What do you bring to your relationships? What is your “stuff”?
The one thing I’ve learned – and continue to relearn, over and over again! – is that relationships show us to ourselves.
Maybe our own diverse experiences from our families of origin explain why we all understand love differently. What does love look like? How do you know if someone is showing you that you are special to them?
I like the way my friend and colleague, psychotherapist Victoria Donahue sums up 5 Love Languages in this video.
There is also a growing recognition that our unmet needs from early childhood get carried into our relationships.
We unconsciously seek to get these attachment needs met through our primary relationship. (I have been deepening into this understanding with my own advanced craniosacral study and pre- and peri-natal trainings.*)
And you are probably familiar with the idea that we are drawn to partner with people who mirror to us those parts of ourselves that are a work-in-progress. Thereby offering us opportunity to grow. But all this can be very vulnerable-making.
Growing and changing can be uncomfortable.
Consider: what is your response to feeling unseen? To having your needs unmet? To feeling unloved?
Do you get irritable, angry and lash out (hyperaroused)? Or do you withdraw, become cold and distant (hypoaroused)?
How exactly we armour in defence (“fight, flight or freeze”) is also a product of our early experiences. While the detail of how and why is individual, what is true is that we all do it.
And effective communication and connection is not possible in either of these states.
This is where mindfulness comes in.
Before we can engage with another person, no matter if it is a child, parent, partner or friend:
We need to slow down enough to know our selves. To understand what is underneath the behaviour. To identify what need is unmet in this moment.
So here’s a restorative yoga pose that you can do at home to support your relationship with yourself. All you need is a towel and a pillow to show your self some love.
Also great for creating space in the shoulders, upper back, ribcage and diaphragm.
No yoga studio or fancy equipment required!
2. You are going to lie down so that the towel comes under your armpits.
* Check that your shoulders are on the ground… there should be no space here!
* This should not feel uncomfortable. If it does, simply unroll the towel slightly so that you have a thinner sausage.
3. Two options with your legs: Keep your feet wide and allow your knees to fall in, to support each other. Or, extend your legs and place a supportive pillow or two under your knees.
* You should not be feeling any strain at all in your lower back!
4. If it feels good to close your eyes, do it. If it doesn’t, keep them open and look at the ceiling.
5. Notice the movement of your breath in your belly, ribs and heart. Allow each exhalation to invite a softening and settling of your mind-body.
6. Enjoy for 5-7 minutes. Whatever feels good. If you start to get uncomfortable, get off and try unrolling the towel a little so that it is flatter.
7. After you are finished, roll off the towel and bring your knees in to your chest for a moment. Offer your forehead to your knees.
Let me know how you go with this, and if you have any questions please share in the comments below!
*Dr Sue Johnson really gets to the heart of this in her work with couples that builds on attachment theory – check out her book Love Sense.