- The difference between spirit-led v ego-led relationships
- How can someone who may feel that they are “not enough” in a relationship, view themselves in a non-judgmental way.
- How to determine which way to go to have the best possible relationship
Do you have trust issues with your partner (and/or someone you’re not romantically involved with)? If you don’t, you’re a rarity. With so many couples I work with, it looks like communication’s a major issue (which it is), but more often than not, the more fundamental issue you’re dealing with is what you trust and what you don’t with your partner. If you’re in this dilemma, odds are that your willingness to mend your heart, and get majorly re-connected with your partner has become inextricably linked with your mind demanding that the other person prove to you that they’re trustworthy. They have ample evidence of their partner’s untrustworthiness, and they continually wait to hope they can find that trust, often with almost hopeless skepticism that frequently ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Granted, the other person who’s not being trusted has most likely earned that mis-trust. To the degree you’ve earned your partner’s mistrust, the responsibility is on you to be looking at your behavior, your integrity, and your follow-through. If you don’t do what you say you’re going to do often enough, your credibility is swimming around at the bottom of the commode, where it’s a looong climb out. But, there’s another monkey wrench that I feel can help you make inroads into re-establishing trust with whoever you’re separating yourself from.
Interestingly enough, it’s all about looking at yourself (surprised, if not annoyed?). Specifically, how trustworthy are you? As I write this, one of my Mom’s favorite expressions when I was a kid is coming to mind, which was, “I don’t trust them farther than I can throw them.” When I look back at the people she most mistrusted, I can see (now) how much her beefs with them were often begun by how she had made herself untrustworthy to them first.
You don’t mistrust your partner unless they have some kind of habit of breaking their word or doing things that are out of integrity with themselves and agreements you may have with each other, right? Well, again, not to take responsibility away for the other’s actions, but how often do you break your word…especially to yourself? I was listening to a recording of my colleague, Ronda Wada, and she spoke about how often people break agreements with themselves for “Me Time.” I do that ALL the time! And, it got me to thinking…if you can’t trust yourself to love and honor yourself sufficiently, how can you trust your partner to “take care of me or my needs?” It’s not inconceivable that that unconscious behavior could get projected over to your partner.
If you’re doing that, what goes with it are usually unconscious and/or unexpressed expectations that your partner/friend is going to handle the heavy lifting for your desires that you’re not. When those expectations don’t get met, then our ego-minds go into child-like temper tantrums that are held together with the mental construct that the other person’s going to have to work even harder to get your trust back…when, really, you need to work to get your own trust in yourself back! To get your trust in yourself back, you need to face what the fears may be that your lack of self-integrity are pointing to that need attention.
Sounds easy, right?
Not usually…the promises to ourselves (and our well-being) that we break are legion and often unconscious. When was the last time you didn’t put the toilet seat down, take your supplements, meditate, work out, balance the check book, surprise your partner with that gift you’ve been saying for months you’re going to give them, eat the right thing, forego the toy so you could put more dough in the vacation savings account, etc.? When WAS the last time you broke a date with yourself? Hell, when was the last time you worked for more than 10 hours and got to bed at half past way too damn late?
If you want to test this, pick three things in this next two weeks that you’re going to commit to…with your partner, with yourself, or both. Write them down, and when you’re going to do them. Be specific. Have them be measurable in time and space. Then, when you go to bed, get the list and see how many of them you did. Also, notice how much you’ve taken care that day to consciously connect with your partner. See what kind of correlation there is, and with your mood and “neediness.” If you notice the latter increases the more you’re not doing for you, then I rest your case. From there, it’s time to start looking at what you need to do to get back on track with yourself and your integrity. The more that happens, the stronger the trust levels your relationship will have, which will give you that sense of being able to trust yourself and your partner farther than you can throw them!
These are the last words you’ll ever read from me.
Are they really?
I hope not.
However, that’s one of the fears that came into my mind when my heart told me I needed to write this particular article today. In the past, that fear would have been enough to stop me from writing it, and doing an article that was going to be “safer,” or one I would presume/assume you’d like better. Now, it simply can’t stop me, whether I wish it would or not. So, buckle in…this is going to be a longer article than most, but I believe taking the time to read the whole thing will serve you.
It’s time for me – and I’d suggest for ALL of us – to really get naked (not literally, except with a willing partner, of course). This is not a retro throwback to free love I’m advocating. What I’m doing today is I’m getting emotionally, mentally, and Spiritually naked. If it ends up having you not want to read this eZine anymore, that’s a risk I’m willing to take, because I feel and believe it to be so important for all of us – in some way or another – to get naked in the way I’m about to.
First, though, a little background. When I was first coaching back in 1995, the prevailing wisdom was that you never told your clients anything personal about yourself, and you didn’t reveal any of your own neurosis (at least not blatantly), because you needed to be an expert and authority on whatever you were coaching about and give the impression that you had your s**t together. After all, who would want to get coached by someone who didn’t have aforementioned guano together? Yet, over time, I’ve come to realize two things: 1) most people are dramatically suffering because of thinking and believing that in their daily lives, no matter what they do for a living; and 2) doing that “looking good and together” thing is one of the things causing so much physical, emotional, Spiritual, and environmental damage.
