Her 90th Birthday – A Mother’s Legacy

If my mom was still alive, she would have turned 90 at the end of June. Since she passed in early July 2012, I have written different stories and blogs about her. Some were fictional short stories, like the story “The Ring”, which I published earlier this year. Others like “Turn Your Face to the Sun”, “My Mother’s Pearls”, “Your Mother’s Story” and “Perfectly Imperfect Mother” were simply reflections. Writing was my way to process the relationship and the loss, and to continue the bond with my mom.

In our society we learn a lot of myths about grief, including how long one should grieve and in what way one should process the loss. We often forget that a relationship with somebody who passed continues beyond their death. We still think of them, talk about or with them, and when milestones happen, we will imagine what they would say or feel about a certain family event or even what advice they might have when a decision needs to be made.

But not all our loved ones were good at giving advice, or perhaps we were not open to hearing them because of the judgments we held. Undeniably, some of our family members were not the perfect spouse, perfect sibling, perfect parent, or perfect grandparent. We might have mixed feelings about them and there is nothing wrong with that. All relationships have ups and downs, wonderful moments and challenges alike. And some relationships were simply abusive and impacted us greatly.

There are many ways in which we can process a loss and carry on a loved one’s legacy. We can continue doing the things they were good at, or we can even focus on what they taught us through choices that weren’t the strongest choices. In that case, their legacy entails what not to repeat in the same or a similar way in our lives.

Every year on my mom’s birthday, we eat paella to celebrate her and connect with one of the places she loved, which was Spain. In the same year in which my mom passed, we traveled to Barcelona and walked in her footsteps in the city she lived in and loved in the 1950s. My mom spoke Spanish just as fluently as her mother tongue German. She also spoke English and French and could very quickly pick up new languages or regional accents. She loved to dance and laugh. She was incredibly brave in some ways, especially as a young woman, and when she set her mind to something, she was persistent. At 80 years old, she was still going to the fitness studio almost daily and looked like she was 65 or 70. She also carried traumas, struggled with an addiction, and had other weaknesses and flaws like all of us. I have memories of a tender caring mom and I also have memories of a mom who drowned her pain in alcohol.

Processing a loss often includes being comfortable with ambiguity. It does not serve us to bedevil a person, nor to put them on a pedestal. We can have compassion with their struggles, yet also acknowledge how their actions (or non-actions) have affected others around them. Unless we acknowledge what effect something had on us, we cannot possibly be compassionate with ourselves and heal our own wounds.

In their book, “The Grief Recovery Process,” John W. James and Russell Friedman have emphasized the importance of creating a balanced memory. One of the exercises in their program is to draw a relationship graph and fill in positive memories you have with your loved one above the timeline, and negative ones below the timeline. One or the other might be easier to find, but the instructions are to find at least three of each. Even when it feels like the relationship was only filled with negative moments, there were times in which the other person gave us something, even something that we might feel is normal, like food and shelter.

When you sit with the question “What is his/her legacy?” you will come up with several smaller or bigger ways in which they taught us something or embody something worth continuing. Or there are things they have not done that you decide to do differently. That, too, is their gift to you. In fact, both might be the case.

Continuing a legacy could be something simple like showing interest in other people, if that is what your deceased family member or friend was good at, or connecting with nature, if that is what they loved, or staying fit and healthy, if that is what they valued, and so on. They might have shown a character trait we need to embrace more, for example be more outspoken or be more sensitive or be more daring.

However, there also lies great value in what they did not do. My mom, for example, never saw a therapist or made any other attempts to heal her traumas. That was just simply not done in her generation and culture. She also never worked on improving her marriage. I see that as part of her legacy as well. Not surprisingly, helping others to do their inner work and healing their relationships has become my calling and my profession.

 

Online Coaching

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Before booking a session, you will get the opportunity to have a free 20-minute phone consultation.

MARRIAGE: Tired of Arguments and Unsolvable Problems

COVID-19 has created an unusual situation for our marriages and close love relationships. Suddenly many couples were forced to live and work in close quarters, often struggling with financial hardships and worried about their health, about educating and entertaining their children at home and about the future in general. For some couples, having the forced time together has rekindled their love and refocused them and their families on what is truly important: their relationships with each other. For other couples, the close and constant proximity has highlighted their differences and accentuated their conflicts and doubts to a point where the pressure has become unbearably painful.

When World War II started, there was a sudden increase in marriages. Unsure of what the future held and perhaps trying to give their lives some normalcy, hope, and joy, many more couples found their way to the altar. These life and death situations seem to force us to make hard decisions one way or another. They bring up our vulnerability and make us realize that life is short and that everything is transient. These moments might push us into getting married or, the opposite, into giving up on our marriage. Perhaps we are also desperately struggling to find something that we are in control of when life is so unpredictable.

Several times over the last few months I have heard from clients, “I am so tired of the same arguments and frustrations. We just don’t seem to see eye to eye. Now it is worse than ever before. All we seem to do is argue. Maybe we would be happier apart.”

Living on top of each other for months is bound to bring to the surface what has always been smoldering underneath. No matter how good a fit we seem to be with our partner at the beginning, no two people are ever perfectly alike in their values, needs, life goals and how they handle crisis situations. It is completely normal for every couple to have similar but also different values and needs. When we are stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, these clashes of values and needs are unavoidable.

Relationship therapists Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman have always empathized that in each partnership, there are perpetual problems. In his research, John Gottman found that 69% of problems couples have are repetitive issues because they are based on fundamental differences in personality, lifestyle, or needs. Daniel B. Wile, the late founder and developer of Collaborative Couple Therapy, phrased it well by stating, “Choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems” (Dan Wile). That means, no matter which partner we choose, there will always be some issues which are easier to solve and others that turn out to be perpetual problems.

If we invest our energy into changing our partner, we are exhausting ourselves with a hopeless mission and we have completely missed the point. If we are identified with opposite energies in a partnership and entrenched in our position, opening up to the other person and their experience is exactly what we need.

Let’s take Stephanie and Chris and one of their perpetual disagreements. Now more than ever, she wants to be consistent with the bedtime for the kids, while he is more generous and willing to let them stay up later. This creates weekly tensions and discussions between them. Each of them feels unheard and misunderstood.

Underneath our conflicts is a hidden dream, fear, need, or value. To find out the dream or the fear underneath our conflict, we need to ask our partner the question, “What makes this so important to you?” We might also want to be curious if there is an experience behind this situation for our partner, maybe during childhood or in a past relationship. Being curious about the story goes beyond understanding just their thoughts and feelings. We want to find out what our partner values, believes and holds dear.

An important key to a happy relationship is to learn to listen without judgement, to acknowledge the other person’s experience and feelings, and to share our own feelings and experiences with as much openness. Without active listening and true dialogue, we end up in gridlock conflict.

According to Gottman, gridlocked conflict does not simply happen. Dr. John Gottman names the steps on the way to this gridlock situation as:

  1. The partners have opposing dreams or values.
  2. They get entrenched in their opposing positions.
  3. Their fears of accepting influence from their partner increases.
  4. The “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling and Contempt) are progressively more present in their interactions.
  5. The partners emotionally disengage from each other.

 

All couples will face some forms of perpetual conflict. But those recurring issues do not need to become gridlocked. What a couple needs is the willingness to explore the other person’s side of the conflict and what dreams are beneath their position.

