Empathy, the Antidote for Shame

Lina, single mother of three, is in the line up at the grocery store. She feels rushed to buy dinner and get home in time to prepare it. Sarah, her 3-year-old daughter, who she just picked up from a new daycare, is overtired and whiny. She starts grabbing chocolate bars, which are so conveniently placed in her view, and puts them into the cart. Lina, says “no” and places the bars back on the shelf. Sarah continues to reach and struggle to climb out of the cart. She starts crying at the top of her lungs. Lina turns beat red. She is clearly embarrassed about being stuck in the line with a screaming child.

A couple of customers seem to stare at her. She hears a woman’s voice behind her, “When kids are this overtired they belong in bed, not out shopping at the busiest time of the day.” Lina pretends not to have heard the comment. She feels shame for not being able to calm her daughter. In fact, she feels like a complete failure as a mother. She wants to just take her daughter and leave the store without buying the groceries, but that would be really embarrassing, she thinks, and what would they then eat for dinner? She takes deep breaths and continues moving forward in the line up.

When she reaches the cashier, the woman just smiles and gently says, “That’s a tricky age.. I still remember when my kids were that young…”. Lina smiles back relieved. “It’s not easy, is it?” says the cashier and pulls out a lolly pop. “May I give this to the princess…?”

Lina feels like a weight is lifting. She feels validated, seen and understood. Instead of being judged, she is acknowledged as doing her best. What she is experiencing is empathy.

In her research, Brené Brown has collected different definitions of how we experience empathy. Receiving empathy is “feeling emotional and physical warmth”, “feeling understood”, “feeling wrapped up in a blanket”, “feeling validated”, “feeling you are not alone because somebody else gets you” and “feeling somebody hears you or feels you”.

In her shame, Lina felt alone and unworthy as a mother. When the cashier extended empathy to her, the messages was, “You are not alone. We are alike and connected. I get your struggles. I am as human as you are.”

We feel completely alone when we are in shame. We might feel like we are the only one who experiences fertility struggles, or the only one who feels they are not a good parent, or the only one who feels not thin or attractive enough, or the only person who has an addiction, or the only one who was cheated on, or the only one who was physically, emotionally or sexually abused, or the only one who hasn’t found her/his perfect partner and so on.

There also is a difference between embarrassment and shame. We experience embarrassment in regards to a behaviour of ours. We feel embarrassed when we have perhaps said something we shouldn’t have said, or when we have done something that we view as a mistake, or when somebody points out something we are self-conscious of. Embarrassment is fleeting, and we know we are not the only one who has that experience.

I have been a coach for 14 years and have always scheduled my own appointments. It has happened throughout the years, that I have “dropped the ball” and double booked or thought I didn’t have an appointment when I did. Now, each of those incidents have caused me a fair amount of embarrassment. I had to claim responsibility, apologize and hope that the other person would still want to re-book. In most cases, the incident was forgiven. Because I deep down know and believe that I am, overall, a reliable and organized person, there was no shame attached to making these mistakes for me. However, they certainly were embarrassing.

Like all of us, I have also had moments of shame in my life, whether that was in regards to having an alcoholic family member, around my fertility struggles in my twenties, about weight gain at different points in my life, or in regards to marriage struggles or relationships ending. Most of these moments of shame had nothing to do with a specific behaviour of mine but all to do with feeling judged and feeling not good enough in some way.

We all know shame, even though some people have more shame to carry due to their personal history, but, as Brené Brown points out, “to have the capacity for shame is to be human”. Feeling shame is a common human experience, yet, shame—unlike guilt—does not serve us. Feeling guilty allows us to make amends for a behaviour and gives us a chance to become a better person. However, when somebody shames us, or when we shame ourselves, we are being defined by the worst mistakes we have ever made or the worst situations that ever happened to us. It feels like there is no way out of the shameful role we have played. The label sticks, whether that is “infertile”, “disappointment”, “unemployed”, “bad mother / father / wife / husband / daughter / son”,  “jealous girlfriend / boyfriend”, “financial failure”, “unwanted child”, “weak”, “angry”, “controlling”, “victim of abuse”…  A shame label always takes away our power to grow, to leave the past behind, and to show up differently.

According to Brené Brown, experiencing shame is “like being trapped in a deep and dark hole”, unable to see and feel that we can be a better version of who we are in a given moment in time. Shame means feeling disconnected and unworthy of “being a part of”. As humans, we are evolutionary hard wired for connection, and our fear of disconnection, of being excluded from our community, will always be present. We cannot get rid of shame or be completely shame resistant because we need the connection with others, but we can develop a certain shame resilience.

Shame resilience allows us to move through a shaming experiencing without twisting and shaping ourselves into sacrificing who we are. That means proudly being who we are “without performing, pleasing, perfecting or improving” (Brené Brown). Shame resilience happens when we move “from shame to empathy, from fear to courage, from blame to compassion, and from disconnection to connection” (Brené Brown).

Shame is a highly individualized experience. It is very personal. What is simply embarrassing for you, might bring up intense shame for somebody else due to their own history, and vise versa. When we are with another person who is experiencing shame, we have to be very careful not to project our own ideas of whether something is shaming or not onto them. Minimizing their experience does not help them, but rather increases the shame. When we minimize, the message we are articulating is, “you should not feel shame”. The other person ends up feeling ashamed that they are experiencing shame.

The only antidotes to shame are love, compassion and empathy. Shame hates being spoken. Shames grows and thrives through secrecy, silence and judgment. However, if we bring empathy to a situation which evokes shame, shame cannot survive.

Empathy, according to Theresa Wiseman, has four parts:

  1. We need to be able to take another person’s perspective and to see the world as the other person sees it.
  2. We need to be truly non-judgmental.
  3. We need to be able to understand what the other person is feeling.
  4. We need to be able to communicate our understanding of the other person’s feelings.

There is a difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy says, “poor you. I feel for you. I am not having your experience, but I feel sorry for you.” Sympathy exacerbates shame. Empathy, on the other hand, is like saying, “I feel with you.” The two most powerful words to heal shame are an empathetic, “me too”.

You might wonder, how you can have empathy with somebody who has had an experience you have never had? We don’t need to have gone through the exact same situation to know what it feels like. Empathy is not about connecting to a specific experience, but about connecting to the emotions an experience elicits.

Having had the same experience that somebody else has had can sometimes even get in the way of empathy. We are individuals and our experiences are very different. Instead of assuming that the other person feels the way we felt in that situation, we can be curious about what the other person is going through and we can offer to be with them in that experience.

 

If you are curious about finding out more about working with embarrassment and shame, contact me for a free phone consultation. I offer sessions for individuals and couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

I know your time is valuable and I 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 in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

You Are My Valued Tor-Mentor

In my last article called “Relationship Dance” we met Sue and John, who were caught up in a dynamic of one of them retreating and the other one pursuing. There are other patterns we fall into as a couple.

