As human beings, we have a tendency to want to be in an intimate relationship with another human being; it’s part of our DNA programming to help us survive to the end and propagate the species. Because of this, we often dedicate a lot of time and energy to looking for our “One” and then, when we find them, we spend a lot of time and energy in trying to figure out how to hold on to them. It’s an innate thing, which can be maddening and if we are unconscious about our own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors, we can actually bring on the death of the very thing we want so badly.
Over the years, I have been witness to a lot of people attempting to rise above or ignore their damaging behaviors because they just didn’t know what to do about them and sometimes were completely unaware that they were even running a destructive program. At the same time, they were devastated that they were going through another break up or their family member wasn’t talking to them again or they couldn’t ever find a partner. If you can identify with any of these complaints, you are most likely running some (or all) of the detrimental programs listed below.
OOOOOHHHH! YOU’RE IN TRRRRRROUUUUUBLLLLLLE!
As young children, without someone to care for us, we will die; we were all at the mercy of our parents or caregivers for survival. When we got “in trouble,” the perception of their “disappointment” felt like a withdrawal which translated into a very real fear that we were going to die. We could feel our parents’ disappointment and perceived there to be a withdrawal of their affection because they were mad. When our parents were mad and we saw them withdraw, our illogical kid brains equated that to withdrawal of all sustenance, which equals death. When a human being is “in trouble,” their first instinct is to find a way to get out of being in trouble because they need to preserve their existence.
So… what happens when an adult does something that results in them “being in trouble?”
Let’s talk about the habits of ultimate unaccountability that lead to relationship homicide and the things you can do to deter the inevitable obliteration that will occur if you do not shift your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. These patterns can show up in your family relationships, business relationships, intimate relationships, and friendships.
LIAR, LIAR! PANTS ON FIRE!
Most frequently, healthy people do not lie completely and outright, making up elaborate fabrications to cover some deed that they think will “get them in trouble.” However, often people tell only partial truths – the part of the truth they judge as being the least painful part – in order to minimize the other person’s pain. Human beings tend to relate to one another based on how they themselves would experience a situation, making a snap judgment on whether it would hurt them personally. If it does, they’ll do whatever they can to minimize the perceived pain they are projecting onto the other person. Usually, it isn’t done maliciously, but is rather an attempt at being loving. But, whenever we manage another person’s emotions, we have left our own lane and entered theirs and have robbed them of their own experience.
For any relationship to be successful, there has to be trust. Any form of lying – whether a whole lie, a partial lie, or lying by omission – creates a wedge in the energy of a relationship which erodes away the foundation of trust. Being honest and speaking clearly about what you’re thinking, feeling, and experiencing will open up the trust energy in your relationship. This takes courage because it also means facing the consequences of your choices. When you feel scared about sharing a truth, lead with that: “I feel scared to share this because I think I am going to hurt you…” Rule of thumb: if this is something that you’ll be tempted to lie to your partner about for any reason, ya probably shouldn’t be doing it.
PUT UP YOUR DUKES!
Human beings have a tendency to want to protect themselves. Again, it is part of those DNA programs set up to help us survive to the end. If we perceive that we are under attack, we will do everything in our power to stay safe, to stay alive. One of the greatest definitions I’ve discovered about defensiveness is on dictionary.com and it reads: excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one’s ego, or exposure of one’s shortcomings. Defensiveness is a stance of being closed off, protected, shrouded behind walls.
When someone we love says, “I am hurt by your actions,” our ego perceives this as an attack and hears that we’re “in trouble.” The first instinct is to jump to the defense – “I didn’t do anything wrong” – in an attempt to get out of trouble. This will look like justifying, rationalizing, and expending a lot of energy in trying to prove our point. We will go into long discourses about why we are not wrong and why we had the right to do what we did. For the one who we hurt, this feels like not being heard and having their pain minimized. It is a very real fact that you cannot feel compassion if you are being defensive. If you are spending time explaining your position, you are in defense mode. By refusing to look at how we hurt them, we go into the stance of ultimate defensiveness and close off completely, which comes across as self-centered, unresponsive, unaccountable, and unloving.
Relationships thrive in an atmosphere of openness. If your loved one tells you you have hurt them, the best thing you can do to strengthen your relationship is listen openly. If you feel tempted to defend yourself, take a conscious breath and listen more closely – listen to what words they’re using, what you’re sensing they’re not saying, and what their energy and body language are conveying. Become very committed to listening more deeply than you’ve ever listened before. Sometimes the words, “I am so sorry I hurt you. How can I make amends?” are enough to diffuse the entire situation. Sometimes, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. However, if you’re willing to listen without defense, it often results in everyone’s defense mechanisms disengaging and open connection being strengthened.
IT’S NOT ME; IT’S YOU!
When you go to the movies, you are watching a story on the big screen that is projected through a marvelously intricate system of lights and mirrors and panes of glass. This system magnifies the minuscule images embedded on the film or burned onto the disk and throws them across space to land on the wall in the front of the theater. The story was recorded long before the moment that you’re watching it; it isn’t happening inside the machine right then; it’s old stuff that is being replayed over and over. If the film gets scratched, those imperfections also get magnified and can destroy the image all together. If a disk gets scratched, it may not ever work again.
Projection in a relationship works in very much the same way. When we take something within us and throw it out across space to land on the person in front of us, it magnifies all the flaws of our thinking processes and beliefs and puts it upon them; it taints their life with the color of ours. Projection as a means of deflection is one of the most painful ways we can destroy a relationship because it takes what is ours and makes it the other person’s. When we discover we are “in trouble” in our relationship, humans often will begin deflecting the situation in an attempt to distract from what we may have done “wrong.”
This deflection and projection can look like pointing out what they did “wrong” as a means of getting around what we did “wrong.” We may begin listing all their flaws or wrongdoings to deflect the focus from what our actions were and put it onto them. It also can look like blaming them completely for what we did, projecting onto them our behaviors as a way of deflecting their attention and confusing them. It is like the scene in many comedies where one will say, “Hey! What’s that?” and point in the opposite direction to distract the other person from the fact that they were taking their cookies.
This one is especially prevalent in the conscious-thinking communities because of the teaching that each person is responsible for their own experience. As a weapon in relationships amongst people who are living the tenets of being spiritually conscious, it can sound like, “I’m not responsible for your experience. If you’re hurting, you need to figure out what that’s about. That’s about you, not me.”
There is a saying in the coaching industry that goes something like, “If you’re pointing your finger at someone, there are four others on your hand pointing back at you.” It’s very true. If you are finding yourself yearning to yell, “But! It’s not me; it’s you!” then you are in projection and deflection mode. When this occurs, it is an opportunity to take a step back and really look at yourself. Any time you are bugged by something or wanting it to be about the other person, it is really about you. However, when you deflect a comment about you, like I mentioned can happen in the “conscious” relationships, then you are really in need of looking at yourself.
By being willing to open your heart and listen to their description of what it feels like, you can begin to imagine how they are feeling for them, rather than projecting your feelings onto them. Avoiding any and all forms of “it’s not my fault” or “it’ your responsibility” is a good practice. Lovingly listen for ways to expand your compassion also goes a long way in restoring your relationship connection.
Even if you feel you are completely right and they are completely wrong, there comes a point when you have to ask yourself if you are more committed to being right and not “in trouble” or are you more committed to having a long and successful relationship? When you are more committed to the latter than you are to the first, you will find that being honest, open, and willing is fulfilling, uplifting, and it becomes second nature.
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