Relax…The Earth Won’t Stop Spinning

We often find ourselves so consumed with life’s demands that we fail to step back, ground ourselves, and keep everything in perspective. Like a computer, the failure to reboot our perceptual systems can leave us functioning less than optimally and enduring unwanted and unnecessary stress.

We endure our share of appropriate stress as the journey of life unfolds. From birth to death, we encounter circumstances that exceed our current capacities. As the invitation to expand and elevate beyond the limits of the current self is presented, the shift from mastery to novice awakens insecurities.

Mastery in any aspect of life offers an element of certainty. With certainty comes security and with security comes comfort. Where mastery is absent, we are left with the humility of our limitations and the discomfort of undiscovered, or underdeveloped, capacities within the self for which life’s growth opportunities demand. Being challenged in such ways naturally results in stress.

At the intersection of appropriate stress and unnecessary stress is the loss of perspective. When confronted with circumstances where solutions are not readily accessible, the presence and severity of the challenge intensifies. Our focus narrows and we become increasingly problem-focused, inhibiting the creativity required for brainstorming solutions or finding a path toward resolution. The result is the syndrome of mental, emotional, and physiological experiences we call stress.

We cannot eliminate stress but it can be minimized substantially by engaging, consistently, in certain psycho-spiritual practices. Loss of perspective most commonly occurs when we find ourselves consumed with the immediacy of the seemingly 10,000 tasks we must attend to with regularity.

Consider diving off a 10-meter diving board. The perspective is much different standing on the platform than it is once engulfed by the waters below. We are engulfed in life’s responsibilities and need to surface and exit the pool frequently. Perspective and perception differs greatly from a place of detachment vs. immersion.

The following strategies are effective tools that allow us to regain and maintain perspective. They serve to reduce stress and aid in the maintenance of our overall psycho-spiritual functioning and well-being.


One of the most effective forms of detachment is meditation. I have been an on/off practitioner of meditation for almost 20 years. Life always works better when I am engaged in this practice. Things seem to magically fall into place and there is an effortless ease to life that does not exist when I do not consistently meditate.

While there are many styles of meditation, I engage in hybrid form of prayer and meditation. I sit quietly for a period of time and simply observe my breath. Then, I focus my attention on various affirmations that are personal to my experience, followed by a return to observing my breath and any sensations my body experiences. Sitting periods are anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Expect your mind to wander, often quite a distance from your breath. When this occurs, simply return your focus to the breath.

One of the benefits of this process is developing the muscle of detachment and observation. It is the practice of separating self from experience, which allows the self to be centered and grounded in the midst of experience. The effect is the development of increasing capacity to remain calm during the storms life brings.

Meditation, various forms of breath work, and practices such as progressive muscle relaxation affect our physiology. When under stress, the fight, flight, freeze response is activated. Certain hormones are released resulting in various sensations experienced in the body- jitteriness, tightness, heart palpitations, increased heart rate, or feeling like you are going to jump out of your own skin. Such practices help us decrease physiological arousal more efficiently and maintain longer and more consistent states of equanimity.

Conscious Control of Thoughts and Beliefs

We engage in practices such as meditation with intention. The same intentionality can be used to direct, redirect, and challenge thoughts and beliefs that lead to needless suffering.

When asked, “how are you?” I often respond by saying, “I could complain but it wouldn’t change anything.” That’s not completely true because complaining makes things worse. If I am complaining, my thoughts are focused on what I do not want. What I focus on, I attract. So, I attract more to complain about and it becomes a vicious cycle that leaves me in a persistent state of disharmony.

When stressed, or anxious, we tend to assume a problem-focused orientation, instead of a solution-focused orientation. We go into impossibility thinking or entertain worst case scenarios. As these thoughts circulate through consciousness, they intensify the fight, flight, freeze response moving us further from the front part of the brain where problem-solving capacities exist. Reducing physiological arousal through practices such as meditation assists in bringing the prefrontal cortex back online enhancing the capacity to take our thought process off auto-pilot and direct its course.

A useful strategy when anxious or stressed is to take whatever worst case scenario you may be imagining and exaggerate it. Once we arrive at the conclusion that no one will die, it helps to recalibrate our perception.

Exaggerating worst case scenarios places our inner experience of a situation, which can often be at the level of life and death, in its proper perspective. So, in the words of one of my former teachers, “Relax. The earth won’t stop spinning and we all won’t go flying off into space.”

Think for a moment. Has anything you have every worried yourself to madness about ever not worked out in the end? Reflecting on this question is useful in fostering perspective. Granted, we do not always get the outcome we desire and painful emotions are an inescapable reality of lived experience, but we make it through and move forward with our lives.

Think, for a moment, about one or two really stressful circumstances from two or three years ago that have been resolved. Now reflect on how you felt and what you thought about those circumstances prior to its resolution. Compare that to how you think and feel about those experiences now…if you think about them at all.

It is instructive on multiple levels to remain mindful that, if you are still breathing, you have weathered every storm. More are on the horizon, so trust that you have the capacity to weather the next.


As we explore the strategy of conscious control over thoughts and beliefs, the underlying principle of faith cannot be excluded. It can be faith born of history, belief in a higher power, or both. If the best predictor of the future is the past, our past dictates that this, too, shall pass. We will move beyond the current circumstance to resolution or adaptation.

If we believe in a higher power that serves our best interest, then all that life brings is understood at a core fundamental level as a gift and blessing despite any accompanying undesirable emotions. Affirmative prayer is a useful tool to reinforce faith and decrease the emotional impact of any stressful scenario. It involves connecting with the spirit of God within and asserting positive beliefs about a desired outcome. It reflects the certainty that we are each being led to our highest good, despite any temporary appearances.

The Present Moment

Take a few seconds to stop reading and focus on the present moment. Right now, not the past or the future; right now. Is anything wrong right now, in this moment? Likely, the answer is, no. Inner disturbance is often a function of lamenting the past or worrying about the future. In the present, there is peace. This exercise connects us to a sense of being in the present but life is also about doing.

Instead of lamenting the past, learn from it. Instead of needless worrying about the future, create a plan. Define goals, determine and prioritize action steps, then execute the plan one step at a time.

It is essential to approach our various obligations and responsibilities by attending to the needs of the present moment. What can be done right now is all that we can do. You can worry but it won’t change anything. It will only make things worse. So, relax, focus your energies and attention on what can be done right now, then, move to the next task.


I often return to the wisdom of a former college professor who once stated that perspective is everything. The depth of my understanding of these three simple words grows with each passing year. The practices described above help to create the necessary detachment that allows perspective to properly align with experience, reduce stress, and enhance well-being.

