Rarely the primary focus, codependency issues are often identified in connection to the treatment of a family member with an addiction. A person in a significant relationship with someone addicted to a substance or activity is at risk of developing a set of behaviors (also an addictive pattern) from which they too need healing to restore life balance, integrity and peace of mind.
Codependent persons have a developed ability to “read” the moods of others, and take pleasure in “knowing” what others want, how to pacify or appease. Pleasing others, however, is rooted in fear, and a wishful fantasy or expectation that, somehow or someday, the ones they seek to please will recognize, appreciate, and value them for the efforts they make.
This set of behaviors, sometimes referred to as “enabling,” is known as “codependency” or “co-addiction.”
Conscious communication is a window into the world of our heart and mind – and another’s from their vantage point.
As a tool, it’a a way to manage the energies we bring to our communications, so that we remain consciously aware of what is going on inside of us, our feelings, thoughts, what we want and need, and so on, without getting triggered.
In Part 1 we described eight attributes of a conscious way of talking. In this post, the focus is on attributes of conscious-listening.
Conscious-listening is a way of being intentionally present to see, to know and to recognize our own and another’s felt presence and unique value in the relationship. Safe to say, it’s not possible to authentically love another, without being willing to freely give the essential gift of listening. In other words, if we’re not genuinely listening to another, sooner or later, they will stop listening to us. (They have no choice, it’s physics.)
Listening as critical to healthy relationships?
Listening is perhaps the most critical component of effective communication. That’s because we are hardwired with emotion-drives that propel us to feel known, heard, understood, valued, and so on, aspects of our overarching drive to do more than merely survive life, to also thrive, to matter and meaningfully connect in relation to life around us. In fact, our drive to thrive in life is also critical to our physical health and survival, as stress directly impacts our health, emotional, mental and physical, in negative ways.
As important as it is to resolve past or present problems, for example, when one or both parties lack empathic listening skills, problems quickly rise to the level of seeming “impossible” to solve. Why?
But not because men and women are from different planets. As a recent study showed, in truth, both are from the same planet Earth; they share more in common, at least intellectually, mentally and emotionally, than they are different.
And the differences? Well, let’s just say, “Vive la difference!”
Myths that baffle men and women?
You wouldn’t know how much men and women have in common from what science and other writings have proclaimed for centuries, and in more recent decades, media and entertainment industries (and especially pornography) have reinforced and embellished mythical portrayals of women as potentially dangerous to men, akin to unruly children who must be dominated, not trusted or spoiled (“for their own good”).
Myths of romanticized dominance (eroticized, for men) still prevail. It’s not unusual for male partners to think its their job, on the one hand, to fix or set their partners straight, tell them what to do or think, scold or punish if she doesn’t follow his advice, and then blame her for making him feel inadequate for not allowing him to do his job.
While it may feel he has failed, the real problem largely lies in a set of strategies men are conditioned from boyhood to use in order to deliberately block emotional intimacy.
Questions are great brain boosters. They can energize us to start a new behavior, or to break free and let go of an old one. That’s because questions can stimulate powerful emotions, such as curiosity or wonder, which put our brains in first gear, raring to go and learn. Some questions, that is.
A ground-breaking study by Swiss researchers published in Nature revealed that, though the neurons of the amygdala play a key part in processing fear, other areas, more specifically, the higher cortex can also play a key role in regulating the fear response and modulating new emotional learning. Thus fear does not have to debilitate our capacity to make better choices.
And, when it comes to dealing with fears, a good question can empower us to muster the courage to face challenges and fears, and perhaps discover new possibilities in the process!
Not all questions, however, energize optimal processes and our brain’s amazing capacity to learn and create new understanding in the process. Some questions achieve the opposite, and some of these aren’t ‘real’ questions.
A new sort of infidelity has been on the rise for decades, and it’s one of the biggest threats to marriage: ‘emotional affairs.’ Today’s workplace has become the new danger zone of opportunities for ‘emotional affairs,’ surpassed only by the Internet.
