Relationships and happiness

I just got through two paragraphs, reading a blog about relationships, and suddenly realised my husband and I have been together for almost 27 years. “Why are we so happy with each other, so happy together?” my husband asked me earlier today. I shrugged. “We’ve worked on it. Most people don’t.” I sincerely believe relationships are an art that needs to be practised, a skill-set that can be developed, like anything else in the world.

That might not sound incredibly romantic, but if grounded pragmatism bores you I can broaden the scope and tell you that I also believe my husband and I dreamed each other into being, beginning in childhood. We already ‘knew’ each other before we met. We were brought together by a star that has kept us orientated on one another, so we don’t lose out bearings. But that stuff is our private magic, the sacred stories we share in the right moment at the right time, around a campfire with friends.

Let me tell you instead about the practical magic I feel can be applied to any relationship to help it bloom and flourish, and seeing as most of what I’ve learned I’ve learned from my husband, I’d better check in with him and convey to you what he thinks are the secrets behind a good relationship. But he’s watching the football now, so I’ll let him soak up that joy while I immerse myself in the bliss of the written word and I’ll ask him when he comes to tell me about the game.

My husband and I have learned that you have to meet each other half way. You aren’t in a relationship if you aren’t willing to do this, you are just pretending. Relationships are about compromise and negotiation, about being prepared to give a bit because you love the other person and what you have together. Half way. That means don’t be a stubborn pain the neck, and or let the other person act like a spoiled brat. Love doesn’t do that. Love cares about itself AND the other person.

Find a middle ground, or take turns. It really is that simple. You aren’t right all the time. Neither are you wrong all the time. You can’t have what you want all the time, but neither should you constantly sacrifice your needs like some heroic martyr. The beautiful thing is, that when two people love each other, beyond speaking up to express your needs and feelings (with kindness and respect), you don’t usually have to argue your position much or fight for what you need, because the one who loves you will hear you and meet you half way, at the very least, just as you will do for them.

Good relationships are about kindness. My husband and I don’t always agree, but we have learned to argue (debate) with kindness, and with respect for one another. We don’t tear each other to shreds, but we do express hurt, disappointment, frustration and so on. You can do all of that without fighting dirty. Don’t do or say what you will regret later. Don’t damage the relationship, because arguments are just arguments. They pass.

And it helps to have a wee bit of a sense of humour. It truly can be hilarious when you realise you’ve heard it all before (your own carry on) and your partner is finding clever, light-hearted ways to point this out to you.

My husband finished the game. I just asked him what the secrets to a good relationship are. “Having fun together. I could give you an entire list. Sharing experiences together. Having children together. Travel…. I think honestly is important. That means being able to be yourself and letting each other be who you are. You find you mould each other into perfection anyway, in the end.”

Anyway, that’s his wisdom for now, and mine, because now we’ve got some great conversations to have together.

 

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

Conflict Green Aura Colour

Screenshot 2015-11-08 09.13.18You might be looking at this flat 2D image on the page and thinking “it’s beautiful!” (I agree!), but keep in mind, aura colours are three-dimensional, moving, and experienced by the auric practitioner in a multi-sensory manner. A specific aura colour can be beautiful in one aura or situation, but quite ugly or toxic in another. You simply can’t capture the range of expression or the sensory detail in a flat 2D image! Neither can I find one name to describe each colour that adequately sums up it’s entire character, both positive and negative.

In its most positive form, this emerald green colour is like a dense forest of greenery. When it becomes unhealthy, it can take on a green-black slimy sheen, looking more like a nest of writhing snakes, or oil on water at the bottom of a dark well. The darker forms of this colour can have an acrid or unpleasant charcoal taste, like something burned that is also foul.

