Be brave, embrace the happiness

We can choose to practise living with joy. For that, we need awareness that we are the ones who can do something about our genuine happiness.

If someone said to you: “ Here you have two pairs of glasses: through one, you can perceive life colourful . Through the other pair of glasses you can perceive life in white and black. Choose one pair. You’ll wear it for the rest of your life and you’ll perceive the surroundings accordingly.”

Which one would you choose?

I would choose the glasses which allow me to have a colourful vision. I love colours. They make me feel alive! They inspire me.

It’s the same with the choice between worries and joy. We can choose which one we want to prioritise and follow with interest. If we prioritise worries, we may risk to develop the habit of seeing bad in everything we do.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to develop the habit of seeing the good and positive side of life situations. This does not mean that I would ignorantly dismiss the worries. It means that I’d rather maintain the inner joy while doing self-inquiry into why and what worries me.

Lately, I’ve felt under the weather, swamped in worries about my future delivery and burdened with an overall feeling of dissatisfaction about myself. One day, I remembered the words of the Balinese healer, Ketut Liyer, from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love”:

“To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver. Practice tonight at hotel. Not to hurry, not to try too hard. Too serious, you make you sick. You can calling the good energy with a smile.”

I started smiling with my belly where my second baby is growing. I felt deeply in my heart that I have a choice. I can choose to not take worries too seriously. When worries are out of the way, what emotions and thoughts are in us?

When worries are under control, happiness may have more room for manifestation. Happiness coming from the people around us and from the experiences we live – built on the joy that sheepishly lives in us.

But how can we find our inner happiness? I’d say that we need to increase our awareness about the emotions and thoughts that burden us, such as:

  1. Expectations – they are such a big and silent part of us that it may take some time to realise we have them. We may spend years in sufferance until we realised that the solution is simple: stop having expectations as the reference point for living. Things go the way they do. Others behave the way they are. If our expectations are met, that’s great! If not, we can learn something from the experience of unmet expectations and move on wiser than before and with a broader outlook on life.
  2. The negativity in us that creates the dirty energy that Ketut Liyer was talking about. Joy can’t live in the same place with envy, jealousy, selfishness, hatred, etc. I wonder if anyone can be happy when such negative feelings rule. And since most of us are prone to feeling negativity, how about doing something about the roots of any negative feeling we may feel? Inquiring into negativity is an amazing way to know more about ourselves.

At the same time, we need to increase awareness into what boosts the inner happiness:

  1. How to become a better human – practising empathy, compassion, unconditional love and humbleness can help us cross the borders of individualism and find the beauty of human connection.
  2. Living meaningfully – such as dedicating ourselves to loving someone, raising kids, a noble cause or the pursuit of other dreams. Turning dreams into reality is a process that can make us see things (such as skills or flaws) about ourselves we were not even aware. It may challenge us reassess our core values and beliefs. All in all, it can help us grow out of the limits of our own minds.
  3. The know-how of relaxing – in times when individuals are required to excel at efficiency and productivity, it’s very important to discover what relaxation means for each one of us and to find time for it.
Next time when you’re worried to death, do yourself a favour by trying an exercise of awareness. Bring a tiny bit of smile into awareness and the good energy will follow.

 

PS. This is the last blog post before taking a break. My second baby is due to be born this March. Therefore, I feel it’s time for me to focus on my toddler, my husband and the tiny human being who will come into the world. A big Thank You to the good people who have been by my side since I’ve started the blog. Looking forward to the next time we meet!

You may also like reading:

When expecting from others, remember the joy of not expecting

Human connection – a beautiful and rare thing

How can mothers relax

 

I Dream of Seeing More Compassion

The art of helping through conversation 

Is there any sense in making new year resolutions?

Making new year resolutions can improve our lives if we diligently work on them. Even if we never carry on with them, by writing down resolutions it gives us the chance to dream of a better life. Yet, if we are wholeheartedly dedicated to our resolutions, there are a few tips to remember in order to avoid disappointment at the end of the year when we do the maths and we see that we are far away from reaching our goals.

