Lately I have been reading the book How to be an Adult in Relationships, by David Richo. Some parts of the book I really like and find both useful and inspiring. And parts of it I hate. The book talks too much about mindfulness and “needs” as something that sounds kind of non-negotiable stuff I or you really need instead of wanting those things and surviving alright if we don’t get them.
Ok, this is my rambling and my disclosure. In case you read that book: don’t blame me (too much) if you don’t like his style!
However I want to tell you what (useful things) I have learned from this book.
And as you might know by now I like lists. So here’s another list!
Appreciation vs Blaming
The first thing I remember him writing is quoting a study that couples who stay together have more or less this balance: 5 appreciations against one blaming statement. I like that a lot!
So blaming, getting angry, sad, upset etc is ok. And you make yourself and the other happy by actively saying appreciations out loud. Not in a fake, made up way but when it naturally arises. And even if they are small like “I appreciate you for smiling right now” or “I appreciate you for washing up my plate after dinner” or “I appreciate you for handing over part of the newspaper”.
And we can also actively practice noticing and voicing appreciations. A few times a week, I tend to take a moment when I share with Pete what I appreciate him for. I tend to say something like “I want to share five things I appreciate you for” and then see what comes up for me.
And at times I ask if he is willing to share three or five things he appreciates me for in that moment. Almost every time he says yes.
Taking Feedback as a Learning Opportunity
The second thing is having a commitment to myself to find something useful or worth looking at in every criticism and feedback.
This is tough for me! I tend to get defensive!
I’m curious: do you tend to get defensive too?
Getting defensive is human and it is alright. I get defensive and I’ll get over it and then look at what they actually said.
When I get a “critical” message, I tend to get triggered and make it big, then I calm down a bit and read it again and many times notice how I ignored the positive or neutral parts and I even remembered that the language was more harsh than it really was. This shows me again that our memory is not to be fully trusted and our head is not always our friend; the thinking mind tends to go to the worst places!
The Importance of Mirroring
The third point is how we all desire to be witnessed. David Richo talks about mirroring, that’s quite similar to what I tend to call “being heard and seen”. We all have a deep desire to be seen and heard for who we are and being witnessed by others.
We need far less advice, helping and fixing and more presence and witnessing.
This is a topic I’m passionate about! I love spaces where we share and witness each other, in workshops, in my romantic relationships and in my friendships too. My whole body relaxes when I know I have a certain time just to relax into sharing without comments from others. I think in this way I am healing the parts in me from childhood which I didn’t feel seen or heard.
Getting out of the trap of telling yourself “they did their best” about abuse or neglect.
The fourth important topic is our approach to abuse and neglect in our lives.
Abuse and neglect is abuse and neglect even if it was done to you out of ignorance, addiction, mental health issues or the person’s own trauma.
I was very moved by this sentence in the book “Exploitative love from our parents leads to the belief we are defective – not that they are inappropriate for abusing us. ‘They did it for my own good’ is collaboration in the abuse”.
So when you put yourself down for what happened to you by your parents (or by abusive people later) you collaborate in the abuse.
Rucho goes into saying that “such conformity and surrender to unfair authority” leads to self-hatred which is expressed violently either overtly or covertly. Abuse takes away our power and we can gain our power back in mirroring (being witnessed).
This touched me so much that I read it a few times and read it outloud to Pete. We were in a park on a green bench reading our books in sunshine and I just got stuck with this sentence and how many times we turn the wrongdoing against ourselves and feel shame and guilt even when “the guilty ones were others”.
Now, my thinking process is to look more into shame (which I found at times a tricky topic to work with). And at how many times shame is actually anger turned onto ourselves rather than expressed to the people we are angry at.
What do you think about what I wrote?
Do you recognize yourself in any of this?
Like many of the non-fiction books I read, this one came from Pete. He bought the book recently after reading How To Be an Adult by the same author and sharing with me telling how much he enjoyed that. And Pete being Pete he went and also got other books by the author.
Maybe one of my upcoming writings will be about How to be an Adult or How We Can Stop Reacting and Start Healing Triggers.
What do you want to read about next?
Tuulia (& Pete)
PS: I do want to mention to you that a great place to be seen and heard is our workshops – in person and online!