The next time you find yourself stressed or panicked, relax, and remind yourself that the earth won’t stop spinning and we all won’t go flying off into space.

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Non-Racist Racism


The Unconscious Mind

Anyone who has taken an introductory psychology class should remember Freud’s iceberg theory –  the conscious mind represents the visible part of the iceberg above water and the unconscious mind represents the part invisible to the naked eye. Just as the iceberg sinks into the depths of the sea, the unconscious mind represents the depths of the psyche; the mysterious realm of what is not yet known, seeking to reveal itself through our dreams.

Dreams are but one manifestation of the ascension of unconscious content into awareness. Defense mechanisms such as denial, projection, and rationalization are also pathways to the unconscious. Theoretical and technical advances in the field of psychology since Freud provide effective tools allowing us to peer into the unconscious and bring clarity to an often confused conscious mind.

Analyst D.W. Winnicott once stated, “We are consciously confused and unconsciously controlled.” Our decisions, choices, and actions are often dictated by unconscious forces, leaving us without explanation for much of our functioning.

We are typically content to move forward with little introspection, allowing forces beneath our awareness to dictate the course of our lives. Consumed by the busy-ness of life, we spend little time seeking to bring clarity to our confusion until the consequences of our behavior bring us to a pause.

A Call for Reflection

Collectively, our nation has been brought to a pause. The killing of nine innocent people in a house of worship left a nation wondering why and grappling, yet again, with the issue of race. The confederate flag waving, white supremacist rantings of the killer shown wearing a jacket with apartheid South African and Rhodesian flags provided a visible display of obvious racism.

In today’s United States overt racism, as evidenced by the average Klansman or Skinhead, is taboo. Most white folks are as offended at being labeled a racist as black folks are at being called a nigger; a far cry from the days when George Wallace passionately stated, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever” in his inaugural address as the newly elected governor of Alabama in 1963. Such is the desire to distance oneself from the traumas of a collective past yet to be healed.

In the 1960s, the nation was brought to a pause as it witnessed protesters being attacked by dogs and sprayed with fire hoses in the fight for Civil Rights. Legislative efforts to address the legalized racism of the Jim Crow era was the result; however, legislation does not change the human heart.

Centuries of racial conditioning, initially utilized to justify the inhumane treatment of African slaves and assert white supremacy, is not magically transformed overnight. However, negative generational and societally reinforced attitudes, beliefs, and feelings about black people became increasingly unacceptable in the years following integration.

In The Shadow of Race, the psychological transition of the United States to a post-overtly racist society is explored. Jung’s concept of shadow (what is hidden, repressed, and denied) is utilized to more fully understand the shift.

What exists today is an unconsciously racist society where acts of racism are committed, yet, the perpetrators deny racist inclinations. Essentially, the result is what some refer to as non-racist racism.

Guilt, Shame, and Shadow

Such mind-bending assertions make little sense without understanding the psychology behind them. Understanding shadow requires understanding shame and guilt. Guilt is a function of actions that defy moral conviction and its fraternal twin, shame, indicates a negative assessment of one’s personhood. The simple description is that guilt is an indication of wrong-doing and shame an indication of wrong-being.

My participation in racial healing endeavors reveals distinct reactions among the racial divisions of black and white. When exploring racism, in both past and present expressions, black people generally experience anger while white people generally experience guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are particularly evident when unconsciously held racial biases, stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes, beliefs, and actions become conscious.

Guilt and shame thrive in darkness and in darkness our shadows dwell. Casting light on the shadow of race is often met with resistance as the forces of guilt and shame are set in motion resulting in disconnection between self-perception (as a non-racist person) and emotions communicating a very different message.

Human emotion exists in both healthy and toxic forms. Guilt and shame are both indications of conscience and humility. When these energies are ignored, repressed, denied or unprocessed, they become toxic, generating equally toxic behaviors. Guilt, shame, and the dark shadows we seek to keep in the depths will find expression, leaving us confused in the wake of actions deemed “out of character” and seeking to justify them in some way.

I was engaged in a conversation with an older woman several months ago who claimed racism was no longer an issue in this country. She acknowledged that it was once dangerous for black men in this country, but “that ship has sailed.” This, in light of constant media coverage of unarmed black men being killed by police over the past year. She also felt the need to tell me about her one black friend and assert, as many do, that she does not see color.

In a recent discussion, a white male prided himself on not giving in to white guilt and shame during a heated interaction with a black male surrounding the subject of racism. Given the degree of hostility and anger directed toward me, it appears as if shame and guilt have been “cross-wired” and given expression as anger. Progress and healing will not occur if blacks succumb to anger and whites to shame and guilt. No one is served in that way. However, the suppression and cross-wiring of emotions is equally damaging. Healing occurs through identifying, owning, and processing one’s authentic experience. Such honesty requires great courage.

In both examples given, I am pretty certain neither party would accept the label of racist as an aspect of their being, or identity. For all the reasons expressed thus far, assigning a racist label to someone is an ineffective means of confronting racist behavior. The idea as outlined in this clip is to address the behavior, not the person. Still, defense mechanisms are powerful forces; especially in response to anything that suggests racist leanings.

A New Conversation about Race

Too few, across the racial spectrum, embark on the journey of learning about and healing racism. Most are content to live in the delusion that they are untainted by centuries of racial conditioning. Clearly, if one has been the beneficiary of racism (i.e. white privilege), it is easy to dismiss it as someone else’s problem, or, assert that we now live in a fair and balanced post-racial society. Only the psychologically and spiritually evolved among us would surrender privileged status and the advantages it affords for true equality and fairness.

I do not wish to imply that unconscious racism – racial biases, stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes, beliefs and actions that exist beneath conscious awareness – makes anyone a bad person. Many well-intentioned, well-meaning, good people simply lack awareness. No one is immune to the workings of the psyche; however, when the unconscious is revealed and a conscious choice to deflect or avoid is made, one loses credibility in being offended by accusations of racism.

The historical, social, economic, and political dimensions of racism frequently enter public dialogue. Rarely are the psychological dimensions of racism explored. While the unconscious component is but one facet, the psychology of racism is a perspective given too little attention and one that holds the potential to open new avenues for understanding, healing, and progress.

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Hope in the Midst of Hate


“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know” Pema Chodron

The history of African people and their descendants in the United States is characterized by an enduring fight for justice, freedom, and equality. A quick review of history reveals that recent events are simply another manifestation of a recurring pattern in that fight; another manifestation of the white supremacist pathology that birthed slavery, Jim Crow and, most recently, Charleston.

