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Monday, August 11, 2008

Healthy Relationships: Emotional Honesty Necessary

Article written by Robert Burney, Spiritual Teacher, codependence counselor, grief therapist, author.

The single biggest problem with most relationships is that there are too many people involved. A romantic relationship is supposed to be two people in partnership sharing of who they are, sharing their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls with each other.

Anyone who has not done their emotional healing is bringing a plethora of people into any relationship they get involved in. Some of these people include: parents, siblings, relatives; ministers, teachers, the junior high school bully; everyone that they have ever had a romantic relationship with; the Prince and Princess of fairy tales, the lyrics of songs, and the characters from books and movies. Just to think of how many ghosts are in the room, when two unconscious people are interacting, is mind boggling.

Anyone who is unconscious to how the people and events of their past have shaped who they are today, is incapable of being present in the now and having a healthy relationship. When we are reacting unconsciously to the emotional wounds and old tapes from our childhoods, we are being emotionally dishonest in the moment - we are mostly reacting to how we felt in a similar dynamic in the past, not clearly responding to what is happening in the present.

The single most important component in a healthy relationship is the ability to communicate. We cannot communicate clearly when we are in reaction because we are not being emotionally honest with ourselves.

We all learned to see life and self from a dysfunctional perspective - from a perspective that taught us it was shameful to be bad or wrong. We learned to blame. Since the perspective of life which civilization is founded upon is black and white, right and wrong - we got the message that if we could not figure out how to blame someone else, then it must be our fault. Toxic shame is the feeling that I am somehow defective, that there is something wrong with who I am as a being. That feeling of being defective is so painful that we are willing to do almost anything to avoid sinking into that abyss of pain within.

So we blame someone or something outside of ourselves to protect our self. A dysfunctional civilization which teaches us to look outside for our self worth, also teaches us to look outside for a villain.

Codependence is an emotional defense system which tries to take ego credit for things that go the way we want them to, and blames someone else when they do not.

If a person has not been working on healing these emotional wounds, then any feedback will be felt as criticism - as being wrong or bad - and the persons defense system reacts by becoming defensive. The best defense is a good offense, as they say, so many times we go on the offensive pointing out where the other person is wrong or bad. When confronted we blame. We either blame the other or we blame ourselves - in which case we sink into depression and despair, into alcohol, drugs, and food, etc.

This is the reason that most relationships turn into power struggles about who is right and who is wrong. Who has more right to feel victimized by the other. We come up with whatever justification and rationalization we can to deflect the blame from ourselves - as a way of self preservation.

These behaviors are not bad or shameful. They are the inevitable dynamic set up when two people, who have not healed their emotional wounds and changed their dysfunctional programming, interact. We are powerless over the dynamic until we start becoming co-creators of our life by healing the past so that it is not dictating our life today.

It is impossible to Truly hear what another person is saying when we are busy loading up the big guns for our counter attack. We cannot be present in the moment if our emotional defenses are triggered by what is happening now. And these triggers can be a tone of voice, a gesture (pointing a finger), a word or phrase, almost anything. When old wounds are gouged we are pulled out of the now into our feelings from the past.

Once we start learning how to recognize when we are reacting and being defensive, then we can start getting more emotionally honest - with our self and with others. When we learn how to intervene in our own process so that we are not living life in reaction to old wounds then we start being capable of having healthy emotional intimacy. When two people are both working on their healing there is a possibility of communication and emotional honesty.

The more we heal the past, the fewer people are intruding on our relationship in the moment. Those people - our parents or past romantic partners - will still be in our psyche but we will be conscious enough to recognize them when they start invading the now. Then we can communicate what we are learning about our self from our reactions to our partner and share our pain and fear and anger and sadness with her - that is True emotional intimacy.

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