When I find this colour in the aura during a healing, it often appears as tangled energy lines in the heart chakra, or in the aura space between the client’s heart chakra and that of someone they love (and sometimes hate!). My job as the healer is to untangle the lines and bring the client’s awareness to the unhealthy relationship dynamic they are caught up in, so that they can begin to overcome it. The untangled energy lines makes this work of self-change easier for the client to accomplish, by providing temporary clarity, but they will re-tangle themselves eventually if the client doesn’t work on changing their behaviours. It’s a bit like going to a masseur: the massage therapist can massage out the knots in your muscles, but the knots will keep coming back if you don’t address stress, posture and general self-care.

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Reflective Emotional Listening

This is a term I came up with after working with a couple who I realised were having trouble hearing each other emotionally. Both of them felt as though their feelings were going unheard by the other, and this was driving a wedge between them.

I based my idea on ‘Reflective Listening’, which I talk about in my book Aura Colour Therapy in the section about the aura colour I call ‘Listen Blue’. Here is an excerpt:

“Listen Blue enhances our ability to listen attentively and focus on the person who is speaking, so we can gather knowledge and skills. To ensure we have heard and understood, we need to repeat the instructions or information back to the speaker or teacher using our own words. This is called active listening. We cannot listen actively if our mind wanders off, we interrupt people, or we mentally compose what we are going to say next while the other person is still speaking.”


Reflective Emotional Listening by comparison, places emphasis on hearing the emotions being expressed, rather than just the words or facts, and reflecting these emotions back to the person speaking. This serves two functions. First, it keeps the lines of communication open between you while you go through the process of ensuring that you have clearly understood what the other person is saying. Secondly, it helps the speaker feel heard and felt.

We hear the words another person says through the filter of our own psyche, with all it’s conditioning, wounds, insecurities, preconceptions and unique values systems. The reflective emotional listening process can help us hear what the other person is attempting to communicate about their feelings without so much of our own stuff getting in the way and muddying the waters. It helps switch the emphasis off self onto other and hopefully by-pass or at least reduce our own defensiveness and reactivity in response to another person’s feelings.

The first time I used this technique in clinic, I asked the man in the relationship to express how he felt to his wife. He did so and then paused, waiting for her response. I had asked her to try reflective emotional listening, but on her first attempt, she reacted emotionally to what her husband was saying, took it personally, and became defensive. Instead of using reflective emotional listening, she justified and explained herself. She wanted to be understood without first making an attempt to understand. Naturally, her husband felt exasperated and rolled his eyes.

So we tried again a second time. New behaviours always take practise and our first attempts might be a little messy and muddled, but that’s okay! You just keep trying.

On her second attempt, she managed to avoid being defensive, but instead of using reflective emotional listening, she started offering solutions. The implied message was ‘If you just listen to me, take my sensible advice and do as I say, everything will be fine.’ Again, her husband saw red, because she wasn’t listening to his feelings.

Being defensive by justifying and explaining, or offering unsolicited advice, are two listening strategies that often don’t work when someone wants to talk about their feelings. Explaining and offering solutions can come later, if need be, AFTER you hear a person’s feeling and reflect them back…. but not before. Defending and providing solutions can make people feel unheard and they will tend to become reactive or shut down the communication because it seems pointless to them. Not feeling heard and felt by another person can make us feel isolated and disconnected from them.

The third attempt was an event worth waiting for. Not only did she use top-quality reflectively emotional listening, it sounded heart-felt and authentic! Her husband’s reaction was amazing! Gone was the anger and the stony face. A softness washed over his features and a small glimmer shone in his eyes. He turned to face her completely, and said “Yes! That’s how I feel” Then he added to this, explaining his feelings more deeply. His wife continued to reflect his feelings back to him and her went deeper and deeper.

I could see light-bulbs going off for both of them. Feeling heard and having his feeling reflected back to him helped the husband understand his feeling with greater clarity. The openness from his wife enabled him to break through his emotional stagnation (to the exasperated listener this stagnation can sound like a broken record or ‘complaining’). Feeling felt helped him process the emotion and take it to the next step. Likewise, his wife was hearing so much more than she had every heard before and was really starting to grasp the depth of his feeling, and the complexity of it. She was empathising with him.

