Do You Trust Me?

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

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

I love you! I love you! I love you!

Energy follows attention. What you focus on, is what you get. That universal law applies to our relationships as it applies to anything else.

In the past, there was a theory that it is good to get your negative feelings out. Unfortunately, venting at our partner leaves him or her with bad memories. Over time, our brain responds with apprehension to high energy interactions. In fact, our brain starts to associate our partner with negative situations and with danger instead of with feelings of safety. Our brain goes on alert because we remember the hurt and emotional pain. Instead of triggering endorphins (feel good chemicals), the stress hormone cortisol is triggered. Our main job in our relationship is to be a source of safety for our partner, instead of another source of stress.

Our brain has, as Rick Hansen calls it, “a negativity bias”. We remember negative events more easily than positive ones. For our ancestors that negativity bias was important for survival. Drs. John and Julie Gottman state that five positive exchanges or comments are required to override one negative one. If we hear more critical comments than affirmations or appreciations, we are often left feeling defensive and uneasy with our partner.

Another reason why venting is not beneficial is that whatever you express, you also experience. Whatever you do to others, you do to yourself. When you yell at your partner, it is as if you are yelling at yourself. Your brain reacts to your own negative yelling in the same way your partner reacts. It triggers danger cues and the release of cortisol.

What would happen if we flooded each other with positive emotions and we were able to connect intensity with positive exchanges? Hendrix and Hunt suggest the following couple’s exercise.

3 Minute Exercise That Re-Patterns Our Brain

In preparation for the exercise, make a list of

  1. your partner’s physical characteristics which you like
  2. their personality traits which you admire
  3. some of their recent behaviours you appreciate, and
  4. come up with a global affirmation, e.g. they are terrific, thoughtful, fantastic, amazing, wonderful etc.

positive flooding

One partner sits in a chair and the other one circles him or her and floods the partner with positive adjectives. The first minute is focused on the physical characteristics. The circling partner identifies and appreciates all of the physical features of their partner in a normal tone or volume, e.g. I love your smile. I really like your silky hair. I love your soft hands.

During the second minute, the circling partner focuses on appreciating traits in a more excited tone, while raising the volume of their voice, e.g. I appreciate your warmth. I appreciate your kindness. I appreciate your intelligence.

During the last minute, the circling partner values and affirms behaviours the partner has displayed. This time they are raising their voice even more, e.g. I appreciate that you picked the kids up from school yesterday. I am thankful for your advice in regards to my boss. I am so grateful for you sending Aunt Edna a gift.

At the end, the circling partner comes around and stands in front of the sitting partner. He or she yells, “I can’t believe I am in a relationship with (married to) a person as amazing as you. I love you! I love you! I love you! You are wonderful/amazing/fantastic” etc.

Then both partners stand and give each other a full minute long hug to calm down.

 

The rationales behind this exercise are

  1. This interaction exercises, first, the sympathetic nervous system, and during the hug at the end, the parasympathetic nervous system. It activates the bonding hormone oxitocin.
  2. It creates new safe memories of our partner. Intensity is now connected to positive memories.
  3. It also takes us out of the resentful part of our brain where we have kept a list of the things our partner has done to frustrate or hurt us. It moves us into the part of the brain that wakes us up to how wonderful our partner is. Our perpetual issues or relationship problems have, of course, not disappeared. However, the shift into our prefrontal neo-cortex opens up the option to deal with them in a more civilized and calm manner than our primitive brain is capable of. From that part of our brain, we can be more curious about why our partner is the way they are, instead of being judgmental with each other.

 

If you are hesitant to try this dynamic exercise, consider cutting out negativity and shifting into appreciation with a different ritual. Drs. Gottman for example suggest a weekly “State of the Union Meeting”. The couple sets aside one hour a week to reconnect. The State of the Union meeting begins with giving each other affirmations and appreciations. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt propose to end each day by sharing three things we appreciate about our partner and vice versa. This conscious practice of appreciation requires us to pay attention to what we enjoy about each other.

positive flooding - joy

Re-patterning our brain, as well as other activities of shifting into appreciation, give us the opportunity to revive the love we have for each other. Gratitude and appreciation foster a secure bond and allow us to continually build a sound relationship house.

Contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

 

How to Stop Telling Lies & How to Stop Inviting Lies

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

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

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

Truth - Oscar Wilde 2

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Honeymoon Stage

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

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

shame-letters-cropped

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

 

Emerging Differences 

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

 

The Lie Invitee

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

angry-smoke

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

 

How to Hear the Truth and How to Respond

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

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

curious instead of furious)

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

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

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

 

Felony Lies

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

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

It takes teamwork

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

Contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

6 Ways of Keeping the Spark Alive in Your Marriage

A gorgeous young client of mine, who is dear to my heart, got married this weekend. I felt very honoured that she invited us in the small and intimate but truly beautiful celebration. It was such a pleasure to meet her family and friends, and to watch the couple step into this level of commitment. She and the groom, who are both very conscious people, had clearly put a lot of thought into meaningful traditions they wanted to include.

