Captured by Steering Committee member Naomi Drew
Notes from Potluck Society event on 9/23/13 – Maya Kollman: Women and Relationships
We are all born with a deep yearning for connection. It is part of our survival. We need others and we need to be seen. Yet we close off our hearts in an effort to protect.
Living life with an open heart requires that we be present to our experiences and emotions. By gently and tenderly accepting who we are, we can accept others. Our partners are our best teachers. Even if they seem wrong for us, working out our with them can help us become more whole.
Relationship problems are always seated within ourselves. Too often we project them onto our partners. That’s why many of us look to change our partners. Change implies that there’s something wrong. Transformation, on the other hand, means that every thing we need is right inside of us and has always been there. Same with our partners. It’s about finding things we’ve tucked away and allowing these hidden parts to see the light of day. Our relationships help us do this, and every roadblock is an opportunity to heal and grow. We are all works in progress.
When Maya discovered Harville Hendricks both her relationship and her practice transformed. From Hendricks she learned that power struggles are supposed to happen. “The magical place that feels so ‘yukky’ helps us grow into who we are.”
Hendricks says the biggest problem in relationships is that we become afraid of each other. Yet, if we can provide a safe space for each other, we can solve problems that arise. When Maya started to see how her own behavior was hurting her partner, the process of transformation began.
Often, the relationship that scares us the most is the one that best helps us grow. This is so with any human being in our lives. The people who drive us crazy are our most important teachers. Whatever drives us crazy in them is seated in us. If we can work with this, we can transform.
The Imago Process
The Hendricks model of “Imago” says that nature draws us to people who represent the dynamics of our childhood so we can be restored to our original wholeness. We are drawn together but end up armoring ourselves in an effort to defend “our tender little hearts.” We want to be seen, heard, and understood but become obscured by our defenses.
Maya defines a partnership as two people who are empowered to hear and listen to each other. Listening assists us in our own transformation. Yet too often, listening shuts down when different realities collide. The good news is, when we get older we have a container big enough to risk really listening, even when there are differences.
Deep listening is one of the most spiritual acts. It’s like a form of meditation where we totally put ourselves aside and crawl into the experience of the other person.
Imago is a universal mode. People all over are hungry to be in connection with each other and don’t know how to do it. Every time we connect deeply we add to the health of the planet.
This kind of dialogue calls us to be mature and conscious of our impact on the other person. Interrupting, talking over someone else, making assumptions, overpowering the other person are habits that shut down communication.
When you see people behaving in crazy ways, know that they’re terrified and don’t know how to do it differently. Living “dialogically” enables us to constantly listen and communicate, regardless. We need to speak consciously. Saying negative things brings toxic waste into the relationship.
“If it’s hysterical it’s historical.” The things that most trigger us are always rooted in the past.
Guidelines for Intentional Dialogue
– Be respectful.
– Speak in small chunks and let the other person mirror back what you said.
– Use “I” statements.
– Stick to one subject.
– Take responsibility rather than blame.
– Maintain soft face and eyes; neutral body posture
– Don’t judge.
– Sit face to face and eliminate distractions.
In dialogue, the “sender” speaks in the way described above. The “receiver” listens with an open mind and gets curious about who the other person truly is. Listen from the perspective that whatever the other person says is a gift. Cherish and value it. Don’t judge them or what they say. See what you can learn from listening to them. When we truly listen to another person it’s like crossing a bridge into another country.
Within the other person’s complaint may be the roadmap to your own evolution.
Octopus directs everything outward. Turtle pulls in and keeps things inside. Pay attention to your partner’s needs. If they’re not comfortable with eye contact, help them feel safe by not making intense eye contact.
In every relationship there’s a person who’s chronically disappointed, and a person who’s terrified of disappointing. Unless you can communicate about this you are stuck.
The most important question people should ask: What do I need to do in my relationship to make my partner (child, relative, friend) feel safe around me? This process works only if you feel safe and you’re willing to let yourself be vulnerable.
Be conscious of the messages you’re sending. In your eyes and in your face your partner looks for answers to such questions as “Am I glad I was born?” “Am I worthy?” “Do I bring you delight?”
Reflect back without interpreting or analyzing what the other person has said. Don’t try to fix each other. Use this time like it’s a meditation. Pay attention to the questions underneath the feelings.
When there’s a conflict, mirroring is the most important thing.
• Tell your partner the message you would like him to hear. The message should start with “I” and describe your feelings. (Example: “I feel hurt when you talk down to me.”)
• Your partner then mirrors your message. Example: “If I got it, you feel hurt when I talk down to you. Did I get it?”
• If you feel your partner didn’t understand your message, explain again and have him mirror you until the message is received.
• Complete the message. If you were heard accurately, your partner says, “Is there more about that?” This helps you complete your feelings and prevents your partner from responding to incomplete messages.
• When the message is completed, your partner then summarizes all of the message. (Example: “Let me see if I got that…”)
• He should check for accuracy with, “Did I get it all?
(From Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want)
Doing this actually becomes energy-giving. At first it’s difficult because we’re not used to communicating in this way. Vulnerability is the only way though.
Expectations are the killer in relationships. Let go of them. What can you do to make it safe for the other person? By answering that question, you’ll find your way into true communication, resolution, and love.