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)

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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

How a Heart Coherent State Helps Your Relationships

thorns-have-roses

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

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

four-horsemen

Criticism

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

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

 

Contempt

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

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

 

Defensiveness

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

four-horsemen-and-their-antidotes

Stonewalling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

heart-coherence

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

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

 

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Relationship and Belief Change Coaching

Angelika Baum

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Broken?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Having Our Needs Met in Relationships

She looks at her watch and says in annoyed tone: “You are home late, again! You always come home late! Do you have to go to the Gym after work every day?”

His reply is defensive: “Yes, I do! That’s the only time I have to myself. You don’t ask me for permission to have your hair done or your nails! You like to go into work early at least three or four times a week and I always have to take the kids to school instead of going to the Gym.”

She retorts angrily: “You make it sound as if I only think of myself but I am working full time like you and I am sitting home alone with the kids, every night after I have run them around to their classes. You never help me! Once in a while, you could come home earlier and make dinner for everybody!”

This was the role play my partner and I acted out for one of my talks on non-violent communication just a couple of weeks ago. When I introduce my clients to the four steps of NVC, based on Marshall Rosenberg’s work, they seem so easy and straightforward. Yet, it is so ingrained in most of us to have conversations in which one or both people get defensive and feel attacked due to us using generalized critical statements and blaming each other. When we do not feel safe in a conversation, our fight or flight response sets in. We either attack, or we withdraw and shut down. Despite the anger on the surface, deep down both partners long for nothing more than a safe space to connect and express how they feel underneath the anger.

IMG_3345 cropped

Let’s look at how we can change these patterns of defending, withdrawing and attacking, using our example. What are the needs of both parents? She has the need for support; he has the need for alone time. They both have the need for recognition of what they do.

Based on those needs what do they feel? She feels alone and unsupported, he feels controlled. They both feel unappreciated.

Before you read on, put yourself in her shoes and using the four steps of non-violent communication find a more successful way of expressing her feelings, explaining her needs, and finishing with a concrete request made to her husband. Remember to make neutral observations free of judgments in regards to him going to the Gym. Then use “I” statements which reflect that she is taking responsibility for her own feelings. Nobody makes us feel a certain way. Our feelings are a result of the meaning we give our perceptions. Next help her express her needs, values or desires which are at the root of her feelings. End with a request that can be negotiated between the partners.

NVC 4 Steps

Here is one possible way for her to communicate using the four steps of NVC and a calm neutral tone: “I have NOTICED (step 1) that you tend to go to the gym after work and by the time you come home, the kids need to go to bed. I FEEL (step 2) a bit left alone when you come home late almost every night. I WOULD LIKE to (step 3) spend more family time with you and the kids. WOULD YOU BE WILLING (step 4) to come home earlier once or twice a week, so we can spend more time together?

Now, let’s not forget that he also has feelings and needs. How can we help him express his side of the situation?

He could for example say: “I FEEL (step 2) that I only have time after work to exercise. I NEED (step 3) to have some alone time. I also FEEL (step 2) unappreciated and taken for granted when I give my gym time in the morning up to take the kids to school. I really appreciate that you work full-time and run the kids to their after-school activities.” (He has recognized they both feel unappreciated and is giving her the appreciation they both need.) Step 4 is negotiating her request: “I am willing to come home early on Tuesdays and Thursdays if you can commit to taking them to school the next morning? I WOULD also sometimes LIKE to hear that you appreciate what I do.”

Now it is up to her to respond, to acknowledge what he does for the family and to perhaps make a concrete request to cook dinner once a week. If one of the partners is struggling to connect with their feelings and the needs underneath, the other one can help by asking, “I am wondering if you feel…?” or saying “Do you perhaps have a need for…?” and offering, “Let me know how I can help you get what you need.” Implementing a process like NVC takes patience and practice because most of us have never learned that our needs matter, how to connect with our more vulnerable feelings underneath our anger and to express our needs without blame or judgement.

To learn more about expressing our needs you can contact

Angelika for individual sessions or Shadow Energetics Workshops

905-286-9466 or

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

For 2016 workshop dates and locations go to Upcoming Workshops.

