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January 2011



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(Healing Together for Couples) – You don’t need to watch the movie Inception to gain tons of insight from this post. And it won’t give away the ending either. What it does is look at all of the destructive preconceived ideas we have about our partners and how it can potentially work to destroy our relationship. Read this and learn the tools you’ll need to work together instead of against one another.  –Brandi-Ann Uyemura

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

While the movie Inception has certainly invited discussion about dreams and even an interest and analysis of viewers’ own nightmares, you may recall that in the film, the motivation for entering the dream world is the recognition of the impact of a persistent idea. As Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb) forebodes in the opening of the film, “What’s the most resilient parasite? An idea.”

In the movie’s narrative, hidden beneath the scaffolding of dreams and driven by the confusion of dream and reality is an idea that ultimately destroys Cobb’s wife, his relationship with his children and possibly his ability to discern reality – depending on your take of the ending.

Recognizing that media both reflects culture and is shaped by it, this film raises the question, “Can a persistent negative idea threaten a relationship?” Yes.

Drawing upon DiCaprio’s ( Cobb’s) depiction of an idea as a resilient parasite, there are in fact, some ideas that partners have about self, their partner and aspects of their life that feed on fear, misunderstanding, past trauma and human frailty. Left unquestioned, often acted upon, sometimes hidden, and usually unexamined, they can impede the growth and vitality of a relationship.

The First Impression

“Your mother never liked me.”  “This new house was a mistake.”

Regardless of how good your ”bllink” of a situation, first impressions are still just that, an initial read made in a certain moment of time. Yes, your impression may be true at that time. The danger is that holding on to an impression as immutable fact forecloses on deeper understanding and can color years of dealing with a family or living in a home. Self-fulfilling prophesizes are fueled by first impressions and avoidance.

Consider that you co-create your experience in life by your response to it – you can look for evidence of a persisting idea or wonder what you haven’t noticed.

Even after a number of years, the more you move into a situation with curiosity instead of negative conviction the more freedom of emotional space you allow for you and your partner.

The Presumption of Knowing

Often persistent negative ideas color our perception of our partners in ways that are true, were once true, or never true. Some of the most relationship destructive ideas are what we “think” we know about our partner.

Over the years of working with couples, it very often happens that if I ask one partner a question, the other answers. While finishing each other’s sentences is something most partners are occasionally guilty of – there is a downside to this.  The presumption of knowing a partner leaves little room for discussion and too much room for reaction based on misunderstanding, projection, and worst fear scenarios.

Consider these partner reactions to my questions:

  • Therapist: “So Jack, what do you usually do to reduce stress?”
  • Michele: “He doesn’t reduce stress – he creates stress!”
  • Jack: “How can you say that- you have no idea what I handle every day.”
  • Therapist: “So Mary what can you tell me about the romance between you and Bob?”
  • Bob: “She can tell you that she hates sex.”
  • Mary: “I don’t hate sex – I hate your demand for sex.”

What is so valuable in the disclaimers and the discussion that unfolds is the confrontation of the presumptions. When ”knowing” is left unspoken, partners act in accordance with it creating vicious cycles of confirmation.

Read in Full:  http://blogs.psychcentral.com/healing-together/2010/08/inception-and-dangerous-ideas-in-relationships/

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