“Relationships are a hospital for the soul” is a quote I love from A Course in Miracles.
We all carry wounds and weaknesses within us, but relationships are where two souls are given maximum opportunity to grow and heal. This is why your loved ones always manage to trigger you the most, drive you nuts and make you show the worst of yourselves. Within a relationship your unresolved issues come up from the darkest recesses to meet the Light, be healed. It is meant to be that way.
I don’t have a religious faith, but I’ve always sought in spirituality an explanation for all things I could not understand with the rational mind. Since my divorce, followed by a long period of depression, I’ve dived even deeper into the wisdom of some of world’s greatest spiritual teachers trying to find peace within and unlock the secret to the end of suffering.
Eckhart Tolle‘s The Power of Now, which I read years ago, opened my eyes to the importance of living in the present moment and recognising the Ego Mind as separate from the consciousness that “knows” when you’re thinking. Since then I’ve read a vast number of books by other authors, listened to their talks, signed up for online courses: Dr Wayne Dyer, Anita Moorjani, Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching, Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsh.
Stripped to the basics, the lessons from all these spiritual teachers boil down to the same principles: that love is all there is, the only thing that’s real. That love is God, and God is love. That there are only two emotions, love and fear. That what is not love is an expression of fear, or “a call for love”. That we have a choice, at every moment, to act from a place of love or from a place of fear. That what we want to manifest in our lives we need to give freely away as if it was already here.
I applied the lessons in my own life; they brought comfort when I was in pain, clarity when I needed clarity, hope when I was in despair.
I also read every self-help book on relationships under the sun and became acutely aware of mistakes I’d been making in the dating game. Now I know making the first move, or pursuing, is a masculine role which, if taken over by a woman, makes the man lose interest. Sex, many say, should only happen after a man has agreed to commitment and exclusivity (well, we may all have to go celibate then, as very rarely does a man want to commit early in a relationship). The books also said, if it won’t happen unless I didn’t make it happen, then let it not happen because this means the man doesn’t have the personality structure to maintain a relationship…which of course was my case. Ouch.
But with the awareness of where I’d gone wrong, came even more pain, not less. Was love so complicated that I needed to read this many books just to get it right? And how do I stop hurting for having fallen for the wrong man yet again…?
That’s when I came across The Work conceived by Byron Katie.
There were no how-to rules, no God talk, no courses to be taken, just a ludicrously simple and practical exercise consisting of four questions you ask yourself starting with “Is it true?”and their turnarounds. I was astounded by its simplicity and power in deconstructing the beliefs that form the basis of our suffering.
Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is and I Need Your Love – is that true?, discovered one day that the way to stop suffering was simply to stop believing her thoughts. She realised her thoughts were not reality but mere illusions, like watching a movie your mind runs continuously in your head. When you choose to believe the movie is true, you suffer. When you remember it is just a movie, not the truth, you set yourself free. Enlightenment suddenly descends in a huge a-ha moment that radically changes your perception of life.
Videos of Katie doing the Work with different men and women are available on her website and on YouTube, but it is designed so you can do it yourself. You can download her “Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet” free of charge for doing the Work on any issue you feel stuck on.
I loathe corny self-help BS, so I approached the Work with total scepticism. But when I was watching the video below, something opened up for me, and once the understanding came, more and more started falling into place in a domino effect… I realised that, like the woman in the video, there were truths I’d been concealing from myself about my relationship, truths that completely changed my story so far, where he was always the baddy and I the flawless, suffering on-and-off girlfriend, as you’ll have read in my previous post.
It suddenly dawned on me this man, let’s call him Mark, had told me already on our third date that he was going through a phase, in which he felt unable to make any deep emotional connections. He’d broken up with his previous girlfriend because she had wanted him to marry her. He had further warned me he was “a cad” (his words) but he did not wish to hurt me, as I was then newly divorced.
I chose to believe otherwise, as women do…because I was smitten with him. I chose to believe he was exaggerating, that he’d change when he got to know me. We were a match made in heaven, of course he’d adore me, he’d want to commit to me, he’d never even think about another woman.
He’d become quite reticent after our first date, despite having told me I was a special woman on many levels. Knowing what I know now, I realise he was choosing to stay away from me, as he knew he was incapable of giving me what I wanted. But I kept nudging him into asking me out again. Every time we broke up since, it was me who’d tried to bring us back together. He had written saying I deserved much better than what he could give me and he was sorry. Once more I decided to ignore the truth he’d made known to me.
This moment of revelation liberated me and allowed me to finally let go of my suffering. The volcano-like anger that had been spewing from inside me suddenly went quiet. Mark never intended to hurt me. I had hurt myself by believing the stressful thought that he was withholding from me what was my right to have.
Why Mark chooses to behave awkwardly towards women is a story that probably has deep ramifications in his past, and it’s not up to me to judge nor try to change. But I can never accuse him of having been untruthful towards me because he wasn’t. It was me who insisted on believing in the fairy tale. And don’t we all? We always know when something is amiss in a relationship, but we turn a blind eye because we don’t want the illusion to end. We hold onto the impossible dream and by doing so we chain ourselves to suffering.
I also realised that on the soul level Mark’s soul loved mine, and my soul loved his. That is why we find it so hard to extricate ourselves from each other. If we were stripped of our human Egos and became pure souls, we’d be One and our love would run deep, for eternity.
But we’d come together in our earthy bodies to present each other with a gift, a lesson, a chance to heal and become better versions of ourselves…
The thought “he doesn’t care about me” wasn’t true. I was hurting because I was believing it. Doing the Work, I came to the conclusion Mark does care. He cares enough to warn me off him. There were also plenty of instances in the past when he was truly kind.
The statement “he shouldn’t treat me disrespectfully” also wasn’t true. He should and he will. The concept “disrespectful” was coming from my head because, to keep my illusion alive, I needed to believe he owed me love and respect when he owed me nothing. I owed myself that.
Our Egos love to be self-righteous victims, so we can blame others instead of examining our own behaviour. Wasn’t I disrespecting myself when I pretended not to see the red flags he had waved in my face so many times? I was demanding respect of him when not even I could respect myself.
Truth can be hard-hitting. But if embracing the Truth could stop the suffering, would you not be willing to do it?
Bryon Katie says:
“Until you can see the enemy as a friend, your Work is not done.
“This doesn’t mean that you have to invite your enemy to dinner. You may never see the person again, you may even divorce him or her, but as you think about the person, are you feeling stress or peace?
“In my experience, it takes only one person to have a successful relationship, and that is me.”
If that doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks and make you re-think everything you ever believed about relationships, I don’t what will.