The Four Pillars of Shared Meaning in Our Marriage or Partnership

Is our love relationship or marriage just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love, or is there more? What about the spiritual dimension of creating an inner life or inner culture together?

Usually, we think of culture in terms of large ethnic groups or even countries. Within those macro-cultures, each couple and each family creates their own mirco-culture. These smaller units also have their customs, rituals and stories or myths about what it means to be part of their group.

In order to create shared meaning, Drs John and Julie Gottman name four pillars to build a solid relationship on. These four pillars allow the couple a shared sense of meaning. With this shared culture, conflict is much less intense and perpetual problems are less likely to lead to gridlock.

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PILLAR ONE: Rituals of Connection

Powerful antidotes to disconnection are rituals with your spouse and children—together and separately. A ritual is a structured event or routine that you enjoy together. Such rituals include

  • rituals of communication like talking over dinner or the stress reducing conversation
  • celebration rituals, like birthdays, holidays or anniversaries
  • rituals around recreation like repeating weekend or seasonal activities, and vacation times together
  • sexual rituals, like initiating lovemaking
  • rituals around everyday living, like start-of-day rituals, end-of-day reunions, bedtime routines or dealing with illness

 

PILLAR TWO: Support for Each Other’s Roles

We all play different roles. We are not just partners, but also parents, children to our own parents, siblings, friends, and of course we take on professional roles as well. Our perspective on our own roles, and our partner’s view of them, can either add to the meaningfulness or create tension and disharmony.

Dissimilar perspectives on what the role of the husband/wife is, different views on parenting, and which kind of interactions with parents, siblings and friends are appropriate, can all contribute to conflict. Our views and our partner’s views on what it means to work and the significance we attach to our own work can either deepen our sense of connection or create tension.

It is important to speak about and understand what the different roles mean to each partner. Even if we do not agree with each other 100%, we can reach a consensus if we know what is significant to the other.

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PILLAR THREE: Shared Goals

Part of what makes life meaningful is the goals we work towards. No relationship stands on solid ground without shared goals of some kind. These are some useful questions to pursue.

  • Do we value each other’s accomplishments and honour each other’s personal goals unrelated to our relationship?
  • Do we share the same goals for our children, our life in general, our financial future and our old age?
  • Are our life dreams similar or compatible? If they are not identical, do we find ways to honour them?

 

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PILLAR FOUR: Shared Values and Symbols

Values and beliefs form the final pillar of shared meaning. They are sometimes represented by symbols. Such shared philosophies are around

  • love and trust
  • the importance of family
  • spiritual beliefs
  • the role of sex in the relationship
  • the importance and meaning of money and possessions
  • the importance of education
  • similar dreams about retirement and old age
  • the role of fun, play, adventure and connection with nature
  • similar values around personal freedom, autonomy and interdependence
  • sharing power in the relationship.

 

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Angelika, Belief Change and Relationship Coach

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Hello, Old Pal Anxiety!

Ingrid has colitis and other health challenges; the unpredictability of her physical issues gives her anxiety. Margaret has a fear of flying which has gotten progressively worse; due to her anxiety she has not stepped foot on a plane in years. Peter is a widower and single dad with three daughters; the oldest one has anorexia and he is experiencing great anxiety regarding her well-being, as well as her sister’s. The two teenagers are both plagued by anxiety as well.

Anxiety is a more and more prevailing challenge for many people. One in five Canadians has a mild to severe mood or anxiety disorder. Anxiety is especially on the rise among children and teens. It is a continuously growing concern at any age. What is happening in our brains and how can we address this issue?

To understand how our brains function, we need to remember that for our ancestors, negative experiences had more impact for their survival than positive ones. They needed to remember their painful or dangerous experiences so they would not repeat them, in order to survive. Our brain is still wired that way. Our brains evolved with a “negativity bias” (Rick Hansen). In general, we remember negative experiences more easily, unless we really focus on the positive ones and take them in deeply. That is like a “learning disability” and traps us in conflict. So, it does not help at all to tell somebody who is worrying or has anxiety to think positively.

Anxiety - time

The experience of uncertainty which creates anxiety comes from the fact that we can make representations of time. We structure our experiences into past, present and future. The ability to analyze the past and think ahead to the future is part of the human survival kit. We are supposed to learn from the past, be very awake and alert in the present and make sure we are safe in the future. Unfortunately, our ability to evaluate future risks is only based on a few facts and our left brain fills the gaps between those facts in with a story. Depending on which subconscious beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, this story our left brain makes up is either a supportive one or a limiting and fear-inducing one. In the case of anxiety, our left brain has created a fear narrative.

