04: Tilting at Windmills

two white rice mills

You either talk it out or act it out.

Terri Cole, LCSW on Dr. Alexandra Solomon ‘s podcast, Relational Authenticity: How Boundaries Protect Us, and Connect Us

There are a lot of stories people imagine about infidelity and its intentions. Of course, the stories are bullshit. Every story someone tells about the character, morality, or mental health of someone that had an affair is built on an overactive imagination and a bit of projection.

In reality, infidelity is an unskillful coping mechanism. It is The Way of the Thing, it isn’t the actual Thing. Unfortunately, it is more glamorous and safer to wrestle with the Way of the Thing we know, instead of learning to make peace with the Thing that scares us.

Infidelity is one more way to avoid the Thing; one of many ways we create comfort in our discomfort.

Once I started to make peace with the Thing and step beyond the Way of the Thing, I see it is equally true for others. We all have areas we cope with habitually and unskillfully. Some of those coping mechanisms are just more acceptable than others.

While other coping mechanisms unfold in shadows.

Once I know the truth I can act accordingly. In that truth, I found freedom of choice.

Secondly, as I told a friend yesterday, knowing the Truth of the Thing does not mitigate the impact on others or the consequences. I’m not entitled to second chances and The Way of the Thing does a lot of damage regardless of the Thing.

It is a habit of people to judge choices they never made because they assume in the exact same situation they would cope with a hard situation differently. That is hubris. Nowadays, I tend to ignore the opinions of people not living in the moment. Revisionist history around infidelity–and so much more–is a luxury of the entitled.

It helped me immensely to focus not on The Way of The Thing but on the Thing.

Patterns and unconscious habits repeat until we discover and name the Thing driving how we are coping. Until then we get to the actual Thing, we are like Don Quixote, tilting at the windmills we imagine are monsters.

And this is the reason the stories of infidelity outstrip the realities of infidelity: we don’t see Things as they are, but rather we see Things as the hero we imagine we are.

And saying this, Don Quiote spurred his horse Rocinante without heeding what his squire Sancho was shouting to him, that he was attacking windmills and not giants. But he was so certain they were giants that he paid no attention to his squire Sancho’s shouts, nor did he see what they were, even though he was very close. Rather, he went on shouting: “Do not flee, cowards and vile creatures, for it’s just one knight attacking you!”

– Don Quixote, Chapter VIII