So, here we are, already a month into this New Year.
How is it going for you? How are your relation-ships travelling so far?
Are they in the cruise control mode, or are you actively at the helm of the ship and steering, with a strong hand on the wheel no matter the weather, and a functioning navigation system that tells you when you are on and when you are off course?
A yoga teacher friend once jokingly told me that when you are thinking of how to help people, keep in mind that most people want two things: money and sex. And if you can help them to get these things, then they will be happy to pay you for it.
Money and sex are both good and great to have in your life. Can we live without them though? There are ways to live without money (monks have chosen this as a lifestyle) and yes, we can live without sex, although we would be missing out on the deep connection that (in the best case scenarios at least!) comes with the territory. In the worst case scenarios we can end up feeling more disconnected than connected. But this is a whole other topic.
But can we live without relationships? Probably not. Humans are social animals and we need each other for our own wellbeing. Some humans like to spend a lot of time with others, and others like less, but we all need to connect. And if we want to have really fulfilled lives, then we need fulfilling and nourishing relationships.
Relationships are so foundationally important to our happiness and well being that if they are not going well, then life is a lot less fun and can be even quite painful.
The word relationship is a good place to start, and it is an appropriate metaphor to see it as a ship. In any relating ship, whether it is a romantic ship or a family ship or a friend ship, there are two individuals, with all of their histories, and resulting belief systems and values. Between the two people, a third entity, if you like, is born. That is the space between two people. This is a space where the two peoples’ beliefs, values, interests and dispositions meet. It is the space also where the ego energies can arise, particularly if one or both of the people have low self esteem.
Alchemy happens when the energies of two people meet. And if, like in family relationships, the relating has happened over many years, we can get into grooves where we are playing a role rather than being our true selves, particularly if one or both people’s ego is strong and they need to be right to feel validated. These grooves can go so deep, that we slip into role playing without knowing it. Before we become aware of it, we are playing a role, such as caretaker or victim, because we a more focussed on staying safe in the relating ship than showing up as who we really are. We feel that if we are authentically ourselves, we may rock the ship and capsize. So we stay in our role and it might feel like smooth sailing but it’s at the expense of our true self. It’s like we are on the ship but staying mostly under the hull holed up in our cabin and not fully enjoying the journey with the wind in our hair out on deck.
A relationship functions as a great mirror for us. The more intimate the relating ship, the clearer is the reflection of ourselves that shines back at us.
This is an excerpt from the ancient spiritual text from China, the Tao Te Ching, on relating with self and others.
Can you nurture your own spirit whilst holding the unity of Oneness?
Can you connect to the Qi of your sensitivity, creative imagination and determination whilst harmonising with Wu Wei?
Can you understand your Human centred mind without corrupting your Tao centred mind?
And can you do all this whilst loving and nourishing yourself rather than indulging your self-interest and selfishness?
Then you can truly love all people without harming yourself,
allowing others to rise to their fullest height whilst not diminishing your own stature.
(from the website WuWeiWisdom.com)
So, first we need to nurture our own spirit, to follow our creative desires and to love ourselves. Following that we need to connect with the universal consciousness (the Qi, or Prana as we call it in yoga) and we need to stay connected to two mind states (human and universal). Then we need to nurture and love ourselves in a non-egotistical way.
The last line is particularly relevant here. To truly love all people without harming yourself, you need to release yourself from any form of role-playing in relating ships. A lot of the role playing comes from fearing that someone will not like you if you show up as who you really are. This is the ego energy arising, trying to protect you by making sure you are ‘liked’ or approved of in your relationship with another. When we recognise any of these patterns in our relating ships, we are able to take the steps to change them and so show up in a more authentic and self-loving way.
How to we get out of Role Playing Grooves in Relationships and Show up as our True Selves?
Slowing down our interactions is a good way to start.
Really slow down the pace of conversation and connection and practice connecting inwardly with yourself.
Feel into whether you are being authentic or not, and if not, see if you are able to slow down enough to show up in a different way, to get out of the groove.
The other possibility is also speaking with someone about how you are both showing up in your relating ship. Ask them to honestly say how they feel in the ship and honestly share how you feel. You will most likely learn something new about yourself and the other person, and if you both want to stay in the ship together you can work out how to course correct by changing the sails, steering in a new direction, and upgrading your navigational systems.
And of course if things get really tangled in a relating ship and it looks like the ship is going to capsize any minute, then it can be a good idea to get help from a therapist in couple or family relationships. Some people also do this for close friendships if they feel they have veered too far of course and need a third person to help get their ship back on track.
Like, share or comment. We would love to here how your relating ships are travelling!
Michelle is a writer, musician, meditation and yoga teacher based in Melbourne. She teaches mindfulness courses and leads yoga retreats. She runs her own business called Inner Alchemy and is available as a coach and mentor.