Why your most difficult relationship can be your greatest teacher

Are you in a difficult relationship with someone in your life or a challenging situation that presses every one of your buttons and triggers an unusually strong reaction in you? Does the very thought of this person or situation send you into a mental spin that lasts for days, weeks, even months?

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Have you ever wondered how you could improve things so there’s less charge and more harmony, at least from your side?

Whether it’s a past relationship or a provocative situation that still upsets you, or a relationship that you can’t end because they’re family or you live or work with them, then the most empowering approach is to change your inner orientation to that person or situation.

Why on earth would you want to do that, when they’re the person with the issue, you might ask?

Good question.

The simple answer is you have very little control over how others behave. If someone chooses to be rude, offensive, judgmental, unfair, irrational or narcissistic, that’s their issue. You can’t change them no matter how much you would like them to be different. Yet how you react to them and how you continue to relive their words and actions is your responsibility; that’s your issue.

Once you recognise that you have no power in trying to control how others behave, the question becomes, well where do I have power in this relationship or situation? What is in my control? What are they are triggering in me?  Can I accept this person for who they are or the situation for what it is? Asking yourself these types of questions is significantly more empowering than blaming and resenting others, and can in fact be game changing.

You may notice that you don’t like how you feel when you’re with this person. It can bring up uncomfortable feelings (ie powerlessness, anger, frustration, resentment) and you may behave with them in a way that doesn’t feel like “you”. That’s because you often leave yourself when you’re with challenging people.  It can feel like they take your power, but in actuality you give your power away.

When you react strongly to someone, chances are something about them hooks you back into your old unfinished business from the past that has nothing to do with this person. This is classic shadow dancing: you each trigger old hurts and wounds in the other.

It’s also a ripe opportunity for learning how to become less triggered in these situations.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

The interesting thing about personal growth is pretty much everything that goes on in your life is actually about you. It’s about how you relate to others and to yourself. Sounds narcissistic, but it’s far from it. Your relationships mirror back to you your relationship to your life. So if you find yourself triggered by someone, instead of ruminating over what they said or did, please pause for a moment and ask yourself:

What if they are teaching me about how to be more accepting, more loving, more connected to others?

What if they are showing me what my unmet needs are?

What if they are teaching me about empathy, patience, and tolerance?

What if they are teaching me how to stick up for myself, find my voice, not take things so personally, or how to have stronger boundaries in my relationships?

Ultimately, it’s about acceptance.  Acceptance of yourself and acceptance of others as they are. And with acceptance, comes the freedom to make different choices. Most of us receive feedback and instruction on our behaviour until we leave school, but after that there are less opportunities for real feedback on the areas in us that could do with a bit more attention.

These tricky situations and relationships are your best opportunities to make real leaps in your personal growth and maturity, because they show you your blind spots in a way that no one else will. They are a gift (albeit of the painful variety…). It might sound crazy to welcome your adversaries and be grateful for what they teach you, but if you are able to do this, then you are doing true soul work. What’s more, as you start to extract the lessons and apply the hard-won understandings to your life, you may well find yourself unfazed by similar situations in the future.

Are you about to make a big change? Get ready for your fears and doubts to show up!

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Recently, as I was in the midst of taking a new step in my life, I was surprised to notice that the first few days of my new reality felt unquestionably ordinary and normal. Whilst it was important for me personally, the change simply wasn’t as big a deal as I expected it to be.

Perhaps you’re about to make a big change, and

  • have your first interview after years of being a stay-at-home Mum…
  • move to another country or State and start afresh…
  • quit your job to start a new business …
  • go on a first date after years of being in a relationship…
  • take a leap of faith and follow your heart even though no one else quite gets it …

or something similar.

Executing change is actually quite easy, you just put one foot in front of the other, you show up and do it.  It’s the lead up to change where your crippling fears, insecurities and questions of worthiness all come up for air.  When you’re replaying worst possible scenarios in your head of what could happen to you when you take the leap.

You’re doing WHAT? You? Really? What makes you think you’ll be any good at that?  You’re just going to fail. Embarrass yourself. Say the wrong thing.  Hmmm. Recognise that voice?

I’m always surprised at how strong and physical fear feels in the body. It can deplete your energy and render you powerless. A few weeks ago, I woke up with anxiety flooding my chest and stomach, and it wasn’t until I took the time to feel the anxiety and get curious about it that I understood it was masking fear.

Unless you’re one of those unusual people who seeks dramatic change frequently for an adrenaline rush, most of us on some level are uncomfortable with taking new action. Whenever you stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone you are, in effect, summoning your fears, defences and insecurities to come and protect you from any potential danger or threat. To keep you in your comfort zone! Also, your inner critic, (remember that mean little voice that doubts your every move?), increases its volume and intensity and can give you a really hard time.

