Are You Responsible For Your Relationships Problems?

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Do you feel like you’re always doing all the giving in your relationship and rarely getting anything in return?  Do you ever feel that know matter what you do it will never be good enough.  Are often irritated by people who don’t have much common sense?  Maybe you are living on the Drama Triangle!

One of my favorite tools I use on a daily basis to monitor my interactions with others is called “The Drama Triangle,” by Stephen Karpman.  While it is nearly impossible to give full credence to this wonderful perspective in a short blog, I will do my best to give a concise overview.

All unhealthy relationships take place on the Drama Triangle.  It describes specific ways one relates to others.  There are three positions on this triangle:  persecutor, rescuer and victim.  While only one position is called victim all positions are actually victim positions of sort.  We each have a primary position that tends to dominate our interactions.  The “starting gate position,” as named by Karpman is the one we learn from our history and shows up in most commonly in our relationships.

Imagine an upside down triangle.  On the upper part of each side of the triangle are the positions of persecutor and rescuer.  On the bottom is victim.  The persecutor and rescuer are on top because they are both one up positions.  Both of these positions require a victim to sustain their position on the triangle.  The victim is in a one down position.

The rescuer is the classic codependent.  This person is the savior, mediator, helper, fixer, etc.  The rescuer has to have someone who needs them to sustain their position.  Helping others is how this person defines who they are.  Rescuers often grew up not getting their emotional vulnerabilities met or validated.  Therefore they hide these emotional vulnerabilities by appearing needless.  They secretly keep hoping that if they keep giving and giving, one day someone will be there for them.  Their greatest fear is that no one will be there.

The persecutor sustains their one up position through domination.  They have to have someone to blame.  Hence a victim is necessary for the persecutor to project their unclaimed weaknesses on.  Persecutors do this in various ways; lecturing, teaching, blaming, yelling ect.  Persecutors believe they are always right.  Their greatest fear is being out of control.  Persecutors were often raised in abusive shaming households and sometimes take on the qualities of their abuser.  This position is often the hardest for one to take ownership of because the persecutor sees them self as a victim who is just trying to protect them self.

The victim position is one in which the person has given up or not claimed their God given ability to make decisions and trust their own competencies.   Instead they look to others to guide and lead them.  Often victims were raised by a strong rescuer.  Victims eat a daily venue of shame and believe they are intrinsically defective or bad.  The language of the victim often includes a lot of “yes, but…”

As you read this brief introduction to the three positions on the Karpman Drama Triangle which one do you relate too most?  Is it easy to pick your primary position?  The ultimate goal is to identify your pattern and learn to grow and change so you don’t fall into these dysfunctional ways of relating to others.

Are You A Giver Or A Taker?

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While it is true that giving to others often brings more to the giver than the receiver and that giving is a lovely virtue; it is also just as gracious to be able to receive what others may want to offer to you! This could mean receiving a tangible gift and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience without any qualifications such as “you shouldn’t have.” However, many of the gifts others want to offer are gifts of encouragement, loving affirmations and help. Just as you feel blessed when you offer these to others it is equally true that the one offering you this gift will also feel blessed when you allow yourself to receive from them.   Remember this when you are hesitant to receive from someone: that you will be depriving them of a blessing!!!

Maybe you are reluctant to reach out to others you do sincerely care about. Maybe you don’t know what to say or what to do. For many this is very uncomfortable. My suggestion is that you don’t over think it. Most people will be grateful you even remembered them. If this person is someone close to you then pay attention to what is important to them. What do they talk about often? What activities are they involved in? For example, all my close friends know I collect cherubs. Try to be observant and you will see.

If you are struggling to reach out to someone who needs support I encourage you to allow yourself to be uncomfortable and offer that encouragement within a scope that you can tolerate. Maybe it will be sending a text or an email. Maybe you will mail a card. You might be more comfortable with “doing” such as cooking or cleaning for them. The important thing is to reach out and let that person know you are thinking of them.

Being able to both give and receive is important all year long, not just during the holidays. Each of us has a need for both!

Judge Thy Neighbor

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This judgmental, hurtful, rude way of responding is sure to win you the “Worst Listener of the Year” award.  The last thing someone needs to hear when they are opening up to you is your judgment of them.  Telling someone that what they feel doesn’t make sense or is stupid is an example of being judgmental.  Other examples are telling someone they shouldn’t feel what they feel or think; or one of the most shattering is “You don’t feel like that.”  This is a harsh response to the person sharing.  Have you experienced this from someone?  How did it make you feel?

