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Distinctions to accelerate your personal and professional evolution

Agreements For Healthy Relating | Agreement 3: If We Are Upset, We Make a Request

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Agreement 3: If we are upset and we would like a new rule or new agreement, we make a request. 

This could be as simple as, “my request is you open doors for me on a date” or “my request is that you call if you are going to me 5 or more minutes late”, or “my request is that on our dates you turn your phone off - or silence it” so you are fully present.

Or it could be something with more gravity and/or more impact:  “if you are dating other people, my request is that you let me know that”, or “my request is that we be monogamous”.

This is how to have clean communication, to get what you want, and to get back into connection as cleanly and as quickly as possible.

All too often I have seen proponents of so-called “conscious” communication manipulating (or attempting to manipulate) the other person through simply expressing displeasure and then being upset that they did not pick up on it.

All too often women in so-called “conscious” or “transformational” communities talk about how the man should get better at hearing “feminine” communication.

There is certainly some truth to that - men need to pay attention to minimal cues more and can develop more subtle awareness both linguistically and -  but it also codifies implicit communication 0- and can lead to passive-aggressive tendencies that leads to the ickiest (that is a technical term) kind of control where one person is controlling the other person through their lack of emotional facility - often intentionally.

And once you allow this to work, and this dynamic seeps into your relating, it can be one heckuva downward spiral that gains momentum.

And then you have devolution, not evolution.

Let’s explore what you may be upset by.

It could be a trigger (something unresolved from your past that is stacked on top of other similar events and therefore disproportionate).  It could be a boundary that was crossed (you may or may not have been aware of it being a boundary but your upset can bring that into the foreground). It could be a broken agreement with the person you are in a relationship with.

First, reflect on whether or not you are holding them accountable to an agreement they have not made. 

Next, explore whether or not it is triggering something from your past: the disproportionate nature of it will point to that. Relate to this as an opportunity to heal that. It’s a gift they just handed you, really, without knowing it. 

If they broke an agreement you had made with them, there are several steps:

First, ask, “it is my understanding we had __________ agreement. Is that your understanding?”

It is my experience - and my observation - that most people simply forgot. So all it takes it to bring the agreement back into awareness.

Obviously, if it is a larger transgression, like that breaking an agreement around dating or sex, that would be nearly impossible to forget, like “we agreed to be monogamous” then the next step is to offer incredible grace.

For example: is there anything I have done to create the conditions for you to [most likely] not tell the truth about what was happening.

Some of you may be protesting right now, but remember two critical things:

  1. Communication skills are physical skills. So take every opportunity to get as much practice as you can
  2. We take responsibility for our part in things - despite the fact that it will give them grace. And we do it for healthy selfish reasons: to build self-esteem and to increase our capacity for spaciousness and depth.

“Grace” in this context is defined as “unmerited mercy”. But again, that is just fine, because we do it for us - for our own personal evolution - not for them.

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This is an excerpt from Jason's forthcoming book on Evolutionary Relationships from the #RelationshipGenesis section.

To be Guided by Jason - whether you are currently in a relationship and want to transform it, or you are single and want to “do the next one right” - check out the Evolutionary Relationships offering.

Or just schedule a complimentary initial conversation here to get the process started.

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Evolutionary Relationships | Questions From a Commentor on #RelationshipGenesis

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Evolutionary Relationships | Questions From a Commentor on #RelationshipGenesis

Do all relationships have a beginning, middle, & end?

Is it egocentric to hope or aim for a life-long evolutionary dyad? How do you move forward when you sense the end is a painful cliff?

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Q:  “Do all relationships have a beginning, middle, & end?”

Yes, they do. Though how much time, energy, and focus is spent on each of those stages - the duration of each stage - varies widely.

Sometimes the beginning may take a very very long time. Sometimes they happen very quickly. Sometimes there is a seemingly paradoxical combination of both.

For instance, with my last relationship, I had known her for 12 years and had always had a bit of a crush on her. In fact, I still remember the red dress she was wearing when I met her in 2008.

 But circumstances were such that it would have been inappropriate for me to express that at the time. 12 years passed, and then we just happened to be in the same city at the same time and she reached out to me asking if I was in fact in that city - I think I have Facebook's proximity function in Messenger to thank for that.

