“Only Over My Dead Body” – Hiding Parts of Us in Relationships

Listen to the blog article as an extended version on my podcast, or read it below!

David was always interested in motorcycles. But when he and Lisa met during university, he didn’t have the money to buy a bike. Lisa lost her cousin in a motorcycle accident and felt very strongly that riding a motor bike meant taking an unnecessary risk. When David and Lisa fell in love with each other, they were fascinated by their differences in personality and character. Within the first year of their marriage, their daughter arrived, and two years later, their twins followed. David put the wish for a bike aside, especially because he knew how Lisa would feel about him riding one. She told him he would only ride a bike “over my dead body”. So David exiled the part in him that was dreaming about riding across Canada on a bike.

David also used to love watching action and science fiction movies, but Lisa did not like any kind of violence. He slowly began to exile the part in him that found enjoyment in these movies. Lisa preferred to go to the theatre, art shows and other cultural events. David felt out of place in those settings. At first, he went with her because he simply loved to spend time with her, but then he became more and more reluctant. Lisa asked him less and less to go to these activities. They stayed home more. Instead of finding a friend to join her, she began to exile her culture loving part for David.

Lisa was always interested in meditations, Reiki and in crystals. When David met Lisa, her apartment was full of crystals, she went to a weekly Reiki share and meditated every day. She considered learning how to use crystals for healing and how to read tarot cards. She easily connected with others and made new friends quickly. As much as David was originally fascinated by her intuitive and spiritual nature and by her ability to connect with others, it over time began to scare him; he felt left out and threatened. He would either get clingy and retreat when Lisa met with her spiritual friends, or cynical and offensive. When that cynical part took David over, he called her friends “airheaded dreamers” who were into “new age nonsense”. Lisa stopped going to the Reiki shares and when her kids arrived, she even stopped meditating. The crystals were banished to a corner in the basement, and she gave up on her dream to be a healer. She exiled the part of her which thrived on intuitive and spiritual endeavours.

Lisa also loved animals, but David was bitten by a dog when he was young and did not want pets. Lisa gave in and exiled her pet loving part for David. After all, David had given up his interest in bikes for her. Each time she met somebody on the street walking a St Bernard, her favourite kind of dog, she longingly stopped to pat the dog, wishing she could get one for her kids and for herself.

Ten years after they originally met, David and Lisa appreciate each other as parents but they have an almost non-existing life beyond their children. Both are carrying resentment because they feel they had to hide away some parts of themselves. David’s brother just bought himself a bike and took part of the summer off to ride from coast to coast. David is feeling a dissatisfaction in his life and annoyance towards Lisa but can’t quite put his finger on the reason for it, until he realizes the connection. There is a part in him that feels trapped and angry. And if he does not address this, the part might take over in a destructive way. Lately, he has found himself very attracted to a female colleague who embodies freedom and danger for him by the way she lives her life.

Lisa has also been feeling depressed. The other day, she bumped into a spiritually minded girlfriend who she had lost touch with. When her friend Valerie told her how she has opened an alternative healing centre with a group of people, Lisa realized how much her spiritual part has been starving. She accepted her friends invitation to check out the centre but did not tell David about it, weary of how he will feel about this.

David and Lisa have done what we often naturally do in relationships. We all have many different parts. Some parts are given space in our relationships, others don’t get any room for expression. Some of our parts we already had to hide away and exile when we were young because we were told that they were bad or wrong. Or we experienced that we were hurt when showing one of those more vulnerable parts. Those hidden childhood wounds affect our relationships subconsciously in a variety of ways. Shadow Energetics works on embracing these dark or light shadows which other people mirror back to us. IFS (Internal Family Systems) Therapy also works towards more wholeness by connecting, unburdening and reintegrating these younger exiled parts.

Beyond our original exiles, we often also disown parts of us when we are in a relationship, in order to make our partner and ourselves feel safer. Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS, calls these parts neo-exiles. These are parts of us that are exiled because they are seen as threatening to the relationship.