One beautiful custom they incorporated was the wedding sand ceremony. They both took turns pouring different coloured sand into one clear glass, forming a layered effect, expressing the coming together of their two souls into one new family. Then they shook the glass to mix the sand, symbolizing the strength of their relationship. Just as the sand cannot be parted neither can they. They are filled with optimism, love and joy as they are beginning their journey together as a new family.

wedding-sand-ceremony

Prior to this special day of hers, I was searching for some words of wisdom to share with her. I have seen her grow over the last few years, change into a powerful “manifestor” and attract the partner who is perfect for her. I have no doubt that their bond will increase with each passing day and that they will create a full and exciting life together. What advice is there that is actually useful when starting out as a married couple?

North Americans today have higher expectations than they historically ever did. We expect marriage to offer a route to self-discovery and personal growth. Time magazine author Belinda Luscombe, in the special edition on happiness, quotes Lisa Grunwald (who together with her husband Stephen Adler put together “The Marriage Book”), “The promise you make is not just to be faithful and true and to stay married, but to try and bring out the best in each other”. Couples can indeed “achieve an unprecedentedly high level of marital quality, but only if they are able to invest a great deal of time and energy into their partnership” (Eli Finkel).

The ones who know how to go about investing into their relationship would be couples who have been married for decades and have found ways to keep the love going. Karl Pillemer, a Cornell professor, interviewed 700 elderly people and recorded their wisdom in his book “30 Lessons for Loving”. The most important lessons about keeping the spark alive are

  1. Think Small (and Positive)

What keeps the love flame burning are the unexpected kind gestures, successfully long-term married couples say. Make a habit out of doing small, positive things for your partner. In other words, “turning towards” each other as Drs John and Julie Gottman advise, and having an accurate “Love Map” of your partner. That Love Map is a clear guideline to knowing what makes your partner happy or relieves their stress, and doing it often and unexpectedly. According to Pillemer’s interviews, three types of gestures when used frequently have a great impact on the relationship: surprises, chores and compliments. In the words of Gary Chapman, you are speaking these three out of five love languages of “doing services”, “words of affirmation” and potentially “giving gifts”.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 2

 

2. Become Friends

The importance of physical attraction to each other is a given. However, physical and sexual attraction are not enough to keep a relationship going over the long term. We grow older, our physical appearance changes, and friendship must become as much a part of the relationship as romantic love. The interviewed elders were also completely on board with Dr. John Gottman’s research on friendship among couples. Friends know how to have fun together and be good company for each other, no matter how long they have been together. Friends are also open to one another’s interests. The advice that these couples provided was to learn to enjoy your partner’s interests.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 3b

 

3. Expect An Active Sex Life

The elders describe their intimacy being as good or better than when they were younger. They have learned what their partner likes and they felt more secure and more comfortable with each other. The sexual spark changes and deepens, they say. “There is a kind of quietness there that’s quite deep. It’s very fulfilling. You feel a peaceful intimacy that’s in a way really more meaningful than the frenetic thing”, shares one of the men Pillemer talked to.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 4

 

4. Give up Grudges

Sometimes you hear the piece of advice “Don’t go to bed angry”. I have always felt that that was a bit of a cliché which worked for some people but not for others. What is a better and more useful piece of advice is “Don’t Hold Grudges”. When we keep resentment smouldering instead of resolving issues and letting go of the past, our relationship is in trouble. Most things we disagree about are not worth a long-term fight. Let hurts and conflicts truly go. Be quick to apologize and forgive. In fact, make forgiveness of your partner a regular practice.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 5

 

5. Get Help

If the spark feels like it’s dying, get help through counselling. Make a genuine and wholehearted attempt at working on the relationship. Relationships go through difficult periods. We might need to learn more successful communication skills, learn to forgive, or learn how to build a stronger relationship. The elders believe—and I wholeheartedly agree—that counselling or coaching is not just for overcoming a crisis but an important tune-up to keep the spark alive and to create a successful marriage or long-term relationship.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 6

 

6. Other “Secrets”

Some other “trade secrets” for keeping your marriage fresh, vibrant and exciting for a lifetime that the elders shared were: Take care of your physical appearance, travel more, reach out and engage together—for example in volunteer services—as a natural extension of your affection, embrace change, and last but not least, the beautiful advice to treat your relationship as if it was a “life-time date”.

