This may sound simple, yet for many people, there is one choice far more important to them than kindness. This is the choice to attempt to control others feeling and behavior, outcomes and their own painful feelings. Kindness to yourself and to others comes from a desire to support your own highest good and the highest good of others. When your highest priority is to support the highest good of all, you are naturally kind. You don't even have to think about it. It flows easily when your deepest desire is to be a loving, caring person.
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But when your deepest desire is to protect yourself from getting hurt, then your automatic choice, particularly in conflict, is likely to attempt to control with anger, withdrawal, blame, judgment, compliance, or resistance.
Jack claimed to love his wife Jenny. Yet as soon as Jenny didn't do what he wanted or expected, he would immediately become angry, blaming and judgmental. Jenny, frightened of his anger and of losing his love, would immediately defend and then comply with Jack's wishes, hoping to have control over his feelings and behavior toward her. Jenny was afraid to do what she wanted to do. She constantly monitored her behavior, telling herself, "Jack will get mad if I do that."
With all this anger, defensiveness and compliance, the fun, joy and passion that had been so wonderful at the beginning of their relationship was often non-existent.
Jack and Jenny sought my help because their marriage was in trouble and they wanted to save it. They both loved their two small children and didn't want to break up the family. As Jack and Jenny worked through the control issues that each had learned in their families, they started to have fewer conflict. Yet when a conflict did arise, each would automatically revert to their old behavior.
"I am going to give both of you an assignment," I told them in our phone session. "It is a simple assignment, although not at all easy. This week, I want both of you to focus on being kind to yourselves and to each other. You will not be able to be kind to the other if you are not being kind to yourself. Jack, if you do not take loving care of yourself, you will end up feeling angry with Jenny. Jenny, if you are not taking loving care of yourself, you will end up trying to control Jack with your defensiveness and compliance. I know both of you try very hard to be kind to your children. I want both of you to practice treating yourselves and each other with the same kindness with which you treat your children."
Both Jack and Jenny agreed to practice this assignment. The next week, in their phone session, both of them claimed that the first four days of last week had been the best days in years. "But then we slipped back into our old patterns," said Jack. "I forgot about kindness. Why is it so hard to remember?"
"Jack, both you and Jenny have been practicing your controlling behaviors for your whole lives. These patterns are not easy to change. Your automatic unconscious response to fear is to control in some way. It takes a lot of practice for these patterns to change. You need to consistently practice inner bonding and making a conscious choice to be kind rather than slipping into the unconscious choice to control."
Today, Jack and Jenny's relationship is much improved. While they still occasionally revert to their controlling behavior, they are able to be kind much more of the time. They are having more fun with each other and their sexual relationship has greatly improved.
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week home study eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox"—the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
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