Trying to understand others instead of understanding yourself is often an avoidance strategy to keep yourself safe. Safe from pain, confrontations and having to deal with difficult issues. It also offers a sense of security, being able to predict other’s behaviour.
But is it helpful for your happiness?
Hailey wasn’t quite happy with Harry, her boyfriend. They had been together for about 10 months now and she noticed that she spends a lot of time trying to ‘get’ him. Getting him as in understanding him. Why would he not text her? And when he did, occasionally, why was that? Why didn’t he do any shopping? Why was he grumpy? And why was he smiley? For her, it was important to know Harry better and as he didn’t answer any of those above questions satisfactory, she was looking for the answers.
And it drove her bloody mad.
Of course, it did.
Because each question could be answered in hundreds of thousands of ways. And she would never know if she had chosen the right answer because the only one who would really know was dear Harry himself.
Harry himself got quite annoyed with Hailey and her questioning. He wasn’t very self-aware and most questions he couldn’t answer instantly. Maybe if he spends some time navel-gazing, he might come up with answers, but he was too busy doing things he enjoyed. Like playing guitar and exercising and just being with Hailey. As long as she didn’t ask all those questions.
Hailey loved analysing people. She felt quite insecure and needed clarity and conformation to feel at ease. And she was looking to get that security via answers about other people.
I asked Hailey what she was missing in herself and looking to gain from her constant questioning.
That question set her back and it took her a while to find out why she asked all those why questions about someone else.
This is what she came up with:
- Understanding Harry would mean she could predict his behaviour
- Knowing his reasons would mean it might have nothing to do with her, which would be a relief as she was very anxious to do the ‘right’ thing
- Or if it had to do with her, she could change herself to accommodate him better
- Thinking about him meant she didn’t have to think about herself
It was time for Hailey to start thinking about herself and become more self-aware. She could use her energy to develop her self-esteem and confidence and become more at home with herself.
Actions I suggested to help her get out of her own way:
Any time a question about Harry popped in her mind, she was to ask herself the question:
- In what way would I benefit from knowing the answer? And she could choose between predict, doing the right thing or adapting herself. Or come up with something completely new.
The next question would be:
- What could I ask myself instead? Suggestions are: what do I need from myself to feel more secure, what is the right thing for me and what would it take away from me to adapt?
Hailey had a bit of a way to go, but with growing confidence and awareness, the relationship started blossoming as both parties could be themselves.
Just the way they are.
If you want to talk about your relationship with your partner, or maybe the relationship with yourself, why not book a free call with me?
I am the author of From Victim to Victor. A self help book for victims of narcissistic abuse. An informative book for anyone who wants to learn more about narcissism and a self help book to learn effective responses to bullying behaviour. Every narcissist is a bully, not every bully is a narcissist. Read more.