The Shaming of the Shrew

Contemporary American culture tells us that we’re supposed to function as free, autonomous, self-sufficient individuals. Certain behavioral guidelines and proscriptions have arisen to support this ideal. They exert tremendous influence over how we conduct our interpersonal relationships.

For example, we are not supposed to be clingy or needy. We are supposed to allow our loved ones to “have their own space”. We should be “cool” and not interfere too much. We are definitely not supposed to nag.

As long as they are properly applied, these proscriptions can be seen positively as facilitating healthy consideration for the needs of the other. But hypertrophied and over-applied, as no doubt they often are, they present a barrier to communication and true intimacy, thus rendering FIML very difficult or even impossible.

Terrified of being thought clingy, needy, or dependent, we may adopt a position of anti-clinginess; we may go so far in that direction that we end up isolating ourselves and neglecting our partners.

The idea that our loved ones should be allowed their own space may get twisted into a policy of spending lots of time apart, though deep down we may wonder at the reason for this.

The fear of being a nag (or “controlling” or a “shrew”) may cause us to repress our natural desire to better understand the other person, discouraging us from asking FIML-type questions. Or any questions at all.

FIML depends on our ability to ask questions. Moreover, it depends on our being able to query each other about trivial subjects during mildly difficult moments. This might sound easy. But it’s my guess that many or most of us, if we pay attention, will be able to recognize those culturally programmed voices speaking through us, effectively sabotaging us, at crucial moments that would be ripe for FIML practice. The voices might say things like: “Drop it, it’s not important”; “Don’t ask annoying questions”; “I’m so glad s/he doesn’t bother me with annoying questions”; “Understand Your Man”; “Oh well, she must be PMS-ing”.

Once you see it for what it is, it’s not terribly difficult to disentangle from this kind of programming. But in order to do FIML you may have to struggle against it for a while, especially at first.

 

 

 

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