Do You Trust Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Competence (skills, knowledge, experience)

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

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

 

  1. Reliability (time, responsiveness)

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

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

  1. Benevolence

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

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

 

  1. Integrity

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Thank you for your support!

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

“Good night, John Boy!” – What is Family?

Do you remember the television show “The Waltons”? I know it’s a rather old show, which launched in 1972. It was one of the few TV shows I was allowed to watch as a child. I loved the family support the characters extended to each other and it really touched my heart how each episode ended. You saw their house in the dark, the Walton family with their seven kids and two grandparents went to bed, one light after the next was turned off, and they all said “Good night” to each other. “Good night, Mama,” “Good night, Daddy,” Good night, children!” “Good night, John Boy!”

Over the last six weeks, I have been contemplating the question of what “family” really means. What constitutes family and how do families cope with things?

Waltons 1

There is, of course, the ideal of the “picture book perfect family,” like the Waltons. We probably all carry that family archetype around in our mind. But let’s get real. It is 2017, not the 1930’s, and the reality is that there are more and more blended families. We are faced with more complicated family dynamics, other challenges, and different conflicts than the Waltons would have ever dreamed of. In today’s world, family set-ups change constantly. Separations and divorces occur and new unions, for example second or third marriages, are formed. Custody arrangements change, or children get older and move out. With each stage in life, energetic dynamics are transformed. Families even change temporarily, as we have experienced this summer.

For the last six weeks, my 16-year-old daughter has been living and working in Quebec. Meanwhile, we had a 17-year-old exchange student from Quebec staying with us. Just like our daughter in Quebec, he had to adapt to a completely new environment, a different language, his summer job in English, and many new impressions and events each day. They both impressed us tremendously with their openness and courage.

We also had to adapt as a family and understand cultural differences and differences in communication styles. Within the first weekend, our “exchange son” had captured both our hearts with his awareness and sensitivity. A bass guitar major for the last six years, he brought music into our house and many interesting conversations. He wanted to get to know both of us and made the effort to connect right from the start. Very observant and mature in his communication skills—despite the language challenges—we felt from the first moment on that we “lucked out” with this amazing summer guest.

Sounds like the “honeymoon”? It was. Ten days into his stay, the first challenges naturally arose which we had to work through together. Just as in a blended family, there were different values, other rituals and new ways of doing things. From home, he was used to coming and going spontaneously, unaware that over here in his host family, everybody else had adjusted their schedule to his to spend some quality time together. He was not used to communicating when plans that he had made were changing, or accustomed to keeping each other informed by text. The curfew put in place by the exchange program was initially looked upon by him and other French students as a suggestion, and the concept that parents might worry until the young people are back home safely did not occur to the students.

Having grown up in an all-girls household and having only parented girls, I was expecting that familiar communication of sharing your experiences and feelings, and expressing appreciation for each other on a daily basis. I read one syllable answers to questions and his lack of planning as a lack of consideration and lack of appreciation. He read our questions, responses to his behaviour and different rules as overprotection and judgement. The more he felt “not good enough” and “wrong,” the less he wanted to communicate. When we feel blamed, we sometimes just want to run and avoid an unpleasant talk. That is a human response. It took a change in approach—a “tough love” tone—for him to wake up.

Good Night, John Boy 0

We are so extremely proud of this young man for taking responsibility for his side of the misunderstandings and for being open to hear our explanations and apologies where we had made him feel judged as “wrong”. After this talk, we gained a tremendous understanding for each other. Our communication improved greatly, and we were able to see each other’s dissimilarity as just different instead of wrong or rude. We were able to focus on the similarities and the efforts made by everybody and express more appreciation towards each other.

Now, almost at the end of his stay, we are truly sad to see him go. There is no question in our minds and hearts that we will stay in touch with him, just as my daughter will continue the connection with her loving and truly amazing host family.

This exchange experience had me contemplating the question, “What is family”? What is it that the Waltons have that can be still found—or be missing—today in our modern families?

For me, it boils down to the wisdom that as a family you are stronger. What is good for one member of the family is good for all. You don’t give up on each other, but you talk through challenges and you grow from sharing your feelings and thoughts. You learn about the feelings, experiences and triggers the other family members have. From that place of greater understanding, you take responsibility for your part in a regretful interaction and create compromises together. Or, as a friend of mine said a few weeks ago when we spoke about issues with her step-son, “Shit happens in families, but as a family you work through this shit together!”

Good night, John Boy 1

Unfortunately, in her case, the mother of my friend’s teenage step-son is sheltering him from having to take responsibility for a big screw-up. She is depriving the father and his family from having the opportunity to work through things together as a family unit. Instead of trusting her son that he is old enough at 17 to work through a conflict to which he contributed, she is doing him a disservice by letting him hide behind her apron. Wanting to be the more beloved parent can leave us very short-sighted in terms of what beliefs and coping strategies we teach our children.

