Books

Should We Share Our Relationship Stories?

heart-door
Whether you are single in the city, dating, partnered, married, or divorced, you most likely are an expert storyteller about your relationship(s)or lack their of. With friends, some family members, and even choice colleagues, your relationship stories may be sprinkled with a mix of humor, sarcasm, and disbelief. While the laughter or shock factor keeps things light, this level of storytelling doesn’t reveal any fears about relationships, intimacy or you. Part of us holds onto the idea that “this (experience) will make a good story.” This notion protects one from feeling or thinking about why your relationship isn’t working or why you’ve been on endless OKCupid,match.com, Tinder, JDate.com, eHarmony, or speed dates without finding any lasting connections.

At some point during the ups and downs of being single, dating, or partnered, most of us will have had our fears about life, others, or ourselves exposed. Our inner dialogues, banter and stories about our relationships are most likely too painful to share.

Many people tell the story that all of the data points in their life reveal a singular – capitol “T” – TRUTH. The data points show that they are (the only one) not worthy of a being in or having a real relationship. Our inner stories are often not shared because we believe that everyone else around us has it figured out or is doing it better than we are.

When we want to reach out for real support, sometimes we are at a loss. What we are wanting is be met with empathy to be seen for our humanness. However sometimes, we are judged, blamed or shamed for our struggle or story.

Learning who has the right to hear our story is an invaluable skill. Below, I share a few tips of when to share or not share your story.

When Should I Share My Story?

Consider friends or family in your life. Out of this group, who takes you as you are, accepting or loving you for all of your strengths or struggles. Often, there may be 1-2 people in our lives, who fit this description. You trust them. These are the people, who are able to hear your story or your struggle and respond with empathy. When you do choose to reach out to them to check in about the inner story you are telling, you feel more connected because they meet you where you are. They may not know your specific relationship struggle, but they connect with you from a deeper place of knowing a painful struggle in their own life but they don’t make the conversation about themselves. The offer feedback when you request it. Their feedback is nonjudgmental. They are willing to sit with you in your struggle knowing they can’t take the pain away, but they share that they will there for you. Practicing reaching out to this type of person can be helpful to manage the pain and disappointment that comes with relationships. This takes both vulnerability and courage.

When Shouldn’t I Share My Story?

Think about the people in your life you have been sharing either the internal version or external version of your story. If after sharing either version of your story, you were met with unsolicited: feedback, solutions, advice, sympathy, sarcasm, judgement, blame, or shame, you may want to consider not sharing with them in the future. Those responses are disconnecting on many levels. We feel disconnected from the responder, from ourselves and even at times from our sense of worthiness. It often time unsolicited feedback and responses further fuels the data points that detail our inner story, tapping into our worst fears around feeling unlovable or that we will never belong. Learning to set clear and healthy boundaries is essential. This will support you in not sharing your story or struggle with people who judge, blame or shame you.

Between the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell others, navigating relationships can be challenging. I highly recommend the following books to support you on your relationship journey.

Beattie, M. (1987). Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.

Chödrön, P. (2000). When things fall apart: Heart advice for difficult times. Boston: Shambhala.

Johnson, S. M. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York: Little, Brown & Co.

If you are ready to create a new story around relationships or need help navigating them, call Amy at 202.540.076 or email her at amy@amytatsumi.com for a psychotherapy free 20 minute consultation today.

Top 10 Recommended Books

My clients often appreciate receiving resources and homework as a part therapeutic process.  They are ready to continue moving forward toward their goals.  I provide book recommendations as one avenue for clients to maintain their momentum and support with self care between sessions.

           Top 10 Recommended Books

Top-10-Books 1.  Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr. Brene Brown
Vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.  Brene has a gift for languaging people’s experiences, and men and women alike can connect to taking different paths in their families, organizations and communities.

2. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Dr. Kristen Neff
If you are able to extend kindness, generosity and compassion to others, but you often go to being self critical before thinking of showing yourself compassion, this book may be for you.  Dr. Neff  provides the research on benefits of building a practice of self-compassion to cope with life’s big and small challenges.  If you would like to learn more about Dr. Neff’s research, read more in this post.

3. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
Do you have a need to control people or relationships or put them before yourself or believe if they would just change, you would be happy?  Melody offers a variety of stories, exercises, and questions to help you navigate codependency.

4. Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change by Robin Norwood
Are you interested in emotionally unavailable men and do you find nice guys to be boring?   This book can help understand the roots of your patterns in relationships and is another lens to look at co-dependency.

5. The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate by Dr. Harriet Lerner
Anger can be a difficult and complex experience for many women.  For women struggling with anger, Dr. Lerner teaches you  how to identify the true sources of your anger and use anger as a powerful vehicle for creating lasting change.

6. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
If your marriage is dominated by criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal, consider committing to reading this book and using Dr. Gottman’s four-step program as a couple for breaking through negativity and allowing one’s natural communication and problem-solving abilities to flourish.

7. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Dr. Daniel Siegel
No matter if you are dealing with depression, anxiety, or trauma, Dr. Siegel shares his research around the non-spiritual practice of mindfulness based techniques as a means of managing symptoms, stressors and challenges to lead a more healthy and fulfilling life.

8.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. If you are an introvert or in a relationship or work with an introvert, this is a must read.

9. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
Traditional Buddhist wisdom is offered with radical modern clarity and accessibility.  Most people try to avoid pain and discomfort, which only leads to more pain and discomfort.  Pema offers advice that goes against the grain of our usual habits and expectations that helps one to navigate painful and uncomfortable situations and experiences.

10. A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life by Jack Kornfield
Another Western Buddhist master, Kornfield shares everyday wisdom for developing a spiritual practice of awakening.  He offers great insights around metta mediation or the practice of loving kindness, which can provide much healing.

Seeking More Motivation, Stronger Relationships, and a Healthier Lifestyle, Begin a Self Compassion Practice

The idea that a practice of self compassion will offer more motivation, stronger relationships and a healthier lifestyle is in direct conflict to our strong cultural norm.  Within American culture, we are taught that self criticism leads to stronger self motivation and less laziness.  The research indicates that a practice of self compassion improves various aspects of lives, whereas self -criticism actually has the opposite effect. The self compassionate practice is linked to increased motivation, stronger relationships and taking greater responsibility for a healthier lifestyle.

Dr. Kristin Neff is an expert and pioneer researcher on self-compassion.  She has published numerous journal articles, a book, “Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind,”  and has presented: The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen.

self-compassion

Dr. Neff’s research outlines that our self-esteem driven culture in which feeling special and above average is the expected norm and feeling average or less than usually feels devastating.  There are many costs to a self-esteem focused society: the highest rates of narcissism in history and a bullying epidemic to name just two.  Focusing on advancing our own self esteem, feeling stronger and better than the other depends upon success.  Failure is not an option, especially when the self critic is at the helm. We are often our own worst enemies.  Many people rarely treat themselves as they would their closest friends or partners.

In contrast to a self critical focus, a practice of self compassion is one where we relate to our whole selves for our strengths and challenges.  It is a practice of treating yourself with the kindness, understanding, gentleness, encouragement that you would extend to your closest and dearest friends.  The practice of self-compassion connects us to ourselves and to others in our own humanness.

The practice of self-compassion is also at its core, a practice in mindfulness.  Being with what is in the present moment is central to a self-compassionate practice.  In essence,  we accept that we are suffering to give ourselves compassion.  If we go into self-criticizing mode, we get lost in the role of the critic, and don’t realize that we are suffering.  When in self compassion, we acknowledge the moment and experience of suffering, which leads to the resolution of the suffering.

The research shows that when we self criticize,  adrenaline and cortisol are released, which activates the fight flight response.   The threat to self is attacked, setting up a dynamic where we are the attacker and the attacked. In this constant state of stress, we are more prone to mind and body illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, adrenal failure, fatigue, and sleeplessness.

In contrast, when we are in a self compassionate state, we feel safe and comforted.  Dr. Neff’s research reveals this is an optimal state of success strongly related to having less depression,  experiencing greater motivation,  taking more responsibility for healthier lifestyle choices, and enjoying better interpersonal relationships.

There are so many ways to begin this practice.  A yoga of teacher of mine in graduate school used to end each class with this self-compassionate filled statement.  See how it resonates with you.

Walk gently and sweetly with yourself.
Take each moment to love who you are.

Let us know your thoughts about self-compassion and self-compassionate practices.

Warmly,
Amy