3 Life Lessons From Eat, Pray, Love

The other week I reviewed one of my non-fictional favorite movies. It might have been the third or fourth time I watched it, but it is amazing how we always find different nuggets of wisdom each time we watch or read something again. Elizabeth, the main character, has a story that always resonated with me. At first, I didn’t know why exactly but over the years I have gained clarity and insight into my own behavior and feelings around relationships.

The Book
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The Movie
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In the movie, there is a line that reasonably describes the relationship between individuals who have what Ross Rosenberg calls “Human Magnet Syndrome”. According to this condition, we either have a positive or negative charge that makes us feel attracted to people who display the opposite force. Those who are oriented toward the needs of others are negatively charged, while those who are oriented toward their own needs are positively charged. They attract each other mostly through an unconscious process and they often lock themselves into a relationship from which they feel they can’t resist or break free.

In this type of relationship, individuals have no conscious intention or choice over their mating preferences and decisions. They are ruled by the push and pull magnetic dynamic that such a connection gives them, becoming blind to potential problems and already existent red flags. This is likely the number one reason why unhealthy empaths tend to feel attracted to narcissists, and vice-versa. These individuals are highly compatible but they can never become a fully functional and healthy couple as the relationship brings a lot of suffering and dissatisfaction.

The book and movie Eat, Pray, Love offers us a good overview of the Human Magnet Syndrome in action as well as how that magnet evolves once we decide upon the path of self-discovery and seek to heal any dysfunctional patterns and traits that lead us over and over again to feeling broken and miserable in any type of relationship. The good news is that the more you keep committed to a healthy relationship with yourself, the happier and healthier connections you will build in the future. Time won’t solve all your problems unless you do the necessary work yourself and part of that work involves the following lessons, also retrieved from Eat, Pray, Love.

1. If Your Heart is Wounded, That Means You Fought For Something

They might have been foolish fights, but you did fight for something you thought to be important for you. I don’t regret the night I took a bus and did 500Km to be with a man I thought I was in love with. It was pouring rain and I had never been in that city before. Still, I wasn’t scared. Today, I wouldn’t do it. No; but at that time I didn’t want or I didn’t know how to spot red flags. I didn’t know that love had nothing to do with building castles in the sky. I don’t regret the fact I fought for something meaningful to me but I recognize today I had a wrong notion of what love is.

2. You Don’t Need a (Wo)Man, You Need a Champion

When we desperately want a relationship (or think we need one), it means we are lacking in self-knowledge and life meaning. We don’t know ourselves as individuals and we avoid doing anything that can lift the veil and tell us that we are impostors. We don’t know how to be present for ourselves and we don’t know how to live our own life. The more you know yourself though, and the more you learn how to live the life your soul asks you to, the more you will wish to share your life with a partner that resonates, accepts, and supports your true you. No one needs a partner; we choose a partner and we must choose him or her well. The likelihood of finding the right partner for you increases the more you know and act from your true self.

3. To Lose Balance For Love Is Part of Living a Balanced Life

The search for the self and the search for balance after years and years of unhealthy relationships is tough because unhealthy relationships are mainly caused by a lack of boundaries and a good sense of who you are. Setting boundaries and defining ourselves as individuals when we spent most of our life mirroring other people’s needs and expectations is a hard and fine art. When we finally think we are in a good place and that we did all the work that had to be done, the fear of going back to our “old self” kicks in when we face the possibility of a new relationship. What if you lose yourself again? What if you lose the balance that it was so hard to achieve? The truth is that life is made of experiences and we can’t live with our hearts shut down forever. Trust your healing process and use reason to assess and discern reality. That way you are likely to make the best decision for yourself.

Is Happiness a Realistic Goal?

realistic goal and a desirable one. It is rather impossible to be happy all the time, of course, and it is rather difficult to be in a pure state of bliss on a regular basis. However, we can aim to develop skills and strategies that enhance our level of consciousness.

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Codependent Families & Family Roles: What’s Yours?

Codependent families are dysfunctional families, and there is no way I can sugarcoat this. Believe me, I tried to in the past because no one really enjoys waking up one day and realizing that their most secret suspicion – something is not right about their family – is a reality. Please know that there are no perfect families, as there are no perfect individuals, but there are definitely families that are less psychologically healthy than others, and that can cause a great deal of trauma and negative consequences for a person’s development and growth.

My family has codependency issues and this is a problem that goes from at least three generations back. And just because you can identify this problem in your own family it doesn’t mean you haven’t been affected or even display codependent tendencies on a regular basis. Once you’re born into it, it takes continued effort to heal unhealthy behavioral and relational patterns. It takes inner work and maturity to learn and accept that such tendencies have shaped who you are and how you see the world. Let’s dive deeper into the concept of codependency first though.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, codependency is a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition. This pathological condition can go from addiction (e.g. drugs) to personality disorders (e.g. borderline personality disorder) and personality traits (e.g. authoritarianism). When codependency is part of a family’s psychology, there are power struggles between its members and a good amount of control and manipulation.

