How to Develop Your Emotional Integrity

Gary Van Warmerdam, a teacher of considerable experience in the Toltec Path, features an essay on his website exploring how individuals who are out of alignment with their emotional integrity can  manipulate their romantic partners into giving them attention against their own will. See if any of the following sounds familiar to you. Partner A wants to go out alone Friday night with a new friend. Partner B is scared of sitting at home alone and feeling lonely, so they pick a fight or create some other kind of ‘emergency’ before Partner A leaves in an effort to force them to cancel their plans and stay in with them instead. This strategy may be employed consciously or unconsciously, and is designed to prevent the ‘uncomfortable’ feeling of being alone on Friday night. The pattern repeats itself in the relationship in other interesting flavors and varieties. This strategy works out well in the short term for the manipulator, but over time it can significantly erode the manipulator’s trust in their romantic partner’s character. If I can manipulate my partner so easily, they must also be susceptible to influence from others as well. This means they are weak. How can I respect them? Not only that, the manipulated partner accumulates toxic feelings of resentment against themselves and the manipulator. Fear motivated decisions to avoid short-term ‘uncomfortable’ feelings in relationship are damaging to the relationship and prevent individual growth. Developing your emotional integrity will help you align your motivations, actions and goals to maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship.


If you aren’t sure whether fear or love is motivating your actions, develop more awareness to assess this. Watch Heather Ash’s ‘Action From Love’ video on our Wisdom page. You can develop this awareness by feeling the place in your body where fear emanates from; maybe your stomach feels tight or your heart feels as though it is sinking deeper into your chest. Next, feel where the feeling of love resides in your body. This may feel like your tummy is relaxed and warm or your heart is expanding. Notice your breathing. Write it down and describe it in detail. Allow your conscious mind to make the linkage. Later, when you think about a potential action to a decision, any decision, identify where in the body you are feeling. As you practice this it will become easier and you will develop a keen awareness of your underlying motivations in life. Much more could be said on this topic but that’s enough for the purposes of this article.


Emotional security in a relationship is feeling safe enough to authentically communicate your most intimate thoughts and emotions to your partner. Feeling safe to share emotions, to speak and receive the truth of the heart with another, is an incredible gift that we all hunger for, men and women alike. How we react when we do not feel emotionally secure determines our emotional integrity. So how can we feel safe enough to be in our integrity? The first step is to run an experiment to identify the associated fears that pop into our consciousness when we imagine what it would feel like to speak the radical truth of our emotions to our partners. Possible answers could be:  fear of rejection, fear of being unlovable, fear of being alone, etc. Our social and cultural programming is a big influence on who we think we need to be in order to receive love and acceptance. For example, a lot of men and women grow up with conditioning around being ‘strong’. ‘Strong’ can sometimes be interpreted as stoicism. Your self-talk could be: Feeling emotions is for weak people; Crying is for weak people; I must be stronger than my emotions; I must be strong to be safe. In the context of emotional security in relationship, let’s redefine a ‘strong’ person as one who can be present with their partners’ emotions without making assumptions, without dampening, heightening or abstracting, and without stepping into fear themselves over the meaning of their partners’ emotional sharing. This does not prohibit men from crying and sharing their own feelings, nor does it imply that stoic Russell Crowe-like composure is necessary. Many men and women can fall short of meeting their partners’ needs for emotional security because they are insecure in their own identity. They compare their own behavior to their socially constructed idea, and when the two are out of alignment fear steps in and starts running the show, adjusting their ‘aberrant’ behavior to better match their unique social programming. They feel uncomfortable, even scared, to behave in any way that goes against their idea of ‘acceptable’ behavior. The best way to combat this once you’ve identified the social programming that’s holding you back is to let it all go. How can we accomplish this? One way is to meditate on the belief. Ask yourself questions like:  who does this belief really serve? How would I be different if I didn’t believe this? How is this belief preventing me from authentic connection with others? Run an experiment. Take on all the inverse attributes of the limiting belief and use your imagination to fully embody it. Ask yourself, how would your life be better if you could pretend to be this character all day, every day? What does it feel like? Where in your body do you feel it? What is your mind telling you about the experience? Do you feel lighter or heavier? Share your experience with this exercise by challenging your friends and family to do the same experiment and then discuss it with them afterwards. Share your experience by commenting below for others to read and be inspired by. Most importantly, keep in mind that the degree of composure required to meet your partners’ needs to feel emotionally secure are as unique as each individual. So ask each other specifically, “Dear one, how can I help you feel safe when you are bearing your soul to me? What specifically can I do for you to show you that I care and appreciate receiving the gift of your heart’s sharing?”