Stephanie and Chris have different needs. Stephanie feels strongly about sticking to the bedtime for the kids. What this is not about is her being controlling, inflexible or not enjoying her kids, as Chris assumes. By 7:30 p.m., she feels overwhelmed and has the need for quiet time to recharge and for alone time with Chris to connect with him. What this is about is her being able to step out of the role as a mother and feeling like a woman. It is also about her needing and valuing a deep connection with her husband, independent of their roles as parents. She is able to communicate to Chris that her parents dutifully stayed together until her dad passed but were always distant and quite cold with each other. They had different interests, were judgmental of each other and did not share their feelings. As a young girl, Stephanie promised herself to have a different marriage.

And what about Chris being more laid back about the bedtime? What this is not about is him being irresponsible, just wanting to be the fun dad and avoiding time with Stephanie alone, as she suspects. As Stephanie asks why being flexible is so important for Chris, they uncover that family time is about comfort, nurturing and belonging for Chris. He grew up as an only child without brothers, sisters or cousins his age. He has always longed to have a big loud happy family. His parents never seemed to struggle connecting with each other. They were going out three or four nights a week, to the theatre, a concert or to meet with their circle of friends. As Chris contemplates his parents’ relationship, he realizes that the quality time they spend together, and their common interests, were probably one reason why they had a good connection.

After both feel heard and their needs and values were acknowledged by their spouse, Stephanie and Chris arrive at a compromise:  From Monday to Thursday the kids bedtime is strict, Friday and Saturday their bedtime is more flexible, and on Sunday evenings Chris and Stephanie plan to spend time together as a couple. As we are going into phase two of the pandemic right now, they are able to expand the group of people they get in contact with and they are able to ask Stephanie’s mother to babysit every Sunday. They also have set the intention to tackle their other perpetual problems with the same open curiosity to arrive at compromises that meet both their needs.

With awareness and adaptability, perpetual problems do not need to mean the death sentence for a relationship. We can move from judgment to being understanding and accepting, to a dialogue about what values and needs are not met and how to negotiate compromises.

 

What are your perpetual problems? What opposing views are you and your partner entrenched in? Have you noticed how criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, or even contempt, play a role in your interactions?

If you are willing to explore your partners dreams, beliefs and values and share your own needs and values reach out for

Online Coaching

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Before booking a session, you will get the opportunity to have a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can ask all your questions and we can determine if we are a good fit as coach and client.

 

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The COVID-19 Situation Challenges Our Beliefs, Emotions and Relationships. How PSYCH-K® and Other Tools Can Help.

The COVID-19 situation has disrupted our daily routines, affected our finances and is challenging our relationships. The crisis has changed everything we used to consider “normal”. We are grieving losses, experiencing anxiety, navigating often tumultuous emotions and bumping up against limiting beliefs. As we experience the uncertainty of unemployment and potential illness, we might be reaching for our partner, hoping for comfort and support. Yet, most couples have never learned how to communicate vulnerable emotions and hold each other in fear. To have a stress-reducing conversation, rather than taking on our partner’s fear and stress, has become a more valuable skill than ever before.

This exceptional situation is an opportunity to work on our fears, learn how to release our emotions and improve our relationships, especially our closest partnerships or marriages. Our old ways of being are currently being torn down and it is time to ask, what do we want to believe and feel as we are going through this period? What do we want our life and our relationships to look like? And which habits, beliefs and repeating patterns do we want to change?

We get to make that decision and work towards our relationship dreams and life goals. Instead of waiting for the crisis to be over, we can choose kindness, patience, compassion and successful communication now. At a time when many couples are home together working in close quarters, it is important to create a routine, maintain boundaries, design compromises, learn how to respect each other’s needs, respond lovingly to bids of attention and most importantly, have supportive conversations. Dr. John Gottman has designed the “stress reducing conversation”, in which both partners take turns speaking about a conflict outside of their relationship and listening to their partner. I find that it makes a huge difference when we can centre ourselves and speak and listen from the heart. When one of us is emotionally activated, it is up to our partner to hold that space of compassionately listening. While one partner shares what has happened and how they feel about it, the rules for the listener are as follows:

  1. to suspend any judgment
  2. to validate and empathize with our partner’s experience
  3. to side with our partner (or at least, to not side with the other person in the conflict)
  4. to remember that our partner is whole, complete and resourceful and to refrain from “fixing” their problem for them

Image by Anna_Sunny from Pixabay 

In order to successfully hold these conversations, we need to be aware of our own fears, triggers and limiting beliefs. We need to know how to self-regulate and how to not let our own emotions spill over into the moment when our partner needs us to support them.

Here are some examples for the most common subconscious beliefs that both my clients and myself have had to balance lately by using PSYCH-K® or the belief change process from Shadow Energetics.

 

REGARDING THE (FINANCIAL) SITUATION:

  1. Even though (financial) uncertainty is a part of my life right now, I know and trust that I am safe / taken care of / financially resourceful etc. at all times.
  2. I relax and accept when things are temporarily on hold, being grateful that I now have the time to take care of myself.
  3. It is okay for me to slow down and enjoy my time with my family.
  4. I embrace the current situation as a gift to slow down / to focus on my relationships / to find new financial avenues etc.
  5. I let go and trust that all my needs are abundantly met in this current situation.
  6. I do my best and my best is always good enough.

 

REGARDING HEALTH:

  1. I take good care of myself by giving my body enough sleep, physical movement and healthy nutrition.
  2. I keep my immune system strong through rest and exercise.
  3. I do everything in my power to stay healthy and beyond that, I let go and trust.
  4. I enjoy the slowing down and I relax into a different rhythm.

 

Image by Anrita1705 from Pixabay

REGARDING RELATIONSHIPS:

  1. I easily and effortlessly communicate my needs to my partner.
  2. Both of us working from home is smooth and easy for us.
  3. We naturally switch between being connected and focusing on work.
  4. Each time my partner is distracted, I remember that he/she is simply focused on work.
  5. We make time for each other (and the children) at the end of the day to connect and talk.
  6. It is safe for me to be vulnerable and share my fears with my partner.
  7. I am good at self-soothing when I feel emotionally activated.
  8. It comes naturally to me to be present for my partner.
  9. I listen non-judgmentally and acknowledge my partner’s feelings and fears.
  10. We creatively bring some novelty into our relationship by trying out new activities we can do at home.

 

REGARDING FAMILY:

  1. Having time with my kids and my spouse is a gift for all of us.
  2. We are adaptable and creative as we adjust to the new situation.
  3. I embrace the new situation and enjoy every moment with my partner / my family.
  4. I am patient with myself and all family members as we go through this time of uncertainty.

 

If you have taken part in one of my workshops or perhaps learned how to release emotions in an individual session, remember to use the EMOTIONAL RELEASE PROCESS on a regular basis. Here is a list of especially common emotions that the current situation might have triggered for us. You can of course also work with other lists of emotions, for example the one you would have received during the Shadow Energetics Workshop. If you want to learn what to do with your emotions, change limiting beliefs and clear out fears, please reach out for a free phone consultation.

 

TRIGGERED EMOTIONS:

Feeling…

 

1.    afraid

2.    angry

3.    anxious

4.    bitter

5.    confused

6.    defeated

7.    defenseless

8.    depressed

9.    deprived

10. desperate

11. destitute

12. diminished

13. disadvantaged

14. discouraged

15. distressed

16. fearful

 

 

17. forgotten

18. frustrated

19. grief

20. helpless

21. homesick

22. inadequate

23. insecure

24. isolated

25. lacking

26. like a failure

27. lonely

28. lost

29. out of control

30. overwhelmed

31. panicked

32. pessimistic

 

33. powerless

34. regretful

35. sad

36. shameful

37. shocked

38. sorrow

39. suffocated

40. terrified

41. uncertain

42. unprotected

43. unsafe

44. unsupported

45. victimized

46. vulnerable

47. worried

48. worthless

 

Online Sessions

for Individuals and Couples

If you have lost your job or you are financially struggling because you are self-employed, reach out and talk to me about a discount, especially if you are a previous client. I am here to help you and your family through this time.

