This simple technique is designed to deepen all of your intimate relationships, including your relationship with yourself. Each of its three steps leads to greater authenticity; to a gentle, skillful “overthrow” of the inner and outer voices which hold us back from deeper love. It’s acronym, “AHA” can help us remember each step.
Step 1: Authenticity
The initial step is Authenticity. In this step, the task is to notice what you’re feeling and then do something simple that changes everything: Just appreciate and experience the humanity of your feelings—whatever they are–without trying to fix or correct them.
If you can sense a feeling inside, find a few words that capture it. It may take a while for the words to form–just allow that time. Or perhaps the feeling might express itself as the memory of a piece of art or music, or as an image or color. Find the expression which captures your experience. Just by doing this, you will have already created a degree of compassion for yourself, and will be able to find your way into the deeper meaning of whatever you are experiencing.
After years of hard work, Sharon landed her dream job; a high-level position in a prestigious accounting firm. Yet now that she reached her goal, she was stunned to find that she was losing her ambition, coming in late and making errors she never should have made. She was furious at herself, and completely bewildered. She tried the AHA process, and began by allowing her feelings instead of judging them. In so doing, she realized that she had been consistently unhappy in her job–but had never allowed herself to accept that reality. Her work environment was hostile and competitive, a complete change from her last job. And it was depressing her. Until now, she hadn’t let herself face how bad it really was.
The second step in this process is one I call “Honoring.” This is the step we are most likely to pass over. It’s the step that very few of us have been taught to do. However, it’s this step which is the antidote to our bewilderment, and the path to our own unique genius.
How do we become capable of honoring our authentic experience, especially when we feel judgmental toward or ashamed of what we are feeling? In my experience, we must validate the worth of our feeling, even if that feeling seems irrational, counterproductive or awkward. When we think we shouldn’t feel the way we do, our first step is usually a reflexive act of self-correction which can leave us cringing against our own self- critique.
Here are three questions which will help you learn to validate your own emotional experience. Try each one on until you feel an inner “YES!” When you feel that, take time to feel the ripples of relief that come with it.
1. It makes sense that I feel this way because . . .
2. These feelings are connected to my deeper self in this way . . .
3. This conflict touches a very important value of mine because . . .
This act of self-honoring may be challenging but it’s finally the most comforting path of all. Everything other path hurts. Honoring is the skill which enables us to express our deepest innate gifts. It requires a relinquishing of the whip we hold against ourselves; it requires a kindness, a listening to our gifts. Anything less than honoring is like a quiet act of violence against ourselves. None of us can dishonor our inner self without repercussions.
If the conflict you are experiencing is with someone else, follow this step in your own mind for the other person. Of course, you may be only guessing about his or her feelings ormotivation, but the practice of honoring the other person’s experience often creates real breakthroughs in our understanding.
Sharon was troubled by her realization. She had worked hard to achieve her professional goals, and now she questioned whether she was cut out for the very job she had so desired. By answering the above questions, she realized something very important which she had never really admitted to herself: she was profoundly sensitive to her social environment. She was happier and significantly more productive when she was in a positive environment, but in the presence of a negative social environment, she became prone to depression and self-sabotage. She had always seen this as a weakness and tried to fight her sensitivity, but that had never worked.She felt challenged by this insight, but relieved at understanding herself in a deeper way.
The final step stands for Action. In this stage, you hold your inner self (and, as applicable, that of the other person) with honor—and then act in whatever way feels wise, true and helpful. This step can be very hard. Finally, it is a leap. In the words of Maggie Kuhn, founder of the elder rights activist group, the Gray Panthers, “Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.”
This is in some ways the scariest step but if you have already done the other two steps, you’ll have created an inner push, a kind of self-loving tail-wind to support you.
In taking authentic action, our ability to find and follow love is increased, and our authentic self becomes more fully formed. We feel vulnerable, yet essentially worthy. Without this capacity to honor ourselves and take action on our feelings, our unconscious mind will protect us from real love because it knows we can’t take its heat. It protects us because it knows that we would either do damage to others with our anger or do damage to ourselves by caving in to the needs and demands of others. When we know how to honor ourselves, our unconscious will open the padlock protecting our deepest gifts because it finally trusts us. Every time we practice this process, the part of us which can love is strengthened. The more we do this process, the richer our lives will become.
One of the greatest ways to create closeness in a romantic relationship, or in any relationship at all is to practice this technique with your loved one. One of the greatest aphrodisiacs is the felt sense that you and your partner are celebrating each others’ gifts—and holding each others’ wounds with compassion. Practicing these steps with a loved one deepens the bond between you both and deepens your own capacity for love.
Sharon was a bit stunned by her realization, but it was an important one. She decided to see if she could improve her experience on the job, but also to start exploring other job possibilities. Instead of fighting against her innate sensitivity, she now felt a desire to honor it. She realized that her sensitivity to social environments applied to all of her relationships, and that she sabotaged herself every time she tried to supress or dishonor that sensitivity. She began to see her need for positive environments as a gift instead of as a weakness, which was a new and exciting way to look at her life–and her future.
Try this technique and you will find that your compassion for yourself and others increases in surprising and wonderful ways. Learning this skill is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves–and our loved ones.
Originally Published: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-love/201505/three-simple-steps-heal-conflict-and-strengthen-love