Can You Change Your Partner Just by Changing Yourself?
With the barriers between inner and outer, self and other, cause and effect expanded in this prismatic light, Grayson came to see all relationships as being, in large part, an "inside job." Our core beliefs lead to thought constellations, which lead to perceptions, give rise to emotions, and cause, domino-like, outward behavior. What's more—and here's where Grayson's theory requires thinking outside the box—the behavior stemming from our own thoughts may manifest in the people around us. Jon's wife acted differently once he'd found a new way of viewing her, proving Heisenberg's principle that objects, including human ones, are changed somehow by the very act of being seen.
Lofty as this may sound, Grayson is a pragmatic man for whom ideas matter because they help people. "This means," he says, "that everyone is our soul mate. We share the same last name, which is God." In his popular tape series, "The New Physics of Love," as well as in his book, he offers advice on how to apply this cosmic law to our everyday lives. We start, he says, with awareness of our own minds and the development of the inner "witness," either through formal meditation or simple self-reflection. By stepping back from our thoughts, noticing how they tumble toward feelings, trigger opinions, and cause knee-jerk reactions, we learn to interrupt this sequence, to crack the ego's prison so that love can pass more freely between us. By learning to better navigate our mental terrain, we're better able to choose how we think about the world around us, to alter the frame through which we perceive our lives, ourselves, and our challenging loved ones.
What's more, there are reliable litmus tests for distinguishing counterfeit love from the real thing, Grayson says. Infatuation, the need to control, confusing love with worry, ensnaring someone as "special"—these are signs that ego, rather than heart, is driving a relationship. This counterfeit path is marked by potholes most of us recognize all too easily—demanding that love be earned, trying to change another's behavior, becoming addicted to someone's presence, and wanting to punish the other for disappointing us. The big giveaway to ego-based love, however, is the spoiling presence of fear. "For the ego in love," he tells me, "the greatest fear is losing the other person or losing yourself." Terrified by the threat of loss, we often fulfill our own prophecies.
The only remedy is commitment to practicing self-awareness. This starts with realizing once and for all that we vastly underestimate our capacity for love and are more profoundly interconnected than we can possibly know. The only thing blocking our awareness of this is ego's self-protecting harangue. "Love never hurts," Grayson tells me, having arrived at this wisdom through his own two marriages. "When my feelings are hurt, it's nearly always my interpretation of what has happened that causes the pain." Just think of the last time you misread someone's innocuous action as all about you. "I've come to understand my wife as a kind of mirror of my inner life. She's far more likely to be critical of me when I think critically of her."
By turning attention away from our partners, over whom we have little control, and focusing on this inside job, we begin to make love a path of enlightenment. This is Grayson's primary goal. "If the purpose of relationships is understood to be cultivating our own true nature and supporting our partners in finding theirs"—as opposed to sharing the bills, say, raising kids, or having a lot more sex—"then the label we place on the form love takes becomes secondary." Indeed, his chapter on "spiritual divorce" is likely to surprise some readers; according to Grayson, even "unhappy endings" can deepen—indeed transform—a continuing bond between once-married couples.
Knocking down more boundaries, Grayson claims that "once we're aware of who we really are, there's no big difference between giving and receiving. If I'm generous and attentive, it's because I want the best for you. This brings me joy and fulfillment rather than the drain that comes from a feeling of obligation. That's the kind of love that empowers, without desire for payback. If I want love," he says, "the best thing I can possibly do is extend this desire into the world as a loving thought—such as 'may all beings live in peace'—within my own mind."
The shift to mindful loving begins with acknowledgment that infatuation isn't real. "The bad news about 'falling in love' is that it isn't genuine love," he says. "It's based on an illusion, a fantasy of who someone will be. When the other person doesn't fulfill our dreams—which, of course, he or she never does—all sorts of bad things happen. You realize you've been living in a dream state, something you need to awaken from in order to love as your true self."
But, we protest, we want to find comfort in romantic love. Don't take l'amour away from us, we groan in adolescent despair. Love seems to be the last respectable place, in our too-grown-up lives, where we allow ourselves to be idiots, ridiculous messes, dramatic, impulsive, less than our p.c. best. Grayson's cure may seem bitter to the die-hard romantics among us. But one might ask, Do we need more grief and fear, more isolation, illusion, and heartbreak, in our love-starved world? Or do we need a change of mind, a liberated vision? Shall we whitewash the fences we build with our egos, or wake up to the glaring fact that love, according to every sage from every single wisdom tradition, is already here?
If Henry Grayson prevails over Hallmark, the answer will be clear as day.
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