Posts tagged with ‘LOVE’

12 sep

How to Heal Relationships – Part One

WEJMDTruly loving, nurturing and sustainable relationships are not happening for a great many of us. The reasons for this have to do with our ego getting in the way, with our unwillingness to be more thoughtful, tolerant and considerate, with our unwillingness to rise above the battlefield, to release our anger and resentments from the past, to effectively communicate, to negotiate differences and to establish, maintain and respect boundaries.

I say unwillingness because although it may be difficult to do these things, we choose not to. Loving, sustainable relationships are not the result of accidents or luck, they are the result of healthy choices.

It’s profound the degree to which most of us treat strangers, acquaintances, co-workers and friends much better than we treat our loved ones. With our loved ones, we forget about being compassionate, generous, selfless, considerate, empathetic and loving. We take them for granted. We ridicule them. We shame them. We ignore their needs and invalidate their feelings. And then we complain that we don’t have the relationship that we want.

This isn’t tricky stuff. If we want to have a loving relationship, we need to be loving. If we want to be understood, we need to understand. If we want to be appreciated, we need to appreciate. If we want to be respected, we need to respect. If we want consideration, we need to be considerate. If we don’t want to be judged and shamed, we need to not judge and shame. If we want to be forgiven, we need to forgive.

We reap what we sow. It’s the Golden Rule and it works: When we treat others as we wish to be treated we tend to receive what we give. Our world gets better. Our relationships become more loving, more nurturing, more satisfying and more enduring.

So that’s the ticket: We choose to be generous. We choose to be grateful. We choose to be gracious. We don’t assume the worst. We give our partner the benefit of the doubt. When our partner says or does something that we feel is inconsiderate or unloving we don’t immediately assume they wanted to attack us and hurt us. We don’t immediately go into an aggressive attack mode.

We remind ourselves that in the past we have said and done things that were thoughtless, inconsiderate and unloving, and at those times we wanted our partner to understand, to tolerate our mistakes, to not hold it against us and to forgive us. And so this is what we choose to do with our partner. We accept, we tolerate, we overlook, we forgive.

We don’t need to turn every thoughtless word or action from our partner into a battlefield. We can choose to not sweat the small stuff. We can choose to remind ourselves that they love us, they care about us, they’re not trying to hurt us. We can let it go. We don’t have to make a big stink about it.

This ties into the idea of “Would you rather be right or happy?” Oftentimes, when we feel wronged, we become insistent about confronting our partner, getting in their face, demanding that they feel guilty and shamed, demanding that they own their transgression, demanding an apology. And it’s oftentimes over minor stuff. And it’s oftentimes over stuff that could be open to interpretation. For example, when we’re feeling insecure we are more likely to perceive an innocuous comment from our partner as an attack. And this prompts us to go into our attack mode.

When we go into our attack mode and insist that we are right and they are wrong, we are loving and they are not, we are cool and they are cruel, and that they need to capitulate and apologize for their horrible acts, this oftentimes causes greater polarization in the relationship, greater antagonism and resentment.

If we don’t get their capitulation, everyone is upset. If we do get their capitulation, oftentimes everyone is still upset because of all the fighting that preceded it. Point being: If we insist on getting an acknowledgment that we are right, we usually end up not being happy. If we decide to stop needing to prove that we are right and instead choose our battles and choose to not make mountains out of molehills, we end up being happy. Isn’t that the whole point of having a relationship in the first place?

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on September 12th, 2013 in Relationships, Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in , , , , ,

29 dec

Why Should I Forgive? The Origin of a New Year’s Resolution

WEJMDI’ve been asked why I’m passionate about teaching forgiveness. It’s because all religious, spiritual and metaphysical roads I’ve traveled have led me here, to this one Truth borrowed from A Course In Miracles: I forgive others for my own peace of mind.

In my late twenties I read the Bible, the Old and New Testament, for the first time. Although I was impressed with the transformation of God’s consciousness from the Old Testament God of anger, judgment, vengeance and war to the New Testament God of peace, love, acceptance, charity and forgiveness, I was more impressed with the implications of several thought-provoking Biblical comments:

(1) From the Book of Matthew: He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

If the above-passage is an accurate quote from Jesus of the Christ, that’s pretty awesome and powerful. “Nothing will be impossible for you.” That’s not a vague and ambiguous assertion. That’s a description of how Reality Manifestation works. That’s the Secret right there. That’s the Law of Attraction, the Law of Abundance. The power of the Mind to transcend time and transform space, and thereby create the reality of one’s choosing! “Nothing will be impossible for you.” Wow. I like the sound of that. And I find it hard to believe that Jesus of the Christ was exaggerating. His word was his bond.

