Relationship Dance

Sue and John have come for help with their marriage. In their first session Sue seems desperate and eager to figure out what is going on with them. John has come along but he appears distant and disconnected. As the session unfolds, a not uncommon dynamic becomes apparent: One partner is the one who pursues closeness, the other one distances him or herself.

Sue tries to reach John frantically through her words, her emotions and her body language. One moment, she reaches out to him lovingly and patiently, the next she hurls some strong emotion at him. Nothing seems to penetrate his stoic and unemotional stance. Neither touch, nor loving words, nor angry ones, nor tears, make a difference.

Sue and John are in a vicious cycle that Terry Real calls “stance, stance, dance”. Her stance is to reach out for love and attention, his stance is to resist and retreat, and thus their familiar dance unfolds. The more she asks for closeness and emotional connection, the more alienated he feels. The more he senses her longing for connection, the more he feels “broken” because he is not able to provide the intimacy she seems to need. The more he feels inadequate, the more distant and closed off he becomes. As he retreats further, Sue interprets this as a rejection. She thinks, “there must be something wrong with me that he does not reassure me with loving words”. She tries even more desperately to get through to him. One moment she is loving, the next moment she gets angry or pushes him away. Nothing has an effect.

Reading my description you might feel for either Sue or John, and you might feel inclined to judge the other one as either “too needy” or “too cold”. While both are deep down longing for a secure loving relationship, they clearly have different ways of showing up in relationships. They might draw the conclusion that their partner is just not the right one for them, but a similar dance would most likely occur again with another partner. We have just often not been taught how to get out of our patterns and how to create that secure relationship we all want.

In the 1950s, Psychoanalyst John Bowlby brought our attention to the fact that our early experiences with our caretakers have a profound influence on our relationships. Mary Ainsworth tested Bowlby’s theory in the laboratory with mothers and infants and she distinguished four basic attachment styles.

  1. Babies who had mothers who were consistently and tenderly responsive to their baby’s needs were able to quickly soothe themselves when separated because they were securely attached. They had learned through the consistent loving parent that life was safe and that they were cared for.
  2. Infants of mothers who were consistently cold, rejecting, rigid or even neglectful, developed an avoidant attachment style. They showed little emotion and seemed to be indifferent to being separated from their mother. They had learned that it is best not to need or rely on anybody else. Stan Tatkin calls this group of people islands and speaks of people having “island tendencies”.
  3. Another group of mothers were inconsistent. They were sometimes appropriately nurturing and connected according to the child’s state of mind, at other times not. These children tended to clutch to their mother when they were together, and became inconsolable when they were separated. Stan Takin’s name for this ambivalent attachment style is waves. When we have experienced that our primary attachment figure is unpredictable and inconsistent, we crave their reassurance but learn to be unsure of being able to get it. Like a wave at the shore we might reach out to our partner and then retreat, reach out again and then retreat.
  4. The final group of children were victims of abuse or highly neglectful and unpredictable parenting. They showed a disorganized attachment style, and when separated from their mothers their trauma manifested as moving in circles, rocking back and forth or going into a frozen state.

The estimates are that only about 50%-56% of children have experienced a secure attachment style. That leaves every second one of us with an attachment style or at least attachment tendencies which can create issues in personal interactions. With these acquired attachments styles, we have also learned specific subconscious beliefs about ourselves, other people and the world. We might for example have learned that we are a burden, not important or lovable. Or that other people can’t be relied on and that the world in general is not a safe place for us. We all have certain attachment injuries. Some traumas are less intense than others but they all affect our relationships, especially our close love relationships.

Maybe you have guessed that John is an island and Sue is a wave. The more she comes crashing onto the shore of the island he has retreated onto, the higher his protective walls become. His history holds the answers to why he avoids attachment. John’s mother died when he was five years old, and he learned to get attention by being the brave stoic little soldier, independent and not needing any help or emotional support. His grandmother, who raised him, was controlling and rigid. That made him even more determined to be independent and play his cards close to his chest.

Sue, on the other hand, grew up with an older mother who was inconsistent. One moment she was overprotective and fearful, the next she was distracted and absent-minded. Sue remembers being very shy as a child and not wanting to part from her mother when it was time to go to school. She got most attention from her mother when she was helpless and needed something. She also had an emotionally distant father whose attention she tried in vain to get.

When our intimate partner does or says something that is similar to what our primary caretaker did, we experience what Richard C. Schwartz calls an “attachment re-injury”. We experience the same betrayal, fear, abandonment or humiliation, and the old limiting beliefs about ourselves, other people and the world seem to be confirmed. When John retreats, Sue experiences the same insecurity she went through as a child. When Sue wants to connect, John feels intruded upon just as he felt as a boy, and fears that his independence is threatened. By learning to communicate better, to resolve conflicts or make compromises, a couple might make some progress, but we are missing the mark because the attachment injuries are not unearthed.

The first step necessary to shift out of a specific relationship dance is conscious awareness of the pattern or patterns and the underlying attachment styles. When we bring attention to what a pattern is, it already slows down the habit loop. The awareness begins to disconnect some of the circuitry of the brain that makes the habit so powerful.

For Sue, the awareness is that she feels abandoned, disconnected, alone and unloved when John retreats. She starts to feel desperate and reaches out. What she wants is to feel safe and loved. For John, the awareness is that he feels intruded upon, smothered and inadequate. His protection is to close down. What he wants is autonomy and to feel good enough. If they connect to their needs and motivations for their individual stance, they are already creating space for something different. Without further interventions, they might still repeat the behaviour but it already weakens the pattern because they are now aware of their underlying motivations.

Becoming aware of the pattern and motivations also shifts our focus from “my partner is the problem” or “something must be wrong with my needs” to ”the pattern is the problem”. Sue and John can both shift into thinking, “how does he/she feel vulnerable in this dance?” Sue can realize that John is scared about being too close and feels inadequate. John can become aware that Sue’s intention is not to encroach on his independence, but that it is about her vulnerable feelings of abandonment. The second step, for both of them, is to work on the original attachment injury.

If you want to know how IFS (Internal Family Systems) offers a way to heal our attachment injuries and childhood traumas, please read my upcoming blog article called “You Are My Valued Tor-Mentor”, which will be posted in a few days.

