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Emotional Intelligence Relationship

On Apology

John Owens

On Apology

Let’s be real: relationships can be messy at times, and our good intentions can end up having unintended and hurtful consequences. Besides, sometimes in a pique of emotion or unaware moment, we say or do something that upsets the receiver (and possibly others) in ways that cause tears (pun?) in the fabric of our relationships. It’s not pretty, yet these messes need to be cleaned up, or risk more permanent damage to our connection to others.

There are a number of ways that we can get back into good graces with someone who we’ve hurt, preferably way before they take us to court to get satisfaction. Some methods work better than others. The most common, even automatic, way is to apologize. An apology is a repair attempt, a sincere verbal offering of owning one’s words or actions along with a statement of remorse. If the apology is not sincere, the receiver will likely detect that, and the attempt is wasted—or worse, it makes the rift even deeper. If the apologizer does not own their behavior or convey remorse for their part in things, it’s not even an apology, but feels more like salt being rubbed into the wound, more or less vigorously.

I’ll explain: in most basic terms, psychology models human events as a sequence beginning with a stimulus that triggers an emotion, followed by a thought, then by a behavior, and resulting in consequences of some sort. What does an apology or other sort of repair attempt need to address? Stimuli are circumstances, and we have a small degree of control over them. To say, “I’m sorry I saw you try to open a jar with a hammer” comes nowhere near to apologizing to anything meaningful. Alternately, to apologize for our emotions or even our thoughts misses the mark because these are internal to us, and have no relevance to the relationship until externalized. For instance, I often can feel anger toward someone for something said or done that steps on a deeply held value of mine. I might secretly and silently imagine some act of vengeance on them. This allows me to inwardly feel satisfaction in my daydream, but with doing no harm to anyone. Then I can easily and safely put the incident out of mind for good.

What about apologizing for consequences? I hear this frequently: “I’m sorry you felt hurt by what I said”. Or, “I apologize for making you angry when I called you an idiot”. These false apologies fail to express any remorse for the perpetrator’s behavior that resulted in the mental state (or physical, financial, health, etc.) of the receiver. In essence, such statements frequently suggest that the consequences felt by the receiver are their own fault, and backhandedly attempt to justify the behavior of the one supposedly apologizing. Apologizing for consequences consistently falls short of repairing anything, and even if such apology is ‘accepted’ by the other, they will feel something is missing, and it is: there is no remorse for the behavior that led into the sticky situation.

Contrast that with this statement: “I am sorry for calling you an idiot. I had no business doing so, and my behavior was disrespectful to you, and to my own values of dignity and love.” No need even to mention the consequences, though that can be helpful in showing awareness of the whole situation, not just one’s bad behavior. “I can see that my words have caused you pain, and I will do my best to never call you such names in future.” This takes things one step further, offering a makeup or promise of changed behavior in future. If it is trust that has been broken, it is critical to not only apologize for the behavior, but to offer some small (need NOT be commensurate with the original ‘crime’) act of service that will demonstrate your good will and your ability to be trustworthy. Think of things like “I’ll give you a 10-minute foot massage today at a time you choose,” or “I’ll clean up the kitchen next time it’s your turn to do so”.

When done right, apologizing with sincerity, awareness of the impacts that have occurred to others, and even oneself (lost trust, integrity, withheld love, for examples) can be transformative in building back the fabric of relationship that got torn, perhaps even stronger than before the rift.

Can you think of a time in your life where an apology went sideways? What do you own about that situation that contributed to it not concluding well? What will you do differently in future? Now go out there and use your new awareness for repairing a relationship in your family, workplace or other community.

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10 Natural Laws #10: Give More and You Will Have More

John Owens

10 Natural Laws #10: Give More and You Will Have More

Nice guys finish last. The early bird gets the worm. It’s a dog eat dog world.

We’ve all heard these quotes, and there is a measure of truth in them. They reflect a perspective or belief that life is a zero-sum game, that your gain is my loss. When we take on an identity of me versus them, or us/them (us being a team, religion nationality or other identity), we create a duality where there are winners and losers. It is a reality that is based on measurements and limitations. I measure how much I do or have against another. We measure how well our American economy is doing against the Germans or Chinese, or how well Americans are doing in educating our children against the South Koreans or Japanese. When we put on the lenses of this perspective our hearts are not generous and open toward the “other.” There is that sense that those “dogs” out there are eating us alive, or the other way around. From this perspective, giving more means having less. Giving, from this state of being, is an act of calculation that you’ll get something valuable in return for your investment. This world of limitation and measurement is not where giving more and having more applies. When you are in this state of being, it will seem that the phrase is stupid and meaningless.

