Co-Creating True Love
This article offers insight on how to co-create true love in your romantic relationship
Created by Harville Hendrix in the late 1970s and popularized in his bestselling 1988 book Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (Hendrix & Hunt, 1988), Imago theory suggests that couples unconsciously attract partners who reflect unmet needs from childhood, and that this allows for the healing of childhoods hurts; the feeling of not being loved the way we needed to be, or not having the safety and security we needed at the time, or losing the innate sense of joy and aliveness that we were born with, and through healing, re-discovering our true selves and a feeling of joyful aliveness that may have been lost.
When a relationship forms and romantic love develops, the feeling of ‘being in love’ can become all consuming. This is because the brain releases the stimulant phenylethylamine which leads to feelings of euphoria and elation (Marazziti & Canale, 2004; Savulescu & Sandberg, 2008). Also known as the infatuation phase, the chemical ‘high’ experienced during this relationship phase can lead a person to idealise the other, so that only the positive aspects of the person are seen, and there is a failure to see their flaws, also known as the ‘Halo effect’. With this ‘perfect’ person, you feel safe, secure and so in love, and with this, a feeling of joy and aliveness is experienced. As a result, you believe you have found what you were looking for, or what was missing in your life, and now everything in your life is okay, until it isn’t. When the infatuation phase is met with reality and the real person, flaws and all, come into view, the relationship meets its first struggles, or it breaks. For couples that remain together, either the challenges are worked through, allowing the couple to move towards true love, or the couple remain together in a state of discontented acceptance.
To live in ‘true love’ there first needs to be self-love, which means knowing yourself and your values, and allowing your true wants, hobbies, hopes, dreams, friendships, and your music and movie choices to co-exist with those of your partners. This can trigger certain fears:
Essentially, the fear of loosing the feeling is safety, security, love and joyful aliveness that was so needed and wanted comes through individual lenses of fear, causing a person to repress themselves, avoid what brings them happiness, limit themselves, or to avoid open and difficult conversations. This scenario does not paint the picture of a couple living in love, but a couple living in fear. To live in true love, fear needs to be worked through, and the pains and hurts of childhood healed.
Healing childhood wounds
In childhood, when our caretakers are attuned to our wants and needs, ready and able to provide warmth safety and sustenance, our feelings of aliveness and well-being are sustained and we remain whole. However, when, albeit it with the best of intentions and all the strength of heart, parents are just not able to maintain the level of care and support a child needs all of the time, that child may learn that their needs and feelings of love, safety or security cannot be met. As a response, children adopt primitive coping mechanisms ranging from constant crying to get attention, to withdrawing inward and denying personal needs.
At the same time, the wider world teaches children how they ‘should’ be, in order to be loved and accepted, moulding children into a way of being that often results in the suppression of those parts of the self that are perceived to be unacceptable or unlovable. This is the beginning of suppression of self, and so of love, rather than allowing the true and authentic self to live and to thrive. This results in feelings of insecurity, anxiety, depression, unhappiness, lack of core connection with self, emotional suppression, and in many cases the development of more unhealthy coping mechanisms that become necessary in order to maintain suppression or the avoidance of pain, fear, and anxiety.
When we fall in love, we believe that we’ve found or re-discovered that missing sense of joyful aliveness, and that we have found true selves because in the felt sense of safety and security in this ‘love’ we allow are true and full self to be present. When the ‘halo’ effect wears off and reality sets in, we begin to learn more about each other, we discover things we do not like or want, and then it dawns on us that our partners cannot give us the love and care we hoped for. It as at this point that, according to Imago theory, we begin to experience the same relationship patterns with our partner as we had with our caregivers, and with this, old wounds are touched and re-opened. Fearful of loosing the sense of joy and aliveness, and the love and security we felt while ‘in love, this can see some people regressing to childhood patterns of behaviour; crying, shouting, criticising or withdrawing, behaviour patterns that sometimes result in the manifesting the fear of loss.
This is the moment that brings opportunity for healing and growth towards true love. When we can understand that, at some level, we have chosen our partners to heal certain painful experiences, and that the healing of those experiences is the key to the end of longing, the first step on the path to living in true love is taken. The next step is to bring the subconscious behaviour patterns, fear triggers and childhood hurts into view, and to initiate the healing process, which means moving through emotional blocks, embracing feelings and emotions, learning healthy coping skills, and cultivating self-acceptance, faith in self, respect and value of self, and self-confidence, so that the love, safety and security grows from within. Once attained, a person begins to feel whole and alive again, and a return to happiness is experienced.
How to be together in true love
True love blossoms when the couple work together from this individual place of security and love, to love and care for each other. Consciously giving the other person what they need is a choice of love, and when we consciously give our partners what they need, and what is hard for us to give, such as empathy or acceptance, we are forced to see and allow our whole self; we embrace and own and enliven ourselves, and so we begin to heal, together. For some, this process can feel like loosing the self. What is actually happening, is that defences are coming down, hearts are softening, and a person is simply allowing more of themselves to be; they are not losing themselves, they are re-discovering themselves; they are being re-born.
From this opening of hearts, true love blossoms and the couple and continue to live and grow in love, together. It is only by daring bravely to be our authentic selves with each other, giving each other what each person needs, that it becomes possible to fully love, because it is only in authenticity that we are able to allow a true and full connection with ourselves and another person. When the heart is open and true, we move into a place of peaceful connection. Now the couple can grow together as in-dependent, rather than co-dependent people, living in love, not out of any need for each other but with a strong and authentic want to be together, because this brings you both true happiness
I'd like to raise a conversation for the purpose of raising awareness and exploring an inclusive and professional solution. The conversation is based on two questions: 'How is the theme of DEI approached when breast-feeding woman choose to return to work, and breast-feed at work?' and 'What is professional practice?' Two questions are posed, because both are relevant and important.