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I offer sessions for individuals and couples and you can contact me for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Non-Attachment Sets You Free

Sally is married to a man who has put on 60 lbs since they got married but doesn’t listen to her advice on healthy eating. She has a 17-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. The daughter has a boyfriend Sally hates, and her son does not apply himself in school. Sally’s in-laws are judgmental and Sally tried extra hard to please her mother-in-law by competing with the other daughter-in-law. Sally sometimes feels anger and sadness rise in her and it takes all her energy to keep those emotions bottled up. She has almost daily headaches and has become dependent on pain killers and anxiety medication.

What advice would you give Sally? She could work on one situation at a time but they all have one thing in common: attachment. Sally’s energy is going towards wanting others to change while she is suppressing her own emotions and needs. She is attached to her husband taking her advice, to her daughter realizing that her boyfriend is not good for her, to her son working harder in school and to her mother-in-law liking her. She is also attached to those powerful emotions which she keeps pushing down by using painkillers to numb them out.

What would make the greatest difference for Sally and her family is for her to start directing her energy towards herself and her needs, and to develop a healthy detachment or non-attachment to the other situations.

Non-attachment or detachment does not mean “not to care” anymore. That is a common misunderstanding. Sometimes we get so frustrated with somebody not changing that we decide that we will “just not care anymore”. When we are shifting from being attached to a certain outcome to non-attachment this is not happening to punish the other people. If frustration is my trigger and punishment is my motivation, I have not developed true detachment. Non-attachment is to keep our own sanity and to allow a situation to unfold in whichever way it needs to unfold. We are still staying compassionate, but we surrender the need to control things.

Non-attachment comes from a true heart-space, a compassionate loving stance, but it means taking our energy back that we have bound up with expectations. Having a healthy detachment is to care but to not be attached to if, when or how the other person is going to take our advice, or if, when or how they do what we would like. If we are attached to them doing something or not doing something, we have allowed our expectations to rule us and to create disappointment and frustration. Our energy is bound up in a certain outcome.

Having healthy detachment from a situation means having a standpoint of non-judgment. We are not attached to how a situation should unfold. We can let it be what it is and have discernment. Discernment means to not tolerate a situation which is harmful to us. Sally’s mother-in-law is manipulative and disrespectful. Directing her energy back towards herself might also mean for Sally not to tolerate that anymore. With some separation from the pleaser voice inside her, Sally can decide to please herself and just let go of the competition between the daughters-in-law which neither one can win anyways.

Non-attachment to uncomfortable emotions means that we can allow our emotions to rise up, to feel them and to let them move through us. Sally has an opportunity to feel the anger and sadness and to realize that underneath it all she is carrying a lot of grief. She deserves to take time to experience and release these emotions.

Non-attachment to pleasurable emotions like happiness means not chasing after them in the outside world. Happiness can be found inside and enjoyed in each moment as it presents itself. Instead of putting her energy towards what she does not like, Sally can give herself permission to focus on the daily little moments of joy.

Non-attachment to food, substances, habits or activities means that we don’t depend on them for our emotional or physical well-being. Instead of eating, smoking, drinking, taking drugs, or engaging in addictive behaviours to feel better, we experience a healthy detachment. We are able to feel our emotions and pain and explore what message there is and which of our needs have to be addressed.

Non-attachment means surrendering and thus letting go of a tug-of-war we have gotten ourselves into. When Sally stops nagging her husband, or pushing her daughter to see certain bad qualities in her boyfriend, or lecturing her son about school, or letting go of the competition with the other daughter-in-law, these situations can pass. The husband can now feel it is his choice to eat healthier. The daughter does not need to rebel anymore and has a chance to see the boyfriend for who he is. Sally’s son gets to experience the natural consequences of not getting good grades; he has to stay at home to study instead of playing video games at his friend’s house. And the mother-in-law is unable to manipulate Sally anymore into doing something she does not want to do. Sally is free.

Last but not least, non-attachment helps us to go though difficult moments with a certain sense of humor, knowing that “This too shall pass”. When she takes a moment to see everything with humour, Sally remembers that her sister also had an “undesirable” boyfriend and eventually broke up with him, and that her husband used to be “lazy” himself when he was 14 and today is a successful engineer.

Where in your life are you attached to people and their choices, to situations unfolding a certain way, to emotions or to food/substances? I invite you to join me on a meditation to release these attachments, reclaim your energy and to surrender to everything unfolding perfectly.

I know your time is valuable and appreciate you reading my blog. If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

 

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Paul Married Alice – Is There a Perfect Match?

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

“Paul married Alice and Alice gets loud at parties and Paul, who is shy, hates that. But if Paul had married Susan, he and Susan would have gotten into a fight before they even got to the party. That’s because Paul is always late and Susan hates to be kept waiting. She would feel taken for granted, which she is very sensitive about. Paul would see her complaining about this as her attempt to dominate him, which he is very sensitive about. If Paul had married Gail, they wouldn’t have even gone to the party because they would still be upset about an argument they had the day before about Paul’s not helping with the housework. To Gail, when Paul does not help she feels abandoned, which she is sensitive about, and to Paul, Gail’s complaining is an attempt at domination, which he is sensitive about.

The same is true about Alice. If she had married Steve, she would have the opposite problem, because Steve gets drunk at parties and she would get so angry at his drinking that they would get into a fight about it. If she had married Lou, she and Lou would have enjoyed the party but then when they got home the trouble would begin when Lou  wanted sex because he always wants sex when he wants to feel closer, but sex is something Alice only wants when she already feels close.”

These wonderful paragraphs written by Dr. John Gottman illustrate so perfectly that we are all faced with challenges in our love relationships. Nonetheless, most of us have a desire to pair up. Everything in our life is about relationships. From the moment we are born to our last day on earth, we are in relationships with others. We are only here because our parents had a relationship, and we learn from them, or from our first caregivers, about relationships. Have we just been socialized to be in a love relationship to reproduce and to not be alone and therefore safer, or is there a deeper purpose to it?

150 years ago, people married for economic reasons and they didn’t expect much more from that union but a decent relationship. Today we marry or pair up for love. Hand in hand with marring for love comes the romantic idea that the one person we choose to spend our life with should fulfill an endless list of needs. Our partner is supposed to be an amazing lover, our best friend, a fabulous parent, our confidant, our emotional companion, our intellectual equal and spiritually on the same page as well. We are looking for that one kindred soul that can wear all those hats for us and can fulfill all our needs and desires.