When a new year is about to begin, some of us like to make a list of resolutions. For the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve made resolutions that would help me live my dreams.

Throughout the year, I would get entangled into the events that life brought in my way and I would lose focus of my resolutions. At the end of the year, I would have feelings of failure and disappointment coming from my incapability to kick-start or complete my personal or professional projects.

Dan Puric, a Romanian actor, once said “If you want God to laugh, tell him about your plans.” Many of us don’t see the point in making one year plans. Some of us succumb to higher forces of life and cope with life situations that require different skills, emotional reactions and actions than those that would lead to reaching goals.

I am somewhere in between pursuing goals with determination and waiting to see what plans the destiny has in store for me. For example, for years, I’ve been planning to write a book on spiritual development in a foreign environment. I’ve started two drafts already. But year after year, I faced other challenges, which required my energy and time that I would have otherwise put into writing my dream book.

I’ve learned a few things about reaching goals:

  1. Have a list of huge and ambitious goals to work on. Keep it short – two, three at maximum.
  2. Have some self-discipline and break the big goal into smaller steps to follow through each month of the year.
  3. Be ready to put on hold the work on a project in favour of more important life situations that you didn’t envisage in the beginning the year (i.e, the birth of your child, the illness of a parent, etc)
  4. Keep focus on what is more important, that is your wellbeing. Therefore, no matter what happens, don’t beat yourself up if at the end of the year, you have still to work on your list of top goals. As a matter of fact, it is very valuable what you’ve learned from the unexpected experiences you lived. What insights into yourself did you gain? For example, if you maintained your inner peacefulness through challenging times, most likely you’ll have the energy to get back to where you left your work-in-progress.
  5. Be flexible to revise and even change your new year resolutions throughout the year. Goals may be too idealistic or unrealistic. Unexpected opportunities may come along. You may lose interest in pursuing a certain goal. For example, you may have aimed at finding a job abroad but then something happens and you realise you want to stay close to your family. You may have aimed at losing 20 kg but by the time you lost 15 kg you feel that it is time to stop because the respective weight is just perfect for you. Life is about change, so allow your goals to change as you gain more insight into your life.

Reaching goals can give feelings of satisfaction, achievement and meaningfulness. Above all, it is a process that challenges our beliefs and skills. If at the end of the process we are better persons than before, than this is the most priceless achievement.

How about you, do you like making new year resolutions? How do you manage the process of turning them into reality?

You may also like reading:

Living without desires?

Embracing braver attitude towards change

Who said that it is easy to follow your dreams

In the pursuit of healthy self-esteem

My intuitive belief, backed up by findings of researchers in psychology is that a healthy dose of self-esteem is necessary for individual happiness. Self-esteem, the way people perceive their own worth, lays the foundation for the thoughts, emotions, actions and behaviours that we adopt. The problem is that each individual has too high or too low of a self-esteem, which affects our inner life, relationships and professional life. It is possible though to discover a balanced perception on our worth in order to live deeply and in harmony with who we truly are. 

Healthy self-esteem means the ability to perceive our own worth as realistically as possible, by reviewing our current relationships and achievements and further challenging ourselves. It is less important whether the outcomes of our challenges are successes or failures. It is more important to develop a healthy self-esteem, which enables us to feel content and learn from our personal endeavours. In other words, a healthy self-esteem means feeling good in our own skin while we are improving different aspects of our life.

How can we feel good when we are under the stress of reaching goals? A healthy self-esteem can take away the focus from the stress and increases our awareness into how we can meet are our most important needs as human beings. For example, a healthy self-esteem can make us see how to live meaningfully and take steps in that direction. A healthy self-esteem can help us have “feel good” interactions with different people.

However, reaching the balance point where we possess healthy self-esteem can take years of our life. Each one of us has to first fight with either too high or too low self-esteem, which results from the parenting style we were raised with and from the culture where we grew up.

Having a too high self-esteem means being overly confident about everything we do. We believe that we are much better than the people around us. Thus, there is the risk that our ego inflates and we may miss out opportunities when we could learn something valuable from others.

