Articles

Dancing together in relationship

From our very early relationships, we learn that who we essentially are not always enough to get the kind of affirmation and love that we naturally crave. We learned to hide what we believed was unacceptable and to construct a way of being that we believed might get us the recognition that was our birthright. This construction is often called the Ego or the Strategic self.

The failure of the ‘others’ to recognise and value our true self almost always left us with a belief about ourselves that provided the foundation for the construct that we created. For instance, if I believed that the poor response from others meant that I am ‘not good enough’, I may have created a self that is dedicated to proving otherwise. I can try to do this by achieving or excelling in the world or perhaps by serving and pleasing others. The hidden end goal, though, is always to get back the recognition that we previously failed to get.

Having concluded that our ‘true’ self is deficient and meets with some kind of rejection, we instinctively created ways of hiding and protecting that self to preserve it from further hurt. Since our Ego became who we believe we are (or need to be), we also devised ways of defending it to protect this ‘constructed’ self from exposure.

These unmet needs remain unmet and the early constructed self stayed in place. It is from these two places within us that our unconscious operates and this is what we bring, unknowingly, to our relationships. In an intimate relationship we are unconsciously trying to get our partner (the other)  to meet those needs though we are seldom aware enough to identify and express them.

We approach the other in two ways – firstly with the hope that they can provide us with the relief and affirmation that we are seeking and secondly with the kind of wariness that is hyper-alert to any clues that we are going to be disappointed again. When we identify (or imagine) that this disappointment is near we retreat into our defended way of being. This defended-ness can be negative in relationships – shutting ourselves down, keeping the other at bay or driving them back to a safe distance as if they were a threat.

We often express the hope that they will meet our needs in manipulative, patterned behaviour. The person who believes themselves to be ‘not good enough’, for instance, may be committed to addressing the other’s needs in the hope that this will yield the rewards they seek – a giving to get way of relating. When this does not work we may retreat into a “what about me” reactive state.

Relationships are a dance because the other in our relationship is just like us – not exactly because they are different in character and their wounding, beliefs, Ego and defences will be all their own and unique to them. They are, like us, a mystery to be uncovered.

And, like us, they are seeking to get their unmet needs met and they are looking to us to do it for them. So we have two wounded souls, lost in their patterned behaviour, hoping for the other to love them unconditionally and alert to the very real possibility that it’s not going to happen. It is a volatile situation!

The unpleasant truth is that no one else can meet our needs for us! They are unmet and will stay that way. They were there to be met at the time and the failure is permanent. It is a developmental failure and we cannot go back and re-live the first few years and get ‘re-programmed’.

However, we can change how we react. The solution is individual, and only relational in the sense that we can learn to bring a growing self-awareness into the equation. We have only one recourse – we have to get to know ourselves – delving into the deepest places of our being. And, paradoxically, the most fertile place to do this is in an intimate relationship.

The journey to ‘knowing yourself’ is replete with challenge. We first need to become present to what is happening to us in the here and now. This involves taking our attention into our bodies where emotions and feelings reside and where our unmet needs make themselves known. When our strategic selves are challenged and when we are triggered into a protective state, it is in our bodies that we can recognise and begin to understand what is happening to us.

When triggered (threatened) in relationship there is nearly always a ‘reactive’ defensive response. This reaction serves us (unwittingly) in succeeding to confirm the negative beliefs we have about ourselves. It does this by triggering the protective reactions in the other and instigating their withdrawal from intimate contact and thus from us.

Inner awareness allows us to recognise the reaction before we act on it and creates a space in which we can decide to ‘do it differently’ and doing

it differently allows an authentic relationship to begin to develop. It only takes one person in a relationship to break the chain of reactions for a relationship to grow into a more real and satisfying dance.

Nicole Renaud

Counselling in the Community

 

When people ask me:” at what point shall I seek counselling?” I tell them: “if you feel like you are not as happy as you could be.” It really is that simple. All of us go through times in our lives when we encounter periods of stress causing us feelings of great discomfort. We can loose our support system in transitions such as general change in circumstances, accentuating feelings of loneliness and anxiety.

