One of the areas of our life that perhaps causes us the most duality in terms of positive and negative emotions are our personal relationships. These are the bonds we share with family and close friends, as well as with our romantic attachments.
From the dizzying heights of the birth of children or falling in love for the first time, to the crushing lows of endings and loss, there’s nothing quite like relationships to affect our mood, sense of wellbeing and feeling of deep relaxation.
There are 100’s of different definitions and ways of describing how love feels, just as there are countless ways in which we experience these different types. We often tend to separate them into two main areas however – familial love and romantic love.
Familial love might include our children, parents, siblings or extended family. We might also feel familial love for friends and those we aren’t related to by way of blood.
On the other hand, romantic love is usually distinguished by a sexual component, where we dream about, fantasize about or interact with the object of our love in a way we would not with those we consider family.
Despite the added sexual component, most romantic attachments tend to have a lot in common with the kind of relationships we have outside of that sphere.
In romantic relationship’s we still bond over shared experiences and have elements of friendship and companionship. We also tend to interact with others in romantic relationships largely based on our formative experiences.
Whether we come from a loving, stable family or a more turbulent and emotionally unstable background, we can often find that our relationships can both hinder and help us in our quest for greater self-awareness and inner relaxation.
Positivity and growth vs negativity and loss in relationships
High conflict and repeated hurt floods the mind and body with stress, which makes it difficult to relax across all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
However, it is at precisely these points – when we feel the worst and the most disconnected – that we need to relax the most.
It’s therefore helpful to cultivate our ability to relax when we feel the most positive, when the pendulum is swinging back towards that area.
The Middle Ground
As discussed earlier, all relationships involve multiple facets which interact in complex ways. We can view it like a pendulum swinging. We feel positive and uplifted when enjoying a great night out with good friends for example, but feel crushing loneliness and sadness when we break up with a partner we really love. It’s a rare occasion when we only feel positivity in a relationship, or only negativity. We also have multiple relationships which all interact with each other and impact each other.
I might have an argument with my mother for example, and feel hurt when a core pain from the past has been poked. This may then affect my ability to listen patiently and lovingly to my child when they come to me with a problem. Or on the other hand, I might have a wonderful day out with a friend, enjoying love and laughter, and therefore feel more able to respond in a calm and less painful state when my partner is low.
Therefore, we not only have one emotional pendulum from our relationships which affects us, but multiple ones which all affect each other.
No wonder we often feel confused, stressed or overwhelmed!
One way through this is to seek the middle ground. This isn’t a place where all is even, but rather a place outside of the pendulum swing. We cannot stop our emotions or those of the people we are in relationships with. We will always experience the turbulence of our different pendulum swings on one level. However, we can take steps to reduce the amount of harm we suffer emotionally, and the intensity of the swings.
By choosing a lifestyle where we pay attention to relaxation and cultivate a regular practice of connecting with our truly relaxed selves, we can begin to step outside the turbulence and learn how to flow alongside it more freely.
The dual nature of our emotional landscape when it comes to relationships can cause a lot of conflict within us. Most relationships are neither all positive or all negative. Instead they hold a myriad of aspects within them, which interact in complex ways.
For example, we might have a romantic relationship which is very tactile and fulfills a need within us for loving touch. But they might also be turbulent with plenty of disagreements which lead to disrespect and painful conflict.
We often find that we grow through both positivity and negativity. We also find ourselves stagnating because of interactions we may have outgrown or which are hampering us in our quest for deeper relaxation. Relationships which are high in conflict or which involve contempt as a regular feature can damage self-esteem and cause huge layers of stress to build up within our psyche.
This cuts us off from our core, and from our deeply-held knowledge that we are worthy, worthwhile. Often those who have suffered deeply from a lack of supportive and grow-inspiring relationships find that their psyche is so flooded with negative associations with the self it feels too painful to examine them, and therefore gain a greater understanding of the self and our many layers.
How does our past expectations and experiences affect us?
Most of us grow up with a ‘relationship blueprint’. The way we interacted with our early caregivers will have set us up with certain emotional and spiritual expectations. If we had secure attachments, where we were valued for who we were and our uniqueness embraced and celebrated, we often find we automatically behave from that viewpoint.
If, however, we grew up believing the world, and other people are dangerous, will hurt us and that we are not worthy of deep and secure love, we can find this affects us negatively throughout our lifetime.
This is partly due to the way the brain develops. In very simple terms when we think our brain responds by laying down pathways. What we think repeatedly therefore become well-trodden pathways. Repeated thoughts of low self-worth are reinforced as the brain fires up those pathways as an automatic function.
This will often be reflected in our close relationships.
This can all sound very depressing, until you understand that our minds, brains and psyches are not fixed and static. When we begin to understand why certain negative patterns occur, we can begin to change them consciously.
How to nurture great relationships
Positive and nurturing interactions can work wonders for our self-esteem, and in healing the deeply-held hurts from the past.
One of the main reasons that people strive for positivity in their relationships is because loving and calm relationships enable a person to access the places inside of them beyond the merely psychologically pleasant more easily.
How do you become more positive?
One simple way is to have a low tolerance level with those things, people, thoughts and phenomena that promote negativity. Simply avert your gaze and attention to something else that increases your wellbeing rather than decreases it.
Positivity can directly or indirectly affect the quality of those relationship(s) which you hold in high regards. Those people around you which you value and love for their character and personality.
Through mindfulness and awareness
Another way is to simply be more aware of everything that is happening within and around you. Mindfulness or simply a conscious awareness is applicable to whatever situation you might find yourself in. Simply pay attention to the way people are, your own reactions and you will oftentimes, without realizing it, act and speak from a wiser state of mind.
Mindfulness in relationships can be a incredibly powerful thing, especially if both parties are interested in it. However the great thing is that it can turn out great even if only one person is involved in it.
That being said, most often failed or troubled relationships are due to deep tensions within and between individuals. Through the combining of self-knowledge and understanding with positivity and conscious relaxation, you can allow your relationships, whether they be of romantic or familial nature, to blossom freely.
Feel absolutely free to share your own thoughts about this topic below! (You are appreciated!)