So, if I’m really an authority or expert on how to live and have an authentic, rich, and Spiritually led/driven relationship and life…I better not have all my s**t together, because having that kind of life means having a relationship with your baggage and wounds that takes it all out of the closet and acknowledges that they’re a part of you worth loving, honoring, and appreciating (while not letting them run your life). They’re not parts of you to kill off. And…I better be willing to be totally real and authentic, or I’m a friggin’ hypocrite. So, it’s time to come clean.
If you’re a regular reader, then you’ve seen me write in the past about some of the intricacies of navigating the terrains of your ego-mind (what I call the grandiose part of our ego that’s committed to controlling our lives, your Spirit (your heart and emotional body, if you don’t like the word Spirit), and whatever you may hold as a Higher Power or Consciousness in your life. For the last several months (most of my life, actually, but I’ve only just recently really seen it clearly), I’ve been living a war. It’s a war that all of you are living, one way or another, whether you realize it or not. One of my mentors calls it “The War Within.” It’s the war between my ego-mind, and all its innumerable distortions, and my heart/Spirit that is the clearest, most pure part of me and everyone else (in my opinion). How do you tell the difference between the two? I’ll get really transparent here about how I do, by sharing what each of mine look like.
My heart and Spirit, from the time I was a little boy, has never been anything but joyous, deep, compassionate, extremely tolerant, very empathetic (and empathic), generous, wise, playful, trusting, deeply rooted in the certainty of just about anything being possible, and love personified. That heart, as a child, sat in the body of a boy born with a cleft palate, and hare lip, who – literally – from the first day of Nursery School (yes, I’m that old) until about mid-way through my sophomore year of high school, was in some way ridiculed, teased, rejected, humiliated, and excluded. That was just at school. That was where I got to get away from a broken home with a clinically depressed, alcoholic mother (if not bi-polar), a biological father who literally abandoned me at age five never to be seen again, and – for a few years – a step-father who was an abusive drunk that terrified me (now 40 years sober and one of the loves of my life). I know I’m far from being the only person with painful, traumatic stories…but, I want you to understand that your versions of this kind of hurt, confusion, betrayal, feeling invisible…you name it…they’ve all had some kind of effect on building the constructs of your ego-mind that war with your heart/Spirit on a daily basis. They’ve all been a part of building the debilitating beliefs that you plague and sabotage you right and left…the ego-mind’s favorite tools, you could say.
As all that horrible and painful stuff was happening to me, I grew to become someone who felt horrified to ever have to speak, period…not just in front of people, but I’d get self-conscious about speaking, at all, with anyone other than my family. I had few friends all the way through high school, I tended to be housebound a lot to take care of my Mom when she couldn’t hack life (which was often), and I had no Dad from 6 to 16 that could help me get what it was about to be a boy (and, someday, a man). My need to act like an adult by age 6, combined with all the loneliness and isolation that I thought at the time was my best protection against pain left me feeling ugly, unwanted, unappealing, and that I couldn’t count on anyone or anything other than myself…period. But, I didn’t want anyone seeing any of that.
I covered all that (the beliefs, the feelings) up by being a fabulously co-dependent and seemingly indispensable caretaker of countless people (mostly in my family, originally); cheerleader for everyone other than myself; workaholic; over-achieving, make-it-all-look-good upper management corporate slave; and over-eating, 275-pound walking dead person with the great family, income, and house with two cars and two dogs. Then – as now, lately – my ego-mind would keep feeding me a steady diet of shame, doubt, fear, constant reminders of “nobody can be trusted,” endless worry about how things were going to turn out (especially financially), and rarely letting love in…from myself and those who loved me that I couldn’t believe really could. When I was drinking that Kool-Aid, I never really felt like ME.
I started healing all that, shifted my career from corporate zombiehood to life coach, then relationship coach…and I found a Spiritual Path that really worked for me. But, here’s the thing I really couldn’t grasp. Unlike a lot of people that I feel go onto some kind of Spiritual Path to try to bypass their pain and wounds into some Nirvanic constant feel-good, my path has actually required me to get that being connected with my Spirit requires me to also not shirk, run from, or deny all my remaining layers of current and old pain, my frailties, my fears…in fact, damn it, it requires me to love all those parts and aspects, along with the true nature of my loving, compassionate heart that I’ve been blessed to help so many others do.
