“One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in.” ― Marshall McLuhan, War & Peace in the Global Village (1968)
Many times in life we can be so heavily immersed in something that we miss what is actually happening around us. What I mean by this is if I am so involved in a movement or cause that I may fail to see my own short comings or how I too am like what I seem to be fighting for or against. The bigger question is “what is it I am fighting against inside of me?” “What am I afraid I might be?” Sometimes those short comings can look opposite of what I am fighting for but in essence opposites are just different sides of the same coin. For example, the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. Hate is a very strong attachment to the previous loved object. So instead of actually letting go of the relationship or person, I am still holding on very tightly but in a negative way. This happens frequently in contentious divorces. If one or both parties “hate” each other they may fight for years in court. This does nothing more than keep the two very negatively attached. Or years later one or both parties is still unwilling to let go by keeping past grievances alive.
Can I get a side of Masochism, please?
So if I am a fish swimming in the water and I have nothing to compare the water to, I don’t really know that I am swimming in water. When my patient grows up in a family where she is told she is loved but family members are also mean to her, this becomes her “normal.” My patient then learns love comes with pain. Going forward, her adult relationships resemble this family pattern She becomes masochistic. Unbeknownst to her she picks very sadistic partners. That being loved in such a painful way is the norm. Ah, if someone really loves her then of course they would treat her badly!
Therapy is deeper work
Therapy is not to make us feel better and to have the therapist cheerlead away the problems. It is a process of discovery. It is learning to immerse ourselves in a discovery process. Lawyers use discovery to get at the truth. In therapy it’s kind of the same thing. Finding our truth is the way out of the dark and frequently murky water.