We all need relationships. We depend on these relationships for the satisfaction of our emotional, and to some extent, our physical needs. Our happiness depends to a large degree on how harmonious these relationships are. If we cannot get along with our partner, child, or parent, then it is difficult to be happy.
We cover this subject in two other chapters in this book. One is about communication in general while the the other is specifically about communication with children. There is some degree of repetition between these three chapters, but we consider this to be useful, if not necessary, for the reader in order to develop a new way of communicating after so many years of expressing himself through old patterns. Special emphasis will be given in this chapter to partner relationships, married or not.
We were so suited, so in love, so happy together. We had so many dreams. Our every moment together was so full of joy, happiness and excitement of being close to someone who understood us. We were so sure that we would live a happy life together. We never thought that we would arrive to this state of not communicating, misunderstanding, distance, indifference and even competition, aggressiveness and, in some cases, verbal violence. What happened? How did this happen? What can we do to come together again as we were before?
SOME REASONS WHY
1. Lack of education. We have not been educated in how to create relationships, how to choose a life partner, how to communicate openly and honestly. We learn a large quantity of useless information at school; and yet this one simple “art of communication”, which is so important to our lives, is not even discussed. We are uneducated in communication.
2. Poor examples – Role models. We learn through imitation. We have much more of our parents in us than most of us would like to admit. We are programmed subconsciously to an extremely high degree by the way in which we saw and heard our parents to communicate (or not communicate) between themselves, with us and with others. We now mechanically repeat this type of communication with our partners, children and friends. We tend to expect and to eventually create the same problems which existed in the role models which we observed as children. If our parents were self suppressing and non communicative, we tend do the same. If they were competitive and aggressive we are likely to act in a similar way. In some cases, out of reaction, we may do the opposite, but this is also a programming.
If we are having communication problems with our loved one, it may be useful to look back to our childhood years and write down all the memories which we can remember, the more intense scenes, and the words and phrases which were used frequently. We may find some clues as to why we are creating the reality we are presently experiencing.
3. We do not take responsibility of our reality. We have been programmed by an unenlightened society, which believes only in the physical reality, that others create our reality, that others are responsible for our health, happiness, illness and unhappiness. We have not been taught that we are immortal non physical consciousness which is only temporarily focused in a physical body for the length of this life time. We have not been taught that the mind is the creator of reality. That what we are experiencing is in our mind of our own creation. Things may happen to us through other people and external events, but we are the only cause for what we do with these events in our minds and how we feel when these things happen or do not happen. Our beliefs create our reality. If we want a new reality, we will need new beliefs about ourselves, others and the world around us.
It will do no good whatsoever to blame the other for what we are feeling. He will just harden his stance and stay the way he is. No one likes to be told he is wrong or to be blamed. Even if down inside he knows that he is, he will never admit it as long as we are blaming him.
So an harmonious relationship is one in which each takes responsibility for his or her happiness and contentment.
4. We expect the other to fulfill our needs and expectations. We believe that the other, in some magical way, is going to give us that which is lacking within us. No one can give us inner security or self worth if we do not have it. When we expect the other to act and react in ways which allow us to feel inner security or self worth, we are setting ourselves and the others up for problems. The purpose of life is for each of us to find these within himself. In most cases the other is incapable of making us feel happy or secure. We will be disappointed. We will develop negative feelings towards him, because he or she is not fulfilling our expectations. If we want to create an harmonious relationship, we will first need to be in harmony with ourselves, which means developing inner security, strength, self confidence and self acceptance in all situations.
5. Fear of what the others think. Considerable tension is created in relationships because each of the partners wants to place limits on, or change the other’s behavior, so that each can create a more positive image in the eyes of the society around them. When we pressure a loved one to be different, not because what he is doing is morally wrong, but because we need the approval of the society around us, he feels that there is a lack of real love, acceptance and respect in this situation. We are putting our needs for recognition above our love, acceptance and respect for our loved one and for how he needs and wants to function.
I have seen much tension develop between partners concerning this need for approval. Perhaps we should ask, “what is more important to me? This affirmation, based on appearances, of the society around me, or maintaining a deep and loving relationship with my partner?” This is an especially important question for parents to ask concerning their children. Whether they want to force their children to fit into a social mold, and loose their communication with the child, or whether they prefer to risk loosing social recognition for the sake of maintaining the harmony of the relationship. Remember we are not talking about sacrificing ethical values, but rather subjective and often quite superficial and materially oriented social values.
6. Lack of energy. I have seen a number of relationships fall into disharmony and even separation because one or both of the partners let their energy level fall to a dangerously low level and became a negative element in that relationship. When we do not care for our bodies, energy and mind, they begin to function defectively creating negativity for ourselves and those around us. We have less clarity, less patience, less understanding for others’ needs and problems. A person without energy is naturally ego centered because he needs to take. He is naturally defensive, because he feels the needs to protect himself. He does not feel safe. When one person in a relationship is in such a state, then problems are created for everyone. When both are in this state, then the relationship cannot last long.
We have an obligation in any relationship, whether it be emotional, professional or social, to offer a being of quality to the others. No one likes an emotionally polluted environment, full of complaints, criticism, negative thoughts, negative feelings, blaming, fear, hurt, anger or depression. We would all like to live in an environment flowering with positive emotions of love, joy, laughter, pleasant and positive thoughts and feelings.
That requires energy. We can create and maintain a high level of energy by eating properly, and daily practicing exercises, breathing techniques and deep relaxation techniques as well as positive thinking. See also that you get enough sleep. If necessary, take a nap in the afternoon in order to renew your batteries for your evening activities.
7. We carry the past around within us. We do not live in the present. Remember how you saw your loved one for the first time; during those early times together; how refreshing those contacts were. It was because you were discovering something new. Now we have already formed an image in our mind of who the other is and we see our image and not the person. This image is unfortunately permeated with many misconceptions and wrong assumptions, concerning the other, that we have made, through our inner subjective beliefs and programmings, which distort our perception of reality and of the others’ motives. We often think that the other is trying to harm us, when this is not in fact his motive. He is simply functioning out of his needs and beliefs. He is probably not even aware that what he is doing is offensive to us. Or if he is aware, he may find it difficult to understand why; and is also probably unhappy that we are creating this hurt within us through his actions, because this is not his motive at all. We tend to hold a running account of how many times the other has hurt us or disappointed us in some way, and, when we interact with him, we have this “balance sheet” hanging in front of our eyes. We tend to hold on to the hurt of the past and this prevents a total opening to the other in the present. This accumulated resentment, or feeling of injustice, obstructs the clear perception and communication in the present. We would all do well to learn to forgive and forget and approach our loved one as if for the first time, forgetting whatever he may or may not have done in the past which has hurt us. If we can remember that there is a divine law which allows only what is necessary for our evolutionary process to happen to us, we will realize that our partner (or any other person) was only the means by which this experience came to us. The source of our experience is the universal consciousness which is reflecting our past and present thoughts, beliefs, words and actions. We have been the creators of everything anyone has even done to us. This may be difficult to swallow, but it is true. Thus there is not any one to forgive, except ourselves for creating such a reality for ourselves. Let us forgive ourselves and the others and start each day a “new” relationship with those close to us.
8. We cannot imagine harmony. Many cannot imagine an harmonious relationship. This may be because they have experienced negative childhood role models. Or it may be because they have lived now for so long in a negative relationship (or have had a series of negative relationships) that they cannot imagine themselves in a positive one. In such a case one would do well to learn to do deep relaxation techniques with positive thought and image projection. While in the relaxed and concentrated state, one can imagine the other person in the relationship immersed in light, well and happy. He can bring five positive qualities to his mind which he can respect in the other. In this way we create a positive image of the other person. Then we can imagine ourselves together with the other in a happy, harmonious relationship. We can imagine ourselves communicating in various ways, talking, dancing, loving, walking, working together etc.
Some have difficulty in imagining such a positive relationship with the others. In such a case they should realize that their own subconscious (or conscious) thought-form is negative and is a serious obstruction towards creating a happy relationship. On the surface it may seem that the other is the aggressive one who is doing injustice to us, but as long as we are unable to imagine a more positive reality, our negative expectation (thought form) is as much responsible for what is happening as is his behavior. The solution is to work on changing our image of ourselves and the other, and of how our relationship can be.
8. Inner Conflicts. I have seen a large number of cases in which the inner conflicts of one or both of the partners externalise as a conflict between them. This is a common phenomenon. When beliefs, needs, values or desires conflict within us, we project those conflicts onto those around us, especially those closest to us. We believe that they are in conflict with us, limiting or resisting us, when in reality, one part of our selves, is limiting or resisting another. When we harbour feelings of resentment or blame towards the other, he in turn feels abused, as he feels innocent of our accusations. Often the other will actually take the opposite side in a conflict. Not because he really believes so much in that but, more so, because we, through our doubt, are sending him subconscious messages which force him to take this opposite stance so that we can work this thing out on a conscious level. We believe that the other is conflicting with us, but the reality is that we are conflicting with our selves. When we have worked enough on an inner dialogue with our selves and have come to a reconciliation between our various needs and beliefs, we will find that the other will be freed from his temporary antagonistic role and the external conflict will disappear.
I have seen this drama occur often when one member of a partnership or family group starts a new diet, or a path of self-improvement, or spiritual growth. As long as there is doubt or inner conflict within the one who is making these new changes in his life, the others will resist, criticise, ridicule and even become aggressive. This will last as long as he is not sure of these changes, or not sure of his right to make them. It is also prolonged by his need to prove to the others that he is right, by arguing, or converting them to his new way. This is a serious mistake which must be avoided. It creates unnecessary conflict.
