I’ve written blogs about how other people are our mirrors. I still believe this to be true in many, many ways. We are often most upset by the things in others that we haven’t yet healed in ourselves. AND! Sometimes someone is in our life to give us an opportunity to learn how to deal with the behavior they are throwing at us.
More AH-HA’s this week in reading Danielle LaPorte’s latest book “White Hot Truth”. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve had people come through my life who could be certifiably considered to be jerk-faces. I’ve spent plenty of time kicking my own backside, thinking that I too must be a said “jerk-face” in some way, since I am attracting this personality and it’s behaviors into my path. I would amp up my compassion, grace, or often… get totally red-head, on fire angry at these people for behaving in ways that seemed cruel, hurtful and crappy towards me. That last option always felt better than the first one, but the relief is temporary!
As Danielle says, we take a lot of crap in the name of being spiritual. That has been my go-to mindset in these situations for as long as I can remember. I would tell myself that I am trying to be loving, open, and mindful and that tolerance is the answer to this person being less than their best self with me. I’d make excuses for the other person’s behavior, try to be understanding, try to “fix” it. This, my friends, sounds amazingly like the description of codependency, basically because that’s exactly what it is.
I’m just going to quote Danielle on this next part, because it’s totally right-on. “But if we’re operating from our real power, rooted in our self-Love and respect, we’d steer clear of people who obviously aren’t going to meet our most important needs. We would avoid taking on relationships as “projects” and instead seek relationships centered around growing together.”
So we’d focus on having a shared purpose of our relationship that helps us both become our best selves in ways we couldn’t do that on our own, rather than blaming, defending, judging, fixing, and taking it all so dang personally IF we were standing in our own light.
As someone with pretty hefty codependent patterns, I have done some (code for loads and loads of) research on how to bust those patterns and one thing that I find in all the research is also echoed in Danielle’s findings. Those who are super empathetic, trying to be spiritual and become over tolerant attract a certain type of person like a magnet…. Narcissists. It’s a match made in heaven! A person who is all about making it okay for others and a person who is all about making it okay for themselves – wha-la! The perfect laboratory for learning.
Now narcissism is a clinical term and there are certainly varying degrees of it. We all have some degree of narcissism to be sure and there are actually healthy levels of narcissism, like our need to be validated, respected, heard, etc… I remember when I asked my counselor Joy about this topic she said “Narcissism is about surviving.” In spite of how it appears, narcissism is about low self-worth.
At their core, both codependent and narcissistic tendency people share a common thread. Fear. They fear abandonment, not being enough, not being loved, and they fear dealing with their own true feelings. If you noticed the “continuum of self” graphic up above, you see that over focus on others or over focus on self both lead to increased pain and lead away from being healthy.
Everyone comes into our lives to teach us something about OURSELVES. Sometimes it’s to show us a part of ourselves that we have disowned. Sometimes it’s to show us something we need to heal in ourselves. And sometimes it’s to give us the gift of learning to love ourselves enough to NOT tolerate their behavior towards us.
Yes. By all means, love IS forgiving and if you aren’t loving yourself you may find that you attract people into your life to help you learn how to do it. It might be that you have to forgive YOURSELF enough to say “I’ve had enough”.
It’s another paradox of the divine path… Love with an open heart and have boundaries to protect it.
“Not only do we hurt ourselves by tolerating demeaning treatment or aggression, we also feed the other person’s monster. Being compassionate of yourself by not accepting poor behavior offers the other person involved the opportunity to look at themselves. It’s their choice to use that information to get closer to their Soul, or not.”
Boundaries are something most of us struggle with, especially when you are on a mission to be loving, spiritual, and joy focused – so basically ALL of us struggle with boundaries! The thing that most don't realize is that boundaries are not for the other person, they are for YOU. It’s another paradox: boundaries make it possible for you to love even more openly. If you aren’t sure where to start in finding your boundaries, listen to your body. It knows and is sending you messages all the time when you are in need of a stronger boundary. It’s weird, but boundaries show people how to get close to you.
