Pigeons And Eagles
Earlier this week, I was hit with a question that made me stop and think. My client: solicitor, intelligent, high earner, successful, independent and recently ghosted by a man she was dating. Mid session, she slid the question,”Why do men go for the woman with nothing to offer?” into the middle of the room and into the space between us. As we sat there quietly, she looked at me expectantly and full of hope that I could provide an answer to a question that had been playing on her mind. Why was she asking this? She’s found out that the guy had begun a relationship almost immediately with a woman who is in and out of rehab with addiction issues and has no job/apparent ambition. She could not understand why he had chosen this other woman over her when he had always said how much he admired her intelligence, competency and work ethic. His choice just did not add up. Was this some kind of Alpha female/Beta male thing? Oh boy, don’t you know this feeling so, so well? I know I do.
I too have been passed up for another woman. Like my client was describing, I also did not understand at the time what it was about her or why she was “chosen”. As I saw it, she had a more than sketchy past that she told copious amounts of dubious stories and lies about, made up a whole career and qualifications to substantiate said imaginary career, lied about her job (I suspect that a job was a short term inconvenience as she just wanted to be a gold digger), curated a series of make-believe accolades all copied from others (me included), was a cheater and given all of this, I suspect that she was more than a little crazy. To my mind, I was like, ‘is this a joke?’
I’m explaining all of this because it was this experience that helped me to understand where I was going wrong. When we try to make cognitive sense of decisions like this, we are making an assumption that the Other (a guy in this case) is on our level. He may well look like he is, he might say that he is because no one is ever going to come right out and admit that they are (or feel) inferior. Everyone (especially men blessed with an inflated sense of ego) will assert that they are your equal and on the same wavelength. None of that actually means anything when they say it if the behaviour says otherwise. We should always look at the behaviour rather than listen to the words alone. Let me explain..
The more I listened to my client, the more I realised that this guy, much like my ex, had in fact, found his equal. On the surface, he seems like a guy who had it together. However, based on who he CHOOSES to be around, he doesn’t have it together. My guess would be that he had some sort of chaotic situation in his life, perhaps with his family, and this is actually where he is most comfortable and what he needs to be around. And so it was in my situation. The guy who cheated on me had to find chaos because that is what he grew up with. When he didn’t find it or when I didn’t provide it or bring it into the relationship, he would create it. He would find a way to get back there because that was familiar to him. And as we know, people do not tend to instinctively pull themselves towards what makes them happy. They move towards what is familiar in an unconscious attempt at reparation. Freud called this the repetition compulsion. Before anyone starts jumping up and down saying I’m being one sided, I fully apply this to my own behaviour back then. I gravitated towards the familiar figure of the unavailable, ambivalent Other and in my attempts to repair that dynamic, ended up repeating it time and again. It took pain, perspective and a lot of inner work to start making healthier choices. So I do not sit preaching from on high in a lofty pulpit. I am on very familiar terms with this particular trench.
To my client, familiarity is success, health, wholeness, achievement, independence and love. To him, and quite honestly, to many people, it is not that. It is chaos, misery and it is hatefulness. I am sure that he does admire her work ethic and do not think that was a lie, but everything that my client is reminds him of everything that he is not and maybe never will be. And he knows that. On some level, somewhere deep down in the dark places that we hope no one ever gets to see, he would know that. So he has to go to where he finds his real equal or his inferior so that he gets to feel more in control and more like a man.
After the session, I sat and reflected on this and realised that people can be a little like birds. Yes, birds. Birds all fly but to different degrees and there are other differences between them – habitats, what they eat, mating rituals, nest building etc. because birds belong to different species and sub species. For the most part, birds do not mingle. They stick to their own. You’d never see an eagle with a pigeon, and you’d rarely see a swan hanging out with a sea gull (although I have seen this once or twice in Finsbury Park). An eagle would not be devastated that pigeon did not want to hang out with it. They wouldn’t even notice and they simply fly away. Sometimes, we need to look at people like birds and realise that yes you are both people but maybe you on completely different levels. And that is okay. The lesson here is to leave them to go where their little pigeon heart wants to go and go soar where your eagle heart takes you.
One thing I have learned is that people end up with who they are supposed to be with. They end up with their equal and their match, and this was not a truth that I wanted to admit to myself for the longest time. When I looked back at that particular relationship and being with someone crappy, I had to ask myself why was I with them? I had to acknowledge that it was because I did need drama and chaos, because I wasn’t going to be happy and healthy and I was probably going to cheat on them so it was alright that they cheated on me etc etc. Water seeks its own level. And when I stepped back and embraced my own inner eagle and shed my need to deal with pigeons, I shed the pigeon people too. So the answer to “Why them and not me?” is actually pretty simple. They are not for you. What is broken here may not be your heart, but your ego. Rejection is protection so release them with love and just fly away and towards where you are meant to be.