Last week I talked about a six step process to live with more internal peace, less stress and less outward conflict. If you have not read last weeks post it would probably be a good place to start. Its the next post down.
This weeks post is a real life example of using the six steps. What I like about this example is it has three very important outcomes: First, it creates a new awareness or perspective. Second, it moves him from a high stress level to a more relaxed place. Finally, it allows him to make different, positive choices in his life. Here is a good example of how the six steps work:
I was talking to a man who has been married for 20 years and, in excruciating detail, he was explaining to me what was wrong with his partner. He was feeling conflicted because he does not want to leave his wife but he also was hopeless that his life with her would change. We used the six steps to help him become aware of his feelings and get in touch with his Inner Knowing:
- Pre-recognition : He started telling the story of his relationship with his wife, in all its detail, and I quickly realized he had yet to recognize what was going on in him and what his role was. His story was about her and how she could not or would not change. He thought she was the exclusive problem and if she was different his life would be better.
- Recognition: I asked him what he was feeling and he said “anger at my wife”. I asked if his anger was helping and after a moment he said “no, its just creating more separation from her”. I asked if he would like to work with his anger. After a sigh he said “yes”. He stepped into recognition. Recognizing that you are angry (or sad, or jealous, or…) is very different than projecting out that there is something wrong with the other person.
- Safety: I then asked if he would like to deepen his awareness around his anger with his wife, and of course he said “yes”. I reminded him that I was safe, I would not judge, confront, embarrass or shame. I could feel him relax and begin to open up. Feeling safe is an absolute requirement for the next step.
- Awareness: Once he was feeling safe I asked a few questions about what might be behind or underneath the anger. Its really important to understand these are not intellectual questions and rarely is the answer in your head. It is in your body. He was able to settle in to his anger and realized his anger was because he loved his partner and was fearful of being rejected. I asked him if he had ever felt this way before and he told me “I forgot all about that incident” . He explained that when he was eight his father had moved out of the house after a big fight with his mother and did not have any contact with him for two weeks. He was experiencing exactly the same feeling now in the situation with his wife that he felt then. He could feel the hurt, and fear, of it as a burning sensation in his chest.
- Letting It Go: I had been working with this man for about 6 months and he had learned the process well. I asked if he was ready to let go of the hurt. He said “yes”! and I walked him through letting go. I asked him if the hurt was gone and he said “yes”. The letting go process at its simplest is just setting the intent to let go of the old hurt. Once the old hurt was gone it was possible to see the current situation with his wife in a different light. From experience he knew the hurt would not come back, at least with not as much strength. I asked him to picture his partner and to see if he felt anger and he said “no, just love”.
- Inner Knowing: I asked what he was going to do now, and he said “I realize that my anger was not with her. It was about the fear of being rejected or abandoned and that it was just pushing her away”.
This is one unique example (they are all unique) of the thousands of times we have used this process.
At each step there is resistance (fear) for stepping through, or we would just step through. I picture the process as a set of stepping-stones that we have to cross. From each stepping-stone to the next we must jump and face some fear of moving to the next step.
Each of us has a particular place in the process where we tend to get stuck. Some of us are very good at denial and just don’t see our patterns or emotional issues, but once we realize or wake up to them (recognition) we can move through the process of healing very quickly.
So what was the benefit for him of going through this process? He was able to share the process with his wife and how he had been projecting his fear on her through his anger. She, of course felt his anger and was remaining distant from him. Until he was able to own the source of his anger and fear they could not have a meaningful conversation about the behaviors he was upset with. Once he let go of the charge from his childhood he was able to have a conversation with her that led to connection and peace. A pretty nice benefit.
In the next posts we will go in to more detail in each step.