Relationships are hard, and a successful marriage needs to be a joint endeavour in which both parties are fully committed to managing and resolving conflicts and emotional upsets as they arise. This is a skill and life-long journey, and one of the best tools that can help you negotiate the many emotional problems that will arise in a marriage or other family relationship is the skill of mindfulness.
We all tend to become locked into patterns of habitual reactivity and fixed points of view. We all become experts in what is right and wrong, good and bad, and we impose these beliefs on each other. We have demands and expectations that we “know” are completely right, and impose these on our partner. However, relationships do not respond to demands and expectations or any other from of behavior designed to control another. Relationships thrive on communication, and for communication to be effective there must be freedom and openness based on trust and compassion. The only way to establish this quality of freedom is for each partner to take responsibility for his or her emotional reactions and learn to resolve them so that they do not corrupt communications. Emotional reactivity causes the mind to contract and become fearful and this inhibits effective communication and problem solving. We all know the importance of getting in touch with our feelings, but how do we do this, and what do we do when we have gotten in touch with our fear, anxiety, anger, disappointment or hurt?
In Mindfulness Meditation Therapy, whether given in the Office or through Skype sessions, the focus is on teaching you how to work with your inner feelings and how to establish a relationship with them that facilitates healing, transformation and resolution. Mindfulness is a particular form of focused awareness that can be described as “engaged-presence.” We choose to engage rather than avoid or deny our inner pain. We choose to engage with our hurt rather than blaming it on our partner or some other external cause. We change our focus from, “I am angry because…,” to “I am angry,” and then further refine this into, “I notice anger within me.” With each shift, we begin to change our relationship with our anger, or any other emotion, such that it becomes an object that we can relate to. This is the first part of what it means to get in touch with our feelings.
The second part of “getting in touch” is to learn to be present with our inner pain or hurt. Being present means listening with an open mind and an open heart and being willing to “sit” with our feelings without trying to fix them, resist them or do anything other than be still and open with a mind intent on listening and being aware. Mindfulness is the art of listening in this way, and creating a therapeutic space around inner suffering that is imbued with natural love and compassion. When you begin to relate to your pain in this way, it responds in kind and begins to unfold, unclench, unwind and loosen its grip on you. This is what promotes healing and the resolution of the emotional component of your problem. Heal this and you will find it much easier to resolve the objective components to the problems.
Really, learning to relate to another begins when you learn how to relate to your inner self, those emotional beings that reside within your mind. The two cannot be separated, and when you learn to love yourself, it is then that you will know how to love another. Mindfulness provides the skillful means to achieve both.