Category Archives: Relationships

Relationships – are they for a season a reason or a lifetime?

Written by Lara Just – May 2018…

We may have heard of the saying that relationships come into our lives for a season, a reason or a lifetime. But what does this actually mean? This blog article explores if there is any learning for us in this for our relationships, and for what purpose they may enter our lives.

Relationships can mean friendships, romantic relationships, or relationships with colleagues, family members or even when we meet strangers. Here, I want to particularly look at those that have a deep or lasting impact on us. Some people might call these soul mate connections. Relationships or soulmate relationships can come in many different forms. It can be helpful to see them as what they are, as well as that can carry unique reasons for us to learn more about ourselves and grow. They may enter our lives in different forms, at different times and for different lengths of time.

Looking at this in a more holistic and ‘spiritual’ way, can bring some comfort and understanding especially when feelings within a relationship or the relationship itself changes or comes to an unexpected end.

For example, when people come into our lives for a season, it may be for us to experience great joy, peace or they can make us laugh. Maybe they teach us something that we didn’t know before. This unbelievable amount of enjoyment feels real (and it is!) – but only for a season.

Lifetime friendships or relationships teach us lifetime lessons and help us create and build solid emotional foundations. Our job is to learn what these lessons are, accept them and utilise them in other relationships and areas of our lives.

How can we understand the concept of meeting someone for a reason? We know in psychology that there are often unconscious needs involved, to be met for each other. For example, someone comes into our life to provide us guidance or support, perhaps to help us through tough times, overcome certain hurdles or a persistent issue or personal blockage that we cannot solve alone. They may aid us on an emotional, physical or spiritual level. They may encourage us to consider new career opportunities, change or end existing unhealthy relationships, re-locate and make a new home or a new start. They are there for the reason you need them to be at that point in time.

Then unexpectedly or at an inconvenient time, perhaps without warning or any known wrongdoing on our part, that person does something or says something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they just walk away or act out and we feel forced to make this decision – or sometimes they die.

Their work is done, and our need has been met. However, this may be difficult to realise at that time when we are in the initial shock or our pride and ego has been hurt or old wounds come to the surface as a result. Sometimes we are the one that changes, or we suddenly want to walk away and end the relationship – it works both ways.

Looking at this in a different way, we may come to understand that perhaps all relationships can have some reasons for being part of our journeys, regardless of how long. Even those with our family members can have different reasons for our ‘soul’ journeys to learn certain ‘lessons’ in our lifetime. At times it may feel unfair or unreasonable, or we don’t know what those reasons should be and what we are supposed to learn from them.

However, it can become clearer the more we look at themes and recurring patterns in our relationships. When we have learnt what we needed to learn, the pattern often disappears; we will have learnt our lesson. We can perhaps move on feeling happier, more joyful and peaceful in our lives.

But how do we know what these lessons are supposed to be for us? Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer. We don’t know, we often can’t know, and first and foremost we can’t control it. We can only be in the moment and trust that whatever is happening at each moment in time is happening as it feels real and make moment by moment choices (does it ‘feel’ right or doesn’t it and how can be communicate this or act on it or be with it). ‘Trusting’ may be challenging in itself for some of us. However, it can give a different sense of perspective and perhaps some relief, if we can make it not so much about the other person, but about the ‘process’ that it is there for a reason or the purpose to help us grow and become more of who we are meant to be. And of course, we can often only tell and understand more when looking back.

Each of our relationships (if for a season, a reason or a lifetime) can have a distinctive feeling about them and we just ‘know’ that something within us changed the moment we met – or left them, often leaving a deep impact on us.

Some people like to call this perhaps encounters with ‘soulmate connections’. When we feel someone is our soulmate, what’s is actually happening is that we experience them like mirrors that reflect back to us our deepest fears, insecurities, flaws and where our unhealed wounds lie. But they also reflect back to us our true uniqueness, strengths and beauty. They can teach us to love more deeply and without expectations. Soulmates can wake each other up by bringing specific challenges to the relationship, which require learning about and resolving. They can push us to emotional extremes; or they can also feel like a ‘home’, where we can find each other ‘on the same wave length’ without effort. We may instantly click with someone and these feelings can be very intense, they can awake new desires and passions – to learn something about ourselves.

