple, communicate every time from a place of calm. Say how you feel when the need to engage your survival strategy rears up. It takes some practice because the emotions can be strong but changing the way you act is essential in changing the way things go. Never wait for your partner to change the dance, so to speak. Blaze a trail every time for change. You feel better and better as you take charge and break your defenses. And letting your partner in will build trust and closeness. How good is that!

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