My name is Antonia Behan, I am a professional coaching psychologist BSc MSc MBPsS MICF PCC and I am a breast-feeding mother returning to work. My little one is refusing the bottle and so I am returning to work, with him.
This is because I do not want to traumatise my baby through any type of force (syringing the milk into him), or causing prolonged distress by leaving him with someone to try and bottle feed him while I, in his mind, 'disappear', and I want to return to work, so I have decided to return to work and keep breast-feeding at work.
What do you think about this?
Let me give you some context... I provide online and in-person coaching and therapy in a range of formats to a diverse client base, including adults, adolescents, senior corporate and political leaders, management teams, families, schools and private companies. For some clients, I may work with trauma related themes, anxiety or general psychological well-being, and for others it may be integrating a new corporate culture, leadership growth, or fostering heart-centred values. Some of my clients will be struggling psychologically, others are in a healthy state of mind and focused on thriving.
So far comments have ranged from:
What is the right answer?
For me, DEI is about everybody, and so in this example, it is about being inclusive of breast-feeding woman, and it is about everybody this breast-feeding woman is working with, because that is what being truly inclusive means; it means considering everybody.
While we cannot please everybody all of the time, and we cannot make everyone feel comfortable, we can offer everyone an equal opportunity, we can open up a conversation to allow people to be heard and have their feelings valued, and we can promote free choice: It is my free choice to return to work and breast-feed, and how other people choose to respond to this, is their free choice. Asking people, 'what is your choice' is being inclusive.
Asking people, 'what is your choice' is being inclusive.
Let's move to the next question: 'What is professional?'
When I work in a therapy capacity, I am often working with people who may have trauma or attachment related themes, some may be highly anxious, depressed, or struggling with self-esteem. In these situations, from a professional practice perspective, I know that I need to be fully present, and 'with them' and that the connection with my client could be damaged by the presence of another person (baby) taking some of my attention. Therefore, I have made the choice to postpone my therapy work because as a therapist I am responsible for creating a psychologically safe space and taking care of my clients, who may not be in a psychologically well-enough space to make a healthy choice for themselves; they may say it is okay to feed my baby, because they are not yet strong enough to say 'no'.
When I work in a coaching capacity, it is online and people are coming to me from a psychologically well space (although they may not always be psychologically well), and I still need to be present and listen well to my clients, which I can do while breastfeeding; indeed breastfeeding makes me more present, calmer and more heart-centred, and so I believe I am actually a better coach in this space.
Coaching comes with a strong focus on personal empowerment, and is about holding a space for a client to grow in the direction they choose. It is not my place to make decisions for my client. With this in mind, I am simply asking each of my clients (on the basis of psychological wellness) what is their preference: postpone our sessions until my baby is on the bottle, or, when my baby needs feeding during our session, my childminder brings him into my home office and we turn off the video, for the time it takes to feed him, while continuing with a voice only session.
Let people choose, because they are psychologically well-enough to make a healthy choice, and free choice is inclusive.
What about breast-feeding at live seminars and workshops with any number from 8 to 500 people in a room?
I cannot possibly accommodate the different needs of a large seminar group: some will be accepting and comfortable, others may be critical, or there will be some who feel uncomfortable, which is understandable What I can do, is present what may happen, prior to any enrolment, and let people choose. Personally, I feel unable to 'perform' a seminar, because it requires a focused head space and an active pace that breast-feeding takes me away from, and so I am choosing to postpose live seminars, as a matter of professional delivery quality.
What about small group workshops?
I can ask everybody and I may get different and conflicting feedback, however, people can choose to attend, or not, knowing I may breast-feed. Am I going against DEI principles by breastfeeding? DEI is not just about everybody else, it is also about me; it is about everybody. Today, I can offer a service that some will be accepting of, and others will not, in a few days or weeks, it will change.
I am a woman, perhaps some prefer a male coach. I am from a certain cultural background that is different to some people; some may prefer a coach who understands their culture better. There are different preferences everywhere. Our uniqueness is part of our beautiful world; let's celebrate them and know that sometimes we cannot accommodate everybody and it is not about exclusion or inclusion, it is about recognising and empowering free choice in a loving and accepting space.
What may happen to the way a workshop runs, if my baby is brought to me for 20 minutes a couple of times during the full-day workshop?
I am fairly certain that the pace with slow down, I will move into a calmer and more heart-centred and connected space, and instead of thinking about what I am delivering, or facilitating, a space will be created to foster greater connection and allow for information and emotional processing, which will be supportive of those participants who require process time, and it will encourage this important recognition to pause, process and reflect, as a powerful facilitator of learning and well-being; I believe my workshops will be even better thanks to the gift of breast-feeding, and I shall design them well, with this in mind.
This article highlights the reality that DEI themes are often unique, complex and that they always include everybody, and so I believe plenty of time is needed to allow for mindful consideration about how we live and work together
DEI policy cannot require creating something that everyone can be a part of, because we cannot accommodate every individual need and difference all of the time. What we can do, is be mindful about how our choices may impact others, and when we recognise DEI related themes, invite people into a conversation, learn about how people feel, and be accepting and empathic in our responses, because that is what we can do, and when we do, we are operating in a heart-centred space to facilitate the growth of more love in our world. I can accept you, I can accept your feelings and view points, I can accept your differences, I can accept your uniqueness, I can accept things about you that I may not like. I choose not to limit my capacity to work to manage other people's discomfort. Can you accept my choice?
You are free to choose to participate in coaching with me, and join my workshops, and for the next few weeks and there may be breast-feeding. I fully accept your choices.
Meanwhile, this may be a non-issue, because as I am sitting here writing this article, my wonderful babysitter is patiently managing to get my 15 week old to drink a little from the bottle!! Acceptance is a funny thing, and sometimes a magical thing, when we embrace our situation, whatever it is and however we are, the struggle ends and we move into a peaceful place with ourselves and each other.
