LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH

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Whereas love is necessary and awesome, unfortunately it is not sufficient by itself to make for a healthy-enough relationship where two people can be happy enough.

Beyond love, another thing that a relationship needs in order to work, is trust.  When trust is betrayed, as it sometimes is in relationships, it needs to be repaired and rebuilt.  If there is no hope for rebuilt trust, all the love in the world isn’t going to make up for the essential trust that is needed.

Being able to communicate effectively is another thing that a relationship needs.  To be able to listen, understand, validate, empathize, and apologize are very helpful skills in a relationship, as are being able to express oneself calmly without blame.

Sometimes people find themselves chronically extremely unhappy in an unhealthy relationship but feel compelled to stay in it because “we love each other”.  As well as the love, there needs to be some realistic hope that things can get better with working on it.  Unfortunately, two people can love each other a lot and yet both be miserable together.

There is no relationship, from very dysfunctional to very healthy, that is all good or all bad.  There is always some good, and there is always some bad.  Therefore, being able to identify some good is not a good reason to stay in a relationship that is mostly bad, a relationship where there is no realistic hope of things becoming “good enough”.  Everybody deserves “more than crumbs”.

Because ending a relationship is a big decision, it should not be made impulsively from a place of anger.  Rather, from a calm place, one needs to reflect on the relationship from a distance and with objectivity, to determine if there is realistic hope for things to improve enough, what is needed, and if one has energy to invest on working on it.  This process needs to be repeated over some time; in other words one needs to “sleep on it”.

Some people have trouble ending a relationship because of fear of being on their own.  They often equate being single with being unloveable/unloved.  This is completely untrue.  You are loveable, loved, and good enough whether you are in a romantic relationship or not.  You are whole and complete whether you are in a romantic relationship or not.

Sometimes people stay in a relationship even though they don’t want to stay in it. It may be because of feeling guilty to leave, or fear of hurting the other person.  These, too, are not good reasons for staying in a relationship.  Staying for the wrong reasons can result in more hurt down the road.  You wouldn’t leave a relationship in order to hurt someone.  You would only be going separate ways because you don’t believe you can be happy in that relationship.  Feeling that way does not make you a bad person.  You can communicate in a kind and loving way.  The involvement of pain and sadness does not make a decision a wrong one.  Sometimes, a person doesn’t want to end a relationship unless the partner agrees with him/her.  The partner may be in a different place.  It is OK to agree to disagree.  Again, you are not a bad person to feel the way you do.  It is OK for it to be a unilateral decision.

Long term relationships are always challenging at some time.  One needs a sense of commitment to work through the challenges and difficulties that come along.  As long as there is hope for improvement, it is great to keep working on improving a relationship.  It is an ongoing journey.

Trouble in relationships is a frequent contributor to people’s unhappiness.  Also, trouble in a marriage often negatively affects kids’ wellbeing.  Because your happiness is important, it is worth working on your relationships rather than just letting problems remain unresolved.

Not attending to your relationship on a regular basis is like never doing any maintenance on your car.  It’s not surprising to find either the car or the relationship no longer working down the road. Real relationships are not like those portrayed in Hollywood or fairy tales, where love is enough and they live happily ever after.  Real relationships are challenging and need ongoing work.  There is a Sufi blessing at weddings that goes:  “May your troubles begin”.  This is not a curse, but rather an acknowledgement of reality, with an understanding that with overcoming those troubles, the newlyweds will grow, as will their relationship.

Here are some ways of working on your relationship:  Work on giving your partner what you are needing.  Chances are that your partner is also needing the same things.  And you’ll find yourself getting those things yourself.  Try to be generous of spirit, and do or say loving things.  Express appreciation, even for little things.  Try your best to live by the Golden Rule:  treat your partner the way you would like to be treated.  It is very helpful to communicate your feelings, needs, and requests calmly.

These recommendations are applicable to other kind of relationships as well. Obviously help from a professional is also available.  Professionals are all people and none is the same as another. So if one wasn’t a good fit for you, another one could be.