Not too seldom, we are chasing the idea of a relationship that feels safe and harmonious, yet at the same time exciting and full of sexual chemistry. We want closeness, safety and intimacy, as well as excitement and sexual attraction. We live in an era where we feel we are entitled to pursue our happiness. If our partner turns out to be quite human and not able to be all we expect, we feel disillusioned and might start to wonder if there is somebody out there who is more compatible. “We used to divorce because we were unhappy; today we divorce because we could be happier. Divorce used to carry all the shame; today choosing to stay when you can leave is the new shame.” (Esther Perel, TED Talk)

Undoubtedly, we might be more compatible with some people than with others. However, what we tend to forget when we have this long list of what we want and need from our partner is that our partner, no matter who he or she is, will always bring up our unresolved childhood issues.

“Romantic Love delivers us into the passionate arms of someone who will ultimately trigger the same frustrations we had with our parents, but for the best possible reason! Doing so brings our childhood wounds to the surface so they can be healed.” (Harville Hendrix, Making Marriage Simple)

In our marriage or love relationship, we re-create our old unresolved hurts and we receive an opportunity to work through those wounds. Our partner reflects our fears, insecurities and our ability to love ourselves. Our partner mirrors to us what personality traits we have disowned and what patterns are unresolved within us.

Every relationship issue which comes up is a gift for us. It is an opportunity to become more whole. It shows us what we need to embrace inside of us for greater self-love and for more unconditional love and acceptance of others. All relationships, especially the ones with our close loved ones, are an opportunity for us to evolve, to release old patterns, to heal old wounds, to grow and to become a better version of ourselves. Our partner is our teacher, just as we are hers or his.

So is there a perfect match? If you believe the perfect match is a relationship which is smooth and without issues, then the answer is no. But each of these matches Gottman describes could be a healthy, loving, and empowered relationships when both partners work on themselves and on their relationship. We intuitively and subconsciously pick exactly that person with whom we can recreate our issues and heal our emotional wounds. When you wonder whether another person might be more compatible with you, remember that usually the grass only appears to be greener on the other side of the fence.

Contact me for more information on either couple’s coaching or individual sessions. We can work on your own triggers and patterns in individual sessions or on your interactions with each other.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Getting to the Complaint Underneath the Criticism

A couple of weeks ago a client was coming in for his session and he wanted to talk about our coach-client relationship. He needed me to listen to a complaint he had. He felt I was being unfair by putting all the responsibility for his relationships with his family members onto him. After all, the other family members should be given half of the responsibility. Part of me wanted to say “But that’s not what I meant…” and jump into an explanation and justification. I had to tell myself to breathe and to really be present with his words.

I needed to listen carefully to hear that he was feeling unsupported by me as his coach. I had to ask myself if there was a shadow showing up for me with this particular client. Was there an energy mirrored back to me by him that I wasn’t comfortable with and was I therefore rushing him to shift out of it? Was I pushing him too hard because I experienced him as a conscious man and had higher expectations of him than of an average client? Or was the approach and tools not the right ones for him? How was I being unfair to him and unsupportive?

I am very grateful to this client for speaking up and making me aware that there was a shadow projection going on. It would have been easier for him to just not return for the next session because it requires courage to speak up. He had the courage to bring it up and I was able to realize that I perceived him as not taking enough responsibility for his part in most of his relationships because he reminded me of somebody I know. So I was focusing on what he could do better instead of focusing on his progress.

Whether with a client, or in any of our other relationships, it is not always easy to respond to criticism without defensiveness and to stay open to hearing the complaint underneath. As mammals, we are hardwired to want to feel good in comparison to others and to not be rejected by others, so that we are not abandoned by our tribe, who we need for survival. So we have an inbuilt physiological response to being criticized. Stephen Porges speaks about how our body tenses up and how being criticized can shift our autonomic nervous system into defense mode as if we are being attacked. We experience a physical and emotional constriction.

Gottman highlights the importance for the speaking partner to make productive complaints rather than being critical and for the listening partner not to get defensive. Criticism and defensiveness are two of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” who slowly erode our relationships.

The person who has a complaint needs to remember to deliver their complaint without blame or anger and as diplomatically and gently as they possibly can. But what about the person who is at the receiving end? Sadly, in our human interactions, it is unusual for the person who is being criticized to respond with curiosity and wanting to understand, rather than defensiveness. So, what can you do when your partner or somebody else criticizes you?

I find it helps to remember to breathe and self-regulate, so that we can truly listen and get to the complaint underneath the criticism. Dr. Kelly McGonigal recommends to “breathe with all your senses”. She reminds herself to “breathe with her ears”. You can feel how your body feels and strive to have a posture of openness. Drop your shoulders, come into your body and notice your breathing. “Lean in” as much as possible instead of shrinking away and protecting yourself. Leaning in translates into your body language and fascial expression and shows the other person that you are willing to listen and take their feelings and thoughts seriously.

Dr Rick Hansen talks about tracking moment to moment that your body is still okay and that you are not in mortal danger, you are not dying, even though our primitive brain might be under the impression that we are in danger. Dr Joan Borysenko even suggests to use a mantra like “All is well” to calm ourselves down when we feel attacked by criticism.

Instead of going on the defence due to our own feelings of inadequacy, which tend to get triggered, we need to just be quiet and listen properly. We need to be curious about what the other person has to teach us or needs from us. It can help to be honest and say, “I feel defensive right now but I don’t think this will help you or me so I am trying to stay open to what you are saying.” The admission of your own defensiveness, allows the speaker to feel heard and to explain a bit more how you can meet their needs.

Have the attitude to turn criticism that is usually hurtful into something actionable. Remember that underneath a criticism is a longing. Here are some examples:

Complaint: You never hold hands with me anymore.

Longing: I need some affection and holding hands makes me feel loved and connected.

Complaint: Why is it so hard for you to say thank you?

Longing: I feel unappreciated and would really love if you told me more often that you are grateful for what I do.

Complaint: You always overreact when I tell you bad news.

Longing: It would be much easier for me to tell you bad news if you stayed calm. Can you please take some deep breaths and not respond right away.

Complaint: You don’t know at all what I like!

Longing: I wish you would listen more when I express my likes and dislikes and show that you care what I like.

For more examples click here.

Next time your partner criticizes you, take some deep breaths, let them know you are doing your best not to get defensive, so that they know what you are struggling with and perhaps they can reassure you that they love you. Then listen very carefully for the longing. Be curious what you can learn.