Especially in love relationships, the too high a self-esteem may turn us into egoistic individuals who become blind to the needs of the loved one. Relationship conflicts may result from excessive pride and too high expectations about “what I want and I need”.

On the other hand, others may struggle with too low self-esteem, the depressing feeling that “I am not good enough, so I deserve less”. As a result, the job, the love life and everything else are a reflection of the lack the confidence to even hope for good things to happen to us.

Having too low self-esteem brings us down and keeps us away from exploring our true potential in life. For example, thinking that “I am not smart enough to study mathematics”, may prevent us from at least give it a shot. Instead, if we think, “I will study mathematics and see how I feel about it”, we may be surprised to see that mathematics is an exciting discipline.

If indeed, you start studying mathematics and you see it’s not your cup of tea, then nothing prevents you from studying other more interesting topics.

How can we develop the sense of a healthy self-esteem? Each one of us knows it deep inside on which side of self-esteem we are. It is a matter of admitting to ourselves that we have too high or too low self-esteem and get motivated to do something about it.

Learning to be humble about everything we do can be useful for those of us with too high self-esteem. This means that we need to become aware that we are not the centre of the world. Our work, while it is fascinating for us and useful for a group of people, may not be interesting for some others.

Learning how to ask for what you want is a skill that those of us with low self-esteem may need to work on. This way the people around us may start paying attention to us and respect us for who we are.

Thinking, acting and behaving according to who we truly are, bring joy, satisfaction and healthy relationships. When we master the skills to live according to healthy self-esteem, we have the chance to discover authentic happiness.

So, let’s start 2014 with a very important resolution: to find our healthy self-esteem! Good luck to everyone who is interested in such a pursuit!

For a detailed analysis of internal and external factors that can influence self-esteem, you might like reading:

Six Pillars of Self Esteem by psychotherapist and writer Nathaniel Branden

 

You may also like reading:

Why you owe to yourself to find your true self and what it implies

The gratefulness for 2013

Today, in the last day of 2013, I look back at the year that seems to have passed at the speed of light. The first word that comes to my mind is gratefulness.

I’d like to thank to all the wonderful people who have inspired me to keep on writing on my blog. Your emails, comments and post likes fuelled my mental energy and creativity during days when I mostly needed them.

Having a healthy body and mind is of outmost importance for a happy life and this year has offered a few experiences which proved just that! So, cheers to a healthy life!

I’d like to express gratitude for the dear ones in my life. More than in the previous years, I have lived through frustrations and disappointments in close relationships. Despite the temporary emotional pain, in the end, I have felt how my love for them helped to become a better person, with broader view on the mystery of life.

I feel thankful for carrying in me a new life and for experiencing for the second time how a tiny fetus grows inside. The second pregnancy reminded that maternal love and sacrifice go hand in hand.

In the last day of 2013, it is time to stop for a while, contemplate on our experiences over the year and look with confidence, positive thinking and excitement towards the new year! To many new life experiences that will make us feel closer to God or the Life Source from where we all come!

Let’s start 2014 with love!

 

How about you? What thoughts of gratefulness do you have today?

What is the magic of Christmas?

When it’s Christmas time, the world becomes more beautiful and miracles seem closer to reach. Even little towns and small shops in Christian countries embellish themselves with lights and decorations. Shops play traditional carols, probably much to the despair of the shop assistants but, most likely much to the delight of the shoppers who like Christmas. I’ve always loved Christmas but this year, I reflected deeper why I feel this way about this religious holiday.

When I was a child, waiting for the Christmas day meant living in a fairytale. The thrill revolved around the Christmas gift, which was the symbol of making the impossible possible. If normally, I was just a simple girl, in Christmas day, Santa Claus, coming all the way from the North Pole, made me feel special by visiting me.

Even after finding out that our chubby neighbour impersonates Santa, I could hardly close my eyes, the night before the Christmas day. The gift in itself was not important, but the fantasy created around it.

