One of the most relevant and potent applications of ART’s authentic relating teachings and practices is in the singles and dating world. Those who have learned the skills and tools of AR have a massive advantage over those who haven’t, by knowing how to reveal their authentic experience, practice curiosity as a doorway to profound intimacy, set context that can transform any moment into aliveness and joy, and generally have people feeling deeply seen and heard.
On a cold February morning in the high mountains of Colorado, my assistant course leaders and I walked up to the towering, razor-wire-infested gates of the Buena Vista Correctional Facility. We passed through the metal detector and were escorted down twisting concrete hallways to the facility’s classroom. Inside, a window revealed snow-capped mountain tops in the distance, bordered by prison fences in the foreground. Snack machines hummed along white concrete walls, and security cameras peered down on us from the ceiling corners. A few minutes later, eighteen men filed into the classroom in their dark green prison scrubs and took their seats in hard plastic chairs, arranged in a circle.
I want to share with you all about a recent family meltdown that had a big impact on me, one that poked fire into my deepest wounds, and one that ultimately led me to a relationship with boundaries I’d never experienced before.
I want to give you a little background context for what happened, then tell you what went down, and then share with you what I got out of it – a radical new perspective on boundaries, and a new practice of naming and establishing them.
Going through Authentic Relating Training has allowed me permission to access versions of myself I had no idea existed. With the context set for a holographic experience, the insight continues to unfold far beyond the container of the weekend. I noticeably see the content play out every day in new ways.
Learning to set good, appropriate, strong, clear context for conversations and shared experiences is one of the most powerful and foundational components of authentic relating.
You can think of context like the rules of a game. Setting good, clear context ensures that all participants of a given context are playing by the same rules of the game, and that each player knows the rules clearly and comprehensively. Loose or vague context leads to confusion, assumptions, and potential for chaos, just as sloppy or erratic rules of game can lead to confused or chaotic play.
I’d been dreading this conversation for days. I stood on the front porch for a moment, feeling the knot in my stomach and racing pulse in my temples. My mind was gripped with pinballing thoughts, voices yelling at me to do this or say that – “Just stay calm,” said one. “Don’t let her push you around!” said another. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door and went inside, and felt my body actively preparing for battle.