Contact me for more information on either couple’s coaching or individual sessions to help you deal with criticism and defensiveness.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

You can also join me for this meditation to practice staying open instead of getting defensive

Clearing Your Relationship Baggage – PART 2

Listen to PART 1 and 2 of this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

We cannot emotionally complete our past until we are aware of what our patterns are. If we don’t understand our patterns, habits and beliefs, we bring our emotional baggage into the next relationship and our relationship history will keep repeating itself.

The first practical step to achieve clarity is to examine the relationship history. Let’s look at Robert and Ellie who just broke up.

This is Robert’s Relationship history:

Robert grew up with a critical and controlling mother. He often felt like he could do nothing right.

1997, Grade 7, Emma

Emma was the first girl I kissed. She told her girlfriends that I was a bad kisser. I felt embarrassed and like a failure.

1999, Grade 10, Hannah

I had a long-time crush on Hannah before I finally asked her out. We went to the movies. I wanted to be respectful, but she made fun of me for not trying to feel her up in the dark theatre. I felt embarrassed and like I can’t win, no matter what I do. I didn’t ask her for a second date.

2000, Grade 11, Lara

At my brother’s 19th birthday party, I got drunk and hooked up with Lara. After the party, I was too embarrassed to call her. A month later she had another boyfriend. I always regretted not having followed up with her.

 

2001/2002, Grade 12, Veronica

I went out with Veronica during my grade 12 year. We broke up twice because she nagged so much. I always felt that I wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted somebody who talked more and was more secure and more self-confident.

2003-2008, Anne

Anne and I had a long distance relationship for the first three years. When we both ended up in Toronto after graduating we moved in together. Luckily, we only rented an apartment. Within three months, it was clear that we could not live together. She was a neat freak and I was constantly walking on egg shells, trying to keep everything tidy and clean. She also didn’t like my friends and I allowed her to control who I spent time with. She drove me nuts and I broke up with her when I met Christina. In fact, I had an affair with Christina before I moved out of the apartment Anne and I shared. When Anne found out we had a huge blow out with her yelling and kicking me out.

2008-2011, Christina

Christina was much more easy going than Anne. At first, we had a lot of fun together, partying and going dancing a lot. Eventually, Christina also started nagging. She was very high maintenance. She often complained that I wasn’t making enough money. That made me feel inadequate and angry. I liked her less and less. She would get very angry at me when I forget to tell her something. She would even throw things at me. Her yelling reminded me of my mother. I totally shut down when she yelled. She even went through my pockets, phone and computer to snoop after me. I stopped sharing with her. After one huge fight, I swore I would never trust her again. I moved out to live with my brother Frank until I met Ellie.   

2012-2017, Ellie

I thought Ellie was different. She seemed so understanding and non-judgmental at the beginning. She was younger than me but she also wanted to buy a house, not a ridiculously huge house like Christina but a townhouse, a good investment. We both had stable jobs and it made sense to buy something together from the start. Most of my buddies and even my brother were getting married and it felt like Ellie could be “the One”.

There were some signs early on though that she needed to know everything about what I was doing. At first, I gave up some of the stuff I like to do but I soon felt trapped like I had felt with Anne and Christina. I also felt that I couldn’t do anything right. Ellie always wanted to talk and that usually meant she was unhappy with something. I didn’t want to have another failed relationship, so I just started telling her that I had to work later some days to have some time to myself. I felt like my needs didn’t matter.

During the summer of 2016, Lara reached out to me on Facebook. I knew Ellie was checking my friends on Facebook so I never added Lara, instead I started communicating with her in secret. I knew Ellie would insist on meeting her as well. When I met with Lara for lunch for the first time, I felt so good. I finally had somebody I could talk to about my issues with Ellie. Her husband had cancer and she also needed somebody to share with. I felt like she appreciated me. I felt what I hadn’t felt in a long time: good enough and capable. We first met once a month but in 2017 we started meeting once a week.

A friend of Ellie’s saw us and when she found out that we had been meeting in secret, she totally lost it. I understand why Ellie feels betrayed but I don’t know how I could have had my own needs met and also make Ellie feel happy and secure. I am moving out as soon as our house has been sold.    

 

Robert’s former partner Ellie also has a Relationship History:

When Ellie was five, her parents divorced. Her dad left and remarried. Ellie felt unwanted by him and his second wife. Her own mother was depressed and Ellie had to take care of her emotionally.

1999, grade 8, Ben

Ben asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. We hung out a couple of times each week. I felt proud and totally trusted him. Six weeks after he asked me to be his girl, he told me we couldn’t hang out because he had a “family thing”. The same evening, I saw him in town, kissing Anne-Marie, who everybody knew was “easy”. I felt really stupid that I didn’t know that he had lied to me. I felt rejected and betrayed.

2001-2003,  grade 9 & 10, Michael

Michael and I were friends first. He had a lot of problems at home. I was a good listener and I felt he needed me. When he and his family moved away, I was devastated. He had promised to stay in touch but he didn’t. I felt huge sadness which felt very similar to the feeling when my dad left.

 

2005, grade 12, Adam

I was dating Adam for six months. During prom night he got drunk and I felt embarrassed by his behaviour. I was glad that he moved away for university. 

2007-2011, Brian

I met Brian at university. He was a year younger than me. Each time I brought up wanting to get married after university, he said he wasn’t ready. In 2010, he moved into my apartment because we felt we could save money. Things went downhill from there. We had different schedules and he liked to be out late partying. I felt anxious when he was out with his friends. He felt I was asking too many questions and that I was too boring.

2011-2017, Robert

When I first met Robert, I loved that he was older and more serious. He liked that I listened to him and helped him solve some problems. He also seemed to try so hard to make me happy. I felt special. It seemed like a good decision to buy a house together but over time Robert retreated. He stopped sharing with me and talking to me. When I tried to talk to him about problems, he usually got defensive. I felt unimportant, not heard and rejected. Each time he stone-walled, I felt anxious and pushed him even more to be honest about his feelings and needs and to open up. We accumulated many issues that Robert refused to talk about. I felt rejected. When I found out that he had weekly lunch dates with his high school friend Lara and confided in her regarding our problems, my entire world collapsed. I am sure he is in love with her. I feel replaced and betrayed. Robert substituted me just like my dad replaced me with his new children. I broke up with Robert because I cannot trust him again.   

