At COR, we look at a healthy relationship through a paradigm we call The Three Selves. It’s a beautiful way to view the human condition—and to view one another.
The human condition is developed by our Three Selves as follows:
We have our Healthy Self—which is the immortal diamond of our true self, beautiful and untainted, the part of us that is always loving, wise, and detached. It comes from a Source that we never lose—no matter how much pain and suffering we go through.
When life inevitably introduces suffering into our lives, usually in early childhood, this forms our Wounded Self. The Wounded Self carries our primary emotions of fear, anger, and sadness.
Because we are too young and unequipped to deal with our wounds as young children, we build our ego structure in our Survivor Self—that self utilizes strategies, behaviors, and coping mechanisms to protect our wounds.
Our Three Selves in Relationship
Awareness of our Three Selves is essential for the existence of a healthy relationship because we need to identify which Self is at work—both in ourselves and in our partner. From that place of understanding, we can better foster the Healthy Self.
When we start a relationship, we typically only reveal qualities of our Healthy Self and we only see the essential beauty and truth of our partner. After some time, when the honeymoon phase is fading, we begin to see the other aspects of our partner, and our partner sees the other aspects of us. What often happens in relationships is that we then get into an ego struggle, meaning our Survivor Self battles our partner’s Survivor Self, and we forget why we fell in love in the first place. Therefore, we all need tools to remind each other of the love we felt in the beginning and to deepen and mature that love over time.
As long as one partner stays in their Healthy Self, the other can process in their Survivor Self. When the relationship begins to go awry and we start to butt heads, it’s because we’re reacting to each other’s Survivor Selves. For the baseline of health in the relationship, at least one person needs to be in their Healthy Self, even when things get tough. To thrive in the relationship, both partners need to develop the ability to frequently return to their Healthy Selves, including in times of struggle with or disconnection from one another. The most effective way to remain in our Healthy Self is to understand how to find the quickest route out of our own Survivor Self strategies, while assisting our partner – with their permission! – to do the same.
One of the foundations at COR is essential goodness, which is connected to the Healthy Self. What essential goodness means is that no matter what’s going on, every human is essentially good. We want to foster this in each other, especially in our most intimate relationships. Cherishing our partner’s essential goodness means cultivating the vision of our partner’s wellbeing and being a stand for them in that. Dysfunctional relationships come from not remembering each other’s essential goodness.
Active listening is a way for us to enter into the land of our partner. Although so simple and effective, this baseline tool is actually rarely used in relationships. Our culture is not set up for active listening.
One of the qualities of active listening is the suspension of our judgments. What’s important to the other person is not always necessarily important to us, so it’s vital to understand what makes our partner’s day so that we can nurture their goodness. Some of the interests will be shared, but some of them won’t. Our goal is to learn what our partner’s specific love language is. Part of my active listening is to become curious about what needs of my partner are not being met—and how I can help them to meet those needs by being attentive. That comes from active listening and curiosity without judgment, something only our Healthy Self can do.
The Power of Appreciation
Gratitude and appreciation are choices. It’s the language of the Healthy Self. We need to get past our Survivor Self long enough to express what we appreciate about one another. But, how do we practice appreciation and active listening in a safe, consistent way? Whether we’re feeling close to or distant from our partner, it’s important that we exercise appreciation on a daily basis. In fact, it’s even more important when we’re not feeling so great. Another practice only our Healthy Self can do!
Gratitude and true listening are what make our lives work optimally and we can cultivate these golden relationship gems over time.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to foster your Healthy Self, check out our free 5-day challenge, Reclaim Your Healthy Self.