I’ve been struck by how often our words fly by each other without any real sincerity to them. Have you noticed how punctuated and meaningless our exchanges have become? We appear to have normalized nonsensical exchanges, bereft of any genuine meaning. Real intention, real inquiry, real caring has slipped into the ether as we verbally transact with each other in a robotic way.
Do you really love me?
What was once a profound and significant sharing, “I love you,” has been shortened into, “Love ya.” Very often the person saying “love ya,” may in fact not really love the person they’re speaking with. It feels perfunctory and you can predict the moment of its utterance; at the conclusion of a conversation or the parting of ways. We have substituted saying “goodbye,” for “love ya.” And in doing so we’ve debased the loftiness of the word love.
By simply adding the word “I” back into the expression you commit to a deeply authentic and emotional sharing. If you really want to make this statement more profound, offer it at an unexpected moment, not when you’re parting company. Spontaneity speaks to sincerity, predictability is rote. On occasion I will receive a text from my son without any prompting in which he writes, “I love you dad.” That of course brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.
Our words matter. The words we choose convey our thoughts and feelings. Aside from non-verbal communication words are the heartbeat of our relationships. When we misuse our words or truncate our sentences to save time, we dishonor ourselves and our relationships. We have defaulted into the shortcut language of texting. When leaving a store or a restaurant I can anticipate hearing, “Have a good one.” Of course, that’s the same amount of words as “Have a good day.” No time saved there. But there’s something callous to my ear when my day has been subverted to the word “one.”
How are you?
Many times a day we may walk past an acquaintance and say, “Hi, how are you?” The other person smiles, says, “good and you?” And we likely respond similarly. Are we both always good? That’s a rhetorical question of course. A few years ago, I was taking a walk on my way for a cup of coffee. I encountered a parking attendant with whom I was familiar outside of a neighborhood restaurant I frequented. This gentleman and I had a number of engaging conversations in the past and so I asked the predictable, “How are you doing Jacques?” He smiled and said, “I can’t complain.” I smiled back and continued on my walk.
Moments later I had a thought. His answer might suggest two different things. Either Jacques has nothing to complain about or he literally couldn’t allow himself to complain, emphasis on the word, can’t. I wondered which was the case. In a few minutes, coffee now in hand, I reencountered him. I explained to him that I wasn’t sure if he meant all was well or that he was uncomfortable complaining. It took quite a while to break through his resistance until he finally said, “I don’t share my struggles because no one would be interested.”
Be true to yourself
I explained to Jacques that when I asked how he was, I did care and truly wanted to know. When we greet one another and inquire as to how we’re doing, without either party answering honestly, it becomes an exercise in inauthenticity. We act as uncaring strangers. We cut ourselves off from human interaction. And we suffer for that. We can do much better. Jacque’s belief that no one would care is of course false. I cared. It may be that many wouldn’t care, but why preclude those who might?
To be true to yourself, you need to be authentic. Without going into details, your answer might sound like, “I’ve had better days.” That opens the door to a genuine interaction. You never know what might evolve from that. But at the least, you’re being honest with yourself. It’s really important to be authentic no matter what you expect from another person.
This article was excerpted from Mel’s new book, The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love.
Mel Schwartz LCSW MPhil is a psychotherapist, marriage counselor,TEDx speaker and corporate leadership and communications consultant. He is the author of The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love. Mel earned his graduate degree from Columbia University. Mel’s TEDx talk, Breaking Free From Anxiety receives over 50,000 views per month.
The Possibility Podcast has just been launched. Listen in to get his insights into living to your fullest potential.
He has written over 100 articles read by more than 3 million people. One of the first practicing psychotherapists to to integrate the principles of quantum physics into a transformative therapeutic approach.Mel practices in Westport CT, Manhattan and globally by Skype.
One of the primary problems we encounter in our relationships is due to how we envision them. Conventional advice regarding relationships and intimacy often reads like a how-to manual or a prototypical “Six Steps to a Happy Relationship” workshop. Relationships are not machines, nor are they electronic devices. This mechanical approach looks at relationships not as an art form to be cultivated, but as a series of steps to master, as though we were assembling a mechanical device. This way of thinking about our relationships contributes mightily to our struggles.