Mark Twain says it humorously:Anxiety - Mark Twain

Most thoughts that makes us anxious are thoughts about the future, a future that generally never happens like we imagine. That is why mindfulness and staying in the present moment helps to train the brain to stay focused on the here and now. The present is all that is real. Therefore, mindfulness alone can already help with anxiety.

We have also been trained to avoid unpleasant emotions, to push them down and not feel them. So naturally, we don’t want to feel anxiety. However, our attempt to push unpleasant feelings down, keeps the anxiety going. The attempt to make anxiety go away is what traps us in it, not the anxiety itself. Instead of putting all our energy towards avoiding the anxiety and trying to get rid of it, we can learn to be with it and ride it out.

It is an ancient Buddhist practice to stay with the feeling that arises. So when fear or dread arises, we can welcome it into our heart and stay with it until it has moved through us. Greet the anxiety like an old friend, “Hello, my friend. I know you. You are my old pal fear. Welcome back.” Then keep breathing all the way into your belly, long deep and complete breaths, letting your belly expand on the inhale, and become smaller on the exhale. Simply being with the fear allows it to come and go like all other mental content.

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Of course, mindfulness and being with the feeling requires practice, like everything else in life. When we say, “I have tried that mindfulness thing, it doesn’t work” it’s like saying “I have tried playing the piano, it does not work”.

Often we believe uncertainty is the problem to be solved. “If I could just control my physical body”, or “If I could just have the guarantee that there will be no turbulence”, or “If I just knew whether I will pass my exam or not”, or “If I just knew that my child will be alright in the future”.

Uncertainty is not a problem to solve. A much more useful approach is to rest in the uncertainty and experience it as a sanctuary of possibilities. When we are emotionally in a place to create a positive influence or make choices, we end up being more comfortable with the uncertainty of a situation and, in the end, are more in control.

A situation of suffering and uncertainty can challenge our whole identity. Being sick might challenge my identity to be a productive and capable human. A fear or phobia might challenge my identity as a rational adult or spiritual person. A crisis with my child might challenge my identity as a good parent.

We first of all need to remember that we still are who we always were. In fact, we are everything. We are capable and rational and spiritual and a good parent. We are just having the experience of a hugely challenging situation. Because it is unpleasant to feel the pain, disappointment, shame, anger, fear or other emotion, we seek control. If we instead acknowledge the painful feelings, we can shift into a place of self-compassion. We can then move from attempting to gain control to choice.

We can always ask “What can I choose? What can I bring to this situation? Courage? Trust? Love? Who do I want to be in this situation? And how do I want to feel?” The answer might be “I want to feel less alone and therefore I reach out for support to address this health crisis” or “I want to be present and calm on the airplane and trust that I am safe in the Universe” or “I want to be compassionate and loving with my struggling child”.

Anxiety - choices

 

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

Angelika, Belief Change Coach

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Constructive Disagreements in Relationships – PART TWO Perpetual Problems

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

  1. Processing and Understanding Fights

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

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

taking-responsibility

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

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

  1. Deepening Your Understanding of Each Other

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

behind-every-complaint

  1. Hear the Longing Behind a Complaint

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

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

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

Complaint: You never call me during the day.

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

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

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

69-of-the-time

  1. Perpetual Problems and the Story Underneath

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

Some examples are:

– Differences in neatness and organization

– Differences in emotionality

– Differences in wanting time together versus time apart

– Differences in independence

– Differences in optimal sexual frequency

– Differences in preferred lovemaking style

– Differences in approaching finances

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

– Differences in how to approach household chores

– Differences in how to raise and discipline children

– Differences in punctuality

– Differences in preferred activity level

– Differences in being people-oriented

– Differences in decision making

– Differences in ambition and opinions about the importance of work

– Differences with respect to religion or spirituality

– Differences with respect to drug and alcohol consumption

– Differences in excitement levels

– Differences in preferred lifestyle

– Differences in values

– Differences in marital fidelity

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

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

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

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

gottman-john-and-julie

Dr John & Dr Julie Gottman

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

what-is-one-secret

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

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

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

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

Angelika

Relationship Coaching and Belief Changes

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Turtles and Hailstorms

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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.

