The Ultimate Answers to a Balanced Fulfilling Life
A relationship in conflict is often an indication that the life of one person or both lives of the couple is out of balance. Being out of balance is like driving a car with unbalanced tires. This creates an annoying vibration that eventually wears the tires out.
Life balance is the key to an efficient life. When our lives are in balance, we are more efficient. Our internal systems flow more smoothly. We get fewer cortisol-driven emotional spikes. Cortisol spikes put our muscles and organs under stress and cause a host of physical illnesses, as well as mental health problems and professional burnout.
When our lives are out of balance, we run the risk of damaging our most important relationships. Our intimate relationship with our life partner is most at risk. Especially when we are not conscious of how much our personal life balance is taking a toll on our health, vitality, and productivity.
When we are not treating ourselves well, it is common to blame our frustration on the person we share a life with. We tell ourselves it must be his or her problem that I am not getting the exercise that I need. That I am not pursuing a hobby that is physically or emotionally rewarding. Or that I don’t have the time to do the deep spiritual inner work that will restore my vitality, and create clarity and a sense of purpose.
It Is, of course, frustrating — and even infuriating — to be blamed for something that only our partners can control. This blaming causes negative cycle arguments that relationship expert Sue Johnson calls “find the bad guy”.
These arguments are easy to spot because they can go on and on sometimes for hours, or days, without resolution. And when we look at them after they are over, they often have very little substance to them. I call them “arguments about the burnt toast”.
It is human nature to defend when we are attacked. And our defense is often an attack back which results in another defense and counter attack by our partner. It is a kind of madness that causes immense stress and throws us even more out of balance. Nothing in life stresses us more than when our primary, most sacred relationship is in conflict and falling apart.
When the primary relationship begins to break, couples therapy is often sought out with each member of the couple secretly hoping that the therapist will fix their “dysfunctional” partner.
A good therapist will of course start with the communication problem that is causing a destructive negative cycle argument. Emotionally focused couples therapy (EFT) is a brilliant research-proven way that couples can learn how to identify and repair communication patterns that lead to the relationship destruction that researcher John Gottman calls the “4 horsemen of the apocalypse”.
Good couples therapy like EFT can get the relationship back to ground zero where the blaming stops. And the couple returns to being civil toward one another. Or in best cases, kind and compassionate.
But often the balance problem persists, leading to another round of relationship regression where one or both members of the the couple begin to feel overwhelmed, stuck, and helpless.
Every analysis of this problem leads back to what each individual in the relationship has to solve. And that is to take responsibility for their own life balance problem.
This requires a turning inward to face the personal demons lurking in the unconscious that are actually the angry and hurt and unhealed parts of ourselves.
We do this by taking time to meditate, to self-reflect through journaling, to listen to what our dreams are trying to tell us, by reading powerful books on psychological health and spiritual direction. And of course to seek out the guidance of a therapist, coach, or spiritual director that can help us to recognize our blindspots. By paying attention to and nurturing those areas in our lives that are out of balance and need healing and attention.
Looking to an expert is only helpful when we are willing to do the things listed above that help us become more conscious and put our new insights into action.
The goal of life balance is to give our thinking, feeling and body – the instinctual parts of us – what they need to be alive and to help us survive and thrive in a life full of both internal and external stresses and challenges.
There are many things we face in life that are out of our control. We need reminders like the serenity prayer “Lord help me to accept the things I cannot change. the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
Surprisingly, what actually brings us into balance is not simply the peeling away the layers of denial and doing something about our lack of exercise, deprivation of intimacy, or poverty of productive thinking.
All of our inner life balance work is unto something much bigger and more profound than bringing the parts of the human machine into alignment.
G.I. Gurdjieff taught a method of transformation called the fourth way, which is about solving the existential problem of it not being enough for us to be well-oiled machines. Even then we tap only a fraction of our true potential. It is when the machine is well oiled and at rest that the superpower of our true nature, true self, essence, or imago de has the opportunity to become a co-creative nuclear power source that can give us the energy and direction to eclipse what our humanness alone is not capable of.
It is our spiritual true self that has the love, compassion, power, and wisdom, to empower us to be a great source of help and healing to others. Those who are lost in lower levels of development and are unable to see the way out of their cyclical self and other injury.
Be still, listen, and know that there is a way to find peace in the eye of the winds of stress and suffering.
Achieving sustainable life balance is about repairing our relationships and taking personal responsibility for our personal development. It is trusting the essence of love, wisdom, and compassion that is inside of us to propel us toward a higher level of potential than we thought was possible.
I’m Michael W. Regier, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist, seeing clients within California at my Central Coast office or via the Internet. I help individuals and couples find the best in themselves and their relationships. My wife Paula and I co-authored the book Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love and developed an online course teaching relationship foundations.