As an adult, I like to put on the Santa hat and buy gifts for the loved ones. I’ve learned to disregard the inherent stress and look upon the mission of finding Christmas gifts as an opportunity to take time to think about the dear ones. What are their needs? What are their hobbies? Any new ones? What is their favourite music? etc

This is the third Christmas as a mother and I became aware that the most priceless gift is to offer the love and joy that you possess. Yet, offering this special gift is not exactly a walk in the park. I need some time to prepare my soul for getting to the space inside where pure love and generous joy live.

Over the year, frustrations, anger and complaints accumulate and dominate the inner life. Some Christians fasten for six weeks before Christmas. This year, my way of fastening is to spend the last week before Christmas with the thought, “Joy, love and relaxation. Spend each day accordingly!”

Daily interactions come with opportunities to turn my attention inwards and focus on the goodness and kindness in me. The anticipation of Christmas gives the strength to let everything be and feel the love, joy and peace that are at the core of my being.

As Gina Lake writes in her book, “Ten Teachings for One World, Wisdom from Mother Mary” ,

“When your attitude is to let everything be, this acceptance allows you to relax and feel at peace with whatever is going on! What a relief it is to not to have to fight with the way things are! How exhausting it is to feel angry, sad, or afraid…Instead of being upset and overwhelmed, you relax and let everything be as it is. Life is much easier that way.”

For some reason I am not aware of, waiting for Christmas makes it easier to accept who I am, who the loved ones are, how my life in general is, the political and economic situation of the country I am originally from, etc. If the Christmas day brings stillness and immense joy in my soul, then, this shall be the Christmas magic to me!

How about you? What is the Christmas magic to you?

You may also like reading:

Report on two weeks of trying a complaint-free life

When expecting from others, remember the joy of not expecting

How tolerant we should be with others’ intolerance

 

Embracing braver attitude towards change

Most of us like our comfort zone, with the people and activities that are integral part. In these modern times, changes to the comfort zone take place without asking for permission. The hope for future can help counterbalance the fear of uncertainty and attachment to what we have. Personal insights may arise and show the way to a balanced life while coping with change. 

In general, human beings are resistant to change. Especially when we have love in our lives and we are thriving, why should we want to change anything?

We may not like changes but changes like us. The idea of permanence, about which some of us may feel comfortable and safe, becomes slowly an utopia. We may live in different homes at different stages. There are more divorces. Friends move abroad and other people take their place.

Even when life is not so satisfying, we may still muse and ponder whether to make any change. This is the case of a friend who feels that she works in an organisation where she can’t use her full potential, and yet, “I’ll keep this job for three more years. I shall see after that.”

Sometimes we may be forced to make a change. The company where a friend was working closed its activities this Summer. Despite that he was previously considering to look for a more rewarding and meaningful job, he didn’t take quite well the news that he is jobless.

The way I see it, being able to cope with change is a must-develop skill both personally and professionally – in particular if we specialise in knowledge-intensive fields.

The way we embrace change is an interplay between uncertainty, emotional attachment to what we have in the present and hope. After going through quite some changes in my life so far, I’ve concluded that life is all about changes. So, how can we use hope to shine through fears and attachments in order to live fully?

Initially, fear may be the queen of our emotions about change. While fear is natural, we have the option to give it a positive twist by trying to manage it. This may be more difficult when we are not be willing to admit we have any fear. Instead, we blame others for circumstances that led to changes in our life.

For example, we may think it is our boss’s fault for lacking the competence to maintain the profitability of the department. As a result, the board decided to outsource the activities of the department, including our job. We may blame the persons with whom our partners cheated on us.

While these accusations may be well founded, it’s better for our wellbeing to stop giving them importance. It’s a better use of time to turn the focus to ourselves and sort out how we can go through the change.

We could try visualising how our life will be in one or two years after making the change. Creating positive scenarios of the future may give us the boost to make the first baby steps in the process. For example, taking a short vacation or long walks daily – anything else that relaxes the mind and brings peace to the soul. The more we open to a new stage of life, the more we’ll be able to recognise and react to the opportunities that come into our way.

When we loosen up from the grip of fear, we can start getting curious about how we can improve whatever happens in the present. Who can help us? How we can reach out to the people who can be helpful? Moreover, there is another kind of curiosity that we can sparkle – the curiosity about any personal insights into our inner lives.

Self-inquiry may make us want to explore:

  1. What it means to accept our fears. Fears may teach us some useful lessons about how we live our life. This requires that we get over the stage when we are stuck in the realm of fears and expand out attention to what lies beyond them. For example, you get dump and among other things, you are afraid you won’t be loved again. Why would you have such a fear? What is it about you that you feel that another person won’t fall in love with you? What kind of a person you dream to be in order to make someone fall for you? etc.
  2. What it means to look with anticipation at the future. Hope about tomorrow may increase our ability to dream today and get some inspiration for how to live in the present. In the case of my friend who lost his job in the Summer, while he was seeking for another job, he remembered about an old passion for which he hadn’t had time. He contemplated changing his career to follow the respective passion. This led him to starting to study a new field.
  3. What it means to wait for the right opportunity. When we send our resumes to companies, we may finally get more offers to choose from. The offer that suits the best may not be the first one that comes. Intuition and peace of mind may be help while we are waiting. Continuing the story about my friend, while his studies were in progress, he was invited for an interview to a firm where he felt it is the work place for him at the moment.
  4. What it means to discover hidden sides of your true-self, such as the intuitive nature, the strength and flexibility. It can happen that while we are focusing on a particular goal during change, other opportunities come up and are very beneficial. These are opportunities we haven’t considered ever before but which may be just the right thing for us in the midst of change. Returning to the scenario when you get dumped, receiving a job offer in another country may be the best thing that can happen to you.
All these inquiries can lead to the realisation that mindfulness is very important for a balanced life through change. By mindfulness, I mean the orientation of one’s experiences in the present moment, orientation characterised by curiosity, openness and acceptance. Life does not end at the bumps of change. Life continues!

Now, please share with us how do You cope with forced change?

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The value of personal belongings


Your Life, With or Without Soul Mate

Why does falling in love not always have a happy ending?

Who Said That It Is Easy To Follow Your Dreams?

Report on two weeks of trying a complaint-free life

I think I liked complaining for the sake of it until some months ago when I felt I don’t like myself when I complain. After struggling to avoid complaining for two weeks, I concluded that after all, complaining is not harmful as long as you are careful how you complain and as long as you do something about the subject of complaint. In addition, if you feel the need to complain about something you can’t change, then take a deep look inside yourself and see what you can change there.  

Complaining, the statement that you are unhappy or not satisfied with something, is deeply rooted in every human being. Jane Wagner, American writer, director and producer, said “I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.”

For a while, I had been noticing that I complain so many times a day about other people or daily minutiae that it started to bother me. I realised it didn’t help me in any way, not even to let some steam off. On the contrary, I felt even more negativity in me after expressing the reasons that brought dissatisfaction.

In mid-November, I happened to read a call on joining the initiative coming from author and radical career change coach Farnoosh Brock. She invited everyone who reads her blog to pledge to spend a complaint-free November.

I instantly loved the challenge, which seemed like the perfect orchestration of the Universe (through Farnoosh) to make me experience how my inner life be without complaining. Therefore, I enthusiastically joined the community of approximately 300 people who pledged to avoid complaining for the whole November! Except that I got an easier job than the rest by joining the common effort when half of the month had passed already.

The rules of the challenge were:

“1. No getting mad or frustrated or annoyed with YOURSELF.

2. No gripping at your pet, children, spouse, friends, parents, strangers.

3.No judging others even if they are incompetent or at fault.

4.No expressing displeasure about the weather.

5.No getting annoyed about the news.

6.No agreeing to another person’s complaint. That’s like being accessory to complaining.

7.No fussing about electronics or wifi or online apps misbehaving.

8.No feeling sorry for yourself or swearing even if you stub your toe or jam your finger.
9.No complaining about your work, the stupid co-workers or the horrid boss.

10.No criticizing anything, anywhere, anytime, in any capacity.” 