Relationship and Belief Change Coaching

Angelika Baum

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

The Effects of an Attitude of Gratitude

Have you ever heard somebody say “You should be grateful for…”? How did that feel? Was that an invitation to even consider shifting into an attitude of gratitude?

Growing up as a child, gratitude got a “bad rap” for me. Gratitude went into my shadow for a while because I could not relate to it. My parents’ and grandparents’ experience came from lack. Some very essential ingredients were missing when they referred to gratitude with that disapproving voice. They completely missed the joy, the magic, and the wonder that is to be found in gratitude. When they referred to gratitude it came from the head instead of the heart, it came from fear to have to experience lack again, instead of knowing the universe as abundant. Instead of teaching true gratitude by their example, they preached gratitude and judged what they perceived as “ungrateful”.

When I moved from Europe to Canada, Thanksgiving became one of my favourite times of the year. I loved teaching my children about giving thanks and seeing their brains process the information of abundance. Their eyes lit up and their creative little minds joyfully came up with more magical and wonderful things that had manifested and were reasons for thankfulness.

What actually happens when we focus on all our blessings? Quantum physics has taught us that we affect and create change by what we observe. We literally modify the molecules that make up our physical world. As we are focusing our attention on all we have in abundance and give thanks for everything, for what we really enjoy but also for everything we like less, we are affecting our reality.

We are happier, we are healthier and we are able to perceive opportunities and more abundance. Complaining inhibits our brain from properly processing information. Our perceptive filters prevent us from seeing what we are looking for. We only see the print-out in the physical world of our past fears and worries. Complaining creates interference. Instead of using our ability to create with clear focus what we actually want, we are creating blocks and are getting ourselves stuck.

gratitude-james-mellon_-cement

What we complain about expands. Complaining brings on more of what we are complaining about. We always have the choice. We can focus on gratitude or on complaining. We are creating either way.

Gratitude is not something we do but who we become as we focus on our riches. Gratitude is a powerful magnet. It is expansive. Complaining, worrying and “should-ing” are constrictive. They create statics in the infinite field of possibilities. An attitude of unhappiness and dissatisfaction keeps us away from our good. “You should be grateful” is counterproductive. Saying “yes” to life means working in resonance with the field of possibilities.

 

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In today’s globalization, we are being sold a hostile world everywhere. Our fear driven amygdala kicks in and buys into the illusion of separation, of living in a “dog-eat-dog” world. We feel small, unsafe and shift into “fight mode”. From that fear, ideas of greed, envy and competition are born.

During the Shadow Energetics workshop, we begin one morning with a deep meditation called “Being State Meditation” which my friend Darryl Gurney created. The purpose of that meditation is to experience ourselves as different from form, independent of the many roles we all play, of experiencing ourselves as true essence. Once we have had that taste of being more than our physical body and being connected with everything and everybody it has to reflect our choices. We realize the responsibility we all carry for the entire system we are all part of.

Everything is connected. Just like the five fingers of my hand are all connected, each of us is an integral part of one living system; we live as such, breathe as such, thrive as such. Everything I do affects everything else. We affect and change everything, even just by observing and thinking, not to mention by what we say and do. When we apply our beliefs, fears and opinions to the world, we shape the world. If we buy into hostility and danger, we create more violence and aggression. If our commodities are love, compassion and forgiveness, we contribute to healing the planet.

Experiments with the Transcendental Meditation® technique has shown that only one square root of 1% of a population practicing unconditional love and true peace, results in measurable improvements away from fear, crime, aggression and violence, to lower crime rates, less violence, cooperation and group thinking.

gratitude-pam-grout

“… By choosing to add energy to the resonant field of gratitude and joy, you can fundamentally change the world… you don’t have to march for peace (although you may want to)… You can enlarge the conversation by taking your focus off the negative and noticing all the things that are going right, taking a stand for goodness of humanity.” (Pam Grout)

What we choose to focus on manifests. My mind creates my experience, not the other way around! Therefore, it is my responsibility to see a friendly Universe. It is my essential contribution to making this planet the beautiful, safe and loving place it can be.

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

Angelika Baum

Belief Change Coach and Workshop Instructor

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Living from the Inside Out

Did you have a nice summer with lots of fun and interesting experiences? Perhaps you went on special family outings or even on a vacation? If so, you have collected beautiful memories. If so, you have also intuitively made the perfect choice for happiness and to recharge your emotional tank.

