One of the themes continually arising in the Mind Body Fertility Group is friendship and relationship struggle as a result of infertility. Often times when we are struggling with infertility we loose sight of how others may also be struggling. If we are completely absorbed in our own pain, it is hard to stay connected to others. Jealousy, anger and even hatred may emerge when someone working with infertility comes into contact with a baby shower, pregnancy status update, or even at an event when there are children around.
The tunnel vision that infertility sparks has the ability to make it seem like every woman around you is pregnant. Do you not remember feeling this way when you were looking for a life partner? Unless you married your high school sweetheart, was there not a point when it seemed like everyone around you had an engagement ring? When we focus all of our attention on wanting something, the rest of everything else (along with what we desire) becomes distorted. I know this for a fact. These days, I look around and nobody is pregnant. I never notice diamond rings.
In the Mind Body Fertility Group we talk about interpersonal mindfulness and using specific traits to move back into community life. Community with the same people that scare you to be with because they have something you want. We work on being able to remind ourselves the feelings of jealousy and anger are completely normal. We will experience these emotions because they are hardwired into us like animals.
However, we have free will to choose how these emotions affect us. We can consciously choose to breathe through them and once they have passed, we can enjoy the present moment. Cultivating the belief that your friend too is struggling in his/her own way somehow makes it easier to relate. The most important factor is letting go of the extra layer of judgment, for feeling badly for experiencing the negative feelings in the first place. We must be kind to ourselves and develop a caring and loving process of the negative emotions in order to shift them.
Below is a list of the specific traits to contemplate, consider and cultivate. They can assist immensely in a re-integration back into community life. Each trait builds on the next.
- Openness: It is important to be open to other people’s perspective. Being closed off or defensive is a barrier to having an open heart and mind. To cultivate a feeling of openness, notice your first thought or judgment about what others are saying or doing, then imagine that this is only one perspectiveout of many. It is only one slice on a pie chart, not the entire circle. Imagine filling that circle with other perspectives, each holding equal value. It’s not all black and white. The more relaxed we can be in our perspective, the more relaxed we will feel in our bodies. This is an important quality to consider when we think of our spouses.
- Empathy: This is a quality of identifying with another’s feelings emotionally. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “put yourself in someone else shoes”. You may wonder why this is significant in terms of infertility. It is very significant because the more in trance and focused we become on our own selves and our infertility, the further cut off we are from what those around us may be experiencing. We lose sight of the fact that everyone in this world has struggles and pain just like we are experiencing.
- Compassion: This is a quality that combines empathy with an understanding of the position of the other person is in, and a desire to ease the person’s suffering. Remember these are qualities we want to cultivate toward ourselves as well as others. To cultivate this quality, allow yourself to imagine the sorrows and pains another person holds. During this life, they’ve most likely experienced disappointments, failures and losses.
- Exercise: Close your eyes and imagine you are a your own parent. Seeing your child feeling frightened and in emotional pain consider how you would comfortyourself.
- Sympathetic Joy: This is a quality where you delight in the happiness and joys of others. It is the opposite of jealousy, envy and resentment. To cultivate this quality, imagine another person growing up and reflect on the joy and adventure the person has experienced, along to the strength he/she has brought to overcoming challenges in life.
- Equanimity: This is a quality of wisdom that understands the nature of change. Equanimity gives you more balance and composure in understanding the interconnectedness of all life. A stillness of the mind even under stress. Everything is always changing, so why get attached?