Karen and Frank came in because they agreed that Frank’s anger and jealousy was destroying their relationship. Their dance was that, whenever he was stressed and upset, she tried to rationalize with him. She wanted to show him that there was no reason to feel stressed. However, the more she rationalized, the more he felt judged and not heard, and the angrier he usually became.

A similar dynamic was going on in regards to Frank feeling jealous of Karen’s relationship with her two adult sons from her first marriage. Karen was dismissive of his insecurities and told him that her sons would always be more important than he was. The more jealous and angry he became, the more Karen wanted to avoid him and not even come home but rather stay the night at one of her sons’ homes when she visited them.

Both partners show up in this dance taken over by their protective parts. Frank’s protectors are jealousy and anger. Karen’s protectors are the rational part, a dismissive part and a part that wants her to hide or run.

We have learned to exile our sensitive and vulnerable child parts. Those parts in us are often love-starved and carry limiting beliefs about relationships. We enter intimate partnerships and hope to get the love those exiles crave from our partner. Because our vulnerable child parts are clingy, needy or feel inadequate, our partner often ends up feeling overburdened or not good enough. Due to the fact that we are disconnected from our own vulnerable inner children, we end up judging each other for having exiled parts and protective behaviours.

Internal Family Systems work, or short IFS, offers a solution to this seemingly impossible cycle. We all have a source of love within us referred to as “Self”. This is our compassionate core essence. From Self, we can retrieve our exiled wounded child parts and become the primary caretaker for them. When we take good care of our own parts and they trust us, they don’t have to take over. The exiled children don’t have to desperately bond into our partner. Our protective parts, like the controlling one, or the angry one, or the retreating one, can also relax, instead of dominating the interactions. That makes it easier for our partner to be the secondary caretaker of our vulnerable inner children.

In our sessions, Karen was able to witness how the angry and jealous protectors were revealing some very vulnerable younger parts inside of Frank. When Frank was 5, his dad died, and when he was 8, his mother surprisingly remarried while Frank was staying at his grandparents. When he came home, everything had changed. The little boy experienced a tremendous amount of grief over first losing his dad and then losing the close connection with his mother. He never grew to like the step-father, who he felt was an intruder. When his mom remarried, he felt betrayed and abandoned. He had learned that the people he loves will leave him and betray him.

Using IFS, he was able to re-parent himself and assist his younger selves to let go of the beliefs and emotions they were carrying. After releasing these burdens, his protectors were able to relax. His jealousy as well as his anger were greatly reduced. Karen gained more empathy for him and helped him to work through any remaining jealousy issues. She made sure that she included him in talks and activities with her sons and their families. She started reassuring Frank on a regular basis with words of affirmation that his feelings were as important as her sons’ and that she had no intention of abandoning him.

Karen did her own parts work to discover that underneath her rational part was a younger self that felt overburdened by taking care of her bi-polar mother. Just as Frank’s protectors were triggered by Karen, Karen was triggered by Frank reacting “irrationally” and “unpredictably” just like her mother. The rational voice had become her survival strategy to cope with being the emotional caretaker of a parent. At the same time, she felt resentment about needing to be the caretaker and transferred that to Frank. The retreating protector of hers would also kick in and would instruct her “to run away”, just like she did when she was 16 and moved in with her uncle and aunt.

Karen reparented her vulnerable younger exiled parts as well. Frank began to understand how Karen’s responses had nothing to do with him but everything to do with her childhood experiences. He learned to calmly let her know in different situations that he appreciated her being rational but that he needed her to non-judgmentally acknowledge his feelings.

Our relationships are without doubt our greatest teachers. When our partner pushes our buttons, we are given an opportunity to heal. Schwartz talks about our partner being our “tor-mentor”. Our partner mentors us by giving us an experience of pain and bringing the old attachment wounds to the surface.

“…our partner can be an invaluable tor-mentor—that is, a person who mentors us by tormenting us. It is very difficult to find all our basement children when we’re not in an intimate relationship because often we only become aware of them when they are triggered by an intimate partner. Inevitably, our partner will act like an early caretaker who hurt us, and we will have an extreme reaction—and attachment re-injury. If we follow the trail of emotion to its inner source, we will find yet another exile in need of our love.” (Richard Schwartz, You Are the One You Have Been Waiting For)

 

Join me on Sunday, August 12 for a workshop in Mississauga from 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. You will learn how to work with your parts, especially the critical inner voices and transform them, how to parent your inner child parts and heal them, and how to acquire the ability to lead more and more from Self. For more information or to register, please call me.

If you are curious about finding out more about working with your parts contact me for a free phone consultation. I offer sessions for individuals and couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

I know your time is valuable and I 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 in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

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

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

How to Stop Telling Lies & How to Stop Inviting Lies

“That’s a nice top you are wearing. Is that new?” inquires my dad. “Oh, no! I’ve had that for weeks”, replies my mom. What she does not say is that the blouse has been hanging in her closet for three weeks and that it is the first time she is wearing it.

I have heard this and similar conversations unfold repeatedly while growing up. Once she got married at the age of 35, my mom was a homemaker; she did not have her own money anymore and she was married to a man who was thrifty. She liked to spend money, he liked to save it. At some point, she learned that his question often was loaded. He had a tendency to respond with “Did you really need another top? Your closet is full!” or he would at least give her “the look”. He literally would bite his lips together, fold his hands, look down and not say anything. It triggered her shame, and she made the choice not to lie directly but to conceal the full truth to avoid these unpleasant feelings.

In order to understand the nature of lying, we have to be aware that it exists on a continuum. At one end of the spectrum is the deliberate lie or the making up of information. Equivocations are also lies. They are more indirect, ambiguous or contradictory statements that do not offer the entire truth. Concealments are next on the continuum. Omitting important or relevant information is lying. And finally, exaggerations or understatements also don’t paint an accurate picture and are, therefore, not the whole truth.

Truth - Oscar Wilde 2

 

Let’s face it, everybody lies. Lies between spouses or relationship partners have on one hand the possibility to nurture, but they also of course have tremendous potential to destroy a relationship.

You might wonder if it is always bad to lie in a relationship. “Loving lies” actually help to solidify the bond and make the couple feel closer. An example would be to say, “That was a great dinner you made for me,” when we perhaps didn’t quite like the food, but we appreciate the effort. Or, “You look very good,” when our partner just got a bad haircut, because we are happy to look past any flaws in physical appearance, since we love them. A loving lie is not destructive, but actually strengthening.

As it is, people have different motivations for lying. Most people lie to avoid something. We might want to avoid conflict or tension in social interactions, or hurt feelings, or to stay out of trouble or conflict. Some lies are for personal gain: to get out of trouble or to enhance an image.

