There is a curious connection between the way people think and the way people bond. To the extent they tend to frame life’s issues in black-and-white, either/or, on-and-off-alternatives, to that extent their responses to the challenges of life will lack resiliency. And the more likely it is that their bonds will become binds. On the other hand, to the extent individuals are unafraid of ambiguity and can even come to appreciate its value, then the repertoire of their relational responses is broadened, and that in turn will enrich the alternatives in their style of thinking.
Jean and Jane
Jean and Jane were very good friends. But Jean and Jane were in no way alike. For Jane was very friendly, always cheerful, always happy. But Jean was more reflective, rarely laughing, rarely smiling.
While Jean stayed pretty much to herself, even in groups, Jane was the life of every party. While Jane entered any room and immediately attracted a crowd, Jean entered any room and remained so inconspicuous it was if she were not there.
Jean was not really less attractive, yet she attracted less. Jane was not really a superficial butterfly, yet she was never alone.
As time went on Jean began to worry about the difference. “Why is it,” she thought, “that Jane always has more fun? Why is it that I, on the other hand, am always so unhappy? Does Jane simply know better how to win friends and influence people? If so, where did she learn it, and why haven’t I, Jean, learned it?” Jean reflected on her own patterns and came to see there was no clear reason for their difference.
She and Jane were the same age, had about the same physical attributes. Ok, Jane was a blonde. But some men liked brunettes. They each could sing; each played about the same game of tennis. Ok, Jane was a better swimmer, but she couldn’t play golf!
The more Jean thought about Jane, the more depressed she became. It was not just envy. Jane was the reflection of her, Jean’s, own potential. Jane, right now, in the present, was all that Jean ever wanted to be but somehow found herself unable to be. As Jean brooded about this problem, things worsened. She isolated herself more. Then she functioned less. Eventually she stopped going out at all. And who would have wanted to be around her anyway?
Throughout this time, Jane continued on her way. Almost every evening the phone rang. At the club she was invited to every activity. For she was, after all, a pleasure to be with. Even at work others admitted that they worked harder in her presence, and she almost never had to eat by herself.
Finally, Jean, with great effort, managed to establish a relationship – with a therapist. Weekly she went, and she began to discuss her problem, how no one seemed to want her, how she was usually, left out of things, if not completely ignored, how jealous she was of Jane. Slowly, she talked about her own behavior. Carefully, she revealed her inner feelings. Hesitantly, she discussed her past.
As time went by, she made some progress, but it always seemed to be overshadowed by Jane, who, if this was possible, became even more popular than before. Thus Jane continued to be a reminder to Jean of what a woman could be. “Hah,” thought Jean one day, about six months after she had begun to work on her problem, “why if Jane ever had to see someone for professional help, she’d probably be through in a matter of weeks.”
It was in the midst of one of these doldrums that Jean, upon entering her therapist’s office, was astounded to see Jane coming out.
“Hi, Jean,” said Jane in her usual cheery way.
“Hi,” responded Jean, surprised.
“What are you doing here?” asked Jane sweetly.
“Me?” said Jean. “Why I’ve been coming here for almost a year. This is my regular weekly appointment. What brings you here today?”
“Well, we had to switch today. I’ve been seeing the doctor for several years now,” said Jane, still her usual eager self. “I wish I could cut down to only once a week.”
“But how often do you come?” inquired Jean, incredulously.
“Usually three times, but sometimes if I”m desperate he fits me in for a fourth.”
“Desperate!” exclaimed Jean.
“Oh, yes,” responded Jane. “You know, Jean, I can’t tell you how surprised I am to find you here. You always seemed so sure of yourself. You’re always so self-reliant, always so able to be alone. You have no idea how I admire your independence, your tolerance for solitude, your capacity to keep your distance.”
Jean was trying to come from behind the other side of the mirror as she finally asked, “But, Jane, what’s your problem?”
“You mean, you can’t tell?” chirped Jane. “I am totally unable to say no.”
MORAL: The grass is only greener when you’re not caring for your own lawn.
Friedman’s Fables by Edwin H. Friedman (The Guilford Press, 1990), pp.109,129-132