A LowB World

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Tangled TRIANGLE -by Gordon Hammond

The Tangled TRIANGLE

How to Make Relationships Work

Gordon Hammond



“Choice, not chance, determines human destiny.”

I recall the story of a teacher who asked his students to fill a barrel with large stones. When they finally crammed the last rock in, he asked them, “Is the barrel full?” They guaranteed him that it was. He then wheeled in a barrow full of gravel and invited them to keep filling. After they had squeezed in the last handful of gravel, he repeated the question. This time the pupils were less confident, realising that the bag of sand outside the door was another prop up his sleeve. When the last grain of sand had finally topped up the barrel, he asked if anyone could explain the point.

…The actual moral of the story is that if you don’t first attend to the big things in your life, you will find it very difficult to fit them in once your life is filled with the small stuff.

Chapter 1:

People need people

“A baby is born with the need to be loved –and never outgrows it.”

We have an intense psychological and spiritual need to connect. There are few skills more vital to our overall survival and well-being than the simple art of connecting with other people.

To sum up, physically we need the touch and closeness of others. Emotionally, we need to be affirmed, valued, recognised, and appreciated. Mentally, we need the challenge and wisdom of alternative ideas, insight and advice, of going beyond what we already know. Spiritually, we need to feel that we are not alone in the Universe. We need to know that life has meaning and purpose, and that we have inherent value. A part of us seeks to connect with something, or someone, greater than ourselves.

Don’t leave me

“The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through, and leave this world, without ever telling those you love that you had loved them.”

Whenever our major needs are not met, we begin to experience fear. It is a frightening experience to face life entirely on our own. Fear and need are the principle motivators behind most human behaviour. We are motivated to seek the presence of others because of our need to connect and our fear of rejection.

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each man’s life a sorrow and a suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”

The messages of childhood are carried through into adulthood. The ageing process may dilute them, but it doesn’t dissolve them. Until we actively challenge and change our childhood attitudes of inferiority, those attitudes will continue to interfere with our relationships for the res of our lives. We not only need to forgive ourselves for our inadequacies, but for many, there is the need to forgive their parents for their failings. If we hold on to the pain of the past, connection with others will certainly be more difficult. We will somehow cope and continue to live with rejection, but life will lack the lustre that it could and should have.

What happens when we connect?

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves, or rather loved in spite of ourselves.”

Because we are imperfect and very human, every one of us has experienced some degree of rejection…

However, at an intuitive level, we do seem to understand that effective connection is the best panacea for rejection… Effective connection does not simply “happen”. It is an acquired skill which starts as you connect with yourself. It begins with self-awareness and self-understanding, then moves to a heightened awareness, empathy, and understanding of the needs and feelings of others.

Often a person who has experienced rejection believes that if they can only find someone who will love them, their problems will all be over. If only it were that simple. Let’s face it, if a person cannot find room to love themselves, why should someone else love them? Furthermore, there is a high risk that they will be attracted to someone as fragile and needy as themselves.

“We’re only fragile threads but what a tapestry we make.”

A healthy relationship will foster personal growth, respect individuality, and nurture self-esteem. Dysfunctional relationships, on the other hand, have a way of assigning people to roles that overwhelm their identity. When this occurs, a person may struggle to know who they are and will frequently describe themselves in terms of others and the relationships they have formed.

“Our happiest moments are never lonely.”

True love is more than a feeling. It is a principle of living that has its roots in a belief about human worth. It is a response, not a reaction.

…the starting point for any successful relationship is to connect with yourself… The person who recognises their worth, who is at peace with themselves, whose conscience is clear, who has a sense of meaning and purpose in life –a person of conviction and commitment –will find it much easier to connect with others. In accepting themselves, they learn to be patient and forgiving with themselves, and thus, if they can be this kind with someone so human and so flawed as themselves, then they have laid the foundation to be accepting of others who are equally human.

