What does your heart say?
Choose to Love
Many years ago, I was in a significant relationship in which the other person started doing things that surprised and hurt me. I’ll preserve the privacy here so I won’t be concrete, but it was pretty intense. After going through the first wave of reactions – What?! How could you? Are you kidding me?! – I settled down a bit. I had a choice.
Happily. Ever. After.
These are the three most dangerous words for women in love.
Even the smartest women fall into a love trance thinking that now that they have found their soulmate, the love of their life, he/she will naturally know how to make them happy, satisfied and content.
Sure, you’ve heard that relationships take work, and yet you believe that your “soulmate love” will be effortless.
You’ve found a love that is rare and precious, an unimaginable love.
A love that will conquer everything.
And then a year, or ten, or twenty later you may find yourself restless, or worse, angry, frustrated, disappointed and ready to give up and head for divorce court.
One of the most common questions I am asked is:
“How do I know if he/she is my soulmate?”
Throughout history, those afraid of the life of feelings have undermined their power and dismissed their rightful role in experiencing truth. For much of my life, I’ve been called a Romantic, which is true, but not complete. It’s like defining the sea by its surface. Romantic is a term that has been diminished through the years. Today, it denotes a sentimental outlook on life fueled by unwarranted optimism. At heart, though, it has always been an outlook that assumes there’s something larger than the individual. All the energy surrounding such a view arises from a belief in the interconnectedness of all Life and the experience of Wholeness.
At its core, Romanticism suggests that we can become whole through inwardness, by feeling and inhabiting our “inscape,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins calls it. “Feeling is all,” as the German poet Goethe says.
I work with many people whose spiritual connection is very important to them, but who are in a relationship with a partner who ridicules them, or whose family ridicules them. My client, Shelly, ask me: “I'm in a relationship with a man who is very kind and loving but does not have any form of faith, and he regularly ridicules religion. I am not religious, but I do have spiritual beliefs which he describes as ‘fanciful’. I don’t feel close and connected with him, or respected by him when he judges me, so I no longer share my beliefs with him. But why does he ridicule me? And how should I respond to this?”
It's my experience that when someone judges another for their spiritual beliefs, it's because on some level they feel threatened by them.
People who don't open to having a personal experience of Spirit are often afraid of being duped or controlled. They feel safe when they are in their head rather than in their heart, and they may feel afraid of being used or taken advantage of if they move into their heart. When such a person takes a one-up position, like Shelley's partner who is judging her spiritual beliefs as 'fanciful,' it's often because they are afraid of losing control over the other person. Perhaps Shelley's partner fears that if she follows her own guidance, he may lose control over her.
One of the main reasons people stay too long in a relationship is that they unrealistically hope that, miraculously, their partner will change. This is the situation Marisa describes:
"I've been investing my entire heart in a narcissistic man over the past ten months. During this time, I've had the life sucked out of me - I've not been tending to myself and instead have abandoned myself to try to make him feel better in the hopes he'll change, care for and respect me right back. Deeply depressed of late he refuses to seek psychiatric or therapeutic help. I couldn't stand by watching him drown and finally two weeks ago said he should call me when he finds outside help and is feeling better. It's been so relaxing not to be insulted, criticized or bullied or be walking on eggs constantly. I miss him even so and am shocked and hurt that I've not heard from him to date. I accept that I was so busy rescuing him that I abandoned myself in doing so. If he contacts me, I'd like to try putting myself first. I’m probably kidding myself, but should I even contemplate giving him another chance? A narcissist is never wrong and is always right as you know. I'm miserable in the meantime."
This month my wife, Jan and I celebrated our thirteenth wedding anniversary. I have to say I am more in love with Jan today, than the day I decided to marry her! It’s amazing how when you are patient, and you allow relationships to come to you, and you allow life to unfold, that you will eventually meet someone who will love you for being you.
It is an amazing blessing. For those of you who are looking for love, hoping for love, praying for love, love has not given up on you. Once you give up the need for something, it comes into your life.
Many of us grew up feeling very alone. When our feelings were not accepted and attended to with caring, understanding, and compassion, we might have felt deeply abandoned and perhaps terrified at the level of aloneness we felt within. If you were abused physically, sexually, or emotionally, or you were neglected, then this aloneness was overwhelming and you had to find ways to numb this pain, which is how the wounded self was developed.
Today, this deep aloneness and fear can get triggered in our relationships. This triggering is common in dysfunctional relationship systems such as the one between Janice and Marcus.
Janice, an only child, had a mother who suffered from borderline personality disorder (BPD), a mental disorder where the person is often blaming, threatening, and rageful. Janice’s mother took her rage out on Janice, and when she would cry, her mother would ridicule her. Janice’s father was an alcoholic who sometimes beat her and her mother. There was never a time growing up when Janice felt safe. She had developed a deep fear of rejection.
During the dating process we are often on high alert for “red flags,” the things they say or do that trigger fear that they could be trouble. We’re looking for our deal-breakers in a fierce need to protect our tender hearts from potential heartbreak.
While it’s smart to be paying attention, and when you see or hear something un-settling or disturbing, be SURE to do these two things:
- Never make assumptions.
- Ask clarifying questions before coming to any conclusions that will have you throwing out the baby with the bath water.
I recently came across a wonderful list of “relationship green flags” from therapist Sara Kuburic.
