Relationship School

1348 Relax and Succeed - Relationship School

This fall I will be starting the latest round of my course, The Principles of Healthy Relationships. I won’t pretend to know who or what is right or wrong for someone else. But I do know that by learning how to clear our heads and change our perspectives, we can learn to more clearly see what defines a healthy relationship for us.

Each of us comes to our relationships with unique histories, unique circumstances and a unique personality. Those factors in turn lead us to date in unique ways and to create unique relationships. We even have unique breakups. And yet within us there is a certain consistency that we see emerge as patterns.

The differences between us derive from small differences in how we weight our values and our preferences, and our patterns emerge because those rarely change. But what is helpful is that we all share a set of helpful principles that we process our values and preferences with, and we can become conscious of that process.

We all know it’s possible for us to be attracted to certain kinds of unhealthy situations, and we often have the same conflicts with multiple partners, both of which are indications of the invisible set of rules we have been using in our relationships. Yet, we cannot function wisely within them if we’re not even sure what those rules and boundaries are, where they came from, or if they’re helpful.

It is possible for us to be more conscious of what we bring to a relationship, both in terms of how we foster them in healthy ways and how we unwittingly undermine them. Because we not only need to know how to find joy, we also need good strategies for how to manage our particular brands of trouble.

Every good relationship runs into problems –even serious ones. But the healthiest relationships succeed precisely because they have calmly thought out good strategies for dealing effectively with the patterns we create with our lives.

If we understand our Selves and how we truly operate, we are then able to tell the difference between when our ego is over-reacting, and when we have an issue that truly needs a healthy resolution.

By slowing our dating, relationship and breakup processes down, and by seeing them in new and insightful ways, it is much easier for us to find healthy new routes into better quality relationships.

1348 Relax and Succeed - Being single dating being in a relationship

If we’re single we can benefit from gaining a better understanding of the differences between solitude and loneliness. That way we can avoid both hiding from relationships, as well as being pushed into unhealthy ones. (It’s no surprise that we often make better choices when we’re feeling healthy and not under stress.)

If we’re dating, that’s often through websites which match qualities and interests, and yet people in good relationships will sometimes share those and other times not, so clearly those are not the secret. Qualities and interests are important, but in the end what we are with in a relationship is someone’s true character. Knowing how to recognize it early helps us to figure out much sooner if someone is destined to cross one of our relationship limits.

And if we’re in a relationship, or if we’re thinking about leaving one, we gain by establishing much more clearly what our personal needs really are, and why we are with the person we are with. This can can facilitate very helpful dialogue and can just as often lead to a beautiful relationship renewal as it can lead to a compassionate and healthy break-up.

Whether we avoid someone, unite with someone, sacrifice to stay with someone or decide leave someone, in any case our actions should be motivated by the same underlying principle: because that choice will lead to a greater quality of life.

We can share our lives with others and we do not have to surrender ourselves completely to do it. At least not all the time. But we do need to know where our own balance points are, and how those correspond to our partners or potential partners. Without that we can easily see things tumble.

No one is ever wrong or right for everyone, but finding who we’re right for is certainly much easier when we have a clearer and more principled idea of what it is we’re really looking for.

peace. s

A Life Made of Moments

1257 Relax and Succeed - What makes a life awesomeYou’ll find cases who are big stars, or some will be your friends, family or maybe a mentor or lover. They don’t feel like failures to you because they don’t feel that way themselves. Even someone with a small life filled with disasters can really like how it all unfolded, because they know that even most awesome-looking lives are filled with reactions to failure. What makes a life awesome isn’t based in our results, it’s found in the quality our interactions in pursuing them.

A good example of the results not mattering was yesterday’s post, where we looked a gold medal athlete who might move into retirement feeling sorry that they passed on a must-win attitude that makes both themselves and their child their worst, most impatient, critical selves. A gold medal can’t fix the fact that the quality of their daily interactions will have suffered to get it and, in the end, which is worth more when the athlete’s 50? Love and companionship, or ostensibly a necklace too ostentatious to wear every day?

When we hear of people shifting in this direction or that, extremely few of them are following some muse or calling, because, even if they were that does not remove the fact that life doles out a lot of punishment on its way to giving us its rewards. (Warning: movie spoiler alert.) This is what makes the ending of the film Arrival so beautiful; even though she knows she’s signing up to watch her daughter slowly die, and to be deserted by a beloved husband, when given the chance to do it all again, she joyfully takes it.

