I’m nearly finished reading Growing Yourself Up, by Jenny Brown. It has been very beneficial. It reads very simply, but I think that is part of the genius of it. (As John Dickson says in his review “One of the marks of a truly brilliant idea is that once you hear it — especially from an expert — it sounds perfectly obvious”.)
There is a useful chapter on singleness and learning how to relate wisely to yourself. But I actually learnt more at this time in my life from the chapter on marriage. That is because she writes about the two big childish myths that people bring to relationships, which I think can have wider application. These are:
The mind-reading delusion
This the myth that if someone really loved you or cared about you they should know what you need or want, without you having to articulate it. When you think about it, it really is a left over from childhood. As my sister says to her small children when they are having one of those childish tantrums where they jump up and down or throw themselves on the floor and whinge and carry on “use your words and tell me what you want” (and it would seem this can be more of an issue in adult relationships if you had one parent who was always tuned in to your emotional states so you got away without communicating). Apparently expecting another person to be a mind-reader is a sign of fusion or loss of individuality in a relationship. But I have realised (perhaps at least partly because of my personality type or maybe as a left over from learning to be on high alert to my Mum's emotional state as a kid), that I have at times put a lot of energy into trying to read other people’s minds, and that really I just need to stop that, and leave it to them to use real communication.
The ‘changing the other person’ fantasy
This is the myth that we can change the parts of the other person that don’t fit our ideal. That might sound basic, but this is often about projecting what we want the other person to be to bolster our own insecurities (and a redirection of our anxieties). And these efforts are counterproductive and contribute to frustration and insecurity in relationships.
She then discussed how what you do is focus on and work on what is in your control (which backs up some of what is said in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey) and others will make their own adjustments to the changes in the emotional environment.
As I said, maybe these sound completely obvious, but it is worth being reminded.