Mindfulness is a beautiful practice to expand our conscious awareness and presence. We become more aware of what is occurring in the present moment both within ourselves and in the external world. Mindfulness practice can result in increased inner peace, improved concentration and memory and youthfulness. It is well known for its physical health benefits and preventive value. However, it is astonishing how this simple and effective practice is often avoided, dropped or even resisted. There are a range of reasons why we may push away mindfulness even though it benefit us enormously.
Reasons why we discontinue mindfulness
The first reason why we might discontinue mindfulness is that it involves relaxation. Often when we are stressed, anxious or distressed we tend to resist calming down. Relaxation is actually the antidote to stress and anxiety. However, ironically this can be the most difficult thing to do when we are tense.
Another reason why we may resist mindfulness is that we can become lost in our messy minds. It is like we forget to clear our thought patterns, which then overwhelm us. We may feel trapped and hopeless in the torrent of thought. Then we do not see the forest for the trees. This is when our mind needs ‘de-fragging’, just like a computer does. Mindfulness is the mind’s de-fragging program, however we often do not realise the need for it when we are caught in metal noise.
The third reason we may cease mindfulness practice is when we are entangled in a hurricane of emotions. When intense emotional patterns are triggered, it can be very difficult to pull ourselves away from the emotional overwhelm to practice mindfulness. Strong emotions tend to distort rational thought and distract our awareness from the present moment.
The good news
The good news is that a well-rehearsed mindfulness practice can overcome these barriers. The more we become accustomed to mindfulness, the easier it is to reconnect with the practice. It is like fitness building. So when we embrace mindfulness as a life style change and apply it into our daily lives, we benefit from it in the times when we need it the most.
Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.
Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group
Bookings are essential, as places are limited
Mindfulness shows us a better way
Last week we looked at why controlling our emotions does not work. In a nut shell, controlling our emotions is futile because they will manifest in one way or another, and usually when we least want them to. Emotions can help us to navigate through life when we learn how to remain present with them and to understand them. Mindfulness, rather than control, is far more effective in managing emotions. This week we will re-focus away from emotion to look at why controlling our thoughts also does not work.
How thoughts blind us
Thoughts, like emotions, tend to arise without conscious intention. They seem to pop into our mind and can take on a life of their own. One minute we can be happily looking at the ocean and the next minute we can be lost in a bombardment of thought. While thoughts are frequently triggered by emotional reactions, thoughts themselves are separate from our emotions. Thoughts are beliefs, attitudes, reasoning and the like. Collectively, they become stories that our mind tells us.
Often when we are triggered by an event in the world, the emotional reaction will activate a story in our mind that is an attempt to work out what is happening. Our cognitive mind is geared to reason and forms beliefs and attitudes that figure out how things work. The reasoning human mind is ingénues. It is why we can create tools, houses, cars and televisions. What other creature on this planet has adapted so well due to their ability to think through problems and work out solutions?
However, our rational mind is a double edge sword, particularly when our emotions are heightened. Our mind can scramble for explanations that are not only incorrect, but are also detrimental to our well-being. We often try to simplify things to get our heads around them. We do this by creating judgments, mis-guided opinions, and false beliefs. These thoughts may satisfy our minds and our emotional reactions, however they often do not help in our relationships and do not reflect the truth of the situation. The key is to train our minds to tune out unhelpful thoughts.
We cannot stop thoughts
An important point is that while we can re-train our minds to focus on different aspects of ourselves and our surroundings, we cannot actually stop thoughts. I have seen people increase their fear and anxiety because they believe that if they cannot stop certain thoughts then bad things will happen to them. Other people may be concerned because out-of-control distressing thoughts that haunt or plague their minds following trauma or adversity. Yet other people are simply fed up with certain ways their minds think. However, stopping thought is not actually possible, it is like not thinking of while elephants. If someone says “don’t think about white elephants”, it is pretty difficult to not think about them.
So the trick is not about stopping our thoughts but rather becoming more mindful of our thoughts. Mindfulness is about increasing awareness of what is happening in the present moment, and making a choice where to focus our attention. It does not stop thought but it does determine what types of thinking we feed and what type of thinking we starve. The art of mindfulness is to learn how not to practice certain stories or particular thought processes.
