Beliefs and Relationships

Have you ever seen how two people get completely caught up in a war of beliefs? It turns into painful, hurtful lose:lose situation. For example a separated couple fighting over the care of their child(ren). Each partner truly believing that they are the better person to raise the child(ren), that they are in the ‘right’. Each partner usually has a group of supporter who equally believe s/he does things right. The battle than is about pointing out the other party’s shortcomings or mistakes and highlight one’s own assets. Continue reading “Beliefs and Relationships”

Just Listen

When you go to a communication skills course or read a book about communication skills, the first thing you will notice is the importance of listening skills. I have given courses in communication skills for the last 20 years * and let me tell you REALLY LISTENING is hard for people. You would think it comes natural to us, but nothing is farther from the truth.

The biggest obstacle to good listening that connects people on a deeper level is ‘getting yourself out-of-the-way’. I found most people listen while having their own world-view running in the back of their minds checking every statement to whether they agree or disagree. Does what you say fit into my belief system or not?

That kind of listening makes it all about you, and not about the person who is sharing something about his or her life. No wonder the most uttered complaint I hear is ‘S/he is never listening to me’ while the listener is very much taken by surprise asserting ‘of course I am’. It’s like two ships passing in the dark: they may greet each other with a ‘hoot, hoot’ but never really meet. (Which is actually a good thing when you are a ship!)

Listening to another person in a way that connects you has nothing to do with agreement or disagreement. Listen to the feeling that is behind the words. Listen like you would listen to a violin concerto or the song of the birds. Listen with the ears of a child that is captured by the story that is told. Only when you clear your mind of judgements and pre-conceived ideas while you are listening will you be able to learn something new. Only then will you have new insights. Only then will you grow. Only then will the other person feel listened to!

* check out my next course in communication skills and understanding self and others!

The Importance Of Social Support When Trauma Strikes

The world has seen devastating catastrophic events such as natural disasters, extreme poverty and famine, wars, political terror, slavery, and the abuse of individuals on a grand scale. Yet, in the aftermath of devastation, traumatized individuals have usually been able to recover and rebuild their lives and their countries. One characteristic of human societies is that people come together and seek closeness with others to help with the integration of traumatic experiences. “Emotional attachment is probably the primary protection against feelings of helplessness and meaninglessness; it is essential for biological survival in children, and without it, existential meaning is unthinkable in adults” (Kolk & McFarlane, Traumatic Stress, 1996, p. 24).  Seeking and giving support when traumatic events strike is one of the most effective ways to help people cope.

The Impact Of Disaster

A terrifying disaster like the Christchurch Earthquake has a huge impact on people. We are confronted with the fragility of life, with the unpredictability of our physical safety on this planet, and with our inability to protect ourselves and loved ones from such tragedies. Trauma people may have experienced earlier in their lives often gets triggered and they find themselves thrown back again into the depth of traumatisation.

When you have been touched by a traumatic event and you feel emotionally numb, irritable, angry, or tearful, don’t be self-critical because these feelings are some of the normal feelings people have as a response to an un-normal event. You might experience sleeplessness, hypervigilance, nightmares, or avoid thinking about what happend: all these reactions are normal. These symptoms may go on for several months and in some cases they could turn into a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Whilst we cannot ‘not’ be affected by trauma one way or the other, most people are free of any symptoms after a few months. However, there are a few things people can do to help coping whilst they experience trauma symptoms and to avoid longlasting problems. I have listed several of them in the next few posts.

Looking For New Love

It is not unusual that a relationship comes to an end. Whether people lose a partner through death or through a separation, getting over the loss is never easy. After a time of grieving the loss of a partner and the dream of a life together, people may start looking for a new partner.

Hopefully by now people have matured and don’t get attracted by superficial qualities. If people have approached ‘mid-life’ there is usually a sense of having no time for silly games. A new relationship will show much promise if people look for someone who is interested in establishing a lasting relationship rather than in a fling. This involves finding a person who is available rather than someone who has lots of excuses for not being able to form a commitment.

Look for a partner who is emotionally open, is comfortable with their vulnerabilities, and is willing to take responsibility for his or her own feelings. Is the person you are interested in honest, is respectful, has integrity, and is trustworthy? If you can answer these questions with ‘yes’, you are well on your way.

A totally other issue is, of course, having a good look at yourself. How well do you know yourself? Are you aware of the ways you contribute to relationship problems or even break-ups? Before you go about looking for a new partner, maybe it’s a good time to look at your own ‘skeletons in the cupboard’. It might be a good idea to get help with this self-exploration to make sure that you don’t trip over your own outdated beliefs and understandings. You can contact me if you would like some assistance in exploring these issues for you.

How open are you to a lasting, intimate relationship? Do you find yourself getting fearful, suspicious, and not trusting when it comes to making a commitment? Do you avoid showing your vulnerabilities and your honest thoughts? Are you avoidant and defensive? If this is the case, you might sabotage your relationships without being consciously aware of it.

Are you quickly interpreting other people’s actions? A major problem in relationships is that people draw conclusions without checking out with their partner why s/he has been acting they way they have. Mindreading is so common a mistake that it is almost tragic how many relationships suffer under people’s reluctance to discuss with their partner what was really going on.

