"You need to blog about this, Dawn."A good amount of inspiration for my blog posts here at Healing Morning come from conversations with friends. The conversation from this week was a delicate one, dealing with the way that we react within the parameters of a personal relationship. My comment to my girlfriend was that the majority of my life, I've been fairly calm, even-natured, and on an even keel. This applied to me in past relationships, which is why the current situation I'm in regularly throws me for a loop! I find myself....I said this in my last blog post....greeting myself in ways that I would never have predicted. And in the process of figuring this out, conversations take place, and friends encourage me to write about the topic. So, here I am, discussing this greeting of myself.
What does that mean....greeting myself? It means discovering reactions and behaviors that literally stun me, because they're so dramatically opposite to what I have come to know of myself. Relationships are crafty things with how they hold up a very clear mirror to show us who we are at our core. And certain relationships, the really good ones...the ones that push us to grow, those are the ones that hold up the biggest, clearest mirrors. Those are the ones that uncover heretofore hidden sides of us that really needed to be revealed.
What have I learned about myself most recently? Well, one thing that wasn't new is still there. I have a stubborn side that kicks in strongly. But that's not something that I'm learning from. Instead, the surprising areas are the ones that are Ego driven....and that are seated in Fear. I have watched myself in the last several months of being around this new person. So much of the experiences are wonderful. Fun, exciting, new, touching. But along with all of that newness and excitement comes Fear. We can't escape it. It's part and parcel of allowing that new person to get close to us on that elemental level. THAT part is not fun. Not to me. It means I have to allow myself, and even force myself to be vulnerable.
It also means I have to force myself to be strong. I'm a Fixer. I want the whole wide world to be happy and content. And I will sacrifice my own well-being to make sure others are happy first. That's not healthy, as I'm sure any of you reading this are thinking. I agree with you. It's a very big fault that I've been working on most of my life. That's where forcing myself to be strong comes in. That's where I have to stand up for myself and establish boundaries. That's where I have to honor myself and insist on mutual respect. Sounds easy, yes? Well, it's seriously challenging on any given day for me! Downright painful at times, I admit it. Boundaries and establishing them in a fair manner within a relationship is something I am still learning.
So, as I grow in response to this new person in my orbit, I am discovering some traits that have lain dormant for most of my life. And they are rarely attractive traits. My stubborn side usually brings them kicking to life and then things come out of my mouth that catch me off guard. Did I really just say that?! Have I always felt that way?! Where the heck did that come from?! I learned many years ago that when I react with instant anger or defensiveness, that's a spot that needs some digging into. Because the reflexive anger and defensiveness are hiding a long covered wound.
I tend to be more inwardly focused than some. From a very early age, I noticed negative cycles that existed within my family dynamic. Those cycles caused a great deal of pain to everyone, and I was determined to find a way to break those cycles. I began to research and investigate and study. I found out why we repeat patterns of an emotional content. I found out why we attract the same types of people over and over. And I learned my own patterns. You'd think this much research and educating of self would produce a woman who has it all together, yes? Nope. I'm as human as the rest of the world and I'm not ashamed to say I've spent many a year bumbling my way through relationships. I also admit that I found a level of security and safety in studying the clinical aspect of emotions. That gave me distance and I didn't have to engage on those levels as much. But that sneaky organ, my heart, was always there and I wasn't immune to the trials and tribulations of love.
I won't bore you all with my personal relationship history. My point here, today, is to focus on the fact that when we react violently....in fear, anger, defensiveness or any other negative emotion, that is hiding something crucial to our emotional growth. We can ignore it and continue to stay rooted in those old patterns, but I've never been a proponent of hiding from the obvious once it jumps up and bites me on the nose. Once something becomes clear to me on a personal level that oh, wow, THAT was an extreme reaction, Dawn, then it's time to do some hard work. I start sifting through the layers until I reach what I feel is the core of that specific fear. It's not pleasant sometimes, but the more I do it, the more I learn about myself, and the easier it is for me to process through the emotions and the realizations. When I'm given a safe environment and an understanding person to bounce these realizations off of, I am able to jettison the behaviors that are fear laden and unnecessary. It is surprisingly simple, once you take that deep breath and plunge inward. It's sometimes messy, because those hidden, old wounds can be nasty to confront, but as with anything, the first step is the most scary. With repetition, it becomes easier and more efficient.
