Beware of the Three Poisons for Relationships

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Linda: In the Buddhist tradition, there is an image known as the wheel of samsara. That wheel is a symbol of the cycle of conditions that go round and round and round.

What the Buddhists say drives the wheel to spin continuously, they call the three poisons: craving (greed), aversion (hatred), and ignorance (delusion). And poisons they truly are because they pollute our mind. If we don’t cleanse ourselves of their effects, they can destroy our relationships.

Craving shows up as demands. Our normal desires to be close can morph into clinging too tightly to our partner. Our ideas and vision for how we want our partnership to be can become encrusted and rigid if we hold too tightly to them. This is not wholesome desire; this is desire driven by attachment. Our greed can push us to attempt to control our partner towards goals that may not be their goals. We are preoccupied with obsessively striving towards the goals we think we must have to be O.K. in the future. While we are coercing our partner to achieve with us that striving prohibits us from enjoying what we have right now.

Aversion comes in the form of resistance, anger, defensiveness, resentment, rage intolerance, hatred, fear, being pushy, controlling, and bullying.We can start to see our partner as an enemy rather than a friend and ally. Instead of drawing our partner more closely to us, our judgmental attitude breeds chronic conflict that pushes them away.

Ignorance shows up as being distracted, spaced out, confused, preoccupied and lacking in being present. By not realizing how crucially important tending to our partnership actually is, other things in our life take the priority position. Common examples are: work, kids, addictions (alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, eating) social media, video games, and even meditation.

What is your growing edge?

When considering the three poisons, we may come to the conclusion that we need to do work in all three areas, but there is usually one that stands out. When we identify the one that needs the most attention, that is our personal work to do to evolve. No matter which poison represents our growing edge, the same remedy applies to each one.

First Step: Mindfulness: The way to cleanse ourselves is to first bring the poison up out of the unconscious mind through non-judgmental awareness. Once we come to understand how much pain these poisonous patterns cause to ourselves and to those around us, we can’t continue to create such suffering any longer.

Second Step: Finding Motivation: It is only when we become aware of the price that we pay for being exposed to these potent toxins can we find the motivation to cultivate healthy patterns. As we are about to speak or behave from our unconscious patterns, we are empowered to make different choices. Then we begin to recover. As the Buddhists say, “the obstacles become the path.”

Third Step: Substituting Skillful Patterns. Once again, the same rules apply to heal any of the poisons. By cultivating alternative ways of being, such as generosity, gratitude, equanimity, compassion, and loving-kindness, the relationship will begin to become more trust-filled and harmonious. When wisdom begins to take the place of the contaminating influences, the ultimate result is a deeply fulfilling relationship.

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Linda & Charlie Bloom

Linda & Charlie Bloom

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW, married since 1972, are experts in the field of relationships and have published four successful books.