Keeping the Spark Alive PIC 7

Would you like to make your marriage a “life-time date”? Does your relationship need a tune-up? You can take a workshop or book individual coaching sessions.

Contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

Should I Come With My Partner, Or Alone? – Couples Coaching Versus Individual Coaching

Sometimes people say to me, “That belief change work that you do is so different/weird/unusual that the only way I can get my partner to see you is if we come in together for a couple session.” I usually reply, “That is fine”, knowing that once the partner has met me, they will feel more comfortable to try out something new and different.

Whether someone comes alone or for a couple’s session, relationship work requires making individual changes. We are all human and most people hope their partner will do most of the learning and changing in problem areas in the relationship. However, we can never change our partner; we can only change ourselves. You have the choice between different formats of working on your relationship: in individual sessions, in couple’s session, or in a workshop. What they all have in common is that we need to take responsibility for changing ourselves.

In an individual coaching session, we will assess the situation, determine the goals of where you want to be in regards to you relationship, and then begin the work on the subconscious level to create the desired shifts. Even if just one participant in a relationship changes, the relationship itself is changed, and any change in the relationship ultimately changes both participants. If you wish to change the way you interact with your partner, the first thing you must do is discover the underlying subconscious causes for destructive patterns.

couple-beach cropped

In a couple’s session, we will also asses the situation your relationship is in, look ahead to the future and begin the work on understanding each other more and interacting differently with your partner. A couple’s session is not so much the place to do deeper individual work but to work on the third entity, your relationship, together. A relationship is a team effort. What is good for your partner is also good for you and your relationship.

During couples coaching, we will be focusing on the team. You can expect to learn more successful skills for interacting. I believe my primary role is to coach you to improve your responses to each other and to assist you in creating a solid foundation or, as Drs Gottman call it, a sound “relationship house”.

Most of the ineffective things we do in relationships fall under the “Four Horsemen”:

  • Criticism
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling
  • Contempt

My goal is to provide you with the knowledge and the tools to shift out of those destructive patterns and to practice a more successful communication and more productive ways of interacting with each other.

four-horsemen-and-their-antidotesYour job is to create your own individual goals for your relationship. As a coach, my job is to help you reach them. The tools I can offer you become more effective when you are clear about how you aspire to be. The major aim of couple’s coaching is to increase your knowledge about yourself, your partner, and the patterns of interaction between you.

The key tasks of couples coaching are increasing your clarity about:

  • The kind of life you want to build together
  • The kind of partner you aspire to be in order to build the kind of life and relationship you want to create
  • Your individual blocks to becoming the kind of partner you aspire to be
  • The skills, knowledge and tools necessary to achieve the above tasks

To create the relationship you really desire, there are some investments and choices for each person to make. The first investment will be time. It takes time to create a relationship that flourishes: making the time to come for sessions, time to be together on a regular basis to have fun together as well as time to work on the state of your union. This time might conflict with your personal or professional time and it is easy to “forget” to schedule that time in. However, in order to improve your relationship, you need to make the relationship your first priority.

time investment.jpg

The second necessary choice is to step out of your emotional comfort zone. Be prepared to be open to try new ways of listening and speaking, for example listening from your heart and being curious instead of interrupting or closing down, speaking up instead of becoming resentfully compliant or withdrawing. You need to take emotional risks and allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to move forward with your relationship.

The third investment is one of energy and persistency. It takes effort to sustain improvement over time: staying conscious, remembering to be more in tune with each other, more respectful, more giving, more appreciative, speaking each others love languages more, etc. It takes effort to remember what you have learned and to act upon it when you have left my office. For example, if one person is hypersensitive to criticism, and his/her partner is hypersensitive to feeling ignored or shut out, it will take effort to improve their sensitivity instead of hoping the partner will stop criticizing or withdrawing.

When it comes to improving your relationship, your attitude toward change is more important than what action to take. Identifying what to do and how to do it is often easy. The bigger challenge is learning why you don’t do it. We are all often quite limited in our ability to respond to our love partner, and he or she is quite limited in their ability to respond to us, due to our childhood experiences, old triggers, and subconscious beliefs. The more you learn about yourself and your partner and make the subconscious shifts, the more you are able to increase your repertoire of responses. You can then shift from impossible to possible.

possible-street-sign.jpg

Problems occur when reality departs sharply from our expectations, hopes, desires and concerns. It’s human nature to try and change one’s partner instead of adjusting our responses. Coaching gives you the best results if you focus on changing yourself. The hardest part of couples coaching is accepting that you will need to improve your response to a problem, how you think about it, how you feel about it, or what to do about it. You can’t change your partner. Your partner can’t change you. Your feelings, needs and requests will be acknowledged and met, as you are prepared to meet your partners.

