Other Perspectives #95

Yesterday was about what real love is really like. Today I’m using an Other Perspectives post to discuss the dangers of where most of us start with love, and why we have to shift our beliefs before we can have a mature healthy relationship. Keep in mind that when I say “start” I mean when our egos start, because few of these requirements are associated with true love.

The need for 100% Honesty is based in a fear that we really don’t have the person on our side in a meaningful way, which is largely true in every youthful relationship and all jealous ones. We worry it might not be true when they say I love you so we constantly need to check. Also, as the hilarious hemorrhoid scene in the film This is 40 illustrates, later in life we realise we often don’t really want full honesty….

Where it is right is Forgiveness. That is the best skill one could hope to have for a relationship. 100% is impossible, but you can get pretty close. Great Communication helps, but there’s some couples that remain quite private by nature, choosing internal reflection over a lot of sharing. These people often feel most comfortable with someone just like them. It’s not for everyone, but it’s valid love.

Trust is okay–you want to aim to always feel trust–but there will be times where you’re insecure and you just won’t be able to help worrying and you’ll need some reassuring, as most women who experience breast cancer or men with testicular cancer quickly learn. Even putting on weight or losing one’s hair can do this. That’s all okay if it’s temporary or fleeting.

Faithfulness is far rarer than people realise. Not that it isn’t natural for some, but as many experts, including Dan Savage, often point out; most marriages actually survive thanks to some monogamish behaviours that can strangely remind us of the value of our long term partners. Patience at 80% is hopefully where you’ll get to, but don’t be surprised if your maturity won’t allow for it until you’re at least over about thirty five.

Similar Values at 50% is one of the few that’s backwards, That one should be closer to a high percentage because as you age you realise that don’t people divorce because one likes golf and the other likes marathons, it’s because one will cheat at golf whereas the other would never do that in their sport.

Time Apart at 20% only happens when you’re young and before your adulting starts. After that it is impossible because you’ll be at work for a third of your day so you’re already over, not to mention one parent spending their evening at hockey with one kid while the other’s at dance with another. Romance at 100% is the funniest. You will quickly learn that life gets too busy for things to stay romantic, which is fine. It actually means more when it’s mixed into a life that has other responsibilities.

Again, we’re back to agreeing on 100% Friendship. You can’t love the person’s appearance or style or identity because those are guaranteed to change. You have to be with someone who will be a good life partner and roommate more than a good romantic one. On the contrary, Zero Selfishness isn’t healthy. You need to put yourself first. You can’t give your partner what you don’t have. And Playing Games also comes with people dealing naturally with their discomfort around being totally honest. But it’s the last two that are most important.

Nearly the entire list is primarily immature, Unrealistic Expectations, and one of them is expecting yourself not to spend time dealing with Insecurities, which is an entirely unrealistic expectation to put on yourself or your partner. Again, think of breast cancer or testicular cancer survivors. It makes sense that would take some adjustment to get comfortable with. Besides, there can’t be a peaceful psychological and spiritual path unless there’s a not-path. Not-path is ego. You can get good at keeping it at bay, but to not have it at all is to miss out on a valuable aspect of being human that incites healthy growth.

We all start with unrealistic beliefs that were created by culture, so I’m sure they’ll sell a lot of these shirts. But inevitably, over time, as we age, the shirt will seem more and more ironic as we attempt to apply it to the messy edges of the real world. Which is why the real keys are the Friendship and the Forgiveness. Forget the rest. Focus on getting good at those and you’ll be headed toward the most successful kind of relationship there is.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Love in the Trenches

They were out at the lake. The husband had just yelled at his wife for how how dissatisfying he found his lunch. He barely tasted it, choosing instead to storm back down to the lake and take another shot at fixing that stubborn boat engine. The very liberated daughter had watched the whole thing and she clearly was not happy.

“Why would you let him talk to you that way? If Ray ever spoke to me that way I’d show him the door.”

The mother just smiled as she picked up her husband’s uneaten food. She sat at the counter and ate it herself while they talked. “Ray’s way to be angry is to get quiet and cold. Honey, if I left your father every time he was upset we would have been divorced hundreds of times over.”

“All the more reason! Why do you let him treat you like that again and again? You didn’t raise me to be weak like that.”

