Project U. Blog

Five Tips to Get Your Goals Back on Track

Posted by Catherine Saar on Thu, Jan 29, 2015 @ 10:48 PM

It's no longer early January.  And if you are like 50% of theiStock 000042811780Small population, you are beginning to slack off on the goals you set for this year. If so, try these five tips to help get you back on track:

1)   Abandon all or nothing thinking:

Perhaps you planned to workout seven days a week, or you hoped to get a new job by February first  - and now, those goals seem unrealistic. What about revising your plan to be more doable?  So many of us set enormous expectations that set us up for failure.  If we try to do too much too quickly, we can create goals that are very difficult to achieve and to maintain. And when we don’t meet our demanding standards, we give up all together.  Consider instead, that if you are doing even 5% more toward your goal this year versus last year, you will make progress.

What about harnessing the power of small steps to kick-start your journey?  Putting effort into your goal for even 15 minutes once a week is better than doing nothing at all. You can always add incrementally over time if you want to.  Remember the tortoise and the hare?  Slow and steady may be the best way to win your race.

2)   Use Motivation to fuel willpower

Many of us think that if we just had enough willpower, we could move mountains.  What we don’t understand is how to tap into our willpower.  While you may be able to force yourself to do something for a while, if your heart isn’t in it, it’s not going to be sustainable.  Motivation is the key that unlocks our ability to make good choices in difficult moments (aka “willpower”).

If you are seeking motivation, envision what outcome(s) you want for yourself. See yourself in your new body, your new role, or whatever it is that you want.  Imagine how good it will feel to have what you desire.  Visualize it, feel it in your body, and see it in your mind’s eye as if you already have it.  Write it down, or create a vision board, and in some way, visit your hoped-for outcome daily.

With your vision in mind, it will be easier to make better choices. Find one to three things that you can do this week that support your goal.  Make sure you feel at least 80 percent confident that you can get them done. If you don’t feel that confident, make the activities smaller and more achievable until you do.  Then next week, do it again. Check in with yourself.  How’s it going?  Make modifications if needed.

Keep it up.  There are many paths to your desired outcome and most of them won’t be straight lines. When your willpower starts to get shaky, revisit your vision (and perhaps use the next few tips as well)!

3)   Ditch the negative self talk

Beating yourself up may seem to be a handy tactic for staying on track, but in the long-term, it’s demotivating.  And since motivation (and feeling good about yourself) fuels willpower, self-compassion is a better alternative for self-correction. When you are relaxed and feeling like you are on your own team, it is easier to tap into your creative problem-solving ability.  

Try this:  If you “disappoint” yourself in some way, consider talking to yourself as of you were speaking to your best friend.  What would you say?  From that place of understanding and kindness, restore your faith in your ability to accomplish your goals and figure out your next move toward success. 

4)   Celebrate your accomplishments

When you make progress toward your vision, – no matter how small a step, you deserve a virtual self-hug.  It’s important to take a moment to reflect and feel good about what you have done. In fact, give yourself a “HELL YES!” Your celebration doesn’t have to be a big deal, maybe it’s just a moment of reflection  - or even 15 minutes of hard-earned down time.    Small rewards reinforce our positive behaviors and makes manifesting our vision more fun.  They keep us going.

5)   Get honest and face your fears

Last but not least, if you find you just can’t seem to make it happen, get super honest with yourself.  What is really holding you back from your next step?  If you notice that you are frustrated and just can’t make any progress, consider digging more deeply into what fears and beliefs might be getting in the way.

Most of us have old behaviors from childhood that helped us cope with our world.  Now that we are all grown up, many of those old strategies and beliefs don’t work too well any more.  In fact, subconscious patterns can get us stuck in an endless loop that often leaves us feeling helpless. Frequently, those patterns are hard to recognize.  If so, seek support.

There are many resources you can tap into to explore your inner world.  Journaling, coaching, therapy or   “THE WORK” of Byron Katie can get you into motion again.

Whatever you choose to do with this one sweet life, remember, you are here on this earth to contribute in your own unique way.  With patience, perseverance and self-compassion, you can accomplish your dreams.

