Monday, December 29, 2008

Keeping the fire of Passion and Love alive!

“The movie that changed the face of entertainment. Toy Story, the first full-length computer animated feature film, is "a wonder to behold."” – People Magazine

‘Toy Story’
Most everyone has enjoyed this great animation at least once in the past 13 years. Toy Story is the result of the innovations of a small team of people bringing together existing elements into a new dynamic for the entertainment industry. Much can be learned from their endeavor that can be applied to maintaining and growing passion in your love relationship.

Play to Win
Growing passion and intimacy thrives in an environment of creativity and playfulness. It doesn’t occur from a lone idea or concept from a ‘love manual’, but from creating the environment for sustainable innovation. The creators of toy story surrounded themselves with toys and mastered the art of play as their imaginations worked towards the final result. This magical and “juicy” environment they worked in fostered shared attitudes, values and beliefs that became meaningful to them as group relating to one another. Each relationship has abundant resources within it to support and sustain growing and expanding passion.

There are five core values that support and sustain dynamic passion; questioning, risk taking, openness, patience and trust. Sustainability is the result of a harmonious balance of these values, as in the creation of Toy Story.

Values and Intimacy
At first look, the values of questioning and risk taking seem counter-intuitive for most popular definitions of love relationships. However, these values bring to the relationship the energy for growing passion. Openness, patience and trust are elements of intimacy which sustain passion. Growing passion is stifled when either of these values is over emphasized. Yet if the partners base their relationship on trust with out questioning, blindness or unawareness to energy draining habits and attitudes insidiously appear. Where one or both partners place great emphasis on patience, little change occurs and boredom and habituation dominates the relationship. Risk-taking isn’t reckless, but is undertaken consensually which requires openness and questioning.

In the example of the creation of Toy Story, the willingness to ask questions and take risks put the team over the top with their new film medium. Because this kind of film had never been done before, they were taking risks with their very idea. Trust is critical when a group fosters a new idea. Trust is also critical when partners begin to question their choices, options and possibilities. Lack of trust can turn questions into to judgments and promote an atmosphere of expectation . When partners are willing trust enough to take risks and ask questions they can create a new and more dynamic relationship.

Question – Energy of Passion
Curiosity underlies the kind of questioning that sustains passion. Natural curiosity seeks to explore and discover that which is unknown. It can take us into the hidden area of the personality – that part is hidden from self and/or the other. ‘Natural’ curiosity accesses that deeper part of our self which is closely related to our ‘inner child’. This is the kind of curiosity that fuels the passion of a child discovering how something works. Our intuition is allowed to imagine and create when our child-like natural questioning emerges. This great capacity for questioning also allows two individuals to explore and find resolution in difficult times. David Culler, a computer science professor at UC Berkeley, described this kind of questioning as: “stubbing my toe on the same spot often enough that I say, ‘What is this?’ Then I look down and find that what I’m tripping on is just the tip of a very big rock below the surface.”

Play, not work
The rich juicy environment for sustained passion is play, not work. Truly innovative people play at what others call work. Though the Toy Story team faced many times of difficulty and seeming failure the energy sustained by their passionate playing at creating this film allowed them to continue through to their amazing success!

If a couple works at keeping passion alive, it will likely wither and die. Working at, or ‘having to’ keep passion alive turns questions into judgments. Asking the “Why” question communicates judgment, lack of trust, promotes defensiveness and triggers guilt and shame. Passion cannot co-exist with such elements of the past. “Why” questions in relationship are neither scientific nor questioning but veiled statements of dissatisfaction, judgment, or anger.

The questions of play are what keep passion alive. Questions of How? When? What? Each of these speaks to discovery and outcomes in the future. Open ended questions that suggest possibilities will stimulate imagination, which is a critical aspect of sustained passion.

The Challenge
A great challenge to sustained passion is habituation or status quo. A maturing relationship can easily fail to question patterns, rituals, and habits that once were new innovations. Couples that discover a sense of having “made it” can add new energy to their relationship by seeking to discover new and unknown possibilities.

Action Steps –
1. Reflect on the most passionate time in your relationship. Write or share your reflections with your partner.
2. What would you like to discover about yourself and your partner? Share these with your partner.
3. Encourage your partner to participate in 1 & 2

Risk and Trust next time!

Russ Hardesty Dec 29, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

User-friendly Relationships

How are you at navigating the programs on your computer or for that matter the internet? Navigating relationships, just as the navigation of the programs on a laptop can seem difficult for some while others seem to ‘point and click’ effortlessly. What is the difference? Understanding the language required for desired responses is critical if one is to have an effortless relationship with the laptop or their chosen partner.

It can’t read your mind
Learning to use your computer with the appropriate inputs from the keyboard and mouse can be extremely frustrating. Often we assign names, personalities and poor character traits to our desktops. We speak to this electronic device as if it were some invention from the depths of hell sent to torment our souls. Our ‘inner child’ may believe we are being punished for our stupidity and ineptness. This inner child wishes the computer could read our wants and desires as did our early caretakers. All of this could be said about our significant relationships. Some navigate relationships as easily as some who “become one” with the laptop; and others have an emotionally charged relationship marked with conflict, frustration and reluctant tolerance.

Most everyone recognizes the power of our early programming. This programming affects our person and our behavior. Family of origin, birth order, historical events, tragic events, gender, and culture all play a powerful part in making us who we are today. Each one of us has had a unique personal programming. One way of describing this programming is related to personality types. Exploring these personality types can bring clarity and understanding and set the stage for learning new and effective ways to relate to our loved one that creates a ‘user friendly’ relationship.

I just disappear…
My wife, Pat and I, are living illustrations of these differences in programming. I find myself fascinated with ‘what makes things work’ and can spend hours in learning how to work with a piece of software, while Pat wants the software to do what she needs done when she wants it done – now! During a conversation between the two of us, an idea or question may arise that I want more information about. I disappear to the library or Google to find the answer rather than continue on in the conversation. This frustrates Pat.

In the process of building our house, I delighted in the structural design and construction with little interest in color, texture, ambience while Pat would wait until a room was completed before deciding on colors and textures to create the warm and comfortable home we experience everyday. These differences are both challenging and complementing.

She’s not my type!
A mother and daughter team developed an effective system to describe and understand the type difference in people. These two women, Myers and Briggs, developed a type indicator instrument, (MBTI) based on Carl Jung’s analytic psychology. True to type, I am fascinated with this kind to ‘systematizing’. While Pat doesn’t spend time reading the Jungian theories, she is a master in applying the knowledge described by the theories. Pat is the “woman that runs with the wolves” described by Jung’s student, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Jung was the architect while Clarissa, was the interior decorator and articulated the characteristics of powerful women. I am fascinated by music theory and Pat brings the theory into existence with her beautiful voice. I love her voice and I love to hear her singing. She brings beauty to a structure that I can describe but struggle to implement.

The SJ and NT
David Keirsey has further refined the personality types of MyersBriggs into four temperament types. Pat seems to be predominately a type described by Keirsey as SJ (Sensory and Judgement), or Gold in other type descriptions. Martha Stewart shares this type with Pat. I fall solidly into the NT (Intuitive Thinker) type or Blue, sharing this architect typology with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. This combination presents challenges and clear strengths in our relationship. As the NT, I am an endless source of frustration for my lovely SJ bride. My thoughts and actions leap to and fro while Pat’s SJ seeks to maintain routine and order. Pat values traditional ways of doing things. She will seek to quietly read the assembly instructions as I thrash about seeking to understand the “structure” of the system.

Knowing the language helps!
User friendly relationships are empowered with knowledge of the operating system of the other. A quote from Mother Teresa, Pat’s sister SJ, “"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier”, helps me better understand Pat’s operating system. The language recognized by her system is words and phrases that answer her “how” questions. For example, “How do the details fit together?” Or “How can I plan ahead?” and my most dreaded – “How can you guarantee that?” To keep our relationship ‘user friendly’, I must be conscious that Pat’s how questions may not be compatible with my operating system, but are essential for her sense of balance and harmony. I am in control of my communication; it’s not Pat’s task or the laptop’s job to make sense out of my intentions. My inputs must be recognizable and meaningful to have a ‘user friendly’ relationship.

Action Steps!

1. Get to know your type – if you need help, email me and I’ll be glad to help – no cost!
2. Seek to know your partner’s type – please don’t get into being a shrink and psychologizing – again I can give some assistance
3. Mindfully listen to your partner’s comments and language – this is a great way to learn their language.
4. Seek an opportunity to read and discuss this blog with your partner, calmly!
• Explore ways with your partner to improve your communication

Please comment on ways that you have applied this awareness to your relationship. It will be a gift for others. Russ

Check out Russ's materials at Your Ultimate Relationship

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Shadow Land

Journey into the Shadow Land

Recently I had the opportunity to visit with both sisters at the same time and was amazed at the familiar dynamics. My younger sister began to tease and banter as if we were in the 1950’s. The youngest, took the place of the observer and I struggled not to do my ‘one up’ response. Our combined 90 plus years in the ‘helping professions’ didn’t change this old programming from our family of origin.