The mother took a moment before speaking. “You’re right, we didn’t teach you to be weak. But what’s your definition of strong? He was one of the few liberated husbands when we were young. He cooked for you kids, he helped with school work, and he always made sure there was a roof over your head even if he really didn’t like what he was doing for work.”

“That’s 20 years ago! If you’d made him behave back then you probably wouldn’t be dealing with this now.” The daughter was very piqued.

“He’s not a child. And how exactly do you make someone behave? Withhold affection? Make demands? Fight with him? Why would withholding, demanding and fighting do anything for a relationship?”

“Mother! You just made him a incredible quinoa salad and he insulted you! He could at least appreciate that you made it for him!”

The mother pushed her meal aside and she went to the fridge and she started to make a sandwich. “Your father doesn’t like quinoa, you know that. When he was at the peak of his career I used to complain about him not being home enough.”

“Well he wasn’t.”

The mother returned to the fridge for more ingredients. “He wasn’t successful to spite me. Why would I criticise him for something I was proud of? Aren’t you trying to get a promotion right now? Do you see that as an attack on your relationship with Ray? Of course not. You’re trying to succeed at being a good professional, like we raised you to be. It’s a sign of respect to others to do your job well. You know your father always says that.”

“He still shouldn’t talk to you that way.”

The mother stopped and looked at her daughter for a long moment before speaking. “I’m not sure what ‘shouldn’t’ means. Your Dad was in pain. I was just being compassionate. I’m not a pushover.”

“What pain?! He wasn’t in pain! He couldn’t get the stupid boat motor working and so he got angry at you, like he always does when something breaks.”

The mother went back to finishing the sandwich. “Your father prides himself on being able to fix things, it’s what made him look capable in front of his Dad. He feels like he’s letting his Dad down, or he’s not being a man, if he can’t fix something. He’s always been like that.”

“All the more reason for you to tell him it’s time to stop.”

The mother smiled. “I might do that if I could figure out a way to stop getting mad at him. Demands don’t fix relationships honey. Love does.”

“Love doesn’t yell at someone for making them quinoa.”

“That’s right, love doesn’t. He knows I made it because you and Ray were coming out. Your father just told me is that he’s feeling a long way from feeling good. That’s the problem, not whether he likes quinoa. My job isn’t to demand that he like the food you and I like it’s to love him when he feels unlovable.”

“He yelled at you!! Why would you be helping him!! It should be him crawling back up here to apologise to you!”

“Crawling?” The mother smiled at the thought. “Your father’s having his version of a tough day. He stayed too long trying to fix the boat and now he’s really hungry and he came up to eat and found something he finds totally unsatisfying. He gets angry when he’s hungry. That’s just being human.”

The daughter notices the sandwich. “You’re making that for him!”

“He’s hungry. I’m just being practical. He’s in a better mood after he’s eaten. When I’m menopausal and screaming at him for no reason, these are the things he remembers to help balance things out. You see him upset about quinoa. I see a man I care about having a bad day; a man who’s proven himself over and over for all of us.”

“Your expectations are too low.”

“I’m trying not to have any.” The mother picks up the sandwich and starts for the pier. “Sweetheart, you guys just had a baby. You’ve been exhausted and your hormones are going wild. I’ve seen you be pretty mean to Ray, but ninety percent of the time he just takes it because he loves you.” The daughter chases after her.

“That’s a baby! How can you compare that to a boat motor!?”

“Pain is pain. It doesn’t matter whether you broke a foot or a leg.” As they near the water we can see the daughter really cloud over. She is harbouring a lot of anger toward her father. The mother stops and addresses her before walking onto the pier where he and Ray are working.

“Honey. Again: your father’s problem is that he’s suffering. I’m not going to debate whether he deserves to or not. What makes a marriage isn’t weighing whose suffering is worse. I can think about me and what I want, but does he really look like he’s got much to give right now?” Just then the father hurls a wrench angrily onto the pier. The mother kisses her daughter on the cheek and walks out onto the pier and offers the sandwich. He half-heartedly thanks her, but he seems a bit embarrassed.

Later that afternoon he does get the boat going. After a nice steak dinner he suggests a boat ride. Ray suggests, “Should we head down to Half Moon Bay?”

The father walks to his wife’s side and puts his arm around her. “Diane likes the view down by the promenade. I thought we’d go down there.” The mother turns to the daughter, winks and smiles.

