How Keeping the Love You Find Can Help You End Painful Patterns
By Wendy Palmer Patterson
Have courage? Ask yourself the question, what is it like to be in relationship with me?
So many of us have hurt histories with our significant others and we aren’t at all clear what is wrong with our ‘pickers’. Do we select partners so poorly that we repeat painful patterns?
A woman recently told me that she had a series of relationships with full blown narcissists and she couldn’t figure out why. Her hurt and pain with not being ’seen’ and cared for by her partners was long and deep. What’s happening here?
We are often very good at analyzing others. Some of us are experts at the game of guessing, assuming, and convincing ourselves that we know what someone else is thinking, feeling, wanting, or doing. We then make decisions about how to be with these spotlighted, special people. “He wants me to be… “She needs me to be… “”I know you want… “ Any of these sound familiar?
As small children being able to figure out what the big people wanted, and when to come to them or away from them, was survival. Consequently, we trained ourselves to watch carefully and act accordingly. Unfortunately, our lens for that ‘looking’ was very immature and survival based. As adults, we need different lenses for relating.
We think a new and better choice for living well is to reverse the gaze and focus our attention on self-reflection. Finding the time, energy, and ability to look in the mirror, to ask ourselves important questions, and to be willing to see ourselves as others see us, can be transformative. These are not skills that most of us learned nor saw from others. How many of us saw an adult consider and then offer “ You know, I made a mistake there. I caused you pain because I wasn’t thinking about the consequences of what I was doing. A better way I could have handled that might have been to…” I certainly didn’t.
Along with learning about our impact on others, receiving love turns out to be one of the most difficult challenges we have in our relationships. We think this is because we have developed so many defenses and filters to keep us safe that we also keep ourselves in a cage. We started this ‘caging’ as young children. We figured out how to please, avoid pain, and shape ourselves for success. The long-term result is that those clever protections became bars that limit us in our abilities to relate. Our learnings about how to be in relationship were very well programmed in early childhood. We had to figure out what it took to get along with our siblings, our parents, and all those other significant people who could make our lives good or make our lives bad. We did not typically learn great relationship skills in childhood because we were not fully conscious and we didn’t know that that’s what we were doing.
It turns out that relating well requires good skills. It also requires figuring out ways to be our most authentic selves and to receive well from others. We want our intentions and our impact to match up. We need to learn how to really listen. We need to learn how to transfer our hurt and frustrations into effective communications that make our lives better and more pleasurable. We need to learn how to ask well for what we want. We need to make good repairs. We need to know what it is like to be in relationship with us. We also need to listen to the stories we tell ourselves and consider them from a new and adult perspective.
The great thing is that we can learn these skills now. Once a year P2 offers such an opportunity through our workshop for individuals called Keeping the Love You Find. I am proud to be part of teaching a class that can introduce and expand all of these into useable tools for relating.
Come join us in this workshop in June. I think it is one of absolute best offerings we have. Participants are single, committed, married, divorcing. They attend because of curiosity and because of pain. Everyone is there to be more self aware. (Hey I made a rhyme!)…The focus is all on ourselves, but we have found ways to help you “reverse the gaze” that are interesting, safe, and even fun! Would love to have you…
To Register for Keeping the Love You Find, Click Here
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