si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Category: relationships

Tetris Relationships

There’s an amusing saying:

“If Tetris has taught me anything, it’s that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear.”

I don’t know a better quote for describing the effect of holding grudges.

Where this is particularly noticeable, and damaging, is in the area of relationships.

Everyone is growing. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is occasionally tired, thoughtless, distracted or careless.

Things happen and people get hurt – no matter how careful we are towards the person we love (see also: every parent ever).

This is a normal part of life, and to be expected.

Where it all gets messy is when our partner makes these mistakes and we choose to hang on to those mistakes instead of letting them go.

Eventually, this will kill any relationship. How can it possibly survive when every time we look at them our head and hearts are filled with the thousand awful things we remember them doing?

As always, it’s helpful to keep things simple. Make a choice:

Do you want to have a loving, happy relationship …

… or do you want your relationship to die?

I realise that sounds melodramatic and a prime example of either-or thinking, however on a long enough time scale, that’s your choice.

Of course, if you’re only in the relationship for the short term or you really don’t give a shit about the other person, then feel free to ignore everything I’m saying.

The thing is, if we don’t proactively choose to let go/heal/whatever the myriad of minor (and not so minor) bumps and scrapes that eventuate from any average relationship, then we are actively choosing to let the relationship die.

No one can sustain under that much pain. Eventually, the traumatic blocks stack up until they hit our ceiling and it’s game over for that relationship.

If we refuse to learn, if we refuse to let go of these blocks, these hurts, we’ll be doomed to live the same relationship over and over. Watching blocks build up, experiencing all that pain until eventually we’re forced, once again, to quit.

The other thing here is – much like Tetris, you have to keep working at this constantly. Couples counselling once a year or once a decade isn’t going to cut it. You have to get up every damn day with the intention of letting go of whatever pain comes up.

If we don’t let it go, we’ll be doomed to think about it again and again, letting that wound fester like a rotting abscess.

Every time we rethink about something that has wronged us, to some degree we are reliving that trauma. We’re strengthening the neural pathways. We’re making it worse for ourselves.

What may have been a fairly minor misunderstanding, after we’ve thought and rethought about it dozens or hundreds of times can expand into a soul crushing trauma of biblical proportions. How on earth can we be expected to remain loving towards someone with that kind of storm raging through us?

Plus, of course, much like Tetris, small hurts or mistakes lead to larger ones.

Why is this? Because we look at events through the filter of our minds. If we decide (for whatever reason) that a person is, say, untrustworthy, then everything they do will be viewed through that filter. Every little word and action will be judged and suspected. Grudges lead to judgement.

In short: once we have a belief, we use our brains to find data to validate that belief.

Now sure, some people are untrustworthy, that’s fine. But a lot of the time we paint people incredibly unfairly, simply because of some trauma or other that we’re carrying around. Half the time it really has nothing to do with them at all.

On top of that – this is someone we’re supposed to be in love with. Shouldn’t we be at least trying to be loving towards them? How can we do that if we’re harshly judging every little thing they do and say?

The key, of course, is not too get too carried away with our minds. Realise that it’s our belief that is making us “find” supporting evidence. Once we drop that belief, voila, most or all of that evidence will fall away with it. We’ll see that our prejudices have been colouring our observations. Our pain has been creating more pain around us.

The great thing is – when we knock out a grudge or limiting belief, it’s like knocking out a line in Tetris. Except it also ensures that it will (almost) never come back. When we heal the hurt that caused us to believe someone was untrustworthy, we will have learned that lesson. For a start, we’ll be able to accurately interpret their actions. Secondly, we’ll stop attracting seemingly untrustworthy people into our lives. We won’t need to; we’ve learned what we needed to learn, the universe can now move us on to our next lessons.

Best of all, unlike Tetris, the more we let go of the slower the blocks stack up. It’s a game which starts insanely hard and gets easier and easier the more we play.


    Holding A Grudge

    Holding a grudge is one of the dumbest thing we can do.

    That said, it’s also one of the easiest things to do.

    In essence, what IS a grudge?

    When we believe someone has wronged us, and we hang on to that memory.

    Notice some key things here:

    • It doesn’t matter whether they did actually wrong us or not, just that we believe they did
    • It doesn’t matter what their intent was (or even if it was intentional)
    • Along with the memory, we hang on to a huge chunk of negative energy
    • All this colours any future interactions with that person

    So why do it?