“Don’t go often and don’t stay long”

The holiday season is a traditional time for connecting with family. I clearly remember for years as I drove from Missouri to the ‘farm’ in Oklahoma and my feelings and emotions began to change – preparing for the role in my family of origin. A part of me seemed to ‘dummy down’ so that I would fit into the traditional role of my childhood. My behaviors began to mirror those of the past. The conversations topics were the same. I was ready to return as soon as the greetings were exchanged. The return trip began in silence and gradually turned into a ‘therapy session’ with Pat, which allowed some important insight and understanding. Most of my early adult life I had adopted the philosophy – “Don’t go often and don’t stay long”.

A Wonderful Opportunity!

The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to gain understanding of those unconscious behaviors and attitudes that are challenges in your present relationship. An important phase of creating the relationship of your dream is to differentiate and define your own style of relationship. It can take several years to do this while defining and developing a relationship ‘identity’. Time spent with families of origin will often reveal the degree to which your relationship has achieved it identity. These times are opportunities to evaluate and create greater clarity of the boundaries defining the relationship with your partner.

Observation Opportunity

During this holiday season observe the traditions and roles of where you came from! What are the traditions of gifts, celebration, decorations, roles of parents, and sibling’s relationship? These can be marvelous windows into the unconscious aspects of your relationship! How many mirror patterns in your present relationship? This allows greater awareness of that which has been hidden enter the workshop of consciousness.

Creating Your Tradition!

Intimacy is deepened with tradition. Anticipation enhances passion! Your tradition can surely include the family of origin while creating a new one – an expression of your true self, your partner and the young people in your life. Creating your unique tradition gives the young people in your life permission to be free creating theirs! Consult one another as you design the patterns of your celebration. Let your celebration be just that! Celebration is another form of gratitude for that which you have, not participating in a social obligation.

Action Steps

1. Design your holiday tradition

As a couple, family or individual

Each one write 30 things that bring joy during the holiday season, then each picks their top 10. This is beginning of a great discussion – especially if the focus is on wants rather than blame or fault. Select activities and experiences that allow for a win-win outcome for everyone. It may take more than one conversation to achieve the plan that works, but magic begins to happen when the focus is on what and comes from the heart.

2. Share your Holiday Tradition – Post in the comment section – Great Idea Source for those wanting to Change or Start their own!

Happy Holidays!

Check out Russ's materials at Your Ultimate Relationship

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Knowledge is power! How do you use it?

“Need to know basis”

In response to a recent blog “for men”, a woman reader shared that her role with her husband was different than described in the blog. It seems the husband was slow when making a plan, didn’t share the plan clearly, and was slow to take action. She indicated that ‘being left in the dark’ and operating on a ‘need-to-know’ basis were road blocks to peace and closeness in the relationship.

Information and knowledge is power and subject to being misused to increase personal power or unwelcome feedback or criticism. Certainly, there are times when the need-to-know is appropriate as in: certain military situations; discretionary access control such as a computer or financial system; social security numbers; or credit card numbers. However, in committed relationships, secrecy and the use of need-to-know as power impacts the well being of the partners in a relationship and is counter to an open and loving connection. Trust is the casualty of such control.

“Clear and open”

A fulfilling relationship requires clear and open communication. Operating on the ‘need-to-know basis’ amplifies power struggles and inequality in the relationship. The one who decides what the partner needs to know sends the message unconsciously that they aren’t capable decision makers. This abuse of power squelches initiative and imagination; both vital elements of passion.

The readers husband may not have intended such messages to be sent, and would likely be surprised to know their partner felt frustrated. Both partners likely came from homes in which one or both parents operated on the ‘need to know’ premise. Patterns from our past operate unconsciously in everyday interactions. When such a pattern exists in the family of origin, openness and trust are often compromised and prevents emotional closeness and safety. The reader experienced a “wait and see feeling” which made it difficult to have the security that comes from knowing “the plan”.

What we Live With….