If someone asks your opinion about what they are sharing it is fine then to give it.  However, that doesn’t require you to put them down or discount their feelings or thoughts.  If the person doesn’t ask for your opinion-don’t give it! When someone shares what they are feeling with you, try and remember that feelings are just feelings.  Feelings don’t always make sense.

It is also important to keep in mind that you don’t have to agree with the other person to be a good listener.  Good listening doesn’t require agreement.  It requires the sincere intent to understand the person from their point of view.  Perspective is everything. If he or she has a different perspective than you that doesn’t mean he or she is wrong. There is plenty of judgment in the world.  Please be careful not to perpetuate that trend.

A virtuous way to help you be less judgmental when you are listening to someone you don’t agree with or you don’t understand how they are feeling, is reflective listening.  As stated previously, this is when you confirm with the person that you have heard them correctly.  There is no judgment in this.  There is no opinion of yours shared.  It is simply hearing the other.

Things Not to Say to People Who Are Grieving – #2

2.      “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

A while back I did an all-day workshop on loss.  During one of the exercises people wrote on the board the stupid or hurtful things people have said to them.  This response elicited strong negative feelings from those in attendance.   While this may be your belief system and even the belief system that the griever adheres too, saying it to someone who is in the midst of suffering is not encouraged.  I think people often say this because they don’t know how else to comfort the person or they feel a need to make sense of the situation.  Please be considerate of the other person and keep that thought to yourself for the time being.  This is especially true when you don’t know the person’s belief system.

Even people with a very strong faith system question God when they are going through grief.  This is normal. The loss the griever is experiencing in the moment usually feels like much more than they can handle or ever imagined experiencing.  Statements like the above can make the person feel minimized, angry and they may want to distance themselves from you due to their mixed feelings towards God’s role in their loss.  This statement tells the person that God wants them to feel this pain or that God had a part in it.  The grieving person needs time to process their feelings towards God as they move through the stages of grief.

To the griever:  I have no idea why you are suffering the loss you are experiencing.  “Why?” is a normal question that is often asked.  No one has that answer.  The situation is overwhelming.  Feeling like it is too much to handle is normal and natural.  You are only human after all.  I hope you will seek out others who understand the difficult time you are having.  This is a time when you need the safe support of those who can help you through such a confusing and dark period.  Don’t try to handle these feelings all by yourself.  Please allow yourself to lean on safe and understanding people.

Are You A Good Communicator?

Knowing what you think, feel and want and then being able to communicate these in a clear fashion that is respectful to self and others is a fundamental way of taking responsibility for yourself and keeping off the Drama Triangle that I introduced to you in the last two blogs. With the many books, trainings and workshops available on healthy communication, it still seems to be difficult for many.

To communicate respectfully you do need to be aware of what you want to communicate. Often one responds reactively or what I call defensively. This is a harmful and dysfunctional way of communicating and usually injuries both parties. So first and foremost slow down and take a moment to be clear about what you are thinking, feeling or wanting. Get clear.

Secondly, send your message to the other person in a respectful manner. You can do this and still say what you need to say. It is important to override any fear or guilt you have in ensuring you speak your needs with a clear voice.

When sending your message it is most important to use I statements. It is your needs you are communicating after all! You statements sound blaming and tend to put the other on the defensive. Hear the difference between these two following statements. “You were late again last night. You are so inconsiderate.” Versus, “When you were late last night I felt very hurt and frustrated. It makes me think you don’t value me.” Which one would you be more receptive too?

Another point I want to make about how you send your message is to pay attention to your non-verbal communication. Your body language goes a long way in communicating to the other. Make sure you are displaying an open posture. Eye contact and facial expressions are also important. Your non-verbal messages need to be congruent with the spoken message.

The other very critical part of communication is how you receive a message or response sent to you. We call this listening. In my many years of working with clients I have found this to be the hardest aspect to do well. Most people have never been taught how to listen respectfully. When another is sharing we are usually thinking of our own reactions rather than trying to understand that person’s perspective.

When listening try to stay focused on what the other person is sharing with you. You don’t have to agree with them, but it is important to understand their viewpoint. You can ask clarifying questions, such as, “So, are saying that you would prefer I call before I come over?” You can show you are listening by responding with empathy, “That does sound frustrating.” And before you switch the conversation over to you it would be great if you could summarize what you think the main point is that she or he has shared, just to make sure you got it. Wow all that before you share your own view point! Good communication takes education and practice, but I believe it is worth it!