Later, while the father and Ray do the dishes, the mother sits down for a tea with her daughter. “Ray might go under soon and we all know it. Every business like his is struggling in this recession and he just had a baby. If that happens you can kick him while he’s down and demand that he do the impossible and undermine his confidence. But after 35 years of marriage I can tell you, you might find that you’d get where you’re going quicker if you just made him some sandwiches instead.”

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

MoK: Converting Anger

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-sorryEveryone gets angry, it’s just some hide it better than others. But passive-aggressiveness and yelling are both disruptive to human relations. It’s important to remember that you do have the chemistry within you to create anger for a reason. It does serve a purpose. But everyone gets tired, everyone gets hangry, everyone has some easy days and some that are particularly challenging.

Today’s acts in our March of Kindness are simple and straightforward. The first thing have you have to do is identify when you last got angry towards a specific person, then contact the person immediately after you’ve identified them and offer an unequivocal apology.

The most valuable apology is in person, looking the person in the eye, offering zero excuses, just responsibility. Next most valuable is a phone call, where they can hear the sincerity (and possibly discomfort) in your voice that signals your willingness to suffer a bit for what you feel is important–namely respecting that person.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-never-ruin-an-apologyOther electronic forms of apology are less personal and less effective but at least they’re a step in the right direction, so if you don’t have the courage for in-person then the next best option is a clear email that outlines your understanding of the lack of respect you’ve shown, that expresses your sincere regret, and that makes a commitment to do better in the future.

Text or instant messenger apologies are the weakest but again, are still far better than no apology at all. If you do this you can increase the value somewhat by also apologising for the fact that your sense of guilt makes it difficult for you to offer the apology in a more personal form. Own your weakness, don’t add it to the insult to the other person.

And finally, apologies to friends are critical to ongoing friendships, but the world is improved when we add people to the number we’re prepared to respect, so in many ways an apology to an opponent or enemy can be the most useful type for society overall. It models good behaviour and reduces tension in both parties.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-the-first-to-apologizeIt’s better not to overthink these. Just define the person, choose the form and then do it. It’ll take a few moments and the only suffering you’ll do is between your own ears, within the confines of your own consciousness. The harder it is to do, the better you’ll feel once it’s over. And who knows, maybe you’ll even get one yourself.

If we want to grow as people we must be willing to function outside our own comfort zones. The fact that this feels awkward is directly related to its value to the other person. Let’s start making apologising more common, because it’s human nature to eventually get tired of apologising for the same mistake and that’s usually what leads to us actually changing.

Do it, and do it ASAP. The March of Kindness needs your kindness to be active.

And have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Relationship Insecurities

This is a healthier exercise for a couple than a lot of fearful thinking would be.
This is a healthier exercise for a couple than a lot of fearful thinking would be.

Couples routinely come to me because the trapped partner wants me to convince the insecure partner to honour their basic freedom as a human being. But I don’t fix jealous relationships by getting people to stop being jealous, I get them to stop being insecure.

At the end of the day the problem isn’t the attraction or fidelity of the spouse, the problem is that the insecure person does not feel they are good enough to hold their partner’s interest. That leads to control issues which then mean it’s even easier for someone else to treat the partner better.

I pick up extremely quickly on how a person’s communication patterns reveal their perspectives on life so it usually doesn’t take long for me to pick up on it when one of the partners defines the relationship in relatively static and rigid way. They’re looking for security in a world that has taught them that disaster is always lurking.

1046-relax-and-succeed-you-cant-fix-yourselfOf course disaster isn’t always lurking, but you can make it seem like it if you look for it hard enough. Jealous people are master narrative creators. They can take one tiny detail and fill up hours worth of self-talk stories in their imagination. Hours. Out of a tiny detail that other people would ignore as insignificant. But in the mind of the frightened person? It’s huge. They can think it until it is legitimately huge in their consciousness.

Psychology historically would invest many hours in how the person got that way but you don’t need more than broad strokes if you know what you’re doing. The details just muddle things, the point is to find something worthwhile in the experience and then move on. Healthy people stay for joy and they leave unpleasant situations asap, right after they have taken the lesson from the experience.

Insecurities are the self-talk conversations that make us feel small, which means we also feel weak, and then we feel we need other people’s extraordinary help just to make it. In fact we’d be fine on our own. We just have to tough it out long enough to see that we really can choose to sit and read or watch a movie just as easily as we can choose to sit and ruminate on what might be happening. But that latter will tend toward the painful and it’s almost always inaccurate as well because there’s billions of things that could be happening at any given time so I very much doubt anyone anywhere is even close to accurate most of the time.