If you are a health care worker or first responder, your session is complimentary right now, out of admiration and deep gratitude for what you are going through right now.

 

You can start with a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Online Sessions During COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 crisis has brought us lots of fear and challenges all over the world. It has brought anxiety, pain and stress. It has shaken us up to rethink our healthcare systems, our ways of doing business, our society, and the impact our way of living has on our environment.

Because this time is shaking us up, it also brings us new opportunities. What comes to mind is the gift of more time that we are being gifted right now. Instead of running from one scheduled event to the next or commuting for hours every day, we have extra time now to connect with our families. We have time to relax and perhaps reflect and consider our habits and our schedule that is usually so full. This is an opportunity to experience a slowing down. It is also an opportunity to reflect about a better future with more sustainability, simpler and healthier food, more kindness, compassion, and caring and overall less stress. We are making changes to our lives right now, some of which might be beneficial to keep once the crisis is over.

The shut-down of large parts of our economy and of tourism all over the world is rough on all the affected industries and people working in these areas. At the same time, we are observing a significant reduction in greenhouse gasses and other pollution of our air, our land and our waters. Images from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), as well as satellite footage from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), show for example a significant decline in NO₂ emissions over the last two months, particularly over Italy and China. Perhaps this makes us contemplate keeping some of these ways of polluting less also after the crisis is over, to save our environment. COVID-19 brings us together on a global level. We are all affected, and we are all part of the solution. It is an opportunity to reconsider our societies and reorganize our way of doing things globally to have less of a detrimental impact on our planet.

One great opportunity the current restrictions and the practice of social distancing brings is to connect virtually in meetings, classrooms and individual sessions. How can we turn this time of challenges into a time of opportunities by connecting online? What if most of us could save all the time commuting and work from home? What if schools discovered new ways of teaching? What if my favourite therapist or coach is just a click away without me sitting in traffic to get to a session?

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

 

Like most coaches, I have shifted all my appointments to online sessions. I have always worked with clients who live further away by connecting through Skype or Zoom. In the past I already addressed the question, Can PSYCH-K® be done via Skype, Zoom or on the phone? Now I am also offering online session to you, if you live close by.

I have been teaching via the platform Zoom daily throughout the last few weeks and I am positively surprised how stable it is despite the increased number of people using it for meetings. But what is “Zoom”, you might ask, and how would you and I use it?

 

What is Zoom and How Does It Work?

Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool that allows you and me to meet online, with or without video, very similar to connecting on Skype. Zoom offers a good quality video, audio and a wireless screen-sharing option, if I have a document to share with you. We can see each other and hear each other well. I can guide you through belief change processes using PSYCH-K® or Shadow Energetics, releasing emotions, an IFS process, a meditation, relaxation or even a hypnosis session. If you are used to me muscle testing you in person, you also know that I can simply stand-in for you and do the energy testing on my end.

 

Is it safe?

You get your own private login username and password for each session, which I will e-mail or text you. Zoom offers end-to-end secure encryption (using Advanced Encryption Standard AES-256) for video sessions. This helps ensure that the video session cannot be eavesdropped on or tampered with. In other words, only the host (myself) and the invited participant (yourself) has access to the video session. As an additional precaution, I have enabled the Zoom “Waiting Room” feature which means an attendee cannot join the video session unless the host (myself) admits them individually from the ‘waiting room’.

I also give you my assurance that no sessions with clients will be recorded. As a further assurance, you can verify this yourself because there would be a clear notification at the top left corner of the Zoom “window” if the Zoom video session was being recorded.

 

How Do I Get on Zoom?

  1. Go to zoom.us
  2. Click the “Join a Meeting” tab. You can find the tab on the top right corner of the homepage.
  3. When prompted, add your designated Meeting ID, which I will e-mail you prior to the session.
  4. We are connected at the agreed upon time!

 

 

Is a Zoom Session as good as an in-person Session?

I will let some of my clients answer this question by sharing their testimonials.

CLIENT REVIEWS:

Dave:

My name is Dave, and I’ve been working with Angelika for almost two years now. My sessions began with her at a very low point in my life. Angelika’s belief change coaching and emotional release counselling has literally transformed my life on both a personal and professional level. My work with Angelika has enabled me to heal from some devastating personal and family losses and, more recently, to successfully navigate a complete career change in mid-life!

On occasion, due to inclement weather, I’ve done remote video sessions with Angelika using my laptop. Admittedly, I was skeptical beforehand as to the benefit of an online session. However, I was amazed how adept Angelika was in adapting her belief change and emotional release exercises to an online setting so effectively.

So when Angelika suggested using Zoom video technology for our future sessions due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, I agreed without hesitation. Despite the sacrifices and inconveniences we are all currently undergoing, I feel very grateful for this video technology option that will allow me to continue my invaluable life coaching sessions with Angelika in the comfort of my own home.

– David W

 

Julia:

Work with Angelika has been a game changer in realizing my professional and personal potential for several years now. Having moved to Europe to continue with my MBA degree, I was determined not to lose this important tool in my development.

At first, I wondered if online sessions via zoom would have the same comfortable and enabling energy as the setting at Angelika’s?! But then I though to myself: “We will make it work. After all, technology has enabled so many advancements in our society.”. If patients can move their medical check-ups to telehealth format, then surely Greendoor Relaxation can follow in these footsteps.

My first Zoom session with Angelika was well set-up and seamless. In a matter of 15 minutes, I could not even tell the difference.

I quickly realized that this format also had advantages. First, I did not have to spend extra time commuting. Second, I was able to talk out of the comfort of my couch. Third, Angelika stepped in to muscle test whenever needed. All I had to do was relax and watch her do her “magic”. And that was great! I trusted that she is more experienced and attuned in receiving guidance for our sessions.

My personal call to action for all those who are wondering if Zoom session is the right format for Greendoor Relaxation: Give it a try! We are fortunate to have this choice.

– Julia T.

 

Tobias:

My wife and I have been seeing Angelika for marriage counselling for 9 months now. We usually purchase one of her packages and see her every 2-3 weeks. She has taught us to communicate differently, to be a team and to get through a challenging time with one of our kids. It has been very fortunate for us that Angelika also speaks German, so that my wife and I can speak in our mother tongue with each other during the sessions. Despite COVID-19 we wanted to continue our sessions. We are very satisfied with our first online appointment. Angelika was able to guide us and help us with an issue we were struggling to solve on our own. It was not much different from our usual sessions in her office. While the coronavirus pandemic continues, we will see Angelika via Zoom.

– Tobias M.

 

 

from April 1 to April 14

11/2 – 2 hour online sessions

for individuals and couples

20% off

If you have lost your job or you are financially struggling because you are self-employed, reach out and talk to me, especially if you are a previous client.

I am here to help you and your family through this time.

If you are in existing client, I am offering the option of shorter booster sessions in lieu of your regular two hour session during the months of April and May.

For health care workers or first responders, a session is complimentary right now.

 

Reach out for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Increase in Divorce Rates Due to COVID-19. How Can We Pull Together?