 

 

Tags: Byron Katie, coaching, self compassion, negative self talk, The Work, motivation, accomplishments, willpower, celebrate

The One Thing to Remember to Survive Stressful Family Gatherings

Posted by Catherine Saar on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 @ 08:15 PM

I am always surprised at how smart, professional, highly successful people revert to old, non-serving childhood patterns once they step into a family gathering.  Just a few triggering words from mom, dad, or sis, and suddenly, our adult self-control goes out the window. We either end up saying stuff that we wished we hadn’t… or we keep quiet and feel unhappy about the experience.Thanks dinner 2

Next time you are stressed, and it feels as though you don’t have a choice about what you are about to say or do, stop for a moment.  Ask yourself, is that really true?  Often when we say, “I had no choice” it really means we strongly preferred the consequences of one choice versus another.

There is something empowering about realizing that even when you do something because “you think you should,”  (maybe to avoid angering or disappointing someone), you actually are choosing how you behave. 

So remember, if the holiday gathering isn’t going the way you hoped, then you can choose to do something differently.  Here are five ideas to get you started:

1) SLOW DOWN AND TAKE A DEEP BREATH

When something (or someone) isn’t going right, sit quietly for a moment, and take a deep breath before taking any action.  Just creating that tiny space can allow you to stay centered and to decide what you want to say or do in the moment. Hopefully, your considered choice will serve you better than a reactive response will.  You might even tell the person(s) involved that you need to take a moment to gather your thoughts before responding.

2) REFRAME YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Oh yeah, Aunt Milly may be annoying you again with the same old question that seems to undermine everything you stand for.  Why can’t she get a clue? Chances are, she isn’t doing things just to bug you.  It’s more likely that she is trying to get her needs met. Maybe it is the only way she knows how to connect.  Whatever is going on for her, can you remember it’s not really about you?   Instead of getting defensive, how would it be to imagine that she is being loving in the best way she can?

3) TRY SELF COMPASSION

If you just read number 2 above and said to yourself, ‘NO WAY I could respond to her that way!”  then perhaps you can apply some self love when the going gets tough.

 Try talking to yourself as if you were comforting your best friend. (HINT:  Try naming your feelings and also what you wish for, not just what you don’t want – this eases stress in our brain – even if we don’t get what we want in that moment).

For example,   “Yes, this is difficult.  Aunt Milly is really aggravating me because I just want to enjoy being with the family and I feel like she never listens to me.  I really want to be listened to.” 

Once you are clearer and calmer, perhaps self expressing would also help you settle, maybe   something like, “Aunt Milly, the holidays are so stressful that I really just want to enjoy the day, so I would prefer not to go into that right now.” 

Self-expressing probably won’t change Milly, but you may feel a whole bunch better for creating boundaries and sticking up for your needs without causing a ruckus.

4) CREATE A DIFFERENT APPROACH to the SAME OLD PROBLEM, INCLUDING THE “TWO FEET RULE”

Whether your brother is always two hours late to dinner, or cousin Bill tends to drink to excess, how might you change up the environment to make it easier on you and yours? 

Maybe you let your brother know that if he is late, you will start dinner without him. Alternatively, you could serve dinner two hours later than you normally would.

As for Cousin Bill, that’s a bit trickier. If despite best efforts, Bill gets stinking drunk and you just cant handle it, you can decide to leave.   Or, if the family drama is just too much to take, you could decide to make plans to go elsewhere this year and avoid the whole mess.  The tip here is this: You have two feet.  Use ‘em to get you where you want to be.

5) GET SUPPORT

Sometimes, your best efforts, loving intentions and deep breathing still leave you sad and disappointed with your holiday.  Go ahead. Feel it.  Reach out to a good friend and ask them for support.  Share your story and get heard by someone who is willing to listen and who understands.   Then, let it go.  Research shows that retelling a traumatic story over and over simply ingrains it into our brain, and makes it feel even more real, as if we are experiencing it again.  Why do that to yourself?