But now, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. There are so many planetary, economic, metaphysical, and socio-cultural shifts happening around the world – at a pace more rapid than I’ve ever seen in my 54 years – and people (including me) are fundamentally scared s**tless, and the fear’s only getting intensified by the very distractive way of coping with it that helps create it in the first place! You may not be admitting it, or maybe even aware of it. But, I’m seeing it all around me in the way that people are struggling to hang on to material things and lifestyles that they don’t even see are keeping them more and more disconnected from themselves, from love, and from their loved ones. Making money has become more important than love. We are deifying our ego-minds, and achievements…not that achievement’s bad…but being deified above heart and Spiritual Alignment…that’ll kill ya.
So, I wanted to come clean that I’m scared too. My ego-mind for the last couple of months (not-so-coincidentally, by the way, right as I made an even more serious commitment to living a life dedicated to bringing love to as many as I can reach) has had me waking up many mornings feeling low-to-enormous levels of anxiety and fear, pre-occupation with trying to control my future (particularly with my business) and being scared to death when it seems I can’t, fearing that people are finally going to realize I don’t know a damn thing (even in the face of years of successfully helping clients get themselves truly back to themselves), and being absolutely convinced that I’m only days away from living under an overpass somewhere, even when I’m nowhere near that.
You see, your ego-mind, and mine, tells bald-faced lies, all rooted in an inaccurate sense of self-insufficiency, that defy what’s actually true (or even could be), and continually strives to keep you feeling out of control and in a sense of constant threat of some kind. That way, you’ll work harder to try to control it all, you’ll DO more, and you’ll deify DO-ing and getting – over BE-ing and allowing your Spirit (and the Divine, if you believe in such a consciousness) to guide and get you through everything – good, bad, and ugly – with flying colors.
I KNOW I’m not alone in all this. How I’ve been “fighting the War” lately, to get back to returning to my connection to who I REALLY am and have always been, has been by: 1) letting go of my attachment to not feeling pain; 2) ceasing hiding this part of myself from those I love and trust (including all of you); 3) finding and constantly doing the Spiritual practices (or for the athiests and agnostics out there, practices that connect you with love) that I KNOW work, but my mind tells me I don’t need to do; 4) getting coached from those who’ve lived this War Within longer than I consciously have; 5) building a personal team of trusted loved ones around me that I can vent to who won’t tell me what I want to hear, but what I need to hear; and 6) remembering that my (and, I assert, everyone’s) life mission isn’t much about what I do for a living, but how I will live as an Emissary of Love, no matter WHAT I’m doing…and no matter WHAT.
“Denial – a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too painful to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. The subject may deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether (simple denial), admit the fact but deny its seriousness (minimization) or admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility (transference).”
I’ve had many a stunning – and seemingly unfortunate – awareness over the years – or even in the last few weeks – of how I’ve been swimming pretty deeply in the river of denial. Like everyone else I know that has such revelations, I found myself wanting to find some sort of Spiritual meaning in it. Now, you might ask yourself, “What could possibly be Spiritual about denial?” Of course, if you ARE asking yourself that, the the problem built into the question itself is that, if you knew the answer, you couldn’t be in denial anymore, right? This is all no fun for the parts of our mind that regularly like to redeem frequent flyer miles from the Frequent Denial Program. However, in life and in relationships, that shouldn’t keep you from looking at it.
One of the key things you and I have been in denial about at one time or another is how things are going in your relationship…not so much with your romantic partner (though that’s fertile ground for massive amounts of denial), but the most important relationship in your life…the one with yourself. One of the reasons your mind likes you being in denial about THAT relationship is because it allows you to maintain an illusion that your ego’s very fond of: that there’s some place you’re going to arrive at (if you work hard enough at it) that will be that magical place where everything’s been healed, you’ve got everything figured out, your plans will now be guaranteed to come out just the way you want them to, and you now have a life ahead of you of unfettered joy and coasting.
Your ego doesn’t want you facing the possibility that what you may be going through in the way of challenges in your life is a recurrence of some pattern, some belief that you thought you’d gotten handled over the course of your 120 years of therapy you feel like you’ve done, and the 4,000 self-help books you’ve devoured in the endless pursuit of trying to fix and heal yourself. The way to confirm this is to watch how often you say in your mind, “But, I’ve done SO much work on that” when you once again repeat a behavior pattern that’s plagued you for years.
Another way to gauge how much denial may be in the driver’s seat in your life is to see if you can track how hard you’re working to keep yourself distracted from your feelings and/or those of your Partner….and when you can’t distract yourself any longer, you’re often feeling resentment about how others are treating you, rather than take a realistic look at how you’re treating yourself.
If this is all hitting home for you in some way, then you may want to look at the great blessing, that’s bigger than you could imagine, of popping the denial bubbles. As painful as it can be to come out of denial about anything, if you have the courage to go the distance with it, you have virtually unlimited potential for freedom and growth in every part of your life.
When it comes to relationship, if you can develop the habit of seeing EVERYTHING as it ACTUALLY is, with an open heart, then anything’s possible and anything can be shifted.