Of course there is another belief perspective from which ‘Give more and you will have more’ makes perfect sense. I call this perspective the one of Possibility. This is the belief in an abundant universe, where what is real and truly important is not limited. Love, energy, creativity, and resources exist in abundance, and the greater we give these away, the greater they are present in our lives. Just as the world of Newtonian Physics and its Laws of Motion is contained in the Einsteinian Physics of General Relativity, so is the world of Measurement contained within the world of Possibility. I liken it when our family plays Monopoly. From the belief that I must win to show my worth, and thus everyone else must lose for me to succeed, I take certain actions to maximize my ‘wealth’ and resources at others’ expense. Now if I hold the belief of Possibility, the paper money is no longer of any value, nor are the ‘properties’ on the board. What is important is the sharing of the experience, the lightly-held role of land baron I may choose to act out for the purpose of the game, the interaction of all the family members with each other. I’ve already won, not the money in the game of measurement, but the wealth of love and connection that happens in play.

I belong to a local chapter of Business Network International, a network and referral group. Their motto is “Givers Gain.” The idea is that we create the conditions where others want to give us business referrals when we give them referrals. It’s not a numbers game (though all sorts of statistics are measured and reported), but it is essentially a place to build relationships of mutual respect, trust and support. Those that give referrals to others are well-thought of, and tend to get referrals from the rest of the group. Those that don’t give referrals to others tend to drop out of the group because it is not “working” for them.

I’d like to touch on another aspect of giving, its shadow side. All of us, in our wounded parts, have some unfilled needs, be it for attention, acceptance, respect or approval, etc. What is different about these wounded needs is that they can’t be satisfied for any length of time or with a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. These are our social addictions (read my blog on Natural Law #9). You may have recognized people in your life who are like vampires, needing something from others and sucking energy and resources from you or from a group. Such people will never be satisfied because giving to them feeds their addiction, not the person. Giving more in this sense will not create abundance because your giving is only helping their wound, their dependency to survive. There is not fulfillment in that. One must give to the part of others that is wholly human for there to be creative abundance and Possibility. Wound worship and feeding addiction is like playing a scratched CD that endlessly repeats itself and slowly degrades to extinction.

If instead of trying to fill up the endless pit of our wounded neediness we recognize that wound in the world and try to heal it, we are transformed. If I stop running the internal tape of my wound of being abandoned, for example, and instead give my loving connection, loyalty and commitment to others in need, the universe of Limits and measurement gives way to Limitless Possibility. And in the process, my wound begins to heal, and my capacity to love is manifested greater.

Giving for gain, you see, does not work, for it co-creates a universe of limitation. Giving from abundance acknowledges the universe of Possibility, and from here we get to have it all: a rich and fulfilling life lived with others whose lives we enrich and support, in virtuous upward spiral.

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Journal Relationship

On Chin Bobbing

John Owens

On Chin Bobbing

There is something interesting about human behavior that I have noticed since I’ve been a child, but have never heard it discussed, much less explained. I’d love to figure it out. I remember riding my bike as an eight-year-old, and on seeing another guy, both of us–though not necessarily simultaneously– would raise our chins slightly, a peaceful acknowledgment of the other’s existence. This is apparently a cross cultural phenomenon: the same thing happens here in India. A variant is a lowering of the chin slightly, a dip. It’s, in part, a silent hello, though I’ve never seen it in groups, just between (usually) two males, and usually at a distance of 3 to 10 meters apart.

I don’t frequently see this gesture with girls or women. It could be occurring more often, but I may not have noticed it, or unconsciously ignored it when it does happen. I don’t personally recall ever chin bobbing at a woman; it just doesn’t feel right for me to do so. But that’s just me. So correct me, please, if I’m mistaken on that. Still, what exactly is the use and the message of this gesture? When did it evolve? Do other primates exhibit this behavior for similar reasons?

As I take a moment now to indulge in practicing this gesture in the privacy of my apartment, I have a sense that the chin bob, as I’ll call it, is something that goes way back to prehistoric times, a signal to other hunters to awareness of the tribe moving together in connection. Maybe the slight and fleeting exposure of the neck is an implicit signal of one’s vulnerability and absence of threat to the other. Certainly, our reptilian brain is forever on the lookout for threats, and signals that assure the absence of such are required for us to get past the fight/flight/freeze response and use more highly evolved parts of our brains, like the neocortex.