After publicly declaring on Farnoosh’s blog that I accept the rules, the personal awareness about what I am feeling, thinking and saying increased. In the first two days, whenever I detected the urge to speak out any criticism, I swallowed the words and remained silent. The third day, I broke the commitment by pointing fingers about how bad drivers some people can be.

As days passed by, there was a small change in the well-rooted need to complain. I did manage to avoid speaking about what made me unhappy to friends and acquaintances. If someone complained, I would either be quiet or emphasise the positive aspect.

The one who got to hear about all the things that made me unhappy was my husband. But there was a tiny bit of change even in the discussions with him. The tiny bit of change was based on changing first how I look upon the life situations which normally make me angry and irritated.

For example, one grey afternoon, busy bus travellers kept passing by while I was trying to get off the bus too. My son was crying and fighting to escape from my grip. With the other hand, I was pulling the pram loaded with bags. Despite the noise coming from my direction and the space I was taking, fellow passengers seemed not to notice that I was there as well, waiting for someone to let me pass.

One man stepped on my foot while he forced his way out of the bus. Another man hit me with his big shoulder bag, which made me lose my balance. Without apologising, he jumped off. Needless to say that I was the last one to get off the bus. I was on the verge of anger, about to shout, “What’s wrong with you people?”.

Then, I remembered my pledge to avoid complaining. I took deep breaths thinking, “They were complete assholes but I can’t teach them manners by shouting at them”. I made it for home feeling grateful that we made it safely out of the bus crowded with ignorant people.

I started thinking about the two men who in my opinion behaved rudely. What kind of life they might have – are they single, are they happy with their job, are they mentally stable, how were their parents showing the love for them, etc?

When I met my husband and told him how my day had been, I preferred to skip the negatively charged story and simply state to him that “The bus was full and it was difficult to get off the bus because no one helped me.”

There were other life situations in the last week of November when I couldn’t help complaining. I couldn’t lift up to the promise I had made on Farnoosh’s blog. Yet, I did experience moments when I refrained from complaining about things I can’t change. And I also enjoyed the feeling of peace that followed.

Actually, I find this experiment so useful for personal happiness that I want to turn it into a habit of carefully scrutinising how I complain, about what and what actions I take after complaining.

Summing up, here is a list of positive changes that I started experiencing during two weeks of attempt to refrain from complaining:

  1. Awareness – I detected thoughts of complaint and the emotions behind those thoughts. With every thought of dissatisfaction, bitterness spread in my heart and got hungry for more things to complain about. Becoming aware of this vicious cycle, I managed to stop it in its early stage. Instead, I redirected my thoughts to something more positive that was happening around me.
  2. Expectations – complaints are based on expectations, such as expectations about how people should behave or how the day should progress. Therefore, I started paying more attention to my expectations. I wondered why I have such expectations. I was fascinated to feel that I had opened a door to a secret world inside myself where dreams, desires, and fears live. Inquiring into those feelings is an opportunity to self-discovery.
  3. Create space for creativity – instead of spending time on negative emotions raised by useless complaints, I focused on how to take care of the daily to-do list in a more efficient and pleasant manner. For example, while at playground with my toddler, one of the parents behaved unfriendly with my little man. After getting angry for a few seconds, I chose to think of other fun activities I could do with him at the playground.
  4. Just go ahead with the complaint – last but not least, I indulged myself in complaining when it’s about things that matter the most, such as aspects of the relationships with the dear ones. The trick is to let the complaint out of my system, and then come with solutions. As a matter of fact, researchers in psychology explain that the problem is not the act of complaining but how we can efficiently express our frustrations and anger. Irrespective if we complain about big or minor stuff, if we complain just for venting thoughts and not for actually finding a solution, we can be affected emotionally, physically and mentally.

Now, about you, what is it that you are complaining about? Do you feel that complaining helps you? If yes, can you please describe how does it help you?

How to act empathically in conflict

Research done at the Greater Good Science showed that empathy has a genetic foundation but as you experience life, you can enhance or restrict your natural empathic tendencies. Generally, the more empathy you feel, the more you are able to take your partner’s perspective into consideration. Yet, how can you still listen to the voice of empathy in times of conflict when other negative emotions may keep you focused on what you want from the other one?

Empathy, shortly defined as the ability to put yourself in other’s shoes, is for me the fundamental ability on which all the other abilities that make us human are built – compassion, kindness, sensitivity, love, positivity, etc.

Emotions researchers at The Greater Good Science Center define empathy as “the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling”.

Acting with empathy can bring benefits, such as:

-Helping others;
-Managers who show empathy have subordinates who get less sick and declare greater happiness at work.

In social and organisational situations when there is emotional distance between you, as the person acting based on empathy and the person to whom the empathy is directed, it may be more natural to follow the voice of empathy.

Empathy can have benefits in relationships as well by increasing the intimacy between partners and help them solve conflicts. The challenge in a love relationship is that due to close intimacy, you may feel more vulnerable and may get either into a very defensive or very offensive mindset.

When your mind is clouded with anger, it may be hard to remember even the word empathy, so much less how to use your empathy. Let’s say you’re arguing with your partner about how to parent your kids.

This is a great moment to practice taking your partner’s perspective even when you may not feel like it. To get motivated to start considering your partner’s emotions, it may help to think that both of you want the same thing: the happiness of your children.

When you accept this common starting point for discussion, you can try to let go of your feelings of anger and frustration, and focus your attention on the partner’s facial expressions and behaviour. How does he feel about this debate? Is he equally irritated? Is he talking in a higher tone of voice? Is he more open to compromise or is he trying to enforce his own point of view?

He may be more willing to start talking about a “meet me in the middle” solution if he realises that you try to understand him. So, how about asking him why he thinks that his way of parenting is better?

What is his main motivation for adopting that particular parenting style? In what style was he raised by his parents – more free or more dictatorial? What did he like about that style? And if he didn’t like it, what is it that he didn’t like about that style?

Listening to the answers can make you forget about your anger and frustration that he does not understand your point of view. When the anger and frustration are out of the way, only then, it is a good time for you to explain how you see it fit to raise your children. Some mutual compromises may be required but what’s most important is that overall, both you and your partner feel more satisfaction about the solution you came up with.

After each conflict resolution, you can consider what went well and what went wrong from the point of view of empathic listening during the discussions. If you are anything like me, it may be that you need to work more on anger management. In this case, you may think of a few tricks that you can apply to keep your anger under control in the next conflict.

You can also ask your partner opinion’s about how you handled the discussion. At the same time, you can let him know how he handled it. Remember to mention the things he did good in your view and what he said or did that made you feel that you’re not being listened to.

Eventually, both partners need to attune the empathic abilities to each other so that they can dance each other very tenderly and very long to the end of love, as Leonard Cohen sings in “Dance me to the end of love“.

Summing up, whenever you’re having a conflict with your partner, try to enhance your empathic abilities by:

1. Thinking of a common motivation that you both have for the respective discussion;

2. Detect your partner’s gestures and mood;

3. Ask questions to help you see what hides behind his openly stated arguments;

4. Express your feelings, thoughts and intentions;

5. After the conflict, muse on the aspects you are satisfied with and also those that you would like to work on further;

6. Ask your partner if he was hurt by something you did or said during the conflict.

7. Inform your partner about what he did that hurt your feelings during the argument.

8. Remember the lessons for the next conflict.

 

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How can we understand others better

Why we should be more careful about judging others

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How can we understand others better?

Can you really understand someone in terms of what she’s feeling, what behaviours she may adopt or what perceptions of the world she might have? To push the limits of human empathy, it may be helpful to consciously ignore everything you think you know about yourself and the ones around you and get curious again.

If we could all do that, the world would be a place where people lived in harmony, understanding each other’s inner worlds.

In reality, it’s more challenging to understand another human being on a deeper level, even those close to us! You may think that the longer you’ve known someone, the more evidence you have collected about what kind of a person she is. The historical facts show that she is decent and reliable.