Spiritual teachers, philosophers and scientists have been striving to answer the question “What is happiness?” for a long time and in different ways. I have previously written about the happiness formula.

H = S + C + V

Happiness = the Set Point in the Brain + the Conditions of Living + our Voluntary Choices

 

Depression and anxiety are almost epidemics today, and peace, joy and happiness seem more elusive than ever. Why is that?

Are we perhaps focusing too much on the conditions, the relative facts of our life? Do we allow those relative conditions to prevent us from choosing happiness and fully experiencing it? What if instead of living from the outside in, we chose to live from the inside out?

Living from the inside out means taking charge of our mind and using it to our advantage. It includes examining our beliefs and changing the ones which do not serve us. We have the birth right to be happy. Our Good is constantly flowing and waiting to be received by us. Our beliefs are merely the impressions we have bought into. Our beliefs create our experience.

What shows up is just the out-picturing of the way we have been picturing things inside, the way we have been using our mind. When we use our mind differently, the out-picturing will inevitably be different. That does not mean to ignore the conditions but to realize that they only determine 10% of our happiness while our beliefs and mind set determine 50% and our voluntary choices 40%.

Healthy Minds RC Barker 2

 

We overcome negative conditions by changing our mind to create better conditions. We need to choose to be grateful and happy, independent of what shows up around us. We need to make voluntary choices which increase our level of joy. Voluntary Choices are those choices we make for pleasure or for fulfillment.

Psychology Professor Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University has studied the subject of happiness and concludes that happiness is derived from experiences, not things.

“People often think spending money on an experience is not as wise an investment as spending it on a material possession. They think the experience will come and go in a flash, and they’ll be left with little compared to owning an item. But in reality we remember experiences long afterward, while we soon become used to our possessions. At the same time, we also enjoy the anticipation of having an experience more than the anticipation of owning a possession.” (Gilovich)

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A get-away or other experience allows you to enjoy it in three different ways: the anticipation, the experience itself and remembering it in retrospect. Every moment spent on picturing it and reliving it brings up heartfelt feelings of joy and happiness again.

Furthermore, experiences with family and friends are like glue to our social lives. Experiences allow us to get closer to others in ways a material possession cannot. And ultimately, as human beings, we all long to be close to others.

Material possessions on the other hand give us less lasting joy. After we have acquired those inanimate objects, it is only a question of time until we get used to them. New things might be exciting at first, but then we adapt to having them.

Gilovich has also studied how we tend to have more regrets over missed interactions with others and missed experiences than over possessions we have not acquired. On our death bed, we might regret not to have connected more deeply with our children or other loved ones, but we won’t regret not having purchased the new car or newest TV.

As a society, we need to ask ourselves how to live more from the inside out, how to choose beliefs and activities that support joy and happiness. Social experiences and helping others lead to attention, affection and appreciation, and therefore to greater happiness and joy.

So next time you have the choice of whether to spend your money on a material possession or on an experience, especially if that experience involves connecting with or helping others, remember that the experience will enhance and make your life richer than the material possession.

 

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

Angelika Baum, Belief Change Coach and Workshop Facilitator,
905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Our Heart at Peace Vs our Heart at War

 

 

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Flying on a low cost European flight carrier, which shall be left unnamed, I overheard a peculiar interaction between a flight attendant and a passenger in German. This passenger boarded the plane as one of the last people. When wanting to store his rather shabby and small carry-on in one of the overhead bins, he found they were all quite full. A young male flight attendant who was standing in a row and watching the passenger, gave the sloppy dressed attire of the passenger a once over. Instead of assisting him, he merely commented, “If there is no room overhead, your bag needs to be put under the seat.”

The gentleman, being older and somewhat overweight, struggled to bend down to push his carry on under the seat in front of him. His head turned red and he started to breathe heavily. The flight attendant sighed and reluctantly offered, “Or shall I see if there is still room in the back?” The man nodded. “You need to move over then to let me out,” responded the flight attendant

At that point, I noticed the woman next to me raise her eyebrow. I figured she was thinking the same thing I was, “What a rude tone for somebody in the service industry.” The gentleman moved a few steps to the side to let the flight attendant step out of the row. The reaction from the member of the crew was by no means a “thank you. Instead he said, “Not that way. I still can’t get through. I have to get to the back of the plane.”

