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Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., M.F.T.
While Our True Nature is Already Perfect
Your Life Can Be Better
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Opening to Maturity

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
February 15, 2017

When we no longer project the wounding of our core story - either onto someone else - or onto the world at large, we begin to come to terms with ourselves: our sensitivities and our beliefs about life and its representatives, beginning with our parents. We come to better know our blind-spots, our weaknesses, and our strengths, as we negotiate the world and our relationship to it. Less and less do we project our difficulties upon the stage of the world itself. We begin to navigate life - with all its challenges - more easily, even when it's not easy, with a greater degree of maturity and awareness.

The Couples' Stumbling Block of Blame

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
February 9, 2017

A place in which I see couples, in my private practice, stumble and blame one another is where one party acts based on the unconscious assumption that the other is responsible for "pushing my buttons." What is actually happening is that a story of our core wounding, as I've written, is being triggered. For instance, if our own unconscious vulnerability or painful narrative arises in conjunction with something that our partner does or does not do, then we might well blame our partner for hurting us. Actually, in this kind of situation, it's the reverse. We are really hurting ourselves. What is the story of your own core wounding? How has it hurt you in a relationship?

Couples, Core Wounding, Complexes

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
February 4, 2017

Often in the life of a couple, a conflict appears that has deeper roots than the present situation. Sometimes we're not able to truly listen or hear our partner's point of view. This is often due to us being unaware in a particular moment that our partner's actions, words, or views are resonating with a core wounding of our own personal story. In these circumstances, we are living life symbolically through the past rather than actually living life in the present as it is.
What I'm referring to here as our core wounding is our deepest and most common internal vulnerability that has deep origins or origins from our earliest years and has conditioned us to react quite automatically. It's sometimes referred to as a complex in the language of psychoanalytic theory or theories of Jungian archetypal depth psychology.

Attachment Theory

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
January 7, 2017

Attachment theory is an empirically proven and very useful portal into the ways in which we can experience and manage stress in our most intimate relationships, such as, with our partner or spouse or children and adult children, as well. However, rather than reading problems resulting from difficulties with early attachment bonds as your parents' fault, I suggest reading this useful article as your parents' legacy to you passed from generation to generation until, when necessary, any problems from early attachment deprivations are repaired. Therapy can help with this!

The Link Between Upsetting Feelings and Our Personal Story

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
November 22, 2016

Have you noticed that when an upsetting feeling arises, that there are usually ideas attached to that feeling - ideas that are largely unseen and taken as facts when they have nothing to do with what is really true?
I'm going to use the word "story" here to mean our continuous stream of thoughts. These thoughts autonomously attach themselves to a feeling or a point of view we may have. Our story informs us about how we feel about the world or an aspect of our own life.
Our personal story makes us feel or think the way we do. It's that story that actually generates a particular feeling. We assume that our feeling is based on reality, when, in fact, it's simply a real feeling. Whether we know it or not, we are often telling ourselves a story about the world rather than seeing the world as it is.
For instance, here's how this may work with one kind of upsetting feeling that may weave itself into a personal story: sadness.
Sadness may arise. But sadness is often attached to some idea(s) that form a story about how the world could be or should be. Or the feeling of sadness may attach to a story about what could have happened or should have happened instead of what actually did happen.
Sadness is often something quite different than compassion, empathy, sympathy, or mourning and grieving, although it may manifest within each of these feelings. Empathy and compassion are feelings that do not upset us. Rather, they affirm our natural loving nature. Grieving and mourning are emotional states that we derive from sadness and have a beginning, a middle and an end. They do not necessarily have a story. By contrast, sadness that is based on a story that we tell ourselves tends to hold on and repeat itself, often symbolically, in one situation after another.
The same pattern may apply to a host of other upsetting feelings. Try, for instance, applying this to your anxiety or your anger. What's the story?
  • Are you anxious because you think that something bad or disappointing may happen that may threaten your future in any way?  
    (Do you know that will happen?)
  • Are you angry because you think that someone behaved in a way that they shouldn't have behaved?
    (Do you know that someone did something they shouldn't have done, even though what they have done may have caused enormous harm and generated unspeakable sadness?)
Who are you without a story?  
What does life feel like without a story?

