Purim- Getting Behind the Mask
With Purim coming up, I have been thinking a lot about costumes and masks. What exactly are we trying to conceal? The commentaries explain that although the Purim story is a historical account, it is relevant to us in every generation. The story is an allegory for our internal spiritual journey in this world. We see this with the Torah itself. While it may look like a bunch of stories, there are multiple levels of meaning where the actual story, while also true, is enclothing something much deeper.
How is the story of your relationship really a mask for something much deeper? And how do we go about uncovering that mask? The answer: get curious. When couples begin to talk about frustrations in their relationship or other difficult topics, it often provokes uncomfortable feelings in the one who is the receiver, the one listening. The receiver may want to respond, defend him/herself, or provide clarification. As you know from our past posts, the receiver’s job is to contain his/her reaction for the moment and engage in the dialogue process. For those of you who have attempted to dialogue, it can be a challenge at first.
When I notice that the receiver is having a hard time containing reactivity and is taking it personally, I gently suggest him/her to get curious. “I would like you to get curious about your partner’s story for a little longer and see where it takes you because I imagine you are going to discover something else there.” The breakthrough usually occurs when the receiver can hold on just a bit longer so that the apparent story that is taking place in the present relationship suddenly strikes a much deeper chord.
As we have mentioned in the past, any frustration that you experience with your partner is 10% the actual incident and 90% what that triggers for you internally. Why is it that an issue your friend has in her marriage seems to be easily solvable while your issue appears insurmountable? Ironically, your friend would much rather be in your shoes as it seems things would be easier for her. While it is partially about the story, it is mostly what is hidden beneath the story. When your husband ignores you or your wife criticizes you, what familiar hurt does that remind you of? Have you “been” there before? While you and your spouse are the cast of characters in the current drama, getting curious and listening long enough to your partner’s story will help it make perfect sense to you. Getting curious allows you to contain your reactivity and ultimately to discover that it really isn’t about you, rather something much deeper. Instead off putting up a wall and shutting yourself down, flick off your judgment switch and take the trip into the world of the other.
How do you get curious? #1 Don’t try to be your husband’s therapist. Don’t start asking him, what does this remind you of?…. The best thing to do is stay in the dialogue, mirroring back the frustration, asking “did I get you” and “is there more.” ” Could you tell me more about that?” Show that you actually want to find out more. This usually softens the other person up and allows them to feel safe to share and explore on their own. You are really making space for the other, for his/her reality. When you start by getting behind the mask, you will reopen yourself up to love and joy in your relationship
I am “curious” to hear how it works for you!
If you are curious to learn how to get behind the mask of your partner’s story, contact Rabbi Slatkin below to book your session so that you can experience the transformative power of the Imago Dialogue process.