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Posts Tagged ‘group: food for thought’

14 steps towards a better you: improve your communication skills

In Too lazy to assign a category on August 8, 2008 at 7:44 pm

In order to build good relationships and reach goals, social skills are crucially important. When thinking about social skills, many people think about the ability to smooth talk. Socially skilled people are indeed capable of communicating their feelings and thoughts. They're capable of effectively communicating their ideas. People who aren't as proficient, often think they've got lousy social skills. However, there's more to having social skills than talking. Being able to say what you want, without hurting others, being able to actively listen, being able to read and use body language, … those things are just as important.

Say what you mean

In order to keep a conversation going, stand up for your needs, criticise or react to criticism, give or accept a compliment, you have to open your mouth. Many people find it difficult to tell other people what's bothering them. Often people rub other people the wrong way, and this gives way to fights. The other person feels attacked and gets defensive: "That's not true!", "Look who's talking!". Before you know it, you end up fighting.

In order to put what's bothering you on the table, you might try the XYZ formula. This is a way to phrase things. In situation (X), when you do (Y), I feel (Z). This way it's not as much criticism, as it's a complaint. For example: "When we are driving (X), and you change the radio station without asking (Y), I feel like I don't matter to you." This sounds very different from "Who made you king of the radio?"

Sometimes it's explained a little differently: name the behaviour (X) that's bothering you (don't play the man, play the ball), name the situation (Y) in which this behaviour occurred, and tell which feelings (Z) this behaviour caused. For example: "You being an hour late (X) for our appointment (Y), makes me feel you think our appointment isn't important, and that makes me sad (Z). This sounds very different from "You're always late!"

Once you've said what's bothering you, say how you'd like things to be. Don't demand anything, don't pose ultimatums, don't make threats. Just describe your wishes. For example: "I would like you to be on time next time. That we we can spend some time catching up before dinner."

It's best to be brief. No monologues. People usually can concentrate just 30 seconds at a time during a conversation. Keep your message short. Give the other person time to react. Phrase your message in a positive way. If you use too many negations and negative formulations, it seems like you're nagging and whining, and people don't like to listen to that.

Active listening

Listening is just as important as talking. Even if someone communicates their feelings very well, if the other person isn't listening, the message won't get across. Listening is important in order to have a pleasant conversation. It's very annoying if you get interrupted or someone can't wait to air their viewpoint. If you really get listened to, it's a pleasant experience. Listening to the other person not only means you're hearing what they're saying, but also trying to understand what they're trying to say. This is called active listening.

LEAPS

LEAPS stands for Listen, Empathise, Ask, Paraphrase, Summarise. When you listen, have an open mind, hear the words, interpret the meaning and act upon the words. Empathise, and don't confuse empathy with sympathy. Empathy is seeing through the eyes of the other person. Then ask, for clarification, in order to find facts, to seek opinion. Next paraphrase, express the message in different (your own) words, and finally summarise. Condense all that's been said and put it in a simple statement. Be brief and concise.  

A different version of LEAPS is Listen, Empathise, Apologise, Positive attitude, Solve. There are similar systems, like LEAP (Listen, Empathise, Agree, Partner), basically meaning listening for what the person finds motivating, empathising with them, finding common ground you can agree on, and partnering with them to address common goals. There's also a different version of LEAP (Listen, Empathise, Apologise, Problem-solve), or yet another (Listen, Empathise, Ask, Produce results). They all more or less boil down to the same thing.

Use body language

The use of body language is another social skill. With a smile, eye contact, an interested posture and enthusiastic charisma you'll get more done than with an uninspired attitude. The importance of body language often is underestimated. Research shows that 80 % of communication consists of body language. Try taking that into account.

If you are the one listening, don't cross your legs and arms, mirror your conversation partner. This way you show openness and enthusiasm, and you enlarge the chance people want to tell you their story. If you are the speaker, make sure your body language is in line with what you're saying. If you are communicating your anger, make sure your voice is powerful, and stand up straight, both feet on the ground. That way your message will come across a whole lot better than when you're speaking in a soft voice, avoiding eye contact, looking at the floor.

An audience is captivated by speakers using gestures to accentuate their message. Also make eye contact, whether you're listening or talking. Don't stare though. Don't look more than 4.5 seconds at the other person, or it becomes staring. If you're listening watch the speaker about 75% of the time, if you're speaking, watch the listener about 40% of the time.

Role play

Ask a friend, partner or family member to do the following exercise with you. Think of a topic you don't agree on, for example the question whether chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream, the question for whom to vote if today there were elections, or the statement a day-nursery is bad for children.

Put an egg-timer or stopwatch on one minute. During this one minute, you get  to say what you think about this topic, and why. The other person has to listen actively, and isn't allowed to interrupt. After this one minute, ask yourself the following questions:

  • what was it like having someone listen actively?
  • what did the other person do to give you the impression they were really listening to you?
  • what body language did you use?
  • did you use body language to emphasise your words?
  • how much eye contact did you have with each other?

Now reverse the roles. Listen actively to the other person during one minute. Afterwards, ask yourself the following questions:

  • how hard was it not to interrupt the other person?
  • did you use body language to encourage the other person?
  • how much eye contact did you have with each other?