 Anyway, the circumstances were such now that it was no longer inappropriate for me to express it, so I did. And we decided to meet up for a date and to catch up, had an incredible kiss at the end of that date, and then ended up living together for several months almost immediately after that.

And yes, all relationships end. 

Sometimes it ends after just a few months in a volatile fashion. 

Sometimes it ends amicably and it is navigated and negotiated and the two parties can remain friends but just realized that it was not a fit in the context of romance or intimacy for them to be together.

Sometimes the end does not occur until one of you dies after many many many years - decades - of being together. 

But be that as it may, all relationships eventually have an end

Q: Is it egocentric to hope or aim for a life-long evolutionary dyad? 

I think we should have as a starting point the belief or even the conviction that you can have everything that you desire in your relationship.

 Sometimes that's not possible if you're in a relationship already and you realize that something is very important to you, and the other person is either incapable or uninterested in engaging in that way of relating with you. 

However, I think it would be fantastic. 

If you are single, then I think it's appropriate to have that as part of your criteria if it's something that is very important to you and would be fulfilled in that way.

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Agreements For Healthy Relating | We Do Not Hold Eachother accountable to Agreements We Have Not Made

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Agreement 2:  We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not (explicitly) made

Holding people accountable to agreements they have not made - by punishing them for not being aware of your preferences - is just one aspect of unclean relating. It is also fundamentally unjust.

How do they punish? By withdrawal and withholding.

Intimacy, connection, love, all those things. The things you are there to experience with them.

Sometimes they dress it up as "making sure you understand the impact". Oh, I understand. I understand what they are doing and I see the control game they are attempting to play.

And the degree of attachment and emotional enmeshment one has and external validation one seeks is the degree to which one will be controlled by these gimmicks.

Play a higher game. If your partner will not join you in that cleaner, higher game - will not co-create it with you - choose a new board to play on.

We do not hold each other accountable to agreements we have not made

What does this mean?  How does this occur? What are the indicators?

We’ve all done this. We’ve all had this done to us. Some more recently than others.

The word “should” is one huge indicator, and all-too-often we punish the ignorant - and for what? For not reading our minds? Fro simply being themselves? Sarcasm aside: how do we punish them? 

Most often by withholding intimacy and connection - while blaming them for that very choice we just made. It’s not pretty.

While there is something to be said for having an overlap in world-views and values as a natural fit, I have known people who grew up in the same small town, went to the same church, and still had different ideas, standards, opinions, and rules about how a relationship, a partnership, or marriage should operate in the day-to-day. While you may begin to intuit your partner's needs and desires, this only comes from a process of educating one another about our preferences.

No “they should have known” or “shoulds” in general. Not in Evolutionary Relating.

As an Evolutionary, we understand the difference between an agreement - or rule that we have both agreed to - an expectation, which is usually an unstated desire, and a standard, and/or a boundary.

To fully understand - and therefore be able to agree to - the 2nd agreement, let’s distinguish the difference among those four.

First, if you are upset by something they did or did not do, ask yourself, “do we have an explicit agreement about this”?  If the answer is no, then you can skip to Agreement 3 and decide if you want to make a request around this particular thing or not. If so, and if they agree - it then essentially binds both of you to a new agreement.

Bear in mind that the more rules you have in your relationships the less freedom of expression both parties will have and the more attention you have to have on those rules and agreements. And the truth is - if you are looking to bind someone to an agreement to limit their behavior in some way because you are uncomfortable with how they are - when no real harm is being done by their behavior - but you want to control them or you fear something happening - then you are trading self-expression and spontaneity (read: fun) for stability and safety. And there is a place you are not free emotionally if you want to control or constrict them in some way.

There is nothing wrong with that - just be aware that is what you are doing - and look deeper for the work you can do to allow yourself more freedom there, which will, in turn, give others the freedom to be.

But even if it hasn’t been communicated we still can’t hold that person accountable. If it has been communicated and the person agrees then it’s a new agreement And they can be held accountable.

But in terms of holding someone accountable to an agreement they have not made - it occurs all the time. So if you do not have an explicit agreement around something and you find yourself cutting them off or punishing them in some way - be it punitive or by simply withholding connection - you can reconnect again and take care of your own needs by simply making a request - and they then do not have to guess what your needs are, you are taken care of, and you can get back to connection and love - which hopefully is the primary purpose of your relating.

Hopefully.