1046-relax-and-succeed-if-you-truly-loved-yourselfTo end jealousy the jealous person must actually come to see themselves more through the eyes of their partner, rather than through the lenses of past experience. They must not see themselves as a lightning rod for danger but rather a pillar of strength. And that’s actually a natural feeling if only we don’t intercede with our insecure thinking.

If you’re going to think insecure thoughts then of course you’ll feel insecure. But even if they were rational thoughts–which they rarely are–so what? What good would it do to be insecure when you do anything, let alone the act of saving your relationship? No one benefits from insecurities. Find the lies that were told to you when you were young and meditate on the proof that those are wrong. Your clarity will show up in your refusal to fall into the traps of the illusion of security.

Insecurity destroys relationships. Confidence is a natural feeling for everyone. When you were five you thought you could be anything. But someone said things and you listened and now you repeat them in your head, and then you took your worst experiences and built fears around those and then you watch for that too. And it’s all a lot of worried, suspicious watching. How can that be good for a relationship? Stop the narrative. Flood yourself with peace and love and you will have no difficulty attracting and holding a partner that is suitable for you.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Texting and Relationships

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #8

1036-relax-and-succeed-a-mom-text-messageI think texting was invented by marriage counsellors as a job-creation program. More and more struggling couples come to me because they’re looking at breaking up because of a bunch of text messages. Twenty year relationships being undone in 140 character bursts. It’s crazy.

As I’ve noted before, I often used to ask my college students if they knew what I meant when I said, last night I shot a robber in my pajamas? They would always say they did, but they can’t; because that sentence has four meanings. I never state who’s wearing the pajamas or if someone was murdered or photographed. And yet all the students are sure they understood. This is how weak and frail words are at capturing the fine details of the human condition. So hinging a relationship on some text messages is the flimsiest sort of reasoning there is.

Let’s begin with the fact that people will often take things out of context. If a woman gets a text at 7pm from her sister and all it says is, I got a run she might skip right past the idea that her sister might be playing a card game and she might immediately think that her sister is referring to her baseball league, when in fact she is trying to discreetly ask her sister to rush to her room to get her some new stockings for the date she’s on.

1036-relax-and-succeed-texting-is-a-brilliant-way-to-miscommunicateThere are examples of ambiguous meanings, assumptions about tone, context, meaning, there’s bad auto corrections, tech issues and then there’s stuff like this… why not just cave paint to each other? It’s probably got less room for misunderstandings, because whenever couples show me these texts I just cannot see all of the drama they do. They load the tiniest and most innocent of phrases up with massive amounts of meaning. It’s crazy.

Texts are for some basic data. Grocery lists, times, notifications that you’re waiting downstairs, etc. You should not be discussing your relationship on text. If you’re that anxious that you need answers immediately then you need to get more mature about your anxiousness before you’re ready to be in a healthy relationship. Seriously.

The fact that a couple can be in love in the morning when they go to work and ready to break up by the time they get home when they haven’t even spoken once should be a clear sign people have lost touch with what’s reasonable and healthy. Use texts for what they’re for and save your relationship issues for in-person discussions when you’re both in a positive frame of mind. Otherwise you’re just asking for trouble.

1036-relax-and-succeed-between-what-is-said-and-not-meantTruly, I don’t like seeing people for reasons this frivolous. If you’re actually making relationship decisions based on text exchanges then you’re not mature enough for a healthy relationship. Real couples that make it through real challenges do so by staying connected, and that means their communication lines are open.

Actually commit to no longer texting about emotional issues. Save them for times, dates, lists, and decisions about times and locations, but not about important issues. If it’s important enough then it’s important enough to hear your partner’s voice or to wait until you can. Anything else disrespectful to both of you. You simply cannot expect good results from trying to deal with the most important thing in your life in 140 character increments.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Rocking the Boat

1025-relax-and-succeed-its-okay-if-people-dont-like-youOur ability to remember things only starts a little before most people start going to school, so our idea of how the larger world works will often come from that experience and not our home one. If we’re Korean and our family and friends are Korean then being Korean is fine, but if the kids in the school have never seen a Korean face or heard a Korean name, they can think the new kid is strange and someone to be avoided. This can cause insecurities that can last a lifetime even though there’s nothing wrong with the kid.