Jumping off The Drama Triangle!

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Knowing what you think, feel, need and want is an essential key to staying of the dysfunctional drama triangle. Today is the promised follow-up to last week’s blog which gave you a brief introduction to the Karpman Drama designed by Steven Karpman. Please review that blog prior to reading this.

My initial advice is that you become more familiar with the positions on the drama triangle so you will be more attuned to patterns in yourself, your relationships and others. Most importantly, be clear about your primary; or starting gate position. Know more about the specific ways that you can be hooked in to that position. This is especially challenging with on-going relationships where you may have been actively functioning in your primary position and are now making conscious attempts to discontinue that way of relating to the other.

For the rescuer one of the primary ways of being drawn into your role is guilt. Guilt is a good cue to you that you may be falling back into your helper-fixer role. Give yourself permission to feel guilt without having to act on it. The person or persons you have been rescuing are likely to make statements that will produce the guilt feelings. Learn to handle being uncomfortable. Remind yourself that it isn’t your responsibility to always be available when someone asks for something. You can say no.

Also important for all positions including the rescuer is to start identifying your needs, feelings and wants and begin to ask for you need to be met. Ask for help when you need it. Admit that you do sometimes need it. Allow yourself to form mutually vulnerable relationships. Learn that your needs, wants and desires are okay and not selfish.

Getting out of the persecutor role is often a great struggle for the person in this position. It involves a great amount of risk. You have learned to survive by using strong denial skills. You will need to stop blaming everyone and everything else. You will need to begin to face yourself and your vulnerable feelings. You will need to take responsibility for yourself and feel your uncomfortable feelings. Taking ownership of how you have hurt others is also difficult for many. Learning to build relationships that you can feel safe enough to take the risk of being human and being someone’s equal.

You are capable and worthy would be a new tune to hum for the victim. It is time to start taking responsibility for your life; your choices etc. You may need to seek professional advice, read come good self-esteem books or join an empowerment group of some kind. Building confidence in yourself and your decision making abilities is essential. This isn’t about being perfect. Life is a process of trying and then trying again.

Being conscious of the dynamics of the drama triangle is a wonderful tool to help create and maintain healthy relationships. As long as you continue with this dysfunctional way of relating you will never truly be happy. We each come alive to our self when we see and honor who we truly and what we rightfully need and deserve.

What Is A True Friend?

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Friendships are a priceless gift that life grants us. For those of you who are fortunate enough to have a handful of good friends, you are truly blessed. A good friend is meant to bolster you; to encourage you to be your best self. A true friend is not intimated by your grand nature. I true friend only wants and strives for your ultimate good. A genuine friend sees your short comings and encourages you through them instead of just pointing out what is defective in you. That friend knows your good intentions and lovingly helps you to grow into your best self. Your life is better for having this person in it.

With a good friend you work through difficult times together; not abandoning the other because times are tough. A true friend is one of your anchors in life that help to calm you when the water’s waves are tumultuous. This friend aids you in claiming yourself in this universe. If you have several friends like this thank them today. If your friendships don’t give you these gifts then maybe you need to consider them more of an acquaintance rather than someone to really bear your soul to. Being the active director of your life requires that you be able to judge which friendships encourage you and which are more of a burden.

I emplore you to be picky about the ones you call your close friends. Your friendships ‘mirror’ you! They are a reflection of who you are. What do your friendships say about you? Be discriminative with the ones you allow to be in your close circle as it is your responsibility to yourself to surround yourself with those that have your best interest at heart. Trust your intuition about your relationships; it is usually correct.

Moreover, what kind of friend are you? Do you display these qualities to the ones you call friend? Receiving this support merits giving this support. What a wonderful experience it would be to both give and receive this with another; true friends indeed!

What You Can Do To Care More!

I recently started another one of my 12-week Women’s Empowerment Groups. During the first group I spend a significant amount of time talking about how to create a safe environment for this new forming group. An acronym I have used for years to assist me in this process is C.A.R.E. This stands for: Consider Others, Attentive Listening, Receptive Attitude and Encouragement.

