“A true relationship is two imperfect people unwilling to give up on each other.”
It’s a profound—and paradoxical—truth that courage isn’t really courage at all unless there’s some fear attached to it. It is the holiday season and at this time of year, we often have more interaction with friends and family whom we may not connect with as much. Therefore, when our way of being and views is different than others, this can create conflict and challenge, and thus a loss in connection. This post will share with you how to lean in and be courageous to establish closer relationships with loved ones this holiday season and New Year.
Even though most of us deeply want more feelings of connection and intimacy, we do a lot of safe guarding because of fear.
We typically have two main fears in relationship:
Most of us fear love as much as we want love. We fear both receiving and giving love. For example, the engaged and intense focus of loving eyes can sometimes feel too invasive as they ask us about ourselves or our lives or those who want our love can seem to be asking too much of us if we aren’t ready to give it. The vulnerability inherent in loving and being loved can be quite daunting.
We often want love to happen on our own terms. We want to show love only in a way that feels safe to us. We want full control of the love we parcel out: how much, how long, how deep.
However, to be loved requires vulnerability in three forms of willingness:
- We love someone before he or she loves us
- To be seen at our best and worst
- To show our needs
How much we love and care for a person, will likely not always match up. To truly love another, we need to be willing to love them even when they may not be able to love us back, to love them wounds, imperfections, and all. At the end of the day, isn’t this how we also want to be loved?
Still, the fact is that most of us are driven by the felt urgency to forestall, or eliminate, relational disappointments and hurts by keeping inside what, deep down, so much needs to come out. To protect ourselves from experiencing a vulnerability that our most primitive (i.e., driven-by-emotions) brain assumes could threaten our survival, we hold ourselves back and don’t share our full selves, feelings, and needs. This inner constraint is very hard-wired in us. As social beings who survived by being “part of the tribe” we safeguard whatever bond in our relationship, however fragile or unhealthy that may be.
Fears almost always center on making yourself too vulnerable to criticisms and judgments by family, friends, or your romantic partner. For example, what happens if you ask for what you want and you find out that they don’t care about you as much as you care about them? It can feel devastating for a little while.
But the alternative, of keeping silent about your feelings and needs, is almost always worse. For how can your relationships ever become the “safe haven” you long for if you repeatedly shy away from communicating your deepest thoughts and feelings, your most ached-for wants and needs? Moreover, how can you hold onto your true self when, for safety’s sake, you hide it from your partner, friends, or family?
As the great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard noted: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.”
There is a direct proportion between authenticity and courage. The more authentic we are willing to be, the more courage we have and therefore resilience in our relationships. In order to be more authentic, we have to have the courage to face our fear. This small meditation below will help you do just that.
When Love meets Fear- meditation
Imagine a circumstance in one of your relationships, where you feel some fear around sharing your feelings and needs.
Acknowledge your fear by giving it 90 seconds to share everything it wants to say. Get ready, Go!
Allow yourself to feel a little more fear than you can usually stand. Lean in and breathe. Remind the scared part of yourself that the larger, wiser version is here and protecting you.
Bring in a wise and loving image that can hold and support you and your fear. What does the wise and loving figure say to you? Recognize that the fear is not rational.
Create a loving and kind affirmation to soothe your fear. For example, ” I am here for you and support you.”
If you have been engaging in a regular meditation practice, then you have already prepared yourself in the foundation step to be courageous. Sitting and being in this present moment is how we train ourselves to be responsive when things are difficult. The conflicts of the world are around those who are acting out and reactive, but those who are being responsible for their hearts and minds have a VERY important role in the world.
When a challenge is here in your relationship, it is important to take the attitude of everything as learning. You might also want to assess the degree of difficulty first. If the degree of difficulty is above a 7, you may want to practice being courageous with something easier first. Recently, I experienced being courageous in a relationship of mine that was about a 7. It was about at the highest level I could stretch into and still taking good care of myself, but now I am bouncing back.
My wish for you this holiday season is that by being courageous in your relationships, you will have greater intimacy and connection and thus faith in sharing more authentically with others.
However, if you show courage and the outcome isn’t what you wanted, then you can take radical responsibility for the mind and take responsibility for the feeling that will arise. No one will ever make you feel anything, so be kind to your feelings and shower them with compassion. Allow the feelings to pass through you without blame or judgment of yourself or another. This is how we can take radical responsibility for our minds and hearts and live responsively not reactively.