You probably decided to take better care of yourself but now you want your relationships to change, too. If yes, I tip my hat to you! What gets me up in the morning is knowing that we can have better relationships by stopping the cycle of multi-generational dysfunction through sincere analysis of our own patterns of behaviour, using mental discipline and the science of neural pathways.
To that end, I encourage you to take personal responsibility for your family line and to empower yourself to say "the buck stops here, with me! I take responsibility for my actions. I can and will stop multi-generational dysfunction dead in its tracks through awareness and through the choices I make."
Our family-culture is handed down across generations and influences our patterns, habits and ways of being. If you do nothing about any dysfunction carried with you from your family-culture, you have no choice but to play out that matrix in your life and foist it onto the next generation and on to your relationship-culture.
What is Relationship-Culture?
Your relationship-culture is your external expression of your family-culture in the form of patterns of behaviour. These patterns may or may not be dysfunctional.
Ask yourself: how do you react to your dates, relationships, partners or spouses? Are you in a constant state of insecurity, anger, resentment, jealousy, shame and guilt?
Whatever that repetition may be, please know that this is reflected in your neural pathways in your brain. You inherited most of what you do from your family-culture, and if it is in fact working for you, then by all means keep it.
But what if you are not happy with the repetitions you feel compelled to keep doing? How do you start to behave in new ways so that you no longer feel enslaved by what you have learned?
Awareness is the Key!
But awareness alone can do nothing. More needs to happen for change to occur, lest you perpetuate the cycle of dysfunction for generations to come. A little self-knowledge won't change much, you need to dig in and really get to know yourself.
Life will often gift us with an opportunity for deeper self-knowledge through experiences that will produce pain, suffering and despair. These can be great motivators for change if we are courageous enough to actually listen to what life is saying so that we can learn from the lessons at hand. These states of being can help us want to finally stop doing what is not working so that we wake up from our auto-pilot stupor!
However, I believe that change is possible even if life isn't booting you in the rear with hard emotions and events. But you need to know yourself well and, very crucially, you need to apply a specific process that involves the use of your brain to create that change. With this knowledge, it is within your power to take charge and create transformation in your life and in your relationships.
Our Brains are Elegantly Adaptable
It is important to know that your brain is an elegant machine that will support you in change if you know how to use it. The brain has thin neural pathways and thick ones; they could be compared to footpaths and highways.
Your long-held beliefs and behaviour patterns, those that are inherited from your family-culture dynamics, are associated with the thick, highway-like neural pathways, whereas newer beliefs and behaviour patterns are reflected in the narrow footpaths in your brain.
The former are harder to change because, having been there so long they are making you act without self-awareness according to your long-held beliefs and behaviour patterns. The newer, thinner neural pathways are much more vulnerable and need to be tended to more carefully if you want them to grow.
Awareness Plus Repetition
In order to change you need to create new neural pathways and reinforce them. You can thicken and reinforce these new neural pathways associated with new patterns and new behaviours through the act of awareness plus repetition.
Choose a behaviour you want to reinforce and do it over and over. The more we do the same thing, the more the neural pathway associated with that repetition strengthens. The longer that belief remains in place or action continues, the more that neural pathway becomes thicker and harder to change.
If you decide to behave differently in your dating experiences or in a relationship, it will feel uncomfortable and strange at first, but your brain will collaborate and support the new behaviour by creating new neural pathways.
If you consciously repeat the new behaviour often, these new neural pathways will be reinforced, thus allowing your biology to help you to stay the course with the new choices. The key is to identify the new healthy pattern you would like to implement and then repeat, repeat, repeat!
Tools to Help Change Happen
Repetitive meditation and visualization are fundamental techniques for creating new neural pathways and achieving change in your beliefs.
In a meditative state, you can visualize yourself living the life you want to live or being in the kind of relationship you wish to be in. When you do this, it is important to make your images as clear, colourful and specific as you can. Also I encourage folks to use positive affirmations, which are a way to use language awareness and word repetition to transform thoughts, attitudes and neural pathways.
Journaling is a great tool to facilitate an inner awareness of what may need to be changed. Breath work can be an excellent tool to slow down your nervous system so you can stop its auto-pilot responses (associated with the thick neural pathways) to people and events in your life.
Slowing down goes a long way toward facilitating better communication, clearer intentions and healthier reactions within your relationships. These tools, when used often, will create a new relationship-culture associated with the new you!
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"Do whatever you're doing more slowly. Slow down on purpose (not necessarily when you are at work). You can do this almost anytime - while driving, walking, reading, eating, or drinking. You might find at first slowing down drives you a bit crazy, especially if your habit is to rush through your tasks. "But when you find yourself in a hurry, ask yourself, What is all the rush about? You might find you're simply being mindless when you could be mindful. And you can enjoy this life of yours."
"When you get up, or when you arrive at work, set an intention for the day. Decide what you want to experience more of. Stick a post-it to your commuter to remind you what to pay attention to during the day. Maybe you want to see more kindness, efficiency, wisdom, inspiration, creativity, or awareness. "You always will find what you are looking for so pay attention to what that is and anchor your awareness again and again to what really matters to you."
"When faced with a choice, pay attention to how you feel, notice the sensations in your body. Express yourself and live with integrity. There's no need to manipulate yourself to please someone else. Ask yourself, "Is it a yes or a no, or a yum or a yuck?" "Move toward the yums and away from the yucks. When making a choice or taking action, relinquish your need for approval from others. You are the wise one. You usually do know best. Trust yourself."
"Get in the habit of asking yourself, How do I feel right now? Notice and give yourself some slow deep breaths. The body and breath anchor you to the present moment (unlike the mind which often dwells in the past or future). "Relax your body, whether sitting or standing. Feel your feet on the floor. Notice your weight and balance; relax your arms and hands. Straighten your spine. "Relax your shoulders. Relax your face, your eyes, your jaw, your forehead. Pay attention to your body and breath at least three times a day."
"Sit in silence and meditate for 20 minutes each day. (All at once or two periods of 10 minutes each.) Get your power back and "re-source" your energy. Simply sit down, close your eyes, and as you breathe through your nose gently focus on the natural sensations of your breath. "Don't try too hard. Don't worry about your thoughts. If you get distracted, refocus. Be kind to yourself. The stress will dissipate. "Don't wait for something magical to happen, instead, just do it. Come out slowly and you'll feel happier, more creative, and fulfilled."
"Your life is taking place one moment at a time. So it's ideal to have your attention on this moment right now. This is where your life is. This moment, like all present moments, is when you have access to your creativity, inspiration, possibilities, even your inner wisdom and your emotions. "When you notice you are focused on or worrying about the future more often than you are paying attention to the present moment, bring your attention back to the present moment by paying attention to your body or your breath."
"It's a practice that helps you to break out of your habitual responses and your 'automatic pilot.' Choose a cue, such as your phone ringing, or passing a particular road sign on your way to work, or drinking a glass of water at your desk. "Use the cue to be completely aware of what you are doing while you are doing it in a non-judgmental way. Bring your attention to the present moment, become aware of all your senses. "Mindfulness reduces stress, increases self-awareness, and makes you aware of the choices available in each moment."
"Don't be a know-it-all. Instead, be present with what is actually happening instead of your ideas about it. Maintain a childlike curiosity. For example, go for a walk (without talking on your cell phone) and resist the urge to label or categorise anything. "Notice the actual colors, textures, shapes, temperature, sounds, aromas, space, light, shadows, movement and stillness as each sweetly meets your senses. "Simply experience, rather than label, this world around you. With an open mind, wisdom, inspiration, and support are found everywhere."
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