IFX Group 2014 Web Log
- Building From Scratch? (January)
- Good Taste. (February)
- Born of Pressure. (March)
- Close Enough. (April)
- Words vs. Communication. (May)
If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. - Carl Sagan
This humorous quote helps illustrate that everything must be built from something and very often that something is a gift from those that came before us. In very real terms we are all standing on the shoulders of our forefathers just as they did, and so on for each generation before them. The collective result of their labor is our starting line. This is true for everything we consider to be part of modern life. There is not a single thing we can build or buy today that does not owe a debt to some part of history going all the way back to the plants and animals that time turned into fuel to power our modern world. But this is not limited to physical things.
Consider the relationship traits of the many generations of parents leading up to our own parents. With a little looking some common patterns become visible that are repeated down through the generations of children. Sometimes these patterns are called family traits or traditions but it seems that even if they are mostly ignored there is still a very strong possibility they will be repeated somewhere in the generations that follow. This is great when the traits are considered good or beneficial but can be very painful if they are negative. Why do children repeat the negative family traits? The answer may simply be that children are given a set of relationship building blocks by their parents and there are only a limited number of ways those blocks fit together. Sadly unless children are allowed access to different building blocks or seek out new blocks on their own they often repeat the only patterns they know.
What building blocks are being used in your own relationship? What building blocks are being past down to the next generation?
All relationships have an emotional flavor that comes from the personality and nature of the people in the relationship. Each personality has different qualities ranging from sweet and spicy to salty and sometimes even sour or bitter. Too much of one is just as bad as not enough which is why, after realizing
only sweet or
only spicy fantasy relationships can't last in the real world, experienced people end up looking for a mixture of different flavors in an acceptable balance. Unfortunately previous strong flavors can cause new flavors to seem different than they are. What happens when a relationship leaves a strong bad flavor?
The end of a bad relationship can leave a bitter and sometimes harshly persistent after taste. In some cases this bad flavor can be so strong it lingers well into the next relationship. Without some conscious and deliberate effort this left over bitterness can block or crowd out the natural sweet and savory flavors of the new relationship. Left unchecked it can compound over time until even pure sugar is perceived as deceitful. Is there a way to cleanse emotional taste buds? Yes.
It begins with letting go of our bad relationship past which often involves forgiveness, but that alone is not enough to keep those bad flavors away. The second and more important part is to turn away from looking back, repeating and refreshing the memories and patterns of those bad relationships. This opens our heart to healing which may need some time. It helps to be and have a partner showing compassion and empathy enough to avoid the heart's sore parts as we heal. This combination helps us get free from past relationship pains and helps us avoid repeating them in the future. The hardest part is doing something different by purposefully moving away from old relationship habits and old emotional habits. Start by examining our own emotional flavor from our partner's perspective.
Consider what emotional flavor you bring to relationships. Is it too spicy? Too sour? Too bitter? Is there something being done thoughtlessly by habit that can be done differently? What can be changed today to make that flavor more pleasing to your partner?
Pressure is part of life. Sometimes it feels like the pressure is coming at us from every side. Some people think it is best to avoid pressure. Others think it is best to fight it. Does pressure serve a purpose? Is it something to avoid and fear or is it required?
Consider the whole process of birth from the perspective of the child. It starts relatively easy with plenty of room to grow but ends up feeling stuck in a very tight place, pressure coming from almost every side with no visible way out. Eventually there comes a time when there is no choice but to step out into the unknown. This is the start of the intense and hopefully short span of time to get out of the pressure. There is always some kind of pain involved but a way opens up right as it is needed. Then things get relatively easy again with plenty of room to grow.
This pattern is repeated many times in life on many different levels. Does this mean pressure is a necessary part of life?
Take a look back at those times where pressure forced a change in your own life. After the pain of changing or moving to that next place, things felt better. This pattern is just like birth for our heart and mind. Each new iteration encourages, motivates, and if needed, forces us to move towards a place where we can have room to grow and mature in ways not possible otherwise. Without this pressure it would be too easy to stay still and never discover or have the chance to realize our true potential.