 

When we read those relationship histories carefully we can see unresolved emotions and repeating patterns for both partners, as well as limiting beliefs and habits they have learned. Robert’s unresolved emotions and patterns are feeling not good enough, feeling embarrassed, feeling criticized and feeling trapped. He believes that his needs don’t matter and his habits are to be secretive and to close up with his partner the more he feels controlled. Instead of addressing his needs he tends to move to the next partner who initially seems more understanding, only to find himself in the same cycle after a while.

Ellie’s patterns are to feel not heard, embarrassed, excluded, rejected, unimportant and replaced. She believes that she has to be a good listener and to be needed like her mom needed her. Her habit is to push when her partner retreats and to be controlling due to her fear of being replaced.

Both Robert and Ellie re-created what they most fear. Robert continually experienced feeling trapped, being controlled and feeling not good enough. Ellie repeatedly experienced feeling left out, rejected and replaced. Their issues fit into each other. Their relationship was an opportunity and incentive to resolve those issues and heal their old wounds.

The romantic relationship history is a discovery action. Discovery and completion are not the same. The exercise helped Robert and Ellie to remember all their past relationships in ways they had not looked at them before. They examined each of them for uncompleted emotions and the beliefs learned through the experiences. However, intellectual knowledge is of limited value. At the end of each relationship, we are left with unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations. There are always things which we wish had been different, better, or more. Robert and Ellie need to do some deeper work on completing the relationships, including taking responsibility for their part, forgiving the other people and themselves, clearing out lingering emotions, and completing unfinished communications.

When a relationship ends, it is most of the time impossible to achieve completion in a direct communication with your former partner. Russell Friedman and John W. James, the founders of the Grief Recovery Institute, have developed a very practical program to complete the relationships we have experienced and to clear out our baggage before we move into the next relationship. Contact me for more information on Grief Recovery Work, PSYCH-K®, Shadow Energetics or other “tools” I use to help you to dump your relationship baggage.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

Clearing Your Relationship Baggage – PART 1

Listen to PART 1 and 2 of this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

Robert’s girlfriend broke up with him. He says, “I should have known this wouldn’t work. She had so many issues. I always felt like I couldn’t do anything right for her. She made me so mad by being controlling. I felt so trapped. I am glad she broke up with me because I haven’t been invested in this relationship for a long time now.”

Statistics report a divorce rate of 50%, and if you include the romantic relationships which end, the estimated number is as high as forty ended relationships for each formal divorce. We all at some point have experienced the end of one or more relationships. Since we don’t learn how to grieve and complete relationships that end, we carry the unresolved emotions forward into the future.

Just like Robert, the perspective we tend to have is that the other person we were in a relationship with had a lot of emotional baggage. The more important question to ask is how much baggage we brought into the relationship.

Usually, when a relationship ends, both partners tend to assign the blame to the ex-partner. This victim mentality makes the completion of prior relationships impossible. The recitation of the painful loss story, especially when accompanied by a diatribe against the former partner, does nothing to encourage the storyteller to do anything different the next time around. We have to remember that we are always 100% responsible for our feelings and for our reactions to what other people say or do. Nobody makes us feel a certain way and nobody makes us act in a certain way either.

When we hold someone else responsible for our feelings, we put ourselves in an emotional jail. That jail is built on the idea that not only do others have the power to make us feel a certain way, but we have to keep feeling this way until they release us. The victim mentality keeps us blind to our part and seemingly removes us from the responsibility of having chosen to be with or stay with that person.

We are also responsible for following—or not following—our intuition. Our intuition is an early warning system. Usually, there is a point in every relationship where we know whether the person we are with is right for us. When we override our intuition, we cause ourselves and others emotional damage by entering into or staying in a relationship that does not work. Every relationship is of course work and compromise is part of that work. So as long as both people are willing to continue doing the work a relationship can function. However, often one or both people have an intuitive sense that the other person is not the right partner and make an excuse for why they should anyways continue with the relationship.

We are at least partially the architect of some of the relationship disasters because we always subconsciously act based on what we have learned growing up. Often people self-sabotage in a relationship out of the fear of getting hurt again. If you don’t get emotionally attached and instead withhold from your partner, you are already setting up the end of the relationship. In order to be really close and intimate, we need to allow ourselves to be honest and vulnerable. We need to connect with and bond into our partner and stay closely connected to him or her.

Russell Friedman and John W. James, the founders of the Grief Recovery Institute and authors of “Moving On”, recommend an exercise in three parts, which helps you to discover your part of a relationship you are in or you have been in. Until you identify your part, you will carry your baggage into the next relationship because you can’t do anything different.

  1. Take Responsibility for How You Feel

Examples of not taking responsibility is, “she made me feel not good enough” or “he made me feel unloved”. Nobody makes us feel a certain way, but our partner often has an uncanny ability to trigger our earliest childhood wounds.

For Robert, his partner triggered early childhood feelings of “not being good enough” and of “not being able to do anything right”. She also mirrored his mother who he had experienced as controlling. He felt he had to have secrets like a teenager might who was rebelling against his parent. His need for freedom and alone time wasn’t met and he felt unable to express his needs.

Where in your relationship did you blame your partner for how you feel? Can you take full responsibility for the feeling and communicate to your next partner what your needs are?

 

  1. Where Did You Override Your Intuition?

Robert had an early intuition before he and his girlfriend bought their house together that their different values and goals in life would create many problems. However, he felt it was time to settle down because all of his friends where in committed relationships or married. He also felt it made financial sense to buy a house.

Think back to some of the relationships you have been in and see if you can recall when you intuitively “knew” that someone wasn’t right but you continued on anyways. What ideas did you use to justify going ahead? Be as honest as you can.

 

  1. How Did You Self-Sabotage?

Robert had been hurt in prior relationships and entered this relationship with a heart shield. He was protecting himself from getting hurt again by emotionally giving less this time, by not sharing everything from the start and by sharing less and less during the course of their relationship. His justification was that his girlfriend would just get angry if he told her everything. His belief was that he would not be loved if she really knew him.

Did you protect yourself from getting hurt by not being open and honest in your last relationship? Did you have certain limiting beliefs, for example, “I am not lovable unless I am a certain way”, “If my partner knew who I really was they wouldn’t love me anymore”, “If I share my feelings it backfires”, “My needs are not important so I mustn’t be needy”, “Women/Men can’t be trusted” and so on? These are all subconscious beliefs which hold you back from creating a different relationship next time.

With techniques like PSYCH-K® or Shadow Energetics, you can change these subconscious programs and dump your old relationship baggage to make room for a loving and well functioning relationship.