The gift of mindfulness
If we are to really hone our mind to accurately appreciate and understand anything, then perhaps the best place to start is ourselves. Through mindfulness practice we can begin to increase our awareness of thought patterns and what stories we are creating. Only when we do this can we begin to master the mind rather than allow it to take us astray. By watching our thought and simply being present with it, we empower ourselves to start to see the thought for what it is… thought! We take a step back and cease mindlessly believing our thoughts that pop into our heads. We create space in our mind to sense our truth rather than being caught in the incessant stories. If we relax enough in our mind, we can gain clarity and insight. This is the gift of mindfulness, to come out of unconscious automatic brain function that we have been programmed with as children, and increase awareness of ourselves, other people and our environment.
Join us on Friday afternoons at 1pm for an hour of mindfulness based training and psycho-therapeutic insights. “Embrace What Is” is an on-going relaxed group that will support your mindfulness practice and help you to integrate this practice into your everyday life.
Call Vanessa on 0424 507 101 to book your place in this exciting and innovative group
Bookings are essential, as places are limited
Emotional memories of the past can haunt our unconscious and sometimes conscious mind for a life time, if we do not heal our relationship with those memories. If the memories are traumatic such as child abuse, the loss of a parent, or a traumatic event, then the energy attached to these memories can be debilitating. How we work with the emotions that are attached to those memories is vital to overcoming the pain. The experience of distress, overwhelm and loss is captured in Julie’s story, as is her journey towards healing the emotional wound.
Julie accessed counselling because her relationship with her teenage daughter was rapidly deteriorating. She was concerned for her daughter Sarah, but felt she could not even talk to her, no matter about help her from her self-destructive behaviour. Sarah was 14 years old and had adopted a new group of friends who were drinking alcohol and partying. Julie was beside herself. Her anxiety, frustration, hurt and anger were consuming her throughout the day and night. She could not focus at work and her memory was failing her. She would walk into rooms and completely forget what she had intended to do.As we explored Julie’s situation further it became apparent that while Sarah was causing some real concern, Julie’s reaction was more intense than it needed to be. Her anxiety was severe and was stopping her from thinking straight or appropriately responding to the current situation with Sarah. So we looked a little deeper.
The distress that Julie was trying to cope with was familiar to her. I asked her to feel into her emotional distress and remember the earliest time she could remember feeling that way. She soon found a time when she was 14 years old herself, where her grandmother died. She remembered her Grandma, but she was not particularly close to her. Her mum, on the other hand was incredibly close to her own mum. Julie remembered becoming very nervous and frustrated around that time. She remembers that her thoughts and dreams became very dark and she withdrew from friends and social activities. Julie did not remember too much more about that time, but she decided she would talk to her own mum about what happened back then.
The Truth Revealed
The next session, Julie emerged appearing sombre and quiet. After a short while she began to talk. She talked about her discussion with her mother. Her mum had spoken to her for the first time about becoming deeply depressed at that time, and while her mum and dad had hidden it from her conscious mind, Julie unconsciously had picked up something was happening that was very distressing. For a period of time, her mum had suicidal thoughts and had attempted suicide several times. Because Julie did not consciously know what was happening, but she could pick it up unconsciously, she had never processed it or made sense of it. So the emotional memory simply lay hidden until her own daughter hit that age, unconsciously perpetuating a new dynamic between her and her daughter based on anxiety of self destructive behaviour.
As Julie discovered more about that time and what she was feeling, she realised that her emotional reactions were more proportional to the time when she was 14 years old herself. No longer did she feel like she was going mad! Her inner-emotional landscape had a reality that made sense of her emotional reactions. Julie began to become more conscious of what was then and what is now. She learnt how to step back from her projections onto her daughter and respond to the current situation with appropriate healthy boundaries rather than distress, angry outbursts and anxiety. Over time she felt more calm and in control over her life. Her emotions made more sense to her which eventually gave her sense of mastering her reactions to situations with her daughter.
Mastering Our EmotionsLearning to understand our emotional reactions rather than remain controlled by them opens the door to taking our power back from the emotional intensity, and make effective decisions in our life. Without seeing where her emotions really stemmed from, Julie would not have been able to respond to Sarah’s needs as well as she did. Processing the emotions rather than suppressing or avoiding them is essential to learning to work with them. This takes adopting some new practices such as mindfulness and self-awareness, however the results are definitely worth it.
“Surfing the Waves of Emotion” workshop will be held on the 7th July 2012 in Coolum Beach. Don’t miss out on learning how to distinguish between adaptive emotions and emotional memories, work with your emotions, and a whole lot more!!!
Have you ever experienced emotions that were disproportional to a current event only to discover the emotional reaction was really from your past?
