Posts Tagged ‘stress’

I recently read an article entitled: “What does it mean to hold space for someone else” by Heather Plett.

I believe this is the key to good, open, honest communication. It’s an important article to read. You can read the article here: http://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/

So what does it mean to hold space for someone else?
“It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control”

It sounds glorious, but the reality is this is very hard to do in our most important and closest relationships. Why? What gets in the way of this perfectly harmonious union? Well believe it or not, what you need to achieve the above, love, is also the very thing that stands in the way of accomplishing it.

We become confused about what love actually is and what loving another human being looks like. Love can look like care but care can also look like control. Love can look like guiding, but guiding can be judgment. Love can look like concern, but concern can also look like criticism. Love can look like inseparable romance, but inseparable romance can be dependence. We are under the illusion that we are in a loving relationship, but are we in the best most sustainable one?

Love is an emotion and no emotion stands alone. It is paired with anger, sadness, happiness and underlying it all, fear. On a very basic level, it’s fear for our survival. If the one we love does not fit what or who we think they should be, we will feel abandoned and alone, left to fend for ourselves and our offspring. Love becomes a need. And any time we need something from someone else there is the risk of disappointment. Why? Because love/need becomes focus on the other person, and this is the single most detrimental dynamic for ourselves and the relationship. You find yourself saying: “If they would just, then I could.” You have just hit a brick wall, a dead end in the maze of life. So let’s review: love + need=fear. Fear+relationship=focus on other. Focus on other=loss of self and the sum of it all is anxiety and discontent in the relationship. Isn’t it kind of crazy that our partner can become the one that can best trigger our fight or flight response? It’s a different kind of heart pounding then the one we started off with when the relationship was new.

In order to hold space for someone, you need to learn to love the person in a different way. Turn love/need into just love (the love probably very similar to when you just met the person) But how? Here are 3 suggestions. Please note before you read these that the theme of these suggestions is shifting focus from them to you; a key handed to you to love in a different way.

We must love and trust ourselves. I hate to sound cliché but it is absolutely true. It is trust that we can survive happily and courageously on our own if we need too. If abandoned in the forest our ability to make solid decisions in the moment, tap in to our resources, and find inner and outer strength would come through and allow us to survive. Once we trust that we can survive and are not dependent on someone else, we can look at our significant other as a partner, two people walking side by side. Two separate brains are better than one. Two merged brains (loss of self) bounce off each other, and like a wall of mirrors, disorientation ensues. So, loving in a different way means knowing that we want to be with this person not that we need to be with this person. Suggestions: Do something that requires you to feel alone and vulnerable. Take a trip alone, think of ways in which you would normally be dependent on your partner and do them yourself. Use the grill, cook a meal, pay the bills, recognize ways in which you have become dependent and work on changing that. Prove to yourself you are capable. A good question might be, “In what way am I focused on my partner rather than what I am responsible for?”

Recognize and respect your separateness. You are two different people in the world perceiving everything you come across in a different way from each other. This is a very simple concept that most people do not understand at all. While our current president may be high on the continuum of narcissism, we are all somewhere on the scale and we believe the only way in which to see the world is the way we see it. But understand that everyone is feeling the same way. The clashing of perceptions and the desire to have them be the same causes tension, and our main mission becomes getting the other person to see it like we do. This will never happen. This creates a huge wedge of sensitivity that causes fights and/or silent treatments and the partner whom we are supposed to love becomes scary and unapproachable. Loving in a different way means truly understanding that you and your partner will never share the exact same view of the world and the way things should be done. Loving in a different way means understanding that each of you brings a unique perspective and understanding to the relationship that must be honored, not judged. If one of you loves the beach and the other loves the mountains this is ok! You can still be good together if you respect the others interests.  Suggestions: Be truly interested in learning to understand the way your partner sees the world. Ask questions, be open to what you hear, don’t judge it or try to change it. Just listen. Experiment. Take one issue in front of you and explain what you would do, or how you see it. See how similar or dissimilar they might be.

Communicate with kindness. One of the main things that interferes with good communication is the inability to tolerate our partners range of emotions. Whether directed at us or not, we don’t want the other person to feel uncomfortable. Yes, because we love and care for him or her, but also because if that person is uncomfortable, we are uncomfortable (there are those merged brains again) , and we humans will do almost anything to avoid discomfort. If you are friends, partners, teammates you will recognize naturally the desire to communicate with kindness, interest and respect. We lose this when we are in a fear based state but once you realize you can trust yourself, that you are a strong individual in the world having and needing life experiences that enrich you and make you healthy and happy, you will want that for your partner too. Suggestions: Tell your partner what you appreciate about them on a daily basis. Take time to be grateful for how they contribute to your life. Thank them. Offer to do something that would be helpful to them. When they are having an emotional response to something, listen to them. Ask questions, do not be threatened or scared by their emotions that belong to them. Just be present with those emotions, and sit with them.