NEEDS AND VALUES
We all grow up in different environments receiving different experiences and messages about ourselves, about others and about life. In reaction to these various childhood environments and stimuli we have developed a personality which is made up of various needs, desires, beliefs, habits, attachments and roles which we play. Many of the behaviours we have developed can be called defence mechanisms, which means that they are behavioural mechanisms, or ways of thinking and acting, which we hope will protect us from various dangers, or help us to solve various problems. Some people have “introverted” defence mechanisms which means that they retreat into themselves, or into some kind of personal activity, when they are not feeling safe. Others become aggressive, antagonistic or competitive when they do not feel safe.
These various ways in which we have been programmed to react to situations, especially those which threaten us, make up to a great extent the basic fabric of our interpersonal conflicts. As long as we are mechanically and involuntarily caught up in these ways of automatically reacting to situations, we are very likely to come into conflict with others, especially if their methods of “coping” conflict with ours. If we can become free from these automatic reactions, and can act consciously, then there is a much greater chance of harmony and real communication.
Here I will mention some of the major conflicts I have noticed in counselling relationship partners and families over the years. You may find a little of your self in some of these descriptions.
These conflicts can be divided into two categories “need conflicts” and “value conflicts”. Few problems are really value conflicts. Most of them are need conflicts which means that our needs are conflicting with the other’s. Our different needs, or more often, our different ways of satisfying the same needs, bring us into conflict as to how we should live, act or interact. It is very common for two or more people to have exactly the same needs, but to have different programmings as to how they can or should fulfill those needs.
Value conflicts mean that we place differing values on things and this makes us want a different way of life or behavior. These conflicts are actually few, as few people are not so idealistic anymore. Many conflicts which appear to be value conflicts on the surface, when investigated, prove to be need conflicts.
It makes a slight difference as to what kind of conflict it is. If it is a need conflict, then we can negotiate and try to find a compromising solution, something which we may not be ready to do concerning our values. Let us look at some examples.
WHO IS RIGHT?
Most of the games and roles we will discuss further on have the name “who is right” incorporated in them to some degree. It is difficult for most people to realize that we can have different ways of thinking, acting, and approaching life and its problems but still both be “right”. We believe that there must be only one right way. Because of this we have the need to change the other, to make him see things and approach life as we do. We fear that “if his way is right, then mine must be wrong”. It seldom dawns on us that his could be right for him and ours right for us, and that we can live harmoniously with this difference, that there is no need to change him so that I can prove that I am right.
This is a very important point. In many conflicts which I have seen between partners or parents and children, although they seem to fight over such matters as cleanliness, communication, discipline or freedom etc., in reality these matters are not as important to them as “who is right”. They want the other to accept their point not so much because they will then be able to fulfill a need or value which is so dearly important to them, but because winning this case will make them “right”. This complicates matters even more because we are not discussing or arguing in some cases, about the real needs or issues. We may be talking about our beliefs about how to bring up our children, but actually our real need is self verification through the other’s admission that we were right and the other was wrong. We are not talking about the real need i.e. self affirmation, self confidence, and thus we cannot find any solution for the problem, because we do not recognise what the real problem is.
I am not saying that this is true in every case, but it is in a large number of cases, and we would do well to investigate ourselves so as to determine how much if at all, our problem is infiltrated by this need for affirmation. In such cases we will need to work on developing a deeper relationship with, and understanding of, ourselves. We will need to cultivate greater self confidence and self acceptance so that we can get free from this need for approval through such games which are destructive to our relationships and to our own happiness. (The book “The Psychology of Happiness – Vol. 1 Discovering Our Selves” can be of help in this effort).
Let us keep the above point in mind as we look at some of the conflicts which exist in our personal and professional relationships. Remember that a certain part of the conflict may not be the needs which we are expressing, but also the need for affirmation through winning the conflict.
“WE NEED TO SPEAK” vs. “LEAVE ME ALONE”
Some people solve their problems by talking. Others not by talking but by retreating into themselves. When these two types form a close personal relationship, there may be conflicts, especially if they are not able to get free from their mechanical programmings concerning how they prefer or must function. Here is how it often goes.
Let us say that Mary has a need to talk about what she is feeling, her needs, fears, the family problems etc. John on the other hand when he is home, or in general with his family, has a need to be quite, not very expressive. He uses most of his energy professionally. He might be programmed that “men do not have much to do with family affairs, that men are distant, not expressive of emotions, or that it is a sign of weakness for men to express emotions”. He does not feel comfortable with the type of discussions that Mary would like to have about their relationship, about her feelings, her needs, the children’s needs. He loves them and cares for them, but does not feel at all comfortable in this realm of emotions. “Can’t they see his love and caring through the way he exhausts himself at work everyday for them? What else do they want? I just want to sit here and be quiet, rest my mind from all these problems at work”.
