How’s that for a title?

At some point in my life, I’ve had problems in every one of these areas as have many, if not most people. And I’ve learned something:

It’s not about the money, politics, religion, sex, or family.

These are the issues that call up the lessons we need to master. The lessons occur in these familiar arenas so that we have a context in which to work. If we can learn that the issue is not about what it seems to be about, we can move more quickly on our way.

Let’s take family for example. My daughter and I are working together on planning her wedding in October. For the most part, things have gone smoothly but every few weeks we seem to have some sort of communications problem. We will mis-hear an intention or a piece of information and experience the frustration that comes with feeling misunderstood.

But what is really going on? Is it about the flowers? The menu? The location of Dollar Stores in Brevard, NC? I don’t believe so and it’s been such a relief to figure this out.

I can trace virtually every misunderstanding we’ve had to some sort of fear – on my daughter’s part or on mine. My fears usually come down to either: “Can I do it? Can I do it well enough?” or “Am I being a good enough mother?” Now these aren’t rational fears; they’re perfectionistic concerns that have always been underlying factors for me in these types of situations. But before I remember the “real” issues, I tend to be sucked in by the masked marauders.

I’m getting better though. I understand that Lauren just wants to know that I’m here for her. She most assuredly does not want to come off as Bridezilla. It’s actually fascinating how much of what we argue about has little to do with what we’re arguing about. There are subtle power struggles going on that are reflections of our basic fears: “How will it all get done? Who will do it?” This is in spite of the truths that we’re all doing the best we know how to do, and that in all likelihood it will be a wonderful day regardless of the imperfections.

No, we fall into the trap of believing that it’s about the problems we encounter.

How about the money one? Again, money arguments often revolve around fear – questions about our own worth and our ability to provide for the ones we love. This recession has done a number on all of us and for our family, the wedding budget definitely took a hit. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it forced us to have some very productive discussions about values and priorities. But it also meant that dreams were scaled back.

Even religion came up, not as a problem, but as a factor because of  the different religious backgrounds. My daughter and her fiancé want to be sure to include the most sensitive and important traditions for both. Discussions about religion, of course, can be landmines of emotion because of the nature of belief. While I was not privy to their personal discussions, I went down this road myself when my husband and I got married seven years ago. We made it a point to state in our vows that we wanted to honor and respect each other’s backgrounds and individual beliefs.

And each other’s politics. Roy and I don’t always agree on the subject and we’ve learned, painfully sometimes, not to go there when we fundamentally disagree. We realize that what we most want from each other is personal respect and acceptance and that that doesn’t require identical positions on current events.

I don’t think that I’ll muse about anyone’s sexual issues here. The point remains the same, that sex is just an arena, as are the other areas, in which to work out whether you’re coming to a situation from love or from fear. If you understand what’s motivating you or blocking you, you can see where the challenges are in your life. Ask yourself, “Is this mostly a matter of preference or is there something that I’m actually afraid of?”

Going back to the wedding…I’m pretty darn proud of all of us. There are actually 3 sets of parents involved in the planning (because the ceremony and reception will be held at the groom’s parents’ house), along with the wedding couple, and we’ve all chosen to look at the opportunities inherent in the challenges we’ve had so far. It’s been a choice, each step of the way, and we know that it will always be a choice.

I believe that it’s working because we’re all focused where we should be – not on the problems that may come up, but on celebrating Lauren and Eric’s new beginning in life.

7 Responses to "Money, Politics, Religion, Sex, Family"

  1. jamie

    September 1, 2009

    I really get this, Sunny. It took me back to so many discussions! One thing I notice is that whenever the heat starts rising, chances are it’s no longer about the subject on the table. Thanks for framing this as an opportunity for learning!

  2. Sunny

    September 1, 2009

    Thank you, Jamie! I like “whenever the heat starts rising” as a metaphor. Very apt.

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  4. June

    September 1, 2009

    AH HA!!! yes!! Now, if we would just learn to take care of the base issue, would some of these other ‘problems’ and arguments go away? I think they would. Thanks Sunny!

  5. Barbara

    September 1, 2009

    Wonderful and timely, Sunny! We’re just having the annual “September Back-To-School Season” with all its attendant frazzlings and nerve stretchings. There have been a few arguments and misunderstandings. I can see now, from the vantage point of your article, that none of them are about the surface subject, but rather about all our fears and insecurities. How refreshing! We don’t have to fight the same no more! Having just attended a “non-violent communication” workshop, I hear them echoing you: try to understand the feeling and then identify the need. Works a whole lot better than name-calling and finger-pointing, eh? Thanks for the wisdom!

  6. sunny

    September 1, 2009

    Thank you Barbara. I love hearing about all of the practical applications of this way of thinking! 🙂

  7. sunny

    September 1, 2009

    Thanks, June! Well said.

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