I'm very fortunate with this new person in that there is a support, a lack of judgment, and a level of curiosity to listen when I work my way through the why's of my sometimes surprising reactions. He might not always agree, or see things the way that I do, but he listens and respects the conclusions I come to. Often, he offers insights that flip a new light bulb of clarity on over my fair head. That's rare and I am quite aware that I'm lucky to meet this person. Something that is somewhat humorous is when I think I've behaved in a very over the top, borderline unacceptable manner, I am regularly told that no, that moment hadn't really made that much of a blip on his radar. Well, huh. That's when I have to laugh at how overly seriously I tend to take myself! It's new stuff to me, on an emotional level in relationship with this other person, so it feels large and overwhelming. Sometimes it IS large, but a great deal of the time, it really isn't. I'm learning that as well, that it's not all huge, scary and insurmountable. Much of it is small and easily dispatched, but it does require effort and looking oneself in the eye with absolute honesty.
So, it's a journey, this process of growing in respect to allowing someone close. Close to the heart. Close enough to matter. Close enough to hurt. All of those have happened. I expect more of the same will happen over time, as it's the ones who matter the most who can hurt us the most. Perhaps not intentionally, but that's the power we place in that other person's hands when we open up our heart. The key part to remember is that they're allowing us the same power in return. I think we forget that important part; I know I do. I have another girlfriend who constantly reminds me that I'm not the only one who has uncertainties, doubts and insecurities. Men are chock full of the same whirling emotions as women; they just tend to store them away in a different manner than we do.
I'm learning that I've had some hidden traits that aren't pretty. Some of them have truly surprised me. I was rigid and inflexible in some areas that were downright unrealistic, but they hadn't ever been triggered before. I had to live the experiences first, before I knew they existed in my psyche. Then I could address them and decide whether they served a good purpose. Usually, they didn't. Another thing that I've been fortunate in has been that this person is giving me not only what I call that Soft Place to Fall when things are sad, bad or scary, but this person is giving me an equal amount of respect and allowing me to express anger and frustration, doubts and other negative emotions. That's a new experience for me. Being allowed to express genuine, valid negative emotions freely has been a very new, slightly uncomfortable thing, but ultimately, it has been freeing. I'm being given freedom to express anger! I'm being given space to be irritated and irritable. And I'm still accepted and appreciated at the end of the day. Again....huh. What a concept. What an experience, this process of being in a truly adult exchange where respect is given and received.
Another big truth is that in the process of addressing these once dormant traits that pop up, I don't always express myself in the best way, the first time. The first time of giving it voice, I almost always say it in a way, that to my ears, is too forward, too harsh or demanding. I hate that!! It happens because those wounds are created in our childhood, and when they get dredged back up, we tend to emote and give them voice from that same emotional age where they were inflicted. I.e, we come across as though we're throwing a tantrum of sorts. But I learn from it, and I consciously shift my emotional awareness into adult mentality. As I learn, I shear off the rough edges of this new discovery and I shape what remains into a mature strength and a Life Skill. A new tool that does serve a good purpose.
In time, I hope that I'll find a way to give these new discoveries a softer presentation, but for now, they don't always come out that way. In some ways, I'm like a newborn foal finding her feet, wobbling about and staggering before my knees lock and I stand straight. And I'm learning that even when I do present this new knowledge with more volume than necessary, the sky doesn't fall. I also learn more about myself and that other person as a result. I've said it over and over - the way we choose to react to a given set of circumstances is how we define ourselves to the world.
The Persian poet-philosopher, Rumi, constantly captures my heart and imagination with his thoughts, written hundreds of years past. This quote applies to today's post:
Don't look for me in a human shape,I'm finding that Universal Truth that this new person is mirroring the Me that I've worked so hard to become. Things are far from perfect with this new experience, mind you. There are challenges all over the place, and we're both doing that awkward dance that people do as they learn one another. Plus, what's life without a little drama? I would rather live out loud in bright splashes of color than drudge along, cloaked in muffling shades of gray.
I am inside your looking.
We're learning a new language, in effect. The way we each express ourselves, the way we each react emotionally, our senses of humor, our intellect....all of that creates a language unique to us that the other has to learn. And as we learn that other person in all their depth and glory, we get triggered in surprising emotional ways. We react in ways that shock us and that other person. If we're lucky, that other person finds our own depths and glory to be worth the stumbles, fumbles and outright flubs, and they stick around to see what will happen next. They embrace us for who we are and they ask the same of us. And the dance continues.....