Creative Tension

tensionI was inspired to write today’s post after watching a video sent out by a colleague as her “Valentine’s Day gift” to a group of mental health professionals interested  in women’s issues.

The video was from the TED series (strongly recommended) and had to do with the challenge of having a long-term passionate relationship.

The author was a delightful, French woman who has devoted herself to understanding the challenges and identifying possible solutions to the dilemma of trying to keep a passionate spark alive in a relationship that lasts decades.

In essence, she suggested that the solution involved acknowledging that two strong and conflicting wishes exist in any committed romantic relationship:

1. The wish to have stability,  to know what you can expect support from a partner, the desire for a home that is secure.

2. The wish for change, novelty, excitement and the unexpected.

Both of these wishes are a part of healthy long-term relationships and getting stuck in one or the other of these is a recipe for unhappiness in a relationship.  The solution is to work with the two contradictory wishes, and use the power of human imagination to create various creative solutions that respond to both of these needs at different times and in different ways.

The overall recipe for happiness she proposed sounded very familiar: recognizing conflicting wishes, or states, seeing them clearly, and using creative imagination to find solutions.

In the case of Moodsurfing, the two states are –

1. Seeking security, fear of threat, avoiding conflict, increased sensitivity to others (depression).

2. Looking for novelty, excitement, change, being less concerned about others (mania).

You can see that there is considerable overlap  with Esther Perel’s two wishes in long term relationships.

This mixing process has seemed to me to have relevance to finding solutions to other problems.

A woman trying to work out a conflict with her husband inspired me to think about how human relationships are like good food (a leap I will admit) – just as we don’t like food that has only one taste (a food that is only sweet, for example) and prefer foods that combine tastes (sweet and salt), similarly we sometimes we need to combine emotions to find solutions to human relationships – for example combining anger (a spicy flavor) with humor (sweetness). I encouraged this woman to neither ignore her anger, nor to just sit in that state and hope for a solution, but rather to try to mix in her good sense of humor.

Anyway, check out the video…


Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship