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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Eco-Friction: What It's Really About

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 19th 2010

arguing coupleIn a recent article in the NY Times, Leslie Kaufman portrays the emerging challenges in couples from a "green" agenda. You may or may not be noticing this in your own life, arguments or heated discussions among family, friends, and/or lovers around whether to recycle this or compost that? Whether to use cloth bags for groceries or fill the landfills with plastic bags? If you have a baby, are you going to use Huggies or go with the cloth diapers? No doubt about it, this can be a source of growing friction, but as my sister would say, "what's it really about?"

Here's the thing. We all want to be loved and understood in this world. In a relationship when that is missing, there is a threat to the relationship and that is what brings up an unconscious alarm within the couple. Maybe if one person changes and begins radically caring about the environment, somehow that is seen as a threat to the stability of the relationship.

Or maybe it's the old adage, what we don't understand, we fear. So there is reactivity in the relationship with one person because they don't understand this new divergence into eco-consciousness, and therefore a fear arises that somehow this will threaten his or her belonging in the relationship.

Or maybe this new eco-hippie warrior just commands the new recycling and composting regimen that is going to happen in the house without consulting, being curious about, or caring about the other person's opinion.

Or maybe a cigar is a cigar and what's really happening is major arguments are erupting because someone doesn't want to break down their boxes to recycle.

More often than not, it is about the deeper issues and the more we gloss over them the greater the resentment and misunderstandings build to a point where they just become this living seeping current underneath the skin, a new part of the relationship.

So what do we do? Get curious about each other. What is it that is so interesting about becoming eco-conscious; get to understand your partner's point of view. If you are the eco-conscious one, get curious about why your partner has hesitations about it. Is there room for compromise?  

Daniel Goleman, the father of Emotional Intelligence, has a new focus, Eco-Intelligence, which he puts out in his new book, Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. Who knows, maybe reading that will save our relationships.

However, if you find that it's really not about the recent purchase about the seventh generation toilet paper, but really about not feeling understood or cared about, allow yourselves to explore this.

13th Century Sufi Poet Rumi said: "Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you."

In other words, looking at this pain with each other could be a source of great connection and love in your relationship that may have been missing lately.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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