Here's how I used to mess up my relationships - and here's how I stopped (and you can, too!)
Before I learned to SCORE, I felt pushed and pummeled by my emotions, and I pushed my girlfriends around with those emotions, too. When someone did something that hurt, disappointed or angered me, I rarely recognized that I was triggered, and that the intensity of my emotion originated in another time and place.
It genuinely seemed to me that my partner’s actions caused my emotions – so I also believed I couldn’t feel differently unless or until she changed her behavior. This is because I’m a “blamer,” meaning that when difficult feelings arise in me, my default pattern is to blame other people for them.
Not surprisingly, I’ve often found myself in relationships with women with the opposite pattern. Sarah was a self-blamer, as is my current partner, Michelle. This means that we fit into each other like a hook and an eye – or, as Margaret Atwood puts it, “A fish hook. An open eye.”
Ouch! If I blame Michelle and she blames herself, our relationship will soon become a very painful place for her – and ultimately, therefore, for me as well.
Most of us are either blamers or self-blamers. There’s no stigma and no virtue attached to either pattern. They’re both problematic, and neither one of them helps us resolve conflict with clarity and compassion. But they’re also both perfectly normal. The key is to recognize which pattern you have, so that you can make the necessary corrections in your thinking.
For instance, when I SCORE, step #4 primarily involves my remembering that my emotions are my own responsibility, not Michelle’s. But when Michelle SCOREs, her focus in step #4 needs to be on relinquishing her sense of responsibility for my feelings. Each of us needs to take 100% responsibility for our own feelings, and 0% for the other person’s feelings – but we’re coming to that task from opposite sides of the fence.
Not all partnerships consist of a blamer and a self-blamer. In some relationships, both people are blamers, meaning that they tend to blame each other. This pattern tends to lead to a lot of fights and power struggles, with each person trying to assert that she is right and her partner is wrong. And the only way out of this painful cycle is for both people to actively take responsibility for their own emotions.
In other partnerships, both people tend to blame themselves. This pattern results in a lot of depression and despair, and a more gradual but steady decline in intimacy. The way out for this kind of couple is for both people to work on relinquishing responsibility for each other’s emotions.
Of course, in all of these cases, step #4 of the SCORE Process must be done in tandem with the other steps. Stepping back into yourself, connecting to yourself with compassion, and observing the origin of your feelings are all key to being able to shift from pain to healing, and from blame to intimacy with both yourself and your partner.
Just the S and the C of SCORE – connecting with yourself with compassion, in the midst of a conflict – are very powerful steps. Yet they may be so unfamiliar to us that we don’t know how to start. Here are some ways to begin:
- Stop thinking about what the other person did or didn’t do – or about what she feels. Consciously bring your attention back to yourself, to your own body, your own breath.
- Take several long, deep, slow breaths in and out. Notice the miracle of the breath – the way each in-breath brings in exactly what you need, and each out-breath releases exactly what needs to get released. Remind yourself that there is a wise intelligence within you that knows exactly how to do this with emotions, as well as oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- Now, imagine that the more mature, adult part of you is reaching out a loving hand to the younger, scared child within. However difficult your current emotions or situation may be, it’s certain that you have much more wisdom, and also more knowledge of how to navigate the world, than you did when you were, say, 3 or 5 or 8 years old. So, it can help to picture that younger child in our mind’s eye, and imagine this self – your present-day, adult, resourced self – bringing compassion to that self. Whether you tend to be a blamer or a self-blamer, compassion is good medicine for what ails you.
- Now that you’ve connected to yourself with compassion, you’re in a good position to go through the rest of the SCORE Process – and become empowered to communicate with your partner in ways that build intimacy and further healing. May it be so!
For a step by step guide to the SCORE process, click here: http://www.yourtango.com/experts/drs-ruth-schwartz-michelle-murrain/scor...