    Generally, we hang on to grudges for some combination of the following reasons:

    • We feel justified (“It’s fair” or “They deserve it”)
    • We think it’ll keep us safe in the future
    • We think this is how we learn from the experience
    • We feel they owe us something (payback, restitution)

    However, there’s some flaws in this reasoning (well, duh)

    For a start, really what we’re doing is making ourselves feel crappier. Why even do that?

    We’re carrying around a huge bundle of negative emotion/energy, such that every time we think about that person, we feel bad. Also not smart.

    On top of that, it’s damaging our relationship with that person.

    If someone has done something bad to us and we can completely remove that person from our life? Well, that’s great. Really though? Most people we interact with aren’t like that. We often don’t have that freedom (workmates, friends, family, lovers).

    The final nail in the coffin? It’s never going to make the original pain go away. All it does it make it suck longer and harder (and not in a fun way).

    Now, as well as the original hurt, we’re attaching all this additional negative energy on top of it.

    Over time a grudge can and will take on a life of its own. The original hurt becomes more or less a footnote, but every time we’ve thought bad thoughts about that person, it’s added a little more to a giant pile of nastiness that is building in our minds. Witness how grudges between families (or countries) can survive long after the original participants have died.

    Holding a grudge won’t help us accurately interpret a situation. Suddenly, every interaction with that person will be filtered through the pain of that grudge. Every possible word and action will be (mis) interpreted as similar to or adding to that pain.

    All it’s doing is maximising our own suffering and damaging our relationship.

    Why do this?

    If we’re smart, we have to remind ourselves that we’re the boss. We are not our thoughts. We are not our feelings.

    We need to re-assert ourselves over this noise and choose to let the pain go.

    Obviously tools like EFT or releasing can help with this process, but even things like good old fashioned (genuine) forgiveness can do the trick. If you’re truly genuine about letting it go though, it’s important to acknowledge the pain we’ve caused that other person too.

    Something as simple as imagining the person in front of you, and saying “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” can be enormously powerful for healing the damage we’ve done even by holding a grudge (let alone anything else we may have said or done).

    Remember though – really, you’re not doing it for the other person’s sake. If they’ve hurt you that badly and they suddenly died, you wouldn’t be THAT bothered, would you? No, the real reason you’re doing it is for your OWN sake. To permanently get rid of all that crappy energy.

    The real test is if you can think about that person, think about the situation, and feel nothing but calm and loving. Asking their forgiveness is a super powerful way to deeply and completely clear out the last vestiges of crappy energy.

    We all carry grudges around. Some big, some small. Start with the biggest and work your way down the list. Every single one you can drop will result in your own life feeling and genuinely being better.


      Detecting and Dispersing Disapproval

      Disapproval is a subtle one.

      It’s often harder to detect than anger – its shouty, ranty cousin.

      It slips under our radar, disquised as a “but” at the end of another otherwise loving sentence.

      • “I love my girlfriend but…”
      • “We have a great life but…”

      or perhaps an “if only”:

      • “I’d love her so much more if only…”
      • “We’d be much happier if only…”

      This is disapproval.

      As I’ve been continuing to clear up a recent (now ex) relationship, I realised – I was wrong before.

      Or rather – I didn’t have the complete picture.

      It’s not only resentment that kills relationships. It’s disapproval too.

      Resentment is easy to see. It’s big. It’s obvious. Every argument you have – that’s resentment.

      Disapproval can easily masquerade as a background wistfulness. A quiet wish for something different, better, other. A thought ignored.

      But disapproval leads to a withholding of love.

      It’s conditional love.

      “I’d love you more if…”

      It’s trying to change the other person (which never really works). It’s trying to control them (always a bad idea). It’s judgemental.

      Only once you’ve let go of disapproval can you move into acceptance. Into a true state of lovingness.

      So, how do we do this?

      It’s actually pretty easy.

      Just say to yourself “I disapprove of [their name]…” and watch how your brain fills in the gap:

      • “I disapprove of [them] when they…”
      • “I disapprove of their…”
      • “I wish they’d…”
      • “I’d love them more if they…”

      Whatever your mind fills in, just repeat it, and let it go. Let the accompanying energy go (you’ll feel tightness or pressure – stress energy, if you will, when you say it).

      Keep doing it until you don’t care about that issue any more. Then try the starter phrase (or another) again, and see what else comes up.

