Let’s be honest. Our intimate relationships can be epic disasters, even for people who have begun awakening. This could be a relationship with a lover, spouse, child, parent, sibling, best friend, close cousin, spiritual teacher, etc. I never cease to be amazed by how humans can co-create and endure challenging relationships that evoke anything from mild to extreme suffering. I’m not going to talk about the extreme end of suffering today – in the hierarchy of needs, that’s a whole other barrel of pickles. I am going to speak to the patterns I see amongst my awakening and embodying clients, why their relationships are so damn challenging, and, if this applies to you, what you can do about it.

Let’s start at the beginning by exploring the question… How did you get here to begin with?

Your Subconscious Conditioning Drives the Bus
Never underestimate the power of your early childhood conditioning around intimacy to influence and directly impact your choices and habits in your closest relationships. This is even true for people who have been in therapy and understand how their parents affect their relationships today. I find that most therapy simply doesn’t go deep enough in understanding the most primal imprints that we have about emotional safety, attunement, and intimacy.

Also, keep in mind one of my golden rules: once you start to awaken, everything in you wants liberation. This means (lucky you!) that if there’s a part of your conditioning that you haven’t noticed yet, it will act out to get your attention. In other words, your subconscious conditioning will manifest itself in more dramatic ways to get your attention and get the help and liberation it needs and wants. This often means a whole lotta suck in your intimate relationships…at least at first.

But there’s an answer for all of this. It’s simple in principle but often very complex to do. It comes in three parts: 1) Compassionately identify and understand your subconscious conditioning, 2) Resolve your subconscious conditioning, 3) Let your Wise Adult Authority drive the bus.

First, A Word About Attunement
Here’s my PSA about attunement: We think our childhood relationship wounds are about love. That’s rarely the case. Most childhood wounds are about attunement – being heard, seen, felt, and understood. In a child’s developing brain, attunement is linked to survival. If I am a toddler, and I know that you are here with me, understanding and feeling me, then I know that you have a better chance of giving me what I need when I still don’t have the right language and concepts to ask for it.

Unfortunately, most older generation parents don’t know how to attune well, plus they are carrying their own trauma of lack of attunement or abuse. I find that the vast majority of wounds and conditioning that my clients struggle with are all wounds of attunement.

Even if you aren’t yet fully aware of all the details of your wounds of attunement, with some time, attention, and patience, you can attune to the feelings in your system (such as anxiety, fear, hurt, anger); listen to their story; trace them to the source in your body; and begin to understand why they are there and what they need. There’s no simple formula for this because different people are wired very differently around memory, sensation, and fear. I do recommend working with a qualified, experienced, and compassionate professional who is the right fit for you (can’t emphasize that last part enough – gotta be the right fit) to help you do this sacred work of uncovering your core wounds of attunement.

Once they are identified, resolving wounds of attunement is a process that needs to be attuned to each individual! No pun intended, the process itself does need to be unique and specific to meet the specific wounds. There are some general guidelines that I find work for many of my clients (read: many = not all, everyone is unique):

  • Give the wounded parts of you the attunement, attention, and love they didn’t receive in the past. This means compassionate listening and witnessing, followed by empathy and love.
  • As the Wise Adult Authority (more on that below), give your wounded parts the messages, truths, and transmission that they need.
  • Attune to yourself in action on a daily basis. We don’t realize how much our unconscious actions maintain the wounds of attunement from the past. When you are better at emotional, physical, spiritual, and energetic self-care and attunement, your inner ecosystem can start adjusting to a new normal of safety and well-being.

Time for the Wise Adult to Drive the Bus
If you can locate the Wise Adult voice of authority within you, this can help you tremendously. Everyone has a Wise Adult Authority. It’s usually the quieter voice within you that knows what it’s talking about and is usually right! Many of my clients locate this voice “below the mind,” in the heart or gut. Everyone is different.

There are two benefits to tapping into the Wise Adult Authority:

  1. You give the wheel to the Wise Adult. Ultimately, your inner children and wounded parts don’t want to drive the bus. They do it because they think they have to, because they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t. It’s a huge relief to have a Wise, Compassionate Adult finally come in and drive them to safety, letting the children be children and giving the wounds space to heal.
  2. The Wise Adult is the parent you didn’t have. If you can access the Wise Adult, then you have access to having a conversation between the Wise Adult and your inner children. You get to tell your inner children all the things your parents failed to say to you. You get to tell them all the things that you would say now to your own children. You get to give them the support, space, listening, compassion, attunement that they desperately need. In other words, the Wise Adult becomes your inner healer and a critical agent in the healing process.

How Does This Benefit My Present-Day Relationships?
Until your Wise Adult is driving the bus and your inner children and wounds are getting the attention and healing they need, you are going to bring all of your hurts, fears, and authority projections to your loved one(s). You will want your loved one to solve the problem for you… you’ll want your boyfriend to be the father you didn’t have, your best friend to heal your trauma from being bullied, your child to affirm that your love is enough, etc. It’s like bringing an empty bucket with a hole in it to a relationship and expecting the other person to fill it up. It’s not going to work.

So, until you put down the empty bucket with holes, and heal your own wounds, you are complicating your relationships subconsciously in ways you don’t even realize. Trying to resolve your past with your current relationships puts tremendous and unfair pressure on the present-day relationships. You can’t see the other person accurately, or the problems in your relationship, until you put down the bucket, resolve the past, and get fully present in the current moment.

Once you take care of what’s on your side of the line, it’s 100x easier to see the relationship more clearly; identify what’s on the other person’s side of the line; and begin to communicate as an empowered Wise Adult and either find new solutions or create new boundaries and agreements in the relationship.

I’ve laid this out so simply, it might sound easy. It’s not. For most people, this is a journey that takes years and requires multiple rounds of reflection and healing. At different phases of your development, you will need different tools, inquiries, and support. But, as I discuss in the companion article, “Relationships As Ultimate Teacher,” these challenging relationships can be a profound gateway to embodiment and evolution. Sometimes, there is no better teacher than an intimate relationship!

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