The first aspect of C.A.R.E is Consider Others. It can often be clear what one wants, needs, believes, etc. And sometimes you can forget the others perspective or feelings. It is about expanding your sensitivity beyond yourselves in a positive way. It is about being aware of those around you and how your presentation, conversation or behavior may affect them. It is not oversensitivity; it is more of a consciousness of the other. This is not compromising yourself, it is just an awareness that you choose to pay attention to.

The next aspect is Attentive Listening. This is more than just going through the motions of looking like you are listening while you are really vying for your turn to share your viewpoint. Attentive listening is when you do your best to try and understand what the other is sharing. Not putting your own twist on it or passing judgment, but simple trying to understand it from their perspective. It is a wonderful gift to be heard. Attentive listening keeps the focus on what that person is saying until their thought process is complete.

Next, is Receptive Attitude. This is similar to be open-minded in the sense that you are being open to the other even if the other is different than you. Instead of passing judgment on the difference, you are receptive; open to this difference. You don’t feel the urge to have to correct or change the other. Ideally, it would be great if you were able to even find this new perspective interesting. It is easy to be receptive to others that view things the same as you do. It is much more of a challenge to be receptive and respectful to someone who shares a different opinion or viewpoint.

Lastly, is Encouragement. Most of you know what the word encouragement means. I think it is one of the most beautiful words. If we could all practice giving more encouragement to those around us the world would be a much lovelier place. It seems to be so easy to focus on the negative; or on what needs to be different. What would it be like for you to be conscious on a daily basis of being more encouraging to those around you? Try it; it might just encourage you too!

Valentines Day Beyond The Traditional

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Valentines Day can be a joyful, celebratory time for many happy couples. Often it is a time to rejoice about the wonderful relationship you share with your partner. The media has made this a very pronounced day for most. However, this year my hope is that you will have a little different perspective on this day. Enjoy and have a special day or evening with your valentine if you have one. However, remember those who may not have a special someone in their life. Reach out to someone you care about and let them know they are special. Send a valentine card or note to your friends, family, children or anyone else that you appreciate. Reach out to that person who recently lost their loved one or is experiencing difficulty in their relationship.

With the “hype” that goes into this day it can have such a negative effect on those that do not share a loving relationship with a partner. I invite you to alter the meaning of valentine’s to extend to all the ones that touch your life on a daily basis. I encourage each of you to reach out beyond just the traditional notion of Valentines Day and spread the feeling of appreciation to those around you. What a gift it would be to touch someone’s heart on this media promoted day of love. It has been said, “The more you give, the more you get.” Give on!

The Gift of Friendships!

This time of year reminds me once again of another precious gift that is more valuable than any gift that money can buy; that is the gift of friendship. As I think of friendships I am thinking of all the layers of friendships that I believe we need. This ranges from surface relationships to our most intimate friendships.

I think of the importance of having healthy acquaintances. These may be people that you see occasionally. Acquaintances could be your neighbor, or someone you do sports with or some other activity. Or they could be a work place connection. These are people you enjoy when you are around them however; they are not in your inner circle.

I also think of those we call a ‘good friend’. As you consider your good friends, I imagine this narrows down the number of people that fit this criterion. There is such a blessing in having a number of good friends that you can call on to do things with; to support you through the good and rough times.

Lastly, there are the few intimate, close friends that hopefully we are each blessed to have. These friendships are priceless. These are the few people that have traveled through thick and thin with you. These few close friends are ones that you can tell the full truth to without fear of judgment. These are your forever friends.

I believe each of us needs all of the above type of relationships. However, individually some need a greater number of acquaintances, a greater number of good friends or a greater number of close friends. This is based on the individual’s personality and disposition. I do know that we all need these types of safe connections.

I am often envious of people I know who have stayed close to people they went to grade school with, middle school or high school. They may not talk to these people on a daily basis, but they have kept this bond. These long-time friends hold so many shared memories. Even through long periods of not talking when you reconnect with this childhood friend it feels like no time has gone by at all.

During this time of the year I hope you will reflect on who the important people are in your life and if you haven’t thanked them or shown your appreciation and gratitude in a while I encourage you to do so. Not so much with physical gifts but via words, whether written or spoken, thanking them for the gift they have been in your life.

If there are some friends in your life that you have accidently neglected due to the many demands in your life, I encourage you to reach out to them and let them know that you still value them. Do not forget that these friendships are part of your anchoring; your support system; your encouragers. There is know getting around the fact that having a solid support system is one of the keys to having a full and complete life.