The Inside Out Approach to Change

Whew…we’ve been touching on some serious topics this month, haven’t we?:

  • Getting clear on where your relationship is going and who the right partner is for you.
  • How to focus your time, energy and attention on building the new instead of fighting the old.
  • And, of course, the need to take action if you want to see changes in your relationship.

This all makes sense on an intellectual level, but when it comes to your romantic relationship, there’s a lot more than logic involved. This type of relationship not only sparks feelings of passion, it also causes feelings of pain when we’ve been hurt.

Knowing this, it makes a lot of sense why so many people struggle with the idea of change in their relationships. Even if the relationship is not going the way you’d like it to, fear of the unknown – of what may or may not happen if the changes you’re seeking don’t work out – might have you settling for less than what you truly want.

If this is how you’re feeling, you’re not alone. Women especially are prone to sacrificing their needs in this type of relationship and they end up losing themselves in the process. Do you ever find yourself thinking: Who am I? I don’t even know myself anymore. Or…how did I get here?

It’s Never Too Late
No matter how long you’ve felt stuck in an unfulfilling relationship, it’s never too late to make changes. If you’re committed to having a healthy relationship with yourself and the people in your life, you can choose to make changes at any given moment.

Marianne Williamson shares in one of her books how she knows an 80 year old woman who went to counseling to receive guidance on issues she had struggled with most of her life. As a result, she was able to heal her relationships with her children, and her children with their children.

Just because you’re not 20 years old anymore doesn’t mean you can’t make changes. On the contrary…now that you have more experience and wisdom, you have a greater ability to apply it.

It’s No Small Task, But You’re Stronger Than You Realize
As a form of encouragement, I’d like you to take a moment to read these powerful words from best-selling author Christiane Northrup: It is no small task to change your focus from what can go wrong to what can go right and to empower yourself to shift from destructive behaviors to those generally associated with health. Repeat this often: “I now resolve to listen closely to that still, wise, strong voice within me that always guides me toward health and joy.”

The word “health” is generally thought of in terms of physical health, but your overall level of health and quality of life includes your mental and emotional health as well. And when you’re feeling unhappy or unsure about your romantic relationship, your mental and emotional health are definitely affected.

So yes, it’s no small task to change your focus from what can go wrong to what can go right, and to empower yourself to change your behaviors accordingly, but it can be done. You are much stronger than you realize.

And when you’re willing to tap in and listen closely to that still, wise, strong voice within you, you will be guided to decisions and actions that will lead you toward health and joy…in your relationships and in your life.

The Inside Out Approach
Another empowering quote I’d like to share with you comes from Zig Ziglar: You can’t change what’s going on around you until you start changing what’s going on within you.

If you’re feeling confused and stressed out on the inside (in your mind, in your heart and in your body), what’s happening on the outside (your relationships, your job, etc.) will also appear confusing and stressful.

Knowing this, it’s helpful to first improve the relationship with yourself before attempting to improve your relationships with others. When you feel clear and confident about what you need in order to live a life that’s aligned with your core values, you’ll be able to communicate and ask for what you need from a place of clarity and peace of mind.

From a place of confusion and stress, it’s almost impossible to clearly convey how you feel and have your partner hear what they need to hear in order to create a more loving connection with you.

Exercise for Going Within
So this week, I invite you to go within. To get in touch with your feelings and to listen to what they are telling you. If you’re feeling frustrated, confused and hurt, those feelings are there for a reason…they’re attempting to get your attention and guide you toward healthy changes that will reduce those feelings of pain.

You’re not meant to live life in pain. You’re meant to live life with joy. And while pain is an inevitable experience of being human, that doesn’t mean you need to stay in pain. That pain is designed to get you on the other side of it…to living a life that you love.

There are many approaches to going within and getting in touch with your feelings. I go into great detail about various approaches in my HEALTHY Path Process program. For this week’s exercise, I offer this approach:

I recommend you read through it in its entirety and then return to this point. Before you engage in the exercise, prepare yourself by taking a few minutes to focus on your breath. Because your emotions communicate through the sensations of feeling, it helps to start with feeling something as easy as your breath.

Turn your awareness to how it feels to breathe through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focus on the sensation of your chest rising and falling as your breathe, and whatever other sensations you may be feeling in your body. Keep doing this until your mind chatter starts to quiet down and you feel more relaxed and open. When you’re ready:

1st Step: Create an environment that feels safe for you. Find a place that feels comfortable, free of distractions and safe. In this safe space, know that you are a capable person who can handle whatever happens and you will always be okay. Give yourself permission to allow whatever emotions come up for you to surface, and make a promise to accept them without judgement. If you’ve been taught that certain feelings are bad or unacceptable, you’ll need to put some extra emphasis on remembering that that is someone else’s idea and you are allowed to feel whatever comes up.

2nd Step: Close your eyes and invite yourself to go within. As you do this, be gentle with yourself and just allow your thoughts to flow through your mind. As you move into this flow, start to sense how you feel. Try not to label or judge your emotions or figure out what they mean…just tune in to the emotions and the sensations they create in your body. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. The most important thing is to stay focused on letting your emotions arise and becoming aware of every part of your body and how it feels.

3rd Step: Spend time with your feelings and bodily sensations. You might find that part of you is resisting the way your emotions feel and is trying to shut them down. That’s okay…just be aware and present to your feelings and honor whatever feeling comes up without judgement. As best as you can (and this takes practice), when you feel resistance arising, try letting it go…internally saying “letting go”. Try not to let your head/thinking take over…just be present to your feelings.

4th Step: Letting go of the negative emotion. If a negative emotion is coming up for you, consider the idea of letting this emotion leave you and feeling totally safe in doing so. If you are not yet comfortable with that idea, don’t force it…just acknowledge your feelings and be grateful for what they are revealing to you. If and when you are ready to release a negative emotion, simply let it go…internally saying “letting go”. No criticism, no judgement…just letting go.

This exercise accomplishes two important things. One…it helps you get in touch with your feelings, and your feelings are a HUGE part of who you are, so they need to be heard and acknowledged. That in itself is very powerful! Two…if you are experiencing negative emotions, it gives you a way to release them rather than keeping them bottled up inside of you and festering.

If you’re not used to tuning into your feelings, this exercise will feel awkward at first. But, believe me, it is well worth your time and effort to make this a consistent practice. I encourage you to add this practice to your daily ritual.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get in touch with this part of you. When you listen to your feelings, you can then gain the experience of aligning your head with your heart (your logic with your emotions), and the quality of your life and relationships will improve in BIG ways.

Stay tuned for more mindful messages. Giving you helpful tips and exercises to improve the quality of your life and relationships!

With love and support,

Catherine Dietz
Healthy Relationship Coach

P.S. Confused and stressed out about your relationship? Need help gaining some clarity about whether to stay or go? Take advantage of your complimentary Relationship Breakthrough Session. Go here for more details and to schedule your call

P.P.S. If you live in or near San Diego, I’m offering a live workshop on Wednesday, February 8. Go here for more details. I would love to see you there!