“The art of unhooking from your stories allows you to see what’s in front of you rather than seeing what you’re looking to see.”
-Heather Shane Blakeslee in Mindful Magazine
Seeing What’s in Front of You
We tell ourselves a lot of stories about our relationships that don’t always serve us well. Some examples:
“I’ll never be good enough for my partner” or its companion idea, “My partner will never be able to get his act together”
“Though things are improving a bit, my partner is going to revert to the way they used to be – it’s only a matter of time”
“My partner is just controlling by nature”
I like to think of these stories as ‘filters’ through which we see things and these filters really distort the world around us, as well as our responses. If you’re an ADHD partner who believes that you’ll never be good enough, for example, you’re unlikely to fully engage with creating a reminder system to become more reliable. Which, of course, may be EXACTLY what the other partner longs for. The story prevents the progress.
If a partner is viewed as enjoying being a controlling person, rather than responding to the chaos around them, then that lack of empathy is a form of invalidation that hurts the non-ADHD partner. It’s a form of blaming the non-ADHD partner that doesn’t acknowledge the complexity of living with undermanaged ADHD.
Mindfulness training helps people observe what is actually happening around them in real time. Unlike the ‘now/not now’ jumping from one immediate thing to the next, mindfulness hooks you into the present moment to ask yourself ‘what’s going on here, and how can I savor it better?’ Among other things, this savoring allows you to see your partner’s (sometimes bungled) attempts at connection, autonomy or task completion for what they are – an effort to move the two of you towards a calmer, more balanced relationship. And, importantly, it moves you away from destructive stories into the real here and now.
Do you carry destructive stories (or filters) with you?
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