Eventually in school everyone does make at least a few friends. Interestingly, the kids with the fewest friends are generally outcasts who are already functioning in some way that causes society to pass some judgment on them. Nerds are cool now, but it wasn’t that long ago that being good in school and knowing about things like Dungeons and Dragons or comic books meant you’d be ostracised or even beat up.

The strange upside to being ostracised is that it’s actually much more accurate to adult life. So you can go through school as the most popular person but that still won’t save you from all of the judgments others will make about you. Some of those judgments will be true, others will be entirely false, but you’ll lose just as many friends over the lies as the truth–likely even more.

1025-relax-and-succeed-do-what-you-feel-is-rightMeanwhile, the teased kid eventually gives up and just starts being themselves as they get used to the teasing. This, it turns out, is one of the most important lessons a person can learn. That kid becomes impervious to the opinions of others. Without any airs that kid can meet their friends as themselves and that is a profoundly underrated thing.

One of the best advantages to being yourself is that it helps your real friends find you in a crowd. Often people will connect with the wrong people because they think someone’s this or that way when really they’ve just been performing to maintain their status with others. And the egos do this even though the actual person will eventually have to show up and disappoint everyone who thought they were someone else.

Genuinely enjoying the act of making someone happy is one thing, but it’s not a healthy or enlightened thing to make people happy if you’re spending that time performing actions or saying words that feel unnatural to you. Eventually you’ll get hangry or be short on sleep or you’ll have had a stressful time and you’ll show your true self and then just watch a bunch of people desert you for nothing more than a few low days.

Frankly, if you look back at your life you can probably easily find people you’ve never spoken to again and yet all they would have done is offend you with an opinion or approach that wasn’t one you’d use. Look at how remarkably conditional our affections are; we see it so often it becomes normal, so we get to the point where we actually expect people to perform for us. They’re not supposed to be themselves, they’re supposed to be who we expect them to be.

So how’s the outcast in school end up better off? It hurts them more at the time because they found out before anyone how incredibly silly people can be with their opinions, but in getting used to it they’re getting used to the adult world where people’s expectations just increase more and more and more over time. Eventually you can get to the point where an entire 20 year friendship can end over just one series of misunderstood text messages, as though those messages somehow unlock some secret identity they’ve been hiding for two decades.

Half the time people show me one of those and say, can you believe they said that? and I won’t even be able to find the offence they’re talking about without all of the history they’re loading the text with. Even the word ok gets seen as some sign of hostility. If people are going to be that finicky then the problem isn’t you, it’s their ridiculous standards. People aren’t here for you and you aren’t here for them. We’re all in this together and we either act like that or we pretend we can somehow survive without people that disagree with us.

By fifty most people have realised that their giant collection of school friends was really just a bunch of other insecure kids who were taught all kinds of unrealistic expectations. Those same expectations will cause people to desert or blame others and before they know it everyone’s left with just their true friends; the people who will accept them warts and all. And the outcast had that already in school. It was the rest of us living in a fantasy, not the kid playing D&D.

Don’t perform for others and don’t ask others to perform for you. The problems aren’t out in the world they are within you. You have resistance to other people’s ways of being just like they have resistance to your way of being. How can it make sense for two people who believe in democracy to hate each other because one’s a Democrat and one’s a Republican when they can’t even have the democracy they value so much without each other? It’s crazy, and yet people do it every day.

There’s a lot of people sitting on the gunnels of your boat and almost nothing will knock them out. A lot of people never intended to stay so they have gotten on and off and various ports of call. Others really needed some serious storms to get knocked out, but a precious few clung to your boat extra hard during the storms and those are the people who are willing to tough out the hard parts of life with you. That’s your tribe and those are the most valuable people you’ll know. So don’t see yourself as losing friends as you age, see it as chiselling away acquaintances to reveal the solid foundation of your very best friendships.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Observational vs Instructional Parenting

1019-relax-and-succeed-it-is-easier-to-build-strong-childrenWhen European settlers first came to North America one of the first clashes of culture existed in the realm of parenting. Corporal punishment was generally not used in the native cultures because they did not believe in corrective behaviour from an authority figure. Like most tribal cultures, they believed an entire community raised a child and that children learned to behave in alignment with their culture not by being told how, but rather by watching other people actually living in alignment with that culture.