Article by Antonia Behan Copyright 2023
Strong Leadership is about Empathy
“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”— Oprah Winfrey
Empathy is the ability to recognise, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, which enables us to connect with and support each other.
To be an empathic person requires self-empathy, this means having the ability and making the time to connect with yourself, your needs and wants, dreams and desires, values and beliefs, and your feelings and emotions, and consciously honouring them.
Why is self-empathy important?
To be able to gain a felt sense of what someone else may be feeling, we need to be in touch with our feeling and emotional world. If we are blocked or supressed, perhaps as a result of trauma, medication, or a psychological reason, we cannot truly sense another. This does not mean a person who is not able to self-connect cannot empathise; cognitive empathy allows people to intellectually assess how another person may be feeling, and appropriately and sensitively respond to this. However, emotional empathy opens up a whole new world of potential connection with another human being, and people can feel it when it is real.
When you are empathic to self, able to connect with your feeling and emotional world, you are able to ask yourself ‘what thoughts’ or ‘what beliefs’ are behind these feelings or emotions, facilitating mindfulness development, and the ability to master your thought processes, which enables you to guide your feeling and emotional world in the direction that supports your well-being. When you can do this, you are also better at self-regulating your emotions, which is essential to holding a safe space for difficult or sensitive conversations with another person. When a person cannot self-regulate, their own internal conflicts may be triggered and lead to emotional outbursts or inappropriate or unprofessional behaviours, that can damage a working relationship.
Self-empathy means that because you care to connect with you, you are more likely to hold compassion towards yourself, and being in this loving space makes you a stronger leader. Why? Because when you love you, and act on this love, you hold greater self-esteem and so you set healthy boundaries, manage your time and energy in a way that supports your well-being and performance, make healthy choices for your mind, body and soul, and create a way of living, being and working that aligns with your heart-centred values and your authentic self; you function better and inspire others. When you do this for you, you understand the value of this way of being; empathic, and it becomes very natural to extend this to others. When you operate in love for you, you operate in love for others, because, by the very nature of being, you are heart-centred, and so your inspired leadership grows.
For many years, I battled with severe trauma-related anxiety, which meant that I was disconnected from myself, indeed I was afraid to connect with my emotional world; afraid of overwhelm. I managed to connect with people on a cognitive level and I was not without emotional empathy; during focused moments with other people when I needed to truly listen and connect, I could sense their feeling and emotional world and it touched my inner world, because I was opening my heart. However, because I was afraid to feel, this would also trigger anxiety, which I would have to supress in that moment, so that I could be there for another, because I wanted to. The result of this way of being was worrying about the day I would not be able to supress my anxiety enough, and become emotional overwhelmed in front of a client, and then when feelings and emotions were touched, they did not stay present for long, I did not stay present for long, because I was afraid. I was living and working in fear, and this was not kind or healthy for me. When I finally made the brave choice to embrace my inner world, it was overwhelming, but because I choose it, because I wanted it, the overwhelm was manageable. My strength developed with the knowing that I was choosing bravery, I was choosing vulnerability, I was choosing to accept what was within me, and so I was proud of me because I had finally truly and authentically and at the most devastating time in my life, finally chosen to love, and to walk so authentically along the path I felt so passionate about. Now, I can be more present in love, which means all feelings and emotions are open, and I experience this as something truly beautiful and powerful; I am strong because I can be with all that I am and because I can be with all that I am, I can hold this space for you, sincerely, with acceptance and loving kindness.
If you or your organisation would like to enhance your empathy, and integrate more heart-centred values and behaviours, feel welcome to connect with me at: email@example.com
I am based in Sotogrande, Cadiz and run live workshops between Gibraltar and Malaga, or Globally via Zoom Conferencing.
You may be interested in ‘Lead with Love’ a group-based leadership programme for senior leaders and managers: https://www.antoniabehan.com/lead-with-love.html
The system is changing, the way we work is changing, the culture is changing, the people are changing, the process is changing, the climate is changing, the leaders are changing, the world is changing, and this has always been our reality. Aside from the rising and setting of the sun, nothing in life is truly certain. We have lived this way for millennia as our normality, and still, we find change unsettling.
Why do we find change unsettling? When we have a salaried job, working in the same team, within the same structure, living in the same home, with the same routine, the same income, the same family dynamics, the same social circles, the same relationships, the same hobbies, the same responsibilities, the same weekly shop, the same habits and behaviours, and the same holiday times each year, it can lead us to feel like we know where we are at, what is happening and so we need not worry about any major change. For many people, it can feel comforting to live in this sameness.
In reality, change can and does happen at any moment, with a new addition to a family, the loss of a loved one, the deterioration of health, a pay rise or change in position, a job loss, a change in school, a new relationship, unforeseen redundancy, new leaders rising, the old falling or moving on, people changing location, new opportunities presenting themselves, a global pandemic, a natural disaster, a broken friendship, a change in weather, or a new idea!
When change happens people often feel unsettled, they feel they do not know what is happening, they may feel out of control, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or chaotic, while others may feel excited, full of wonderment about what could be, thankful for the shift, grateful for the new opportunity, relieved, liberated and renewed; these people embrace uncertainty, and some thrive on it.
How can we learn to embrace uncertainty? Choosing to embrace uncertainty comes with a certain amount of risk. It requires us to face our very real vulnerability, accept feelings of anxiety or excitement, and recognize that in reality, certainty was only ever a timed illusion.
The ability to consciously embrace vulnerability requires:
Do you want to better embrace uncertainty?
Antonia Behan Copyright 2022
Get in touch to learn about 'Embracing Uncertainty' corporate workshops
Love in the Corporate World
What is the value of cultivating companionate love within your organisation?