[Note. All stories used in this blog are fictional characters based on the wisdom I gain from working with clients. No character in this blog is an actual person or a client]
Conscious relationship is one of my passions because I love and honour love itself. While intimate relationship is only one type of relationship where love can be cultivated, it fascinates me because I believe there is so much potential in our intimate relationships, rather than misunderstanding, separation and heartbreak. My hope is that increased awareness of gender and relationship will lead to us healing ourselves and our hearts.
Learnings from my Personal Story
From a very early age I had a deep longing for love. My dad was a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and my mum was psychologically and emotionally shut down. So neither one of them were connected to love within themselves, their relationship or with their children. The only time the word love was even used in their household was when we were getting the strap … “I’m doing this because I love you!” So needless to say, my first introduction to so called love was abuse. There was a deep sense of “wrongness” for me as a child. I knew this was not love! And yet there was no affection, encouragement or half way positive messages about who I was or who I might become.
Perhaps what gave me the deepest sadness in my family of origin was that they were so emotionally shut down. Like androids, these people were not connected to themselves or each other. The aimless, depressed negativity drove me crazy! Later I was to know this as unconsciousness… deeply shutdown patterns that blocked them from the life force… blocked them from love! So my earliest desires to wake up, become conscious and embrace love originated from early childhood experiences.
Over the decades as an adult, I have accessed counselling, spiritual healing, kinesiology, body talk, holographic kinetics, and anything else I could get my hands on! Today I wake up feeling happy! There are times when challenging things happen in life, but my perceptions and beliefs are largely positive. Sometimes I witness my thoughts and their attached emotions, spiral into the old family patterns, but I see them for what they are… simply unconscious patterns that detract me from loving life.
So what does all this have to do with Conscious Relationship?
I learnt in a very real way the importance of healing myself before I can create a conscious, healing and loving intimate relationship. I cannot say I am fully healed… I know that is not true! But I am on my way!!! Becoming more aware of my unconscious patterns that are triggered in intimate relationship, I can take responsibility for my 50% of a relationship and learn from it. My dream for intimate relationships is where both people become consciously aware of their own psychological patterns and learn to create love rather than pain.
This involves understanding the differences between genders and honouring those differences. If women are generally emotionally based creatures while men are often physically based, then what can we learn from each other in regards to respecting each other? It is not so much about becoming like the other, but rather to understand what the other is about in how they approach life. The idea of opening to happiness through connection, honouring differences and complementing our partners in intimate relationships, is the cornerstone of conscious relationship. By observing and learning from our own reactions, we can learn to give better to our relationships. By learning how to communicate even when we speak different languages, we can create shared meaning and purpose in our relationships. By understanding and appreciating what the feminine and masculine give and HOW they give, we can increase gratitude and reduce resentment. This is essential if we are going to shift our intimate relationships from the average, shut down relationships that exist in the sludge of life.
How we connect to our intimate partner is a choice! If we struggle with resentment, criticism, guilt or condemnation towards our partner, then perhaps it is time to heal. First this process is in each individual self. Secondly, the relationship itself may need healing. Becoming conscious simply opens the door to healing and finding happiness in relationship. Conscious awareness is an on-going process that sometimes requires guidance through therapy, self-help avenues and other healing modalities. But it is worth it!!! For it is the difference between mastering ourselves and our relationships, and perpetuating the living hell of the unconscious relationships of the past. Without compassionate awareness towards ourselves, there cannot be love for another.
What are the important ingredients of Conscious Relationships in your experience?
My original interest in psychology at 12 years old was in parapsychology, or ‘ghost busting’. So it is of no surprise that my passion for transcendental psychology emerged when I first discovered this area soon after completing my degree in psychology and the philosophy of consciousness in the 1990s. What attracted me to transcendental psychology was the systematic psychological exploration of spiritual practice throughout cultures across our planet.
What is Transcendental Psychology?
Transcendental psychology looks at the psychology behind spiritual practice without being influenced by religious dogma. This study enquires into what is happening for the person mentally, emotionally, physiologically and spiritually, in religious and spiritual practices. This includes the psychology of altered states of consciousness, the unconscious and states of meditation.
There was a surge of interest in transcendental psychology and investigations of altered states of consciousness in the 1960s, which included some of my favourite thinkers and writers in this area, such as Stan and Christina Grof (psychiatrists), Ken Wilber (psychologist) and John Welwood (clinical psychologist and psychotherapist). Each of these people contributed a wealth of knowledge through scientific investigation and their own psycho-spiritual practice, to Western science about Eastern and other non-Western spiritual practices and altered states of consciousness.
