Why Families are like Bumper Cars
Imagine three different goals or experiences on the bumper cars:
Safety: avoiding being bumped all together. You might idle around the edges and have no interaction with any other cars. You might feel ok because you achieved your goal of safety (not being bumped) but it kind of defeats the purpose of the game, and might be a little boring and isolating.
Control: trying to bump as many others as possible while not being bumped yourself. You’d need to be on the move constantly and you’d feel exhilarated whenever you collided with someone else, but then you’d immediately be looking to move on to the next collision to avoid vulnerability. You might feel annoyed if someone bumps you.
Connection: pick 1-2 other cars to focus on bumping . You would likely feel a lot of determination and focus while in pursuit, and a sense of excitement and achievement when you collide with your target.
Your experience of whether or not you enjoy the bumper cars is largely based on what your goal of going on the ride is and what the other riders are doing. Imagine that your goal was safety and everyone else was pursuing control. Your experience might scary and intimidating and you’d probably be counting the moments until the ride ended and you could get out.
Similarly, if your goal was control and everyone else was focused on safety, you’d likely have a very boring and frustrating ride. If your goal, however, is connection you only worry about controlling your direction, you accept that you might get bumped and you experience pleasure when you collide with someone. In other words, you enjoy the ride.
Relationships are like this. We are driven to connect and communicate with others. When you are feeling disconnected, having difficulty communicating with your loved ones, it is normal to feel lonely, scared, and insecure. It’s completely normal to occasionally become irritated, have disagreements, and face challenges with people who are close to you.
Like in the bumper cars, your relationship satisfaction likely depends on what you need in the relationship, and whether your partner is pursuing similar or different goals and whether he/she is attuned to your needs.
Relationship therapy/family therapy provides the opportunity for you to closely examine your communication skills and family history in order to discover underlying causes of your tension and distress and facilitate connection while healing.
As you develop deeper insights into your relationships, you can experience feelings of greater safety and control within yourself allowing for more connection and satisfaction in relationships. This balance will extend to more confidence in how to successfully navigate current and future issues in your important relationships.
The goal of relationship therapy is to experience life with your loved ones the way you’d imagine enjoying a ride on the bumper cars: Sometimes you get “bumped.” Sometimes you do the “bumping;” but no matter which ways you spin around, you learn to enjoy the ride.