Making room for more harmony in your life is a process that requires patience, prayer, and lifelong practice.
Look, don’t get me wrong. I love my husband. We’ve been married 21 years, and every morning he still brings a cup of tea to my bedside. He then makes a beautiful breakfast, complete with foamy cappuccino. He’s handy and can fix anything. A theologian and philosopher, he likes to engage in lively literary conversations. He’s healthy, happy, and fun to be with.
Still, sometimes he can be so annoying! He’s absentminded, often forgetting the shopping list that he made so he wouldn’t forget what to buy. And in the kitchen he simply gets in the way! Other times I can see he is lost in philosophical thought and is no longer listening to me. Granted, we are always together—both of us work from home, and we live quietly on an isolated hilltop in Italy where we grow our own vegetables—so mutual tension is bound to occur. But this annoyed part of myself, who lately I decided to name Annoyed Wife, was appearing a little too frequently.
Two Wives in One
Annoyed Wife wears old house clothes, rarely combs her hair, and shuffles around in ratty slippers. Her tongue is sharp, ready to send out barbed sarcastic comments, which she thinks are (kind of) funny. Besides feeling annoyed, she often feels frustrated and a little bit angry. Deep down she’s really tired. Usually she’s thinking, Oh, brother! This guy is such an idiot! Here we go again … Even though Annoyed Wife wants out of the relationship, she is also feeling guilty for being annoyed and wanting out of the relationship.
Alongside Annoyed Wife is Blessed Wife. She’s youthful and bubbly, running around in a sun hat, sporty clothes, and practical shoes. She’s so happy and grateful that she has such a loving relationship with her husband that she has no recollection of ever being annoyed by him. Often, she’s floating on a cloud of marital bliss.
I eventually realized that these two subpersonalities had to come together and find a balanced solution. They got just the chance when my husband and I took a day off and visited the nearby ancient Roman town of Cascia, the home of Saint Rita (1381–1457), patron saint of abused wives and heartbroken women.
Saint Rita’s Story
Born as Margherita Lotti to noble parents in a small suburb of Cascia, Rita (the name she went by) was married at the age of 12 to Paolo Mancini. Mancini was rich, but unfortunately, he was also known to be quick-tempered and immoral. Rita bore him two sons and endured his physical and emotional abuse for 18 years. Her story goes on in typical medieval fashion, with Paolo being murdered by a rival family and Rita’s sons wanting to avenge his death. But Rita, having publicly forgiven her husband’s murderers, tried to persuade her sons from following through on their vendetta. Seeing that they were determined, she turned to God and prayed that they might be prevented from falling into sin. Both sons died a year later from dysentery.
Rita, then alone, eventually entered an Augustinian convent and was ultimately able to reconcile the two warring families. She was declared a saint in 1900 and her incorrupt body now lies at the Basilica of Saint Rita of Cascia.
By chance, the afternoon my husband and I arrived in Cascia was the day before her feast day, and the town was preparing for the evening celebration. Large candles lined the streets leading into the main piazza, and the saint’s tomb was surrounded by roses—one of her iconic symbols. In fact, every year on Saint Rita’s feast day, the local women in our small Umbrian village bring bouquets of roses for the priest to bless.
Praying in front of Saint Rita’s tomb, I realized that she might be able to help me with my Annoyed Wife. Later, while walking around town amongst all the small shops selling religious souvenirs, I picked up a Saint Rita bell and was immediately struck with an idea. I quickly purchased the small metal handbell. It had a pretty chime and was topped with a cross bearing a picture of Saint Rita. This bell was the answer to my prayer.
Saint Rita to the Rescue
When we arrived home, I gave the unopened package to my husband as a gift. “This is for you,” I said smiling. Once he opened it, I explained: “It’s a Saint Rita bell. When you see that I’m starting to get annoyed with you, ring it—and then I will give you a kiss.”
We both laughed and placed the bell on the kitchen table. Since then, my husband has had to ring it only twice.
I’m pleased to say that Annoyed Wife and Blessed Wife are slowly coming into harmony. First, I needed to acknowledge the presence of both subpersonalities. By fully imagining them in dress and speech, I was able to get in touch with their thoughts and feelings. Once they were both well-defined, I then gave them both the space they needed before bringing them into dialogue. Enter the Saint Rita bell—a perfect solution for bringing (and ringing) them together.
In the end, I realized that Annoyed Wife was usually showing up when I was tired and needed some attention, self-care, and calming. My husband’s kiss turned out to be the perfect remedy. She still shows up every once in a while, but she’s grown less annoyed and less annoying!
The Inner Harmony Game
You, too, can work with your personal conflicts in the same way with this simple but powerful 20-minute exercise I call the Inner Harmony Game.
Begin by identifying the inner conflict you are experiencing that you would like to better understand. Start with a simple conflict that doesn’t arouse too much anxiety. (If you want to work with this exercise in a more profound way, it’s best to work with a counselor or coach.) Then find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for about 20 minutes. Start with a prayer or meditation on the inner conflict, and then follow these steps:
By first recognizing your conflicting subpersonalities, you start your journey toward creating more harmony in your life.
Identify the two subpersonalities that are appearing during the conflict you selected to explore. Fully envision them in your imagination. Feel them as a physical presence. What are they wearing? How do they talk? Do they have any distinctive features? It helps to give them a name: The Spiritualist and The Material Man, The Couch Potato and Ms. Doer, Miss Silent and Miss Never-Stop-Talking. Try not to judge these two subpersonalities. Just accept them as they are. Humor can be useful in helping you to more playfully engage with each subpersonality.
Now explore how they feel. What emotions do they experience? What motivates them? What passions do they have? You may want to make a drawing of each subpersonality or just jot down a few notes about each of their characteristics.
Situate them in a scene. How are they in relationship to one another? Can they be in the same room together? How do they react to one another? Are they close or distant?
Now create a dialogue between the two subpersonalities. How do they talk to each other? Do they hear one another? How do they challenge each other? Watch how the story evolves between them.
Imagine that suddenly, there’s a knock on the door. You open it and let in a third person who bears a gift. Who is it, and what gift do they offer? Invite all three characters into dialogue.
By first recognizing your conflicting subpersonalities, you start your journey toward creating more harmony in your life. Keep consciously working with them whenever they show up. Remember that inner harmony is not a process that can happen overnight but one that takes patience, prayer, and lifelong practice. What’s important is to accept your limitations, take the first step, and trust that God’s help will arrive along the way.
This article is an online exclusive of Unity Magazine®.