As you journey through life, connect gently with yourself and then with others.

Chapter 2:

The hidden power of connection

“When you cannot adjust the direction of the wind, adjust the sails.”

Once we are aware of the way in which people use power, and gain an understanding of what motivates human behaviour, we can begin to create a new world of opportunity in our relationships.

“Nearly everyone can stand adversity, but if you want to test someone’s character, give them power.”

If I want things entirely my own way with no-one to tell me what to do, or what to wear, or what to think, and no-one ever telling me that I am wrong, or stupid, then I should become untouchable and unreachable, living in isolated splendour.

When two imperfect people connect, they instantly become involved in power interplay. It is unavoidable. This is the give and take of every relationship. At the heart of this giving and taking is where the real pressure and tension of a relationship happens. It is here where we make it or break it. This is where the pain or the joy is born.

Too much pressure and the relationship will blow. No pressure implies that neither partner values the relationship sufficiently to commit to it. It will quickly die. The person who is totally dominated by another, faces an existence with the misery and shame of slavery. Somewhere between lies the balance of synergy, where the energy of the people involved can be harnessed to generate a surplus of energy which can be returned to the relationship.

Winding the clock back

“The present is the necessary product of all the past, the necessary cause of all the future.”

There is a well-defined history to the way we use power. It starts at infancy. The new-born child itself is helpless and powerless.

“All power is trust.”

The quest for identity is a major source of internal conflict that may not resolve for many years… through these years, the emerging adult spends a lot of time observing other adults…

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

At every stage in the journey to adulthood, our parents, teachers, and other adults were the mentors and models exercising power. Readily “absorbing” their examples, we learned how to use power by “osmosis”.

When we stepped over the threshold into adulthood we not only carried with us the power strategies we had picked up along the way, we also quickly discovered that there were a lot of other people out there who used power in the same ways. We had arrived in the real world of conflict and control.

The power of control

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

Power can make connection very difficult, because its use can be so controlling and manipulative, so dominating. Step back just far enough to see what is happening at times and it becomes clear that one person may be treating another as if they owned them.

There are cease-fires and times of calm, but it’s amazing how, at a deeper level, a basic mistrust and fear lurks beneath so many relationships.

“You are free the moment you do not look outside of yourself for someone to solve your problems.”

Why do people remain in such unsatisfactory relationships? There are, no doubt, a number of different reasons but common to them all is limited vision. They cannot visualise things being any different. And they find it difficult to believe that they are the ones who should change. In other words, they are convinced that the other person (the invader) is the one who needs to change.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

…Change yourself. This will cause the dynamic of the relationship to change.

The power of positive influence

“Personality has the power to open many doors, but character must keep them open.”

The power of positive influence requires much greater inner strength than the power of control. It is about “me controlling me” rather than “me controlling you”.

…we respond rather than react. It is difficult to become embroiled in power games with someone who as a deep inner strength and is patient, understanding, and fair.

The power of positive influence is an influence. You cannot force it and you cannot accelerate it. It does not rely on technique or personality. The power of positive influence relies on integrity and strength of character to impact in its own time. In the same way that trust and loyalty can only be earned, we earn the right to influence the lives of others. This power only makes demands on its user and not on others.

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”

The power of positive influence recognises the need for legitimate controls and social constraints. It pays due regard to law. In the context of relationships, it respects personal boundaries. It equates freedom with safety –not with the absolute right to do whatever you want. There really is no such thing as absolute freedom.

“People who try to whittle you down are only trying to reduce you to their size.”

We achieve our greatest degree of freedom when we establish clear boundaries for ourselves and acknowledge and respect the boundaries of others. Committing yourself to using the power of positive influence requires a high level of self-control and personal constraint.

Chapter 3:

Knee-jerk living

“The language is the expression of thought. Every time you speak, your mind is on parade.”

