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Four Steps to Getting Along in Relationships

Posted Jan 01 2010 11:09pm

What seems to be the culprit of conflict in our relationships is the tendency to disconnect from one another.  These disconnections can happen relatively easily if for say a conversation is interrupted or a miscommunication occurs and never becomes resolved.

The Buddha prescribed equanimity in the face of suffering. In relationships, this means accepting the inevitability of painful disconnections and using them as an opportunity to work through difficult emotions. We instinctively avoid unpleasantness, often without our awareness. When we touch something unlovely in ourselves–fear, anger, jealousy, shame, disgust–we tend to withdraw emotionally and direct our attention elsewhere. But denying how we feel, or projecting our fears and faults onto others, only drives a wedge between us and the people we yearn to be close to.

We all have personal sensitivities–“hot buttons”–that are evoked in close relationships. Mindfulness practice helps us to identify these triggers and disengage from our habitual reactions, so that we can reconnect with our partners. We can mindfully address recurring problems with a simple four-step technique: (1) Feel the emotional pain of disconnection, (2) Accept that the pain is a natural and healthy sign of disconnection, and the need to make a change, (3) Compassionately explore the personal issues or beliefs being evoked within yourself, (4) Trust that a skillful response will arise at the right moment.

Mindfulness can transform all our personal relationships–but only if we are willing to feel the inevitable pain that relationships entail. When we turn away from our distress, we inevitably abandon our loved ones as well as ourselves. But when we mindfully and compassionately incline toward whatever is arising within us, we can be truly present and alive for ourselves and others.

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