The most straight forward definition of codependency I can find is from Dr. Darlene Lancer: “It is, at its core, to lose yourself” People with healthy emotional boundaries don’t lose themselves in intimate relationships. Poor emotional boundaries can cause you to feel responsible for and at times even guilty about someone else’s problem or negative feelings. When your locus of control is others – it makes you easy to manipulate.
So here is a little litmus test you can run next time you are faced with someone being a jerk-face toward you… before you respond ask yourself “Am I coming from love or fear right now?” Love COULD mean that you disengage, draw the line, tell them this isn’t working for you. Fear might be that you try to “fix” it for them because you are fearful of the conflict, or the outcome, or jeopardizing the relationship, or the repercussions (clean-up). The love response isn’t just about THEM, you must include yourself in the love equation.
If you find yourself wondering “Why in the hell did I let someone treat me like that?” you know there’s a gift in their behavior for you. Sure, it could be they are being a mirror for you to see yourself in their crappy behaviour – but if you read this blog regularly, my guess is that their behavior is for you in another way. It may be that you need to love yourself enough to have a boundary when a bona fide jerk-face shows up on your path. Being tolerant is a beautiful thing to offer another person, unless it is coming from a place of our own feelings of unworthiness or thinking there is something “wrong” with us. That’s when it crosses over into things like codependency and unhealthy thoughts about ourselves. It will pretty much always go sideways on you when this is where your tolerance is emanating from.
It's really difficult to remember when you are in the midst of a tough interaction with another person, but their behavior is really never about you. People will blame you, people will judge you, people will love you and none of any of has anything to do with you really. It's about them and their experience - over which you have absolutely no control. That doesn't mean you can't care about this person, you can choose to love them, hear them, and not take it on when they trash you.
We don’t have to “earn” better treatment. The only time we think this thought is when we don’t value OURSELVES. Seems to me that we often tolerate the same level of treatment from others that we tolerate from ourselves. We talk horribly to ourselves, so when someone else does it, we go along since it’s what we think we “deserve”. So maybe the first boundary we need to set is with ourselves, how we talk to ourselves. Start out with not being willing to take any more nasty remarks from your inner gremlin. Sixty seconds might be a good goal at first! Then just keep going and string some minutes together. Once we can do this with ourselves, telling the jerk-face who shows up: “I love you and this isn’t working for me” will come through easily for you.
What?! You Mean It Can Be BOTH?!?!?
I’m reading the new book from Danielle LePorte, “White Hot Truth”. It’s super good and has really provoked some thoughts for me. In it, there is a chapter on how wisdom happens paradoxically. She refers to it as “Rock your paradox”. I had to look up some definitions just to fully wrap my head around it….
Paradox: A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or position that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true. Synonyms: inconsistency, contradiction, incongruity.
Well then! This seems like something that happens for me on a daily basis!!!
Danielle talks about getting curious. If we’re not questioning, we’re not growing. “Questioning is the bloodstream of your own spirituality. The more curious you are about how life works, the more present you will be in your life.”
We ALL have things we used to believe were true that when we think about them now they seem ridiculous! I used to think that when I sat for long periods of time that I could physically feel my butt getting bigger – for real! Geez.
It takes a lot of courage to change our own beliefs, because to get curious about them will often change our lives. Questioning our self-limiting beliefs is really what coaching and therapy are all about.
Intellectually, I don’t believe that there is only one way of being in the world. I try to focus on what is TRUE for me versus right/wrong, good/bad. And truth is not absolute or fixed because we are all viewing life through the lenses of our own experience. Even with this belief I hold, I find I can easily be pulled into feeling guilt or worry or shame when I think I might be doing that seems counter to what I’ve “preached”. I worry that others will think Well! That’s not what you’ve always said before! So being willing to look at yourself and be open to change will require some inner compassion when you come up against those who want things to stay the way they have always been.