A family unit can only function if our feelings and needs are not swept under the carpet but rather are processed. Without the willingness to be vulnerable and discover what is going on underneath the feelings of irritation or anger we might be experiencing, we can’t move out of a stuck state. By not working through things as a family, we are making a choice to carry anger, resentment and blame with us. Sometimes it is the parent generation who is not willing to communicate openly and honestly, at other times it’s the young generation feeling unable to express themselves. Often the unsuccessful communication goes both ways. However, only when we take responsibility for our feelings, words and actions, can we grow as individuals as well as families.

Good night, John Boy 2

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 & Relationship Coach

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

One way of working on your relationships is the Relationship Energetics Workshop coming up this fall.  For more course information please click here.

Groundhog Day – Communication Styles

“Just tell me right out what is wrong!” says our exchange student. And I can’t help but feel that this situation is quite surreal. I came to Canada from Germany 16 years ago and have since adapted to the Anglo-American indirect communication style. I can still feel that need to blurt right out what I am feeling bubble up at times but I dutifully squelch it—most of the time—because I have learned such uninhibited “vomiting” of thoughts or feelings will not be well received.

So for almost three weeks I have been saying things like, “Your dishes can go into the dishwasher. The frying pan needs to be washed in the sink,” and I assumed, based on my current social environment, this would translate into, “Please put your dishes into the dishwasher and clean the frying pan after you have used it.” I have also been saying, “Do you have an alarm on your phone you can set for in the mornings?” instead of “Please set your alarm for 6:30 and get up by yourself.” And “Please text us your plans,” instead of “We are having dinner at 8:00. If you are not planning to be home for dinner, please let us know ahead of time.”

It is not that this direct way of speech is unfamiliar to me. Had I been speaking in German, I would have automatically slipped into those phrases in German. But with the language and cultural context, I had made assumptions. I expected the receiver of my communication to be capable of inferring from my words to the meta-message.

communication - responsibility lies with sender

We make assumptions all the time. Do you have a family member or co-worker who is not responding to what you are trying to convey? Does it feel like they don’t hear you? We can feel so alone and get really frustrated when that occurs. However, we need to keep in mind that the responsibility for communication always lies with the sender.  Communication is successful when the sender’s message is correctly received and understood. Therefore, it is the sender’s responsibility to communicate clearly and effectively and to check the understanding of the delivered message.

I had not done that. I had found myself in a rendition of Groundhog Day, where each morning the almost 18-year-old man needed to be kicked out of bed after oversleeping, and where each morning, after his departure, the dirty frying pan and spatula were sitting on top of the stove and the unwashed plate and cup in the sink. What does Bill Murray do in Groundhog Day? He first goes crazy until he decides to let go and enjoy himself in the ever repeating reality.

Groundhog-Day

If you are feeling like it’s Groundhog Day, you neither have to go crazy, nor just let it go. You have the key to ending the miscommunication by changing your end of it. That might be the content of your messages, the tone of your voice, the non-verbal signals, or all of the above. When communication is not working, it’s not the receiver’s fault. Too often, we make people wrong in the process of not being able to get through to them. Their communication style is not wrong, just different.

Sometimes when communication is frustrating we feel irritated and annoyed. That sends additional interfering messages to the person at the receiving end. They feel not good enough in some way, perhaps like a burden, or unappreciated, or lectured to, or criticized. Step one is to check your communication honestly for that destructive energy. When we can perceive the receiver as willing and capable, our meta-message is one of trust and respect, instead of annoyed superiority.

Step two, change the choice of your words and double check the result. You might have to try out something completely different that you have not tried yet, and monitor the result. Sometimes your words might be too indirect; at other times the words might have too much edge. Do you perhaps need to use gentler start ups to ensure your receiver remains open to receiving your communication?

I am glad our Groundhog Days at home are over. I am very impressed by how us adapting our communication style slightly has allowed our exchange student to also adapt to planning ahead and being very considerate. Communication can create frustration, but when successful, communication creates wonderful bonds of connection.

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.

Please check out the upcoming relationship workshop which will include tools for more successful communication, especially for conflicts.

Angelika Baum

Belief Change and Relationship Coach

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

The Stress Reducing Conversation

What happens when you are stressed or upset about something outside of your relationship and you turn to your partner to share? Is he or she able to relieve stress for you and be a true source of support? Or do you often feel even more alone after trying to vent and share?

Many couples seem to struggle with the difference between being supportive and helpful, and trying to “fix” things for each other. When our partner presents a problem to us, we often end up trying to fix it or solve it. We try to come up with advice or a solution. This approach on its own is as if we are saying, “You are not smart enough to solve this problem yourself, so let me do this for you.” We skip important steps by doing this.

Stress Reducing Conversation 1

 

The “Masters of Relationships”, as Drs John and Julie Gottman call couples who are successful at communicating and connecting, have a different approach when stress occurs in their partner’s life. Here are four steps to follow in the footsteps of the “Masters”.

  1. Ask Questions

First, you listen well and you show interest by asking your partner questions that allow you to get a better understanding what your partner’s subjective experience is.  For example, “how are you feeling about that?” or “what worries you most?” You are trying to understand WHAT your partner is feeling.