If you add to that the skill of taking 100% responsibility for everything that’s happening in your life (“Now, THAT one’s REALLY irritating” your ego is probably saying right now), you can bring so much more of yourself, your compassion, and your love to every relationship and begin healing the one with yourself more easily. It’s hard to do that when you’re constantly looking at a Hall of Mirrors in between your ears.
In case you want to take this on as a practice for yourself, here’s a few common ways of interacting with life that indicate you may be in some pretty hefty denial:
- “It’s all up to me”
- “I HAVE to have the answers”
- “I’ll be a bad partner if I can’t figure it out by myself”
- “I’ve got it all under control”
- “Whatever’s going on, I can fix it, and don’t need to really let anyone know”
Whenever you’re catching yourself in any of those kinds of thoughts, and want to start enacting a “Get Real” approach that allows you to get realigned with the flow that your Spirit has in mind for you, try doing something as simple as noticing how long it’s been since you told your partner how much you love them and why; hug your children (because you really want to, rather than because you should); or let yourself consciously get moved to tears by someone else’s good fortune and love…and then, cry at your own good fortune to be loved by someone.
Doing any of those types of things that you’ve had in the deep freeze for awhile, and you will find yourself no longer going down the river of De-Nile without a paddle.
Ok, if you’re not a Pink Floyd fan – and/or haven’t listened to the Dark Side Of The Moon album (it’s been pointed out to me recently, by the way, how badly I’m dating myself by even using the term “album”) – this article may take you a bit more time to get in the groove of.
There’s a song on the Dark Side album called “Speak To Me/Breathe.” The first verse contains the following lyrics:
Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care
Leave but don’t leave me
Look around, choose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all your touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be
Now, you may be wondering if I’ve lost my mind, using Pink Floyd as any kind of reference for how you can improve your relationship, but bear with me. What had me even begin to think of this song was a conversation I had with a friend recently about some relationship dynamics they were experiencing. The person was struggling with how to relate to, and be with, the current state of things in what could be a budding relationship without really knowing the “rules of the game.” Without certainty about where the other person involved is at about where their relationship is headed, or not, my friend was struggling with how to figure out how to be or what to do without a plan or a sure bead on where the other person “is at.”
Now, in any kind of currently “traditional” paradigm, you want to know where you stand…with your partner (if you have one), with your future, with your life plan, with your friends, with your job, etc. If you’re like a lot of people, the only surprises you really enjoy are parties, lottery winning, a free car and/or wardrobe, a free trip somewhere great, and – hopefully – an unexpected night of hot sex with your honey. So, to avoid any of the other kind of surprises, you consciously – and more often, unconsciously – try to manipulate, strategize, and “plan” what your future is going to look like. Then, when it doesn’t look like it may turn out how you’re planning it, you may even then go into trying to adjust variable and control it even more to get it “back on track,” right? When you go that route in your relationships, you’re likely to have a rough time. This is where Pink Floyd was really onto something in 1973.
When things are starting to feel rough with your Partner, how often do you start “dealing with it” by breathing? In fact, how often do you even pay attention to consciously breathing? I highly recommend trying it. It will get you in your body more, you’ll feel more (yes, including difficult feeling, but also including ecstatic ones), and it can even vastly improve your sex life! However, most of us simply react and go up into our strategic brain when things don’t look like they’re going to plan.
Some of you pretend you don’t care…but you really do. You just choose to hide it or withhold it (and what’s really going on for you, to boot). If you really care, you need to communicate that to your partner. If your Partner’s pissing you off, or hurting your feelings, you need to let them know you care. The passive-aggressive stoic route is way outdated. One way you can choose to go in that kind of situation and if you are withholding is to check out. So, “leave, but don’t leave me” can translate into go inside yourself…check in with your heart, gut, and mind to see what’s really triggered your reaction, take responsibility for what’s really your stuff, and then come back to your partner and fill them in on how you’re taking responsibility for your experience!
The lyric of “Look around, choose your own ground” is all about trying to bring FULL awareness to EVERYTHING going on around and in you. It’s about being fully present as much as possible with yourself and your partner. If you’re not, the ground you choose (i.e., how you’re likely to respond) is more likely than not to be distorted and full of projections. Choose what’s true for, and in, you…and, then communicate just that…not what you’ve already decided is true for your Partner.
The rest of the lyrics, to me, speak to the critical skill of recognizing that you (and your Partner) are neither your thoughts nor your opinions (and even perceptions, a lot of the time). To make a relationship work solely from the mind is certainly doable…but, watching paint dry is likely to be vastly more entertaining. To have a really juicy, vibrant, and dynamic relationship (or even life), I suggest you’ll do well to pay more attention to what your body tells you and knows…through all five senses and through all your feelings…they’re a much better reference point, in my experience. Your body cannot lie to you, no matter what. Your mind? That’s a whole ‘nother story.
Notice how much you’re trying to manage your life and your key relationships to some plan (which you’re never going to have a 100% guarantee of working out, no matter how hard you try), and try even a few days of ditching the plan…see how much more present to yourself and your partner you really are…and enjoy the moments more, rather than experiencing moments as benchmark measurements to gauge how well THE PLAN’s going.
