A married couple is spending a weekend at their lakeside cottage. One afternoon, while the husband is taking a nap, the wife decides to take their little fishing boat out. She motors out a ways, anchors, puts her feet up, and begins to read her book. The peace and solitude are magnificent. Along comes a Fish and Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside, sees all the fishing tackle in her boat, and says, "You're in a Restricted Fishing Area."
"I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading."
"Yes, but I see you have all the equipment. For all I know, you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."
"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault," says the woman.
"But I haven't even touched you," says the Game Warden.
"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know, you could start at any moment."
Now a different story – not a joke. Another married couple. A young man and a young woman, measuring the length of their marriage in months rather than years, one day find themselves arguing. Harsh words are spoken. Blame is leveled. Voices go up, in volume and in pitch. This will be a two-day spat – which is to say, it will be two days before they see what they are fighting about is nothing. At the time, it feels like a very real something.
He says something hurtful. She is stunned – can’t believe he said that. Is this the man she married? “Would you listen to yourself?” she says, hoping this will prompt him to see the unreasonableness of what he said. But of course this just spurs him to attack her unreasonableness.
“What, now I can’t . . . “
“That’s not what I said.”
“That’s exactly what you said.”
Who knows what they said? The couple isn’t connecting, much as connection is what they yearn for. Much of the blame they hurl at each other is a projection of their self-blame. Like a movie sequel (similar to and flowing from the original), the disappointment they have in each other reflects and flows from the disappointment they have in themselves. They’re having trouble connecting with each other because they’re having trouble connecting with themselves.
Each believes the other isn’t listening. Maybe they hear each other’s words. That in itself doesn’t always happen, but in this case let’s say each is paying attention to the other’s words. The words alone, though, won’t do the work each seems to expect words to do.
Words fail to make someone else into the answer to one's problems – no matter how loudly one says them.
“Would you listen to yourself?!” comes out as a plea: “Straighten up and start meeting my needs.” At the same time, deeper down, there is a part of her that recognizes that self-listening really is the beginning of the peace and caring they both long for. The path to peace for this couple – the path to the love they somewhat fuzzily had in mind when they got married – is a path that goes inward to the feelings and the universal desires they find at work in themselves, and then outward in recognition of the others’ feelings and universal desires. It’s a path of coming to recognize their own inner voices and learning to reassure those voices so they won’t scream demands. Then the couple will be equipped to reassure each other so they won't scream demands. The root issue is self-disconnection.
Disconnection from ourselves is a common condition. Lake Chalice, this week, will be addressing that condition.
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This is part 1 of 4 of "Would You Listen to Yourself?"
Next: Part 2: "Inner Voice"