There is a little boy. His mom was a stay at home mom and his dad was a lawyer. His parents have decided to get a divorce. They move into different houses. The boy has to go back and forth. Because they got a divorce, the mother had to start working and so the boy is put in daycare. He only sees his dad on weekends.
In this little boy’s reality, he has lost his parents and his sense of home. His dad is now inaccessible to him. And so is his mother. He has no stability. He is now forced to spend the day with strangers. He has lost the life that he loved. He is in pain and he is afraid. But there is no resolution for this. There is no resolution because in his parent’s reality, they are both still there for him. They are both accessible to him. They have gotten a divorce, which hurts, but it was for the better since they were both unhappy in the marriage. In their reality, everything between them and their son is fine. He is being taken care of. Because this is their reality, when this little boy starts getting nose bleeds (the non physical cause of nosebleeds is needing one’s pain that is not being acknowledged to be seen) and when he starts acting differently, they assume that something must be wrong with the boy. They can’t see what is actually causing these reactions in the boy because what is actually happening to him doesn’t fit into their perception of his reality. They are not actually seeing his reality. They are only seeing their own. And in their reality, the boy’s actual reality cannot be accommodated.
There is an emotional grand canyon between this child and his parents. In fact, there is no relationship between this boy and his parents because they occupy different realities. In a world where we can have different experiences of the same situation, we have different perceptual realities. If we cannot acknowledge, see, feel, hear, understand and accommodate each other’s realities by seeing them as real, There is no relationship. There is only the illusion of a relationship. There is only the promise and potential of a relationship.
For this Grand Canyon to go away between this boy and his parents, his parents would have to see that from his perspective, the fact that he has lost his home and lost access to his parents and lost stability and is now in lots of pain because of what he lost is REAL. Just because they are right that they still love him and they haven’t abandoned him and the divorce was for the best doesn’t make his reality any less real. If they can’t do this, they cannot make any of the changes necessary to help this boy to feel better. They cannot resolve the rupture in their closeness. Anything they say or do will merely be an invalidation of him. Anything they say or do will simply condemn him to being stuck in that pain and that fear with no resolution. The entire relationship is a gaslight. The parents inability to see, hear, feel and understand their son’s reality makes it so they constantly make him believe what he sees, he doesn’t see accurately, what he hears, he doesn’t hear accurately, what he feels, he shouldn’t feel and that his reality is not real.
I want you to imagine that your right leg is shattered. Your left leg is fine. Your left leg’s reality is that it feels fine. Your right leg’s reality is that it is in agony. If the left leg is unwilling to acknowledge that the right leg’s reality is agony, it may try to run a race. It does this because it wants to run. To acknowledge that the right leg is shattered and is in agony would mean that it would have to change something. It couldn’t go forward with running without making some kind of change first. And if it did, it would have to live with the reality that it is an abuser of the right leg. To avoid seeing itself in that light and to avoid having to change, it simply decided not to see the reality that the right leg is in agony and is shattered.
I did a video a while ago called “The Most Dangerous Parallel Reality”. In this video, I explain the mechanism of parallel perceptual realities and why they are so dangerous. I want you to watch that video when you are done with this article.
The unwillingness to occupy the same reality or accommodate each other’s reality is an epidemic in our relationships. Because our own realities were not seen, felt, heard, understood or accommodated, we either live our lives in torment (and some of us do) or we disconnect from other people’s realities too and become the problem. We cope by solidifying our own reality to the degree that we do not perceive the realities of others. We decide they aren’t real. Our relationships become a battle of reality vs. reality. And if we have grown up in this kind of split reality where no relationship actually exists, we become a match to relationships in our adulthood where there is also a split reality between ourselves and our partner. There is no actual relationship at all.
Using the previous analogy, if the parents try to get the boy to accept their reality as his reality in the divorce scenario, not only is it an invalidation of his reality, the reality is that he will not be able to because doing so does not address any of the pain he is in. It brings no resolution.
From the outside, we can see that the parents are right from their perspective and the boy is right from his perspective and neither perspective invalidates the other. They are playing different roles and these different roles come with different experiences. But we can also see that if these parents don’t accept his reality, the relationship between them is doomed.
