Imagine you are afraid of spiders. Now, imagine walking into your kitchen, going to the sink when suddenly you see a spider run across the counter. Instinctually you recoil, gasp and leave the room.
That is an example of doing what comes naturally. In all likelihood, no one taught you to respond that way. It was a completely natural reaction.
Most of what we do is a natural, built-in response to our experience. For example, some of us naturally respond to anger by becoming angry ourselves. Some of us, on the other hand, naturally respond to anger by withdrawing and disengaging.
These natural responses, repeated over time, create patterns of behavior between intimate partners. Once a pattern is established, changing how we relate becomes particularly difficult.
Improving a relationship often demands changing an established pattern of relating. And, making that change demands that we stop doing what comes naturally. As long as we do what comes naturally, nothing changes.
Change comes when we have the creativity and courage to do something that feels unnatural.
For example, instead of responding to anger with anger, I choose to respond with openness. Instead of responding to anger by withdrawing, I choose to respond with a willingness to dialogue. In both of these cases the new response will feel unnatural…even scary.
Needing to do things that feel unnatural is one of the reasons change is so difficult. It's by doing what feels unnatural that we increase the chances of real change.
Jake Thiessen, PhD
I've been working with couples for a very long time. And, I love it! This blog is my attempt to communicate some of the things I've learned over the past 40 years.