We lie to others, but we also lie to ourselves. There is an amount of self-deception going on in every relationship. For a relationship, it is important to know ourselves and to honestly and congruently express to our partner what we know about ourselves, our feelings and needs.

In their book, “Tell Me No Lies”, Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson explore different stages of relationships and how to invite truths rather than lies.

 

Honeymoon Stage

At this point of the “game”, it is, according to Bader and Pearson, normal to focus on the similarities and not pay attention as much to our own wishes and desires. We can slip into lies of omission, exaggeration and understatement, in order to prove our compatibility to each other. Trying to be the same is an important step of aligning and minimizing the ways in which we are different. If I know my partner is neat or loves opera, I might not point out to them that without my cleaning help, I am quite messy, or that I prefer musicals to operas. I might think that I could try harder to be neat, or start to like the opera.

“The dark side of the honeymoon” occurs when couples refuse to acknowledge problems. Conflict avoidant people have the biggest issues. They avoid honest talks for fear of rupture of the relationship. They are seeking security over having their own needs met. Unfortunately, this means giving up parts of themselves that matter. When we always compromise and adapt, it catches up with us over time. We might end up being depressed, or silently angry and resentful.

shame-letters-cropped

“Part of the capacity to tell the truth comes from an ability to handle shame and guilt. Sometimes people keep things to themselves because they know what the truth would do to their partner. This is guilt. Others remain silent because of what they’re going to feel about themselves. This is shame.” (Bader & Pearson, Tell Me No Lies, 224)

 

Emerging Differences 

When couples evolve well, each partner begins to actively differentiate after the honeymoon period and speak up about things which are important to them and matter to them. They both risk moving into areas of disagreement and they learn how to deal with tension. It takes courage for both partners. Clearly, we need to be brave to tell the truth, and also to listen to our partner telling the truth.

 

The Lie Invitee

We don’t always like to hear the truth and might respond with anger towards our partner. It’s easy to villainize the liar, but has the person who is being lied to help create this dynamic? Bader and Pearson call the other person the “lie invitee”. Have I been a lie invitee in my relationships? You bet I have! When we respond with anger, or go into attack mode, or act like martyrs, we are not helping a conflict avoidant partner to be truthful.

angry-smoke

“Some people are completely unaware of the fact that they’re invoking lies, while others understand what they are doing but feel helpless to do otherwise. On the unconscious end, someone may say, ‘I am only expressing my feelings as a reaction to what my partner is telling me’… Someone more aware may think, I know I overreact to things I don’t want to hear or I know this is a leading question.” (Bader & Pearson, Tell Me No Lies, 37)

 

How to Hear the Truth and How to Respond

I can only guess what went on in my dad’s head each time my mom spent money, but I am quite sure it was something like this, “Here we go again! She just doesn’t appreciate that I am trying to keep our money together and guarantee our security for old age. She is just so impulsive and wasteful. Why did she need another piece of clothing? I wish I had a wife with the same values when it comes to money. A wife who is thrifty and asks my advice on spending money…”

Don’t make what your partner is telling you personal. It is not about you, but about them. Don’t listen with the goal to confirm a negative view about yourself or your partner. Instead, listen accurately. Listen more than halfway. Listen compassionately and patiently. Ask neutral questions to understand properly.

curious instead of furious)

Bader’s and Pearson’s most important advice is: Be curious instead of furious! You invite the truth by responding, for example, with, “I am glad you are telling me the truth about what happened! I’d rather know what happened than not know it. Now we need to discuss our different values / this situation / what to do about this problem…”

As the person who has to find the courage to be honest, it is helpful to tell your partner when expressing the truth that what you are about to say is not easy for you. Your partner can then be more aware of their response and make sure they listen calmly, say thank you for your honesty, and rationally solve the problem.

One of the biggest acts of self-deception in a relationship is the belief that one is the victim of what is going on but not a contributor. If you have been at the receiving end of lies or half-truths, examine how you might have contributed to this cycle. With that new clarity, you might want to go back to your partner and tell them, “This is what I have been doing that makes it hard for you to be honest with me. Let’s change it together. I would like to create an atmosphere that is conducive to telling the truth. You need the courage to speak up, and I need the courage to listen to what is really going on.”

 

Felony Lies

More extreme lies are what Bader and Pearson call “felony lies”, for example when a partner looks at the other claiming, “No, I am not having an affair! You are crazy for thinking I have an affair” or “No, I don’t have a gambling problem. That’s ridiculous,” when they have an affair or have gambled away the couple’s retirement money. With felony lies, relationships start to disintegrate. The trust is so violated and the honesty so absent that usually these couples end up separating or divorcing.

However, it is possible to heal from felony lies. It requires new honesty. The liar is usually in a big hurry to be done with the situation, and is not sensitive to creating space for their partner to ask a lot of questions, to re-establish what is actually true, and to express some of their feelings about what happened. The process of how people discuss a conversation is very crucial to whether they get over the betrayal or not. A lot of small moments daily over a long period of time are required to regain the trust, instead of trying to rush it and expecting the partner to be over it right away. The absolute foundation of a relationship is not love, it is trust. As Peter Pearson likes to say, “It takes teamwork to make your dream work.”

It takes teamwork

Would you like to make your dream work? You can take a workshop or book individual coaching sessions.

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!

Making Mistakes

On Saturday, I was out to run a quick errand. The white Honda in front of me had slowly crept down the street at 40km/h. Now it was turning right, and so was I. The lane was clear to turn. The Honda started turning and then abruptly stopped. I hit his rear bumper. A gentle bump but still my front license plate scratched his bumper, making repairs necessary. It was my fault for hitting him.

On Tuesday, I got out of my late morning session with a client and found a text and a voice mail from one of my favourite clients who always has a long drive getting to Mississauga. Her text said, “I am here for my appointment, rang doorbell, no answer”. I pulled up the last email I sent to her. It clearly said, “Next appointment, Tuesday, July 4 at 10:00 a.m.”. Yet, I had entered her appointment into my calendar for Wednesday. I screwed up.

I had a week of quite a few things escaping my attention, a week of “screwing up” if you so like. A few important emails also slipped my mind and an important anniversary. A mistake, screw up or failure like the ones I experienced this week is exactly what brings a particular part inside of us to the forefront: our Inner Critic loves to use any mistake or situation of fault as an opportunity to blame and criticize us harshly.

I have been asked in the past, what is the most common limiting belief? As much as we are all individuals and have very individual beliefs which hold us back in life, I would say that the most common beliefs are the ones which make us feel not good enough. At the top of the list is the belief that it is not okay to make mistakes. We learn this early on and our school system often manifests this belief. Our Inner Critic loves to “pounce” on us and really beat us up for past decisions we regret or more recent mistakes that we feel we have made.

mistakes - movie clapper.jpg

What if we could instead see a mistake just as a “missed take”, like in the movies? In most cases, we get another chance for a “Take Two” or even a “Take Three” in life. And in those case where we don’t get another opportunity we really need to let ourselves off the hook, heal the past and forgive ourselves in the process. Any choice we have made in the past was made with the knowledge and wisdom we had at the time. From a place of greater knowledge, we might have made a different decision, yet, we need to be compassionate with that younger self that did not know what we know today.