  1. Empathize With our Partner’s Feelings

Your second step is to empathize with your partner. Empathy sounds, for example, like this: “I can see why you feel upset / worried about that”, or “No wonder you are pretty angry”, or “It sounds like you had a really challenging day”. You are just making a statement about HOW your partner feels.

  1. Don’t side with the “enemy”

You always take your partner’s side in the matter. The goal of a stress reducing conversation is to help your partner feel less alone with what is stressing them out. One of the worst things to feel when you are stressed is that you are all by yourself. Even if you agree with the criticism or response your partner was experiencing from another, this is not the time to side with the other person. Postpone problem solving and refrain from pointing out that you agree with their opponent. Instead, just empathize with how your partner feels. That way you stay honest about your own thoughts, but at the same time you can show your partner support. You can be their ally and best friend and help relieve their stress by allowing them to share.

Stress Reducing Conversation 2.jpg

  1. Don’t problem solve for your partner

Before you offer solutions, ask your partner what their thoughts are in regards to shifting a situation or solving a problem. Trust your partner to have good insights and some ideas on what to do. If your partner asks you for your perspective or for solutions, you can offer to solve the problem together. Fixing is not helping, neither your partner, nor your relationship.

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

Angelika

Relationship Coaching and Belief Changes

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!

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

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

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?”

DESCRIPTION: Uncommon knowledge on how to connect with your essential self and experience greater fulfillment and soul authenticity.

Click here to register and to receive the link to join us life. The webinar will also be posted on YouTube afterwards.

Broken?

Six days ago I had an accident and fractured both my ankles, which left me unable to put weight on either of my feet, so no walking and certainly no climbing stairs. You would think it would have been enough to injure one leg, but clearly the Universe wanted me to stop completely and have the full experience.

Most people ask me about the pain first. Yes, of course this experience comes with physical pain but it is so much more. It comes with vulnerable moments and it highlights “what is” in each moment in time and within our relationships. It alters how we experience life. It suddenly feels like I am sitting on the sidelines and am taking life in second hand. There are sad moments in this, like missing my daughter’s school play, but I am grateful that I am not “benched” for the rest of the “game”.

It certainly has been and continues to be an interesting perspective changer and opportunity for a whole myriad of lessons. So far, I have uncovered lessons for personal growth, lessons for growth in my closest relationships, and last but not least, spiritual growth. There are lessons about gratitude and appreciation, about problem solving and independence versus interdependence, about giving and communication.

Things don’t happen without a reason and it is fascinating to uncover the messages and gifts in this challenge. I consider myself lucky for all the tools of discovery that I have, that I can muscle test why this happened, and what there is for me to change, learn and do, during the next few weeks or even the next couple of months.

My ankles might be broken for now and they require love, care and healing, yet my spirit in some ways feels more whole than ever. The outpour of love and caring from my family and friends has been absolutely overwhelming.

Several friends reached out with alternative healing methods, and I am especially grateful for the In Light Wellness pads for bringing down the swelling and healing the fractures. Within the first two days, all sorts of neat and life changing devices and gadgets arrived from various friends to allow me to be more mobile and go about every day life with dignity and some independence.

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I initially learned some tough lessons, for example how many painful baby steps with two air casts and two crutches it takes from the bottom of our stairs to the doorway. Yet, the longer this experience goes on, the more beauty there is in it. My heart is deeply touched by all the love and care that has been so freely and generously given.

There are so many things we take for granted or ignore. We take our body for granted, our health, our independence, and our mobility. We often forget what it is like to be really still and reflect.

My heart is literally elated each time I learn to do something for myself without the use of my legs; like a toddler who gains a piece of autonomy with each skill. I would never have expected there to be so much joy in independence. My twenty year old, who has been an absolutely impressive loving support during the last week, just steps back and smiles at me each time. All of a sudden, the roles are reversed. That’s how I used to smile at her when she first learned to crawl, walk, eat, use the washroom or dress herself.

The situation has required us all to be resourceful and adaptable. We don’t usually have to employ the same level of problem solving skills in our regular everyday lives. There is an excitement in figuring out how to improve life, almost of an instinctual kind of nature. I imagine that is how pioneers felt when they had to survive in new territory.

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There also is beauty in how this challenge shines the spotlight brightly on areas which could use some improvement, for example communication. More than ever, I am acutely aware of how important it is to communicate our thoughts, feelings and needs clearly. Some exchanges are absolutely perfect. Thinking ahead makes a huge difference, and so do seemingly unimportant little ways of “touching base with each other”, like “I am going to…” or “Would you like…?” Those are the ingredients for being “in tune” with each other and making this experience one full of love, joy and dignity; or—how one of my best friends commented the other day—“to find the happiness in whatever shows up”.

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

(For the interim I am working over skype or the phone.)

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.

 

 

You Just Don’t Understand

“I think my marriage is not going to last much longer,” Julie says. I encourage her to go on. “We don’t talk!” she continues. “Whenever I want to talk, my husband says ‘There is nothing to talk about.’ And we just sit and watch TV together. And then he wants to go to bed and have sex when we can’t even talk with each other!”