Basically, when confronted by a stimulus, we behave in one of two ways. We either react or respond… there is only one thing that separates these two, but it is so important that it can completely transform the way we live our lives.

Compare “I caught it because you threw it” with “I caught the ball because I wanted to.” Note the shift in ownership of behaviour. The reactive person sees the cause of their behaviour originating outside of themselves. Someone, or something else, makes them do what they do. The response-able person responds in a way that reveals ownership of their behaviour. They operate from a level of awareness and understanding that enables them to see how they actually fit into the picture. They recognise cause and effect, and can identify who owns what.

The issue of owning our behaviour is at the heart of connection. Effective connection is very difficult with someone who is reactive because reactive people sidestep the reality of their dysfunctional behaviour. They don’t want to own it and they try to avoid the consequences of their inadequacies.

“If we could see ourselves as others see us, we would probably deny it.”

Reactive people do not own their behaviour and therefore do not assume full responsibility for what they do.

“The only fool bigger than the person who knows it all, is the person who argues with him.”

A habit is an action repeated so many times that where we give only passing thought to what we are actually doing. One of the essential factors in creating healthy relationships is to consciously eliminate poor habits by replacing them with good ones.

“Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”

So much of effective living is about choice. You can let the situation control you, or you can choose to control yourself, thus assuming a high level of control in the situation.

“You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die, or when. You can only decide how you are going to live. Now!”

The bottom line in reactive behaviour is loss of control. It is the reaction of a person who has given up on themselves and not one that I would recommend.

Free to choose

“Maturity doesn’t come with age; it comes with acceptance of responsibility.”

Responsible living sounds great in theory.

To start with, we need the wisdom of common sense to know the difference between an excuse and a reason.

If I’m late for work because my car broke down, is that an excuse or a reason? It depends largely on ownership (not of the car). If I’ve been trying to cut costs by not maintaining my car and continuing to drive it, knowing its going to blow up, then who owns the problem? I do. To blame the car is a lame attempt to avoid responsibility for my slackness. That’s an excuse. If, on the other hand, it’s a properly serviced vehicle and the manufacturer has installed a faulty component that caused the mechanical failure, then that is an acceptable reason and a valid explanation for being late.

This is where personal integrity comes into its own. The person of integrity doesn’t need to resort to this dysfunctional way of coping.

Lets deal about… things happening so quickly that you have to rely on your reflexes. Responsible people do two things that reactive people neglect to do.

1. They regain focus
2. They accept consequences without blaming

To be responsible requires vision and determination. It calls for a resilience, optimism, and endurance which fires the very spirit. Even when it would appear that there is no choice, there is always the choice to maintain dignity and integrity. No-one can take that from you.

“To be honest with others, one must be thoroughly honest with oneself.”

Brief comments about responsible living:

· Be prepared for the unexpected
· Listen to feedback
· Think about your choice
· Make your best choice
· Learn from poor choices
· Stretch yourself
· Own your choices
· Be true to yourself

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

After everything has unravelled, it is much easier to see what could have been said or done. That is the luxury of hindsight.

We can learn from hindsight, but it is unable to offer anything much at the time. It arrives too late. Don’t let this bucking horse beat you. Bounce up and make another choice. Get as much information as you need, evaluate the input of others, live by your principles and listen to your conscience. Then go forward with confidence.

Chapter 4:
The great disconnector

What is it?

I define it as the process of being treated or regarded as a mental and emotional invalid. Whenever someone regards your thoughts, feelings, needs, and contributions as worthless, or inferior, or irrelevant, they invalidate you –just as an invalid is a person who is limited in some way and needs some form of support or assistance to function. Invalidators treat you as if you are a mental or emotional invalid, assuming that you have a deficiency and that they need to assist you in your thinking and feeling.

“Power: the most constant and the most active of all the causes which degrade and demoralises men.”

The process of invalidation is probably the most destructive force in all our relationships. It sours them very quickly. Furthermore, without some real effort, invalidation wont go away.