We are part of the human race, and as humans we don’t always make the strongest choices. We all mess up, miss opportunities or make decisions we regret in retrospect. In fact, we can even take it a step further. It is not “making mistakes” that is often the problem but “not making mistakes”. “If you do not make enough mistakes, that’s evidence that you are not taking enough risks, that you are not growing, that you stay in the comfort of your own safety zone” (Rachel Naomi Remen). Making a mistake can be one of the best things which happen to us because it gives us a feedback. The discomfort we feel when we have made a mistake means that we are more likely to remember what we have learned—unless we allow fear to drive our future choices.

Fear combined with the expectation that the same mistake, rejection or loss will occur again increase the likelihood that we are co-creating that same situation of failure or loss once again. We need to acknowledge the fear and face it. How can we learn from the past without allowing fear to take over our present and future?

What keeps us stuck in a feeling of “unworthiness”, of “being a failure”, is not the mistake but the lack of self-forgiveness and self-compassion. The feeling of “not being good enough” has its foundation in shame. It prevents us from going out and trying again, whether that is going to take another professional risk or healing our losses or relationships. Shame vibrates at a very low level. According to David Hawkins’ scale of consciousness, it’s one of the lowest possible vibrations.

Hawkins Map-of-consciousness

The only way out of that swamp of shame and fear is through self-love and self-acceptance. “There is this place that we all have deep inside us that is untouched by trauma and shame.” (Mark Nepo) There is a deep wisdom inside of us. Our essential self knows that we are perfect and whole, that we are love and light. In meditation or hypnosis, we can experience that place of deep and profound love-ability.

Once we have experienced this, it is easier for us to change our narrative about ourselves. We can change our story from “I am flawed. I am not good enough” to a different inner narrative of “I am human. I make mistakes. And I learned from my past mistakes”. As we change our story, we do not just change our perspective, but we literally change our brain. When we change our story, we change our life.

Often we feel stuck, when we are at a point in our life when our story needs to change. We always have the choice between a victim story or an empowering story. We have the choice to bring up a loving supportive parent voice as opposed to the judgmental voice of our Inner Critic. You are after all not your Inner Critic; that voice is just a part inside of you. Separate from it. We all have the capacity to personify and create a visual image of this part in us. You can even give it a name. Pick a name that is a bit ridiculous to make the separation even clearer and easier.

We want to be able to identify the voice of the Inner Critic. We could communicate with it. Like all parts, it has a purpose. The Inner Critic sees its job in keeping us safe from outside criticism and rejection. You can thank your Inner Critic for how it’s been attempting to help you. You can even find out what that part fears for you. Let it know you appreciate it is trying to protect you from embarrassment.

inner child - little girl

The second step is to bring up a loving parental voice and to connect with our vulnerable inner child that needs to hear and feel support and compassion. If you find it challenging to tell an empowering and self-compassionate story in a given situation, imagine the story someone who loves you tells about you, different from the story you tell yourself. Or imagine what you would say to a friend or a child in a similar situation. The Inner Critic talks to us in a way we would never dream of talking to somebody else, especially not a child. When we speak to others, we know exactly what words are encouraging, uplifting and motivating to do better next time.

Here is an exercise you can do to practice separating from your Inner Critic. Think about a choice you regret, or a moment in which you felt a sense of failure or shame. Imagine sharing this moment with a wise and loving friend. What would that friend say to you? They would most likely first of all show compassion and say something along the lines of “that sounds so difficult” or “I am sorry you had to experience this”. The second thing they might do is empathize and respond with something like, “I know how you feel. We have all experienced something similar.” The third thing they might do is remind you how lovable and amazing you are. They might encourage you not to give up but to try again. You can even write a letter to yourself pretending to be this compassionate, wise and unconditionally loving friend.

Compassion is not so much a trait but an action. I recently came across another interesting suggestion to increase our awareness of being compassionate. Get a pretty glass jar. For each time that you are compassionate with yourself (or others) you place a beautiful stone or colourful marble in the jar. The accumulation of crystals, stones or marbles becomes visual evidence for how compassionate you can be with yourself. When you do something self-critical, you can look at the jar and remember that those compassionate acts are not taken away and that the glass is just waiting for the next colourful token.

Glass Jar 2.JPG

If you are enjoying my articles, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Angelika, Belief Change Coach & Relationship Coach

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Self-Compassion – Luxury or Necessity?

Sarah comes in through the door, I pour her a water and I ask, “How are you?” She replies, “Aww, not that great. I have been feeling really down for the last two weeks. So much has been going on with my family, and at work, too. It all feels futile. I have failed in so many ways. I just can’t handle all these conflicts and problems anymore.”

I don’t usually see clients when they feel good or are at the top of the world. Instead, they normally come back when something has happened and they need to work through a conflict, often both an outer one as well as an inner conflict.

Life throws us these curve balls and the Inner Critic voice we all have loves nothing more than to beat us up in the face of adversity. It pipes up especially loudly when we feel we have made a “mistake” or “failed” in some way. We didn’t get the grade we were aiming for, we are being laid off from a job or are not being hired for a position we have applied to, the person we would like to date rejects us or our marriage is struggling, we are experiencing fertility issues or our teenager is acting out, we have received worrisome health news or are trying to lose weight with little success, and the list goes on and on.

self-compassion 1

The “I’m not good enough in some way” story is almost universal. We all struggle with it at some point in some way. How much we struggle is largely based on the experience we had with our caregivers during childhood. Were they compassionate, empathetic and able to love us unconditionally? Or did we have the experience that we were loved when we were “performing according to certain standards and ideals, and that love was withdrawn or guilt was applied” (Dr. Kelly McGonigal), if we didn’t meet the expectations.

The sad news is that most parents did not know how to raise their children with unconditional love. And we cannot even blame them because what we have not experienced ourselves is hard to pass on to the next generation. Sarah, for example, had an emotionally absent father and a harsh mother, who preferred her younger children and had unrealistic expectations of Sarah as the oldest. No matter how hard Sarah tried to please, she could never win her parent’s attention and full love. When she was 18, she married to get out of this cold home. Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t last, as Sarah naturally brought her childhood issues around love with her into that relationship. She tried to be perfect and to please, but never felt that she was good enough. The failure of the marriage, however, added to her list of regrets and mistakes, which all seemed to prove her unworthiness.