The thing is, we grow in some areas and may be completely stuck in others. To be human is to be a contradiction. Most of the time, we just don’t own it, or even see it. We can be tough in some situations and melt in vulnerability in others. Professional or tough in business and then talk like a goof-ball when we see our dog. We are ALL these parts of ourselves – even the dark places. Yes, we all have dark places whether we own them or not.
I decided to check out a few other sages on the topic of pardox to see what they had to offer…
So here is what this look at paradox and how it is ties to wisdom says to me… Changing your mind, your beliefs, and your view on the world doesn’t make you a hypocrite. It makes you a human who is growing, getting curious, is open to questioning your own stance and not thinking you have it all figured out. Being Authentic means you will be a paradox. As Danielle suggests, we must
-Be open hearted AND have strong boundaries
-Be understanding AND don’t take any crap.
-Have strong preferences AND be easy to please.
and this one below is my personal favorite!
To realize we’re not “wrong” for breaking our own “rules” sometimes, will lift our guilt, set us free and make us more available to love others as well as ourselves. A black & white world seems cleaner and more straight forward, yet that’s not what we live in. To try and make it that way can certainly end up making us more controlling, judgmental, and blaming and it will stunt our own growth and shrink our world by creating divisiveness and superiority.
If my overall mission in life is to increase my capacity for joy and love (both giving it and receiving it), then I’m going to have to get curious and question things that are proclaimed “right or wrong good or bad” and even EMBRACE my own contradictions. “The truth is never black & white – it’s encompassing, It’s BOTH.”
Wisdom: the ability to apply relevant knowledge in an insightful way, especially to different situations from that in which the knowledge was gained. Wisdom is the ability to learn from change.
We humans just don’t always make sense! We might believe something wholeheartedly today and learn something that causes us to do a 180 degree turn tomorrow. That does not make us “bad” or “wrong”, it means we are evolving, changing, growing.
Danielle and many other wise sages say the same thing… transformation begins with the radical acceptance of what is. That is indeed a sacred paradox. Self-love, self-acceptance – as you are RIGHT THIS MINUTE is the key to change. Wow. This changes everything... and nothing at all.
The Chains That Set You FREE
We’d been hiking about 3 or 4 hours in the Drakensburg Mountains in South Africa. “The Amphitheater Climb” is an amazing route and fairly challenging, especially for a chick not used to altitude.
It was then that we arrived at “THE CHAINS”. It was probably a good thing that I didn’t know that beyond the first ladder that I could see, there was a second one about the same size, that took you to the top of the Sentinel. No, there are no harnesses. You do it on your own power, no safety checks. It's the real deal.
I was a bit intimidated when I saw the look of the thing, but I knew I was going to do it – no question. It was a strange calm knowing I had, as some of the members of our group decided at that point they’d had enough and weren’t going up – understandably so!
On this trip I was traveling with ten of my very dear friends who I love. What I didn’t know prior to our trip was that some of them have a fairly profound fear of heights. We ALL have fears. In fact I did a quick check and there are well over 100 types of recognized fears and phobias. It struck me that what sometimes brings up a strong fear for some of us, doesn’t faze others in any way. We each have our own dragons to slay and we aren’t always understanding of other people’s dragons, yet there is a lot to be learned from watching others work through theirs.
As I watched my courageous friend face her fear of heights on this hike with sheer drop offs, narrow winding paths that at the BASE is over 8,000 feet on the side of a cliff, I was so incredibly proud of her! She would gather up her bravery, hold on to the side of the mountain and inch her way through her fear over and over again.
This image, of her continuing and pushing through, is forever burned in my mind and heart. In the days that followed, it dawned on me that her inching forward – even though it scared the living hell out of her – is much like any Spiritual path (and we’re all on a Spiritual path, whether we recognize it or not). We're sometimes moving along and feeling okay and at other times, we hunker down and just try to make it a few inches forward, hanging on for dear life.