Therapeutic Implications of Transcendental Psychology
One aspect of transcendental psychology that is important beyond enquiry and research is the therapeutic implications of the non-Western approach of spiritual emergence, and Western concepts of mental illness. We can learn a lot about alternative ways to understand and approach mental illness from other cultures and non-Western spiritual practices. The Spiritual Emergence Network (SEN) was founded in 1980, which aimed to increase awareness about spiritual emergence and promote alternative treatment approaches to mental illness, apart from Western psychological and psychiatric practices (Stanislav & Christina Grof, Spiritual Emergence, 1989).
An interesting finding from transcendental psychological research is that spiritual emergence and a psychotic episode have very similar symptoms, however Western and a lot of non-Western outlooks are completely different in their approach. People in some non-Western cultures who are seen to be transitioning through a spiritual emergency are thought to be on a shamanic journey or “a dark night of the soul”. They are not perceived as sick, mentally ill or deficient in their community and they are supported until they emerge from ‘facing inner or outer demons’. The whole process is simply allowed to run its course without community condemnation. Ironically, it is found that there is a higher rate of people who emerge from “psychosis/spiritual emergence” in non-Western cultures than from Western mental health wards and from using psychiatric medication (Stanislav & Christina Grof, Spiritual Emergence, 1989).
So while transcendental psychology is often seen as a fringe area of psychology, its clinical implications could be profound!
Apart from psychosis, transcendental psychology could also have implications for treating depression and anxiety. Alternative therapies that are based on Eastern practices and world-views, such as acupuncture, kinesiology and chiropractic practice, all embrace an understanding of energy flow, chakras, meridian systems, pressure points and multidimensional sources of memory that affect current psychological patterns of thought, emotion and behaviour. These sources of memory include unconscious archetypal memories and past life memories. So based on Eastern medicine and world views, depression and anxiety can stem from deeply held unconscious memories that are outside the sight of the conscious mind. Again, these types of approaches could have a far reaching and revolutionary impact on contemporary psychological theories and therapies.
The Approach Taken at Conscious Solutions
At Conscious Solutions, when working with the human mind, I recognise unconscious sources of information that could affect people’s patterns of thought, emotion and action that repeat themselves throughout people’s lives. When I work with people to decrease depression and anxiety, I help them to increase awareness of sources of memory that underlie their patterns of behaviour, so they can break free from them. Simply by holding an open mind and liberal philosophy as to sources of these patterns from contemporary psychology, allows my work with many people to flourish.
This is also why I often highly recommend that clients access alternative therapies as well as psychotherapy, to help shift stubborn and pervasive patterns. I have also seen the opposite take place, where no psychotherapeutic work was accessed, only energy work. Likewise, from what I have witnessed, the outcomes were not as successful. In my experience, the best outcomes often come from combining psychotherapy and alternative therapies when it comes to depression and anxiety.
“Western psychology has neglected the spiritual domain, to its detriment, while the contemplative paths have lacked an adequate understanding of psychological dynamics, which inevitably play a major part in the process of spiritual development. As long as these dynamics are not recognised, they affect the spiritual practitioner and the spiritual path in covert ways that can exert a distorting influence on the whole understanding. So, in certain ways, [spiritual] awakening needs psychology as much as psychology needs awakening.”(John Welwood, Toward a Psychology of Awakening, 2002, Page xvi)
Want to read more about the psychospiritual?
Here are some more interesting links….
- Misunderstanding the Law of Attraction
- The conscious, the unconscious and choice in the Law of Attraction
- When the Law of Attraction leads to destructive belief systems
- The Consequences of separating Spirit from Matter
- Balancing Spirit and Matter
- Spiritual Emergency
- Unconscious Attraction Patterns
- What is the Ego and what should we do with it?
- Avoiding emotional pain through spiritual practice
- Spiritual Egotism
- Unconscious Family Patterns
Have your say and contribute to the greater consciousnesses of humanity ….
What makes conscious relationship different from other types of relationships is that both partners make a conscious commitment to work on themselves personally, interpersonally and spiritually. Rather than committing to an ideal or a concept of “a relationship”, they are committing to a process. This process is a journey of individual self-awareness, and a conscious exploration of intimate relationship including open communication and a sharing of felt experience in the relationship. In a nut shell, people who chose to be in conscious relationship are choosing to look at themselves, and listen to their partner with respect for their wisdom and observations, knowing their partner is their perfect mirror!