Receiving conditional love as a child is the breeding ground for pathological perfectionism and the feeling that we are never quite enough. The good news is that we can still heal those wounds with self-compassion and the compassion of others.

self-compassion 2

Our feeling of lacking in some way is very old. When we go back and remember moments of self-esteem deflation, we realize how early this started. The qualities and criteria, however, which allow the Inner Critic to collapse our self-esteem, have changed through the different developmental stages and can be quite arbitrary. The Inner Critic will always find something to criticize. Ultimately, that critical voice is the internalized parental or societal voice. It has the power to completely deflate us and affect our mental, emotional and physical state.

Smaller or bigger Inner Critic attacks are not only very common but brain research has shown that self-criticism and self-judgment are the default setting of our brain. When we are not focused on doing something specific, the Inner Critic is running its programs of comparison and categorizing into good and bad. Sadly, most of the time that voice is not all too friendly with us, which has direct effects on our health. “We know that people who are highly self-critical, who are never good enough, are obviously at increased risk for depression. And depression reinforces those feelings.” (Dr. Kelly McGonigal)

Nicola Hermanto, a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at McGill University, published a study in 2016 that looked at adults in Canada, England and Portugal and the relationship between self-criticism—so in other words a lack of self-compassion—and depression. This study did not just find a high correlation between those two factors, but they also found that the fear and inability to receive compassion from others contributes to depression. Feeling unworthy of receiving compassion, or being suspicious of other people being kind and caring, increases the link between self-criticism and depression.

Dala Lama

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them humanity cannot survive.
– Dalai Lama

If we all have a default tendency to be self-critical, the one thing that becomes a necessity to counteract that Inner Critic voice is a loving, compassionate Inner Parental voice. Part of that process is the ability and willingness to receive kindness, empathy and loving support from others.

Subconscious belief changes therefore need to address the issue of deserving and receiving, as well as beliefs around making mistakes and embracing failures as part of life, instead of a sign that there is something deeply unworthy and shameful about us.

Once we have changed some subconscious beliefs about our own worthiness, it becomes easier to practice self-compassion or inner compassion. True self-compassion means feeling a “sense of love or self-acceptance or inner acceptance even in the moment of self-esteem collapse” (Dr. Ron Siegel). When we have this sense of okay-ness, or sense of value and worth in the world, we can lovingly re-parent ourselves. With love for ourselves in moments of crisis, we can ask, “What’s good for me in this situation? What is the self-loving thing to do or think right now?”

self-compassion 4a)

Another very powerful piece of work in practicing kindness and gentleness towards ourselves is self-forgiveness. Often the most important work is to forgive ourselves for our past choices and decisions. We don’t need the forgiveness of others nearly as much as we need our own. We can alter our relationship with ourselves by releasing those harsh judgments and self-critical thoughts that keep us imprisoned within that sense of not being valuable, not being good enough. Moment by moment of inner compassion, we are healing our sorrows and wounds and ultimately changing our entire life.

self-compassion 5

If you are enjoying my articles, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Angelika
Life Coaching, Belief Changes & Forgiveness Work
905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Taking Care of Our Vulnerable Feelings and Needs

 

 

Easter-bunny-family

Easter is my favourite holiday. It is a time for family get-togethers, less commercialized and overloaded with expectations than Christmas, and I truly love the feeling that spring is in the air. I loved Easter when I was a child and even more so when my children were younger and excited about the more and more elaborate Easter Egg treasure hunts I would create for them each year. Easter is one of those occasions when our own Inner Child might come out, no matter how old we are.

little-boy-hiding

Our Inner Child is that vulnerable younger part in us which carries our playfulness, our imagination and creativity, our sensitivity, our fears and needs, and last but not least, the ability to be completely in the present moment. “This child inside of us which never grows up is of the uttermost importance because it carries our psychic fingerprint, the rhythm of our essential being and it’s presence determines the level of intimacy we are able to achieve in our relationships.” (Sidra Stone, The Child Within)

In our development of our personality, our move is towards power. We move away from the vulnerable child as we develop our personality structures, our sub-personalities, that protect us in the world. Some examples for sub-personalities are our Rational Self, our Perfectionist, our Pleaser Self, our Ambitious Self, our Smart Self, our Confident Self, our Intellectual Self, our Aggressive Self and so on. Those sub-personalities make us tough and able to cope. The purpose of this development is to protect the child, make life safe for it, and ensure it is appreciated and loved by other people.

easter-bunnies

The downside of this development is that without the child, we lose intimacy in personal relationships. “You can have marvelous contacts with people, exciting, exhilarating, intellectual contacts or power contacts but there is something missing; there is always something you are yearning for and you don’t know what it is and that’s the child being a part of things.”(Sidra Stone, The Child Within)

It’s the job of our Aware Ego to be responsible for the Inner Child. The Aware Ego has the job of parenting all the different selves but with the Inner Child, it is particularly important. If the Inner Child is not cared for by the Aware Ego, that child is going to emotionally reach out and bond into another person in our environment: our partner, our friend, or one of our real children. We then expect that other person, our spouse, friend or child to take care of our emotional needs.

Easter-hidden-eggs

With nature awakening, our Inner Children love the opportunity to be outside more. They adore the playfulness of searching for hidden Easter treats. The more you are in touch with your own more vulnerable feelings and needs, your child can come out to be playful and carefree.

Here are some ways of caring for your Inner Child now at Easter and at other times:

  1. Spend Time with Your Inner Child

Visualize the little girl or little boy and feel them. Find out what his or her feelings and needs are. What type of an Easter weekend does he or she want? Does he or she, for example, really want to spend hours on the road to drive to the in-laws to sit inside all weekend and eat, or does he or she want to be outside to connect with nature? How can that need be met in conjunction with your other Easter plans?

Spring-walk-path

 

  1. Honour Your Fears

Don’t be a slave to your Inner Child’s fears no more than you would let a small child dictate to you what you are doing with your life, but honour the fears which come up and see what you can do to make allowances or lessen them. For example, you are going to meet your girlfriend’s parents for the first time on Easter and you are nervous. What can you request from your girlfriend to make this easier?

 

  1. Allow Time for Creative Activities

When you engage in creative non-demanding activities, child-like activities, like playing with clay, painting, drawing, or other craft activities, your Inner Child rejoices. It is important those activities are without the goal or aim of producing something marvelous. Also be aware that our Inner Critic likes to come in and criticize child-like activity because they don’t produce anything and are not necessarily of any kind of aesthetic value. The Inner Child part is not production oriented. The adult parts in us are. Now at Easter can you engage in some playful arts and crafts with your kids or by yourself, just for the fun of being creative?

 

  1. Learn How to Express Hurt

Learning how to take responsibility for hurt feelings and how to communicate the fact that your feelings are hurt helps the child inside. Do you remember the last time your spouse said something that hurt your feelings and you bit your tongue? How could you successfully and productively free of blame express a hurt next time?

