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Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. – Helen Keller

balance

I have been practicing Marshall Rosenberg’s seminal work on nonviolent communication for over nine years. Recently, I have been remembering his statement that every communication is an expression of either “Please” or “Thank you.” No matter how skillfully or un-skillfully the communication is delivered, all communications are either requesting something one needs or expressing gratitude. We don’t always get what we want or need from people, but we can always choose a response that is more conscious. A more conscious response will move the conversation closer to love and forgiveness; forgiveness of other, and more importantly, forgiveness of self. A less conscious, more impulsive reaction would likely keep the expression of pain going. It requires much skill to interact consciously with other human beings; I believe that is why we are here, learning with and from each other.

It is essential that we understand the feelings we are experiencing during conflict and that we understand the unmet need triggering the feeling. Identifying our feelings can take much spiritual maturity, because allowing oneself to be vulnerable during conflict is like what Stephen Levine calls, “opening your heart in hell.” Once one is feeling and need literate, conflict is easily reconciled. Here are some common examples:

Wife – You are always working, it’s like I’m a single woman in a marriage!

This is an expression of please. This is where the real work begins. The wife might only feel anger, but sadness or grief is always under anger. She might not even realize she is sad and missing her connection with her partner. In our culture, acknowledging our vulnerabilities is grossly undervalued, perpetuating an illusion that we are self-sufficient islands. Allowing one’s vulnerability, in my opinion, is how we can achieve world peace, one person at a time. At the core of this existential shift is the ability to find empathy for the self. To me, this is the prerequisite and the gift that neutralizes conflict and increases love of self and others. Once empathy is achieved, there is more self-reflection, and her communication might be, “My need for connection with you is not being met and I’m really sad about it. Would you manage your time so you can spend more time with me and the children? With practice, one can move more swiftly to vulnerability and affirming one’s love for the other can render more love.

Husband – I cannot do enough for you. All you do is nag nag nag.

This is an expression of please. It is important to hear beyond the pain. What he may be unable to express if he is not feeling literate is, “I feel so much pressure to provide financially, emotionally, and physically. I feel like I’m dying on the vine. I need some help here.”

The most difficult work is identifying the feelings and needs. Cultivating empathy for one’s self, leads to empathy for the other and will ultimately lead to feeling less isolated. This is the power of duality, or interacting intimately with others; the power of community.

Once self-empathy becomes natural, one can respond to these please requests with gratitude, rather than the automatic reaction of withdrawal or acting out our pain. Whether the communication is skillful or not, we can feel gratitude, because the other person is willing to express their unmet needs. Moving out of one’s own pain through self-empathy allows one to hear the other’s pain. Here is where love and connection can be restored and please can become thank you.

Recently, I reached out to a significant person in my life who has been disconnected from me, disconnected from my heart. As I move toward the end of my life, I know this is not truth. I reached out asking if we could reconnect. (Please.) I was met with a very cold, defensive response. I knew that we were not both in the place of reconciliation and I needed to honor that. In the past, I might have pushed for my needs to get met and it would not have ended well. I recognized the opportunity to honor where the other person was and more importantly, not to sacrifice my own well-being, knowing how open and vulnerable I am in my life right now. My reply was merely, Thank you.

And I meant those words, completely. “Thank you” to her for letting me know where she was. And, “thank you” to me for letting go, for having the wisdom to know that because we are disconnected on the physical plane, in another vibration where love is the only truth, we are connected forever.

All statements express please or thank you. Vulnerability is the key to open communication and inevitably leads to empathy. Empathy is the balm that changes poison (pain) to medicine (intimacy). You cannot give to others with an empty internal reservoir of love. This reservoir needs to be attended to constantly and consistently. This is the basis of most spiritual practices and the hope of heart-centered psychotherapy.

Marshall’s books can be purchased on Amazon, found in many libraries and YouTube videos are available online at no charge.

World peace can be achieved, one person at a time.

