You probably have never heard of a dude named Pierre Janet. He was a French philosopher and psychologist who lectured at the Sorbonne and created the first model of treating trauma in the 1800s. He was also created the terms “subconscious” and “disassociation.”
The idea that our brains work at more than one level, and process and give feedback at all of these levels was not anything anyone had considered before. And what later became known as “hysteria” was what he rightly termed disassociation…the idea that the brain is going to protect itself from trauma and perceived trauma. It wasn’t crazy, it was adaptive.
The people in psychology you have heard of credit this dude for their work.
Freud and Adler both built their theories on Janet’s work. Jung studied with him outright then did the same. Janet was a straight-up brilliant bad ass. He wrote a ton of epic stuff, but his best known work is likely Psychological Healing, published in 1919.
Janet’s work informed the seminal work of current trauma treatment movement, Judith Hermann’s Trauma and Recovery, which was considered groundbreaking in 1992. Lisa Najavit’s Seeking Safety treatment protocol honors this book specifically. All other sequential trauma treatment modalities come from Herman, as well, whether credited or no.
And it all comes from Janet. Fucking ALL of it. Before we understood what was going on with the brain in a scientific way. Before even Freud asked what was up with yo’ mama. It was all Janet.
So many of his ideas are bearing out as truth as we use new technology to learn more about how the brain works. Other than the specific ideas of subconscious and disassociation, Janet was the first to posit that:
We are far into 2016 now. Shit, when did that happen?
All those other resolutions flew out the window weeks ago. Ok, let’s be honest…MONTHS ago. The sneaks are back in the closet and the tacos are back on the table. Because seriously, fuck Pilates and kale.
So it’s a good time to give your intimate relationships a little boost. Just as good for you in the long run, and goes a long way to soothe your guilt over that gym membership you never use. Here’s some ideas to get you started:
This doesn’t mean bitching at Boo more. It means bitching at Boo differently. Do you remember the Pythagorean theorem? You totally just recited “a squared plus be squared equals c squared” in your head, didn’t you? Did you ever use that out of school? Yeah, me neither.
You know what would have been way more helpful to learn? How to communicate with I statements. Try this on with your partner when you are all kinds of hacked off (or all kinds of thrilled, for that matter):
What I want is:
You know what this is? Being a grown-ass person who takes responsibility for their own feelings and actions and clearly communicates their needs. Rather than blaming Boo (You made me mad!) or doing the freeze out no talking thing (If you really loved me you would read my mind!)
That’s awesome shit right there.
And bonus points on this…Boo can’t tell you how to feel if you are taking ownership of it. It’s not right or wrong…it’s just what you feel. Adulting FTW.
And I don’t mean collapsed on the sofa, streaming Gilmore Girls on Netflix and eating ice cream in your stained sweats with Boo by your side, but real planned couples time. Your mate deserves to be wooed. And so do you.
This doesn’t mean fancy, it just means intentional. It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk in the park, or ice cream cones at Lick, it means respecting your relationship enough to make time for it. The way you do everything else of importance in your life. Do you make an appointment when you go see your dentist? Plan in your schedule to run to Trader Joe’s for groceries? Isn’t Boo worth at least as much consideration?
Make a plan. To do something. Together. Once a week. It can even be home if that is how life is rolling right now. But make a plan. Not a Gilmore Girls default setting. Whether it be date night at Hot Joy, coffee at Rosella before hitting the latest SAMA exhibit, or Netflix and chill, do it in an organized way.
“Hey Boo. Tuesday’s are a pretty light day for us. I’m gonna get a bottle of wine and some take-out Pho. Let’s stream that movie we missed in the theatre that you were wanting to see on Tuesday.”
Date night. Not just for dating anymore.
This is stupid important if you and Boo share a living space. And ESPECIALLY if you have kids. Once a week you should each have a chance to escape the house alone and once a week you should have a chance to have the house to yourself alone. I know how hard this is to do, but if you make effort you will do way better than you are doing right now, I imagine.
It doesn’t have to be complicated time. Doesn’t matter if you want to go wander Target with a Starbucks in hand for an hour alone, we all need time that is just ours. Same with time alone in the house. Doesn’t matter if you do laundry and watch Mozart in the Jungle with the cat. The house. Alone. No judgments on how you spend that time. It’s all yours.
Mr. Intimacy Dr (the infamous Dan/Joe) is a writer. He’s good about putting on headphones and writing away while sitting on his bouncy ball (the one I replaced his favorite desk chair with to better support his back) while I am streaming Adele, arguing with the teenager, and banging pots and pans in the kitchen. Never mind my incessant phone ringing and booping through all this. Once a week I take the bratty teenager out with me to run errands, turn off the Google Audio Chrome and let him have the house in peace. He may actually write. He may take a bath, watch a movie, nap with the cat. But the time is all his with no judgments on how he uses that. We all need that time to reboot, recharge, and be good partners.
Keep Your Relationship In Your Relationship
I’ve talked about this before. Clearly this makes me nuts. But seriously, do the thing. I wrote that article in response to a few people I saw publically trashing their partner on a regular basis. Of course they didn’t read the article or think it applied to them, and that’s to be expected. But these same people? Increasingly miserable. Broken up with the aforementioned partner or quite nearly there. Always unhappy. Always complaining. Spending more time than necessary with their own therapists. Physically unwell, accident prone. Just…ugh.
Is this a magic cure for not tripping over sidewalk cracks? Of course not. But if you are connected to your authentic self, aware of what is important in your life, and intentionally making good decisions about you’re relationships? Life will be easier.
Life is already difficult enough, cupcake. For reals. Stop making it worse. And if Boo sucks that bad? GTFO.
Stop being happy only when you’re miserable. And stop bringing the people who care about you along for the ride.
Being A More Excellent You
When I asked on social media this week what relational resolutions people had, it was mostly my single friends that answered in detail.
(My partnered peeps said they had resolutions but to keep my nosy self outta their bidness…they must have thought it was a trick question about keeping your relationship in your relationship!)
Common theme in their answers: Being the best person they could be in order to be open to an excellent potential partner. Fuck yeah, rock star! Do you know what rocks? You not expecting a mate to fix everything wrong in your life. You doing that shit yourself. You know what happens when you are a jacked-up mess? Your bat signal attracts the same.
This is excellent advice whether you are single or already partnered. Actively work on your shit. That’s the theoretical point of New Year’s resolutions, amirite?
No one says you have to be perfect.
Dan/Joe loves me for my flabby belly and scrawny butt. Not because he finds them empirically sexy (but to each their own if that’s your thang). But because they are attached to someone who has worked hard to build a life they are excited about. We are both people with goals we go after with full force. We take responsibility for our fuck-ups and help each other be better people. This may mean never trusting him to take the trash out in the morning no matter how much he swears he won’t forget. But hey, healthy doesn’t mean flawless.
I have had clients come see me after being so fucking tired of ruining relationship after relationship because they hadn’t worked on their own shit. And it’s so cool to see them do that work and then, at some point, tell me with enormous surprise that they met someone amazing and are building a great relationship. “I told them about my history and they stuck around.” Of course they did. Because your history stopped defining you. And they know they are dating a human being working on their own shit.
And you deserve someone great. And they deserve someone as great as you.
So hit the Pilates and the kale if that makes you feel better connected to your body. Take a cooking class. Go to therapy. Learn French. Sign up for OKCupid. Go on a date that’s just a date.
Yes you have baggage. Your job is to carry your own rather than expect someone else to show up with a trolley.
I know, I know. That kale thing keeps rearing its ugly head. But other than that? What are your goals for your relationships? Any resolutions you want to share?
Shout out below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear what you are up to!