Finding Pluto: Why knowing our stories is critical to healthy relationships
By Jonathan E. Hart, LPC
Someone asked me the other day, “Why do we need to look back in our lives to explain why we feel bad about things?” My answer was simple and succinct:
The non-planet was only discovered because astronomers were looking for something they couldn’t see. They had noticed a “wobble” in the orbits of Neptune and Uranus that shouldn’t have been happening if there was nothing else out there. Math-magicians and astronomers then calculated the mass that would cause these wobbles, and the approximate location in which it would be, and started looking. They eventually discovered Pluto and its moon, Charon (per this website). They would likely have never seen Pluto at all if they hadn’t looked for the reason behind that wobble.
This is a metaphor for our emotional lives. There are times when we have emotional experiences that seem to be out of proportion to the events at hand. When something that seems trivial bothers us, we commonly try to ignore the feeling by telling ourselves “I feel silly. I’m making a big deal out of nothing.” We essentially try not to be bothered … and yet we are bothered.
If you’ve tried this, you can probably verify that this strategy is rather useless. The bad feeling builds up with repetition until we feel like we have to say something. By that point, what we say or do is often quite out of proportion to the situation.
This is usually because what is “visible” – that is, the obvious situation – is most often not all that is in play. There is more “mass” involved than can be seen. Getting at that mass will help explain what is happening inside us.
It might have been easier to chalk up that planetary wobble to the visible planets. The observers could have said, “There is no other explanation. Neptune is just… crazy.” It would be annoying every time it was observed, but we would have to shrug our shoulders and walk away. It sounds foolish when we are talking about astronomy. It is just as foolish to do this when we are talking about our hearts and minds.
The things that bother us do so for a reason. When we give our feelings some credit, we have discovered a “wobble”. By noticing the wobble AND acknowledging that it is there (instead of pretending it isn’t or blaming it on the visible circumstances), we have the opportunity to look around and discover what the other “mass” is that is affecting our experience of what is visible.
Everything makes sense when we know enough story. What we feel is not always completely reliable, but it makes sense. Our emotions often don’t match the scenario we are facing, but when they don’t, it’s not because we’re crazy. It’s because we don’t know enough about ourselves or each other to sufficiently explain it.
If you have discovered a “wobble” in your current experience, and you would like a little help figuring out what it’s all about come on in and let’s talk about it. –JH