Your Relationship with Yourself
None of us can change everything. But we can all change something. A good place to start is with ourselves.
Many of us treat ourselves less as a partner than as someone to bully and manipulate. We push our bodies around whether they are tired or not. We get mad at ourselves. We criticize ourselves unmercifully. And most of the time we aren't even aware that this kind of treatment is something we learned and don’t have to put up with.
Do you find yourself going over things you did, focusing on what an inner voice says you’ve done wrong? Do you have a secret inner tyrant who keeps saying you’re not good enough? Do you carry a load of floating anxiety so that you shift from fear of one calamity to another, stifling your creative and spontaneous juices?
Adapted from The Power of Partnership: Seven Relationships That Will Change Your Life (2002), by Riane Eisler, New World Library
Maybe you don’t have these particular habits. But chances are you have some dominator habits that you aren’t even aware you use against yourself. Like many of us, you may carry resentments that leech energy you could channel into constructive actions. And like most of us, you were probably taught to suppress important aspects of yourself. Many of us are trapped in stereotyped gender roles that deny and distort our full humanity. If you take a moment to look, it becomes clear that we often let one part of ourselves dominate the other parts, instead of letting all parts function fully.
We can overcome these entrenched ways of thinking and relating -- the first step is awareness. For example:
- Observe the tension you carry, and bodily habits such as stiffening your shoulders or holding your breath. Just observe, without being critical. Then take three deep breaths, breathing out slowly, letting yourself feel the tension go out and the calm and well-being come in. (Thich Nhat Hahn recommends “breathe in calm, breathe out smile.”)
- Become aware of the messages you carry in your head that limit or distort your full humanity.
- Consider how deafeningly loud music, the constant flickering and frantic pace of television, noisy bars, violent action movies, and other forms of popular entertainment get you to “tune out” from your own experiences.
- Consider how the rush of adrenalin that comes from violent action entertainment or horror films is a counterfeit substitute for the natural highs of partnership living and loving.
- Observe the natural high you get from exploring new possibilities, from creating, and from helping those in need.
I can attest that change is possible. Once freed of the mental programming of gender stereotypes and self-deprecation, I was able to accept myself and progress in my personal development. And, as I became a better partner with myself, I found a wonderful life partner. ~ Riane Eisler