In codependent families, it’s not unusual to find that each member assumes a certain role within the family dynamic. The role can change from time to time, depending on the family’s dynamic as a whole. Sometimes one family member may have more than one role. According to Wegscheider-Cruse, there are 5 different roles: the enabler, the hero, the lost child, the scapegoat, and the mascot. Although unhealthy, these roles have a survival value and they allow family members to experience less pain and stress on a daily basis. Within my family, for instance, I have played different roles to reduce the cognitive dissonance that results from living and growing up within a codependent family.

Unless some sort of therapy is initiated, people have usually no idea they are living and breathing from such roles. They may experience and sense that there is something wrong with the family dynamic, but might not be able to point out exactly what. People may even prefer to live in the delusion that everything is alright just to keep the status quo and what’s familiar. The cost of keeping these roles active is, nonetheless, very high since they are psychologically unhealthy and, if not healed, can be passed to the following generation.

The Enabler

The Enabler is usually the member who is emotionally closer to the person who struggles with addiction or personality imbalances. There is a clear relationship of dependence between the enabler and that person. As situations become more chaotic and less controllable over time, the enabler tends to compensate the addict/unhealthy person by trying to control and manipulate reality, because the enabler feels extremely responsible for the family and therefore must keep it together at all costs. Enablers are usually the members of a family who extend themselves beyond measure to fulfill different chores, responsibilities, and both the physical and emotional needs of the whole family. People who play this role are very keen on hiding their fear, hurt, anger, guilt, and pain by displaying self-blame, manipulation, and self-pity.

The Hero

The Hero is usually the oldest child and the person who knows more about what is going on with the family. They know the family has issues and therefore they try to improve or make things better by becoming super achievers, providers, or surrogate spouses (when children are used to fulfilling a parent’s emotional needs). The Hero tends to look older than he/she is because they learned they had to act responsibly from a very young age in order to survive. Heroes are often keen on hiding their loneliness, hurt, confusion, unworthiness, and anger by making their best to be special, competent, and confident. They often develop an independent second life away from the family.

The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is usually identified in the family as the problem child since they are keen on finding themselves in trouble both at home and in school. This is the family member in which the other family members place their anger and frustration. By focusing its attention on the problematic child, the family keeps the illusion that everything else is alright and healthy. Their role is to create a distraction from the root problem. Unlike the Hero, the Scapegoat seeks validation not within the family but in his peer group. Scapegoats are very keen on hiding their pain and rejection feelings by withdrawing from the family, engaging in risky behaviors, acting out, and displaying aggressive behaviors.

The Lost Child

The Lost Child tends to manifest withdrawing behaviors but instead of withdrawing to a peer group, they withdraw into themselves. They may protect themselves by retreating to their fantasy world. They often don’t act out, like the Scapegoat does, and they don’t seek achievements as the Hero. As such, they may go invisible and don’t get much attention from the family. The Lost Child’s role is to provide relief to the family by not giving others the chance to worry about them. Lost Children are very keen on hiding their loneliness, pain, and sense of inadequacy by being quiet, distant, and super independent.

The Mascot

The Mascot is usually charming and pleasant. They often make others laugh and their role is to provide light entertainment. The Mascot is often the family member who knows the least about the family’s root problem and they are rarely taken seriously. Underneath their distraction attempts lies a great amount of fragility. Mascots are keen on hiding their fear, insecurity, and loneliness by being hyperactive, cute, and doing funny things to grab people’s attention.

What now?

If some of these roles rang a bell, the first thing I recommend you to do is to discuss this with a close friend or book a session with a professional who can help you process this information. I know it’s a very sensitive and sometimes overwhelming topic. I have personally dealt with generational codependency and I know what it’s like. Healing can bring hurt in the first stages but it’s the only way to gain psychological freedom and break the cycle. If you would like to book a session with me, you can do it here.

Is Happiness a Realistic Goal?

realistic goal and a desirable one. It is rather impossible to be happy all the time, of course, and it is rather difficult to be in a pure state of bliss on a regular basis. However, we can aim to develop skills and strategies that enhance our level of consciousness.

Keep reading

The 4 Jewels of Well-being

According to neuroscientist Richard Davidson, well-being is a skill, and it can be developed with practice. It’s like learning to walk or playing the piano. The more you practice it, the more you strengthen the neuronal circuits associated with well-being, and the better you get at it. These neuronal circuits are plastic and thus can be expanded and trained. They are awareness, connection, insight, and purpose.

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Relationships As A Spiritual Practise

According to Terry Real, relationships can and should be treated as a spiritual practice. Terry believes there is a natural harmony, disharmony, and repair cycle within relationships. Conflicts can be an adaptive step towards greater relational maturity. Yet, contemporary culture does not prepare us for long-lasting relationships based on truth and love. We keep operating based on reproduction and power rather than empathic skills. These skills include active listening, compassion, and awareness. Altogether, these allow us to understand which part of us – the adult or the child – is interacting with reality, at any given moment.

Continue reading “Relationships As A Spiritual Practise”