Given all the cachet given to Valentine’s Day, and how many traditions there are around what it means, how it should be celebrated, etc., I find that it can actually reduce the true experience of love to commercially determined parameters that don’t even come close to actually capturing what the love we have really has to offer. As many common ways as there are to honor our Valentine/Partner, I am always searching for how to express and feel my love – be it for Sarah, my children, my friends – to new depths.
One way that you can always find to do that, in one form or another, is to remember and make alive that love in its purest form – no matter who or what it’s attached to – is, in my opinion, an expression of the energy of the Divine (whatever that means to you…God, Budhha, the Universe, or even Ralph). There is an Irish distinction about love that you can experiment with that may fill the bill of taking your love to an even deeper, more visceral experience…which is always the est medicine for what ails you in this roller coaster ride we call being human.
In 1997, former Catholic priest, John O’Donahue, wrote a bestselling book called Anam Cara: A Book Of Celtic Wisdom, with Anam Cara being a Celtic term for “Soul Friend.” In the book, O’Donahue writes:
“The Anam Cara was a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an Anam Cara, your friendship cut across all convention and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul.”
Another anonymous writer has written this about Anam Cara:
“Your anam cara always beholds your light and beauty, and accepts you for who you truly are. In Celtic spirituality, the anam cara friendship awakens the fullness and mystery of your life. You are joined in an ancient and eternal union with humanity that cuts across all barriers of time, convention, philosophy, and definition. When you are blessed with an anam cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at that most sacred place: ~HOME!”
Now, if you read those two quotes, do you get a sense of what love is at a level that’s got more profundity and depth than a Hallmark card? Doesn’t it offer a different perspective on what any relationship can truly behold besides just “getting your needs met?”
I really believe that, if you were to focus much more on seeing and connecting with the anam cara’s in your life, and truly mined the depth that the very definition of anam cara illuminates, there would be a phenomenal difference in your life and on the planet. This isn’t to minimize the value of conflict and differing opinions, needs, and wants…but, most of the time, you’re working those conflicts and differences out from the Ego’s agenda.
What could shift, and/or be richer, if you were to sort things out through the energyof being one’s anam cara? What if your relationship was treated less as a thing that you “work on,” and more as a Soul vehicle that’s to be ongoingly nurtured and maintained for peak expressions, over and over again? Your ego’s never going to be satisfied…it always wants more and better. Your Spirit, however, has different criteria for satisfaction, and has much longer lasting feelings with infinite breadth to go with them. With an anam cara, that connection is always more than enough…yet, can always grow, without ever feeling insufficient. How many other things in life do you experience that way?
So, let’s see how you can play with this whole notion.
For me, I have several anam cara’s, but my life partner, Sarah, is the one I’d have to say is at the top of the list, which may or may not be true for you. But, if it is, let’s start there. She literally fulfills on every aspect of the quotes above. I don’t believe a true anam cara needs to fulfill every single facet of the attributes, but if someone mostly fills the bill, that’s likely to be close enough for government work.
So, I invite you to first make a list of each of the qualities/conditions that are laid out in the two quotes above about what an anam cara is and represents. Then, be sure you’re seeing how YOU may be your own anam cara (just as a fringe benefit). Then, make a list of all the people in your life who are that kind of soul friend for you, and jot down what that connection has brought you, and continues to, as an illumination of your own Soul’s flavor. Lastly, look at how you’d want to honor and acknowledge that anam cara. If you can’t think of anyone, then it’s indicative that you’ve got work to do to become your own soul friend. If your partner isn’t on the list, it will reveal the edge of growth and learning available to you to explore. But, if you’ve got anam cara’s that you intuitively feel would be hugely served to be honored as such, I have a ceremony that you can do that’s extremely moving and powerful. If you’d like to get a copy of that (it’s too lengthy to place here), then simply drop me a line asking for it here.
To wrap up, the anam cara’s in our lives transcend and go beyond our love partners. To me, it ideally begins with yourself…so, start there. But, if you’re in a relationship with a Partner, or a friend, that’s struggling…see if they may fit the description of what anam cara is all about, and it may just give you a bigger game to play to connect more deeply than the normal “Who’s right and who’s wrong” paradigm that plagues most relationships.
To provide the best practices for living in loving intimacy with partners, From Fizzle to Sizzle is that kind of eye-opening, spectacular experience that offers YOU offer practical, hands-on tools and strategies for relationship repair and reconnection. Enroll here now!
4 Core Values That Foster Good Relationships
In our personal and professional relationships, a set of basic core values serves to guide our relationships, whether parenting, partners, or friends. In the world of relationships, these four values are words of action, not just a mental representation of some nice thing. Since values are abstract to many people, here is the way adults in relationships can make values work with your friends, children, colleagues or lovers. See these values as sequenced strategies to repairing relationships.