(2) From the Book of Mark: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” I don’t take the word “rich” literally here. I believe what was meant instead of rich is the word greedy. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a greedy man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Greed is of the ego. Greed is about competition and separation rather than cooperation and unity. Greed is about judgment, aggression and unforgiveness, not acceptance, tolerance and harmony. Greed is not of God and if you really want to get to God and Heaven and the Garden of Eden, or whatever else you understand to be a place of eternal, unconditional peace, compassion and joy, then be of Service to Others. Help others. If you’ve got two coats, give one away to a needy brother.

3) From the Book of Matthew: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”

Meek doesn’t mean weak. Meek doesn’t mean wimpy. Meek doesn’t mean sucker or chump. Meek means those who are gentle, those who are non-violent, those who are compassionate, those who are accepting of others, those who are unconditionally forgiving. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” The implication of this being that those who seek peace through violence and murder are not blessed and will inherit the wind.

4) From the book of Matthew: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” This is very clear. The message is basically that if you walk a righteous, honest and forgiving path, you will get the life that you want. You’ll get the goodies. First be a person of integrity. First be of service to others. First let go of anger, fear, judgment and attack. First forgive. And then “all these things will be added to you.” In other words: You win. You Forgive To Win!

5) From the Book of John: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” In other words, All these things that I have done, you can do and more if you have faith in me, if you follow my principles of forgiveness, acceptance, and love. That’s the ticket. There’s the message again: Want to do 22 impossible things before breakfast? First seek the kingdom of heaven. First be a person of honor. And then with your faith you’ll move mountains, and all things will come to you.

Why? Because when we get our mind focused on Forgiveness, Acceptance and Love, this removes the obstacles to the natural flow of abundance and prosperity which is available in infinite amounts to everyone.

So that’s my New Year’s resolution: To first seek the kingdom of heaven. To first be a person of honor. To forgive. To accept. To love. As best I can. As unconditionally as I can. Wherever I am. Without exceptions. Without expectations. Without the need for appreciation or acknowledgment.

To have forgiveness, teach forgiveness to learn it.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Forgive To Win!

Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on December 29th, 2011 in First30Days Book, Global/Social Change, Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,

23 oct

The Power of Empathy

MikeRobbinsNewI had a painful, but poignant phone conversation earlier this week with my wife Michelle. She shared some challenges with me in a vulnerable and passionate way. As I started to give her some of my “helpful advice” (as I often do – being a man, as well as an author, speaker, and coach, I’m fairly well trained at giving advice), she stopped me and said, “Can’t you just give me empathy for me? That’s what I really need right now. Once I feel your empathy, I can hear your feedback.”

Her comment stopped me in my tracks. I got defensive and began to justify myself – arguing that I did, indeed, have a lot of empathy and that she should be more open to my feedback. Needless to say, my defensiveness (and subsequent arrogance and self righteousness) didn’t help things, and the conversation got worse before it got better, which it eventually did.

Michelle’s feedback, however, registered with me at a very deep level. Although I “understand” the importance of empathy, teach it to others through my work, and have the capacity to experience and express a great deal of empathy with people around me, it’s sometimes difficult for me to have empathy for the people closest to me, including myself, especially recently. Maybe you can relate?

Empathy can be tricky, particularly when we have an emotional connection (or attachment) to the people or situation involved (which we almost always do). It’s also challenging to feel empathy when we feel threatened, stressed, or emotionally triggered (all of which we can experience a lot, especially with those who mean the most to us). And, empathy is sometimes misunderstood.

Empathy is NOT:
- Sympathy
- Pity
- Agreement
- Commiseration
- Endorsement

Simply put, empathy is getting into another person’s world and connecting with them both emotionally and compassionately. We don’t have to agree with them or fully understand them to be able to empathize. We don’t even need to be able to relate to what they are experiencing specifically (although that can help). We just need to be present, connect with them where they are, and acknowledge what they’re experiencing. Empathy for ourselves, while different contextually, actually functions the exact same way, simply turned inward.