But that’s all just my speculation, stuff I’m making up and should hold pretty lightly until I have some real evidence. What are your thoughts and experiences around this phenomenon? How about you try it out on a stranger you are passing by, just a brief chin bob while gazing at the person, and note what their response is? Do they return the gesture? Do both men and women do it?

Will this change the world, or promote peace? I doubt it, but if such a gesture lowers others’ threat response, it may be useful to signal—in this age of fear and hypersensitivity to the ‘alien other’—that we mean no harm and are approachable. It’s almost as good as that most intimate gesture of inclusion…the wink.

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Emotional Intelligence Relationship

Communicating Without Controlling Part II: Speaking Your Wants

John Owens

Communicating Without Controlling Part II: Speaking Your Wants

This is the second in my blog series on Communication. This material comes from Susan Campbell’s book, Saying What’s Real. I find her suggestions have been extremely helpful to me to further develop with my partner our intimacy and trust. I hope you will try out these suggestions and see for yourself.

As I mentioned last time, in order to communicate effectively you have to be in the present. All too often, we speak in reaction to a restimulation of some past unpleasant experience, or to a fear of some made-up (but seemingly real) future event (again, a projection of past fears and experiences into the future). If you can turn your thought structure away from the past and future, and be in the ‘now’, you will find that things are much simpler, and a whole lot less fraught.

Back in December, I blogged about communicating feelings, using the phrase, “Hearing you say that, I feel ___” and filling in the blank with your emotion (sad, angry, happy, etc.), or your sensation (hot, cold, excitement, relaxed, tense, etc.). This month I want to talk about sharing your wants.

For many of us, stating what we want in the moment can be discomfiting. We may have learned early in life that expressing or even feeling our wants leads to disappointment. So rather than take the risk of saying what we want in the moment, we give in to the expectation that our want won’t be met, and that we will feel the pain of disappointment. We protect ourselves by staying silent about our wants, or undercommunicating by using hints, giving up too easily, or being indirect. Alternately, we may overcommunicate our wants by resorting to threat, demands or manipulation. Both are ways we attempt to control the outcome, and ultimately will never lead to right relationship.

Campbell emphasizes that our wants need to be expressed in the NOW. Saying, “I want you to be more affectionate towards me” is more of a directive, and not communicating what is currently present in the relationship. Much better is, “I love it when you hug me tight. Would you do that for me now?” Asking the other to be more affectionate is asking them to hold your request for you and to read your mind as to when you want that affection (not likely to happen). The latter expression actually helps to teach our partner what we like and when we like it. It does not indicate some vague future actions, but something specific and time-based. Hearing that request, I can decide in this moment how I want to respond, and I’m not held to trying to remember what I am expected to do in the future. You take responsibility for expressing what you want in the moment, and the listener has the freedom to say yes or no.

Some other examples of ‘now-based’ vs. control-based requests:

I want you to hold my hand. / I want you to hold my hand whenever we go for a walk.

I want you to come home early Friday and we can go out to a restaurant. / I wish you’d spend more quality time with me.

I want you to tell me you are glad to see me. / I want you to be more reassuring.

Notice that making ‘now-based’ requests involves taking the risk of hearing ‘no’ or ‘not now’. It also involves taking responsibility for asking for what you want when you want it, rather than the once-and-for-all directive that puts the onus of remembering your wants on the listener. Note: it is very unlikely that someone else will be able to feel and respond to our urges!

So, some hints about making requests that will increase your intimacy and effective communication and empower you as a worthy human being:

  • Be specific: don’t ask for something so vague and general that the other person has to make it up. Think in terms of teaching the other person how exactly to please and delight you.
  • Timing is almost everything: don’t ask when you are not likely to get what you want. You are not likely to get a back rub when she’s getting ready for work. And make your ask as close as practical to when you want it to happen, leaving room for necessary planning and preparation.
  • Don’t postpone: holding off on making your wants known can lead to building up of pressure around suppressed needs and desires. That can lead to high-risk stakes where you are unwilling to take “no” or “later” for an answer. When that happens, you are likely to blurt out controlling behaviors: manipulation, threats and demands. What gets communicated then is your urgency and unwillingness to take anything but compliance. It’s better to ask for what you want in the moment, rather than saving up making requests until it’s become a big deal.
  • Ask without expectation: Campbell says “expressing your in-the-moment wants, simply and directly, is a profound act of trust. As such, it helps you learn self-trust.” By asking from a frame of mind that is open to the others’ right to refuse you, you affirm that however it goes, you can and will deal with it. It is critical that you don’t make a conscious or unconscious assumption that you must have your want satisfied. This builds self-trust by relying on yourself to be able to deal with whatever happens.. If you can’t accept a negative response to your request, “then maybe you have a belief that you should always get what you ask for.” And how does that belief serve you?
  • I shouldn’t have to ask: many of us fall into this trap, thinking, “If she really loved me, I wouldn’t have to ask. She’d know what I like.” For you, having to ask is tantamount to admitting that the other doesn’t care much for you. Really, this is just another way of avoiding risk in asking for what you want. You don’t ask for much, so you don’t hear ‘no’ very often. But the chance to develop self-trust and resilience in your relationships is lost. If the other person cares about you, the risk is an intelligent risk. Believe me, hearing no will not injure you!
  • I don’t want to feel indebted: some of us fear that asking for something puts us one down in regard to the other, that our independence will somehow be limited, or that feeling needy is unattractive or uncomfortable. Campbell says this may be due to a caregiver early in live who was undependable, and that it is not safe to feel dependent or needy (I have to include myself here!). But today is not the same as years ago, and the person you face now is not the same person from your childhood (most likely). And now you are far more capable of handling a situation that leads to pain or disappointment than you were as a child. So what do you really risk? Can you bear to live with the disappointment of a NO? Can you bear to live with the joy and fulfillment of a YES? Gamble intelligently, and try taking some risk!

What types of responses to an ask are legitimate? Obviously, a yes is ideal. A ‘Yes, but not now’ should have some specific time attached, like “when I’m done reading this chapter” or “by next Thursday”. “Maybe” begs for some explanation, but at times can be the only response that makes sense (“Maybe, if I can get the day off tomorrow”). Of course there is “No,” and it is really important that this response be respected and understood that it is a ‘no for the present time’, and may change with circumstances. Another response could be “Yes, if you’ll do this for me.” You may consider this bargaining and transactional, rather than given out of love and compassion. Campbell says that there is a place for this sort of agreement in any relationship and this can make things workable when both parties have to stretch a bit for fulfill the other’s request.

What is important to note that asking is more important than getting what you want. By asking, we expose our inner self to others to what we feel in the moment. We learn to speak to what we can control (our wants), and let go of controlling what we can’t (whether we get it or not). We can open ourselves to wanting without being ‘reasonable,’ rather than caretaking others from being exposed to your wants. Wanting is being present to who you are in this moment. It is being vulnerable, and not being controlling.

I’d love to hear your comments. And another tip forthcoming next month!

Namaste, John

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Communicating Without Controlling: Part I

John Owens

Communicating Without Controlling: Part I

One of my favorite books on relationship is Susan Campbell’s Saying What’s Real. She claims that research shows that “nearly 90% of human communication comes from (the usually unconscious) intent to control.” Think about that for a moment. Ninety percent of what I say is really about trying to control someone else’s thoughts, behavior or emotions. I don’t know about you, but that feels pretty scary to me, and a wake-up call that I need to take a closer look at how I say things so that I am giving freedom to others to be their authentic selves, rather than consciously or unconsciously attempting to funnel them into my wants and ways. This is so important to me, that I’m going to devote the next six or eight of my blogs to sharing with you some simple and effective ways that we can adjust our language with others that stops controlling them, and gives more openness and connection to those we are speaking to. I guarantee you that following these examples will make a huge difference in your likeability and relatability to others. In short: use these suggestions sincerely with others, and people will love you for it! Not just that, but by relinquishing our default ways of attempting to control others through our language, you will be helping to create a more peaceful, connecting, loving and trusting world. What could be more important than that?

Key to communicating effectively is to be in the present. All too often, we speak in reaction to a restimulation of some past unpleasant experience, or in fear of some made-up (but seemingly real) future event. If you can turn your thought structure away from the past and future, and be in the ‘now’, you will find that things are much simpler, and a whole lot less scary.

So, let’s start with something that’s in the NOW: communicating our feelings. We are constantly receiving inputs from others: our partners, friends, the news, Face Book posts, etc. Sometimes we give feedback like, “You make me so angry,” or sad, or happy or scared. Often we skip that feedback and just react in retaliation, or isolation, smiles or withdrawal. But ¾ of those reactions actually pull you away from the other. How can we communicate in a way that lets the other understand what is happening for us, and still maintain connection? Susan Campbell suggest that we use the phrase, “Hearing you say that, I feel…” and filling in the blank after that with our emotion (sad, angry, happy, afraid, curious, upset, or other combination feeling), or our sensation (hot, cold, excitement, relaxed, tense, etc.).