Contrary to what one might wish, problems do not tend to spontaneously disappear.  Instead, a gulf between two people can grow as unaddressed problems accumulate.  You don’t want to let that happen to you and your relationships. Fortunately there is a great deal you can do to make things much better for you, the other person, and the space between the two of you.

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THE MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP

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The most important relationship you have or will ever have is with yourself.

This is because a) your relationship with yourself is central to how you experience life,

b) it affects how you live your life, and

c)  it’s the only relationship you have control over.

Your relationship with yourself is central to how you experience life.  Broadly speaking, you can only experience feeling loved by another to the extent that you love yourself.  If you feel largely unloveable, you can be surrounded by enormous amounts of love, but will be unable to trust it and feel it.  Likewise, if you have trouble seeing and appreciating the positive in yourself, heartfelt compliments coming your way won’t be able to get through to you as you won’t be able to receive them.  You may tell yourself that the person giving the compliment doesn’t know you well enough, that you don’t deserve it, or you might minimize it and take it for granted.  Others might place their trust in you, but if you don’t trust yourself, you will continue to doubt and question yourself.   If you tend to believe, even at an unconscious level, that you are bad and have been chosen to suffer or be punished, you may tend to expect the negative in your life and you may tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive. You may tend to feel self-pity and be angry at the unfairness of life.  You may be good at judging and punishing yourself.

How you see yourself affects how you live your life. Not valuing yourself or feeling worthy can result in a host of serious effects, including not taking good care of yourself physically and emotionally. It can lead to not exercising, abusing your body, having poor boundaries, easily giving up on yourself, being reckless, not having goals, being apathetic, and so on.  If you don’t feel that you are worthy of good treatment, you may end up having difficulty engaging fully with those who treat you well, and instead find yourself involved with people who don’t treat you well.   Of course, this is often at an unconscious level.  Asking for respect is less effective if you’re not treating yourself with respect.

Your relationship with yourself is the only one you really have control over. Ultimately, we do not have control over anyone else.   Regardless of how wonderful anyone is or how much he or she loves you, another person is always going to have the capacity to let you down, by virtue of being human, and because of difficult to control circumstances.  It is actually very helpful to be aware of this, in order to have realistic expectations.  But if you have healthy self love, you are more likely to not take such disappointments personally, and can continue to feel loved without as much or perhaps without any upset.  For example, if someone forgets your birthday, you might understand that it is because of their circumstances, rather than feeling unimportant to them and feeling hurt and angry.  When you accept yourself the way you are, you lose the fear of being judged by others and the misperception that there is a lot of judgement happening.  You take your power back.  If someone judges you, it’s their business and their problem.  When we can be so easily negatively influenced by others’ judgement, perceived or real, we are giving away our power. So having a good relationship with yourself will make you much more resilient, and less easily upset.

Because your relationship with yourself is so crucially important, it’s well worth nurturing.

DEPRESSION FATIGUE & THE WONKY ELEVATOR

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There is a hotel in Canada with an unusual elevator. To go to the second floor from the lobby, you need to press “down”, and to go from the lobby to the second floor, you need to press “up”. So unless you’ve been there before, or have somehow been warned, you are likely to find yourself not where you had wanted to go.

When we feel tired, we intuitively want to rest in order to help ourselves. Much of the time, for example, when we’ve walked a long way or have a fever, resting is helpful. One of the very common symptoms of depression is fatigue, and it feels just like any other fatigue. However, because it has psychological components that may be subconscious, it is not made better by rest. It, in fact, is worsened by rest, and helped by activity. So in order to achieve what we are truly after, which is to feel better, we need to go against the intuitive urge to rest, and engage in some type of activity.