Having realistic expectations of one’s partner is another key to successful relationships. Avoid thinking that through the power of your love your partner will turn into this wonderful person/prince. Modern relationships are not fairy tales. They are about understanding that your feelings are created by your thoughts and taking responsibility for them. Be sure that you have loving feelings towards the person in front of you and not towards a set of potentials that you fantasize into that person.

Last but not least understand that love is not something that you can find – like a set of keys you’ve lost when you were out jogging. Love is not a certain thing; it means many different things to many different people. Love is most of all a verb. To love someone means to demonstrate caring, supporting, understanding, respecting, appreciating, and enjoying another person. Long-lasting love means to demonstrate love mutually to each other over and over again.

Love has very little to do with ‘chemistry’, the stuff that makes ‘the earth shake’. Not that these experiences aren’t pleasurable. Love, is much more ordinary. This reminds me of movies where actors/actresses are cast because there is a ‘chemistry’ between them that translates well on screen evoking the pretense of love. Sometimes these actors are becoming a couple after they’ve finished the movie. However, often these relationships don’t last very long. Chemistry in itself is not enough. Love is like a garden that needs lots of constant attention.

Finding Love Again After 40

heartsThe fabric of our society is changing. Even though growing up most girls and boys see themselves in the future happily married with or without children, single people households today already outnumber family households. This is true for New Zealand (source statistics New Zealand) and probably reflects a worldwide trend. Singles who are 40 years and older make up the fastest growing group of singles who seek a (new) partner today.

However, most ‘mature’ singles are finding out that there are very few opportunities to meet other singles. Traditional ways of meeting prospective partners don’t seem to exist anymore. The heart warming News Zealand tradition of the Saturday dance in the community hall, where people meet, is well and truly history.

Online Dating websites have taken over from traditional introduction service, replacing the ‘personal ad’ in the lonely heart section of the weekend newspaper. Today, the single person who is looking for love, friendship, or romance can browse through the registered members of online dating sites, look at photos, and skim through people’s profiles.

On the ‘Pro’ side, there is lots of information available and each profile will give you a good impression of what kind of a person you are dealing with. You can make a much better informed choice when you think of contacting someone.

On the ‘Con’ side, like in all other locations (bars, clubs, etc.) you might come across someone who is dishonest, sends out false signals, and is just interested in some form of sexual or financial exploitation.

One thing is sure, online dating has become today’s way of meeting new people. You still have to employ common sense, you still have to check the person out; you still have to see whether there is chemistry between you; you still have to work on establishing a healthy relationship. There are no shortcuts to lasting love.

The Secret to Great Relationships and Good Parenting

Going by the many ‘how-to’ books and articles you would think all it takes is to learn a few techniques or skills and you are well on your way to a great relationship and good parenting. Whilst it is very helpful to use the concept of ‘time-out’ (parenting) or ‘making I-statements’ (relationships) focusing mainly on skills will let you fall short of the desired outcome in both relationships and parenting. Skills are the icing on the cake.

The cake, however, the vital aspect that forms the basis to a great relationship and also is instrumental in being a good parent: is Self-Awareness. Having self-awareness means that you have been able to make sense of your life, that you have been able to reflect on many, if not all, aspects of your life from early childhood onwards. It means you have been able to process the painful aspects of your life, you understand where your defenses and compulsions originate from, that you have access to a wide range of emotions, that you can regulate your distress well enough to not fall often into acting out behaviour, and that you like yourself.

Working through one’s personal life-story is not an easy task. It requires courage and commitment to stay with a process that is often uncomfortable and emotionally draining, especially when you have experienced childhood trauma (abuse or neglect), grief and loss, long-term illness, or disability. Not doing so may result in a lower level of functioning we all may experience in times of stress or fatigue. Unresolved trauma or grief however interferes with our clear judgements, social skills, self-understanding, attunements to others’ needs, and emotional intelligence. 

If you experience problems in your (intimate) relationships or in your parenting, engaging in self-exploration with the help of a psychotherapist might be a solution for your problems.

Keep Romance Alife in Your Relationship

Couple romance A common perception is that after a while relationships lose their romantic touch and turn into something more akin companionship and friendship. However, a group of researchers have investigated a large number of studies to find out whether this common perception is true.

They found that we don't have to settle for 'luke warm'. Indeed, they say it is perfectly possible to have lifelong romance and passion in your relationship. More so, people who report more romance in their relationship are usually more satisfied and happy. A key to romantic love seems to be the feeling that "…my partner is there for me".

So, don't settle for less, don't restrict your expections. You can have longlasting romance in your relationships. It is attainable. However, you have to work with focus on devotion on having lasting romance in your life!

Read the original research article here


Identifying Personal Responses to Conflict Situations

Conflict When it comes to dealing effectively with conflict situations, knowing about your own conflict style will come as a great help. Everybody reacts differently to conflict. Basically, how we react to conflict, what triggers conflict, and what constitutes vulnerable areas to could lead to conflict depends very much on a person’s history and his/her formative experiences in childhood. For example, growing up in a family where conflict often led to violence might cause a child to grow up dealing with conflict either by acting violently or by avoiding it altogether.

Continue reading “Identifying Personal Responses to Conflict Situations”