The Four Traps of Communication

Communication is key to unlocking a growing, adaptable relationship with trust, closeness, and intimacy. When communication goes array, at least one of the four taboos of interaction has taken place. The relationship becomes stuck in a rut and trust and affection is broken. He runs away and avoids conflict and she latches on with more force and power. The relationship is headed into a cat and mouse chase, separation, withdrawal, affair(s), or therapy.

While seeing a therapist, the four communication pitfalls can be addressed and the relationship can become close and intimate again.

The four pitfalls in communication include:

  1. Criticism
  2. Demanding
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Angry outburst

What is criticism?

Criticism is unconsciously belittling another. It is assessing and disapproving of another. Without awareness, you feel superior and your spouse feels condemned.

Sure, criticism can be rationalized as helpful advice, constructive feedback, or behavior modification, yet any perception of ‘improving’ another is based on an agenda to change and a need to be right. Judging and blaming preface criticism which all lead to distance, distrust, and defensiveness. The relationship stalls and doesn’t improve.

Criticism involves looking at your partner as an extension of you. Rejecting and forbidding your partner to be a separate, autonomous person is pathological and unhealthy. With an agenda to change and a need to be right, your self-esteem rises and your partners’ confidence deflates. Most often criticism continues because giving up your position would feel like you have to give up a portion of yourself, which can feel all consuming, dominating, and threatening.

The solution is not to criticize. Instead, talk from a feeling perspective about your inner world, about the event and the behavior that triggers such disapproval.

What is demanding?

Demanding is acting domineering, controlling, and ridiculing. Similar to criticism, being demanding is not constructive and does not benefit the receiver.

Demanding results most often in your partner becoming passive-aggressive and punishing you for your demands. It’s a vicious cycle of retaliation with intense anger and pushing away.

The solution is to pause when a demanding thought enters your brain and count from one to ten. Give yourself time to think before speaking and assess what soft spot was hit that brought forth this demand. Talk to your partner when you are calm and clear in your understanding of your inner world.

What is defensiveness?

Defensiveness is a reaction to justify your behavior and serves to protect. Most often it functions to make yourself feel better and make your partner wrong. The defensive behavior usually results in blaming, criticizing, or counterattacking. Defensiveness is vented with anger and protects against pain, shame, guilt and fear.

Defensiveness may also result in withdrawal. Similar to anger, isolation is used to protect you from feeling pain, shame, guilt, and fear. Withdrawal produces distance and disconnection.

The solution is to share your feelings about your internal psyche that was stirred-up during the particular event. Express how it made you feel about yourself, the relationship, and what sensitive area from your past was ignited.

What is uncontrolled anger?

Uncontrolled anger is vented with raised voices, yells of derogatory names, and can lead to physical violence – throwing dishes, grabbing and shaking, pushing, and beating. If an interaction has reached the point of vented anger, it is time to stop, take a break and reconvene when you have calmed down and can talk with a normal tone all the while staying away from criticizing, demanding, and defensiveness.

It is important to stay away from the four taboos of communication to develop an evolving, growing relationship with trust, closeness, and intimacy. Following the rules of communication couples can learn to understand, empathize, and attune respectfully to each other’s triggers.

If your communication is falling into the trap of criticism, domination, defensiveness, and uncontrolled anger, give me a call (424) 258-5416 or email me at april@aprilwrighttherapy.com and let’s begin a course of action so that you may find each other again.

My Travels to Italy

Rome-Beauty

“If travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, in dimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” ~ Pico Iyer

I fly to Rome, Italy at the end of the month. It is my first trip to Italy and my first trip alone. I am feeling excited and nervous. I am thrilled to take a vacation finally. It has been over fifteen years since my last trip aboard.

My trip to Italy was fabulous. The memories, nostalgia, and excitement have stayed with me since last October. It’s coming up on a year, and I am hoping to travel again before the end of 2016. During my stay, I went to many of the tourist scenes including the Coliseum, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, and many other unexpected ventures along my long walks in the streets of Rome.

Florence was my second stop. I took the train from Rome to Florence and enjoyed the beautiful hills and valleys along the scenic ride. In Florence, I ate great food, drank fine wine, walked the cobblestone streets and gazed at the many artistic creations. I was inspired to begin painting again and dust off my creative talents.

The favorite part of my trip was a tourist bus route through various towns in Tuscany. I instantly fell in love with the green hills and slopes of lined grape vines. The towns are so peaceful, serene with exceptional beauty that I long for. Standing on the outskirts of town, I can see for miles the hilly terrain, beautiful cloud formations, and lush green of leafy deciduous trees and grassy landscapes. Colors of yellows, reds, pinks, and purples popped up in flowery blossoms trickled through the valleys of greens. Nature brings instant calmness and spirituality. I felt closer to God and my core being. I was quiet, content, and inspired by the landscape. I understand now why so many artists flourish in Florence.

My trip came to an end with a spectacular site of a rainbow just as I was about to leave for the train back to Rome before I departed the next day. There is no other natural site quite as spiritual as the sight of a rainbow. A rainbow symbolizes unification of heaven and earth, divinity, and connection. I interrupted the rainbow as a perfect ending to my solo Italian trip and a lasting spiritual connection and deeper understanding of my values for travel, art, and self-exploration.

When you see a rainbow, how do you interrupt the vibrant colors arched across the sky?

