Beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice in relationships
Discover more happiness by entering "state flow" more often
Discover more happiness by entering "state flow" more often
Ilona Boniwell, Positive Psychology
Moving towards conflict allows us the chance to show others that we understand that they are expressing a need that they don't feel is being met at the moment. Only then, can we enter state flow with them.
When you show empathy for the emotional needs that lie behind the angry expressions you diffuse the situation immediatelly (unless, of course, the anger was designed to hurt and provoke you!). What happens next is a process of two-way sharing of vulnerabilies and next you can explore unexpressed needs together (see next section).
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a name that was coined by the late Dr Marshall B. Rosenberg in his seminal book on effective conflict-resolution through reaching out in this way when faced with violent words.
It underpins state flow between two people.
At the core of what it means to achieve flow in your relationships (romantic or otherwise), you need to be agile when identifying your changing needs and desires and how to turn them into flexible agreements that grant you and others freedoms you need right now (not necessarily a minute/hour/week/month ago).
This concept is called boundary fluidity and is what allows you to embrace shifting needs and desires instead of being held back by a "story of self" that is static. e.g. "That isn't the kind of thing I would like", without having considered trying it in this connection, at this moment; An invitation to yourself to explore new and challenging things. For women, especially, this might lead to more initiation, empowerment and resulting improved flow for both.
It all comes down to emotional availability and good communication and I have found it helps to guided by some principles. Agile Love is a free-to-use resource that I conceived of and published to suggest what those might be.
When in any kind of connection with another person, it is important to know who is the giver, and who is the receiver so that you can enter flow together.
In situations such as having sex, that dynamic can shift subtly or suddenly without one or the other being aware of it; sometimes it is giving->receiving, other times taking->allowing to take but sometimes what is happening is not understood and/or disclosed, by one or both, which is potentially unethical and possibly even traumatising.
Sex is somewhat unique in that both can, at times be in all four of those quadrants at one; in completely mutual connection.
Understanding all of this, and how to navigate it involves skill and emotional intelligence and Betty Martin conceived of an accessible way of explaining and playing with the concepts: The Wheel Of Consent.
The practice of embodied intimacy brings us into state flow when in intimate situations with others by allowing us to avoid unhelpful "attacked animal", fight/flight/freeze states triggered by our shadow self.
Our shadow resides in the amygdala and is our brain's danger-detection system who's alarm-bells are uncomfortable sensations in the body associated with being ready to fight, run or freeze and hence the "embodied" bit. e.g. Rushes of blood to the skin, high pulse rate, elevated breathing etc.
At birth, we already have common, human triggers in our shadows such as sharp teeth or growling and you can imagine why they were once useful to us as a species!
As we experience traumatic life events and indoctrination from society such as religious instruction, stories from friends and parents, sensational media headlines, and other sources of probably unhelpful information, we set up a complex set of unseen triggers with particular embodied alarm bells attached.
Many of these triggers are very unhelpful to us in our sex and intimacy lives (and especially with strangers) because they can hijack our brains and take us to an "attacked animal" state at exactly the time we are trying to explore a new and intimate experience.
We can enter state flow in any intimate situation by learning to engage with our parasympathetic nervous system to relax the resulting hyper-alert state of our organs. It sometimes known as as a somatic approach to healing.
We all know that men and women have very different approaches to sex and attraction in general but few of us feel brave enough to properly embrace, embody and accept our masculinity or feminity so that we feel (and so are) as sexually attractive, confident and hot in the sack as we could be.
The main problem is that we are brought up to reject our instinctive sexual urges; men, that dominance and assertiveness will be perceived as agressive, and women that their urges are shameful and to be hidden away and that men only want one thing. It goes way beyond that of course!
The unfortunate result is that we build resentments both within ourselves and towards members of the opposite sex that block our ability to relate from a place of inate, raw human sexual passion. We are missing out on the connected, passionate sex lives we are all capable of.
Improving your sexual confidence by developing the qualities needed is one of the most valuable projects you will ever embark upon and will lead to better flow in your romantic relationships.
For men, especially the qualities are:
Of course, many of these are common to women and I list them because they are the focus of a book I absolutley recommend, "Cockfidence", by somatic educators Celeste Hirschman, MA and Danielle Harel, PhD
When you meet new, people with an attitude of open, relaxed conscious curiosity instead of nervous anxiety, you will enter state flow with them and date without effort or awkwardness.
The idea is that both online and traditional dating often focus on conforming to social stereotypes (see previous section) instead of exploring proper connection. Women often feel the need to appear not interested in sex and intimacy by "gate-keeping" via long text conversations instead of phone calls and meeting up. Men often don't know how they are supposed to approach women without it feeling like an emotionally-unavailable scan for so-called "red flags". Neither are connecting authentically and may never even get to have a phone call, let alone meet face-to-face!
Mindful (or conscious) dating is an extension of embodied intimacy that is specifically about quickly discovering whether you have a romantic spark with another person you have never met before by sharing what really grabs us and what our love languages are. It emphasises the use of games, plenty of non-verbal connection such as eye-gazing. Some conscious-dating events also use movement/dance, and touch-sharing which are often neglected when we meet new people.
Discover solo state flow during arousal by learning to focus on your own sensuality and orgasmic capacity, without being distracted by giving too, as in sex or solo masturbation.
Receiving a sensual or tantric massage is the only route to fully understanding how to tend to your own, unique orgasmic garden.
You will then be able to progress to state flow during sex with others.
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Because we have become familiar with systems of modern living from an early age, we have forgotten how to play. Playing brings us into flow because we are challenging ourselves by letting go within a safe play space. Think of how if feels to play "guess the book or film" at Christmas and now imagine how liberating it would bt to feel non-judgemental about making up your own games as you go along, as you did as a child?
What stops us from giving ourselves permission is that we believe that being a responsible adult means focussing on conforming to the "systems"; that implies not feeling or being seen as silly by embracing our autonomy and gut instincts. Play is about embracing state flow.
Most of us are so conditioned by society that our brains are now wired-up for the sequential, rigid thinking that gets mundane tasks completed without effort and need those logical "thinking" parts of the brain to take a back seat for a while and allow abstract, playful thought to be heard.
Psychedelics are the age-old antidote to this problem and, so far as we are aware, we have evolved alongside magic mushrooms and the like because our brains have natural receptors for the active substances within.
Taking a trip with the right setting and set is one of the most beneficial, long lasting and natural therapies available to the human brain. It frees the brain to go to normally triggering places such as past trauma with a child-like curiousity and that is acknowledged as being the only way to heal conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder permanently and without life-long therapy or drugs.
Learn about the latest scientific findings and perhaps start to loose yourself in a playful, mind-expanding, brain-rewiring trip.
Even if you have no intention of being non-monogamous, learning just why it is a perfectly normal and valid lifestyle choice is key to being able to even have the essential conversations needed in order to ensure your relationships are ethical and can flow, whatever you agree to act upon now or later.
A good polyamourous group will welcome you as an interested and exporative single or couple and the conversations can range from "how can we accomodate his desire to have more relating freedoms?" to "Does anyone know of a good sex-party this weekend in London?". They tend to be completely non-judgemental and you will get the low down from people who have explored their edges and have the T-shirts already!
Some will only allow local residents to be members and you will generally find them via Facebook and then you will be invited to a chat group.
Learning to dance properly with musicality and pulse means that you can enter state flow, almost at will, either alone, with a partner, or as part of a group.
It takes days of practice to reach the point where just hearing music moves you without effort, in a way that means you are properly interpreting its feeling, and especially if you are responsible for ensuring your follower can feel what you are, and understand the connection effortlessly.
By continuing to explore new, exciting (and sometimes taboo) ideas and experiences with others, you will continue to remain in flow by adding sufficient challenge into your relating. You can also attend informative talks and workshops that will help you to understand the concepts in all of the preceding sections here.
This might involve trying same-sex intimacy, going to talks about alternative relating, trying kink and BDSM experiences, trying a threesome or cuckold (massage or sex), going to a gong or forest bath, finding an ecstatic dance or going to a sex-positive play-party for some juicy, hedonistic connection with strangers.
If you live near Brighton, you will find details of the weekly Ethical Relating meeting on the events page where we discuss topics on this site.
Remember that to keep finding state flow, you need to remain challenged.