The You vs YOU Six Week Challenge, Week 5
No written prompt this week.
This week’s visual art prompt:
The Relationship Cure
I was not taught or modeled healthy relationships when I was younger. I would hear every once in a while a friend remark about a wonderful relationship they knew of that a friend or a friend’s parents were enjoying. This has only happened a handful of times in my forty one years on this planet. I was also not taught anything about healthy relationships during my early school years. This led to me engaging in relationships, including my marriage, where I allowed others to disrespect and mistreat me. It was not until after my divorce that I began to educate myself about what good relationships are and sought out ways to improve myself so I may attract and have such relationships in all areas of my life.
This week’s tool is a book titled The Relationship Cure by John M. Gottman PH.D. and Joan DeClaire. We all yearn for evidence that our spouses, friends and colleagues understand and care about what we are feeling. Gottman introduces us to the idea of a bid, a fundamental unit of emotional communication. A bid, he says, “can be a question, a gesture, a look, a touch - any single expression that says, ‘I want to feel connected to you’. A response to a bid is just that - a positive or negative answer to somebody’s request for emotional connection.” (Gottman, 2011, p. 4).
Here are highlights directly from the text:
- People who consistently bid and respond to bids in positive ways have a greater chance for success in their relationships.
- There are one of three ways to respond to someone’s bid for connection:
- Turning toward: react in a positive way to the bid.
- Turning against: react in an argumentative or belligerent way to the bid.
- Turning away: ignoring or acting preoccupied to the bid.
- It is important to note several factors that may make it difficult for one to turn towards a bid for emotional connection: the way one’s brain processes feelings; one’s emotional intelligence; how emotions were handled in one’s early years, one’s culture and society at large.
- Connecting, like any other skill can be learned.
Five Steps towards building self-awareness and becoming better at connecting:
STEP 1 Become aware of how you bid for connection.
- Bids for connection come in many styles and can be verbal or nonverbal, high or low energy, funny or dead-serious.
- Work on making your bids clear and direct so there is no room for misinterpretation (fuzzy bids).
- Make an effort to turn towards bids offered by loved ones (this book has many examples of how to do that successfully).
- You always have three choices, to attack, to avoid, or to disclose (share your feelings). Choose to disclose.
- Remember that both parties need to be willing to work on the relationships if there is to be a future together. Do your part!
STEP 2 Find out your brain’s emotional command system.
- “The emotional command systems are the tracks on which your emotions run. They take your feelings in various directions, depending on the service you need to perform.” (Gottman, 2011, p. 90).
- It is important for you, to both examine your own emotional command systems, and learn about similarities and differences between yours and the systems of others.
Here are the seven emotional command systems (the book explains in detail what happens when they are running at their optimal level or when they are either overactivated or underactivated):
- Commander In Chief - coordinates functions related to dominance, control, and power.
- Explorer - searches, learns, and satisfies one’s curiosity.
- Sensualist - coordinates functions related to sexual gratification and reproduction.
- Energy Zar - responsible for making sure that the body gets the rest and care it needs to stay healthy.
- Jester - coordinates play, recreation, and diversion.
- Sentry - coordinates functions in the body and mind related to worry, fear, vigilance, and defense.
- Nest Builder - coordinates affiliation, bonding, and attachment.
- These seven command systems can act together depending on the need.
- Your dominant emotional command systems may be inherited and also influenced by your life experiences.
STEP 3 Examine your emotional blueprint.
“Getting clear about the past allows you to separate yesterday’s issues from today’s reality.” (Gottman & DeClaire, 2011, p. 167).
- Spend some time recollecting and journaling about how you were treated in the past and the way that made you feel.
- Reflect on the lessons you learned from your childhood, culture, and society, about your feelings and the expressing of emotion.
- Jot down any events or relationships so painful that they still have a strong hold on how you have lived your life up until now (death divorce, disaster, etc).
- Notice any patterns of emotional thought and behavior and remember that you do not need to keep responding in these patterned ways when new events and relationships present themselves. You can change!
Emotion - Coaching Philosophy
“To deny the existence of difficult feelings is to live a half life.” - Gottman & DeClaire, 2011, p. 160).
- There is value in all emotions.
- People raised in emotional-coaching environments learn early how to soothe themselves when they are upset, so they’re less likely to act out in harmful ways.
- The emotion-coaching philosophy teaches people how to express their feelings in ways that are appropriate and effective.
STEP 4 Emotional communication skills.
- Though facial expressions and the perceived emotion may vary, it is important to become familiar with your family’s and friends' faces in their neutral state.
- Remember that people often feel more than one emotion at once.
- Be careful not to interpret permanent physical features as permanent emotional states (just because someone does not have a permanent smile on it does not mean they are not happy).
- Practice looking at and studying the faces, gesture and voice of those you are communicating with (be mindful of cultural differences in regards to these observations, so as to not offend anyone).
- Expand your emotional vocabulary and improve your ability to put your feelings into words.
- Remember that emotions are complex and may be triggered by past events rather than what is really happening in the moment.
- Practice deep listening, tune in to the speaker with all of your attention and let go of your own agenda.
STEP 5 Discover shared meaning.
- Shared meaning helps people settle conflicts and support the collective vision even when there might be little to no gain personally from doing so. - Just because there are differences or conflicts with others it does not necessarily indicate that one person or the other is no good.
- Conflicts develop because people attach different meanings to the same situation, because of their life experiences. It is then important for each person to engage in a dialogue about how they created such meaning which in turn will lead to a collaborative effort in finding a common ground.
- Become a person that supports and encourages other’s dreams and aspirations rather than a person who becomes jealous, intimidated or resentful when someone shares their goals and accomplishments.
- There is no winner or loser in a conflict, only shared meaning!
The Relationship Cure is an excellent book to add to your audio or physical library and covers so much more useful and detailed information than I have been able to share in this post.
Gottman, J. M., & DeClaire, J. (2001). The relationship cure: A five-step guide for building better connections with family, friends, and lovers. New York: Crown Publishers.