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The Journey of Transformation

Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

The Joy (and not-joy) of Relationship

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

We had a family gathering at my house on Friday evening, since my sister and brother-in-law were visiting from Florida. The thing that stands out in my mind about it is that everyone was so GLAD to see each other. There was tangible joy, just to be together.

It is one of the greatest blessings I know to feel that love and see the connections between people I love. It makes the hassles of planning, communicating, cleaning and cooking all worth it, in spades.

Hearing laughter and chatter, seeing the men holding babies that are not their own, and LOVING them, seeing nieces and brothers helping themselves in the kitchen and a sister-in-law stirring pots is pure contentment to me.

I missed those that weren’t here, also. Nieces and nephews busy elsewhere with their own lives, great-nieces and nephews involved with other parts of their family, a brother on a book tour, parents who are no longer with us, aunts and cousins who are far away, all are missed.

Not everyone is blessed with joyful relationships. There isn’t always joy in these relationships, either. There can be irritation, hurt feelings, disappointment and confusion, as well. In some families there is outright hostility and estrangement. It pains me when I see it in families I know and love. I see and hear about painful relationships daily in my work as a therapist. It is a primary source of anguish and bewilderment for my clients.

The Dalai Lama encourages compassion for others, and reminds us to see that we are the SAME as others, and not so different. Understanding that the other is experiencing the same feelings, challenges, desires and frustrations can equalize things and help us to find empathy for him/her.

Terence Real, who wrote The New Rules of Marriage (Ballantine Books, 2008) and other books explains that many of us get caught up on an “escalator of contempt” which shuttles us back and forth between grandiosity (better than) and shame (worse than).

Terry Real, escalator, contempt, grandiosity, shame, same as

Escalator of Contempt
Grandiosity —— Shame

When we think we have all the answers we look down on others with contempt and disdain. We pump ourselves up as more important than, smarter than, more talented than, etc. and grandiosity reigns. When we put ourselves down as stupid, unworthy, inadequate and unlovable we are in shame and are treating ourselves with contempt.

What gets missed is the experience of same as. We are fundamentally the same as everyone else, with inadequacies and amazing traits; quirks and gifts; bad behaviors and generosity; wisdom and foolishness; strengths and weaknesses. We are all human.

In recent years I have experienced some painful conflict in personal relationships. Some of it related to miscommunication and misunderstandings, some to unrestrained words of anger and judgment, some to differences that got translated into weaknesses and shortcomings. I was forced to see attitudes and behaviors in myself that were extremely hard to admit. The primary thing I must acknowledge is that I can be critical, shaming and grandiose. I also can feel rejected, ashamed, misunderstood, mistreated and unworthy.

Terry Real recommends stepping off the contempt escalator and remembering the other person is much like I am; not less than me and not better than me. It helps me manage my reactions and feelings when I remind myself, “same as.” The other person is struggling just like I am, feels similar feelings, and has many great qualities as well as shortcomings, just like me. The other is trying to be understood and get needs met just as I am; and is NOT out to get ME.

And I began to use a phrase in my head when I was feeling frustrated with someone and thinking, “they should have…” or “why don’t they…” The phrase I said to help me let go of judgment, anger and hurt feelings was “JUST LOVE ‘EM.”

It serves to remind me that the most important thing is that I DO love them, and that calms me down and allows me to accept them just as they are, which is, after all, what I want them to do with me. It takes me off the “contempt escalator” and allows me to change my thinking, which changes my feelings and actions.

I try to say this to myself, as well, when I get a case of the “I should have…”

More transitions; so what’s new!

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

So, I am in the middle of more transitions. Does it ever stop? No, we just get to cruise sometimes. I am not in cruise control right now, but in the midst of some heavy traffic, construction, detours. I need to be on my toes.

My love relationship ended earlier this summer, due to core differences in our values and worldviews, and an erosion of good feelings between us.  It has not been easy, but my busyness has certainly helped to distract me from the loss.

I have had lots of company, fun weekend activities, a heavy workload and the process of my father moving from assisted living to nursing home. It has been hectic, challenging, rewarding, fun and draining.

Last weekend I spent 4 days with my team, Sand Shells, as crew at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in the Twin Cities. It was, as always, moving, inspiring, exhausting and exhilarating. My ankles are still swollen and bruised, and I wasn’t even trying to walk the 60 miles! I helped to set up and run Pit Stop 3 with my team. We handed out food, water, Nuun (our sponsor’s sports drink) and encouragement. We used the theme, “Wild, Wild Breasts!” If you haven’t been around the 3-Day, it is quite focused on breasts and having fun, so plays on words and irreverent themes rule the day. We had western outfits and props (even a photo op with a pony!) and got a lot of smiles out of the walkers. The spirit and energy of my teammates was amazing to watch.

The Closing Ceremonies, where I was allowed to wear a pink shirt and walk with the survivors, created feelings that are beyond words. The inclusion and validation we survivors experience fills my heart up to the brim, and reminds me how precious it is to have come through breast cancer. There was a moment during the Walk that I was encouraging walkers with water and thanks, and suddenly one of them said, “No, thank you, Survivor. Walking three days is nothing compared to chemo.” She had seen my “Survivor” button. It was so unexpected and so powerful that I melted into tears. It made all the sweat, exhaustion and body aches worth every minute.

3-day, breast cancer, walk

3-Day Walkers

Earlier I had visitors from Sweden and spent a week with them. It is a special thing to show them around the area to which the Emigrants came and have them get to know their American family better. I spent a weekend with one of my best friends, her siblings and cousins and had a ball. The laughter and cameraderie were delightful.

I have had a full schedule at work, because of taking time off here and there, and filling up the remaining spaces with clients. Always feeling behind and overwhelmed by paperwork, but managing to keep my head above water and give clients what they need from me. At times I have heard positive feedback and have been moved to tears by the growth, insight and relief they express, as well as their gratitude.

Finally, I have just started a new endeavor of teaching a foundational social work class at a local college, St. Cloud State University. My first class met this week and I did well, I think. Thanks to a great curriculum I inherited from others, and help from several professors there, I got through it and feel optimistic and enthusiastic to continue it. It does challenge me, though, and I see that I am a student this fall too, as well as those in my class!

SCSU, St. Cloud State University, Social Work

SCSU