      Doing this with my recent relationship, I was utterly shocked at how many things I uncovered. I think I’m finally understanding why she left. Who’d want to stick around if they could feel that much negative energy firing at them?

      And this was despite me consciously choosing and working damn hard at (ie, dropping my own crap so I could be) loving her as much as I possibly could.


      There’s a little bit of Mr Gate Closer Horse McBolterson going on here, but the way I figure it – if I’m having those thoughts about her, well, I’m sure I’m also having them about other people…

      …like myself?

      And once again, we come back to our most important relationship.

      The one we have with ourselves.

      Have a go. Get quiet, say the phrases above (but aimed at yourself) and see what your brain fills in.

      • “I disapprove when I…”
      • “I disapprove that I haven’t…”
      • “I disapprove that I…”
      • “I disapproving of my…”
      • “I disapproving of how I handled…”
      • “I disapprove that I never…”

      If it’s anything like my experience, you’ll be alternately shocked – and then relieved once it’s gone. You’ll know it’s gone when you can say the exact same phrase and feel no reaction at all.

      When you can say all of the phrases above and have your brain add nothing? That’s when you know you’re getting really clear.

      Ever wonder why you feel crappy half the time for no particular reason? Yeah. It’s internal noise like this. It doesn’t help.

      Fortunately, just bringing it into the light is really all that needs be done to get rid of it. You could use EFT if you feel like something needs a solid bash, but generally just letting it go is enough.

      What’s the advantage to dumping disapproval?

      Well, we’re all looking for approval (love). Once we let go of disapproving of ourselves, it leaves the gate open for us to unconditionally love ourselves. That self-love becomes effortless and automatic, instead of an ongoing daily battle.

      It’s also always, always a much better idea to be self-loving than be looking to others to provide this approval. After all, we’re the only ones who will be with us every second for the rest of our lives.


        Why Relationships Die

        Relationships break up for many obvious reasons – physical, emotional or psychological violence. Alcohol or drugs. Distance. Infidelity. Money stress. Death. Or even simply growing apart – one partner grows, the other doesn’t.

        Under all this though, there’s one core reason most relationships die.

        It’s the same reason buildings rot away and collapse: Lack of regular care.

        Now, I’m not saying you should lacquer your partner every summer (unless that’s their thing of course), it’s a little more subtle than that.

        See, the reason relationships die is because of a gradual piling up of resentments.

        Resentments about what?

        Let’s step back a little first and I’ll explain.

        People come into our lives (ie, we have relationships with them) to help us grow.

        How do they do that? Well, usually by pissing us off.


        Because we attract people that reflect us; both our strengths and our weaknesses.

        So, they’re gonna rub up against those weaknesses, irritating us – just like a grain of sand in an oyster – and potentially with exactly the same outcome.

        When our frailties are exposed like this, letting it go can be easier said than done.

        Additionally, the closer someone is emotionally the more they’re able to influence us – for better or worse. This is why our family (particularly our parents) get under our skin so often.

        On top of all this, the basic experience of building a relationship with someone requires compromise and growth by both parties.

        So every time we have one of these natural little upsets we’re given a choice: hang on or let it go?

        • If you’re still bothered by something that happened a month ago, you’re collecting resentment.
        • If you’re fearful they’re going to behave as they have in the past, you’re collecting resentment.
        • If there’s things you wish they wouldn’t do any more, you’re collecting resentment.
        • If there’s things you wish they would do but don’t, you’re collecting resentment.

        What typically happens is that we happily burble along sharing our lives. All the while these resentments are slowly building up, until eventually it’s all too much and everything explodes.

        Depending on the temperaments involved, this may happen sooner or later.

        This is all a bit miserable, so what’s the solution?

        As I mentioned above: regular care.

        In terms of relationships rather than houses, we’re talking daily if not minute-by-minute care. A little bit often vs lots when desperation strikes.

        Couples often head off to marriage counselling in an attempt to repair twenty years of cumulative damage; this isn’t practical.

        Much simpler and easier is simply to commit to dumping everything that comes up, immediately.

        How do you do this?

        As with everything, you simply make a choice.

        What is more important – being loving to this person, or hanging on to this resentment?

        So often we self-justify feeling crappy “I’m allowed to be upset or angry, they hurt me!” – but really, why do this?

        Isn’t it better to feel good?

        And, after all, we love this person. Surely being unconditionally loving is better than only loving them if they behave exactly how we want. For a start, that’s trying to control them. Secondly, we never feel better than when we’re being completely loving, regardless of their behaviour.

        If we let go of the resentment as soon as it happens, we shift quickly back into feeling loving and feeling great again.

        The more we let go of, the better we feel. Not only that, but the easier it is to love that person. The deeper our love together grows.

        Essentially, we have a choice:

        1. We can hang on to our resentments until things inevitably explode
        2. We can choose to let go of everything as soon as it comes up

        Or, put another way:

        1. We can feel crappier and crappier until we can’t stand to be around them
        2. We can feel better and better until our love together is burning hotter than the sun

        Seems a little silly to even have to choose, but you know, free will. Yadda yadda yadda.

        So how do we let go of stuff? Well, all the usual ways I’ve talked about endlessly.

        In general though, the simplest way is to keep all of your attention on loving the hell out of them. Don’t leave any free to focus on whatever-it-is. Constantly pull your attention back to pouring love out of your heart and into theirs. Let everything else go. Whatever they’re doing, whatever they’re saying, you’re going to be 100% loving, all your energy unreservedly embracing them.

        Here’s the funny thing with all this.

        When you’re truly in that space, letting go as soon as anything comes up?

        Whatever it is that is happening doesn’t have a chance to hurt you. Not even slightly.

        I’ve been in situations, with someone I cared about enormously, where they were saying the most vile, violent things to me (they had their own shit going on at the time) – and because I was so focused on loving them, what they said didn’t even connect. There was absolutely zero pain or damage from it, even later.

        Not a great thing to have happen maybe, but a damn good learning experience. Particularly in terms of reminding me – our behaviour is always our choice.

        She chose to be hateful. I chose to be loving. As a result, I came out of it feeling like a million bucks. How is that even possible? I don’t know, but it sure as hell works.

        Of course, the usual caveats apply. Being loving doesn’t mean you have to be stupid. Eg, if I’d loved and respected myself more, I wouldn’t have put myself in the above situation in the first place.

        If only one party is loving, then the other person will continue to pile up resentments (with the inevitable conclusion). Obviously, the optimal solution is if both of you make this choice. If only you do then at least you’ll feel great, even if they choose to feel crappy.

        Loving the hell out of each other doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be together forever. However, when you’re in that loving place, you can make the optimal choice for both of you. If it’s the right choice, you can end things in a loving way, without an ugly death.

        All the junk that normally buffets you around is absent, freeing you to do what’s best for both of you.

        Being loving means making loving decisions. For you. For them.

        It also beats the hell out of some bullshit resentment from months or years ago making those decisions for us – killing our relationships without us having any say whatsoever.


          Breaking Unhealthy Relationship Ties

          When I was growing up, Mum told me “every person you have sex with, you leave a little bit of yourself behind.

          Being a teenager at the time, I thought she was on crack (also, mothers, what do they know? Nothing. Obviously.)

          I’ve had a decade or two to think about it since then (while gaining a clue or three), and I now think not only was she right, she didn’t go far enough.

          Yes, being physically intimate with someone creates energetic ties that never really go away.

          Remember the first person you ever had sex with? Yeah, that.

          It’s not just  our sexual interactions though. Any relationship has an energetic component. The more emotionally intense the interaction, the stronger that connection.

          This is why our parents can drive us so bonkers. There’s generally only one person we’ve spent nine months living inside of, and it’s hard to top that in terms of physical closeness.

          So where does a “relationship” start? Well, think about a small shop you go into regularly. You say hi to the proprietor, maybe comment on the weather. That’s a relationship.

          Smile at someone on the street? That’s a relationship. Now, it’s a tiny flickering of light compared to the thunder and lightning that embodies most intimate relationships, but it’s a relationship all the same.

          Of course, people we walk past on the street aren’t typically the ones that cause us problems (unless you’ve ever been mugged).

          No, the most problematic relationships are ex-relationships.

          Ex partners. Friends that have left our lives. Old schoolmates. And so on.

          Why are they a problem? Because they continue to take up psychic space. This translates to sucking time and attention from our lives. If there’s one thing we should be jealously guarding it’s those, uhh, two things. If there’s two things we should be jealously guarding, it’s our time, attention and energy. Three things! The three things we should be jealously guarding!

          We’re never getting this time back. We have limited attention and ever increasing demands on it.

          Every thought or feeling we have about an ex-relationship is psychic drag.

          So, how do we stop this?

          Obviously, tools like EFT or releasing can help a lot – particularly if there’s been emotional trauma. In other words, anything that upset us. That’s (relatively) easy to clear out.

          But what about the subtler aspects? The fact that you keep thinking about an ex, or that whenever you hear about them it pisses you off or depresses you?

          Here’s what I’ve found works incredibly well for me:

          • Imagine the person in front of you
          • See that there is a white cord connecting your hearts. Energy flows down this between you.
          • The more significant the relationship, the bigger the cord. A guy you smile at in the street may be only a hair’s breadth; your parents, gigantic.
          • When the relationship is super healthy, this cord will be glowing white. If you’re throwing shit back and forth, there’ll be black gunk choking the cord, or twisting it up.

          Don’t panic if this all sounds a bit airy fairy and whacked out, it’s just a useful visual representation.

          Remember how a map is only an abstracted representation of reality, not reality itself? Or in an extreme case, the London tube map which is nothing at all like reality; it just makes it a damn sight easier to get around London.

          Same thing here.

          The reason this person is still taking up psychic space is because you still have a strong connection to them, with lots of crap in that connection. Lots of thoughts, lots of feelings.

          Once you can see (or feel) the cord there:

          1. Imagine a huge balloon (or a rose – ie, just a neutral object), well away from you, outside your house.
          2. Grab the cord from between you, and throw it into the balloon.
          3. Make sure the entire cord and any remaining black gunk in you (or them) is sucked up with it, into the balloon. This translates to all your thoughts and all your feelings about them.
          4. Once you feel clear and it’s all in there, explode the balloon making sure it all disappears into tiny pieces (feel free to blow it up several times).

          This is obviously a strongly visual approach. If you’re not such a visual person (maybe you’re more kinaesthetic), you might find a different method works better. Eg, feel all those feelings and thoughts as a giant ball of energy, and throw that  into the balloon.

          As always, trust your gut.

          The specifics don’t matter too much. It’s about intent. It (like all of life) is just a choice.

          Often I find I have to do this technique a few times to deeply clear things out. I do it, then wait an hour or two and check it all again, see how I feel about that person. If I feel there are remnants still hanging around, I do it again.

          People are complicated. Relationships, complication squared.

          It may take a few goes as you work down the layers if you have a lot of history with that person or the issues are complex. Each layer is deeper, but generally easier and quicker than the layer before.

          This is ok. It’s still a damn sight easier and faster than spending years thinking, worrying or feeling crappy about someone who’s no longer in your life.

          Now, here’s another use for this technique that I discovered just the other day.

          Apply it to people still in your life.


          Well, because in any relationship things happen. Resentments, differences,  difficulties build up.

          Most of these are pretty trivial, but they still colour the quality of our interactions. It’s still psychic drag.

          By pooling all this junk together and throwing it out – in other words, by consciously choosing to let go of any of the crap that has built up – we free ourselves to have a pure, loving connection with that person.

          I did this last week with someone who’d been causing me a lot of stress. I had (of course) been trying to control them, to change their behaviour.

          They, being at least as obstinate as I am, were having none of it.

          Eventually I realised what I’d been doing and used the above technique. I took all the crap between us (everything I could think of I just added to the pile “yep, that… and that… yep, and that…”), threw it into a balloon & blew the damn lot up. I immediately felt a ton lighter and happier. I did it a couple more times over the next hour or two.

          Total time taken? Two, maybe three minutes.

          What was I actually doing? I was choosing to let go of all nonloving thoughts towards this person. Deciding that being in a peaceful place and being loving was far more important than holding onto the angst.

          This choice may have been helped by the fact that all I was really achieving was stressing myself out and being even more bothered when their behaviour didn’t change. Ha ha. Oops!

          Ultimately, carrying negative emotions around mostly just hurts ourselves.

          Once I’d done this a couple of times, the only feelings I had left for them were loving. It was quite an amazing transition. I tried and failed to muster any opinion at all about their so called “crappy behaviour“. If they acted like that again.. well.. uhh.. I couldn’t even imagine it. Most weird.

          Anyway, I felt great, so what did it matter any more?

          Oh, except the next day they got in touch with me. They’d decided to stop that specific behaviour, “I realised it was just me being obstinate,” they said, “and I don’t want to hurt you, I want to support you.”

          Coincidence, right? *cough*