“What we live with we learn; and what we learn we practice and what we practice we become” is a phrase which has been helpful for many wanting to change a pattern or behavior. Unconscious behaviors are a large part of our lives and operate without thought. In the blog, “Its Just Cobwebs”, I described a personal experience when an unconscious pattern came into my awareness. To change the pattern that was a part of my earlier life experience by “learning” or realizing the impact of the pattern in my present relationship. The work of “practicing” the new behavior of “staying” connected even if I am uncomfortable is hard but necessary to change old and destructive behaviors. Practice is – repetition of the new behavior. One practices the new behavior until it becomes their first response. Interestingly, the practiced behavior becomes a part of your being and operates at the “unconscious” level. Changing such patterns as described by the reader’s comment requires personal honesty and desire to grow! Both are critical to fulfilling relationships.

Action Steps:

  1. Practice sharing your plan with your partner – discuss and ask for input and use the first two steps described in “for men”
  2. If your partner shares a plan; listen responsively – reaction usually is taken as a judgment and creates defensiveness and distance

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A challenge for men!

“What is your plan? Exactly!”

“What is your plan?” she asks. “It will work out somehow” he says. And the internal unrest in the relationship grows until lava like either flows out in the most unexpected places or erupts explosively in the most inconvenient time.

The unconscious natures of women and men play their vital roles for the survival of relationships, family, and community. Men by nature are more aggressive, impatient, short-sighted, given to winning, reproducing, overcoming, and hungry. Women think longer term, appreciate knowing the ‘plan’, seek to know ‘cause and effect’ as a source of empowerment that comes from being prepared. However these differences often weaken and lead to an unfulfilled relationship.

Men will come on like ‘gang busters’ with their ideas, thoughts and wants. The powerful woman has a plan, and most of these ideas don’t fit in. Her response isn’t, “Wonderful Plan, I’ll just forget mine”, but rather caution and discomfort. The accumulation of these emotional responses compound emotional disconnection and erode intimacy and passion.

Be your Best, “Slow Down”!

Lyrics from “Slow Hand” by the Pointer Sister gives a great “point” for understanding a powerful tool for communicating with your partner.

”I want a man with a slow hand
I want a lover with an easy touch
I want somebody who will spend some time
Not come and go in a heated rush
I want somebody who will understand
When it comes to love, I want a slow hand”

A quality and fulfilling relationship happens over a period of time. The time factor is one of the greatest challenges for people in our culture, especially men. There is a great deal of pressure from the economy to be as productive in as short a time as possible. This “hurry up” model doesn’t apply to love relationships.

Sequential Steps

Developing intimacy and closeness with your partner has to occur in sequential steps or stages. The initial step it requires is an honest acknowledgment of your partner. It is human nature to assume acknowledgment from our life mate. However this assumption begins to gnaw at the trust connection. Here are three fundamental and sequential step to creating a passionate and intimate connection with your partner:

  1. Acknowledgment of our partner’s presence, desires and wants are as essential five years into the relationship as was the original courtship and bonding.
  2. Acknowledgment initially is a visual awareness, but eye contact is equally critical. Often partners rarely hold and maintain eye contact with each other after their courtship. Sharing eye contact for an extended period allows connection in each others emotional center.
  3. This type of connection significantly increases the effectiveness of the third kind of connection that occurs, communication!

When a man is connected with his partner at this level, his words enter the emotional power center and connect with the plans of a strong woman.

Friday, December 5, 2008

“Its Just Cobwebs” –

Have you ever been blind sided your partner’s comment or action? Did a ‘mole hill’ suddenly become a huge ‘mountain’ of relationship turmoil? Did a well intentioned comment or action turn into a hurtful or damaging event? Anyone in a relationship experiences these times. Let me share one ……

Just another day!

It seemed just like most days. I awakened around 5:00 a.m. and got out of bed as quietly as possible so as not awaken Pat’s sleep and went to the office upstairs. I logged some of the thoughts I had awakened with and checked and responded to emails. I spent the next hour or so reading and jotting down some connected thoughts.

A Blast from the Past..

Around 7:00, hearing Pat stirring in the kitchen, I greeted her as I started the coffee. While she was preparing breakfast, I took the scraps from the evening before to the chickens. I gave the hens their daily quota of feed, checked their water supply, and gathered the dozen or so eggs from the previous afternoon and returned to the kitchen. As I sat the bowl with eggs on the end of the counter, I heard, “Where have you been!” Immediately my ‘male’ brain thought – “how could Pat not know since I just sat down the bowl with the eggs?” Being somewhat literal in my actions, “I have been taking care of the chickens.” “You have cobwebs on you!” she said. Sure enough my left arm and shoulder was covered in the dusty cobwebs that only grow in a chicken house. I stepped outside, brushed them off and returned to the office without any other comment.