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Agreements for Healthy Relating | Agreement 1: Truth Over Comfort

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The Agreements

From Chance to Wisdom 

In my experience, there are four agreements that are necessary as foundations for any healthy relationship regardless of the context - meaning it doesn't matter if it's a professional context, if it's friendship, or if it's sexual, intimate, and romantic.

In fact the more intimate it is the more important I think these agreements are, but unfortunately - and paradoxically - the less likely someone is to actually be willing to have the conversation that’s required. That's for many reasons, most of them self-esteem issues are at their source and fear-based.

Let me explain: If we are attached to the hope that someone will like us, to the degree that it becomes a need for their approval and therefore induces fear in ourselves, and/or we have scarcity around whether or not we will actually find somebody who is a fit, or whether or not we can find someone else if a relationship does not work out, we have a tendency to overlook things that we know are important to address because if the person doesn't like us then we may take that personally in the case of a self-esteem issue, or we don't want to set up any barriers to them liking us or connecting with us.

But in doing so, we skip over critical foundational steps - and virtually assure we end up with someone who is not a fit or find ourselves in a conflict without the agreement reality as to how we find our way out of it and get back into connection.

So we ignore wisdom in favor of the immediacy of false connection - so as to not "rock the boat". At its worst, of course, this borders on codependency and external validation and that a path that if you continue down that road leads to frustration, heartache, and worse.

However if we have an abundance mindset - a certainty that there are plenty of people out there who might be a fit for us - and fit is more important than not being alone - we understand that it's easier to find somebody who's a fit that it is to deal with the frustration and challenges and eventual heartbreak of someone who is not a fit, and we are internally validated in terms of our esteem for ourselves, then we choose wisdom over chance.

The reality is we are actually choosing wisdom and communication over something much worse than chance: predictably negative results.

When do I lay out these agreements?  On the first date.

Some people may fret at this moment - and they are worried it is too late - they already skipped over these agreements and find themselves in the quagmire of shoulds and implicit agreements and unstated yet clear expectations you never agreed to. That can be an icky and frustrating place.

But don’t fret: you can transform any relationship - or “reboot” or - or start over from scratch and begin to date someone again - you can use the agreements as a way to transform friendships - I have. I have used the agreements and the conversation around them to bring years-long friendships back to life.

We’ll talk about skillful means - how most effectively to do that - after we lay out the agreements and flesh them out fully.


The Agreements

Four Foundational Agreements For Healthy Relating

  1. We tell the truth and we hear the truth and we value truth over comfort
  2. We do not hold anyone accountable to agreements they have not made
  3. If we are upset, we make a request (for a new agreement)
  4. We accept that we are responsible for our own experience and our own emotions.
    1. Make no assumptions
    2. Don’t make anything up

Let’s examine each of these agreements fully.

Agreement 1:  Truth Over Comfort

The first agreement is that we tell the truth and we hear the truth and we value truth over comfort. 

The “comfort” might be our own, or it may be the comfort of others.

Here is an excellent standard: if we are afraid to say it - or afraid that somebody can’t hear it or might take it personally - that’s probably the very thing that should be said. 

And as I am sure you have experienced, the longer we delay the telling of that truth, the bigger it becomes in our mind and the worse it will be when we tell them - for the relating, for our internal anxiousness around sharing it, and for them when they find out how long we delayed; telling the truth brings relief for all without delay. There may be broken agreements to clean up - something we will address later on in this book, but that aside, telling the truth should increase intimacy and connection. 

Hearing the truth - if done openly and spaciously - always will.

Telling the truth is not an excuse to be a jerk.

There is a popular theme in some circles where someone is a jerk (that is a technical term) and they finish it off (or begin it) with “I am just speaking my truth”.

That is not in alignment with the spirit of this rule - because most often “speaking your truth”  is just being self-indulgent. The spirit of this rule is to increase intimacy and to increase connection. Thus, we want to tell the truth with skillful means - meaning in a way that honors both ourselves, yet delivered in a way the other person is best able to receive it.  As well as caring for the relating or the relationship - the 3rd entity that is created by the synergy of the two of you.

Why is this so important?  Relationships begin to die in the unsaid.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence; the grass is always greener where it is tended to, cared for, and nurtured.

If there is enough unsaid in the relationship, you are not even relating to the human in front of you anymore - you are relating to all the stuff you have not said, or do not think you can say - and that shows up as being distracted, shut down, simply not present, or simply being silent. So instead of relating to the dynamic and vibrant human in front of you, you are simply in your head about … all the things. 

