Snake on: Rupture and Repair
Mending trust is the topic of our next podcast at 4pm Sat 26 Feb.
“Modern psychology presents the concept of ‘rupture and repair’ as a break or progressive erosion of relationship followed by a sincere attempt to restore trust or integrity.
Generally applied in the context of intimate relationships this concept is used extensively in couples counselling and therapeutic disciplines. When conflict takes centre stage and the desired outcome is reconciliation, knowledge is useful.
At its most simplistic, rupture disrupts, repair settles. Acknowledging a rupture has occurred, or imminent is a first step. Repair tools exist, using them skilfully is a matter of understanding, familiarity, and resolve.
I find it shortsighted to limit understanding and application of rupture and repair strictly to relationship issues. Rupture is a common feature of the human experience caused when what we rely on is called into question. Repair, although not always possible, spans the entire suite of connections we build over a lifetime. Not simply the people we rely on but also the furnace heating our home, the garden outside your window or the car sitting in the driveway, all conform to an enduring cycle of rupture and repair, in a single word – Change.
If we widen understanding to include interactions with the environment or culture and consider two years of worldwide pandemic, the cycle of rupture and repair appears limitless in its span, and profound in its ability to influence our sense of safety and security.
I was eight years old when I first encountered rupture and repair. Long before the notion of intimate relationships or culture ever crossed my mind.
No mystery, I could plainly see a roofing nail driven into the rubber tire tread on the front wheel my bicycle. The nail caused a slow leak and if I added air every couple of days the tire held. However complete failure was a certainty, it was simply a matter of time.
The bike shop mechanic offered some basic advice and sold me a tube repair kit. Rummaging through the meagre assortment of tools in my father’s workshop I selected a rusty pliers and large screwdriver. Persuaded by the pliers the axle nuts loosened easily enough and only cost one skinned knuckle. Wrestling the tire from the rim with the screwdriver was another matter.
The tube repair and reassembly went smoothly, I felt a real sense of accomplishment walking my bicycle to the corner gas-station so I could re-inflate the tire. I confidently refused when the attendant asked if I needed help. After all, I’d been using the air hose to top off my wounded tire for two weeks.
I pinched the valve stem with two fingers and connected the hose nozzle. Air rushed into the tube, the patch held, and the tire began to inflate. Pressing down with my thumb I could feel the tire firming up and was considering how much to add when the tube unexpectedly exploded and blew the tire off the rim with a loud bang.
The attendant ran over concerned I’d blown myself up. Reassured I wasn’t injured he pulled a pressure gauge from his shirt pocket, waved it in my direction and said, “You’ll want to use one of these in the future and you’re welcome to borrow one anytime.”
My ignorance cost more than a skinned knuckle. It cost the price of a new tube, an additional wrestling match with the tire and rim, and a ration of humility. I learned the lesson of over-inflation and purchased my very own pressure gauge for future use.
The entire physical world conforms to a cycle of perpetual rupture and repair. Anticipated and unexpected ruptures occur in our health, circumstance, and emotional well-being. We have limited actual control over this phenomenon. It’s wise to avoid interpreting rupture as a personal failure, learn from previous experience and above all live in the present.
Our choices matter. Work, home, family or alone in the woods the thumbprint of rupture appears all around us, and like rust, it never sleeps.
Rupture may begin as a slow leak or minor annoyance. Perhaps a squeal from under the hood, a harsh comment from a co-worker or an icy stare from a neighbour. A toothache can blossom into catastrophe with alarming speed if irritated by denial, neglect, or ignorance.
Procrastination may buy some time, but a slow leak in the status-quo is a clear signal maintenance or repair is required. Thankfully technicians and trained experts are available to repair the mechanical ruptures that come our way. For those inclined toward DIY, YouTube offers up advice on everything from a leaky toilet to sharpening a knife. Resources, advice, and suggested tools are never further away than a quick internet search.
Repair is never certain. Cars, clothes, and relationships wear thin. Repair can be unwanted, unwise, or impossible. Sentimental attachment, expectations and assumptions must be considered. When your favourite t-shirt has become so thin you can read a newspaper through it, or you find it difficult to offer up one civil word, repair becomes an exercise in futility. A decision must be made, repair and strengthen or discard.
Often the decision comes down to – Are you willing?
The cycle of rupture and repair requires internal social and emotional coping skills more complex than anything you might find in a hardware store or on YouTube. The good news is humans come equipped with the tools needed to successfully navigate the cycle of rupture and repair. The bad news is in the same way muscle coordination and vocabulary develop slowly, over time, practice is critical. Craftsmanship comes with experience.
Assuming your answer to repair is “Yes, I’m willing”
Lean in – Hands on – Listen – Learn
Commit to the repair. Halfhearted efforts produce shoddy results.
Get your hands dirty. Take full responsibility for your words, actions, values, and mistakes.
Listen carefully. The way others see the world and what they’ve learned about life is priceless.
Learn. Approach repair with humility and curiosity, use what you learn to shape the future.
The rupture and repair cycle shakes us out of our comfort zone, insistent we spread our human tools out on the table and get to work.
Forgiveness, compassion, vulnerability, empathy. Passion, resentment, firm boundaries……
Increased self-knowledge and wisdom grow from ignorance when these human assets are sharpened and used to repair rupture. A slow leak in a tire or the sudden deflation of a relationship, the cycle of rupture and repair is a reliable feature of the human experience.
Despite best intentions sometimes the tire explodes. Not everything is repairable.
In moments of frustration or failure it’s good to remember –
It is your right, responsibility, and privilege to fully participate.”