When they met, Lisa and David were drawn to each other by the longing we all have to be loved and feel safe. Lisa liked how strong David was and how he could fix anything around the house or solve any practical problems. She liked that he was, as she says “a typical guy”. He was confident, had a strong male energy and seemed to be in control of things. The younger child parts inside of her felt looked after and safe.

David loved Lisa’s free spirit and passion. She was more outgoing than he was and had such a loving open way with people. He felt truly seen and loved by her ability to accept others. His younger parts were drawn to her emotional intelligence and fascinated by her joy for life and for people. He felt emotionally taken care of and accepted.

Over time, the qualities that attracted Lisa and David to each other became a threat to their relationship, due to their own vulnerable child parts which feared being unlovable and abandoned. They unconsciously chose to exile parts of themselves, out of fear of losing the relationship.

In order to reassure our partner and our own vulnerable parts, we might—similar to Lisa and David—exile certain parts of ourselves and expect our partner to do the same. “Unlike the parts you exiled when young, however, these neo-exiles once had a great deal of power. They aren’t used to being excluded, and they continue to have loud voices in your inner family despite their loss of influence. If, because of how you interact with your partner, there continues to be no room in your life for them, they can sabotage the relationship.” (Schwartz, You Are The One, 100)

Both Lisa and David noticed that they felt restricted in their expression of their passions and resentful about having to give up parts of themselves. They needed to become aware of the dynamics and the fears underneath.

The fear of not being lovable if we show our true self is at the core of the creation of neo-exiles. “There are many different versions of this neo-exiling dance, all fueled by one or both partners’ abandonment anxiety.” (Schwartz, You Are The One, 103)

The next step for Lisa and David is to work out ways in which these parts can be reintegrated into their relationship. What is a solution for David to live the part in him that loves the freedom of riding a bike and the excitement of action movies? What compromises can they find for Lisa to not have to exile her culture loving part, her spiritual energy and her dog loving part? Different techniques like IFS Inspired Coaching, Belief Changes through PSYCH-K® or Shadow Energetics, Emotional Releases or other coaching tools allow Lisa and David to create space for all parts of them.

Here is a JOURNAL EXERCISE if you are wondering about neo-exiles in your own relationship:

  1. What parts of yourself have you exiled / disowned in your relationship(s)?
  2. How much have your own fears led your partner—or other people you are in a relationship with—to exile parts of themselves?

 

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

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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A Sacred and Safe Space for Workshops

The word “sacred” means different things for different people. It is usually something that is regarded with great respect and reverence by a particular religion, or a group of people, or an individual person. In different traditions, there are different places, objects or rituals which are considered “sacred”.

According to the encyclopaedia, “A sacred place is first of all a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces”. To me it is a space created and upheld through intention and awareness to form an uplifting, safe, peaceful and spiritual area. Our intention to be respectful is key in creating and using a sacred space.

We might want to use certain rituals to honour the sacred space and to shift into a clear intention of what we want to feel and experience in the sacred space. This sacred space can be an area in your house which you set up with intention, perhaps as a meditative corner, possibly with an altar or other meaningful objects. Nature itself can be your sacred space and you might create a ritual around this. One of my best friends finds her daily meditation by going for a walk. This is her sacred and soul-nurturing ritual, her sacred time.

Part of focussing on the sacred is to set aside certain times and spaces as sacred, which means as something basically different than the everyday world we live in. When I offer a workshop, my intention is to provide a sacred and safe space for all the participants. With the upcoming Dream Workshop, I am more than ever focussing on the sacred as I have the immense pleasure to facilitate this class together with my friend Susan Webber, who is a spiritual artist and teacher.

Prior to this workshop, we have visited the space where we will be teaching and have performed a small ritual outside, asking permission from the ancestors to use the space. As a response, four—not just one but four—swarms of geese, which symbolize fertility, unity and intuition, flew over our heads. What a perfect symbol and encouragement for our workshop.

Did you know that geese never leave one of their own behind? Should a goose become injured during the flight to the south, another goose will leave the migrating flock to stay with the injured one. That sense of community is certainly what we would like to create with our workshops. We can have the experience that we are all one and can hold the space for each other during challenges times and experiences, or when we do our healing.