Let go and move on, tomorrow is another day, and next year, you will get another opportunity to crack the code on a less stressful holiday.

Whatever you do, embrace it.  After all, it really is your choice.

Tags: empowering, self compassion, get support, perspective, choice, stressed, triggering, two feet rule, deep breath

Helpless?

Posted by Catherine Saar on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 @ 09:50 AM

photo 1I await my furniture in my empty home and wonder, why is this happening?  When I first learned that North American Van lines, (a nationally known moving company) could not find a driver to bring my belongings across the country, and that neither my customer service rep nor her boss had any idea when they could, I was bewildered and angry.  I hunted for contact information and transitioned into “fix-it” mode.  I schemed how to contact the President of the Company to find a solution.   

Obsessed with getting action, I checked the Internet a little more closely.  Apparently, I am not the first person to have this problem with this carrier, and those who have gone before have tried many of the same tactics I was planning.  Sadly, nothing has worked for them.  It seems that many of them are still waiting  - weeks and months - for their belongings to be delivered.

During my first week here I told everyone I met about my plight, hoping that someone, somewhere might have an insight.  I got lots of advice, and yet nothing so far is bringing me closer to resolution. Many friends are offering overnight refuge.  And, while I appreciate their generosity, I also long to feel grounded in my personal space. 

What to do with this feeling of helplessness?  Worrying is taking up a lot of rental space in my mind where peace normally resides.  Furniture notwithstanding, I am also without family photos, some important documents and most of my clothing.  And yet, the idea of spending hours working on strategies that don’t return results doesn’t feel worthwhile or joyful. 

I finally realized that what I am missing most are some of my daily comforts: my cookware, my real bed and especially my road bike.  Now that I live in a biking mecca, it just figures that my beloved Wilier Triestina is gathering dust in some unknown warehouse in Massachusetts.

So I’ve surrendered.  Well, not really.  But I have made the conscious decision not to let this situation ruin my daily happiness.  I spend an hour a day researching and determining what I might do to get my stuff to me more quickly, and at the same time, I am calling upon my inner and outer resources to create a comfy home that offers some respite while I wait.

A friend is loaning me two overstuffed chairs, and I bought an inexpensive and cool coffee table.  I found that a pot and a frying pan, two sets of utensils, and some wooden spoons work pretty well for creating most meals, and that having a microwave can be helpful.  An aero bed with borrowed sheets is reasonably comfortable, and I am hoping to borrow a road bike for a while.

I am still angry and bewildered as to why this is happening, and will continue to search for a solution, but I am determined that North American Van Lines is not going to make me feel miserable.  Only I can do that. Life is short, Colorado is beautiful and I choose joy.

Tags: joy, inner resources, road bike, North American Van Lines, happiness, obsessed, helplessness

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Let’s Talk About Sex

Posted by Catherine Saar on Wed, Apr 02, 2014 @ 08:15 AM

Most of us agree that sex is good.  It certainly continues the species, and may be pleasurable.
After that, I think agreement is hard to come by.  No puns intended, (but duly noted).describe the image

One would think that a natural biological function wouldn’t be so tricky to navigate.  In fact, I know many couples that can’t openly discuss their sexual needs and proclivities, and sadly, I was once part of one.  What is that about? 

Somehow, sex is tied up with self-judgment, and often includes shame.  We are ashamed that we are having sex, ashamed that we are not; Ashamed of our bodies or that we have needs and desires.  We may be ashamed or afraid to ask for what we want, or perhaps afraid we are not good enough.  And certainly, we may be deeply wounded if someone else uses our body to meet their needs without considering what we want or need.

Yes, it is complex. Despite the many newsstand magazines that promise 10 Tips for “GREAT SEX” I believe it is something beyond tips that gets us to a place of joyfulness when it comes to getting naked and intimate with someone else. 

For me, it’s trust. 

While trusting our partner(s) is super important, the real question is, can I trust myself?  Will I take care of myself?  Can I accept and respect what I want and speak up for myself?  And how do I do that?

I suggest that it starts by taking responsibility for how we feel.