The most beautiful part of all of this was that the husband, through the exchange unfolding between them, arrived at his own perfect solution.

It can be very difficult to stay detached enough to be a good listener, especially when emotions are running high and you feel as though you are being attacked, or that you should rescue the other person from their situation by offering solutions. Solutions can seem perfectly obvious to us when we’re standing on the outside, but the other person isn’t us and we aren’t standing in their shoes. Helping another person process their own emotions by being a good listener is a fantastic way to help them find their own answers.

You can practise this process at home with your loved ones. It might be challenging at first, but it gets easier with practise. I also ask my clients to express themselves in ways that are respectful towards one another as much as possible, even when emotions are running high. You can still argue and be kind to each other.

Here are some examples of reflective emotional listening.

HUSBAND: “I had a really crappy day at work! That new boss did it to me again, looking over my shoulder and correcting everything! I’m sick of it!”

Reflective emotional listening:

“Wow, sounds like a horrible day. It’s must be pretty awful having someone micro-managing you all the time.”

Show some interest and invite your partner to tell you more. From here, your partner can respond, by adding information about how they feel, and you can continue with reflective emotional listening to facilitate their emotional processing. Hopefully the intense emotion will discharge a little as the conversation continues, via the process of feeling heard. You partner may even come up with a helpful perspective or strategy to improve the situation they are unhappy about.

If the person expressing can’t shift out of this emotional state after plenty of reflective listening on your behalf, you may need to gently shift gears and be more proactive, but only do this AFTER you have empathised with them. They will be far more receptive to suggestions, distractions and reframing once they have felt emotionally heard.

Here’s another example:

WIFE: “I can’t believe you stayed back late at work again! It seems like it’s always me  picking up the kids and cooking dinner. I’ve had enough!”

A very basic reflective emotional listening response might sound like this “So you feel fed up and exhausted, and you’re angry with me because I’m not doing my fair share?” But be careful. Tone and nuance is important and when people are upset with us, it doesn’t cost much to extend some warmth, even if we are feeling misunderstood, judged etc. If you can respond in a more loving manner, you will diffuse some of the angst and hopefully put the other person in a position where they feel more emotionally receptive to hearing your side of the story. Here’s a modified version showing more warmth:

HUSBAND’S RESPONSE: “It has been happening a lot lately. I’m so sorry. I really appreciate everything you do, and all the amazing support you’ve been giving me. I’m really close to getting this submission completed. Maybe I could bring it home and do it after the kids go to bed. I love you so much and I don’t want you to feel I’m taking advantage of you, or that I don’t care about how you feel.”

In this situation (when someone is cross with you) offering solutions is actually a good idea… self-responsible solutions that is, not the ‘you need to do this’ (e.g. get over it) kind of solution.

Give what you most what to receive: If you want to be heard and understood, give this to the people you want it from and you are more likely to receive it in turn.

Words of Love

What’s your language of love? Mine is words of praise and my husband knows it, and plays it to his advantage. Clever man. Here’s a husband quote:

“Every time I’m near you I get feelings of pure ecstasy that form naturally in my heart and then shoot through my bloodstream.”

Not only that, he nearly died from happiness after tasting my latest cake and said really nice things about that too.

And I just overheard him saying to his friend: “She’s famous around Australia for her lentil burgers.”

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Discontent vs Contentedness

QUESTION FROM A STUDENT:

There is something I am confused about:

On the one side people say, you have all you need in yourself..you are whole and complete. That is my experience as well. I have come so far with this that I have moments where I am happy or see myself totally happy/content/..  , it doesn’t matter what is happening outside of me. After the principle: I am who I am; even if life is not working smoothly for me, I am still the same person, with or without stress, which means I can be happy whenever I decide to. I am whole.

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