Relationships are created out of the experiences that happen in real life and the stories we make up about the things that happened. These stories can be true or maybe not quite true. And these stories can help us to heal or they can make things worse. Today we’re going to talk about those stories, where they come from, and what that has to do with healing. I’m Rebecca Thompson Hitt and this is the All Relationships Can Heal Podcast.
We’ve been talking about my 8 guiding principles and today we’re going to be talking about Principle #5.
Principle 5 states: Interpretation of behaviors comes from both conscious and subconscious places and those interpretations become part of our relationship dance- of connection or disconnection. We make up stories about what’s happening in our life and in our relationships. The story may or may not be accurate. And there’s another story that’s happening in our bodies, the story in our cells, in our nervous system, the patterns of what we’ve been through and how we’ve learned to survive in difficult situations. We see other’s behaviors through this lens and others see us through their own lens, too. Yes, even babies and very young children.
And this becomes our dance. Sometimes it is beautiful and graceful. Sometimes it is the kind of dance where we’re stepping on each other’s toes repeatedly (perhaps even stomping). And this communication happens with a furrowed brow, with a slightly raised tone of voice, with a slight turning away. When communication gets loud, it’s because the earlier communications have been missed.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: My son bared his teeth and moved his head in toward mine so that our foreheads nearly touched. For a split second, I thought he was going to bang into my head. With that realization dawning, I decided he was being playful and just moving in to kiss me. I reached toward him and kissed him. He then smiled and told me how much he loved me. A few minutes later, after he had gone back off to the other room to play, it occurred to me how differently that situation would have gone if
I had decided that his action was a threat to me. How many times do our interpretations of our child’s behavior lead us down the path to more disconnection?
This story is from my first book, Consciously Parenting: What it Really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families and happened when my youngest son was about 6 or 7. I have my own history of my brothers, especially my younger brother, who was really rough that came up a lot for me when I was parenting my boys when they were younger. And my experiences with my older son when he was having a very hard time and sometimes hurting me also came up in those moments when I was reminded of what had happened before. All those stories were not conscious thoughts as my son leaned in towards me, but I could feel them rise up in the blink of an eye.
One of the best ways we can start to see these patterns is to slow down and pause in the moment. It gives us the opportunity to see things that we couldn’t see before and to choose something different in the moment that might help us to connect more. I also have many tools that I use to support individuals, couples, and families to see things that they couldn’t before. Last week, I did several Crossing the Bridge couples sessions, based on the work of Hedy Schleifer, an amazing couples therapist who I had the pleasure of working with many years ago. This process allows couples to really slow down and listen to each other in a new way and it creates the space for couples to change the story of what has been happening in their relationship. The other tool I use for individuals is called Healing Story Circles. Healing Story Circles are about creating a safe-enough space to share a story about something that’s happened and have reflection from others who are practicing listening. It isn’t about solving or fixing, but instead allows the person who is sharing to slow down enough to start to see things in a different light, many times being able to see their own interpretations and unconscious stories that are impacting how the situations is being viewed. They’re powerful spaces where healing happens and new stories are discovered from the old ones that weren’t working. Healing Story Circles are part of my membership and I will be having many new experiences with them, including workshops and weekend intensives with them starting in 2020.
We can learn to see these unconscious patterns and interpretations and begin to see our loved ones with different eyes, and even understand our own behaviors in a new way.
The most important first step in this process is to know that there are stories that are happening that are outside of our conscious awareness. When we are aware, we can become much more mindful about those stories and how they’re showing up in our lives and impacting our relationships. This is where healing begins for us and for the people in our lives. You’ve been listening to the All Relationships Can Heal podcast and I’m Rebecca Thompson Hitt. I’ll be back tomorrow for Time-In Tuesday to talk about feelings. I’m looking forward to continuing our conversation tomorrow.