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Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

faith in yourself quote with background image

“Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same at a future time as he is today and, therefore, that he will feel and act as he now expects to.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Find the book on Amazon, HERE!

Loving others starts with having faith in yourself.

We simply lived without school. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t learn. The outcome proves that.

My sons are both out on their own, living productive lives. One traveled Europe, and now has a good job with potential for growth, along with his own car and apartment. He’s 20 years old. The other has been at community college here in town for two years, working, and has his own car. He’s transferring to university next semester and will be leaving the state to live in the dorm and focus on his studies for the next couple of years.

What did we do instead of school?

Our faith in our own drive to learn led me to believe my children had that same drive.

We lived and learned together. We read books, watched movies, built things, went places. We talked and laughed and loved together. We cried and fought, worked things out as best we could so that everyone had their space and got as much as they wanted without stepping on anyone else’s toes. I rarely said no to things they wanted to try out. I spent a lot of time searching for new experiences, and then making it possible to do them. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

I had faith in them from the moment they were born. I knew myself and so did their father. We didn’t need an authority to guide, protect, and direct our lives. What we wanted more of growing up was less direction and more support, so that’s what we gave our kids. We knew they would find their own unique way to adulthood if we gave them a loving and supportive home, if we led by example and followed our own interests, served our own needs, without sacrificing anyone else’s lives in the process.

I had faith in them because I had faith in myself.

And I have faith in others because I have that faith in myself. I know that others can take responsibility for themselves and their families if they want to. I’m not special. My family is not special. We are not more intelligent or lucky than anyone else. The only thing that is different is that, for some reason, we have faith in ourselves.

Real love starts with you loving yourself, believing in yourself, and taking responsibility for your own life. And no one can give that to you. I believe all of us have the ability, but somewhere along the line we have lost the knowledge of it.

I’m telling you that you have it. Start using it.

Want to read other posts from this same book? You can find them here…

How to Parent by Respecting the Individual

Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone

We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have

Where Did Our Words For “Love” Go?

We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have

“Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending, alive, hence joyous.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

When we give, we do not deprive ourselves of anything, we enhance our lives from our abundance, and it comes back to us as joy.

Most importantly, we cannot give what we do not have.

That’s something to remember when you love someone, but they don’t seem to be loving you back the way you wish they would. Everyone loves in the way that they can, unconsciously. They give from what they have. If they feel they have little, they give little. It’s up to you whether you accept their offering of love and continue the relationship, or not.

Love is not a tit-for-tat thing.

We give of our time, our energy, our love, and our finances, voluntarily. When our cup is full and we know it, we feel it, we can’t help but share of it. It cannot be forced or coerced, and it never needs to be.

One little thing that I have to say, though, is that making a law, enacting a tax, using the force of government to make other people share what they have is not love. It’s a lack of faith in humanity, and it spreads that lack of faith. Ultimately, nothing good comes of it. It creates animosity and forces people to take sides against each other.

Where Did Our Words for “Love” Go?

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Let me start by saying, as I did in my monthly “What in the World is She Reading” newsletter, that I got so much out of this little book and I’m still processing it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Some of it was a bit to “far out” for me. But, wow, there was a lot of usable material here. I know…I promised only to post a few pieces per book but this one is going to be hard to narrow down. I took so many notes!

Do you consider love something you work at doing well?

Or is it something that you “fall into” and passionately experience?

Fromm believes they are two different things and I think I agree. There is that immediate attraction to another human that is based on hormones, pheromones, and instinct. And then there is the higher cerebral order that humans are capable of, that of actively loving people. I think we confuse the two, and debase or idolize one or the other, on a regular basis.

Like Fromm, I believe we should be putting more of our energy into cultivating the art of love.

What’s crazy is that we have to define what we mean by “love” since we don’t have separate words for different kinds. Why is that? Why do we lump so many different ideas into one word and then expect everyone around us to know what we’re talking about? Doesn’t that create chaos?

I say to my children, my husband, by friend, the kid that makes my sandwich just right, “I love you!” That’s crazy. What happened? Where did our words go?

When You’re Wrong

“We both know you only get mad when you know you’re wrong.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

That’s not true!
Wait. Maybe?
Hold on a minute. (searches through recent arguments) Dammit.

The last argument I started was over closing windows. Yes, you read that right. My husband had the audacity to close the windows and I proceeded to lose my mind. I wasn’t wrong to want the windows open. I wasn’t wrong to be irritated by his response. I was wrong to jump on him about it and then continue a screaming rant about how he ALWAYS does things like this. That’s actually what I was losing my mind about, the fact that I jumped to conclusions and escalated a battle.

When I get really mad, I’m 99% mad at myself. I can’t seem to stop the spiral downward once it starts. I feel the feeling, think the thoughts…and then the words start pouring out before I can stop them. Then I feel like I have to fight to prove why I’m right, to justify my outburst.