The problem is that we often allow our egos, opinions, and judgments to get in the way of our ability to experience and express empathy. If I agree with someone completely, can totally relate to them, and see things exactly as they do, it’s quite easy for me to empathize with them.

However, if I don’t agree, can’t relate, have a very different take on the situation or actually think how they’re reacting to things is potentially harmful for them and others, it’s often very hard for me to be empathetic towards them and I also worry that my expression of empathy could come across as agreement or endorsement.

While it can be challenging, the power of empathy is essential to the health and success of our relationships and lives. It is a key element to our own emotional intelligence and well being. With the people closest to us, including ourselves, and the issues that mean the most to us, empathy is even more critical, but often more difficult for us to experience and express.

Here are a few things to remember and practice to enhance your capacity for empathy:

1) Ask yourself where empathy is missing. Take inventory of your life and relationships and notice where empathy may be wanted, needed, or simply missing. As you identify situations, relationships, and personal matters that could use an increased amount of empathy, make a commitment to yourself to bring less judgment and more compassion to them.

2) Reach out to people in your life. As you identify specific situations and relationships where you could bring more empathy, reach out to the people involved and let them know. There may be an apology to give, an acknowledgement to make, or simply an admission that you want to bring more empathy and compassion (and less judgment, advice, self righteousness, etc) to your relationship. Start working to do that with the most important people in your life.

3) Ask how people are feeling and really listen to what they say. One of the best ways we can express empathy towards others is through our curiosity and listening. When people feel heard, seen, and emotionally understood, they often relax, open up, and feel supported. Asking people how they truly feel, what’s really going on in their world, AND listening to how they respond (without judgment) are some of the best things we can do to express our empathy for the people around us.

All of these things also hold true with regard to having empathy and compassion for ourselves, which is essential in this process. Like most things in life, we can’t give away what we don’t already have ourselves. Self empathy is the foundation.

Everyone on the planet, including us, is almost always doing the very best they can in each moment. We’re all just dealing with the joy, pain, growth, challenge, and more of being human. Remembering this allows us to cut ourselves and others some loving slack, and engage in life, in our relationships, and with ourselves with a deep sense of respect, reverence, and, ultimately, empathy.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Mike Robbins on October 23rd, 2011 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,

07 oct

Feel Cared About

RickHansonWhen Have People Been Caring?
The Practice
Feel cared about.
Why?

Everyone knows what it’s like to care about someone. Remember being with a friend, a mate, a pet: you feel warmly connected, and want him or her not to suffer and to be happy.

On the other hand, you’ve probably had the sense, one time or another, of not being cared about. That you didn’t matter to another person, or to a group of people. Maybe they weren’t actively against you, but they sure weren’t for you.

As soon as you recall a time like that, it’s immediately clear why it’s important to feel cared about – which is to the heart what water is to your body.

Sometimes we feel embarrassed about our yearnings to be cared about. But they are completely normal – and deeply rooted in evolution. Love, broadly defined, has been the primary driver of the development of the brain over the last 80 million years.

Our ancestors – mammals, primates, hominids, and humans – survived and flourished and passed on their genes by learning to find good mates, bond with their young, draw males in to provide for children, create “the village it takes to raise a child” whose brain is quadrupling in size after birth and thus needs a long and vulnerable childhood, and team up with each other to compete with other bands for scarce resources.

In this context, being cared about was crucial to survival. Mammals, etc. that did not care about being cared about did not pass on their genes. No wonder you care about being cared about!

Studies show that feeling cared about buffers against stress, increases positive emotions, promotes resilience, and increases caring for others. Plus it feels darn good. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on October 7th, 2011 in Family, General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , ,

23 sep

Will You Still Love Me If…

MikeRobbinsNewOver the past few months I’ve been looking at the phenomenon of approval seeking that exists in my life and my relationships. My mother’s death has brought up an intense mix of emotions and reflections. Like most people, my mom was a fundamental source of love for me, especially early in my life. As such, I learned various ways, from quite a young age, to gain her approval. Although this evolved over time and I outgrew certain aspects of approval seeking from my mom specifically, I realize now that I was much more attached to her approval, even as an adult, than I thought I was.