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

 

You Just Don’t Understand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men use words

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

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

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

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

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

women tend to connect

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

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

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

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

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

Nagging owls

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

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

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

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

For most women sharing

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

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

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

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

Angelika

Relationship Coaching

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

Points to Consider for Parenting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parenting 1

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

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

  1. Acceptance of the Partnering Model for Parenting

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

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

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

Parenting POINT 1 - Make sure adults

  1. Primary and Disowned Selves, Opposites & Polarization

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

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

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

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

Parenting POINT 2 - Children carry disowned

  1. Energetic Linkage

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

Parenting POINT 3 - Be aware

  1. Life is a Teacher

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

Parenting POINT 4 - Ask what does

Angelika

Conscious Parenting & Life Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

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

Marty, The Richest Man in Town

My friend Karen mentioned an inspirational book a while ago which is one of her favourite books. Not feeling well the other day, I grabbed the book as an easy read. My! It was an easy read, but am I glad I had a big box of Kleenex near by!

“The Richest Man in Town” is the story of Marty, a man in his seventies, who worked at Wal-Mart in a small town in South Dakota. What made Marty so remarkable that the author V.J.Smith decided to write about him?

Marty Martinson

Marty wasn’t like other cashiers. He loved people. He greeted every customer and really connected with them through listening, asking them interested questions or saying something nice to them, always coming from a truly authentic place. At the end, when the customers handed him money, he counted out the change, he “placed the change in his left hand, walked around the counter to the customer, and extended his right hand in an act of friendship. As their hands met, the old cashier looked the customer in the eyes. “I sure want to thank you for shopping here today, he told them. ‘You have a great day. Bye-bye.’”

His line up was always the longest. He made everybody feel special. People didn’t mind waiting for a friendly word, a handshake, or even a hug if they wanted one and a true connection from one caring human to another human. Marty spent about two minutes with each customer but he made those two minutes count. For those two minutes, the respective person—whether old or young, whether a cute little girl or a tough biker covered in tattoos—was the only person in Marty’s Universe. He treated everybody with respect and dignity.

Marty handshake

Marty was born in 1926, grew up during the great depression, served in World War II, and never had a lot of money throughout his entire life. He had a wife, who he still at 76 felt was the prettiest girl he had ever met, and four children. He was humble, kind and compassionate. He lived in a trailer, yet was one of the happiest people. He had understood some simple truths:

  1. Try to do a little more.
  2. Only you can make you happy.
  3. Relationships matter most in life.

If we just assume for a moment that this simple man had the simple knowledge to live a happy fulfilling life independent from his outer circumstances, we really have to ask ourselves honestly, “Am I giving other people or outer circumstances the responsibility for how I feel? Or am I taking full responsibility for my own happiness?” and “If relationships matter most in life, do I put enough time and love into my relationships?”

Marty - Goethe quote

Personally, I find that I have to re-adjust my priorities every so often. It is so easy to get caught up in working, networking or superficial social contacts. All this is important but when I am on my death bed what will truly matter? The moments of real connections, the ways in which I have touched somebody else in their heart, the times in which somebody else felt seen, heard and accepted.

The entire town seemed to know Marty because he had a friendly word for everybody who came through his line at Wal-Mart. And Marty was human and liked that people remembered him for his kindness and friendliness. However, it seems Marty also cared in the same way about his own family. Sometimes we care so much how strangers see us that we forget that the people closest to us are the ones who matter most. Did I take that extra moment to be truly present with my child as he or she was talking? Did I connect with my spouse today? Did I hold that loving space of just listening for my mother when she called? Have I given somebody the gift today to be the only person in my Universe for a few moments?

Being compassionate and caring is not necessarily about fixing problems for others. First and foremost it is about listening, acknowledging the other person and their feelings and showing them that they matter. Even if they choose to feel less than positive, can we hold that space without fixing? Holding the space does not mean commiserating with them and confirming for them that they are a victim of a situation. Holding the space means trusting that they are whole, complete and resourceful. It means knowing for them that they can and will change their experience and how they feel—in their own time and in their own way.

marty - Make every moment count

Choosing to do what matters most, to be fully present with every person you encounter, creates happiness for them and for yourself. Make each moment count. The happiness you give comes back to you. That’s why Marty, a simple man without money or college education, was the richest man in town.