But other times they can also raise fears – at the possibility of loving someone thoroughly or being loved in ways that we were unfamiliar with. We may even be terrified to fall for someone too much and then losing it all. Shame and needs being unleashed that may feel unsafe. This can make us act out in unconscious and self-destructive ways, and end a relationship before it has begun or could go deeper, as we unconsciously and wrongly believe that we are unworthy of this type of love or the other person’s affections in this way.

No matter how long a relationship with a person will last, it can help us to open up more to our challenges, while also making peace with the fact that not everyone that comes our way is meant to stay, however intense and ‘real’ it may have felt during its time.

This doesn’t mean that endings and changes to any kind of relationships are not painful. Especially when the other person chooses to exit a relationship quite sharply, and by someone who we have imagined being happy with for a long period of time. It is hard to release and let go in these moments. And even if there is a deeper sense knowing that it is the right thing, it may often be more our attachment to the ‘idea’ of an imagined future.

It can be important to focus on what is happening in our lives currently at this moment. It can give clues about why something may be happening. It is learning to let go of focussing sorrowfully on the future or the past and instead to appreciate the moments we shared.

Again, this can feel very difficult if we can’t yet see beyond the hurt of being unfairly treated, disrespected or still hold anger, resentment or other pain. But when we start to explore the reasons for this relationship to form and blossom at the time, how we changed and what else changed in our lives throughout, and who we feel we are now, can help us discover and perhaps even understand some of the lessons. Even if it seems hard to get back to ourselves and the ‘now’, is it even possible for us to ‘trust the universe’ for having given us quite a clear and unmistakable message, that our path has changed or needs changing to be able to go forward.

Regardless if someone stays for ‘a season, a reason or a lifetime’ – is a lover, a friend, family member, or a stranger that we have only met for a few moments, the exchange and their essence can leave a lasting impression and we can feel this often intensely. When we understand the reasons why certain people show up (or disappear) at particular times in our lives, we can begin to learn about their significance they have on us as a person, our ‘soul journeys’ and our future relationships.

If we are willing to look at our relationships in a different way, it can provide us with new clarity, hope and opportunities. Opportunities to learn more about ourselves, for new forgiveness, compassion and different ways to love more intimately – not just others but especially also ourselves. And to be reminded again and again to finding a way back to ourselves and be ourselves and be true to ourselves, aligned to our own values, as much as we can. To be more of ourselves within current existing or future relationships and friendships. And if we feel we can’t – to consider that ‘change’ (with all its possible grief and pain) is a necessary part of the process to allow the continuation of our life journey.

For more on similar themes, have a look also at our other blog at The Walking Therapist.

If you have any questions or comments, or would like to consider some support in what you are going through right now, feel free to contact me!

Emotional agility and being able to move on

Written by Lara Just – March 2018…

I have chosen the quote in the image below for this blog out of two reasons. First, we cannot control how other people may treat us or how other people react to us, even when we think we have shown our best intentions. Second, we can only control how we react to others and how we chose to feel about it.

As psychologist Susan David says so aptly in her talk about emotional agility (see our eNews on Emotional Agility): ‘we own our emotions, they don’t own us’. Well that sounds easier said than done – doesn’t it!

Sometimes it may feel that ‘we just can’t help it’ and we are in fact controlled by them. However, we do have a choice to breathe, stop and feel, and then make a more conscious decision about how to react.

Sometimes it may be better to walk away and let it go when we feel that there is no meeting point – to agree to disagree. Other times it feels somewhat important to assert ourselves, to put our point across, to stake out our territory, and to want to prevent any potential perceived ‘boundary’ invasions. Sometimes it is perhaps just let go of steam than anything else. We are all human after all.

Emotional agility is about emotional ‘truth’, our own reality or congruence and being authentic with our emotions. Even if this is anger, rage, sadness, envy, jealousy – these emotions that are often labelled as ‘bad’ and not acceptable culturally or by our society. But any feeling – is just a feeling – is just a feeling – is just a feeling! It is just information.

