Mr and Mrs Wright (2011)
“I told him my life would be perfect if he was dead and left me alone.” Mrs Wright sobbed in my office on Monday.
“She wished I was dead!” Mr Wright shook his head in disbelief as he paced around my office on Tuesday. “How can someone curse her own husband like that?”
It was nearly impossible to imagine that this couple once took vows of love and commitment to weather the good times and bad till death do them part. Now they were wishing death would come a little sooner.
“I don’t know why I said it,” Mrs Wright continued. “I don’t know why I hate him so much. I don’t know how we even got to this point where we can’t even hold a decent conversation with one another. If it weren’t for the kids, I would’ve left by now.”
“I can’t talk to her.” Mr Wright looked out the window as if looking for an escape out of his life. “It’s gotten to a point where each time we talk we end up arguing over something. I’m sick of arguing with her. I work long hours. I come home and I’m tired. I am stressed at work and stressed at home. I have no time to myself.”
“I try to talk to him, but he never likes to talk to me anymore. I feel like he’s shutting me out, like I’m an intruder in his life.” Mrs Wright broke down crying.
“I feel like I’m walking on eggshells all the time when I’m around her. She turns everything I do and say into an insult about her, when I wasn’t even talking about her. She can mull over what I say for hours or even days, then throw it back at me weeks later with a concocted story that is so far from the truth. She gets so depressed over it. I thought maybe she just has self-esteem issues, so I tried to compliment her more but she just got suspicious and thought I was mocking her.” Mr Wright threw his hands up in the air in exasperation, “What more can I do? You tell me what I should do.”
“He blames me for our failed marriage. Me!” Mrs Wright looked at me with incredulity. “I’m the one who actually cares about this marriage and am trying so hard to make it work. I take care of everything at home so he can come home to a home. He thinks he’s the only one working, but he doesn’t realise how hard I work caring for our kids and our house. He comes home with a dark cloud over him and rains over all of us. Even the kids are scared to talk to him.”
Mr Wright looked away from the window and straight at me. “I don’t even know her anymore. You need to diagnose her. She’s crazy. And she’s turning the kids against me. She’s putting things in the kids’ heads about me. I can’t control her, and I don’t want to lose my kids to that psycho.”
“I hate him so much. I hate his silence. I hate his quiet anger. I hate his coldness. I hate everything about him!”
“I hate her and her psychotic tendencies.”
“I hate this marriage.” Mrs Wright confessed quietly through her dried tears. “I hate the responsibility of having to care for the whole family. It’s a thankless job. I hate the isolation. I hate having no passion, no love, no life. I hate my life.”
“I hate all of this.” Mr Wright sighed. “I hate the stress of having to work on everything in my life: my career, my marriage, my kids, my family…my life!”
“I want out.”
“I want out.”
I gave them both an exercise to do: pretending you are an artist and your partner is the subject for your artwork, symbolically portray your partner in your mind’s eye as objectively as possible.
I made an appointment for them to meet with me again in a month’s time.
I asked Mrs Wright in her next session what she had seen through my exercise.
Mrs Wright replied slowly and softly, “I saw a man carrying a big rock on his back that was getting heavier and heavier as he struggled under its weight. In his heart he carried a fear that the big rock would crush down on him at any point. He wanted to call out for help, but each time he did, he felt the rock just get heavier and he was losing what little energy he had left to keep holding that rock.”
In Mr Wright’s session, he said to me, “I saw a woman trapped in a dark cave all alone, desperately searching for a sign of light and life. She would cry out for help, but all she was met with was the echo of her own voice through the dark corridors. She would run after any minute sound in the vain hope that there she would find a way out of the darkness. To her, every sound – no matter how flimsy and insignificant – was a matter of life and death to her, for in it held the potential for freedom.
Mrs Wright sobbed for this man, “He must be under so much pressure. It must be so hard for him to carry that load on his shoulders and in his heart, without ever having a break.”
Mr Wright sighed sympathetically for this woman, “She must be terrified, overwhelmed by a pervasive sense of hopelessness and loneliness.”
“I really admire his strength – physically and mentally – to be able to continue on with such a heavy load weighing him down.”
“I’m impressed that despite how depressing her circumstances are, she has still kept her hope and persistence in trying to find her way out.”
I smiled at their progress, and asked them now to imagine their children being placed in the circumstances.
Mrs Wright imagined the children being placed on top of the big rock. She felt the burden weighing down on her husband, and the insecurity felt by the children trying to balance themselves above his other responsibilities.
Mr Wright cried as he saw his children wandering through the darkness with their mother, and his wife doing everything possible to shield the children from the hopelessness of the situation.
That was the last session I had with the couple. I did, however, receive months later a wooden handcrafted box from a Mr and Mrs Wright with a card that made me smile, “Thank you for showing us how to see beyond ourselves, which ironically in turn allowed us to see ourselves more clearly.”
Underneath, Mrs Wright had written, “Mr Wright has come in with a torch. He’s found the kids and me amongst the darkness. Together we’ve renovated the cave and put in a second storey with a sun roof.”
Mr Wright continued in his own handwriting, “Mrs Wright has helped me take down the rock I’ve been carrying for so long, and now it’s shrunk so much I can now kick it around with the kids.”
I opened the box and laughed. Inside I found a small rock and a torch.
Hundreds of people can read this same blog, yet none would share the same experience.
Some may enjoy it, whilst some may not get past the third post. One person’s favourite story may not strike a chord with another person at all.
Likewise, we experience life through our own perceptions, inclinations, desires and fears. We rarely experience life as it is, but add to it our own biased interpretations and self-motivations. It is not difficult for us to remember a time when we had reacted unskilfully to what we thought was a life crisis or a personal insult, but then later cringed at how over-the-top our reactions were. In retrospect, we can see how we were driven by our own flaming emotions, our wild imaginations, or our ego’s inflated sense of righteousness.
There are many Mr and Mrs Wright’s out there, who are embroiled in their own misery and self-victimisation. Although they say they want to get rid of their unhappiness, yet they hold onto it subconsciously, possibly because they have identified with it for so long or they have come to justify it to themselves. For example, next time you are heated with anger or stress and a friend tells you simply that your anger or stress is unnecessary, watch how you react. Do you defend yourself and justify why you are angry or stressed? Do you try to convince your friend that although you know you shouldn’t get angry or be stressed out, it’s not that easy and you resume your anger or stress?
Now what if you were able to live your life as it is, without being thrown around by your turbulent emotions and your worries about the past and future?
Central to the Buddhist practice is developing an awareness of all that is really going on in our internal and external worlds. In Pali, Vipassana means insight into the nature of reality, and Vipassana meditation is the practice of self-transformation through impartial observation, right contemplation and introspection.
It is about seeing things as they are, not as they appear to be or how we want them to be.
It is seeing through the fog to the light of truth and clarity.