Europeans on the other hand had unwittingly assumed the Christian original-sin belief into their daily life and so the idea was that no one was born worthy and rather one earned one’s worth. In the native cultures the worth of anyone was never in question. The European system lead to a top-down almost military style with the father in command, his wife second and then the children by order of age and gender. Meanwhile there weren’t even  things like lineups for native cultures, so therefore there were also no need to “order” people or things.

1019-relax-and-succeed-when-a-flower-isnt-bloomingAs well-intentioned as it is, the European model is based on a hierarchy rather than mutual respect. Being bound to someone by words and ideas is one thing, but caring about someone enough to make sacrifices for them is a much different thing. This is like the difference between a soldier fighting because he was told to by someone he doesn’t respect, versus he does so out of love for his leader.

The idea the natives naturally used is the one everyone’s actually using either way, whether their culture realises it or not. Kids don’t learn by what you tell them, it’s how we act. And if we realised that more consciously we would literally change the world.

The northernmost tribes in Canada, from the Gwich’in in the West all the way through all of the Inuit cultures and all the way East past the Innu to the Beothuk, the cold and barren surroundings and limited food sources have meant over time that patience, tolerance, cooperation and generosity are excellent strategies for staying alive. Since you couldn’t and can’t cultivate food you have to cultivate relationships that can lead to group dinners that ensure all are fed regardless of their individual hunt’s success. When you can end up living in the confines of an igloo it helps if you have an agreeable personality.

1019-relax-and-succeed-your-work-is-not-to-drag-the-worldSimilarly the Japanese and other Asian cultures learned to cultivate a courteous, respectful manner with others because the hydraulics of the terraced rice paddies meant that your neighbour had to choose to let you have the water next. These interdependencies can be seen as a lack of freedom, but they can also be seen to create more freedom. What is the point of any amount of freedom if it is primarily spent in a state of worry or fear when it could be spent cooperating with friends?

It is notable that these cultures are both very quiet. Words are seen as less important than the control of behaviour. This isn’t done in a subservient way; it’s done for the greater good of all. But for that to happen we first have to believe that a) we ourselves are capable of good behaviour, b) that our children are capable and naturally inclined to want to learn, and c) that lessons are not as important as examples.

Most parents I see are panicked that things are much worse than they are. Invariably I meet a caring, engaged parent who has the same kinds of flaws all of us have. Because people are generally good, just by living their lives the way they naturally do they end up raising really great kids too. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t follow every order exactly right. That won’t be what makes good character.

1019-relax-and-succeed-imagine-what-seven-billion-humansWhat’ll make a good fellow tribesman won’t be precise behaviour, it’ll be the general compassionate awarenesses that would lead them to do things like notice an older person struggling behind them, leading them to hold that door open a little longer for that fellow tribesman. What’ll make a good tribesman is not asking for apologies, but giving them. Then giving them will be natural to a child, just like they learn to avoid giving them. And forgive yourself for when they learn the bits about you you wish they wouldn’t. You’re worth those bits anyway.

Believe in yourself. Believe in the children around you. They’re all just waiting to sprout into something amazing if they just get the rest of us doing a bit of cultivating of ourselves. If we accept ourselves while we strive to grow, from there the kids will just naturally follow our lead, but lead we must do. Here’s to you exhibiting a great day of admirable behaviour.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

A Reasonable Relationship

1011-relax-and-succeed-the-happiest-people-i-knowWe must abandon our hopes and expectations and trade them for reality if we hope to flow better and with less resistance. Particularly now more than ever, everyone is on guard 24/7 with people jumping on them the moment they slip; use the wrong word, make a false statement, or even display an emotion that the other person chooses not to approve of.

It’s no wonder people feel on edge. There have never been more things in this world that are unacceptable. We are all judging each other quite harshly and we’ll always have a defence for how our judgment is actually valuable, even though it’s us in our personal reality that’s having that experience, not others. Two people can stand at a party listening to someone they just met and one can hate them and one can love them. Our judgments aren’t the world, they’re just ours personal thought-created reality.

As a perpetrator you know this as blame. As a victim you know this as a lack of acceptance. But that’s a cycle you’re participating in and you have total control over it. These feelings emerge directly from thinking about what you have and then comparing that to what you got. You not only judge and separate, you compare and value things, so you’ll say things like, “But that’s not as bad as the time you….” It’s like it’s a competition of who behaves better and there’s some scoreboard somewhere.