Once again it’s the time to pull a book out of my shelf by Deborah Tannen, a professor of Linguistics, which was published 15 years ago. In her book “You Just Don’t Understand”, she beautifully illustrates the gender differences when it comes to communication, which can challenge us in our relationships.

“…many women are deeply hurt when men don’t talk to them at home, and many men are deeply frustrated by feeling they have disappointed their partners, without understanding how they failed or how else they could have behaved.” (Tannen, p. 82)

The gender differences when it comes to communication stem from a different upbringing. Even though things are changing, men and women are still socialized differently. Boys tend to play outside, in larger groups that are hierarchically structured. Their groups have a leader who tells others what to do. The power structure is negotiated by giving orders, telling stories and jokes, and by challenging the stories and jokes of the other boys. Boys’ games have winners and losers. It is accepted to boast of their skills and argue who is the best at something.

Girls play mostly in pairs or smaller groups. The centre of a girl’s social life is often her best friend. In that relationship, intimacy is key. Many of the girls’ activities do not have winners and losers. Girls are expected not to boast and if they are strong leaders, they are frequently accused of being bossy. They often simply sit together and talk. There is less joking for status. Girls are more focused on being the same and more concerned that they be liked.

Based on their upbringing, men use conversations for negotiations and to achieve and maintain their position of power or respect. Life is about independence and avoiding weakness and vulnerability. For women conversations are negotiations for closeness. They seek and give confirmation and support. Conversations are a protection from being pushed away, a struggle to avoid isolation. The main purpose of communication is to create closeness through vulnerability.

Men use words

Julie perceives her husband’s behaviour as a failure of intimacy, she assumes he is keeping things from her, or has lost interest in her or is pulling away. She can’t comprehend why he wants to be physically intimate if they can’t even connect through words. She is unaware that men use the spoken language more to convey information. So when he says “there is nothing to talk about” he is solely saying “I don’t have any information to convey at the moment”. It does not occur to him that for Julie, talking is the main way of experiencing connection and intimacy. For women, talk is for interaction and to feel closer to each other. Telling things is a way to open up and be vulnerable, and listening is a way to show that we care.

“When I ask him what he is thinking, he says “nothing”! How is that possible?,” Julie says. For Julie, like for most women, it is natural to express her fleeting thoughts and opinions. Men usually assume that their passing thoughts and feelings are not worth uttering. Speaking them would give them more weight and significance than they feel they deserve. While Julie naturally speaks her thoughts and feelings in private conversations with people she loves, her husband naturally dismisses his thoughts as soon as they occur as “not important enough”.

A particular scene used to repeat itself in our home. I would ask my daughters “How was school?” and the flood gates for a really lively communication filled with feeling would open. “It was a great day. At lunch time, I asked my friend B how her first date with C was and she told me… And my drama teacher today, guess what he said when… And I am planning to apply for drama council… what do you think, should I do that?… I am mad at myself though because I made some really silly mistakes on the math test…” etc.

Then I, or one of the girls, would ask my partner, “How was your day?” He would say, “Good…” Pause. Three pairs of eyes were looking at him expectedly. We could literally see his wheels turning. “They want more… okay, what happened today?” He would then embark on a list of factual events of the day. “I first did this… and then so and so came… and there was so much traffic on the way to… and then I had a meeting with so and so.” Looking around the table I would see the girls eyes glaze over and think, “It’s not just me who is tuning out.” What happened there? We hadn’t asked him to list what he did, we had asked him to connect with us on a feeling level. What we really wanted to know was how he felt during his day. We wanted to be able to experience his day second-hand through his thoughts, feelings and opinions.

So now we have a joke in our house. When we are trying to connect through words, thoughts and feelings, I will say “Okay. Tell us about your fleeting thoughts and feelings you had today! You know, the ones that you figured weren’t worth mentioning.” He can then laugh because he understands that his way of communicating is not lacking. We are just requesting to connect through feelings and thoughts, which to him seem unimportant. At that moment, I am asking him to speak the female genderlect for a bit.

women tend to connect

What does it on the other hand mean for women to speak the male genderlect? One way of speaking the male language is to connect through jokes and “ribbing”. Just as men often aren’t comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings, we are often not as skilled at joking around and teasing others.

Another situation in which we might have to shift into the male genderlect is when we are in a position of authority as a boss or teacher. When I was studying to become a teacher, many of my fellow male students chose to teach high school rather than the elementary level. One said to me, “What I like about high school is that I can pull the trouble makers (male students) aside and let them know very clearly that we can have fun unless they piss me off. I can tell them if they piss me off that they’ll get kicked out. That always works!”

I remember wondering back then if that would work as well for a female teacher. I also remember thinking that it seemed really exhausting to me to have to discipline like this. For men, domineering over others through language comes more naturally, for women it is like learning a new language, the language of power and status.

In public situations, meetings for example, the roles are often reversed. Most men are more comfortable putting themselves on display, claiming public attention for what they have to say.

If you have a silent man at home who says “there is nothing to talk about”, keep in mind that for many men, being home means being free from having to prove themselves to others through verbal communication. They are free to be silent. For women on the other hand, home is a place where they are free to talk.

