It’s January and a good time to start with improving something about ourselves. I’m selecting Being Kind because so many of the clients I have in my practice are struggling with it. We could know all of them very well and we would agree they are kind people. But when they are upset about the lack of happiness in their relationship, they become furious instead of curious. Ellen Bader keeps training therapists with her catchy little phrase, curious instead of furious.
Let’s begin adding more curiosity, kindness, understanding, acceptance, compassion and empathy to our communications. At the beginning of the year many people make resolutions and less than 8% keep them. Many stop in 7 days, according to research. Let us be different and decide to make some changes that could result in better relationships for all of us. And maybe we could even brighten our little corner of the world.
Want to start a kindness revolution? All we have to do is believe, have the intention and behaviors to be kind to each person we come in contact with on a daily basis. That includes the slow and fast drivers we encounter on the streets. And the people in line at the grocery stores. And our sweethearts! And our children…In fact, let’s take a lesson from the Inuit tribe, the indigenous people who live in northern Canada – they NEVER yell at their children. Never. They tell stories instead. Wow – what a blessing.
What does it take to be kind? I believe it is an attitude and an on-going reminder with practice. We have to practice it constantly to end the judgement we carry around in our minds. I especially want to encourage significant others and spouses to stop the judgments about their loved ones. We hear on TV and twitter a lot of judgmental comments about others. I want to stop that thinking and expressive behavior that we all do somewhat regularly.
Focus on changing your behaviors:
- Write a micro-goal, in specific behavior
- Track your progress daily
- Take time daily to contemplate and review your successes and encouragements
- Have an accountability buddy
- Ask others to help you
- Reward yourself
I’d like to take the advice from the Bible that tells us to not throw stones if we live in a glass house. We are all guilty of mistakes, errors of judgement, misspoken words, irritations and anger that sneak out or dump on people we love. Since we are not perfect, let’s practice being curious, kind, accepting, understanding, compassionate, and empathic towards others: instead of any judgment.
Stop Blaming; Stay Focused on Your Own Behaviors
In counseling couples, I find I spend most of my time helping them to stop blaming and talking about the other person. I encourage them to stay focused on their own behavior, improving it. All of us have the opportunity in a committed relationship to heal hurts, grievances, bad habits, abuse and uneducated learnings from our childhoods. We work those things out on our partners. And, of course, they deserve so little of our irritation, impatience, disappointments, and down-right rage.
Adapted Child and Wise Adult Ego States
We all have hurt and adapted child ego states or alter egos who live inside us. Children from many years ago who needed to feel more love. Kids who became afraid to trust, to open up, and to become vulnerable. We learned along the way to close off parts of ourselves to survive. So when we get angry or hurt, it almost never is about what our partner did. Their behavior simply served as a trigger to our own childhood pain. Our need to be loved was thwarted or diminished. That unmet need gets activated in any close relationship and we become the little three-year old having a temper tantrum, being frightened and needing to feel safe and loved.
However, as adults the tantrum behaviors are never going to get the love we want. We must heal our three-year olds, give them lots of love, and assure them that we, the wise adults are in charge and will handle things in the world, especially with our partners. It is up to the wise adult to have conversations with curiosity, kindness, understanding, acceptance, compassion, and empathy. Wise adults do not blame the other person. Wise adults understand and do not judge the other. Wise adults feel compassion and empathy toward other beings. Wise adults know that yelling never gets them what they want. Wise adults also know that they can’t go underground. That communication takes effort and skill. Wise adults know that they have to overcome any fear that the inner child has.
We must stand up and take good care of our adapted inner children and our needing-to-be-loved adults. So be wise, act like an adult, have kind conversations. Be curious about the other. Understand their thinking, background, life experience, belief system, values, etc.
Explore and Share your Unmet Needs
WHAT KIND OF CONVERSATIONS SHOULD WE BE HAVING? Ones in which we are kind and ask for what we want. We must learn to make requests, without criticism and blame. We need to share about our unmet needs and explore where in childhood that came from.
Expect your partner to be curious and have compassion. Hold loving growthful conversations where the point is not to be right or prove the other to be wrong. Share what you are missing and needing. And know your partner will attempt to fulfill that. But they are neither magicians nor trained psychologists. They too have their fears and threats. They too have adapted inner children who need to be loved; who need to feel safe; who need to be respected; who need unconditional love.
Become More Unconditionally Loving
And that is the tall order each of us needs to fulfill. Be unconditionally loving. Since none of us is walking on water, all of us live in glass houses, and all of us have some unhealed parts of childhood, let’s be curious; let’s be kind; let’s be understanding; let’s be accepting; let’s be compassionate; let’s be empathic.
Let’s be more loving. And may we practice it daily on each person we encounter. And let’s get A’s on our relationship report cards. Stop the F’s and Ds. Stop the C’s. Average kindness is not good enough. Let’s all get A’s on our relationship report cards in the subjects of curiosity, kindness, understanding, acceptance, compassion, empathy, and loving. Let’s be superior in successfully healing our own adapted inner children, not trying to change or heal another person’s.
I’m wishing us all success in our loving report cards of 2021.