We are human, not machines and a range of emotions are part of our human experience. How come we label some emotions as good and others as bad? We tend to repress some and not others (or all of them).  It is so important to even first notice them, to acknowledge them honestly, to be with them and to ‘feel’ them. Sometimes there can be just ‘numbness’ (‘feeling nothing) it may be so unacknowledged.

It requires often learning and practice – of how to become aware and accept these emotions without denying them or dismissing them.

If we are dismissing or ignoring them to make someone else feel better, we are denying ourselves our true feelings. We pretend its ok when it’s not. We easily make this mistake though – as a society and culture as a whole. We want to make things feel more positive and comfortable for us.

We may have encountered a number of friends and colleagues, that when sharing some personally challenging, possibly painful, experiences may have been quick to reply: “Oh but you will be fine, won’t you, it’s a new chapter, a new beginning – it will be great!”.

Now what could this do? It can shut down any further communication. Any further exploration or for the person to voice anything that they felt they may have liked to voice. Instead they could easily be shut it down, swallow it down, bottle it up, move on for now. Equally we may already pre-empt this, and unwittingly encourage this response when with a beaming smile on our face we keep exclaiming that we are ‘fine’, whilst crumbling to pieces inside.

But it is quite a natural response for most of us as we can see (believe me even for trained therapists amongst colleagues and friends). We are perhaps naturally quick to wanting to ‘fix’, to make it better for the other person, help them move along swiftly, to make them feel better or make them see the positive. But is it perhaps also about our inability to stay with pain and discomfort? Our inability to give the gift of time, of ‘presence’, of patience, acceptance and non-judgement, to meet where our friend is at?

Winston Churchill (and others I believe) have said: “The only way out is through”. This is apt for our emotions. If we can’t, won’t or are unable to ‘feel’ them – maybe because it’s impractical, inconvenient, no time, not the right time, or we are not able to – they will be hidden in our physical bodies somewhere. This lack of ability to ‘feel emotions’, can lead to discomfort – either manifesting as physical symptoms or recurring emotional pain and psychological challenges.

Dismissing or emotions and feelings in this way can be more dangerous than helpful. Even if short terms it seems the easier option. They can fester until one day they will ‘need out’ being triggered by a minor event in an overreactive, out of character way. Often creating more destruction than intended.

Instead perhaps we can imagine that to ‘be’ with our emotions, is just like holding a small bird: not too tight – not to crush it, not too lose – for it not to fly away.

Having a friend that can just ‘be’ with our pain and just listen, not feeling the need to have to give advice, opinions or a task list, keep talking continuously to fill the void, can be much more healing than we may think. Often this is hard to find amongst friends and family, perhaps due to our cultural and societal programming. (Which is why this aspect is one of the most important parts of the training of good therapists and counsellors!)

The fact is that getting ‘through’ it, and then letting go and being able to move on is no easy feat.

Those emotions we may call ‘bad’ or those that feel heavier which are hard to address are often linked to deeper older wounds. In this case it may not be the case of a simple short acknowledgment and release of energy or emotion. It may be a bigger piece or part that is linked to the emotions. And something or a part of us has to literally ‘die’ first, to be reborn anew again – differently.

For example, emotions linked to loss (or ‘death’) of one thing (a situation, job, person, dream, hope or a relationship) will be a deeply painful and complex process. But it is a necessary evil to feel all the emotions and be honest and express them and feel them – to be able to move on. It is necessary to be able to start afresh and anew and for us to eventually open up again to see things differently and gain new perspectives on the situation.

In fact, any ‘change process’ could be seen as a grieving process. Grieving for the loss of the old before anything new can form and be reborn. A grieving process, like in any loss, needs its own time. This will be different for each person and each situation.

I thought this was fitting with the Easter theme of death and resurrection – to something new or different than expected. It doesn’t matter if you are religious, believe in the universe, unicorns and fairies or are an atheist.

It may just be helpful to see it as a metaphor, a symbolic representation. Emotions and feelings need to be ‘digested’ energetically, similar to how our digestive tract digests food.

For that we need to create space, and time for being with them and reflection. For connecting with ourselves and connecting with good supportive friends that are able to encourage this process, not trying to fix it or put their opinions on us. And overall, to have courage to ‘risk to feel’.

For more on similar themes, have a look also at our other blog at The Walking Therapist.

For any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me!