Geese are known as gifted navigators and instinctively know the way to warmer climates. They forge ahead, confident and brave, and thus are a symbol for courage and for trust in their team. Geese have intricate methods of communication. They smoothly take turns to fly at the front of the flock and communicate with each other about when and where to land. They keep each other safe. Taking this workshop is all about tuning into our intuition and listening to our more instinctive parts, like our inner child. It is also about safety in the group, and growing together as a spiritual family, in which healing and growth is possible.

During the workshop, we will use rituals to create a safe and sacred space. Susan will guide us through a smudging ceremony and a story ritual around the camp fire, and I will lead you through meditations. We will make sure that everybody feels safe to speak, explore and share.

Any personal healing work requires a safe space. This applies even more so when doing our dream work. Sharing our dreams with others requires vulnerability and trust. We need a space in which others listen respectfully and lovingly and do not intrude with their interpretations. Everybody allows everybody else to be the expert on their own dreams and the meaning of those dreams.

When you decide to join us for a workshop, you make the decision to set aside sacred time to do soul-nurturing work. You are part of this team of dream explorers, which holds the safe and sacred space for everybody else. Together we can be like the flock of geese, forging ahead to discover new lands.

Sacred space is where you connect with who you are at a soul level, where you find yourself again, and sometimes again and again. Workshop participants often return for further workshops to learn something new, but also to experience and connect in this sacred and heart-opening space once again.

 

Join us—for the first time or again—on Dec. 9/10, 2017 for the Dream Workshop in Lowville (Burlington). For more details click here or contact me

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Constructive Disagreements in Relationships – PART TWO Perpetual Problems

Whether we just had a new baby as I described in part one of this article, whether we have no children or older ones, an important aspect of constructive disagreements is processing our fights, acknowledging perpetual problems, and understanding the stories underneath our differences.

  1. Processing and Understanding Fights

We have to get outside of a fight in order to process it. Once you have calmed down, begin by describing the feelings you had during the fight. Just name them, don’t explain or elaborate. Let your partner do the same. For example, “I felt defensive / excluded / angry / misunderstood / criticized / treated unfairly / unappreciated / overwhelmed / afraid” and so on.

Then summarize your viewpoint. Then listen to your partner’s viewpoint. Don’t interrupt each other. Avoid blaming, disagreeing or getting back into the fight. Instead step into your partners shoes and try to see his or her perspective. Communicate your understanding of his or her view out loud to your partner.

taking-responsibility

Take responsibility for your part in the fight. For example, “I am sorry, I have been taking you for granted lately”, or “I have not been a very good listener lately”, or “I have not asked for what I need; I expected you to just know.”

Decide how you can make this better in the future by gently asking your partner to do one thing differently next time and vice versa.

  1. Deepening Your Understanding of Each Other

Every fight contains hidden conversations that lie dormant underground. Instead of the fight, what conversation do we actually need to have? The answer lies in our childhood experiences and current circumstances. We call out to each other from within our own vulnerabilities. Analyze what the triggers of your last fight were. For example, did you feel excluded / ignored / unimportant / rejected / unloved / powerless / helpless? Then, see if you can understand these feelings in connection with your past. Where and when in your past did you feel this way? Share with your partner.

behind-every-complaint

  1. Hear the Longing Behind a Complaint

Often our partner complains because he or she is longing for something that is hidden behind the complaint. Here are some examples put together by John and Julie Gottman in “10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage”:

Complaint: Why do you always let the garbage pile up like this?

Longing: I wish that we could feel more like teammates taking care of our house.

Complaint: You never call me during the day.

Longing: I wish we could feel close to each other, even when we’re apart.

Complaint: I’m tired of making dinner every night.

Longing: I’d like to go out for dinner with you, as we did when we were dating.

69-of-the-time

  1. Perpetual Problems and the Story Underneath

In each partnership, there are perpetual problems. In fact, according to John Gottman, 69% of problems couples have are repeats because they are based on fundamental differences in personality, lifestyle, or needs. “Choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems” (Dan Wile). If you were with another partner, you would also have unsolvable problems, just different ones.