The Abolitionist Movement fought to end slavery. The Civil Rights Movement fought to end the legalized discrimination of the Jim Crow south. Today we find ourselves fighting, more directly, the ideology that lies at the core of slavery, Jim Crow, and modern domestic terrorism perpetrated by corrupt cops and the Dylan Roof’s of America.

During the last year, race has been in the forefront of our nation’s consciousness. We bore witness to eighteen year old Michael Brown’s bullet-riddled body laying lifeless for hours on a hot Missouri street. Uncovered and on display for all to see, it harkened back to the days when southern trees bore strange fruit; “black bodies swinging in a southern breeze”.

As fate would have it, this was not an isolated event (if it has ever been). America would not be allowed to fall conveniently back to sleep. In part, a function of the subsequent protests and riots in response to the Ferguson incident, similar events occurring before and after were brought to the nation’s attention.

The following list represents stories given significant national attention during the past year. A more detailed list of unarmed people of color killed by police from 1999 – 2014 can be found here.

Eric Garner, 43, New York, NY — July 17, 2014

John Crawford III, 22, Beavercreek, OH — August 5, 2014

Akai Gurley, 28, Brooklyn, NY — November 20, 2014

Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, OH — November 22, 2014

Walter Scott, North Charleston, SC — April 4, 2015

Freddie Gray, 25, Baltimore, MD — April 19, 2015

Indeed, the list goes on and so did the protests. The national conversation on race, typically called for when racism rears its ugliness, could not be silenced or fade. In the wake of the terrorist attack/hate crime in Charleston, South Carolina, the conversation only intensified.

The Role of Social Media

While protests, riots, and the events that birthed them contributed to the continuing conversation, social media provided the arena in which was held. Social media expanded the reporting of news and events in ways traditional media has not and cannot.

Information, views, and perspectives often non-existent through traditional news sources find expression on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to social media, I have found hope in the midst of so much hate.

I am in awe of the numbers of people of all demographics, especially those of European descent (Caucasian, Anglo, White), who are taking a stand despite the risks, speaking up against racism, and challenging white denial, avoidance and obliviousness.

Were it not for the courage of such men and women, ending slavery would have been a much more difficult, if not impossible, task. The same is true of the Civil Rights movement. Whites fought, and died, along with Blacks during those turbulent years. In what numbers, I do not know. I suspect far less than I have the privilege of witnessing today. Through the vehicle of social media, I see and hear an opposition to the status quo on a scale I never knew existed.

Echoes of the Past

Indeed, a change has come, but deeply entrenched white supremacist ideology persists. I suspect those who separate heritage and hate in defense of the confederate flag are modern manifestations of those who opposed equal and fair treatment under the law since the days Reconstruction ended. I suspect those who seek to justify law enforcement murdering unarmed black men are modern versions of those who cheered as police unleashed attack dogs on Birmingham protesters in 1963.

If the desire to end racism is genuine, white allies must continue to challenge their fellow white brothers and sisters. It is a very different experience to be challenged by fellow members of the dominant group on issues such as racism (and it’s various forms), white privilege, and the influence of history on current circumstances than by members of the non-dominant group.

Psychologically, it is too easy to question the credibility of the latter or assume ulterior motives. Of course, the defensive posture often assumed with other white individuals is to dismiss them as liberals. I suspect the term liberal, in this regard, is the modern equivalent of “nigger lover”.

Even with the progress made, not enough members of the dominant group have a sincere desire to know and understand race matters; even less, a sincere desire to know for the purpose of making a difference. Others are more interested in the sport of debating, while others are either bigots or assume such a defensive posture (or both) that what emerges is venomous anger.

Consider the debate regarding the confederate flag. How might that debate unfold if held through the lens of compassion and empathy; seeing it and feeling it through the experience of the other? Would there even be a debate?

Consider the conversation about white privilege. I am always amazed by the denial and defensiveness that comes in response to this issue. As man of color, there are certain privileges I enjoy – male, college educated, able-bodied, middle class, etc. Understanding one’s privilege comes when it is either lost or when one is empathic and compassionate enough to see through the lens of others who do not share that privilege.

Becoming an Ally

I am blessed to be affiliated with the Center for the Healing of Racism; an organization that seeks to heal the wounds of racism and divisiveness. It was through CFHR that I learned about allies. Every year, the organization honors individuals taking bold and courageous action to rid the world of racism.

I am also blessed to have a circle of friends committed to personal growth, diversity, and acceptance. In the safety and sacredness of that space I can bring all of who I am, even the rage that swells within in response to racism and the tactics used to minimize it, deny it, deflect it, avoid it, or redirect it, and give those energies expression. The disturbing reality of racial hatred exposed in the South Carolina attack left many asking “what can I do?”

The bold action taken by the honorees of CFHR’s awards banquet is not a requirement to be an ally, nor does it represent the criteria for taking action. Below are a few ideas about what can be done.

1. One must engage in deep soul-searching to determine his/her own racial biases and prejudices and their manifestations. We have all been conditioned along racial lines, exposed to inaccurate portrayals, generalizations and biased stereotypes. Honesty about biases that lay in the unconscious recesses of the psyche, finding occasional or frequent expression (often in ways we are not aware) is essential.

Writing off Dylan Roof as a racist is easy. The extreme nature of his crime penetrates the strongest denial. Where sincerity in the cause is shown is through the willingness to see racism, or any ism, in its more subtle expressions within ourselves and the people and institutions around us.

2. Make the choice to become conscious of the realities of racism, its historical foothold in the psyche of this country and its manifestations through the present day. Most lack proper education regarding the varied historical and institutional dimensions of racism and its impact, resulting in a skewed perspective on matters of equality and opportunity. Once educated, how and what one has been manipulated to believe is deconstructed.

3. Awakening and becoming aware is a beginning step, yet, has no transformational value unless translated into action. Evil prevails because good people do nothing. Many are content to sit quietly in the presence of racism but I believe many of those individuals hold non-racist attitudes. They must find the courage to speak up – take a stand against the confederate flag as merely a symbol of heritage, interrupt racist jokes, promote fairness and equity, challenge stereotypes and other expressions of divisiveness, form relationships with people who do not look like you.

4. Stop entertaining the intellectual jiu jitsu people use to rationalize and justify pro-racist positions and assert a lack of acceptance of such sentiments. The more the silent begin to act, the sooner we reach the tipping point where this nation truly lives its ideals and principles.

And, yes, there is great risk in taking a stand. That reality is not lost in these words, but, there is also great risk in maintaining the status quo. How much more blood are we willing to have on our hands? How many more innocent lives are we comfortable losing to death or incarceration? How many more cities do we wish to see ablaze?