When a problem shows up, it’s natural to think “What should I do about it?” A much more productive question is. “How do I aspire to be or act in this situation?” Becoming the best you that you can be, means becoming a more effective partner, and that in turn is the most efficient way to change a relationship.

You can learn a lot about yourself by understanding what annoys you and what you judge in your partner. The people closest to us naturally mirror shadow traits to us that we have learned to disown as “bad” or “wrong”. When shadows show up in a couple’s session, we can integrate those disowned shadows or personality parts in an individual session. That shadow work allows you to take a step towards each other instead of judging each other for your differences.

shadow-couple-archway

All significant growth comes from disagreements, dissatisfaction with the current status, or the desire to make things better. Paradoxically, accepting that conflict produces growth and learning that is the key to more harmonious relationships. In each relationship, there are perpetual problems. You will be introduced to tools to process conflicts more successfully, to find compromises for perpetual problems, and to build a more solid foundation for your relationship.

The most important qualities for effective communication are trust, respect, openness and persistence. Successful communication expresses how I feel and what my values and needs are. Productive communication avoids blame and requires taking responsibility. It requires both people to speak from the heart about what really matters to each.

 

If you’d like help with your relationship, contact me for a free phone consultation. Before you come for a session please read the blog “How To Get Most Out Of Couples Coaching”.

From September 29 to October 1, 2017 you can take part in the

“Relationship Energetics” Workshop.

This three day workshop uncovers hidden subconscious dynamics and helps you to create healthy, empowered and fulfilling relationships. For more information please click here.

Angelika, Relationship Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

 

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.

 

 

How To Get Most out of Couples Coaching

Couple's Coaching 1 - white letters

It takes courage to make changes in our life and in our relationships. Taking the step to work on your relationship means you believe your relationship is more important than any resistance or fear you are experiencing. Coming for a session to see a coach is the first step in initiating changes. Let’s make sure your experience is as beneficial and efficient as possible.

Before you come in for a couples session, I would like you to reflect on a few goal-oriented questions so that you and your partner are able to get the most out of the coaching session.

The first thing to acknowledge and to remember is that you cannot change your partner; you can only change yourself. Coaching gives you the best results if you take responsibility, and if you commit to learning to understand your partner at a deeper level. Focus on changing yourself and your responses to each other to create together what you both desire.

Couple's Coaching 2

In a couple’s session, we will assess the situation your relationship is in, look ahead to the future and to the relationship you want to have, and begin the work of interacting differently with your partner. A relationship is a team effort. Being a TEAM means “Together Each Accomplishes More”. Or in other words, what is good for your partner, is also good for you and your relationship.

To begin the work together as a team, we need a target, the motivation to work on the relationship, and the willingness to change. Ask yourself the following questions before you come in for a session.

  1. What kind of marriage or relationship do I want to be in?

Answering that question provides you and your partner with a target.

  1. Why is that kind of relationship important to me?

This is the motivation you have to do this work.

  1. What is going to be required of ME to create this?

This will help you shift from the natural tendency of wanting to change your partner to taking responsibility for your part of the relationship.

 

I look forward to hearing your answers to those questions during your first coaching session with me.

Angelika, Relationship Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

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.

 

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

Turtles and Hailstorms

romantic-love

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt call the template or idealized image of positive and negative qualities of our primary caregivers our “Imago”. Through our subconscious programs, we are drawn to somebody who matches this template.

In other words, our partner carries some of our shadows. He or she displays to us what we are struggling with and are working on. They are a mirror of what we have learned to identify with or disown during childhood. They might not superficially appear to be like our primary caregiver but we will inevitably end up feeling the same feelings we did as a child. Partially, those could be positive feelings of belonging, being accepted, safe and loved. But the relationship also brings up painful feelings due to our more traumatic experiences, and activates our childhood hurts. Unconsciously, we seek out a partner with whom we can heal each other’s childhood wounds.

If you had a mother who abandoned you, you might unconsciously expect to be abandoned again while seeking out a partner who is like your mother in some ways, to relive and heal the old experience. If you had a father who never stood up for you, you might unconsciously seek a partner who is also afraid to stand up and protect you, in the unconscious hopes that somebody will finally stand-up for you.

Partnerships are meant to resurface feelings and experiences from our childhood. “About 90 percent of the frustrations your partner has with you are really about their issues from childhood.” (LaKelly Hunt) Even if we have convinced ourselves consciously that the person we are attracted to is a good match and not at all like our parents or caregivers, our subconscious meanwhile as a completely different agenda. It has already figured out early on who we can relive our childhood traumas with, hoping for a happier ending this time.

img_2504

If you are wondering whether your partner echoes shadows from the past for you and what they are, you can do the following exercise. Make a list of frustrations, problems and unmet needs in regards to your primary care giver(s), for example “she never listened to me and that made me feel…” or he “never had time for me and that made me feel…”. Once you have completed that list, make a list of issues you have with your partner and how they make you feel. Compare the lists and notice any similarities. Talk to your partner about the similarities. Once he or she understands that he or she triggers your childhood emotions, the work to keep each other safe and meet each others needs can begin.

