MUSINGS ON THE SUBJECT OF RELATIONSHIPS
“What others say to us need have no lasting impact on the flow of our lives. However, what we say to others may alter the course of their lives forever.” I am not sure of the author of this quote, but it is profoundly true. As adults we have choice over how other’s words affect us, and as adults, we have a powerful ability to use our words to adversely or positively impact another’s life.
The season of summer brings us around to the focus on our relationships. In relationship, we sit in the energetic connection with all living things. In the Lakota way one says “Aho Mitakuye Oyasin”, “All My Relations”. In this greeting, spoken with humility and respect, there is a deep awareness of the connection between the self and all of life, regardless of its’ form-whether human, bird, plant, animal, mineral or elemental. In the Circle of Self Process, we can choose to work with the Aspect of the Relationship Self, focusing on our relationship with other human beings (both living and deceased), as our relationship with other humans is the most direct mirror of our relationship with our self.
Making relationship lists (Relationship Mapping): Make a list of those with whom you have a broken relationship. Make a second list of those with whom you struggle in your relationship. Make a third list of those with whom you experience your relationship as being in balance.
Already you may begin to see there is a common thread running through each of these lists. Can you name the common thread for each of list?
Every broken relationship needs to be resolved in some way in order for the impact of that relationship to no longer interfere with our current and future relationships. Many times these broken relationships reflect a part of our self that we have been unwilling or unable to face preventing us from becoming mature, healthy human beings and reaching our full potential.
During the process of being in relationship with another everything needing to brought out from our own shadow will be revealed to us in some form. This helps us grow into our full self with minimum distortion. Growing into this state allows us to experience maximum joy in life as well as minimize unnecessary pain and suffering. That is not to say that we will not have pain or suffering in our lives, only that we not need to feel victimized in our pain and suffering, and that we may take on the suffering consciously and on behalf of some healing, transformation or growth for ourselves or others.
Working with your Relationship Map: After you create your lists, ask yourself these questions: “What if what I say about the other person is really true about me?” Or: “What if what I say this person has done to me is really something I have done to this person?” (Insert their name)
Instead of focusing on the answers to the questions directly, notice your body’s reaction to each question:
How do you respond physically? What happens in your gut area? What happens in your chest area? What happens in your throat? What happens in your groin? What happens in your hands? What happens in your shoulders? What happens in your back? What happens to your breath? Are there any other areas of the physical body that have a reaction or response to the question?
Then, notice your mind’s reaction to the questions. Do thoughts immediately pop into your head? Does your head spin? Try to defend? Create an argument? Change the subject? Just notice the reaction your mind has to hearing the question.
Now ask the questions again and this time, focus on the emotional response to the question. Go to the feelings that arise when you ask the question. Do you respond with fear? Do you respond with anger? Do you respond with shame? Do you respond with grief? Do you respond with resentment? What else?
Next, look at your spiritual self to see what the questions brings up for you. Any discomfort of an unfinished relationship helps you see where there is a disconnect between your perceived spirituality and the reality of your spiritual condition.
Finally, asking the question from the place of the soul can help you look at yourself and specific relationships from the perspective of a transformative journey for this lifetime. This step in healing and maturing relationships self requires courage and active reflection. You move beyond noticing your reactions to the relationships on your lists to seeing the repeated patterns of these relationships with others. To be able to do this in a way that is helpful requires setting aside any shame that you are carrying about the relationship with which you are working.
The effect of shame on relationships: A bit of information about shame may be helpful. Shame is a response pattern that develops through one person’s attempt to control the behavior of another through the use of their power over that person. Shame has the effect of disconnecting the shamed person from their true self. Not so much in their feelings, but more in the attributes and their potential. This is a common storyline for many of the clients who have come to work with me, and I have my own shaming experiences myself. Unfortunately, I am sure I have also inadvertently brought a shaming experience on my children. There were times as a parent I felt disempowered to stand for my children when they were shamed by another, and fortunately times when I felt able to stand for them and relieve them of carrying this crucifying burden. And then, through this exploration of our relationships, we come to see how we shame ourselves.
I am reminded of an experience I had in second grade. At that time I already loved writing. Sister Mary Josefina was a strict and crabby teacher. I believe her headdress was too tight because her temples puffed out over the edge of the stiff white pellon that held her long black veil in place. I can only imagine the headaches it must have caused! It was Thanksgiving time and our assignment was to write a thank you letter to our parents. Times were lean when I was in second grade. I do not ever remember doing without as a child, but I do remember my parents being careful spending the money they did have. A trip from our farm in the country into town for shopping was special event, especially if Dad went along. It meant going to my aunt and uncle’s children’s clothing store or maybe even Malone’s department store. Dad never skimped on clothes, and I always loved those trips with him for it meant I was going to get something wonderful. That year, I got a new winter ‘Sunday go to church coat’ (as Dad called it), dark red wool, double breasted with black braided frog closures and black velvet collar. It had a hat and leggings to match. They also bought me a brown plaid sateen dress with velvet piping, a full skirt lined with crinoline, perfect for twirling, and an oversized bow tied in the back. I was counting the days until I would get wear them and that was the first thing that popped into my mind when Sister Mary Josefina gave us our writing assignment. I would thank them for my beautiful clothes.
I was so proud of my letter. While my handwriting was never neat, I had tried to be so careful to write each letter in perfect palmer-style, not pressing too hard and no erasures. I held up my finished product to Sister. Her liver-spotted hand appeared from where she kept it hid, folded up under the cape of her habit, and gnarly fingers pulled the letter from my hand. I waited for praise, and perhaps that is why what happened next was so impactful on my young life, because instead—“What is this, do your parents give you dust cloths?” and to the class: “Carolyn is thankful her parent’s give her cleaning cloths.” I had spelled the word wrong and she had shamed me. There is no doubt, Sister’s sneering words have impacted my ability to fulfill my internal longing and drive to be a ‘real’ writer, fearful to have my writing be seen in public-let alone on the internet! Sister Josefina is long dead, but her voice lived on in me, and overtime attracted other voices which reinforced the shaming and kept my writing mind silent. It took time, the right kind of wise guidance and focused attention to clear out the shaming and resulting misbeliefs. The Relationship Mapping process described above was an essential tool I was guided to use to help resolve and heal my shame and fear around writing.
I invite you to work with relationship mapping over the course of the next three months. These summer moon cycles offer the energy and time to learn a lot about yourself from the stories you tell yourself about your relationships and by looking at the cyclical nature of your relationship patterns.
May you receive many blessings.
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, All my relations!