The irony is that this had very little to do with my mother herself. While she did have strong opinions, like most of us, and she and I dealt with our fair share of conflicts and challenges in our relationship, I never questioned her love, commitment, and loyalty to me. Much of the “conditionality” in our relationship (i.e. me thinking I had to be a certain way to be loved and accepted) was self imposed. As I’ve looked at this more deeply in the recent months, I realize this is also true in just about all of the relationships in my life – family, friends, clients, and more.

I read a great book a number of years ago written by my friend, mentor, and counselor of seventeen years, Chris Andersonn, called Will You Still Love Me if I Don’t Win? This book was written specifically for parents of young athletes, but has a much wider and broader message about both parenting and life – it’s really about how much pressure most of us feel as kids (and then throughout our lives) to perform for our parents and others.

This pressure to perform and to “live up to other people’s expectations” creates an enormous amount of stress in our lives. Clearly there are healthy expectations and positive forms of accountability that benefit us (i.e. when people around us expect excellence, integrity, kindness, success, and more which can, in fact, influence us in a positive way). However, more often than not, we place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to act, look, and “perform” in specific ways that we believe we “have” to in order to receive the love, acceptance, and approval we want (or sometimes feel we need) from others.

Consciously or unconsciously we tend to ask ourselves questions like, “Will you still love me if…”

- I tell you how I really feel
- I gain weight or my physical appearance changes
- I change jobs or careers
- I don’t succeed or produce specific results
- I disagree with you about important/sensitive stuff
- I don’t live up to your standards/expectations
- I want to alter or renegotiate the nature of our relationship

These and many other questions like them create an intense dynamic of pressure in our lives and relationships. And in many cases, like I’ve recently realized with my mom, we create most of this pressure ourselves. Often the place where unconditional love is lacking most significantly is within us. We have a tendency to be quite hard on ourselves and to have lots of conditions in place for our own approval. This demand for perfection is always a set up for a failure.

What if we let go of our conditions and just loved and accepted ourselves and others exactly the way we and they are right now? Acceptance isn’t about resignation, it’s about freedom, peace, and appreciation. When we practice unconditional love and acceptance it doesn’t mean that everything is “perfect” or that things can’t or won’t change in a positive way. However, love and acceptance are about appreciating the way things are and trusting that we and other people are “good enough”.

Seeking the approval of others is something most of us learn to do early in life and is actually a natural, normal, and healthy aspect of our growth as human beings. However, as we evolve, seeking approval not only becomes problematic, but can be quite damaging if we don’t consciously pay attention to it and ultimately alter it.

Here are three things you can do to loosen the grip of approval seeking:

Notice – Pay attention to your approval seeking tendencies. In what relationships and situations does this show up most often for you? Like most things in life, change starts with awareness, so noticing when, how, and what specifically it is that you do or say (in your head or out loud) in terms of seeking approval is the first step.

Share – Talk about this with the specific people in your life it impacts the most – your significant other, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your boss, your clients, and more. Because much of this stuff is self imposed, when we start talking about it we often realize that we’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, in many cases unnecessarily. In other cases there may be some unspoken dynamics in place that can be altered by having honest and vulnerable conversations. Either way, talking about it will almost always help alter things in a positive way.

Give To Yourself – Give yourself that which you are seeking, which in most cases is love and acceptance. The source of much of our pain and suffering, as well as our joy and happiness is us. So often we’re looking for others to give to us that which we need to give to ourselves. When we love and approve of ourselves, two important things happen. First of all, we become less needy of the approval of others. Second, because we are giving it to ourselves and aren’t as needy of it from others, we often get even more love and acceptance from those around us.

While this may seem simple and straight forward, it can be tricky for many of us as our patterns of approval seeking began before we had language and at a time in our lives that we can’t even access with conscious memory. As we do this important internal work, it’s essential that we’re gentle, kind, and compassionate with ourselves. And, when we remember that the love, acceptance, and approval we’re truly seeking is our own, we’re reminded that the answer is right inside of us, like it almost always is.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Mike Robbins on September 23rd, 2011 in General, Relationships, Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,

16 sep

Focus on What Truly Matters

MikeRobbinsNewOver the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about what truly matters. My mom’s diagnosis, illness, and death have caused me to stop, question, and look more deeply at the things and people in my life that are important. Through the pain and challenge of this experience, I’ve also been grateful for the perspective and awareness it has opened up.