Connection – to be linked or bonded to another person or people.
When a child is born, the bonding process involves touch, empathy and positive regard. Empathy is established through eye contact with the baby, which programs the brain to recognize, connect, and feel the parent or caregiver. Empathy and positive regard for the child are also connected through conversation, cuddling, holding, movement (walking and rocking). When a parent treat and speaks to the babe or toddler with kindness, softness, love, tenderness, the child feels valued and develops an emotional foundation for feeling safe, cherished, respected, cared for. Our bodies grow and change, and out human needs for attachment to a loving person and bonding to establish feelings of connection do not change.
Think of the most horrible anguish a child can experience: feeling abandoned, feeling tiny and disrespected through being yelled at, treated like an object, dismissed, hit, screamed at, and threatened. These are emotional memories in the making that will hijack this child as an adult.
Do you think adults feel any different? Each person’s core needs are to be met, and when not met, the pattern for emotional abandonment is triggered. You are hardwired for relationships and feeling connected is a priority for communication and commitment.
Question for Your Review: HOW do you feel connected to those most important relations?
Communication – as a value, communication is more than sending a message or conversing. As a value, this means to be in rapport with someone is to be aligned.
Being aligned in the gut with each other helps you feel safe. Being aligned in the heart with each other helps you feel loved or valued. Being aligned in the head with each other implies no judgment, acceptance and the ability to share, argue, debate, and plan without taking it personally.
To be in rapport means you
- Can disagree without being disagreeable,
- Make an effort to control your emotional hijacking and not dump on another,
- Can move away from the need to be right and shift to listening, being open or reflective
- Can be objective, even while being emotional.
Question for Your Review: HOW high do you rank communication as a core value in your relationships? We suggest you make it number 1 on your values list for one month and cultivate this quality within yourself. See how your relations improve.
Courage – to be brave – to have guts, audacity, valor, going forth or moving ahead despite fear
We believe that relationships absolutely requires guts, especially for you types that love harmony, peace, and not making waves, or you who love to escape pressures of modern relationships. Others need courage to face the world, step into and participate actively in their relationships. And others can be fearless, so you might not believe that you need courage. You might be right in that your achievements speak to bravery, but do you need more courage to be sensitive in your relationships, where you dismiss sensitivity and feelings.
Even if you feel like a total wimp, frightened or like a doormat, list courage as a value. Each morning, repeat your mantra of courage in action.
- I am courage in action.
- I have courage to face…
- I see courage in my eyes.
- My act of courage to day will be…
Question for your review – How are you courageous in facing your fears and moving through any emotional hijacking situations?
Commitment – to pledge or promise to follow through, accepting a responsibility
Some people might take commitment more lightly than their partner or child would like. That is because you might make promises that you can’t keep in a reasonable length if time. Some people get caught up in their actions and visions and planning. Others get overwhelmed and put promises on the backburner. While others shift priorities like the wind and may even forget if you are out of their sight and out of mind.
This happens because all of you have good intentions. You make commitments fully intending to keep them, but…life happens. Those to whom you commit can only assume you have forgotten unless you take some sort of action like communicate, make an action plan or settle on a date for delivery.
When you forget the promise, the person in relation to you can feel disrespected and devalued. If that is not the result that you want in your relationships, then add a timeline to the commitment that you make.
Responsibility, then, is the twin to Commitment and means that you can be counted on, depended upon to follow through, complete the task or commitment, and be accountable for doing so.
Assessment of these core 4 values in your relationships provides a compass for you to be authentic and aware enough to fully enjoy and be fulfilled.
In the late Kate Wolf’s song, Give Yourself To Love, there’s a line that goes, “Love won’t give you everything, but it’ll give you what you need.” When you read that line, what comes up for you inside? At the wedding I wrote about in the Getting Personal section above, I thought and felt a LOT about that line, not just personally, but from a professional standpoint. How true that sentiment could really be for you is a question that gains even more significance if you’re finding that you and your Partner (or anyone with whom you’re in relationship) are at odds more than in sync with each other.
Love won’t necessarily give you “The Answer” or “The Cure/Fix” for whatever strains are happening in your relationship; but, without love, it gets VERY difficult to get to any lasting, effective resolution or transformation of an issue. When you’re in conflict with your loved one, most of the time…when you really go down in yourself to get to the bottom of it…you’re likely to find that the real culprit isn’t the “Content” of your upset (like, “You burned my shirt when you ironed it”). The real solution’s going to come when you get to what the circumstance is bringing up for you in the arenas of fear and/or shame.
One common problem with that notion, however, is that when you’re caught in fear and/or shame (and haven’t yet figured that out), you’re not usually behaving(or communicating) in a loving way. This, more often than not, sets things on a path towards escalating tension and upset, followed by a self-preserving (or so it will seem) disconnection from the other person. I once heard someone say, “I can’t be loving to my wife when she’s hurt me or pissed me off…not until she’s apologized or we’ve gotten past it.” Here’s a perfect case where love won’t solve the underlying issue, but being loving would increase the chance of re-connecting with his partner enough (even with the unresolved tension in the background) to have a safer ground to work out the true underlying issue.