A client of mine, challenged with her marriage right now, said to me a couple of days ago, that when the Coronavirus threat is over, there will be an increase of divorces. Her comment was based on an article from “the New Yorker”. The newspaper reports, “In Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, more than ten million people were placed under lockdown. When restrictions were eased, earlier this month, the city’s divorce rate spiked.” Psychologist and attorneys speak up and predict that the divorce rate will also rise in the rest of the world due to this stressful situation COVID-19 has brought us.

Image by Sally-Kay from Pixabay

As a relationship coach, I want to challenge that statement. Undoubtedly, like any crisis, this challenging time also brings issues to the surface that we can easier ignore at other times. But instead of resigning ourselves to the fate of getting a divorce, we have the choice to examine how we can use this time period to improve our relationships and especially our partnerships or marriages. Naturally, we are going through a period of adjustment as our work situation changes and most of our favourite free-time activities are cancelled. We need to be creative to meet our needs while staying at home. The issues in a relationship might resurface right now and force us to notice and address them. But we also now have more time together to do our couples work, due to the lack of outside distractions and activities.

The strength of our relationships depends on if we can successfully hold each other in the fear we feel. There are fewer outside influences to argue about right now, but a new kind of anxiety has come up. One upset client of mine shared that while she is home with the children, her husband still goes out to have a cup of coffee with clients. She is afraid to question this and “restrict” him, meanwhile she lives in unnecessary anxiety. Their situation requires agreements on what precautions to take and how contacts can be shifted temporarily to virtual contacts.

Another couple told me that they are arguing about how to disinfect the surfaces, wash the food, and how often and thoroughly to wash their hands. Our fear brings up our vulnerable parts and our protective parts. Our fearful parts are triggered more than ever right now and our protectors (protective parts) can look like a “Scolding Parent” or an “Attacker”, accusing our spouse of not caring enough to take more precautions. If you want to read more about our protective parts in our relationships, please got to my article “You Are My Valued Tor-Mentor”.

Operating from our protective parts engages us in conflicts with each other. How can we instead have empathy and compassion with our partner’s fears and show the willingness to negotiate acceptable compromises to reassure each other?

Being home together also requires boundaries and the balance between alone time and time together. It is now, more than ever, important to communicate well. One of the things that seems to work well for my family, is to create a routine and structure, even if it is an artificial one. Have a set time to get up and to go to bed, a time to eat, a time to work if you have work right now, a time to do yoga, or go for a walk and so on.

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay 

As human beings, we need to feel productive and useful. Some of my clients have told me that they are doing some de-cluttering and extra cleaning right now. Or they are engaged in creative activities that they have not had time for in a long while.

Part of establishing a daily routine is to determine how much time we are going to spend listening to the news or reading information on social networks. It is possible that you and your spouse, or family members you live with, are affected differently by the news and announcements. It requires figuring out what your individual needs are and respecting the differences. If you can go to different rooms or use headphones if you need to separate, do so regularly.

If you have small children, the routine and giving each other breaks from entertaining the children is even more important. Clear communication on when and how each of you is going to work and when you are spending time separately with the kids or as a family is imperative. Children need a structure even more than we do as adults. Decide what your daily routine is going to be and stick to it, so your kids have some predictability.

And don’t forget to enjoy this forced upon slowing down that is happening right now. Cherish each moment with each other. There is a lot of cooking, baking and playing games going on in our house. I don’t think I have played as much Cribbage in years as I have played during the last two weeks! My niece and her partner in Germany sent me photos of doing puzzles together while waiting for their test results. I’ve been hearing a lot of “finally we have time together” comments from extended family members and clients.

Puzzles, Cribbage, being together without rush… Without wanting to downplay COVID-19 being a real threat, it almost sounds a bit like a trip to the cottage in the summer, doesn’t it? I can’t help but wonder what we can learn and gain from this experience. When you contemplate the short-term and long-term benefits and advantages of what is unfolding right now, a lot of promising developments stand out.

Whole neighbourhoods are pulling together, offering each other help with the supplies individual families have—yes, the much laughed about toilet paper, for one. We are reaching out and phoning or texting family and friends we might not have talked to in a long time. It brings out kindness, compassion and taking care of each other. Despite or because of the fear we all feel, we continue to come together like never before.

What is happening right now is a general refocus on what is important: partnerships, family and relationships with others. The situation we find ourselves in due to COVID-19 is unprecedented, not only on an economic and societal level, but also for our family relationships. Self-isolation and extended time together are sometimes welcome and harmonious, other times they bring great challenges. But that is a good thing! When problems come to our attention, we can do something about them. The couple can work on it alone, or they can reach out to a coach or therapist.

Image by Gracini Studios from Pixabay 

Most of us coaches and counsellors are working remotely right now. A session through Zoom or Skype is as beneficial as a session in person. If the technology aspect makes you nervous, I understand, and I promise, that I will walk you through the steps to connect virtually.

As many of you are faced with uncertainty right now, I am offering an online session discount:

from April 1 to April 14

online sessions

for individuals and couples

20% off

For a start reach out for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Invested in Your Relationship

As a relationship coach, I hear different people’s theories about love and relationships. I hear what I know to be myths. However, sometimes they are rather explanations which we have adopted to make sense of the fact that a marriage or long-term relationship ended, or as we tend to look at it, “failed”.

One of my clients in his late fifties said the other day, ”I was married for 13 years in my twenties and early thirties, I have had three other long-term relationships since then, which all lasted between 4-8 years, but I don’t see how I could have continued any of these relationships beyond that time. Do you believe a relationship has a shelf life?”

What he experienced is quite typical. Statistics Canada describes in their 2008 report that an average marriage last 13.7 years. Second and third marriages end even earlier. And that statistic does not include long-term relationships.

But to answer my client’s question, I do not believe that a relationship has an expiration date, per se. I do believe that relationships change and go through different stages. I also know for a fact, that we are very ill-equipped to make the transition to the next phase and to handle relationship challenges in general.

Nobody ever teaches us how to “do relationships”. My wish for future generations is to have the school subject “Living Successful Relationships”. That subject would need to include how to connect to our own feelings and protective responses, how to self-soothe, how to truly listen and communicate from a vulnerable place, how to solve conflicts, make compromises and create win-win situations. This school subject could help us in our intimate love relationships and in all our professional relationships. It would allow us to create a different society in which everybody is capable of connecting. I even believe that by teaching non-violent communication and other relationship skills, we could prevent wars and save the future of this planet.

So why do relationships end? A friend sent me this quote by relationship coach Mark Groves the other day which summarizes it perfectly:

What does it mean to outgrow a relationship? It often means that two people have grown away from each other, instead of having been able to stay connected. I used to say that this is what happened with the father of my daughters. However, it is just as true that in my thirties, I did not have the skills necessary to navigate this relationship and steer it back on course.

Another aspect of relationships deteriorating which the quote highlights is our level of investment. The moment one or even both partners are not invested in the relationship anymore, or maybe never were all that invested in the first place, the relationship has received its death sentence. One person alone cannot keep a relationship going. When it feels like you are dragging a partner along who is not willing to devote the necessary time and work into the relationship anymore, you have no other choice but to accept that. Both people need to be invested in the relationship.

One important investment you can make into your long-term relationship or marriage is to see a counselor or coach. You can learn the skills you need to navigate the changes every relationship undergoes. If you are longing to connect with your partner and steer your relationship boat through a tough time, reach out for a free phone consultation.