 

 

 

 

 

Objectification

This article from Mirror of Intimacy by Alexandra Katehakis & Tom Bliss wonderfully explains how objectification may be helpful and harmful not only with our lover but with strangers on the streets, service industries professionals and the like.  picture depicting objectification

“Being objectified gave me a certain sense of humility, and made me feel ignored and unnoticed. At the same time, it made me aware of how and when I do this to others. Sometimes I do it to my friends, when I call them for the express purpose of talking about myself. I almost always do it to customer service reps. And I often objectify barristas: you are just something that happens between me and my latte.”  ~ Melanie Curtin

An object is a thing, usually made of material that can be seen and touched. But an object can also be a person we direct feelings towards. Thus, the one we love can be our “love object” in the most literal sense of the word. But when we target a person as an item of our physical desire–a sexual object to be had–we’ve reduced him or her to a thing to be used for our gain. We all recognize this type of objectification as cold and calculating, serving our carnal needs without any regard for the other. But we often ignore that when we become habituated to this pattern of sexuality we have, ironically, made ourselves into objects, and will find ourselves being used sexually or otherwise, and discarded afterward. Over time, such sexual encounters bring despair to both parties.

In contrast, when love and attachment inspire objectification, being the love object can be exciting and fun. All too often people feel offended by being objectified in any way. But when we comfortably embody our sexuality, objectification by our lover feels like a compliment. To achieve that experience, we must leave any shame about our body or sexuality out of the bedroom. Confidence, self-knowledge, and an appreciation of our sexiness and beauty let us view, and give, our self as a love object in a healthy way.

Receiving adoration for our corporeal body requires a high level of self-love. Typically we associate using one’s body seductively as a power trip. But when we transform our energy into genuine, relationship-based power we experience our self differently, as an admirer–like our lover–of the body we were given at birth, the body that transports us through life, the body that is the altar of sexual pleasure and delight.

Questions to further assess your personal view on how you may or may not objectify others. 

  1. What does it feel like to be objectified?
  2. Where do you feel your emotions in your body?
  3. When have you noticed objectifying someone else?  What was that experience like for you?
  4. Describe in detail beliefs you have around objectification and where their origin.  How have those beliefs helped or hindered your relationships?

The questions below address possible issues with your body and your lover’s body.

  1. In what healthy ways do you objectify your lover?
  2. When you look at your lover’s body, what do you see? What do you tell him or her about the effects his or her body has on you?
    In what healthy ways do you objectify yourself?
  3. How do you adorn and prepare yourself for sex?
  4. How much effort do you put into cultivating your consciousness and your appearance for yourself, and how much do you do it for your partner?

FORGIVENESS

april wright therapy forgiveness

“The act of forgiveness is the act of returning to present time.”  ~ Caroline Myss

Like almost everything else, forgiveness begins at home. Self-forgiveness is a form of self-compassion, and without it, we flog ourselves for every little wrongdoing. In addition, we come to treat others the way we treat ourselves. Listen to your judgments of others, and remind yourself that you’re actually projecting your judgments of yourself onto them, probably unconsciously operating the way you were programmed in your family of origin. Everyone makes mistakes all day long. Own yours! Apologize when you can, then start over with a greater understanding of what you did wrong. When you begin to forgive yourself for your imperfections, you begin to change positively from the inside out. And when that happens, forgiveness naturally flows outward to others.

But forgiveness for ourselves–or from another–is not a natural process. It’s not something either “should” do; it happens when we are ready. Like in any dynamic development, glimmers of forgiveness may emerge unexpectedly, then, just as suddenly, recede. Stay open but keep moving forward. If you’ve hurt another, move forward with forgiveness.  If it’s not received well, don’t compound it with impatience. Let the other come towards you when she or he is ready. Meanwhile, give yourself permission to forgive your past mistakes. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t happen all at once–it comes in stages and may never feel complete.

Forgive only when your heart tells you it’s the right time. Forgiving prematurely can hurt you further because forgiving too soon denies the truth. You are on your own timetable. Take your time and stay present. Just remember that waiting too long, holding onto anger, can be toxic to your body, mind, and spirituality.  Holding tightly creates resentment that keeps you sick and stuck. Suffering doesn’t make you a better person. In fact, it demonstrates self destructive behavior.  Treat yourself with kindness and it will prelude to others. Obsessing over the past won’t heal your heartbreak, but forgiveness of yourself and others can restore you both.

Taken from Mirror of Intimacy:  Daily Reflections on Emotional and Erotic Intelligence

Aging with Grace

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” ~ Robert Frost

From the Mirror of Intimacy

Portrait of a beautiful senior womanAs time marches on, the accumulation of our experiences etch themselves on our bodies, minds, and souls. The physical body slowly but surely begins to lose its shape and form, while the wisdom of the soul expands and outshines what once was. How many times have you met an elder, perhaps in another culture, whose eyes radiated grandeur, beauty, and a life well lived that rocked you to your core? The weight of responsibility in life can sometimes feel crushing but, to judge from such elders, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” The process of enduring, learning, and growing ultimately leads to a lightness of being. Often those same elders have a mischievous gleam in their eyes, an almost childlike quality that reflects back to us the look of freedom and peace.

But aging with grace and dignity is no easy feat as our consumer culture consistently bombards us with messages glorifying eternal youth. Youth, however, is a state of mind and heart, grounded in happiness and gratitude and born out of a willingness to embrace our age and celebrate the privilege of growing older. Notice how much more experience you have today than yesterday, and how your changing face and body reflect your wisdom. Embrace all of who you are and let the lightness of yourbeing radiate forth to all those you meet.

Bring Awareness to the Body and Settle the Mind

Take an inventory of your entire body starting with your feet and going up to the top of your head. Notice the changes in the shapes, forms, and texture of your skin and hair.
Make peace with nature’s way, and remind yourself of the wonder and awe of being alive on this day.