Angelika

Relationship Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

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

Accepting, Acknowledging and Honouring Feelings and Needs Builds Bridges

She is in the kitchen cooking. His parents are expected in an hour and she is starting to feel stressed that things aren’t ready yet. She asks her partner to set the table. In the past he has experienced being laughed at and judged for how he has set the table and he is not keen on experiencing this judgement again. He is also just finishing an e-mail, so he can relax when the guests arrive.

He says, “It’s too early to set the table now. Why are you always making such a big fuss about setting the table? And why are you so stressed about having my parents over? I’ll do it when they get here.” She replies, “Why can you never do what I ask you? I am slaving away in the kitchen and you are doing nothing. Now I also have to set the table. You never bother setting the table properly anyways…” And the couple is “off and running” with judgments and criticism instead of having a productive communication.

When we are communicating with our partner—or our children for that matter—and we have the sense that we are not getting through, what might be in the way are our power selves. Our primary personality parts or primary selves are often power selves. They have been helping us to survive in this world for most of our lives. We are so used to those voices that we often think that’s just who we are.

To figure out what some of your power selves and/or primary selves are, consider for a moment into what energy you tend to shift to cover up your vulnerability. Do you have an angry power self? A rational power self? A controlling power self? A moral power self? A righteous power self? A pusher primary part? A strong perfectionist part? A spiritual part you shift into? A psychoanalytical self? The list goes on. All those voices or energies help us to feel stronger and in control. In relationships, however, they keep the other person at a distance.

The more we are in touch with our vulnerable authentic self and can communicate from an Aware Ego, the more clearly our partner can hear us without needing to go into his or her power selves and put his or her defences up.

Accepting, Acknowledging & Honouring Feelings & Needs QUOTE 1

Our judgements in a partnering relationship give us the feedback that our disowned selves are operating. When we are coming from our primary selves, we tend to judge more harshly. If I am over-identified with the rational mind, I will judge a partner who is more emotional and makes his or her decisions from a feeling place. If I am identified with being extrovert, I might judge a more introvert person as slow or too quiet and might not understand why they need quiet time alone to think. The introvert in turn might judge the extrovert as being too loud, too quick and for needing or craving social interactions. When there is a doer and a dreamer in a partnership, they will judge each other’s approaches to life. Or if I am over-identified with that voice that worries what other people think, I might judge my partner for dressing more relaxed, not having good table manners or saying something inappropriate.

However, “the thing you hate the most and judge the most is the medicine that you need the most” (Dr. Hal Stone, founder of Voice Dialogue). What Hal Stone means by that is that whatever our partner is showing us is most likely an energy we are not in touch with. In order to be whole human beings and have the true freedom of choice of how we want to feel and act in each given moment, it is a good idea for us to consider embracing that trait which we judge.

Often judgments go both ways as in the example above. So what is happening with the couple in our example? They are mirroring each other’s shadows. They are judging each other for what they themselves have disowned. He is judging her for making a “silly” request, for caring too much about appearance and for being controlling and conscious of time. He is identified with a more relaxed attitude towards meals and having guests. She judges him as being lazy and unhelpful and incapable or possibly too uneducated or too carefree to meet her standards of perfection.

The couple has different priorities and different needs. How differently would the conversation go if they used non-violent communication to acknowledge the partner’s feelings and needs and express their own? A successful conversation could sound like this:

She :”I am starting to feel a bit stressed because I am worried that we won’t be done when your parents arrive. I am anxious because I want everything to be welcoming. Would you please set the table now?”

He: “I have noticed that you are feeling stressed. I know you like things to look nice and make sure that our guest are comfortable. Thank you for doing all this work. I would still like to finish my e-mail so that I can forget about work and relax when my parents get here. Is it okay with you, if I set the table in half an hour?”

She: “Thank you for letting me know about your e-mail. I understand that you would still like to finish. If you could make sure to use the new table cloth and find matching napkins, that would help me a lot. Can you please make sure we are done with the preparations when your parents arrive? I would like to be able to give them our full attention when they get here.”