So what is the key to loving in a different way? Focusing on what you can actually control. Yourself.  It is the recognition that fear in a relationship increases the desire to control.  The very effort to try and make our partner in to what we think we need propels them in the opposite direction and creates the very fear we were trying to avoid.  Get in touch with what you fear, recognize your strength as an individual human in the world, and love someone for who they are not who you wish they were.

 

 

 

The holidays highlight the way our relationships operate in a way that just any other ordinary day can’t.  The planning, the shopping, the prep, the packing, the travel, and ALLLLL the mish mosh of personalities together in one room could singe any stray hairs off your uncooked turkey.  Speaking of turkeys, (sorry vegetarians, translate to tofu and veggies as needed)  as you’re thinking about what it takes to not burn your turkey, you could simultaneously be thinking about what it takes to not burn your spouse down.  Wait, let me come at that from a more positive angle…as you’re thinking about what it takes to prepare a golden brown and succulent turkey, you can simultaneously be thinking about what it takes to keep your relationship juicy and delicious. Hmmm, that’s better.  Good connotations.

Here are three things that could lead to a turkey disaster:

1)  Not planning ahead or reading a recipe for complete guidance or a little inspiration.  (Try to thaw a 15 lb turkey the morning of. Ugh, panic?)

2)  Incorrect temperature and/or incorrect cooking time.

3)  Neglect (Got to baste that mug…).

Here are three things that could lead to a relationship disaster:

1) Flying by the seat of your pants around the chaos without any intentions or thoughtfulness to your actions.

2)  Getting yourself all hot and bothered because you haven’t worked out or done whatever it is you do to keep yourself calm and cool and/or doing or focusing too much on one thing and not enough on the other.

3)  Totally ignoring your spouse, taking them for granted or just not being thankful for what they do bring to the table.

Gee, look at the similarities.  I think we’re on to something here if you’re interested in killing two birds with one stone.  Keep the analogy in mind through the day.  Whatever you’re doing for or to the turkey, do it with and for the spouse too…(goofiness recognized).

I’ll let you go to butterball.com to get further turkey cooking tips ( a cold water bath defrosts 4lbs per half hour, BTW) but here are some further thoughts on the above list and how to get to that juicy place in your relationship during the busy Thanksgiving day.

1) Plan ahead/read something inspirational.  Choose one or two things you will be super intentional about.  If you know that you always get irritated at your spouse when he watches football while you bust your ass, choose to react differently.  Either accept with love that that’s what he loves to do and you love him so staring at his butt crack as he grasps his can-o-beer is lovely OR talk to him ahead of time and hand him a list of the things that need to be done and discuss who’s going to do what (You better add the when in there too. Time lines can differ dramatically). Think about previous years.  What are your pitfalls of reactivity? If your wife runs around all stressed and you usually just get mad at her, do something different – joke with her or approach her ahead and ask what you can do to help minimize her stress.  If your husband and your mother get tense with each other and you normally get anxious and try to intervene, decide to let it go and let them hash it out,  breathe…  I will give you a hint about your pitfalls. They stem from having unmet expectations.  He “SHOULD” do this without me asking is a common one.  When you find yourself saying he or she “SHOULD” (insert anything), sound the fire alarms. That turkey’s chard.  Right now, stop reading and choose the two things you will intentionally do differently (this equals golden brown).

Like looking at a recipe for guidance or inspiration, maybe there are a few quotes or things you have read that shock your brain into that “Ah ha” moment. You know what I’m talking about. When what you are reading seems to pertain to you perfectly, something clicks and for a brief period of time everything makes perfect sense.  Here’s one for you: “When we are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself & study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.” Epictetus.  AH HA!!!  Go into your long, busy weekend prepared and inspired instead of overwhelmed and spent.

2) Give, give, give GIVE! That’s what we are supposed to do over ThanksGIVEing however a line can be crossed when the neglect of ourselves back fires into us becoming selfish bi*%^#’s!  Keep a beat on your own temp and when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed and focused on all the annoying aspects of those around you, take a time out.  Go for a walk or a run, sit down and read, watch something funny, call whomever is synonymous with you and a good mood. You are in control of your own mood.  No one is doing anything to you.  During this busy day, burning yourself out is easily done yet it’s difficult to recover from the ramifications.

Incorrect cooking times in a relationship translates in to focusing on the negative stuff versus focusing on the good stuff.  Make sure you’re cooking up the positive so you’re not desiring to use your spouses limbs as the dried out wish bone.  No good wishes can come true there! Balance, balance, balance. Keep your temperature even and your focus varied.

3)  Neglect.  It’s easy to fly by each other without stopping.  Stop, look at each other and smile.  If you go to bed at night and you or your spouse have a huge chunk of spinach in your teeth, that’s a true indicator that you forgot to look at each other and pay attention.  Sometimes it can be really fun to have a conversation with your guy or gal in front of other people.  You might hear stuff that wouldn’t ordinarily come out.  Hug, appreciate, laugh with, learn from and check each other’s teeth.

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving with perfectly cooked and loved turkeys.

Glennon Gordon, LICSW

glennontg@me.com