What I’ve noticed is that, sadly, I don’t focus on what and who truly matters to me as much as I’d like. I tend to get distracted by fears, ego-obsessions, drama (in my own life and in the world), ambitions, and all sorts of survival instincts and emotional reactions. While I understand and have empathy for the fact that this is all part of being human, I also recognize that when I get distracted like this, I’m not able to fully engage in the most important activities, relationships, and situations in my life. Maybe you can relate?

Why do we get so distracted in our lives? Why does it sometimes take illness, crisis, injury, tragedy, or even death to wake us up and get our attention?

First of all, I think we clutter up our lives with too much “stuff.” We’re too busy, over-committed, and information obsessed. Our to-do lists are too long and we run around trying to “keep up” or be “important,” and in the process stress ourselves out to no end. Even though many of us, myself included, often complain (out loud or just in our heads) that we can’t do anything about this – based on the nature of life today, technology and communication devices, and/or the responsibilities of our lives, families, and jobs – most of us have more of a say over our schedules, how much we engage in electronic communication, and the amount of “stuff” we clutter into our lives. Much of this distracts us from what’s most important.

Second of all, it actually can be scary to focus on what truly matters. Some of the most important people, activities, and aspects of our lives are things that may seem “unimportant” to those around us. These things may or may not have anything to do with our careers, taking care of our families, and may not even be things that other people like, understand, or agree with. Even if they are, sadly, it’s often easier to just watch TV, disengage, and merely react to what’s going on around us than it is to engage in the things we value most.

Finally, we may not know what’s most important to us or at least have some internal conflict about what “should” be. Whether it’s our lack of clarity or it’s this phenomenon of “should-ing” all over ourselves (or maybe a bit of both), focusing on what truly matters to us can be more tricky than it seems on the surface. With so many conflicting beliefs, ideas, and agendas (within us and around us), it’s not always easy to know with certainty what matters most to us. And, even if we do, it can take a good deal courage, commitment, and perspective to live our life in alignment with this on a regular basis.

While these and other “reasons” make sense, not focusing on what matters most to us has a real (and often negative) impact on our life, our work, and everyone around us. We end up living our life in a way that is out of integrity with who we really are, which causes stress, dissatisfaction, and missed opportunities and experiences.

What if we did focus on what truly matters in our life all the time – not simply because we experience a wakeup call, crisis, or major life change – but because we choose to in a pro-active way? What would your life look like if you let go of some of your biggest distractions, the often meaningless worries and stresses that take your attention, and actually put more focus on the people and things that are most important to you?

Here’s an exercise you can do now (and any time in the future) to both take inventory of where you are in this process and also to get you more in alignment with what truly matters.

1) Make a list of the most important aspects of your life. You can either write this list down on a piece of paper or in your journal (ideal) or simply make a mental list. These “aspects” will vary depending on your life, interests, priorities, etc. For most people, however, they tend to be things like family, personal/spiritual growth, health, career success/fulfillment, making a difference in the world, fun, money, friends/community, travel, adventure, creativity, home, and more. While you don’t need to rank them necessarily, thinking of these things with some priority can be helpful.

2) Make a list of the things you spend most of your time doing and thinking about. Take inventory of your day today (as well as the past few days, weeks, and months) and make a list (in writing or in your head) of where you spend your time and attention. Tell the truth, even if you aren’t proud of some of the activities or thoughts that get a lot of your focus. With this list it’s important to rank them in some way – so that you’re clear about which activities, thoughts, relationships, and more get your attention specifically, and how much you devote to each of them.

3) Compare the two lists and see how you can get them even more aligned. As you compare these two lists, if you’re anything like me – you may notice that they’re quite different. Often what we say is most important to us isn’t the same as where we devote much of our time, energy, and thought. Without judging yourself, tell the truth about where there are differences in these two lists and spend some time inquiring into why this is the case. And, as you think about this, ask yourself how you can create more alignment with these two lists. In other words, be more conscious and do whatever you can to focus more on what truly matters to you!

