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Relationship Problems? What to Do When Words Fail

Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks 12-17

Relationship Problems? What to Do When Words FailRelationships and the Body, Part Two Scientific research is often 20 or more years behind what practitioners have discovered by seeing real clients every day. It takes a while for a clinical observation to make its way through the thicket of proposals and research committees before it can be verified by rigorous testing.

One good example is the recent spate of scientific research that verifies something we learned early in our practices more than 30 years ago: Just talking about your relationship problems often doesn't do any good. Unless you add a certain magic ingredient, just talking about your problems is usually ineffective at causing any real, meaningful change in behavior.

New Rule: You Don't Solve Relationship Problems with Words; You Dissolve Them with Whole-Body, Whole-Being Strategies The way you go through your day -- the way you greet a friend, the way you negotiate a lunch line, the way you speak to your mate -- has evolved from thousands of movement choices as well as language choices. You learned over time to combine your sense of weight, pace, tension flow and shape to operate your body in a way that made sense and meaning in your world.

Relationship issues occur within a whole-body, whole-being context, which is why those issues cannot be addressed at the level of verbal communication alone. Here's why that's so important in your close relationships. You learned thousands of movement patterns that you may not even be aware of as you grew up in the family, community, school and religion of your unique evolution. So did your partner or friend.

For example, you might have learned that when your parents were mad at each other or caught up in an argument, it was to your advantage to hold your breath, make your body smaller and try to become invisible. You learned the hard way that shrinking yourself was a useful survival tactic to keep yourself safe. Roll the clock forward to your experience in an adult relationship.

Your current partner may have learned the exact opposite in his/her family of origin. Getting loud and moving more forcefully was the thing that worked as a survival tactic. Talking by itself only skims the surface of these foundational ways you experience your world. What Actually Works? If just talking doesn't work, what does? What is the magic ingredient that unlocks the healing power of your words? The answer is your natural body-wisdom.

We discovered, through working with several thousand couples, that when couples work with the natural resources of the body -- their movement and their breathing, primarily -- they not only open up a new dimension of communication, but they also make changes that have staying power. Moving, breathing and talking together allows you to enter into another world inside yourself and in your understanding of your partner. By adding conscious movement and breath to relationship communication, you dissolve old unconscious patterns that have been running your communication. Suddenly new possibilities open up, an open space of mutual creativity in which you can invent new ways of being in your relationship.


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