For conscious relationship to work, both people involved in the relationship need to be open to enhancing self-awareness of their childhood patterns. They need to recognise that these patterns are likely to be triggered in their relationship by their partner. The process of exploring their emotional reactions then becomes an internal psychospiritual one, rather than simply blaming their partner for hurting them or being difficult.
There is an important distinction I wish to make here. In looking to your own patterns for what is being triggered by your partner, I am not talking about martyring yourself by blaming yourself for another person’s bad or unconscious behaviour. To look at yourself is to witness the thoughts, emotions, physiological responses and actions that arise in reaction to your partners actions. For example, it may become apparent that your partner’s behaviour reminds you of your passive-aggressive mother or father, and therefore your reaction is sensitised (or suppressed) to this type of treatment. In identifying your pattern, it may also alert you to the minor problem that the reason why your partner’s behaviour reminds you of your parent’s passive-aggressive treatment, is because your partner’s patterns actually are passive-aggressive.
Unconscious Patterns in Action
This is a real relationship issue in the tangible psychological reality of human interpersonal relating. It also needs to be addressed on the level of psychological healing and as well as energetic healing. If we step back to the hypothetical person who has become aware of their reaction being triggered by their partner’s passive-aggressive behaviour, they too have their 50% of relationship healing to do. Why have they been involved in a relationship where their partner treats them that way? Do they honour or value themselves? Had they learnt a childhood conditioned pattern of unworthiness or tolerating passive-aggressive behaviour, which then kept them in that relationship dynamic?
Both people in this hypothetical relationship had patterns that fit together like a key in a keyhole. And that is why they are the perfect mirrors for each other. While they stay in those unconscious patterns, they will replay that dynamic where one holds the control through passive-aggressive means, and the other is de-valued and “the victim”. They will be caught in a dance of suffering that will either lead to separation or emotional shut down in order to stay in the relationship, unless they heal their respective patterns and the relationship dynamic.
Healing Unconscious Patterns & Relationship Dynamics
No one is good or bad or even right or wrong. In couples work it is usually more productive to adopt a “Both/And” philosophy, if both parties are willing to work through their respective patterns. In conscious relationship work, it is important for both people to embrace compassion and understanding for themselves and each other, while gaining awareness of and responsibility for, their respective patterns. The potential blessing of conscious relationship is that through their union both people will be alerted to, and will heal, those patterns that would otherwise keep them locked in suffering.
In this process it is vital to remain in the mind-set of healing rather than blaming self or other. It is no-one’s fault! The only question is “do you want to continue this dance?” And for the record, by leaving that relationship and finding another one, they are likely to unconsciously re-attract another person with the same pattern, or they will flip over and play out its opposite next time around. This is because we all have patterns that we need to heal! The only way to release yourself from what may feel like torture, is to consciously heal yourself. If your partner is willing to do the same, then co-healing the relationship dynamic could lead to strengthening the relationship.
The above example of this hypothetical couple, is just one dynamic out of many. There are many possible patterns that can be triggered in relationship and played out by a couple. If there are relationship issues that are causing one or more parties grief in their relationship, then therapy with a trusted psychotherapist could help.
Can you see how your partner is your perfect mirror?
What are your patterns that are being triggered by your partner’s patterns?
Commitment is one of those words that can either recruit people into holding on tighter to their relationship, or running a mile. It can elicit fears of being controlled and confined, or fears of abandonment and betrayal. One thing we know about commitment though, is that it is a word that can create a great deal of anxiety and stress in intimate relationship.
Commitment, Attachment & Relationship
Given that “commitment” is an emotionally loaded term, it is no surprise that it can cause havoc in our relationships. However, a lot of people do not know what commitment really means to them. In fact a better way of phrasing “commitment” could be “I really fear growing too attached (or not attached enough) to this relationship”. We could even say a better term for what a lot of people are really speaking about when they talk about commitment, is “attachment”.
Buddhist philosophy states that attachment to any idea, thought or emotion causes craziness and suffering. In intimate relationship we are heavily socialised to be attached to expectations, images, ideals and emotional states. These beliefs and concepts about relationship are defined by childhood conditioning, media, peers, broader culture and subcultures. They tie into some of our deepest fears and concepts of self-identity. So when we begin to understand the term “commitment” we need to deconstruct and clearly understand these external constructs.
