Throwing in the rope
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
In March 2021 when we moved forward to South Africa after 7 years in Kuwait (sounds like a movie), we had inspirational aspirations as to what our life would be, colouring the vision with our experiences of how things were when we left.
Moving countries after 7 years (especially after the pandemic), changed the whole landscape of our previous lives in South Africa.
We sold our property, moved closer to my aging mom and expected to just jump right back into our old relationships but we were in for a wake-up call. All our friends have moved on, had children, divorced, remarried, had grandchildren, illness, death, and some we have just outgrown.
The highs and lows of our transitioning into new life could not have been achieved without immense introspection, meditation, and contemplation.
This morning at 04:00 during meditation, I contemplated my past relationships and how we interacted with each other. The thought came to mind that co-dependent relationships are a lot like rope pulling or tug-of-war.
We know the saying: “It takes two to tango.” It also takes two or more for tug-of-war. In any given moment, you have the tyrant on the one end, and the victim on the other and it doesn’t make one better or lesser than the other. Both takes turns to play the victim or tyrant, neither person aware that they are doing it.
Joe gets up grumpy, he didn’t have enough sleep because he had a heavy meal the night before and suffered from acid re-flux the whole night. Rita is feeling particularly light-hearted today because she is starting a new job. Rita makes a pot of coffee but overfills it by accident because she forgot to throw out the last bit from the day before. Joe spills the coffee on his shoes and barks at Rita and so the games begin.
They pick up the rope and start pulling:
Rita argues that if he had less to eat last night, he wouldn’t wake up so grumpy.
Joe pulls next; Why are you not more present to check if the coffee jug is empty, are you stupid?
Rita nearly falling over pulls harder; You are stupid, you could have been more careful pouring the coffee you idiot.
Beat up, break down, hurt, pain, tyrant, victim.
Bodies aching, mind racing, and hearts broken they hold on and on pulling and pulling until one day, one of the two realize that if they just let go of the rope the other one will fall but then they still would not have won the game. The tyrant/victim identity that didn’t transcend the tug-of-war experience can eventually let go of the rope because they are fatigued, letting the other person fall on their back but they will just find someone else to take their place and just play out this scenario over and over. The same goes for the ‘fallen’ one. They break-up and replace the partner with someone else to repeat the process.
If one of them becomes aware of the game, seeks help, and heal their trauma and past hurts, they will release the rope gently. Instead of being spiteful and hurt, they see the situation for what it is objectively and not through the lens of pain. Now the partner has the choice to also heal their trauma or they can keep the rope and continue their game with someone else and in so doing releasing themselves and the partner from the co-dependent relationship.
When we have both parties growing, healing together, realizing that tug-of-war is fruitless, and they both throw in the rope, then they can take each other’s hands, and have open communication in a purposeful meaningful connection without mud-slinging, resentment, blame and hatred.
Tug-of-war can be so subtle that often we don’t even know that we are in a co-dependent or abusive relationship. We often stay in relationships or in a job because it is all we know, or we have been in the relationship for so long, it seems petrifying to leave or let go. When we think of abuse, we only think of physical abuse, but you could be mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally abused.
We read articles and we are quick to call people names like narcissists or sociopaths, but oftentimes the underlying cause of their behavior is unresolved and undiagnosed trauma.
Here are some of the red flags on the rope:
Interrogation light: Constantly feeling that you are up for questioning no matter what you do.
Control: Not being allowed to do anything that is not approved by the other party, whether it be how you laugh, dress, speak, eat, or who you are allowed to see and when.
Silent treatment: Not speaking about a problem or situation purposefully. I am not talking about someone not speaking because they don’t have words or don’t understand what they are feeling at the time, it is when they are using silent treatment as punishment.
Answering an honest question with another question: Avoiding your questions and repeating your question to you. Always being vague not opening up to communication.
Sniping or shaming: Saying something in passing or in conversation that you don’t instantly recognize as sniping, but you feel wounded afterwards.
Emotional dumping: Continuously talking about negative experiences they had in their past or always complaining about traffic, work, relationships.
Emotional hijacking: They feel bad, so you should also feel bad. Seeing that you are in a good mood, they will make a snarky comment to make them feel better and so bringing you down to their level of emotion.
Enslavement: Using their medical condition, emotional state, diagnosis to prevent you from moving on. Using depression or suicide to prevent you from leaving.
Manipulation: Complimenting you after they have just broken you down and telling you how they cannot live without you. Showering you with gifts after just threatening to leave you.
Incapable of apologizing: No matter what they did or said, they will never apologise, or their apology is a back-handed apology, saying that they are sorry that YOU feel that way when you speak about your feelings.
What’s good for the goose, is not good for the gander: You always have to follow their rules, but to them the rules do not apply.
Also remember to read this list from the perspective of in-flow, cross-flow, and out-flow, so that you can see if you are also doing this to others, if they are doing this to each other and if you are doing this to yourself without knowing.
Please note that I am not a psychologist, this is not a diagnosis, these are traits I have identified from personal experience in being in similar situations.
When you recognize this within yourself or someone else, the next question is probably so now what? Seek help, counseling, therapy in whatever way you feel comfortable. Read, or listen to audio-books about trauma, mental health, and relationships.
Books I can highly recommend is:
Letting go – The pathway of Surrender – David R. Hawkins
Power vs Force – David R. Hawkins
The Five Love Languages - Gary Chapman
With Craniosacral Therapy and Traumatic Incident Reduction in-person sessions (as well as remotely), I have worked with countless traumatized people of all ages diagnosed with complex PTSD. If you suspect you are suffering from abuse, CranioSacral Therapy and Traumatic Incident Reduction are incredibly powerful modalities to reduce the volume of trauma and in healing the experience, creating space for loving meaningful connections.
In a harmonious relationship we don’t have to pick up the rope.