Mary would love to share John’s professional problems, to hear about them and discuss them. But he does not feel comfortable discussing such things with “a woman”. Mary on the other hand needs more affirmation of John’s caring through tender, loving, affectionate physical contact and sweet words of affection. She needs more attention, so that she can be sure that she is still important to him. She is beginning to have self-doubt about herself as a woman; her attractiveness. It may even come into her mind that John is not really interested in her anymore (perhaps he has found someone else to satisfy his emotional and physical needs).
Thus Mary approaches John feeling a need to talk about their relationship and the family. There may even be important decisions to be made or serious problems with the children. Not getting the response she would like, Mary begins to accumulate a feeling of rejection, hurt and resentment. She start expecting rejection from John and starts blaming him, criticising him for not performing his responsibilities as a householder, husband and father. Mary’s accusations and negative response cause John to retreat further into himself and to cut Mary short even earlier in her attempts to communicate. He avoids her as much as possible. This makes her feel even more rejected, abused and perhaps angry. As a consequence Mary feels an even greater need to force him into communication; she may even become aggressive and demanding and even unpleasant. John out of his fear and aversion to being forced into doing something he does not feel comfortable about, becomes equally aggressive perhaps even violent, so as to protect himself from Mary’s needs and accusations.
This creates a vicious circle in which both Mary and John become all the more alienated, each believing that he is right and that injustice is being done to him or her. All communication breaks down and they either separate, or live together (for the children or out of habit) without any communication whatsoever.
I have seen many Marys and Johns sit before me at counselling session in which we tried all together to reestablish a channel of communication between them. Each and every time both of the two were sure that they were right and that the other was wrong, but in my fifteen years of working on relationship problems, I have yet to see even one case in which one was right and the other was wrong. In each case I see two people who have basically the same needs (love, attention, self-affirmation, harmony, respect etc.) but different programmings concerning how to obtain these.
It never occurred to them that both are right in light of their childhood programmings. That they have been put together by the hand of life, because they are the perfect teachers for each other. That they are together because they have something to learn from each other. In such a case John could learn to overcome his programmings about how a man must be, and the “weakness” of expressing emotions. He can overcome his fear of expressing emotions and sharing his weaknesses, fears and concerns with his wife. He can learn to be open and more expressive, and not fear the other’s needs.
Mary could learn to have more self confidence, more self acceptance. She could let go of the need to discuss everything, and develop a sense of discrimination as to what absolutely must be discussed. She can get free from discussion as a means of verifying John’s interest and love. Mary can learn to talk less and John can learn to talk more. Then they would find harmony. But usually rather than move towards each other, each moves into his own camp and becomes even more extreme, John more reticent, and Mary more talkative. All this is often complicated by the “who is right” game which we mentioned earlier.
Another factor which sometimes complicates matters is when Mary, or whoever the talkative one is, uses his or her talking ability to prove that the other is wrong and that he is right. In such cases when we have approached someone a number of times supposedly to discuss something, and each time we have managed to prove (through our superior talking ability), that the other is wrong and that we are right, the other will obviously start avoiding us. The next time he sees us coming, he will find some way, pleasant or unpleasant, to avoid discussion. Do you think he is going to fall into the same trap over and over again? I have seen many “smart” men and women corner their spouse enough times so as to force their spouse simply to stop playing, by not communicating. Thus all those “superior communicators” who feel bitter about their spouse’s or child’s or parent’s refusal to communicate with them, should check whether or not they might not be playing the “who’s right” game through their superior communicative ability. If it is so, they ‘re going to have to correct this before the other is willing to communicate again with them. It might take time to prove to him that they have given up this game.
How can you do this? Accept and love your self and the other exactly as you are, and understand that there are as many “rights” as there are people. Put yourself in his or her position and understand what he or she is feeling. Understand that although you both believe different things, you can both be right.