You and your partner may have a lot in common but Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt have found that couples are often incompatible in how they handle stress and conflict. When it comes to handling stress and conflicts, people’s reactions fall into two categories: minimizers or maximizers. When minimizers are anxious, they contain their energy and go inside. Like a turtle, they retreat into their shell. When maximizers are anxious, they tend to express themselves loudly. Hendrix and LaKelly Hunt call this person a hailstorm. Their energy flows outward and they prefer to process their feelings with others.

Turtles process slowly and inwardly. From the outside, it looks like not much is happening and as if the person is avoiding rather than addressing the issue. However, the turtle processes his or her feelings and thoughts quietly on the inside, reflecting carefully before responding. Hailstorms visibly get things done; they usually have a to-do list and love being able to cross things off their list.

turtle-hailstorms-quote

When the Turtle feels flooded and becomes overloaded, he or she needs to withdraw. To the Hailstorm, it can feel like the Turtle disappeared. That makes the Hailstorm more anxious and he or she will start hailing to get the partner’s attention.

Both partners need to learn to accommodate each others differences in processing. The Hailstorm can learn to give the Turtle a little shell time and make them feel safe to come out again soon by letting them know how much they are appreciated and valued.

To coax out the turtle you can

  1. Ask them what they need right now. Sometimes they are not sure, but be curious about why they are hiding.
  2. Don’t do anything; give them space.
  3. Write a short note of appreciation and leave it somewhere for them to find.

turtle-hiding-in-shell

And the Turtle can learn to be more courageous when he or she sees the storm clouds gathering. “Hailstorms hail because they are overwhelmed. They often feel like they’re holding the weight of the world. And when you retreat, the Hailstorm feels even more alone. So the minute you hear a rumble, give them your full attention. Offer kindness and support.” (Hendrix) The fastest way to get the storm to stop is to assure the Hailstorm that you have got their back. Once they realize they rely on you and you will do your part to keep them safe, the sun will shine once again.

To calm the hailstorm

  1. Respond! Let them know you are not retreating. Respond with facial expressions, a kind note, a service or gesture that shows them you care how they feel.
  2. Listen and repeat back how the Hailstorm is feeling. They don’t feel heard. Show them you hear and understand.
  3. Ask “Is there something I can do for you?” They need to know you have their back.

sky-11

Partners can learn to not judge the other for how they are. As Hal and Sidra Stone point out, “what we judge in others is actually the medicine we need”.

Turtles and hailstorms can teach each other what they are each missing to become more whole. “Turtles need to learn how to push their energy out and how to ‘show up’. This means expressing themselves out loudly and clearly, like the Hailstorm does. And hailstorms need to learn the turtle’s wisdom of stepping back and containing their energy.” (Hendrix)

Ironically, both partners need to learn how to be more like each other. When we embrace the shadow sides which we have disowned, we take a step towards each other. “As the Turtle becomes more storm-like, and the Hailstorm becomes more turtle-like, balance is restored” (Hendrix) within the relationship, but also within ourselves. We have reclaimed a disowned part of ourselves.

Belief Change Coaching, Relationship Coaching and Workshops on various topics

Angelika, 905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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.

 

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

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

Sons first hero daughters first love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Familie Kurth 1943 crop 2

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

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

Let’s use Byron Katie’s four questions:

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

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

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

Script

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

Relationship Coaching,

Angelika, 905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

A Strong Position of Self-Respect

Mary-Ann and Paul are retired and live close to their only son who has three boys under the age of eight. They love to babysit but find that there are expected to drop everything at short notice when her son and daughter-in-law want to go out. “As if they think, we have no life of our own”, Mary-Ann says. She is growing more resentful about this. Lately, she has made some snippy remarks to Grace, her daughter-in-law, hoping she will “get it” but the pattern remains the same. Her resentment and feeling of not being appreciated is beginning to cloud the babysitting and the relationship with her children.

Unless we set clear boundaries in a loving and consistent way, we cannot expect that other people will automatically treat us and our needs with respect. Grace cannot mind-read what Mary-Ann and Paul need. The grandparents have always made themselves available last minute. Mary-Ann will have to say something like, “If you want us to babysit this weekend, please let us know by Wednesday”. Being informed three days prior is her personal boundary. If her daughter-in-law ignores that request, Mary-Ann is free to make other plans and will need to lovingly say “I am sorry, we made other plans because we did not know you needed our help.” She will also need to extend an invitation to interact within her boundaries. “If you want to go out next weekend, we are happy to babysit as long as you let us know by Wednesday.” No apology,  further explanation or justification of that boundary is needed.