Accepting, Acknowledging & Honouring Feelings & Needs QUOTE 2

They have both acknowledged each other’s feelings and needs. They have also clearly and non-confrontationally expressed their own feelings and needs. Setting the table has become an acceptable request, instead of a silly demand. How do we know if we have made a request, rather than a demand? Our partner has the option to either say no, or to negotiate how and when he or she meets the request.

The Four-Part Nonviolent Communication Process developed by Marshall Rosenberg includes: Clearly EXPRESSING what I observe, feel and require, and making a clear request; openly RECEIVING what my communication partner observes, feels, needs and requests.

The steps of non-violent communication are not complicated. However, it requires discipline to remember to communicate with I statements, expressing how we feel, and without generalizations (“You always”, “You never”) or why-questions which can be taken as criticism (Why is the table not set? Why are the children not in bed yet?). When you use the words “I feel because I…” it reminds all communication partners that what we feel is not because of what the other person did, but because of our perception and a feeling choice we made regarding our perception.

Accepting, Acknowledging & Honouring Feelings & Needs QUOTE 3I often hear one partner saying, “I just don’t understand why he/she feels this way!” That statement is a hidden judgment. It prevents us from building a bridge. Change it to “I am willing to understand how he/she feels.” It helps if we can truly empathize and understand why our partner has a certain feeling or need. However, ultimately it is immaterial if we understand on a rational level; we need to respect feelings without judgments, even if they are different from ours. It helps if we can really empathize. What is needed is to arrive at a point where we can accept the other person’s feelings the way they are. In order to communicate most successfully, we need to move beyond needing to be right and beyond making the other person wrong. If we want our feelings and needs to be respected, we need to stop judging other people’s feelings and needs and begin to truly accept and respect them.

Angelika

Relationship Coaching & Belief Change Work

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.

Setting Boundaries

I attended a beautiful full moon ceremony last week. The full moon symbolizes completion. There were several projects and events to give thanks for which have just come to completion, like our new Inner Child meditation CD project.

The full moon also invites to release what we want to let go of for the upcoming new moon cycle. This could be feelings like anger or fear. It might be sickness and disease. Or sometimes it is time to let our growing or even grown-up children live their own life and trust that they will be safe and protected. Considering my oldest one is moving out on her own in the fall, that was a good intention for me to set.

Some people around the camp fire decided to release “toxic family members”. I have very mixed feelings when I hear that. I do agree that we always need to have clear boundaries and that sometimes we need to love people from a distance. But is there such a thing as a “toxic person”, or is it rather that the person’s behaviours and actions happen to be toxic in some way? Also what about the relationship with that person? Could it be that it is our interactions with them, our communication and responses rather, which are really toxic?

When a relationship is abusive and/or life threatening we need to cut the cords completely. In all other relationships, we need to set clear boundaries. Regular unpleasant or what we tend to call “toxic” interactions show up for us to learn something. We cannot change others, but we can always change ourselves. Let’s examine what lessons show up. How are you or others getting affected by these unhealthy interactions? How are misunderstandings, hurt or pain created? What boundaries need to be set for the interactions to become healthy?

  1. Take a close look in the mirror. Every relationship is a dance between two people and we have to honestly decide what missteps we have made and what part we are playing for the situation to be the way it is. We have to take responsibility and own our half of the situation or nothing can change. Have we invited the other person to overstep boundaries? Then we need to change our own behaviour.
  1. Forgive yourself and others. Life is short and can be over from one day to the next. What upsets us now won’t make a difference in a few weeks, months or years. The things we hold on to that upset, irritate and annoy us create toxins in our bodies, our relationships, our family, our community, and our world.
  1. Examine whether the existing boundaries are healthy and work for you, and then clearly set or re-set boundaries.

Boundaries - Featured Image

One repeating theme over the last few weeks, for clients, friends and myself, was setting boundaries. The Universe has an interesting sense of humour at times. Whenever you think you have learned or mastered something, it will bring a new challenge or a new trigger to test you.

