How a Heart Coherent State Helps Your Relationships

thorns-have-roses

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

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

four-horsemen

Criticism

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

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

 

Contempt

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

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

 

Defensiveness

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

four-horsemen-and-their-antidotes

Stonewalling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

heart-coherence

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

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

 

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Relationship and Belief Change Coaching

Angelika Baum

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

The Five Love Languages

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In my blog on June 28, 2013, I elaborated on how powerful words are and how they can have a strong vibration of manifestation in a negative sense. Today, almost a year later, I would like to focus on how the same concept works in the opposite way. Words of Love and Affirmation have a strong powerful vibration that deepens our love.

Personally, I feel seen, heard, appreciated and most safe with a partner who is able and willing to express his love and appreciation through words. That means expressing his feelings, affirming my actions and accomplishments, or complimenting me in some way. Words are the surest way to connect with me. My primary love language is words of affirmation. And I am not the only one who feels a strong connection and heart opening when hearing kind and loving words. When I feel disconnected, it always is because my partner and I had no opportunity to speak. However, that feeling of disconnect is remedied very quickly with a loving text, a phone call, or some time set aside to speak.

Gottman has shown the destructiveness of negative interactions in his research. He points out that it takes five positives comments to negate one negative. On the other hand, regular loving and understanding verbal interactions create something like an account of affection that we can draw on in challenging or stressful times.

Another love language is physical touch. If that is your primary love language you might reach out to your partner to touch, to hug or to hold hands. And it makes you feel safe, perhaps calms you down, to be touched. Without touch you tend to feel unappreciated, unloved or disconnected from your partner.

Most of us are multilingual when it comes to expressing affection. We might speak two or three love languages quite well but we usually have a primary one that we will need to receive, or that we default to in terms of expressing our affection.

A third love language is the one of giving love through acts of service. You or your partner might cook fabulously, keep everything need and tidy, run the kids around whenever they need a ride, repair things around the house and so on. In my experience, this is a love language we tend to overlook and take for granted. When have you last told your spouse how grateful you are for something they do for you or for the family? Or if their love language is not words of affirmation, can you express your appreciation for their acts of service in their way? Touch? A gift? Another service?

Or perhaps you primarily experience being loved when spending quality time with your partner, a fourth love language. Engaging in cultural or recreational activities together on a regular basis is an important way of staying connected. The saying “couples who play together, stay together” is a testament to this. Even when we are parents with young children and our priority is to spend family time together, we also need to make time for a “date night” or other one-on-one interaction with our partner.

The fifth love language is giving or receiving gifts. That was my mom’s love language when she wanted to show her affection. I always knew that a gift meant, “I am thinking of you, that’s why I bought you something”.  When working with clients I have occasionally come across the other person looking down onto the love language of gifts. They will say something like,  “I don’t want him to buy me something, I want ____”. And they fill in the blank with their love language which they perceive as “more meaningful”.

I often summarize the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman for my clients, in particular when someone sits in front of me who is deeply convinced their partner/parent/child does not love them, “not really in the way that they should.” The truth is that there is no right way to express love. However, there are these five love languages we all speak, some with more skill and enjoyment, others with less.

We have to keep in mind that everybody automatically expresses their affection in which ever way they have learned to and are most comfortable with. However, we can learn our partner’s love language and strive to speak it more, even if it does not come naturally to us. Since we are just dealing with different languages in this matter, we can make an effort to speak the other person’s language and we can appreciate the way in which they are expressing their affection.

It helps to figure out what your primary love language(s) is and which one(s) your partner uses. Compare them. Is it really true that they do not show you their love? Or are they just speaking a different love language?

I have had partners throughout my life who were not comfortable expressing emotions and were suspicious of hearing affirmations or compliments. Instead they had another primary language like Acts of Service or Giving Gifts. They would, for example, do something practical as their only expression of love, or they would buy me a gift. Sometimes it was hard for me to understand that their language was simply different. What if we could graciously accept a different love language while having an open conversation with our partner about what makes us feel most loved?

What is your preferred love language? Which language do you like to use; which do you like to receive? What is your partner’s love language? Your daughter’s or son’s? How can you learn to understand, or even speak, each other’s languages?

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For Relationship Coaching contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

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