Mary-Ann is afraid that if she sets boundaries and says “no”, her son will be upset and her daughter-in-law will find another babysitter. In order to have her needs respected, she will need to be okay with the fact that another babysitter might be called. She will need to trust that she and her husband are valued and appreciated as grandparents and sitters; valued enough for her children to be willing to plan ahead. She will also need to be okay with displeasing her son. Boundaries are not meant to make others happy. Their purpose is a strong position of self-respect which in turn leads to mutual respect.

Setting boundaries is necessary and beneficial at any age. Sometimes the older generation does not hear or respect the needs of the younger generation without clear boundaries. Caroline and Mario have been married for seven years. Their children are 5 and 3 ½ years old. Caroline lost her parents when she was young. When she married Mario, she was excited to become part of a big Italian family.

What she hadn’t bargained on was the dysfunctionality of her new extended family. Despite her in-laws being generally warm and welcoming, there were, from the first moment on, also a lack of boundaries and a continuous level of disrespect for the individual needs of the family members. Everybody shared every private detail about the other family members with each other. Mario grew up used to discussing his decisions with his parents and brothers. They had an opinion about everything.

Mario’s mother is the matriarch of the household and “what she says goes”. She uses manipulation and emotional outbursts to keep everybody in line. Her habit of meddling, prying, and giving unasked advice is being tactless and crossing personal boundaries between adults. Yelling at others and threatening or guilting them into doing something they have decided not to do, are also disrespectful interactions and crosses boundaries. The father is usually quiet but when he has had too much to drink he becomes inappropriate or angry. He then acts very similar to the mother.

Different family members have learned dysfunctional ways of getting around the parent’s dictatorial ways. One of Mario’s sisters is always the poor victim in one way or another; one of Mario’s brothers lies and secretly meets his own needs to avoid arguments and angry outbursts. Those are all understandable choices to walk the path of least resistance. However, nobody can ever take away your self-respect and integrity unless you make the choice to give it to them.

Self Respect 1 Ghandi quote

Caroline and Mario have decided that they want to walk a path of honesty and greater self-respect than his siblings. That required that they set different boundaries with his family together. Mario and Caroline asked to receive a phone call before his parents would just pop over for an unannounced visit. They asked to have alone time on weeknights after they both had an exhausting day at work. They asked to spend part of each holiday with their children alone before going over to the parents’. They are discussing their matters first, making their own decisions before sharing with the extended family. They have learned that they do not need to share every decision with them.

Caroline and Mario have also learned to recognize triangles within the family which are set up to control all the family members. Whenever the mother felt she might not get her will, she would complain to one of the other siblings, who then in turn would take on the role of making the mother happy and get involved by approaching Mario. Mario had to learn to refuse these unhealthy interactions, whether he happened to be the son “fallen out of grace” or the favourite one at any given time. A healthy communication is a direct communication between the people involved. Triangles serve the purpose of pressuring a person into submission and are not a respectful way of interacting.

Initially, setting boundaries was interpreted by Mario’s parents as rejection. Fear came up for them that they would lose Mario’s love. But a surprising thing happened. Mario’s—and in extension Caroline’s—love for the parents grew once they stopped making their decisions based on making the parents happy but based on everybody’s needs, including their own. Instead of out of fear of repercussions, they spend time with Mario’s family out of desire and true love.

Boundaries are not meant to control other people. They are meant to help meet our needs and to respect each other. Boundaries always have two parts. Part one is setting or re-setting the boundaries, part two is extending an invitation to interact within the boundaries. Mario and Caroline had to lovingly re-set the same boundaries several times until the parents accepted them. They had to walk out a few times when emotions tipped over and one or both parents started to yell them down.

Self-Respect 2 Jim DeMaio quote

Each time, they walked out with an invitation to connect the next day, or when a calm, sober and loving talk would be possible. Letting somebody abuse us is hurting them as much as it is hurting us. Underneath the person’s anger is a feeling of helplessness and fear. The disrespectful behaviour comes from the fear of being unloved and rejected. Exercising control through threats, guilt and shame, gives the person the illusion of power and of being respected. They confuse fear with love and respect. True love and respect comes from an interaction which considers everybody’s needs and desires.

A strong position of self-respect opens us up to self-love and loving others, instead of fearing them. Guilt and shame keep people at a low vibration of fear and prevent true love. Mario realized that fearing his parents was not loving them. Instead of feeling ashamed or guilty like he used to so many times when he grew up, he now feels he can pour all his love into his own small family and into his parents. In order for the old dynamic of power and control to change, he had to repeatedly refuse being cast as the “bad, guilty boy” who had done something wrong.