It’s gotten to be kind of a New Age cliche that we’re always either in love or fear. Cliches get to be cliches because there’s truth in them. Neuroscience has strongly indicated, however, that it’s damn near impossible for the brain to “process” fear and love at the exact same time. It IS hard to tap into loving feelings for someone when you’re feeling that they’ve hurt you, attacked you, or abandoned you in some way. However, if you keep looking for the easy, convenient solution to your relationship issues, you’re going to continually be treading the same water more often than not, continuing to repetitively get the same kinds of results and situations.
Extraordinary relationships come from taking extraordinary actions and being willing to go beyond what you think you know and what you believe is the only way to work a problem. Ideally, you’re in your relationship(s) because your heart drives you there. Your mind, and your Ego, don’t usually have that as much of an agenda. So, in the relationships that matter, you’ve really got to try to remember that you’re in them because you love and enjoy the person. While a lot of couples believe that conflict – particularly frequent conflict – is a bad thing, conflict provides an opportunity for each of you to practice re-claiming the real prize always available in the relationship in the first place: feeling connected and wanting more.
So, if you’re wanting to take your relationship to a level that’s far from common, use every time of feeling at odds with your partner not as an automatic assumption or “go-to” that the relationship is in trouble; instead, see what happens if you use it as an opportunity to discover what pocket of love is available to be re-claimed and re-felt. From there, you’re more likely to be able to hear each other differently and transcend the usual pettiness that lies at the heart of a lot of squabbles, and use the conflict to bring you closer to each other. Is it easy? Not often. Does that mean you shouldn’t go for it? Absolutely not…if what you are really committed to is loving connection and intimacy.
When you find yourself having trouble doing this, or your partner is, try saying “Let’s talk to each other like we love each other.” That could bring an auto-pause to the reactivity and allow each of you to come back to the Real You, which then creates the possibility that you could start listening not from your fear, but from your heart…it will make a world of difference.
I would really love to hear what you think and feel about this topic. If you would be willing to share, and would want it to be anonymous, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re willing to have your experiences be of more immediate use and support for others trying to figure all this stuff out too, I invite you to post a comment or a note, to my Living Your Spirit Now Facebook Fan Page.
When you are looking at what makes your relationship(s) (oh hell…and life itself) challenging and difficult, it will help to really examine the power and Modus Operandi of shame. It’s often been called the Master Emotion, and while it may not really be that for you, you sure can count on the fact that, to the degree you have it and don’t know how to work with it, it will become your Master and the insidious, stealth bomber on the well-being of your relationship(s). It’s a huge topic, so today, I want to share about just one facet of how shame can control you that is worth paying sober attention to.
When something happens to you that hurts your feelings, makes you mad, scares you, or proves to be very disappointing, shame is usually triggered. How do you know that’s happened? Well, are you hearing any of these in your head, followed by the sinking feeling of your stomach dropping down to your feet?
- “I’m not enough”
- “They don’t like me”
- “They don’t know what they’re missing”
- “I screwed up, and now I’m going to pay the price”
- “I can’t really do it, so to hell with it”
- “It’s his/her fault!”
Are any of those standard parts of your emotional response repertoire (as they can be for so many)? If so, how do you tend to respond? Are you even consciously aware of that being what’s happening when you suddenly slam on the brakes with your dreams, your ambitions, your passions, and/or your work? Does procrastination set in, aided by its subtle – yet sneaky – helpmate, distraction?
If the answer is “yes” to any of those questions, then you can use that “state” as an indicator for you…an indicator that you’re in the midst of, or on the way towards, a Shame Attack, in which you are no longer present. I don’t just mean not present in the room…I’m talking not even in 2011. You aren’t really reacting to a current situation; instead, you’re feeling and acting (or not acting) from a very young part of yourself. You’ve been triggered into a wound, or wounds, that go back decades. To make it even stickier, if you don’t know you’re in a shame attack – or you do, but are unable to own it – it’s almost inevitable that the normal go-to response will be to project it onto someone else…particularly your partner.
When that happens, you will often respond from the same menu of responses that you first learned as a child, mostly from observing your parents’ relationship. For example, if your Mom got disappointed a lot when you were growing up, and her stock response to that was to get mad or devastatingly hurt/depressed, you’ll likely find that you do the exact same thing without even thinking about it. It was sobering for me to discover myself responding to being ticked off and/or disappointed by my wife in our early years together in the exact same way my Mother dealt with me when she was in those states.