This pattern appears to happen at all levels small and great. In the past century the world has seen many examples of extreme pressure in the form of hate, cruelty and abuse that resulted in an event forcing a change, often setting the stage to make things dramatically better. After that change there is room to heal and grow in ways not possible before. Many of the good things we enjoy today are the direct result of those intense and painful events.
Instead of always fighting the pressure, take a serious and objective look at it. Consider the potential benefits. What is the pressure doing to and for you and those around you? Is there a way to help make the transition less painful for those involved? Maybe all the pressure of this life is collectively motivating us towards something even bigger than we can imagine.
Many people, religious and otherwise, that survive near death experiences describe it like a tunnel with a light at the end. From the the inside perspective isn't that similar to birth?
Mountain rivers are lined with rocks of different sizes and shapes. As long as the water flows the rocks change. Rocks near the start of most rivers have plenty of sharp edges because they are often freshly split from the mountain by environmental forces like snow, ice, and rain. Rocks near the end are more round and smooth. The round part is relatively easy to explain from the countless bumps into other rocks as they journey down the river. The smooth part only comes from the sand and grit constantly cleaning and refining. Interestingly that polishing sand and grit is often the remains of what used to be sharp edges.
Every personality has sharp edges. These sharp edges become more noticeable and can often cause problems when getting close to another person. The closer two personalities get the more these sharp edges bump, poke, cut, and generally get in the way until something changes. When a sharp edge breaks the next edge comes into view. If it does not break the sharp edge sets the boundary for closeness. People that get close enough to identify and deal with the sharp edges also get the reward of refinement and room to get closer. People that keep their distance don't.
The most interesting part is the learning opportunity. The hidden value in this process is not bumping into each other to chip away the sharp edges of our personality. The secret that makes the whole thing work is learning how to care about someone else's feelings, to recognize and empathize how our sharp edges make them feel. When something in our personality hurts our partner and we care enough to do something about it, that makes it much easier to work on our own sharp edges. It teaches us how to truly love someone else which is impossible to do alone and incredibly hard to do from a distance.
Allowing someone close enough to hurt us means they are also close enough to help us and for us to help them. Are you close enough?
Learning how to write is much easier than learning how to communicate effectively because writing alone does not care if or how the words are received. Great writers throughout the ages are admired by readers primarily for their ability to craft thought and emotion into words but words are not always the goal. Ask experienced writers about the most important part of their work and you may be surprised to find it is less about the words and more about communication. Communication starts when the writer cares how their meaning is received. Sometimes this requires rewriting, rephrasing, and refining the words many times in different ways to get the real message across to someone which is even harder if they have a different background or different frame of reference. This is the foundation for better writing. How does this help you?
There are two sides to all communication. The first is the ability to effectively express thoughts and feelings in a meaningful way. The second, and probably more important, is the ability to hear and comprehend what others express. Words have no value without a reader or listener that can hear the meaning carried by the words. Unfortunately there is no such thing as perfect communication. Even in the electronic world communication errors are so likely that often layers of protocols are needed to catch errors before they cause problems. If it is impossible for two computers to perfectly communicate with each other without error checking, what hope is there for humans that need to communicate with other humans using words with flexible meanings?
It is rare for a word to have just a single well defined, well known, and well understood meaning because each word can hold different things depending on context, inflection, and tone. This may be why effective communication in a relationship is a constant challenge and requires so much effort. Every relationship naturally has spots where communication is weak or prone to errors. It takes time and effort to identify the weak areas and work through or around them. Some attempt to overcome miscommunication with a combination of repetition, loudness, or higher pitch but often this only makes things worse when the actual problem is less about the words and more about the context and interpretation each person brings to the conversation.
It is important to look at both the writer and reader, the speaker and listener when considering how to overcome communication errors and improve effectiveness. Ineffective or inaccurate expression is just as bad as not listening or listening and missing the meaning. It starts with a writer caring how someone else receives their words and ends with someone hearing the real thoughts and feelings in the words.
In your relationship do you care how your words are received? How are you receiving the words of your partner?