Self-Respect 3

Mature love is strong. It is aware of the dysfunctionality that exists in most families in some way or another, and it is patient and consistent despite the choices others make. Setting boundaries and inviting others to interact within those boundaries helps to get out of and stay out of dysfunction and disrespectful interactions.

 

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.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Good As Gold – How Siblings Carry Each Others Shadow Traits

I have written in the past about partners carrying each other’s disowned energies and how children mirror our shadows for us. Another way to find out what is in your shadow is to take a look at your sibling(s). Sometimes the differences between two or more siblings are subtle but in many cases they are quite obvious. Often siblings carry each others opposites.

The older sister—or brother—might be, for example, over-identified with being the responsible one, the one who is more conservative, careful with money and striving to save up for sensible goals like buying a house. He or she might be the one who studies and works hard. The younger sister or brother then often steps into the opposite energy. He or she shows up as “irresponsible”, fun loving, care-free and able to spend money on an adventure or instant gratification. One sibling perhaps seems to live for the future, worrying that everything turns out the way he or she hopes. The other one lives in the present and does not dream of owning real estate or saving up for retirement.

Is one of them right and the other one wrong? Neither one has made the “better” choices, neither energy is bad. In fact, to be whole we need to feel we have a choice whether we want to be responsible in a situation or less responsible, whether we want to make a sensible choice for future safety or possibly a choice to enjoy the present moment. It is important to plan ahead; it is also enriching to feel care-free and to fully live right now.

Being identified with one energy while disowning the opposite energy, affects our relationships. Instead of truly supporting each other and being friends, the siblings usually end up judging in each other what they don’t allow themselves to be. The older sibling will judge the younger one as “irresponsible” and the younger one might call the older one “boring”. Meanwhile there is a part in both of them which longs to be whole, which feels resentful when the other sibling’s approach seems to give them an advantage. The older one, who feels he or she has worked so hard and always does what is expected might feel annoyed to see that the younger one gets through life alright, apparently without worrying about money and having so much fun. The younger one might secretly feel inferior and wish at times that she had savings or better grades or higher qualifications.

Yet, neither approach to life is right or wrong, neither is better than the other. Those are two different experiences of life, based on different choices and a result of the fact that they are both not fully conscious of how energy works.

Both are depriving themselves from being truly whole and having a free choice in each given moment in life who they want to be or what energy they want to display. What the other one mirrors to them, what they are irritated by and judge in the other sibling, is actually, as Hal Stone says “the medicine they need”.

Hal & Sidra what we judge in others

Hal and Sidra Stone

The older sibling is not automatically the more serious and responsible one. John is the father of a 15 year old son and a 12 year old daughter. He has come for relationship coaching as he is greatly struggling with his son. He describes him as “disrespectful, irresponsible, messy, unreliable, not applying himself in school, lazy” or in short “incredibly irresponsible”. As John talks about his son, he is getting agitated and angry. It is palpable how much the teenager triggers him. When I ask him about his daughter, he smiles and his voice becomes soft. “She is good as gold”, he says several times. “She is always reliable and tidy and gets good marks in school. She helps around the house; she is always even tempered and so responsible. She is really good as gold.”

When I explain about opposite energies and shadows John has a hard time seeing how any of the traits his son displays could be useful energy or good in any way. He wants his son to be “good as gold” just like his daughter. However, that is not how energy works. The younger sister has taken on the brother’s responsible shadow and he is carrying his sister’s care free energy. Both children are not showing up as their whole complete selves. They have polarized into opposites and being labelled as “irresponsible” and “good as gold” manifests this situation. They don’t see a way out of this polarization. The daughter gets positive attention and affection by being a perfect little angel. The son gets attention by being the black sheep.

Angel 3

I ask John what happens when the daughter makes a mistake or gets a mark that’s not a perfect score. At first he says, “But that doesn’t happen! She is an A student across board!” Then he admits that she beats herself up for any mistake or less than perfect performance. She is tough on herself. She worries about the future too. She has a hard time relaxing, doing nothing for a few hours.

As parents we see this polarization between siblings from the outside. Often, we will look at one of them and feel more comfortable with their approach to life than with the other. We mustn’t forget that our children are a mirror for us as well, for what we don’t like about ourselves (our dark shadows) or what we maybe admire about others and think we are not (our light shadows).

It is our job to allow all our children to be whole. It is up to us to encourage a child who is identified more with responsibility or perfection to loosen up, to be okay with making mistakes, to enjoy life right now. And it is also our job to trust the child who shows up as more irresponsible that they are capable and willing to take responsibility for their actions. It is our—perhaps most difficult—task to allow them to learn their own life lessons. By embracing our own shadows which we see in them, we can come to a place of non-judgment and true unconditional love.