When we say things like “YOU MAKE ME FEEL…” We give away our power to others.  Is it true that if and when you don’t feel worthy or beautiful, that someone else can MAKE you feel that way?  Been there, and found it had to come from changing beliefs inside of myself.  I had to transform my inner dialogue from judgment to acceptance and understanding.

If I say to you, “Tell me about feathers,” my guess is that each one of us would have a different internal experience of that question.  What came up for you? Were yours feathers in a pillow?  Tickling you?  Short, long? Did the question evoke a particular experience?

Typically, we receive sensory input from other people’s words and actions.  Then we filter them through our own experience, (including our personal trauma history) to arrive at an interpretation.  So, while another person can stoke your internal fire with positive or negative stimulus by what they say or do, my experience is that how you see it and feel it, is an inside job.

How do we clear the filter to really see what is going on outside of us, versus the translation that is occurring inside of us?

How about “unpacking” the words you use (both those you think and those you say)? For example, if I were to say to my partner, “You make me feel unimportant,” what am I communicating?  How might he hear that feedback and what did he do or say that triggered that response in me?

“Unimportant “ is a concept with lots of possible meanings.  How would he know what to do if I just leave it at that?  Let’s unpack that word to see what I am really experiencing, starting with an observation of what happened, how it made me feel and what I wished for instead.  Let’s say in this case,  “unimportant” translates into that I feel hurt because my partner didn’t ask my opinion before he made his weekend plans. 

Imagine the two different discussions that would result based on what I might say, either:

”You make me feel unimportant.  You don’t care about how I feel,” versus

“When you made the weekend plans and didn’t ask me first, I felt hurt because I really want to have some input over how we spend our time together.  Can you tell me how you hear that? “ 

What different conversations might result from those two statements?

In short, the habitual ways we use language often leads us to label, blame, and shame others and ourselves.  Our language is loaded with cloaked judgments that don’t provide much information for solving problems. When we don’t take the time to mindfully unpack what is really going on for us, we can go down some pretty dark, winding roads that lead us to confusion, miscommunication, hurt and suffering.

On the other hand, if I can name, acknowledge, appreciate and accept what is going on inside of me with clarity, I can at least feel begin to feel safe with myself.   When I know who I am and what I want then I have a hope of communicating with specificity about myself in a way that someone else can respond.  Given that, maybe I can get to agreement with a partner rather than rumbling around in a blameful conflict.

When I know how I feel and what I need, I have more choice – and so does my partner about what to do next. I also find a whole new way of asking for what I want that is much more actionable and less scary, especially when it comes to sex. 

If I can dialogue about what I need without judging, and the other person truly can consider my needs as important as his, then, we have the beginning of trust and collaboration.  He may not be able to meet all my needs, and maybe I can’t meet all of his, but at least we can talk about it and decide what to do next.  Just that helps me to feel seen and understood by him, and by me!  Isn’t that how we begin to step into trust?

Perhaps from there, we can get spiritually and emotionally naked with each other.  And, if that seems right, I’m wondering if a joyful, physical manifestation of that connection might naturally appear?

Maybe then, not only can we talk about great sex, we can actually have it.

 

Tags: blame, collaboration, sheame, self-judgement, inner dialogue, spiritually, respect, choice, sex, trust, interpretation, desirers, intimate

If You Can’t Do It All, Why Not Do What You Love?

Posted by Catherine Saar on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

I have been lamenting my absence from social media of late, as well as my disruption in blogging.   My anxiety level was climbing as my inner voice chanted, “You should be …….  You should do”… and on and on.  Of course then my monkey midescribe the imagend rambled over to the dire consequences that await me:  “You won’t have any friends, you won’t succeed, “ BLAH, BLAH, Blah Blah…"

I was getting angry with myself until I realized that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that I have to spend at least six of them sleeping.

“Shoulding” on yourself is not the way to joy or peace. I have come to believe that one’s true path to success and fulfillment on this planet is to become more aware of who we are; to rediscover everyday what an “inspired” life means for each of us.  It is not something that anyone else can prescribe for you. Only you know what food, what work, what friendships and what pastimes most nurture you and allow you to bring the most joy and love to yourself and therefore, to the world.    And if you or I are not arriving at this place of joy and love, then perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “Why not?”

