Start with Heart: 3 Steps to a Healthier Relationship
While practicing self-observation recently, I noticed that my automatic impulse is to retract my energy when something uncomfortable or potentially emotionally painful is going on. When I feel like someone isn’t treating me the way I want them to, or when someone I care about is moody, I find myself automatically deploying the ego defense mechanism of contraction. Most of us do this as an instinctual response to discomfort or pain or conflict. The unconscious reasoning may sound something like, “Well, if he is going to be that way, whatever” (with a lot of silent, yet sarcastic, attitude), followed by an apathetic recoil of energy as if it/he/she doesn’t matter to us. Unconsciously we think that we will “show them” with our indifference, that they will suddenly see what they are doing and be the ones to wave the white flag of love. (Either that or we launch an angry attack on our loved one, thinking that we can force them to behave differently.)
When I realize that I am withdrawing, I then take a moment to self-inquire to see if my energy matches my goal. Ultimately, I remind myself that if my goal is to create a healthier, more loving relationship with the people in my life, a pulling back or withdrawal of my energy (love) is not going to lead me toward my goal, nor is a lashing of the tongue.
The hardest thing for the ego to do when faced with potential pain is to let down the armored guard (of apathy, or anger, or righteousness, or hurt) and offer love to the situation. However, the reality is that if your goal is a more loving relationship, making the first move back toward love is the best thing you can possibly do.
For nearly all of us, our automatic response is to react with ego when something isn’t going right. The problem is that ego is geared to separate us. Ego’s mission is to protect—and while it serves its purpose well, a heavily guarded heart, or armored heart, often becomes a lonely heart.
The following steps will help you to “train your brain to start with heart,” rather than ego.
Step One: Remember what your goal is: a healthy, loving relationship. You may opt to leave it be if the discomfort is only momentary or with a total stranger, but when it is your spouse, sweetheart, parents, siblings, kids, coworkers, or someone else you are planning to be in an ongoing relationship with, your goal is likely to be a happy, productive relationship.
Step Two: Simply notice your own response to the event. When something happens or someone says something uncomfortable, simply observe your thoughts and energy. Do you pull back and withdraw? Do you respond equally unkindly? Do you get silent? Do you get even? Just notice what you do.
Step Three: Ask yourself if your actions, thoughts, and words are leading you closer to your goal—or further away. If you find that what you are thinking, doing, and saying are in alignment with creating a healthy, loving relationship, then continue on! If, though, you find that your response to the situation is leading you away from—or possibly even becoming the very obstacle to—the goal of a healthy, loving relationship, rethink your choices.
In the moment when we become aware that we have choices over our responses and every response either leads closer to or further away from our goals, we become powerful. The goal is align our thoughts, words, and actions both with who we really are and what we are trying to create. When you learn to start with heart, you will quickly clear the obstacles between you and love.
Intellectual Foreplay Question of the Week: How do you respond to your loved ones?
Love Tip of the Week: Self-observation is the key to transformation. You have to know “where you are” in order to get where you want to be.