Note that judgments are not included here, nor are “you” statements, like “I feel you are being stubborn,” which is not a feeling at all, but a judgment about the other, and in actuality, related to some past experience, and aimed at controlling the other, not at communicating what is happening inside us.

So what happens when we simply state how someone’s words and tone land on us like this? We give up trying to control by threat, shaming, implying, judging or dominating. Instead, we trust the listener to hear us and make their own adjustments in relating based on what they now understand about how we feel. Now turn the situation around, and entertain for a moment that you just heard feedback on how your words landed on someone. There is no effort on their part to control you. Wouldn’t you want to adjust your tone and language with them so that you could maintain a trusting, respectful communication? When immediate feelings or sensations are communicated, aren’t you relating within the realm of the present, about workability, instead of past hurts or future fears or hopes? Campbell says that “When you use this key phrase [hearing you say that, I feel] to help you embrace your pain voluntarily, there is a certain power and grace to that act.”

In fact, using this phrase can enhance intimacy with the other: you are giving them a peek inside you of your inner workings and responses. To do otherwise keeps things on a superficial level, and hides the authentic you from them.

So, from the coach to my peeps: here’s some homework to do over the next couple of weeks, and evaluate how it works for you. Try the phrase (as appropriate) with a coworker, boss, partner, child, “Hearing you say that I feel…” and fill it in with a feeling or sensation. Breathe. Give them room to respond. And then use the phrase again. Be curious. See how the conversation moves: is it less predictable, more open? How do you feel when communicating your feelings and sensations? Is there less sense of stuckness? I’d love to hear your comments. And another tip forthcoming next month!

Namaste,

John

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Righteousness: Guiding Light or Deadly Intoxicant?

John Owens

Righteousness: Guiding Light or Deadly Intoxicant?

Recently I got into an argument with a loved one. I felt I was due an apology. I pleaded my case, and did not get the response I was looking for. Suddenly, I was feeling a familiar sense of aggrandizement and entitlement. How dare this person defy me, when I was so clearly wronged, and my good principles and ethics were trodden on?

The argument, taking place on the way home from Minneapolis, ended in icy silence and entrenched positions. I was holding a judgment of righteous indignation. If you had asked me, I would have told you that God, or any reasonable person, would take my side. Powerful stuff, eh?

That night I suffered the worst case of nerve pain in my feet that I have ever had. I have an undiagnosed nerve disease that randomly causes stabbing pains in my feet. I can go for months symptom free, and then it will strike. Usually it is intense to the point of breathing through it and bearing with it until it passes. But this night it struck with a force so strong my body actually recoiled in convulsions, again and again. I remember thinking that this would not be good for my back. Sure enough, I have been dealing with back spasms ever since…nine days of debilitating pain and exhaustion. I feel alternately humbled, frustrated, depressed, angry (at God) and hopeless. I need to make a difference every day, and this painful experience has shrunk my world to just trying to get myself healed…it feels like the head of a pin is my world now.

Is there a connection between my righteousness and the pain I have experienced for well over a week? I am tempted to say ‘YES,’ because I have been examining my sense and behavior of righteousness for several months now, and I have become aware of the impact my righteousness has on not just me, but my community.

So what is this feeling that so many of us carry, this sense of righteousness? It’s been around for a long time. Webster defines righteousness as the quality of being morally right or justifiable. Wikipedia says righteousness is an important theological concept in western religions. It is an attribute that implies that a person’s actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been “judged” or “reckoned” as leading a life that is pleasing to God.

Ah, so if my behavior is justified by, and pleasing to God, then whoever is on the other side of that is “wrong” or “sinful” or just plain “whacko”? ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, and God’s on my side.’ There, if ever there be a case for ego inflation, is the Mother of all egotistical positions.

Something is definitely askew with my (our) thinking around righteousness. If I need to justify my actions or position, this is a perfect indicator that I am not living from my heart, that I am not in connection with the object of my justification [see Anatomy of Peace, Arbinger Inst.]. I find it hard to believe I’m quoting a devout Christian here, but in the words of Andrew Womack, there “…is confusion about how we become right in the sight of God. It is commonly thought that our actions are the determining factor in God’s judgment of our righteousness. That’s not true. There is a relationship between our actions and our right standing with God, but right relationship with God produces actions, not the other way around. That is to say, we are not made righteous by what we do.”

So true, or heartfelt, righteousness comes from us first being in right relationship. Then what follows in action can be righteous. My mistake and my downfall has been to judge my actions to be right as a way of justifying my opposition.

