Mindfulness of Relationships and EFT
As I was writing the blog on mindfulness and parenting I was struck with the parallels for me between mindfulness and the strategies of emotionally focused therapy (EFT) for couples which I am using now.
Mindfulness is the ability to experience what is happening right here, right now without filters or strong reactions. This can be very difficult in relationships because of history, emotions, perceptions, assumptions and beliefs. In EFT we explore how these can feed a negative cycle between two people who have lost a once precious connection to each other.
The foundation of cultivating mindfulness is meditation. The simplest instruction is connect with your body breathing and take notice of where your mind goes. Without judgment, come back to the focus of your meditation – your breathing! In EFT we focus on the body experience in the here and now, linked to thoughts and perceptions which affect the interaction. In both mindfulness and EFT by having the intention and discipline to slow down and fully experience we are literally retraining our minds to be more aware, open, flexible and create genuine connections.
At first this is quite hard to do, in both meditation and EFT. Over time we learn that we are not our thoughts, and emotions are energy that comes and goes. We become aware of how much we manufacture and what we can let go. As we change how we view ourselves we begin to change our relationships with others. From this different and non-judgmental acceptance of ourselves it is easier to share and extend this understanding to others. This is a core strategy in EFT.
This shift from me to we reduces conflict. Recognizing how we create stories through our interpretations and assumptions helps us realize that how we perceive things may not be the same as how others experience the same thing, or even how we experience it at different times. In EFT this allows us to structure interactions that are a deeper reflection of our reality and connection.
Through mindfully noticing and accepting our own positive and negative emotions, we learn to be truly present with people – whether happy or sad. When we give up the need to pigeon hole, suppress, ignore or exaggerate we create new opportunities to connect authentically with ourselves and others. This means when others struggle with us, we don’t have to take it personal.
We become able to tolerate strong emotions. In EFT this helps partners to stay present, committed to a process of softening and reaching towards each other.