Neil Strauss revealed some emphatic principles to govern relationships in his most recent bestseller The Truth. I have attempted to complement his propositions with my own experiences. Let’s get straight to it Romeo.
No matter what the situation may be, the right course of action is always compassion and love
It’s too easy to respond to events in life that may not go our way with hatred, jealousy, anguish or frustration. It takes greater strength to display love, understanding and empathy towards those who may have hurt you. Our actions in our lowest times can be our most defining moments.
As long as at least one partner is in the “adult functional” state at any given time, most – if not all – arguments can be avoided
The “adult functional” state is one of logical, rational decision making. Too often we are consumed with being right, overshadowing the greater achievement of actually doing the right thing. Escaping the trap of arguing and instead reaching articulated and reasoned conclusions will benefit us more.
Recognise when you are backsliding into childish behaviour. Then pinpoint what old story is being triggered and tell yourself the truth of the situation. Let go of the lie
The brain loves stories. In fact, we create stories from all of our experience as the analytical (left) side of the brain attempts to decipher the signals from the creative (right) side of the brain (it’s profoundly more complicated than this, but alas, I’m no neuroscientist). The outcome: we transform our memories into little stories that we can share with others, to our own and others amusement or even disdain. If we recognise these stories as our own imaginative creations, then we can begin to reform our views and identify that perhaps we may not be seeing the whole truth. It’s fundamental to try to poke holes in our reasoning or encourage others to test our thinking. All of us are likely to be missing the whole picture.
Accept what is
You just got slammed by a car. You are lying on the floor, stunned and in agony. As your consciousness begins to leak into nothingness, you are urgently in need to take action. Are you going to try to draw the attention of someone to help you or are you going to think about what things would be like right now if you had been more observant when crossing the road? Cut your losses and get on with dealing with the situation at present.
Instead of saying “I’m never going to cheat again,” say, “Today, I’m not going to do that thing that makes me feel weak and shameful about myself again”
When we decide to act, there are physical consequences and there are also mental and emotional consequences. Sometimes we fail to look far enough down the line, to visualise the state we may put ourselves in if we continue to engage in the activity at hand.
Values are critical. I don’t smoke, consume alcohol or illicit drugs. I don’t gamble excessively (I have a small investment in stocks), watch pornography or even drink caffeinated drinks. It’s not about “I don’t want to drink caffeinated drinks”, it’s more about I don’t want anything external to be responsible for my energy than my own internally sourced determination, passion and excitement.
Stick to your values.
You can’t have a relationship with someone hoping they’ll change. You have to be willing to commit to them as they are, with no expectations. And if they happen to choose to change at some point along the way, then that’s just a bonus
People commonly exaggerate how much they have “changed” in the last year or three years. Often people consider superficial aspects of themselves following the dialogue of ‘OMG I can’t believe I wore that shirt/skirt back then, what was I thinking!”
In spite of that, rarely do you witness people change their foundations like their set of values or principles. Although I do believe people can change and many will to some degree, only a select few really do change.
Communicate and maintain healthy boundaries. This means finding the proper balance of filtering and protecting yourself, thoughts, feelings, time, and behaviours without either closing off behind walls, or becoming overwhelmed or even overwhelming
This principle addresses a broad spectrum. On the one hand, some individuals are too open to those who are not respectful to them, their thoughts and their feelings. This can lead to paranoia and getting burnt frequently. On the other hand, some individuals are too engaged with one partner or a select group that they miss out on the wonders of the wider world that is bursting with opportunity, knowledge and experiences. Both extremes are poisonous, and a middle ground is the optimal place to be. However, this requires investment on your part to find those that aim for the same middle ground that you do.
Ask yourself throughout the day, “What do I need to do in this moment to take care of myself?” Be aware of the legitimate needs and wants you’re not attending to, and then take action to meet them on your own – or ask your partner for help if you can’t – to be on the road to happiness
This is why having a schedule is critical. I know that from 10:30-17:30 on weekdays, I am taking care of myself by attending to academic concerns, going to lectures and seminars, handling various roles I have with the University. Therefore, I need to locate myself in an area in the library that is conducive to productive work, where I am highly unlikely to be distracted. On weekends, I am reading, writing, planning and spending time with important people in my life. More importantly, never be afraid of asking for help. If you have people that you define as friends, but you are uncomfortable to ask for their help, then question the depth of your relationship with that person. Nobody is an island; we all rely on others for various things and bringing others into your life is more likely to flavour it, rather than to dilute it.
No one can make you feel anything and you don’t make anyone feel a certain way. So, don’t take on responsibility for your partner’s feelings and don’t blame your partner for your own. The most caring thing to do when they’re upset is to simply ask if they want you to listen, to give advice, to give them space, or to give them loving touch
Too often we let others dictate us and our feelings, as if they are holding an Xbox controller wirelessly connected to our brains.
Despite our connection with others, we are separate entities. It is hard enough trying to take responsibility for ourselves. The most important thing is to listen. Often people are just stuffed with emotional baggage that they just need to let go off and it’s nothing personal against you. By providing that open sanctuary for negative emotions to dissipate, we are enabling the positive emotions to rise out from the rubble and shine through.
Love, honour and affirm yourself. Whatever your decisions, actions, feelings, and thoughts throughout the day may be and whatever outcome they may lead to, if you are healthy, then they are ultimately healthy
We don’t always make optimal decisions. I sometimes think how lucky I am that I don’t consume alcohol. I do so many ridiculous things completely sober that I shrivel at the thought of the additional intoxication impairing my decision-making abilities. Being in an unhealthy state can magnify problems, swallowing you into a state where you are made to feel small and irrelevant. As long as I am in a healthy state then I can learn, improve and more rewardingly, laugh about my mistakes and mishaps.
And, above all, always remember to breathe and be in the moment
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