Of all the areas of our life that effect us the deepest and with the greatest range of possibilities, our relationships rate the highest. This is true not only in our relationships with other people, but more importantly, in our relationship with ourselves. The relationship we form with ourselves determines how we enter into relationship with everyone and everything else in our lives. The very foundation of life itself and all areas of self-creation and lifestyle are formed by how we relate to everything around us. Relationships are the greatest tools there are for transformation. When we know how to use them as tools for creating a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, we embrace our true power and it ignites our life.
Of all the areas of our life and relationships we employ and develop, the ones that affect us the most while having the greatest transformative ability, is romantic-sexual relationships. These relationships bring us the greatest fulfillment and happiness, or the greatest stress and misery. Some start with a bang then fizzle quickly. Others build gradually, establishing the friendship aspect first that then deepens through the trust that’s established and moves naturally into much more intimate experiences. Others can start off romantic and evolve into more of a platonic, roommate situation that while the love may still be strong leaves you longing for romance, affection and sexual intimacy. Still others can come as an intense encounter of some kind that’s strange and somewhat perverted or twisted that’s also strangely gripping and magnetic . . .at least . . . for awhile.
Yet nothing serves more directly to shape us than our relationships with family and key people in our lives, whether good or bad. And at the same time, no other area of our life are we completely lacking in education and practical know-how and left virtually fending for ourselves with only the relationship modeled to us by our parents to guide us. No one actually teaches us about the nature of romantic encounters and how to have relationships outside of our friends (who are as clueless as we are) and the occasional lecture that comes usually when we’ve done something wrong or already experienced our first heartbreak.
Most of us are simply conditioned to the relationships being demonstrated for us by our parents or extended family members, where we were also developed by interacting with that same family dynamic which set’s us up for similar types of relationships and experiences. In psychology we say, we usually become one of our parents and marry the other one. Usually by the time we’re teenagers and beginning to explore sexual relationships, we’ve already been conditioned to the primary relationship dynamic that we’ll spend the rest of our life repeating. Even when we become aware of the consistency that starts emerging, with periodic events that bring shocking insights into the nature of things or underlying emotions and agenda’s that become apparent in a way that we can no longer deny or explain away by telling ourselves a story about them that justifies them, we can still feel powerless to change them.
Every once in a while, people and situations come together that are truly meant for each other, and form real love for each other, and create a very positive influence on each other in their lives together, while having an attitude of growing together through their life experiences that they always approach as “us” and “we”. They see all of life as happening to “them” as a single-unit, and pull together and support each other through tough times, and grow in their love and respect for each other as a result. Some people are fortunate enough to have healthy relationships modeled to them by their parents, or have their parents openly and intelligently teach them about relationships and how to most appropriately conduct them.
The biggest key for learning how to remain fully conscious (awake) in relationships, whether romantic or other wise, is to recognize your own tendencies in relationship with others, how you act “on them” to establish certain ideas and through your interaction bring out specific traits in them in response to you. Many times what we see as something they’re doing to us, is actually brought on by something we did to them that initiated a cause and effect pattern. Then, once its starts, we don’t know how to stop it or recant, and can’t seem to control our emotions which sabotage it even further. Naturally once you do or say certain things, there’s no turning back. They can’t unhear something that they’ve heard or felt. Even if forgiveness is offered, they never really forget, but simply push it to the background where it sits and festers until it starts coming up, more and more frequently as time passes until it becomes precedence. While we can say anything to someone, and think we’re doing it convincingly, we can’t hide the look in our eyes which is the window to our soul that always reveals how we’re feeling.