To read PART 2 of this blog click HERE.

 

To do belief change work and

complete your prior relationships

contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Going With the Flow

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.

Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow.

Let reality be reality.

Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Lao-Tzu

What I especially like about this quote is the reminder to let reality be reality. How often do we ignore the reality we do not like or which nudges us to take action? We resist listening to what presents itself and hold on to the status quo. But what does it mean to go with the flow of things?

“Go with the flow” has become a very popular phrase. It means a state of nonresistance which encourages you to flow with life as if you are flowing on a river. “Go with the flow” is such a simple short and sweet statement. However, there are some pitfalls in this mantra.

Like many “spiritual” principles, the idea contains an apparent contradiction. Because of this, we might interpret the principle as “let life happen without using your will power.” It is quite easy to see “go with a flow” as a call to inactivity, inaction or laziness, waiting for things to fall into your lap, making the choice not to make a choice. When we don’t make a choice, another person makes it for us, or the situation becomes so unbearable that the decision is forced upon us. Inactivity is not what this spiritual principle means.

It is often quite easy to trick the mind into confusing going with the flow with maintaining the status quo of things, because our subconscious mind likes a sense of equilibrium. It prefers experiences that are familiar, pleasant and comfortable. When its sense of equilibrium is threatened, we unconsciously might choose to stay with what is familiar even if a part of us knows it’s not good for us.

That applies each time you are confronted with a situation or a person’s actions that are not acceptable but you are hesitating to take action. An example would be if you are dealing with somebody who is being passive-aggressive: someone is making rude, disrespectful or hurtful comments about you and disguising it as humor. “Oh, I am just kidding. Have a sense of humour!” Your sense of equilibrium may tell you to be silent about it instead of risking a fight. You may feel some physical response, perhaps some tension in the body, in your solar plexus or in your throat chakra, that prevents you from claiming your power and speaking up, speaking your truth.

But your body is actually telling you that you are not really going with the flow but that you are avoiding to unsettle the status quo. If we want to stay happy, healthy and, most importantly, true to ourselves, we need to listen to our intuition. If you listen to your intuition and speak up calmly and assertively to this person, your body gives you the feedback that you are on the right path. Your throat chakra clears up or your solar plexus settles down. You notice a sudden freedom, a greater “flow” and an increased ability to embrace life’s experiences as life unfolds.

You might have thought that going with the flow was about accepting the inappropriate comments or behaviour, just ignoring reality. But after exercising your assertiveness, you realize that acceptance means accepting the experience and letting go of the hurt, but not of the lesson this person has taught you. It is about following the call to action that the comments were inviting. You truly went with the flow. This person’s job was to teach you something about self-respect. You might even want to thank them (or the Universe) for the lesson.

Meditation can help us learn to go with the flow.  It gives us the clarity to see why certain doors or paths have been closed for us. That usually happens when we are not supposed to be in a certain place, be that a particular job or certain relationship, when we are meant to be somewhere different. It shows us new doors to knock on or doors that have already started to open for us. It also helps us understand where our fear of change has tricked us into believing it is best to “keep the peace”, keep the status quo of a situation, even if we sacrifice being authentic and happy. It helps us decide how to move forward, go with the flow to get to where we really want to go, be who we really want to be.

Join me for this meditation below to contemplate where in your life you can go more with the flow. You might also want to check out other free 10-15 minute long meditations.

 

Letter From Your Future Self

With the old year ending and the new year approaching, we look back and assess what we have manifested in 2017, and what we want to attract in 2018. Are you ready to set some powerful intentions for the new year? Let me share one specific end of year ritual with you which you can use.

Ten years ago, when I was attending Unity Church, I came across a beautiful manifestation technique: On the last day of the old year, you write a letter from the perspective of the end of the next year. Or in other words, you write a letter from your future self, giving thanks and expressing gratitude for everything the new year has brought you. The extra twist at Unity Church was that they kept our letters and mailed them out to all of us a year later. It was usually amazing to read how many of the experiences, events and people described in the letter had really occurred or shown up.

How does this work? It’s the Law of Attraction. “Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it” (Ernest Holmes). We are engaging the law of the Universe and at the same time we are implanting beliefs and expectations into our subconscious mind. When we set powerful intentions, visualize clearly and feel what we want to create in our heart, we are speaking the language of the subconscious mind. Our subconscious stores the vision away and assists us in creating the future we really want.

I invite you to take time over the next couple of days to write such a letter to the Universe, or to Source, or to God, or to your own Higher Self. Drop into your heart. Just focus on your heart as if you are breathing in and out through the centre of your chest, recall a heart-felt memory full of love, joy, peace or harmony. Stay in this heart open space as you write your letter.

Remember, it’s your future self, one year older, who is writing a thank you letter for all that has occurred in 2018. Do not ask or pray for what you want but write in retrospect and with lots of gratitude for what has unfolded already. You can begin your letter with “I am so happy and grateful now that…” or any other way that feels like your heart is overflowing with thankfulness. And don’t limit yourself! Anything is possible if you really want it and can feel it. Have fun with this. When you have written the letter, drop into your heart again and read it out loud. Send your words out to the Universe knowing that your vision is already manifesting as you really feel it in your heart. And so it is.

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

If you want to change your subconscious beliefs into ones,

that allow you to manifest your New Year’s goals

contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Do You Trust Me?

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

Do you remember the carpet riding scene from the Disney movie “Aladdin”? Jasmine inquires if the magic carpet is safe. Aladdin responds with the question, “Do you trust me?” Jasmine is surprised, and he repeats the question. “Do you trust me?” She looks up at him and firmly replies, “Yes.”

Princess Jasmine has never gone for a ride on a magic carpet, nor does she know Aladdin. Her reaction is based on a gut feeling and Hollywood wants us to believe that trust is this easy and straightforward to achieve. Is that really true? Where and how do we place our trust?

The trust expert Rachel Botsman points out how in the past trust used to flow upwards in our society by us placing trust in the people in power; today it flows sideways through our social networks. Sideways means to our collegues, friends, neighbours and so on, including strangers. In today’s world, we have lost faith in institutions, in bankers and in leaders, whether political, economic or spiritual leaders.

