Neither Forcing Nor Holding Back: Wisdom for Muscles and for Relationships
Some of us push for what we want; others back off or turn away. Find out the two key questions that can guide you into the relationship sweet spot.
When I do a forward bend in yoga, I remind myself to do the pose “neither forcing nor holding back.” I learned this advice for stretching muscles, during my Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training days and it turns out to be exactly what’s called for in relationships as well. (and just about anything worth doing) It is the place where we get real results.
For stretching muscles, “neither forcing nor holding back” means don’t push or pull the muscle in a way it’s not ready to go. If you do, you undermine progress because muscle fibers tighten when in danger. At the same time, don’t overprotect; allow the muscle do what it is ready and able to do. Instead, you ride the delicate edge in between.
Related to relationship, think of a kind of interaction that is not working well. Next, ask yourself,
“How am I forcing what can’t be forced?” Am I pushing, demanding, expecting?
“How am I holding back?” Am I avoiding, shying away from, shutting down?
There’s an excellent chance that one or both of those questions will strike gold by pointing you to a way to regain your effectiveness.
“Not holding back,” means bringing all of yourself. Sharing with self-acceptance both the light and the dark of you. It means opening to vulnerability. “Not forcing,” means allowing the other to respond in his or her own way. This requires slowing down, listening, and learning the language and tempo of the other. Riding the edge in between is the way to deeper connection.
And you can stay with the neither-forcing-nor-holding-back edge, like a surfer on a wave, even as the wave rolls in. On the edge, you are fully present and adapting second by second to what is. You might call it the “sweet spot” or “being in the zone.”
The edge is the place where giving it your all meets acceptance of what you can’t control. Like the surfer on a good wave, holding the edge may not last long. When you do a little forcing or holding back, suddenly you are tumbling in rough surf. Just don’t let it stop you! Each time you tumble, you collect new information for staying present on the edge a little longer.