Three points should be noted (A.U.S.):

· Awareness
· Understanding
· Strategies

“No one loves him who fears.”

Usually the first inkling of invalidation is a shift in our feelings from safe to threatened, comfortable to uncomfortable.

Some essential ground rules

“No human relation gives one possession in another –every two souls are absolutely different. In friendship, or in love, the two side by side raise hands together, to find what one cannot reach alone.”

Eleanor Roosevelt once observed, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The invalidator may be a controlling person, but it is our inability to establish boundaries that effectively gives the invalidator permission to get away with invasive behaviour.

“When you take charge of your life, there is no longer a need to ask permission of other people or society at large. When you ask permission, you give someone veto power over your life.”

By reacting to an invalidator, we play right into their hands and risk being hurt. In playing them at their own game, we fall into the trap of becoming an invalidator ourselves. They are usually much more adept at this game than us and, in the long run, we end up losing.

A person assumes the role of invalidator only when they are actually invalidating. It is a description of their actions, not a description of who they are.

“Those who cannot forgive others, break the bridge over which they themselves must pass.”

Harmless interaction can evolve into deep psychological encounters where every word and gesture is dissected and analysed. This is a guaranteed way to alienate people and lose friends.

There is no need to be aggressive or defensive. In most instances you only need to confront invalidation when it threatens the relationship.

Giving it a name –unmasking invalidation

“Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticise others.”

The enemy is not a person. It is a process.

“Nothing is more annoying than to have someone repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said in the first place.”

You never know where you stand with someone who undergoes sudden, unpredictable mood swings. If you stand far enough back from the situation, you will see that they are the one with the problem, not you.

“We often dislike a person not for what they are, but for what we are.”

When someone tries to make you feel guilty despite your innocence or, just as bad, tries to make you feel guilty for something they have done… the important thing, whether we understand their reasons for doing this, or not, is to distance yourself…

“When you judge others, you are revealing your own fears and prejudices.”

Because every feeling is legitimate, no-one else has the right to tell you how you should, or shouldn’t, feel.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”

Invalidators… don’t wish to hear what you have to say , so they erect barriers to keep your reality at a distance. They are interested only in their side of the story.

“The moment you say “must”, I feel “won’t” all over.”

Why? Why? Why?

…[the] mystery is why people, who have such a need to connect, engage in invalidation –a process guaranteed to place any relationship under stress. Invalidation operates at two levels, both of which are destructive, though the strategies used to deal with them are the same.

Habitual invalidation has its roots in the poorer habits of relating and is a reactive way of using power. Mostly, it is done in ignorance and its rarely an intentional attempt to hurt. They do not see their actions as invalidating –they are actually blind to their habits.

“Reputation is made in a moment; character is built in a lifetime. Take care of your character and your reputation will take care of itself.”

Not surprisingly, habitual invalidation is most commonly found in families and among people who genuinely care for, and need each other. Up to a point, invalidation mimics this very necessary role of parenting. At the core of both discipline and invalidation is control, but there’s a fundamental difference between control related to discipline, and control related to invalidation.

Sound discipline sets limits on behaviour. Invalidation limits the individual. Discipline is essential in order to be free. Invalidation erodes freedom of choice as it assaults the integrity of the individual, and leads to fear and emotional captivity.

Perpetual invalidaters are often people who insist on getting their own way. They have to have the last word, and cannot bear to be wrong. They like everybody else, have a profound need to connect. However, they usually go about it the wrong way, and try to force connection.

“A minute of thought is worth more than an hour of talk.”

…its neither defensive nor offensive. Its simply a matter of being careful. You take extra care with what you say and do in the presence of such a controlling person. Consciously avoid reacting to them. Observe more closely and remain focused on your boundaries.

Invalidators are also a product of their environment and background, often having never come to terms with issues that have plagued their relationships for much of their lives.

“People cannot be judged by what others say about them, but they can be judged by what they say about others.”