Another reason for seeking counselling is recognizing patterns of behaviors that are not working, such as relationships ending badly in the same sort of way.

People often wait too long before they seek help. This may lead to depression and/or physical symptoms, which in turn may result in difficulties in our personal and professional relationships.

 

I had a client who, due to language problems, and social challenges suffered an acute anxiety attack on a business trip. He had to be repatriated and was forced into therapy. He was able to adjust and restructure some of his behavior in a short period of time.

To be anxious and/or sad in this society is often to be alone. When we feel alone or isolated it is not unusual for these uncomfortable feelings to intensify. This can be a vicious circle, triggered by anything. It can be very painful to feel that, because you are suffering or sad, you are not welcome, or even that your sadness might be contagious. And we can feel alone even, or especially, when we are amongst family or friends; such is often the nature of sadness, anxiety or depression.

 

A more long-term client of mine was unable to enjoy social functions. Being a executive he was exposed to such interactions very often. Unable to connect with people he felt more and more alone and incompetent. He often felt unwelcome and even contagious in his sadness. By exploring some of his childhood beliefs and patterns, we were able to change this. Currently, relocated, he has a very active and supportive social circle.

 

I have seen clients whom have been struck with pain and unresolved grief issues, triggered by the vast distance from close relatives and friends, whom they could not see. These feelings of isolation in a difficult situation have resulted in them seeking help and resolving some old issues. Sometimes merely being able to talk with someone eases their pain.

 

It is appropriate to seek counselling support when one feels an inability to cope with a situation. This does not signify a character flaw or weakness but rather demonstrates an ability to be proactive in staying emotionally healthy. It is not necessary to be facing a severe personal or family crisis to seek counselling. Many people enter counseling to resolve issues, improve and make changes in relationships, or adjust to new situations. Frequently people will seek counseling due to problems that are temporary and created by specific situations. Dealing with transition is a very common difficulty that many people share. Often people can benefit from speaking with someone who is a neutral listener, one without judgment, and who can provide a different perspective on the problem.

 

It is very important to feel comfortable with the professional from whom you are seeking counselling. Confidentiality and a sense of trust are essential for effective counseling relationships. Finding a counsellor who can understand what issues are at stake is of great importance. The outcome should be that the clients have a clearer understanding of their feelings, which in turn often allows people to deal more effectively with them. Counselling may take only one or two sessions or could continue for a longer period of time depending on the needs of the individual client, couple or family.

You might feel nervous about ringing a service. If so, it might help to ring first with a few questions about who they are and how their service works, before you talk about your situation. You can remain anonymous, and you can just hang up if you feel uncomfortable. If you want to, the counsellor on the phone can refer you to someone suited for your needs.

 

Nicole Renaud is a Psychotherapist/Counsellor in the Bayside area. She is fluent in French, English and German and has worked extensively with men. Her areas include depression, anxiety, stress and issues with intimacy.

 

ASSUMPTIONS

I am getting tired of reading more spiritual books. Not that there aren’t a lot of great books out there, and a lot of good spiritual groups. The problem, however, is that I often miss what the book or teacher is saying and only get part of the message (often just the part that I want to acknowledge at the time). Also, some books and teachers contradict each other.

I’d like to discuss here a few of the assumptions I often hear people say and which many people have and which, I believe, hold them back in their growth. First, if all the people who think meditation means your mind stops and becomes empty and silent, then they have unachievable expectations. For some reason we Westerners have got the impression that if our mind is creating thoughts, we’re “not doing it right.” Not so. The entire purpose of the mind is to generate thoughts, and you’re going to always (I hope) have them.

Yes, meditation does quiet the mind and there ARE times where the mind stops. These moments are timeless in one sense, but in a real world sense may only last for seconds. As your awareness deepens through meditation work, you begin to be more and more aware of the space between your thoughts and less caught up in your thoughts. You become the watcher of yourself (and everything else) and that makes it SEEM as if your mind is much quieter.

