There is a rule for everything living which reads: "All that is not growing will slowly die". That we are always moving, either forward or backward, in a positive or negative spiral, but we are always moving.

Some people only move a little and seem to not change at all while for others, great changes are happening in their lives. The important thing here is not the speed we are moving in but in which direction.

We either move in a positive spiral where we believe that we will be able to do X (we think we have the potential to), you might not know how but you still believe you can. This in turn will lead to that you with security and determination action to do X. This will lead to brilliant results which confirm that you already initially thought:"See I made it!"

You grow as a human and will become more inspired to get on with the next task and with the increased self-confidence and belief in your potential, you will be able to do the next task as well and it will continue like this until one day you won't be able to make the task. Since your self-confidence has grown through the previous tasks you will try several different ways to get it to work. If you despite this still don't succeed it might happen that you start a downward spiral where you doubt your potentials which will result in that you don't give your outmost to do the task. This will then generate in a lesser result which will strengthen your belief that you haven't got the potential to meet the task.

Another example

Another example of a common spiral is our view of the world around us. This spiral is controlled much by what we choose to focus on. It is easy to one morning listen to the news and I hear about a man being beaten and abused somewhere in our country. This might cause a few short and negative thoughts about our country pass through my mind. Then on the way to work I see a newspaper notice about a rape and this confirms my thoughts that it's going downhill with the world.

Once at work I can't help but being dragged in to a discussion about the increased demand of taxes and a bit in to the afternoon my thoughts are that we are heading towards difficult times and people are getting more and more evil. This easily happens when we are fed with a lot of negative information.

Or, I could do something that requires a more conscious action from my side, for example, I start my day with reading good news (they're not easy to find I know, a good way to start could be http://www.happynews.com/ or http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/ ) On the way to work I see an add about a new TV-series that are being launched in the US, "RX for survival", a health project for kids around the world with Brad Pitt as the volunteer speaker and sponsors like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations (www.gatesfoundation.org) with a capital of 28 billion dollars. Once at work I am engaged in a discussion about a power company that donates its entire profits to charity and all members of the board do their assignments voluntarily and unpaid. If I choose to start my day like this my spiral will most likely take a different direction and my view of the world around me will probably be a totally different one than to before.

Spirals in relationships

The same thing happens in a relationship; if we for example believe that we can create the perfect relationship we have always dreamt about and we give everything we have and focus on everything that is good in the relationship, this will strengthen the feeling about our potential to affect the relationship in a positive direction.

Or, we can have a spiral going downwards where we don't believe in the relationship and choose to focus on everything that isn't working and are constantly fed with confirmation that this relationship isn't working.

The big challenge in a relationship is that we quite often aren't heading upwards at the same time. It might be that one partner think he gives everything to the relationship while the other partner feel less interested in investing in to it and rather take energy from his/her partner instead. In a scenario like this it is important not to give up but instead work on a way to inspire your partner to lift themselves up, maybe by discussing how this could happen without putting any blame on to them. It's easy to fall in to the role of a martyr where we say something like "I've been there for you for too long without you being there for me, I can't take it anymore!" You are giving to receive and not because you like the feeling of giving to give, which in turn would give you the energy to keep giving.

Obviously both partners in a relationship needs to benefit from being in it, otherwise it would be pointless. If you feel that your partner has stopped contributing to the relationship then you need to bring it up and talk about it sooner rather than later, you also have to be very clear that you are agreeing on agreeing and feel that you both have contributed to the agreement.

Filippa: I have often noticed that I sometime lower my mood and energy when I see that my partner is happy and singing and vice versa. I caught myself doing this and lifted myself up as it is much more fun if we are both on our way up.

It's not much fun when we are both heading downhill; we have learnt how to break the trend when this happens and what to do to lift ourselves up. Usually the best way to do this is to talk about what we want to achieve in life, it gives perspective and energy to lift you up. Another way can be to force yourself to confront the consequences of your actions in the long term.

For example, if I eat something that I have decided not to eat anymore because my body doesn't feel good eating it. If I think of it in short term "it's ok, I will eat healthy tomorrow" then it is easier to believe that it won't affect my long term health goal that much.

If I instead think of how it will affect me in the long term, "if I now think it is ok to eat this today I will probably find it easier to think that it is ok to eat un-healthy food for the short term pleasure, which will not at all benefit my health in the long run".

This will also affect my partner who will have to live with a person who isn't looking after herself and that he will have to look after instead. Then I realize how this "little exception" will affect me in the long run.

You can make these up- and downward spirals as small and detailed, or as big and overwhelming, as you want. For example, you go forward when it comes to your way of handling your anger and you can at the same time feel like you are going backwards in your way of handling changes. At the same time you can still feel like your entire life is going forward in a positive direction.

It's like sailing a boat, a small adjustment to the rudder won't be that noticeable at first but you will end up in a completely different place than you would've if you had kept your original course. There is a well known Chinese saying that reads: "a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step". A suitable adjustment to this is ""a journey of a thousand miles begins with baby steps" or "you have to be able to crawl before you walk". It is the tiny small steps at the very beginning, sometimes barely noticeable, which can be crucial to whether you initiate a positive or negative spiral.

Markus: I have repeatedly noted how easy it is to get stuck downhill, in a negative spiral. It happens almost unnoticeable in the beginning and will after a while move on to me just looking for faults in the other person. It requires a conscious effort to start the spiral to grow in the other direction.

The cool thing I've noticed though is that once I have given the positive spiral a few, well aimed kicks in the beginning it almost moves on by itself and the goodness, love and joy will feed more goodness, love and joy.

The more you talk about, think about and write about, look at pictures of your dreams and goals, the more you will move in a positive spiral of success. You don't need to know how you get to those goals; the ideas will come along the way! It's all about dare going even though the road isn't entirely visible in front of you.

There is a saying that we have at home on our wall that reads; "To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself." Dare to believe in your and your partner's potential to invest in the future!

Homework assignment

Think back on the past week of your life and find at least one moment where you experienced a negative spiral and at least one moment where you were involved in a positive spiral.

Can you see any features or signs for your negative spiral that can help you catch it and break away from it in an earlier state next time? Maybe something like how you move when you end up in a negative spiral, your body posture or the weight and intensity in your thoughts?

What can you do to fertilize your positive spirals a lot more? Come up with at least five ways in your everyday life that you can initiate a positive spiral on, whether it is in a relationship, work or your thoughts about yourself.


Couple with laptop studying relationships