Some examples are:

– Differences in neatness and organization

– Differences in emotionality

– Differences in wanting time together versus time apart

– Differences in independence

– Differences in optimal sexual frequency

– Differences in preferred lovemaking style

– Differences in approaching finances

– Differences with respect to how much closeness to family partners want

– Differences in how to approach household chores

– Differences in how to raise and discipline children

– Differences in punctuality

– Differences in preferred activity level

– Differences in being people-oriented

– Differences in decision making

– Differences in ambition and opinions about the importance of work

– Differences with respect to religion or spirituality

– Differences with respect to drug and alcohol consumption

– Differences in excitement levels

– Differences in preferred lifestyle

– Differences in values

– Differences in marital fidelity

It is normal for a couple to trip up over those substantial differences. When we are stressed, overworked or exhausted, we gravitate towards our perpetual issues even more. The key to a happy relationship is not expecting to change the partner, but to learn to dialogue about those problems so we can make the best of it. If we can’t dialogue, we end up in gridlock conflict. This conflict takes over and robs us of all our happiness in the relationship.

We need to realize that with many of these perpetual problems, shadows come up for us. Our partner is mirroring to us what we have learned to disown. For example, I might be the planner and my partner is better at living in the moment. Or I am more concerned about neatness than my partner. Or my partner wants to save up most of our money and I like to have the freedom of spending it.

Underneath our conflicts is a hidden story tucked away safely: a dream, a fear, values or personal philosophies. For example, the wife doesn’t just want to save money in her second marriage, but she wants to avoid ever having to experience being poor again and having to go to the food bank with her children like in her first marriage. And the husband doesn’t just want to spend foolishly. He wants to travel and have a new car now rather than dropping dead at 50 like his own father, who never allowed himself any fun.

We don’t find out the dream or the fear underneath our difference if we never ask the questions, “What makes this so important to you?” and “Is there a story behind this for you, maybe in your childhood history?” Being curious about the story is beyond understanding just the thoughts and feelings. “It’s about also grasping what our partner holds sacred—our partner’s values, beliefs, experiences, symbols, and legacies.” (Gottman, And Baby Makes Three)

gottman-john-and-julie

Dr John & Dr Julie Gottman

We have to feel safe enough with our partner to pull our dreams out of the closet. The essential ingredients for a successful dialogue about a gridlock conflict are mutual acceptance of the differences and acknowledging the problem that results from those differences. With patient listening, laughter, and affection, the dialogue unfolds much better.

For example:

Dan: It upsets me that you spend money when you have so much debt. We should be lowering your debt and saving up for our own house. At this rate, it will take forever.

Abby: Why is it so important to you that we reach our goal soon?

Dan: Having a house together with you means for me that we are really committed to each other. It also makes me very nervous that you have debt.

Abby: Does this have to do with your family history?

Dan: Yes, in my family, financial safety has always been a high value. Being able to plan allows me to feel more in control. There is so much unpredictability in everyday life already. – But what about you? What does it mean to you to be able to spend money the way you do?

Abby: Money to me means the freedom to do what I want. You are looking for more predictability; I am looking for the opposite, for adventures and I suppose, unpredictability, when I can just take off on a trip and discover a new place. I also like to spend my money on workshops and trainings because this means stimulation for my mind and an interesting break from the everyday routine.

what-is-one-secret

Now Dan and Abby can either honour their partner’s position and the dream behind it, or not. It doesn’t mean surrendering their own. It means accepting the difference between them and establishing an initial compromise. They might decide to put a plan or budget in place that allows them to bring down the debt while still enjoying life. They also need to talk about what fears each of them might have about honouring their partner’s dream. What disaster scenarios are popping up in their minds?

Dan’s worst case scenario is to end up like his uncle, who lost all his money and his house when he and his wife split up. Abby’s worst case scenario is not to have the freedom anymore to make her own financial choices.

Compromising won’t eliminate the problem. It’s in the nature of a perpetual problem to come up again. However, it does not need to mean the death sentence for a relationship to have unsolvable problems when we can move from judgment into understanding, accepting and dialogue.

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Angelika

Relationship Coaching and Belief Changes

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca