Our Relationships To Our Relationships: Is Black And White A Thing Of The Past?

We all have relationships. Romantic ones, friendly ones, animosity-infused ones, parental ones; they are everywhere. But how do we relate to these relationships? And more importantly, how can we witness ourselves in the process of relating so as to increase our awareness and accountability?

We love our dogs, and our dogs have relationships. They love us, no matter what. They also love their bone, the sound of the door, the car, and our friends. We watch them in all of their joy and feel happy for them, objectively and empathically. Why is it such a different story for the people we love?

I used to read a lot of psychoanalytic theory, and a bit of the theories that came right after that. Heinz Kohut, Harry Stack Sullivan, and Carl Rogers were three men that really emphasized the importance of empathy in the therapeutic relationship. Their theories have nothing to do with why you get mad when your spouse looks at another person with a romantic smile, or do they?

It is my theory-of-the-moment that we tend to confuse our relationship-relations with object-relations, and because of this, we suffer. If we had more empathy, more of an objective-emotional view of the relationship itself as we experienced it, we would be better off.

There are an awful lot of people that live happily in polyamorous relationships. Some of us that are not in these types of relationships may have a hard time understanding how someone could actually feel a sense of joy at seeing their partner feel attracted and have a “crush” on someone else.  We may think that is impossible; but clearly, it is not. It is our minds that make it so. When I talk to my best friend about his polyamorous situations, I am always dumbfounded at my incredibly narrow-minded view of “how relationships work”. But I can tell when he is not being truthful, and when I hear him honestly being happy for his partners finding happiness with other people without feeling threatened himself, I am literally flabbergasted. Secretly, though. To him, I just pretend that I get it.

Furthermore, the more I live, the more I see healthy relationships that naturally ebb and flow; and realize that this makes sense for some people. Two primary partners that break up every so often, taking space, doing their own thing, and then coming back together. Not breaking up in firey bouts of Facebook-publicized fury, of course, but just basically separating with mutual understanding and then coming back together.

I don’t know about you, but when I grew up, relationships seemed to be an all-or-nothing thing. Your parents were married, or divorced. You were going steady, or you were not. There were no in-betweens, half-ways, or open-ended situations. Sometimes there was a naturall in-between, but such a thing was a source of immense anxiety and excitement,which would persist until it became a solid form of relationshp: either you were going out, or you were not.

This is a huge problem.

You probably like some of my blog posts better than others. I probably feel the same about your blog. Maybe you feel squeamish with nausea when someone follows your blog and you check out theirs, only to see that they have eighty comments, all of which are “thanks for following my blog,” and you realize that you just got duped by the duper. Maybe not. Either way, we all have multiple facets of our personalities, and ideals that are usually met by some parts of people and not others. We like how they feel about food, but not about freedom. We like that they want to eat a delicious bacon breakfast, but we don’t like that they want to kill their own pigs and blog about it. They like all the things that they do; we like some of the things that they do. This is normal, natural, and pretty much the only possible way for things to be.

Why would we want, or sanely expect, our relationships to be solid like rocks?

I am not advocating for Polyamory; God knows that I would have a hard time with it. Rather, I am wondering about how we all relate to our relationships. Do we approach our just-starting friendships with the same vigor and enthusiasm that we approach our long-held relationships? Do we become just as heartbroken when our friends ignore us as we would if our spouse/domestic partner did? Do we feel a sense of loss when we realize that our partner does not particularly like this one part of us?

Why are things expected to be so solid?

I, for one, change my mind a lot about things. I feel many different ways; I get in bad moods and good moods, I feel like a saint and also like I should be condemned. I’ll catch myself in a week-long fit of jealousy before I label it, or realize that for the last few days I have helped a handful of people to feel better about things without even trying. There are may parts to us, many sides to us; we are human. Besides the edges of your longest bones, there are very few straight lines that have anything to do with you. Even your bones are full of sacred and all-important growing mushyness known as marrow…there is nothing solid about us, physically; so why should there be mentally?

Your mind is a collection of patterns of synapses firing, of neurotransmitters swimming, of chemical substances interfering; why should you have any control over it, or any expectations of it? Half the time it is just compensating for the perils you have put it through (if you are like me, and enjoy strong coffee all day until you switch to whatever wine was on sale because you feel that it will help you with your life’s work) or not.

Empathy. That is what it comes down to for the therapeutic relationship; and that is what it comes down to for your therapeutic relationship to your relationships.

Can you see them empathically? Can you stand back and look at your relationship to your spouse as if you were looking at a child’s relationship to their favorite doll?

Because you might say that you relate to your spouse in a different way than that child relates to their doll. But if you expect your relationship to be constant, predictable, and fully controllable; is it really all that different?

I’d like to know how you guys experience your relationships and your awareness of them; and if you spend time looking at them from an objective empathic distance, or if you feel that you tend to react a lot without that distance. I know that for me, I am making the intention to take a more of a stance of empathic awareness on my relationships, so that they can be based less on reactions and more empathic awareness.

How about you?

Honest Rejections: New Rules For The Online Dating World

We all know there is a large increase in online dating. There are going to be new problems that arise as we learn how to deal with new situations. Here I am going to talk about four tips that may help if you need to end a new beginning via text.

Even in falling apart, you are turning into seeds that will be nourished into new ways of being.

You’ve heard the saying, “easy come, easy go.” Have you ever taken it to heart? Probably not; since it is a cliche, and is best not taken to heart. But lo and behold, this particular cliche indeed holds some resonance for the online dating world.

You can join a free online dating site and meet people in a matter of minutes. You can plan dates incredibly fast, especially if you live in a city and have no standards. However, you are often times not equally prepared to end these relationships, mini-relationships, or blips of almost-relationships.

If you can form a relationship with someone based on a few clicks, you should be able to end it just as fast if things have not grown significantly deeper.

The problem is that this is hard to do. Some of the nicer humans in the world tend to feel a sense of protectiveness over people even if they hardly know them. Maybe it has something to do with attachment theory. Maybe not. Either way, some people find it incredibly stressful to have a first date, not like the person, and then simply say so.

Here are four simple steps for formulating a text to get your point across in the event that someone is asking for a second date when you do not feel the same.

1:  Identify Your Actual Feelings

Are you completely positive that you do not want to see this person again? Are you just thinking that maybe it’s not a great idea, but you aren’t sure? Are you up in the air with the feelings in general?

If you do not want to see the person again, read on. If it is anything else, then you may need more time to figure it out. This is not an article about playing hard to get.

2: Get Rid Of Your Indirect Cop-Outs

I kind of think that maybe we should stop seeing each other. I don’t think it’s a good idea if we go to dinner again. I am not sure I really want to continue. We probably shouldn’t keep doing this.

Read any of those sentences and pretend that you have felt a “strong connection” with the person writing it. “We probably shouldn’t keep doing this” suddenly turns into, “I am so madly in love with you that I cannot control myself.” And, “I am not sure I really want to continue” turns into “Maybe if you buy me some flowers, I’ll come around.”

That is not what you are going for. But with such vague, indirect and heartless lack of clarity, how can you expect them to get it?

I say heartless because that type of indirect fluffy rejection leads to more suffering in that other person. A clear text or message is going to get your point across without any extra hurt or confusion.

3: Find The Direct Words

I do not know why so many of us seem to feel that honesty is the same as rudeness. Maybe we were hurt in the past by someone being careless with their words, or just being mean. We then assume that any honest feelings that point towards rejection are going to hurt someone else as much as they hurt us in the past. Or we just have no positive role models for honest and non-hurtful behavior.  There are probably a thousand possible reasons.The truth remains that being honest and direct is not necessarily the same as being rude.

The goal is to find your truth and say it in a direct way without being careless.

We all have different communication styles. However, some of us care more about hurting someone’s feelings than others. Do not let this get in your way. Here are some potential templates; and keep in mind that we are not done with formulating the honest-but-kind breaking-it-off text yet:

I do not see this going any farther.”

I am not interested in another date.”

I do not want to continue seeing you.”

Those are three basic ones, but you can make one based on your particular situation. Of course, on their own, those templates are a bit blunt. That is why you add the final step.

