Updated: Sep 4, 2020
“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn't uncertainty. It's openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.”
― Tony Schwartz
Last year, I had the pleasure of assisting Maya Kollman and Barbara Bingham in a “Getting the Love You Want” weekend couples workshop. This is a 2½ day workshop where couples are led through a series of exercises that help them 1) communicate better together, 2) learn about patterns and dynamics in their relationship in such a way as to create lasting shifts in understanding one another, and 3) create a framework that helps them learn to grow together through conflict. It is based on Imago, a relationship theory developed by Harville Hendrix and Hellen LaKelly Hunt.
It was a joy to be able to learn from and with Maya and Barbara. They are both lifelong learners, students of Life, and it’s clear from their relationship that they practice what they teach.
Maya and Barbara share such a gift with the couples who come to their workshops, in that they create an environment where participants feel freed up to stretch and grow into new places within themselves and within their relationship.
Maya shared the following Native American quote during the workshop:
“If I think I know you, I’ve stopped you from being you in my presence.”
She used this quote to illustrate a point:
When we make a lot of assumptions about our partner and why they are responding the way they are, then we lose the ability to learn something about them and ourselves, to help them learn something about themselves, and to learn something about the nature of our interactions together.
As I thought about the quote Maya shared, the word “curious” kept coming to my mind. I played around with some words and landed on the following thought:
“When I remain curious about who you are, I help you to live fully as yourself in my presence.”
What a gift we give others when we help them to live as themselves.
Unfortunately, it seems the longer we are in a relationship, the more difficult it becomes to stay connected to curiosity within ourselves, and it’s especially difficult to stay curious when we are in conflict.
In my last post I wrote about “Appreciative Inquiry” (AI). In short, AI proposes an approach to change where we actively look for what is working in our relationship and how we can improve upon that. A guiding principle of AI is that “human systems move in the direction of their images of the future.”
This connects with a foundational principle of Interpersonal Neurobiology:
“Where our attention goes, energy flows.”
Perhaps you also have heard a version of the following:
What you focus on tends to become your reality.
What you focus on grows.
What you focus on expands.
What you focus on is what becomes powerful.
It is somewhat ironic, but, within ourselves and within our relationships, we often end up solidifying the very thing we are hoping to change. For example, we feel we are not heard and understood. We want to be. Yet, the way we go about trying to be more heard and understood ends up being through demands and arguing. Thus, we end up not being heard or understood.
In my next blog post, I will talk more about this dynamic. For now, I’d like to encourage you to lean into curiosity. Focus on connecting with the feeling of curiosity around something challenging as well as around something joyful in your relationship. See what difference this makes in how you feel and how the connection feels between you.
“The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
― T.H. White, The Once and Future King
You can learn more about Maya and Barbara and their workshops here.
You can learn more about Imago here.