My personal journey has moved at a slower pace than I would have liked the past couple of years. I have chastised myself from time to time… “Shouldn’t I have this figured out by now?” kinds of thoughts, which just slow the whole thing down that much more. “Shoulds” are shame based and shame stunts our growth.
Just like my friend, at times I have nearly shut down, thought about turning around and going back, felt so damned scared I thought I would die. She inspired me with both her courage AND her fear. I felt love and compassion for her as she would slow down and panic a bit. Yet on my own “path” I’ve not always extended myself that same love, appreciation or grace. I feel appreciation is the magic formula that has been missing in my transformation. As Mairanne Williamson says, the only thing lacking in any situation is what YOU are not giving. I have not been giving myself much appreciation for my movement forward and the difficult parts of the "climb" that I have faced.
When I climbed “The Chains”, something sort of shifted in me. The combination of accomplishing a physical and mental challenge, along with the image of my dear, brave friend showed me that the root of what holds us all back is fear. Fear isn’t “wrong”! It serves a important purpose to protect us from harm. Fear like all emotions is simply information and it’s a choice as to whether we will let that information run the show in our lives or not.
In his new book, Tony Robbins reiterates what many wise people teach… “we cannot control circumstances, other people, events – but we can control what they mean to us." It’s the meanings we put on things that causes not only our fear, but also our suffering.
I’d say my friend decided that the challenge of the hike meant opportunity. Perhaps that’s how she pushed on – not wanting fear to be in charge of her.
At one point we came to a challenging transition up a rock face and our guide came to help her. She said to him “How in the hell am I going to get back?!?” His advice was pretty profound… “Right now we focus on the going up, not the going back”.
Fear is what has tripped me up many times in life. I’m sure you can probably give an “AMEN” to that for yourself as well. Fear of what others think, fear of getting it “wrong”, fear of not being enough or being too much for other people, fear of all kinds of things we have zero control over. The kryptonite to fear is love and appreciation… the two most powerful forces in the Universe. All you have to do is look for something to appreciate. You can’t worry and feel appreciation at the same time. You can’t feel fear and appreciation at the same time. Appreciation puts those negative thoughts to sleep as you focus on it. And if you can’t bring yourself to find something to appreciate about a current challenging condition, focus your appreciation on something unrelated! It’s THAT powerful!!!
The climb up (and down) “The Chains” unlocked a big piece of the hold that fear has had on me. I realized I don’t have anything to fear. Moving forward may not always be as fast as I’d like or it may not appear pretty, but, I’m doing it! Just like my friend who pushed herself to get uncomfortable and go forward, it doesn’t mean that fear won’t show up, but my relationship with it will be different if I love and appreciate myself. When I have, as Danielle LePorte calls it, “deep positivity” that no matter what, I will be okay, then fear takes a back seat instead of trying to grab the wheel of my life.
Another very dear friend of mine has repeated the same three mantras to me over and over again in the past couple of years. These really do sum it all up on the path to standing in our own light…
2. Don’t judge yourself – Drop the judgment and the “shoulds”. In fact, shine a light on those things that you think you “should” be ashamed of – the dark places we all have. Celebrate and accept your “flaws” and make a trophy of what you fear. Shame cannot survive in the light.
3. So? – Even if your worst fear happens, so? You’re going to be okay. Ask “Is it true?”, do The Work on your fearful thought. Also under this category #3, make sure you’re not taking responsibility for something that doesn’t belong to you. I'm just sayin'.
Fear is simply a message. Trying to tell you something about yourself that needs healing. Just like The Chains, sometimes things that look pretty daunting at first, turn out to be just what you need to move to the next level in your life. Love and appreciate yourself and find that deep knowing that no matter what happens, you’re going to be okay. The Universe has your back! It will change everything and a whole new amazing view of the world will open up for you. I've seen it, and it's incredible!
Sandy Edie Hansen
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