Synopsis: The clashing and conflict of Farmer Frank versus Michelle the Mechanic, the yea’s and nay’s of our two contradictory approaches, what Michelle did not want to hear and was glad to learn, timeouts, help from the deep inner mind, making choices versus growing solutions, some practical guidelines, and the beautiful interweave of what Frank and Michelle do now.
Frank much more firmly announced “No, I don’t believe that’s true. We need to take a break, give each other time to calm down and think things through, figure out what we really feel and then work on this problem one little part at a time”. Who’s right? Whose approach is better? Which way of trying to fix a love relationship problem gets the best results, Michelle’s or Frank’s? And while we’re examining this, think about which of these two ways is more like your usual approach to a love relationship difficulty?
In one way of looking at it there are just two main approaches to fixing love related difficulties. One is the ‘mechanic’s’ approach and the other is the ‘farmer’s’ approach. Michelle is using the mechanic’s and Frank the farmer’s. The mechanic just gets in there and works on the problem until it is fixed, provided he or she has the know-how, the parts and the tools to fix the problem. The farmer has to work on the problem then back off and let nature do its thing for awhile, then do some more, and then back off again letting Mother Nature do more of her share until the problem is fixed and the goal achieved. If the farmer digs up the freshly planted seeds to see if there is anything more to be done with them, or to make sure they have started to grow, it’s likely that will destroy the developing roots and stop the growth process. If the farmer hastens the harvest too soon the crops will be ruined.
The farmer must work with natural processes which require doing some start up actions, backing off, doing some additional tending actions, backing off again and finally harvesting the results. This is the usual way of working with those things that live and grow or are in need of healing, like crops or people. The mechanic can take apart and put back together whatever he or she is working on endless times, but for the farmer that could be a very destructive way of going about things. Some of the farmer’s approach is very mechanic-like and some of it requires leaving nature alone to ‘do its thing’ and being patient.
Here is what Michelle with her mechanic’s approach didn’t want to hear. Whenever you’re working with things that live the farmer’s approach (with a possible exception) works best. In fact, it may be the only way many of the difficulties living things experience can be handled successfully. With inanimate objects the mechanic’s approach works fine. Perhaps you’re thinking, “What about emergency medicine and surgery; don’t they work by way of the mechanic’s approach”? No, because after surgery or emergency room procedures the patient is sent to the recovery room where nature’s healing ways take over to do the rest of the job, just like happens on the farm. The one partial exception is where there is a true emergency and you have to do all you can, as fast as you can. Even then quite often afterwards there has to be recovery done in the farmer’s or nature’s way.
With the love problems of couples, families, friendships and with self love we usually have to work on the difficulty in the farmer’s fashion. We have to work on it consciously, and then back off and let our subconscious and other natural health and healing processes work on things without external interruption or too much of our conscious mind’s interference. Then we can come back and do some more direct, conscious work, and if needed back off again. That’s why once a week counseling and therapy sessions are the usual frequency standard, whereas ‘intensives’ (extended, uninterrupted therapeutic work lasting many hours, a weekend or a whole week) to work on a relationship or psychological problems are the occasionally useful exception.
Couples and families need to be able to take time out and let everyone’s inner systems process what the conscious mind has taken in. When facing difficult issues, after a certain amount of direct external work, we need restorative breaks, distraction and relief time, and time to allow our marvelous, deeper mind’s amazing sorting and creative inner systems do their work on our problems. We need to have time for all our various inner parts or ‘sub-personalities’ to meet with each other and synthesize our often conflicting and uncoordinated thoughts and feelings. Usually we must do all that internal work to get our best results before we next consciously deal with problems externally.
Another set of problems can arise in our ‘living’ system when we are pressured to use the mechanic’s approach too much or too long. When we are pressured or rushed, especially at length, our brain begins to make too many stress hormones. When stress hormones begin to flood our brain and body we tend to grow agitated, irritated, less able to think clearly, we grow angry and more prone to any quick, destructive action which will bring an end to the increasing production of stress hormones.
Some people are more easily ‘flooded’ than others (which seems to result from how well they were securely loved as children) but everyone can reach their limit. In addition to that, when we are rushed and pressured into using a mechanic’s approach we are faced with ‘making choices’ instead of ‘growing solutions’. In love relationships interactively, mutually growing solutions tends to work far better than being forced into quick choice fixes. This is true in many parts of life but it is especially true in issues of the heart and love relationships.
There are a few practical Guidelines for using the farmer’s approach. First, agree to use and cooperate with anyone asking for a timeout. Whenever a timeout is called for schedule how long it’s going to be and when the participants are going to meet next to work on whatever issues are being faced. Timeouts can be extended if needed but always with a determined time to get back together agreed upon. Otherwise, dodging the problem for too long or never getting back to it may occur.
Another guideline is don’t let problem talk invade love or recreation time, and don’t do it late at night or when you’re also trying to handle other stressors. Pick a start time and an end time to conduct problem talk and stick to that. With lots of difficulties it’s good for people to ‘sleep on it’ for a night which allows our deep, inner subconscious mind time to ‘do its thing’ which sometimes is quite miraculous.
With some reluctance Michelle conceded the problem she wanted addressed wasn’t a true emergency and so she backed off her mechanic’s approach. She learned to use Frank’s farmer’s approach more often, then he learned that he could use Michelle’s mechanic’s approach for some of the things they were contending with. Once in awhile there was a true emergency in their lives and, much more cooperatively, they both went at it like good mechanics can. They also learned to identify whether a problem they were facing needed a mechanic’s or farmer’s approach and in teamwork they learned to apply that knowledge which eliminated a tremendous amount of conflict they had previously experienced. Perhaps you can do the same.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Are you more prone to the farmer’s or the mechanic’s approach when you are dealing with love relationship difficulties?