Can you save our marriage?
At times people may ask me if their relationship is “salvageable.” That very question points to the problem of insufficient expectations. We shouldn’t be seeking a repair job or a salvage operation — again the language of machinery — but deep gratification and fulfillment. In its ideal form, a relationship is a creative, evolving, and beautifully raw experience in which two individuals craft their particular way of communing with each other.
Cultivating the relationship is an art form that requires sensitivity to the complexity and nuances of two people engaged in this most important dance of life. This deep fundamental change in how we view relationships begins with how we conceptualize uncertainty. Two individuals, committed to their individual process of becoming — the commitment to perpetual growth and self-awareness — can create the opportunity for joyful partnering.
A relationship is a co-participatory dance that embraces uncertainty as it spirals into deeper and more complex levels of understanding and experience. Just as each person must engage in their own growth, we need to see the relationship similarly. The union needs to be seen as a vibrant and dynamic experience, not as a dormant and unchanging structure. “I’m in a relationship” sounds like you’re stuck inside a container. This may sound awkward, but imagine thinking instead, “I’m committed to the engagement and process of my relationship.”
Uncertainty is the essence of romance
Oscar Wilde wrote, “The very essence of romance is uncertainty.” If this is accurate, then predictability must be its death knell.” Our inclination toward the predictable routine and formatting of our unions is counterintuitive to an emotionally vibrant and intimate experience. The experience of falling in love was likely bathed in uncertainty. The absence of certainty required us to be present and stay attuned. Yet, once the romance has been secured, we replace uncertainty with predictability, and so we experience a loss of passion.
I’m not proposing that couples seek an unsafe, volatile experience, but that they try to welcome the currents of uncertainty and change, which can propel their individual growth and usher in a corresponding growth in the relationship. Embracing some degree of uncertainty is necessary to keep the wind in the sails of the relationship.One person’s crisis or challenge inevitably provokes opportunity for growth in their partner. We are on this ride together. Nowhere is inseparability so apparent as in our partnering.
So frequently in couples’ sessions, I’ve noticed that as one person begins to express himself, the other begins to react, even if non-verbally. In the midst of a session, Hank began to share some of his perceptions about his wife, Julia. He was talking in a non-adversarial way, but still I noticed Julia’s face tighten. I gently interrupted Hank to ask Julia what she was experiencing. Julia said, “I know what he’s going to say before he does. There’s no need for him to go on.” This level of predictability leaves no room for surprise, wonder, or genuine inquiry. Certainty deadens the ability to be present and precludes playfulness, let alone spontaneity. When I asked Hank to continue, Julia was indeed surprised by what he had to share. Think about how certainty impacts your ability to be romantic and how it dulls your love life.To thrive in our relationships requires a new kind of commitment.
A new kind of commitment
This is not about the commitment to always love each other or to monogamy. Regrettably we know how often those pledges fail. I’m talking about the commitment to the process, which might better assure continued love and fidelity. This is a lifelong process requiring that each person embrace the spirit of the coupling. Learning the tools of emotional and verbal intimacy are the bedrock of this journey. Think of your partnership as the clay in the sculptor’s hands but this is a clay that you don’t permit to harden. You keep crafting it. You can master the art of relationship by welcoming uncertainty and change as you become the artists of your engagement with each other.
This article was excerpted from Mel’s new book, The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love.
In this second episode of the Possibility Podcast, Mel Schwartz explores the nature of love.
Unlike the Beatles song, “All You Need Is Love,” Mel explains that we need much more. We need to understand how to sustain love.
This episode explores the phenomenon of romantic love; how it begins and why it tends to wither. Mel proposes that love and passion need not die, but that we are basically illiterate in knowing how to succeed in this venture. We were never schooled in emotional and verbal intimacy, but these can be easily learned.
This episode looks at the nature of communication and what is required to foster empathy and validation, the bedrock of Eros. As he says, “It’s easy to say I love you, but challenging to act lovingly when we really need to.”
For the first time on the podcast, Mel takes calls from two individuals in which he answers their questions regarding emotional reactivity and why we shouldn’t put our best foot forward in the early stages of relationship. In his conversations with his guests, Mel explains the nature of authenticity, which is essential for resilient relationships.