CLEANLINESS AND ORDER vs. FREEDOM AND RELAXATION
Anna and George have been married for a number of years now. They have each settled into their own camps concerning various matters on which they do not agree. One of those is just how clean and in order the house must be. Anna’s standards are much higher than George’s. He has a need for the house to be clean and in order, but not to the same degree as Anna. When things are not «perfect», Anna feels uncomfortable; she can not relax. «What if some unexpected guest came in now, say my mother or my mother-in-law. How would they see me as the woman of the house? What will they say about me?» Anna has been programmed that her self worth is dependent on her role as wife, mother and house keeper. If she is not good at these in the eyes of those around her, she feels that she is a failure. But she was also programmed that the order and cleanliness of the house was exclusively «the woman’s responsibility», her job and no one else’s. Now that she would like to occupy herself with other things, she feels used and abused, as well as resentment, that no one else, neither George, nor the children are helping out with the house cleaning. She feels like a servant, whose needs are not considered or respected. But on the other hand she has never learned how to express those needs. Until now she never thought that the others might be able to help. Thus she has programmed all of them with the same belief; that they have no responsibilities in the home, that the home is exclusively her responsibility. Thus they do absolutely nothing to help. She herself has created this situation with her beliefs and behavior, never really allowing the others to help, because «the children have more important things to do» or because «this is not a man’s job» or perhaps she was also afraid of losing her role as the perfect housewife. George and the kids on the other hand could probably be gradually awakened to the idea or sharing some responsibilities so that Anna could be freer. The fact is that they do love and care for her. The thought has simply not been discussed or absorbed enough. But even if they did decide to help, it is very possible that each has a different concept as to what is in order and what is clean. George may be perfectly satisfied with the quality of order which exists. Anna, on the other hand, viewing exactly the same room, may feel uncomfortable and even angry that George is not helping. But George believes the room is fine. In addition to that, he has other priorities which he feels are more important than spending more time on even further order.
Before discussing some of the possible dramas which might take place in such situations, I would like to say that the choice of the female in the role as over- concerned about order is only arbitrary. I have met quite a number of cases in which the roles were reversed; that is the husband desiring more order than the wife. Such a situation might also exist at an office or store or any professional environment. What usually happens is that Anna starts to complain (directly or indirectly). She begins to emit in general a negative energy, perhaps pressuring the others, or criticising them or even blaming them concerning matters of order and cleanliness. The others begin to feel pressure as well as rejection, perhaps even injustice. This usually creates the reaction of resistance and consciously, or more often, subconsciously they become even sloppier, more disorderly and less cooperative. This is a defence mechanism.
Now Anna has two problems and the mess seems even more unbearable. One problem, is that she does not have the order which she needs in order to relax inwardly. The second is that she now feels even more rejected and abused. «They have not responded to her plea for help. They do not respect her. They do not love her». This is how she feels. This causes her to become even more negative; which can lead her into either of two directions. One is to close off from the others and create her own world feeling lonely, mistreated, rejected and unloved. Or she might become even more aggressive, demanding and unpleasant.In both cases her relationship with George and the family has lost its harmony. No one is really happy.
What mistakes were made and what can we do to avoid and correct such situations regardless of whether we are talking about the need for cleanliness or social needs or sexual needs, or material needs? All of them need to learn to communicate more openly, honestly and more frequently, not allowing emotions to build up in them so that the only way they can be expressed is in a negative manner.
Ann, probably, really never believed that she would get help. She was never programmed to believe that the woman of the house could ask for and receive help from her husband and children. It is unlikely that she saw such role models as a child. Society is just starting to become conscious of such a possibility. Thus it is very likely that she never really «asked» for help, but more likely that she simply complained or blamed the others or expressed her negativity in other ways. We will get entirely different results when we approach some one to ask for help, believing that they will surely help and that we deserve their help, that it is natural for them to help, that since they love us they will want to help. Then we will feel very comfortable asking. If we start to blame them for not helping, for being insensitive, irresponsible, it is unlikely that they will happily respond.
Thus Anna will need to work on her belief systems and her programming about her role, and also learn to communicate more positively. She will also benefit by understanding that the others too have been programmed in the same way, and that she, to a large extent, has been responsible in programming them. It will not be easy for them to «hear» what she is saying at first. What she is asking is «out of the game» it does not register in their minds. It may take time, a lot of time. If she realises this, she will not feel that «they do not love her» when there is no response or not the response she would like to have. She will have to learn patience and to be more sure about her value as a person, so that she does not feel rejected and unloved so easily. The others do love her, but they may not be able to change programming or behavior so quickly.
This mechanism is often found in situations where one member of a relationship, family or any grouping has been playing the role of the strong and capable one for a long time. He or she is the one who handles all the problems, can be counted on for everything, and most important, «has no needs», is self sufficient. Then at some point this «strong one» gets tired of taking on all the responsibilities for the group (or relationship) and would like some help from the others. But it will take some time before the others can realize that he really does need help, really does not want to take on this responsibility. The «strong one» will feel hurt, rejected; thinking, «I have given so much, can’t they think of me now and help me?»
They can and they will and all will benefit by this change in roles; but it will take time. The «strong one» has programmed them into believing that he has no needs, that they can sit back, become irresponsible and depend on him; that only he is capable. In this way all suffer. The others loose the opportunity to grow to develop their abilities and the «strong one» gets caught up in his role, until at some point he wears down his nervous system and vitality. George and the family on the other hand can try to listen more carefully. Anna may or may not be expressing her needs clearly. Our job, since we love her and care about her is to try to get to the core of what exactly is bothering her. She has some need which is not being fulfilled and it is making her unhappy, otherwise she would not be expressing herself in this negative way.