Nagging owls

Unfortunately, our differences in communication have given us women a bad rep as well. Have you ever wondered why women get labelled as “nags”? That is the result of the interplay between women’s and men’s different communication styles. Many women are inclined to do what is asked of them, especially if asked nicely; “many men are inclined to resist even the slightest hint that anyone, especially a woman, is telling them what to do. A woman will be inclined to repeat a request that doesn’t get a response because she is convinced that her husband would do what she asks, if he only understood that she really wants him to do it.” (Tannen, 31)

Her assumption is that he just didn’t hear her or forgot what she asked. She cannot fathom why he has an issue with being asked to do something. “but a man who wants to avoid feeling that he is following orders may instinctively wait before doing what she asked, in order to imagine that he is doing it of his own free will. Nagging is the result, because each time she repeats the request, he again puts off fulfilling it.” (Tannen, 31)

Another gender difference shows up when a decision needs to be made. Many women feel it is natural to consult their partners. They expect decisions to be discussed first and made by consensus. The discussion itself for women is evidence of closeness, caring and involvement. Usually, they are not asking their partners to make the decision for them.

Men on the other hand often feel hemmed if they can’t just act without talking first. How often have I heard men in my sessions or in my circle of friends complain “I feel like I have to ask for permission!” What women perceive as connection is seen by men as a lack of independence and being controlled by the woman, and therefore they fear being perceived as incompetent and weak.

For most women sharing

Men and women are frequently talking at cross-purposes when it comes to expressing feelings or troubles. When we share with our girlfriends how we feel, they are usually very good at sympathizing. One way they show us that they are empathizing and that we are not alone with our challenges is that they match our problem with a matching trouble. They might share that they feel the same or have had a similar experience. For most women the message itself is not the main point of complaining. It’s the metamessage that counts: Talking about a problem is a request for an expression of understanding. Troubles talk is intended to reinforce rapport between the person sharing and the person listening.

Men often tend to give the gift of advice or solving a problem over the gift of empathy. “But whereas many women appreciate help in fixing mechanical equipment, few are inclined to appreciate help in ‘fixing’ emotional troubles.” (Tannen, 52) In fact, women are frustrated when they do not get that closeness and understanding but rather advice which sends the meta-message “We are not the same. You have the problems. I have the solutions.”

Mutual understanding is symmetrical and connects. Giving advice is asymmetrical. “It frames the advice giver as more knowledgeable, more reasonable, more in control—in a word, one-up. And this contributes to the distancing effect.” (Tannen, 53)

So next time your partner does not validate your feelings but suggests a solution to your emotional struggle, remember that he missed the meta-message. You might need to say, “Honey, I don’t need a solution. I just want to bounce something off you and express my feelings. It would make me feel close and safe if you could just listen and acknowledge my feelings.” Then give him a chance to speak the female genderlect as best as he can.

Angelika

Relationship Coaching

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.

Additional Points to Consider for Step-Parenting

Do you know what a pot-bound plant is?

When a plant is growing in a particular pot, it keeps growing but its environment, the pot, does not grow with it. The plant gets to a certain point and then becomes what is called “pot bound”. The roots just keep going round and fill up the whole pot. They become more and more rigid. They cannot spread out in that cramped environment. When you break open the old pot and replant the plant in a bigger pot or in the garden the plant can stretch out and grow much bigger.

A stepfamily, according to Sidra Stone—who came up with this perfect metaphor—is like breaking the old pots open and giving the family members, especially the children, a place to grow which is much bigger.

stepparenting - heartWith this new, unfamiliar and bigger space come a lot of adjustments. The plants need to get used to the new soil. If loving gardeners make sure the new soil is rich and fertile and full of nutrients, the plants are more likely to do well in the new environment.

These days, who doesn’t know someone who is part of a stepfamily? In 2011in Canada, there were 464,335 “melted families”. This represents more than 10% of Canadian families with children. Melted families are becoming increasingly complex. In 1995, the simple stepfamilies—in which all the children were the children of one of the spouses only—were still in the majority. Today, complex stepfamilies with children from both spouses are as common or even in the majority.

Stepparenting 7

In my blog “Points to Consider for Parenting” on September 1st, I elaborated on four aspects of parenting which can help us to be more successful parents if we are aware of them:

  1. The Adults in the Family Should Be True Partners in Parenting
  1. Children Carry Our Disowned Selves; They Show Us What We Tend to Judge and Dislike
  1. Be Aware of the Energetic Linkage: Who is bonded into Whom?
  1. Ask, What Does This Parenting Situation Have to Teach Me?

Stepparenting 1

Here are two additional points to consider particularly for stepparenting:

  1. You Are the Parent of Your Own Children

Don’t try to be the disciplining parent for your stepchildren, especially if they still have two biological parents. It’s impossible and bound to fail. Don’t expect to take the part of their mother or father. There is no such thing as “just” being the stepparent. It is an important and enriching experience for everybody involved. Yet different guidelines apply for the stepparent than apply for the parent. When the parent is not taking charge of a situation, it can understandably be challenging for the stepparent to hold back.