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info – www.Mike-Robbins.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Mike Robbins on September 16th, 2011 in New Directions, Relationships | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,

02 sep

Self-Loathing, Projection, and the Power of Love and Forgiveness

WEJMDWe all have, deeply embedded in our unconscious mind, a self-loathing part of us, regardless of how much self esteem we have, regardless of how much good we do in this world, and regardless of how proud of ourselves we are for our ethical and compassionate behavior.

That self-loathing, as irrational as it is for most of us who have done very little in the hurting others department, manages to generate guilt and shame which we do not wish to experience consciously because it would be too unpleasant.

So we unconsciously project it outwards onto others and see others as worthy of loathing and worthy of guilt and shame, rather than ourselves. And we feel better about ourselves, at an unconscious level, in the process.

It’s very convenient and emotionally sustaining when we project it onto people who deserve it, so to speak, by their despicable actions. And we don’t think twice about it. They clearly deserve all the judgment and animosity they get directed at them. They clearly deserve to be made to feel guilty and shamed.

But when we project it onto other people who haven’t necessarily done anything terrible to deserve our harsh judgments, with the exception of not treating us the way we wish to be treated or not thinking or behaving the same way we do, the mechanism of discharging internal angst by pointing the fingers at others becomes more obvious, if we are willing to look at it.

So what do we do about this?

Certainly, at the level of our personal relationships where judgments are flying left and right, if we remind ourselves that our judgments are actually a reflection of our own embedded guilt and shame, and if we can see those we are judging as loving beings who are confused and have lost their way (regardless of how badly they are behaving towards us), then the best approach is to catch ourselves and stop attacking them with our judgments, because we will, essentially, be healing our projections and healing ourselves in the process.

We can disapprove of their bad behavior. We can encourage they take responsibility and we can insist on consequences. We can avoid them. We can set boundaries. There are any number of solutions available to us.

The key is to judge the actions, not the actors. The key is to demonize behaviors but not people, because when we demonize others we are demonizing ourselves at a deeply embedded level, reinforcing our guilt, shame and self-loathing.

At the level of people in the world who assault, abuse, maim and murder: again, it is in our best interests to despise the behaviors but to not demonize the people. They are not evil, despite the evil that they do.

They are mentally ill. They are children of God, like all of us, who are severely damaged in their incapacity to love because of the love they never experienced themselves.

Ultimately, when our consciousness can handle this revolutionary concept, it can evolve further to appreciate that everything in this world is an illusion, a bad dream we will one day wake up from, in which case, we don’t even need to hate horrific behavior.

When we wake up from a nightmare, thanking God that all the murder and rape we saw in the nightmare never really happened, we have no need to hate those in our dreams who perpetrated the murder and rape.

When we are enlightened and wake up from this nightmare we call reality, we will also appreciate that everything horrific in this world never happened, and there is no need for hate or for sorrow.

This is certainly an idea that most of us cannot get our mind around. We cannot tolerate this idea nor accept it to any degree because of all the horrible evil and terrible suffering that is obvious all around us and can’t be presumed not to be real.

I can’t argue the point. I have no proof except for my own experiences which are anecdotal and can be easily dismissed by those who wish to do so. Nonetheless, I maintain that everything we see in this world is a projection of our internal thought system.

If we keep love, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness in the forefront of our mind, we will see, to an ever-increasing degree, a world that reflects that, a world of cooperation, harmony, generosity, success and abundance.

If we choose at the core of our consciousness to embrace fear and judgment, then we will continue to see a world that is full of scarcity, lack, limitation, competition, aggression, war, famine, disease and death.

There are only two thoughts, love and fear. And everything we see in this world is a projection of one or the other.

Love or a Call for Love

Everything people do in this world is an expression of love or a call for love.

When a child feels ignored, neglected and unloved because Mommy is spending more time with his little baby brother, and the child acts out, throws a glass against the wall and shatters it, it is not because he is evil or bad.

It is because he wants to get Mommy’s attention, he wants to get Mommy’s love, but he doesn’t know how to ask for it appropriately, so he asks for it in a confused, violent, aggressive way.

It is a call for love, and the best response Mommy can give to her child is to be understanding, compassionate, forgiving and loving, not angry, abrasive and punishing.

As we grow up and become adults, most of us still behave in the same way we did when we were infants. Hungry for love and feeling minimized, ignored, abandoned, unloved and unappreciated, we act out with our loved ones, attacking them in various ways.

