Behind every negative thought (you are always late) is an unmet desire. And what is an unmet desire if not a wish?
Think of a frustration you might have with your partner. What do you typically FEEL when your partner frustrates you in this particular way? Then, what do you typically DO when you are feeling this way? And there you have a good example of the power struggle!! How do you get out of that impasse? How do you break the cycle?
I point out that generally, the frustration doesn’t bother your partner, it bothers you. True? Years ago, Crystal would be late. My reactive response back then was to get angry and when I was angry I would go quiet and pout or sulk. Being late didn’t generally bother her, but it did bother me. Why?
What I know after all these years of coaching couples is that present frustrations often have roots in the past. In my case, my reactive response, the thinking going on inside of my head, to her being late was – your work is more important than me, or that person is more important than me, and ultimately, I am not good enough, which was my default belief growing up.
The unmet desire, my wish, was to be important to her, to be special, to be number one but being negative, blaming and criticizing, wasn’t a great way to achieve that.
There is a better way to increase the chances of your unmet desire being fulfilled. We call it a behaviour change request. I need to learn to ask for what I want, but in a way my partner can hear me. Here are some helpful suggestions:
Come up with three alternative behaviours around the frustration. If your partner can do one, that is 100% – if they can do more that is a bonus.
Time limited (not for the next ten years, but for a week or two)
Positive – you are always training your partner (and yourself) what to do, as opposed to what not to do.
Specific – if a stranger found the request they could do it
Use “I” statements.
Use sender responsibility – clear and kind.
Choose only one frustration at a time to deal with and don’t start with the biggest one. Pick one you will have a better chance of being successful with.
Approach your partner when you are feeling calm.
Don’t blame, shame, criticize or analyze your partner.
Dealing with frustrations is a challenge. Rather than focusing on the frustration, the harder question to answer is : Why is this bothering me so much? If you can get in touch with that, and share that with your partner, it gives your partner motivation to change. There is a paradox here – the only way your partner can have empathy for you is if you are vulnerable, But if you are vulnerable you can be hurt. Sharing with my partner why her being late touched on old childhood fears was being vulnerable but it allowed her to better understand me and then to have empathy for me.
Instead of: Crystal you are late (again)! It is more helpful for her if I can get in touch with what is going on in my head and share that. When you are late, it seems to me that I am not important to you, or work is more important. That is not why she was late, but that is what was going on inside of me. By using the behaviour change request and asking Crystal to do a specific action around her lateness allowed my interior dialogue to shift and her being late quickly became just her being late.
Energy follows attention. The more you focus on the good the more there will be to focus on.
This is so true. I know for sure that what I focus on I notice! Think about the last time you bought a car – for a week or so suddenly, you saw your car everywhere! Pam Grout, in her book E²: Nine Do It Yourself Experiments That Prove Thoughts Create Your Reality, 2014 has some great experiments if you don’t believe you create your own reality!
Each of us views the world through our own unique lens that leads us to notice evidence that supports our beliefs about the world, ourselves, our family, and other people. If I believe that my partner is doing something to bug me, my unconscious self will be scanning my world to find proof to support this belief.
This isn’t rocket science, it is neuroscience! When you think about something over the long term, your neural pathways become a super highway…when you learned to ride a bike or drive, you paid close attention to what you had to do to become a good rider or driver. Over time, your neural pathways took over and you can do both without a lot of thinking. Your brain has taken over. Of course you still have to pay attention, but the skill is “hardwired” in your brain. Not riding a bike for years comes back in an instant.
Both Norman Doidge and Joe Dispenza in The Brain That Changes Itself and Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, respectively, site research that shows how we can rewire our brain pretty much anyway that we want…we can brainwash ourselves! Rinse out the negative and put in the positive.
This doesn’t mean we don’t have down days or bad days or experience the full spectrum of emotions. What it does mean is that we don’t have to stay in a negative frame of mind. We can change our mind!
So, all of this is to say that sharing appreciations with John has been great. Some days were more challenging than others as we were each off doing our own thing and had little interaction. What it did do is force me to be present, pay attention, and notice what was happening in my life. Because, I couldn’t repeat an appreciation!
I began to look forward to our appreciation time, usually on the deck over a late dinner while enjoying our evening meal.
A few times the day slipped away and as we said good night one or the other remembered and we ended our day with sweet appreciations.
I highly recommend noticing what you are focused on and how you continue to create that reality. Then decide if you are willing to refocus and do the work necessary to rewire your brain. Take action to change your brain – rewire those neural pathways by reading the above mentioned books, working with a coach or counsellor, and finally practicing gratitude and appreciation.