It is therefore important for each parent to step into your parenting role when it comes to your own biological children. It is your responsibility to parent your children. Leaving it up to the stepparent to do the disciplining or activities that you do not enjoy is unfair to everybody. Communicate clearly with your partner what you need from him or her. This can mean that you—or your partner—need to step up and become a more confident or involved parent.

Stepparenting POINT 5 - Step up to parent

  1. Vulnerability

When old family systems are dissolved and we move from being a couple to being parents or stepparents, from having no siblings or full siblings to suddenly having stepsiblings, everybody is vulnerable and insecure: the adults as well as the children. Everybody is faced with a new situation and adjustments while navigating their own feelings and experiences.

We need to be aware of our vulnerability and this vulnerability has to be available between the partners. We usually live in our power selves of pusher or rational mind or assertive self and so on, which exist to protect our vulnerability. These power selves are useful for our survival but can prevent real connections.

Vulnerability gives us the option to be with somebody without all the defences and guards. It allows us to be authentic and to feel and communicate all feelings. When things happen in the parenting situation, it allows us then to come to our partner and express how we truly feel and to work out a solution together. If we are not able to do that, we might end up attacking our partner or his or her child because we are not aware of our own vulnerability in a situation. Our power selves jump in and take control. Communicating the vulnerability is the first step towards aligning with your partner. The next big step is to bring this same open communication to the children or stepchildren instead of coming from a place of power all the time. The interactions can then become deep sensitive connections with them, a totally different quality of interactions than when we come from our power selves.

Another vulnerability that comes into play is the new set of in-laws for each partner. In the case of a second or third marriage, we have even lost one set of in-laws and siblings-in-laws from the previous relationship and we need to navigate the new rules and ways of the new in-laws. The new in-laws might be struggling just in the same way with the changes which come up. They might fear losing the contact with their son or daughter and with their grandchildren, now that a new person has come into the picture. It is a situation which brings up lots of vulnerabilities, insecurities and fears. Be loving and kind with yourself and those around you as you are going through those changes.

Stepparenting POINT 6 - Vulnerability

When the parents choose to parent consciously, both stepping up to be involved parents who are aware of vulnerabilities among the family members and ready to address them, the conditions are ideal for new growth. Children can spread out to make new experiences and to grow strong roots in their new and more expansive environment, like pot bound plants that are being replanted in larger pots.

Angelika

Conscious Parenting & Life Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

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.

Points to Consider for Parenting

Traveling in Europe and comparing parenting styles in Great Britain and Germany to Canada reminded me of how different parenting is from culture to culture.

The examples of British parenting we saw were gentle reminders of manners, sometimes interlaced with humour. Yet, the children seem to know exactly that something said in a sarcastic or humorous way still has to be taken seriously.

German parenting is more direct and humourless. German parents navigate an interesting balance between granting their children a lot of individuality and freedom—much more than we do in Canada—and yet being quite outright, outspoken and direct when it comes to enforcing rules.

German parents are reluctant to encourage kids to do something they are not in the mood for. Your five-year-old does not want to give grandma a hug and kiss? That’s okay. Your eight-year-old does not want to join in the games at the birthday party because he thinks it’s “blöd” (stupid)? That’s okay. Your twelve-year-old does not want to join the family for dinner even though relatives are over? That’s okay. Your sixteen-year-old does not want to come on vacation with his/her parents? That’s okay.

Hardly ever are children encouraged to put the needs of others or a group over their own individual needs and wants. I suspect that is a result of the Nazi time in which obedience and conformity was put above else. As so often in history an entire nation has done an 180˚ turn. Yet, when children cross “the line”, whatever that line in each individual case and each individual parent is, the parent can get very direct, authoritative and will raise their voice.

Clearly each country or culture has different values for parenting. What seems right in one culture might be frowned upon in another. I was wondering if there are any common points independent of the culture that one might want to consider for parenting and/or step-parenting.

Parenting 1

Children change the dynamics of every partnership greatly. When a new baby is born or when step-children enter into the picture, the self contained unit of the two grown-ups loving each other or the previous family system break open to include one or more other people. If we are not aware of the changing dynamics and in touch with our own feelings and fears, conflicts are inevitable. Instead of bringing more joy and growth, parenting then becomes a burden for the relationship.

Here are some points to consider for parenting based on Hal and Sidra Stone’s work, which I believe might be applicable in many different parts of the world:

  1. Acceptance of the Partnering Model for Parenting

Partnering is a non-hierarchical model of parenting. In partnering, both partners are equally involved in all areas. In partnering everything is a joint venture. There is a sense of a no-fault kind of relationship, instead of blaming the other parent. Each event brings with it a new learning. Both partners should be sharing the authority, the responsibility, and the power in the relationship to the children as well as to each other.

The basic connection in the family system must be between the two people in charge, the couple. Children “smell” very quickly when the connection between the parents isn’t working and are naturally going to take advantage of that fundamental flaw in the family system. Dynamics then begin to happen that don’t work well for the family.