Fear is meant to protect you from real danger.  It’s so utterly convincing because of its physicality, but most of the time, doing something completely new isn’t at all dangerous. If you give into your fear and allow it to stop you from doing anything new that scares you, you may end up with some fairly heavy regrets later on that you didn’t give your dreams a go when you had the opportunity.

Destiny rarely knocks on the front door of your house.

Generally you need to chase after your dreams and make them happen. It’s in hindsight that you may recognise a kind of guiding force in your life that lead you to treasured experiences, friendships, and moments that you never would have had if you had not taken action.

So if you’re making a change, welcome your fears, insecurities and inner critic when they pay you a visit. Get curious about what they might be protecting you from, thank them for working so hard and then just go ahead anyway and take your inspired action.

Once you’ve take action, you’ll have a sense of quiet elation because you’ve learnt a big secret: that fear was always just an illusory prison challenging you to stay small and safe, and now you know that you’re capable of much more than you could have imagined when you were locked within its walls.

Announcing new weekly meditation group in Northern Beaches Sydney!

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Forest Meditators is a new weekly meditation group in Oxford Falls (in the Forest and Northern Beaches area of Sydney) open to anyone interested in meditation, self-development and connecting with like-minded people.

Meditation is an increasingly popular life skill that helps you to slow down, relax and become more present to yourself and your life.  It also helps to reduce stress and anxiety, strengthen concentration, intuition and enhance well-being.

Many people find it easier to meditate in a group than alone, and these meditations are guided to help you to relax and not have to worry about the “how”.  Meditation is a life skill that’s about connecting to yourself and becoming more present to your life.  It’s a wonderful practice of self-care.

Suitable for beginners or regular meditators of all ages and stages of life.  You don’t need any special skill to do it!

Please spread the word and share this with anyone who might be interested.

First group starts tomorrow, Wednesday, 5 November at 10 am – 11 am!  They will be held weekly until mid-December.

To RSVP and for more details, please register at http://www.meetup.com/Forest-Meditators/  or email laurelle@transformcounselling.com.au

Hope to see you there!

What to do when you’re facing change

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There is one absolute given in life:

You are continually changing and evolving.  Every. Single. Day.

Yet change isn’t always noticeable from the outside and is even less hard to spot when you’re living a busy 24/7 routine. The inner stirrings of change are subtle, so subtle in fact that months and years can pass before you realise you’re being nudged in a new direction.

It may be that you dislike your job, but you put up with it because it pays well and, at the very least, it’s stable. Or perhaps your children’s emerging independence has freed up your time, but after years of perceiving and meeting everyone else’s needs and desires, you draw a complete blank when it comes to your own. Maybe you no longer feel good about yourself when you’re with certain friends. Or those activities you used to love doing no longer interest you.

If you were heart-stoppingly honest with yourself, you might admit that you simply don’t feel the way you used to. There’s no longer a snug fit between who you are right now and the situation you’re in. Either you’ve changed, or the situation has changed. And that’s OK. Of course it can feel much safer to stay where you are and hope that things will work themselves out. But digging your head in the sand and ignoring your real feelings about situations that aren’t working is, in effect, asking for life to happen to you. It’s a powerless stance, akin to taking a back seat in your own life.

Being in your own power is about sitting in the driver’s seat of your life.

In situations that have stagnated well past their use-by date, it’s likely that a part of you has already jumped ship… or given up, both of which can feel like a kind of deadness inside. There can be a real sense of missing the boat too, fearing that it’s too late for you to change anything.

It’s never too late to change.

Change Painful

Nothing in the natural world stays stagnant. There’s a constant cycle of birth, growth, peak, decline, death and rebirth. And it’s the same with us. We go through cycles in our lives where new aspects of us are born, develop, peak, decline and die. Over and over again.

If you find yourself going through the motions day after day, somewhere deep down you’ll know if this situation isn’t serving or nourishing you. You may feel a great unease in your system whenever you think about it. It’s a sign the wheel of life is turning … something is ending. And there’s something in you aching for new life, for the vibrant you that went into hiding the moment you outgrew the old situation. You just didn’t notice. Until now.

There’s something incredibly empowering about reading your own signals of change and making fresh choices from that place.

If this is where you’re at, you may be feeling some discomfort reading these words. There’s no question that change can be painful and scary. Yet it’s far more painful to allow yourself to wilt on the inside than it is to face the truth of your situation. The possibility for the next part of your life lies ahead of you, in the “yet to happen” space. To open up to what could be, you’ll need to loosen your grip on keeping things the same.

The truth is things are not the same if you no longer feel nourished or connected to them. 

Ultimately your soul loves pleasure. If your life is considerably out of sync with your deeper values and desires, you’re likely to be feeling anything and everything but pleasure. It’s one of the most reliable signs you have at your disposal.

Once you acknowledge and accept the situation for what it is, you’ll be able to make positive changes or let go of what’s no longer serving you and steer your life towards the vibrant aliveness and expanded possibilities that are always available to you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on change below or as always feel free to share x