The Most Important Thing You Never Knew About Relationship

Most people, most of the time, treat conversation as a form of information exchange. You tell me what you're having for dinner tonight, I tell you what I did at work today, you tell me where you went on your vacation, etc. The assumption is: the value of connection comes from the content we exchange.

Similarly, when communication doesn't work or a relationship falls flat, we often blame the content. "They don't care about things that interest me." "We never talk about deep stuff."

While there is some value in shared interests, much research has pointed to the far greater value of non-verbal cues in the overall experience of communication. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian famously discovered that in communications of our attitudes and opinions, only 7% of the meaning comes from the words themselves. The rest is embedded in our facial expressions and body language. More recent research has pointed out that when we are most deeply connected, we feel each other’s feelings in our own bodies—this is true empathy.

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6 Tips for Mindful Self-Care Over The Holidays

The holidays are fast approaching, and many of us are heading home to spend time with family. For some, this means confronting challenging political views and challenging interpersonal dynamics. As far as mindfulness is concerned, these are the moments where the rubber meets the road!

If you’re anxious about holiday family time, here are six tips to keep your mindfulness and compassion alive:

  1. Schedule time to connect with friends. Though you may be across the country from your social circle or romantic partner, a few well-placed phone calls can provide a much needed dose of connection and co-regulation. Let it be a good 20 minutes, and be present for it—find a quiet place, lie down, and soak in the connection. No need to complain about Uncle Bob’s misogynistic comments—you can talk about anything! A large part of the psychological benefit that comes from connection comes regardless of the content being exchanged.
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Nature vs. Nurture

On Nature vs. Nurture, the author makes a great point. Not only is the case for nurture growing stronger, the BELIEF that ability is not fixed is a strong predictor of improvement over time. In other words, when we FOCUS ON the nurture side of things and decide that we can better our circumstances, cognitive abilities, performance, etc., we can.

As a society, this points our attention toward the aspects of our inheritance that we can actually affect. It points us toward the way we take care of our children, how we love and root for those in our lives, and how we hold ourselves. It points toward the disempowerment that can come from labeling and pathologizing.

Of course, in the nature vs. nurture argument, there are two sides. The question here is, which side can we do something about?

Memory & Forgiveness

I was doing forgiveness practice this morning, and an old, important memory from childhood arose.  It was an uncomfortable exchange in which I felt scared and sad—one of tens of thousands of early experiences (good and bad) which mix together to form the overall sense of self and world that underlies an adult personality.

We often fondly remember the good moments of our early years, but we file away the painful ones like unwanted boxes in the attic. It seems as though we can rid ourselves of these experiences, but as long as we hold resentment and blame about what has happened, we are influenced by those holdings. They consistently, subtly affect our views and our behavior (check out this article for more info).

So let’s take the blame out of what happened, however insignificant: Is it your fault that you adapted to the imperfect conditions of your childhood in the way you needed to at 1, 2, 3 years old? Is it your parents fault that they operated with the conditioning they were given—even with the best of intentions, falling back to sometimes misguided habits in the overwhelm of child-rearing?  Is it your grandparents fault for giving that conditioning to your parents?  Is it your great grandparents fault?

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Rumination – Part 1

Keeling-fire-engine-illustrationThis is the first of two parts in a series about rumination (also known as self-generated emotion). This topic has been very relevant to the people I work with and somewhat difficult to understand. Hopefully in the next few weeks, it will start to make sense through these posts…

According to a paper published in 2004, Rumination is "repetitive thoughts…directed primarily toward processing the content of self-referent information [i.e. emotion] and not toward immediate goal-directed action." In other words, rumination is repetitive thinking which, though it may seem to be moving you toward clarity or action, is primarily functioning to manage your emotional experience.

You may have noticed this yourself: certain types of stories that your mind habitually tells, which pull you out of the present and stir up a predictable emotional response (be it resentment, shame, sadness, anger, blame, fear, anxiety, moral outrage, or even positive emotions like happiness, love, security, trust, humor, etc). Depending on your childhood conditioning, you may find that your mind is doing this much of the day.

Why is this significant?
From a mindfulness perspective, we're trying to find ways to stay in the present moment, knowing that being present makes us happier. One issue with rumination is that it replays content from the past or fantasies about the future, taking you out of the present moment. But that alone is not necessarily a "bad" thing (more on that later)—the more significant issue is the negative emotions that this process often generates* and the reinforcement of unsupportive beliefs. This combo:

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