In the past, this behavior has gotten way out of control. I wish someone could see inside my head what’s going on when I act like that. It’s like an alter ego has escaped from prison and taken over my mouth. The real me is inside screaming, “Stop! You’re hurting them!”

Recently, as in the last few years, meditation has helped. The idea of “making space” for feelings and watching them pass by helped me change from reacting to responding. A few weeks ago, I was able to walk away from something I knew would trigger me to react. I spent an hour alone, talked to my brother, wrote in a journal, and then came back to respond to the situation in a way that (hopefully) wouldn’t make everything worse.

This last argument didn’t last long, so that was an improvement. The work continues.

Anger Management

“We both know you only get mad when you know you’re wrong.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

That’s not true!

Wait. Maybe?

Hold on a minute. (searches through recent arguments) Dammit.

The last argument I started was over closing windows. Yes, you read that right. My husband had the audacity to close the windows and I proceeded to lose my mind. I wasn’t wrong to want the windows open. I wasn’t wrong to be irritated by his response. I was wrong to jump on him about it and then continue a screaming rant about how he ALWAYS does things like this. That’s actually what I was losing my mind about, the fact that I had jumped to conclusions and escalated a battle…again.

When I get really mad, I’m 99% mad at myself. I can’t seem to stop the spiral downward once it starts. I feel the feeling, think the thoughts…and then the words start pouring out before I can stop them. Then I feel like I have to fight to prove why I’m right, to justify my outburst.

In the past, this behavior has gotten way out of control. I wish someone could see inside my head what’s going on when I act like that. It’s like an alter ego has escaped from prison and taken over my mouth. The real me is inside screaming, “Stop! You’re hurting them!”

Medication has helped slow me down in the past, but more recently, meditation has helped much more. The idea of “making space” for feelings and watching them pass by has helped me change from reacting to responding. A few weeks ago, I was able to walk away from something I knew would trigger me to react. I spent an hour alone, talked to my brother, wrote in a journal, and then came back to respond to the situation in a way that (hopefully) wouldn’t make everything worse.

This window closing tirade didn’t last long, so that was an improvement. I was able to slow and pause, think. And then beg for forgiveness.

How many times can a person forgive though?

Those are the kind of thoughts that trigger depression though. I had to stop again. I’m not a bad person. I’m not evil. I’m not mean. I’m doing the best I can and every day is an improvement.

The work continues

Cultivate Unconditional Love for Others

“Love is based on respect. Fear doesn’t respect anything, including itself.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

I’m a big proponent of “unconditional love,” at least I say I am, and I do my best to practice it. Sometimes though, my fear and judgement of others is blaringly obvious, and I learn something new.

I started to write “and I wonder what’s wrong with me. Will I ever learn to behave better?” but I caught myself and wrote, “learn something new” instead. Growth comes when we see what we’re doing in a new light and change our behavior instead of judge ourselves. Unconditional self-love comes from self-respect and is the first step to loving others better.

I was scrolling through social media the other day and getting frustrated with a few friends. The things they post…can’t we just be nice? Do we have to share every ugly thing we come across on the internet? Is there nothing that you are experiencing that is positive and joyful? I mean…unconditional love is hard when you all give me nothing to work with. I’m over here working so hard every day to be a better human and look at you! You guys aren’t even trying.

That’s when I realized my error. Unconditional love is hard to achieve when you judge yourself and your behavior as superior to others and then look out into the world. If I love myself, consider myself capable, loving, and kind, it becomes easier to love others. I know that I’m a flawed human. I don’t always do what I should, I can’t always win, and I make mistakes, have bad days, and so does everyone else.

Everyone I meet in person and online has a different opinion about how the government should be run, how to raise children, how to live well, or be successful. We’re all at different places in our lives. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have at the moment. We’re all hurting a bit, some more than others.

When I respect others for where they are in life, that’s love. And that’s what helps people grow, not criticism or chastisement, not berating them or explaining to them how they could do better. Each one of us has our own life to live and being heard and respected for our opinions, whether they are positive and helpful or not, helps us learn to do the same for others. Only then can we evolve into better people.

I thumbed through the book to find my last quote about it. There are just so many wonderful ideas to think about here. This one summed up the whole thing for me, though.

“It’s not about following any imposed idea; it’s about finding yourself, expressing yourself in your own particular way. That is why your life is an art.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

That’s what life is all about, Charlie Brown. Ha! Remember Charlie Brown Christmas? That’s what I thought of when I read this in the last chapter.

We are all life, and that life in us is part of bigger picture. When we discover it and accept it in ourselves and those around us, we become better people and it’s far easier to love and be happy with our lives. Your life is an art and art doesn’t need to be perfect and beautiful. It doesn’t need to be famous or sell well. It doesn’t need to be marketed as a product. It just is. Art for art’s sake? It’s just life.