We can learn to sit and listen and talk with her, ignoring her accusations and go deeper in order to find out what she is feeling and how we can help her. We may not be able to change our programming about how clean the house must be, but we can surely reaffirm our love and respect to her. This is probably much more important to her than the orderliness. She needs to know that we love and respect her. We can have a meeting once a week where each can discuss his feelings and needs and ask help and cooperation from the others. When we have need conflicts we can try to find practical mutual solutions which will satisfy each of us to some degree. Perhaps there are small things or even large favours which we can do to help Anna or George or any member of the family. We can raise our standards for order and Anna can work on feeling comfortable and secure with less. This is why we are together to learn from each other and to come into balance.
We tend, however, to do the opposite. Anna’s over concentration on order, makes us become more sloppy, which in turn makes Anna even more obsessed. The answer is for one to become more interested and the other less. Then we will all have grown through this experience. Relationships and families are life situations designed as schools for love. If we do not let go of our ego, our selfishness, our smallness and open up into love, we will continue suffering over and over again. Without love there is no harmony, no happiness. We have two choices. We can look at our relationship problems as opportunities to learn more about ourselves and grow free from our imbalanced aspects and change. This change will be a movement in our own spiritual evolution. It will be a movement from me to we, from ego centeredness to love. Or we can suffer. Exercises, meditation, a healthy diet are a good preparation for the exams of life. The testing ground which shows how far we have evolved are our close family relationships.
CONTROL vs. FLOW
Each person, in his attempt to find security, affirmation, happiness and harmony in his life, searches for the way in which he can most effectively create the world that he desires. Some people have become programmed to believe that they can do this only by controlling the situations and people around them. Others believe that things work out better when they let things flow. Some prefer to not confront problems which may occur, especially when that means a possible negative conflict with another person. Others cannot hold themselves back from rushing head-on into conflict with whomever voluntarily or involuntarily obstructs them from creating the reality that they desire.
Most of us, however, function through some combination of these attitudes. There are times when we feel that we need to control and make effort to change something or to confront some problem. There are other times when we feel that it is best to let things work out for themselves. Our motives in each case may be different. One may avoid acting upon some problem out of fear or lack of self confidence. Another may do the same out of an inherent wisdom or faith that, in this case, it would be best to let the situation work itself out. Still another may realize that his problem is an internal one and that the solution must be found within him, and not through controlling others.
Two people, living or working together, may have difficulties when they are used to handling life situations in different ways. Such conflicts may arise concerning how to raise their children, how to manage their financial affairs or how to respond to relatives or social situations. One may believe that it would be irresponsible to not control the children, while the other may feel that such control will harm them or remove their own inner discrimination and creative thought. One may feel insecure or guilty if he is not able to closely regulate his children’s activities, while the other may feel that this will destroy their self-confidence and self-acceptance. One may feel that money must be set aside for the future, while the other may feel that we should enjoy life and use our financial resources in the present. One may feel that we must always conform to the demands placed on us by relatives and social programmings. The other may feel that this is hypocritical and unnecessary.
THE NEED FOR SEX AND AFFECTION
Another common source of misunderstanding and conflict between couples is their differing needs for sex or affection. Usually in the beginning of the relationship these needs are similar, but as the years pass, one starts to have less desire or need than the other. This puts both of them in a difficult position.
The one who has a greater need feels rejected by the other when there is no warm response to his or her approaches. This often creates a misunderstanding that the other does not love us or care for us any more. That there is no interest. In some cases this may be true. In others it is not. Love and interest are still there, but there is simply less need in one than in the other for their expression in this particular way.
A vicious circle follows, however. The one who feels rejected pressures the other and eventually starts to express negativity towards him. The other feels pressured to have a type of contact he does not desire and builds up various defence mechanisms. One form of defence may be avoidance and preoccupation with other matters. Another may be aggressiveness.
Both feel wronged and alienated. This is accentuated when one or both cannot distinguish between sex and affection. Even when one may feel less desire for sexual contact, often his need for the expression of affection remains. Often, however, he avoids any type of affectionate contact with the fear that it may lead to sexual feelings.This cuts them both off from each other in terms of “energy and feeling transfer”, something which is usually essential for their health and growth process.
The reasons why one or the other may loose his or her desire for intimate contact with the other vary in each case. This is not a matter for discussion here. The question here is how can these people find harmony? We will discuss the details of effective communication in such situations where two people have a mutual problem later on. For the present, let us simply share some thoughts about what these two persons could do. Firstly they will have to realize that they are not together by chance. Each is the perfect teacher for the other. They are together for a very specific reason, to grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually through the process of trying to solve these problems. These problems are the perfect learning situations which they need as opportunities for inner searching, self analysis, self transformation, self improvement and for developing the qualities of unconditional love, forgiveness, understanding and mature, peaceful communication concerning these painful problems. Each person’s pain is created by his own attachments, fears, expectations, habits and aversions, and not by the other’s attitude or behavior. Our partner or our friend’s behavior is simply the stimulus which we need in order to see our fear, our attachment, our rigidity. We are forced to recognize the limitations of our ego and its tendency to conflict with the outside world in its attempt to protect itself from illusionary dangers.