A relationship without sex can be just as intense, or more so than a sexual one. Not surprisingly, in most cases, approximately 80% according to Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, the dynamics of these platonic liaisons crosses over into sexual love sooner or later.
Why the crisis?
To understand the intensity of emotional infidelity, it helps to see the dynamics as an addiction, a form of addictive love. That’s because it’s easier to let go of a toxic pattern when you depersonalize the experience.
If you’re in a relationship with a loved one that repeatedly acts in hurtful ways, you’re likely dealing with recurring rushes of anger or disappointment, regardless of whether you are consciously aware of or express these or similar emotions. It can feel as if this person keeps stealing the sense of emotional safety that you, your body and mind, are hardwired to seek.
It is only human, after all, to feel betrayed by the actions of a partner who is emotionally or physically abusive, addicted to a substance, compulsively spends money, or repeats acts of infidelity despite promises, as occurs with sex or love addiction.
While the emotional intensity is understandable, it is still a heavy weight to carry, much less balance. It’s not easy to deal with these emotions, and at the same time the repeated strikes, which challenge your efforts to restore the inner sense of emotional safety that, at any given time, you innately strive to realize in relation to life around you.
A look at the usual simplistic approach…
In response to hurtful actions of a loved one, forgiveness is largely regarded as the highest, most noble action, and a prerequisite for healing to take place. Depending on the circumstances, it often is. In fact, a stubborn refusal to forgive can both prolong and intensify suffering for the person that was wronged.
In response to being wronged or mistreated by a loved one, whether emotional or physical abuse, or betrayal and infidelity, forgiveness is often considered the most critical ingredient for healing to eventually take place.
Indeed, depending on the context, forgiveness is a powerfully healing agent. In fact, a refusal to forgive or let go often prolongs suffering for the person that was wronged.
But what happens when the hurtful actions are repetitive and ongoing? Or, when the person who has acted wrongly is not willing (or able) to make meaningful amends? Or when the wronged person is not ready to forgive?
In these circumstances, argues Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring, author of How Can I Forgive You? The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To, genuine forgiveness can only take place when the onus of responsibility rests on the person who acted wrongly to earn forgiveness, and that, in certain situations, the best option for the person who was mistreated or betrayed is to have the freedom to not forgive, and to instead turn to the healing power of acceptance, one of four approaches to forgiveness.
If you are in a relationship that is negatively impacting your emotional, mental, or physical health, hurting others you love, or compromising your inner values, you are likely in a toxic relationship – and addictive neural patterns are in control.
If you have not already, take time to reflect on the dynamics, and to consider what you can and cannot do – that would allow you to break free of their control, and to take charge of your emotional response, so that your mind and body may restore balance, and let healing begin.
In Part 1 of this series, we identified five toxic patterns partners get stuck in that activate one another’s protective-response patterns. In Part 2, we looked at the neuroscience beneath the emotional command circuits that destabilize each partner’s inner sense of emotional safety in relation to the other. We then touched on key factors that affect relational balance in Part 3, and considered the first step partners can take – cultivating awareness of one another’s triggers – to break free of the toxic patterns and restore balance in your lives.
When a relationship becomes toxic it reflects the habitual ways partners manage their emotions, in particular, the emotions that human beings find most challenging, such as anger and fear.
In Part 1, we explored five toxic interaction patterns in which partners collude in scripted roles with one another, and get stuck activating one another’s protective-response patterns. In Part 2, we looked at the neuroscience beneath these emotional command circuits, in ready position to activate, and how they destabilize each partner’s inner sense of emotional safety in the relationship, setting them up to be at their worst, when they most need to be at their best to effectively handle challenging situations.
In this post we explore key factors that affect the balance of relationships, and the first step partners can take to break free of the toxic patterns and restore balance in their relationship and, or personal life.
What would it take to restore balance?
Restoring balance in a couple relationship is primarily about each partner establishing their own inner sense of emotional safety in relation to the other.