The Right Exchange

In the world of relationshipsth (1), it is the mix of positive interactions to negative ones that predicts whether a marriage will last or end in divorce. In fact, research informs us that five positive interactions to one negative interaction protects the relationship against overwhelming strain.

Here’s a radical thought: What if we applied this five-to-one “exchange” to the relationship we cultivate with ourselves? What if we agreed to provide ourselves with five self-compassionate gestures for every, one, self-critical/self-limiting action?

We don’t need research to recognize that there are many ways we create our own distress by  engaging in self-denigrating behaviors. For example, by berating ourselves for making a simple mistake or suppressing the need to assert ourselves for fear of being rejected.

This five-to-one exchange may offer an antidote! By initiating a sequence of five self-compassionate interactions following each negative one, we might succeed at replacing self-doubt with self-confidence. That said; here’s what the five-to-one exchange might look like in practice:

1. I say to myself: “You don’t have what it takes to get that promotion!”

Noticing this self-judgmental thought, I commit to taking the following five self-compassionate actions throughout the day:

  1. I say to myself: “May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be free from all inner and outer harm.”
  2. I decide to take a break from what I’m doing and go for a walk.
  3. I call a close friend.
  4. I treat myself to my favorite meal.
  5. I take a warm bath before bed.

Like the couple that insures their relationship with more positive than negative interactions, we too can learn to be mindful of the type of negative-positive exchange we make with ourselves on a moment-to-moment basis. We too can make the conscious choice to be more accepting, more open, more kind to ourselves in every situation. Wouldn’t this be a worthwhile endeavor? After all, we’ll be in this relationship with ourselves for the rest of our lives.

Tony Madril

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