Having realized that no one else can tell me how to live my “right” life, I have to put my big girl pants on and choose where to focus my energy.  And some of those choices are painful!  Why?  Some behaviors are familiar and comfortable habits so they are hard to let go of (like wanting to be liked) and yet, they no longer serve me. And some are things that I enjoy, like hanging out on social media for hours, leave me insufficient time to pursue my soul’s passions.

Yup, change is challenging, but not embracing my soul’s desires with full engagement feels worse.

I am mourning many of the things that I will give up to get other things, and also celebrating the delights that I receive in so doing.   These choices are becoming more important for me as I enter the second half of my life and I understand with greater clarity that my energy and my time on this earth are not unlimited.

I find I am beginning to appreciate the things I am doing more, and fretting less about the things that I am not.  I am diving deep into my yoga studies and yoga teaching; I am offering NVC practice groups and workshops; I am coaching clients and fulfilling business agreements that bring me great satisfaction.  I have been reading more, exploring a loving relationship and spending more time being mindful.

This feels good.   This is my path.  And I wonder, what is yours?  What do you need to do to create a life that delights you and that serves the world?  If you can’t do everything, what is stopping you from doing what you love?

 

Tags: coaching, peace, inspired life, yoga, success, joy, nurture, passion, NVC, teaching, workshops, shoulding

Why Yes is Also No

Posted by Catherine Saar on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 @ 08:13 AM

It’s the busy holiday season, and there are more things on my to-do list than I can accomplish before year- end.  As I say “yes” to the items on my list, I am actually saying “no” to some others.   Whenever I accept an invitation, or take time to return a phone call, whatever I choose, I create my life.

When I commit to one romantic relationship, I essentially say “no” to another.  When I say “yes” to tons of volunteer work and keeping a busy work and social schedule, I may be saying no to rest, exercise or other kinds of self-care.  Sometimes it seems that there is no “right” answer.  I want to do it all.  I want to meet everyone’s needs as well as my own.  So how do you know what to choose?

Some decisions are easier than others.  The tricky ones play my emotions as if they were a musical score to a Broadway show - with joy, sorrow, and a whole range of seemingly conflicting feelings showing up.

For example, when I say no, I sometimes feel grief.  I mourn what I give up, even when I am moving into something that will be more life affirming for me.   My recent divorce is a case in point.   While being divorced has allowed a world of possibility and freedom, I miss some of the predictability and ease of partnership. I am also noticing that holiday planning seemed less complicated back then 

Would I go back? NO.  Do I still feel the sadness of what I have lost and the joy at what I have gained? YES.

WTF?  This is not what Hollywood promised!  How are we able to hold sweetness, joy and sorrow all at the same time? And yet I know in my heart, that in this weird metamorphosis, I am where I need to be, moving in the direction that I need to go.

Because I am a curious human, I sometimes hunger to know the outcome of the choices I did not make.   This is more commonly called  “second guessing.” Other times, I hope to be assured of an outcome before I make a decision.  That is very rarely possible and may lead to getting stuck!

What I’ve finally learned is that I cannot make decisions only with my brain, because it doesn’t have the answer.  It has logic, which often has nothing to do with what I really want in my heart.  And sadly, just trusting emotions is also not reliable, as those fickle friends usually show up in response to what I am thinking and can change with the wind.  

My hard-won insight  (after years of yoga, coaching, and nonviolent communication) is to rely more on the sensations in my body for decision making.  For example, I can notice a sense of relaxation and calm that I feel when I find an answer that suits me best.  It shows up as easier breathing, and lightness behind my eyes. I feel more open. On the other hand, when I am conflicted, I may feel tightness in my belly, my chest and/or my throat.  My eyes feel tired. 

My body is really smart.  It seems to be able to dialogue with my heart and my mind in ways to gather wisdom that heart or mind alone cannot access.  This kind of sensory feedback can take some mindfulness to observe, but it is available if you commit to noticing.  Or, download here; THE BODY COMPASS video that will take you through a simple exercise that can help you create an internal guidance mechanism.

