I heard about a psychologist who was assigned to work with a young man with a long history of drug addiction. Jack showed up in Dr. Estelle Parsons' office with a thick dossier of troubles and dire diagnoses. As Dr. Parsons began to interview Jack, he launched into many stories and justifications for his addictive behavior. But she did not go there with him. "Tell me about what you did this week that was not addictive," she summoned him.
At first, Jack could not think of much of his week unrelated to his addiction. Then gradually, over months of therapy, Dr. Parsons was able to elicit more and more information about the healthy Jack. At some point the focus of the sessions shifted from Jack's ineptitude to aspects of his life that he had mastered. Jack began to identify with his strength and take pride in it. Eventually he dropped his addiction entirely. Dr. Parsons was the first therapist who was able to accomplish this extraordinary transformation with this patient.
Adopting a Radical Attitude
We might apply this powerful technique to our relationships. Many of us have become so steeped in what is wrong with ourselves in relationship that dysfunction becomes our accepted norm. We are so expert in why we can't commit; or keep attracting abusive partners; or how our parents' poor role model squashed our self-esteem; or why we can't forgive ourselves or our partner; or; or; or . . . that we talk ourselves out of the possibility of real love. As Dr. Phil might ask, "And just how has that been working for you?"
If your relationship is not working, I invite you to adopt a radical attitude, perhaps one you have not tried: You were born to enjoy a rewarding relationship and you can have one now. And your role in creating it? Quit complaining about what you don't want and start celebrating what you do want -- and may already have. The secret of relationship is the same as living in California: Don't dwell on the faults.
There is a new field of corporate consulting that is catching on in a powerful way. It is called Appreciative Inquiry. In this modality, consultants do not ask their clients what is not working and then try to find ways to fix it; instead, they invite their clients to talk about what is working and why. Appreciative Inquiry practitioners have found that once people get back on touch with the original vision they set out to achieve in their business and find evidence for its reality, they are able to solve problems from an entirely more empowering perspective.
Stepping Into Higher Ground
Albert Einstein noted that you can never solve a problem from the same level the problem exits; you must step higher so you can see the whole picture more clearly. A Course in Miracles puts it this way: "You cannot be your own guide to miracles, for it is you who made them necessary in the first place."
Before you attempt to handle a personal or relationship challenge, step onto higher ground. Get in touch with yourself, your spirit, your higher power. Before you try to correct, connect. Remember who you are in your strength, not your fear or separateness. Recall what you love and appreciate about your partner, and why you are with them. Claim full responsibility for igniting yourself, and let them off the hook as the source of your joy or sorrow. Bring a whole person to your partner, and that is who you will call forth in them.
I did a radio interview with Dr. George Love, a holistic health practitioner. During the interview, I asked the doctor, "Is Love your real name?"
"Yes, it has been my family name for generations," he answered. "In fact, when I was a child, other kids would ask me that. When I told them it was my real name, they would beat me up. Do you have any idea why that happened?"
I thought for a moment and then answered, "I guess a lot of people are just afraid of love." In a way I was joking, but I was actually being serious. A lot of people are afraid of love -- so much so, that when we come close to it, we find ways to run away from it.
I find it insane that we would turn our back on the thing we crave the most -- and the thing we are the most. We are like the people Plato described, who live in dark cave for so long that when they finally see some light their eyes hurt and they run back into the darkness.
Darkness Is Not Our Destiny
But the darkness is not our destiny. No matter how thick your dossier of what has gone wrong, you can start a new dossier now. All it takes is one person who is willing to see your higher possibilities. And if no one out there is doing that, let that one person be you.
Quit identifying with your difficulties, finding justifications for them, and arguing them. Become a force for your own potential.
Shift your attention to what is going right and how great it could be. Take the affirmation, "I am always doing better than I think I am," for you are. Look your beloved in the eye and find the person you fell in love with. They are in there, and so are you. Fall in love with yourself and your life.
*Subtitles by InnerSelf
Book by this Author:
Don't Get Lucky, Get Smart: Why Your Love Life Sucks--and What You Can Do About It
by Alan Cohen.
Don't Get Lucky — Get Smart spells out why many of us have been unlucky in love — and also offers practical ways to increase our relationship intelligence. From a self-help guru who admittedly owned a lot of unreal estate in dating hell for years, Don't Get Lucky distils the common reasons we all have bad — or just not great — relationships, showing us how to recognize our own patterns, and ultimately how to change for the better.
About The Author
Alan Cohen is the bestselling author of A Course in Miracles Made Easy and of the newly-released Spirit Means Business. Join Alan and musician Karen Drucker in Hawaii, December 1-6, for an extraordinary retreat, “A Course in Miracles: the Easy Path.” For more information about this program, Alan’s Holistic Life Coach Training beginning January 1, his books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com