The grand, beautiful paradox of this special, sacred time of year is that it pulls for the best in us — while giving us opportunities to be at our worst. The result can be something beautiful: Unconditional love.
In the near future, you will likely have magical, meaningful moments with cherished friends and family. If you’re like most people, some of these experiences will also be disappointing, annoying, frustrating, or even hurtful. All of these are cross-roads moments where you can choose judgment or empathy; contempt or compassion; anger or acceptance; grudge-holding or forgiveness.
It’s easy to love when your ego is stroked, when you feel gratified, and when you’re awash in pleasurable “loving” feelings. But the heart of every great religion teaches us that our purpose here is something else: To love when it’s hard.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about the transformational power of love, and some simple strategies you can use to cultivate unconditional love, tolerance and acceptance in your life — both through the holiday season, and in the new year ahead.
Have you ever seen the movie “What Women Want” starring Helen Hunt and Mel Gibson? There is a moment at the end of the movie (after a rollercoaster-ride romance) where Mel Gibson’s character says that he needs to be rescued, and that he needs Helen Hunt’s character to help him do it.
I felt a sense of uneasiness when I first watched that scene because of the depth of vulnerability that Mel Gibson’s character expresses. Since then, as I’ve grown as a person, a therapist, a couple’s counselor, and a life coach, I’ve come to feel respect and admiration for his vulnerability… and how much strength it takes to go there.
What is vulnerability? Vulnerability means opening yourself up to another person, which means risking being hurt by them. Vulnerability is difficult and often does not come naturally, however it is an essential part of healthy relationships.
Why Being Vulnerable Feels So Hard
I’ve noticed that oftentimes there is a fear of vulnerability within relationships that is coupled with shame. Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”Has shame ever kept you from expressing your deeper thoughts and emotions to someone you care about?
Although it is difficult, allowing yourself to push past you shame and open yourself up to another being often results in a more fulfilling relationship.
Three Reasons Why Vulnerability is Essential:
Vulnerability Fosters Connection: We are made for connection with each other. If we weren’t, we would never experience loneliness. Vulnerability allows our relationships to be more fulfilling because it allows for more depth. Even though it feels uncomfortable at first, a relationship that is safe allows room for vulnerability that deepens our connection to each other.
Vulnerability Leads to Opportunity: When we are vulnerable, we get to share our lives with another person as well as give them the opportunity to share their life with us. Vulnerability is risky, however, it is often a risk worth taking as it allows us to experience community with others in a way that goes far beyond the surface level.
Vulnerability Brings Healing: Lastly, vulnerability is often associated with healing. When we are able to let someone else into our dark and hidden places, and have them let us into theirs — and feel loved in spite of our flaws — something wonderful happens. All of a sudden, those dark and hidden places don’t seem so bad, and our shame can be replaced with joy. We are able to experience a sense of freedom and deeper intimacy with someone we care deeply about, all because we took a risk and allowed ourselves to be vulnerable.
I hope these ideas help you cultivate the power of vulnerability into your life, and your relationships.
We all want to have good relationships — our connections with others are central to authentic happiness.
But the dark side of having a vibrant life with lots of people in it is that sometimes we feel imposed upon, hassled, crowded and disappointed by the people we’re trying to have relationships with. And thats where boundaries come in.
As important as it is to be generous, and empathic, and loving towards others, if we aren’t mindful of our own boundaries and healthy limits we can give too much. The truth is that not everyone is a safe person for us to be emotionally close to, and to sacrifice for. But how to you figure out where to draw that line?
Setting and maintaining boundaries is a complex process, with many aspects to it. On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’m teaching you the first step in creating and maintaining healthy boundaries: Getting to know who you’re dealing with. Only then can you figure out what boundaries are appropriate.
This is a technique I teach my private clients all the time. It will help you figure out what stage of relationship you are in, when you should keep your guard up, and when to feel okay about relaxing your boundaries.
Listen Now, and Learn How to Set Healthy Boundaries
Music Credits: “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
1) It takes time to get to know people. Trust is earned.
2) Use the “house” metaphor to figure out where you are in a relationship, and what level of access people should have in your life.
3) If you get information that leads you to believe that this person is not safe or trustworthy, put them back at the right “level” of your “relational house.”
4) The biggest mistake you can make is jumping into the pool. Go slow, and let people teach you who they are.
On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m teaching you some easy tricks to stop an argument in it’s tracks… and turn it into a “bonding moment” instead. It sounds too good to be true, but the technique is really very simple. You can take difficult moments and turn them into experiences that deepen the connection between you, and strengthen your marriage.
The first step is learning about the mechanics of an argument. Once you understand why conflict happens in the first place, the path to transforming it into an opportunity for connection will start to seem simple– promise!