4: Honest Gratitude

Regardless of what happened between you and the person you are not interested in, there is something that you can be grateful for. Maybe they paid for the cab to get you home, maybe they bought you dinner or a drink. Maybe they took the time to write you a long email once, or they remembered some important event in your life. Maybe they were just simply nice.

Whatever it is, find it, verbalize it, and use it to smooth the edge of the rough truth.

“I do not see this going any farther. Thank you for dinner, and I wish you the best of luck with your new job!”

“I am not interested in another date. Thank you for remembering that lilacs were my favorite flower, I know you’ll do great with the right person!”

“I do not want to continue seeing you, but I really appreciate that you were so understanding of my difficult past.”

Whatever it is, you are going to find something truthful. Feeling badly about telling someone the truth is ludicrous. The reason you may feel bad is that you are not telling the whole truth. You do care about them as a human, just not as a dating partner. The fact that you found them on a website based on a few clicks and profile sentences should be able to give you the leisure to cut things off just as quickly.

The bottom line is that when two people have a first date, they may both agree on how it went or they may not. If you find that it did not go well for you, and yet they are texting or messaging you to ask for more dates, you can use these tips to formulate a response.

Let’s Bring It To The Bigger Picture

I have been intending to keep the blog topics as close to my book themes as possible. This particular post is an outlier because it was inspired by talking to a new friend at a show a couple of nights ago. Before Guy Forsyth took to the stage, she was telling me how incredibly frustrated she was with having to turn down a person she had just met. The relief she felt upon finding the best way to say what she meant was fabulous to see.

It made me want to share the advice I gave with her to others so that perhaps more people could benefit.

In terms of how this relates to the book…I am not quite sure. I suppose that for a lot of us, finding ways of telling the truth can be very hard when we feel it is going to hurt someone. How do we get around this? I know that for me, there have been many hard times where telling the truth seemed impossible, but was the only way to prevent even more harm from happening to another person, and I would bet that those moments will show up in the book; now with a bit more retrospective clarity.

Do you have any stories or moments where you found that telling the truth was hard, but worth every ounce of awkwardness that you felt while doing it?

 

When Did Your World First Expand?

These are some of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen, and yet each one is different, and they grow like crazy around here! No special seeds or fancy fertilizers needed; these bad boys grow in people’s gardens and alongside the highway.

Sometimes, the most personal of our experiences are actually the most universal. One of my most potent memories is of the first time that I realized the world does not share my town’s concept of what is beautiful.

I was in California, waiting for my friend Adam to arrive. I was sitting on the boardwalk in Venice Beach, smoking cigarettes and people-watching. A boy approached me, and he was clearly a traveler. I just didn’t know how to label him yet.

Let’s take a step back for the sake of context. Before that point, I had not ventured far from Suburbia except to go on family vacations to various places. On those vacations, we would always camp instead of using hotels. From those trips, I had an inkling of a notion that there were different types of people in the world; but my predominant experience of my town would stomp those notions out rather quickly.

My town, Glastonbury, was a mixture of mansions and farms; but most of the people there had money. Kids at my school (are any of you reading this?) for the most part, placed a big emphasis on financial wealth, brand names, pretty faces. My face was never pretty. My skin always looked dirty, courtesy of my thick Italian heritage. My hair was frizzy and unruly, and I didn’t know how to wear make up. My elbows were dry and my teeth had a space in the middle. Needless to say, I was one of the kids that got picked on a lot, until picking on people was no longer cool. I chose to turn inwards, and I am grateful now that I did not fit in to that world and let my spirit become corrupted by it.

Because of the teasing and whatnot, I think that part of me gave up on the idea of ever being “pretty.” If someone aside from my few closest friends would talk to me, I knew better than to really get too excited. Often times, there was a joke on me waiting to be played. I was cautious and a bit pessimistic.

But then I went to Venice Beach during the summer of my first year of college to meet up with Adam. My world blew apart. There were all kinds of people! And this traveler, he was walking up to me, ready to bum a cigarette.

His clothes were perhaps the dirtiest I had ever seen. They were turning into rags, falling off of his body. Yet he did not walk like he was ashamed of them. His hair was a mess, turning into dreadlocks that were not made in a salon or intentionally. His face was smudged with dirt, but also somehow cleaner than any I had ever seen.

“Where do you come from?” he had asked me.

