Relationship Advice That Matters
It occurred to me I should just jump into what often feels like the “muck” of a better relationship with self because that is so often where the intense work is being done. It can seem like a crisis or the scuffles of getting through the day. Instead of focusing on our relationship to the self, the creator of the perceptions we are reacting to as absolute truths, we too often turn the glaring spotlight on others in our lives.
This tendency traps one in a victim role where others hold the power to dictate what we feel or do. To quote Steve Biko, “The greatest weapon of the oppressor is the mind the oppressed.”
Consider that there are so many chances to look at how you talk to yourself, rather than obsessing about what your partner may have neglected to say to assure you or the colleague who didn’t hand you an agenda at the meeting when everyone else got one.
Usually, it seems this opportunistic moment is precisely the one where we often select to falter, backtrack and undo the work that’s been accomplished instead of seizing the opportunity to move even closer to the goal, our true destination— ourselves.
There is an intangible quality to choices and experiences. I believe this is why we have visceral reactions to them. For now, let us just agree to call this idea of intangible substance energy. This energy is expressed in demeanor, attitude, and deeds put into being, when they are not productive we must find the courage to be honest about that reality.
The self is calling you to claim your gifts, which exist to provide you with a temporal road map to success. The mission is to unearth, learn from, and apply it with the intention of eventual mastery. This is the point where a simple plan becomes an important part of “getting on with it” in a way that is meaningful.
But what is the key to doing this? I have shared the above with several people and too many didn’t get it. It wasn’t what they wanted to hear, so I wondered, “Had I failed or had they?” And did that matter? After all, its not as if we are in school being graded. But then again, isn’t that exactly what we do to ourselves?
To use the phrase coined by Iyanla Vanzant, people get grounded in “Spiritual Special Ed” where they keep creating the same drama over and over again. Yet, they react in the same way and waste even more time by pouting over it and then in effect starting all over to end up acting out the same script again as if they are oblivious to the opportunity to choose to react differently.
Each time they are re-victimized, perhaps this is a consequence of a fear-based society, but since not everyone succumbs this can’t ultimately, in my opinion, be used to justify self-defeating responses.
My decision on the issue of who failed? Once I clarified what my goal was and what the need was that I was attempting to help the other person address my focus became how to shift the experience into one that was mutually empowering.
After getting permission to share examples from our work together, I decided to share specific examples based on my case studies in the hope of illuminating critical aspects of recovery from battered self-esteem and its symptoms.
During a session with someone and she pointed out my comfort with abstract concepts and her inability to grasp abstract ideas. I found this to especially true for her when it came to issues that required her to release what was familiar, especially if this meant giving up victimization because that was how she got her energy in relationships.
It was the refusal to face this that ultimately held her back, and kept her going from therapist to therapist and relationship to relationship. Notable progress was made, however, when we realized where she could begin, using a specific process to change one thing at a time. One important first step we dealt with self-talk, correcting the dialogues she had with herself about the events of the day, as well as how she allowed others to speak/treat her.
In my own personal experience, back when I felt fragmented and compartmentalized, I began working diligently on that issue over a decade ago and it is an ongoing process. One morning I was reminding myself of the “to do” list I had failed to write down in the organizer and the appointments I hadn’t written into the day planner.
Now one response to that would be to berate myself for not writing it in the organizer, as I had engaged in a long-term dysfunctional relationship with procrastination and disorganization.
There was a time when I would have willed myself into a nasty mood because of what I was saying to myself. Without even realizing it I might have colored my day, week or year. I have made some progress with procrastination by determining what were the priorities for me.
I took a moment to remind myself of that when the mental post-it incident occurred. So my response was to make that my first priority after I got my cup of coffee and sent an email. When I began working on the “to do” list, this article practically wrote itself as I allowed myself the freedom to journal a bit as I wrote the list of items I needed to complete into my sketchbook.
Interestingly, writing this article was at the top of the list. I decided that this made up for any other inefficiency in my customized system. I trust in this process because it has allowed me to merge my creative and analytical sides harmoniously in a way that contributes to my happiness and sense of self in a way that is gratifying. It is consistent with my goals and so it does come together to work as a system.
I have claimed my power to make it OK if I make a list of books to read, songs or artists to look for, ideas, rough drafts, and even drawings or collages in the same place because it served no one to make me wrong for doing it. Sometimes I do have to transfer information into other locations, but at least I am not procrastinating on my ideas and insights (which are the seeds of my potential for success) I take immediate action, even as the next step to take emerges.
