Clearing Relationship Gunk

  1. Body Cleanse
  2. The Mind’s Cobwebs
  3. The Bliss of an Empty Mind
  4. Clearing the Gunk Out of Your Head
  5. Exercises in Mind Emptying
  6. Clearing Relationship Gunk
  7. Putting Your Soul into your Being
  8. Dropping the Excuses
  9. Seeing the Light
  10. You Can’t Win

Somehow, people who are beginning to ‘get’ what I’ve been writing about (and by ‘get’ I mean understand, and are starting to put it in place) still have trouble with enacting all of this in their relationships.

In other words, there’s nothing particularly complicated about this Zen-ish approach—other than in the application.

I was just ‘Skyping’ a friend and we were talking about this very issue. I wrote:

Three Choices

Yup. Like most of my little stories, there are three possibilities here.

  1. other loathing,
  2. self loathing and
  3. simply noticing.

Most of us are attracted more to one or the other of the first 2, and the 3rd is the only one that works.”

Let’s see how this fits in.

Flaws in Self-Examination

Many people use self-examination as a tool for judging others. I see this all the time in relationship counselling, and also get it whenever we’re talking about work or friendship situations. Let me first describe the ideal, and then the ‘gotchas.’

Example 1 — Self-Responsible Behaviour

Here is a self-responsible comment.

My boss came in, and she was upset and angry over a project. She demanded that I fix things. I was not clear on what was happening, so I asked my boss specifically what she needed, and then I got it for her. I then went back to what I was doing.”

If you notice, the speaker did what she was paid to do. Nothing more, nothing less. Her boss’ drama is irrelevant to the sought outcome, and the sought outcome is, “getting the work done.”

Example 2 — Other Loathing Behaviour

If the speaker was into “other loathing,’ we’d have heard,

My boss came in, and she was upset and angry over a project. I immediately got defensive, told her that her behaviour was unacceptable, the she was making me uncomfortable, and that I couldn’t work under these conditions. I then reminded her of how she ought to be behaving, which seemed to upset her more, but I don’t care, because she’s just so inappropriate, and keeps me from being ‘me.’ I then asked my boss specifically what she needed, and then I got it for her. I then went back to what I was doing, but made myself miserable about how all the people at work are holding me back from being me.”

The speaker still ended up doing her work (she could quit over this, but she doesn’t, proving that all she’s into is making herself a victim…) but wasted time and energy demonizing ‘the boss.’

Example 3 — Self-Loathing Behaviour

If the person was into self-loathing:

My boss came in, and she was upset and angry over a project. This always happens to me. No one loves, me, no one ever treats me right. I must be a terrible person. I got sad and depressed, and wept and sulked and blamed my upbringing. Then, I asked my boss specifically what she needed, and then I got it for her. I then went back to what I was doing, gave myself a headache, and went home to my empty house and meaningless life.”

Again, the work got done (it always gets done…) but the drama of self-loathing is added to the pile of stuff this person carts around.

Notice that the common ideas are:

My boss came in, and she was upset and angry over a project.”


so I asked my boss specifically what she needed, and then I got it for her. I then went back to what I was doing.”

The rest of it is non-present, unnecessary, self-created drama.

The Intimate Relationship Two-Step

In intimate relationships, the same three possibilities apply.



Most people who are in relationship trouble, say 85%, use the ‘other-loathing’ side of things. I am endlessly impressed with how good they are at making the other the guilty party, while they remain the ‘injured party.’ This fits with our conditioning, which causes us, first and foremost, to look outside of ourselves for who we are, what we should do, and also to locate the ‘enemy at our gate.’ This approach, however, can have but one outcome—isolation, guardedness, and misery.

(If you want to get past this, read my book, Living Life in Growing Orbits.)

Finger pointing and blaming leads to… you guessed it, finger pointing and blaming, as well as defensiveness. Getting hooked on one’s partner’s provocation leads to fights. Pure and simple.

Now, this is where clients say, “But if I don’t stand up for myself, he’ll walk all over me.” And Helen Reddy starts singing “I am Woman” in the background.

Standing up for yourself always leads to fights, the silent treatment, and a worse relationship.

Solution 1 — Non-Biting

Instead, say, “Wow. That was a good one. Normally, I’d have bitten on that, but this time, I’m just watching my reaction, letting it go, and getting back to the topic at hand. Nice try, though.”

This is not wimping out. This is standing forth clearly and openly (by saying what went on for me) while at the same time, taking responsibility for changing my behaviour to something that might actually work, regardless of what my partner is doing.

What I am trying to ‘sell’ here is the idea that all you can do is all you can do. It is never your job to point out what your partner is doing wrong (who do you think you are, their mommy or daddy?????) Figuring themselves out is your partner’s job. If your partner has no interest in this job, then you have to choose whether to stay. But, before you run away (again!) turn your attention to your own behaviour, and ask yourself this: “Is my current behaviour impeccable—is it designed to deepen my side of the relationship?”

Clients, for example, tell me they want more intimacy and honesty, and then they give me list of reasons why their partner’s behaviour precludes their being honest. So, it becomes the partner’s fault that they cannot be honest. This is such crap.

No one stops you from being how you want to be in relationship, except you. This is a 100% rule. If what you are doing is not bringing you closer to your partner, do something else.


self loathing

Self-loathing is practiced by the other 15% of dysfunctional communicators. In this one, the person is endlessly blaming himself for all of the problems, with the resultant behaviour of apologizing, sulking, and again, nothing changes.

Our approach is simple in concept. No matter what situation I am in, the only part of it I can do anything about is my part. I never have been able to see how wimping out or blaming others or trying to ‘guilt’ another (“You know how upset your frustration makes me…”) is a sign of anything other than weakness. Strong people are self-responsible people—they never lay their experience at the feet of others.

Have a look at your ‘relationship style.’ See who you blame. See what happens if you deal with yourself and only yourself—by doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Remind yourself of what you are doing, as we suggested last article, by naming your game: “Blaming, blaming,” or “Beating up on myself…” Then, let go of the judgement, and be how you choose to be.

Your life is always and only about how you see it, judge it, and enact it. Until you get this, and actually live it, you are doomed to what your have. Get this, and everything changes, because you have changed the only thing that matters—your perceptions and behaviours.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.