If your spouse comes home from work angry every single day then they either need to change their job or change their attitude. But if they come home from work and they’re occasionally upset, your job isn’t to explain to them what acceptable is, nor is to demand that behaviour immediately and yet that’s what most people do. “Don’t yell at me! I’m not your damned boss!”

You know what? In the fictitious made-up-of-our-thoughts world of social mores and good behaviour you’re right; they are acting out of sync with what most of us have defined as the healthiest behaviours or reactions, but the healthiest somehow became absolutes. They became expectations, then demands, and then eventually we go past behaviour being unacceptable to where actual people are deemed unacceptable. It’s why everyone works their entire life to just try to get one parent–even if they’re dead!–to respect them.

Everyone’s desperately trying to get back to acceptableness, to connection, to love. The sometimes angry spouse is made unacceptable at work, they come home to seek some solace and instead they are told they are unacceptable there too. And we wonder why marriages fail.

1011-relax-and-succeed-being-with-someone-doesnt-meanBut what if instead of judging everyone, we just stayed aware of what’s happening? And what if our aim wasn’t to be right, or to have expectations of being treated a certain way, or to get someone to see it your way, and what if our aim was peace? What if in every situation we only asked, what would make this situation better? Not the person, the situation. Depersonalise it.

Obviously this does not extend to someone allowing people to beat or regularly mistreat them. We don’t want a bunch of weaker people just being slaves to stronger ones. But in most relationships people aren’t getting physically beaten or even emotionally scarred by big problems about big issues. Most relationships die the death of a thousand small cuts.

If we have peace as our objective the scene plays out this way:

“If I have to work another day for that idiot I’m gonna kill myself! He gets me to spend 90% of my day on the thing he asked me to do and then later he bitches at me because some entirely different thing didn’t get done. There’s not three of me!! What the hell does he expect me to do?! And what, I’m supposed to read his mind?”

1011-relax-and-succeed-when-another-personThe person approaches with warm, open physical language and maybe embraces the person. Maybe they shrug you off, but you’re not judging their reaction, you’re seeking peace. You just shift their thinking away from their boss and onto something more peaceful and positive. And keep in mind, sometimes that’s just silent, genuine compassion. Trust me, they’ll see it in your eyes.

“Oh I’m sorry he put you through that. That’s a terrible feeling. I remember feeling like that when they transferred me to accounting.

This breeds connection and empathy. They feel you hear them; that you understand. You’re now sharing the pressure they’ve been feeling so it immediately feels better. Keep in mind, it might take four tries to get there. But you can’t see it as trying, these have to be very honest responses each time in that moment. Those responses will come naturally if you don’t think about what you want (better behaviour) and instead think about what they need (to feel cared for), because one will naturally lead to the other.

You can’t argue people into reasonableness and you can’t argue them into a good mood. You cannot conduct a relationship in the world of thought because we feel the world as an emotional experience. You have to help the world feel good. A good marriage is just two people who always want the other person to feel good. If you look at almost any marital problem, it’ll be because someone is placing their fears ahead of the other person’s joy. We can do that for a short time, but you can’t make a marriage of that.

1011-relax-and-succeed-patience-and-kindnessStop trying to be right. Start understanding that you give your spouse the same challenges they give you, just in different ways. Take your next lineup and use it to meditate on how you like being responded to when you’re upset. Then consider your partner and ask yourself what their version of that is; maybe you want to your feet massaged and they want to go out for dinner. It doesn’t matter which love language you use as long as it fits the person you’re dealing with.

Ask yourself what makes you feel better when you’re down or feeling victimised. Look at your past and how you’ve reacted to your partner in a similar situation and be honest enough to ask if there would have been a tactic that would have worked better. Because in many cases marriages don’t break up because the people changed, they end because they people developed too many judgments and they traded those for their compassion.

Relationships should be founded on compassion. Before anything else, you should just basically care that that person’s life experience is rewarding. There’s no better way to improve a relationship than to think about the other person instead of yourself. So ask yourself, the next time your partner is upset, will you contribute to them feeling better, or will you judge them and make that harder?

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Weirdos in Love

1009-relax-and-succeed-were-all-a-little-weirdMaybe you both like wear costumes and go to Comicons. Maybe you’re both covered in piercings. Maybe you spend your Saturday nights together doing advanced mathematics. Maybe one of you is a 40 year old size 18 who genuinely loves Justin Bieber and maybe the other is an Elvis impersonator for retirement homes. Maybe what you do is kinky….

