Compassion

7 Simple Ways to UN-Fuck Your Relationships

Good day, gentle reader.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on some easy ways to f*ck up your relationships, and it occurs to me that sharing some of the tools I’ve learned over the years that HELP relationships would present a nice balance.

These are tools are all simple, and I doubt any idea in the list is new. In my experience, when I am operating with these behaviors present, my relating is healthy.

As is always the case, unless otherwise noted, I’m writing about relationships that occur in a context of consent and that are free from abuse. Your experience will be unique to you. I’m simply sharing what works for me.

1.     If you can’t take a person as they are, then do not engage.

Accepting that, over time, your needs might shift, as might those of your person, ask yourself this “can I be with this person as they are right now, today?’.  If the answer is anything other than a resounding YES, then consider not taking them on in Relationship.

 

2.     Own your emotions.

Briefly:  learn the distinction between stimulus and emotional response. Spend time cultivating maturity and skillfulness in managing your emotional response. Repeat as needed.

This idea is a way for you (and me) to stand fully in your power and own your shit. You (and I) get to feel fully the anger, and the love, and the happy, and the sad, and the grief, and the guilt. This tool – the tool of understanding the distinction between stimulus and response –can help you end codependent behavior patterns. This tool can help you unpack and recognize where your triggers lie; and you can use it to gain clarity and perspective.

Something that I adore which arises out of being responsible for my own feeling-state, is that I am far less likely to engage in controlling behavior. I am also far more likely to be able to follow the third guideline in un-fucking relationships:

 

3.     Negotiate Behaviors Rather Than Feelings

This was a big one or me – embracing the idea that asking for behaviors is healthier than asking for feelings. It was so big, that all of my relationships transformed in an instant. Every. Single. One.

Here are the main steps in this process:

·      Figure out what behaviors help you have the emotional responses you need or want.

·      Ask for the behavior with the knowledge that your request might be declined, and that’s OK. 

·      If you can’t live without the behavior, then consider re-framing the relationship.
Repeat as necessary

Notice here, please, that the first step is for you to do the work of identifying both your NEED and the BEHAVIOR you are requesting

 

4.     Be Vulnerable

I can’t say it better than Brene’ Brown, so I’ll share some of her words here: ‘Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” 

Do it. Get on that path and walk it.

 

5.     Clarify if you’re solving a problem or needing to vent before you have the conversation.

Have you ever had the experience of sharing/processing something that’s up for you, and the person with whom you are speaking replies with solutions to your problem, rather than simply listening so you can process it? Have you been on the other side of that conversation coin?

Here's a simple question you can ask if someone starts 'dumping' and you don't know what they need: ‘Are you trying to solve a problem here, or are you more needing to vent/process?’ wait for the answer. Listen in alignment with the need of your person if you can.  Be kind in declining the conversation if you cannot.

If you are on the giving end of the conversation – meaning, you’ve initiated it, get consent from your person before you have the conversation. It’s the kind thing to do.

Personally, I have a strong preference to reach out to the person with whom I want to process/problem solve first, and then have the conversation.  Text works great for that 'hey there.  do you have some time to listen to me cry about something?'...   that way, they can accept or decline.

 

6.     Stop Reading Motives

Reading Motives has to do with assigning internal reasoning to someone else’s behaviors based on what you know/assume about them. You’ll know you are reading motives when your inner dialogue sounds like ‘She did that because she’s __________’.

Reading motives is a way to judge, assign blame, cultivate expectations, and stop listening/learning a person. None of those things do much to increase connection and create safe space for vulnerability.

Your mantra for this, should you choose to accept the challenge is: “only don’t know”.

 

7.     Embrace the possibility that your values might be opposed to those of someone else, and that both of you can still be ‘right’ and ‘good’ people.

It is entirely possible for two virtuous values to contradict each other in practice; take loyalty and integrity as an example. If you are a person for whom loyalty is paramount, you might be more OK with lying/manipulation than someone for whom integrity is paramount.

Imagine learning that someone you both care about is having an affair. From a loyalty perspective, you might keep that information to yourself, because you don’t want to hurt your friend’s relationship. Your partner, however, being a person for whom integrity is the most important, might choose to disclose the affair because truth.