Does this mean we are less trusting than we used to be? Botsman says that the contrary is the case. While we are mistrustful of authorities and institutions, we are meanwhile placing our trust in our peers, including strangers on the Internet, or in technology itself. We are renting our home out to unknown guests through Airbnb, going on blind dates with people we have met on dating sites, are exchanging currency digitally and so on. Our smart phones or apps on those phones ask us on a regular basis for access to almost our entire life, our location, our photos, our microphone, our contacts and so on.

Humans are interdependent and cannot live life without making choices on who to trust. The mistrust towards anybody or anything which has a monopoly of power can be a good thing if it leads to the empowerment of the individual. The question is how the vacuum of not trusting who we used to trust in the past is filled today. Being more aware of the abuse of power, especially where there is a money trail, and for example reading the ingredient labels of food and cosmetics carefully, researching the vaccine your child is about to receive, or being cautious that our politicians are free of any hint of corruption, is certainly keeping us all safer. At the same time, we often seem to be very trusting when it comes to the convenience of technology.

As a relationship coach, I am especially interested in how trust shows up in our one-on-one relationships, especially in our primary love relationship. What components does trust have and how do they affect our relationships?

Trust is usually a process. Trusting means placing our faith or confidence in something unknown. That could be a person, a new idea, a new product and so on. There usually is a gap between what we know and what we don’t know, and we call this gap a risk. If I trust because I feel I can predict or even be certain how the other person is going to behave, that is not really trust. Having trust is the confidence in what we are not certain about. Life can hold some unpredictable magic carpet rides for us.

Trust is about being vulnerable. We cannot be sure of what is going to happen tomorrow, yet we need to approach life with trust. When we get married or start a committed relationship, we cannot ensure that we will still be together twenty years later. All we can do is to decide to do our best and trust our partner to do the same. However, during a relationship, trust is in a constant flow and must be maintained while we interact with each other.

A real issue regarding trust is poor information. From a lack of information, we often make assumptions and end up with unrealistic expectations. Have we had those tough conversations before entering into a relationship? Conversations about common future goals, about common values, about having and raising children, about money, and about other major topics which tend to lead to perpetual problems for many couples? In relationships it is of uttermost importance to have real conversations, in which we are transparent and up front about our expectations. In the euphoria of being in love, most of us skip those conversations that could provide us with necessary information. We might end up in a relationship and realize that there are trust issues due to not having gathered the necessary information.

Botmans feels it is helpful to think of trust in context, and I agree. If you are my friend, you might for example trust me to take care of your child because you believe I am a capable mother, but you might not trust me to fix your computer issue—or cook you a five-course meal—because you know I don’t have the competency to do that. However, perceived competency is only one aspect of trust.

What are the ingredients of trustworthiness? Research has shown that there are four key factors:

  1. Competence (skills, knowledge, experience)

Let’s assume you are my neighbour and you know I used to be an elementary school teacher and that I have raised my own children; those children appear to be well-adjusted and have a good relationship with me. Therefore, you might trust me to look after your child because you feel I am competent as a caregiver. You do, however, not trust me to solve your computer issue because you know I neither have the skills, knowledge nor patience required.

Applied to a love relationship, this might mean that you perhaps trust your partner to drive you somewhere because you know he hasn’t had an accident in 25 years and you believe he is a good calm driver, but you don’t trust him to balance the household budget because he never learned the skill of making ends meet.

 

  1. Reliability (time, responsiveness)

If you call me to ask if I could watch your child but I don’t respond appropriately within a reasonable time frame to your request, you will lose trust in me despite my competence.

If you have asked your partner to pay the bills but he procrastinates and only pays the bills after three more reminders and when they are past due, you also won’t trust his financial competency due to the lack of reliability. Meanwhile, you might experience that you only had to ask him once if he could drive you to a doctor’s appointment. You feel you can rely on him driving you; you trust him in that respect. You don’t trust that he is reliable as far as paying the bills.

  1. Benevolence

We also check how much the other person cares. If you have the impression that I like your child, I have learned their name and at least some details about them and I have indicated in the past that I care about you and your family, your trust in me as your child’s caregiver is also going to be higher.

If you feel your partner cares about money and is trying hard to balance the budget, pay bills or save money, you will trust him more than when you are under the impression that he does not care about money. The same applies to driving you. If you feel he cares about getting you safely to were you need to go, your trust in him as a driver increases.

 

  1. Integrity

More important than any of the other three key components, more important than honesty or authenticity are our intentions. If there is a misalignment regarding our intentions and the other person’s intentions it also feels like the other one is not trustworthy.

If you feel I am watching your child because I am expecting you to vote for me in the next condo board president election in return, you will lose trust in me, independent of my competence, reliability or benevolence.

The same applies to your partnership. If the goal of future safety is high on your list of values and having fun in the moment is lower on your priority list, but your partner’s value system is opposite, you are dealing with a mismatch. Your partner’s intentions of living well in the present clashes with your intention of creating financial safety. That gap in intentions or expectations makes your partner untrustworthy to you in regards to financial matters.

 

Knowing all the ingredients of trustworthiness, we end up with a different level of trust in each relationship. We trust other people more or less in different areas. We all have principal areas in which we want to experience being able to trust.

In a relationship we can increase trust, by working on all four key components: our competence, our reliability, our benevolence and by being clear about our intentions and value systems. Open and honest conversations about values and priorities, combined with the willingness to meet each other’s needs, increase the trust in a relationship.

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar.

Thank you for your support!

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

The Blind Passenger

I had been contemplating this year’s Thanksgiving blog, when I came across this beautiful story by an unknown author on Spiritual-Short-Stories.com. It is perfect the way it is written, so allow me to just share…

The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver, and using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg. It had been a year since Susan, thirty-four, became blind. Due to a medical misdiagnosis she had been rendered sightless, and she was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, anger, frustration and self-pity.

Once a fiercely independent woman, Susan now felt condemned by this terrible twist of fate to become a powerless, helpless burden on everyone around her. “How could this have happened to me?” she would plead, her heart knotted with anger. But no matter how much she cried or ranted or prayed, she knew the painful truth: her sight was never going to return. A cloud of depression hung over Susan’s once optimistic spirit. Just getting through each day was an exercise in frustration and exhaustion.

 And all she had to cling to was her husband Mark. Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all his heart. When she first lost her sight, he watched her sink into despair and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence she needed to become independent again. Mark’s military background had trained him well to deal with sensitive situations, and yet he knew this was the most difficult battle he would ever face. 

bus-city

Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Mark volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city. At first, this comforted Susan and fulfilled Mark’s need to protect his sightless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task. 

