Treasure Map or Fire Starter?
By Rod Louden, M.A., MFT
We all follow our self-created Roadmap hoping that it will lead us to relationship bliss. Question? Has following your Roadmap led you to dig up relationship treasure? If it hasn’t, maybe a better use for it would be to help start your next fire. Read on to learn how you can turn your “kindling” into a relationship treasure map.
You may have used Yahoo! Maps or MapQuest to identify the best route to your desired destination. I don’t know about your experiences with these services, but I have been led astray on more than one occasion. Instead of directing me to where I wanted to go, I have found myself at dead ends far too often. What went wrong? The database that these services used to create my directions had flawed information. I, however, believed that the directions were accurate and therefore did not question them. Sound familiar?
Turning our attention to your self-created Roadmap to Relationship Bliss, how successful has it been in leading you to your desired relationship destination? Now, I’ll grant you that finding your way across town is a little easier than finding the mate of your dreams, but the dynamics of both ventures are systemically similar. Consider: Has your Roadmap led you to find the mate of your dreams, or has it consistently led you to relationship dead ends? If it has, it’s time to toss this flawed atlas to the side and create a better one. Here are some easy steps to get you started.
1) Challenge every belief you have about Relationships that you’ve stored in your personal database or what I call your “Emotional Library.”
I use the word “emotional” in conjunction with “library” because just about all information that you’ve stored in your personal database has an emotional component attached to it. For example, think of your first kiss. Along with the information that you stored about how to manipulate your lips, you also stored information about the emotions that you experienced while kissing. That is, you stored general basic ideas about the act of kissing (i.e., how hard to press your lips, how far to open your mouth, etc.) along with how you felt on an emotional level (i.e., your heart may have been racing, goose bumps may have appeared all over your body, etc.). These two elements, basic descriptive information and emotional context, combined to create your own knowledge about kissing, which you then stored in your Emotional Library. As you thought about this kiss, you may have even re-experienced some of the emotions that you felt on that day.
Now, think about the first time that you were introduced to Algebra. Unless you have a math phobia or a passion for learning new mathematical equations, you’ll probably have a harder time retrieving information about your emotional state, in this instance. This doesn’t mean that one emotional component is more important than the other. Rather, it points out that there is a wide range of knowledge, some of which will be easy for you to locate, while other information will be more difficult to access.
As you can see, as you explore your knowledge base, it will be very important for you to look at the factual information that you’ve stored (the sky is blue) as well as its emotional component (the blue sky makes me feel happy). Why is this important? Consider this: the reason that you’re exploring your Emotional Library is to locate false and misleading information, information that you erroneously believe is helping you to successfully navigate through life and create your dream relationship. Once you’ve located this inept knowledge, you can replace it with useful and productive knowledge that leads to positive self-change. But first, it’s very important for you to realize that if you fail to rid yourself of both components of false knowledge (factual and emotional) you’ll fail to create useful new knowledge and, therefore, another Roadmap that will lead you to another relationship dead end. Thus, take a moment to write down your morals, values, and beliefs about relationships. Ask yourself, “What knowledge is working for me and what information is not working?” It is paramount that you find the false and misleading information and delete it!
2) If it looks like water and it tastes like Water, it’s Probably Sand!
You’ve probably seen a movie where some poor soul is crawling, weak from lack of food and water, across the desert floor. Desperate and hopeless, this lost traveler looks up and, to his amazement and delight, sees a body of water 20 yards ahead. His prayers answered, he musters what little strength he has left and makes a rapid stagger toward rejuvenation. As he gets closer, his feet kick faster from excitement. At the water’s edge, he leaps into the air, his hands out in front like an Olympic diver, and plunges into . . . a face full of sand. There never was any water. It was an illusion, a mirage. It wasn’t real, but his mind believed it was real. The man wanted water so badly, the need to acquire water became the overriding thought in his mind, so much so that his mind finally created the illusion of water, if only to bring temporary relief to his unbearable agony.
Now, very discouraged, our nomad is resigned to assume he will die. Once again, he falls to the desert floor and resumes his slow crawl. Does this mirror your relationship history in any way? Sometimes one can get so lonely that his or her mind will trick one into thinking that his/her relationship roadmap has led him/her to relationship Utopia. When in fact, one has fallen for a relationship mirage. Be on the lookout for relationships that move to fast and appear to good to be true. Make sure to nurture and love yourself before trying to love and nurture another. If you expect others to give you what you’re not willing to give yourself, you’ll be eating a lot of sand.
3) Avoid the familiar path.
Human beings are naturally drawn to the familiar. And our self-authored Roadmaps have a lot to do with that. Think about one of your bad break-ups. You were really upset for some time and then you started to feel better. Once back to feeling like your old familiar self, you picked up your flawed roadmap, stated, “Things will be different this time,” and began another painful journey. This pattern is played out in various ways. You find a new person to date, as you tell yourself that this new person is “different” from all the girlfriends or boyfriends you’ve dated in the past.
Well, predictably this turns out to be a relationship mirage, and, after quickly jumping into bed and getting emotionally connected way too fast, you discover that things haven’t changed at all. In fact, this “new love” is very familiar and looks just like the “old love.” To your surprise or horror, this girlfriend or boyfriend shows many of the same characteristics, foibles, and mannerisms of all your exes. Once again, you find yourself choking on sand. Hence, look to date someone that is not “your type.” Try something new and remember to constantly review the new knowledge that you’re using to create your new Roadmap to Relationship Bliss.