I did a video called get on the same page. I strongly encourage you to watch that video if you haven’t already or even to watch it as a refresher. The unwillingness to accommodate each other’s realities and respond directly to those realities is the greatest from of different page you can be on in a relationship.
Now this is where I’m about to give you the holy grail of this concept… A relationship is actually only ever as good and strong as the perceptual reality of the person who is in the most pain in the relationship. This is the reality that matters. The negative perceptual reality is where the separation in the relationship actually exists. It is not the positive perceptual reality that is the problem. It is not the positive perceptual reality that needs something to be done and needs resolve. By not accepting that person’s ‘relationship reality’ so to speak you are condemning them and thus yourself to that separation. You are choosing to keep the Grand Canyon.
We must take the reality of the person who is in the most pain and address it directly as if it is real because it is real and therefore needs our care and attention and needs changes to be made. We need to decide on those changes and make them so there is resolution to that pain. If we are unwilling to do that, we are condemning them to their pain and to their pain alone. We are choosing to be in a relationship on different pages. We are choosing a physical relationship with no emotional relationship. You are choosing to exist in different parallel realities under the same roof. This is a relationship that is actually doomed to fail.
Doing this means you must be willing to face your own shame. Doing this means you must be willing to make changes. Doing this means you have to come out of denial. Doing this means you cannot live in your own comfortable bubble reality to the exclusion of everyone else.
Here is an adult example. A husband decides that he wants to start a business. He decides he is not happy being a support person for his wife, it makes him feel unfulfilled. He has to go out and create something. When he does this, when he puts his focus elsewhere, his wife feels abandoned. She feels like her husband is not available. She feels deeply hurt. She is forced to find her emotional support from one of her friends. He is convinced this is a perfect scenario. He gets his needs met and she gets her needs met this way. This is his positive reality. This is not her reality. Her reality is that her husband has vacated a spot and feels happy that someone else is meeting her needs instead of him. Her reality is that this marriage is painful. By seeing that he feels happy and seeing the reason why happiness is his reality, she is accommodating his reality. It doesn’t make her pain go away. But this means she is in the third reality, which accounts for both people’s realities without one person’s reality invalidating the other. He is not in this third reality. He has not accommodated her reality. He is alone in his reality and he has left her alone in her reality, but does not see it, so he does nothing about it. She sees his reality as real and he does not see hers as real. She cannot force him to see her reality as valid. And so she is stuck. If he does not see this reality of hers as real, which will require him facing the shame of seeing that he has created this scenario and it will require making some kind of change; if he doesn’t find some way to remedy these feelings with her, the relationship will eventually end.
We must be brave enough to attune to other people in our relationships. To learn about how to do this, watch my video titled: Attunement (The Key To A Good Relationship). And we must address a person’s feelings and perceptions as if they are real. Only then, can we actually make the necessary changes to create repair in our relationships. For this reason, I ask you to watch my video titled: The Emotional Wakeup Call.
We must be brave enough to see, feel, hear and understand someone to the degree that we can perceive their reality, no matter how painful it is. Closeness must be more important than maintaining our own personal comfort. If it isn’t, then we will be doomed to be comfortable up until the relationship inevitably ends. And then repeat that cycle over and over. We must be willing to see the Grand Canyons between us. We must be willing to see each other’s reality as real so we can address it in a way that resolves it. Otherwise, we are the left leg, telling the shattered right leg that it is just a drama queen or is just too sensitive or is actually fine and just doesn’t know it. Otherwise, we are condemned or we are condemning our partners to being in pain, alone in our relationships with them. We are condemning them to being unsafe with us because if we don’t see them and feel them and understand them and see their reality, we will consistently say and do things that cause them pain.
I started off this episode with an example of a little boy because we have gotten to this place in our adult relationships because this was the nature of our relationships growing up. It is the extreme rarity to have parents who could conceive of the idea that their child could be having a different experience of reality than they did. It is the extreme rarity to have parents who were even willing to see their child’s reality at all, much less to see their child’s reality as valid. Therefore we were in so many painful situations that we just had to live with. There was no way to resolve anything. We were forced to became accustomed to distance between us. We were forced to become accustomed to relationships that were not actually relationships at all. And this is the real reason that our relationships are the greatest source of pain in our human lives. This is the real reason that most relationships today don’t work.