How seducing and intoxicating is this feeling of righteousness? My own experience has been one of towering ego, standing far above the ‘others’ who are not only “in the wrong,” but are, simply, “wrong”. I found this in an article by Roger Lockard, that sums it up nicely: …The sense of righteousness is endlessly versatile. It can become fuel for a rapacious crusade, or a comforting wrap into which we snuggle for affirmation and reassurance. This emotional fix is endlessly enticing, insidiously corrupting, and charged with such compelling authority that we can become willing to die—or kill—in its thrall. At this point you may conjure images of terrorists piloting planes into skyscrapers or blowing up buses—rabid fanatics bent on vengeance. Or the Timothy McVeighs and Theodore Kaczynskis: alienated, forlorn figures stewing grimly in righteous vitriol. As with addiction in general, people prefer to think of the problem as involving others—not themselves. But in the case of righteousness, such a belief is almost always mistaken. Most of us, whether we be timid or bold, liberal, conservative, or (especially) some version of radical, are prone to imbibing heady infusions of the stuff. Viewing ourselves as “good,” in fact we become grievously toxic, literally intoxicated. In this poisonous state of mind we are able to write off others—often literally billions of others—without hesitation or remorse, because they are “bad.” It’s on the news every day: people addicted to righteousness are wreaking havoc, at home and abroad. And as I view this madness, I feel myself swell up with—what? You guessed it—righteous indignation! As usual, addiction becomes a closed system, feeding on itself.

There are two paths of ‘righteousness’ I have described here. One is ‘grievously toxic’ and intoxicating by inflating our sense of self and rightness of action. The other path is one of humility and compassion, born of being in right relationship with one’s Higher Power, community, and humanity. Actions taken from this state of being in right relationship with all of creation—even if not in agreement with their behavior—is no longer “all about me”, but “All about Us”. You and I get to choose our ‘path of righteousness.’

One final note: having written this piece, my back spasms have eased considerably, at least 50% in the last hour and a half. Read into that what you will. For me, this has been catharsis.

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Feel resentful when (s)he comes home?

John Owens

Feel resentful when (s)he comes home?

Have you ever gone away from home for a few days, leaving your spouse to ‘hold the fort’, and on returning home, feeling all smiles and joy, you were greeted with a gruff, resentful partner? You were on the road, working hard to provide for your family, but your partner thinks you’ve been on vacation, skipping out on all the home responsibilities.

You might feel the disconnect that only a day or two makes in your relationship, and wonder, where in the world did that come from? What the heck just happened?

You are not alone. Re-entries home can be rough on both our moods and our intimate relationships. When your partner goes away there may be feelings of abandonment: the empty space beside you in bed and at the table, the extra chores you have to do alone; the feelings of oppressive responsibility for kids and home and no one to fall back on. No wonder there may be some smoldering resentments just waiting to express themselves right after the cursory hug and kiss of reunion!

It can go the other way, too: when your partner leaves home, and you have the house all to yourself, living without compromise, spending time with friends, not having to live up to your partner’s expectations. You quickly get used to having your space all to yourself, and then here he comes: all the fun you were having suddenly collapses as you are expected to take care of his needs. He senses your deflation, and feels threatened that you had such a great time without him, thinking: maybe you don’t even want me around anymore?

It can all go south after just a few minutes. This has happened many times between me and my partner, and we know it can happen by default. So the last time my wife went away for a few days to visit our daughter, and I stayed home to work, it was the perfect setup for another rough re-entry.

But this time I prepared to do things differently. I designed a re-entry protocol that we used to reconnect and dispel the usual hurts and resentments that have so often accompanied one of us returning home.

Re-entry protocol? Huh? Sound pretty formal and scripted? Perhaps so, yet I know that it worked for us, really really well. After we did our protocol together, we felt closely connected, listened to, and supported. I felt appreciated for what I’d done in my few days alone, my wife felt listened to, and we both say this has been an easier, better transition home than we can remember for years.

After arriving home, my wife was tired, so we did not use our protocol for a couple of hours while she rested. I was a little worried that it might not work with the delay, but there was no problem. I’ll share with you the essentials of what we did here, and you can use these ideas to tailor your own re-entry protocol. It is important to take at least a few uninterrupted minutes to share where each of you are physically and emotionally. Trust your partner to respond in a good way; there is no need to control.