You can geek out on cars, computers, fish, books or games etc., or maybe you’re one of those weird guys who works in an office where you wear dead alligators on your feet and you tie one of those thin pieces of fabric around your neck in a weird elaborate pattern, and maybe you date someone who wears fake eyelashes and pays money to go somewhere so she can climb fake stairs in a room surrounded by mirrors. It all sounds crazy if you look at it from another perspective.

Look, there are no normal people. We’re all strange. But our personal thinking convinces us that we’re alone. Even the people that match the tall, thin white people in most movies and advertising in the Western world feel all feel alone. I know a lot of ethnic kids believed they were the ones that were teased in school because they were “different,” but they they thought people need bigger differences than they do.

1009-relax-and-succeed-in-a-society-that-profitsI have numerous Asian friends who dreaded taking out their lunches in school for fear of being teased for their “strange food,” but then I pointed out to them that English is one of Canada’s official languages, the English created the notion of Canada, and yet when I was in school I was teased by German kids for eating jam and cheese sandwiches–something entirely normal in England.  So even being English doesn’t insulate anyone even in Canada.

It’s not about you. It’s about people asserting differences as ways of distinguishing themselves in a group. And if they tease you then they’re just attempting to lower your standing in the group and thereby raise their own. It’s very human, you do it too. At this level it’s juvenile, but where else would you be juvenile except while you’re in school? It’s still all just words. You decide if they hurt you. And no one’s immune. The German kids that teased me ended up being teased for eating stinky cheese.

Everyone feels like they don’t belong and yes, I also mean the most “successful” people you can imagine. You either feel insecure and fail, or you succeed and you suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Either way, what an ego does is think it’s not worthy, but it only does that because of its constant narratives about differences. Those narratives separate us from the connected feeling that would otherwise be natural.

1009-relax-and-succeed-be-weirdThe reason us weirdos find other matching weirdos is because these are the few people we’ll let our guard down with–and yet when we do look what happens! Once differences are ignored and similarities are shared people naturally feel connected. It’s why we almost feel like we become one person with our best friend. The connection comes from each party acknowledging the underlying truth that, without the interference of thinking, our natural state is to see people’s beauty.

There are no losers in love. It’s a wonderful experience. Don’t let things as ephemeral as people’s opinions prevent you from experiencing it as much as possible in your life. Be yourself. Everyone’s opinions live only in their own consciousness or for as long as they say them out loud. After that you’re free to be the weirdo you are, and that is super important because there are a lot of other very compatible weirdos looking for you. If you watch for each other I’m sure you’ll find each other.

Be weird, be free. In the end the only calculation is, how much loving did you do?

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #128: Loving Relationships

1008-fd-relax-and-succeed-what-destroys-an-intimate-relationshipI’ve written about it many times. You can’t ask another person to create a great relationship for you. Those things come from the inside. If you’re always in a state of want, if you always have something you need from that person then who are you to them? You’re a burden. But you weren’t a burden when you were falling in love. You were practically willing to be a servant!

1008-fd-relax-and-succeed-to-come-upon-love-without-seeking-itWeird isn’t it? It’s counter-intuitive at first, but not after some meditation. If we’re always asking others to live for us then they are forced to defer their own life to lead the one we claim we need. But if I’m a servant I’m always helpful and worthwhile and valuable. If I’m so picky about how the house looks for company that I torture my family with anal-retentivity then is the beautiful home really valuable at all, or is it now just a source of abuse?

Some people have huge insecurities that lead to jealousy, leaving partners having to live their entire life in their partner’s fearful context when that’s not their own context. It is literally a form of being a prisoner. All actions are dictated by that identity. The same with people with tempers. If your spouse blows up the moment something goes wrong then you stop living your life and you just start trying to make sure nothing goes wrong, even though that’s inevitable. It’s a life on eggshells.

It is not other people’s jobs to live to your script. No one made you the screenwriter, director and producer of the film of all of our lives. We are not co-stars in your movie, our jobs are not to get things the way you want them. We are individuals and we have hopes and dreams just like you and they’re just as important as yours. Healthy partners don’t ask, they offer. We can all take turns at being unhealthy, but if someone lives their life in that state then that is not their partner’s problem to fix.

Have a great weekend everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.