If we can learn to control that glazed over feeling of being ‘twitter-pated’ that takes place in the beginning as ‘love at first sight’ that marks the beginning of the “romantic phase”, and pay attention to the red-flags that begin popping up without explaining them away, and pay close attention to how we’re feeling in terms of how they stimulate us and what they bring out in us as a result, we can keep a clear idea about how the relationship is going to naturally act to develop us. Whatever mood we form when being with and around them that’s naturally created through the nature of the interaction or the feeling presence that they emanate that we’re always sensing, we can see how they’ll act to condition us to that same mind-set and attitude. People always act on each other to make the other person like them. We can’t help it. It comes from our mental and emotional paradigm that forms our behavior and how we act and treat other people. There’s always a form of persuasion and negotiation going on.
As a general rule, you should avoid any relationship that makes you feel bad in some way, brings you down by being around them, always reflects negatively on other people of situations, or stresses you out and invokes negative emotions on a routine basis. Don’t enter into and maintain relationships that bring out in you you’re worst traits. Over time these traits will become dominant and form habitual perceptions. When the red-flags come up, don’t glaze over or dismiss them, but openly acknowledge and talk about them. When weird behaviors begin coming out here and there, realize that you’re seeing something about the individual they normally hide. If you notice them but choose to ignore them, they tend to become a major issue further into the relationship, and you’ll kick yourself because you knew it was there all along. Realize that the emotional component in a relationship is the most important and will ultimately make or break the relationship.
The most important component of any relationship, but especially of romantic-sexual-intimate relationships is trust. This forms the foundation that everything else relies on, especially the level of intimacy reached and how they respond to each other sexually. Trust must be established and maintained right from the beginning. Once trust is broken, it will never be fully established again. This is what I call a ‘fine line’ that once crossed, marks the beginning of the end. It creates a turning point in the relationship where things start noticeably changing never to be the same again. Even when forgiveness is implied, the thought and feeling never really goes away. It’s better to come clean with something you’ve done that you’re not proud of or know will upset them, rather than hide it or lie about it, only to be discovered later where it becomes lying, deceiving and betraying.
Also realize that when somebody accuses you of something that you haven’t actually done and is not in your character to do, it not only shows you what their issues are, but also what they have a tendency towards themselves. Learn how psychology works in terms of whatever it is we’re doing we assume or suspect the other person is doing as well. We project onto other people what’s actually in us (as patterns) that we’re in denial of somehow and not owning. What we “see” in others (how we interpret their behavior) that produces a strong emotional reaction in us, is showing us aspects of ourselves and what our own tendencies are that we normally remain largely unaware of. This is easy to see when you’ve not only haven’t done what they’re accusing you of, but it’s not within you to do that, and so you feel surprised or dismayed when they accuse you of it. You may even feel somewhat confused by it or realize that they don’t even actually know you. This is what lets you know that it’s “their stuff”. If however you have done it, and hid it for whatever reason, then you need to see it as “your tendency” and work with it accordingly.
Relationships have the power they do because they stimulate in us complementary aspects that aren’t normally being stimulated and called forth, and mirror back to us our own character. Romantic and intimate relationships tend to immediately bring our deepest issues right to the foreground, and we find ourselves dealing with parts of ourselves that we didn’t really know for sure we had. Nothing makes us more vulnerable or represents the greatest possibly of loss, than love. It’s either what heals us through another, or what further traumatizes us. Because we have a natural predisposition to play out all of our conditioned tendencies in our relationships that we’re not fully aware of, and so they remain active and creative in our life, by realizing this and seeing it for the healing and personal growth it truly offers, we can grow exponentially by way of our personal relationships.
Many people live with the belief that in order to heal yourself of your own hidden aspects you have to endlessly rehash them, go over and over what happened to you that caused them through some form of therapy, but actually, this isn’t true. In fact, this type of therapy usually only acts to seat the problem deeper by reliving it and continuing to identify with it. The plain truth is all we really need to do is become fully aware of what our tendencies are without needing to justify them (what we argue to defend is ours to keep), self-reflect and gain realization around how we do it, and what tends to stimulate it, and actively choose not to do it anymore while simultaneously deciding what we’re going to do instead.
