This Insight gives some of the finer points of staying present.
What happens when the way your partner is speaking to you pushes all your buttons?
Do you have the capacity to stay present? Absolutely present? Like the black cat?
Instead, are you preparing a stinging defence or an irrefutable put-down? Do you turn towards, or turn away? Do you dissociate and think of something else? Or wish you were somewhere else?
With these feelings running you, are you still able to hear what your partner is saying? Are you able to understand what they are feeling? Or find a truthful response in yourself?
Probably not. No, definitely not.
So, what if you can’t tolerate the story they are telling? Perhaps they are exaggerating! You know it didn’t happen like that! Or maybe there is suffering you would prefer not to know about.
What happens next can either make or break your relationship.
If you find yourself either retreating and withdrawing (low arousal) or ready to fight and defend (high arousal), you are not really present. Rather, you are allowing previous response-patterns to intrude and imprint on the present moment. Therefore, you are cluttering the present with the past.
What does being open actually mean, especially in relation to staying in the present?
Some people are characterologically open, and willing to share experiences, political allegiances, ideas, feelings, recipes and almost anything else. In order to learn more about trait openness, go to this paid personality profile, by Dr Jordan Peterson.
Other people are more likely, by nature, to be closed. Thus it will take you a long time to get to know them, and you may never know the secret ingredients in their great-grandmother’s almond cake. Some people fear that you will take advantage of them if they let their guard down.
When you are open, you give others the opportunity to love you! (On the other hand, if you are closed other people do not have much to go on.) You can cultivate being open as a way of being present, rather than being hidden behind a wall of defences. Being open is related to transparency.
Being open invites life to happen, in the moment, in the present, with all the riskiness of being alive.
Transparency is something we hear a lot about the opposite of political correctness. The idea behind this is that we actually get to know what is really going on, rather than what someone wants you to believe. When we are transparent, there is no spin, no defences, no smoke-screen of anger.
What does it mean to be open with your partner? Openness is close to transparency, and transparency is close to truth-telling. Truth-telling is close to knowing yourself and being brave enough to reveal this.
If you are transparent and truth-telling you will be VERY present.
When you watch the cat you see her tail twitch or swish. You see clearly if her whole body is soft as butter or coiled tight ready for……anything. The cat doesn’t try to hide her responses. But we humans do.
So, it might take some real applied awareness to notice those sweaty palms and shallow breathing. And to notice what this means; “Don’t mess with me!” or “Yes, come close and play.” It is very confusing for those around you when you give mixed messages. Your body is saying no, but your words say yes, for instance. Staying present means staying congruent with your body responses.
Children – and animals – are very clever at picking up any discrepancy between your body-state and your verbal language. Be aware of what your body is saying in order to develop your capacity to stay present authentically.
And watch that cat!
Increase your window of tolerance. This Insight helps you be aware enough to regulate your own emotional responses. And helps your partner regulate and soothe their responses too.
Biding for time. In this Insight, you will learn more about timing as a capacity to stay present, and of responding to the present. The cat, too, waits for the optimum moment.
Copyright Kaye Gersch 2019
Through all stages of life, relationships and the need to communicate are the fabric of our lives.
Wonderful article and great reminder in all its points!
Great reminder to stay connected and aware of our body’s reactions.
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