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Help others when Mel helps you: Contact Mel and find out how you can be a caller on the show and ask Mel a question. He’ll put the Possibility Principle to work for you, and your conversation will be recorded for use in a future episode of the podcast so other listeners can benefit.
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Romantic relationships offer a unique opportunity for our personal growth, although they typically bring some degree of disturbances and challenges. Our interpersonal relations showcase the chronic issues that each individual brings with them as the complexities of their personal life experiences spill over into the relationship.
The tendency to blame each other only results in each person feeling invalidated and therefore upset. When this happens we pull back from the sense of loving oneness that we once felt and begin to see each other as separate individuals. We differentiate issues as his problem or her issue. What began as a loving, connected union begins to dissipate into conflict and the sense of oneness withers into separation.
When we see our partner’s insecurities, defensiveness and challenges as separate and distinct from our own, we become tricked by the illusion of separation. Their issues become our issues. The problems may be different, but they are not separate. Picture a drop of ink as it drips into a beaker of water. The ink disperses throughout and it’s trail becomes indistinct and diffuse. The same thing happens in relationships. Each person’s fears, challenges and unresolved issues become interspersed with their partner’s problems and trigger further reactivity, exacerbating the couple’s problems.
I often hear one person claim, “I have no issues but my spouse certainly does.“ How silly! If you believe the other person has challenges—as we all do—they are sure to affect you, which means you have a problem as well. Trying to compartmentalize yourself as separate from the other person is naive and unachievable.
Picture yourself on a seesaw with your partner. You’re up in the air and of course they must be on the ground. You are inextricably connected, each of you affecting the other. If you need to win, then they must lose. How do you think that’s going to work out? If we move past the transactional attitude that sets up a win-lose, you—versus—me stance into the perspective of one team, we can shift to a win—win, mind—set. You then shift into a participatory relationship.This perspective reveals that you both participate in your reality-making process.
If you find yourself in an adversarial situation with your partner, ask yourself, “Are they intending to hurt or devalue me?” If you feel hurt ask them if that was their intention. If it wasn’t their intention, then you might look at why you’re personalizing their words or actions. This is not to suggest that you surrender and accept unhealthy behavior. You might say something like. “I just feel unimportant to you when you ignore how I feel or tell me my feelings are wrong. I feel hurt. Do you care how I feel?
If you’re thinking the worst about the other person and go on the attack, you’ll trigger their worst reaction and you’ll both be sliding into an ugly place. You can choose to try to connect with empathy or to engage in conflict. Choose your path and you’ll get the corresponding result. Each person’s challenges provide an opportunity for the other’s growth. It’s your choice as to how to handle it.
This was excerpted from Mel’s new book, The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think,Live and Love.
The experience of falling in love is altogether reminiscent of what in quantum physics is known as entanglement. In the microscopic realm once two particles experience a shared state, they are no longer separate entities but exist as one. This remains true even when they are separated by a great distance. The falling part of the falling in love process requires a falling away of many individual boundaries as the two people merge significant parts of themselves. The coupling moves the two individuals into an entangled sense of oneness.
All living beings are energy fields manifesting through their physical form. Mere physical attraction to another is based on sensory stimulation, but being in lust is not quite the same as being in love. Falling in love requires that our energies coalesce with one another. When this occurs, our energy field resonates with our partner’s energy field, and our vibrations harmonize with each other’s, so that two individuals are no longer distinctly separate. This energetic interchange happens simultaneously on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels, and it is what makes falling in love—and staying in love—potentially the most fulfilling experience in life.
Over the course of time, however, many people indicate that although they may still love the other, they no longer feel in love. There’s a common belief that as the years pass, falling out of love is natural and to be expected. I’d suggest that it may be ordinary, but that doesn’t make it natural. Falling in love and sustaining it requires maintaining a sense of oneness.
In the turmoil we experience when a relationship becomes adversarial, we need to acknowledge or change something to shift the energy away from separation and back toward entangled wholeness. Making that shift may mean changing our beliefs, our perceptions, or our behaviors or possibly all of these. You might ask yourself, “What is my partner seeing in me that I don’t see in myself?”