My reason for sharing these anecdotes is to illustrate the point of the notion mentioned earlier in regards to getting on with the business of truly living. It is my intention that I have provided more relevant insight into the journey to the self as an essential part of the achievement. Especially where this is chosen over nursing wounds of past disappointments and failures. Whatever happens, it is the past and nothing can change it. The important thing is NOW because of that where the seat of power lies in terms of linear time. It is the present that will create your future. So, what are you doing?
I expanded my consulting to include thought leadership after it crystallized for me that the individual is vital to the progress of the whole and a key component to attaining success. An organization led by someone oblivious to how critical thought leadership is to success could be in for an extraordinarily bumpy road.
I have known or worked with so many people who’ve been in therapy for six or seven years with minimal progress because they were not being honest with the therapist about what they really wanted.
What I observed, in a general sense, were people going to the therapist for validation of their victimization. But what does it mean when it takes seven years to meet that need? Think of all the other productive uses of that time that have been missed.
At some point, preparation is supposed to end and the business of the journey undertaken.
I understand that awful things happen sometimes, but it simply does not serve us to define ourselves by the worst events in our lives. Validation is only a step in the process, it is not the destination--- the mission is to live from your core. Perhaps, it goes without saying, but I will for the sake of clarification. I believe that this translates into the highest and best use of our innate gifts and a genuine appreciation of the same in others. I guess some would call that unconditional love, but I feel that genuine appreciation summons fewer presumptions.
However, without a genuine sense of self it can seem impossible to practice real self-love because without it I wonder if one can know what love really is. And this is what many of you say you want out of life believing it will magically make you happy.
This misperception is what I believe to be the root of what often goes wrong in relationships when the burden of making someone happy is dumped into the lap of another individual. Each of us must take responsibility for our own experience, happy or otherwise. In the best cases, people can enhance your life, but not complete it. (And I tell you this as someone who has been mostly; happily married for fourteen years.)
I am not writing this because I have it all figured out. I face the same challenges as everyone else, but coming to terms with my “stuff” required that I embrace all of my talents and find ways of applying them that supported my growth and integrity.
Look, let me share an example with you from my own life. One of those gifts that I had to hold close in my quest to live from my core was my aptitude for relationship analysis (whether it be within organizations, personal life, products and consumers or b to b) and coaching others. It has been natural for me to do it with myself, as well as my primary function in the lives of others every since I can recall.
But this wasn’t what I thought I had decided to do initially, even though it was what I did every day. Degrees, titles, attire and accessories do not make a person those things create an image. It is the state of our being and what we do with that, which makes us who we are.
This is where we can get stuck in the “muck” by insisting that the plan we charted be implemented immediately and sulking (which can express itself in a number ways) in the meantime. This meantime is what is most dreaded and maybe even feared as what is in the way of having it our way now. But the choice is made to prolong the meantime by not being willing to be engaged in creative solutions, which are ALWAYS possible, because we are angry. This immature response is then endured like a toddler throwing a tantrum, but how does punishing yourself with an extend trip through unpleasantness help?
From my experience it seems that anger cuts off love, so being mired in it effectively blocks the love supply in the same way that holding your breath would---- depriving the brain of oxygen as the self is robbed of its miraculous blessing--- life.
Let me share this with you in closing. I have a very dear friend who is facing his mortality because of kidney disease. A few friends and I were gathered at his house for dinner and in the course of a philosophical debate about freedom he began to talk of how confronting his mortality had evolved into focusing on what it meant to live.
In his summation he stated that, to the best of his understanding, that what gave his life value was living from a foundation of compassion.
I confess that previously his mention of his life ending was something I did not want to talk about or listen to, but I did listen because it was important to him. Finally, I think maybe I understood. My former junior high teacher and friend of twenty years was doing what he did best. Teaching. This is what he taught me at our gathering of educators’ dinner party.
Be compassionate with yourself so that you can learn to infuse that quality of being into your relationships with others. That is the hope for transforming the world, our only hope for world peace.
I hope that tempers any harshness of the realities I’ve explored in this article, but believe me when I remind you that the best thing you can do to improve the state of the world, is to improve the state of yourself and your life. Be mindful of the micro and the macro and the part you play in the global drama.
Synthesize your own epiphanies into your simple plan, and utilize these articles to ensure that strategy factors in the requirement for flexibility if happiness and success are even remotely fraternizing with your goals.
Written by: Yvette Dubel