Making Relationships Last – Part 1

Making Relationships Last – Part 1

I was reading research on relationships by Prof John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington. Gottman was recognized in 2007 as one of the 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter century. Research at the Gottman Institute in Seattle USA has focused on why some couples stay together while others fall apart. Their research shows that to make a relationship last, couples must become better friends, learn to manage conflict, and create ways to support each other’s hopes for the future. This blog is focusing on what it takes to become better friends. Gottman’s research shows that three things make up such friendship: The first thing is building what he calls “love maps”. This means really striving to understand your partner’s inner world and that which inspires, shapes and moves them. Asking open curious questions of your partner (those that need more than a yes or a no for an answer) is a way to do this. Questions like, “So how are feeling about that project at work at the moment?” or, “Now that the children have left home, what are your dreams for the foreseeable future?” Questions like these try to get a deep understanding of the other person and what is important to them. The second thing Gottman says makes a good friendship, is building a “fondness and admiration system” of respect, appreciation and affection. Looking for where your partner does things right and not being on the lookout for where they are screwing up, and expressing your appreciation. The third ingredient of such friendship he calls “Turning toward”. This aspect is crucial as the essential ingredient that builds Trust in a relationship, and without trust there can’t be a relationship. “Turning toward”, is when one person makes a “bid” towards the other person – sometimes subtle, sometimes not – expressing a need for affection, conversation (connection), interest or emotional support – and the other person responds and acknowledges this, even if only in a really tiny way. If they don’t respond to the bid at all and ignore it, Gottman calls this “turning away”. Or if they respond with hostility, this is called “turning against”. By employing these three techniques, all close and important relationships can be improved. It works for parent-child relationships and for friendships too. The next blog will be on Managing conflict within...

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What makes a good life?

What makes a good life?

This Harvard University longitudinal study on Happiness landed in my inbox this week. I found it riveting and profound. Besides adding to your quality of life in the here and now, happiness is a protective factor into old age of both your health and your intellectual sharpness, and even your ability to cope with physical pain. I hope you find value in the findings of this unique study that was begun during the Second World War and is still continuing today. It reveals the most productive area of your life where you should invest your time and energy in order to live a good life. I hope you enjoy this twelve and a half minute TED Talk :)....

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When things fall apart.

When things fall apart.

In the film The Best Marigold Hotel, Evelyn says, Initially you’re overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist, and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you’ll swim out the other side. Sometimes life falls apart on multiple levels all at once. Perhaps bereavement or a divorce, coupled with resultant emotional adjustments, family relationship strains, moving home and some financial chaos – all happening concurrently! I had such a year in 2013 when my life seemed to go over a cliff on multiple fronts at once and I was buffeted by one severe thing after another, so rapidly in succession, my head was spinning! I felt paralyzed by fear and pain, and literally suffered from inertia, an inability to take action on any level. It was terrifying. While I sat like a rabbit in a spotlight, mesmerized and unable to move, fortunately I had two people in my life who were willing to take over the reigns of my life and to whom I was very happy to give over my power. I don’t know how I would have survived without them and will always be grateful for the practical and emotional support they gave me. But as I emerged from the shock and paralysis and began to regain my strength and equilibrium, it became very important to me to take back my life from these people. To become my own person once more – someone able to act powerfully and once again to be in control of my own life. And now, from a position of regained strength and calm, I am able to take stock, and evaluate the lessons I learnt from that frightening time. On looking back, the first thing I notice is that while I was in the middle of my storm, it sometimes felt there was no way out, that it would go on forever, and that this would be the shape of my life to come. Well, this isn’t true. All things pass. So if you now are in the middle of a storm, breathe, and be kind to yourself. Sometimes at the very worst of times, doing nothing is just the very best you can do. The second thing I notice, is the importance of practical and emotional support during that time our brains are frozen. Who do you have around you who can be a support? The third thing that was very meaningful for me, was to establish a safe and stable home – a safe base from which to kick off. This is what I call my port in a storm. A safe little nest where one can lick one’s wounds in privacy and calm, and...

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Anthem – Sadness and Regret

Anthem – Sadness and Regret

A friend of mine in her fifties wrote to me with sadness about how she felt she had not reached her potential nor achieved the life she had imagined for herself when she felt so powerful at the age of 22. She said, “I think I was really smart!!! My life has been a mess! Never turned out the way I imagined it!” I think she is not alone in her experience, and so I would like to share in this Blog my reply to her, in case you may find something helpful if you too are feeling this way: One of the wisest things I ever learnt was at the age of 21. In my HDE year at university I had a Psychology of Education lecturer called Dr Gordon Bauer who made us date all of our submissions and add the word AMPLOS next to the date. It stood for, At My Present Level Of Sophistication. Just so we needn’t be held accountable in 5 years time for the rubbish we wrote today. There is a quote, which regrettably I can’t locate right now – by I think Marilyn Monroe – who was a sensitive and conscious human being despite the alternate hype, which goes something along the lines of, No-one consciously makes a bad decision. We all make choices based on what feels wise at the time. That with hindsight some choices work out to have been not the best, is the curve ball that life throws at us, and I think we need to deal compassionately with ourselves. We are human and not infallible. We do the best we can. There must be those people, but I have yet to meet someone who isn’t trying their best within their situation and their emotional, intellectual, psychological and physical resources. My instincts are, if things have not turned out the way you imagined it, make peace with that. Certainly don’t waste energy on regret and self-recrimination. That’s counter productive – punishing yourself, but not serving any generative purpose. Feeling bad actually reduces our ability to be powerful in our lives. Breathe. Love yourself. Honour the wonderful human being that you are – right now – because it is important to see the wonder in yourself. Take stock. Scan the landscape. See what dreams you can dream for yourself going forward. And start a new page. What is it that can be meaningful for you from this point onwards? What does it need in order to action it? What do you need to harness in service of it? And after breathing and taking stock, go for it! You still have within you your 22-year-old potential. I know you feel...

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Part 5 of a series on weight loss – The worst kind of eating: don’t let yourself do this!

Part 5 of a series on weight loss – The worst kind of eating: don’t let yourself do this!

I’m not speaking about people who have genuine and deeply psychological eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia. I’m referring to people who have a mildly dysfunctional relationship with food caused by the diet industry and the messages we get from the media about the shoulds and musts of eating. If you were to ask most of these people what the worst kind of eating is, they would probably speak about binge eating – you know, the classic Hollywood scene of the girl who gets dumped by her boyfriend: cut to a week later, and the apartment is littered with pizza boxes, ice-cream containers and chocolate wrappers as she soothes her misery with food. We’ve all been there and done that. Be gentle with yourself.. This is not the most iniquitous form of eating. If you find yourself here, take note of the storm you are in, notice what you’re doing, and treat yourself compassionately. Once the storm is over, your equilibrium will return and those kilograms you picked up will drop off once more. No. The most iniquitous form of eating, the form that packs on kilograms silently over the years, is unconscious eating. When you sit in front of the TV with that jumbo packet of crisps on your lap, and when you next look, the bag is empty and you don’t even remember what they tasted like, because you were so engrossed in the movie. The eating on automatic pilot. It has traumatised your body yet not nourished your soul. By all means eat crisps. But tune in while you eat them. Taste and enjoy every bite. Truly feed your emotions while you eat. Tune into your body and your soul. Be curious: at what point are your body and soul satisfied? At what point don’t you need any more? Then...

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