This could be sticky inside the context of your relationship with your partner – ‘how could you do that?’ being met with ‘how could you not?’.

In those moments, you have an opportunity to discover and uncover deep, core values that your person has. Maybe the incongruity is a deal-breaker.  Maybe not.  You will never know unless and until you listen to understand

So there you have it, folks. 7 ways to Un-Fuck your relationships. I’ll expand on each of the strategies in future posts.

 

In service,


Katherine

7 Simple Ways to Fuck Up Your Relationships

Good day, gentle readers! I’m moving through a bump in the road with a friend of many decades, and it’s given me cause to take a step back and look at my behaviors in our friendship, so I can see if/where I’m doing something to fuck it up.

I gave myself a limit of 7 behaviors.  7 ways to fuck up relationships, and I’m sharing them here with you, because I bet you do/have done them too. I also offer some antidotes to these behaviors. I’m writing from my own experience and am sharing based on that. Your experience may differ, as may your mileage.

Please note: I’m writing about these behaviors in a context of consent and safety, meaning… I’m explicitly not speaking to abusive dynamics.

 

 AND…..  Here they are - 7 mistakes I've made that you probably have made as well, which will fuck things up....

1. Be Controlling:

Control in this context has to do with (not)taking actions in an effort to steer the ship and the behaviors of those on it because it helps you feel more secure.

You might be more of a leader in your relationship, creating context for your person who is more of a follower. This may be the case, and it's one thing to create a context for someone - it's a whole other ball of bullshit to (try to) force anyone into anything.

How this might show up is when your person (friend, partner, lover, whatever) is doing something (housework, bookkeeping, going out on a date with a new person), and you impose yourself in his/her space in an attempt to divert their attention or change their behavior because you're feeling insecure or jealous or out of control.

You might also find yourself creating drama, sabotaging your person’s access to their own free time, etc. when you come from a controlling place. At the extreme, ‘being controlling’ is also synonymous with ‘being psychologically abusive’.

One expression of control with which I’ve been presented by clients myriad times in the last 10 years is this expression: pair-bonded couple is separating. Children are involved. In an effort to control the soon-to-be former partner A, partner B uses children, time, money, etc. as a way to control the perceived freedom of Partner A.

The shitty level of this is off the charts in so many directions, and nobody wins.

Just. Don’t. Do. It.

 

2. Take on Projects rather than People:

Have you ever heard someone say "s/he would be perfect if only s/he would do/change _____________"? Um yeah. You bring people into your life with the pre-supposition that there's something wrong with them and you can fix it? How's that working for you?

In a heteronormative (boy-girl) context, this is classic girl behavior. We meet a guy and want him to change how he dresses, or how he keeps his house, or the job he has, or the way he communicates, because when that happens, everything will be perfect. Can you see how this lens can create a space for controlling behavior to arise?

The converse of this fuck up happens to be my personal first rule of relating “If I can’t take a person as they are, then I don’t take them on.” I know that life and time and trauma and celebration and living, by nature, creates change in people. And that is not my job to do for you (whomever it is with which I’m relating). My ‘job’ in relationship, I believe, is to meet people where they are and accept them as they are.

 

3. Expect Telepathy :

Expecting telepathy means expecting someone to know what you need simply because you’re in a relationship with them. It can also mean making assumptions about someone's role in your relationship without talking about it.

You might be under the impression that 'just because s/he's with me, s/he will want to do X, or know that Y is important to me'. Rather than expect your partners to be mind-readers, perhaps you could try on using your words.

A verbal expression of this kind of expectation is ‘if (s)he loved me, (s)he would _______________.  And we have all been there – probably on both sides of the coin.

Intimately/sexually, this shows up when one partner does the ‘if I scream it in my mind loud enough, they will get the hint and do the thing’. This was my strategy well into my 20s.

Some of it was fear of being rejected or judged.  Some of it was shame, because my fantasies are…   fantastic.  And the rest of it was a lack of practice in stating clearly what I want – with the understanding that I might be met with a ‘no’ – and that’s OK.

