Ever wonder why we argue? Or as Rodney King said, “Why can't we all just all get along?” John Gottman, the world-renown relationship research psychologist, has given us significant insight into human conflict. He believes that most of our conflict comes from our vision for the life we desire to live. In other words, it is about the dreams we have for the future. We all have the way we think our lives should be and when that “reality” is challenged it creates turmoil in our lives. Here’s an example:
Kathy and Pete argue about money all the time. (does this sound familiar?) Every time Kathy goes to buy something she knows that she’s going to get the third degree from Pete.
“What do you need that for?”
“Can’t you find it on sale?”
“Do we really need more stuff around the house?”
And on and on and on …
So Kathy goes shopping with a chip on her shoulder (or rather Pete on her shoulder) and Pete anxiously scans the online bank account looking for the next “frivolous” purchase. When the inevitable happens and Kathy buys something a fight breaks out all over again. They think they are stuck in the same argument about money but they would be wrong. They are not arguing about money – in fact, money has very little to do with their argument. It is actually about their vision for their lives.
They are arguing about conflicting dreams!
Pete came from a family where there was little security. They were always on the verge of collapse. To him, money means security, safety, and stability. Something he desperately needed as a child.
Kathy came from a family where money was of little consequence since it was in abundance. To her, money is a source of fun, happiness and a means of making wonderful memories.
So when Kathy spends money Pete’s stomach gets tight and he feels his dream of security is being threatened. When Kathy hears Pete complain about her spending all she sees is the crushing of her dream for a beautiful life. No wonder they fight, their dreams are attacking each other!
Here are three things we need to know about our dreams.
- We always fight to preserve our dreams and when we do we often fall into one of these three traps.
- Like Pete and Kathy, we often don’t realize this is what we are doing so we have no chance of resolving the conflict.
- When we fight for our dreams we are often not in a good position to deal with reality. Our dreams may be fantasies and actually hurt us if we pursue them.
When we fight to preserve our dreams we are in no place to understand and honor the dreams of others and therefore we lose out on true intimacy; not to mention we end up sustaining a perpetual argument.
Dreams are real, they are the golden door to discovering the real you, so let’s take a deep breath and find a better way forward. The reason why you are the way you are and love the things you love is due to the dreams you hold in your heart. Knowing them will give you exquisite insight into where conflict arises in your world. And knowing your loved one's dreams will help you create intimate connections with them.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and others. Call them dream catchers …
- What do I expect from life?
- What would an ideal day look like?
- When I die what would I like my legacy to be?
- Who am I most afraid of disappointing? Why?
- When are the times I am most frustrated?
- Who are my heroes? What do I most admire most about them?
- When I think about my childhood, what were those things that were most magical for me?
- When I think about my childhood, what were the things that hurt me most?
Our dreams can be elusive but they are well worth capturing for they hold the key to nurturing beautiful relationships with ourselves and others. Take some alone time this week and answer these questions. Plus, if you want to really make some progress in your relationships take some time to sit down with those you love and see if you can catch their dreams too.