What, then, are thoughts in meditation and why do they happen? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation Movement, has a great way of explaining this. When a person meditates and the brain wave patterns slow into those of deep meditation, the meditator reaches levels of the nervous system where many stresses are held. As the meditative state dislodges these stresses so they may be released, they bubble to the surface of your awareness.

So a meditation where there are a lot of thoughts is not a failed meditation. It is, rather, a meditation in which a lot of stresses are released. Really only two things can happen in meditation. The meditator transcends thought and has a timeless moment, or he/she is busy dislodging those pesky stresses in the nervous system. The only mistake I can make is to get involved in my thoughts and not do my technique when I catch myself wrapped up in my thoughts.

This is one reason why I continuously tell myself to let whatever happens be okay (including having a busy mind during meditation). Another misconception I often notice that people entertain is in regards to the nature of enlightenment. Enlightenment does not mean a loss of desire to be in the world or to have goals or to laugh or cry or get angry or be sad or be attracted by the opposite sex (or whatever). These are all normal human feelings and urges and have nothing to do with who we really are.

It also doesn’t mean I become a hermit or necessarily more religious or even more “spiritual”, or that everything I do is “right”, or that I know things other people don’t know or that I have amazing powers. In my opinion, the real essence of what we refer to as enlightenment is a state of not being attached to outcomes, which means I do not suffer when “what is” is different than what I thought it would or should be. This does not mean I cannot desire an outcome in a given situation—it means I am not attached to the outcome. A big difference. Being attached means if the outcome is different than what I want, I suffer. Being non- attached means if the outcome is different than what I wanted, I feel fine anyway. This means I have changed my attachments, the outcomes I am addicted to, to preferences. I prefer a certain outcome, but my ability to be happy and peaceful inside is not related to the outcome.

Let me be really clear, someone who is enlightened still has problems. He or she may get sick (many enlightened masters have died of cancer, heart attacks, and so on). He may get angry or sad. He may like certain people more than others. He is still human, with all the range of human experience—except the suffering part, because he is not attached to the outcome in any given situation. So those of you who are looking for a life with no problems, you’re on the wrong planet. As someone said to me the other day, when I asked him what it was like to be on the top of the heap, “Lady, no matter where you are on the heap, it’s one thing after another.” You will always have problems. The telephone company will overcharge you. The toilet will overflow. You will bump your head on the cupboard. Your stock will go down. The bread will grow mould on it. Things you love will end. Things you wanted will not be yours. People you love will die. You will die. That’s life. The difference is in how I handle these things.

Will I choose to do what I can but ultimately, when I’ve done what I can, to just watch and let it be okay? Or will I put myself through a lot of suffering? So what’s the solution here? What’s the deciding factor? I think it is awareness. The more I am aware of what is happening, the more I am able to step back and watch from another perspective, a higher spot on the mountain, so to speak, the more I will be reluctant to put myself through unnecessary suffering. The more I am caught up in what is happening, the more likely I am to run my suffering programs. It’s a decision I can make, but one I probably will not make until I have the awareness to see what’s happening. That’s where meditation comes in, because it increases my awareness, expands my awareness. It takes me to the place where I can watch without being caught up in whatever is happening.

All the other benefits people report: happiness, peace, a clearer mind, healing of emotional traumas, overcoming depression, anger, anxiety, lower stress, and so on—are all the product of having more awareness. People don’t do their suffering act over what is happening to them because they now can see what a stupid waste it is to do so, because they’re looking now from a different perspective. I prefer a certain outcome, but my ability to be happy and peaceful inside is not related to the outcome.

Nicole Renaud

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Nicole Renaud

Nicole Renaud

English, French and German B.A. (USA), M.Couns & H.S.(Australia), PACFA Adv. Dip. Gestalt Therapie, GANZ

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