Every year, Daniel and I take two weekend road trips to someplace within driving distance, in order to revel and relax in each others company; we go once a year, to celebrate our wedding anniversary and then again, we take a small trip during our birthday season (our birthdays are not quite a month apart). We just returned from our anniversary weekend.
It was a great weekend … from beginning to end. We were relaxed and easy with each other — able to enjoy our time together without demands coming from either the outside world or from one another. Well … for the most part, that is …. there were a few challenging moments that Saturday evening. It happened in the hot tub of the Hilton where we were staying.
We had driven over to Columbia, South Carolina in order to visit The River Zoo.
It was the penguin exhibit that drew us …. I'd never seen penguins in the flesh before, and am still not sure I've actually seen them … The zoo-keepers told us that we were seeing real live penguins, but what I saw looked more like little black and white wind-up toys instead! It had been a very full day and we were relieved to be back in our hotel .. we were just getting ready to settle into the hot tub there in the spa area of the hotel where we were staying …. Daniel was about to step into the jacuzzi … he had a glass of wine in his hand. I was uncomfortable with him bringing wine into the pool area where a family with children were still swimming, even though it was late evening. I told myself that “he shouldn't drink around young kids”. It was the first sign of inner resistance.
With practice I've become increasingly able to catch these resistant thoughts early on, often “nipping them in the bud” so quickly that they don't have time to work themselves up into full blown misery. I do this by simply making conscious whatever negative story fragment I'm running in that moment and then dismissing it as being nothing more than an internal argument with what is. This approach has become more effective as the commitment to clearing away old story increases. The less story the less drama … the less drama the less resistance … the less resistance the more joy. And so this joy in relationship that Daniel and I are able to access often is no accident. It is conscious appreciation that comes directly from an intention to accept each other just as we are….
But back to telling you about a recent moment of non-acceptance ….
As Daniel stepped into the hot tub, the resistance I was feeling turned into a full fledge projection. A memory of my fathers face, flushed with alcohol, arose in my mind. I suddenly remembered how my father would get a few under his belt and then begin to “carry forth” in a loud voice … about politics or some other “touchy” subject … ranting on as he remained oblivious to those around him. That memory flash was all I needed… I took the ego-mind's bait. I could see I was projecting, but was not convinced that it didn't fit. (“After all, just because I'm projecting doesn't mean it's not true”, I told myself) … As a matter of fact, I found myself arguing that what I was projecting was true … I'd married my dad … and once I started down that mental road, finding “evidence” was easy. “Yes, I've married my dad, an irresponsible drunk who … blah-blah”…. The internal discomfort was immediate and painful. Poor Daniel had no idea of what had happened… As far as he was concerned, here we were having a great time, and suddenly my attitude towards him has gone completely sour for no reason at all.
I decided not to squelch the projection… I recognized this as a “new” projection – I'd never made that particular parallel of Daniel with my dad – and I instinctively knew that I might succeed in containing it for now, but that it would continue to work on the mind and end up causing trouble sometime or other, so, I decided, now was as good a time as any to put it out there. So that's what I did … I consciously let the projection sit and I stewed in it for a few minutes … Daniel could see it in my eyes… and he reacted immediately. “What's wrong?”, he asked. And I told him that he was acting like my dad and that I didn't like it … that, actually it worried me.
One of the things that really works in our relating is the way Daniel meets me. He does not easily take on my projections. Instead he holds his ground, steadily and quietly refusing to be who I've decided to make him and insisting on his right to be “just Daniel”. That's how he handled this encounter. He reminded me about whose business I was in … (“oh yeah … that's right .. what he does is NOT my business”) and then he mentioned that he had a right to choose whether he wanted to drink a glass of wine or not.
Having cast the projection out there, I began to process it … asking myself “Is it true that Daniel is an irresponsible drunk?” … “Is it true that he is oblivious to others and totally absorbed by addiction?” The answers were a resounding “No!”. These feelings are up for some reason, even if they're not about Daniel – and so I began to follow the projection inward. I realized that I was being given the opportunity to make old, repressed feelings about a drunk irresponsible daddy conscious for reframing and forgivenss. Of course, the feelings had nothing at all to do with Daniel … He was just, for a moment, a convenient projection screen for feelings that needed to come up so that the distorted perception behind them could be corrected. As I processed, the projection dissolved. I could “see” Daniel again … rather than my drunk dad … and I could appreciate the tremendous gift that resistance and projection offers when applied consciously.
There is probably no single way to grow my understanding of “me” better than to notice when and where resistance shows up and then use it as a doorway into the psyche. Resistance lets me know when there is a false story running about “me” or “you” or life in general. When I feel resistance in the form of guilt, impatience, resentment, frustration, disappointment, judgment etc etc … I am being signalled that I am in a battle against reality. I am resisting what is and I cannot win. Resistance is a call for surrender … for acceptance of this moment, of you and myself – right now just as we are. Resistance points to that place in me that is up for clearing, for correction, for forgiveness. I need the information that resistance brings in order to liberate myself from the throes of a limited ego-mind.
That Saturday evening in the hot tub with Daniel … I found myself restored, not only to enjoying my husband through clearing the projection, but I was also restored to sanity at a level deeper than was possible before the projection took place. Because I was willing to “play it out” consciously I was able to realize a deeper freedom from an old stuckness. Resistance, when used with consciousness, becomes simply another tool for freeing ourselves from a worn out story of self that otherwise continues to erode the joy natural to life here and now. Hooray for resistance in all its forms!