A small tweak can create a big shift. It’s hard to remember this when dealing with a problem that seems huge and unwieldy. When we feel oppressed by the weight of a growing challenge, we may try to muster the strength to tackle it head on, to counter the momentum of the problem with an equal amount of force . . . but we may never be quite up to that. That’s when we feel helpless and vulnerable.
So let’s think about how we can disrupt this downward spiral right here and now, with a minimum of force and a light touch. Let’s engage the mindful use of attention and behavior to tweak a big shift in our lives and our relationships.
We all know how it goes –a problem develops in a relationship and takes on a life of its own. The more we think about it, talk about it and focus on it, the more it grows, until it dominates the relationship, reducing it to one big unsolvable problem.
As the problem(s) take up more space, other things are overshadowed, overlooked and devalued. Even forgotten. Of course we need to problem solve and address problems from time to time, but if we let them saturate the relationship, we’re in trouble. While some problems can certainly be solved, other problems will not be — irreconcilable differences exist in virtually all relationships in some form.
The point is that problems aren’t any more real than blessings — they just come with more of a charge which we find hard to resist.
It’s our job to be aware of this tendency and to shift our attention in a mindful and deliberate way to what is going right and how we are being supported. This simple and gentle practice can go far toward turning a troubled relationship around, even a relationship with challenging problems.
The issue of attention is key in relationships, as Jim Roberts, author of Deliberate Love, explains. “I believe that where there is a problem in a relationship it is always a problem of attention and that virtually any problem can be resolved with a redirection of attention.”
Every year we experiment with practices such as this in our Renewing your Relationship distance learning program. We can learn new ways of being together. Big shifts are possible from small tweaks day by day. May we each have the presence of mind to recognize the opportunities as they arise and to respond with heart in the moment.
Linda Anderson Krech, LICSW, is Program Director of the ToDo Institute and has been a frequent contributor to Thirty Thousand Days. She is the author of Little Dreams: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting and has been teaching Japanese Psychology for over 20 years.