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Author: Penny Welch

Undermining Assumptions

Undermining Assumptions

Classic-style door opened to a green trellis tunnel.Alicia closed the door with resignation as she headed down the steps of Max’s house and into the street to go to work last Monday.  Later that day she would start looking for an apartment for herself and figure out a way to unravel the financial and social web she had woven with Max for the past two years.  She had experienced a series of relationships that had all ended in disappointment and a feeling that she’d never find anyone she could love deeply.  Max, and before him two other partners, seemed to be extraordinary and just the right match at first, but the longer they stayed together the more dissatisfied she felt and she left each one feeling angry and betrayed, and now discouraged.

Together we dug around in the issue to figure out what was getting in her way, and ultimately she came to the pervasive assumption that any man she loved needed to be a mechanical wizard, highly intelligent in all fields and in control in all situations.   Wow!  Impossible.  As it turned out, that was her childhood view of her father and she had unwittingly modeled her ideal man on that incomplete persona.  Since that’s what she admired she modeled her self-expectations on that too, and judged her partners against those impossible standards, but she hadn’t achieved the impossible and neither could anyone else.  Identifying the impossible underlying assumptions allowed her to start defining what would realistically matter to her in a loving relationship.  Seeing the incomplete character of her childhood ideal also helped her give herself, and a future partner, space to be imperfectly, lovably human.

When was the last time you got angry about something done by your spouse or partner?  Was it really only about her/his action or might it also have reflected some of your own assumptions about how things should be?  Are you willing to dive into questioning your own part in how the two of you create a partnership together?

What are some other ways you and your partner might work together to identify areas of your relationship that need work?  Are you both willing to talk about them?


Continue the conversation below about your experiences and your thoughts on Underlying Assumptions

What’s the Question?

What’s the Question?

 © Odua |
© Odua |

Have you ever felt irritated and confused about everything all at once in your life? Most of us have. We suffer and stress about how hard things are and how unfair life can be. We feel sorry for ourselves, then go on the same as before, waiting for things to change – for things to get better – but they don’t. Why not?

What if, when we’re irritated or puzzled or confused, we started asking questions?

That would require some probing, wouldn’t it? Yes, and that can be scary: intimidating, even. But it’s a good first step to unraveling the puzzle at hand, and it might be necessary to examine  your motives, patterns, cause-and-effect, history and who-knows-what-else. Unless you get inside the problem at hand and sort out the individual components to find the stumbling blocks, then it’s impossible to move the blocks out of the way. And that’s just part of the process.

What about asking what you want, or how you want your life to be instead of how it is now? But what if you’re not clear about what you want instead of the way things are? It can be a really hard question to answer.

When I asked one of my clients what she wanted she said she really didn’t know. She had always done the next thing that was expected of her by her parents, husband and children and she really didn’t know what she wanted or needed for herself. The next appointment, however, she came in with a photo she had taken of a small lake surrounded by evergreen trees. The lake was clear, blue-green and bathed in sunlight, but in one foreground corner of the picture, there were large boulders and gnarly tree roots all shaded and dark. She felt like she had been in the shadows, stumbling over those roots and boulders but she wanted to be clear and calm and full of light, like the lake. Wow, what a vision! It hadn’t come to her right away; it took a while to let go of all the other issues pressing in on her, but she realized that if she could find stillness and clarity, everything else would sort itself out.

Often your first response to “What do you want” isn’t really the whole answer. We humans are complex creatures and we put layer upon layer of assumptions and expectations onto the mask we present to the world, and even to ourselves. Sorting through those characters and bringing them into awareness allows us to choose to keep some and drop others and to move forward with conscious intention.   The answers come through asking good questions to reveal your untested assumptions, deepest values and emerging interests, and those, in turn, often lead to new opportunities and creative steps that can move you along in directions you find interesting, exciting and satisfying.

What do you want in your life? How do you find the questions that reveal satisfying answers?  Share your thoughts below.

The Sound of My Piano

The Sound of My Piano

© Jrabelo | - A Star Is Born Photo
© Everett Collection Inc. |

The piano room in our last house was a big space with a high ceiling, hard surfaces and lots of echo, so this 5-foot long “harp-in-a-box” filled the whole house with sound, even when the top was closed. Yet, somehow, it didn’t seem to really resonate there.

In our new home, the piano’s room is small and intimate, with a low ceiling, surrounded by lots of books, carpet, nooks and crannies that absorb its sounds. Its resonance is muted until the lid is opened, and then it makes the ceiling and walls reverberate with rich sounds capable of expressing great tenderness and passion.

People’s voices, too, change in different environments — emotional environments and physical environments. Our voices express how we feel, whether confident or doubtful, tender or harsh, authoritative, collaborative, comfortable, shy . . . . Our voices even express something about the mass of our physical bodies: people with big voices tend to have large statures and children have small voices. And our voices, no matter how loud or full, often feel muted when what we have to say is ignored or belittled. At those times our posture shrinks, our energy draws inward.

Am I mixing up different qualities of voice? Yes, I’m mixing but not mixing up. The voice that makes sound also expresses emotion and reflects the posture and the mass of the body. And simply the posture of the body can change the sound of the voice. The body, its size, its posture, and the voice are all parts of a whole, integrated system, so changing one part affects the rest.

The next time you feel discouraged or insignificant notice how your shoulders likely slump forward, your head goes down a little and your energy drops. Your voice sounds weak as well. Notice what happens when you lift your head, roll your shoulders back and relax into a balanced posture. You feel a bit better, right? Your energy rises and your voice projects outward, even without pushing it. Notice also that you don’t feel quite so discouraged or insignificant. This somatic principle, linking the body with emotions, voice, and behavior, is one of the tools I use as a life coach to open my clients to fuller, more authentic expression of themselves and the life they want to create.

Do you “resonate” in your surroundings or do you feel your voice is muted? Where does your emotional voice resonate best? Using your voice like an instrument, do you consciously adjust your physical voice to fit different environments or even to mask your feelings? How do you “manage” your feelings and your voice when your environment is uncomfortable or even threatening?

Join the conversation and leave a comment below about your experiences and your thoughts on “Voice.”