Rather than saying, “I’m feeling insecure. I need your attention. I need your love. I need a hug,” we yell, we hit, we break things, we drink and drug too much, we drive our cars into trees.

At the next level are those who do the more horrendous acting out behaviors in their calling out for love, by mutilating and killing themselves or by mutilating and killing others.

It’s all a continuum, a matter of degrees. It’s all a variation of the same theme: love or a call for love, in which case, the response should always be the same: when someone is calling out for love, we look past their behaviors and we do our best to give it to them.

In terms of the people in this world who do horrific things, this doesn’t mean they should not be held responsible for their actions. It doesn’t mean we condone their behaviors. It doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences.

What it does mean is that we should let go of our harsh judgments and rage in the process.

Let’s look at this at a level that can perhaps be better understood and tolerated by our mind: If we need to go to court to resolve a divorce settlement, we don’t need to go in with anger. We can go in with calm and be just as effective, if not more so. We can get what we feel we need and deserve, but without all the aggression, judgment and animosity. We do this for our own healing, for our own peace of mind.

Everything is a choice that starts in the mind. If we choose fear, what we’ll get is fear, anxiety, depression, anger and aggression, within and without, in all its horrific and terrifying forms.

If we choose love, we will see a world transforming within and without. And we will observe miracles happening, because miracles are the natural expression of unconditional love and forgiveness.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on September 2nd, 2011 in Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in ,

23 jun

Balancing Joining and Separating

There is a natural balance within us all between the desire for joining and the desire for separation, between the desire for closeness and the desire for distance. These two great themes – joining and separation – are central to human life. Almost everyone wants both of them, to varying degrees.

People tend to focus a lot on the joining theme, both because relationships are about – uh – joining, and because spiritual practice of any kind is fundamentally about coming into relationship with things.

Into relationship with our own suffering and that of others, and into relationship with the real causes of that suffering. Into relationship with the endlessly changing and thus impermanent nature of existence and experience. Into mindful relationship with the body, with the sense of experience being pleasant or unpleasant or neutral, with all the thoughts and feelings etc, in the mind, and with the qualities and aims of consciousness itself. And – it’s meaningful to you – into relationship with a transcendental Something: God, Buddhanature, the Infinite, unbounded Awareness . . . by whatever name.

But as important as relationship is, it is also important to bow to the other great theme, separation.

The Benefits of Separation

First, a healthy capacity for separation – or, using other words, for differentiation, individuation, autonomy, and self-expression – is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for healthy joining.

Second, autonomy is necessary for spiritual practice. Let’s consider these examples from Buddhism:

  • One is always to “see for yourself,” and make your own decisions about what makes sense to you in the teachings of the Buddha.
  • It is fundamentally up to oneself, and no one else, to engage the path of practice. No one can make us do it; we have to choose it ourselves. While Buddhism does not speak against God, it does not assert that God shapes our lives and that God’s grace is at work in our transformation.
  • We are each individually responsible for the effects of our actions – for our own karmas. Buddhism is a very gentle religion/philosophy/whatever-it-is, but it is also bluntly tough-minded.

Much as separation supports joining, experiences of healthy connection, particularly in childhood, are critical for the development of healthy self structures, ego functions, and sense of worth and confidence. By taking refuge in our feelings of connection – both present in our relationships of the moment as well as internalized from our history of relationships – we are able to move out, from a secure base, to explore and cope with the world as an individual.

For instance, in Buddhism, one of what are called the Three Jewels of practice is the Refuge of Sangha – which means the community of fellow practitioners.

Mutual Support

In other words: individuality and relationship, autonomy and intimacy, separation and joining support each other. They are often seen at odds with each other, but this is so not the case!

For example, by knowing that you are entitled to your own view of reality, that you can assert yourself appropriately, that you can disengage when you need to, that you can honor your temperament if you happen to be an introvert who is a little drained by contact and fed by solitude – then you can be more comfortable and willing to enter into the depths of joining and intimacy available in relationships, plus receive the supplies anyone needs for healthy individuation, including the attention and caring and esteem of others.

Similarly, by acknowledging, and normalizing, and respecting the need for separation and distance in others – even if it is sometimes not your preference – that helps create a zone of safety which often fosters a greater willingness to hang out for a while with closeness.