Prevent a fight from happening

Next time you're in an argument that risks turning out into a fight, try to use the XYZ formula, and to stick to the LEAP(S) rules. Even though the other person might not do the same, your attitude might very well change the other person's reaction.

Afterwards, evaluate how you influenced the argument by using the XYZ formula, and sticking to the LEAP(S) rules.

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Dream more

In Too lazy to assign a category on August 4, 2008 at 1:09 am

Unrepeatable

In Too lazy to assign a category on August 4, 2008 at 12:30 am

14 steps to a better you: promote yourself

In Too lazy to assign a category on July 20, 2008 at 9:39 am

Many people find it hard to say what they're good at. They prefer to be modest. Presenting your qualities in a confident way often is seen as being arrogant. Nevertheless it's important when you want to get things done, or when you want to create opportunities for yourself. When you have e.g. a job interview, it's important you know how to promote your qualities. Otherwise the job might very well go to someone else.

In your private life as well, it's important. When negotiating tasks, in the household, the volunteer board or anywhere else, it's important. If you're too modest, the most fun and challenging tasks will probably get assigned to someone else, and you might get stuck with the boring tasks. This is also annoying for others. It's highly likely your talents will also be appreciated by others. If the task assigned to you is too easy, you might get bored and unmotivated, and it's possible someone else gets assigned a task that's too difficult for them.

Arrogant or confident?

We live in a negative culture. It's easy to tell others what they're doing wrong. And we treat ourselves pretty much the same way: we mostly pay attention to the things we're not good at, or the things that need improvement. Giving ourselves a compliment is not done, especially not out loud. We think this is arrogant. However, this isn't justified. There's a clear divide between being arrogant and being confident.

Arrogant people don't take criticism too well. They've got trouble accepting other viewpoints, and always think they are right, and their qualities are the best. On the other hand, if you're confident, you feel secure and at the same time you're open to other viewpoints. You don't feel threatened by criticism. You pay attention to it, and use it to your advantage.

Arrogance often serves to hide a lack of confidence. Bragging often is a way to hide a feeling of insecurity.

A fear of failure influences presenting strengths. Because if you say you're good at something, you might have to proof it. It's important not to overestimate yourself and it's also important not to promise too much, in order to avoid disappointment. It's important to have a realistic idea of your strengths and weaknesses. When you're really confident, you don't feel shame in admitting you're not up to something. People that try to hide their insecurities, often promise too much.

Use your Inner Coach

I've already mentioned our inner critic, that inner voice that just loves to tear you down, and make you feel miserable. Often you're not even aware of that inner critic. The voice has become all too obvious. It seems ingrained in your entire being. It undermines your confidence.

It seems your inner voice is a bad thing. That's not entirely true though. You are your inner voice. The challenge lies in using this inner voice to your advantage. You can change your inner critic into a coach, encouraging you and cheering you up.

3 against 1

Using your inner voice as a coach, doesn't mean you'll never have negative thoughts again. It's perfectly okay to have negative thoughts about yourself once in a while. Doing stupid things, messing things up, it's all part of life. It's important though not to let these negative thoughts put you down unnecessarily, and to have positive thoughts as well.

Research shows that if you want to feel good about yourself, and bring out the best in you, against every negative thought there have to be at least three positive thoughts. If you often think negatively about yourself, it's difficult to change this behaviour. Don't condemn yourself if you're having negative thoughts. Try to see these thoughts as clouds, just passing by.

20 000 moments

In the beginning thinking positively about yourself might seem artificial. If you do this on a regular basis though, it will become an automatism. You'll become your own coach. The advantages are enormous. According to Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman people experience 20 000 individual moments a day. These moments only last a few seconds. During such a moment you read something, look back on something, or say something to yourself. Imagine using just 1 % of these individual moments to say something nice about yourself, and you'll have 200 encouragements a day !

Exercise

Make a list of 5 qualities you'd like to use more in your professional or private life. Start each sentence with "I am good at …" or "One of my qualities is …".

Write down 3 encouraging sentences you can use if things don't go as planned. Examples are: "Everyone makes mistakes", "It's not a shame to fail" or "I'll do better next time".

Read these lists out loud at least twice a day.

Now think about how you can communicate the qualities you wrote down to others. Practise in front of a mirror. Watch your body language, and speak in a clear eloquent voice. You can use sentences like "I'm very good at …", "One of my qualities is that …", "The reason I should get this job / task is …", "An important reason why I should get this task is …", or variations on this theme.

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14 steps to a better you – influence others in a positive way

In Too lazy to assign a category on May 26, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Living together and working together is easier if you know how to motivate and inspire others. Whether it's your children, partner, friends or colleagues, there are many advantages to approaching others in a positive way. They'll appreciate your company more, will often be more prepared to help you, and will value your opinion more.

The power of a compliment

An important and fun way to inspire someone is to give them a compliment. One of the most important needs people have is the need for recognition and appreciation. A compliment can meet those needs. By giving a compliment you give others a good feeling about what they're doing, as well as the feeling that what they're doing is appreciated. Still, people are very sparse when it comes to giving compliments. They think other people will lean back whenever they get a compliment. If you for example tell your daughter a C+ is good, she might think she doesn't need to study. That's the reason most people are rather harsh. They whine and threaten others in the hope the other person will do what they want them to do. Most of the time this doesn't work though. The other person feels they've failed and is discouraged. A compliment, on the other hand, does work. Praising your daughter (it's good you still got a C+ for that difficult topic) increases the chance she'll work hard at school. The compliment encourages her to work hard. Complimenting someone doesn't guarantee positive behaviour, but chances are better. Compliments also augment people's self-worth. Children especially need to hear something positive once in a while. They need even more affirmation than adults.

To the point and sincere

In order to have the desired effect, compliments should meet certain requirements.

Rule 1: be sincere

Only give compliments you really mean. People will know if you don't mean it. At times it's difficult to come up with something positive and if you really can't come up with something you could tell the other person how you'd like something to be done, and how you'd appreciate it. You could for example say (to stick with the daughter at school example): "It would mean a lot to me if you'd work harder at school".

Rule 2: say why

Most people only say what they appreciate, and forget about the why. If a friend just got a hair cut and you only say: "Your hair looks nice", it might seem you only want to be polite. You're also complimenting the hair dresser, instead of your friend. Say for example: "You chose a nice hair cut, it really fits your style".

Rule 3: start with their first name

By mentioning someone's first name, the compliment gets really personal. You show them the compliment is really meant for them. People also pay more attention to sentences in which their name is mentioned. To a colleague you could for instance say: "Paul, you did really well on that report".

Don't get all wound up

Influencing others in a positive way isn't only done by giving people compliments, but also by not reacting in a negative way to others, even if they're trying to provoke you. Whenever someone makes an unreasonable or critical remark, most people automatically get all defensive. Not because they're looking for a fight, but because they want to protect their sense of self-worth. Unfortunately there's a risk of escalation, because the reactions back and forth might get more damaging and hurtful. Try not to react immediately. Stay calm and friendly. Ask for clarification or say you didn't know there was a problem. If you stay calm, friendly and positive, there's a chance of "emotional contamination". Emotional contamination is the phenomenon that people, unintentionally, mimic other people's facial expressions, body language and emotions. Research shows emotional contamination works best with positive things. People are more likely to mimic a smile than a frown.

Cool down

It's not easy to remain friendly and positive when for example your partner is in an awful mood. It requires self control and empathy. Following tips can help you to remain calm and in a good mood.

Tip 1: take a time-out

If, during a conversation, you get very upset, angry or stressed, a time-out is a sensible thing to take. Go to the bathroom, or go for a walk. Tell your partner you're going to do something else for a bit, because you're too upset or angry or stressed. You can e.g. agree to continue the conversation in an hour, or the next day.

Tip 2: display opposite behaviour

If you're angry or stressed, it might help to show some opposite behaviour. Relax and try to look friendly. Tell the other person you care for them, or slowly drink a glass of water. Because your senses get a different kind of input, your brain thinks you're no longer angry.

Tip 3: reflect

Ask yourself why someone is reacting in an angry or unreasonable way. Try to see their side. Wonder whether they're tense or tired. Perhaps something happened at work or school.

Showing involvement

In order to stimulate people, it also helps if you show involvement in what they're doing. In order to stimulate your daughter to do her homework, you could show an interest in the topics she is studying at school. Remarks like "I will think of you when you're taking your exam" or "You can call me any time whenever you need help" are helpful too. Research shows people will perform better that way.

People might also feel stimulated if you involve them in what's important for you. Ask a colleague their opinion about a project you're leading, or ask your partner to help you sort the holiday pictures for example. Even though you can do those things yourself, perhaps even better, you give people the idea their contribution is appreciated.

Exercise

Think about someone you'd like to compliment, for example your child, partner, neighbour or colleague. Resolve to compliment them next time you see them. Already write down what you could say.

Think about someone close who has to do something difficult soon, or who has an appointment they're not looking forward to, like an exam, a doctor's appointment or a boring meeting. Resolve to say something supportive. Already think about what you could say and write it down. Next time you'll see this person, follow through. Intent on saying something supportive at least once a day.

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Radio Netherlands Worldwide: About Fitna, The Movie

In Too lazy to assign a category on March 22, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Source: About Fitna, The Movie
Also see: Geert Wilders dossier

About Fitna, the Netherlands and Wilders

Very rarely has a film sparked off as much pre-release controversy as Dutch MP Geert Wilder’s ‘Fitna,the movie’. Even without knowing what’s in it, 'Fitna’ has got the world asking questions. Questions about the man who made it and his motives, about the country he lives in where his film is allowed. Questions about that country’s government – which issues warnings about the film but does nothing to stop it. And questions about the position of Muslims in The Netherlands. The central character in this film is also struggling with these questions, and decides to travel to The Netherlands in search of answers.

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It’s not about sex, it’s about Self

In Too lazy to assign a category on March 17, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Fragments from an interesting read, It's not about sex, it's about Self, by Eric Francis:

(found via Ailim)

I don't understand love that excludes. To me, love's greatest quality is that it includes, to the best extent that we can cooperate. Yet theme of jealousy seems to be endemic to the human condition. There are few coherent ideas on the topic, much less sane ideas about what to do. Those in the reading audience who have explored polyamory (honest non-monogamy) will recognize some of its themes as the series develops, particularly the idea of compersion.

In practice, relationships and gender are fluid; they change and are subject to an ongoing process of revision and sometimes even conscious creation by individuals and by society. Our definitions of masculine and feminine seem important, but more often they are ridiculous. Despite being ridiculous, they make all kinds of demands on us that we hop to, as if somebody were pointing a gun.

The psyche on its deepest layers is so closely intertwined with sexual consciousness as to be one and the same with it. Because it accounts for how we come into the world, which is the only world we know, sex is cosmic. Yet discussion of sex is a kind of ruse for the real discussion, below the surface, and that is about one's sense of identity and existence.

Our relationship to sex and sexuality is our relationship to existence. If we feel good about our erotic experiences, needs and feelings, we tend to feel good about life. If we are bitter, if we don't get what we need, if we feel guilty or ashamed of our sexual feelings and experiences, that is most likely how we're going to feel about life. This can manifest some strange ways, such as violence and manipulation, just like feeling good about sex can manifest as a passionate, creative person who creates their existence consciously every day.

He could think; he could see; he could hear. His memory and imagination were intact. But he could not move or express himself — except for one eye. This is called "locked-in syndrome." It is consciousness locked into a body that cannot respond; it is the ultimate mind-body split.

I think that sexually, we are a society of people suffering from a variant of locked-in syndrome. We may have our erotic imaginations, we may have our memories and we may have our desires. But we have untold thousands of reasons not to act on or even speak about our experiences. To some extent, nearly everyone in the current version of Western culture is erotically paralyzed.

Monogamy for most people is less about fidelity and more about not wanting to make one's partner jealous. Or, it's about being good, whether out of guilt, or so they don't do anything that makes you jealous.

"My jealousy keeps me monogamous. Seriously, what other reason would there be?" She admitted she didn't want him to do anything that would make her jealous, either. I call this kind of deadlock gunpoint monogamy: if you move, I'll shoot. If I move, you'll shoot. We both better be good. Note, I don't believe this has anything to do with love.

We know inside that we're all responsible for our own jealousy. Yet typically we either make it everyone else's fault ("he made me jealous"), or take on the burden of shielding others from what might stir up their rage (and this is often a convenient, deceptive excuse). Projection takes many forms. I've noticed that the people who pour on the jealousy tend to be the most likely to cheat.

Relationships in our society and in many others are trumped up as the pearl of great price, the most valuable thing in the universe — and to many, it makes sense to avoid the one thing that could threaten this, at any cost. The result is we can gradually come to live lives of total deception. As a result, the emotional subject matter that we need to open up about in our relationships goes unaddressed. We avoid jealousy and thus avoid what it has to offer us as a growth tool; as a cosmic mirror. We avoid truth, and erotic energy dies.

Much of that unaddressed emotional material involves insecurity and lack of self-esteem. A relationship can cover that up for a while, and jealousy can quickly expose the emotional void we lived with all along. If someone wants someone else, we must be unworthy. For most people, jealousy is so painful and so entirely debilitating that it makes sense to avoid it, just like you would not intentionally put your hand on a hot stove.
 
The idea that one's lover could be with someone else is often viewed as the ultimate betrayal, and the worst form of abandonment. The supposed solution is to avoid the feeling and anything that can lead to it at all costs, though without recognizing what that cost really is. Taken unconsciously, the cost of jealousy is loss of the right to exist, or the denial of your partner's right to exist. Usually, both happen together.

As adults, guilt is to love and happiness what embalming fluid is to human blood. In many relationships, it has come to entirely replace the sense of bonding, friendship and kindness that previously characterized the joining. Our guilt is the means by which we allow other people to control us; when we give up our guilt, we are no longer subject to emotional manipulation, and therefore partners, parents, bosses and so forth can no longer control us; we are free.

If we are lacking self-esteem — a problem so pervasive as to be invisible — we are going to have a lot of problems in relationships. This can account for much of our stuff around jealousy. For example, if we need a relationship to know that we exist, then we will naturally feel that our existence is threatened if our partner so much as smiles at someone else.

Whatever may be a natural thing for a human to do — we don't know, because we've gone so far from it — there is incalculable social pressure to behave within extremely strict rules that, as it happens, rarely ever follow the natural course of human emotion or desire.
 
Both sanctioned forms of relationship, marriage or temporary promiscuity, imply that relationship is about property: in one case, property you keep, and in the other, property you dispose of.
 
There are people who practice alternatives. Maybe you're friends with a few; maybe you don't even know it. They have good reasons to keep quiet: for example, a judge can take away their kids. It's considered weird to have an open marriage, to be polyamorous, or to stay single and have sex with your friends. If you're married and are secretly lesbian or bisexual, you live a hidden double life — for a reason. If you are openly bisexual, it is usually presumed that you will be serially monogamous and only have relations with one sex or the other at a time.

Acceptable models of relationship tend to have an all or nothing quality; they are black and white deals involving total surrender. You are either married or a slut. Past a certain age, you're a good husband or a womanizer who can't settle down and make a commitment.

If you are polyamorous (someone who practices conscious non monogamy), others may be polite toward you, but most will presume that there must be "something missing" from your relationship, which is why you have other love interests. (And if you have kids, please do not go on TV and talk about it.) Truly, I am happy ever to see a positive response outside the poly community itself. Many people know they would adore having a couple of lovers, so I imagine there would be some secret jealousy. Or, if you're a man and openly say you're poly, you will likely be presumed by many in the straight world to be an kind of polite womaniser whose primary partner has no self-esteem. A few people will be secretly envious, but will likely keep that quiet to. Who knows, I don't get out a lot. Maybe times are changing.

You might think of compersion, which is about embracing the love and pleasure of our lover or anyone else, as a study in flight dynamics. This is akin to pointing the nose of an air plane downward when you go into a stall created by a jealous episode. It takes courage to do this in any event, but particularly when you're caught flying low to the ground. But it may be the only way to keep from crashing.
 
Looked at another way, compersion is the full appreciation of another person's pleasure and indeed their existence — something many relationships could use a lot more of. If we could indeed get there, this would be an excellent resolution for jealousy and much besides. Our relationships would be more interesting, more compassionate and best of all, make room for who we really are.
 
More than being a protective measure, compersion is a daring way to explore the emotional dynamics of pleasure and human interaction, as well as to work through attachment and guilt. It's a way to take a constructive approach to shame and embarrassment. For people who are considering opening up to their relationship to other partners, it's the thing that makes the process safe and sane.

While we're considering the subject of relationships, and jealousy in particular, we need to remember that in our society, the ideas we are given about love are competitive. Only one person is going to "get" you; for any individual, the chances are six billion to one. There seems to be not enough of anything for all of us, so we have to compete; we have to be Number One. We may say this is the way of nature, but humans love to point out how far above nature they are.
 
Most of our ideas about life and love are based on scarcity. Even on a planet where you have billions of people without partners, many of them can't find a date on a Friday night. Have you ever considered how twisted that is? Such as when you're home alone and horny and want some company, and you realize there must be millions of people in this same condition? On a planet with so many people, you would think there would be nothing easier to find than other people, or someone special. On a planet where so many people want sex, you would think there would be plenty of it. Yet even in this state of total abundance, we manage to turn it around and live in the midst of a horrid shortage. (No matter what people may have, or need, unless they're willing to give and receive — generally in that order — there is no exchange possible. That is part of the problem.)
 
In this desert, we tend to fear two things. What we fear most is abandonment. Even if that one special person has found us, or vice versa, the big fear is that we will lose them; that they will find someone else. Often, even when we find love, we live with a sense of incredible frailty, sensitivity and imminent doom. This is usually based on the fear of not being good enough; indeed, at times on a total absence of self-esteem.
 
The second thing we fear is being close to others. A great many people don't like who they are inside, and are terrified about the prospect of exposing this to others. Many people survive by making up a fake character, and if someone gets close to us, we may fear that they'll figure out we're empty and thus undeserving of love.

Some feel that jealousy is about the desire to be preferred, or a sense of competition because we all want the best. Or it is a kind of extreme envy, where you want what someone else has. The author is proposing that these are superficial issues that conceal the true spiritual matter beneath jealousy — and if we stay on the surface, we miss the benefit we can get from encountering the deeper levels directly. Jealousy will haunt us and never become a teacher or ally.

There is profound surrender involved in any situation where jealousy comes up — in truth, you cannot do anything about how other people feel or what they want. We can try to violate that by attempting to gain control over the situation, or we can let go — and letting go is one of the sexiest and most pleasurable things known to humanity. For as much as we cling and struggle to control ourselves, everyone and everything, what I think we we need the most is to let go.
 
I recognize that in the middle of the fear, rage, pain and loss associated with a jealous experience, this may feel like pointing the airplane directly at the ground — it violates common sense, and goes contrary to all the body's instincts. There is no way you're supposed to be turned on by your lover caring about someone else, or be comforted by the knowledge that they're wrapped in someone else's arms. That would be a form of masochism, right? What do you do with all that overwhelming feeling of betrayal? And of course, even if you can get there, it's not socially acceptable. If you described feeling any pleasure at your partner's feeling of love for someone else, your friends might think you had lost your mind.
 
But having found one's mind is more likely to be true. The point here is simple: to be free. Remember, that's not socially acceptable. Human beings often come to love the bonds that chain them; the rooms that imprison them. We seem to love the drama of jealousy, its intensity, its pathos, and we do so without going underneath to see what's there. Attachment provides a sense of belonging. There are people who don't feel loved unless their partner gets jealous. There are people who don't feel loved unless their partner experiences guilt for having any pleasure that doesn't involve them. The logic of monogamous guilt is, "He will be mad at me if I do something that feels good and don't feel guilty." After a while this becomes a serious block to love. Control, which is often effected through guilt, is a direct obstacle to the space that love needs to be itself. Compersion allows what exists to be itself.

Compersion is a lot like compassion, but the origin, the core of the idea, is specifically sexual. You could say it's about recognizing what someone feels and embracing that, but I think that (like jealousy) it is closer to the existential level. Per means one or individual, so compersion is embracing the whole person and their experience. This is supposed to be what love is about. Unfortunately, once guilt and jealousy get into the picture, who a person is as an individual ends up being the last thing on most people's minds.
 
If you follow the experience, you may notice that it leads to a complete reversal of how we are supposed to experience life; it goes contrary to all the values of possession, control and commitment that characterize our relationships.
 
Compersion is the complete acknowledgement of who a person is, in their entirety, as apart from you. All they may feel, go through, need, experience, desire; their fears and repulsions and conflicts are all included. This is holistic empathy.

Some relationships have nothing to do with this elusive concept of who a person is. Even in more enlightened relationships, as it works out, we can do this for people close to us in many aspects of life, except for sexual. Embracing someone — such as a lover or person we desire — in the full spectrum of their erotic reality presents a specific challenge, because it can quickly take us to the empty place where we are no longer necessary. So often in this empty space we still love, because we don't have a choice, or because we refuse to not love.
 
It's as close to ego death or even death as we may safely approach, because our own identity and individual needs stand outside of the equation — except in that we're aware enough to embrace the other in all their feelings and experiences.
 
This degree of embracing the other is entirely necessary for any sense of fulfilment in love, in erotic expression or in art. To do this we must first cease to exist, and then find existence within the emptiness. It is right there! In a sense, we are born into that emptiness, shorn of expectation, need, or the sense of loss involved with not being needed. Or, at the least, we recognize that we are needed because of the incomparable properties we possess. And in that space, we can actually exist.
 
To offer another person your compersion is to offer them and yourself the autonomy necessary for each of us to be ourselves; and for love to be itself. It is the living expression that only truth is erotic.
 
If you're ever wondering where all the erotic energy has gone from your life, this is something to consider.

We might wonder, why bother with all of this, when you can just have a monogamous relationship? You know, keep things nice and simple? Well, that works in theory. When we look closer at a human psyche, we discover that people are more complex than they are monogamous. For the most part, monogamy is perpetuated by not discussing what we really feel. Even when two people really want to be together, often, anything that might threaten the relationship is quietly dropped from the discussion.

In many monogamous relationships, people have needs that they feel guilty about getting met outside the relationship. The guilt becomes the means by which people control themselves and one another. Compersion is a way to get free of that extremely toxic exchange that happens in so many relationships.
 
Once you get the hang of compersion, as an emotion and not just a concept, life gets easier. You can give yourself more space to feel, give your lover more space to feel, and the happiness of others can spill over into your life. You can learn from others how to be happy. You don't need to keep up with the Jones's (and you probably would not want to). After a while, you can start to feel what love is like when you subtract the competition and guilt. Why don't you need guilt? Well, because whatever you feel is okay. Then after a while, what you need is okay. Then, what you do is okay — it has nothing to do with the love you feel for your partner.

Compersion starts with telling the truth to your partner about all things erotic. This may be difficult, but it gets easier as you practice and build confidence. It's also a great way to find out if you're with the right person.

When dealing with resistance in any form, let the fear have a voice. Let the fear speak first, and don't moralize it out of existence — it will be more cooperative if it knows you're listening. Be aware that it is fear. This is an opportunity to be reassuring. If someone goes into a panic, you are getting a look at the dynamics which underlie your relationship. Make sure you see them for what they are.

I have a theory, and I'm eager to try it on society. I believe we can ease a lot of the stifling sexual tension we live with by recognizing and moreover appreciating one another as independent erotic beings. We need to recognize that everyone has an erotic reality, and love that reality — without necessarily needing to take over or mixing energies all the way. Compersion is about appreciating, recognizing, identifying, feeling, witnessing and loving — all from a little distance, and most of all respecting everyone's autonomy of feeling. It's a fine way to live. It eases the pain of isolation and points the way to unusual and deeply nourishing emotional and erotic pleasures. The only catch, and it's a big one, is you need the willingness to be free.

To plunge into this deeply negative programming and begin to unravel it takes courage. To consciously challenge any cultural programming takes guts, devotion and creativity. To seek something different, a world based on pleasure, sharing and understanding, takes even more courage. Usually, such a journey requires help and it takes some resources, in particular, different ideas than the ones we were taught and a means of deciding what is really true for us. And I don't think we are going to do it alone. The most important ingredient is something that anyone can call upon and receive: the desire to connect with oneself, and then with those around us.

Wilhelm Reich in his book The Function of the Orgasm proposed that sex is a creative act and that biological reproduction is the outgrowth of that creativity, rather than the purpose of sex. He proposed that the Christians — the single most anti-sex religion known to history — and everyone else has it backwards. Sex is about creation first and reproduction second. It is no wonder that sex — when it's sane and up-front — is rejuvenating, creatively inspiring, and helps us feel beautifully human.
 
We do not need to look far to solve the greatest crime against humanity — the co-opting of sex and sexuality by religion as evil. Instead of being taught to celebrate that which gives us creation and life, we are taught to lie, to hide and to feel guilty. We encase creativity and love in "romance," drama and pathology when we could just as easily, and with far less expenditure of time and energy, celebrate existence. We live in a world where it seems sex must always have a victim. It's dumb, but why do we fall for it?
 
Our culture has no idea of what sex meant, how it was practised, or how people felt about it before the burning of libraries and the women; the smashing of artefacts and our psyches. If we want to know, we are going to need to seek the truth, and very patiently teach ourselves and one another a new way of being.

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Are we really mono-poly?

In Too lazy to assign a category on March 16, 2008 at 9:04 pm

By Janet Kira Lessin, printed in Loving More Magazine #22, Spring 2000

Doctors Hal and Sidra Stone teach us that we have many "voices" within ourselves. We each have our own set of voices, be they the Inner Critic, the Inner Child, the Inner Pope, the Inner Aphrodite or any of a myriad possible combinations.

At different times these voices battle for dominance within us. We each have inner dichotomies — poles of opposition vying for the upper hand. The Inner Catholic conflicts with the Inner Atheist, for example.

Where we find ourselves in any given point in our existence, we tend to throw stones at our opposites. In life we tend to attract to us, to "hire" in a sense our "disowned selves." We see in others what we least like about ourselves. These "mirrors" act as a reflection to us of those parts we need to incorporate into our being, in order to feel whole and complete.

As we seek to come to complete integration of our many selves, or subpersonalities, we strive to come to our center, or as we say in voice dialogue, to develop an "aware ego". Many books have chronicled this search for enlightenment.

Two complete opposites, almost universally, are our Inner Monogamist and our Inner Polyamorist (loving more than one in an intimate relationship). Never before has there been such debate, especially in this Judeo/Christian culture. Why does it seem that so many polyamorists are attracted to and marry so many monogamists and vice versa? If we were to imagine the center for this dichotomy, what would we find? Could it be a combination of the best of both worlds, that which I refer to as Mono-Poly?

As we observe the world around us, it doesn't appear that mankind is truly monogamous; with our incredible divorce rate that is rapidly heading towards sixty-five percentile for us "baby boomers". That's not counting our infidelity rate, which is staggering. Add on top of that the "happiness factor", those who stay together only because of the kids, the bills, the family, habit, etc. and the figures really get alarming. What's going on here?

Despite all of the above, it does appear that we humans do tend to "pair bond". Even at the east and west poly conferences last year, it was observable; twos seeking three, couples seeking couples, even those "expanded group marriages" within them appeared to have groupings, two by two! Lets now examine the pros of each lifestyle.

With monogamy, one can embrace the creation; man/woman, Adam/Eve, two by two, the dyad, romanticism. Many find it fashionable to trounce romanticism, but face it; romance is fun! It gives one that chemical rush, that "high" of a new love, NRE (New Relationship Energy)!

Monogamy reinforces the security of a stable home, Mom and Dad, someone we can turn to in thick and thin, loyalty, commitment, our "best friend". Monogamy provides that special someone to whom you can confess your deepest, darkest secrets; that person with whom you have that "special" something that only you two know and share.

Monogamy resonates the feeling the feeling of forever, security, safety, warm fuzzies. It provides that person to whom you return when your poly adventures turn sour and they "dump" you.

Spiritually it resembles "the split-apart", the "twin flame", symbolized in the yin/yang. The twin flame is that one special person that for some inexplicable reason you feel this incredible bond that transcends time and space. When you meet that person, it bowls you over. You connect, not just on one or two chakras, but on all chakras. You realize how you never really completely connected with anyone else before and if they left, you would never go this deep ever again. It is a merging; a oneness with Man/Woman/God/Goddess/Universe.

Historically, says Dr. Helen Fisher (Anatomy of Love, Norton: 1992), monogamy insured at least two people stayed together and committed to their child's survival; staying together until he was "weaned" and somewhat self-sufficient before parting (about 4 years).

Now that we've shown the virtues of monogamy, what possibly are the the pros of polyamory?

Obviously the first thing is "variety is the spice of life".  In polyamory we have sexual variety, which is very exciting and attractive to many of us. We also have more than one person with whom do things with, so one person is not trying to meet all of our "needs", which is virtually impossible.

In polyamory, one has many mirrors in which to reflect; many points of view in which to learn and grow. In a poly household, there are many hands to accomplish tasks, to pull resources together.

Polyamory resonates the security of the "tribe"; the memory of which resides deep within many of us. With numerous to defend the women and children and assure their survival, the survival of the tribe, the children and continuance was assured against predators and foes.

As souls we appear to be created in soul groups that find one another lifetime after lifetime. We have many "soul mates" that we have loved through many lifetimes; that we have loved in various fashions time and again. As souls we know that we have an endless, boundless capacity to love. Polyamory brings our natural state of loving oneness and that ability to love all into the physical.

Statistically it appears that our marriages and dyadic relationships seem to last on the average of 3.5 to 4 years. Currently there are no real statistics available on poly relationships. We can only speculate as many remain hidden to protect their lifestyles and their families.

In my poly group, I have seen first hand the trials and tribulations of loving more than one. It is certainly not an easy path to undertake, no easier than monogamy, it appears. Broken hearts happen here as well.

Recently, I heard one staggering statistic from a local Hawaii talk show host, Kevin Hughes, which made me stand up and take notice. He said that swingers stay married on the average of 23 years! Wait a minute… 23 years! Let's take a look at that one! So I did.

I had noticed in conversations on the Internet that there are many who define themselves as "swingers" who are actually couples seeking other couples with whom to love. They just don't have any other models. They've never heard the vocabulary. Perhaps they really are poly?

I had noticed that I myself had been passing judgement and throwing stones at swingers, if only to myself. I wanted to observe things first hand, see what was really going on. So, I asked my husband, Sasha, if he wanted to check out one of the swinger's parties. After some debate, we decided the best course of action was to open up invite the local swingers organization to have a party at our house. This way, we would be able to make the most scientifically accurate observations. With some reservations and much anticipation, the party began.

What we discovered from our party is that swingers traditionally do not allow any single men in their functions. Parties are strictly couples with once in a while the occasional single woman, who is usually bisexual.

They do what I call "inclusionary lovemaking". One man told me, "I would never imagine going somewhere and making it with anyone without my wife. We are a matched set. Love me, love my dog".

In swinging, there doesn't appear to be any "mini-monoging; that little mini-affair away from home, discreet, unseen, separate from one another. Swingers seem to love together, in parties, with another couple, in the same room, or out of the room but not very far out of site from one another. They always remain connected in some way; sensing each other; feeling each other. Rather sweet, huh?

I'm not advocating that swinging is "THE MODEL" for all of the world. It is just that I no longer throw stones at them and I'm now taking a deeper look. I see the love. Many swingers develop lifelong friendships with those whom they engage in sexual play.

One thing to notice is that there are only about 200 in attendance at each poly conference each year where there are more than 3,000 who attend the Lifestyles Conference for the whole time with approximately 10,000 additional attendees for the daily events attending the workshops visiting booths and exhibitions.

I feel that, in the final analysis, we act from "choice." Even if we define ourselves as belonging to one relationship type, it appears that life throws a wrench at you; someone comes into your life; you respond with love; and soon you find yourself somewhere else along the continuum. After all, the only thing constant in life is change.

Perhaps that's truly what Hal and Sidra Stone talk about when they speak of centering oneself and the "dance of the selves" as the path to awareness and wholeness in life.

As we seem to go from lifetime to lifetime experiencing being every religion, race, color and creed, we find within our soul group that we have experienced being every imaginable configuration of friends, family and lovers. We do this dance time and again, hurting and being hurt, until one day we, find that we have completed all karma, our soul group reunites in bliss and we return home to "go out no more". Bless free will. Enjoy the adventure.

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Life is short

In Too lazy to assign a category on March 8, 2008 at 12:11 am

Polyamory and the maintenance of autonomy

In Too lazy to assign a category on February 23, 2008 at 8:08 pm

I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot lately and have figured something out about the difference in views about relationships that poly and non-poly folks have. Through conversations with friends, colleagues, etc. I’ve noticed that what bothers a lot of people about non-monogamy is not so much the fact of there being more than one simultaneous relationship in the life of one or both partners, but the maintenance of autonomy within “the couple.”

What I mean is that there seems to be an unspoken rule in many exclusive relationships that, in exchange for the emotional security and intimacy that one receives, one must give up their individual autonomy and identity. ALL decisions, big or small, ranging from a night out with friends to whether or not to get a tattoo, must now be made by THE COUPLE: this new unit composed of two parts.

When I tell people that I date that my view of a relationship does NOT include the loss of my sovereignty over my own body and my own life, they run away screaming (metaphorically). Actually, it’s more like they back away slowly with big round eyes.  When I tell them that if I ever live with someone again, we will each have our own rooms because sometimes I prefer to sleep on my own, they think I’m a freak. I also tell them that, if I’m invited to a party or any other event on a certain night, I will not call them to check if we have plans before I accept. Why? Because if WE had plans, I would know about it, right? Why would you (my hypothetical partner) make plans FOR me without consulting me? If WE are invited to a party and you are not there, I will accept for myself and tell people that I will inform you of the event and that you will be free to accept or decline, even if I know you well enough to know that you will probably accept because you love parties (ooops, almost wrote panties hehehe). And I expect you to do the same. Therefore, neither one us makes plans for the other. I call that respect of individual autonomy. Some people call it lack of respect for the unity of the couple. Go figure.

In any case, this kind of stuff is what seems to scare people away. Not so much the “simultaneous sexual and/or emotional relationships” aspect but the “maintenance of individual autonomy” aspect. Interestingly though, for me they go together. The right to establish other relationships of different natures outside of my “primary” relationship is, to me, a question of autonomy. I know that there are polyamorous people with agreements such as veto power, etc. but that kind of negotiated agreement does not indicate a loss of autonomy to me because it’s verbally laid out and negotiated whereas the clause that stipulates loss of autonomy within “(stereo)typical” monogamous arrangements is unspoken and unarticulated until broken. And even then, it’s articulated with difficulty.

Source: Jacky's Place

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