Pat called to me when she had breakfast ready. There was little conversation during the meal. As Pat left the table, she remarked, “You must like the computer more than me!” I did my usual “Huh” look and assured her that I liked her a lot more than the computer!


Pat’s remark stuck in my brain. Soon after she left to work at the Garden Center, I realized that what had happened between us was a ‘blast from the past’. My internal response to Pat’s comment about the cobwebs triggered a response that had been with me since early childhood. Although Pat had no intention of becoming a parent that morning, her comment was an echo from the past.

I had grown up with a lot of questions, remarks or judgments from both parents couched in “why are you doing that?” My childhood response was to give a minimal response and exit. I would go outside if it was daylight or to a remote place in the house if it was nighttime. My mind would attempt to reconcile the intense emotional response my parents had to my seemingly harmless ‘behavior’. I would have thought, “Its just cobwebs – what’s the big deal?”

Opportunity for Change

On that morning in August, my unconscious self had been in charge of my part of the relationship. The patterned behavior has been with me for at least 60 years! This awareness now presents me with a choice. It becomes a choice of accountability. I must own my part of our unconscious relationship. Next time, I can stay instead of leaving. I can think, “Thanks! this an opportunity to become more conscious!”


Here’s a comment from my studies in family and marriage counseling; “90% of the repetitive issues in a relationship are connected to the family of origin, while only 10% is relevant to the present”. Russ

Action Step:

Reflect on the next conflict, disagreement, disappointment that occurs in your relationship. Are there fragments or shards of the past finding a presence in the situation? What are the lessons? What are the changes that will improve your relationship?

Please share some of your insights and awareness’s

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Your Shadow Knows!

Once in a lifetime, everyone should fall in love. In that moment we know we have the perfect partner for life. Little do we know that the dream of our life may become our nightmare?

Dream or Damion?
What began as the perfect partner can become the nightmare or damion of the magical moment when you entered the mystical place filled with delicious intensity, called ‘falling in love’. Life seemed filled with bright days, the lyrics of songs took on special meaning, and you needed less sleep. The food you and your loved one shared together tasted better than any ever.

Crimes and Misdemeanors
As you were transported to this magical place, little did you know the magic of the moment was the paradox described in Woody Allen’s film, Crimes and Misdemeanors. Professor Louis Levy concludes: “What we are aiming for when we fall in love is a very strange paradox. The paradox consists of the fact that when we fall in love we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction, the attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.”

The Shadow Land
Unconsciously, you discovered that for which you have desired; long before you had the language to describe this Nirvana. You encountered the one that can right all wrongs and disappointments. Voids are filled by the one whose presence is ointment for healing old wounds and hurts. This person anticipates your needs, completes your sentences and knows how special you are. Your boundaries have collapsed into a relationship that creates the mystical union described as “and the two shall become one.” In the words of Professor Levy, you have entered the place of shadows – the unconscious relationship.

Share you comments or ask your question about the unconscious relationship.

p.s. This blog is a beginning of several entries about the unconscious relationship. Stay tuned, the next one is really personal!!!

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Reader Comments

"...My spouse and I have been married for 32 years and I've experienced our relationship from giggly in bed, to passionate in bed, to mad in bed to "sleeping" in bed...As we grow older the intimacy definition changes for me. Intimacy also for me is just sitting quietly, or driving for miles quietly or walking just hearing our footsteps crunch the leaves, holding hands. My usual struggle in intimacy is in my head - I have to intentionally stop my daily to do list, my past and future stuff and live in the present moment..." Pam

it's ... smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion

“We have found that passion ebbs and flows but we set a goal for our relationship a number of years ago that is working for us. At least every six months we do something that will create a lifetime memory. For us, we love to travel, so it's been pretty easy to find something big to do that will create that lifetime memory, but sometimes it's the finding of smaller things to celebrate that create the real passion.” Steve Rae

What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?

“The "typical beliefs that people have when the “fire” seems to have gone out of a relationship" I believe are a) that you feel your partner should have changed or should not have changed and b) that you feel you should change or that you should not have changed.

Acceptance of yourself and your partner leads to forgiveness. What'll arouse passion more than the feeling of being forgiven?” Brian Massey

A word from Russ Hardesty

The realm of relationship is mysterious; filled with magic, surprise, excitement, passion, intimacy, loss, disappointment and creativity. I am fortunate to have a life partner who is at once a mirror, teacher, lover, nurturer, student and companion. In this place of mystery, I continue to grow into a mature, loving and free man. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments – which is a gift to me! Thanks for joining the expedition! Russ