How Do You Paint a Flower?


People who appreciate art know that the same image can be viewed in many ways. Van Gogh, Rembrandt or Picasso will depict the same flower very differently. Is any one of them "wrong"? Of course not. Each artist reveals some essential aspect of that flower's beauty. This simple statement holds some wisdom for relationships.

Many problems between people stem from an insistence that everyone should see things the same way. Terrible destruction occurs in the world every day over differences in religious convictions, political ideologies, national identities, cultural viewpoints.....the list goes on and on. And on the level of intimate relationships, it is very common for one person to feel very strongly that his or her partner share an identical view on an issue that may seem trivial to an outsider. This need to see things the same way is the cause of a lot of suffering.

In a sense we are all artists painting the world according to our unique vision. So many couples in my Atlanta counseling practice come to me because they are struggling to reconcile their different views of life and relationships. They have different ways of looking at matters that are important to them both. Sometimes this causes open conflict, which I help them learn to manage carefully and effectively. Other couples avoid conflict altogether, only to find that too much agreement can dull a relationship's spirit. Sex becomes limited to whatever behaviors don't challenge either person. New "cuisines" are never sampled. No one ever risks rocking the boat.

An art gallery or museum that only displays easily understandable work that appeals to everyone is not nearly as interesting and vibrant as those that challenge viewers to expand their conception of what true art can reveal about the human experience. However, they have to be accessible enough to bring people a frame of reference for what they are experiencing.  A dynamic balance between the two extremes is often the best course for all involved. This is similar to committed relationships.  The famous marriage therapist Virginia Satir wisely said that couples connect on the basis of being similar but grow on the basis of being different.

I'm certainly not saying that all perspectives are equally valid. One person abusing another can't justify this type of behavior any more than someone defacing a work of art can claim a moral authority to do so. But outside of these extremes there is a lot of room for different visions that are worthy of respect even if we don't like them. As the famous artist Jackson Pollock said, "Every good painter paints what he is."

How do YOU paint a flower?


Bill Herring isn't an artist but he helps people create their unique vision of how to experience life and relationships.  An Atlanta counselor and psychotherapist with many years of experience, Bill is available to help adults struggling with a wide variety of personal issues.