My hope for you is that you can begin to listen carefully and notice what your body says when you say “yes,” or you say “no.”  Take your time, and trust yourself.  Remember, in every moment, you decide how you live your life, and you also get another opportunity to try something different.

 

Best Wishes for a happy and healthy 2014.

Tags: relationship, nonviolent communication, coaching, heart, divorced, curious, body compass, self care, yoga, second-guessing, stuck, body, exercise, grieve, metamorphosis

Character Flaw? Think Again.

Posted by Catherine Saar on Sat, Nov 16, 2013 @ 08:19 AM

If I had a dime for every self-deprecating thought that passed through my head in thisdescribe the image lifetime, I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. And my hunch is that many of you would be too.  How many times did I think I was wrong, unlovable, dumb, lacking talent, and just not good enough?

What’s up with that?  Sure we make mistakes and we’re not perfect.  But who is?  In fact, for the most part, we are good, decent people who wish to contribute to each other in meaningful ways.

So why are we so capable at beating ourselves up with negative talk?

Having spent much of my life seeking equanimity, I found this simple truth:

There is nothing “defective” or “flawed” about me  - or you!  

Rather, we are addicted to “stinking thinking!” Over the years, we’ve developed negative thinking patterns that inform our feelings, which in turn, motivate much of our behavior. 

 This is usually how it goes: thoughts lead to feelings, feelings lead to behaviors and behaviors lead to consequences.   Consequences typically reinforce the thoughts that lead to feelings. And the cycle begins again.

We didn’t get here alone.  We’ve had lots of help forming negative thoughts. Parents, family, media, and even teachers were among the many misinformed who helped us to develop ideas like “I’m not good enough” or “I should be different than who I was born to be.”   Of course blaming others doesn’t solve anything, nor does passively awaiting rescue while we lick our wounds.  What does help? Mindful awareness and curiosity.  Can you stop judging yourself and wonder instead, “Why am I thinking this way?  What do I really want?”

In short, the key is awareness and shifting perspective.  Next time you notice a negative thought, can you question its validity and then reframe it?  Generally, if you dig around, you will uncover a positive or protective desire underneath the feelings that lead to your behaviors. Once you know that, you can strategize how to better meet your needs.

 Here are a few examples:

  • When you think you didn’t do enough, maybe it’s because you truly have a desire to contribute and want reassurance that you are contributing sufficiently.  How might you get that reassurance in a more productive way, rather than berating yourself? 
  • When you decide to react negatively to your partner, are you feeling scared that he or she doesn’t love you or understand you?  Is it possible that you want to protect yourself and that when you said the wrong thing; maybe you just wanted to be heard or seen for who you really are?  Could you have had that discussion in a different way without blaming him or her or yourself?

Translated, can you appreciate and acknowledge the good in you?  Know that it is there.  Most of us are just trying to do our best, as tender, vulnerable human beings.  We are afraid of being hurt, or hurting others, of not being or doing enough, or maybe doing or being too much. Very few of us wake up and think “I want to do a crappy job today”, or “I want to act like a jerk.” 

Can you begin to tease out the positive longings behind your negative feelings and behaviors? Can you name them with honesty and kindness for yourself and others?  And maybe handle situations that arise in a more life affirming and productive way?

I can’t say that you can change this overnight, but just becoming aware of the possibility can start you on a path to joyful change.  There are also lots of resources for healing and personal growth, including mindfulness practices, nonviolent communication, coaching and a host of therapeutic techniques.  As you embark on this process, you can begin to alter neural pathways – and that means that behavior change can become progressively easier.

