Observing what is automatic is such an integral concept in practicing mindfulness. And our personality habits, our habits of relating, are like an engine that runs automatically whenever we turn the key in the ignition. Just as an engine has component parts, our automatic habits of relating have component parts as well. Human experience has core organizers that interact together to create the experience. They are: thoughts, emotions, five senses, body sensation and movement. All of our experiences are composed of these elements in fluid, living, changing patterns. This is true for us as individuals and then each relationship that we have has it’s own unique pattern as well. Read moreNancy
What’s so profound about Mindfulness as an agent of change is realizing how much of how we are is unconscious and automatic. In relationship we can more readily see what’s automatic therefore unquestioned in our partner. This becomes quite relevant when our partner’s automatic habits are so different from our own and in some way disturbing to what we ourselves expect from our own automatic bias. Read moreNancy
There is tremendous value in caring for oneself within an intimate relationship. When we are grounded and content as a result of looking after our own needs whoever we are with will certainly appreciate our company so much more than if we are cranky and wrung out. When we are self-aware and take care of ourselves, there is more room inside to take care of others and to respond appropriately to them.
Simply observing our experience is the foundation of self-care. What to do and how to do becomes more easily self-evident based on self-awareness.
The more we neglect our own needs, the less energy we have to be aware of our partner and to give. Think of how difficult it is for the one that we love when our stress results in anger, withdrawal or neglect.
It is sometimes necessary to set aside one’s own needs to make someone else a priority. We know that we have done the right thing by how satisfying it is to give to another.
When we tune in to our own needs and respond we are restoring ourselves in the manner that is uniquely appropriate. Each of us is different in what gives us life. We can think of caring for ourselves as actually being ourselves.
One of the characteristics of Mindfulness is curiosity. Being able to mindfully study any aspect of our experience includes being curious about whatever is unfolding in the present moment. Read moreNancy
Not everything that we feel is true! That’s because feeling memories can be re-experienced and with such vividness that they feel true in the moment. We rely on our feelings to guide us in relationship! So how can we distinguish between what is an old feeling replaying inside and one that is relevant to our current situation? Read moreNancy
Without realizing it, we enter intimate relationships both because the other person feels familiar and safe and also to heal the difficulties that we experienced in our original home. So the person we choose feels like home and then we try to get what we missed at home when we were young.
This is how to explain relationship difficulties on a nutshell. If each of you is trying to get what you have been missing all your life you likely need very different things. This could very well be the beginning of a long and drawn out painful relationship dance.
Couples who want to heal their relationship can grow to understand the need that is driving their partner’s behaviour. They can each become dedicated to giving some of what has been missing. However, there is another important factor for success. We must be able to soothe and care for ourselves in whatever was missing for us in the past. Mindfulness of what helps our partner, what helps us and how to care for our own needs is the complete formula for relationship success.Nancy
We experience the world and each other in a manner that is unique to each of us to some extent. For the most part we can agree on smells, tastes, sights, the feel of something on our skin and what a certain piece of music sounds like. Read moreNancy
We need to be able to reach out to others at times to share emotionally or to get support or reassurance. Intimate relationship is certainly the place we would like to go to get that quality of connection. And we also need to be able to soothe ourselves, to stand on our own feet emotionally at the appropriate times. Ideally we would be good at doing both: connecting for support when we feel vulnerable and regulating our own emotions independently. Read moreNancy
This is the first in a series of blogs that focus on how mindfulness can work for you in relationship.
In close relationships such as with a couple, being highly reactive to each other can be a real problem. This could be evidenced in raised voices, bickering and people saying things that they later regret. Just like other animals we have a low brain or reptilian brain that reacts far more quickly than our thought processes do. When we react quickly and automatically in relationship things certainly do get worse rather than better. Read moreNancy
We can choose what to mindfully study in our ongoing present experience. We might watch only our physical sensations for a period of time. This is very good for calming and steadying. By just accepting what we notice is happening in the body experience it has a strong tendency to regulate itself to a calmer state.
We might choose to notice our emotions with an attitude of compassionate acceptance. This may not mean that we agree with those in-the-moment feelings, but accepting our emotions lessens the battle with the ones that are most difficult for us.
Thoughts can also be very interesting to observe. Instead of just being in the thoughts and letting them run automatically, it is possible to notice them and name them as they occur. Naming thoughts might be something like: ‘ planning, worrying, judging, remembering, savoring’ just to name some possibilities. It could be quite illuminating to discover that our thoughts were having a tendency toward repetitions of something such as worrying.
Then it’s another act of mindfulness to notice what helps you at any given time.
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Certified Sensory Motor Psychotherapist Advanced Practitioner
Member Canadian Association for Psychodynamic Therapy
Clinical Member of the Ontario Society of Psychotherapists
Toronto, Ontario, Canada