Sunday, March 11, 2012

A new paradigm in relating

If you are someone who cares passionately about the state of the world you live in, at some point you will have asked yourself the question, "What can I do personally to make a difference?" Of course, the answer to this question is entirely individual and there is no single answer. For some it will be to use their democratic rights to vote, to become involved in local politics and/or to put pressure on the politicians who represent them at local, national or international level. But others are becoming increasingly frustrated with these conventional methods due to the time it takes to effect any real changes. In many cases people no longer believe that the democratic systems of their countries are able or willing to respond to their concerns so are resorting to direct action such as demonstrations and sit-ins as in the case of the 15-M and Occupy movements. But for those of us who choose not to do either of these, perhaps due to time constraints of job or family responsibilities, what can we do to effect change on the apparently chaotic, unjust and violent world we live in?

One answer could lie in the realisation that we are all connected and so any changes we make to ourselves and our personal lives will affect the wider world in which we live, radiating outwards like concentric ripples in a pool of water. Like the native Americans, we could walk our talk and choose to take personal responsibility for the way we live our lives and especially the way we treat ourselves and others. Many are realising that they want to find new and better ways to relate to the people in their lives based on cooperation instead of competition and resolution rather than conflict. Many realise that the problems in the world are caused by the human condition which has historically been based on certain premisses such as the scarcity of resources which gives rise to greed and often violent struggles for control and dominance. A belief that resources are finite and that there isn't enough to go around keeps people in survival mode and this deep-rooted fear for survival influences all aspect of our lives and interactions with others. In our modern world many of the apparent shortages are contrived to artificially elevate prices for financial gain, when in fact there is more than enough to go around. We have been conditioned to believe that there is a lack of money, a lack of jobs, a lack of resources and this means we are constantly on edge, believing that we need to compete for everything we desire. At this time of global financial crisis this belief is more prevalent than ever. But what if the principle of scarcity is false? The ancient wisdom of the aboriginal peoples of Australia taught a belief in abundance and that the earth would provide for all the needs of the people. They believed in the richness of the land and this belief fostered peaceful cooperation and respect for each other and their environment. They had faith that their needs would always be met. With the new understanding emerging of how our thoughts and beliefs create our reality, it is clear that such a strong, dominant belief in scarcity could hardly be expected to yield anything other than lack on a worldwide scale. But conversely, with this knowledge, we could choose to give new life to the aboriginal belief in abundance and gradually let go of our negative conditioning and once again nurture the faith that we will always have enough.

On a personal level, there has been lack in the quality of interpersonal relationships that people have come to accept as normal. In the case of romantic relationships there has been the expectation that we should find someone and settle down with them, although these days less couples are getting married and instead choosing to live with their partner. But these relationships are not always satisfying and after the honeymoon period people often find themselves unhappy and unfulfilled. Many of these relationships are what relationship specialists refer to as codependent relationships, a term first used to describe relationships in which one person was an alcoholic or substance abuser and the other their carer but has now come to mean any relationship which is unbalanced or unequal in some way and based on need rather than genuine love. For example, a relationship may begin when one person is recovering from a breakup and the other person steps in to fill that gap and becomes a carer and suppresses their own needs while prioritising the needs of the partner over their own. This excessive care taking often masks a fear of abandonment as the person tries to make the other dependent on them so that they won't leave them. But in many cases relationships get into difficulty simply because each partner expects to have all their needs met by that one person. When each person feels that their needs are not being met they may resort to criticism and other types of controlling behaviour. Another typical pattern is one partner trying to be someone that they think their partner wants them to be and losing touch with their own identity as a result. Some people are unable to commit and keep pulling away as they fear being consumed by the relationship. Sometimes there is a feeling of being in competition with the partner for energy within the relationship - trying to get the other to give them that love and acceptance they crave, not realising that it's only them that can give it to themselves, that their partner is not responsible for making them feel good all the time and that they need to maintain their own connection with Source. It is understandable then that there are a great number of people who have chosen to remain single to avoid the risk of ending up in another relationship of this type due to the pain they have previously gone through - once bitten, twice shy.

But avoiding relationships altogether is giving up the pleasure that can come from loving another person and sharing oneself and one's life with them and the opportunities for growth and spiritual development that they bring. Therefore, individuals are looking for new ways to relate so that they do not repeat destructive patterns and, as a result of this, there are new approaches being developed by people such as Gay Hendricks and his wife, Dr Kathlyn Hendricks, who together have co-authored many books about creating conscious relationships. They say that learning to love yourself as you are, unconditionally, before entering a relationship enables you to love your partner unconditionally. As Gay says, "You cannot love something in another that you haven't loved in yourself first." He also lists three things as important: honesty, commitment and appreciation. Honesty about what you are feeling so that you can communicate with your partner, commitment to the relationship and to making it work and showing appreciation for your partner regularly. 

The main principle of creating a conscious relationship is the awareness that we as individuals are entirely responsible for ourselves; our thoughts, our reactions and our behaviour.  In this way we do not get into blaming the other person for what we co-create with them. But if we have a bad experience, it doesn't mean that we should blame ourselves either. Understanding the dynamics of relationships and why people interact the way they do require us to transcend the level of blame and try to understand what we can learn from the experience however painful it might have been.  Often this understanding enables us to know more clearly what we want and what we don't want and that understanding is invaluable in enabling us to create something better for ourselves in the future.  This is true for all types of relationships, those with our parents, siblings and children and those people we meet in the world outside the family circle such as friends, bosses and co-workers. We can maintain healthy relationships of all kinds by being clear that we co-create with others and that if things go wrong we are party responsible. One technique for having positive interactions with people we deal with in our lives, as given by Abraham Hicks, is only holding positive thoughts about that person. This technique is especially useful when we are having a difficult time with someone. Perhaps someone you deal with regularly is giving you a hard time, criticising you or being confrontational. Try holding only positive thoughts about this person, even if you can only think of one thing that's good about them, think that one thought repeatedly until it becomes the dominant thought you have about them. Then watch what happens. They will not be able to behave in a negative way towards you any longer and will either be civil towards you or avoid you completely.  

There is so much more that I would like to write about this subject but this post is already quite long. The conclusion is that we don't need to feel impotent and believe that, because we don't hold political power, we cannot contribute to a better world for our children. Perhaps we are powerless to shape world events but we are able to change things at a grass roots level by loving consciously and with integrity so that we transform our relationships and see that love radiate outwards to touch more and more people. If we choose to see our fellow man as co-creator rather than competitor we are taking an evolutionary step forwards and that step is being taken at an individual level.


Aboriginals and abundance mentality
The Vortex: Where the Law of Attraction Assembles All Cooperative Relationships by Esther & Jerry Hicks 2009