Another reason it is important to understand these constructs is because if we lack awareness of how we are thinking about relationship and commitment then we cannot begin to make sense of our own reactions, or the roles that we unconsciously expect another to live up to. And the other person would not have a clue how their ‘beloved’ thinks it is “supposed to work” if that person does not know or communicate those ideas, and visa versa. While a lot of people may hope for long term committed relationships, the lack of self understanding and open communication can result in misunderstandings, power struggles, mutual blame and eventually separation and heart-break.
Conscious relationship is simply about self awareness and consciously working with another person to co-create a shared union and journey together. Conscious relationship can ‘hold the space’ for open conversations about relationship ideas and constructs that we often take for granted and assume that everyone else shares. What a myth … that we share similar ideas, expectations and meanings about relationships and how they should work! So a consciously shared understanding helps couples to navigate otherwise confusing territory at the level of the mind.
But wait there’s more…
Childhood Attachment, Emotional Wounding & Relationship
Even with this head-level-deconstruction of commitment and relationship, there are also our emotional reactions and childhood patterns that are so easily triggered in intimate relationships. A great deal of emotional reaction that is triggered in intimate relationship is more to do with early childhood attachment experiences with significant others, rather than a conscious adult-adult relationship.
These attachment-issues feel very real to many of us, and can recruit the most independent, rational person into a cringing, crying child or a screaming, tantruming toddler. It is like intimate relationship triggers all of those intolerable emotions that we shut off from our conscious awareness when we were infants. Here is perhaps where conscious relationship is the most powerful. Conscious relating teaches us to become mindful of our own patterns, even our intense ones. In conscious relationship, emotional reactivity is seen as an opportunity to learn and grow both as a person and at a soul level. John Welwood discusses these types of concepts in his writings. John used the term “sacred fire” to describe the deep transformational (and often painful) change intimate relationship can inspire. I love the term “sacred fire” because it captures the poetic beauty of intimate relationship, the spiritual dimension, and the heart wrenching agony that can accompany it. Intimate relationship can be like creating diamonds… including being compressed by the boiling hot molten lava deep within the Earth! But conscious relationship offers us meaning for the experienced pain rather than leaving people baffled and bitter…
In conscious relationship “sacred combat” and emotional reactions are indicators of childhood wounding. Our partner is seen as our mirror (rather than our enemy with deep psychological problems!). Our partners can show us where we are still wounded. So when it comes to commitment in conscious relationship, there is more opportunity to work through the deeper emotional issues that inevitably emerge, rather than being torn apart by them. This helps people to stay together in relationship and therefore, it can be said to strengthen commitment in relationship.
Commitment itself is multifaceted. It can be understood as a shared agreement or intention, or something that waxes and wanes throughout the life of a relationship. Some people say commitment is a belief that we should stand by no matter what, while others say it is an experienced connection that may grow over time. Some say you make commitment happen, while others say commitment grows in its own time. For some, commitment creates the safety and security the need in a relationship to relax, while for others it signifies confinement.
In knowing that commitment does not have a simple meaning, the importance of a conscious process to explore and co-create commitment becomes evident. If the shared meaning of commitment is one based on both love and freedom… then the creation can be beautiful indeed!
What does commitment mean to you?
Have you experienced a conscious process in your relationship to explore commitment? If so, please share your experience….
When I was young, I used to imagine my perfect man and intimate relationship. He knew me o well I did not have to tell him what I needed… he simply knew. And he was so loyal and faithful, I did not even think he could hurt me or let me down in any way. And he was so affectionate and verbally communicative, I just knew how much he really loved me … And then I grew up and experienced Real Life!!!
The Cold Hard Reality of Relationships
The childhood romantic dream often becomes shattered and annihilated through life’s all too real experiences in intimate relationship. So many people are then left bitter. They sometimes blame their ex-partners for destroying their lives and devastating their hearts decades after separation. Some people never recover from some relationship breakups, other try to piece their lives together and prepare themselves for their next relationship. Some people turn their backs on intimate relationships altogether and decide to live a peaceful life alone.
The drive and motivation for relationship is extremely strong for a lot of people. It is not so much a consciously thought out drive, but rather more like an emotional magnetism. Rationally, a lot of people acknowledge the difficulties and challenges of intimate relationship, especially after they have tried it a least once or twice. Healthy relationships are found to be generally positive for people’s mental and physical health, however, unhealthy relationships can have the opposite effect. But it is often not reason that drives us… instead it is ‘chemistry’ (or maybe karma)! And the casually? Everyone, especially our hearts!