You can outgrow adopting the particular habit of making your distress or upset with your partner be about “The Other,” if that’s where you most easily pin the blame for what you’re feeling about your partner. However, in trying to do so, it can become easy for you to go radically to the other extreme, where it must ALWAYS be about you. Either way, the egoic conceit and emotional hobbling that either side of the spectrum engenders ends up being crippling. That is, of course, unless you’re paying attention, learning to discern the difference between healthy shame and self-flagellating shame, and can better master discerning between when you’re retreating towards healthy introspection or proverbially (and often literally) hanging your head in shame as you go into full retreat, decimated by shame and/or resignation. It’s like the equivalent of going into an inner land of Oz, where you’d give your eye teeth to even KNOW where Home is, much less how to get back there.
One important way to begin “getting yourself back,” is to do whatever it takes to be in communication with someone (preferably your partner) besides the Hall of Mirrors in between your ears, to share what you’re feeling and thinking, so you can get a Reality Check. Remember, if you’re in a Shame Attack, how you’re convinced things are – and why – isn’t likely to be very accurate. It’s more likely you’re doing more projecting, in a way that’s reminiscent of how often you could feel that way when you were young, and you’ll respond, again, as if you were back there. So, talking about it, and clearly communicating what will help you get back to the here and now, which will give you room to work with your partner in a more sober and empowered way.
I would really love to hear what you think and feel about this topic. If you would be willing to share, and would want it to be anonymous, please email me at email@example.com. If you’re willing to have your experiences be of more immediate use and support for others trying to figure all this stuff out too, I invite you to post a comment or a note, to my Living Your Spirit Now Facebook Fan Page.
I was facilitating one of my men’s groups recently, and one of the topics that came up as a “hot button” was how to navigate the slippery slope of getting needs met while not appearing needy, and what are even “appropriate” needs to look to your partner to satisfy/support.
This gets so tricky, because we are relentlessly conditioned to see relationships as almost a Utopian idyll where all problems go away and we get to walk around blissed out for as much as possible (and get to have TONS of sex while you’re at it). When you add any gender-specific ideas/ideals to what relationship should be like, it gets even trickier. For example, a lot of men are brought up to believe that communicating just about anything from their hearts that could be conceived of as insecure, unconfident, or fearful is sure-proof sign that they’re weak or wimpy.
In an effort to avoid appearing weak or needy (combined with perhaps an equally obsessive drive to avoid conflict), one partner will start looking to the other for what they think are clues/cues to what the other wants from them…not realizing they’re really looking for clues as to what’s going to be OK for THEM to say or not say that will “fly” with the other person. Add to all that that we’ve gotten ourselves into such a restrictive box of over-DOing, that how we want to Be gets lost in the shuffle. When any or all of that is going on, the relationship is no longer yours, but more the hostage of all your hidden (and not-so-hidden) emotional wounds and conditioning, partnered up with all your defense mechanisms that will often project onto your partner that they are the one that needs to change or be fixed.
It’s critical that we begin to wake up, on a much bigger level, that our romantic relationships – hell, all of our relationships – are, first and foremost, about us. I don’t mean that in a nihilistic or narcissistic way, but in the sense that every relationship is a product of two people bringing themselves – and their conscious & unconscious baggage – to a joint enterprise that we want to believe is about loving each other and creating a whole bigger than the parts…but, often turns out to be two people trying to get years of unmet needs met and satisfied by another person onto whom they have projected all kinds of old-need-generated fantasies on. When the other person doesn’t meet those needs and expectations, they can easily become the one who doesn’t love us or care about our needs. From there, the spiral can go downhill pretty quickly.
So, what to do?
Firstly, start getting over any illusions you may have that there’s a Magic Bullet that will solve it all overnight. This is a life-long process, in my opinion. So, you have to start with a first step. What might that be?
Start by practicing re-orienting yourself back to your Self…your Highest Self. What does that mean? For simplicity, I define Highest Self as the truth of your heart…your Spirit. The wisdom that part of us has is on 24/7, if we only will turn to it. One problem many of us encounter, though, is that we’ve been conditioned through a lot of our childhood wounds to not believe in, or trust, that Self. Beginning to re-orient to that Highest Self is – initially – an act of Faith…faith that that Self is in there and can be dug out from under the rubble of our patterning, our past, our shame, our guilt, and our multitude of “I’m not enough” stories to be able to hear its guidance.
When you are upset with your partner, or feeling relentlessly unsatisfied, turn and look into the mirror of yourself, and ask yourself – in meditation, in journaling, or in visualizing yourself (as you imagine your Highest Self might look and feel like) talking to the part of you that’s upset and frustrated with unconditional love, patience, and compassion, simply asking “What are you needing that you’re not getting.” If you “hear” an answer, then practice NOT looking to your partner, initially, but looking to yourself and your own inner resources to see if that need can’t be soothed by your own patient attention. One essential trick, though…you have to be willing to see things – including you – as they really are, not as how you magically wish they’d be.
When you are true to your Self, the rest usually falls into place with a fair amount of ease…you just have to be willing to receive it and start imagining that life does NOT always have to be hard, even when your circumstances are challenging.