The essentials of a re-entry protocol are to be together and take a moment to create the atmosphere for you to be in relationship, regardless of what emotions are up in you or your partner. Turn phones and other distractions off. Each should ask, “How was it for you while I was (you were) gone?” and listen attentively to the answer. Repeating back the gist of what you heard is helpful to the speaker to feel completely heard, and for the listener to get it right. After each takes a turn, the next step is to communicate to each other any wants or needs you currently have. Saying “I want you to cuddle with me” is much better than “I need you to show me more affection.” The first is in the moment and actionable now. The second statement is more controlling, telling the listener how to be, and does not necessarily get you an immediate response. The listener can respond to these requests with a simple “Yes”, “No” or offer something else instead. Don’t make a counter offer conditional if at all possible (I’ll do that for you if you do this for me). Fulfilling requests is not a transaction. Give what is from your heart rather than what is from the calculating part of you. Finally, acknowledge one another, taking turns to make a statement of appreciation, such as, “I appreciate you for the hard work you did while away to provide for me and the family”, or “I acknowledge you for being so caring and attentive for our daughters while I was gone”. To each appreciation and acknowledgment, let it land for you, feel it in your body, and then say “thank you.” When you both feel complete, blow out the candle and end the session, maybe with a hug and a kiss (or more), or just a loving smile, whatever comes from your heart in the moment.

Here is the protocol we used, followed by some suggestions for things you can use as well:

H= one who has remained at home A= One who was away

H: “Welcome home!” (offers to help bring in belongings).

A: “Thank you.”

Both sit down facing each other. H lights a candle or incense to create the space.

H: I am glad you are home.

A: responds to H., then asks: “How was it for you while I was gone?”

H: answers the question, including H’s current physical/emotional state.

A: “What do you feel is needed now?”

H: answers with a request, if there is one

A: responds to request with “yes”, “no”, or a counteroffer. A asks if there is more, until H. is complete.

H: asks “How was it for you while you were away?”

A: answers the question, including A’s current physical/emotional state.

H: asks, “what do you feel is needed now?”

A: responds with any requests and H answers with yes/no/counter

A: then gives acknowledgment or appreciation to H. “I want to acknowledge you for… (specific action, impact on self and others, feelings”

H: “Thank you”

This is repeated until complete. Then roles are reversed.

H: thanks A for listening.

A: thanks H for caring.

Both may blow out candle, do namaskar, or otherwise close out the session in a good way. END.

Other things that might be included in your protocol:

I feel disappointed. I hoped you would ask me…

Was it hard for you?

I assumed we would…

Try it, and let me know what you did and what your experience was. I’d love to learn from you.

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Relationship Self-Mastery

Grounding Charges with Others

John Owens

Grounding Charges with Others

Do you have dealings with people that leave you feeling really angry, scared or sad? Do you feel an inclination to blame that person for leading you to where you feel these intense feelings that set your heart at war? I think most of us experience that from time to time, and today I’d like to explore with you how those intense emotions towards another can be a gift for you. You can learn these simple steps toward grounding your charge, much the same way a lightning rod can ground the electrical charge without causing damage to property or people.

I recently traveled with some men to a cabin ‘up North’ in the Minnesota lake country. We had a small ad hoc gathering of men for an I-Group meeting, a type of support group for men. (Note: For those concerned with confidentiality, I am reporting this with their knowledge and permission.) It turned out that two of the men there had known each other through a working relationship that had ended with conflict and hurt feelings and negative judgments. The feelings were still there, on both sides, and that became apparent when I facilitated the part of the meeting where I asked the question, “Does any man have a charge with another man in this circle?” After hearing men’s affirmative answers, we did a process for these charges that led to both men successfully grounding their charges, hearing each other’s truth, and gaining real healing of hearts. I felt my own heart release its tension at the conclusion of this process, and then fill with a sense of peaceful, loving, hopefulness.

Men who do the ManKind Project™ training learn this process, so it is practiced by many people. I have used the same process in my family to heal wounds and improve communication. This is not the only way to ground emotional charges, certainly, but it is a way that works. It is so effective, I want to share it with you, so you have a chance to make this work for yourself.

Step 1. Create a sacred space. The idea is to create a space that will have minimal interruptions, and a commitment by all parties to stay engaged until completion of the process. Turn off all distractions like phones and radio, keep pets where they won’t interfere. You may enlist witnesses, bring in a sacred object, like a picture or wedding ring, light a candle, use smudge or incense. You want to create a space where there is a strong and loving focus on the healing process that is unfolding. It is not necessary, but if you have a staff or rod, you can use this to help keep the focus and literally ground the charge.