How to correct this art the level of expectation? Notice when the thought arises, silently tell your inner voice, ‘thank you for sharing,’ and do some personal investigative work to uncover what need or want you have that isn’t being met – and then ask for that rather than make your person wrong for not being telepathic.

Which brings me to my next relationship fuckup:

 

4. Make Your Problems about Them:

It's their fault the relationship is having problems, right? They don't love you enough, or take you out on the right kind of dates. They are selfish and uncaring. They don’t understand your passion. They don’t listen. They are a jerk. Etc. etc. etc.

If you say things like,’ I’ve never had a fulfilling relationship,” you might be making your problems about other people.  If you tend to avoid taking responsibility for your shit and the work you need to do on you – you might be making your problems about other people. When it is always someone else’s fault – you are definitely making your problems about other people.

Everywhere you see a problem in your relationships - YOU ARE THERE. And I do mean everywhere

You can shift this by beginning the process of taking responsibility for the ways that you're creating your life and experience. When you do that, something magical happens.

Nothing changes, and yet everything is transformed, because you are in your power, and you aren't making others responsible for your feelings.

I am in no way suggesting that other people are never a problem, or that their behaviors will never be the reason, etc. What I’m suggesting here is that you will be far more secure, stable, and in your power if you not only own your issues, but also work to shift them. (Please remember – I am not addressing abuse in this article)

 

5. Settle For Crumbs When What You Desire Is Cake :

Lookit. Not every relationship is going to manifest in ways that you are fully satiated in the areas of what you want and need. That said, if you are spending a great deal of energy and time with/on someone, and you have the experience of settling for crumbs - why are you staying?

Here's how this might play out. You long for and need to have a certain kind of time spent with someone. Maybe that's sex. Perhaps it's going to the movies. Could also be them being present with you - so that when you're in a room together, they are paying attention to you rather than playing Xbox (as an example).

You use your words to express your need (because you know your person is not telepathic), and your person reflects back to you an understanding of that need, and they say that they will change behavior.

Then nothing changes. You ask again – they give you their word again, and nothing changes.  Again and again.

If you stay in that context, you are settling. If you are not fully committed to radical acceptance of this, there is a high likelihood that you will grow resentful and angry.

Problem-solving that arises out of resentment and anger is not generally effective or kind, in my experience. I used to do this – and my preferred coping mechanism was to give an ultimatum, which is a fabulous example of mistake #1 – being controlling.

I did and do a ton of work on me to notice when resentment and anger arise from a perception of lack, so that I can address it in a way that is calm, compassionate, and towards my desired outcome, which pretty much always is to keep the relationship.

More often than not, the resolution is to change the context of the relationship.  If you care to go down a fascinating rabbit hole, check out the 8 Noble Truths of Buddhism for some deeper insight.

You might choose to stay in the relationship. Maybe you reframe the relationship.  Maybe you walk away.  The choice is yours.

 

6. Act Out of Jealousy :

Jealousy is an emotional state that arises when you want something from someone and have a fear that they are giving it to someone else. When you are jealous you are not in an emotionally mature space, and you might start saying and doing things that are, well, unkind.

For example. You may gossip about a co-worker who got a promotion for which you were both being considered. Perhaps you sabotage things around the new person so they are forced out.

What Jealousy is, really, is a gift to you. It's a gift because it signals that you have an appetite/need which isn't being fulfilled, and/or you have expectations which haven't been stated and are not being met.

If you can get your head out of your ass long enough to take responsibility for how you're feeling, and do some work around what's creating the jealousy in you, you will likely find yourself with some good information.

Here's an example from my life. I had a partner (who remains Family to me) who is a bodywork god. He can do so much amazing stuff with his hands. Multiple modalities – super awesome stuff. He is not a professional bodyworker anymore, so he works on friends and family.

I’ll admit that the perk of amazing bodywork in the partnership was a big green flag for me. There came a time, however, that whenever a new person would come around to receive bodywork from my partner, I'd feel jealous.