Having clear boundaries has almost become a catch phrase. What does that even mean? Who do we ultimately set boundaries for and why are boundaries healthy? Maybe a couple of examples will help.

A client of mine has a father who has an alcohol problem which he hasn’t faced. He goes from drama to drama, from accident to accident. She has been clear with him about what she has noticed, how she feels and what she is not willing to put up with. She has provided him with resources to get help. He is not ready to do anything to get help at this point.

Setting boundaries meant to tell him not to call her or show up when he is drunk. He has regular accidents and is frequently admitted to the hospital for an injury caused by falling. In the hospital, he has the chance to ask for help with his drinking problem but so far he hasn’t. Setting boundaries for my client means to not rush to the hospital but to trust her father to make his own choices.

Is that easy? It usually isn’t easy because a part of us still hopes for our loved ones to change. Does not rushing to him for help mean she doesn’t love her father? Not at all. Sometimes we need to love people from a distance or by setting and maintaining clear boundaries. What it means is that she loves herself! She makes her own feelings and the needs of her own core family first priority. We can still be compassionate and loving but at the same time very clear which lines we will not allow others to cross.

Boundaries-Brene Brown quote

One of my clients had to set boundaries with her mother. The mother gossips about one daughter with the other. One day, she forms an alliance with one daughter until something occurs that triggers her fears, then she turns to the other daughter and forms an alliance with the other. Those family dynamics have destroyed the friendship between the sisters and have created mistrust between all three women.

My mother used to do the same for the longest time. She would call me to complain about my sister’s kids and praise my children instead and visa versa. There is a part in us which feels flattered to be the chosen confidant and the one to hear what a good mother we are. However, how much does that truly mean if the wind can turn at any time and suddenly blow from another direction? The inability of our relatives to love themselves and others unconditionally causes us a lot of hurt. It creates competition instead of true unity.

My client gently but firmly had to tell her mother that she is sorry that she feels disappointed by her sister. She also had to tell her that she needs to talk to the sister herself. She had to clearly refuse gossiping. The mother desperately looks for an ally each time she feels unloved, rejected and disrespected. We can be compassionate with a relative who does this but need to set clear boundaries out of self-love.

I should have set clear boundaries with my own mother much earlier. It would have saved my sister and me years of unnecessary competition and grief. When I finally set boundaries with my mother, did that mean I didn’t love her? Not at all. I did and still do love my mother dearly. I also love myself and choose to live—most of the time, unless I forget—in a space beyond right and wrong, beyond judging others and myself. If somebody wants to complain about being a victim and wants to gossip because another person has triggered their inner feeling of unlove-ability, make a clear choice of not connecting in that way.

Boundaries-quote no

Who needs us to set clear boundaries? Our own Inner Child, the vulnerable part inside us, needs to feel loved, safe, protected and respected. Not setting boundaries is internal child abuse. By allowing others to cross our boundaries, we are telling our inner child “you are not worthy of your feelings being addressed and your needs being met”. We are not treating ourselves with love and respect.

Setting boundaries means to not allow others to pull us into drama or discord. It means speaking up when somebody sticks their nose into what is not their business and not allowing them to destroy our other relationships. Parents do not need to know any intimate details of their children’s relationships, just as children don’t need to be told any intimate, private or embarrassing details of their parent’s relationship. Those are blurry boundaries. They destroy respect and invite meddling. Talking behind somebody’s back about them is also a blurry boundary. Admittedly, we might all forget this at times but unless we are able to only say nice things, it is better to not talk about others when they are not present.

We need to clearly and lovingly let the other person know where our comfort level is and what feels good and loving and what doesn’t. Communication is the problem of the communicator, not the person communicated to. If the conversation doesn’t go well and we are not understood the way we intended, it is due to how we communicate with the other person. It is our responsibility to communicate as clearly as possible.

The only thing to do when we are struggling to be understood is to focus on a non-violent, clear, authentic communication while having clear boundaries. Check in with your inner child about what feels respectful and meets her/his needs. Express your feelings without blaming anyone. Nobody makes you feel a certain way. It also doesn’t matter who did what. All that matters is to acknowledge each other’s feelings and to take responsibility for one’s words and actions. Setting boundaries is not about rehashing the past but about changing the interactions in the present and in the future.

