Sometimes, when it comes to relationships, simpler is better--regardless of whether that relationship is with your S.O., your child, family, your friends or yourself.
Comedian Jeff Wysaski had a brilliant concept, called a "Relationship Saving Station." He installed the station at the Burbank, California Ikea store with the idea being that otherwise solid, loving, couples get into utterly mind-bending arguments and hissies over things like bookshelves, cushions and couches. Why not provide a few quick relationship-saving devices to lighten things up and save the day?
His “station” consists of a table with a number of items along with printed instructions.
For example, Wysaski posed a small toy horse, with a placard: “Yell at this tiny horse instead of each other. Go ahead, get it all out.” For years, therapists (including myself) have advised thumping away at a pillow (safely please, on your bed) labeled “boss,” “spouse” or whoever in order to relieve angry feelings. Or yelling at an empty chair. Or scrawling your angry thoughts in wild ungrammatical misspelled fury all over a notepad (my favorite).
Yelling, blaming and letting all heck loose on the person you’re upset with doesn’t solve anything, and usually escalates the conflict. You’re better off doing the yelling (so to speak) on your own, and coming back to the person when you’re calm enough to deal rationally with whatever set you off.
Another of Wysaski’s items is a picture of a puppy in a heart-covered coffee mug with the instruction: “Gaze upon it [the puppy] and remember there is joy in the world.” This suggests that you switch your focus when you’re upset to whatever you can appreciate in the moment. If you’re having that icky money-argument with your S.O. again, for example, you could take a deep breath and try to remember how your S.O. is generally a good and caring partner and wants your life together to be as satisfying as possible for both of you. Deep breath. Again. There. See? It does work.
I won’t go through all of Wysaski’s items, but this next one is so very worth mentioning. It’s a glass jar with a picture of Frozen’s Elsa on it with the instruction: “Write down why you’re upset and give it to Elsa so she can help you LET IT GO.” So easy to say, and often so hard to do.
Since few of us have Elsa around to help, one way to get there is to ask yourself; “Is this really worth getting all twisted up about?” Or “Is it something that we could talk through when we’re both – or me at least – more relaxed?” At which point, whether you’re upset with someone else, or yourself, you could call a time out, go to a quiet place (bathrooms work when all else fails), and see how much of whatever it is you can--let go. Personally, I find writing things out helps a lot. Something about getting it down on paper lets me better see what’s really going on.
Although done tongue in cheek, and with an eye to “the sillier the better,” Wysaski reminds us of some basic relationship-saving suggestions that we could all use.