Healthy Times April 2010
Healthy Times article April 2010
Are you really doing the best you can?
Is your relationship as strong as you would like? Are you still recovering from one that, for no obvious reason, just fell apart? Well, you’re not alone and this doesn’t have to be the way things are. But there are three basic ingredients to be sure of having a relationship that works: self esteem, acceptance, and respect.
Before we can even begin to think about having a fulfilling, loving relationship with someone else, we have to improve the one we have with ourself. Our best contribution to any relationship is to love ourself. What we feel about ourself will unconsciously project itself onto the other person. We need to learn to accept ourself just as we are, not as measured against some ideal form that has been prescribed for us throughout our life. We attract what we believe we deserve.
But please note: none of what we believe about ourselves is real. It’s all made up! If it’s all made up, who exactly are we then? We are not our ego, the conditioned self that life has taught us to become, and we are not our mistakes. How many of us, however, allow these impostors to direct our life, our choice of partner and the quality of our relationships? It’s no surprise that we develop a sense of lack, of not deserving, of not being good enough to have what we want.
Robert Thurman, a Buddhist scholar at Columbia University, said: “I am daily making myself what I am”, meaning that we are all in a state of continual change. Every single day, our thinking, our dreams and our plans for ourselves evolve as new information and events unfold before us. To get to know who we are and then to accept that person fully, we need to contemplate our self daily.
Choose a moment when you can relax fully and, without judgment, appreciate any change in your thinking or feelings from yesterday and welcome the possibility of who you may become tomorrow. As you reflect on your progress, consider the thoughts you hold about yourself that may no longer help you. Let them go, because they’re no longer needed. The goal is to examine yourself honestly, stripped of the mask that you show to the world.
In the first hour of every day set the course for the day by asking yourself “how do I want to be today?” The important point is how you want to be, not what you want to do or get.
Once you can accept yourself just as you are, you need to learn to accept others just as they are. Accepting someone else unconditionally is challenging, of course, because it demands so much of your ego. Begin with the premise that everyone (you included) all the time and in every context is doing the best they can with the resources available to them. The key words here are ‘with the resources available to them’.
People don’t consciously set out to be difficult, so it helps to be curious about the resources that might have been available for them when they were doing something you didn’t like. You may find that you come up with some interesting possibilities: perhaps they didn’t have enough time, they were exhausted, they didn’t have any training, etc. If just one of these could possibly be true, you will find yourself becoming more accepting and forgiving. Keep doing this and then try it on yourself the next time you’re running yourself down. You will find yourself becoming naturally more tolerant of everyone, yourself included.
By this stage, you’ve done most of the hard work. You’ve restored your self-esteem and you’re now more accepting of the little things that your partner does that used to bother you so much in the past. The third ingredient will be the bedrock of your relationship as you and your partner continue to grow and change.
Consider now which attributes in your partner you really admire. Are they integrity, generosity, gratitude, willingness to help others whatever the circumstances or something else? As you focus on this, notice how your respect for this virtue develops. Let it become the central feature of what you see in them over the next week or two and in time this will become a permanent aspect of them that will see you through any disagreement or argument.
Forgive, apologise quickly and above all feel respect for your partner. Acknowledge that you are constantly evolving and so are they. You’re not the same person you were a year ago. Why should you expect your partner not to change? Respect the change.
Immanuel Kant summed it up perfectly when he said: “we see the world not as it is but as we are”.
Stephen Clasper is an executive coach and co-founder of Shakti Healing Circle.