Thanks and credits here to both Byron Katie and to Adyashanti, spiritual teachers, whose writings and talks have provided pointers in this direction by inquiring into the nature of who and what we fundamentally are.

Who Are We As We Develop Respect In Our Relationships?

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
September 21, 2016

Of course, it’s easy to act respectfully when our partner agrees with us. But what happens when our partner disagrees or doesn’t like the way that we’ve been acting and actually tells us so?

This is where the practice of relating respectfully is most relevant. It’s the rubber meeting the road of our own emotional development. One practice that develops our emotional maturity is by putting our attention on awareness itself.

"Emotional Maturity," is a term coined by the spiritual teacher, Adyashanti, in a 2015 online course, “The Way of Liberating Insight.” By paying attention to awareness itself, rather than our own point of view, for instance, we are, in a sense, liberated from the opinions of our own mind, which have very little to offer in the way of actually being respectful in our relationships.

Being "liberated," so to speak, from our mind, especially when our partner either disagrees with us or doesn't like the way that we've been acting, opens us up to developing "Emotional Maturity."

This doesn’t mean that we have to roll over passively and relinquish our opinions. It just means that our perspective or point of view is nothing more or less than our own perspective and point of view. That’s all.

For instance, when we are upset with our partner, our opinions may not always be conveyed respectfully. We’re upset. Our emotions may be hurt, angry, and turbulent. Listening to our partner’s perspective is definitely a good start.

However, by putting our attention onto awareness itself (not on what we are aware of - our thoughts, feelings, and opinions), but rather, by putting our attention on “only being aware,” as Adyashanti has taught, a sense of internal calm and peace emerges from the background and takes its place in the foreground.

We may continue to have and be aware of our thoughts, feelings, and opinions and certainly convey them to our partner, but we do so while always being primarily or “only” aware of the ongoing faculty of awareness itself that is always present.

For, if awareness is not always present, how would we even know that we had a thought, a feeling, or an opinion?

Putting our attention on awareness, or on our awareness of awareness is the insight that liberates. It is a foundational practice of being respectful in our relationships.

This is one way in which, both at the same time, our emotional maturity naturally develops, and we develop the insight of who and what we actually are.


Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
September 09, 2016

In the spirit of paying attention to what doesn’t work and don’t do that:
From the relationship’s perspective:
Arguments just don't work. Arguments usually isolate us rather than bring us together. Instead, it is important that we try to understand the
OTHER PERSON’S PERSPECTIVE and communicate that perspective, prior to our own, to one another. To truly listen, we must listen to the other person’s perspective. Then, as we address any conflict from the “We”, there emerges a quality of morale between us. We realize that even with our differences, we are on the same page of making the effort to understand and be understood by the other.

"What I heard you as saying is…"
"Is that right?"
"Am I understanding you correctly?"

This might be difficult at first because our minds are habitually conditioned to assert ourselves, especially when we have an emotional reaction as in a conflict. But first, in order to avoid an argument, we must try to listen to the other person perspective before asserting our own. We can begin to see that what appears as a conflict is really that which is important to each of us – the on-going cultivation and communication of an attitude of the “We.” This is necessary for a successful, rewarding, and harmonious relationship. This is the walk of the perspective of the relationship itself. This may involve some practice. Try practicing this in your daily relationships.

The Perspective of the Couple:  
Why It Is Important to Develop Individual and Relational Maturity

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
August 31, 2016

Generally speaking, couples come to my psychotherapy practice, whether they know it or not, with problems that are remedied by developing a greater sense of both individual and relational maturity. Rather than being aware of this root of so much discord, each person tends to blame or attribute the relationship problems to the behavior of their partner or spouse. 
Inevitably, what is important and essential for a healthy and mature adult relationship is to be able to see another person's point of view or perspective. 
This is easy to do when we’re getting along well with each other, regarding a subject that isn’t terribly challenging and difficult feelings do not arise. For instance, if we’re deciding what kind of restaurant to go to, it might not be difficult to see the other person’s view, empathize with it, give up our own preference or perspective, and go along with the other quite happily. 
However, we all know that it’s a different story when it comes to dealing with the challenging and difficult feelings and problems when we’re in a conflict with one another. This, of course, is when it is most important to be able to see the other’s point of view in order to avoid the common trap of being in an unresolved argument. 
In order to develop the ability to view another person's perspective, our own emotional reactions - often frustrating, angry, or hurt feelings of some sort are often blocking our path to relating in such a way that we are just not interested in the other person’s view. Instead, we are, all too often, just interested in our own view being heard and agreed with. (“Agree with me and we’ll be just fine.”) This dynamic is quite common in couple relationships that aren’t functioning well. Each person wants to express their own perspective and have their own view understood before they are willing to appreciate the view of their partner or spouse. Too often, this is the dynamic that turns into an argument. From the perspective of the relationship itself, arguments just don't work. 
In facing any challenges, difficulties, or potential impasses that impact our relationships, especially those of couples, it is important that we attempt to see and understand the other person's perspective and to convey just that to one another as we communicate. 

First: We see our own difficult emotions prior to and without reacting to them as in the reaction of a mood. "How am I feeling right now?"

Second: We express them as they arise in a situation by taking responsibility for them, i.e. that they are our reactions, our feelings. This is very important!  
" I feel this way when this happens." i.e. we take responsibility.  
(Not: "You make me feel this way.")

Third: We express our view and at the same time we show interest in the other person's view:
"How do you see it?" (the situation)

Fourth: We listen to the other person's view and allow them to completely finish speaking.

Fifth: We respond to the other person's view by briefly summarizing what we've heard, asking the other person if we have understood them correctly, and only then, do we voice our own perspective or view with regards to what was said to us.
By meeting this challenge, we are walking the walk of relational maturity.

Relating With Weather Fronts and Storm Clouds From

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
August 30, 2016

The ways in which we respond to our own challenging and often difficult thoughts and feelings, as well as to those of others, is both a hallmark and test of our maturity. However, it is not uncommon that a mood may overcome us, momentarily interrupting or even sabotaging our relationships with those we care about the most.
Pretty much anyone can develop the maturity to negotiate these emotional weather fronts and storm clouds if there is the intention to do so and have an emotionally stable and rewarding relationship even in the most difficult of times. Otherwise, we are held hostage to our own beliefs that our partners or spouses should be the way that we want them to be.
Recently, the field of spirituality, as well as psychology has focused on this subject of developing an internal maturity, as one that is most relevant to our important relationships. Adyashanti, a well-known teacher, who has taught meditation to well over 10,000 people over the past 20 years, and Loch Kelly, an LCSW and a leader in the field of non-duality, who is both a psychotherapist and spiritual teacher, have each coined terms such as “emotional weather fronts” and “storm clouds” to describe the chaos that may permeate our everyday minds during, especially during difficult and challenging moments.
Both Adyashanti and Loch Kelly suggest that by paying attention to awareness itself, we are able actually to awaken or “get a foot in the door of enlightenment” (Adyashanti), in which a shift of our very identity naturally occurs. That doesn’t mean that we assume the identity of another person. Not at all. Rather, we realize that by becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings and paying attention not only to the content of those thoughts and feelings, but by paying attention to awareness itself, "the context," as Adyashanti has called it and taught in his course, "The Way of Liberating Insight," we, eventually, may realize that it is actually only our awareness that is being aware of itself. After all, what could be paying attention to awareness other than awareness? Moreover, we may realize that since our awareness is always there and always accessible to us if only we put our attention on it, then it is an intrinsic aspect of who we actually are. Therein lies the shift of identity. Instead of locating our identity in our concept of our “self”, we realize through direct experience that we are that awareness. Since awareness stands prior to any concept we have of our self, of who we believe ourselves to be, we eventually realize that awareness must be a fundamental aspect of what we are, in essence.
We realize with eyes of clarity that our partner, our spouse, or our own self may be living through an emotional weather front or storm cloud, and like all-weather fronts and storm clouds, they eventually pass by. At that point, we are no longer held hostage by those weather systems. We realize the saying: “This, too, shall pass.” In that moment of recognition, any susceptibility to our own negative mood falls away – the clouds part – and we are able to relate respectfully and actually empathically with one another. We have separated our true identity as awareness from those storm clouds and emotional weather fronts. Loch Kelly has gone so far as to write, in his book “Shift Into Freedom” that: “Then as the open sky, you can include the stormy contents of the cloud, while remaining open.”
Even without recognizing ourselves as awareness, in essence, when we are able to actually observe, witness, and be aware of our difficult feelings, rather than identify with them, we are not governed by hurt feelings or any sense of anxiety, and instead, just see feelings as arising and falling, coming, and going. Then, it is quite effortless and natural to speak respectfully with a sense of aliveness. We just respond to whatever feelings that may arise in ourselves or in others, intimately, and are able to name them and be aware of them with a measure of internal calm. Cultivating this calm may take some practice.
Realizing what we are may involve a certain kind of dedication to living from a sense of true curiosity, developing a daily orientation and daily exercise of paying attention to awareness, and a practice of this, as well.
Either way, by responding with a sense of calm, we both calm ourselves and transmit that calm to those around us – especially to our partner or spouse. We “pay it forward,” so to speak. In doing so, we relate effectively and even compassionately with others, because we are aware of their perspective, not just our own.
In doing so, we make a real contribution to the world around us.

Negotiating Challenging Moments:

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
July 16, 2016

Why It’s Important to be Aware of Your Feelings
When there is a rough moment between you and someone else, you may find yourself to be automatically upset. Someone says something you don’t care for, and you’re upset. It’s quite immediate.
If you can identify to yourself how you feel in that moment, then there’s a buffer between how you feel and your expression of that feeling. You’re then able to talk about your difficult feeling. You’re no longer speaking automatically and without regard for the impact that your words have on somebody else.
You may have felt hurt by another – sad, frustrated, angry, or maybe even have felt hopeless in a particular situation. By naming your feeling, you get to choose the best and wisest way to speak to someone about it. No matter how the other person may respond to your own feeling that you’ve just expressed, just continue to be both respectful and authentic to the other person, yourself, and of course, to the relationship. Your practice of continuing to be both respectful and authentic, no matter what is said to you, will help you negotiate whatever difficulties that may or may not continue to arise, and will then lead you toward a sense of internal freedom and compassion. At that point, you will be in accord with the deepest values of your being. By being aware of your feelings, you are able to convey them in a way that supports your relationships and enhances your access to awareness itself.

How to Practice Being Respectful in Your Relationships:

Robert S. Gordon, Ph.D., MFT
June 21, 2016

Pay attention to especially your difficult and challenging feelings and emotions before you express them. This doesn't mean that you don't express yourself. Of course, you express yourself. It just means that you pay attention to the feelings as they arise within you instead of automatically identifying with them and unloading them on someone else. In other words, a more conscious experience and expression of your feeling would be something like:
"There's a feeling within me of being upset."
"How do I want to express this?"
"What is the wisest way to authentically express being upset respectfully?"
Or: Before expressing to another person that you are, perhaps, annoyed, irritated, frustrated, or even angry at something that they did or the way they treated you:
First: You just need to be aware of how you feel before expressing that feeling.
Then: Notice that you have that feeling before the feeling actually has you!
This may require some practice. It requires attentiveness to your relationship. Then you can decide how it's best for your relationship and for you to express yourself - both authentically and respectfully.

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