The more we set boundaries and stand-up for our inner child, the more we connect with what we truly feel and need. Every time you make a clear decision to set or maintain a boundary, it is another piece on the journey to true unconditional self-love.

Angelika

Life Coaching and Belief Changes
905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

The Perfect Mother

A client said to me this week, “I saw my mother again and suddenly realized that I could just be with her, treat her with compassion, see her as a human being. I really have stopped judging her, and am more able to love her the way she is.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Each time when somebody I am working with is healing a relationship, it touches me deeply in my heart.

Another client of mine wrote a letter of gratitude to her stepmother this week. She hasn’t seen her stepmother or her father in twenty years. Their last encounter was one full of anger, conflict and mutual hurt. The daughter has spent the last two decades blaming the stepmother for everything. Those feelings had bound up her energy in the past, and left her feeling unloved and “broken”. She felt she was victimized by her stepmother, who struggled to raise her stepdaughter with the same affection she had raised her own biological children with.

perfect mother - letter

My client did not write the letter for her stepmother, she wrote it for herself. After doing the inner work, she was able to acknowledge her own feelings, but also everything her stepmom had done or had attempted to do; she was truly able to forgive her for what she didn’t do. Nothing of that needed to be written in the letter. Instead it was a simple letter of thank you to the woman who was in her life for most part of her childhood. She didn’t send the letter off to receive a response, nor for the purpose of changing or influencing her stepmother. She wrote it to clear her own energy of resentment and anger out.

Forgiving and shifting into appreciation and gratitude is always primarily for ourselves, “for-giving” ourselves love and freedom. It is also a huge step towards taking responsibility for our own life. When we finally let go of blaming others, we win the ability to respond differently to past, present and future events in our life. We gain true response-ability.

Why do so many of us struggle for such a long time with forgiving our parents for their imperfections? Why do we insist on blaming them and on feeling that they ruined or affected our lives negatively?

We have idealized images of what our mother (and father) should be like. We might all have slightly different ideas, but the perfect mother somehow should be selfless, she should take care of us, she should always be patient and supportive, she should listen well and encourage us, she should be proud of us and make us proud of her, and so much more: in short she should love us unconditionally. Media images, TV shows, movies and books often perpetuate these ideas of the perfect mother and affect our beliefs of what a “good mother” is like. These images stem from our deepest desires to be truly loved. Yet, they cause us to judge our mother and ourselves as mothers because we naturally fall short of this perfect mother myth at times. They are the source of guilt and shame instead of enjoying the love we do feel.

Perfect Mother -Carpenter quote

Most people, no matter whether they are parents or not, are still learning to love themselves and others unconditionally. The perfect mother images disregard the fact that we always mirror and trigger each other’s issues and challenges. Children trigger their parents and parents trigger their children. That is a good thing. It is an opportunity to grow and do our inner work.

What triggers us in others, what we judge and dislike about them, is really what we dislike in ourselves. As long as we refuse to give ourselves what we would like to receive from others, it is out of our reach. Only when we truly feel we are good enough, do we become just perfectly lovable the way we are. We can feel loved by others, no matter how limited their ability to love unconditionally might be.

Perfect Mother - Desjardins quote

Nobody and nothing can prevent us from truly loving ourselves. It is our job to love ourselves; nobody can do it for us! No amount of love from the outside can penetrate through if we do not take the cape of self-judgment, self-loathing or even self-hatred off.

 John Gray cartoon love-hate

  from “What You Feel You Can Heal” by John Gray

On this Mother’s Day, make the choice to let go of the past. Forgive your mother or stepmother, whether they are alive or dead. What happened in the past is over and does not matter anymore. Realize that it doesn’t mean anything unless you give it a certain meaning. Decide that your mother, stepmother, or mother-in-law for that matter, is just perfect the way she is. Start telling your story differently, with love.

Perfect Mother - Tolstoi quote

Free yourself up to love your parents without expectations or needs. Be willing to love them the way they are. Take the cape off that prevents you from feeling the love of others. Finally give yourself the gift of loving yourself the way you are.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

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