“Connecticut,” I answered, always embarrassed of that boring, tiny, judgy state.

“No, I mean, where do you come from. Your blood. Your nationality.” his voice was deadly serious; and he was smoking in a way I had never seen. Taking quick little puffs of the cigarette, pulling them all into his lungs at once, and then letting them out in one silky stream.

“Italian and Austrian. Mostly Italian.” That answer was burned into my vocabulary. A lot of people asked this questions, since I had ridiculously think dark hair, and my skin turned a crazy sort of brown when it got enough sun. In Spain, people wanted to think I was Spanish. In my town, people wanted to say that I had dirty skin.

“I knew it. You are a Unique, like me. Not like these people.”

“What’s a Unique?”

“A person that comes from many places, many races. A person that is like no other. Not like these people, these people are a dime a dozen.” He swept his hand across our view of the boardwalk, the pretty people walking around. They were clean and pressed, they were sparkling in many cases like the people from my town. The people that took the time to straighten their hair in the morning; the people that knew the difference between a fancy brand and a knock-off. I had never seen someone judge them as inferior before.

“Oh, yeah, I guess we are Unique.” I wasn’t sure what to say; wasn’t sure if he was experiencing extreme mind states or if he was just passionate about this topic. I just wanted him to be the one right person in the world.

“Someday,” he continued, “we will make a place of our own, and have children, children that are Uniques as well. They will be the most beautiful of all.” he went on about this idea, this paradise.

For the first time, I felt that my strange appearance was not something that was necessarily a bad thing.

The darkness of my skin felt like a magical weapon; my thick hair felt like a famous and rare signature. I felt like my body itself was not an item worthy of just casting away, was not a mistake, a falling-short. It was different than most of the people I had seen; and that is what made it precious and interesting. Suddenly, I was as much a part of things as other people were.

For me, that was the first real moment of feeling that I could, in some people’s eyes, be something other than an ugly mess. If I could thank that boy, I most definitely would.

I wonder if other people have this experience, if they have one particular moment where they first remember feeling that their previously accepted world just got bigger; or if they just gradually transitioned into new states of being.

I’m sure we all have our own insecurities growing up, and our own ways of overcoming them. This is also a process that continuously unravels throughout our lifetimes.

Do you have any memories or experiences you want to share about when your smaller world view first expanded? Was it a pleasant experience, or an unpleasant one? Did it happen all at once, or gradually? Is there someone you would thank if you could? I would love to hear them, and I’m sure others would as well! You never know who might get inspired into a new way of seeing things.

The Unconscious, Archetypes, & Dispelling Your Own Myths Of Solitude

Two Pairs of Eyes are Better than One!

Hormones are amazing. If there is a lack of interesting relationships in our lives at any one moment, well, we can always explore our relationship to these consistent companions.

Sometimes in the middle of the month I like to eat chocolate and cry about any movie that I see. Other times, I write lots of songs, so many that I forget most of them right away and the rest in another few weeks. I’ll start cleaning every nook and cranny on some months. On others, I’ll crave salt to no end. Sometimes I’ll look at my dog and cry because he is so cute and impermanent. The options are endless. The extra influx of feeling is predictable, and yet it always catches me off guard.

My last post was about the uselessness and potential detrimental nature of making comparisons. That topic has continued to plague me in subtle ways. I think I shall continue with it, from a new angle.

How do you measure up to your ideals? Are you lucky enough so that your ideals stay in one place, as one thing, unchanging? Probably not.

Some days I want to be a famous writer. Other days, I want to be a loving and compassionate mother. On other days, I want to have a dog that is more relaxed while walking near other dogs. On some days, I want to be a hermit that lived in a cave my whole life. There are many things to master in this world, and there are many days where I kick myself mentally for not having mastered one or another of them. Why didn’t I spend the last fifteen years perfecting guitar so that I could be a famous songwriter? Why did I not go to school for writing instead of psychology, so that I could make my book a success? Why did I not do grad school after getting my bachelors, so that I could at least have a job that related to my college education? Why am I putting off getting continuing education credits for massage, so that my massage license has slipped away as well?

