How To Take A Spiritual Journey (Even When Others Don't Get It)
You've been in therapy for years; you're working with a spiritual teacher; you're doing the uncomfortable inner work that dismantles your conditioned patterns; you're having all kinds of worldview-shattering mystical experiences; and you're experiencing the boons and the pitfalls of this kind of personal and spiritual growth. But there's one problem ... your partner (or your mother, or your best friend, or your child) does not like "the new you."
You might assume that your loved ones will be 100 percent supportive when you grow spiritually or make other positive changes in your life, but if your loved one is counting on you to enable their own stuck spots, you might find that things get dicey.
So what can you do when you really love someone but your transformation is causing problems? Here are a few pointers:
1. Tell yourself the truth about how you're feeling.
When you're attached to a relationship, it's understandable to feel anxious if your transformation destabilizes its security. But burying your head in the sand and pretending you don't feel what you feel doesn't help. If you feel scared, anxious, or tempted to undo the positive change, just be honest with yourself.
2. Be curious about your thoughts.
Since our minds can be so busy with thoughts, it's easy to make assumptions about those we love that may or may not be true. For example, you may assume, "He doesn't love me now that I've devoted myself to connecting with the Divine." But the opposite might be true! Be curious about how your spiritual growth makes him feel. Maybe he's very proud of you and you've inspired him to start his spiritual journey too! He may simply be scared that you will grow apart now that you're learning, growing, and changing so quickly. Don't jump to conclusions.
3. Initiate a heart to heart.
Share how you feel with your loved one in an open-hearted, non-accusatory way. Offer reassurance that the relationship matters to you and that your growth doesn't have to threaten it. Speak from the heart, not the head. Don't defend. Connect in a vulnerable way so you can feel each other's hearts.
4. Use nonviolent communication to express how you feel.
Try this four-step process, developed by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. Express what you observe using "I" language, without blaming the other. Reflect how you feel. Ask for what you need. Then make a request. Be willing to also hear what the other person observes. Let them tell you how they feel. Ask what they need. Invite them to make a request.
5. Consider renegotiating your "sacred contract."
Just because a relationship was built upon unhealthy patterns doesn't mean it has to stay that way. Sometimes one person's transformation can catalyze deepening of intimacy and transformation for both. Try this process if you feel ready to rewrite your conscious or unconscious agreements.
6. Notice any judgment.
When you're transforming in a positive way and your loved one isn't, it's easy to slip into judgment — and that feels awful to the other person. If you're getting all self-righteous on your loved one or assuming some new spiritualized ego, it will only make the potential chasm between you worse.
Notice your own judgment. Don't try to skip your judgment or use some "spiritual bypass" to deny that it's there. Just notice it and let it dissolve with your loving attention. On the other side of your judgment, you're likely to find compassion for your loved one. After all, it's very likely that you were struggling with similar challenges not too long ago.
7. Seek help from a therapist.
Sometimes we have blind spots that get in the way of how we relate to someone else when we're in the midst of a big change. Getting help from a therapist or coach can help you clear up anything that's on your side of the street. If you're finding it hard to communicate in a healthy way with your loved one, see if he or she is willing to see a therapist with you.
Even friends can benefit from a visit or two to your therapist! You can do everything within your power to keep the relationship solid — and it often feels good to do so. My therapist says I'm a doctor so it's in my nature to do CPR on dead relationships, which is probably true. But it comforts me to know I've done all I can to keep a relationship alive before I give up.
8. Dial down the intimacy if needed.
Some of us have a tendency to dial a relationship from 10 to 0, but what if you just need to dial the intimacy dial down to 3 for a while? Keep the connection, but create a bit more space gently, and with your heart open.
9. Be willing to lose the relationship.
If you're unwilling to lose the relationship, you might find yourself tempted to backslide into old patterns or resist your spiritual growth. But if your relationship is dependent upon continuing a pattern you've outgrown, your soul probably won't let you continue the relationship in the long term.
Invite the relationship to step up to a new vibration as you grow, but if the other person isn't ready to join you, you may have to be willing to let go — with great love. Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., says, "You can't force a rosebud to blossom by beating it with a hammer." It's only natural to cling to what we love, but sometimes the most loving action is to stop enabling someone else's dysfunction. It's the kind of fierce grace that can catalyze someone else's transformation. But it takes courage.
10. Keep the door open.
You never know when the seed you plant is ready to sprout. You might dial down the intimacy dial on a relationship. You might even end it. But you never know how someone else will grow while you're taking a break. Everyone is entitled to his or her own journey. If you keep the door open and trust every individual's journey, you just might find that the future is full of blossoming roses.
For more help navigating Relationships on the Spiritual Path, join me for an interactive, multidisciplinary online program that explores this topic and includes the exclusive release of my next book, Love School: An Exploration of Relationships on the Spiritual Path.