Recently in a Harris Teeter, I was scouring the international section looking hopelessly for toasted sesame oil. As I scanned each shelf, finding everything from tamari to sweet and sour sauce, rice noodles to seaweed snacks, a young couple came down the aisle. This is what I overheard:
She: Okay, so would you like some spaghetti? That’s inexpensive and…
He: Hey! Wasabi Peas!! I love wasabi peas! Let’s get some.
She: No, we’re not getting wasabi peas. They’re expensive and you’ll eat them in one second. What about the spaghetti? Do you want spaghetti?
He: No, I want wasabi peas. Here’s another kind, I haven’t had these before. Let’s get these.
She: No, we’re not getting wasabi peas! We only have $40 to spend and we’re not buying an expensive snack that isn’t even that good for you.
He: (picking up another container of wasabi peas) Yeah, I want some wasabi peas.
I don’t know exactly how the conversation continued, since (still without any sesame oil) I moved on to the condiments aisle. But later, when the couple came up behind us in the checkout line, there in their cart was a box of spaghetti and a 12-pack of Corona, and a big can of wasabi peas.
My stomach hurt a little after overhearing their fight. At first, my discomfort was just at the sadness of conflict in a relationship. I’ve had variations on the Wasabi Pea Fight with lovers, children, and friends, for sure, and it never feels good. Neither side is listening, just butting against each other. As I sat with it, though, what hit even closer to home was that I have the Wasabi Pea Fight in my own head all the time.
In my mind, probably several times a day, there is a fight between the structured and disciplined side of me vs. the expressive, creative side of me. The two of them argue almost exactly like the couple. So for example, Structure & Discipline wants me to meditate every day for 20 minutes. She knows that when I do this, I am more balanced all day, more focused, and happier. She knows it’s good for me to sit every day. Expression & Creativity, on the other hand, hates to be tied down into sitting regularly. She’d rather have the freedom to do what she wants: maybe have another cup of tea, or listen to some music, or fiddle around on Facebook. So the two sides of me have a big, fat Wasabi Pea Fight right there in the international aisle of my mind.
We all have these two sides – Structure and Expression — that tend to butt up against each other and seem constantly at odds with each other. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how Fritz Perls described these two forces in Gestalt Therapy and how to shift the conversation. In the meantime, let me know what your two sides are arguing about today.