Be Your Own Source of Happiness

“Then if happiness can only come from inside you and is the result of your love, you are responsible for your own happiness.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

We cannot expect others to be the source of our happiness. We should be connecting with others to share the happiness each of us brings with us to the table, like big love potluck!

What if, now…stick with me here…, what if we all developed as whole individuals living together instead of incompletes looking for their missing pieces? What if we believed that everything we needed to survive was born right there inside us and what we were looking for all our lives was people to share it with?

Think of life as a potluck. Sure, I could make and eat my lasagna all by myself. I’d survive. But…what if I brought my lasagna to the party and shared it? And others did the same? Suddenly, I have more than I made myself. Now, I have a salad, some garlic bread, and nice glass of wine as well…and so does everyone else that brought something to the party.

That’s what you do when you live your own life, create your own happiness, joy, and satisfaction. You bring that happy person into all your relationships; share it with them and you both have more than you started with.

But what about that person that didn’t bring anything to the potluck? What do we do with him? We can feed him with our love, for a while. But it won’t work long-term. At some point, those that did bring something will begin to resent being fed off of.

Don’t be that person in life. Put in the work to build your own life, your own happiness, and THEN build relationships to share it.

Quotes from The Mastery of Love – One

“…the instinct to love is so strong that you pay a high price to have a relationship with others.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

That it is. No matter how many times we’ve been hurt, how many times we’ve lost, the primal urge to connect with others pushes us forward.

We create new and inventive ways to protect ourselves, ways that sometimes don’t seem to make sense or get us anywhere near where we want to be, but we’ll do anything to love and be loved.

Ruiz makes a beautiful analogy about the human condition. He says we all act as though everyone’s skin is covered in painful sores. The longer we live, the more we have. It hurts to touch and be touched, yet we crave it. The worst part is that most of us aren’t even aware the sores are there or that others have them too. We react badly when people touch us, thinking they are deliberately hurting us, and hurt them back.

The solution? Awareness of the pain we carry from our injuries and allowing others to touch us anyway. Awareness that everyone else has that pain and may not yet be aware of it themselves. Touch gently. Love and be loved. Pay the price and you begin to heal and grow strong until loving and reacting in love becomes the new habit.

“We domesticate humans the same way we domesticate a dog or any other animal: with punishment and reward.”

The Mastery of Love by Don Miquel Ruiz

Another quote from the same book that touched me. It reminded me of the way we raised our kids. We tried our best not to use punishments and rewards to control behavior. Instead, we tried not to control behavior at all but learn to communicate and get along with each other, make space and time in the hopes of filling everyone’s needs as much as possible.

When it wasn’t, we attempted to negotiate and make sure everyone had as much input as possible. It didn’t always work. There were times when rewards were handed out and punishment meted, but it was usually when we (the adults) were not at our best.

This is the way that humans are in this world. Your behavior or activity is disrupting. Your needs are too much for those around you to accommodate. You are rewarded for not bothering people and punished when your behavior steps out of the bounds the authority as made for themselves. It sounds so medieval, but it’s not that crazy.

You are hurting me with your behavior, so I hurt you until you stop or go away. You’re not hurting me so  I reward you with my love and attention. Easy, right?

But when I think what one’s behavior means, it starts to sound ugly. Say you’re very tired and you don’t have the communication skills to convey that information, so you decide to pull your parent away from the people they are visiting with. The parent refuses. You are hurting her, so she hurts you to tell you your behavior is unacceptable. She knows no better way.

Is there a better way? I believe so. She could listen to you and attempt to figure out what you are trying to communicate with your behavior and see if you can come up with a solution. But in the world we live in, most people don’t see that as a way at all.

The same goes with all kinds of relationships. Your new boyfriend teases. Why? What is he trying to communicate? I doubt he’s trying to hurt you deliberately. There’s no need to retaliate. Your friend doesn’t answer your texts right away. Your mother insists on telling you how to run your household. All these relationships have been built on punishment and reward.

What if we assumed positive intent, validated everyone’s needs, and attempted to communicate directly instead? We only train animals that way because we can’t communicate with them directly. They don’t speak our language or have the ability to learn it.

It’s Not The Plant

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This plant has been thriving for a couple years now. It’s in the corner of my bedroom, getting the damp soil and indirect sunlight it needed, and making me smile each time I see another leaf bud or another tendril start to grow and reach toward the window.

It wasn’t always this healthy. It came to me as three wilted leaves in a giant plastic pot filled with dried out dirt. I found it in an office with one west-facing window that never had its curtains opened. I’m not a big plant person, but every house has these and I knew it just needed water and bit of sun to thrive.