Step 2. Identify who has the charge, and with whom. One person may have dozens of charges with another. That person in turn may have a charge(s) with the first. Choose a person “A” who is to start and go through to completion first. That person will do most of the talking, and the other most of the listening. If Person “B” is not available, I often use an empty chair to represent them, or ask someone to stand in and hold the energy for the person who is the object of the charge.

Step 3. Enlist support and facilitation. Choose a third person who is neutral to facilitate the process (the Facilitator). Person A holds the staff (if available) with one end on the ground at all times. Person B holds the staff with their hand above Person A’s. Person A and B are asked by the facilitator if either wishes support from someone else. The Facilitator’s job is to ask the questions, keep the focus on the question at hand, interrupt the process if it becomes abusive, and help to set it back on track.

Step 4. State the objectives. The Facilitator speaks to Person B first, telling them that, though it may seem that “A” is directing their talk to “B”, this is not about “B”, but about grounding “A’s” charge. “B” is a mirror for “A’s” charge, and will be asked at times to repeat back what they heard from A. Person A is informed that this is an opportunity for their healing, and the purpose is to withdraw their projection on B and claim it as part of their disowned self (shadow). Under no circumstances is this an opportunity for A to spew on (abuse) B, and the facilitator needs to be watchful of spewing, and interrupt it if it happens.

Step 5. Relate the data. The Facilitator asks A to choose a single incident (combining multiple incidents creates generalities where facts can be blurred. We want to relate data as purely as possible.) Data is what was seen, heard, acted out or written. Just the facts: “I saw you go in my closet and come out carrying my sweater.” It is what a video camera might record of the incident. Saying “you stole my sweater” is not data, it is a judgment, an interpretation of the facts. It takes a little practice to start seeing the differences. Person B is then asked to repeat back or paraphrase the data to A, making sure to avoid judgments while doing so.

Step 6. Speak the judgments. When the facts of the case are completed, A is asked by the Facilitator to say their judgments. Judgments are interpretations of facts. I encourage the participant to get out of their intellect and speak from their internal seven year old: “You stole my sweater; you’re a thief.” Person B will again mirror these judgments back to A: “I heard you say I stole your sweater and that I am a thief”. Notice that B need not own what A is saying as true for him, just true for A. Once the judgments are completed, they might be summarized. If there are many, the Facilitator can ask A to name the two or three biggest ones.

Step 7. Identify the emotions. We get confused in this culture about feelings. We confuse them with judgments: “I feel you were lying to me” is not a feeling. Emotions come in the primary colors of Afraid/Fear, Happy/Joy, Sad/Grief, Angry/Rageful, and Shame/embarrassment. Often anger is a cover for another emotion that is resisted by the person feeling it. “I feel really angry about that, and underneath my anger I feel afraid” is a clear statement of emotions. Again, B reflects back to A: “I heard you say you are angry and under that you feel afraid”. It is useful often to stick with or close to these primary emotions so they are clearly understood and felt.

Step 8. State the wants. Person A then is asked to say what he wants to happen. “I want you to give back the sweater and to apologize for stealing”. B reflects back what was heard. The facilitator informs A that s/he is speaking her truth, and that is welcome, and that it is possible she may not get what she asks for.

Step 9. Own the shadow and withdraw it. After the data, judgments, emotions and wants are all related and reflected, it is time for Person A to name the shadow that was projected on B, and to withdraw it. A says something like, “What I own about this is how I sometimes disregard other’s rights and take what I want.” There is always something in the charge that is in shadow (hidden, denied or repressed) for A, or there would not be a charge toward B. The facilitator may need to help A with this. Often what is in shadow is a repressed, disowned part of the self. If I never lie, it is likely that my disowned part in shadow is the lying manipulator. Hard for me to see, but I can own the possibility of that, at least.

Step 10. What needs to happen for completion? The Facilitator asks this question to Person A, who says aloud what it is that they want for the process to feel complete for them at this time. Sometimes it is nothing, sometimes it’s a hug from B, or something else.

Step 11. Completion. The Facilitator asks for the actions for completion to take place, either now or in the definite future. If it is something like a hug, and Person B is unwilling, the Facilitator can honor intentions by saying something like, “A would like to give you a hug when you are ready to receive one from her. Would you be willing to accept that when and if you are ready?” Or perhaps a counteroffer from B can be made, for example, to shake hands as gesture of peace. The facilitator then can acknowledge the work of both participants, take the staff, and then ask if both feel complete. If B has a charge with A, then this process is repeated with the roles reversed.

I’d love to hear your comments on this procedure for grounding charges. If you give it a try, let me know how it went. Did you get stuck somewhere? Did you successfully heal an emotional wound? Would you like more information or training on this process?

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