After the first presidential debate on September 29, 2020, I received many messages that said: “Hedy, how about teaching them to cross the bridge?” People know that for over 30 years, I have guided people in relationships to experience the most alive and joyful connection with each other.
Suddenly it occurred to me: “What if Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple?”
If indeed Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple who sought me out for help with their relationship, here is exactly what I would do with them.
Before I ever teach the ritual of “crossing the bridge” to partners, these are five foundational steps in my Encounter-centered Couples Transformation™ program that we must first complete together.
Foundational step number 1: A Vision on the Horizon
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple, I would ask the question, “What is your wildest dream, your deepest aspiration, your most profound longing for the destiny of the United States of America? Each one of you has three wishes.”
Then they would tell me their wishes.
And you know, sometimes, I can tell that the wishes people tell me aren’t from the deep, core dreaming place. And we must work on that to dive in and find what the dreams truly are; we can only take the next step once the vision for the future has been deeply, honestly and thoroughly explored.
While I don’t have any way to know what those dreams and vision would be for Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the archetypal story I might tell them could sound like this: “Once upon a time there was a country. It evolved over the years. In 2020 this country arrived at an important juncture. In the middle of a planetary pandemic, two people decided to run for the presidency. They put their biggest vision for this country on the horizon. And here it is…”
What would follow would be their dreams, their biggest vision, and anything else I’d heard from the two of them to this point. It’s powerful for the couple to hear the archetypal story.
Foundational step number 2: In the Seat of the Observer
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple, I would then let them know that there is a guiding principle which allows them to walk towards this shared vision on the horizon. In the service of learning this guiding principle, I invite them to have their worst, most loaded and most embarrassing conversation. I tell them: “You will have this conversation for 13 minutes, after which I will say a strong STOP!!!! You will stop talking immediately, even if you are in the middle of a word. You will stop even if maybe for the first time you feel like you are winning an argument.”
This is important, because couples aren’t used to having to stop, much less having someone tell them to stop. We saw this in the first presidential debate; no matter what the moderator, Chris Wallace said, stopping wasn’t happening.
And why 13 minutes? In the Hebrew alphabet each letter has a numerical value. The reason I chose thirteen minutes is because both the words “AHAVA” which means “LOVE” and “ECHAD” which means “ONE” have the numerical value of thirteen! So if a couple is going to have a horrible, awful, terrible, embarrassing conversation, it might as well be in the name of “LOVE” and “ONENESS.”
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple, this is a short example of the conversation they might have, and that they would witness, but only for thirteen minutes. Click below to watch.
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple, they would watch themselves, and after 13 minutes of observation I would say a firm and decisive “STOP!!!”
Now comes a revealing exercise. I would say to them, “Imagine that you are in a restaurant, and at another table across from you sits a couple having the exact and very-energetic conversation that you just watched yourselves having. Although you can see the exchange and feel their energy, you can’t understand a word they’re saying.”
As you watch them the waiter whispers to you: “These people come from another planet called “Wygelia.” They speak “Wygelian,” and that is why you have not understood a word that they are saying.”
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple, I would then say to them: “Put yourself in the seat of the observer, which mobilizes another part of your brain. Looking at this conversation, what have you seen? What have you observed?”
Now I would take the time to listen to them describe body language, facial expression, tone of voice, as well as the quality of the space between the two Wygelians. The question I like to ask the couple is: “Does the waiter like to come to their table?”
The answer is always no.
I would then explain to them that a relationship between two people lives in the space between them. According to the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, this relational space is sacred. When we aren’t aware of this sacred relational space, we pollute it unconsciously and automatically through our words and intentions. The health and quality of this space is the full responsibility of both partners to nourish and grow a strong, creative and productive relationship.
Foundational step number 3: The Guiding Principle
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple who had just observed the polluted relational space and described it in detail, I would tell them that that “thing” has a name. It is called the “survival dance.”
We would work until they have fully seen the circularity, the no-exit quality of the survival dance and how polluted the space between them has become. I am making a distinction between “coping in isolation and division,” the “survival dance,” and “living life fully in connection.”
Here is the guiding principle:
The “survival dance” always yields separation, isolation and division.
What then connects us?
The embrace of three invisible connectors:
1. The relational space
2. The bridge between the worlds
3. The zone of the encounter
What we’d done together to this point would have been about the relational space.
Foundational step number 4: Can I be your Guide?
Now that Donald Trump and Joe Biden know about the three invisible connectors, it’s time for me to ask them a question that they must decide together. Do they choose me to be their guide on a journey to relational consciousness?
The YES! is essential because everything they will do from now on is new and different. Everything they will do is geared to Level 3 learning based on the Four Levels of Learning theory (The Kirkpatrick Model).
* Level zero: I haven’t learned a thing.
* Level 1: I am learning a new concept or skill, but I don’t know how to integrate it into my daily life.
* Level 2: I have learned something new, and I apply it in my life, and my life is better.
* Level 3 Learning is Transformation: There is a before and there is an after and behavioral change.
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple, the purpose of their journey would be RELATIONAL TRANSFORMATION. It is a choice that each partner must truly choose.
Foundational Step number 5: Three Metaphors
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple and chose to work with me as their guide, I would then teach them three metaphors needed to successfully learn to “cross the bridge” to the other’s world.
* The Art of Hosting: How do I invite you in my world for “into-me-see”
* The Art of Visiting: How do I leave my world and allow the past to be the past, and cross the bridge with “new eyes”
* The various neighborhoods of our internal world
And now the journey starts!
Here starts the journey of growing one’s Relational Intelligence towards the development of Relational Maturity.
If Donald Trump and Joe Biden were a couple, they would next learn the skill of crossing the bridge to each other. With whole-hearted willingness, respect and curiosity, they would learn to visit and explore each other’s worlds.
Watch as I talk about how to cross the bridge:
Both of these men have different life experiences and perspectives that reside in their various neighborhoods. By addressing the relational space between them, and crossing the bridge to each other’s worlds to visit those neighborhoods, little by little, they would have an opportunity to fill the sacred relational space between them through mutual cooperation, communication and connectivity. In this space they could place their combined dreams, hopes and visions in order to make a difference in the destiny of the United States of America.
And you know, the bigger truth is that this journey is needed by people everywhere. Whether it’s Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Mike Pence, a Republican senator and a Democratic senator, or you and a friend, we all need to learn this journey so that together we can move forward toward our biggest visions and create a new destiny, not just for the United States, but for humanity.