The Art Of Good Relating
Relationships take a lot of hard work and a lot of deep awareness in order to be successful. One of the best ways in which to grow yourself and your relationship is to own your stuff. We all project our frustrations onto others, especially in adult relationships. How does this look? I get frustrated with my lack of time to work out, for example. My frustration starts building and the next thing I know, this situation becomes my husband’s fault.
How does that happen?
In order to understand, and perhaps even heal this behavior, we need to look at one of the basic functions of the human ego. Fear. The ego IS fear, personified. It’s literally afraid of everything and builds a really intricate web of perceived safety in order to survive. Of course, all of this is unnecessary but the ego doesn’t know that.
One of the intricacies built into this web of perceived safety is projecting our own, more intense feelings onto others. Why do we do this? We do this because it feels too overwhelming to sit with these feelings. Let’s go back to the aforementioned example. My husband and I have a 20 month old daughter who requires a great deal of our attention. I am a stay-at-home mom and my husband works in a busy career. Often, by the time my husband gets home from work, he wants some time to do what he wants and I want some time to do what I want. I want to go and do some yoga and my husband says, “do you mind doing that tomorrow? I really need to do some work in the yard.” I say okay. The next day, though, I’m too tired to go and work out. A few more days go by and I still haven’t gone to do yoga. Now I’m frustrated.
Here’s the catch. There’s nothing wrong with being frustrated. But I, like so many others, will often project this frustration onto their partner. I say, “You know, it would be nice if you considered that I’m home all day with our daughter and that I need a break to go and have some time to myself.” My husband says, “I gave you that time and you were too tired to take it. So don’t blame me.” I say, “Thanks for being so understanding!” Sarcasm intended.
I’m frustrated that I haven’t gotten out to have some time to myself and do some yoga. I say to myself, “this is really frustrating.” If I were to feel what this feels like and where in my body I hold this emotion, it might go something like this: I feel this frustration in my shoulder blades. I notice that my shoulders are bunched up when I feel frustrated. I notice that I even get a stiff neck from this at times. I notice that my frustration affects me in the following ways: I’m unapproachable. I lose my sense of humor. Everything seems to look dim. My energy plummets. I hold my jaw too tight. My openness with my daughter temporarily diminishes.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
The ONE and ONLY reason my body and mind are reacting to the frustration in this way is because I don’t want to own it. My body starts getting very uncomfortable because I’m literally feeling, in the background, I shouldn’t be feeling these feelings. So two things happen. First, my body suffers. Second, my relationship suffers. My relationship suffers because I can’t accept that I have frustration, and therefore own it. So I project it onto my (in this case) husband. Now we’re ALL uncomfortable! Nothing is actually accomplished in order to relieve said frustration. It just sits in the background like a rotting piece of fruit.
Here’s a different approach.
You’re feeling frustrated. You sit with it. You feel how it is affecting your body, your mind and your relationships. You completely and utterly OWN it. Even if you genuinely feel like this frustration has been the direct cause of someone else, you STILL own it. Why? Because you’re the one feeling the feeling of frustration. You allow yourself the luxury of having an emotion such as frustration and applaud your complexity. You then let go of any background story associated with the frustration. This part is crucial. This practice comes from Buddhist teachings. It is often referred to as, “feel the feeling and lose the story.” This gets easier with practice. We’re so attached to our stories as the culprits for our frustrations, anger, sadness, etc…but it’s never about what happened. It’s about US. You say to yourself, “I’m frustrated. That’s okay. I accept that I’m frustrated.” You lose any judgement around feeling frustrated. Then let it go. If you’re still feeling frustrated after letting it go, then accept that too. You’d be utterly amazed at the quality of peace you feel when you accept yourself in this way. The intensity of feeling may still be there, but now you’re okay with it. You’re not beating it away with a stick and reeking havoc in your relationships. This is a big part of what it means to grow up and become self-actualized. Nobody’s going to do it for you.
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