Black and Blue

July 18, 2008 at 4:23 am Leave a comment

By Lauren Kennedy –

One of life’s challenges and greatest rewards results from our relationships with others. But sometimes it feels like a balancing act. We have our personal responsibility to take care of ourselves, honor our own feelings and meet our own needs. We also have an obligation to extend compassion, understanding, honesty and support to our fellow beings.

We all have times when we feel our relationships and life is a struggle. And sometimes it feels like we are banging our head against the wall. Perhaps the issue is an obstinate person. Other times it may be an objectionable situation. But the harder we try to improve the circumstances, the more resistance we seem to encounter.

So what do we usually do? We push even harder. Then the negative thoughts and feelings really take off. The specifics can vary, depending on our personal tendencies and issues. But they generally fit into one of the following patterns.

We become angry. (We believe that the individuals involved are just ignorant, they are out to get us, they don’t care about us, they don’t want to admit that we are right, or they just want their own way. )

Some of us may feel defeated, powerless or victimized. (No one ever listens to me. I try to get things accomplished but everyone works against me. I don’t have the influence that others do.)

Or we feel inadequate. (What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone like my suggestions. I must not be important enough for anyone to take seriously.)

Whether we feel angry, powerless or inadequate, we all end up feeling frustrated and beat up by the time we’ve gone a few rounds with the complication, be it a person or situation.

The assumptions and opinions we have formed about the situation, based on our emotional reaction, may or may not be true. The problem is that we are trying to control or change people or circumstances. We then condemn ourselves and others when we don’t get our way.

Whenever I feel like I’m constantly walking into walls, I recognize that getting black and blue isn’t effective. I know that I have developed tunnel vision. And I am probably trying to change or control a situation. And guess what? We cannot expect to change or control anything but ourselves, and controlling ourselves can be a tall order at times.

I can hear all of your objections. Some of you may be thinking, “I know how to get what I want.” However, I am assuming that you are extending the other person the dignity of free will, honesty, accurate information without hidden agendas and below the belt emotional hijacking.

Neither am I suggesting resignation, blind acquiescence or self defeating capitulation. Consequently, the only real option that we have, short of picking up an automatic weapon or resorting to extortion, is to adjust our own perspective, choices, attitude, beliefs and behavior.

Perhaps these two examples from my own life will clarify this point.

My children have the tendency to drop their coats, shoes, book bags, etc., leaving a trail of debris on the floor. They frequently wait until 15 minutes before school to do their homework, complaining that I should have reminded them, (I guess 6 reminders the night before didn’t count), and they leave cereal boxes wide open, sitting in various locations around the house. . Of course this is unacceptable. But I don’t like to endure their tears and pain that giving them consequences always produce. Instead I planned to explain to them why they must do things differently. And I convinced myself that once they understood, they would then gladly comply. When that didn’t work, I decided perhaps I just hadn’t explained it well enough, so I tried again, and again.

Here’s the next example.

Growing up I longed for my father’s approval. I tried to be stoic because emotions upset him. I tried to be perfect. I made sure not to have fun until I had completed all my responsibilities because according to him “Life isn’t suppose to be fun.” I accomplished one goal after another. I twisted myself into knots trying to figure out how to act to get my father’s approval and respect. I only succeeded in becoming more and more depressed and desperate.

The light finally dawned and I realized that there was nothing that I could do to change my father’s perception. I could destroy myself trying to get his respect, or I could accept that he was unable to give me the approval I desired. I would have to change. I could choose to learn to give myself the validation that I sought from him. I could focus on the people who did think highly of me. I would have to re-discover who I truly was behind all the images that I presented for the benefit of others. And I would have to have the courage to experience and express my own truth, desires, and feelings. I had to become Authentic regardless of other people’s expectations and judgments.

In the situation with my children, I would either have to resign myself to clutter, stale cereal and poor grades, or I would have to suck it up, experience and process my feelings, and give them the appropriate consequences. Giving in to my discomfort with my children’s tears and distress, I neglected to give them appropriate consequences. The result was that I wasn’t fulfilling my job description as a parent, (teaching my children to be responsible and respect themselves and others).

They began to disregard whatever I asked them to do (or they experienced temporary hearing loss). I also had started to feel ignored and discounted because I had been disregarding my own feelings and my need to have an organized and tidy home. By permitting them to trample all over my boundaries, I had taught them how to treat me. And I didn’t like the result.

My sense of worth and importance are created by the way I treat myself. This includes establishing boundaries, valuing my own feelings and needs, and discouraging disrespectful behavior. The way I treat myself influences how others will treat me. More importantly, the way I treat myself impacts my sense of worth more than any other single issue.

Frequently our friends, associates and peers will behave in ways that upset us. We always have the right to be treated with respect. But we do not have the right to expect them to mold themselves according to our preferences. And we cannot assume that others, even our spouse, will always be aware of the specific words and actions that will distress us. We all perceive things differently. But if someone has said or done something that is unacceptable, it is our responsibility to seek a solution.

Upon reflection, we may conclude that we were over reacting due to having to fix our flat tire in the rain on the way to work. Or because it was the same phrase and tone of voice that our ex romantic partner used before they walked out the door with our drop dead gorgeous and wealthy replacement. In that case, we can attempt to feel grateful that they have made us aware of an issue requiring our attention. We then have the opportunity to choose to process and release the blocked, negative energy within us.

If we decide that the other person’s actions were unacceptable, often just bringing it to their attention will be enough. We simply express our feelings about the situation to them. Although this can be uncomfortable for some people, it is our responsibility to clarify how we want to be treated so we can release the negative emotions rather than allowing them to ferment into resentments and blame. Take note, however, it’s our feelings about the situation or the behavior that we share. Not our opinions, beliefs, or judgments about the individual or their actions.

For situations and/or individuals that may be resistant to our request, there is a formula for creating and delivering your message that I have found to be very effective.

Keep in mind that getting our desired outcome in any situation isn’t the measure of success. People with that mindset are easily tempted to rationalize that the ends justify the means. To be a person of character and integrity, we must make choices that are congruent with our values and principles. Regardless of the outcome, demonstrating character and integrity render you successful.

Remember, if you feel beat up from continuously running into the brick wall, stop, and look for the door.

To Your Authentic Life,

Lauren Kennedy

Entry filed under: Mind Over Matter, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , .

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Our life is an evolving creation, shaped by our choices, colored by our desires, and lightened or darkened by our intentions.
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