If you set out to reenter the energy field of the initial romantic entanglement or the caring friendship, you can selflessly try to get in the other’s shoes. This is an exercise in empathy. Doing this doesn’t mean you are abandoning your position; it simply means loving and validating your partner. If I try to appreciate and care about my upset partner’s point of view, I’m invoking a shift of energy. Connecting empathetically with our partner is the most powerful thing we can do in such troubled moments. It can turn the tide from a competitive, maybe even emotionally and verbally abusive, exchange back into a loving energy field once again entangled with caring. (If you try this approach consistently and with genuine affection, but your partner doesn’t reciprocate over time, you might well consider whether the relationship is right for you.)
Another way of shifting the energy of a relationship is to express positive feelings or appreciation for your partner. Once a couple’s energy has drifted into separatism and conflict, they may default to unloading critical thoughts and feelings with each other. Negativity then fills the divide they have structured. Yet there are times in therapy when individuals may share with me positive or appreciative feelings they experienced about their partner. When I ask, “Did you share that with your partner?” I rarely hear a yes. Why would we become acclimatized to sharing the negative, yet feel awkward or reluctant to express approving or positive feelings? It’s because we’ve gotten stuck in the groove of negativity, which only widens that gap between us. We may be holding back an expression of approval so as not to give the other a stronger hand—a sign that we have set up separate battle stations. So set your intention: when you feel good about the other person, articulate it to him or her.
In trying to reset the downward spiral of the relationship cycle, it may be helpful to pause and not be reactive. Take a moment before criticizing or defending and ask yourself, “Does this really matter?” If it doesn’t, you can choose to let it go and create a very different reality. Again, this is an energy shifter.
The common expression “You can’t change the other person” appears sensible when a relationship is in turmoil. But from the quantum view of inseparability, if you change some aspect of yourself, it will necessarily affect your partner, because you’re both as connected as our quantum particles.
This post was excerpted from Mel’s forthcoming book, The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love Sep. 2017 (Sounds True).
The experience of falling in love is truly a thing of marvel. It’s a remarkable and incomparable feeling. Time seems altered and our senses become fervently alive. Each moment has meaning and intent. This is a peak moment in life. Yet, sadly over time we tend to fall out of love as easily as we fall in love. We may say that we still love one another but we’re not in love. Let’s explore why this occurs and what this phenomenon is that we call love. Read more
Some of the remarkable discoveries from quantum physics can be adapted to help us break free from the groove of our past and unleash real change in our lives. The quantum world reveals that light has a somewhat schizophrenic nature. It has the dual capacity to exist either as a wave or a particle. This tendency is referred to as the wave/particle duality. This seemingly illogical notion is naturally counterintuitive and rubs against our common sense of logic. Ordinarily, we believe that things either are or are not. This is not the case here, however.
It appears that when the light photon is not being observed it exists in waveform, but at the moment of observation, the wave collapses and becomes a particle. The act of observing actually collapses the wave. Prior to making the observation the wave represents a state of pure potentiality. That potential only becomes manifest into a fixed state when we look at it. I have come to see that a very similar phenomenon occurs in our lives.
The expression “familiarity breeds contempt” is all too familiar. Yet, as the case with many common sayings, we might benefit from taking a look at whether or not it truly makes sense. When we don’t examine these beliefs they tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Ordinarily, the expression “familiarity breeds contempt” refers to what often happens in long-standing relationships and marriages. Regrettably, over time too may relationships begin to see their happiness wither. Yet, the question remains: is it actually familiarity that causes this disappointment?
We might consider whether it’s familiarity that’s the culprit or whether something else is provoking the contempt. At times, familiarity may in fact pave the way for greater intimacy and love. After all, when the relationship begins and we open to emotional intimacy, we set the stage for falling in love. If a soft kiss, an appreciative hug or the simple feeling of being cared for becomes familiar, then familiarity in fact evokes and sustains love. In loving relationships that embrace emotional support and respect, familiarity produces a wonderful life. What we become accustomed to should become the focus of our attention. Read more
Mel Schwartz Psychotherapy & Marriage Counseling • 246 Post Road East, Suite 275 Westport, CT 06880
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