When I became aware of a pattern, I took a step back, and what I ended up finding is that I was hungry for his touch in that way – as a bodyworker.

Rather than make him wrong, I said "I'm noticing that I feel jealous when you do bodywork on other people, and I think it's because I'm hungry for your touch in that way. Can we find some time for you to work on me and make it somewhat regular as long as it works for both of us?" He said yes, and we did. Problem solved.

  

7. Hold On To Grudges and Withhold Forgiveness :

In my perspective, holding a grudge has to do with cultivating negative and hostile feelings towards someone for something they did or something you think they did. Holding grudges is a very tempting thing to do, because you (and I) get to have righteous indignation about someone. You (and I) get to make them wrong, and, therefore, you get to be right. You get to say things about how horrible that person is for what they did, so that you can look and feel better about yourself, and the way many people operate, you will attract supporters for your grudge.

All that does is create separation and make it so you are living in negativity and hostility, and you know what? Your negative and hostile thoughts and feelings towards someone isn't about them. It's about your own thoughts and feelings.

Forgiveness has to do with releasing those negative and hostile feelings towards someone regardless of what they did or what you think they did. Please understand that I'm talking about something very VERY powerful

You don't have to change your mind that what the person did was right in order to forgive, and we become that which we habitually do. If you practice holding grudges and being negative and hostile, that's what you're going to be - a grudge-holding angry and negative person.

Contrarily, if you practice forgiveness and releasing the hostility and negativity you hold towards people, know what you become? You become free. Here's some information from Harvard about the power of forgiveness.

 

There you have it folks - 7 things you can do to fuck up your relationships. 7 mistakes I, myself have made. 7 things on which I work to correct. 7 mistakes of an infinite number of opportunities to learn and grow and course correct and relax and be in power and response-able……

What mistakes have you made, and how have you moved to correct/shift them?

Emotional Alchemy Through the 6 Healing Sounds - Background and Practive

Good afternoon, friends!

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention, and at it's essence is the idea that one withholds judgement.  It's a way of practicing being present with an attitude of acceptance, rather than seeking what is wrong or right with a thing (person, idea, experience, etc.).  Mindfulness practice is potent, powerful, and highly useful for many things and in multiple directions.

There are other practices one can do to support a healthy and resilient self, and some of these practices have to do with using intention and breath to transform negative feelings into positive feelings.  

Imagine, if you will, something that causes you anxiety.  For me, crowded elevators are always a source of anxiety.  I could engage in mindfulness while in a crowded elevator, taking a detached perspective and observing my responses and reactions without making them right or wrong.  I could also practice transforming anxiety into another emotional state all-together, and then draw on that while in the elevator.

The techniques I'm sharing here are best learned from a teacher.  Please consider the following as me sharing information - you can try some of it out if you'd like, and if you feel resonant - find a teacher. I teach these techniques, and if we aren't proximal, we can work via Google Hangout, and I'd be happy to find someone in your area as well.

In Esoteric Taoism, which is a vast and complex system that includes paths for solo and paired practice, the first thing I learned was The Healing Smile.  To do the Healing Smile, all you (and I) need to do is smile to the body/mind.   Just as it is.  So if there's a broken leg, you smile to the broken leg with love and compassion.  The core practice takes about 10 minutes, and you will focus on the three main energy centers in Taoism:  Tan Tien (dawn tee'-in).  The lowest Tan Tien is in the enteric brain and it connects us to earth energy.  In several martial arts, this is called The Hara.  It is a place of great personal power.  The middle Tan Tien is where the thymus gland is/was.  The thymus gland is largest before puberty, and as we age, it gets smaller and smaller.  This is the heart-center, and to me, it's about connecting with others from a place of compassion.  The upper Tan Tien is in the middle of the brain, and home to the pineal and pituitary glands. The pineal gland produces melatonin, while the pituitary gland, which controls the function of all other endocrine glands. In Esoteric Taoism, the upper Tan Tien is also called the Crystal Palace.  