Love evokes sensations and ideas that span multiple cultures and generations in ways that are very much connected to a common song, and also worlds apart: some love a little, some love a lot, some confuse love and lust, some equate love with romance, others with companionship and family connection, and some base love on conditions, while others love unconditionally.
When I address love in the corporate world, I speak of ‘companionate love’, which you may equate to the love of a good friend; a love fostered over time, characterized by feelings of affection, intimacy and commitment. This article outlines what companionate love looks like in an organisation and the value to the organisation of cultivating loving qualities.
The value of Love in the workplace:
When Mandy O’Neill, an assistant professor in the George Mason University School of Management, carried out research (‘What’s Love got to do with it: The Influence of a culture of companionate love in the long-term care setting') with the University of Pennsylvania management professor Sigal Barsade, they demonstrated that “companionate love” in the workplace boosts teamwork and job satisfaction and leads to less burnout and absenteeism.
The study surveyed 185 employees, 108 residents and 42 family members of the residents. The embedded researchers rated the culture of love each time they spent at least 20 minutes in a particular unit of the facility. Employees and administrators also rated the emotional culture in the various units. The researchers found that employees in the more compassionate units showed greater engagement and less withdrawal than their colleagues elsewhere in the facility.
Barsade and O’Neill also surveyed 3,201 employees from 17 organizations in seven industries, including financial services, real estate, engineering and higher education, and the results were the same; the people who worked in a culture where they felt free to express affection, tenderness, caring, and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.
In a 2016 study on preferences in leadership style, it was found that 70% would prefer a ‘collaborative & supportive’ working environment, while 26% would prefer a ‘task-focused and goal-oriented’ working environment.
The challenges to growing a loving corporate culture: More companies are beginning to understand the benefits of monitoring employees’ emotions and are concluding that a culture of love can generate a brand of loyalty and commitment that is good for business, however, the reality of fostering this culture can be a challenge.
The process of integration:
Love in the corporate world is long overdue, the time is now to facilitate the emergence of care, compassion and kindness, and the beauty of this process is that every single person has the power to make the choice and the personal changes to facilitate the emerge and growth of a beautiful new world.
Preston Williams (2014) ‘Companionate Love’ in the Workplace Heightens Happiness, Productivity’ George Mason University News
Sigal Barsade and Olivia A O'Neil (2014 )Employees Who Feel Love Perform Better. Harvard Business Review,
Fiona Beddoes-Jones, PhD (2017)Love Is The Answer: A New Model of Corporate Love in the Workplace. Occupational Psychology Division of The Bristish Psychological Society
Ryan L Nlelmec (2017) Love in the Workplace? Yes! Why and how love and other strengths are important at work. Psychology Today Magazine
Would you like to explore how to integrate a loving culture within your organisation?
Get in touch to arrange a complimentary call to explore what this could look like:
Antonia Behan - Coaching Psychologist BSc MSc MICF PCC MBPsS
0034 620 741 361 firstname.lastname@example.org www.antoniabehan.com
Do You Feel Heard?
This articles address the importance of empathic listening in the workplace and provides skill development techniques.
To listen empathically Is to be present, with patience, acceptance, non-judgement, kindness and care.
How can we effectively support and help someone in the workplace who is suffering, when we may not know what to say or have any relevant advice or experience to offer?
When we know how to listen empathically, we do not necessarily need to have the answers, or give advice, rather, we help and support by being present, letting the person know that we care, they are heard and accepted. This alone can be immensely healing for people and provide huge relief.
Empathic listening skills allow anyone to step into the speaker’s story, to really hear and understand them, to sense what they may be feeling, and to be with them, in the present, with their pain, suffering, frustration or difficulty, without judgement or criticism, holding a space of psychological safety, acceptance and support.
Stephen R. Covey (2020, p. 277), author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, summarizes the heart of empathic listening: “Seek first to understand.” Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist, described empathic listening as “entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it” (Rogers, 1980, p. 142).
When we practice Empathic listening, we allow the other person to dominate the discussion, attentive to what is being said, mindful not to interrupt, and with sensitivity to the feelings and emotions that are being expressed. When we are listening empathically, we are letting the other person know that:
"I want to understand you and how you feel, I am interested in what you are saying, I am not judging you, and I want to help you to find a resolution’
The impact empathic listening has on the speaker is to let them feel acknowledged, valued, accepted and understood, which can help foster their self-esteem, reduce stress and tension, and increase trust and cooperation.
The Essence of Empathic Listening
Co-worker: “Stephen always says he will meet the deadline, but I am always chasing him, and never know where he is at or how long he will take to get things done’
Listener: “It sounds like you’re frustrated with Stephen and work right now?”
Here, the listener doesn’t negate or judge the speaker, rather, they let the speaker know they heard what was said and captured the emotion, while the open nature of the question invites them to elaborate and open up further.
What to Avoid
Phrases you can use when listening empathically
Before asking questions, it is wise to be sensitive to the other persons disposition and have a deep awareness of the context. Not all questions are appropriate in every situation, and in some context may trigger issues that they are not ready to face, or that are not appropriate to face in the current situation, such as deep psychological traumas in a work space or when there is little time to really hear and be present with a person.
The following examples can help the listener open up and clarify what is being said:
When you want the other person to know you are there for them, you can ask or say:
Develop your empathic listening skills: Would you and your team members like to practice empathic listening with a facilitator to feedback on your communication style and support your skill development? Please get in touch: email@example.com
Location: Groups of 2/3 people available online. Small group sessions, in-person in Sotogrande, Cadiz, and Ocean Village, Gibraltar.
Antonia Behan - Coaching Psychologist - BSc MSc MBPsS MICF PCC
0034 620 741 361
Oficina 10, Sotovilla 2, Pueblo Nuevo de Guadiaro, 11311, San Roque, Cadiz, Spain.
