Synopsis: Common examples; the castle attacked; the couple defeated; the teamwork of destruction; seeing the cycle of equal causation; starting on your way out before it’s too late; and for success do this.
Betty goes on and on pleading and begging for Thomas to talk to her but all he ever does is look away and occasionally grunt. The louder Lillian gets the quieter Quincy becomes. Russell gives reason after reason, after reason, explaining his viewpoint while Natalie keeps shaking her head “no” and says nothing. Time and again I meet with couples disastrously injuring their love relationship because they are caught in the dynamics of ‘Wall and Catapult’ interaction.
To understand this dynamic think of a medieval castle with high, thick walls. Now think of a force, wanting those inside the walls to come out, and interact and share. Those inside the walls perceive an attack coming and go on guard, manning the walls, ready for a fight. Those outside the walls see the defensiveness as an offense and begin to fire rocks from the catapult at the walls to tear them down. The defenders work to reinforce the walls as they are buffeted by the onslaught from the catapult. The ones on the outside catapult larger and larger rocks at the walls. The ones inside rebuild the walls as fast and as thick as they can. Perhaps eventually they start to fire back, or just sneak away, or the other side gives up and goes away.
No matter who ‘wins’ both sides are left with damage and hard to heal wounds. Now think of a couple. One of them wants to get through to the other one but the other feels threatened by attack. Therefore, they go on guard and that is seen as offensively defensive. The outsider then sends a big, strong message trying to get through to the one inside the walls. The insider works to ‘wall out’ the one trying to get through to them. The outsider fires bigger, emotional rocks and the insider puts up higher and higher walls as fast as they can.
Maybe eventually the insider attacks back or withdraws, or maybe the attacker gives up and goes away. Even if one of them ‘wins’ and the other surrenders their relationship is damaged, wounded and left suffering. The pain, strain and drain of Wall and Catapult encounters can wear away love and eventually may totally ruin what could have been an otherwise growing, healthy, love relationship.. If couples do the Wall and Catapult cycle too often and too severely it can become too entrenched. Then, sadly for them, it may become too late.
There are a lot of things that can be done to avoid and prevent Wall and Catapult dynamics from ruining your love relationships. The first thing to do is to realize that you and your loved one are ‘equally engaged’ in this destructive dynamic. What you both are doing to make it better is making it worse. Part of your job is to see not just the other person’s unwanted actions, or even just your own, but to see that you both are jointly creating a destructive cycle way of interacting. So often I hear people say “if she or he would just stop attacking me”. Or they say “if he or she would just stop walling me out, ignoring me, giving me the silent treatment, etc.”. It’s so easy to see what the other one’s faults are. It’s hard to see one’s own contributions to the problem. It’s even harder to see the destructive cycle that both people’s actions are creating together. When you can understand that together you have gotten into a destructive teamwork with each other and what you’re both doing to try to improve the situation makes the situation get worse you have a chance to reverse all this.
An often useful tactic for defeating the Wall and Catapult destructive cycle works like this. After reading this description go to your loved one and say something like, “Honey, I think we together accidentally get into what’s called a Wall and Catapult way of talking to each other which hurts us both. It’s not the fault of either one of us, and I sure would like your help for us learning how to avoid doing this thing because I think it harms our love”. Then if your loved one is open to this message you review with them the ideas you are reading here. Then see if you can agree that if either one of you says “we’re starting to do the Wall and Catapult thing”, you both take a little time-out and sort of reset yourself to talk with love and kindness next. Then you get back together and with love and kindness you ask and work at really hearing what the other one wants.
Quite often someone just wants to be heard as they cathartically release whatever’s buildup inside them. Also quite often people don’t have enough healthy, self-love to stay lovingly OK when feeling under attack. If and when they have and ‘own’ sufficient, healthy self-love it enables them to hear their loved one’s complaints, aggravations, etc. without feeling attacked, threatened or inadequate. Without enough healthy self-love, choices seem limited to either put up walls, counterattack or withdraw from what seems like the field of battle. Once people comprehend they are in a Wall and Catapult destructive cycle new options can emerge. Taking a timeout to regroup and coming back with love often is a good first new options to use.
What next I find helps most is for couples to really work at the communication techniques and improvements discussed in the love communication series at this site. To do that see the entry “Communicating Better with Love: Mini Lessons”. Together pick the mini lessons that seem most appropriate and study what works. Then, of course, you have to practice with love what you have studied.
As always – Grow and Go with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Does your love of yourself and of your loved ones strengthen you enough to open your gates and let your loved ones in?