1257 Relax and Succeed - Successful people aren't betterMost of the moves we see people make in life are because of the punishment life delivers. Part of this life-game is down at the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid and we all need to eat, so some aspect of life is invested in providing for ourselves and/or others, and our comparative minds we tend to evaluate a large part of ourselves on the basis of how much ‘food’ we’re able to provide. Likewise, we judge others on much the same basis.

This means we can detect the possibility that a manager who moves into a lower position in a new company may have been fired by the previous company, but we don’t often realise that the creation of a new TV show was actually the product of someone having their previous show fail and be cancelled. We see the new show as a victory, not as a reaction to the failure of the old show.

Lawyers lose a lot of cases. Athletes lose a lot of games. Lovers have their heart broken, and a parent can move up or down in status in their pursuit to ensure they’re providing for their children. This means that lives that we may judge as failures are also filled with successes, just as the lives we view as successes are always also filled with rejections.

1257 Relax and Succeed - When your'e not concerned with succeedingWhat counts is: what did that person do in the face of rejection? Curl up and die? No, they move forward on whatever path is best, whether it appears to lead up or down? Because it’s not like we can tell where a path is going by how it looks at the start. No one begins thinking their wedding will lead to a legal nightmare, just like they won’t assume divorce is the greatest thing that will ever happen to their love life, and yet both things often happen just that way.

Our failures will come. Some we’ll see coming, some will be unexpected. The healthy reaction is to avoid turning that fact into a personally destructive internal narrative about failure. We must free ourselves by understanding that failure litters every life, and that the quality of your life will actually be dictated by how you react, and not by what happened.

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.

Getting Along in the Kitchen

1213 Relax and Succeed - At some point you just have to let goWhat’s the saying? “Too many cooks spoil the broth?” Families cook best together for one simple reason: they generally all had the same teachers. But all you have to do is go to your first love’s parent’s place for dinner and suddenly you’re encountering things that your brain reads as wrong. By the time you’re married this can result in big fights in the kitchen that are largely over illusions.

I’m born and raised on the prairies, so I’ll stick to the foods I know. Maybe your Mom made gravy thick and they make it thin. Maybe they like raisins in the stuffing and you don’t. Maybe you like dryer meat and they like it super juicy. Maybe they think their list of spices is the right one and yours is the wrong one. It doesn’t really matter what the argument is over, if it’s not about creating poisons to eat then it’s largely a discussion about nothing.

There is no right way to cook food. There’s how you cook it and how much the people eating it like it. That’s it. Yes, some might be more popular, but that’s not the same as better. It’s just different. And it’s amazing what our minds can do to our bodies when our mind doesn’t like something. Literally, we can end up temporarily not liking a food out of habit, despite the fact that we’d get over it and like it just as quickly as we got addicted to what we’d previously eaten, which was in almost no time.

1213 Relax and Succeed - We are often more frightened than hurtThe point isn’t really the food though–it’s the argument. Arguing over cooking is a great example of two people presuming there is a common reality. We are all one, but the closest thing we have to truth in the ego world of thought is science, which is why the poisoning is important. But other than that everything is subject to opinion and even the science will often change and evolve over time. So there’s no hallowed ground for anyone to stand on and point fingers.

We simply have to accept that it makes sense that other people would have differences in their physical makeup and their thought processes and that those things would result in foods tasting differently. It’s literally one of the definitions of being an individual: you perceive through your own senses.

Frankly, no one can even prove we’re not inside a simulation, so for all you know your excellent steak is the same as the one in the film The Matrix.

Our senses are interpreted by us, for us. We have no idea how accurate they are. We know there are famous synesthetic composers who literally see music, so that shows how flexible our senses are. Even drug use proves that our mind can create amazing experiences which feel thoroughly real. So the question is, if you can’t tell reality from what you believe reality is, then why would you argue with your beloved about the reality of how a food should be cooked?

If you want to get along with others better in the kitchen, understand that your ideas about cooking are the same as theirs. Even if your training is superior, that doesn’t guarantee you’re right, it just means the other person might be wise to listen more. So don’t make being right about the food your aim in a good relationship or you’ll end up ending it.

Rather than argue about the peas, make peace. Make that your focus next time you’re having an argument in the kitchen and you just might find that someone surprises you with something–and someone–you end up loving.

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.