Also check out my packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

10 Relationship Myths We Are Conditioned to Believe

I just re-read the book “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley because my niece in Germany had an English exam on that topic and I had volunteered to help her prepare for it. This novel, published in 1932, is a dystopia in which a world government completely controls all citizens from the moment of their conception in a test tube to the moment they die alone and drugged up. There are no mothers, fathers or spouses, and emotional ties of all kinds are frowned upon. The methods used to control the population are “genetic engineering”, “sleep conditioning” and the happiness drug “soma”, which turns the workers of different casts into willing laborers for a consume oriented society.

One of the questions which came up in the discussion with my 17-year-old niece was what signs of social conditioning she sees in our society today, especially regarding our relationships. We spoke about different ways of conditioning through our society, parents, peer groups, the education system, the media, popular culture, religion and so on.  Once I named a few examples, she realized that no social group, no matter how liberal, democratic or tolerant, exists without training individuals to think and respond in a manner generally approved by the respective society.

In contrast to Huxley’s dystopia, we have the freedom to examine and question our conditioning, and we have the freedom to change those learned beliefs, and conditioned emotional responses and desires, if we so choose. However, analyzing and changing our conditioning is not always easy. We have been programmed to believe and hence feel that we are a failure if we don’t look a certain way, make X amount of money, have what is called a “successful career”, and are not in the societally expected relationships at a certain age. That idea of being a failure can literally paralyze us and keep us stuck in the social conditioning that is to blame for the feeling of not being “good enough” to begin with.

Anne is depressed because she has been struggling with her weight all her life. Martin is beating himself up because he has been out of a job for the past year and he wishes he had made other professional choices when he was younger. Laura is 30 and feels like a failure because all her friends are married. Peter is angry because he works long hours but still cannot afford the lifestyle his brothers have. Marie is a 38-year-old midwife who has been struggling to conceive for the past six years. Frank is a 68-year-old widower and is convinced he won’t be able to find a new partner. Lisa is 59 and ashamed to be alone since her husband of 25 years has left her for a younger woman. And this list goes on and on. There is an incredible amount of suffering in our society when we don’t manage to meet the norms we have been conditioned to meet.

In fact, our Inner Critic voice can always find something to criticize because it is literally impossible to meet the societal standards for success in every single way. The conditioning of how we should think, feel, act and what goals or relationship markers we should have reached at arbitrary points in our life has a strong hold on us. As a belief-change and relationship coach, I come across limiting beliefs every day. Today I want to highlight a few about love and committed relationships.

In “Brave New World”, committed relationships or marriages do not exist, instead “everyone belongs to everyone else”. Family, monogamy, and romantic notions are highly discouraged and regarded as a crime against the state. Promiscuity is in this future world the only way to interact with the members of your own caste. Citizens are given the happiness drug soma to relieve their depression about being lonely or insecure.

It is so obvious how the citizens of Huxley’s dystopia are manipulated and conditioned about love and relationships. Yet, what beliefs have we learned about love and relationships?

Here are ten of the top myths:

  1. Love is all you need to make a relationship last

Long-term relationships go through different stages. What is essential at every stage is to adapt and work with what life brings us. We start out with the honeymoon phase, but that is not supposed to last. It is just supposed to bring us together. Instead, love ideally matures more and more with each new phase. A book that describes this with beautiful metaphors is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea”.

  1. Good relationships don’t require work

Absolutely all relationships require ongoing attention, successful communication and the willingness to work through issues together. Or as Carroll Bryant says: “Love is a two-way street constantly under construction.”

  1. If my partner really loved me…

Those beliefs that start with “If my partner really loved me…” are another trap we fall into, e.g. If they really loved me, they would know what I feel/want/need. Our partner is not a mind reader. For a successful relationship, we need to learn to express our feelings and needs.

  1. He/she will change if I just keep trying to change them

It is completely impossible to change your partner! You only end up in a tug of war. In fact, focusing on how the other person should change keeps you stuck in your problems. Instead, a successful relationship is all about the question “How can I change? What is going to be required of ME to create a better relationship?”

  1. Couples in good relationships don’t argue

Many people still believe that conflicts in a relationship are a bad sign. Relationship scientist and expert John Gottman has proven that arguments are not the problem, but that how couples argue can destabilize a relationship. We want to practice how to deliver and receive criticism successfully and learn how to argue with less defensiveness and without stonewalling or showing contempt for our partner.

  1. Couples should have sex x-number of times per week/month

You should not compare yourself to other couples. Whatever amount of sex you both are comfortable having is exactly the right amount. Getting too stuck on average numbers when it comes to having sex, distracts from the actual problems which might be behind changes in the sexual desire. The desire to be intimate is about making time to connect and be vulnerable with each other. If a couple has a huge discrepancy between how often each partner wants sex, that is an issue to work through with a coach or therapist.

  1. True love is all about passion

I have seen people leave a perfectly good marriage because they felt it was lacking the passion. Often that meant that they have exchanged one stale relationship with one that is exciting but filled with drama and jealousy. Love can be both, passionate and safe. A solid relationship has achieved the right balance for a couple and their individual needs for passion.

  1. If we are struggling in our relationship it means we made a wrong choice and are just not destined to be together

Every couple goes through ups and downs. Every relationship is a constant dance between closeness and distance that we need to navigate. A belief like “every relationship has a shelf-life and ours must be over” gets in the way of putting in the work which every relationship requires.

  1. Talking about my past wounds will only make them worse

You cannot change your past, but you can change how you feel about it and heal your childhood wounds in your grown-up relationship. Speaking about your vulnerabilities and wounds with your partner is one answer to healing them. Ideally, the purpose of a relationship is to provide a safe space to be vulnerable and feel loved.

  1. Couples don’t need coaching or counselling unless their relationship is in serious trouble

Seeing a professional is beneficial at any stage of our relationship to help us navigate the transitions. In fact, a fabulous time to come in for coaching sessions is before you get married to lay a solid foundation for this next step of your relationship.

 

Do any of these myths sound familiar? Are you feeling stuck in your communication or struggling to navigate the current phase of your relationship? Perhaps it is time for you and your partner to come in for relationship coaching to work through a tough time or to get ready for a bigger commitment.

Check out my packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Embracing the 50+ Years

I just finished watching the new episodes of the Netflix series “The Crown”. While season one and two had actually endeared “The Queen” to me and allowed me to shift my perspective of this powerful and dignified figure, so I could see her humanity, the third season had—and not just due to a change in actors—a bit of a different effect on me. It had me reflect on how we as women manage to combine our power, wisdom and kindness in the second half of our lives. How does becoming older affect our self-image and our relationships?

Olivia Colman stars as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown.

Some of us stay stuck in fear, in being inauthentic and not speaking up because that is what was role modeled to us as “politeness” and the only way to be as females. Others, newly aware of their power and position, might be tempted to set their boundaries by ripping into others under the pretense of speaking their truth. The women that I admire speak their truth, but with consciousness, kindness and warmth, always aware that others do their best and are not out to get them. We all might react too strongly when we feel overwhelmed. The key is to readjust back onto a path of heart-centredness. Compassion and understanding does not only show up in what we say, but also in how we deliver it. We can speak and express what we are guided to say from a place of clarity, with compassion and understanding.

Christiane Northrup coined the term “Alpha Goddess” for the perimenopausal or postmenopausal woman who has come into her own. When we have entered that “second spring of our life”, self-care and self-development become priorities, as wellness expos show—they are primarily visited by women of that age group. We feel it is our time to accept ourselves fully the way we are with all our strengths and weaknesses.

