by Jiovann Carrasco, LPC-S
I’m Right, You’re Wrong
It’s a classic. Of all the themes in the history of relational strife, the I’m Right, You’re Wrong story is by far the most common. And like many things common, we often take it for granted or overlook the magnitude of its influence. When couples enter into therapy together, it may be a hidden goal for each of them to convince their therapist that they are right and the other is wrong. They demonstrate this in many ways, either subtly or in more painfully blatant ways. By doing so, they hope to feel validated that they were right after all, and that feels good.
Being right gives you a rush of dopamine, the brain chemical associated with winning and victory. You feel strong, invincible even. The problem with needing to be right is that if we hold it too tightly, it becomes a necessary component for feeling good in the relationship. Anytime you are outsmarted, out-shouted, out-whatever, you feel bad in the relationship. So if this is the game you’ve set up for yourself and for your partner, the relationship cannot logically thrive for both of you any time one of you is right and the other is wrong. When one is right they are elevated to a higher power position and the other is knocked down a peg.
Effectively what this game does is create division. We all want to be on the right side of the wall, not the wrong side. But that means your partner has to be on the wrong side. And the more this dynamic is strengthened, the thicker that wall becomes, creating more division. You may feel nice and superior on your side of the wall, but you are drifting further and further from your partner. You become less connected, less caring, and may contribute less to the relationship.
“But it’s true! I am right. Did you hear what she called me?!” If you are convinced that you are not the problem and it is your partner that needs fixing, how does clinging to this belief affect the way you treat them, or your attitude toward them? In therapy, I am never going to argue whether or not something is true. I am only interested in what works. What is it going to take for you to increase intimacy, compassion, and loving action in your relationship? I’m guessing that being right hasn’t worked so well in the past. Let’s try something different.
The first step will be to knock down that wall. After all, it isn’t made of bricks and mortar, but simply attitudes and beliefs that you alone are holding in place. How do you knock it down? Simply let go of it. Loosen your grip on it and you will start to see it crumble. Let it go completely and it will completely disappear.
One way to do this is to give your story a name or a title and the next time it comes up, say to yourself, “Here goes I’m Right, You’re Wrong again.” By doing this simple exercise, it creates a cognitive space between you and your thoughts about being right. It is the difference between “being” right and just being while having the thought about being right. It may not sound like a huge shift, but try it and you will find it makes a big enough difference that you are not compelled to react in ways that you might have when you were fused to your beliefs about being right.
Put down your weapons and take off your armor. Nature has endowed us with the proclivity to feel protected and safe, so stripping your defenses is going to feel vulnerable, weird even. This is the part where you have the uniquely human freedom to make an important choice. Many will take a quick look at the prospect of being unguarded and will clench their armor even more tightly. Being vulnerable means you might get hurt, that’s right. But how do you expect to be intimate while swathed from head to toe in battle armor? Intimacy is best experienced naked—physically and emotionally. Vulnerability is an essential part of being open and deeply connected, and it’s a risk for sure. There’s no other way, but once you make the choice to get naked, so to speak, the rest can be pretty fun.
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Here you will find articles contributed by members of our team. We hope to provide helpful information here to inspire mindful living and general wellness. The information provided here is not a substitue for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need to speak to a professional regarding your mental health, please make an appointment.