I wish you much joy, peace, and success!  Here are some resources for you to explore on your journey to self-acceptance and self-realization:

Finding Your Own North Star, by Martha Beck

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

What Happy People Know by Dan Baker  

The Work of Byron Katie

Mediate Your Life

 

 

Tags: nonviolent communication, coaching, contribute, kindness, character flaw, judging, behavior change, What Happy People Know, self-realization, curiosity, Martha Beck, beating ourselves up, equanimity, The Work of Byron Katie, Mediate Your Life, mindful, productive, unlovable, not good enough, negative thoughts, self acceptance

The Truth About Love and Contracts

Posted by Catherine Saar on Sat, Nov 09, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

I still believe in love.  Yes, like many of us, I’ve been betrayed, disappointed,love is all you need 1zgwlw3 196jdr1 resized 600 verbally and emotionally abused, misunderstood, unseen and disrespected by people who vowed they loved me even while speaking and acting in ways that might be interpreted as terribly unkind.

And, I know they did love me.  In their bodies, in their hearts, in their minds, they felt that inexplicable warmth that opened their heart with a longing for connection that only love can answer.  They loved me viscerally – and perhaps, I loved them too.

But that is not important, because feeling an emotion does not require the participation of the other person.  In fact, their love had little to do with me.  I may have been the stimulus, but the feelings lived in them.  WHAT? Well, think about it.  If I could cause someone to love me, Clive Owen and I would have been an item long ago.

The point I am trying to make is that for the most part, the love we feel is generated inside of ourselves, by ourselves.  We feel it in our own hearts and minds, whether or not the other person loves us back, or is even still alive.

The most beautiful time is when that feeling happens at the same time with someone else and the two of you can say, “We are in love with each other.” Or, perhaps in the case of a parent, or a friend, we simply say we love each other.

What sweetness!

And then it gets tricky.  What happens when one of us wants or needs something different from the other person in the relationship?  How do you resolve it?

When you utter the words, “If you loved me you would _____________________,” (either silently to yourself, or aloud to the other) – love is transformed from a feeling inside of yourself to a contract with a physical manifestation.  And how that contract gets navigated can empower the relationship or destroy it.

The contract is usually not about love itself, but about other needs we may have that helps us to feel loved.  For example, one partner may need a great deal of companionship while the other needs solitude; perhaps one is very sexually driven, and the other prefers cuddling.  Perhaps one is very communicative while the other is not.  Do these people love each other less because they each have different needs?  This is where we get very confused in relationships and often where things fall apart. When we forget to talk these issues out, we often begin to have negative thoughts about what and why our loved one is doing what they do.  Our relationships become burdened by heavy baggage filled with miscommunication and misunderstanding.

I believe that when two people who care for one another can openly, honestly and kindly work through their needs together, there is more potential for a love relationship that works. We often make a lot of assumptions about what our loved one should do for us and vice versa and we have may have unexpressed expectations about how the other should behave.  Is that loving, or is that judgment?

It’s a relationship.  There is interdependence.  It is essential for us to discuss our expectations and to agree on our agreements. For me, the love happens not because we agree, but in how we work together to negotiate ”the terms of the deal.”  Are we open enough, accepting enough, awake enough to express ourselves without blaming or shaming or demanding – while also listening tenderly to the needs of the other?  If so, perhaps we can find creative ways to meet most of our needs satisfactorily (or decide not to!) while holding our selves and our loved ones with care.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to own and to express my own needs.  At the same time, I accept my loved ones as individuals with their own set of needs that are equal to mine. Not more important or less.  And none of us are obligated to, (or even capable of) meeting all the needs of the other!   

Yes, I believe in love.  I know that I may feel love, and yet be unable to negotiate a contract that works well enough to support a thriving relationship.  On the other hand, I also believe it is possible to have both.  I’ve learned a new way to speak to, and a new way to listen to those for whom I feel love.  Through the practice of compassionate nonviolent communication, I find I am more skillful at interacting with my loved ones, and for that, I am grateful, and filled with hope. 

My wish for you is that you also find a way to successfully embrace the love in your life in a satisfying and sustainable way.  Here’s a list of some books that have helped me on my path, should you find them useful:

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

Loving What Is, by Byron Katie

Happy reading, and much love to you and yours!