Being alone is a challenge for many people. This challenge may loom especially large during the holidays if you are single or newly divorced and without family around you. Holidays are a time to share love, and many people end up feeling depressed when they do not have people around with whom to show their love. If you are in this situation, what can you do to make the holidays joyous rather than depressing?
The key phrase here is SHARE LOVE.
If you were provided with an opportunity to deepen your self-love, would you do it? Would you say yes, to creating a sacred ceremony that required vows to cherish and love yourself?
I am in the middle of a three-month intentional focus on increasing my self-love, respect and experiencing healing in the process. Lately my mind has traveled the many paths of how we show love and commitment to others. I have noticed we are lacking in social and cultural ways of celebrating true self-love.
I began to contemplate the power of words in marriage vows and all the traditions that are woven into one big, beautiful moment, where we promise to honor and care for another person. What if we created a similar ceremony that recognized the union of your higher self, physical self and one’s soul?
If you find yourself often focused on healing others or hoping you can get others to change, it is likely that you don't think of this as an addiction. I define an addiction as anything we do to avoid taking responsibility for our own feelings. When you are focused on getting others to change, or hoping others will change, is this a way for you to avoid taking loving care of yourself? Are you trying to fix others and get them to change so that you don't have to learn to take responsibility for your own feelings?
Judy finds herself caught in this addiction:
There is also so much of a focus in our Western culture on gift giving, that it can create tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety. So I decided to make a video sharing some thoughts on how to maintain your sanity and peace during this holiday season.
The holidays are a special time of year for most people. They are a time of friendship, of giving, of sharing, and of being around the people you love and those who love you. Unfortunately, what makes the holidays so special for most people makes them intolerable for a narcissist.
The narcissist must be the center of attention. In the holiday season, there are a lot of things to attend to, and trying to become better than everyone else at the family gathering, the concert, the staff party, or any other event can be impossible. Rather than trying to accept this, the narcissist moves to devalue and destroy the happiness of those they are around, showing their complete inability to express empathy and to simply enjoy the fact those around them are having fun.
Many people suffer daily from anxiety, depression, stress, guilt, shame, anger and inadequacy. Taking loving actions can heal this.
Myrna, 38 and a successful physician, sought my help because she often felt inadequate. While she really valued herself as a doctor, she did not value herself in her important relationships with friends and family. In addition, she said she wanted to be in a loving relationship but she took no actions to meet available men.
In the course of our work together, it became apparent that Myrna rarely took loving action on her own behalf with her friends and family. For example, Jessica, one of Myrna's friends, would often get angry and blame Myrna when Myrna was not available for dinner with Jessica. Myrna would feel guilty and responsible for Jessica's feelings and meet her for dinner even when she was exhausted from work. Myrna would feel drained after these dinners and depressed for a few days after, never realizing it was because she had abandoned herself.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Am I regularly allowing love to be bigger in my life? Am I allowing my own inner voice to matter more? Am I migrating toward or manifesting the deep desires I dream of?”
If you answer yes (or even consider a yes), your mind is likely starting to get afraid. It gets afraid because when you say “yes,” you are recognizing more of your bigness. When you see from a larger, bird's eye perspective, the mind gets nervous.
What I'd love for you to know is, when your mind gets nervous, it's a good sign. This is a quantum flip that can change your life.
During this season of gratitude and beyond, I invite you to make a quantum flip and be grateful for your mind when it gets nervous.
When the mind senses there's something more manifesting and “I'm not in control anymore,” it gets nervous. This “something” is more of you, the Soulful Self, embodying.
"Breathe into your body and notice what you are feeling," I said to Bryan in our second phone session. "What are you feeling?"
"I feel bad and uncomfortable. I don't like focusing in my body."
"Where do you focus most of the time?"
"In my mind. I think about work all day and then the rest of the time I daydream or think of other things."
"So you do all you can to stay in your head and out of your body - right?"
"Right. It doesn't feel good in my body."
"Bryan, imagine that you always ignore your little daughter, and then when you finally do give her some attention, you find that she is upset with you for ignoring her all the time - and then you ignore her more because you don't want to know that she is upset with you for ignoring her so much."
"I would never do that with my daughter."
The cool, quiet room was overflowing with the grieving faces of friends and family as the funeral director invited Mrs. Lee up to the podium to speak. The petite, elegant widow walked slowly to the front of the small chapel and calmly began her eulogy.
“I am not going to sing praises for my late husband. Not today. Neither am I going to talk about how good he was.” Mrs. Lee’s eyes flashed.
“Enough people have done that here.” She took a deep breath, allowing the air to fill her lungs before she continued. “Instead, I want to talk about some things that will make some of you feel a bit uncomfortable.”
Several people stopped fanning themselves and sat up a little straighter. “First off, I want to talk about what happened in bed.” She paused dramatically, shifting her weight from side to side. A crow cawed outside the chapel window. She watched it perch itself on a nearby tree.
“Have you ever had difficulty starting your car engine in the morning?” She carefully studied the faces about the room. With a loud, grinding sound, she snorted and rumbled, violently shaking her tiny frame.
In relationships, we sometimes expect our loved ones to be psychic. We expect those we love to know what we want and know how to respond to our needs without giving any direction. If they don’t, we often get upset, feel unloved, rejected and hurt. Can you relate? Listen to this week’s episode as I share mistakes we make in our relationships and ways to make it easier to deal with conflicts and build stronger and healthier relationships.
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