“They know their strength because they have experienced significant loss and come through it.” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age) We have learned to ask for help when we need it and that overall we are smart and capable. We have learned to put matters into perspective and trust that everything will pass. As mature woman we are very much aware of the fact that “no” is a complete sentence, which is liberating. We are free from the need to prove ourselves. “We look back and see that we didn’t do so badly after all. Maybe we have some regrets and maybe we disappointed some people, but that’s part of being human” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age). Sometimes we simply need a fellow Goddess to remind us that we are doing well.

We know that we do not need to let ourselves be pulled into other people’s drama, summarized so beautifully by the phrase “not my circus, not my monkeys”. We also recognize when a friend needs us to hold a loving space or when it is time to reach out to a professional.

Being a coach and supporting others, I have strong wise women supporting me not only as friends, but also in the role of a therapist or a coach. Depending on what is going on in my life, I reach out to either one of the latter. I admire and trust them, yet they are also human. They might not always be able to give me what I need. In fact, my therapist, despite having known me for several years, missed the mark the other day. When that happens, we can slink away quietly and not reach out to that person anymore, or we can speak up. A good practitioner will listen and be grateful when you speak up. In fact, when I let her know that in the particular situation I did not need her to go into problem solving mode for me, but I simply needed to be heard and held in my vulnerability, she replied with a simple heartfelt “I am sorry” and the acknowledgment that she sometimes misses the mark when we do a phone session rather than an in-person session. I admire and value her for that response and unless she repeatedly misses the mark despite me speaking up, I see no need to end this relationship.

The same applies to our friendships. “Alpha Goddesses know how to make new friends but keep the old—but they only hang on to those longstanding friendships if they’re vitalizing instead of draining” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age). There are friends and family members who drain our energy with drama or other toxic interactions, but as we refuse to be pulled into their turmoil, they naturally fall away. We can release them and let them go with understanding and forgiveness.

I have recently become newly aware of who some of my true friends are. They are not our social media connections that we are sometimes so busily feeding, but those friends who you can be vulnerable with because you know they feel confident in themselves and are far beyond competition between women, status, gossip or pettiness.

Some of them are my age, but that is not even the main requirement for a supportive nurturing relationship. One of my dearest friends is 84 and she will be reading this blog as she follows with interest what is going on in my life. She is curious and young at heart, while being wise and kind. She is one of the women I admire most. If I only have half of her spunk and joy for life when I am her age, I will be fortunate. Another one is in her early 30’s, who also is wise beyond her earthly years, and I am grateful to have a friend who is like a third daughter. And then there are a handful of amazing women my age who I consider to be part of my tribe. Our relationships are equal. One day they need me, another day I need them to remind me of who I am and can be. I know I can reach out to them at any time and that I will be received without judgment.

They have boundaries where necessary, are aware of their feelings and of their own baggage. They are able to be kind and honest with themselves. We all are triggered or judgmental at times. The question is what do we do with those emotions and judgments? Do we choose to rip into others and kick them to the curb when they do not fall in line, or do we acknowledge our flaws and work on stepping into our true self?

To get back to the Queen in the Netflix series, she mostly stands alone and she hardens over time. She is unable to connect with vulnerability or love to her children or most other people. She finds peace with her dogs and especially her horses, but in my mind she misses out on what it truly means to be this amazing age of 50+.

What the women I love and admire have in common is, in my opinion, the most important quality in any man or woman: they see with their hearts. They are smart yet have the most loving view of others. They have managed to step into their power and being authentically themselves while treating others with kindness. They all are true Goddesses in my mind, when most of them wouldn’t even think of themselves in that way. I am proud and grateful to have each of them in my life.

 

Contact me (Angelika) for sessions at

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Don’t forget to check out my January Special.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Fertility Issues and Your Partnership

Nicole is devastated. After 15 months of trying to conceive, and having had an early miscarriage a few months ago, her period has arrived once again. Her husband Jason just shrugs as he briefly lifts his head from the TV screen and says “Don’t Worry! We will Just Try Again”.

Nicole feels like she wants to shake him. He just doesn’t get it! She wants to yell at him, “Why aren’t you upset? Don’t you want a baby, too?” Underneath the anger, a feeling of intense loneliness and inadequacy takes hold of her. It is bad enough that she has to deal with the fact that this life-long dream of hers is not becoming reality the way she had hoped and planned. Now she also feels completely disconnected from Jason. She had to admit that it was helpful that he had been calm and tried to be her rock when she had the miscarriage, but it still felt like he simply did not understand what the loss and the ongoing failure meant to her.

What Nicole forgets is that Jason might be dealing with this challenge differently. As women, we have learned to express our vulnerable emotions more than most men. We have also learned that being a mother is an essential part of life. We often plan our entire life, including marriage and motherhood. Being able to conceive fulfills—for a lot of women—several heartfelt desires; the desire for the companionship children and grandchildren bring, the desire to feel a new life growing inside, to give birth and nurture this fragile human being, and last but not least, the sense of purpose that can be derived from parenting and raising the next generation. The idea of fertility is often tightly linked to our self-identity as women. Therefore, trying to conceive unsuccessfully often cause anxiety, fear and grief.

Most men have not received the same messages about the importance of parenthood. Yet, for men, showing vulnerability and allowing the fear of failure can be more scary than we usually imagine. Men can also be terrified that their sperm won’t measure up and that they won’t be able to reproduce and give their partner what she most desires. Their female partners however, only perceive denial, indifference or stoicism. Trying and having difficulties conceiving takes a toll on a marriage or partnership.

The challenges around conceiving create different stresses for a couple. Sex can become a means to an end rather than a spontaneous expression of the need for closeness and love. The couple might disagree on when to get help and how much money to invest in often costly treatments. Fears and insecurities are triggered for both partners. More than ever, what the couple needs most during this stressful period is time to connect with each other, beyond fertility. How can they still enjoy life and each other totally unrelated to trying to conceive?

As modern day humans, we are so used to being able to control everything and obtain reliable results. We plan what job we want to do and make the choice to attend a certain school or learn a particular profession. We might plan to get married or buy a house and so on. Getting pregnant defies those expectations that we can plan everything in life. When the stork does not deliver as planned, it can feel like we are completely out of control in regards to making our dreams come true and it can appear completely unfair that other couples seem to be getting pregnant so much more easily.

However, even faced with fertility struggles, the question remains, “What choices can we make together as a couple?” Some examples are:

  • The choice to make time alone with each other and time with friends and family to experience carefree fun and laughter.
  • The choice to be loving and gentle with yourself and with each other, as you navigate this challenging period in your life. Even though it feels that way right now, infertility is not forever. You will find a way to meet your needs and create what you want.
  • The choice to find natural mood boosters like sunlight, exercise, yoga and enough sleep.

  • The choice to treat your mind and body well, for example by getting massages or giving each other massages, or by using relaxation techniques, meditation or hypnosis. The last three will come in handy when you are giving birth or raising your kids or in any professional or private situation where you are challenged.
  • The choice to see a relationship coach or therapist for couples sessions. As was the case with Nicole and Jason, fertility struggles often affect the relationship between the partners tremendously. A professional can help you to reconnect.
  • The choice to focus on everything you are grateful for that is part of a fulfilling life, for example by keeping a gratitude journal.
  • The choice not to ruminate and buy into depressing thoughts and limiting beliefs. I know! That is easier said than done. And that’s where one more choice comes in:
  • The choice to do the inner work and change limiting beliefs and fears into supportive beliefs. That increases your ability to move through this trying time more smoothly. You can make the choice to see a life coach or therapist on your own. Friends, family and your partner should not be your only support.

 

Contact me (Angelika) for individual sessions or couples sessions at

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Please read testimonials from couples here.

Don’t forget to check out my discount packages for couples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

What Does a Relationship or Marriage Coach do?