Because of the decrease in energy, motivation, and interest that often co-exist in depression, it is very common and understandable for individuals to do less, and to sometimes spend more time in bed. If you find this happening with you or someone you know who is not physically sick, do not be quick to make a wrong judgement of laziness, but instead think about depression, which is very common. With depression, the mood may be either flat, without much emotion, or sad, or a combination of the two. People with depression who are doing less are just following the inclinations that the illness is producing, and so deserve compassion, not judgement. However if they ask themselves whether the extra rest is helping them feel less tired, they will find that the answer is NO. Alternatively, if they reflect on how they felt with an activity that they undertook, they will notice that it made them feel at least somewhat better. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pleasant activity or accomplishing something, even simple. While physical activity is particularly helpful, any kind of activity is better than none. An excessive amount of screen time is not good, leaving one often listless, lethargic, and more irritable. While depression often makes people want to isolate themselves, the isolation feeds feelings of depression and aloneness. Humans have a basic need for connection, and connection is helpful for people with depression, who tend to feel isolated.

The way to get someone with depression and decreased activity, whether it’s you or someone else, is not with judgement or a whip, but rather with loving encouragement. Do NOT use the word SHOULD, as it only tends to induce guilt and resistance. Nobody wants to be under somebody’s thumb, including their own! One strategy is to imagine an angel or some other “perfect friend” who is understanding of how you feel, compassionate, gentle, and strong; who can help you up, come up with a good idea of something to do, remind you that it will help you feel better, and accompany you. Or you can be that “perfect friend” for someone. It is much better to encourage and invite, and give the person options, rather than to take charge and force anything.

So remember that wonky elevator, and use the increase in activity to help you get where you want to go instead of trusting your inclination in this instance. As people with depression increase their activity levels, they feel more alive and engaged in the world, and this in itself can have a significant antidepressant effect.

LESSONS FROM NATURE

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We can learn a lot of wisdom from nature. Here are a few examples:

The Green Apple

We don’t look at a green apple on a tree and put pressure on it to ripen. We just wait, trusting that it will ripen when it is time to. Sometimes we put pressure on ourselves to make a decision when “the decision is not ready to be made” due to various circumstances such as insufficient information or time or alack of readiness to make it for whatever reason. Identifying this phenomenon of a decision not being ready to be made, when it is appropriate, and likening it to the ripening apple, can be very helpful in taking undue pressure off ourselves.

The Flowing Creek

Inspired by the creek water that doesn’t try to control where it’s going, or get upset when it comes upon a rock in its way, but easily adapts by just flowing alongside or over the rock, we can strive to “go with the flow”, and be adaptable and flexible, coming up with “Plan B” without a lot of upset and drama, feeling like a victim of life, or believing that we should be able to control life. Trusting life in this way makes it much easier for us and those around us.

The Rosebud

We don’t judge a rosebud, criticising it for not being a rose in bloom yet. We appreciate it for its beauty, and know that it is not yet finished its journey. We also accept it for where it is along its development (as it accepts itself). So each of us is not yet finished our ongoing journey of growth, yet we are still loveable and acceptable, with our limitations and our beauty. Rather than judgement, we deserve acknowledgement of our inherant preciousness. Just think of how much strife could be prevented if people just accepted their age, rather than wishing they were older when they’re young, just to start wishing they were younger some years later!

The Fruit Tree

Have you ever picked cherries, or some other type of fruit or berry? One of th things I really enjoy about picking fruit is the profound sense of abundance I get as I marvel at how the tree is simply laden with fruit. Another image of abundance is a field of wildflowers. Going through life with a perspective of abundance vs. one of scarcity has a big impact on our experience of life, even though the circumstances may be identical for the two individuals.

The Deciduous Tree

Every fall, the leaves change color, die, and fall off the tree, serving as ongoing enrichment of the soil. The following spring, the tree develops buds then a full complement of green leaves in the summer. Each year the cycle repeats itself.

There is a natural cycle of life and death that has been going on for ages, and will continue to do so.

The Sunflower and Walrus

The sunflowers turn to face the sun. Walruses and cats enjoy lying in the sun. All beings seek pleasure. We do not need to feel guilty about seeking pleasure, whether it is also lying in the sun, relaxing with a book, or dancing. We are meant to enjoy life.

Throughout the plant and animal kingdom, there are innumerable examples of ingenious adaptive mechanisms. Self-care is a natural and vital duty, though one that is often somewhat neglected, or done with guilt. Also, it is healthy to adapt to changes in our surroundings or circumstances.

