I constantly get asked if as a therapist I handle my personal relationships easily and conflict free. Do I put my relationship wisdom to practice?
I wish that psychotherapy and counselling training guaranteed such results, but that is simply not that case, not for me and not for other therapists that I know. We are all humans and we all experience conflicts, meltdowns and get stuck in unhealthy relationships dynamics from time to time. Harriet Lerner, a renown psychologists, is a great example as she shares in her books, like The Dance of Anger and The Dance of Motherhood, her personal relationship struggles.
What my training does help me with is recognizing unhealthy relationship patterns. It also gives me skills to intervene and change things. In the past, I simply would have remained stuck without knowing that I have options to interact with a presenting situation differently. I also see every personal struggle in my relationships as a learning experience now, maybe not right away as I am only human, but as emotions subside.
My perspective is – if my life was perfect, how could I possibly help others who are struggling if I haven’t gone through some of their turmoil and found a way out of it?
And so the cycle goes on, as I struggle and learn, and apply strategies that produce results, I share my wisdom with you.
Recently, I was wondering as to why I know certain relationship wisdom, but don’t always apply it in my life. And then I came across a video that had this quote on it:
‘Wisdom is a habit not merely an intellectual realization. One must exercise one’s noble impulses on the regular basis as one would train a limb. The moment of understanding is only one part of becoming a better person.’ by School of Life on Eastern Philosophy – The Buddha.
Simply knowing something is not enough. We need to put it to practice until it becomes our new habit.
For example, if you ask me if my fiancé and I are a team and if we have each other’s back; my answer will be – for sure. But in reality, my actions do not always match what I consciously know. And as you know, the ancient wisdom says that ‘Actions speak louder than words!’
Unfortunately, our life experiences can make us mistrustful of others and their intentions. It’s really a hard to be part of a team with your partner if on a subconscious and automatic level you ready to fight them for a minimal transgression because it feels personal.
And I know that I am not the only who struggles with this as I hear the same challenge come from couples and individuals that I work with.
They love the idea of a team, and who wouldn’t, but their anxiety associated with past experiences gets in the way of that.
It’s not enough knowing the idea or concept; we need to live that idea in everyday life, so it becomes an automatic response. Just like when we decide to get into physical shape, we prioritize our workouts, make healthier choices about food, and create vision boards, we need to apply the same principle to changing and building healthy relationships.
At the beginning of exercising regularly, we can feel unmotivated, reluctant and unengaged. Our body and mind resist the new habit as it takes energy and brain power to create a new routine. Our brains are inherently ‘lazy’ for evolutionary purposes to conserve energy.
The same resistance might be coming up for us with applying a new relationship concept, and just like with working out, we need to push through that phase.
We need to keep on pushing until we form a new pathway in our brain, and until the new knowledge becomes a new habit of responding to the world.
For me, right now, it is fully living the concept of being a team with my fiancé. This time around, I am not relying on just merely knowing. I created regular reminders in my day to make sure I am living this message. At the end of my daily meditation practice, I now visualize my partner and me as a team – trusting each other and having each other’s interests at heart. I have also created a Pinterest board (don’t judge), Relationship Wisdom, that features inspirational quotes about being a team. I openly talk with my family and friends and ask for what helps them be a team with their significant others.
Not everyone struggles with the same thing. For you it might be something different, like putting your partner first, or as trivial as taking out a garbage regularly because it means a lot to your spouse. Whatever relationship wisdom you want to play out in your life, I invite you to come up with creative ways to bring a constant reminder of the new way of thinking and behaving into your everyday lives.
I would love to hear from you about what helps you create changes in your relationship. Pass on your wisdom and share with me and others, what changes you have successfully created and what are the ones you are still working on?
Your Global Therapist,