Moreover, with the help of your empathic skills, you can feel how she feels and together you feel as one. But when you disapprove of her behaviour and get disappointed, you may feel that there is a world apart between you and her. Two close people turn into strangers.

You may not be aware of the fact that the disagreement regarding a particular behaviour can be rooted in moral values, cultural beliefs and other social conditioning that we are raised with and affects what we like and how we perceive the world.

Therefore, if we truly want to understand others, we need to become aware of our personal conditioning. For example, in Western cultures, when someone dies, it can be considered disrespectful if the close family of the departed one are wearing other colour than black. In Asian cultures, people wear white at funerals, which symbolises passing into heaven.

Now, what would happen if at a Western funeral, the wife of the deceased man wore red? Probably the rest of the close family would stop talking to her.

Getting rid of our conditioning may be a mission close to impossible for some of us. It may require years of meditation and spiritual search, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Alternatively, we can try to understand other people needs and desires and how they change over time. We do have the empathic skills that can be practiced to ask the appropriate questions about what others like and how they see the world. Once we are informed in this respect, we can learn to accept them without any judgement.

Maybe the widow wanted to express through red the intensity of her love for her dead husband? Or that she will still love him beyond death?

Above all, what counts the most is to look beyond behaviour and feel the true nature of a person. If the widow has a truly compassionate and loving nature, which reflected in the relationships with the rest of the family, then maybe the family members will focus on her affection and be less judgemental about her red garment.

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Why we should be more careful about judging others

Being judgemental about everyone and everything that happens around us limits our abilities to understand the diversity among the human beings. Judging the behaviour of neighbours, work colleagues or friends in front of others with whom we are in close relationships can be a personal choice to maintain the bond with those close to us. Even more, women who gossip are happier, according to a study at the University of Michigan. But, being judgemental with the loved ones can ultimately affect negatively everyone involved.

I doubt there is a human being who likes to be judged. At least, I and the persons that I know dislike to hear criticism from others regarding our actions and behaviours.

Why does it bother us to hear that we did something wrong in other person’s opinion? Are we afraid that our freedom of expression is being constrained? After all, it’s simply a point of view expressed by someone. Whatever the reason, we do get hurt by criticism and without being aware, we fight judgement with judgement.

Everybody is fast at judging others, and I am not an exception. It is human to observe and form opinions about the people around us, and especially those close to us will hear more of these opinions with less sugar coating. For example, a wife can tell to her husband, “You did wrong when you didn’t inform me about being late”.

The Bible strongly advocates for not judging others, “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” (Luke 6:37), “who are you to judge your neighbour.“(James 4:11-12)

“One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” (Romans 14:1-13)

The point of reference for judging is our inner world of beliefs, principles, and emotions. When other people actions don’t fit with our reality, we disapprove them.

We could try to refrain from speaking out loud our judgemental thoughts, especially to those people close to us. But if our tongues are tingling with words of judgement and we speak our mind, it’d be for everyone’s best to do it with reservation and with the presumption that our opinions are not the objective truth.

In the above example, when the wife scolds her husband for not informing that he’d be late, it would make a huge difference for the mood of both of them if she humbly assumed that she does not have complete information about what happened in her husband’s mind and what experience he had. So, she would be wiser if she asked, “So, what happened?”

Instead of snappy judgement, we could give credit to the other one that he acted based on his best abilities at that time. We empower the people we love when we show them that we trust them to manage their lives the best they can.

Admittedly, we would behave differently in the same situation, but everyone reacts in their unique way to the same event.

Therefore, by spelling out our judgements on the loved ones puts us on a higher moral ground and belittles their abilities to manage their life. This may result in relationship conflict where negative emotions, such as the sense of disapproval take time to sort out.

Relationships improve when we accept the differences in behaviour and actions between us and the loved ones. Asking questions with empathy and compassion sharpen our insight into the world of others and help us see that there is richness in looking at life through the lens of others.

Next time when we are tempted to be judgemental, let’s first try to understand the other one and then judge. If after understanding her husband the wife still wants to express her opinion, she could say, “I would have felt better if you called.”

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