In fact, people often step back in relationships – like agreeing, perhaps tacitly, to just not talk about certain contentious topics – in order to stay close. In developmental psychology, the term is “distance in the service of attachment.”

Working out Different Desires for Closeness

Of course, in important relationships there is rarely a perfect symmetry of desires for joining and separation. That just means that it is important to be alert to the other person’s hot buttons: for many people, if they feel their autonomy is being challenged, then that pops to the top of the stack as the key issue on the table for them . . . while for many other people, the same is true regarding perceived threats to joining. By taking into account the “imperative” of the other person, you can skillfully prevent unnecessary conflicts; by explaining your own imperatives in relationships, you can help the other person understand you better.

Additionally, the natural differences between people in the priorities they give to joining compared to separation, and the differences in the ways in which they pursue those aims, are simply another thing – albeit an important one – to negotiate in relationships.

Being able to accept and own your personal joining/separation “thermostat setting” will help you to talk about it more straightforwardly and effectively with others. And you will be as able as possible to accept and work nimbly with that set point in others.

Natural Cautions about Closeness

Most psychological wounds or traumas occur in the context of relationships, including in early childhood. Further, in our evolutionary history, there were a lot of risks in encounters with people who were “not-my-tribe.” So it is natural to be a little leery of interacting at first, especially with relative strangers.

To enter into connections today with other flesh-and-blood people, and with your internal history and sense of relationships, it is skillful to be sensitive and caring toward your own alarm bells and nervousness and resistance.

It is natural to bump into those “defenses,” often subtly. It is inevitable if you are opening up, becoming more available for relationship, more accessible, more engaged, more heartfelt, more loving.

Even as you read those words, you might be aware of both the longing for those qualities in your relationships and a certain . . . squeamishness perhaps? reluctance? anxiety? repulsion??! . . . . coming up as well.

It is perfectly natural. The closer we get, often the more the impulse to distance arises – just like the more distance we get, often the more the impulse to move closer arises.

As you go through life, first and foremost, just try to bring mindfulness to these states of mind, both the longing for closeness and the desire for distance. They are a wonderful object of mindfulness and even investigation.

In accord with true mindfulness, try to maintain an accepting interest, even a kind of soft friendliness, toward the closeness and toward the distancing.

And really, if the instinct toward stepping back feels wise, or is simply too strong to push through, then please by all means follow it, and step back.

* * *

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. His work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and Huffington Post, and he is the author of the best-selling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.

He writes a weekly newsletter – Just One Thing – that suggests a simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart. If you wish, you can subscribe to Just One Thing here.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on June 23rd, 2011 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19 may

The Evolution of Love

The Evolution of Love How did we evolve the most loving brain on the planet?

Humans are the most sociable species on earth – for better and for worse.

On the one hand, we have the greatest capacities for empathy, communication, friendship, romance, complex social structures, and altruism. On the other, we have the greatest capacities for shaming, emotional cruelty, sadism, envy, jealousy, discrimination and other forms of dehumanization, and wholesale slaughter of our fellow humans.

In other words, to paraphrase a Native American teaching, a wolf of love and a wolf of hate live in the heart of every person.

Many factors shape each of these two wolves, including biological evolution, culture, economics, and personal history. Here, I’d like to comment on key elements of the neural substrate of bonding and love; Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on May 19th, 2011 in Family, General, Health, Relationships | 1 comment Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 may

Put No One Out of Your Heart

RickHansonWhat is an open heart?
The Practice
Put no one out of your heart.
Why?

We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.

As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Hell is other people.”

Sure, that’s overstated. But still, most of a person’s hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

Ironically, in order for good relationships to be so nurturing to us as human beings – who have evolved to be the most intimately relational animals on the planet – you must be so linked to others that some of them can really rattle you!

So what can you do?

Let’s suppose you’ve tried to make things better – such as taking the high road yourself and perhaps also trying to talk things out, pin down reasonable agreements, set boundaries, etc. – but the results have been partial or nonexistent.

At this point, it’s natural to close off to the other person, often accompanied by feelings of apprehension, resentment, or disdain. While the brain definitely evolved to care about “us,” it also evolved to separate from, fear, exploit, and attack “them” – and those ancient, neural mechanisms can quickly grab hold of you.

But what are the results? Closing off doesn’t feel good. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on May 12th, 2011 in Family, General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , ,