“G’mornin’ Mrs Harris, are you ready for some noise?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be I guess! I did everything you told me. Here is the checklist.”
“Great! Any questions or are we good to go?”
She got quiet and stepped in close. “Mrs Saunders said I should talk to you. She said… Oh, I feel so silly…” Her hands were wringing. “Oh, I’ll just say it. Mrs Saunders said you helped her with her depression and you might be able to help me.” She looked awkward in her own home.
I took a deep breath. “OK Mrs Harris, you know I’m a house painter, right? Not a depressionist or whatever the hell those people are called.”
“I knew this was a bad idea. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Forget I said anything.”
“Have you been to a Dr. or Psychologist type person?”
“I’ve been to three.”
“There you go! All fixed up then! I’ll be right outside if you need anything.”
I turned to step outside. “Wait. Please, can we just talk for a minute?” Her eyes pleading.
I checked my watch. “I’ve got a few minutes. What’s on your mind?”
“I don’t know.. It’s just that I’m so depressed and I don’t want to live and I don’t…”
“How long have you felt this way?”
“About 15 years.”
“What did your Dr. say?”
“That it is my husband’s fault. He’s..”
“What did the other 2 say?”
“What? Oh.. They said the same thing.”
“Did they interview your husband?”
“Yes. They said that if he was nicer to me, I would be happier and that in their professional opinion, I should consider leaving him.”
“So your happiness is dependent upon your husbands behavior. That’s pretty obvious actually. I’m surprised you didn’t come to that conclusion on your own…. but of course, you probably did come to that conclusion and just went to them to confirm what you already believed.”
I don’t know if she agreed or if she was just nodding indicating understanding.
“Um, Mrs Harris…. Did you tell your husband that they said your depression was all his fault?” She nodded. “And what did he say?”
“He says he loves me and will do what ever I need and that they are full of shit. Pardon my language. He says that he believes that I willingly and actively demonstrate disrespect for him and often with contempt. He says that if I could see things differently, maybe I’d be happier.”
“What do you think?”
“Well, they are Doctors… They know what they are talking about.”
“Do you treat him with contempt and disrespect?”
“Well, yes. I don’t respect him. He needs to change.”
“You’re right, you’re right. Doctors know. Well, glad we could have this talk. I’ll just get to it then.”
“But Mrs Saunders said… You might… you know… say something…”
“Sorry Mrs Harris. Doctors are never wrong. Nor are Psychologists. Probably best to call a divorce lawyer. Good luck.” I was just closing the door.. “Unless…” She leaped forward. “What?”
“Do you have ‘connect 4’ or ‘checkers’ or some simple type of table games that you and your husband like to play?”
I’ll talk with you more tomorrow. I want you to play 8 games. Play against him for 4 games and record your wins. Then play for yourself 4 games and record your wins. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“But…” I left.
“Hi Mrs Harris.”
“Hi. I played the games!”
“Yeah, How’d it go?”
“Well, the first 4 games I did all I could to block him and figure out his strategy and I lost every game. He beat me so easily it was a bit humiliating! I fell into the dumbest mistakes. On the next 4 games I won 2 of them and the games that I lost used up most of the room the game offered.”
“Hmmm… Interesting. Anything else that you noticed?”
“Well, it was interesting, and my husband mentioned it as we went to bed… This was the first time in nearly 3 years that we did anything besides me using Facebook and him watching that horrible ‘Next News Network’. It was kind of nice having an evening of play.”
“Hmm.. I wonder.. What is missing from your life.. that if you had exactly what you wanted…? What do you wish could happen?”
“I.. I just wish my husband loved me. (starting to cry) He hates me… He doesn’t love me. I just want to feel secure in my marriage and I don’t even know why I stay and I am so mad at myself for staying and I can’t stand it and I want to love him but when I try I get so mad and I just…….” The crying was becoming semi hysterical.
“Start with ‘I want to love him.’ and go from there.”
“I want to love him but..” The hysteria started up again.
“STOP! Where are you feeling that in your body? There is a feeling that makes you want to cry. What is it? Where do you feel it in your body? Feel it NOW.”
“In my HEARRRRT.” she sobbed.
“Yeah. What is that feeling? What is it? What are you feeling? It’s in your heart area. Feel it. What is it?
“I bet it does. Do you recognize this feeling? Do you feel this when you are mad at your husband?
“Ye e e ss.”
“You said a bit ago that you want to love him. What would happen if you loved him?”
“I don’t want to love him… I HATE HIIMMMM!”
“What happens when you try to love him?”
“What are you thinking about that makes you hurt?”
“I just think about all the fun we used to have and the walks we used to go on and feeding him candy while he drove the motorcycle.”
“Where do you feel that in the body?”
“What is the feeling?”
“So when you want to love your husband, you think of when you were in love and that makes you feel sad and it hurts and you have been hurting a long time and it pisses you off so you lash out at him and he treats you with anger and it causes you to hate him and feel contempt. Is that approximately right?”
Remember when you loved him? Remember how you loved everything that he did? Remember how it didn’t matter what he did, you adored him didn’t you? Was it kind of like that? You know, new love, young love?” She nodded. “I know it isn’t possible, but, if you adored him now, if you loved him like that now, if you were thrilled with everything he did now, just like then; do you think it would change his response to you? You think he would act different?”
(Continuing).. “Let me say that differently. If he adored you.. If he loved everything you said and did and couldn’t wait to be home after work and to see you in the morning.. Would you feel different? Do you think it would be easier to respect him and respond to him in a more respectful way?” She was nodding. “Imagine that he treated you like he loved you in the way that you most long for… would that make it easier for you? Would that make it almost impossible for you to continue to be angry and disrespectful?”
“I don’t know if that could ever happen but that would be WONDERFUL! Can you make that happen?”
“Of course I can’t make that happen! I’m not married to him. I’m just a painter. But… think about this for a second. If he were to treat you like he loves you, because he does, and you had this experience of being loved, do you think you could love him easier and if you loved him it might make his life every bit as much easier as it would make your life easier if he did it for you; can you start letting go of depression now?”
She looked confused. “I don’t get it.”
“OK. Here is what I think you are experiencing, some version of it anyway. Ready?
He says or does something and you feel a feeling and that feeling makes you mad.
You lash out and disrespect him.
He is rude to you because he is sick of being disrespected. (More likely because he has a horrible feeling of his own)
You feel that feeling from earlier and want to have the love back but…
You think about back when you were in love and it makes you feel sad instead of making you feel the love that you are trying to feel and it hurts.
You have been chronically hurting for 20 or 30 years and it makes you furious; it pisses you off!
That fury makes you demonstrate contempt and disrespect even more and…
The more you try to love him, the more you feel contempt until you hate him.
Does that sound right?”
She looked furious now. “I don’t think I like you very much. I’M LEAVING!”
“Well, this is your house. You can leave if you want. Sorry if that wasn’t helpful. I’ll be outside.”
I started to leave but came back. “Mrs Harris… before I go.. If you love him, the hurt goes away. When you love him, it doesn’t hurt. Love feels good. If you think about when you used to love him it, makes you furious. Do you see that?
Didn’t you used to run the cash register at the pharmacy? Remember the ticker tape on the machine, you know, you put the receipt roll in and when people buy something, the machine prints the item and price onto the ticker tape and then you tear off a receipt.
The ticker tape just goes through the machine and it is what it is; it never changes. The machine prints different things onto the receipt paper but the paper is just the paper.
I think you are moving through your life like that receipt tape, an angry receipt tape and the content of your life gets printed on it. It doesn’t matter what happens in your life anymore than it matters what a person buys. You are continuing through your life angry and it doesn’t matter what you or your husband do because it is written onto an angry ticker tape of life.
If you love him, the content will be printed onto a loving life. No matter what he does you will be thrilled because you love him.
If you WANT to love him (means that you aren’t loving him) and you think about when you loved him it spins you off into some crazy whirl of anger which will eventually lead you back to wanting to love him and the whole thing starts again.
I think you are simply caught in a silly trap. You want to love him but you don’t want to love him because you hate him because you have hurt for a long time and it keeps starting over because every time you want to love him you think about when you did love him in an attempt to bring back the loving feeling and (HERE’S THE GLITCH) instead of feeling the old loving feeling you feel sad instead and it hurts and you are sick and tired of feeling sad and it pissed you off and you lash out at him and he responds with anger of his own about how sick he is of your disrespect and which adds to how sick you are about his anger towards you and in an attempt to feel love you think about when ……. repeat for eternity, death, or divorce. See, just a simple glitch.
If you want to feel pain, continue to cycle.
If you want to feel love. Love him.
Wanting to love him causes pain. DECIDE to love him and the pain disappears.
Will you at least consider loving him instead of thinking about when you USED to? You know, just love him right now, without thinking about when you used to love him?”
“But what about him? Isn’t HE the one that is supposed to change? Isn’t HE supposed to be loving ME?”
“Remember ‘connect 4’ the game you were playing? If you wait to have him change and react to him, you will be playing against him and his actions. If you play ‘against’ him, you will lose.
Listen close. You losing will NOT cause him to win; just you lose. If you play your own game, just LOVING HIM, you will win about 50/50. 50/50 is more than enough to break the cycle. You winning does not make him lose, it causes you to BOTH WIN!
Now you are just playing. Think about it.
See what happens will ya?’ LOVE him for God’s sake!”
*A few weeks pass*
One of the middle managers of the Tire Store approached me. “This place looks great! You have a great crew. Crazy what a couple coats of paint will do to a place!”
“Thanks Harold, we do our best.”
“Hey, if you have minute, can we talk?”
“Yeah, What’s up?”
“I was talking to Mrs Harris and… um… Well, she said I should talk with you. She said you might be able to help me and my wife fall back in love.”
“Yeah Harold, I have a few minutes but you DO know I’m a commercial building painter and not a love-oligist or what ever the hell those love type people are called don’t you?’