That build-up - that residue - kills true intimacy.

And yet, telling the truth and hearing the truth are - at the very least - very different sets of capacities. 

That can not be overstated - and as I have said over and over again, communication skills are physical skills that take practice - and these component skills definitely take a lot of practice.

To start with, telling the truth can take a lot of courage. Hearing the truth takes openness and, at times, a willingness to hear feedback and truths that are difficult to hear. 

And the list goes on - on both sides.

But imagine telling the truth about something - something you are scared to share about yourself - and having your partner thank you, express gratitude for trusting them to share it with them, and acknowledge you for the courage that it took and to express that they trust you even more now - and to do it without judgment - with love and acceptance. 

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Becoming Your Own Guru | What Triggers are and How to Best Relate to Them

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Given all this talk of responsibility and blame, how do we best relate to triggers?  What are they? How do they occur?

Triggers are most often referring to feelings of hurt or anger.  What I mean when I say “trigger” is that you lose the balance of your mind or that you “lose facility with self” in a disproportionate way.

Some people call it “going into red”. Some refer to it as a “trauma response”. Some refer to it as “pissing you off”, or what have you. There can be many names for it, but I think the disproportionate nature of it - where you say things you have to apologize for or simply can’t communicate responsibly - or simply yell or lash out or hurt the other person physically or verbally - is symptomatic of being “triggered”.

We usually speak about them in a relationship as if the other person is somehow to blame for our lack of emotional facility or rationality.  “They triggered me” or “they made me angry” or my personal favorite “you made me worry” we can be heard saying.

Yes. That’s right:  they put a gun to your head and made you fantasize horrible things may have happened to them. When really all that was happening was their cell phone battery died. Or they fell asleep. But they made you worry.

What is the problem with this? 

Not only does this give our power away, but it also makes other people responsible for our feelings, which is simply not the case.

They did not trigger us - it is not their behavior that is the problem:  it is our relationship to what they did that is the problem. Or it is how we interpreted it - what we made up or made it mean - that produced the emotional response in us. We got triggered.  Or it triggered something from our past. More often than not, something that happened triggered off something from our past - or a series of events from our past - hence the disproportionate nature of the trigger. 

We’ve all experienced this in the micro. If your lover keeps leaving dirty underwear on the counter or leaves the empty toilet paper roll on the dispenser without replacing it … and it happens over and over again - you may have a disproportionate response to that and blow up at them about that or about something else. 

This is good news; something from our past that is unresolved or in need of resolution has presented itself.

This is a gift if we relate to it as such.

My partner does not trigger me. I get triggered. Or something from my past was triggered.

If I relate to it like they triggered me AND I wait for them to come in after me and “make it right” I am not only playing a victim, I am making them responsible for my trigger and my happiness. Even worse: they now have all the power over my current emotional state: and I gave it to them by blaming them.

There are also some who use this as a control dynamic/power play; withholding love or connection until you “make it right” when in fact you broke no agreements. But they hold you hostage - or perhaps you have done this yourself to someone to feel special or … extract your pound of flesh.

This is not the exercise of power - it is the use of emotional force. True power comes from developing your facility with self; learning to navigate your interiors - so that you can have ease, flow, and happiness in your life - and a funny thing happens when you do: people enjoy being around you more when you manage your own internal experience - because you are giving them the freedom to be themselves.

They will thank you for being gracious. They will thank you for being understanding. But mostly, they will continue to be more and more self-expressed as you will have clean relating absent of any shame or irresponsibly expressed anger. They won't feel blamed simply for being themselves.

Here is where I give you two new tools - practices really - one for resolving shame, hopelessness and other “emotional atmospheres” as I like to call them, and one for dissolving anger while simultaneously building empathy and compassion.

If you master these simple practices, you will enjoy lasting and increased levels of joy, happiness, and ease, where you used to beat yourself up, get frustrated or angry - or blamed others for things and felt powerless.

You will become equanimous.

This will give you true power, but it is absent of any force.

One of my favorite translations of the word "guru" is "one who is solid in themselves" - so they can not be blown over by external events. I have no interest in being your guru. But I am heavily invested in helping you become your own guru.

These tools will speed you on that path.

Copyright

© Jason D McClain

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