Easter-hurt-feelings

 

  1. Learn What Hurts the Inner Child and Stay out of Toxic Situations

Ask what situations or relationships you are exposing your Inner Child to that are doing damage; and then make a conscious decision whether you want to continue those situations or relationships. There are some situations which are damaging but which—as sophisticated grown-ups—we feel we should be able to manage. That could be toxic work situations or relationships we feel we have to deal with.

For example, each time you go to a celebration or event of your partner’s children and grandchildren, your partner’s ex-wife and the mother of said children is also invited, and your partner doesn’t leave her side but serves on her and flirts with her. The proud grown-up part in you might feel you just need to handle this maturely and be fine. The revengeful part in you might feel it’s best to somehow show your partner how you feel by punishing him. Both parts are trying to protect your vulnerable feelings, but you are still exposing your child to unnecessary hurt and pain.

 

  1. Enough Food and Rest

Sometimes we forget that having enough food and rest is basic care for that child. We need to make sure we have healthy nutritious and regular meals and get enough sleep at night.

Easter-sleep

 

  1. Financial Security

Inner Children feel better when we are able to pay the bills. They don’t like debt and dependency on others. In a situation where a woman is financially totally dependent on a man, her Inner Child is never completely safe because she doesn’t have money of her own. Honour your Inner Child by planning ahead, paying bills on time, and doing what you can do to give yourself some financial security and independence.

 

  1. Allow for Some Predictability

Inner Children, like real children, like some predictability and schedules. They can be playful and spontaneous but too much unpredictability often frightens them. Make plans for the future and give your Inner Child some predictability.

 

  1. Treat Yourself

Sometimes Inner Children want particular things. We do not need to go broke over those wants but some physical objects make the Inner Child feel important and good. Does your Inner Child want something special for Easter?

Easter-table

 

  1. Be Conscious of Your Environment

The Inner Child is often sensitive to how comfortable, cozy and safe the environment feels. Is there something that needs to be changed in your home or office environment? Does your Inner Child right now maybe rejoice in Easter decoration, more plants, pleasing colours or some other elements that adds homeliness?

 

ENJOY A FABULOUS HOLIDAY!

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Angelika, 905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Join Dhebi DeWitz and myself for our next bi-monthly FREE webinar to get in touch with the needs of your Inner Child.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 9 from 8:00-9:00 p.m. EST or 5:00-6:00 PST

TOPIC: “Are Your Essential Needs Being Met?”

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How About Love?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand

Six hundred minutes

How do you measure – measure a year?

In daylights – in sunsets

In midnights – in cups of coffee

In inches – in miles

In laughter – in strife

In – five hundred twenty-five thousand

Six hundred minutes

How do you measure

A year in the life

How about love?

(“Seasons Of Love” song from the musical “Rent”)

Love is a topic which occupies all of us. As a society, we are obsessed by it: books, movies, TV series, musicals, Valentine’s Day, talking with your girlfriend, seeing your therapist. Everything revolves around relationships and love. We long for it and we wonder how to “get love”. At the same time, there is hardly any other topic we have learned more myths about.

Science has revealed that love is vital to our existence. Love is a basic survival code for us as humans. Our brain is wired to read and respond to others. Feeling safe and loved by others makes us stronger. We all need the emotional and spiritual nourishment of human relationships. Human comfort is our natural remedy for fear, stress, and doubt. Rejection, abandonment and disconnection are cues for danger that plunge us into anxiety and cause us not just emotional but also physical pain.

“When your mind perceives the experience of love, it causes the brain to secrete neurochemicals, such as dopamine, oxytocin and growth hormone into the blood (…) you are generally healthier and more alive when you are in love (…) fear provokes the release of stress hormones and inflammatory agents such as cytokines into the blood (…)” (Bruce Lipton, The Honeymoon Effect)

Love is not something we “get” or “fall into” when we are lucky or happen to just be cute and lovable. Love is an energy to embrace; it is a consciousness. It doesn’t just happen to us. We are co-creating it based on our core beliefs about ourselves and the world. If we have learned that we are lovable and worthy of experiencing love and joy, it is easier to vibrate at the level of love. Love is an experience but it is an action first and foremost.

dhebi-love-2a

Dhebi DeWitz

dhebi-love-2

Dhebi DeWitz

If you are going through life, waiting to feel love when you meet others, you have misunderstood the true essence of love. Love is a discipline; it requires us to personify love and to practice being loving with yourself and others.

In fact, an essential aspect is learning to unconditionally love ourselves. Many of us have been taught to give to others, to love others and to under no circumstances be so vain as to love ourselves. In Bruce Lipton’s workshops, 90% of people fail the muscle test “I love myself”. I can certainly confirm that from my own sessions. “I love and accept myself the way I am” is a belief most of us do not hold in our subconscious mind.

Instead, we hold back on truly loving ourselves until a certain condition is met. “I’ll love myself and my body when I have lost weight”, “I’ll love myself when I have reached my goals”, “I’ll love myself when somebody else truly loves me”. That conditioning completely misunderstands the true nature of love.

We exist as love. Children come into this world open, loving and unguarded, until they learn to protect themselves and guard their heart. Reconnecting with our true essence simply means reopening our heart to love. It means the end of loneliness and separation. Instead it fosters unity with others, with other people, with nature, with the source of life with all there is.

dhebi-love-4

Dhebi De Witz

dhebi-love-5

Dhebi De Witz

Self-Love is as misunderstood a term as love. Self-love isn’t just a verb. Self-Love is beyond taking care of yourself and doing things for yourself. Self-Love is knowing who you are and knowing you are made of love. Love is your original energy, your true essence.

How do you open your heart, you might wonder? How do you start loving yourself and others more? You create love by creating an atmosphere of love in your life. Seeing the beauty in yourself is as necessary as seeing the beauty in others. Your thoughts determine who and what you attract into your world. Allow yourself to see more of the joy and beauty of life that is surrounding you daily. Allow yourself to be at peace with what is, instead of criticizing and focusing on the lack in yourself and others.

You create this love by speaking kindly to the people you meet. You consciously look for the good and the positive in everyone. You tell people why you appreciate them. You listen from your heart to the words that others speak. You give yourself permission to be truly present with them. You build bridges to connect with others. By being loving—by being considerate in your thoughts, your words, and your actions—you are attracting more love into your life.

We are conditioned to believe that happiness and love comes only after we have found our ideal lover. This attitude limits our personal growth. Instead, decide to be truly happy right now, today. And because your sincere joy makes you more attractive, others find you lovable and want to be around you. Soon you begin to feel the joy, the lightness, and the laughter, that comes with love. You realize that love is more than a lover adoring us. Love is an open heart for everybody, including yourself. That kind of love is healing.

There are two basic human emotions. One is fear, the other is love. One cancels out the other. Fear impacts our ability to love. Love, on the other hand, heals all fear and chaos. Love is the solution to disease and pain, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Love is not just inside all of us. Love is the actual essence we fundamentally are. Therefore we are our own and other people’s healers. “Love is a healer because it undoes the basic problem of separation and also the basic fear of not being loveable. It restores our awareness of our Unconditional Self and our true nature. Love is, I believe, the solution to every problem.” (Robert Holden, Loveability)

Join Dhebi DeWitz and myself for another

FREE webinar on

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

at 5:00 p.m. PST or 8:00 p.m. EST.

TOPIC “Love”

E-mail either one of us to receive the link to join us live. You can also send us questions on the topic “Love” prior to Feb. 8.

Angelika

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Watch Dhebi DeWitz beautiful video Love is your true nature

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How a Heart Coherent State Helps Your Relationships

thorns-have-roses

This beautiful quote reminds us that we can appreciate the roses with the thorns. What exactly happens to our physical, emotional and mental state and within our relationships when we are able to shift from the nasty thorns to the beauty of the roses, from dissatisfaction and negativity to appreciation?

John M. Gottman, the author of “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, uses different markers to predict whether a marriage has longevity or not. Arguing itself is not the problem, but rather how couples argue. If we have built a strong loving friendship, of mutual trust and appreciation, we can disagree respectfully and with good humour and we are less likely to experience stress. However, certain kinds of interactions with each other are so lethal that Gottman calls them the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

four-horsemen

Criticism

When our needs aren’t met in the relationship, we need to speak up, express our feelings and complaints, and request a particular change. A complaint focuses on a specific behaviour or event. Criticism, on the other hand, is global and expresses negative feelings or opinions about the other person’s character or personality. Criticism is understood as blame. It for example sounds like this: ”Why do you never help me? I am always alone with the kids. You just don’t care. You are lazy and selfish.”

A complaint on the other hand, could sound like this: “I would like to talk about putting the kids to bed. I am tired at the end of the day and frustrated because I feel alone with this task. I understand that it’s harder for you to put them to bed because they are more used to me, so can we please talk about how you can help me? Could you give them their bath and I read the good-night story?”

 

Contempt

The second horseman originates from a sense of superiority over the partner. When my partner triggers me into contempt and judgment, it is helpful to ask what shadows are showing up for me. What energy is the other person showing up with and what is my relationship with that particular energy? Feeling superior over our partner and expressing it by eye rolling or contemptuous remarks, especially when sarcasm, mockery or hostile humour are used is a form of disrespect.

It is sometimes challenging not to respond to a certain trigger in our partner with frustration, but contempt is poisonous for any relationship. When we notice it, we need to reign ourselves in and focus on everything our partner is good at and capable of. Rather than seeing them as defective, we need to keep their behaviour apart from who they are. We can instead concentrate on everything that we like and love about them.

 

Defensiveness

Defensiveness is an understandable response to criticism, but unfortunately not a productive one. It is a way of blaming our partner. If we insist on being the “innocent victim” or on being right, we have already lost the game. There are no winners in the game of right and wrong. Defensiveness, whether in the form of whining, explaining, or getting angry, just escalates the conflict. The only way to win is by taking responsibility for our words and actions.

four-horsemen-and-their-antidotes

Stonewalling

Criticism, contempt and defensiveness can lead to one partner tuning out and disengaging. In a typical conversation between two people, the listener gives cues that he is paying attention, for example eye contact, nodding of the head, other facial expressions, short noises to indicate they are listening. The stonewaller tends to look away without a sound, like an impassive stone wall. To the talker, it seems like the stonewaller doesn’t care.

The person stonewalling, however, might respond to feeling flooded with overwhelming emotions of feeling shell shocked or defenseless. Unfortunately, trying to avoid a fight by not responding is also a way of avoiding the relationship issues. 85% of the time, stonewalling is a male behaviour. The reason lies in our evolutionary heritage.

In prehistoric times, the females were nurturing the children and the males were responsible for hunting and protection. Females biologically needed to be able to calm and soothe themselves quicker to be able to produce enough milk to nurse the young children. For the early hunters however, vigilance was a key survival skill. They were more likely to survive when their adrenaline was high and remained high.

Biologically, men have a harder time to soothe and calm themselves when there is a conflict. Their heart rate and blood pressure stay accelerated for longer. Based on these evolutionary differences, it is not all that surprising that men are less likely to initiate a talk which could lead to a confrontation than women and more likely to become defensive and stonewall to avoid it. Frequently feeling flooded leads to emotional distancing and to feeling lonely.

In a love relationship, we are in each others care. It does not matter why our partner is in distress, or whether we agree with the stress or not; it is our job to relieve the stress for our partner and to take turns doing this for each other.

Emotions like fear, anxiety, impatience, frustration and anger are energetically depleting emotions. The same applies to emotions like despair, grief, depression, sadness and loneliness. Renewing emotions, on the other hand, boost our resilience to stress, improve problem solving skills and increase our intuition and creativity. We are then able to have productive talks with our partner.

Joy, appreciation, gratitude, peace, forgiveness, compassion and love are all renewing emotions. These emotions positively affect our heart rate, lower our cortisol level and increase the hormone DHEA, which is linked to different anti-aging benefits like less inflammation, improvement of bone density and muscle mass, less depression and mood swings, better cognitive functions, weight loss, heart health, balanced blood sugar and increased sexual functions.

heart-coherence

A daily practice of going into a heart coherent state helps us to relieve our stress greatly and to quickly re-balance our mind, our emotions and our physical body. The results are that we are less reactive, able to think more clearly and able to solve problems from the more advanced parts of our brain.

Heart coherence is achieved through heart focused breathing. Just imagine you are breathing in and out through the centre of your chest for 5 seconds on the inhale, 5 seconds on the exhale. Breathe at least three breath cycles in and out through your heart centre. Continue to breathe this way and bring up heart-felt feelings in the centre of your chest. Connect with a memory which is full of love, laughter, joy, peace, appreciation or gratitude. Relive the memory, feel it. Stay in this coherent heart state for at least ten minutes. You can practice this with your eyes open and in different situations in life, for example when you are walking down the street or driving in traffic. It is important to be in coherence in every day life, not just when we are going into meditation or are in solitude. Next time you have a difference of opinion with your partner, it will be easier to drop into your heart. You can then speak and listen from that loving heart place.

 

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Relationship and Belief Change Coaching

Angelika Baum

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Let’s look at one another

Our Town

These are one of the last lines the character Emily from the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder says in the last act, after she has crossed over to the world of the non-living.

“Our Town”, written in 1938 and set at the turn of the century, is the second most performed show in North America and one of my favourite plays. It is currently playing in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Even though I have seen it unfold in different artistic versions many times over the last 40 years, it still gets to me each time; it touches me deeply and makes me reach for a Kleenex because it so beautifully captures the simple truth.