The Real Reason Why Relationships Don’t Work
As hard as it is to acknowledge… the reason our intimate relationships often fail is not because our ex-partners are idiots, but rather because working through unconscious patterns is legitimately difficult! Relationships commonly bring up emotional wounds and reactivity from childhood that we thought we had outgrown. As a couples counsellor, it is amazing how couples behave towards each other that they would not otherwise be seen acting dead towards anyone else in the same way. It is like all normal respectful ways of relating to other adults goes out the window when you are sleeping with that person.
In a previous blog on unconscious relationships, I described how childhood patterns and emotional memories can keep us bound in unconscious painful dynamics. I also explained how these unconscious reactions usually begin to surface in the second stage of the relationship. Click here to read more about unconscious relationships. The answer to escaping from these unconscious relationship dynamics is to become conscious of our own emotional patterns. This is the art of conscious relationship.
Conscious relationships do not guarantee that a relationship will last. However it is a conscious practice that significantly improves the chances that it will last or at least will be respectful. It does not mean that unconscious patterns and emotional memories will not raise their heads… they will! What it does mean is that there is a process that people can work through their emotions and gain self-awareness. In turn, this increases the chances that a couple will not separate because they could not work through the pain and aggravation of their patterns being triggered by their relationship.
Conscious Relationship is first a process of knowing thy self! The more aware of how our childhood conditioning results in our reactions to current life events, the more we can take our power back from the patterns. Mindfulness practice is a great way of discovering what these patterns are about. If we witness our thoughts, feelings and actions we gain clarity of ourselves and our choices. In conscious relationship, the trick is to communicate your awareness of your own patterns with your partner rather than believe your partner is the cause of your pain and then blame them for it. This last sentence is the key to conscious relationships… so read it again slowly and carefully…
In conscious relationship, the trick is to communicate your awareness of your own patterns with your partner, rather than believe your partner is the cause of your pain and then blame them for it.
Over the next few blogs I am going to cover a range of different topics about conscious relationships. These blogs include:
- What commitment can mean in a conscious relationship
- How our partner is our mirror in intimate relationship
- The attraction of opposites in intimate relationship
- Gender differences in the felt experience and expression of emotion in relationship
- Fundamental differences in communication between men and women
- Strategies to overcome gender differences in communication
- And finally, the difference between sex and conscious love making
Conscious relationship is a beautiful process of self awareness in context and the reflection of another. It is in intimate relationship that we can learn our toughest lessons, and that we have the opportunity to look at ourselves with the eyes of truth, where before we wold not dare.
How could your intimate relationship benefit from increasing self awareness with your partner?
I have been a couple’s therapist for twelve years and one thing I see over and over again is the uncanny way that couples who were intensely in love and attracted in the beginning of their relationship, become disappointed and disillusioned. The attractive qualities in their partner end up triggering their deepest childhood wounds. It seems almost inevitable that a romantic partner will be the perfect person for pushing all your buttons that you have put so much effort into hiding, even from yourself! There are unconscious reasons for this initial intense attraction, and then later the intense interpersonal struggle with your beloved.
To start off, I will introduce a few general points about intimate relationships. There are five stages of growth that intimate relationships experience to evolve. In the same way that there are life stages for an individual person, there are also relationship life stages. The first stage is the honeymoon stage. This is falling in love… rose coloured glasses… and perceiving your lover as perfect and complimentary to you. You see all their similarities. It is like this stage needs to be absolutely fantastic to get a couple through stage two. Stage two is the stage of negotiating difference. This stage is about power struggles, disappointment, inner wounds, issues being triggered, and fights. All of a sudden you take off the rose coloured glasses and you begin to see all of your beloved differences. It can be a very rude awakening!
Stage three is where after struggling together over years, you step out of the battle to find yourself again after being lost in the process of the relationship. Stage four is a coming back together in a real way. Now you know who this person is and you make a choice to be with them (or not). Stage five is the symbiotic stage, where the relationship takes on a life of its own. Have you ever seen two happy elderly people walking down the street, knowing exactly how to move with each other?
So while intimate relationships can tear us apart and bring us to our knees, the potential is a beautiful healing and connection between two people.
What has all this got to do with unconscious attraction patterns?
After working with so many couples, I believe unconscious attraction brings two people together to potentially heal past unconscious wounds or patterns. It is as if UNCONSCIOUSLY, there is a knowing that this person is the perfect person to match you and bring to your consciousness what is unconscious and needs healing. The patterns fit like a key in a key hole that unlocks the potential to heal with another. Of course, instead of healing we sometimes simply open the wounds and become re-hurt. However, I have faith that it is actually the potential of healing the wounds that unconsciously attracts two people in intimate relationship.