For each partner that means to look at the children and step-children from your partner’s eyes. You do not necessarily need to agree with your partner but you need to understand where he or she is coming from. You need to be able to see and feel their point of view. Learn to honour the viewpoint of your partner, no matter how different it is, because there is a teaching there for us. It is an opportunity to integrate our disowned selves, the traits we don’t like about ourselves and others.

Parenting POINT 1 - Make sure adults

  1. Primary and Disowned Selves, Opposites & Polarization

The Primary Selves are the group of selves who make up our identity, or who we are identified with. The Disowned Selves are the ones we have had to drop because we learned they are not good to have. We usually treasure our primary selves and are attached to them (“That’s just how I am”); the disowned selves we don’t like. The stepchildren, new in-laws, and other people in our life – even the pets—are going to carry our disowned selves and show us what we tend to judge and dislike.

Those family members show us the opposites which we are not comfortable with and we often even polarize into those opposites further as we live and interact together.

For example, if I am quite neat and my child or stepchild is a bit sloppy, the child might polarize into being even messier while I become more paranoid about cleaning and tidying up. The child is taking on my messy energy that I—and possibly everybody in the house—have disowned. However, once they move out, we might find that living on their own, they have quite a neat household.

If I am identified with cleanliness, I might judge the person very strongly for living in a mess. Judgements give us the keys to our primary and our disowned selves. When you feel yourself judging other family members, remind yourself that the judgments give you a feedback about yourself and the parts of yourself that you disown.

Parenting POINT 2 - Children carry disowned

  1. Energetic Linkage

Tune in to find out who is bonded into whom in the family. What I mean by that is notice who feels close to whom and how the bonding happens. Are the energies truly flowing between you and your partner, or perhaps you and your favourite child? Where the real warmth is shows us the bonding patterns in a family. These bonding patterns are always going on underneath. Be aware of them and consciously make sure the main bond is between you and your partner. Enough time and opportunities to maintain the bond between the couple who are the core unit of the family are very important for the entire system and for successful parenting.

Parenting POINT 3 - Be aware

  1. Life is a Teacher

Trust that challenges are there to be worked through. You always have the choice to step back and ask, what is the teaching or meaning of what comes up? Life, illness, relationships and parenting are each a teacher for us to learn to become more whole. Our partner can always trust that we are willing to work something out, when we honestly ask the question, what does this parenting situation have to teach me?

Parenting POINT 4 - Ask what does

Angelika

Conscious Parenting & Life Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

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.

Conscious Parenting – Finding Authentic Compromises Versus Bargaining

Just a few days ago, a memory from seventeen years ago came to my mind. Back then, I was a relatively young mother, who was still partially figuring out what kind of a parent I wanted to be. As an elementary school teacher, I had worked out which rules apply to having a classroom full of 6 year olds as opposed to a classroom of 10 year olds. As a foster parent of a little girl I had—through trial and error—worked out what she needed during those four years that we fostered her. She needed so much more of everything parents can give: more reassurance, more consistency, more love. What I hadn’t worked out, yet, was a conscious awareness of needs—mine and other—and negotiating true compromises.

At that time, I was witness to what struck me as a very odd scene between an Egyptian friend of mine and her 17-year-old daughter. The topic of the conversation was the daughter’s curfew on a Saturday night. The daughter suggested 11:30. The mother countered with 8:30 which resulted in a dramatic response from the daughter. So the mother went to 9 o’clock and the daughter countered with 11 o’clock. Half an hour and several more outbursts of emotions later, they ended up with 10 o’clock. The daughter was pleased as punch.

When the young girl had left the room, I turned to my friend, who had made a big show of having given in, and said, “What was all that about?” She smiled and said, “I knew we would end up with 10 o’clock. She will be exactly home at the time I wanted her to be home.”

I was flabbergasted, especially as I was a “no-negotiating-by-any-means type of parent” back then. The bargaining or sometimes blackmailing that they seemed to be doing on a regular basis in her family around her three children’s needs seemed unnecessarily exhausting to me, but most of all inauthentic.

Now, there is bargaining and there is mitigating everybody’s needs. The difference between bargaining and negotiating compromises is tremendous.

Bargaining vs Negotiating by Greendoor (1)

What values and beliefs are we teaching our children by bargaining? They are learning that their needs are not worth being met without a fight. We are teaching them to be deceptive instead of open with what they want and need. We are teaching them to think of how they can win, rather than how everybody can win.

Negotiating means finding a compromise to meet everybody’s needs. Negotiating is not about who wins and who loses. Negotiating is about being creative in finding a win-win. We are teaching children that there is a way to have your needs met and that everybody can have their needs met. We are teaching them to express how they feel, to honestly ask for what they want or need, and to trust that a creative solution can be found. We are teaching them to collaborate rather than to compete for their individual gain.

I used to think that the parent has to be the boss and makes the rules. I still believe we have to remember that our child is not the boss of us but that a democratic boss opens up some decisions for discussion. When we refuse to acknowledge needs and refuse to negotiate to find compromises, we are teaching the next generation that they can never get in life what they truly want. The outcome of those experiences are grown-ups who don’t know what they want or need and don’t even attempt to express their wishes. We raise pleasers who are only able to follow the wishes of others. We raise people who feel their only strategy to get their needs met is by lying, being secretive, or being manipulative. They have no concept of living from integrity, their own personal integrity. They learn that they cannot be their authentic selves.

