Suzanne called and said that she and her husband, Mark, had just had a terrible argument. I asked her to tell me about it, and she said that when she walked into the kitchen first thing in the morning, Mark attacked her.
Rarely do people correctly describe—or even identify—an attack, so I asked Suzanne to tell me exactly the words he spoke.
“I don’t remember,” she said.
“Sure you do,” I said. “You told me that you just had the argument, so give it a second. What did he say—exactly?”
“Well, he said I left the refrigerator door open. But I’m sick of him telling me about the door. He never stops nagging me about it.”
“So let me be clear. He said, ‘You left the refrigerator door open.’ That’s all he said?”
“We’ll get to the ‘but.’ Right now I’m talking about what actually happened. Was he angry?”
“I believe your sincerity. Completely. But I spoke to Mark moments ago, and I know both of you. I also know what his tones of voice mean—and yours. So let me tell you what is mostly likely to have happened, and you tell me what you think.
"Mark HAS nagged you on many occasions, probably hundreds. And he’s been angry. But over the last few months, he’s really learned some things, and I specifically told him a few days ago how to talk to you if you ever left the refrigerator door open. When he talked to you he was following those instructions, and moments ago when he spoke to me, his tone of voice communicated strongly that he was not angry when he spoke to you. So I suggest that he probably told you about the door much more calmly than before, but you heard him say it with the old tone, in the old way. Is that possible?”
“Well . . .”
“Probably so, then, yes?”
“You pulled a gun on an ant.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been in pain all your life. You were not unconditionally loved by your parents. That was horrifyingly traumatic, and you reacted to your pain all the time: trying to be perfect, trying to please people, and more.
"Then you married a guy—Mark—who did not know how to love you. It was miserable, and you continued to react to even more pain all the time. You have attacked Mark and others, you have withdrawn from the people who failed to love you, you’ve lied, and you’ve done all the stuff people do when they’re in pain.
"And you were in so much pain that you over-reacted to every little thing. You didn’t mean to, but you did. And even though Mark has learned to love you better, you’re still so hypersensitive to pain—real or just perceived—that you still over-react to him.
"What he did this morning in the kitchen was nothing—he really tried to be kind—but you pulled a gun on him, even though he made a tiny mistake, or possibly no mistake at all. He was an ant, and you shot him. No criticism. You just did it before you could think. You just reacted.”
When we’re in enough pain, or for long enough, we can’t stand anymore, nor can we tolerate even the possibility of pain. We see threats everywhere, even where there are none.
So we’re driven by pain and fear, and we react to those feelings a lot. We pull a gun to defend ourselves from ants.
When we feel loved enough, our wounds heal, and our pain resolves. And then, finally, we have no NEED to pull guns on ants. We can simply let ants walk by—an appropriate response—and love the people around us.
Find genuine happiness now and forever.
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