Living in Harmony
Who am I, why am I here and how do I make life better?
These were the questions I was forced to ask myself, when, during my early twenties, remaining in a state of depression and feeling lost and alone was no longer an option: it was change or die, previous excursions into the shadowlands had taught me this. Having recently completed an interior design diploma and been keen to launch my consultancy business, my hopes and dreams had remained in my mind sky, because I lacked the faith and confidence that I needed to act. I would constantly tell myself that I was doomed to fail, destined to be alone and lonely and that I would walk forever on the edge of the rat race reality, existing but not really living. These were the beliefs that my world had conditioned me to perceive, and so this was my truth, and my truth was killing me. I desperately needed there to be more to life, and so, with all the passion in my heart, and a small glimmer of hope in the possibility of a greater story, I called out to the heavens above, hoping something might hear my plea for guidance and grant me a reason to keep living.
What happened next initiated a journey of spiritual awakening, truth-seeking, deep healing, and an immersion onto a way of living and being that would eventually reveal to me the keys to outshining fear, breaking free from the shadows, moving into peace, freedom and happiness, and ultimately enabling me to understand how to co-create harmony in our world. It began with a vision of a dying world and of lost souls wandering the Earth, disconnected from their hearts and from each other, and a message of inspiration inviting me to heal my world from within, which led me to my next truth-seeking question:
Why do we suffer and how do we overcome suffering?
I reviewed my own story of suffering; a tale of innocence and a gradual descent into darkness; the result of many years of being bullied, rejected, and abandoned, in different places, at different times, and by different people, leading to a long battle with severe anxiety and depression. I learned that we are subjects of our genetic inheritance and the environment in which we are born and that we are mere reactions to life events based on this combination; we are like ships upon an ocean where only the sturdy and well-balanced are able to ride the most challenging waves. On reflection, it was clear that, fundamentally, I suffered because I lacked the management tools for coping with my world, and because I existed in a realm of too much fear, and not enough love. When I transferred this perception to address suffering on the world stage, I learned of a similar truth; the world needs more love.
How does life work; are we governed by freewill, fate or destiny, and what power does one person have to effect change?
In a world in need of love, and when there are so many people living in fear and fuelling destruction, I wondered what one lost soul could possibly do to help create harmony? I explored the nature of freewill, fate and destiny. I meditated on whether there may great plan overarching the story of our lives, that unbeknown to us, is carrying us on an unseen ocean towards harmony, and all we do is connect with this knowing and live with faith in the vision. I researched the power of intention and how the power of our own heart and mind may influence change in the collective and I considered the impact of one person living in alignment with the values of the heart.
I learnt that we are subjects to cause and effect, until we awaken, that freewill and fate may be siblings weaving the paths of our lives, that we can learn to claim our freedom and take the resigns on our lives, and that when the power of the mind is harnessed and the heart moves into peace, it may become possible to arise as a co-creator, influencing how we live, and how others live, and pro-actively being a conduit for love, and an ambassador for peace and harmony. I had a theory, and now I had to start living it to unveil the truth.
I set my intention and I crafted my vision of peace and harmony; a home in the sun, writing inspiring books, helping people to heal and grow, sharing my life with a partner, in love, with a happy family, good health, free of my own demons, an organic garden, cherished friends, abundance and success, and people around me living in peace and harmony.
What is love?
Over the next year, I battled through thoughts of faith and fear as I explored how to create harmony, and then life opened up, with an opportunity to move into my dreams; a new home in the sunshine, heralding new possibilities and potential. I continued in a battle of faith and fear as I tried to outshine my demons and make peace with my world because even when you change location, you cannot outrun your shadows. I initiated a course of therapy and one of the first things my therapist said to me was: ‘You need to learn to love yourself’, and I honestly had no idea what she meant! I knew that I was not happy, I recognised that I still spoke to myself with harsh judgment and criticism, and I continued to be haunted by depression, past traumas, and so many fears. ‘You need to get angry’ she would offer, but I did not want to get angry, I did not like the feeling of anger, I wanted peace.
Overtime, as I reviewed my past, and allowed myself to get angry about things that I had every right to feel angry about, I discovered that with anger, my fears transformed into a sense of inner power, because I was reclaiming my truth: I was angry with people, with life, and with myself, for many things done and said, and for those things that were not done or said, and needed to have been.
Therapy provided a space for anger to move into acceptance. This was hard work and it took a long time to really get what acceptance actually means. Through acceptance, as if by the very nature of accepting, a new sense of peace and freedom emerged, and in this new peace and freedom, I found myself moving into realms of forgiveness, and to choose to focus on appreciation and gratitude, while my self-talk evolved from those of criticism and judgment, into the realms of compassion and kindness; I was moving into a new kind of love; self-love, and through genuine self-love, by the very nature of being in love, my heart began to open to other people and my world.
What does it mean to Live in Harmony?
The emergence of love was a gradual process and is a dedication to maintain. It requires applying empowering tools to help manage fear, doubt, and the voices of negativity, and a commitment to the art of acceptance, the voice of love, compassion, empathy, kindness, appreciation, gratitude, forgiveness, and the ways of peace, It is through the emergence of my love that I have come to understand what living in harmony really means.
Living in harmony is about making time to understand ourselves and each other so that we can learn to better accept ourselves, and how people are, and why people are. It is about choosing to forgive ourselves and each other, not because it will make certain things okay; so many things were not and are not okay, but because we choose to bring peace into the present. It is about connecting with our truth; how we really feel, because only when we stand in our authenticity can we heal and grow, and only in our authenticity can we process our true sentiment, and so avoid, consciously or subconsciously, projecting our shadows onto other people and our world. It is about embracing our freedom, through this authentic way of being, and claiming the power that arises through connection with our true heart, and it is about radiating the true heart; living in compassion and kindness, choosing to focus on appreciation and gratitude, and making the choice to respond to life with love.
