Solving Relationship Problems Requires Compassion

Note: This is the third of a three-part series.

Want a technique that will replace your anger and resentment with something more compassionate and loving?  Steven Stosny in his groundbreaking book You Don’t Have To Take It Anymore (Free Press) explains how to rid yourself of anger and resentment:

  • Access your core hurts.  Our core hurts are: feeling disregarded, unimportant, accused, guilty, devalued, rejected, powerless, inadequate and/or unlovable.  Allow yourself to feel one or more of those feelings for a moment, to feel what it’s like to be completely powerless, inadequate, unworthy and unloved.  (Example: “No one ever pays attention to my opinions or feelings.  No one values or loves the real me.”)
  • Access your core value, by answering the following questions on paper:  The most important thing about me as a person is…  The most important qualities I offer as an intimate partner are….  The most important qualities I offer as a parent are…  List the people you love.  When or what gives you the feeling of having a spiritual connection.  Then record what you find beautiful in nature.  When do you find beauty in something human made, such as art, music, architecture, furniture and so on?   Record when you feel most connected in your community or neighborhood.  Write three compassionate things you have done recently.  Now imagine rescuing and comforting a desperate child in need; how would you feel about yourself comforting that child?
  • Find compassion for the person who offended you.  S/he has value and goodness like you and would do the right thing as surely as you would. Feel compassion for the hurt that has disconnected him/her from his/her core value.  (If it’s someone you love, it’s almost always the same one you felt.  If you feel unloved, disregarded, devalued or rejected, you can bet the farm that s/he does too.  Your failure of compassion is the primary cause of your intimate partner’s anger, resentment and aggression in your intimate relationship, as his/her failure of compassion is the cause of your anger and resentment.
  • Solve the problem using the following four guidelines: improve, appreciate, connect and protect.  Improving means make it a little better.  Appreciating means allowing yourself to feel enriched by the qualities of your intimate partner (or something in nature, or something human-made—like music or art.)  Connecting means emotionally fitting together with another person (or with God, or nature, or a community.)  Protecting means safeguarding the emotional and physical well-being of the people you love.  If you do one of these—improve, appreciate, protect or connect—you will feel better.  If you do two, you’ll feel much better.  And if you do all, you’ll feel euphoria or joy.  If you violate all, you’re guaranteed to feel resentful, depressed, angry or anxious.

If you question the need for these steps, Stosny recommends that you ask yourself these three questions:  Will you solve the problems in your relationship better by accessing your core value and compassion—or by being resentful, angry, critical or controlling?  Which do you prefer to experience—core value and compassion or resentment and anger?  In which do you feel more powerful, more able to act according to your deepest values?  If you pay attention, you’re likely to learn that each time you practice these steps, you’ll become wiser, more powerful, better able to understand yourself and better able to get along with the people you love.

This is a highly personal, inner skill, not a relationship activity.  You do this on your own, without your partner’s help or advice, and don’t help him/her to do it.  But it’s powerful, and unusually effective.

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