In such a case we will need to take responsibility for the reality which we are experiencing, and work internally and externally on the problem. On the one hand we will need to discover the beliefs and programmings which are making us feel these negative feelings. What do we fear? What do we believe will happen if things do not happen as we believe they should? What consequences do I believe there will be for myself and the others if things do not happen according to my way of thinking? Which of my needs or desires will not be fulfilled? What will happen to the others? What will happen to me?
After we make this deep and objective investigation, we will have to decide, whether our negative feelings are based on real danger towards our selves or others, or whether they are based on illusionary fears of, or attachments to, external and superficial sources of security or happiness. If we find that we are simply acting out of fear or attachment, then we can work on freeing ourselves from the prison of these illusions. This does not mean, however, that we do not have the right to communicate with the other and explain our feelings to him and ask for his help and cooperation until we are able to free ourselves from this insecurity or belief system.
In the case that we decide that our beliefs are clear and correct and that we are not acting out of fear or insecurity, but rather out of a clear interest in the benefit for all, then we will need to make an I – MESSAGE to the other person, explaining how we feel, why we feel that way, and our beliefs about this subject.
Such a message should be expressed at a moment when both are in a good mood and when we have plenty of time in order to discuss the matter deeply.
THE I – MESSAGE
As we have mentioned in the other two chapters on communication, an «I message» is a form of communication in which we effectively express to someone what is happening inside of us. In this way we help the other to understand us and our feelings, needs, thoughts and actions. In our communication with others we often make «you messages» in which we accuse the other of being wrong, evil or unacceptable. When we do this, he feels hurt, rejected, endangered and angry. This puts him on the defensive. He stops hearing what we are saying, because this hurts him. He feels the need to protect himself in various ways. Some may protect themselves by closing in on themselves and shutting us out emotionally. Others may become defensive, and even aggressive, in their attempt to protect themselves. When we communicate with someone in this way, it is very unlikely that we will be able to create an open, loving, supporting relationship with this person.
The «I message» takes the emphasis off what the other is doing wrong, or what we think about the other, and puts the emphasis on how we feel, what we need, how we think, and what help we need from the other in order to feel happy and more satisfied in this relationship.
We avoid dwelling on who has done what to whom, and focus on what kind of relationship we would like now, and how we feel and what we need now from the other person. The «I message» is more honest. When we make «you messages» we simply express our anger and negative feelings towards the other. We do not explain the beliefs, programmings, fears, expectations, needs, desires, attachments and aversions which are at the root of these negative feelings. We do not take responsibility for our reality, but rather blame our reality on the other. We do not explain to the other that we have various needs, fears and weaknesses, which make us vulnerable to his behavior or beliefs, and that this is the actual cause of our problem and not simply his behavior. The cause of our reality is our beliefs and not the other’s behavior which may or may not be in harmony with our expectations. The «I message» has four basic parts. The first part is the introduction. It is important to start our communication with two important messages which will help the other to relax and be able to listen more openly to our communication. The first important message is that we are approaching the other because we ourselves have a problem and we would like to ask his help, or at least his understanding. We are not approaching him because we want to reject him, or change him, or blame him, but because we are unhappy and need his help in solving this problem. This is called retaining the ownership of the problem. Now the other also may have a serious problem, but it might not be the same problem that we have. For example we may be unhappy because our child, or spouse, is behaving in a certain way. Since we are unhappy, this is our problem. But that child or spouse may have some other problem which is making him or her act in that way. In some cases, they might have a problem with our behavior. In such cases, it is essential that each expresses what exactly his problem or needs are, rather than accuse or blame the other. The second message which we need to give in the introduction is that we are approaching the other because this relationship is important to us and because our happiness depends on its being harmonious. The other needs to hear that he or she is important to us and that we are interested in keeping this relationship as harmonious as possible.
SHARING YOUR INNER WORLD
The second part of the «I message» is the process of sharing our inner world of thoughts, feelings, needs, fears and attachments and expectations. Here we explain to the other what feelings are created within us when we are faced with the situation or behavior which is troubling us. We also explain how our beliefs, needs, expectations and fears create those feelings within us. We may even go on to analyze how we then react towards him and others when we feel that way. It is important for the other to hear that, so that he can realize in the future, that our negative reactions towards him are not so much an expression of our hate, but rather or our fear, hurt, insecurity and self doubt. We tend to avoid exposing these vulnerable and weak parts of ourselves for we consider them unacceptable to others and even to ourselves. We fear that, if we show our needs or weaknesses, others will reject us, use us, manipulate us, or take us for granted. This, however, is not my experience. I believe that people are basically good and that, if we see the good within them, and address our selves to that goodness, and help them feel safe and accepted by us, then their inherent goodness will manifest in their relationship with us. Herein lies our real protection, and our real happiness.