All unconscious (or semi-conscious) tendencies are patterns we’ve been conditioned with that have themes in them, usually something like: rejection, abandonment, betrayal, not being good enough, and so on. These themes form the stories we live out as if they’re real and true. They’re a form of illusion as an imagined (and often embellished) memory or handful of memories that forms our perceptual lens and reshapes what is in fact objective, neutral reality by selecting only the components that can be used to tell our story by how we combine them and interpret the behaviors others are displaying. A person whose theme is rejection for example, can interpret just about any behavior to mean they’re “being rejected”. Our perception ‘is’ an interpretation as the ‘meaning’ we give things by the story we tell about them. While we transform everyone else to fit into our story, we also tend to think others are seeing and living out of the same story as a reality that we are, when in fact, they’re doing the same thing, and have a whole different story going on than we do. Everybody’s walking around in the same outer reality which provides the elements they rearrange by way of the inner reality they’re actually living out of by how they’re creating their experience moment by moment as they go through the day.
By realizing this and intentionally taking a detached or disassociated perspective while self-reflecting, we can identify our own story as the basic idea we’re always using to interpret everything giving it the meaning it has for us. Nothing means anything until we make it mean something by the story we tell about it. All of reality as a personal experience is reformulated in our mind by how we perceive it as an interpretation. This basic psychological process forms all outer neutral realities into inner subjective realities of our own making. The mind is a reality generating machine. We are subject to our own reality as our creation, because our mental model is what created it, and we have natural behaviors we systematically employ as routine and habitual tendencies that act to stimulate and form that same reality for others by how we communicate and interact with them.
Through self-awareness and learning to recognize our own story always playing in our head and heart, and what tendencies they promote, as well as what acts to trigger them, we can not only control our reactions when being triggered, but when we start into the behaviors themselves we catch ourselves doing it, and in that moment of realization as to what we’re actually doing that we normally remain unaware of, we realize we have a choice as to what to do instead. We can choose a new response to an old stimulus and employ new behaviors that break old patterns and begin forming new ones. We can choose with full awareness what type of story we’re going to tell by how we act and how we live our lives. When we move from an unconscious habitual state into a conscious and creative state we heal ourselves through self-induced transformation.
The biggest key to cultivating healthy relationships is by recognizing your own tendencies as “issues” and complexes, and through this awareness “choose” to give up your story and your need to defend your right to have it, which keeps you identifying with it, and choose to live a new kind of story instead. Self-reflect and recognize your own character flaws or tendencies that are destructive and hurtful, and work ‘on’ your self to transform them into positive traits that are creative and health promoting. Only by correcting in yourself the issues you tend to act out in relationships will you not only be able to attract a new kind of partner (that’s living the same pattern) but also won’t be unconsciously acting in a way that stimulates that old pattern in them. It’s only by working on healing and growing ourselves that we’re able to form new and healthy relationships. If we see ourselves as innocent while putting the blame for the relationship going bad on others, then nothing changes. We keep attracting and being attracted to the same type of people who are living out the same type of story with complementary roles in the same type of behaviors. This is like doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.
When we work on ourselves and develop ourselves in new ways while letting go of the past and healing ourselves of psychological patterns, we’re no longer attracted or attractive to the same kind of people. We’re no longer stimulated by them. We don’t feel any chemistry with them or get easily drawn into their melodramas. The old triggers simply don’t affect us any more. They’re easy to walk away from and no longer create an instant engagement. Once we decide how we want to grow and what type of story we want to live, and we develop the necessary character to tell that story, we’ll start forming an attraction to different kinds of people. We’ll act to stimulate them in new ways, and they us, and a whole new reality will be birthed thru the transformation itself.
The process for beginning your healing transformation will go something like this:
• Self-reflect on your own tendencies in relationships (past or present), and what issues tend to become prevalent for either one of you, what behavioral pattern formed in the relationship, and what it seemed to be about as it played out. What issues kept coming up?