The person who has to be in control, who has to be right, cannot help but experience an unsettling level of anxiety and fear. Most anger has its roots in fear and frustration.

“No power is strong enough to be lasting if it labours under the weight of fear.”

Invalidators falsely believe that by being in control, they will finally be released from the fear they knew when they were controlled. Sadly, all they do is perpetuate their own fears and insecurity.


–Do nothing, say nothing

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

There are times when the best thing you can do is ignore the invalidation. Before doing or saying anything, evaluate the situation. There’s nothing to be gained in engaging a dysfunctional stranger in combat.

There’ll be other times when someone close to you will invalidate you. It may be unintentional, a slip of the tongue, or they may simply be having a bad day.

-Do nothing, say something

“If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”

The five “C’s” of confrontation
*Cool –keep your cool and be cool
*Courage –it takes guts
*Control –be patient, hold your tongue and listen
*Clarity –remain focused on the problem, not the personalities
*Conclude –do your best to make sure you’ve been heard and understood

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

The skill of confrontation
*Rehearse –think about what you want to say and how you want to say it
*Determine ownership -…whether the problem is jointly owned or whether the problem needs to be handed back to the person avoiding the responsibility
*Reflect back –“This doesn’t seem to be describing how I feel. Is this where you are coming from?”
*Answer a question with a question –develop the art of parrying questions
*Discover agenda –Are there any undeclared or hidden agendas that you should know about?
*Use an “I feel” statement –For example “I feel threatened when you stand over me and shout. Could you move back and not shout at me please.” Is much safer than “You are threatening me. How dare you shout at me!”
*Relieve tension with appropriate humour

“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”

Remind yourself that what you are trying to achieve with confrontation is safety. Until you are on safe ground, safe is still off the leash…

Confrontation should involve directing the energy toward eliminating fear all round. Again, this demonstrates how you can influence a situation through personal integrity. By taking control of yourself, you change the dynamic of the relationship and steer it towards safe ground.

-Say nothing, Do something

“The function of fear is to warn us of danger, not to make us afraid to face it.”

Some people are so insecure and so locked into their reactive habits that confrontation seems to have no effect. Or maybe the relationship is so entrenched that it wont budge –not unusual in the case of families. This option is not necessarily the most desirable option, but it can be the safest one. You can effective put distance between you and the invalidator.

Physical distance.
This can mean anything from measured avoidance to a total cutting of ties. With families or friends, it might result in putting limits on the frequency and duration of visits. You may feel guilty… If you are clear about your boundaries and are acting responsibly, the feelings of guilt will quickly subside.

Psychological distance.
*Become more private –The less they know about you, your thoughts and your feelings, the less vulnerable you are. This allows you to remain pleasant and civil. Its easy to say “I want to give it more thought!” Don’t make your life an open book with an invalidator
*Distance yourself from their emotional garbage –If it’s clearly their problem, and they use their emotional eruption as a tool to manipulate you into giving in… provided you’ve maintained your integrity, remind yourself that you did not upset them. They are upset because of ongoing issues in their own lives. To address those issues is up to them, not you.

-Do something, say something

“Settle one difficulty and you keep a hundred others away.”

Face the problem squarely and invite both parties to seek resolution. For reconciliation to be successful, there must be a high level of commitment and willingness from all concerned.

There must be a willingness to:
*Listen and understand
*Forgive and let go of the past
*Change yourself
*Allow for emotional ventilation
There must be a commitment to:
*Integrity –honesty of word and intention
*Discover a win/win solution
*Change –doing it differently in the future

“Whenever you face a decision, you have three choices: do what you please; do what others do; or do what is right.”

Make every attempt to do this in a safe environment. You don’t have to wait for someone else to make the first move. A safe climate is something you make for yourself.

