By Eduardo da Silva
In my capacity as a personal mastery and empowerment coach, conversations with my clients frequently revolve around relationships.
Romantic relationships seem to have the most life impact. Being in a healthy, authentic romantic relationship, in which partners fully accept each other, is one of the most rewarding experiences. Such a relationship is based on sharing, growing, and connecting from and with our deepest hearts.
Through pure unconditional love, it also offers an environment of freedom, courage and acceptance, and allows the growth of self-awareness. Both partners feel secure and safe to freely express themselves. They are deeply committed to each other and also to a sense of overall purpose.
This sense of purpose allows for individual growth and growth as a couple. Such a union is a gift that helps each partner become more conscious and free from emotional slavery. The expansion in consciousness that is possible within an authentic relationship can then serve a higher purpose for society at large: happy couples inspire others to explore courageous emotional honesty, in public as well as personal life.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, so many people miss out on the gift of having a fulfilling, intimate relationship.
Most of these barriers to a healthy relationship can be overcome with the right dose of desire, courage and acceptance. I propose that the world needs as many people as possible to shift into relationships that are authentic and centered on acceptance, emotional freedom and purpose, also satisfying the individual’s inner desire for safety, security, and the experience of unconditional love.
The key is this: The first steps are self-acceptance, self-love, and self-care.
From there, positive relationships can blossom and the world is made better for it.
One reason that relationships so often fail to offer the highest level of satisfaction and fulfillment is that people enter the union solely to satisfy their own personal needs.
“Falling in love” with another person can certainly be a magical experience, supported by a cascade of endorphins that are released on cue, and which seem to touch the body, mind, and soul all at once.
When, however, the road of life starts getting bumpy, the new partner may be held responsible not only for personal happiness, but for personal unhappiness as well. A relationship that is based on the fulfillment of only one person’s needs leads quickly to co-dependence and resentment.
A second and related reason that relationships fail to be completely satisfying is that partners are too often held to an idealized view of how they should look and behave in the world.
People dream of meeting a soul mate; they look for that special person who will complete them and make them happy forever. As wonderful as this sounds, healthy and authentic relationships can just as well bring forth some of the most challenging and painful experiences humans are likely to face.
We grieve, after all, when we lose something, or someone, of value. The more we value someone, the greater the pain of loss.
As soon as a partner starts to behave in ways that don’t match up to an idealized view of how things should be, feelings of insecurity, anger and resentment can arise. Faced with life’s unexpected hardships and even day-to-day challenges, intimate partners that once seemed madly in love can project their unhappiness on the other.
One particular barrier to healthy relationships lies buried in our unconscious.
As Carl Yung quoted: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”.
Humans are the most complex creatures in the animal kingdom by force of a unique “gift”, namely the ego mind. This allows people to compare and contrast experiences, and to drift into thinking about the past and the future, allowing these thoughts to color the only thing that is truly real, which is the present moment.
While human minds have the capacity to create wondrous things, they can equally conjure up false stories, lies and all manner of inventions that bring forth misery. Worst of all, much of that can happen in the subconscious mind. Past experiences, often long-forgotten, can bring forth learned behavior that is automatic but not at all in the interest of growing and thriving relationships.
Subconscious reactions are based on past emotional experiences; their aim is to avoid further emotional pain.
Imagine a couple; call them Hank and Betty. Imagine that Hank grew up in an environment in which feelings and emotions were not acknowledged. If Betty began asking for honest expression of Hank’s emotions, or validation of her own, Hank’s fear of any of that touchy-feely stuff could well lead to further emotional withdrawal.
For Betty, who was raised in an environment that allowed free emotional expression, this kind of a withdrawal might be interpreted as a lack of commitment to the relationship. It could feel like a lack of respect, dependability, loyalty and/or courage. Both Hank and Betty, each feeling threatened in their own way, might be tempted to take the “easy” path, the one that would lead them away from the relationship.
On the other hand, if either could muster the Courage to be Vulnerable, and to Learn and Grow, it could make all the difference for both. There would be “work” involved, but the fruits of that kind of work could be sweet indeed.
Developing emotional intelligence and self-awareness of unconscious emotional triggers is one of the best things that partners can bring to a committed relationship.
Courage, vulnerability and open communication are needed by both partners in order to reprogram the subconscious mind. And the first and most important step will always be self-acceptance.
It is perhaps ironic that individuals feel most vulnerable at the point when they fall in love with another person. The desire for reciprocation of that love and for acceptance can bring up deep, subconscious concerns for personal safety and security. In a committed relationship, this brings a rich opportunity to discover the authentic self.
This is a process centered on self-love, self-compassion, understanding and forgiveness. Letting go of false beliefs about self can be a scary proposition; it might even bring up a fear of losing self- identity. The authentic lover must mine the depths of his or her unconscious mind, in order to heal personal emotional wounds while allowing the partner to do the same.
One of the greatest expressions of love is unconditional love: accepting self and the other “as-is.”
For an authentic relationship to truly work, then, each partner must take full responsibility for his or her feelings.
To hold the mate responsible gives away freedom, power, and independence. Eventually, in terms of any personal sense of happiness, it leads to outright dependence on the partner (as well as on circumstances in the “outside” world.)
Deep desires for the partner or the world to change can start brewing within. These desires can become powerful motivating forces and lead to unhealthy expressions of need, with a shift to blame and shame of the other. Needless to say, blame and shame are poisonous to a relationship, and can lead to resentment and then a vicious cycle of reciprocal blame, shame, self-hate, depression, anxiety and negativity.
This can create such a toxic environment that ending the relationship may seem the best solution. Unfortunately, while the relationship may end, the relationship-destroying patterns will persist to infect the next “perfect love.” Only the courage to take radical self-responsibility, with conscious actions to move beyond unconscious reactive patterns, will allow such toxic cycles to be broken.
A simple yet powerful practice, which I call “Gratitude and Acceptance”, can shift relationship perspectives, release resentments, and deepen self-love and shared love.
I have successfully used this exercise for myself and with many of my clients to help deepen the connection with self and with the beloved, allowing a shift from a traditional relationship to a powerful, authentic one.
To begin this practice, take a quiet moment to reflect and journey within. Be mindful to choose a place where you feel serene and won’t be interrupted by others or by distractions from the outside world. Take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to relax and be present.
1. Accept full responsibility for your feelings, your emotional state.
First accept that your emotional reactions are a by-product of your past experiences. Take full responsibility for your feelings, emotions, and behavior, releasing yourself, others and the circumstances of your life from any blame and resentment you have been holding.
Take a moment to be quiet. I often like to be outdoors and around nature, or quietly in my meditation room where I can take a deep breath, quiet my mind from daily activities and connect with my heart. Now make a commitment to take full responsibility for your own feelings and emotions, to accept yourself as you are and to fully love yourself.
2. Visualization and mental rehearsal
Take deep breath, and allow yourself to connect with your feelings. Feel what you are feeling and experience what you are experiencing. Then close your eyes and visualize the parts of you that need healing and forgiveness, and tell yourself I forgive you and I love you.
Saying these words out loud can be helpful. Forgive yourself for hurting yourself consciously or unconsciously, and for holding others responsible for your own emotional pain. Commit to take full responsibility for your actions, feelings and emotional states.
3. Practice gratitude.
Get a piece of paper and write gratitude statements about yourself in the present tense. For example: “I am grateful for my sense of humor and how it allows me to connect with others. I am grateful for my willingness to grow, to heal and release emotional wounds from the past.”
I suggest doing 15 to 20 gratitude statements. The statements can be simple, silly or deep statements. The idea is to write as many statements as possible without thinking about it too much. Then review the list and read the statements out loud. Select 5 to 10 statements that most resonate with your heart, write them down on a 3×5 card and read these out loud every morning for 7 to 10 days.
I recommend the last statement to be “I am grateful that I love myself and I can express myself courageously, freely, and openly. I love myself just as I am”.
Now do the same thing for your partner.
I suggest visualizing and mentally rehearsing 2 to 3 times a week until it becomes a part of your unconscious mind.
1. First take full responsibility for holding your partner responsible for your feelings and emotions, and also for feeling responsible for your partner’s feelings and emotions.
2. Take a deep breath, and allow yourself to connect with your feelings.
Feel what you are feeling and experience what you are experiencing. Close your eyes and visualize your partner in front of you. Ask forgiveness for holding her or him responsible for your feelings and emotions, and for hurting her or him consciously or unconsciously.
Within your mind, tell your partner that you forgive him or her for holding you responsible for his or her own feelings and emotions. It can be helpful to say these words out loud.
For example: “Please forgive me for hurting you consciously or unconsciously and for holding you responsible for my happiness and unhappiness. Please forgive me for resenting you and I release you from any responsibility for the way I feel. I forgive you for hurting me consciously or unconsciously and for holding me responsible for your emotional pain. I commit to taking full responsibility for my actions, feelings and emotional states, and allow you to fully express your feelings and emotions without taking it personally.”
3. Now, get a piece of paper and write gratitude statements about your partner in the present tense.
For example, “I am grateful for the sound of my partner’s laughter. I am grateful for my partner’s wiliness to grow, to heal and release emotional wounds from the past.” I suggest doing 15 to 20 gratitude statements. Then review the list and read the statements out loud. Select 5 to 10 statements that most resonate with your heart, and write them down on a 3×5 card. Read the statements out loud every morning for 7 to 10 days.
I would recommend the last statement be “I am grateful for the love that my partner and I share, how we support each other with love and understanding. I am grateful for how we allow each other to express ourselves courageously, freely and openly. I love my partner just as she (or he) is and I am grateful for how she (or he) enriches my life.”
The issue with relationships is not that we have conflict but that when we feel threatened, we fear the relationship will end and the person we love so deeply will leave us.
For an authentic relationship to be healthy and successful, it is crucial that we feel safe, and that our partner also feels safe. It is imperative to have each other’s back, and to display the courage to accept ourselves and our partner “as is.”
We need to be committed and support each other in growth. We need to treat each other with kindness, patience, love and respect. We must have the Courage to be Vulnerable, and allow our partner to be vulnerable without passing judgment on her or him.
If we take the time to practices self-awareness, gratitude, acceptance, we can hope to free ourselves from the emotional slavery of unconscious reactions, feel fulfilled and empowered, and deepen our relationship with ourselves and with others.
May we all experience and express true unconditional love towards others and ourselves: the world will be much the better for it!
Eduardo da Silva is a lead business consultant and manager of coaching services with Staub Leadership International. A caring mentor and coach, Eduardo specializes in helping individuals connect deeply with their personal life purpose and to discover meaning and significance at work, at home and in the community. Eduardo’s people skills are blended with his powerful intuition and ability to shift perspectives. He has successfully helped many individuals in increasing self-awareness and to deepen their emotional intelligence.