Moving Toward a Truly “United” States

We are far from one nation under God with liberty and justice for ALL on many fronts. With regards to racism, I believe more strange fruit will be the cost of progress. Falling back asleep, especially in the era of the eight second attention span, is just too easy.

Look at all that has happened (and had to happen) since Ferguson –  deaths, protests, even the riots. If that is what it takes, let it be so. The fight for justice, equality, and freedom is not without cost and nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. Sadly, so many have so much to learn…but, still, I am hopeful.

The image above reflects the hope that we are moving toward a truly “United” States, where regardless of race, we stand for what is right, just, and moral. We stand with each other and for each other. To see a white person holding a sign that says black lives matter surrounded by a sea of white faces speaks volumes about where we have come, from the Abolitionist Movement, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the present day.

I am hopeful, more than ever before, that one day, we will reach a critical mass of the awakened where the ignorance and intolerance of the past gives way to enlightened acceptance and peaceful coexistence.

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What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 7)



Over the past few weeks, I shared a few lessons learned from 10 years of failed relationships. I conclude this series with one final thought about each of the posts. All require a certain level of inner strength, maturation and wholeness.

Life batters all of us to varying degrees and the resulting wounds impact our relationships. Life is also a process of growth and maturation. Some people are content to allow the process to unfold with little conscious effort while others, in the spirit of the Celestine Prophecy, choose to consciously evolve.

No one enters relationships whole. The journey of life in many ways is a journey toward wholeness. On a path where perfection is unattainable, there is always more work to do, higher levels of consciousness to attain and grander versions of ourselves to bring into being. Successful parenting does not require the perfect parent, only the good enough parent. Such is the case with successful relationships.

We must be mature enough, whole enough, intact enough, strong enough and secure enough. It requires the capacity to risk heartbreak, betrayal, rejection, abandonment and even annihilation knowing the odds of success may be minimal. This is a risk that can only be taken knowing that, regardless of what happens, I am unbreakable and I will not cease to move forward with my life’s vision.

Success requires an inner strength and resolve capable of the humility required for co-existence. We must accept our limitations as humans and be willing to own them when they manifest. We must possess the capacity to accept the limitations of our partners knowing they will fail us, sometimes in profound ways, and be willing to forgive. And…we must know what we will not tolerate.

Inner strength, maturation and wholeness allow us to lead as well as follow. We need not be the center of attention to the extent there is little room for our partner’s light to illuminate the relationship or exert control to the extent he/she becomes merely an object of gratification. Healthy relationships consist of two empowered individuals, capable of being fully independent and interdependent as well as supported and supportive of each other’s growth.

We must exercise the skills necessary for healthy interpersonal relations – frustration tolerance, emotional regulation, impulse control, communication, compromise and too many others to name. Without them we lose discernment, the balance between head and heart, and the capacity to meet inevitable challenges in ways that produce effective outcomes.

The most significant growth in our lives often comes from the relationships we enter. Inextricably linked to parental and familial experience, no other aspect of our lives recreates the intimacy of co-existence like romantic coupling. Old wounds are stimulated and patterns of relating, reacting and responding are illuminated, offering opportunities for healing and breaking free from unhealthy recurring patterns.

Paulo Coelho states that a mistake repeated more than once is a decision. Many of our recurring patterns are a function of not taking the time to learn from the past or do what is required to bring forth what lies beneath the surface. We must then channel awareness into successful action to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Psychotherapist Julia Hanks reminds us of the importance of empathy in creating a happy marriage. Intimacy, the experience of seeing into and knowing your partner at the deepest levels, requires empathy – the willingness and ability to experience the world through the psychological lens of your partner.

The desire to understand, not judge, compels the act of empathy which allows us to hold space for our partner when the wounds of their past are revealed in the present. The Daily OM communicates to us, “…when we hold space for someone in need, we are offering a gift of the highest nature.” What greater gift to give to your partner and your relationship than your presence; especially during their darkest moments.

The Hidden Lesson

Reflecting on the lessons I learned from a decade of failed relationships, the hidden lesson of humility is revealed. Being the one constant in all of my relationships I am compelled first to look within; to embrace the mirror reflecting parts of myself I wish to deny and disown. Our relationships reveal our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We either maintain our denials or summon the courage to embrace the limitations of being human and commit to self-improvement.

What is more humbling than knowing that despite our best efforts, and all the love two people may have for each other, in the end, nothing is guaranteed. Life is an endeavor fraught with uncertainty yet few, if any, relationships are sustainable without the shift from a me orientation to a we orientation. A relationship is a shared endeavor where each party bears equal responsibility for its success, and for which consideration of one another is essential.

Sacrificing the need to be right or making our partners wrong simply because their opinions or functioning differs from ours underlies the principle of making your connection more important than your conflict. Again, a manifestation of humility only possible if we are secure and grounded in our own being.

Finally, fewer more humbling experiences exist than being entrusted with another’s vulnerability. This is not just about holding space but creating sacred space. Brene’ Brown cautions us to expose those parts of ourselves only to those who have earned the right to bear witness. Having earned that right is a sacred trust for which the ego knows it is unworthy.

Final Thoughts

It is important to view each blog in this series from the perspective of what you are giving and receiving in your relationships. Perhaps you are the one blaming your partner or not taking responsibility for your part in the relationship. Perhaps your partner is unable to hold space when life has come crashing down on you. What I have learned is a function of what I brought and failed to bring to my relationships, as well as what I received and failed to receive from my partners. No blame, ill feelings or condemnation are implied, only awareness of what was.

Despite the title of this series of blog posts, I do not believe in failure. We make decisions and choices based on the available inner resources and capacities we possess at any given time. In the end, there are only outcomes, lessons and the attainment of wisdom for the journey ahead.

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What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 6)


Holding Space

Don’t we all have enough enemies to contend with in life, human or circumstantial? Isn’t support one the reasons we partner with another human being on this challenging journey through life?

As an optimist, I see life filled with much beauty and wonder. The joys to behold are endless in both the profound and the simplistic. As a realist, I see the complexities of this journey and how life hurts us in ways that range from mere annoyances to profoundly traumatic.

I often say that no one escapes life unscarred. We are all wounded in multiple ways. It is simply the human condition. Disguised as curses, these experiences are our greatest blessings from which purpose, meaning and growth are sourced; a perspective only attainable once we have made it through the darkness of mental and emotional turmoil.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know,” asserts Pema Chodron. The wounds of the past often revisit us. Reactivated by a present event, we often find ourselves in the throes of psychological upheaval. The more extreme the reaction, the more unresolved the issue (and quite often, the more unconscious we are about it).