I began to embrace my new truth about who I am, how I am, how others are and the way the world is, and with all courage in my heart, to live in love, which meant making some big and important choices. If I wanted to be true to my heart, I would have to set some new boundaries, pursue greater and more exciting career goals, and with this risk greater failure, rejection, and abandonment, and perhaps the pain of judgment from choosing to expose my truth. But, to live any other way was no longer a choice; I had made my dedication to love.
I set my boundaries, I lost some friends and made some stronger friendships, I changed pathways, took career risks, and I developed myself as a coaching psychologist, creating continued and ongoing success, growing myself in a new and unexpected way, and always in alignment with the values of my heart, true to love and my vision of harmony. I formed a community support network in my home town and then I made the choice to be a mother, a single mother, through the process of in-vitro fertilisation. I knew that no matter what happened next, I was living the truth of my heart and I truly believed this would lead me to harmony and help me understand how to co-create harmony in the world.
It was during the 37th week of my pregnancy that my baby girl became distressed, she stopped moving, and she died. The suffering is immense and it does not end. I had a choice about how I responded to this tragedy and I had to respond with love. I grieved deeply, feeling every true and overwhelming emotion, and I continue to grieve; this pain is part of my world, I have to accept it, I have to live with it, there is no other truth. I choose to be thankful for what she has gifted me; the recognition of my ability to love greatly, to respond to the suffering in my life and my world with love, and to no longer merely survive, but manage to thrive.
Harmony is not about everything in the world being shiny and bright, where suffering is ended and there is only joy. Harmony is about accepting the suffering when it occurs, processing it, and then choosing to respond with love and never giving up on the truth of the heart. Being a mother mattered and so, while walking with fear, and still grieving, I summoned greater courage, and, in the name of love, I walked on, into a second pregnancy, and I gave birth, at home, to a very special, healthy, happy and joyful baby boy.
I believe that when I stand in love, I exist in my harmony and that when I open my heart to others and the world, and actively co-create with love, and when I connect with and respond to people and life with acceptance, compassion, empathy, kindness, strength, courage, faith, trust, peace, integrity, and truth' the values of the heart, then I am one person helping to co-create harmony in the world around me.
I believe that when you stand in love, when you exist in your harmony, true to the values of your heart, truth to your true feelings and emotions, and living with a mind full of love, and with the power to conqueror fear, you help to co-create harmony. You don’t have to wait until you can maintain this way of being to be able to make difference; we all rise and fall through the days of our lives, this is our nature. In those moments when we do rise and when we can maintain a vibration of love and peace, we are powerful, and when we fall and know that with faith and a loving response, we shall soon rise again, this deep and complete acceptance, enables us to maintain and grow harmony. I believe that when we stand in love, true to our unique vision of harmony, we shall meet each other in the dawn of a new harmony on Earth.
Many reading this will resonate with my words because you are in a similar space, you recognise you are setting foot on your path or already making brave footsteps, you may be revisiting the path, or you are smiling with a warm heart because you feel thankful that the ground your generation laid is bearing fruit and we are responding to the call to love.
Currently, this global pandemic has the potential to unite or divide our humanity. This is a call to stand in your love because this is what you can do, this is within your power and it will grow your power, and you will change the world. This pandemic can become the tragedy that we choose to use as a global shift towards living in greater love.
I invite you, from wherever you are, at whatever life stage you are at, to make a pledge to stand in love.
I, (name)…………………………….with pure intent and a heart open to giving and receiving love, dedicate myself to the path to love, with the understanding that in doing so, I am being true to myself and contributing to the emergence of greater acceptance, authenticity, connection, compassion, empathy, kindness, integrity, truth, and peace in my world, by actively and consciously living by these values.
Together, and only together, we are moving into a new harmony.
Harmony, with as many beautiful visions of its projection as there are people on the planet, can be our collective vision. There are no rules, there is no fixed path, there is just a choice; to love yourself and live from a loving heart.
Growing the Ambassadors of Love
What does it really mean to create an empathic organisational culture?
Empathy is more than having the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’ position, it is being able to interpret what they are feeling, and to mirror their emotions; growing empathy requires deep consideration about how the other person or group of people may be experiencing their world, and experiencing this, emotionally, as if you were actually living their experience. For those who are naturally empathic, this capacity for authentic human connection may be viewed as a blessing or a curse, depending on whether what is felt is absorbed into being, or simply noticed, experienced and then let go; being an empath can be draining if not managed well, while healthy empathy is a strong facilitator for emotional healing, healthy relationships and positive communication. For those who struggle to be empathic, learning about what it means to be empathic, how to grow an empathic organisational culture and the behaviours that can be adapted and developed to foster an empathic culture will serve to make a positive difference. However, for a person to experience true empathy, and exhibit this capacity, what is needed is to, first of all, be able to connect authentically with the self; with how you are, and what you are feeling and to accept whatever is present. Only when we can accept ourselves can we truly accept others and be with them in their emotional realm. In a world where people are increasingly disconnected from themselves and each other, the process of re-connection may be a challenge, but when the journey through the inner work is embraced, it is one of the most beautiful processes a person can go through, indeed it opens the door to greater love.