Now this gentleman was extremely patient and stoic. He did not take offence to the tone or the words which were both clearly out of line, even considering that Germans can often be utterly unfriendly. It is not hard to imagine how with a different passenger this same conversation could have escalated into an unpleasant altercation. This flight attendant could have helped the passenger with a friendlier and more polite tone, but he obviously perceived the gentleman as a nuisance. He saw him as an irritating obstacle rather than another human.

So what exactly causes the start or the escalation of a conflict? It is not so much the actions we take that invite war, but the way we are while taking them. Is the other person an annoyance to us or can we relate to them with compassion and kindness? The same action can be performed from a heart at peace or a heart at war. Interacting with others with a heart at war is likely to provoke a defensive reaction or create or prolong a conflict.

Way of Being

There are two ways of seeing others: as objects, which leads to a heart at war or as persons, which leads to a heart at peace.

When we see others as persons it is because we recognize that their flaws and qualities are also ours. Everything which is in the world is also inside of us. The flight attendant at present might be young, slim, fit, healthy, financially well-off and very competent in regards to traveling but one day he might be in the place of this gentleman and require help. When we see others as persons, we also see that their desires, hopes, doubts and concerns are just like ours. Their cares and concerns matter to us. We have enough awareness to understand that what we judge in them are our own shadows. I can only speculate what prompted the crew member to act this way. Was he judgmental of the unkempt appearance, the weight, the lateness of the passenger, his clumsiness or the fact that this gentleman sat in one of the low fare seats on the plane (as opposed to getting food and other preferred customer treatment paying a somewhat higher fee)?

We see people as objects when we “de-personalize” them, for example when we reduce them to a category (a Poor Person), to a role (a Passenger), or to a quality (Difficult or Incapable). There are three ways of seeing a person as object: as an obstacle (“This passenger is making my job more difficult”), as a vehicle (“This Client will sign the contract and make me rich”), or as an irrelevancy (“I never bother talking to people who are dressed this way”). We are in a “them versus us” or “me versus him/her” dynamic.

What determines which way we see someone? We can simply choose to see someone as a person rather than as an object. We can choose to focus on what we have in common instead of separating ourselves through judgment.

When we are following a way of being that is counter to our own sense of humanity, we usually justify our self-betrayal. The other person who we don’t treat with kindness and compassion becomes an object of blame, and we begin to see everything about him in a “crooked way”. This is the seed of war; our need for justification distorts our perception of reality.

The perceptual box the flight attendant most likely was stuck in can be described as the “better than box”. From that box we feel we are superior. We see the other person as inferior, irrelevant, incapable or wrong. We treat them with disdain, indifference or impatience. We choose to feel superior or “right” over being at peace.

POSTER Boxes

According to the Arbinger Institute, there are three other perceptual boxes we get stuck in when we interact with others from a heart at war. Sometimes we choose to feel like the victim, mistreated or unappreciated. That puts us into box two, the “I deserve” box.

Or we might have a tendency to need to be seen in a positive way (for example helpful, competent or a “good” parent/child/friend/boss and so on). From that need to be seen a certain way, we might end up sacrificing our own needs and interacting with others from an unauthentic place. That place breeds resentment underneath the surface of being such a “good” person.

A fourth box is the one which makes us feel less or worse than others. When we feel broken or deficient, we perceive others as advantaged or privileged. That results in us getting stuck in feelings of helplessness, bitterness, jealousy or depression. The entire world seems to be against us; life appears to be hard and difficult for us.

We all have a tendency to slip into one or two of these boxes in different situations. We are not in a box all the time. In some relationships we might be in a box, while at the same time we are out of the box in other relationships.

To get out of the box and to stay out of it, we first need to recognize the signs of blame, justification, horribilization, and those four common box styles. Am I blaming others for a conflict we have, am I justifying my own actions, have I made the other people worse than they really are? Do I have a need to be right and make the other party wrong as a consequence of feeling superior, inferior, victimized or needing to be seen a certain way?

“The more sure I am that I’m right, the more likely I will actually be mistaken. My need to be right makes it more likely that I will be wrong! Likewise, the more sure I am that I am mistreated, the more likely I am to miss ways that I am mistreating others myself. My need for justification obscures the truth.”

— The Arbinger Institute

We also need to find an out of the box place, for example a memory with that person or group I am judging or have horribilized, that helps me to see the relationship or situation differently. If I have horribilized my sibling/my boss/my step-mother and so on, do I have a positive memory of him or her? If I have horribilized a group of people (“all men”, “all Muslims”) do I have a different experience with one of them that helps me get out of that perspective?

