Your Partner Is Not Your Therapist

Your Partner Is Not Your Therapist

love-couple-young-teens-outside-moment-emotionsNobody emerges from childhood completely unscathed. Intimate relationships can be a wonderful container in which childhood wounds and sorrows come to light, are met and held with love, and release their power to cause us pain.

However, when childhood wounds are deep and serious, or when there is a trauma response, it is not reasonable to expect a partner to have the skills and emotional resilience to give us everything we need to heal. Serious wounds require serious treatment and rehabilitation.

Warning Signs of Serious Childhood Injury

How can we know whether our emotional baggage is too much for a partner to carry?

The problem for most people is that we grow up thinking that whatever we experienced as a child is normal. It can take outside input to open our eyes to the possibility that our childhood had some problems, and that we may have some unhealthy coping strategies as a result.

Here are some clues to look for, in ourselves and our close friends, family, and partners.

Relationship Anxiety

Needing constant reassurance, finding separations unbearable, anxiously watching for return text messages, intense fear of abandonment, possessiveness and jealousy, trying to control partners, especially in how close they are to other people emotionally.

aloneAvoidance or Extreme Detachment

Feeling uncomfortable, even “invaded”, when relationships become emotionally intimate, avoiding sex and intimacy, keeping emotions out of sexual relationships, pushing friends and partners away when upset, reacting to uncomfortable situations in relationships by withdrawing, or even leaving the relationship.

Unbalanced Focus on Self

While it is healthy to have a good awareness of our own wants and needs, it is important to give equal weight to the wants and needs of others, especially those who are close to us, either physically or emotionally.

If people are regularly letting you know that you are appearing selfish, or not listening to them, or not taking them into consideration enough, it is worth checking whether you have the right balance of self vs others.

This may manifest as people every now and again unfairly abandoning you for reasons you don’t understand, or getting very angry at you when you don’t think you have done anything wrong.

other focus-1600x900Unbalanced Focus on Others

Focusing on others can be a delightful gift, but not if you lose contact with yourself in the process.

Are you aware of your own needs and wants? Do you regularly express them to the people who are close to you, both physically and emotionally?

Or do people seem to take you for granted, and exhaust you with their constant needs and demands?

Are you afraid that if you don’t take care of everyone properly, their reactions will be even more unbearable than the constant low level frustration and exhaustion that you usually feel?

love addictionAddictions

We may not have an addiction to a substance like alcohol, opiates, or illegal substances, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an addiction at all.

Any activity which causes us to get a hit of dopamine can become addictive.

Many people are addicted to more subtle “drugs”, like gambling (which includes high risk activities like day trading, commission-only sales work, and some forms of entrepreneurial activity), or sex (which can also include addiction to the dopamine highs of infatuation), computer games, or food.

Even socially-valued activities can be addictive – there are many workaholics out there! Working out at the gym, going to church, gossiping with friends, fixing up old cars, building dollhouses or computer programs, doing crosswords, and just about any other hobby can become an addiction when we are using it to escape unpleasant emotions or avoid difficult conversations.

These more socially acceptable addictions can combine with other items on this list, such as avoidance, zoning out, and mood swings, so watch out for combinations!

Zoning Out

Losing time, or not noticing what is happening here and now, can be a sign of trauma. This is a particular red flag if it happens during emotionally difficult conversations, but it can also be a habitual way to get through life. If our life as a child is emotionally difficult, one coping strategy is try as much as possible to “not be there” while life is happening.

It often goes together with not remembering much about childhood before the age of 6-8 years old.

2018-07-06 depressionMood Swings

Some days are great – you’re on top of the world, you get a lot done (or start a lot of things), and you feel ten feet tall and bulletproof. Other days, you don’t even want to get out of bed. You curse yourself for the promises you made when you were feeling great. There is no clear cause for the great days or the terrible days.

And some days start out great, but then something happens – someone rejects you, or something doesn’t go to plan – and for the rest of the day you feel awful.

If the swings happen slowly – over weeks and months – you may have bipolar disorder. But if you are having wildly different moods within a single week, you don’t have bipolar disorder – you have emotional dysregulation, which is usually a result of childhood emotional neglect.

SearchingExtreme Sensitivity or Empathy

Can’t walk by a group of people without getting a “hit” of someone else’s emotions?

Find crowds and public spaces draining and exhausting?

Can’t feel happy when your partner or housemate is feeling down?

You are likely to have some childhood wounds or trauma to explore.

Generally, children focus on their own world, and tune out the adults around them until they need something. But if life was difficult, upsetting, or painful, and the adults around were the cause, some children learn to be hyperaware of the emotional state of others. It is a coping strategy, a way of at least having a few seconds of warning before the bad thing happens.

discontent

Yes, That’s Me (or My Partner) – Now What?

Untreated childhood wounds tend to resurface over and over until they are healed. The most common way they emerge is by having us subconsciously recreate the situation where we were wounded.

We are most likely to do this in our intimate relationships, which is what makes intimate relationships so uniquely painful.

 

The number one reason that I have seen relationships end is because one or both people can no longer tolerate the pain of their childhood wounds resurfacing over and over.

This is often a tragic result, because the people concerned love one another very much, and have the potential to support one another in healing – that’s usually what attracts us, at a subconscious level.

But navigating the interlocking childhood wounds of two people in an intimate relationship is like picking your way through a minefield – you just never know when things are going to blow up and cause a whole new type of trauma.

CoachingIt is really important that you have outside support through this process. In severe cases, one or both partners may benefit from individual psychotherapy. Often, though what people really need is a neutral third party who can let them know when they are stuck in a childhood coping strategy, rather than being present and responding to the current situation.

This is where a relationship coach can be invaluable. Not only can they provide useful strategies to improve communication, and mediate difficult conversations, they can also keep you on track with your individual healing, and your support of your partner’s healing.

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Remember – we are here to help. If you’d like personalised coaching at any time, just fill in an application form, and we will schedule a short real-time call to see whether we are right for each other.

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Why “Speak Your Truth” Is A Bad Idea

Why “Speak Your Truth” Is A Bad Idea

Hey everybody! I’m Jenny Hale and this is my truth bomb series of short videos about relationship advice that isn’t great, why it isn’t great, and where the truth actually lies.

Today I’d like to talk about the advice that you hear around the place,  especially in the new-age personal development realm – “speak your truth”.

Now intuitively, it sounds like a good idea right?

Obviously, if you’re faking things in relationship, you’re not actually being authentic, it’s not going to work.

But “speak your truth” is not necessarily leading to authenticity. I see this a lot.  I work with individuals and couples working on their relationships. I’ve worked with hundreds of people and I’ve seen this quite regularly. I’ve seen one partner giving the other partner “advice” – constructive criticism that’s not very constructive.

They’re telling their partner everything they think is wrong with them, what they’re doing wrong, how they can improve, and they justify this by saying “I’m just speaking my truth. This is just how I see it.”

Sometimes it’s wrapped in the language of non-violence, which is really interesting to see – nonviolent communication used in quite a violent way.

“When you do that I feel angry and hurt because my need for security is not being met”, and the subtext is therefore you shouldn’t do that.

So now that I’ve “spoken my truth”, now that I’ve told you how I feel, you have to change.

Or, it’s just a license to not be responsible in the way that people speak. I’ve seen people just allow themselves to go into a triggered rage state and say “I can’t stand this, this is unbearable, I’m out of this relationship, it’s over, that’s it …”

They don’t actually mean that. They don’t actually want to end the relationship, but in that moment there’s that’s how they feel. At that moment, that’s the words that spontaneously arise and pop out of their mouths. That’s the truth at that moment.

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Now you can imagine, as the partner trying to process what’s happening that’s really confusing.

“Speak your truth” works only when you’re speaking in a responsible way. When you’re speaking constructively, when you’ve thought it through, you’re very clear on what your truth actually is, when you know it’s not your childhood wounds speaking. When you know it’s not some mental construct speaking. When you’ve actually taken the time, you’ve done the meditation, you’ve gone internally, you’ve found the source of your own truth.

A lot of people who say “I’m just speaking my truth” have no idea what their truth is. They’ve never met their truth. They’ve never gone in there. They have no idea who they are, and they have no idea what’s true for them, so they say … stuff. Let’s call them mind farts. If they’re not childhood trauma, they’re mind farts.

They start “speaking their truth”, and what comes out of their mouth may be completely a hundred eighty degrees opposite to what’s actually in their heart as their truth, in their authentic self.

But until you’ve met your authentic self, connected with your authentic self, you can’t speak your truth, because you’ve got no idea what it is.

So the advice works for people who are connected with their authentic self, and who know what their deepest truth is, and can speak that.

For everybody else, whatever they speak when they’re “speaking their truth” is going to be on some level inauthentic. It’s going to be on some level a lie. It might be true in the moment because of that emotion, but it’s not really what they want for their life. It’s not really how they want to be with their partner, and so on.

A lot of relationship advice works like this. If you’ve actually done the work, and you’re connected with your authentic self, and you’re really present and together, and you have good communication skills then the advice is useful. Now, what percentage of the population is in that boat?

So you have to be very careful not to take these advices and use them as justifications for behaviour. It’s actually not constructive, and not useful.

At the end of the day what we all want to do, we’re all working on, is really coming home. Coming back to the authentic self, and being able to speak our truth for real. To be able to speak our authentic truth, to know who we are, and to know what we have to say.

What is “The Authentic Self”?

What is “The Authentic Self”?

baby authentic self

The authentic self can also be called the true self, the original being, the Self, Being, or, in more spiritual language, the Divine Self. All these terms refer to the same aspect of us – the one who was born, who existed before our brain developed enough to create a psyche, or a false self.

Different disciplines have developed different language to describe the authentic self. In transpersonal psychotherapy, the authentic self is known as the Self. Transpersonal psychotherapy helps people to access their authentic self, and use its clarifying power to adjust aspects of the psyche which are causing distress.

In spiritual traditions, the authentic self is known as the Divine within (in Abrahamic traditions), or the buddhi body or jivatman (in yogic traditions). In ontological traditions, it is known as Being.

From Authentic Self to False Self; The Universal Human Tragedy

The false self develops in recognisable stages as our brain matures. In the early stages, the foundations are laid when we develop object permanence (remembering objects exist, even when we can’t directly see or hear them) and the ability to perceive ourselves as separate from the Universe as a whole.boy authentic self

By age two, we are testing out the limits of our separate existence, and learning how to feel secure when we are not with our primary caregivers. The individual qualities of our false self are a result of our biological tendencies and the environment we inhabit. We are especially influenced by the type of physical and emotional care our parents provide.

We develop our feelings about what kind of person we are, and what kind of world we live in, based on these early, formative years. If our caregivers are unreliable, we will internalise the feeling that survival is precarious, and the world is uncaring, or even dangerous. If they respond badly to our crying when we are in need, we will develop a sense of shame. This manifests in feelings that we are not good enough, that there is something wrong with us, and we need to work hard to earn our keep. 

authentic self

Our authentic self is immune to all these environmental influences.

While our psyche is growing, layer by layer, developing limiting beliefs and storing traumas, our authentic self remains unchanged. Luminous, pure, open to the world, and deeply peaceful, the authentic self is always present, underneath our everyday psyche. Often, the authentic self is so deeply submerged that we don’t know it is there, or we don’t know where to find it.

Clinging to the False Self

suffering

When this happens, we mistakenly think that the false self is the only self we have. We believe we ARE the false self. We defend the false self as though it is really who we are. We defend the prison we have built for ourselves. We defend the container which holds all of our suffering. We defend the scars from all of our psychological wounds as though they were our heart and lungs.

When we identify with the false self, we defend the prison, instead of returning to being the one who was never imprisoned at all.

We are never so trapped as when we believe the prison walls are a part of ourselves. We are never so free as when we realise that we no longer need the protection of walls at all.