A relationship depends on good communication and this depends on openness of both mind and heart to receive and to respond intelligently and compassionately. Mindfulness is the Art of developing a greater sensitivity and awareness through cultivating openness of mind and friendliness of heart. The Path of Mindfulness Meditation, by Peter Strong
For a marriage or significant personal relationship to work, both parties must be willing and able to cultivate a level of communication that is highly receptive and responsive to the needs of the other person, and this communication needs to flow in both directions. Any blockage in this flow leads to misunderstanding and conflict. Real communication is highly dynamic and constantly changing and adjusting to changing needs. In the ideal relationship each person is sensitive to the other, not only listening to the words spoken but also sensing the body language being expressed, sensing the meaning communicated through voice tone, facial expression and posture. It is, therefore, no surprise that in order to be able to receive all this verbal and non-verbal information and in order to be able to respond in a sensitive manner, there must be an extraordinary degree of openness of both mind and heart. A closed mind can receive nothing and cannot respond appropriately to the needs of a given situation. Therefore, we must understand the processes that lead to the closing of the mind, and the processes that lead to the opening of the mind and heart, and we must understand both processes in depth if we are to develop and maintain good communication in our marriage or relationship.
The biggest problem that leads to the breakdown of a marriage or other significant relationship is when we become dominated by patterns of Habitual Emotional Reactivity. A reactive mind is a closed mind, unable to respond creatively and intelligently to the needs of the present moment. Compassion and sensitivity are absent, or greatly diminished, and we become little more than a machine, mechanically reacting to the other person.
We become locked into cycles of habitual reactivity. He says this, she feels that; she does this, he feels that. We become victims of this habitual emotional reactivity and compelled to react with frustration and disappointment, becoming easily upset and often reacting with anger as we feel misunderstood or unloved. Our inner reactive Self engages with the reactive Self of the other person in a repeating cycle of hurt and suffering. This process creates a wedge between us and drives us apart. When our relationship is dominated by reactivity then what we experience is loneliness and emptiness and great sadness.
So, in any relationship there are four entities engaging each other: The True Self of each person, which is not conditioned and not limited by habitual reactivity, tries to interact through the medium of openness, awareness and friendliness to the True Self of the other person. However, this is complicated by the relationship between the two Reactive Selves, based on conflict and duality. Not surprisingly, relationships can become quite messy!
When you were in love that is when the True Selves were communicating freely. But over time we lose that connection and bad habits become dominant; the Reactive Selves hold power, love is abandoned and the fighting takes over. The Reactive Self becomes hard and unyielding, aggressive and also very fearful. People can spend their whole marriage lost in this blind conflict between the Reactive Selves.
During Mindfulness Therapy, which I now offer online through Skype, I teach couples how to let go of the Reactive Self and re-connect with the True Self, which is the source of unconditional love, patience and intelligence. This True Self is within us all the time – it just gets lost and covered over by the layers of reactive habits. With mindfulness at our side, we gradually lift off these hard layers that have imprisoned the True Self and we discover the joy of how to communicate again. We re-discover the passion and simple bliss of the love that we once shared. Now we have the tools to handle conflict and emotional pain; guilt and hurt; anger and remorse; in a completely different way – based on mindfulness and innate love.
Peter Strong, PhD, is a Professional Mindfulness Psychotherapist, Online Therapist, spiritual teacher and author, based in Boulder, Colorado.
Besides face-to-face therapy sessions, Dr. Strong offers an Online Counseling Service and Online Therapy via Skype. Visit http://www.counselingtherapyonline.com. To learn more about Mindfulness Therapy visit http://www.mindfulnessmeditationtherapy.com
Email inquiries are most welcome. Request a Skype session today and begin a course of Mindfulness Therapy.
You can purchase a copy of Dr Strong’s book ‘The Path of Mindfulness Meditation’ at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk and Barnes&Noble.com. Also available on Kindle.