Nothing quite arouses old wounds like our romantic relationships. Our partners often become our enemies, paying for their sins and the sins of others from a near or distant past as they innocently and unknowingly trigger our unresolved issues.

A therapist that an ex-girlfriend and I once visited recommended we read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. She directed us specifically to the second agreement:

Don’t Take Anything Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

 Holding space is about providing a space for your partner to process through the thoughts and feelings that arise when old wounds resurface. Of critical importance is the capacity to detach from your partner’s experience, realizing it is about them, NOT YOU!

During the course of a relationship, people screw up. We, and our partners, have a right to our thoughts and feelings about those experiences. If we are truly committed to making the connection more important than the conflict, we will own our mistakes, make our amends and allow space for our partner to work through what comes up for them.

I am not saying this is easy, especially when your partner is legitimately upset with you. It is far easier to hold space when someone or something else has triggered your partner. I am saying that the ability to be there, in this way, for your partner creates safety, minimizes unnecessary conflict and strengthens the bond between the two of you.

Despite implied action in the term holding space, it is not particularly a doing function. Being with and being a presence for your partner is the only necessity. There is something very powerful and healing in simply being witnessed by another as we process through old wounds.

The capacity to be in the presence of someone working through an issue can be challenging. The classic example of the wife who only wishes to be heard and the husband who offers solutions come to mind. Sometimes people just need patience and a space to be held while they talk through an issue and arrive at their own resolution.

Thus far much emphasis has been placed on the partner dealing with a triggered mate. I would assert that the person triggered – the one who requires space to be held – has responsibility in this matter as well.

Inner strength, maturity and commitment to a harmonious relationship are required to be that presence for a partner. The same is true of us when we are triggered. It is essential we contain destructive verbal and behavioral impulses. After all, the most patient among us can only take being attacked for so long.

Where the present opens the door to what is unresolved from the past, the inner journey begins. An opportunity for healing is presented that will be lost if attention is directed externally. When triggered, a simple acknowledgment and ownership of that reality is sufficient. “You may have done _____________ but I’m having feelings about it and need to take a look at what that’s about.”

When partners understand the concept of holding space, agreements can made about how this technique can be utilized for the benefit of each partner as well as the relationship. Knowing that I am triggered, I can simply make the request, “can you hold space for me while I talk though my thoughts and feelings?”

It is important to understand there will be instances where your partner is unable to be that presence for you…and that is ok. This can be challenging for a partner for a number of reasons – work stress, fatigue or a 25 item to-do list. Perhaps they are in a vulnerable state themselves or cannot adequately detach from your reaction to be a loving, patient witness to your process.

It is ok to respectfully say to your partner that right now is not a good time. Acknowledge your partner’s struggle and let him/her know that you are not mentally or emotionally capable of giving him/her what they need, right now, and make an offer for the near future.

No one escapes the challenges of life unscarred. The unhealed wounds of the past linger in the psyche of each of us, waiting for the right provocation. The behavior of our partners, innocent and unintended as it may be, is often the key that unlocks the door of the past compelling us to look within.

An empathic partner able and willing to hold space is something we need, whether dealing with the past or a current challenge. Sometimes life is just hard and we need from our partners an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and/or their loving arms to fall into – a safe, sacred space to be held during our moments of vulnerability.

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What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 5)


Learn from the Past

In our day-to-day activities it is virtually impossible to be 100% in the present moment of each task we have to accomplish. We multi-task, shifting our focus among a multitude of want-to’s and have-to’s, often making mistakes or missing important details. I recall going to Starbucks one Saturday morning to work on a few things. I began by creating a to-do list which upon completion had 25 items on it. Did I mention it was Saturday?

Life is fast paced and we often fail to take enough time to slow down and catch our breath. Taking time for reflection is considered a luxury for many. Others revel in the insanity of busy-ness. Staying three steps ahead with constant distractions is one strategy to avoid painful realities one would rather not face.

I see this often, particularly when life has brought someone to a standstill and everything comes crashing against them. This is a very uncomfortable scenario yet one that offers important opportunities for learning, growth and ending recurring patterns.

Stillness and Reflection

Were it not for the reflective process, I could not share what I have learned over the last decade. I believe doing the work of therapy, counseling or coaching requires that one does his/her own work. Being just as human as the clients we serve, we must have a firm enough grasp on our stuff to remain objective and hold space for another to go through their process. I am certain I would have taken the road less traveled of conscious psycho-spiritual growth regardless of my career, but it is first and foremost a path of inner exploration for which stillness and reflection are essential.

I have attended more workshops and seminars than I can remember. I really do not like reading but have more books than my bookshelf can handle. I have jumped out of airplanes and traveled to distant places but the hardest thing I have done was to simply sit in silence.

I am referring to a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat where participants remained in complete silence for the duration of the retreat. No reading, writing, cell phones or computers were allowed. For 10 days, participants were totally and completely with themselves; no distractions, no escape. By far the hardest, most challenging thing I have EVER done in my life.

One of the lessons I learned is that it takes about three days of sitting in silence meditating to still the mind. Life is fast paced and the mind must keep up. We really have no idea how much our heads are spinning until we enter a context of stillness.

Take Time between Relationships

Serial relationships reflect the difficulty of being still. One relationship ends and the next one begins. Some are seeking their next partner before ending things with a current partner. This approach is detrimental in a number of ways.

When relationships end, loss is experienced. The longer and more significant the relationship, the greater the sense of loss. Loss requires grieving that moving quickly into another relationship inhibits. Grieving is important because it gives us the necessary emotional closure required to enter the next relationship cleanly, without the residue of the past.

We need time for re-grounding and re-centering. When intimately involved with another, our lives exist in the specific context of that relationship container. Autonomous beings we may be but our relationships influence our sense of self. We are who we are in the context of our relationships and when they end it is necessary to rediscover the self outside of the context of partnership.

Who am I now? How have I changed? In what areas have I grown? What have I learned about myself, life and relationships? What do I want to change? How would I like my next relationship to function? All are examples of important questions to explore during the post-relationship period.

Taking the time to re-ground and re-center after a relationship ends is about arriving at a new normal within yourself and your life, integrating the lessons of the past and enhancing your identity. Think of it as a software update where you are installing the next grander greater version of yourself.

Downward Spirals and Vicious Cycles

One of life’s beauties is that we get an infinite amount of opportunities to get it right. We will circle back to the same issue over and over until it is resolved. While the components may differ, the core issue remains unchanged. Ignoring problems or sweeping conflict under the rug only ensures it will be revisited in the future.

