We all bring our history into our present day in the form of mental conditioning. We each have layers of thought that we live within that inform how we perceive the present moment. Sometimes these thoughts grossly distort the present moment, other times we are freer from them and have a clearer perspective.
This conditioning shows up in all areas of life and can be particularly challenging in the area of relationships. My partner Angus can be sensitive to criticism. No one likes criticism, but his sensitivity has him sometimes interpret criticism when it isn’t even there.
My conditioning has made it hard to trust in relationships. I would experience betrayal and abandonment over small things and it took me a very long time to be able to be two feet in our marriage. I was like a feral animal ready to bolt at the slightest infraction.
The conditioning that made me feel fearful, on guard, and unable to commit emotionally even though we were fully committed to each other on paper was not within my conscious control. Most of the time I knew it wasn’t rational, but I couldn’t rationalize my way out of it. It also didn’t matter how many times I revisited the painful experiences in my life that I was aware of that contributed to my conditioning. There might have been an emotional cathartic release when I did this, but there wasn’t any sustainable change in my behavior beyond that.
Now working with clients and supporting them in their relationships it is important for me to look at where the change actually came from and what supported me with being able to be internally committed to Angus and enjoy our marriage and being married to him specifically.
I had a recent experience in a breathwork class that highlighted this kind of shift.
In the class, as I was doing the breathing I could feel my body filling with energy. It was like my physical form was softening and my body felt like it was just energy vibrating. I was able to allow the experience to envelop me. In the past, I would have resisted this experience. Not intentionally, intentionally I would have been very open, but beyond my will, my safety gauge would have said this is too much and I would have shut it down by getting my intellect involved and not being present in the moment.
In this experience, I saw how my safety was not determined by my rational mind. It was coming from a deeper place within me that wasn’t in my conscious control. I could see the wisdom in it. I recognized the health in all of the times that I had not been able to be present with myself because I was scared. I felt compassion for my previous overwhelm. And I felt so clearly the innate intelligence within me unfolding at its own pace and own timing.
I knew that at that moment I was ready to receive in a way that I hadn’t been able to be previously and what was even more impactful was I saw the health and wisdom in my inability to receive and be present in these kinds of situations previously. I saw the health in my resistance and felt grateful for it. My intellect had no clue about my readiness, but this deeper part of me did. And I naturally let go of some conditioning that allowed me to feel safe in that moment.
In other breathwork classes, I would be feeling annoyed listening to the person crying next to me or not feeling much of anything at all. I remember feeling judgmental of myself when Angus would share his rapturous journies, and all I had to report was a sore stomach and tensing in my hands. As you can imagine I didn’t do that many of these classes because I was so underwhelmed.
But in this experience, I understood that it was my health that had me not let go, and a deeper part of me knew my readiness to let go.
It was my appreciation of the wisdom in all of it that struck me. Previously, I was so hard on myself for not being further along whether it be with letting go of unwanted habits like skin picking or being more enlightened in general. But now I felt grateful for it all.
We all have our blind spots and we are all waking up from our psychological blind spots. Understanding that we have them is important. Self-awareness is helpful but trying to willfully change our blind spots isn’t. What struck me as so impactful from this latest experience is the feeling of gratitude I felt for my journey being exactly as it is. I can be grateful for what I do see and also grateful for what I don’t see. I feel a deeper appreciation for the wisdom of life unfolding through me on life’s terms, not my own – thank goodness.
How is this helpful for the blind spots and limitations in our relationship?
What I see is that I can embrace my areas of sensitivity and irrationality. I can have compassion for myself that they are there and I don’t need to change or fix them to be okay or to enjoy my marriage. And the same goes for Angus’s quirks and insecurities. I can make room for them and understand that health is present and unfolding.
This runs counter to my conditioning of self-improvement, but I recognize the health in the feeling of acceptance and gratitude. A relationship is the product of two people coming together with all their unique histories and ways of seeing life as a result of the beliefs they have made up along the way. Many of these beliefs will look like they make intimacy and connection difficult like Angus’s beliefs that led him to be sensitive to criticism and my beliefs that led me to be ready to bolt at the smallest infraction. Rather than judging these ways of being in the world as wrong, inferior, and needing to be fixed, I see now all that is needed is to welcome the wisdom that is there in each moment. When seeing the health in my responses, I have more compassion and understanding. They are no longer annoying or an inconvenience and they help me to see the psychological innocence and vulnerability in each one of us.
We are incredibly vulnerable. We are incredibly sensitive. We are also capable of incredible acts of loving toward ourselves and others.
Accepting what is even when that means accepting blind spots and resistance is what helps me to feel more at home within myself and better able to enjoy my relationship with Angus more. The change will emerge naturally, but I don’t need to wait for change to happen to enjoy the fullness of who I am and love my partner exactly as he is warts and all.
This article was published previously on www.therewilders.org. Go to the free resources to see more of Rohini’s articles.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate a private couples’ intensives retreat program that rewilds relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.