When I have found that out of the box place I need to re-examine the situation anew, asking myself

  • What are this person’s or this group’s challenges, emotional wounds or burdens?
  • How am I, or some group of which I am a part, adding to these challenges, wounds or burdens?
  • In what other ways have I or my group neglected or mistreated this person or group or made them feel unappreciated and unwanted?
  • In what ways are my Better-Than, I-Deserve, Worse-Than, and Must-Be-Seen-As boxes clouding my perception of others and myself and interfering with potential solutions?
  • What do I feel I should do for this person or group? Is there an action I could perform to shift the relationship?

 

In the workshop “Them Versus Us” we will examine where in our lives we are stuck in a them-versus-us dynamic and how to shift out of the boxes we might be in.

Join us for “Them Versus Us” on September 11, 2016 or on September 10, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Angelika Baum, 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.

Tears Are the Pearls That Heal the Soul

A lovely elderly relative of ours asked me this summer, “Have you ever noticed that tears taste different whether you are crying tears of sorrow, happiness or because you are cutting an onion?” I hadn’t, but my curiosity sure was aroused. It turns out the chemical composition of tears is very different depending on the tear type.

Tears are mainly composed of water, salts, antibodies and antibacterial enzymes. There are three major types of tears: basal tears (lubrication and protection of the eye), reflex tears (triggered by irritants), and emotional or psychic tears (triggered by emotions). Emotional tears contain more protein-based hormones, including leucine enkephalin, a natural pain killer. This pain killer is responsible for making us feel better after we have “a good cry”.

Tears are the pearls

Dr. Masaru Emoto has shown with his crystallized water experiments that positive emotions like love, support and peace form beautiful harmonic crystals, while negative emotions like hate, loneliness and war result in distorted water crystals. Tears also have very different molecular structure depending on the emotion contained in it and thus look different under a microscope.

As Dr. Emoto’s famous experiments have shown, water retains an imprint of the emotions and information it’s been exposed to. Water has the capability of memory, if you so like. That applies to the water in our seas, rivers, and lakes, to the rain falling down on us, to the water we drink and of course also to our tears. Through tears of sadness, disappointment, shame, guilt or anger we can release lower frequencies or emotions. Tears of laughter contain the information of joy and happiness.

In a project called “Topography of Tears,” photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher examined what tears look like under a microscope. Over the course of several years, she examined more than 100 tears, crystallized as salt. Different types of tears have a distinct different molecular structure. Even psychic or emotional tears with the same chemical composition look very different. The tears that happen from hard laughter aren’t even close to the tears of sorrow. For images of the tears go to http://www.rose-lynnfisher.com/tears.html

What happens usually—at least in our North American culture—when somebody feels tears welling up? They feel embarrassed, they might even apologize and we are quick to hand them a Kleenex to stop the flow of tears.

Our body is incredibly smart and allows us the chemical release which we need when we are feeling grief and sadness. Moreover, energy follows water. So any energy and tension we are holding due to a trauma or an experience of sorrow can be released with the tears.

The ancient fairy tales by the Brother’s Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, as well as folktales from all over the world tell us about the healing ability of our tears.

Rapunzel 3

In the Brother’s Grimm tale of Rapunzel, her tears heal the eyes of the prince she loves after he is blinded. Don’t our tears often have the same effect? We cry in sorrow about an experience, completely blind to how we might find a “happy ending”. After the release of a good cry and a good night’s sleep, the world usually looks completely different. Our blindness to the beauty and happiness is—at least partially—lifted.

In “The Little Mermaid”, Hans Christian Andersen states: “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.” Indeed, without the ability or opportunity to cry, we need to hold our suffering in. Crying is beneficial to health and mental well-being. Our leucine enkephalin and endorphin-filled tears are there to help us release stress and to stabilise our mood. They also act as a signal to those around us that we may be in need of somebody’s loving and empathetic presence.

So next time somebody starts to cry, don’t be so quick with the box of tissues but assure them it is okay to cry and then just hold a loving space for them while their body does what it knows best to do. After all, our tears are the pearls that heal our soul.

 

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.

Based on the fact that water holds vibrations and that our body is mostly water, Stephen Pollitt has created his healing Source Energy Medicine labels which you can download for free from his website, donations welcome.

If you are looking for a Source Energy Medicine practitioner or Source Energy Medicine workshops in Canada, please contact my friend Fern Wolf.

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.