What does an empathic organisation look like? A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum looked across highly empathetic companies to identify common practices of high empathy organizations. They learnt that:
The Benefits: The value of growing an empathic workplace culture is that it allows for the feeling of trust and connection to develop, a valuable part of human social interaction, with diverse benefits ranging from enhancing cooperation (Rumble, Van Lange, & Parks, 2009) and increasing the likelihood of helping behaviour (Davis, 1996), to fostering desirable sales behaviours (Anaza, Inyand, & Saavedra, 2018), influencing more effective leadership (Rahman & Castelli, 2013), and driving productivity, retention and motivation (Business Solver, 2019); in their survey of 1,000 employees from a variety of businesses, the researchers (Business Solver, 2019) found that:
Growing an empathic workplace culture
The inner work: Choosing to learn to connect with who you are is fundamental in learning to become more empathic. Connection with your core self, where all that you are; your feelings and emotions and your deep inner world is recognised, accepted and embraced. Only with this connection and acceptance is it possible to develop true empathy; we need to be able to feel what we feel and accept it, to be able to sense what others may be feeling and accept it. Some have this natural ability, and for others, developing empathy is a process that needs to be learnt or re-learnt, if the challenges and traumas of life have led to a disconnect with who you are. This is not a one-time workshop process, and it is not something that happens quickly, it is a process of emergence and unfolding, and sometimes of emotional and psychological healing, that needs to be nurtured with time, practice, reflection, conscious motivation, and empathic focused action. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful, empowering and rewarding personal growth processes anyone can go through.
Initiating connection: The process begins with an invitation to connect with yourself, through the breath, through mindful awareness of how you are thinking and feeling, and to sit with what is, with whatever arises. Doing this requires making time to stop, move into stillness, let go of the day’s work and racing thoughts, and become present in the moment. This can be done alone or guided and supported by a therapist or well-being coach. It may require effort to initiate this process, and if you want to, and you choose to embrace it, the effort will soon move towards the desire for more time to be present and connected because, in this place, there is peace.
Creating psychological safety: For people to feel able to connect with who they are, and each other, to authentically be present and experience or express the true feeling and sentiment, the crucial factor is feeling safe, and being in a safe space. When people feel safe and able to connect with who they are and how they feel, they become capable of true empathy. For those who have experienced trauma, feeling safe with the self may not feel possible, and so it is important to be mindful of this and not force or guide people into places they are not ready to connect with until safety has been established. When I run corporate empathy workshops, I invite people to this process if they choose to, and I highlight that for anyone that does not feel comfortable with the process, without having to disclose anything and in a space of full acceptance from all participants in the room, (having initially created a space of acceptance and non-judgement at the start) they may leave the room for the exercise, or they may sit quietly and begin to address any behaviour changes that can be made to help foster empathy within an organisation.
Co-creating an empathic organisational culture requires a willingness to embrace change and often considerable change across the board. It needs key people to drive the change; those with the power to influence, model and facilitate behavioural change towards empathy and living in alignment with the values of the heart. I like to see these influencers as the ‘Ambassadors of peace and love’; people of strong hearts and minds striving to bring about a potentially revolutionary change in the way we live and work with each other. Who are your ambassadors, how are they already driving empathy and what would happen if co-creating an empathic organisation became their conscious mission and purpose?
Article by Antonia Behan
Coaching Psychologist BSc MSc MBPsS MICF PCC
Empowering adults and adolescents to live from the heart
Anaza, N. A., Inyang, A. E., & Saavedra, J. L. (2018). Empathy and affect in B2B salesperson performance. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 33(1), 29-41.
Business Solver (2019). State of workplace empathy. https://www.businessolver.com/resources/businessolver-empathy-monitor, accessed October 30, 2019.
Davis, M.H. (1996). Empathy: A social psychological approach. Routledge: New York.
Rahman, W. A., & Castelli, P. A. (2013). The impact of empathy on leadership effectiveness among business leaders in the United States and Malaysia, International Journal of Economics Business and Management Studies, 2(3), 83-97.
Rumble, A. C., Van Lange, P. A. and Parks, C. D. (2010), The benefits of empathy: When empathy may sustain cooperation in social dilemmas. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 856-866. doi:10.1002/ejsp.659
Acceptance is a coaching and therapy process that when integrated facilitates healing, growth, and transformation. This may be getting to acceptance of what has been lost, acceptance of what happened and that was out of our control, acceptance of things that cannot be controlled, acceptance of those consequences of what happened that we live with today, acceptance of the way other people behave, the way things are, and the limitations of our possibility and potential. When we move into acceptance, we move past anger, resentment, and frustration, we end the suppression of feelings and emotions that we did not want to face, or the outward projection of those energies onto others, we let go of the past and sometimes of people, and we are enabled to move into the present and into ourselves, we become more grounded in our lives and more at peace with each other; in essence, a negative emotional charge is dissolved.
From a place of acceptance, the baggage of the past is released into history, healing is enabled, dramas are put to rest, and space and energy is formed to give light to new possibilities and potential; a person can learn to move on with their lives, become healthier and happier, and learn to thrive again.
What can acceptance coaching bring to a corporate environment?
Acceptance of what is possible: People have different expectations on performance outcomes. Sometimes the expectations are fair and realistic, sometimes they are unrealistic, and sometimes they do not challenge someone enough. As a consequence, there can be feelings of frustration and stress when people do not perform as expected, or when potential is not recognised, and people are not challenged enough. When nothing changes, this frustration and stress can foster and the working environment becomes toxic and inefficient.
When acceptance is brought into the coaching conversation, space is created to either facilitate a person in coming to acceptance of the state of expectations, so that they can then make a conscious choice to stay in the same position or to move on, for a manager to keep someone where they are because of other strengths, or move them to a more suitable position, or to integrate reality checks when setting expectations. In this way, people move on from feelings of powerlessness, restriction, limitation, frustration or helplessness and into a place of empowerment where open and honest communication occurs and conscious choices are made.
Once a person attains acceptance, they become less stressed and less likely to project their frustrations into the working environment. A person who accepts the limitations of their time and ability, can then set healthy boundaries on what they can and cannot do, assert what they can and cannot do, ask for updates on priorities and strive to improve efficiency on what matters most, instead of trying to be perfect and get everything done. This allows those in leadership and management roles to gain a clearer understanding of what can be expected, where progress is at, and how to effectively strategy plan to achieve the company objectives, key initiatives and results. Acceptance facilitates open communication, improved overall efficiency, less stress, positive work spaces, and helps prevent the burnout of your key and most valued people.
Let me be clear, acceptance is by no means about settling for something that is a poor standard, toxic or health risk and maintaining it as such, acceptance is about recognising that this issue, is what it is, and then identifying what can and cannot be done about the issue, releasing the emotional charge, and from a place of acceptance, with the conflict and negativity dissolved, allowing for the emergence of new ideas, possibilities, and solutions that benefit the person or the company. Acceptance is sometimes a necessary step for moving forward.
Acceptance of challenging personalities: When working with a colleague with a narcissistic, histrionic or obsessive-compulsive personality, there is feeling of a general lack of care and interest in the well-being of others, and instead a focus on what the individual wants to happen, control or attain, and there is a high level of emotional drama. To those working with challenging personalities, when acceptance of how people are is integrated, instead of wanting the person to change, or planning an exit strategy, people can move through fear or avoidance of that person, manage feelings of frustration, and learn how to prevent themselves from becoming entangled in emotional dramas, or being bullied. Awareness of the personality disorder is the first step, acceptance that we cannot change people, unless they choose to change, is the second step, and from acceptance of what is, and how people are, space is created to address management tactics; how to manage a challenging personality. When people understand this, they become empowered, stronger, less stressed, more productive, more focused, and they feel happier.
Acceptance of financial remuneration: It is fair to say that most people want to earn more money and that to do so will require upskilling, improving performance, owning greater autonomy, risk-taking, becoming stronger in the leadership and management of self or others, improving communication, activating assertiveness and often, communicating with compassion. In essence, it requires a change or growth of self, and this is usually a pain point that many do not want to embrace, and so they remain in frustration. However, once acceptance of areas of growth are identified, and acceptance of the investment required to make the changes is embraced, the inner frustration, resentment, negativity, or sense of entitlement, makes way for pro-active changes that benefit many.
Acceptance of resources: There is always space for more resources to make life easier, and often not enough people, time, money, high-level performers, expertise, or experience where it is needed. Acceptance of this reality moves the focus from frustration and into a solutions-focused mindset; what can we do with what we have, what is possible, how do I streamline better, prioritise more, get better at letting things go, delegating, and saying ‘no’!
Acceptance of risk: It requires bravery to step up, leap forward, and even more to lead others in a new and often unknown direction. Along the way, you may encounter failure, fear, loss, criticism, judgment, and new levels of pressure. When the risk is accepted, which means identifying and accepting the possible consequences; the great and the small, the positive and the negative, the outstanding success or the incredible failure, emotional freedom is created, setting a person free to soar.
Acceptance of cultural adaption: From staying in the same known steady and secure space to operating in a fast past place of constant change and motion, companies operate within their own cultural styles. Sometimes maintaining the status quo works, and new members adapt and integrate, and sometimes changes are required. Integrating new values, aligning the team with a greater vision and strategy, or improving gender equality, well-being, or mental health awareness, may now be on your horizon or knocking at your door. There will be resistance, however, when people are facilitated in accepting a new way of being with each other, then conflict, hesitation, frustration, anxiety, and feelings of uncertainty or insecurity make way for new understanding, compassion, solutions-focused thinking, excitement, and position action towards integrating and aligning with the new way.
Are you interested to learn more? Please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Antonia Behan is a coaching psychologist (BSc, MSc, MBPsS, MICF PCC) working with whole teams within Gibraltar-based companies, and online with global senior leaders.
Antonia is passionate about facilitating the integration of a culture of mental health and well-being, including improved communication, stress and anxiety management, and growing your people. I want you to attain your greatest business possibility with healthy and happy people.
Antonia Behan BSc MSc MBPsS MICF PCC
Corporate psychological well-being and performance development coaching
Adult and adolescent psychological wellbeing coaching and trauma therapy
Family coaching for harmony
Workshops and courses
How to be with Sadness
The thought of seeing someone cry used to trigger anxiety, because I was afraid to feel my own sadness; I feared the enormity of what I held inside, and because revealing my true feeling meant allowing a certain vulnerability that I believed would make me weak and defenseless to anyone trying to hurt me; I had been bullied enough times, in enough places, to understand the importance of my defenses. I also felt like there was something wrong with me for not being able to be with sadness, and not knowing how to support others in their sadness; as a teenager, I felt inadequate as a friend and in conflict with myself because I wanted to be okay with feeling sad but my fear inhibited me.
To be able to overcome this fear I needed to learn that my sadness was acceptable and that I was strong enough to be with the tidal waves I felt certain I had suppressed. The difficulty is, you don’t get a 'taster session' on sadness, you just decide you are ready to feel, and when you decide, the challenge is allowing yourself to be with whatever arises, however big or overwhelming it is; it is a true act of surrender, and of letting go of control of yourself. The ability to overcome this fear is within your power, because self-acceptance is a choice we make for ourselves, and bravery is a choice we make when we want something enough.
It took me a long time to embrace my full emotional world, and when I did, I realised that yes it is as intense and overwhelming as I thought it might be, and, it is beautiful and rewarding because when we suppress the emotions that we do not want to experience, we also dampen and shut ourselves off from so much joy and happiness. However, I also learned that my fear element had been greatly misinformed because although my sadness was intense, and grieving aspects of my life where I needed to feel anger, loss and further sadness was painful, in reality, there was nothing about it to fear because emotion is just emotion, it flows like waves rising, falling and flowing into the shore to be absorbed by the body of the Earth. We are touched by our emotions, but we are not destroyed or broken by them, we just feel them and when we do, they move through us, and then we find ourselves on the other side of that motion, and there is a new calmness.
How to be with sadness: