BENGALURU : Can one really let bygones be bygones, decide to never fight again and start everything anew with a clean slate?It is the new year and inside all the wishes is the aching desire that somehow the conflicts of the previous year can be left behind. A clean slate. Funnily, the slate in many relationships seems to be quite a magical one. Let’s say that two people agree to restart with a clean slate, and on January 1st, wipe all their hurtful past away.
There are no scores to settle, no hurts to recover from, and they are happy for a while, but the minute there is just that one smudge, one little grievance, everything that was wiped away miraculously reappears, as clear as the day it happened, if not clearer. The slate is back to being as full as ever.
It is as if nothing really went away and that, quite literally, is the truth – nothing goes away just by wishing it did. Just making a New Year’s resolution to never fight again will quite likely not last beyond the New Year’s Day. Any New Year Resolution, even the very personal ones such as quitting smoking, exercising more, eating less sugar, studying more, learning sign language etc, requires attention to succeed, and certainly resolutions involving relationships will fail unless we make the effort. It only takes three things to make it work:
First: There needs to be sufficient goodwill. Goodwill isn’t an auto-renewal – it is earned and maintained by purposeful action. If there is a lack of faith, or there is outright skepticism, then nothing really works. Goodwill requires belief that both have a stake in keeping the relationship.
Second: There needs to be sufficient effort, both to address the hurt of the past if not the issues of the past, as well as towards positive change. “Agreeing to disagree” may not be enough unless there has been enough work done in trying to understand, rather than just trying to convince the other.
Third: Most importantly, we need to have more reasonable expectations on this clean slate business. We need to drop the expectation that old injuries will not resurface. They can and do come back, no matter how much we clean the slate. The bad news is that if we get upset it comes back, and get annoyed, chances are it gets worse. The one good news there is that the more we can attend to it, the lighter it becomes till it disappears.Our resolutions don’t have to fail. We really can start the new year with a clean slate - we just need to keep cleaning it.(The author is a counsellor at InnerSight)