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty in their carvings.”–Elisabeth Kubler–Ross

photo

Lynne Kaplan Artography

When I was a child there was a rule of thumb; rarely would you have two girls visit if you could at all avoid it. That could be a recipe for disaster–three girls together. I don’t know what it was about three when I was young, but it surely could elicit conflict. I wonder if it is specific to our culture or if it is a human characteristic. Triangles surely offer an evocative relationship dynamic. In relationship theory, there is a term called triangulation where a couple draws in a third person to relieve anxiety in the original dyad. Anxiety is usually a symptom of tension that is building when the couple needs to undergo change for greater authenticity. The tension increases when being confronted openly and takes much integrity and spiritual developmentto make the necessary shift, but this is the high road for which most people are not prepared. Often drama is engendered when the couple cannot meet the level of authenticity required.

Another manifestation of triangles is when the energy of two forces becomes polarized. As the two forces move toward changing to a greater equilibrium, the polarization escalates. When a mediating third enters the field, transformation can happen. The art of mediation is an example of this process.

When I went to the Grof Transpersonal Training I met many wonderful people who became my sacred community for three years; two of the people would help me to connect the dots from significant relationship traumas which would lead to my deepest relational healing. I will call the couple X and Y to preserve their privacy. In order to fully communicate the level of healing this represented, I need to describe the circumstances that ended my second marriage. This marriage held a great deal of love and an equal amount of childhood trauma. Although we worked tenaciously to heal the trauma, the wounds were too great and we were losing ground. My neurological symptoms had become evident and were slowly progressing. Intuitively I knew that if the circumstances didn’t change, I could die. All life choices were made from this perspective at this point in my life, extreme as it may sound. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t understand the level of pressure I was under, nor did I know how to relieve it. Part of our attempt to heal childhood trauma brought us to Galisteo, New Mexico to work with a healer named Rick. Rick and I made a deep connection which was destabilizing for me for my marriage. I attempted to work with his wife, but found her to be emotionally distant. Suffice it to say that I was not developed enough to deal with the tension in the relationship and drama ensued and my marriage ended in a devastating way, with much betrayal and shame.

During the transpersonal training, I connected with X at the beginning of my training as a massage therapist which was very grounding for journeying for the next three years. Little did I know how auspicious this would be in healing my most primal trauma. Her husband, Y and I connected deeply as well. We became breathwork partners for most of the modules during the next three years. One auspicious day, I entered the training module late which was unusual for me. I claimed the only seat left in the large room which happened to be between and slightly behind the two of them. While I sat there this overwhelming wave of emotion overcame me. Sitting in a triangle with the two of them brought up my trauma from the New Mexico couple. Unwilling to repeat a scenario which brought so much pain, I asked X to talk with me. I told her the whole story of the last triangle and the pain it brought to all concerned. Contrary to what I expected, she was enormously empathetic and acknowledged MY pain, something I had not acknowledged through the shame. In her wisdom, she got the significance of the devastation. Her empathy in the moment provided the alchemical heat needed to transform lead into gold.

It was due to my honesty and her love that I was able to clear the shame I had been carrying all these years. This validated my belief that the only true elixir is love. I was able to understand the primal trauma that was being healed, the triangle with my parents. My mother, with her wounding from childhood, was unable to offer me the love and nurturance I needed. Unconsciously, I had wanted to heal this pathological pattern with Rick’s wife. When she was emotionally unavailable the old pattern kicked in exaggerating the importance of the man, a pattern I had unconsciously played out over and over in my relationships. When X offered love and empathy, she metaphorically offered to hold the kite string. Despite knowing my history she trusted me. These leaps of faith require courage and a commitment to love. Her generosity allowed for the most significant relational healing of my life.

The late Maya Angelou used to say, “when someone knows better, they do better.” Sometimes, knowing better can take a great deal out of you, but the alternative of living unconsciously is much more painful.

Y continues to be my doctor to this day. They came together to deliver supplements yesterday and I again thanked them for their wisdom and their love. With tears in our eyes we acknowledged the healing power of this triangle.