We use the term downward spiral to describe an increasingly worsening situation. Life is designed to spiral upward toward greater levels of maturity and consciousness. Recurring behavior patterns are like hiccups compelling a new approach. Acting on autopilot causes us to unconsciously apply past strategies to present problems.

When we do what we have always done, we get what we always got. Do you find that with your relationships? Though things may differ on the surface, you find yourself attracting the same person just in a different package, or, you find similar patterns of interaction and problems. When in a relationship, do you find yourself revisiting old issues raised time and again with your partner? All are indications of not taking time to reflect and become conscious of that which does not serve you, and investing the time and energy in doing it differently.


Ultimately relationships offer opportunities to learn about ourselves: the unconscious forces that impact decisions and choices, the wounds we seek to heal, the missteps we make and where growth is needed to create the lives we envision. We can continue to live on auto-pilot, never making the necessary corrections required to reach our destinations or we can stop, reflect and do something more effective.

We all want successful, happy, rewarding and fulfilling relationships. Taking time to learn from the past to prevent the same repeated patterns that do not serve us is certainly worth the effort.

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What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 4)


Make Your Connection More Important Than Your Conflict

Age old advice dictates that partners never go to bed angry with each other. What disconnects couples is not always easily resolved before bedtime. Time, space and reflection are often required to process through one’s inner experience prior to re-engagement. The commitment to re-engage and preserve the connection above all else is one that will, indeed, be honored if “yes” is the answer to a very important question – Is this person and this relationship worth it?

Relationship conflict is inevitable as two people with different life experiences, wants, desires, expectations, ways of functioning, etc. seek to co-exist. Not an easy task but is conflict the reason we seek relationships? I think not…at least on a conscious level. I think most would agree that we seek relationships to fulfill needs for intimacy, connection and companionship.

Harville Hendrix offers a window into the unconscious forces at work with regards to attraction and relationship dynamics. Think of your past and present relationships. Do you find that your partners have many of the negative traits of your parents or primary caretakers? When you think about how you really want them to function, is that more reflective of the positive traits and characteristics of your parents?

Given that our first and most significant attachment experiences (i.e. experiences of connection and intimacy) are to our primary caretakers, a dynamic is established that resurfaces in the romantic relationship context. In a recent post Humanizing Parents, Deifying God, I spoke about the imperfections and limitations of our parents. As a result, needs for affirmation, validation, safety, presence, love, understanding, patience, etc. are often inadequately met or unmet in some instances.

Through our partners, we seek the fulfillment of needs unmet by parents. Therein, lies the seat of much conflict because our partners are equally imperfect. Moreover, they are our partners, not our parents which implies a very different relationship. Hendrix also addresses how our own response patterns to negative situations sabotage need gratification.

Many have a surface level understanding of themselves and their relationships leaving them consciously confused and unconsciously controlled. Much of the conflict that occurs in relationships is rooted beneath the surface and often a function of what is unresolved from the past.

Allies Not Adversaries

Hendrix and others in the field of couple’s therapy offer the opportunity for couples to function as allies, not adversaries when dealing with these unresolved gremlins of the past. Don’t we all have enough enemies to contend with in life, human or circumstantial? Isn’t support one the reasons we partner with another human being on this challenging journey through life?

Just as our parents inevitably wound us, so will our partners. It is important to remain mindful that the wounding we experience is usually unintentional. If intentioned, leave immediately. How often do you wake up in the morning planning a strategy to inflict pain on your partner? Chances are you do not and neither does your partner, but somehow it happens and conflict is often the result. When both parties are committed to the connection, not the conflict, these matters can be discussed easily and amends made because neither wants negative energy to be a divisive force in the relationship.

Whether conflict has origins in the past, does not negate a couple’s experience of discord about present matters. It will be difficult to make your connection more important than your conflict without adequate conflict resolution skills – communication, emotional regulation, impulse control, problem-solving, empathy and compassion to name a few.

We seek relationships for connection not conflict. Though conflict is inevitable and disconnects us, paradoxically, it can be a source of healing and growth for each individual, as well as a path to greater intimacy in the relationship.

Adopting the single principle of making your connection more important than your conflict ensures that all aspects of relationship life, even the challenges, serve to strengthen a couple’s bond, minimize the negative effects of conflict and protect the container of the relationship from toxic energies that often result in partners seeking refuge elsewhere.

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What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 3)


You are 100% Responsible for Your 50% of the Relationship

Three entities exist in every relationship – the two individuals and the relationship itself. A therapist once told me that each partner is 100% responsible for their 50% of the relationship. Energy and effort exerted in pursuit of relationship success requires a degree of mutuality. For a relationship to work, each partner must carry their weight.

The 100% responsibility principle is significant when relationship problems surface. Does he sit passively, leaving the responsibility for resolution on the shoulders of his partner or does he take initiative in the matter? What if the problem at hand is only a problem for her and her partner is oblivious to the fact that anything is wrong? Does she sit passively, expecting her partner to get it? Does she communicate her needs or what she sees affecting the relationship, or, just remain silent allowing resentment to build?

How does he respond when his partner approaches with concerns – anger, defensiveness, indifference? Is a little psychological jiu jitsu used where suddenly the focus of the conversation is redirected to his grievances about his partner?

Pointing the finger of blame is a common response when problems arise but rarely, if ever, is responsibility for the relationship not shared. Blame, in this context, is nothing more than responsibility avoidance…at least, as it relates to resolving the problem.

“It’s your fault!” Ok, now what? Blame offers no solution or strategy to address the issue and outsources that task to the one blamed. A victim stance is assumed and the authority and capacity to act from an empowered stance is sacrificed.

Own Your Sh*t

Acknowledging mistakes, shortcomings, wrongdoings, etc. (i.e. imperfection) is often a starting point in resolving relationship problems; particularly when there is an issue between partners. It amazes me how difficult it is for some people to say, “I was wrong” or “I f***ed up.” The earth does not stop spinning and it goes a long way toward a harmonious relationship.

A mature relationship requires mature partners and mature partners don’t engage in finger-pointing and blame. When partners are willing to own their sh*t, and we all have it and bring it to our relationships, there is no reason to engage in such antics.

It is important to note that we are often unconscious of the sh*t we bring to our relationships and our relationships are sure to stir it up. Getting caught in the blame game cheats us out of the opportunity to address old stuff that, if resolved, could actually help to improve life with our partners. We can only do that if we are willing look in the mirror and see parts of ourselves previously hidden or unknown.