The Forest of Trees

No tree is identical to another, and no tree is perfectly symmetrical. Yet each tree is so beautiful, and together they make a beautiful forest. The trees do not compare themselves with each other, nor are they threatened by differences. If only we humans could stop comparing and being threatened by innocent differences, recognizing that each of us is beautiful, and appreciting the richness that comes with our differences! As the trees each get the sun that they need, we would do well to trust that thereis plenty of love to go around. Unlike man’s competitive ego, the forest doesn’t ask who can take the BEST picture of it, but knows that an infinite number of amazing shots can be taken, and welcomes them all. We could do with less competitiveness and focus on achievement, and more appreciation of ourselves and others, even if we’re not THE BEST or famous.

EMPOWERMENT & ACCEPTANCE

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You may have heard the popular Prayer of Serenity:

God grant me the courage to change the things that I can,

The serenity to accept the things that I cannot,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Here we will be expounding on it.

Often, due to past experiences, people can have a tendency to feel powerless and hopeless, feeling that there is nothing they can do about a situation, when in fact they may be able to at least attempt to effect a desired change. Certainly, when one doesn’t try, the chance of success is zero. When one tries, success still may not be achieved, but at least some positive change may be possible. For example, if we’re talking about a spouse’s behaviour, whereas it is true that anybody else’s behaviour is beyond our control, that does not mean that we cannot possible have any influence on it. By communicating calmly and effectively about your feelings and needs and having healthy boundaries (rather than remaining silent and resentful or blowing up), you are most likely to get positive change. Or if you want to ask a girl out or get into a field of studies, it won’t happen if you don’t go for it. Having felt powerless in the past does not mean that you are weak or incapable. Empowerment is feeling the truth in the present that you are important, capable, strong, and determined to do your best in a situation that matters to you.

There are other things, however, that we truly cannot change and are a fact that is entirely beyond our control. This includes many things such as the weather,having broken your leg, missed the bus, being diagnosed with cancer and so forth. We can never fight against reality and win. Reality will win 100% of the time. What is is. Obviously, minor things are easier to accept than major things. Keep in mind that accepting something does not mean liking it or condoning it. It simply means acknowledging that that is the way it is, and that you cannot change it, therefore you choose to not fight the losing battle, but instead choose to have the peace of accepting it. You can still be wishing it was different. All you’re really doing is giving up the losing battle. Fighting it only robs you of your peace, and can delay moving on to looking at how to best handle the situation. For example, once a person has accepted being out of a job, he can turn his attention to once again earning an income or pursuing wrongful dismissal, or whatever. The more major the loss, the longer the process can be to reach acceptance. The sooner a person is able to accept a situation, the better off they are, for the peace that it brings them, as well as the ability to move on and focus on how to best constructively take any action. For example, one can accept a diagnosis they wish they didn’t have, and then go ahead with treating it as effectively as possible. One can make a conscious decision to accept something, knowing it is beyond their control, and wishing the peace that acceptance brings. It is much easier to accept things when one does not take things personally. For example, if one does not feel like a victim or “cursed”, and realizes that he is worthy and that bad things happen to everybody, acceptance is easier. Also, if one realizes that he lost his job because of the economic climate, and not because he was unappreciated, not good enough, or hated, acceptance is much easier. Like forgiveness, acceptance isn’t necessarily an all or none phenomenon; people can struggle with fluctuating levels of it, and may need to keep choosing acceptance repeatedly.

So when you’re faced with a situation that isn’t something that has already occurred, don’t assume there is nothing you can do, but wonder if you might be able to effect some change even if there is no guaranteed success. Invite yourself into a state of empowerment and handle the situation from there. If, on the other hand, something is a reality that cannot be changed, invite yourself into acceptance as soon as you are able, as you will appreciate the peace that comes with it.

WHY DO WE SUFFER?

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                                        WHY DO WE SUFFER?

 

I OFFERED A PRAYER TO GOD

I asked for strength. God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom. God gave me problems to solve.

I asked for prosperity. God gave me brawn and brain to work.