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.

 

Would you like to understand the energetic dynamics in your family more? Is there a relationship you would like to improve? Do you want to stop being triggered by certain family members?

To learn more contact me (Angelika) for individual sessions or Shadow Energetics Workshops.

905-286-9466 (free phone consultation) or

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

For 2016 workshop dates and locations go to Upcoming Workshop.

 

 

Rituals

Relationships need rituals. With our children we all recognize the need for rituals. We hug and kiss them goodbye and hello. We might have the ritual of reading or singing to them before bed-time, eating certain meals together, perhaps engaging in a spiritual practice, or we might have a ritual of doing something together like gardening. When my children were small I used to put a note of encouragement or love in their lunch box on a regular basis. Perhaps, you have a personal sharing ritual with your children? For a while we used to do the “What was the best part of your day?”- Question at dinner. In fact, the day with children is full with deliberate moments of ritual behaviour.

rituals blog bench under willow

We say the children need rituals. I would like to claim that it is not just the children but the relationship itself which needs the rituals. Rituals give us predictability and help us to be emotionally connected with each other; they make our relationships stronger. As our children become older, some rituals change or fall by the wayside. However, those rituals were part of the reason why the connection between us exists.

We all have birthday rituals. In our family, the birthday girl or boy is being woken up with a song in the morning. The cake later in the day, with the ritual of singing and blowing the candles out, making a wish is another common ritual in many families. Birthday presents are rituals. We all have our rituals around different holidays. They all strengthen the bond between the members of the family engaging in those rituals.

“Rituals are an important part of belonging. They are repeated, intentional ceremonies that recognize a special time or connection. Rituals engage us, emotionally and physically, so that we become riveted to the present moment in a positive way.” (Sue Johnson, Hold Me Tight)

My dad calls us every Sunday morning. This is a ritual established more than 60 years ago as his mother, my grandmother, could already be counted on calling every Sunday morning. When I know we will be out, I’ll let him know, not because he will otherwise worry, my dad is pretty laid back despite being in his 80ties, but because it acknowledges our ritual and shows both of us that we value and treasure it.

Fourteen years ago, when I first moved to this area, I very quickly made a new friend, another mother from the school my older daughter was attending. Right from the start, we established a strong ritual. Once a month we went on a girl’s night out, going to dinner and a movie afterwards. This ritual lasted long after our children were not attending the same school anymore and they had lost touch with each other. Our friendship remained strong due to our ritual.

Then our lives became so busy that we did not have a lot of time anymore to go out at night and we changed our ritual to going for lunch. However, that new ritual did not have the same strength as our old one. I am sad to say that our lunch dates became more and more infrequent and our friendship drifted apart. Friendships need rituals. Some friendships need regularly shared activities, other friendships can survive on picking up the phone twice a year on each other’s birthday. However, without recognizing the bond in an intentional way, the friendship is going to struggle to survive.

The one relationship which we sometimes forget when it comes to rituals is our partnership or marriage. When I was married to my first husband, we didn’t go out anymore for regular dates after the children were born. We didn’t recognize the importance of alone time and rituals to keep our bond strong. Regular small gestures or ways of connecting go a long way in keeping a relationship healthy.
rituals blog bench in snow

What rituals do you have—or would you like to establish—in your primary love relationship? Do you touch, kiss and hug as part of your day, on waking up, going to sleep, leaving the house or coming home? Do you call or text during the day, not just to exchange information but to connect emotionally? Do you take a new class together, for example learning a language, or taking a cooking class, or dance class together? Do you have a special time together, for example having your morning coffee together or maintaining a regular date night or weekend getaway?

Other bonding rituals, deliberately structured moments of connecting, are validating your partner’s struggles and victories on a regular basis, for example “I am so amazed how you are able to…”, “I am proud of you for pushing through…”, or “I saw you struggle in that situation. You did your best…”

Publicly recognizing your partner and your relationship in front of friends or family members is another way of strengthening the bond. Some couples renew their vows; others are comfortable to express their love on facebook. But even a simple thank you in front of other people on a regular basis is a ritual that strengthens the relationship. Or a gesture of gratitude like bringing flowers home with a sincere thank you “for everything you do”.

Roses

As mentioned above, one ritual for some couples is to take a workshop together. Many couples who have taken our workshops have established a ritual of helping each other to change subconscious beliefs. I am teaching muscle testing during the four day Shadow Energetics Workshop. We will learn to muscle test others and how to do self-muscle testing.

To learn more contact Angelika

905-286-9466 (free phone consultation) or

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

For 2016 workshop dates and locations go to Upcoming Workshop.

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.