Here is an audio file that guides you through the Healing Smile

After directing one's Smile to the three Tan Tiens, the emotional alchemy begins.  Using the Healing Smile, specific breaths, and intent, you practice cultivating good feelings and transforming challenging emotions into more comfortable emotions. There are 6 breaths in total, 5 of which correspond to major organs in the body (lungs, kidneys, heart, etc.), and the final breath which holds within the intent to cultivate equanimity (even-temperment).

This video provides an overview to the practice, so you can get an idea of what is involved and take any notes you feel would be useful. 

 

 

 

Just Friends

Have you ever used the phrase, "we're just friends"? or perhaps you reframed a relationship recently and "decided to just be friends"? or maybe someone you were with observed two people you know with each other as Partners, and you responded with "oh no. They're just friends".

‘Dogs and Cats Living Together’ Dr. Peter Venkmen

‘Dogs and Cats Living Together’ Dr. Peter Venkmen

I know I've said all of those phrases and more, and this is something I am working on removing from my vocabulary, because to me, the phrasing connotes a relationship that is somehow less than others (like partners, spouses, and intimates).

I'm here to suggest something to you - and to remind myself of it too - Friendship can be one of the deepest, most meaningful commitments you and I can make to another.

Friend is a very VERY big word.

My grandmother used to tell me that I would be one of the luckiest people in the world if I could count my true friends on just one hand, and I believe her words to be true.

In my world view, a Friend is someone with whom I share mutual love and respect and whose personhood I cherish so much, the exterior construct of our relationship is secondary our commitment to Knowing each other. These are relationships in which there is a give and take of support offered and accepted in many forms (time, resources, holding space, moving, etc.).

Not all platonic relationships are friendships in my perspective. I mean, I'm platonic with my biological family, and I wouldn’t call all of them my Friends. I would also suggest that romantic love and friendship can co-mingle beautifully and successfully. Of the couples I know who have been together over 40 years, all have talked with me about the quality of their friendship having a great deal to do with the success of their marriages.

For me, Friendship is the deepest commitment I make, because it comes with the promise that, no matter how our relationship is structured (lovers, play partners, co-workers, collaborators,etc.) I will show up for you again and again. I will hold a mirror for you and ask for the same. I will be inconvenienced for you - and not ask for payback or hold a grudge.

I will do my damnedest to see you as the YOU who you are and not the you who I wish you to be. (This is something to which I aspire always, though the less I’m around a person the more difficult I find the practice to be)

Am I friends with my romantic partners? This is something for which I strive, and it is the thing that has empowered me to transform romantic relationships into platonic relationships with minimal 'collateral damage', so yes. I would say that I hold an intention towards friendship in romance.

Here are some questions about friends to get some thoughts rolling - these are the kinds of questions I ask myself about people I am considering calling Friends.....

  • Who in your life is safe enough for you to be around when you're at the bottom of your barrel - when your life is blowing up - when you look like crap, have bad breath, and are wearing ill-fitting clothing?

  • Who in your life saw something you posted on a social network and reached out to you to lend a hand (even and especially if you didn't ask for it)?

  • Who in your life can you call for 'sanity checks' if someone criticizes your behavior or calls into question parts of your character and will tell you the truth as they see it - even if it's not what you want to hear?

  • To whom do you listen?

  • Who in your life is truly happy for your successes and not threatened by your brilliance, your beauty, or your talents?

  • Who challenges you to be bigger and better day by day?

  • Who asks you how you're doing and sincerely wants to know the answer?

  • Who can you not see for a year or more, and with whom you can get into a room, and it's like no time has passed?

  • Who doesn't really care how famous you are (or are not)?

  • With whom can you cry?

  • Who trusts you with their car keys? House keys? Pets?

  • Who are the people around whom your heart sings?

  • Whom do you Trust?

  • Who would show up for your intervention?

  • Who knows you?

  • With whom can you disagree and not have that threaten the foundation of your relationship?

You can turn all of these around as well - to see the people in your life towards whom you are offering friendship.

If your relationships aren't fulfilling, perhaps you could change how you are in them? Try it - you might surprise yourself.

 

So the next time you and I use minimizing language like "just friends" for such powerful and empowering relationship contexts, maybe we could stop a moment and consider the power of our words.