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to take it home and adopt it, but there I was each day growing increasingly frustrated with my co-workers when I’d leave for a few days and no one would water it or open the curtains in the afternoon.

After weeks of coaxing and no improvement, I decided to throw the whole thing away. The old plastic pot was starting to crack and any day now it would leak all over the filing cabinet anyway. I picked up the pot, carefully so as not to dump dirt all over the office and started walking toward the dumpster outside. Somehow…some way…the plant ended up in the bed of my truck. I might have been possessed by Groot. I just couldn’t throw those three leaves away.

Originally, I planned on putting it in a smaller pot with new dirt, getting it growing good and healthy, and then bringing it back to the office. Maybe I’d put it upfront near the big window and it would do better. Several months later, when it had really taken root and began to climb up my bedroom wall, I changed my mind. No one loved him like me! No one even noticed he was gone! He’s mine!

It’s sick really, the way I feel about plants sometimes.

Why in the world am I going on about a plant? Because no one is worthless. No person’s life is pointless. No matter how young or how old, there is an environment that they will thrive in. Don’t throw people away. Help them to find their place in this world and watch them grow into what they were born to be.

Learning to Understand and Accept Change

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Photo by Ramiro Martinez on Unsplash

There is something important that I’ve recently learned to understand and accept. Things change. And they don’t always change permanently. Analogies about the cycles of the moon have become cliché but maybe there’s something to it after all.

I never really noticed the changes in the moon until I moved to the rural desert. The living room of our desert home is mostly windows, which makes the moon-rise, and the sunrise for that matter, very visible. Through our mostly uncovered windows, it’s obvious that the sun and moon rise and set each day more and more to the north and south as the earth wobbles on its axis. It’s amazing to watch and makes one see very clearly why ancient people might worship this cycle. It’s very comforting.

While the sun takes its sweet time moving across the sky, the seasons change day by day, week by week, the moon gives us a whole different feeling. To me, the sun is the big picture, the whole life, but the moon is our daily struggle. She rushes across the night, coming up at different times of the day or night, in different shapes and sizes. Her cycles are quicker and more dramatic than the sun’s. One week she comes up at sunset full of herself. The next week she’s late and half-dressed. Sometimes she comes up a shell of her usual self, right in the middle of the day. Some days we can’t see her at all. And yet, no one stresses about it. No one thinks, “Oh shit! The moon! Something has upset her. We have to fix it!” We just wait, because we know she’ll be back if we leave her to her own devices.

And the moon? I don’t see her as caring much about what the sun is up to, or the earth, or us. She just does her thing and we love her for it.

What if we were more like that? What if we became more aware of our own cycles and simply accepted them? What if we understood other people will have different cycles that have nothing to do with us, and accepted them right where they are?

And why is it that we think that we must live in a straight line or a climbing staircase? These analogies cause us to believe that if we fall to the left or right of the line or reach the end of a set of stairs with no way to go up farther, we fail. We look at our relationships with the world around us as if they can only escalate or die, reach the next level or die off.

For me seems to be more of a cycle that comes around again and again, sometimes with the same person, sometimes with a different person, with any type of relationship. Whether we’re talking about a romantic relationship, a platonic friendship, a sexual relationship, or a parent, child, or sibling, etc., makes no difference. All relationships cycle through and around and back, spiraling up, down, or laterally. Even the relationship we have with ourselves.

My relationship with myself is complicated. There are days and weeks that I feel like she’s doing a fine job of all the things I expect of her. I’m proud of her accomplishments, her strength. She’s a good, responsible friend to have. And then, even though she has not changed one bit in reality, my feelings toward her change. She forgot something I wanted her to remember or took a day off from responsibility to play. I blame her for everything that has gone wrong with our life. In time, again though she’s not changed at all, I begin to fall in love with her. She’s sexy and confident and I want to be close to her, to spend time alone with her. Then it’s gone again, she’s just another woman in my way and I long to break free. Days later, there she is again impressing me with her strength and brilliance. And we’re coming around on the cycle again.

In every relationship we have, each time we go around this cycle we learn more about each other. With every successful ebb and flow of the tide of emotions, we learn to trust each other more. What constitutes “successful?” We don’t walk away from the relationship and we don’t throw hurtful words or actions at each other to make the other do or act the way we want them to only to make us feel better. Success is loving the other unconditionally, regardless of our feelings at the moment.

The more I come to understand that how I feel is not necessarily a reflection of anyone else’s behavior, but merely a season or phase of the moon, the stronger my relationships grow. Every time I learn again that the cycle will return, that every feeling is temporary, the stronger that cycle turns into a spiral ascending into the sky.

Pretty “out there” isn’t it? It’s the truth though. You won’t always be happy. You won’t always be sad. No one needs to be fixed. No one needs to be set straight. It all just is. Accept it. Be in it. And wait for the moon to cycle back again.

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