Tags: relationship, Byron Katie, nonviolent communication, connection, betrayed, emotionally abused, demanding, shaming, blaming, love, Don Miguel Ruiz, Marshall Rosenberg, in love, unexpressed expectations, Melody Beattie, Clive Owen, assumptions, interdependence, accepting

Confronting Conflict with Heart

Posted by Catherine Saar on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 @ 09:29 AM

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Conflict with someone you care about (or have to work with), can make the stakes for satisfactory resolution very high. How you handle the situation affects not only how you feel about yourself, but also how the other person feels about you. Swallowing your needs may lead to resentment.  Lashing out may damage the relationship.

So how do you speak up for yourself, listen to the other person, and manage to keep an openhearted connection when you are in the middle of a heated disagreement?

Deepak Chopra says that through mindfulness, we can begin to develop ”the ability to calmly and objectively observe a situation, acknowledge when we are being triggered and choose how we want to respond. Instead of feeling stuck in knee jerk reactions and conditioned patterns of behavior, we free ourselves to make choices that will help us fulfill our deepest desires for love, fulfillment and happiness.”*

That really resonates for me. There are several mindfulness practices, including self-empathy that help me to consult my heart before acting on emotion.  In so doing, I get the chance to express myself with compassion– for myself - as well as for the other person, rather than responding out of anger, guilt or fear.

Following this path doesn’t mean giving up on what you want.  It also doesn’t mean ignoring the needs and wants of the other person either. Considering both sets of needs is important when you care about the relationship.

At times when it seems easier to clam up or lash out, consider whether either of those actions will deliver a peaceful, satisfying result. When the answer is no, investing the energy to calmly engage can be worthwhile.  Once committed, here are some tips that can help guide you through a connected interaction:

  • Take time to self assess. A deep breath and a brief time-out may enable you to connect with your feelings and needs. Sometimes saying, “This issue is clearly very important, and I really want to talk about it with you. Can you give me a minute to get my thoughts together?” may be just what you need to center yourself.
  • Focus on the issue, not the person. Avoid name-calling and personal attacks to reduce the likelihood of hurt feelings.
  • Acknowledge feelings. Respectfully listen and acknowledge the person’s feelings, either verbally or by giving them undivided attention. Be careful not to tell someone that he or she “shouldn’t” feel a certain way. Also try saving your point of view until after the other person knows that you understand how intensely they feel about the issue, even if you don’t agree with their point of view.
  • Try curiosity not defensiveness. Avoid defending yourself by proclaiming innocence, or rightness, or by attacking and blaming the other person.  This escalates a confrontation. Instead, ask for more information, details, and examples. There is usually some basis for the other person’s complaint and these questions can lead to a better understanding of what the issue is.
  • Give/Ask for specifics. When you or the other party has complaints, ask for (or give) specific examples so you can both get greater clarity.
  • Find points of agreement. Usually, a conflict has points of agreement.  Seek places where your needs match the needs of the other person. Finding common ground, even if it’s simply agreeing that there is a problem, can contribute to a solution.
  • Consider many options. Invite collaboration and resolution by offering and asking politely for suggestions and alternatives. Carefully consider each suggestion and be open to trying an approach you might not have previously considered.

Want to explore this topic further? Join the free Conflict Resolution teleseminar that mediator, Pam Refling and I will host on September 4, or join us for our four-week webinar starting September 17th, Transforming Conflict into Opportunity."

 

And remember, with any important relationship, conflict resolution is not about winning. It’s about taking care of you while seeking solutions that meet needs for all involved parties. Take a deep breath - and good luck.

JOIN OUR FREE INTRO TELESEMINAR ON TRANSFORMING CONFLICT INTO OPPORTUNITY on SEPTEMBER 4th.  Click here or below to register for free!

How to Handle  Conflict with Heart and Ease

 

*Quotation from Oprah Winfrey's 21-Day Relationship Meditation Challenge document Day 16.

 

Tags: relationship, heart, collaboration, compassion, curiosity, clarity, love, free, conflict resolution, meditation, Oprah Winfrey, avoid escalation, mindfulness, stressful, Tips, teleseminar, Deepak Chopra, resentful, happiness, resolution, fulfillment, emotion