Obviously, if we have for many years communicated in a different way, it may take some time for the other to relax, feel secure and respond to our new behavior. It is also extremely important to realize that no «I message» will ever work if we still internally believe that the other is to blame for our reality or that we are the victims of some injustice. Playing the victim will always put the other in the role of the abuser. It will be extremely useful to do positive visualisation exercises concerning your communication in your difficult relationships.
When describing the behavior or situations which stimulate our inner programmings and create our negative inner world, it is important to do so in an non accusative way. We can first express our problem generally and then personally. Here is an example.
AN EXAMPLE «I MESSAGE»
«Dear, I need to speak to you. I have a problem which I hope that you will be able to help me with. I have realised that I have a poor self image and very easily doubt my self worth and whether I am loved or not by the people around me. This happens especially when they ignore me or when they speak to me aggressively or abruptly. It seems that I have this sensitivity from my childhood years. This happens sometimes between us. When you speak to me sometimes in an aggressive manner when you are upset about something, I feel hurt, rejected, unworthy and even fearful. This then develops into feelings of anger, and sometimes I even end up wanting to hurt you in some way. I do not want to feel this way. I love you and want to have a harmonious relationship with you. You are important to me and this relationship is important to me.
” I realize that this is my problem, but I do not feel that I can solve it by myself at this time. I need more affirmation of your love, respect and interest in me. I would like to express to you how you can show me your interest so that I can feel more fulfilled in this relationship. I would also like to discuss alternative ways in which we can communicate concerning differences of opinion, or needs, or values. I need to be able to tell you what I think, or feel even, if that does not coincide with what you feel or think, without ending up in conflict. If I suppress my thoughts and feelings, I loose my self respect and feel rejected by you. On the other hand, I am afraid of expressing my differing views because I am afraid of having conflict with you.
” I would like your cooperation in finding a way in which we can communicate our differences in a way in which neither of us feels hurt, rejected or angry. Because my opinions may differ from yours, it does not mean that I do not love and accept you. I would very much like to know how you feel about our relationship and especially how you feel when we have these conflicts. You could help me a lot by helping me to understand what exactly it is that I do which upsets you. I would also like to know what needs or expectations you have from me, which I am perhaps not fulfilling. Do you feel like discussing this now, or would you like some time to think about what I have said, and discuss it in a few days?»
In the above «I message» we take responsibility for our reality but also ask for cooperation from the other. The third part of the «I message» is the part in which we ask the other for his help or cooperation concerning this matter. It is what we ask. Of course, simply because we ask something from someone it doesn’t mean that he will, or wants to, or can respond to our request. He may be feeling alienated from us. He may have blockages from the past. He may be so preoccupied with other matters at the present, that he has no mental or emotional energy to give to our problem. He may not agree philosophically or morally with our request. He may feel that we are suppressing him or abusing him. He may have various attachments or fears which prevent him from responding. What is important here is that we have communicated openly and clearly, and that the other has understood how we feel and what we are asking from him. If we continue communicating in this way, the relationship will eventually be healed and an optimum degree of harmony and cooperation will be created. There are cases, however, where there is nothing the other can do for us since the problem is really ours and we must solve it internally. We as souls may have chosen in this life not to be able to get something from outside, such as affirmation, or security, or recognition so that we can develop these qualities internally. Once we have developed them internally, then most often we receive them externally. In the previous example the person making the «I message» may have incarnated to learn to feel self worth and security independently of people’s reactions and attitudes. Thus, as a soul in the process of evolution, he or she has chosen not to receive external affirmation until it has been developed internally. In such a case, it is not that the other cannot or does not want to give affirmation to us, but rather that there is a secret spiritual agreement between us (which both of us have forgotten) that he will not give this to us, until we are forced to find it within ourselves.
Thus, if after making a series of clear «I messages» and after having truly taken responsibility for our inner reality, the other is unable to respond to our request, it is likely that our lesson is to change internally by getting free from the internal ignorance, weakness, attachment or fear which are creating our problem.
The last part of the «I message» is the opening towards the other and asking him to express his feelings, thoughts and needs concerning the matter which we have presented. As you remember from the previous chapters this is called «active listening». We now want to help the other to express to us his inner world, so that we can understand him more deeply and thus improve our relationship. This is an essential part of every «I message» and also an essential part of communication. I would suggest that you practice writing many I – messages before you make an attempt to make one verbally. I wish you much success in your efforts towards more harmonious and effective communication in your relationships.