Like stage fright of the heart, sharing your most intimate emotions can cause you to freeze up and shut down. With vulnerable sharing comes the possibility of being told that our thoughts and emotions are ‘wrong’. Our psychology and our language are set up for us to identify with our emotions. Thus if you have ever been told that you are too angry, or too sad, you may have also experienced the feeling of being too much. You may have felt that who you are is too much for others to handle. The truth is that we are NOT our emotions. Create space between yourself and your emotions. Use conscious language such as “I am feeling angry”, rather than “I am angry”. Added bonus:  that extra space will help you out later to stay present through tense and emotional conflicts. The stage fright can be mitigated by cultivating within yourself a deep knowing of your ‘rightness’ in the world and the recognition that your emotions are the beautiful expression of that truth. This is an important link between self-love and vulnerability. The key take-away:  Love yourself enough to choose wisely those with whom you are emotionally vulnerable.


A common behavior that some women and men can relate to is making choices and actions based on assumptions about how a partner will react. If you find yourself doing this you are stealing the freedom of choice from the other person to be in relationship with you and give you the gift of hearing their truth. If you ever find yourself feeling ‘too much’ for your partner to handle, remember there is nothing wrong with you, nor is there anything wrong with your partner – the relating you are experiencing may be an ineffective strategy of getting your needs met. Your options in this situation are to:  1) Do nothing; 2) Try a different strategy; or 3) Find a different person to strategize with that can meet your needs in a way that matches your level of relating. With regards to the third option, consider the wise investment of your time and energy. For example, even if your partner shatters their aforementioned limiting beliefs, and becomes in touch with their emotions, it could still be some time before they reach the level of emotional relating that you require to feel secure. The truth is, they may never reach your level of relating, and you could spend your whole life waiting in vain to be truly met in love. Love yourself enough not to wait around. There are billions of beautiful souls who need love in their lives just like you. What you are seeking is seeking you –Rumi. Time wasted repeatedly re-strategizing with the wrong partner can translate into missed opportunities of having your needs met in relationship by another worthy candidate, even if that worthy candidate is yourself.


Why is it so hard to recognize when we are not being met? One reason is that we have a common fear of failure. Another still, we take it personally that we are not lovable, and we forget our value. Ultimately it’s because we believe there’s a scarce supply of potential romantic partners that can meet our needs. This is all fer based thinking that prevents us from seeing opportunities before our very eyes. When it comes to the fear of failure, there is the pain of choosing a ‘bad’ partner on top of the pain of being rejected. Individuals may take this personally rather than appreciating it as a learning opportunity to make better relationship choices in the future. I encourage you to cultivate comfort around failure. Write a failure resume. Include your life’s biggest failures, and describe in detail all the less than perfect decisions that you’ve ever made, as far back as you can remember. Then when you’ve finished, go back and make sure it’s really scathing. Next, pull out your actual resume and reflect on whether your ‘success’ resume or your failure resume more accurately portrays your unique story of growth as an individual. Show your failure resume to others. Be proud of every bad decision you ever made. Learn to own your mistakes. Love yourself when you fail.


Whether you or your partner are too attached to social programming to be emotionally available, or afraid of being ‘too much’ to handle, the truth is that the strategies which favor short term comfort of protecting ones’ ego, actually prevent personal growth. Patterns like these can destroy relationships in the long run, and they will continue to repeat in future relationships with similar results until a more effective strategy is employed. So choose to be vulnerable in your relationship. Say the scariest thing you can think to say. To love someone is to accept and understand them. Love yourself enough to be hated for who you are rather than being loved for who you are not. It’s going to be uncomfortable. Get over it. Some discomfort in your relationship is good for you. We challenge you to ride the edge of discomfort and fear, and come back to us with your experience. Even better, find a way to enjoy the discomfort. If you can do it with yoga, or running, what’s to prevent you from being able to do it with your relationships? This is how you love more and be happy in the long-run.

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