The Drama Triangle

Being an adult requires being responsible and being responsible requires giving up your victim. In the late 60s, Stephen Karpman developed a model of human interaction known as the Karpman Drama Triangle. He describes three roles we assume in the course of our interactions with others – victim, persecutor and rescuer.

We can assume any of these roles and drama is typically the result. In the victim role we exist disempowered, at the mercy of our persecutors (people or circumstances), blaming them for what is not working in our lives.

I think of persecutors as victims who have had enough. Being victimized imprints the psyche with the capacity to victimize. Tired of the powerless state of the victim, the persecutor role is often a quick path to empowerment.

The same is true of the rescuer role. Rescuers enter to save to the day, unknowingly reinforcing the victim/persecutor dynamic and the victim’s identity as helpless and dependent. It is a position of power and esteem.

Taking responsibility begins with acknowledging the role(s) assumed. As victims we may view our partners as persecutors, blaming them for all that is wrong in our lives or the relationship. As victims we may seek inappropriate rescue, looking to them to assume responsibility for that which is ours. When they do not, they can easily become persecutors in the eyes of someone assuming a victim orientation.

As rescuers, the tendency is to over function; assuming your 100% and perhaps 25% that belongs to your partner. It is akin to giving assistance neither asked for nor desired and can result in a partner feeling disempowered or controlled. In other instances, rescuing behavior can be elicited by a partner in victim mode. Those who over function often become resentful, thinking they are giving too much while failing to realize it is a self-imposed state.

Healthier alternatives exist that facilitate greater relationship balance where both partners take responsibility, not blame. Where both mutually seek support, not rescue. Where both serve as facilitators of the others growth, not advantage at the expense of the others well-being.

In the event you are assuming 100% responsibility for your 50% of the relationship and your partner is not or neither of you are willing to do so, relationship success is highly unlikely. If you are over functioning, assuming responsibility that is the domain of your partner, an imbalance exists that can lead to resentment and disharmony. If both are over functioning, essentially what exists is a struggle for power and dominance; not necessarily the stuff of successful relationships.


Mutuality and balance in relationship functioning are essential. Assuming responsibility for your part of relationship success is as much about the big things as they are about the little things. Many dimensions exist in all relationships – resolving problems, fun, household tasks, socializing, finances, etc. One partner cannot bear the burden of the whole of relationship life while the other exists passively.

No magic formula exists regarding the relationship equation. Partners must discern, based on personality, strengths and weaknesses, preferences and many other factors specific to them, how they will function as a couple and what is required of each to ensure needs are met.

If relationship success is the goal, we must do our part and do it to the fullest – 100%.

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What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 2)

dont think about it

It Will Work or It Won’t

Two possible outcomes exist at the beginning of every relationship – it will result in a lifelong commitment or ultimately end. One party, for whatever reason, will conclude the relationship no longer works or the decision to part will be mutual.

Yeah, that kinda kills that buzz that comes with new romance. You know what I mean. That period when the birds are always singing, the sun is always shining and you can’t wait until the next time you see your guy or girl.

Statistically speaking, the odds are not in favor of a lifelong commitment and it does not take an elaborate research project to figure this out. For those who are married, think of the number of relationships you had or how many people you dated before finding The One. If you are fortunate enough to have found your One and Only on the second or third try, think of your friends and acquaintances and how many attempts it took for them. The same question applies to those who are still looking.

This non-romantic approach to starting a relationship is not intended to kill your buzz or take away from the joy of new romance. One of the best pieces of relationship advice I received was to enjoy it while it lasts because this period will fade. The high ultimately wears off and the task of two separate entities seeking to co-exist in the container of a relationship is at hand.

A second piece of lasting advice I received is that perspective is everything. The awareness that your new relationship may or may not last is important because it can serve as a litmus test to discern readiness to enter a relationship.

I often ask clients contemplating a new relationship how they will be affected if things do not work out. When the answer is “devastated”, I invite them to question their readiness. If nothing else, understanding the odds are not in favor of an enduring partnership can foster a healthy balance between reason and emotion. As Brad Paisley says in the song, I’m Still a Guy, “love makes a man do some things he ain’t proud of”. Same holds true for women.

Commitment is a Process

In the oxytocin fueled intoxication of infatuation, the tendency to believe he or she is The One is a cruel trick of the mind. For God’s sake how well do we really know someone in two or three months of dating?

My approach to dating is best described in the following way. Two people at opposite ends of a room are mutually attracted to each other, desire some form of connection beyond friendship and begin taking steps toward each other. With each step, more is revealed and more is known. To the extent there is comfort at each stage of the process, the next step forward is taken. Because conflict is inevitable, at some point the process of moving forward will come to a halt.

A few things can happen at this point: One or both parties will decide things will not work and leave the room entirely. One or both may take a step, or two, back and re-evaluate the relationship. They may ignore the conflict and proceed (this only ensures it will resurface and be a source of disconnection for the couple). If the conflict is adequately resolved, the process of moving forward continues.

The beauty of conflict is that, if properly resolved, it fosters greater connection and intimacy as a certain openness of one’s inner experience is required. Not always comfortable or easy but can result in two or three steps forward in the relationship building process.

These steps forward ultimately result in the two individuals meeting in the center of the room which symbolizes commitment. Commitment first begins with the decision to become exclusive. Engagement for marriage represents another process of moving to the center of the room and the decision to marry (or co-exist in a lifelong relationship) represents yet another.

Courting vs. Hooking Up

The old people where I come from call this process courting; not a term you hear much these days. Today we hook up. Too often movement from opposite ends of the room to the center occurs in one giant step.

Courting is a process and a very important one. Too many find themselves committed without fully knowing who they are committed to only to discover the dead bodies in the backyard, 13 children from previous hook ups or some other deal-breaking reality after the fact. A bit extreme, perhaps, but does happen and people often find themselves entangled with another in ways that are hard to disentangle.

Give it time but don’t waste time trying to fit square pegs in round holes. Know what you want and do not want before anyone even comes along. Know your deal breakers, what is negotiable and what is of no consequence with regard to your wants in a partner and a relationship. Ask questions, communicate, share, face and resolve conflict. Don’t move too fast…or too slow. Discern compatibility, choose to commit consciously and determine whether he or she has earned the privilege of your commitment. Base your choices on your head AND your heart.

Dating and relationships are complicated endeavors. Much can and should be done to avoid the missteps that cause relationships to fail but despite our best efforts to work toward success, nothing in life is guaranteed. Our relationships will either work or they won’t.