 Integrity De Angelis

Over Easter, we were spending time with friends and family. The more people are in the mix the more needs are sometimes colliding and need to be negotiated. One child ended up crying because she had hoped for a particular activity. The response of the adults present was mixed. The opinion that she should not get what she wanted because crying is not an adequate way of expressing your needs was voiced. The parent of the child felt she was trying to manipulate her way to what she wanted through this behaviour. That parent would have been me 15 years ago! I was an “I don’t negotiate” kind of parent. I strongly believed children shouldn’t get what they want by crying, sulking or throwing a temper tantrum.

Today, I believe that it is important to differentiate. There is more than meets the eye in a situation like this. If a child chooses to sulk, cry or get angry, we have to understand that they have already learned this is their only option. There certainly are more appropriate ways to express one’s needs. They might also truly just be expressing their sadness, disappointment or anger. We have to teach children that their needs and feelings matter and that they will be met if it is at all possible. They have to learn how to arrive at compromises to have everybody’s needs met. Life is about win-win, not about how to achieve a win over others.

When our children are getting emotional, let’s sit them down, help them to express how they feel, for example “disappointed”, “angry”, or “unimportant/like I don’t matter”. Let them know they have a right to feel what they feel. Then put everybody’s needs on the table, for example: “You want to play this game which takes an hour, Anna wants to watch this movie, Mom has a headache and wants to take a nap, Dad has to start cooking dinner, the dog has to go for a walk and Peter needs a ride to work. We have two hours left. What do you suggest?”

Then sit back and trust them to be creative to work out a compromise which is a win-win situation for everybody. Let them be the problem solvers. If they are struggling to come up with ideas at first, make suggestions. Negotiating teaches them to truly listen to others and to care about everybody. Our job as parents is it to be a role model and reminder of non-violent communication and to hold the knowing that a peaceful solution can be found.

The more compromises the children get to create when they are young the more we can count on them growing-up to become balanced adults who know what they want, who believe that their needs matter and who naturally are striving to create win-win situations in all areas of their lives. After all, our children are the leaders of the future who need to be able to negotiate peace for our world.

Angelika

Life Coaching, 905-286-9466

 greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 Angelika wide picture for blogs smaller

If you are enjoying 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.

A Loving Reflection – Examining Your Stories with Your Partner

Byron Katie’s philosophy of “accepting what is” and her way of examining our thoughts for the truth are inspiring. On July 5th, Byron Katie’s posted this Facebook status:

“A relationship is two people who agree, two people who like each other’s stories. We call it love.”

This post contains some truth, yet it also feels somewhat incomplete to me.

For a relationship to thrive, the two partners need common ground. A strong foundation for a relationship is set when two people agree on some basic beliefs and values regarding life and relationships. Even though strictly speaking, these could be considered stories, those beliefs and interpretations of reality are supporting the bond between two people.

Beyond that common ground, we bring additional “stories” based on old belief systems into all our relationships. We might find ourselves creating experiences in our love relationship where the wounded child inside emerges and takes over. Many such interactions are based on myths about love and relationships.

Every story that surfaces is a gift. Either alone or together with our partner, we can examine our stories for the truth beneath. This requires one partner to hold the space, to be open and listen without judgement, and even to gently prompt us to examine a story for its truth and its value.

 

Examining a story with your partner might ideally and in an abbreviated form look like this:

Susan: I am struggling with the fact that you don’t ask me a lot of questions. The thought that comes up for me is, “Peter is not interested in me because he does not ask about my day.”

Peter: Thank you for letting me know. I am sorry you feel that way. Would you like to examine your feelings and your story with me?

Susan: Yes. It feels like this unpleasant emotion is going all the way back to my childhood. It makes me feel very small and sad. It makes me feel like my experiences or feelings don’t matter, and that I am not important. I experienced that with my parents many times.

Peter: I can see how that story makes you feel sad. Who would you be if you let that story go?

Susan: I would feel like I am important and that you care about me.

Peter: You are very important to me. I sometimes forget to ask questions, but I will make an effort to ask you about your day more often.

Susan: Thank you. I understand this is an old story from childhood and it is time to let go of it. I will remember that I am important to you.

 

Notice how Peter, being the partner who holds the space for Susan to do her work, does not get defensive and does not buy into her story. He gives her time to understand where this belief is coming from. He does not try to fix things for her but trusts her to clear the feeling and story out. Susan does her part by avoiding phrasings that blame or accuse. She takes responsibility for her feelings and knows it is up to her to work this out.

In a perfect world, all communications with our partner would unfold like the one above. Nonetheless, setting a clear intention for our conversations to unfold with such awareness is powerful. The effort is always worth it. Examining our stories together allows us to gain understanding of our partner, grow in loving acceptance, and strengthen our bond of love.

A successful relationship is two people who agree to work on their issues together, two people who recognize each other’s stories, two people who trust each other and love each other’s growth. That is what I call love.