*Maintain your personal integrity –be true to yourself. Earn trust and respect, rather than demand and expect it
*Rely on the power of positive influence
*Don’t judge
*Try not to be defensive
*Strive for genuine empathy
*Accept the uniqueness of each person –[assumptions] can create a false sense of security because its based on the shaky assumption that people are basically the same
*Recognise the legitimacy of feelings
*Be humble and teachable

At the end of the negotiation process… there needs to be agreement or alignment… people need to know that their time and energy was spent on more than mere talk.

We can exercise an amazing amount of choice in the direction of our lives if we let wisdom do its gentle work.

Chapter 5:
Where lives intersect

Boundaries –where we connect

“If people knew how hard I have worked to gain the mastery, it would not seem wonderful at all.”

Connection demands its membership dues. We pay a price when we connect –we give up something of ourselves and take on something of the other. The deeper the connection, the more this is the case.

Every relationship has its own “us”, and each “us” is the unique combination of interacting personalities. It is here that we share ideas, and influence and impact upon each other. It is the area where we connect.

“When one life is changed, the world is changed.”

A safe relationship is one that invites healthy connection while at the same time respects and preserves individuality. They are free to create many safe connections with other people. Boundaries are well-defined.

In an invalidating, or dominating relationship, a healthy “us” is suppressed. Connection is forced and boundaries are disregarded. Attempts to connect with anyone else are usually not very successful due to the poor concept of boundaries and the possessive nature of the relationship.

Some relationships are so enmeshed that they suffer too much from “us”. The individuality of both parties are swallowed up by the relationship –as they define themselves by the relationship.

With limited connection, there is a very small “us”. This is a comfortable level at which to relate to invalidators, and this is where relationships with most of our casual acquaintances exist.

“I have sometimes regretted living so close to Marie… because I may be very fond of her, but I am not quite so fond of her company.”

Whenever boundaries are disregarded. The relationship will deteriorate. It will lack structure and definition.

What is a boundary?

“We can never replace a friend. When we are fortunate enough to have several, we find that they are all different. No-one has a double in friendship.”

Boundaries are about finding a balance between two things –identity and connection. Boundaries are the limits or constraints that we place on our relationships, and on our actions and thinking, in order to achieve connection without sacrificing individuality, identity, or integrity.

If setting a boundary involves placing limits on myself as well as someone else, doesn’t that mean that I am, in effect, trying to control them?

*Controlling others create barriers, not boundaries
Boundaries are not an excuse to control another person. They are created to ensure safety within the relationship. Boundaries liberate and unite at the same time. In contrast, the power of control erects barriers and gives scant regard to safety. Its focus is possession. Barriers separate and divide.

*It is what happens in relationships
For example: at short notice, I make arrangements to attend a social function after work. My wife plans to attend a seminar at the same time. She needs the car and wants me to look after the kids. This is what happens! We do not live in isolation. Therefore, we impact on each other. Boundaries are about making the impact manageable and safe, allowing each person to be themselves

“To have a respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference for others, governs our manners.”

The starting point for boundaries is self-respect and respect for the other person. To invalidate another is to undermine their integrity and disregard their right to be themselves.

*It only takes one person to establish a boundary
Its helpful to understand that boundaries do not have to be mutually decided.

“Real friends are those who, when you’ve made a fool of yourself, don’t feel you’ve done a permanent job.”

*We have a right to determine how close we get to another person
We can place limits on the other person to discourage them from getting too close. Or we can redefine boundaries to allow us to be closer to those with whom we are comfortable. This is obviously the case with intimacy.

Intimacy is about being there for each other while still making sure there’s enough room to be yourself.

Alternatively, people build walls in their attempt to being hurt. A wall is a defence mechanism based on insecurity, whereby someone cuts themselves off from others. Walls may be the most rigid of boundaries, but boundaries are not walls. Boundaries can be flexible as well as firm. They include as well as exclude. In intimate relationships, we actually invite someone to cross previous boundaries as we begin to trust them and feel safe with them.

“You have the freedom of choice, but not freedom from choice.”

*Every “us” is different and unique
Each “us” enriches our lives. There’s a great security and happiness in belonging to a circle of friends who share so much of themselves without detracting from our or their individuality. We should not expect each one relationship to be identical to another. Its also not fair to compare one relationship with another.

By now, we can see that boundaries are important for two main reasons
*They preserve and enhance our sense of identity and our individuality
*They set the parameters of every relationship, from the casual to the intimate

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”

Every relationship is different and subject to change. And is so often the case with human behaviour, you lay down the foundational principles, then work out with the rest with common sense, experience, good advice, and intuition.

What makes a good connection?

“He that has no fools, or knaves, nor beggars in his family, must have been begot by a flash of lightning.”

There are two levels at which we connect.

[1] Connections of circumstance
We have limited choice; …these relationships are of convenience or necessity, the most obvious examples involve work colleagues and family members and relatives.

The acid test is to ask yourself: “How many of my relatives/workmates would I continue to see if we were not related?”

Its easy to equate frequent family contact with depth or quality in terms of relationship. But this can be an illusion. It can actually be fertile ground for guilt-loading and stress.

Family members are often enslaved by the expectations of each other, shackled to unrealistic roles they wish would change.

“Cultivate the qualities you desire in a friend because someone is looking for you as their friend.”

[2] Connections of choice
We specifically choose the company of certain significant people for three main reasons

Affinity is a harmony of souls and a source of profound comfort and delight in the presence of each other. I think affinity is most evident in moments of shared silence, when two people sense that they’re of one mind, without ever exchanging a word.

The physical and sexual attraction that makes the world go around.

Common interests. Backgrounds and beliefs that coincide. Compatibility is more concrete than affinity, and can result in connections that are mutually rewarding and very satisfying.

“Friendship is a responsibility, not an opportunity.”

Over time, relationships of choice that we make will develop a life of their own. In our most enduring friendships, they will move from friendship to intimacy through the sharing of experiences and the emergence of a private history filled with significant memories. Confidences and secrets, shared pains and joys, ups and downs, a tapestry of life created by two people who trust, accept, affirm, tolerate, forgive and bless one another unconditionally.

A rule of thumb for boundaries

“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.”

Three simple guidelines for establishing most boundaries

If your security is in any way threatened, think “boundaries”. Do whatever is necessary to guarantee your safety. This applies to both physical safety and psychological safety.
This is very subjective but is nevertheless important. Its difficult to feel relaxed when you’re uncomfortable, so ask yourself what you expect out of the relationship and assess the comfort levels.
Every culture and sub-culture has its own intricate set of rules, norms, mores, and so on, that determines what is, or is not, appropriate behaviour.

“There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”

Be gentle and firm when setting a new boundary, even when people resist, until the message is understood. Be consistent too. If you vacillate… no-one will take it seriously.

“The sum of behaviour is to retain a person’s own dignity, without intruding upon the dignity of others.”

We cannot avoid the reality that setting boundaries inevitably brings its own set of consequences. To settle for dominance means continuing to live with pain –not a pleasant option to choose. To walk away also means pain. Separation may be unpleasant, but sometimes it’s the safest choice. Nobody said that setting boundaries is a cinch.

How do you actually set boundaries?

“Self-control is more often called for than self-expression.”

Creating a boundary has the capacity to totally change the dynamic of a relationship. You cannot eliminate the risk that it may precipitate a cooling off, or a distancing, resulting in some form of rejection.

The boundary statement can take a couple of forms:
*A clear statement about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable –it makes sense to give reasons
*A “consequences” statement –make a clear statement outlining what action you’ll take if the boundary is not respected. Its important that these are not idle words. You’ll need to be able to implement a plan of action. And you must be prepared to carry it out. Added weight can be given to this by including an “I feel” message. E.g. “I feel berated when you break my confidence. If it happens again, I will not confide in you in the future.”