• Identify your own theme that you’re always living out of that becomes played out in your relationships as a co-creation. Such as: feeling rejected or not wanted, not loved or cared for, betrayed, abused, abandoned, cheating, excessive drama, and so on.
• Recognize your own part in creating that pattern. What behaviors started taking place between you and them that formed that pattern? How are you acting to support it?
• Recognize what feelings and emotions tend to trigger undesired or destructive and damaging behaviors. What events take place that acts to first start forming the pattern? Such as: you catch them in a lie, or you lie to them, they talk to you in a condescending manner, they attack or turn on you for no reason, they openly flirt with somebody else in front of you, they start (or you) accusing you of something, they belittle you, correct you a lot, or even physically strike you or you them, you fight a lot, and so on.
• Gain realization around your own attachments to the story being played out in terms of how you identify with the meaning of your own story about things, and be willing to quit needing to tell that story. Then decide what type of story you want to tell instead with the awareness that it’s going to make you feel different about yourself, and may seem awkward or “not true” at first. You may become aware that you really don’t know how to feel different or tell a different type of story. But get clear on how you want to shape yourself through a new story and keep working at it. Conditioning comes through steady practice.
• What character traits would you need to develop in yourself in order to naturally tell the new story? How would you have to be? What traits do you currently possess that would act to prevent it and how do you need to transform them into positive and supportive traits? What emotions would you need to embody to create the right state of mind? How would you need to behave and conduct yourself? Determine what these are and again gain clarity around them while practicing them until they become natural.
• If you find yourself falling back into old behaviors, stop as soon as you realize it, withdraw from the situation before you begin creating out of it, and self-reflect on what’s happening inside of you and why. Gain realization around whatever it is you still haven’t resolved and willingly let go of it, while continuing to practice until relapses diminish.
• Make a vow to yourself that you’re going to always honor your own intuition and when red-flags come up or strange feelings, you won’t ignore them or explain them away, but penetrate and investigate them instead. Decide you’re not willing to compromise things that are important to you.
• Set standards for yourself and others for the relationship, and do not compromise or negotiate them away once you get into the relationship. Identify what are “deal-breakers” and if they should become apparent or start to arise, don’t stay in the relationship. It won’t be good.
• Identify what parts of yourself you want to grow and develop, and what states of mind and traits you want to strengthen and condition yourself to, and cultivate and maintain only relationships that stimulate and influence you in those ways. Let go of any relationship that’s negative, toxic, abusive, dysfunctional, or mentally and emotionally painful. Do not stay in relationships that destroy your self-esteem.
These basic practices may seem like a lot to do all at once, but what you’ll find is that they’re interlaced, and one will naturally lead to the next forming a whole process. The object of this process, as with any healing process, is self-awareness, and self-realization. You want to shed light on all areas of your self that are currently shadowed, areas where you’re not aware of what you’re actually doing and the reason you’re doing it that come about more through automatic behaviors that are triggered emotionally. We don’t ever have control over other people, but we have full control over ourselves. While we can’t change other people, we can always change ourselves and thereby change how they respond and interact with us. By changing ourselves to be the person we want to be we find that the relationships in our life changes accordingly.
Relationships of all kinds hold us to interactive patterns that were established in the relationship itself. When we change and grow and others don’t, the relationship tends to pull us back into the old way of being. People seldom let us transcend our past but act instead to hold us to it. You have to realize this and be prepared for it so it doesn’t catch you off guard or you fail to see it for what it really is. Relationships that don’t grow with you or naturally stimulate in you you’re new way of being and support it through the nature of the interaction will “leave your life” or simply fade into the background while new ones begin emerging with new people who share the new pattern and ways of being are established that foster your growth and act naturally to promote it through the nature of your interaction.
Transpersonal Psychologist, Mind-Body Health Consultant, and Spiritual Teacher
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