The Power of Connection

Time and time again, I see individuals, couples and families who are not connecting with each other in ways that support loving relationships, personal growth and wellbeing. In the busy environment that most of us experience, it’s common place to get caught up in our own stories of what we need to do, how other’s should behave, and where we’re going next. Our response to stress can result in a trance like state where we’re in our narrow view of what needs to be done next on the list.  Our perceptions may be based on expectations and judgments that further narrow our view. Beliefs and expectations along within this narrow focus can shut us off from the larger picture and from true connection with our loved one’s. Tara Brach, PhD refers to this common state of mind as the “trance of stress.”

As a result we may miss what’s going on with our loved one’s and those around us.  Our behaviours are often reactive in this state.  The trance or tunnel vision creates separation. For instance parents often don’t understand their teenagers behaviors, or they may feel blindsided when they find out too late that their daughter or son is failing a class. Teenagers often keep their views to themselves where their parents are concerned. I often hear complaints such as “they won’t listen,” or “why say anything when it always ends up in a fight.” Or “ I end up feeling like the bad guy or that I am wrong when I try to explain myself.” These are complaints that I hear not only from teens, but from parents and spouses as well.

When communication goes wrong time and time again, and when we react out of stress and frustration, feelings get hurt and people often isolate themselves out of a need for protection.

How do you know when you’re in a “trance of stress?” Some of the common signs include tension, feeling rushed, negative thoughts or ruminative thoughts, and headaches. It’s helpful to tune in to your own signs of stress and to take time to slow down and care for yourselves and connect with others.

Try these three steps recommended by psychologist Tara Brach:

1) Make Space. Slow down, pause, and look inward at your experience in the moment.

2) Be in the moment with awareness. Tune into your breath.  Notice what you’re feeling, thinking and experiencing in an accepting and nurturing way. Name those experiences. “There’s that tension……my jaw is tight……..I’m hurt………I expect……..etc..”

3) Love the one you’re with. Open your heart to the potential for those around you–even the difficult people. See if you can connect without judgment. Or tune in with a compassionate connection to yourself. This is a starting point for connecting with ourselves or with loved one’s with whom we may feel distant.

“Attend and befriend” is a term used to describe the way that women in particular, and men as well, have coped with stress throughout history. By connecting with people, or ourselves, stress is lessened and life is more enjoyable and we know we’re not alone. Try it. When done regularly,  tuning in becomes a habit or hardwired neural response to stress. Life is most rewarding when we’re connected with ourselves and others, and we know that we belong to a nurturing community.

 

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