“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.”

Avoid being aggressive when setting boundaries. Just be sure.

Chapter 6:
The power of connection

The three dimensions of love

“Love is immortality struggling within a mortal flame.”

Of all the skills that we can acquire, none is more vital to our happiness and wellbeing than that of being able to love.

In daring to love, there is always a risk –the risk of failure and subsequent rejection, followed by the pain of a broken heart. When you think about it, you realise that a commitment to love another will always end in pain because it inevitably ends in separation –the final separation being death itself.

To love completely is to be totally vulnerable. Yet the rewards of loving far outweigh the risks. The alternative to a life of loving, is bleakness, isolation and rejection.

…”love” [is] a beam of white light passing through a prism to reveal its spectrum… of the three basic dimensions of love

[1] Physical Love
Physical love is incredibly compelling and difficult to constrain, providing its own logic, which is not necessarily rational, but usually associated with pleasure.

There is the urge to nurture and protect; the coveting of one’s own offspring; the willingness to sacrifice even life itself so that the newborn can survive.

Sexual love is overtly biological. Sex may be wonderful… but none of this, however, is any guarantee that the deeper needs to be cherished, affirmed and valued will be met.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

[2] Emotional Love
Emotional love focuses on “us” in the sharing of our lives. It thrives on generosity of spirit, care, affection, kindness and unselfishness, and is strengthened through reciprocal sharing.

In working at our relationships, there is always the hard grinds. There are no shortcuts.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may seek not so much to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

[3] Spiritual Love
Spiritual love holds to a strong belief that it is in giving that we receive –give without expecting anything in return.

The four facets of love

“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.”

[1] Love is something you are
It is important to understand that love is in you. It doesn’t simply “get there” [though]. You must accept it, seek it, ask for it, work at it, nurture it, give it, return it and regard it as your most treasured possession.

The person who hasn’t put the effort into character growth will struggle to love because the essential ingredients are lacking.

[2] Love is something you do
Love doesn’t just happen. The behaviour of love is a responsible and repeated choice. Love is premeditated. You already know the ways that you wish to respond.

Love is reflective. You think back on things you’ve said and done, and you ask yourself if you were true, and genuine and loving in your actions.

Love is an attitude that we choose to adopt.

Love is a commitment to a way of operating based on clearly established principles that are not negotiable.

Love must be practised. There’s no point concluding, in your mind, that the way of love is very attractive is you are reluctant to practise it through action.

Love is forgiving –you forgive yourself and you forgive others for making mistakes.

“To be loved is better than to be famous.”

Here’s a rule of thumb about love:
Start with yourself. Learn to truly love yourself first –not in an egotistical sense, or selfishly. Be patient, kind and forgiving with yourself. Be honest, fair and firm. Come to respect your own worth, and treat yourself accordingly. Through this process, you learn to love not only yourself, but others too.

[3] Love is a belief
Love is a belief in the principles you choose to live by.
Love is a belief in the intrinsic value of yourself as a worthy human being.
Love is a belief about the value and worthiness of others.
Love is a belief in the rewards that you and others will receive in loving.
Love is our strongest and most important belief.

“Love never asks how much must I do, but how much can I do.”

[4] Love is something you feel
Love is more than the warm feelings associated with intimacy, affection, acceptance and closeness. There’s a deep sense of peace and contentment in the harmony that love creates.

Love is the feeling of quite confidence and satisfaction that comes when you’ve been true to yourself and your conscience is clear.

Love is the feeling of certainty that comes when you know that the wisdom and guidance of love is reliable.

You feel pleasure as you see others blessed, uplifted and encouraged by your loving influence on their lives.

You feel awe and humility as you ponder the amazing power of this wonderful force changing you and your world.


“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

As you learn to respect yourself and trust your own judgement, people will come to affirm you and honour you.

Your life is in your hands.