Sometimes a client just makes my day because they send a few lines as a thank you, or an update to let me know how they are doing. Each time I get a feedback, that I have empowered somebody to be their best self or that I have helped an individual or a couple through a rough time, I feel deep gratitude for being able to be a coach. I am always very clear that the credit lies with the person or the couple who has done the inner work. At the same time, it is beautiful for me to see how somebody has been able to shift something around. It is truly an honour to be invited into the life of a couple or a family and to be able to guide and witness amazing transformations.

Last month, a client send me—with a note of gratitude for having a “marriage mentor” in me – an image she had seen on Instagram. The idea of marriage mentoring is a bit different. I usually refer to myself as a relationship coach or coach for couples. I offer sessions for couples who are married as well as those who are not. I see heterosexual as well as homosexual couples. I also go beyond mentoring as I use techniques to do deeper personal work. So, after receiving the image accompanied by her beautiful thank you note, I thought I should write about being a relationship coach.

A big part of what I do is educational. I share what relationship experts have discovered about challenges we all have in our interpersonal connections, how to repair relationships and how to make marriages last. An example of that are the five losing strategies in relationships and the five winning strategies. Relationships have been a life-long interest of mine, and by that, I mean all sorts of relationships. In fact, I would go as far as to claim that fulfilling, loving relationships make our life worth living. Of course, that applies to our romantic partner, if we have one, but just as much to our relationships with our children and other family members, with friends and colleagues and even with strangers. Relationships can be our greatest joy and our greatest source for pain. Perhaps you are struggling with jealousy or trying to process an affair, just to mention two common situations. Or maybe anger in the relationship or feeling emotionally flooded is your challenge. Anger has a surprising purpose and when you feel flooded there is a way to address that issue. How do we show up with each other and how are we able to connect in a meaningful way? How do we apologize and make amends and how do we communicate successfully. This all actually starts with self-love and self-acceptance, or in other words, by working on our relationship with ourselves.

As a relationship coach, I help you understand your relationship with yourself, with your partner, your family and your friends. Because I look at the situation from the outside with complete neutrality, I am able to point out dynamics and how to shift them. When you are about to give up, I encourage you to keep going. As your biggest cheerleader, I can hold the belief for you that you can create the relationships you desire. I teach you how different parts of you operate in relationships, how they protect you, but can also keep you stuck in unhealthy dynamics and conflicts. I urge you to be gentle with yourself and others and to see things with renewed clarity from different perspectives. I guide you to apply new ways of communicating and interacting. No matter how challenging or dysfunctional a relationship has been, there is never any judgment. I am as human as you are and have complete empathy while keeping my eyes on how to make the changes necessary.

Photo by Cole Keister from Pexels

When you come in with your partner, I am impartial. I am neither on your side, nor on their side, but my primary client is your relationship. I will advocate for what the relationship which you have created together needs from both of you. I encourage both of you to take responsibility, make amends and ask what it is you can do to create the connection you long for.

Whether you are wondering if you should come as an individual or as a couple, I will never tell you what to do because you know best what is right for you. I simply assist you in achieving the clarity you need for all your decisions. My focus is to support you fully in all your choices and to encourage you to live with awareness and integrity, to be the healthiest, happiest and most authentic version of yourself.

If you feel a bit stuck or lost in the dynamics with your partner, or another person close to you, please reach out for a free phone consultation to see if we are a good fit. A good connection with your coach is crucial, for you to feel comfortable enough to do your inner work. You can speak to me on your own, or we can arrange a three way call with your partner, to get a feel for how we might be able to work together.

Contact me (Angelika) for individual sessions or couples sessions at
905-286-9466
greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca
Don’t forget to check out my discount packages for couples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the pop up window or in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Why Are You Getting So Upset? – Passive Aggressive Behaviour PART 2

You met Lisa and Yohan in part 1 of my article Why Are You Getting So Upset? They decided to face the challenge of shifting out of a problematic pattern She was being placed in the role of a controlling mother and he was responding passive-aggressively to the control he experienced. They had no productive disagreements at all. Today we will look at some of the work they did to shift out of the unsatisfying dynamics.

Disagreements and conflicts can only be resolved when both people are honest about their feelings, willing to take responsibility for past actions, and committed to making changes for the future. When one partner is stuck in a passive-aggressive stance, he or she is too busy pretending not to be angry and feeling wronged instead of being able to make amends and work through conflicts. To move out of this pattern, it is first of all necessary to believe and feel that it is okay to be angry.

Lisa had to examine if she was perhaps unintentionally discouraging Yohan from expressing his anger directly. She realized that she had a tendency to humour him out of his anger, especially when the kids were around. It still felt more comfortable to her when Yohan was moody and sulked than when he actually expressed his anger. As much as she had been saying to him, “I wish you would tell me honestly what you are feeling”, what she actually wanted was for Yohan to be less resentful and angry. However, supressing anger will only guarantee that it comes out in other more indirect and passive-aggressive ways.

Anger is an emotion like any other emotion. It is neither good nor bad. It is a protective emotion and serves a purpose. It gives us the feedback that we are perceiving something as unfair or unsatisfying, or that there are other emotions hidden behind the anger. Anger is only the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, there are usually more vulnerable feelings.

Therefore, Lisa’s first step was to understand that anger is not a “bad” emotion and to learn to be less judgemental about Yohan feeling resentful and angry to begin with. She had to get to know her own angry part inside, so she could love and accept first herself and then him with this emotion.

Yohan, was very afraid of his own anger and had to do some inner work to get to know this passive-aggressive part, as well as his angry part. He connected to himself at younger points in his life when he was angry and felt the only way to express his feelings was to be passive-aggressive.

Venting anger on its own is not useful unless we can get to the more vulnerable feelings underneath the anger. Yohan needed to find the perfect balance between expressing the anger and finding the courage to explore his unmet needs or what feelings were really hiding beneath the anger.

“Anger is an inherent component of all human relationships, especially romantic ones. The more dependent on someone and vulnerable you feel, the more likely they’ll be the object of your hostility as well as your affection”

(Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man).

 

Relationship expert Dr John Gottman has proven in his scientific research that fighting is not the problem; rather, how couples fight is the issue. Conflicts are inevitable in relationships. Addressing the conflicts is healthy if we can avoid the four horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Healthy and strong relationships can and do handle anger, provided a couple sees it as a constructive force and fights smart and fairly, sticking to certain ground rules.

Both Yohan and Lisa needed to learn to have healthy fights in which it is okay to express anger, explore more vulnerable feelings and make requests of their partner. An important key element was to recognize when Yohan was triggered into feeling like a child. When Lisa became more controlling, she reminded him of his mother and he would instinctively revert to passive aggressive responses. His automatic assumption in many situations was that his needs were in conflict with Lisa’s and that there was no point in expressing those needs because they would not be met anyways. This corresponded to his experiences in childhood. He grew up feeling that nobody heard him and that he never got what he wanted. He was still stuck in that feeling, expecting that he would still never get enough of what he wanted as an adult.

Yohan had to learn to notice and acknowledge when Lisa was meeting one of his needs. He learned to say thank you and shift his perspective. She, on the other hand, had to learn not to interfere and do things for him he hadn’t asked her to do, especially not when he chose to be passive aggressive with other people in his life. A repeating example was when he was supposed to pay his child support to his ex-wife, but Lisa had to remind him to do it repeatedly before he put the cheque in the mail. Lisa felt this was antagonizing and unfair to his ex-wife and son and had put the cheque in the mail a few times herself. Yet, that caused Yohan to postpone the next cheque even longer and to feel resentful towards Lisa. When they examined this situation without judgement, but simply with curiosity, and began to understand their own parts in it, they were both able to shift out of it.