In the third and final act, Emily, who has just died in childbirth, misses life and wants to go back to relive a day. The other souls who have crossed over long ago urge her not to do it, but she has to experience this for herself. She chooses to go back to her twelfth birthday, when all her family was still together. It strikes her how young her parents look and that her brother is still alive. They all go about their mundane lives with ignorance for what the future brings. Going back with the awareness Emily now has, she can’t bear how they are not looking at each other, not really, how they are not quite present to the beauty and sacredness of each moment.

Her soul cries out: “Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead, you are a grandmother, Mama. I married George Gibbs, Mama. Wally’s dead too. Mama, his appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it—don’t you remember? But just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at one another.”

No matter whether we live in a small town in New Hampshire at the turn of the century, or in a big city in present day North America, how often do we actually stop and look at each other? Really look into each others timeless souls? We always have this “to do” list; we are caught up in one thing or another. When do we make time to just be; to see, hear, smell and feel each moment with each other? How often do we realize in all those ordinary moments the extraordinary fact of being alive?

Charlie Gallant as George Gibbs, Kate Besworth as Emily, Patrick Galligan as Dr. Gibbs, Catherine McGregor as Mrs. Gibbs and Benedict Campbell as the narrator/Stage Manager

As Shaw Director Molly Smith writes in her Director’s notes about the play, “There are so many reasons why Our Town is one of the greatest American plays. It’s plainspoken and is a deep meditation on love, family, marriage and death.”

What if we created more meditative moments with those we love, with our partners, our parents and our children, and even with a stranger on the street, to really see and know each other at a heart level? It takes awareness and courage to do that. The courage to stop running for a while towards some imaginary goal, the courage to drop meaningless conversations about material belongings in exchange for deeper communications, and most of all, it takes listening; really listening from your heart, allowing yourself to be fully interested in the other person.

 

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A Son’s First Hero and a Daughter’s First Love

Have you heard the saying “A Father is a son’s first Hero and a daughter’s first Love?” No matter whether we are boys or girls, our first male role models teach us—just like our first mother figures—what love is. Through them we experience what it feels like to be safe, comforted and loved, or if they are unable to provide that for us, we learn to comfort ourselves and not to expect this from others. They also teach us courage and integrity, or lack thereof; they become our first heroes—if we are lucky.

Sons first hero daughters first love

How many of us have actually had a father, step-father or father figure who understood himself and his own wounds well enough to parent consciously and not repeat the same family patterns that are often being passed down from generation to generation?

In every love relationship, our childhood issues and family patterns are being revived. We watch our parental figures struggle to solve their old issues with each other. In the relationship with us, our parents also mostly respond and act from their conditioning. A father—or a mother for that matter—cannot love much differently from what they themselves have experienced when they were children.

Working with clients, I have over the years heard different family patterns repeat. Sometimes it’s patterns of addiction; other times fears and traumas are resurfacing from generation to generation. In some cases, the patterns don’t affect us negatively, for example a pattern to leave one’s hometown and move abroad, other times they cause a lot of pain. One pattern, I am sharing with the permission of the client, is the loss of a parent at an early age.

This father, let’s call him Dave, left his first wife to remarry when his son was four. Unfortunately, the ex-wife was so bitter that she estranged his son from him. Dave felt helpless and allowed her to continue doing this until he didn’t see his son at all anymore. The little boy essentially lost one parent due to the mother’s manipulation and due to Dave’s inactivity to counteract her words and actions.

Looking back at his own childhood, Dave realized that history had repeated itself. Dave himself lost his mother when his parents divorced when he was four. His father was the one who decided to take him away and remarry a step-mother Dave hated. But that’s not where it started. We can go back another generation to notice how Dave’s father Adam was unconsciously repeating the pattern of his own childhood. At the age of four, Adam’s own mother died and his father William remarried, presenting Adam with a step-mother.

The pattern of losing one parent and having an unwanted step-mother or substitute mother most likely goes back even further. Unfortunately, most of us do not know enough about our family history to notice and break those patterns. So we, for example, end up estranged from one parent.

I wasted many years of my own life grieving for the father I wished I had and believed I didn’t. For several decades, I chose to focus on what he was not, instead of accepting and loving all that he was and is. I used to look at him and see the man who did not stand up for me. I thought he was weak. I believed I didn’t matter enough to him to fight for a relationship with me. I felt I had an emotionally absent father. I listened to my mom’s story born out of her own wounds. Her story was having a husband who disappointed her and never stood up for her. She probably didn’t realize until he lovingly cared for her when she had cancer, that he was always there for her in the way he knew how. For many years, I allowed her to make her story my story as well. It wasn’t that she was doing this on purpose or that she was lying. She shared her perspective and experience unconscious of how that would affect me. This was HER story, it didn’t need to be mine.

Familie Kurth 1943 crop 2

My father grew up during WWII and for many years, my grandfather was not around as a male role model. When my grandfather returned after the war was over, he was emotionally exhausted and quietly took a place in the background of the family, not making much of an effort to connect with his oldest son. My father was only acting in the same way his own father had acted. He was absent. When I recognized the family pattern, I was able to let go of the story and heal the relationship with my dad.

Today, I see clients of all ages and the stories are similar. “My dad left…”, “My father didn’t care…”, “His new wife was more important to him…”, “My father was irresponsible…”, “My father had anger issues…” and it goes on and on. There are of course circumstances like severe addictions or sexual abuse where the only healthy interaction is no interaction. However, in all the other cases, I invite you to re-examine your stories.

Let’s use Byron Katie’s four questions:

  1. Is my story about my father true?
  2. Can I absolutely know my side of the story is the only truth? Or might there be other sides to this?
  3. How do I react or feel when I believe my story?
  4. Who would I be if I let go of the story that my dad does not care about me? What if I let go my expectations of what he should be saying or doing if he truly loved me? What if I worked on healing my old wounds and allowed myself to interact with him in whichever way is possible?

As children, we don’t really have much of a choice what happens to us, the adults in our life make the decisions. However, once we are young adults, we can examine our stories and change them. We can choose to continue with the narratives of hurt, disappointment and resentment or we can get to know the person our father or mother, step-father or step-mother really is. Life is not like baseball, three strikes and you are out. It is possible to extend another chance and to start over.

In order to do that, we have to stop wishing or hoping our parent figure was different from what he or she is. We have to stop waiting for them to change and finally do or say what we always wanted them to. They didn’t get the same “script” to this play called “Life” that we got and they have no idea what we are waiting for.

Script

A Father’s Day just passed and if you did not send a card and did not pick up the phone, you might have missed an opportunity to live a real relationship with your father, beyond all disillusionment.

Relationship Coaching,

Angelika, 905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.