Soon, however, Mark realized that this arrangement wasn’t working – it was hectic, and costly. Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again, he admitted to himself. But just the thought of mentioning it to her made him cringe. She was still so fragile, so angry. How would she react? 

Just as Mark predicted, Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again. “I’m blind!” she responded bitterly. “How am I supposed to know where I’m going? I feel like you’re abandoning me.” Mark’s heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened. For two solid weeks, Mark, military uniform and all, accompanied Susan to and from work each day. He taught her how to rely on her other senses especially her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. 

He helped her befriend the bus drivers who could watch out for her and save her a seat. He made her laugh, even on those not-so-good days when she would trip exiting the bus, or drop her briefcase. Each morning they made the journey together, and Mark would take a cab back to his office. Although this routine was even more costly and exhausting than the previous one, Mark knew it was only a matter of time before Susan would be able to ride the bus on her own. He believed in her, in the Susan he used to know before she’d lost her sight, who wasn’t afraid of any challenge and who would never, ever quit. 

Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. She said goodbye, and for the first time, they went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan had never felt better. She was doing it! She was going to work all by herself! 

Blind-Passenger-silouette

On Friday morning, Susan took the bus as usual. As she was paying for her fare to exit the bus, the driver said, “Boy, I sure envy you.” Susan wasn’t sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live the past year? Curious she asked the driver, “Why do you say that you envy me?” The driver responded, “It must feel so good to be taken care of and protected like you are.” Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about, and asked again, “What do you mean?” 

The driver answered, “You know, every morning for the past week, a fine looking gentleman in a military uniform has been standing across the corner watching you when you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches you until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss, and gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady.”

Tears of happiness poured down Susan’s cheeks. For although she couldn’t physically see him, she had always felt Mark’s presence. She was lucky, so lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight, a gift she didn’t need to see to believe – the gift of love that can bring light where there had been darkness.

This touching story has me wondering if we aren’t sometimes all like this blind woman? We feel alone, struggling to go about our life, meanwhile we are watched over, protected and held without being aware of it. We are, in fact, safe and abundant beyond our wildest imagination. There is an abundance of love and support—if we could just see it. What if we opened our hearts and looked around to notice the fullness and abundance in our life with gratitude.

Thanksgiving - Happy Thanksgiving 3

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog.

All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

Angelika,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

I love you! I love you! I love you!

Energy follows attention. What you focus on, is what you get. That universal law applies to our relationships as it applies to anything else.

In the past, there was a theory that it is good to get your negative feelings out. Unfortunately, venting at our partner leaves him or her with bad memories. Over time, our brain responds with apprehension to high energy interactions. In fact, our brain starts to associate our partner with negative situations and with danger instead of with feelings of safety. Our brain goes on alert because we remember the hurt and emotional pain. Instead of triggering endorphins (feel good chemicals), the stress hormone cortisol is triggered. Our main job in our relationship is to be a source of safety for our partner, instead of another source of stress.

Our brain has, as Rick Hansen calls it, “a negativity bias”. We remember negative events more easily than positive ones. For our ancestors that negativity bias was important for survival. Drs. John and Julie Gottman state that five positive exchanges or comments are required to override one negative one. If we hear more critical comments than affirmations or appreciations, we are often left feeling defensive and uneasy with our partner.

Another reason why venting is not beneficial is that whatever you express, you also experience. Whatever you do to others, you do to yourself. When you yell at your partner, it is as if you are yelling at yourself. Your brain reacts to your own negative yelling in the same way your partner reacts. It triggers danger cues and the release of cortisol.

What would happen if we flooded each other with positive emotions and we were able to connect intensity with positive exchanges? Hendrix and Hunt suggest the following couple’s exercise.

3 Minute Exercise That Re-Patterns Our Brain

In preparation for the exercise, make a list of

  1. your partner’s physical characteristics which you like
  2. their personality traits which you admire
  3. some of their recent behaviours you appreciate, and
  4. come up with a global affirmation, e.g. they are terrific, thoughtful, fantastic, amazing, wonderful etc.

positive flooding

One partner sits in a chair and the other one circles him or her and floods the partner with positive adjectives. The first minute is focused on the physical characteristics. The circling partner identifies and appreciates all of the physical features of their partner in a normal tone or volume, e.g. I love your smile. I really like your silky hair. I love your soft hands.

During the second minute, the circling partner focuses on appreciating traits in a more excited tone, while raising the volume of their voice, e.g. I appreciate your warmth. I appreciate your kindness. I appreciate your intelligence.

During the last minute, the circling partner values and affirms behaviours the partner has displayed. This time they are raising their voice even more, e.g. I appreciate that you picked the kids up from school yesterday. I am thankful for your advice in regards to my boss. I am so grateful for you sending Aunt Edna a gift.

At the end, the circling partner comes around and stands in front of the sitting partner. He or she yells, “I can’t believe I am in a relationship with (married to) a person as amazing as you. I love you! I love you! I love you! You are wonderful/amazing/fantastic” etc.

Then both partners stand and give each other a full minute long hug to calm down.

 

The rationales behind this exercise are

  1. This interaction exercises, first, the sympathetic nervous system, and during the hug at the end, the parasympathetic nervous system. It activates the bonding hormone oxitocin.
  2. It creates new safe memories of our partner. Intensity is now connected to positive memories.
  3. It also takes us out of the resentful part of our brain where we have kept a list of the things our partner has done to frustrate or hurt us. It moves us into the part of the brain that wakes us up to how wonderful our partner is. Our perpetual issues or relationship problems have, of course, not disappeared. However, the shift into our prefrontal neo-cortex opens up the option to deal with them in a more civilized and calm manner than our primitive brain is capable of. From that part of our brain, we can be more curious about why our partner is the way they are, instead of being judgmental with each other.

 

If you are hesitant to try this dynamic exercise, consider cutting out negativity and shifting into appreciation with a different ritual. Drs. Gottman for example suggest a weekly “State of the Union Meeting”. The couple sets aside one hour a week to reconnect. The State of the Union meeting begins with giving each other affirmations and appreciations. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt propose to end each day by sharing three things we appreciate about our partner and vice versa. This conscious practice of appreciation requires us to pay attention to what we enjoy about each other.

positive flooding - joy

Re-patterning our brain, as well as other activities of shifting into appreciation, give us the opportunity to revive the love we have for each other. Gratitude and appreciation foster a secure bond and allow us to continually build a sound relationship house.

Contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!