Another important shift was for Yohan to retreat less. They learned that underneath Yohan’s distancing behaviour was a fear of rejection. He would push Lisa away to prove to her that he didn’t need her. He had to learn to make the distinction between feeling rejected or fearing rejection and actually being rejected. He had to learn how to recognize stuck emotions and release feelings of rejection and disappointment.

Today, Yohan’s and Lisa’s interactions have mostly changed. Some situations still cause them to fall into old patterns, but one of them usually recognizes the pattern, takes responsibility for his or her part in it and initiates an open and honest conversation. There is more intimacy and closeness in their relationship and they exhibit better teamwork taking care of the children. Sometimes Yohan needs space, but he is able to express that instead of just retreating. He is also able to allow more vulnerable feelings of dependency and love without a constant nagging fear that he will get hurt. They know that their intimate love relationship continues to confront them with challenges and opportunities for growth, and they are both committed to continuing to put the necessary time and attention into their marriage.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

If you are interested in ordering Scott Wetzler’s book ”Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” I am grateful for you using my amazon associate link below.

Why Are You Getting So Upset? – Passive Aggressive Behaviour PART 1

Have you ever tried to clear the air with somebody by initiating an open conversation, putting your own needs on the table and asking the other person what they need, but they have been very vague and non-committal? Maybe you have even apologized or taken responsibility for your part in an interaction but the other person pretends that they cannot remember what you are talking about? You are given feedback along the lines of “No big deal, can’t even remember what you mean…” but then within the next days, the person drops some pointed remarks about how ridiculous your needs are or how difficult you are to deal with? Or have they ever given you the silent treatment and sulked? Or do they promise to be supportive in some way, tell you they will do something for you, but then conveniently keep forgetting their promises? And when they have led you down again and you are disappointed, they say with disbelief, “Why are you getting so upset?” All this could be passive-aggressive behaviour.

We are all forgetful at times and we have certainly also all been passive-aggressive in situations when we felt powerless, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about passive-aggressiveness as a strategy developed in childhood out of a feeling of powerlessness, and carried into adulthood and into our relationships as the automatic response when there is a conflict.

The passive aggressive person in your life could be a friend, a family member, your colleague or boss, or your spouse. The passive-aggressive person appears to be such a nice and peaceful human being, supposedly getting along with others, denying that they are doing anything at all while the people they are in relationships with feel the anger seething underneath. Their behaviour is not inadvertent, even though they hope you will think it is. They count on your politeness or need to get along. However, underneath the guise of innocence, generosity or passivity, is hidden hostility.

They test your boundaries all the time. How often can they ignore your needs or rattle you by doing what they know is infuriating to you? That could be forgetting to do what they said they would, doing what they know you hate, taking advantage of you in another way or playing little power games. When you call a passive aggressive person out, they deny their indirect and inappropriate way of interacting or play it down. This is confusing and utterly infuriating because it is impossible to honestly talk about hurt feelings, insecurities or needs.

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a learned behaviour. Passive aggressive people often had an overbearing or controlling caretaker as a child. Expressing their needs and wants was not welcomed. Let’s take a look at Yohan’s upbringing, for example.

Yohan remembers his childhood as a time of coldness, deprivation, control and conflicts. His parents both drank and his mother was an alcoholic. “A remarkably high rate of alcoholism exists among the parents of passive-aggressive men. Alcohol has a way of facilitating conflict” (Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man). His mother humiliated his father and Yohan lacked a strong male role model. He wanted her approval while he also feared and resented his mother. He felt he was never good enough for her and he has projected that onto every female partner or boss he ever had.

The conflict became even more apparent when his two younger siblings were born. Some jealousy towards a younger sibling is normal, but his parents responded with harsh punishments and did not let him voice his feelings or his fear of being replaced.  Because he couldn’t express his anger and fear, he used other ways of communicating his hostility.

He responded to his parent’s expectations with moodiness, stubbornness and a lack of cooperation. He became destructive, whinny and sulky. He refused to speak and started to underperform academically, rebelling against yet another authority figure, the teacher in school. His mother especially wanted to know his every move. This is the emotional expectation of the women in his life, which he still holds onto today, as he has grown into an adult who is secretive and vague.

As a teenager, his inner conflict grew further. When he was kicked out of school for missing too many classes, he felt that was unfair, after all he was working a nighttime job. He did not see a connection with the fact that he was falling asleep at his desk, didn’t turn his homework in on time, and cut too many classes. Expecting special treatment, he felt victimized and still tells this story from that perspective as an adult.

He has a hate-love relationship not only with his mother but every women—like his superiors at work—who appears to be powerful. His wife became an unwitting player in the reconstruction of his past. In Lisa, he was attracted to a woman who was strong and controlling. Simultaneously being attracted to a strong woman who reminded him of his mother and subconsciously fearing dependency and control, he responds to her with retreat, sulking, stubbornness or by turning a cold shoulder.

Yohan is unaware that a mutual dependency is normal and healthy. As humans we all need other people: we are interdependent beings. In our romantic relationships, that means letting yourself be cared for by your partner and at the same time caring for your partner. Dependency makes him feel weak, incompetent and needy. Feeling needy creates a fear of abandonment.

Today, he sets up situations which create an experience of deprivation, rejection or abandonment for him, especially in his love relationships. The stuck emotion of feeling unimportant and the belief that others, especially women, are not giving, operates like a self-fulfilling prophecy in his life. Either he does not express his needs at all and expects his wife Lisa to be a mind reader, or he expresses them at inopportune moments when the kids need to be attended to or Lisa is distracted by work. Subconsciously, he expects for his needs not to be met and sets out to prove that this is true. Meanwhile, he believes other people have all these unreasonable expectations of him which he feels resentful about.

When faced with challenges, opportunities or conflicts, he responds with procrastination, lack of initiative and indecisiveness. He waits for others to solve his problems or for his luck to turn. When others suggest positive changes or new opportunities, his response is, “what’s the point?” His hopelessness wins out over taking action.

Lisa, his second spouse, has a strong manager personality trait and says she fell for Yohan’s potential. She came to his rescue by organizing his finances and resolving his problems with co-workers and family members. She is surprised that Yohan resents her for what he experiences as dependency on her. His inactivity has brought out her more controlling side. And her controlling side activates his passive-aggressive behaviour. The more she tries to fix and help, the more resistant and negative he becomes.

A similar thing occurred in his previous marriage. That marriage ended due to Yohan having an affair and carelessly leaving the signs for his indiscretion out in the open for his first wife to find them. According to Scott Wetzler, that again is typical for passive aggressive men. “No matter how troubled relationships get, the passive-aggressive man will not unilaterally leave them…If he wants out, he’ll engineer the situation so you are forced to break up with him. Leaving is too real, too actively self-assertive, requiring too much initiative. It would allow you to actually blame him, something he doesn’t like at all.” (Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man)

Lisa loves Yohan and she wants to get out of the role of being the mother figure he fears and resents. At the same time, Yohan is recognizing his challenges due to his learned passive-aggressive behaviour and the underlying fears. What can Yohan and Lisa do so that their marriage does not end in the same way that his first one did?

Please read my next blog to find out. You can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post part 2 of this article. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar or in the pop-up window.

If you are interested in ordering Scott Wetzler’s book ”Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” I am grateful for you using my amazon associate link.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

Check out my discount packages for couples.

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca