ERP 096: How Your Beliefs Can Destroy Your Relationship – Part Two
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Make sure you check out Part One ERP 095: How Your Beliefs Can Destroy Your Relationship, if you missed it. In this episode, you will learn why we can go from anticipating the best about our partners and relationship to anticipating the worst (as a form of protection).
When we are triggered, we are more likely to react and jump to conclusions. Therefore, it is important to slow down. so that we can calm our nervous system and enable our higher level thinking. In turn, this will help us engage in a more progressive and productive process.
(Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear more explanations, stories and examples.)
How our beliefs affect us
The field of psychology teaches us that our thoughts, feelings, and physiology are all connected and interrelated. The beliefs we hold affect our thinking, feeling, body, as well as the way we behave and relate. Here is an example:
- Belief: “I am ugly”
- Thought: “No one will ever be interested in me.”
- Emotion: Feeling sad, alone, and depressed.
- Body: Bad posture, turned away, looking down.
- Action: Will not take care of appearance and will not actively engage with others.
- Result: Little positive social feedback, as people will not have much a chance to relate.
Points of change
It is easier to change our thinking and physiology than it is to change our emotions.
- Deepen our breath to calm our nervous system or change our body posture to increase confidence.
- Reframe our thinking to get to a more balanced thought.
Our negative views
When we go through a difficult time, it is natural to try to make sense of the situation. However, if we let our fear, reactivity, and protection mechanisms run the show, then we are at great risk of pathologizing our partners, ourselves, or our relationships.
Here are things we typically say:
- “If he would only communicate with me, we wouldn’t have any problems. He has issues.”
- “If she would just control her anger, we would be fine. She is the problem.”
- “Maybe I am not relationship material.”
- “Maybe I am not meant to be with anyone.”
- “Maybe we were never meant to be.”
- “Who were we kidding? We are such a joke.”
A negative belief in action vs a balanced belief in action
Let’s look at one possibility of how a negative beliefs can impact our thinking, feeling, and behaving:
- Belief: “He can’t communicate. If he would only communicate with me, we wouldn’t have any problems.”
- Thinking: “He can’t give me what I need. He has issues. He doesn’t really want to be close. I should have picked someone different.”
- Emotion: Feel hurt. Feel wronged. Feel unhappy. Feel scared. Feel sad and upset. Feel angry. Feel hopeless.
- Body: Either slumped posture and looking down. Or arms crossed, hand on the hip, and piercing eyes.
- Actions: Ask questions with a negative tone of voice. Ask questions expecting there to be no quality reply. Ask leading questions or close-ended questions. Ask questions at inopportune times.
- Result: Further disconnect. Disagreements. Misunderstandings. Upset. Conflict. Negative patterns ensues.
Let’s take the same concern and look at another possibility of what a more balanced belief might look like in action:
- Belief: “Communicating verbally isn’t as easy or natural for him.”
- Thinking: “I wonder what ways he likes to share his experience. When does he open more to me?”
- Emotion: Feeling curious. Feeling interested. Feeling hopeful. Feeling patient and trusting.
- Body: Alert. Leaning towards. Good eye contact. Open posture.
- Actions: Seeking to understand. Trying to help. Treading carefully. Genuinely curious and accepting
- Result: Better communication. More goodwill. Willing to work together. Feeling more connected. Understanding each other more.
Another example of a negative belief in action vs a balanced belief in action
Let’s look at a Listener’s question: What if my partner isn’t interested in or doesn’t have faith in the process?
An example of a negative belief playing out:
- Belief: “This is stupid.” (working on the relationship…talking, therapy, or coaching)
- Thinking: “I am not going to get anything out of this. This will never work.”
- Emotion: Annoyed. Angry. Frustrated. Resentful.
- Body: Arms folded. Muscles tight. Defensive posture. Closed off. Shut down. Constricted breathing.
- Action: Ready to leave. Looking for an opportunity to get out of the conversation and disengage. Avoid. Blame. Not really listening, and not trying to understand.
- Result: No positive result. No progress. Separation. Divorce.
An example of a balanced belief playing out:
- Belief: “I am not sure if this will work, but I am willing to try.”
- Thinking: “This is uncomfortable. I am not sure what I am suppose to do.”
- Emotion: Uncomfortable. Anxious. Excited. Hopeful. Scared. Vulnerable.
- Body: A little on edge. Working on trying to stay calm. Trying to take a few deep breaths. Posture alert and upright.
- Action: Keeping an open mind. Willing to try.
- Result: Likely, with some good guidance, they will begin to build safety and make progress together.
How to work with a negative belief
Unpacking our beliefs, so that we can explore them, look at them, constructively work with them usually takes a process. If you are interested in getting support, please contact me. I would be happy to explore the option of coaching or a program with you.
In the meantime, here are some reflection questions for you to consider (assuming you have calmed down enough, so that you can think and assess a little more clearly):
Pay very close attention to your internal dialogue.
- Check out your thinking. What do you say to yourself? Is what I am thinking really true?
- What might this say about a belief you are holding?
- What are your feelings in this scenario?
- What does your body feel like within the situation?
- What are your behaviors? What action do you take?
- What is the outcome or result?
- How might I be seeing this from the lense of my old experience?
Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 096: How Your Beliefs Can Destroy Your Relationship – Part Two [Transcript]
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If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Empowered Relationship Course or doing relationship coaching work with me.