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What I Learned from a Decade of Failed Relationships (part 1)

battered heartMy original intention was to write a single post chronicling lessons learned from my relationships over the past ten years. As I began writing, too much content emerged to put in one blog post. What began as a single entry has become a series. Apparently I have learned more than a few things from a decade of failed relationships. I describe them as such because none resulted in the ultimate goal of marriage.

Last year it occurred to me that I had been divorced for 10 years. 10 years! Pretty crazy for someone who really enjoyed marriage. I loved all married life offered yet it has eluded me for over a decade. It is certainly not from a lack of trying. I have dated and been involved in more relationships than I care to acknowledge or ever wanted.

For the most part, I was seeking the next Mrs. Richard. Even when I was not, what was meant to be casual dating often turned into something more than intended. As you might expect, some of those experiences did not end well. Ok, many of them did not end well. But those endings were the beginning of understanding a thing or two about relationships…

Despite choosing to write a series on the subject of relationships, this initial blog post remains lengthy. For those who do not have the time or attention span to read an excessively long blog, the key ideas are outlined below:

  • The one constant in all your relationships is YOU! Time spent focusing on your partner is a distraction from the inner work required to create a healthier you.
  • Your most important relationship is with yourself. How you think and feel about yourself colors your understanding of and relationship to everyone and everything else.
  • We are multidimensional beings composed different parts that make up the whole our being and doing. Inner conflict results when these parts do not interact harmoniously.
  • All endeavors begin with the self. The more mature, intact, balanced, whole, secure and aware we become, the greater our chances of creating successful, healthy, happy, harmonious relationships with others.

 The One Constant in All Your Relationships is YOU

Relationships are composed of two separate individuals seeking to co-exist. A container is created which holds and supports each individual as they grow collectively and individually. Each is responsible for themselves and each is responsible for the relationship. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts but each part is of vital significance and yours should be your primary focus.

My failed relationships typically ended with me finding fault and placing responsibility for its demise on the other party. Despite the ability to own my deficiencies, the focus was on hers. She was either self-centered, mean-spirited, too unavailable, too needy, too incompatible, too much of something or not enough of something else.

What I failed to acknowledge was the common denominator in all my relationships was ME! The time spent analyzing, fault-finding and character assassinating my Exes only ensured I would cheat myself out of the inner work required to attract different partners, avoid relationships with no potential, stop forcing square pegs into round holes and learn to relate and respond in ways more favorable to relationship success.

We bring the totality of ourselves to the relationship equation – the good, the bad and the ugly, our strengths and weaknesses and our gifts, talents and imperfections. Time spent focusing externally only keeps us from the truth that, in all our relations, the one constant is us.  So maybe, just maybe, it behooves us to focus more on the role we play in our relationship failures than our partner’s.

Your Most Important Relationship is with YOURSELF

The most important relationship we will ever have is with ourselves. Many argue that our relationship to God or our higher power is the most important. While this is true in one respect, how we think and feel about ourselves colors our understanding of and relationship to the Divine and everyone and everything else. Those lacking in the belief that they are worthy and deserving of the Creator’s blessings struggle to receive them, often even to see them.

One of the more powerful interventions I use in my practice is simply to have people look at themselves in a mirror. How we think and feel about ourselves is revealed in the answer to the question, “what do you see?” Many see a self defined by internalized messages of parents, peers and other key figures during the formative years.

Neurologically primed to tune into the negative, the positives are often lost or rendered insignificant. Some receive few, if any, statements of their worth or value. What is said and done to us as children communicates powerful messages that, indeed, become our inner voice and the reflection we see staring back at us.

Others struggle to look deeply into themselves because of their lived experience. I have worked with clients who can only see past traumas reflected back to them; their own self-image a reminder of the abuse they endured.

I half-jokingly, half-seriously say your mirror should be your best friend. If the person staring back at you is constantly tearing you down, it will be pretty difficult to face the world with power and confidence. The idea of your mirror being your best friend is not vanity. I am not speaking of arrogance or ego inflation but a humble reminder of your inherent worth and the unique gifts and talents you bring to the world.

It does not matter what anyone has said to you or done to you. A power far greater than anyone who has condemned you, abused you or spoken ill of you decided you should be here…in this life, in this place, at this time. Is there any greater indication of your worth and value than that?

How we think about ourselves influences how we relate to others which influences how others relate to us which shapes our relationship destiny. If my core belief about myself is that I lack worth and value, I will attract others who confirm this belief. When they do not, I will unconsciously create relationship dynamics to fit this narrative.

This is more commonly known as self-sabotage. I seek a good man but attract a bad boy. I seek an attentive woman but attract a self-absorbed diva. When Mr. or Mrs. Right comes along, I am not attracted or push them away.

The Challenge of Multidimensionality

How we think and feel about ourselves is not the only factor influencing how we relate to ourselves or the self we bring to relationships. While we are one part of the whole of our relationship, we are also multidimensional beings composed different parts that make up the whole of us. Most of us think of ourselves as one single self; a single entity interacting with the external world. In truth we are several selves with any one of them capable of dictating our actions and interactions.

Think of yourself as a bus with the different parts of your personality representing its passengers. At any given time any one of them can take the wheel. The question is who (or which part of you) is driving and do you want that part in the driver’s seat? The course of our lives, our decisions and choices and their inevitable outcomes depends on which part of us is driving our bus.

Multidimensionality is not to be confused with Dissociative Identity Disorder (more commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). That is an entirely different matter. Have you ever said, “A part of me that wants to __________?” This implies another part that does not or wants something else. The devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other also illustrate this point.

In my own experience, a part of me likes to sit home and read books. A very different part of me likes going to parties. Yet another part of me likes playing sports while another would rather write this blog. The passengers in our bus emerge at different times in our lives for specific purposes but do not always function harmoniously.

Inner conflict represents different parts of ourselves warring against each other. A lonely and needy part may desperately want to enter a new relationship while a hurt part may resist. The part that desires independence may surface in response to a partner’s request to take the relationship to the next level. The part that desires control may conflict with the part that realizes the need for compromise.

Know Thyself

The importance of this point is summed up in the ancient wisdom that commands us to know thyself. Remove the speck of dust in our eye before removing the plank from the eye of another. Let him who would move the world first move himself. Be the change you seek in the world. These quotes from the Bible, Socrates and Gandhi point to the fact that all endeavors begin with the self.

The quality of our relationships reflects the quality of the self we bring to them – the level of consciousness and psycho-spiritual maturity we have attained and the harmony existing among the parts that form the whole of us. The more mature, intact, balanced, secure and aware we become, the greater our chances of creating successful, healthy, happy, harmonious relationships with others.

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