I have the same birthday as Sigmund Freud. I don’t know what this means, but it is worth mentioning, because it was the 6th of May. Happy Birthday, Mr. Freud. That man did a lot to change the way that psychology was carried out. And then his teachings got generalized and simplified and now it seems many people do not take him seriously. Did his dreams come true, just because his name made it? I am not sure.

There is also Carl Jung. He separated from Freud in a few ways; one of them being that he felt we were all a bit more connected than Freud thought. To Jung, we were connected through this inherited part of our psyche known as the “collective unconscious”. This part of your psyche would be why you had feelings of deja vu, and it also came into play with the feeling of understanding myths. One of the most fascinating aspects, to me, of the collective unconscious is the organizing principle of the  archetype. When you hear someone talk about their dreams, chances are that sometimes, there are aspects that are similar to your own dreams. There might be a mother figure; there might be an intelligent teacher figure. These are archetypes. They affect the way that we organize information.

Then, there is Huna. People will claim it is Hawaiian, but this is kind of like saying that McDonald’s French Fries are French. There are some problems with the transmission of Huna, since, in a sense, it was robbed of people, and comes from a time and place incredibly different from ours. Freud can talk about a phallic building and we can know what he means; Huna can talk about the spirit of a certain mountain, and unless we grew up on (and not merely visited) a specific island of Hawaii, we may not really know what it feels like to be acquainted with that spirit.  Because of this, I mention Huna with a complete acknowledgement that I know nothing of what I speak; I am merely using these organizing principles of the human psyche as I have seen them written, in a way that anchors them in a common understanding so that other readers can make some use of them if they wish.

I read a very useful book on an introduction to Huna, and here is what I have gathered. Unihipili is like the unconscious; a realm of emotion, primitive urges, connection to nature. Uhane is the sense of self, the ego, the filter, the thing that we present to the outside world. Aumakua is a teeny tiny bit similar to the superego, according to Freud. The part of us aware of morals. In the adaptation of Huna that I read, Aumakua is connected to other Superegos, in a specific place in Kauai. Like the collective unconscious, according to Jung. The archetypes in Huna contain kernels from the other philosophies; hence, this idea of archetypes. Multiple theories drawing attention to the same phenomenon.

There are a lot of places I could go with this. I wrote the preceding paragraphs right before that big super moon, and now it is a week later. I feel a bit less charged.

Perhaps we could apply this to ourselves. Sometimes, I feel that my closest friends are going to just decide they don’t like me. Usually this happens with newer friends. Other times, I imagine my boyfriend is not attracted to me. There are days I feel that nobody likes me, and other days I feel that I am fabulous. Turns out that when I share these feelings with the people that evoke them, they are feeling the same thing, or have felt it before.

Archetypes. We all feel them. Emotional archetypes. “You don’t like me anymore,” “You are better than me,” “You are probably cheating on me,” whatever. These things, they are archetypes. You have felt them before, and you will feel them again.

Unlike the “wise old teacher” archetype or the “fool”, the emotional archetypes seem to be easily dispersed. All they take is conscious attention and two pairs of eyes.

That is, as soon as you say them out loud to someone else, they seem to dissipate.

You can bury it in your gut all you want, the feeling of “this or that friend doesn’t really like me, she hates me, she just wants me to fail, she wants to be better than me, she never liked me,” but as soon as you even say these things out loud, to any fraction of an extent, to that specific friend, something amazing happens.

They freaking disappear.

Gone, like the dust of a vampire on Buffy. They are gone. You suddenly realize that the feeling was insane. But it took two pairs of eyes; two pairs of ears.

This is the point. Emotional archetypes. I made up that idea, so please do not take it too seriously. But the point is that if you feel things repetitively, they may be much like the archetypes that Freud and Jung had pointed to. We share them, and for every intense thing that you feel, there are millions of others in the same boat. Hence, the magnetic force of the power ballad.

So the next time a feeling seems to be taking over, especially if you are feeling hormonally focused due to the moon, or any other non-gender-specific factors, ask yourself some things. Do other people feel this? What would you tell them if they did? And, most importantly, what is the most relevant second pair of eyes that holds the cure, that holds the truth? Because if you knew the exact painless antidote to the plight of one of your friends, chances are that you would share it with them. You should do the same for yourself.