If you’re like me, you have some books sitting on the shelf that you got along the way, perhaps in moments of inspiration or as gifts. You may wonder if you’ll ever read some of them, yet they seem too good to part with so they just sit. Then one day you pick up a particular book and start reading, and it’s like the precise timing of the encounter was meant to be. That’s how it’s been for me with “Empowered Love” by Steven Stosny. In a nutshell it’s about how we humans need to move from operating out of the “toddler brain” to the “adult brain” if we want our relationships — or perhaps even just ourselves — to be healthy. While the book focuses on romantic partnerships, I think its teaching is broadly applicable to all relationships and anyone one might “other.”
In this book, Stosny highlights compassion as essential. We all long for someone to truly care about how we feel. Without compassion a relationship will succumb to resentment and from there it’s a slippery slope to contempt wherein one blames their bad feelings on another. In a compassion-deficient relationship, people develop the bad habit of protecting their vulnerabilities by reducing the other’s worth through criticism, labeling, or worse. All the while the person mired in resentment and contempt loses sight of their values by acting out poorly in the “toddler brain,” thus forgetting who they really are, let alone the other person. A way to transcend this troubling dynamic is to recover one’s sense of worthiness, one’s personal lovability, and stay grounded in it. For me this practice is a spiritual one, between my Creator and me. From that place of known worthiness, regardless of what another does, I am truly free to make the choice to be loving because it’s my standard of living. It’s up to me whether or not I act from the “adult brain” and keep or compromise my values.
There are no guarantees that leading with compassion will draw out the best in others, but it certainly draws out the best in you if you allow it to. And, at the end of the day, you are the only one who has to live with yourself.
May you be inspired!