There’s a phenomenon I’ve witnessed over the years as I’ve worked with families, and honestly, as I pay closer attention to myself: it’s not always easy to do right. I’m gonna get more specific and and talk about why it’s hard to do right in our relationships. While I think our innate goodness wants us to live in harmony with others, our human conditioning creates unnecessary obstacles to this.
The three obstacles I consistently see are: pride, fear, and unrealistic expectations. Shall we take a look?
I have no doubts that we all hear a tiny voice inside urging us to say sorry when we’ve upset someone, or reach out for a hug, or to call someone we’ve missed just to hear their voice.
Yet pride sometimes steps in and says, “You’re weak if you do this…” or “I don’t want to admit that this is how I really feel…” or “It probably doesn’t matter much to her anyway…” In this way, pride keeps us from listening to our hearts and we put up walls to real connection. Tara Brach teaches on the concept of the “unreal other,” which is when we disconnect from others, blocking us from seeing just how interconnected we all are.
Luckily, Buddhist psychology teaches there is always an antidote to our problems. Following this line of thinking, I’ve identified solutions that tend to work well in undoing these patterns of behavior.
The antidote to pride is empathy.
Can you use your imagination to sense into what it feels like for the other when we injure them?
Can you hold space for that?
Can you imagine what it would feel like for the other when you apologized or reached out?
When we deeply empathize the other is no longer an object, obstacle, or vehicle. They become a living being, just like us, with feelings, thoughts, and life experiences that all matter.
Fear motions us to shrink back, to hide out from who we really are. We become afraid of the judgment of others and of self. It doesn’t seem worth it to risk being found out, if we’re certain we’ll be dismissed.
Fear confines us to such small spaces in life, making it hard to take the risks we need in order to grow (including making mistakes).
Pace yourself. You don’t ever have to jump all in, but you can certainly start by dipping your toes. If that begins to feel comfortable, keep moving, at a speed and readiness that makes sense for you. Challenge yourself in small and consistent ways…this will slowly lead you out of your comfort zone.
Love yourself through it. Acknowledge and validate the struggle, discomfort, or anxiety.
Find your boundary. What is it you need to feel safe?
Ask for help. Get support when you need it. One of the most beautiful things to witness is the way others give love and support. Find a supportive community.
Our expectation of how something should be takes us out of the moment. We aren’t connected to reality. Instead, we are stuck in fantasy, disappointment, and even resentment. All are products of our mind’s making.
This pattern can keep you from seeing the goodness that is already there and the potential for authentic love and acceptance to blossom.
Curiosity. Staying curious about the other invites deeper understanding and a true leaning in to the other. It also makes for fascinating and delightful conversation!
Acceptance. Seeing someone for who they are and loving them is everything. You can repeat acceptance mantras to help cultivate this act of unconditional love.
“I accept that my partner has a short attention span.”
“I accept that my spouse feels anxious in new settings.”
“I accept that my child procrastinates.”
How could practicing these mantras in triggering moments help you? Is it worth trying?!
We might lead ourselves astray at times, but there is always, always a path back to who we really are.