Perhaps that is why when we fall in love we have a sense of familiarity or of “knowing” them before. The unconscious does know all about them! It knows all about us! And it works its magic that we call falling in love.
The difference between successful relationship counselling and unsuccessful relationship counselling, is when both people leave counselling taking responsibility for their 50% of creating the dynamics between them. Often couples enter counselling blaming one person or each other for the relationship difficulties. They usually come into counselling in the second or third stages of their relationship. It is usually a last chance attempt at repairing the relationship before leaving. So the challenge of couple’s therapy is to explore the readiness of each person in the relationship to become conscious of their unconscious patterns that are triggered by their partner. In general, the more we all become aware of our patterns and how they impact on the people close to us, the more real choice we have in changing what is causing us pain and anguish.
Where To Now?
In the later part of January 2012, I will be posting a series of blogs on Conscious Relationship. So tune in later this month for more valuable information on how you can heal your relationship by healing yourself, and then working with your partner to shift the unpleasant dynamics in your relationship.
Psychospiritual Reflections 9.1.2012
In my blog “The Difference Between the Conscious & Unconscious in the Law of Attraction” I focused on the differences between the conscious mind and the unconscious, and I looked at what it means to be consciously responsible for choices. Today I want to take a closer look at what unconscious patterns actually are and what is involved in healing them.
Unconscious Family Patterns
Unconscious patterns are made up of memories, images, emotional reactions, beliefs and patterns of behaving that a person is not consciously aware of. While these patterns are unseen by the conscious mind they do however manifest in everyday life as self sabotage or self-destructive behaviour. They also tend to lead to suffering. Therefore, sooner or later we often turn to face ourselves and work through our patterns in order to find freedom from this suffering.
Unconscious patterns can be an individuals attempt at surviving a childhood situation or they can be learnt from the family and therefore a generational pattern. Often what worked to survive childhood pain becomes an unconscious pattern of thought, feelings and actions in adulthood that causes misery. Likewise, it is amazing how powerful family pattern are. We may live a part from our family for decades and believe we have changed so much as a person through those experiences. Yet when we visit our family, low and behold we are seventeen again and back in the family dynamics and patterns. It can almost make you cringe!
In some alternative and esoteric modalities, unconscious patterns may also include pasty life patterns and even future life patterns. Some people believe in their existence and some do not, what I mainly want to point out her though is that if there are past lives, then it is important not to mistake a person or personality in another life as “yourself”. In a similar way that we are not responsible for the unconscious, we are also not our past lives. What I generally find is that whether you identify a pattern as current interpersonal issues, past inner-child issues, or past life memories, the psychological theme of the pattern is the same. The patterns that require healing emerge throughout our lives and are often what cause us the most pain.
The Healing Process
So when we look at healing these unconscious patterns and releasing them, it is easier said than done. Generally I find a combination of modalities is most helpful. Psychological therapies such as counselling, touch therapies such as massage, energy techniques such as kinesiology and mindfulness practice such as yoga are all helpful to release unconscious patterns.
Ultimately conscious awareness is the key to breaking free from these unconscious patterns. When we can see the patterns clearly, we are already 50% there. The more consciously aware of the thoughts, feelings and actions within the pattern, and how it came about, the more we eventually get to a point where we do not have to repeat it. We simply see it for what it is and cease to believe the beliefs behind it.
The next step is one of forgiveness to self and other. This is a process of release… and not condoning bad or abusive behaviour. So when I talk about forgiveness, I am referring to recognising the emotional pain we hold inside ourselves and bringing compassion and understanding into it.
The final step is to learn skills and practices of new more adaptive patterns. We are creatures of habit and the conscious mind does rely of patterns of behaviour. The difference is that we can make more conscious choices about how we respond to events in the world when we know ourselves. We learn HOW to be responsible for our thoughts, feelings and actions. The new patterns may be more mindful rather than emotionally reactive.
Next time I want to look at another type of relationship that has an annoying habit of bringing our unconscious patterns to our conscious awareness. Yes, that’s right… I’m talking about intimate relationships!!! I will discuss the basis of conscious and unconscious relationship and how the Law of Attraction plays such an uncanny role in helping us find our perfect match.
Have your say on the Law of Attraction and contribute to the greater consciousnesses of humanity ….