What You’ll Learn Today:

  1. Today I’m going to explain the three main reasons why you get upset in your relationship. 
  2. My top tool for making your upset a thing of the past

Top Take-A-Ways:

Believe it or not, you can be experience pain, discomfort and upheaval without becoming angry, hopeless, anxious (or insert your favorite suffering here). In the end, it’s our perceptions, expectations and shenpa that make us unhappy. 

  1. Expectations 

You’re basically as happy as you’re expectations. It’s important to keep your standards high, but your expectations low. Most people have this backwards. They have crappy standards and will accept all kinds of unhealthy behavior from just about everyone, but then have high expectations and feel let down when they’re not met (you can see a nifty three-minute video about this if the concept feels tough to grasp). If you’ve ever been disappointed or frustrated, your expectations were too high in that situation. You want to hold your standards in a high place, while not expecting other people to meet them 100% of the time. 

  1. Perception 

Another reason you might get your panties in a twist (aka: suffer) stems from your perceptions in a given situation. We tend to think we’re “right” about something and so sure about the “facts” but there are many ways to look at any situation. If five people saw a car accident from five different vantage points, it’s likely that they would have up to five different accounts of what happened and whose fault it was. Everyone might be sure that they’re “right” but it’s really only their perception of what happened. 

  1. Shenpa

Pema Chödrön, a buddhist nun, talks a lot on the topic of a Tibetan word called shenpa. Shenpa is usually translated as “attachment,” but Chodron calls it the urge, the hook, that triggers our habitual tendency to close down. 

Shenpa is when you’re hooked into that same old pattern and you’re stuck. Chodron also calls shenpa that “sticky feeling.” On the subtlest level, you might feel a tightening, a tensing, or a sense of closing down. Then you likely want to withdraw in some way. You get hooked into feeling defensive, blaming, resentful, angry, jealous, hopeless or any other emotion that shuts down communication and connection. 

Chodron also calls shenpa “the urge”. This might be the urge to have a drink, something sweet or salty to eat, smoke that cigarette, escape to the world of your smartphone or iPad, spend money or indulge whatever your particular addiction is.

To get unhooked, you’ve got to recognize that moment of unease and learn to relax in that very moment. If you notice shenpa, just as it’s starting to happen, just as you’re starting to close down, just when you’re starting to experience what Chodron calls “the tightening,” then you can stop your urge to do your usual or habitual thing. You can stop or interrupt your usual negative pattern and have a different response. 

How do you fix all this?

The answer is self-awareness and being mindful. For a great way to do this, check out my blog post in the links below.

Resources and Links:

Pema Chodron talks about Shenpa
Here’s a link to my video on standards and expectations
Learn how to make mindfulness a habit
Why Mindfulness is a Super Power


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