I asked for courage. God gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for patience. God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.

I asked for love. God gave me troubled people to help.

I asked for favors. God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted. I received everything I needed.

Today is the last day of your life……..so far.

Anonymous
Imagine with me a purely hypothetical situation in which your life is characterized by lying in a hammock on a beach without a care in the world, with the temperature and breeze just right, and your drink automatically refilling itself. If your whole life was characterized by moments such as these, would you develop courage? Compassion? Wisdom? Strength? Perseverance? The ability to trust? To forgive? To have faith?

It would be impossible to deely develop any of the character traits that we value so much if life was totally free of challenges.

At a school Rememberance Day Assembly many years ago, I was very moved by a song that alluded to rain as being God’s tears (Please substitute whatever term works for you-for simplicity’s sake I will use “God” here.)  I believe that God loves each of us so much that He cares about every single tear and sliver. And even though He has so much compassion for every bit of pain we have, He cares even more about our character development – just like we as parents care a lot about our children’s pain, but care MORE about their character development.

Life on earth is a bittersweet experience, full of beauty, love, and wonderful experiences, and also with its share of pain and losses of various kinds. Some of the wonderful experiences are the insights that life teaches us as we come across challenges to handle.

If you can trust that everything happens for a reason, including negative experiences, it will make your total amount of suffering less:  you will be trusting that you are loved and that there is meaning. This is what Victor Frankl used to maintain his sense of hope and integrity at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. After he was released, he wrote of his experiences there and of the “logotherapy”, or therapy based on making meaning, that he subsequently developed in his best-selling book “Man’s Search For Meaning”. This book sold over 50 million copies! This is in contrast to thinking that you are experiencing meaningless suffering, or are perhaps being punished.

The famous phrase “No doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should” comes from the ancient poem Desiderata that was written in Sanskrit thousands of years ago. It is a frequent source of comfort for many. On a similar vein, I love the poetry of a phrase I read in one of Eckhart Tolle’s books: ”Every snowflake lands where it is supposed to”. Living with this trust in life makes it much easier to accept the things that we do not like. Believing that “every cloud has a silver lining”, one can live with developing the habit of looking for these silver linings, though they may not become apparent til much later, and sometimes not at all.

After all, we tend to find what we look for, whether it’s silver linings, or proof that one is a victim. You can choose. Which do you think will serve you better?

WHAT IS GOOD AND WHAT IS BAD? THE STORY OF THE CHINESE FARMER

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One day, a wise Chinese farmer lost his favorite horse to a  herd of wild horses.  When he shared this news with the villagers that evening, there was much dismay, people saying “Isn’t that terrible?” etc.  The wise man simply replied “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

About 10 days later, he discovered that the horse had returned.  Upon hearing this, the empathetic villagers cheered and said things like “Isn’t that wonderful?”, to which he again replied “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

A few days after that, the man’s 19 yr old son was out riding this horse.  The horse got spooked by a barking dog and bucked, throwing off the rider, who broke his leg in the fall.  When the villagers heard of this, they again  exclaimed “What a shame!” etc.  The father said his usual “Maybe yes, maybe no”.

A couple of weeks later, war broke out in the land.  All the healthy young men were required to go fight, but the man’s son did not have to go to war and risk losing his life, because he had a broken leg.

 

This story displays how we as humans are often quick to see things simply and judge things as good or bad.  However,  life is so complex, and over time we can often see the good that came out of the bad, and vice versa.  Appreciating the complex aspects of events, and seeing  the broad picture over time rather than the narrow focus of this day, helps us navigate life.  With our egos, we tend to feel certain that we know what is best for us, and get our hopes dashed when it doesn’t come to pass.  It is much easier on us if we can humbly acknowledge that we don’t really know what’s best for us, and trust life.  This helps us with acceptance, which of course is necessary for peace.  Often the good that comes out of a very challenging time is the personal growth that one realizes afterward has taken place as a result. 

Despite this, we should, of course, continue to show empathy and celebrate with each other, as the kind villagers in the story did.  It is just very helpful to be mindful of the big picture.